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Kashmir: A future reflection

It is utopian to think that Kashmir can exist as an independent country between three nuclear powers—India, China and Pakistan. It does not have the political, geographic or economic resources, abilities or capabilities to exist as an independent nation.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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It has been more than a year since the abrogation of Article 370. A lot has been said in this time. Commentaries commemorating the anniversary abound: some experts painted deterioration; some painted no change, while some expressed hope in the incremental change. Other major events have also occurred in the bygone year. One: the onset of the Wuhan virus, which turned the world upside down. Two: Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh. Three: Pakistan’s economy has fallen off the cliff. A few fundamental truths have also emerged. The UT of Ladakh is contended and will not likely go back to status quo ante. The opinion in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir is mixed. Jammuites miss the privileges of Article 370. However, they also do not want to go back to the old order. It is only some in the Valley who harp that things have not improved.  Some of them still dream of ‘azadi’. Let us put things in perspective. The issue is no more of the entire erstwhile state. It is only of the Kashmir Valley. The options for people in the Valley are fourfold: continue to seek azadi, join Pakistan, join China, or amalgamate with India in all respect.

 It is utopian to think that Kashmir can exist as an independent country between three nuclear powers. It does not have the political, geographic or economic resources, abilities or capabilities to exist as an independent nation. Comparisons can be drawn with Switzerland. However, such comparisons are superfluous. It is comparing oranges with apples. Even if Kashmir attains independence by some imaginary stretch, one of the other powers – China or Pakistan – will gobble it up. India will only be forced to let go of Kashmir either due to a major military defeat or due to the deterioration of the situation in the Valley beyond redemption. That is a ‘dream in a dream’ situation. Not going to happen. Overall, the ‘azadi’ option is ruled out. The faster Kashmir realises this, the better it is for the people. Realistic choices are that they might be part of Pakistan, China or continue to be part of India. We shall examine each of them.

For 70 years, Pakistan sold a canard of supporting the self-determination and ‘azadi’ aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They instigated youth to pick up arms. They infused radicalised Islam into the area. They ruined people’s lives. Pakistan’s true intent has always been to annexe Kashmir to ensure its water security and wreak revenge on India. Pakistan has now confirmed this by publishing a new map in which Jammu and Kashmir is part of its territory.

Pakistan will never allow Jammu and Kashmir to be independent. For argument’s sake let us assume that Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan. The entire lifestyle of Kashmir will have a downward revision. A joint Indo-Pak management institute study report on conditions on both sides of the divide clearly brought out that people in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region are way better off than those people who are living in PoK. Besides this, the original inhabitants of PoK have been depopulated from the area by Pakistan. Many of them are refugees in other countries. A demographic inversion has occurred with many Punjabis inducted into the area. Kashmiris should, therefore, be prepared to be ejected from the Valley when the Pakistani Punjabis move in to exploit them and strip them of their resources. Pakistan and China will exploit the water resources of the area and build dams. This will result in a second wave of displacement. It will also result in ecological disasters. This is happening in Gilgit Baltistan where the Diamer Bhasha Dam is being built. My guess is that within a matter of five years the ‘Kashmiri’ will be in a minority in the Valley. Kashmiris will be the new wandering tribe like the Palestinians were. The difference is that there will be no closure. The bankrupt state of Pakistan and the rich Deep State will economically exploit the Kashmir Valley mercilessly. The recent incident outside the India House in the UK where pro-Pakistani supporters bore down violently on ‘azadi seekers’ is a precursor of events to come. If and when Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan, the ‘azadi seekers’ will turn to India for ‘azadi’!

When China started its aggressive actions in Eastern Ladakh there were some reports that a few Kashmiris were supportive of Chinese actions. Let us assume that China inflicts a major military defeat and forces India out of the Valley. Kashmiris opt to join China with great hope that CPEC will change their fortunes. Firstly, PLA and Chinese political commissars will move in with their form of severe censorship. Secondly, ‘azadi seekers’ and the ‘stone pelting brigade’ will be sent off to re-education centres along with other Uighurs. Thirdly – ah, I almost forgot! – Kashmiri girls will be exported as part of bride trafficking for eligible Chinese bachelors. Why? Because the Chinese still practise female infanticide. Their one-child policy and gender gap clearly point to this practice. Fourthly, sterilisation drives will be the norm. Fifthly, many mosques will be razed and converted into public toilets. All their Pakistani friends – including Mr Imran Khan, the self-professed ambassador of Kashmiris -will keep mum as he is doing now. He could not care a damn if a million Uighurs are being persecuted. Incidentally, even joining Pakistan places Kashmir under the Chinese eventually. After all Pakistan is already a vassal of China. Kashmiris will, therefore, become vassals of a vassal of China.

Ever since Article 370 has been abrogated there has been no great progress. On the other hand, there has been no deterioration of the situation either. There has been no exodus or ingress of people from or into the Valley as was feared. No one has been exploited. The situation has been generally stable. Pakistan has been kept at bay. There have been some customary terrorist attacks. Terrorists continue to be eliminated. Pakistan has endeavoured to convert the proxy war into a homegrown insurgency. No one is fooled. There has been no great upheaval. All the leaders of Kashmir who were kept out of circulation were not missed. In their absence, normal life could resume. The underprivileged and marginal communities have got their rights. Those who have been hijacking the overall agenda have been sidelined and the silent majority are getting a voice. The people of Kashmir are deriving the benefit of central laws. Their effect will take some time to manifest. At the grassroots level, people realise it. Kashmir is experiencing the pleasure and pangs of being a normal state after all these years. Internationally, after the initial hue and cry, things have settled down. The world has moved on except Pakistan and China. No one is bothered about Article 370 or the status of Kashmir. That is amply clear. High expectations and dire predictions have been belied on both sides. We need to realise that a problem which has been festering for 70 years cannot get resolved in one year.

 Is the situation rosy? Definitely not. There is a lot of room for governmental action. Firstly, political activity must resume. New leaders have to be thrown up by the people, for the people and of the people. Secondly, the presence of security personnel must be reduced. There is already a move to reduce Central Armed Police Forces personnel from the Valley. That is welcome. It is also time to revisit the presence of the Indian Army in the hinterland. Restricting the Indian Army to counterinfiltration and management of the LOC will go a long way. It will convey a big message to the people and also contribute to reducing its manpower, which will lead to the modernisation of the Army. Thirdly, the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir needs to be restored. This will reinforce the pride of the people and faith in the Government of India. But most importantly, any government can only do so much. Ultimately, it is the people who will get what they want. That is democracy after all. If Kashmiris continue with India, what they get is the guarantee of democracy. Some good, some bad.

There will be many Kashmiris who will doubt if democracy really works in India. The answer to that lies in Tamil Nadu. The state exhibited secessionist tendencies once. Today it is an industrialised and developed state. It was done by the people for themselves with their leaders. They realised that their best interests were within the Indian Constitution. So a turnaround is quite possible if the Kashmiris want it. On the other hand, the Government of India will not let Kashmir go to Pakistan or China. We know that Kashmir cannot exist on its own. Indians realise that the fate of Kashmiris will be worse off if they are part of either Pakistan or China. We will do whatever it takes to keep our brethren in Kashmir as part of us. Pakistan and China can take a walk. We also realise that the time has come when both these countries must realise that if they continue to meddle in our internal affairs, we will do the same to them. It is a matter of time.

 Finally, the Valley cannot be independent. If Kashmiris seek ‘azadi’ in amalgamating with Pakistan, they will be exploited and displaced. If they seek ‘azadi’ in China, they might end up in a concentration camp alongside the Uighurs or have more public urinals than mosques. If they continue to be in India, they will struggle like all of us, but be free. However, for that to happen, they have to make a self-commitment.

 Lt Gen PR Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on his blog www. gunnersshot.com.

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Defence

1971 WAR: NORTHERN COMMAND PAYS HOMAGE TO SWARNIM VIJAY MASHAAL

Ashish Singh

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To commemorate the decisive and historic victory of Indian Armed Forces over Pakistan Army in December 1971 and to pay homage to the Swarnim Vijay Mashaal (Victory Flame), a solemn Wreath Laying Ceremony was held at ‘Dhruva Shaheed Smarak’ at Headquarters Northern Command in the Udhampur Military Station. Lt Gen YK Joshi, Army Commander, Northern Command laid the wreath to honour the Swarnim Vijay Mashaal lit in remembrance of the valiant soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service of our nation. The event was attended by Veterans, NCC Cadets and senior Army officers of Udhampur Military Station.

The Swarnim Vijay Mashaal had arrived at Udhampur on 13 Jun 2021 from Nagrota & was received with full ceremonial honours. The Victory Flame was then escorted to the local unit quarter guard. After the customary ‘Last mile run’ the Victory Flame was handed over to the Station Commander, Udhampur Military Garrison who placed the Victory Flame at Dhruva War Memorial. Wreath laying was thereafter carried out by JCOs / OR and Veterans followed by Wreath Laying by the Army Commander, Northern Command. On culmination of the Wreath Laying Ceremony the Swarnim Vijay Mashaal was further handed over to Counter Insurgency Force (Delta) where it will be taken to various units to commemorate the unforgettable victory of 1971.

The year 2021 has been named as “Swarnim Vijay Varsh”, by the government of India and the Nation started the celebrations of the 50 years of Indo-Pak War which had resulted in the largest military surrender after World War-II. The inaugural event was held at the National War Memorial (NWM) in New Delhi on 16 Dec 2020 where Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff and Tri-Services Chiefs laid wreath and paid homage to the fallen soldiers. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi lit the ‘Swarnim Vijay Mashaal’ from the eternal flame of NWM on the occasion. Four Victory Mashaals (flames) lit from the Eternal Flame of NWM were then carried to various parts of the country including to villages of Param Vir Chakra and Maha Vir Chakra Awardees of 1971 War. Soil from the villages of these Awardees and from areas where major battles were fought in 1971 are being brought to the NWM.

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Defence

NORTHERN COMMAND’S ASSISTANCE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID PANDEMIC

Ashish Singh

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Station Commander, Udhampur Military Station handed over a large number of Oxygen concentrators, PPE kits, masks, steam inhalers and other Covid related material to Mrs Indu Kanwal Chib, District Commissioner, Udhampur, on behalf of Northern Command as part of proactive assistance to civil administration. Since the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, Northern Command has been pro-actively providing all possible assistance to the civil administration and citizens in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh in their fight against the pandemic. As India deals with the second wave of COVID pandemic, there has been an ever increasing demand of COVID related items to save valuable human life.

Keeping in view the present situation, Northern Command has taken concrete steps towards establishing Special Covid Care Centers, sensitizing the Awam on precautions, provisioning dedicated COVID care to Ex-servicemen and Veer Naris and collaborating with the civil administration on a host of other measures. The aim of today’s initiative was to augment the resources of the local administration with regard to COVID care of the poor and needy. This noble gesture will boost the efforts of the civil administration towards adopting the preventive measures in the area thereby restricting the infection load to the minimum. Northern Command always strives to support the people in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh in protecting their lives and responding to humanitarian causes directly or through the civil administration in a centralised as well as decentralized manner.

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Defence

90 SOLDIERS JOIN LADAKH SCOUTS REGIMENT

Ashish Singh

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An Attestation Parade was held at The LADAKH SCOUTS Regimental Centre, Leh to mark the entry of 90 well trained recruits into the LADAKH SCOUTS Regiment as Young Soldiers. The impressive ceremony, conducted in consonance with the highest traditions of the Indian Army, was reviewed by Major General Akash Kaushik, Chief Of Staff, Fire and Fury Corps.

The Young Soldiers, hailing from all regions of Ladakh, took the oath to serve the Nation. The Reviewing Officer congratulated them for the impressive parade and urged them to devote their life in service to the nation as proud soldiers of the Indian Army. He also complimented the parents of the Young Soldiers on having motivated their wards to join the Indian Army and exhorted the young Soldiers to continue to strive hard in pursuit of excellence and uphold the name of battle tested ‘LADAKH SCOUTS’ and their military traditions. The young Riflemen were awarded medals for their outstanding performance during training. It was indeed a proud moment for the recruits who hail from far flung areas to join the LADAKH SCOUTS Regiment as young soldiers.

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Defence

BIG DAY: BORN TO BATTLE COURSE CELEBRATES GOLDEN JUBILEE

Ashish Singh

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Fifty years ago, 349 gentlemen cadets, 307 from the 47th Regular and 42 from 31st Technical Course of the 47th Regular and 31st Technical Course passed out of the portals of the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, to be commissioned as Second Lieutenants in various branches of the Indian Army. That was a momentous period in the history of India. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had declared independence of the Eastern wing of Pakistan. The Pakistani army had declared war on its own citizens and let loose a reign of terror, loot, rape, and murder. Refugees poured into India in millions, and it was clear that, willy-nilly, India was going to be drawn into the conflict. The question was no longer if, but when.

Within 6 months of commissioning, before most could undergo even the basic Young Officers Course, in the ultimate call of duty, they were inducted into battle to participate in the 1971 war against Pakistan. The Course was baptized by fire in the truest sense of the term and for this reason the 47th Regular and 31st Technical Course has been dubbed as the “Born to Battle” course. Officers of the course lived up to the expectations of their alma mater and did the country proud. Five officers were martyred during the operations.

The ‘Born to Battle’ course has the unique distinction of being the only course to have been awarded the highest awards for gallantry both in war and peace, the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) and the Ashok Chakra (AC) to 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal and Col NJC Nair respectively. A brief description of the actions of the two gallant officers is given. 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal, PVC. On commissioning, 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal joined his Regiment, 17 Poona Horse in the midst of the Indo-Pak War. On 16 Dec 1971, in the process of establishing a bridge head, he came across heavy anti-tank fire. However, he not only destroyed the interfering Pakistani position, but in the tank battle that followed, he personally destroyed four enemy tanks. He embraced death by denying the enemy their intended breakthrough. For this act of exceptional bravery going well beyond the call of duty, he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest war-time gallantry award, the PVC.

Col NJC Nair AC, KC. Col NJC Nair, KC was commanding the 16 Maratha LI which had been deployed for mobile counter insurgency operations in Northern and Central Nagaland. On 20 Dec 1993, while leading the advance party on the Mokokchung-Mariani Road, he and his men were ambushed by insurgents. A JCO and 13 Jawans were killed in the firing and Nair was seriously injured. However, caring little for his personal safety, he crawled across the road and killed an insurgent. Shaken by such raw courage, the insurgents’ broke ranks and fled. Nair later succumbed to his injuries. For this act of exceptional bravery going well beyond the call of duty, he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest peace-time gallantry award, the Ashok Chakra.

In addition, officers have also been awarded 3 Shaurya Chakras and 4 Sena Medals for gallantry apart from a host of other decorations. Throughout service, the Course performed consistently well with 77 officers attaining flag rank, with 10 in the three-star category. Apart from distinguishing themselves in the battlefield and in the senior ranks, officers of Born to Battle course have also excelled in the field of sports, mountaineering, sailing, entrepreneurship, and aviation. Of special mention are Capts PS Bedi and NS Grewal in sailing, Capt Jai Bahuguna who lost his life while attempting to climb Mount Everest, Capt Gopinath and Col Samuel who pioneered affordable helicopter and aviation services in India.

A wreath laying ceremony was conducted on Sunday to pay homage to the memory of the seven departed comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of fire. Over the years, the Course has also lost a number of brothers to other causes, some as recently as during the current pandemic. To honour their memory, Lieutenant General Deepak Raj (Retd) will be laying a wreath on behalf of the entire Course and the families.

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Defence

MOD APPROVES RS 498.8 CRORE BUDGETARY SUPPORT FOR DEFENCE INNOVATION THROUGH IDEX-DIO

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved the budgetary support of Rs 498.8 crore to Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) – Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) for the next five years. The budgetary support will provide a big boost to the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as iDEX–DIO has the primary objective of self-reliance and indigenisation in defence & aerospace sector of the country. The creation of the iDEX framework and establishment of the DIO by the Department of Defence Production (DDP) is aimed at creating an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in defence and aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes & academia and provide them grants/funding and other support to carry out R&D development which has good potential for future adoption for Indian defence and aerospace needs.

The scheme, with budgetary support of Rs 498.8 crore for the next five years, is aimed at providing financial support to nearly 300 start-ups/MSMEs/individual innovators and 20 partner incubators under the DIO framework. It will support increased awareness in the Indian innovation ecosystem about defence needs and, conversely, in the Indian Defence establishment about the potential of the Indian innovation eco-system to deliver innovative solutions to meet their needs. The DIO, with its team, will enable the creation of channels for innovators to engage and interact with the Indian Defence production industry. The long-term effect to be realised by the group is the establishment of a culture, where enlisting the effort of innovators by the Indian military is commonplace and frequent. The scheme aims to facilitate rapid development of new, indigenised and innovative technologies for the Indian defence and aerospace sector to meet their needs in shorter timelines; create a culture of engagement with innovative start-ups to encourage co-creation for defence and aerospace; empower a culture of technology co-creation and co-innovation within the defence and aerospace sector and boost innovation among the start-ups and encourage them to be a part of the ecosystem.

The DDP will release funds to DIO for setting up and managing the iDEX network in the form of Partner Incubators (PIs); communicating with innovators/start-ups/technology centres of MSMEs through the PIs including the PIs of Department of Science and Technology regarding defence and aerospace needs; organising various challenges/hackathons to shortlist potential technologies and entities and evaluating technologies and products developed by innovators/start-ups in terms of their utility and impact on the defence and aerospace setup. The other activities include enabling and funding pilots using innovation funds dedicated to the purpose; interfacing with the Armed Forces top brass about key innovative technologies and encouraging their adoption into the defence establishment with suitable assistance; facilitating scale-up, indigenisation and integration in manufacturing facilities for successfully piloted technologies and organising outreach activities all across the country.

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Defence

PASSING OUT PARADE OF TES-37 COURSE HELD AT COLLEGE OF MILITARY ENGINEERING

Ashish Singh

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The passing out parade of the cadets of the Technical Entry Scheme—37 Course at the Cadets Training Wing, College of Military Engineering (CME) at Pune—was held on Saturday. The parade was reviewed by Lt Gen PP Malhotra, Commandant CME. Thirty-three Gentlemen Cadets of the Course, including three gentlemen cadets from Bhutan and two from Sri Lanka, were commissioned as officers.

Though parents of the passing out course could not attend the ceremony owing to COVID related restrictions, the parade was streamed live on YouTube. Lt Gen PP Malhotra, presented several awards to Gentlemen Cadets for excellence in training. The parade conducted with traditional military regalia, was commanded by Wing Cadet Captain Abhishek Chauhan. The coveted General Officer Commanding in Chief Army Training Command Gold Medal for standing first in overall performance in three years at CTW was awarded to Wing Cadet Adjutant Sahil Kumar. The Silver and Bronze Medal was awarded to Gentlemen Cadet Sonam Tshering from the Royal Bhutan Army and Wing Cadet Quarter Master Prince Kumar Singh respectively. Cadets of the Wing also had the distinction of being awarded the Commandant Officers Training Academy Silver medal to Wing Cadet Captain Abhishek Singh Chauhan and the Bronze Medal to Wing Cadet Adjutant Sahil Kumar for their meritorious performance in the combined four years of training, including one year at the Officers Training Academy, Gaya. Echo Platoon was awarded the General Officer Commanding in Chief’s Banner for performing exceedingly well in the Inter Platoon Competitions and emerging as the Champion Platoon.

Addressing the parade, the General Officer congratulated the Gentlemen Cadets for their superlative performance in the training period at the wing and their immaculate parade. Lt General PP Malhotra, highlighted that the cadets were at the cusp of a new beginning as young military leaders, and on their broad shoulders lay the future of our gallant Army. He urged the future officers to make their nation and the Alma Mater proud by rendering selfless and honourable service. He also stressed on imbibing strong moral values and ethics. The passing out parade was followed by a Commissioning and an oath taking ceremony for the newly commissioned officers.

College of Military Engineering has emerged as the finest technical institutions in the Indian Army. Recent forays of the College into Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Engineering Materials have been lauded by all. The college has entered into MoU with academic and industrial majors to absorb best engineering practices and infuse a culture of innovation in the Indian Army. Several projects from the College have been displayed and awarded in forums such as the iDEX4Fauji and the Army Day Parade, this year.

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