Did Army Chief wade into India-Nepal cartographic dispute? - The Daily Guardian
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Did Army Chief wade into India-Nepal cartographic dispute?

Reports suggest that the Nepal government is planning to launch a social media campaign within the country to create an anti-India sentiment. This is aimed to enhance the standing of the Oli government and reduce criticism on its failings, by projecting the strong stance it has taken.

Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Answering queries from guests during a question-and-answer session at the end of a webinar organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis on 15 May, Army Chief M.M. Naravane discussed objections by Nepal on the Dharchula-Lipulekh road. He stated that there was no reason for a controversy since the road was well within Indian territory and had been discussed with the Nepalese side.

He further added that the timing of the aggressive claim was not without a motive and that Nepal was acting at “someone else’s” behest. Nepal’s objections to the road, post its inauguration on 8 May and the commencement of the standoff in Ladakh were near simultaneous. The Chinese objection in Ladakh was also the construction of a bridge over the Galwan rivulet.

The bridge, once complete, would give India easy access to Daulat Beg Oldie, the last Indian post south of the Karakoram Pass. Nepal’s initial claims were rejected by the Indian government with a statement, “India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue and in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations with Nepal.” While India and Nepal do have boundary disputes, the road is well within Indian territory. The current road follows the alignment of the track taken by pilgrims moving for the Kailash Mansarovar yatra, ending at Lipulekh, which is also a bilateral trade route between India and China, based on an agreement of 2015.

Jammu and Kashmir, Feb 26 (ANI): Chief of Army Staff Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane interacts with soldiers as he reviews the prevailing security situation during his two-day visit to Line of Control, in Kashmir on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)

Nepal had objected to this agreement being signed without Nepal’s consent. Post objections being raised by Nepal on 8 May, the Indian government stated, “The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Under the present project, the same road has been made pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals and traders.” The cartographic issue had begun simmering since India released new maps in November 2019, post creating the two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir in August.

The map remains the same as before but since it was issued afresh, Nepal objected. New Delhi stated it was open to talks once the coronavirus lockdown is eased. But Kathmandu wanted the talks to be held as early as possible. The reason for rise in temperatures within Nepal is its tense internal political climate. Current PM K.P. Sharma Oli is facing internal criticism for multiple failures including corruption, governance and inability to handle the pandemic.

His government was saved from imminent collapse by timely intervention of the Chinese Ambassador and a phone call by the Chinese President Xi Jinping. Oli needed an opportunity to enhance national spirit while diverting public attention. This was the opportunity and hence he had a new map drafted which included regions, beyond the current dispute, into Nepalese areas and even considered amending the constitution to adopt this map.

The attempt to amend the constitution is currently ongoing. To further divert attention from his failings, Oli went as far as blaming his own detractors working alongside India to push in Covid-affected persons into the country. He stated, “Those who are coming from India through illegal channels are spreading the virus in the country and some local representatives and party leaders are responsible for bringing in people from India without proper testing.”

It was around this time that the Indian army chief made his comments. As per the Kathmandu Times of 15 May, the statement of the Indian army chief was made, “hours after Nepalese Foreign Secretary, Shanker Das Bairagi, held a meeting with Chinese Ambassador, Hou Yanqi, in Kathmandu regarding the boundary row with India over Lipulekh”. Thus, China was directly or indirectly involved in the raising of Nepal’s protests.

This statement was initially exploited not in Nepal but within India by a columnist and political commentator, who claims to have served in a quasi-military organisation as also runs a website on defence issues. His piece in an online journal was aimed at sowing discontent within the Indian Army’s Gurkha Units, a large part of whose manpower flows from Nepal. He even sought to the army chief’s simple statement a political overtone. He wrote, “No soldier, in India or in Nepal, believes that General Naravane’s inconsiderate remarks have not been instigated by someone within the Narendra Modi government.”

He added, “This incomparable time-tested bond has been placed under a strain by an utterance that is both avoidable and unmilitary.” The writer’s own understanding of India-Nepal military relations as also of the structure and cohesion within the Indian army appears to be extremely shallow. Apart from the two Army Chiefs being honorary chiefs of the other army, the Indian Army supports the Nepalese Army in training and equipment. Nepal Army officers attend Indian Army training courses.

Their current army chief, General Purna Chandra Thapa has himself done the Defence Services Staff College and the National Defence College courses in India. The Indian Army also pays pension to 1,25,000 retired Gorkha soldiers and civilian personnel. The strength of Indian army officers in the Indian embassy in Nepal is the highest army presence in an embassy anywhere in the globe, as they are responsible for the welfare and wellbeing of the Gurkha veterans. Indian army veteran Gurkha Officers criticised the comments.

Bhim Bahadur Shahi, a third generation Gurkha Officer, wrote in the Eastern Link that the author by his comments, “dishonours and disrespects the entire community of the Gorkha Rifles, serving and retired, in India and Nepal”. He added, “Politics does not affect the Gorkha soldier in the Indian army because he is here for soldiering, not for politics.” However, these comments were exploited by political elements within Nepal.

The Nepalese defence minister, Ishwor Pokhrel, also spoke on similar lines. The Nepal army refused to be drawn into the controversy. The office of the Nepali army spokesperson refused to comment stating that the army was not entitled to comment on “opinions” of the Defence Minister. Nepal is now seeking talks at the foreign secretary’s level to resolve the issue. India turned down the offer demanding that Nepal first creates “an environment of trust and confidence”. The statement added, “Even in these challenging times of Covid-19, India has ensured unimpeded trade and supply of essentials including medicines to Nepal.”

Nepal’s intention is to keep the subject boiling for political purposes. Recent reports indicate that the Nepalese government is planning to launch a social media campaign within the country to create an anti-India sentiment. This is aimed to enhance the standing of the Oli government and reduce criticism on its failings, by projecting the strong stance it has taken. Stalemate on the case continues. It is advisable that the case be handled at the level of the MEA, rather than novices jumping in to vitiate the environment.

Maj Gen Harsha Kakar (Retd) has held a variety of appointments in every part of the country including J&K and the Northeast until he retired from Indian Army in 2015. During his service he was also the head of the department in strategic studies at the College of Defence Management, where he wrote extensively on futuristic planning and enhancing joint operations. He has also served as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Mozambique.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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Defence

IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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Defence

BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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