Monday, May 28, 2012

India promises the moon to Myanmar; Implementation the key

MEA's Press note on India-Myanmar Cooperation

Prime Minister’s visit to Myanmar is taking place after a period of 25 years (the last such visit was undertaken by PM Rajiv Gandhi in December 1987) and represents a major landmark in bilateral relations.

2.The visit comes at a time when Myanmar is undergoing rapid transformation towards a constitutional democracy after nearly five decades of military rule. India has built a multi-faceted relationship that has gained further strength under the newly elected government over the last one year. The visit of the Prime Minister will enable us to build on our existing ties and leverage this to secure a stronger and mutually beneficial relationship with a neighbouring country that is integral to India’s ‘Look East’ policy.

3.The visit provides an opportunity to enrich the substance of our relations, both qualitatively and in scope, and lay down a long term vision and roadmap for a mutually reinforcing bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas. In this context, several decisions and announcements on new initiatives in the areas of economic cooperation, connectivity, development cooperation, trade and investment promotion, capacity building and human resource development, culture & people to people contacts, and academic exchanges, have been made by the two sides.

4.The projects, inter alia, seek to fill vital gaps in our connectivity and physical infrastructural linkage with Myanmar in the area of highways, railways and civil aviation.

5.During the visit, twelve MoUs were signed. Details of these and other announcements/ decisions during the visit are listed below:

I.Infrastructure and Cooperation Developments

A package of assistance was announced was announced by the Prime Minister during the visit. This includes:

(a)Financial assistance for Border Area Development: The Prime Minister announced India’s support extending financial assistance of US$ 5 million per year for five years for undertaking small developmental projects such as schools, health centres & dispensaries, small roads & bridges, agriculture and agro-processing projects and related training programmes in the Naga Self Administered Zone (in Sagaing Division bordering Manipur) and the Chin State (bordering Mizoram) in Myanmar.

(b)Supply of Bailey Bridges for use in border areas, including in Naga Self Administered Zones to gain access to hitherto accessible areas that would facilitate development of the area.

(c)Construction of Kalewa-Yargyi road sector of the Trilateral Highway:Myanmar side has requested for Indian assistance in the construction/upgradation of the 120 kms of Kalewa-Yargyi road segment as a part of the Trilateral Highway, which also constitutes part of the proposed Asian Highway network. On its part, Myanmar would take up the construction of Yargyi-Monywa road segment. It is estimated that the road would take three years to complete and would allow the proposed Imphal-Mandalay bus service to be operational throughout the year (the road is currently unusable during the rainy season).

(d)Construction/upgradation of 71 bridges along Tamu-Kalewa sector of the Trilateral Highway; The road between Tamu- Kalewa- Kalemyo (TKK), about 160 kms long, in Myanmar has been constructed by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under the grant assistance of the Government of India. 132 kms have already been completed and handed over to Myanmar in 2009. The remaining 28 Kms is expected to be completed later this year. The Myanmar has requested India for upgradation/ reconstruction of 71 bridges on the TKK Road which are in poor condition and impede the flow of traffic. This would also improve connectivity and facilitate early operationalisation of the proposed Imphal-Mandalay bus service. The project is expected to take three years for completion.


(a)Imphal-Mandalay Bus Service: India and Myanmar have held discussions at the technical level on issues related to introduction of the bus service including the route, frequency, possibility of switching of buses at the border, security, etc. The Prime Minister of India and the President of Myanmar have agreed to introduce a bus service and necessary agreements and infrastructure would be put in place by both sides for operationalising the same at the earliest.

(b)Air: India and Myanmar signed a new Air Services Agreement during the visit of the Prime Minister of India to Myanmar. The agreement provides for expansion of air connectivity between the two countries to cover more carriers, flights and destinations. It provides for 5th freedom rights that would enable our carriers to combine their flights to Myanmar with other destinations in South East Asia and elsewhere. The agreement is expected to lead to enhancement of direct flights, including by private carriers, between India and Myanmar.

(c)Railways: Recognising the need and importance of working towards rail connectivity, both sides agreed to the setting up of a Joint Working Group on Cooperation in the Railway Sector to examine the issues involved in enhancing rail connectivity, the feasibility of movement of freight from India to the South East Asian Region and cooperation in the railway sector between India and Myanmar.


Building upon the extensive developmental cooperation projects that have been taken up under grant assistance to Myanmar, the following initiatives were agreed to and MOUs signed during the Prime Minister’s visit:

(a)MOU on Setting up of an Information Technology Institute: It has been agreed to establish an IT Institute to be named ‘Myanmar Institute of Information Technology (MIIT)’ with India’s assistance. While the physical infrastructure, including building, faculty and technical staff would be provided by the Government of Myanmar, India would supply the equipment, identify a suitable partner institute in India for exchange programs and knowledge sharing, help in formulation of syllabi, course structure, training modules and conduct training programs for the faculty and technical staff through train-the trainer programmes. Indian support in the areas specified would extend for a period of 5 years to enable the Institute to become self-sustaining. Shri S. Ramadorai, PM’s advisor on Skills Development is associated with the Project as advisor for the establishment of the Institute. An MoU on the establishment of the MIIT was signed during PM’s visit. External Affairs Minister of India and the Minister for Science and Technology from the Myanmar side signed the MoU.

(b)MoU on Establishment of Advanced Centre for Agriculture Research and Education (ACARE): Realising the acute need to strengthen agricultural research, education and extension in Myanmar for the overall improvement of agricultural production and productivity, it has been agreed to establish an Advance Centre for Agricultural Research and Education (ACARE) at the Yezin Agriculture University in Myanmar to be implemented by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). The ACARE will have the vision of becoming a 21st century institution using cutting edge science along with traditional knowledge and ecological conservation and will primarily focus on three areas, namely breeding of better quality and high yielding crop varieties, facilitating access to advanced technology and awareness of better farming practices; and capacity building programmes for training faculty, technicians and entrepreneurs in modern methods of research, latest techniques and technology adoption & application. An MoU on the same was signed during the visit. The signatories were the Foreign Secretary from India and the Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation from Myanmar.

(c)MoU on Setting up a Rice Bio: In the context of the centrality of rice in the Myanmar agricultural economy and the importance of producing value-added and market-driven rice and rice-related products that would lead to improving food and income security of small farm families, project has been initiated for setting up a Rice Bio Park demonstrating the various techniques in rice biomass utilisation in the Integrated Demonstration Farm at Nay Pyi Taw. The MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), from the Indian side and the Department of Agricultural Research, Ministry of Agriculture of Myanmar (DAR) would be the nodal agencies. The Project is expected to be implemented over a period of four years, involving procurement, supply and installation of all necessary equipment; training of Myanmar personnel in India; deputation of Indian experts for commissioning and for on-the-job training of Myanmar faculty and experts in Myanmar. A MoU on the same was signed during Prime Minister’s visit. Foreign Secretary from India and the Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation from Myanmar side signed the MoU.


(a)MoU on Establishment of Border Haats: During the 4th Joint Trade Committee (JTC) Meeting held in New Delhi in September 2011, both sides agreed on the utility of setting up Border Haats at various locations along the India-Myanmar border. The establishment of Border Haats would benefit people living in the area and would function on the lines of Border Haats already in operation on the India-Bangladesh border. The MoU provides for the setting up of a Border Haat on a pilot basis at Pangsau Pass, Arunachal Pradesh and for the establishment of other Border Haats as mutually agreed upon. Foreign Secretary from India and the Deputy Minister for Commerce from Myanmar side signed the MoU.

(b)Cooperation in the Banking Sector: Both sides have agreed to enhance banking arrangements for the promotion of trade. It was agreed that Indian banks such as the United Bank of India and other interested Banks would be allowed to open representative branches in Myanmar; India would extend assistance to Myanmar in training and capacity building in the financial sector; RBI and the Central Bank of Myanmar would enter into an MoU for currency arrangements and for enhancing cooperation between the Central banks of the two countries. It was also agreed that the State Bank of India or other banks as mutually agreed would provide technical knowhow to Myanmar Banks.

(c)MoU on establishment of Joint Trade and Investment Forum: A MOU on the establishment of a Joint Trade and Investment Forum involving representatives from industry and Government to enhance bilateral trade and investments was signed during the Prime Minister’s visit. The MoU provides for the forum to hold meetings annually, alternately in India and Myanmar, and be co-chaired by one senior business leader of each side. The Forum would monitor and review the existing mechanisms for enhancing bilateral trade and recommend specific measures to achieve the bilateral trade target of doubling trade volume, encourage private sector investments; and provide trade facilitation. The MoU was signed by the Foreign Secretary from India and the Deputy Minister of Commerce from the Myanmar side.

V.Economic Cooperation

(a)A MoU on the EXIM Bank’s US$ 500 million Line of Credit to Myanmar: A new concessional facility of US$500 million Line of Credit (LoC) to Myanmar was announced during the visit of Myanmar President in October 2011. A MoU for operationalisation of the Line of Credit was signed between the EXIM Bank of India and the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank. The Myanmar side identified various areas, like agriculture and irrigation, railways, power, etc. to be covered under the Line of Credit.


India already has a undertaken a number of projects related to training and capacity building. This has been appreciated by the Myanmar side. During the visit, the Prime Minister announced the following:

(i)Increase in ITEC Slots to 500: Prime Minister announced the doubling of training slots under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme to Myanmar from the current 250 to 500.

(ii)Training Programmes for Myanmar Parliamentarians and staff: A programme for training of Myanmar parliamentarians and staff by the Bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training. The programme is expected to start form June 2012.

(iii)Upgradation of the India-Myanmar Center For Enhancement of IT Skills (IMCEITS) in Yangon: IMCEITS was set up in 2008 with financial assistance from Government of India by C-DAC. Since its establishment, IMCEITS has become a premier institution for advanced ICT training in Myanmar, providing specialised training in disciplines identified by the Government of Myanmar. The Centre is also connected to seven Communication Information Centres through VSAT and has since trained nearly 1300 IT professionals in five ICT courses. It has been agreed that India would assist Myanmar in further upgradation of the Centre, including its IT infrastructure; supply of course material; training/workshops; and new upgraded programs.

(iv)Assistance in production of large Cardamom in Naga Self Administered zone (NSAZ): On a request from the Myanmar side, Prime Minister announced India’s assistance in the production of cardamom in Myanmar. The Spices Board of India would be involved in implementation of the project that includes technological support for commercial production of large cardamom in the NSAZ to be undertaken over a period of four years. The components of Indian assistance include training farmers/NGOs and officials of Agricultural Department of Myanmar which would be organised in two/three locations, and of duration of two days at each location, supply of quality seeds and support to farmers/exporters in establishing market linkage. The support would be extended for a period of four years.

(v)Training of Myanmar Diplomats in Conference Management: At Myanmar’s request, India has agreed to provide training in conference management and logistics to Myanmar diplomats in the context of Myanmar's preparation for its ASEAN Chairmanship in 2014. In the above context, a training programme is proposed on (i) International Treaties {Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic/Consular Relations, UN (Privileges and Immunities) Act} and (ii) Conference Management. The training is proposed to be in the nature of "Training of Trainers" and conducted for 25-30 participants over 10 working days.

(vi)Setting up of Language Lab and e-Research centre for Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar: At Myanmar’s request, Prime Minister announced India’s support for setting up language labs facilities in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon and an e-Research Centre in Nay Pyi Taw for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar. It would assist Myanmar as it prepares to take over the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2014.

(vii)Indian Fellowships for Myanmar researchers in Science & Technology: Pursuant to the Programme of Cooperation in Science & Technology for the period of 2012-15, signed during the visit of the President of Myanmar in October 2011, 10 (ten) new fellowships per year have been instituted for Myanmar Researchers to work in Indian Universities and Research Institutions in the areas of Atmospheric and Earth Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Medical Sciences, Mathematical and Computations Sciences, and Physical sciences. These would be offered in the 3 categories- Post Doctoral (6 month), senior fellowship (3-4 months) and visiting fellowship (1-2 months).

(viii)Gifting of Rice Silo at Model Integrated Farm, Nay Pyi Taw: A modern and cyclone proof rice silo that has been constructed with the financial assistance of the Government of India in the Model Farm in Nay Pyi Taw was handed over to the Myanmar side. India had, in March 2011, in the aftermath of the cyclone Nargis extended cash assistance of US$ 2 million for the construction of ten Rice Silos, some of which were inaugurated by EAM during his visit to Myanmar in June 2011.

VII.CULTURAL Cooperation

(a)Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) 2012-2015: A cultural exchange programme for the period 2012-15 was signed during the visit of the Prime Minister to Myanmar. The Programme provides for exchanges including in the fields of art, architecture, archaeology and media and involves the visit of experts, holding of exhibitions, joint seminars, visits of artistes and troupes etc. It would also facilitate cultural exchanges between the States in the North East of India and Myanmar that share close cultural and ethnic affinities.

(b)Gifting of a 16-foot replica of the Sarnath Buddha: Government of India would gift to the Government of Myanmar a 16 foot statue replica of the Sarnath Buddha to be installed at the Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon. The statue will be unveiled in the margins of the International Conference on Buddhism to be organised jointly by India and Myanmar in December 2012. During his visit, the Prime Minister will symbolically unveil a smaller replica (about three and a half feet) of the statue during his visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda.


(a)MoU on Cooperation between Dagon and Calcutta University: A MoU on academic cooperation between Dagon University in Myanmar and the Calcutta University in the areas of exchange of faculty members, students, Administrative Managers/Coordinators, academic materials and other information, joint research activities, participation in seminars and academic meetings, special short-term academic programmes, joint cultural Programmes and study tours of Administrative Managers/Coordinators was signed during the PM’s visit to Myanmar in May 2012. The Vice Chancellor of the Calcutta University signed the MoU from the Indian side.

(b)MoUs on Cooperation between Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS) and ICWA and IDSA: Both IDSA and ICWA entered into separate MoUs with the Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS). The MoU envisages cooperation in capacity building, organization of joint events and undertaking research projects of mutual interest. Signing of the MoUs would be helpful in facilitating greater and more frequent interaction on an academic level.

(c)Setting up of an Indian School in Yangon: The size of the Indian origin community in Myanmar is estimated at between 1.5 million and 2.5 million and includes people speaking Tamil, Telugu, Oriya, Bengali, Punjabi and Hindustani. Also, the number of Indian nationals in Myanmar for trade/businesses/projects has also been on the rise. The need for an Indian School in Yangon has been felt given the large number of children of the Indian community studying either in local schools or in private schools in Myanmar. During his visit, the Prime Minister announced India’s support to set up an Indian school with technical assistance of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan to provide children with quality education.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Going down all guns blazing. Gen VK Singh over the past two years

Three days later, Chief of the Army Staff, Gen VK Singh will pass on the baton to his chosen successor Lt. Gen Bikram Singh, currently the Eastern Army Commander.

Days before his retirement, Gen VK Singh has given a spate of interviews. 

I happen to do one too for NDTV, my fourth since he took office on 1st April 2010. 

In every interview he has done with me, I have found him to be forthright, forceful and a man who does not like to mince words. 

Below is the full transcript of the latest interview and the video too.

Just to give a comprehensive overview of what the General's thought process has been, I am also pasting links to my earlier three interviews with him. Make your own judgement.

NDTV:  Let me start with the tenure you had. Eventful and controversial. How do you look back at these 2 years?

Gen VK Singh: Well as eventful as every chief has had because you start somethings, you push somethings, you try to achieve somethings. So i think all chiefs must have felt the same. Some controversies were raised or otherwise, not by me but i think they were percieved by some people. I found it to be a very happy tenure something which one started with aims and certain things I think it has been good.

NDTV: But the controversy, apart from your age controversy, which we will talk about later, the latest controversy which everybody is saying that you are going with guns blazing and you issued a show cause notice to a serving Lt. General which is not fair. What is your take on that particular incident?
Gen VK Singh: See the problem is people don't understand how the army functions. And they are taking out bits and pieces and start making a story out of it. Incident took place in month of December and if I can quote a very senior IB oficer who was looking after north east, he said "it is a blot on the name of army." It was that type of incident. It was outside the juridication of 3 Corps, should never have happened. Court of enquiry took its own time despite we trying to push them. Its come only at the end of April, now just the month of May is left. By the time it has been finalised, so what ever actions could have been taken two months back, if the court of enquiry had come in time. Now they are apprearing as if they are moving at the fag end of the tenure. That's not the case and a show cause notice is a show cause notice so what is so big about it, what is the big deal.

NDTV: No, they are saying that you have tried to upset the succession plan in the Army.
Gen VK Singh: Army is not a monarchy, there is no succession in army, its not hereditary. People come, people are found fit and that is it. Somebody will become chief somebody will not become a chief. More than that there is nothing. My mind is quite clear: some mistakes have occured, a show cause notice was given and I think it has been morally wrong for somebody to go to press with that show cause notice.

NDTV: You mean this serving Lt. General went to press?
Gen VK: Obviously, it is a communication between me and him there is no 3rd party involved. He has got time till 26th he should reply, rather than seek the assistance of the TV channels.

NDTV: You said there is no succession plan in the army, but your entire age controversy is also seen as the part of succession plan, what do you have to say about it?
Gen VK: I wont put it that way. Yes certain things were done by some people to put certain things in place and Ibwont say more than that and I think it has received enough ink and paper in days gone by and there is no point in beating a dead horse. May be after I retire I will talk more freely about it.

NDTV: Are you bitter about it?
VK: No I am not bitter at all. I was never bitter. In fact I can share this, and I have said this in many forums. My ambition in life was to get a rank higher than my father. My father retired as Lt. Colonel, if I attained that I felt very happy and the 2nd part of ambition was that I should command my battalion. I commanded it. I commanded it for 3 years after that whatever has come is bonus. So I think even if I had got one day as chief I would still be ok.

NDTV: So you were not looking for additional...
Gen VK Singh: I was never looking for additional tenure, let me also say that I have told my honourable Raksha mantri the day you feel you dont want me, tell me, I will go away.

NDTV: Did this entire controversy, contrived or manufactured or otherwise, did it affect your working as the Army Chief because you came in with lot of ideas, the first day you told me that the army's internal health must be set right. Do you think that affected it or you could still achieve something?
Gen VK: No it never affected me.  It was something which I put on a different plane all together. My professional life, my committment to the organisation never wavered because that is how I am made. I dont look at these issues as something which will come in the path of what I am doing.

NDTV: But there is also this critisicm which one is increasingly heearing much more as day go by, is that you are going to leave a faction-ridden army, a divided army when you leave your office..
Gen VK Singh: I really don't know, when I go around I talk to people, I talk to my men I talk to my officers, I don't find any factions, I don't find any feuds, don't find any divide. I think lot of people use there imagination to invent certain things and then put it out there, I dont think that is correct. Let me also say most of the army, most of it, does not feel it this way . There may be some disgruntled poeple in a 1.3 million strong army like any other organisation you will have some people who are disgruntled people who will bellyache, people who will crib, well thats part of it.

NDTV: You know they point out 2 or 3 incidents which I must point out to you, you must have heard that you went and inaugurated a former prime minister's bust; then there was some Jantar Mantar rally and also on communal lines a PIL was though to be sort of supported  or tacitly was given support by you against your successor. What do you have to say to that critisim?
Gen VK Singh: All I would say is that a warped mind will only think of warped things. The former prime minister's statue was in a school  which had invited me because I was visting that area which no chief in the history of Indian army has visited and i had gone there to interact with ex servicemen, when they came to know they invited me theys said we have got a statue. I said ex prime minister (so why not) but then there are some great newspapers, there are some great journalist who say oh! he was a rajput,  he(the Army Chief) is a Rajput, I think you cant be more sick that that. Tomorrow somebody visits the memorial of our great PM Lal Bahadur Shahstri, are you going to say that he is a brahmin? I think lets get out of this. similarli i have got no this thing with any PIL infact i dont even have time to see what is happening beyond what my profession is . So what is happening in PIL people went and sat out on jantar mantar, it is there wish where am I in it?

NDTV: somebody, some relative of yours was there at Jantar Mantar or so..
Gen VK Singh: Some relative must be there, some people from my village must have also gone, how does it make a difference. Lets not unnecssarily read things which are not there and describe motives which are wrong.

NDTV: But coming to the other controversial part, the press release that the army issued under your watch against Tejinder singh charging him, not only offering a bribe but being behind the conspiracy to defame you, do you have a regert about issuing that press release and is there is conspiracy against you?
Gen VK Singh: See I will put it this way, there is a media policy which was made in 2005. Army is authorized to do certain things specially when somebody is trying to malign the army and here was a case  where someone was deliberately doing it. It started with so called the bug story, it went on to the off air monitoring system and it persisted and I think I have always told to some journalists who meet me, it is like a mandi. Anybody who is doing anything in this mandi other people come to know and unfortunately this officer was out briefing people, telling them stories in a particular manner and therefore army had to come out and say here is a man who is planting stories and this is what his character is. We have got no regrets.

NDTV: Was there a conspiracy against you by a group of officers?
Gen VK Singh: See the thing is when there are some disgruntled elements when some people have some agendas like the great Sukna lobby had and the Adarsh lobby had, there be more such lobbies which come up obviously there interest coalesce they all come together and they all start thinking that  this is the person who has done A B and C, it has troubled us, now let us trouble him, so this makes a coterie, do all kinds of things, some of them are absolutely sick in mind I think they all require some sort of treatment because you cant do such things that is harming the organisation.

NDTV: But what about the governmnet?  A perception was that there was a lot of difference between you and the government as such, how do you see that relationship which you had with the government and going forward how it should be?
Gen VK Singh: See I dont know if there are differences between me and govenment. My perception of being a chief is I should be truthful and forthright in telling the government  which is the supreme authority that this is what is required and these are the fault lines this is our view and let me assure you I have had an excellent relationship with the honourable raksha mantri. I admire him for his integrity, equanimity and maturity and I haven't found him wanting in any way in the type of support that we wanted. Whatever people might keep saying we have always provided him with the absolutely forthright advice.

NDTV: Do you think the controversies could have been avoided, would you be happier if all this controversies wouldnt have come up?
Gen VK Singh: See the problem is because we started action in the Sukna thing that gentelman wanted to start something because he wanted to use this as his defence so it came up. Well Sukna should have been avoided, buried, the chap should have been given another tamga, another honour and let go, that is one method of dealing with it. I think they have had a hand because their interests they felt were getting erroded to a certain extent because we insisted on transparency, we insisted on ensuring that everything is multi-vendored we insisted on ensuring that everything we take is good. I think that is all we wanted.

NDTV: Same thing happened in tatra when you actually said that everything must go multi vendored, what is the thing that took so long in reference to atra to come up , that allegation or that charge?
Gen VK Singh:  It didnt take me long, the day I was given this lucerative offer I went and told my raksha mantri, thats why I said I admire my raksha mantri, he has said so in the parliament.

Nitin: But he didnt take any action, neither did you that time.
Gen VK Singh: See what I told him was certain things which I did and if there were more things to be done then there must have been some lack of understanding where I am concerned but I think we went as per what was to be done and in any case we were trying to make our things multi vendored even before this was done, the multi vendor thing has started when I came in I said with the technology going up, with better vehicles coming in lets go multi vendor.Why do we have to carry old technology?

NDTV: Let me move away from all these controversies and move on to the transformation study that you have done and the test beds and the implementation of test beds, how far have we come in that aspect?
Gen VK Singh: We have come a long way, transformation was meant to make the Indian Army ready, relevant, agile, better structured and an army which can function in a network centric environment. A great deal of work has been done. We did the test beddings of our organisations where pivot and strike Corps were concerned, we did organisational changes in certain things in army head quarters to make it more effective. There were certain things required in the Corps of Military police, there were things required in the theatreizatin of combat support, we have test bedded. We are in the process of implementing logistic support system which will become more responsive, We have been able to bring a fair degree of awareness of network centricity and I am quite sure by the end of year we will see the results. I think as part of transformation the biggest thing that was required was change of mind sets.

NDTV: I was jus coming to that, did you find a lot of resistance because sometimes I feel more than the civil breaucracy it is the military beauracracy which is more obdurate
Gen VK SinghIt is not like that, I think change is something which is resisted everywhere

NDTV: Is there a change in focus in the Indian Army's doctrines, just the focus in terms of who will be our main adversory-- Pakistan or China?
Gen VK Singh: If you are a capability based army it doesnt matter, when you have created capabilities to deal with any threat that may occur  and we are slowly moving towards that.

NDTV: But have you got support from the government, because your letter again became bone of contention whcih you wrote to the prime minister, who leaked it? Why dont you shed some light on that particular incident.

VK: I really dont know who leaked it but I am quite sure and my army is quite sure that it is not the army that leaked it. Now there can be all kinds of  theories, all kinds of things which we scratch our heads on, somebody is going to find out this. Something came on PTI. But let me assure you, each man in the army knows it cannot be leaked out from the army. Where you talk of support, I think  we have got support. At times  because of our procedure, because of our great ability of not taking decisions in time, because of our internal service procedures where things take too much of time or we dont push things in  manner which  they should be pushed, the shorter tenures you dont have continuity, by the time the person learns his job, he is moving out. So all this have contributed (to the delay), we have put all this in place to sort this out.

NDTV: I have a question on that support itself, in terms of human resuorse management within the army we havent had, as far as my knowledge goes, a Corps commander in one of the Corps in past 6 months; you havent had a DG Assam Rifles for the past 6 months, we dont know who will be the army commander in the east or the West in next 3 days when they should be actually be declared much ahead. Dont you think that there is some kind of disconnect between the army headquarters and the  ministry of defence or some other authority.
Gen VK Singh: This disconnet is sad, all that I can say is that everybody has to make effort.  I have said so in number of forums in which we meet our officials from the MoD that everybody is a stake holder in how the army runs or the airforce runs or the navy runs . Lets not separate out that he is in uniform and he is not, Till the time we don't combine, we will not be able to achieve results and some of these things which you are poiniting out, they are glaring inadequacies of the system.

NDTV: What is your future plan?
Gen VK Singh: I actually havent though of anything, I havent had time to think of what am I going to do after 31st, in fact the 1st thing that is happening which is I am still working on is my doctorate thesis which I am writing, it doesnt' seem to be finishing, I am not satisfied. The subject is Afghanistan and the geo strategic importance of Wakhan. So it will take a little time, I am working on that, because finding time out of all other things that one does and then sitting late at night correcting or work out a thesis it is quite difficult. Like they say in this journey of 1000 steps the first step will start only on 1st of June.

NDTV: Will that step take you towards politics?
Gen VK Singh: I have got no clue at the moment, I havent even thought of it and there are N number of option available which one ultimately you decide on. Only time will tell.

NDTV: I am asking because you have got an offer from  Team Anna also.
Gen VK Singh: That is ok.. all kind of offers will come. You have to decide.

NDTV: When you joined the army in 1970 its been a journey of 42 years now , which is your most satisfying or most memorable moment because you have participated in the Bangladesh campign, you have been to IPKF and you have been in Kashmir, the northeast everywhere . What is it that remains in your memory?
Gen VK Singh :Wars will always remain etched for various things whether it was 71 where  we were busy for a long time it was not just those 16 days  but there was more to it. Operation Pawan was very interesting. One was there for 2 years,  that will remain ever etched. But when you look at a particular tenure and that tenure is the commanding officer's. The whole ambition in life was to command your battalion.

NDTV: So these 42 years if you have to do it again would you do it differently?
Gen VK Singh: No, I think i would like to live it the same way. Well mistakes are there.  Other things are there, let all those lessons remain. But then i always give this little advice which I can give it to you also, live your present. Don't think of the future, nobody has seen the future. If you keep thinking about the future then you will spoil your present also. That's my philosophy. Each day is important, each moment is important and  think each moment of this 42 years is unique by itself.

NDTV: So when you are hanging your boots on 31st, can we say that you are leaving as a satisfied man, an army which is as good as it has been ?
Gen VK Singh: I am satisfied, I am quite sure my army, my family is good and it is a satisfied army.


(January 2012)

(July 2010)

(April 1, 2010)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Young, brave pilots sacrifice their lives for no fault of their own


A young Army Aviation pilot died in Siachen this morning, trying perhaps to eke out non-existent power from the ageing Cheetah Helicopter. 

His co-pilot is seriously injured and in hospital.

Despite this accident the brave pilots will continue flying on the World's most inhopitable and highest battlefield.

What went wrong, no one will know but the fact is the Cheetahs and Chetaks have far outlived their lifespan.

They were good machines when they were inducted. Not any longer.

We need replacement. As of yesterday.

As someone who tracks defence matters closely, it saddens me to report that almost 15 months ago, I had done a report on problems with the ageing fleet of Cheetahs and Chetaks.

But the defence minister and the defence ministry will continue to cite flimsy reasons to delay the procurement of helicopters to replace the ageing fleet. We will continue to lose young, brave pilots for no fault of their own.

RIP our brave warrior.

My earlier report is below.

4 Feb 2011:

On Wednesday, a Cheetah helicopter of the Indian Army crashed in a civilian area in Nasik, soon after it took off from an aviation training school.

 Both pilots on board, young Army Majors died. One leaves behind a three-month-old daughter. The other had been married for six months.

A preliminary probe suggested a “technical snag” in the Cheetah helicopter. Did the Cheetah that crashed in Nasik then become a death trap for Major Atul Garje and Major Bhanu Chandra?

Consider these facts. The Cheetah, bought from France, was inducted into the Indian Army 40 years ago, in 1971. There are about 120 Cheetahs in service right now and most of these helicopters have been stretched beyond their lives.

The airframe life of the light-utility helicopter is about 4,500 hours, but most of the Cheetahs that the Army has have logged over 6,000 flying hours. The engine life of the chopper is 1750 hours and most have gone past that too.

At any given time, half of these helicopters are AOG (aircraft on ground) or grounded. Supply of spares is a major problem too.

Worse. While the Nasik crash is a jolt and brings focus back on the precarious condition of the choppers, in the Siachen glacier Cheetahs, which have a flying ceiling of 17,000 feet, routinely fly at over 20,000 feet, risking both man and machine.

In March 2007, Defence Minister AK Antony had told Parliament that the aging Cheetah fleet would be replaced soon. There has been one cancelled tender since then, some fresh trials, but no decision. In these four years, eight pilots have been killed in Cheetah crashes.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What a former Vice Chief thinks of media coverage on Ladakh incident

Note: On this blog, I have so far refrained from posting articles by others simply because this is a blog that reflects my personal opinion. But today, I am going to make an exception because a highly respected soldier, former Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Vijay Oberoi's piece on the recent incident at Mahe-Nyoma in Ladakh needs a little wider circulation. I received this article through email. I am posting it in full including his opening note in a hope that all of us media practitioners will heed a bit of his advice. Read on.

Dear All,

I had sent the following article to a news paper on 15 May 2012, but it has
not been published. I have now sent it to another news paper, but since our
media does not like criticism of any type, it is unlikely that even this
paper will publish it.

Be that as it may, I am texting the article below. You may read it if you
have the time.


Vijay Oberoi

  A recent incident of indiscipline in a unit of the army was dutifully reported by the media, but a few newspapers and TV news channels that indulge in yellow journalism, continue to sensationalise it. This is despite the army having unequivocally stated that the incident is being investigated thoroughly. Implicit in various media releases by the army is that there is no move whatsoever to push the incident under the carpet and that exemplary  disciplinary action would be taken against all those found guilty. This being so, speculative innuendos and sensational stances must stop.

 My intention is not to say that the news of the incident should not have
been reported, or that the media should only report favourable news about
the army. However, one starts losing faith in our supposedly independent
media when sensationalism takes over and phrases like ‘unique case’ or
‘army getting indisciplined’ are bandied about.

This is not the first time such an incident has occurred.  Without going
too far back, there was a case in 1978 and another in 1979, both in Ladakh.
In 1986 and 1987, two such incidents occurred in the eastern sector. During
Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka, there were two incidents, one each in 1987
and 1989. Mutinous actions of a number of units following Operation Blue
Star in 1984 are well known. There have been similar incidents in the navy
and air force too. All these were handled by the hierarchy of the armed
forces with balance, maturity and panache and no editor-in-chief of those
days interfered or offered advice, as is being done by a few upstarts
today! Neither was there any dilution in the professional capabilities of
our forces!

All artillery units fire their artillery guns a number of times every year,
but the annual practice firing camp has a special sanctity. During this
camp, all artillery guns of the unit fire at the field firing ranges and
all personnel of the unit are fully involved. When all the guns of the unit
fire simultaneously, the noise, dust, smoke and explosions they produce can
only be described as spectacular.

During these camps, there is a surge in adrenalin levels of all ranks, as
well as tension, as everyone wants to do well. On the day the entire
regiment fires, many guests are invited to witness this spectacular event.
Once the firing is wound up, there is visible decrease in tension and
everyone gets in to a celebratory frame of mind, having successfully
achieved what they had set out to do.

It is unfortunate that after the culmination of this specific event, the
unfortunate incident of indiscipline occurred. It was an isolated incident,
where tempers were allowed to rise unnecessarily. There was no
pre-mediation or planning, let alone a conspiracy on anyone’s part. It was
simply an accident and hence there is no reason to sensationalise it or
make it larger than life. From the very beginning, no attempt was made by
the army to hush up the incident. One therefore cannot understand why a
section of the media is bent upon making it sinister and trying to link it
with other recent events.

In a 1.3 million strong army, where individuals interact with each other on
a 24X7 basis, the odd aberration does occur. Despite discipline being
ingrained in them from the very first day they don a uniform, and despite
the excellent officer-man relationship that is nurtured on a continuous
basis, tempers sometimes run high.  All ranks do understand that it is this
close relationship that sustains them even in the most difficult
situations, but anger subsumes this temporarily. Despite the many ups and
downs in the working environment of the army, officer-man relationship has
endured. These are the facets that have contributed to making the Indian
Army professionally highly competent and behaviourally the best in the
business. This needs to be commended not criticized. I would urge those
elements of the media that are going unnecessarily overboard in bashing the
entire army to desist, for if such coverage continues, it will do great
harm to the army and the nation.

The army has time-tested and well laid out procedures for dealing with all
types of indiscipline. The media neither has the expertise nor the
knowledge of doing so. Even those segments of the media that may have been
goaded to unnecessarily raise the issue to absurd heights on account of
their vested interests will do well to confine their reports to news and
desist from voicing irrelevant views and comments. The country continues to
have faith in the prowess and honesty of purpose of their army. It is best
for amateurs of the media, however much they may think of themselves as the
greatest media honchos, to let the army take remedial actions in their own
professional manner. They will, in due course, share their conclusions with

Let me end this piece by adding that the motto of the Regiment of Artillery
of your army is “Izzat o Iqbal”, to which they adhere to scrupulously. This
particular unit – 226 Field Regiment, will also bounce back, provided
unnecessary hounding of the unit and its personnel comes to an end

(The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff)