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THE GALLANT HYDERABADI PALTAN

The unit went into battle at Hilli, East Pakistan, in December 1971, sacrificing lives of 26 brave men and another 60 seriously wounded. But it opened the gateway for the success of the Indian Army in what’s today Bangladesh. Today is the raising day of this unique Paltan called the ‘Hyderabadis’.

Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu (Retd.)

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This is a story of a unique Paltan of the Indian Army nicknamed ‘Nizam’s Own’ or the ‘Hyderabadis’. It was 117 years old when it went into battle at Hilli, East Pakistan, in December 1971 sacrificing lives of 26 brave men and another 60 seriously wounded. It opened the gateway for the capture of depth areas running towards the heartland of East Pakistan, after which Pakistan Army was rapidly collapsing and surrendering under the coordinated attacks of the Indian Army. The Paltan was engaged in operations since September 1971, even with some elements pulled out for the training of the Mukhti Bahini in guerilla Warfare, which the Paltan specialised.

The unit was raised on 5 November 1853, by Raja Rameshwar Rao of Wanaparthy, one of the Samasthans, most important in the Nizam’s dominion, located 100 Km south of Hyderabad. The army was mostly created by buying black slaves that Arab traders brought from Somaliland and sold in Bombay market. Along with them, he bought women for their wives. Once recruited, they were not treated as slaves and became fiercely loyal to the Raja. The Africans soon gave themselves name of Bin Bahiris or Sons of the eagle. By 5 November 1853, the Raja had organized the Wanparthy forces into the African Cavalry Guards, the Wanaparhty Lancers and an Infantry Battalion which retained the title of Bin Bahiris. (Ref: Image: 1)

The Bin Bahiris, a guerilla force, in the days of financial crisis was even used to get the booty to fill up the empty treasuries of Wanaparthy. They became a force to reckon with, but to the discomfort of the Nizam and the Government, as they would even attack the heavily guarded revenue collection convoys. Nizam had no option but to ask Raja Rameshwar Rao if he could lend the service of the force basically to save his treasuries from being attacked. Later, Bin Bahiris along with the Nizam’s Army joined the cause of the British and assisted them in suppressing the 1857 mutiny. The British deployed these units along with the Central India Brigade, captured Madanpur pass near Sagour and cleared Talbhet forests south of Jhansi. On demise of Raja Rameshwar Rao in 1866, Bin Bahiris staked claim that the Raja had left no heirs. The Raja’s sister persuaded Sir Salarjung I to accept the Bin Bahiris as a gift to the Nizam. The Bin Bahiris became the 4th Regiment of Hyderabad City troops and subsequently named Raja Paltan.

In 1947, at the time of partition of India, the British offered various princely states in the subcontinent the option of acceding to either India or Pakistan, or staying on as independent state. The Nizam decided to keep Hyderabad independent. The leaders of the union of India, however, were wary of having an independent and possibly hostile state in the heart of their new country. Most of the 565 princely states had already acceded to India or Pakistan voluntarily. Having experienced the state of Affairs in Kashmir, India launched a military operation named Operation Polo in September 1948 and annexed the state of Hyderabad and its forces. All Hyderabad forces were merged under 2nd Hyderabad Infantry (Ref: Image 2) and in 1953, the unit became part of Regular Indian Army and joined the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment as 22 Maratha Light Infantry. Certain units of the contingent are today also serving as 2 Kumaon and 4 Kumaon in the Indian Army.

It was easy for a traditional guerilla force to fit into the fighting traditions of the light Infantry, which specializes to mount surprise attacks at lightning speed from the flanks, marches faster than the regular infantry and wears black backed badges. The regiment maintained martial traditions of the Maratha warrior as trained by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The Maratha Regiment was recognized by the British as the most competent organized guerilla force. They honoured the regiment with the formal title of the Light Infantry during the Great Wars. Maj Gen Lachman Singh Lehal, the then Divisional commander, under who this unit fought 1971 War, came to attend the 150 years Commemoration Ceremony held in Hyderabad on 5 November 2003 and presented copy of the surrender instrument signed by him. He admitted the professionalism, precision and gallantry of this unit who surprised and defeated the Pakistani unit 4 Frontier Force in a silent attack from the rear and the flanks and cleared the vital area of resistance without suffering heavy casualty as the other units. Names of these martyrs are etched in golden letters in the National War Memorial at New Delhi. Major Ramesh Kumar Dadkar in a rare feat jumped into the minefield, in a preliminary stage to save his subordinate, a Junior Commissioned Officer under heavy enemy fire, was killed in action and awarded Veer Chakra (posthumously). Mrs Geeta Dadkar, was one of the first Veer Naris (War Widow) who came to lay wreath at the newly built War Memorial dedicated by the hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Armed Forces in February 2019.

The unit has mixed class composition of Marathas and Muslims in equal proportion. They always 2organize a mosque and Mandir in the same complex, the prasad (sacred food) is made together in the same dish. I remember the Subedar Majors repeatedly saying to the officers, ‘Saab hamari paltan hamesha buland rahegi, kyonki hamare upar do Chaat hai, ek Allah ki aur ek Bhawan Ki’ (Sir, our Paltan shall always be in high state of affairs, because we are having two roofs over us, one is of Allah and the other of Bhagwan). I remember when the unit was fighting on the Line of Control in Uri, troops would operate inside and in proximity to the enemy posts, in one of a major operation both Pandit and Maulvi were sitting together praying for Victory and safe return of troops. ‘Eating same’ and ‘fighting together’, with common greetings of ‘Ram Ram’ and the Battle Cry of ‘Bol Chhatrapati Maharaj Ki jai’ makes Hyderabadis a unique and great fighting entity. In 1965, when the Pakistani raiders were infiltrating across the CFL (Cease Fire Line – now called LoC) in Rajouri Sector, Naik Keshav Rao Salunke of the Paltan made the first contact with the enemy. In a fire fight that ensued, the infiltrators suffered heavy casualties. On 19 September, the Rifle company of the unit, tasked to keep the Lines of communication open, again inflicting heavy casualty on the raiders and later three enemy attacks were thrown back. Unit earned three Sena Medals in these operations.

The Paltan was always ahead and a preferred option in any operational task given to it, may it be fighting in Nagaland against Mao Angami, Building infrastructure along the Mac Mahon Line connecting Tawang to Bumla in early 1980s, fighting insurgency in J&K repeatedly or Manipur, defending the Line of Control at Uri, Kargil or Poonch; every commander liked this Paltan to be under his command. I remember, when I met Shri Khandu Dorji in 2008 at Itanagar, who was then CM of Arunachal Pradesh, recognized me after 25 years, holding me in embrace and burst out singing the Maratha LI Regimental song ‘Mard Ahmi Marathe Khare’ which he would sing along with the Paltan when the unit was building the famous road from Tawang to short of Bumla in 1983. The mid-staging area on the road is still called Maratha Ground. Shri Khandu Dorji, Late father of the current CM, Pema Khandu himself suggested that the unit should install statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj at the Maratha Ground. Today, the road is a life-line for the troops who are currently deployed against the Chinese PLA and defending the LAC and Tawang with complete support of the current CM Pema Khandu, the son of the deep nationalist Khandu Dorji Saab, who was called the honorary member of the Paltan.

Today is the raising day of this unique Paltan called the ‘Hyderabadis’. Paltan would be commemorating the 50 Years of the ‘Battle of Hilli’ next year.

Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu, is an officer of 22 Maratha LI (Hyderabad) and a former Colonel of the Maratha Light Infantry and former Deputy Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff. He was the Chairman of the National War memorial Committee responsible to build the Memorial.

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Defence

24TH INDIA-USA EXECUTIVE STEERING GROUP MEETING IN DELHI

Ashish Singh

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The 24th edition of the India-USA Executive Steering Group (ESG) meeting was held at New Delhi from 22 to 24 February. The meeting was attended by a 12-member delegation from the US Army in person and virtually by 40 officers from different locations from the US. Major General Daniel McDaniel, Deputy Commanding General, US Army Pacific (USARPAC) was the Head of delegation from the US side. Indian Army delegation comprised of 37 officers. 

The forum is an Army to Army engagement that meets every year alternately in India and the US to discuss Army to Army cooperation.

A number of contemporary issues of mutual interests where discussed with an aim to enhance the engagements in diverse fields. For the first time the meeting was held both in person and through virtual mode owing to restrictions of Covid-19.

Relevant issues of defence cooperation and common subjects of Interest where discussed between both sides during the meet.

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Defence

Amid India-Pak ceasefire, a look at cross-border firings & terrorist attacks

Ashish Singh

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Jammu and Kashmir is affected by terrorism sponsored and supported from across the border for the last three decades.

The ceasefire violations by Pakistan are reported from the International Border(IB)/ Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir only.

India has adopted a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism. Immediate and effective retaliation is undertaken by the security forces in cases of ceasefire violations/ cross border firings. There has been a substantial decline in the terrorist attacks over the last three years, due to a slew of pre-emptive measures undertaken by the Army, paramilitary and the government.

The details of the incidents of ceasefire violations, terrorist attacks, civilians and security force personnel killed/injured in ceasefire violations and terrorist attacks along with the number of terrorists killed in counter attacks during each of the last three years in Jammu and Kashmir are as under:

 The last DG level meeting of BSF and Pakistan Rangers was held from 8-10 November, 2017 at New Delhi. During this meeting, the issue of cross border firing was discussed, in which it was agreed upon by both sides to ensure that no such firing takes place. In case of any firing, the other side must exercise maximum restrain and immediate contact through all available means of communication be established to avoid further escalation. Flag meetings are also held on ground, on need basis, between Commanders of different level.

No assessment is made to ascertain the losses to the exchequer due to such attacks. However, compensation is provided to the civilians, security force personnel, etc. for the losses due to such attacks.

The government has been consistently raising the issue of cross border terrorism and has placed high emphasis on international cooperation in combating the menace of terrorism including in bilateral, regional and international fora. Some of the steps taken by the Government to curb terrorist activities are:

Kinetic operations: actively identifying the terrorists and their tactical supporters, seeking them through operations like cordon and search giving proper response if they resort to violence while being arrested etc.

Preventive operations: actively identifying the strategic supporters of terrorism and initiating investigations to remove the camouflaging layers and exposing their mechanisms of aiding and abetting terrorism such as funding, recruiting etc.

Night patrolling has been intensified and nakas have been set up on all likely infiltration routes. The vehicles coming from borders areas are being thoroughly checked.

Coordination meetings are being regularly conducted and high-alertness is being maintained by all the forces deployed in the area.

Sharing of Intelligence inputs on real time basis among all Security forces operating in J&K. 

Further to expose Pakistan’s connection with various terrorist outfits in the international arena, the Government of India is also using the various evidence collected during investigations of terror attacks for inclusion in bilateral and multilateral discussions.

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Defence

MULTIPLE MILITARY DOMAIN ENGAGEMENTS BETWEEN INDIA AND BANGLADESH

Ashish Singh

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Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Indian Air Force (IAF) embarked on an official goodwill visit to Bangladesh earlier this week on an invitation from Air Chief Marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat, Chief of Air Staff, Bangladesh Air Force (BAF). Chief of Air Staff Bangladesh recently represented his country at the Chiefs’ of Air Staff Conclave 21 at Air Force Station Yelahanka where he led a delegation to Aero India 2021 earlier this month at Bengaluru.

During the course of the four-day visit, the CAS and delegation are scheduled to interact with senior dignitaries and visit key operational bases of BAF. They will discuss the progress made in areas of shared interests and explore avenues to further mutual military cooperation. The visit of the CAS to Bangladesh comes at a significant period for both Bangladesh and Indian Armed Forces as the two celebrate 50 years of the 1971 war. It will enhance the existing professional ties and bonds of friendship between the two Air Forces.

BANGLADESH NAVY SHIP VISITS WESTERN NAVAL COMMAND HQ

Bangladesh Navy Ship (BNS) Prottoy was on a two day visit to Mumbai last week. The ship commanded by Captain Ahamed Amin Abdullah with a crew of 137 personnel docked at Mumbai Port Trust.

Due to Covid-19 imposed restrictions, routine courtesy call-ons, social get togethers, exchange visits and other sports fixtures between the visitors and host naval personnel were avoided. This visit of BNS Prottoy to Mumbai is significant in the backdrop that the two countries celebrated 50 years of Bangladesh independence recently. To commemorate the occasion, for the first time, a marching contingent and military band from Bangladesh participated in India’s Republic Day Parade. Since the formation of Bangladesh, both India and Bangladesh have come a long way in nurturing strategic and defence relationships and these bonds are gradually growing in mutual trust and confidence.

ARTISTS COME TOGETHER TO COMMEMORATE WIN

Continuing the commemorative events as part of “Swarnim Vijay Varsh” this year, an “Art Carnival” based on theme “1971: Retrospective Through an Artist Eye” was organised at Fort William, Kolkata, last week. The event was conceptualised as a live workshop wherein renowned artists from India and Bangladesh displayed their creativity on canvas.

Participation of renowned artists from Bangladesh and India added colour to the marquee event which showcased the contribution, valour and sacrifices of armed forces and common people from both sides including the valiant “Mukti Jodhas” towards birth of Bangladesh. The event also witnessed participation from the students of Government College of Arts and Crafts, Kolkata who got an opportunity to work alongside veteran artists while young minds including the NCC cadets and school children were exposed to new vistas.

     The event organised in the lawns of “Vatika” near Vijay Smarak of Fort William was inaugurated by Army Commander, Eastern Command. The two day event which was open to all art enthusiasts witnessed a stream of visitors mesmerised by exceptional art work. During the closing ceremony, Chief Guest Isha Mohammad, former Principal of Government Art College, Kolkata, and President of Asiatic Society spoke about the role people of Bengal and armed forces leading to the war. He also recalled various incidents of the Liberation War 1971 and highlighted a moving instance when Sikh soldiers of Indian Army took off their turbans to cover the mutilated bodies of young children and women

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Defence

INTERVENTION IS NOW ALSO USED FOR COMMON GOOD: JAISHANKAR

Effectiveness, success and legitimacy key to intervention, says strategic affairs expert C. Raja Mohan.

Ashish Singh

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Dr C. Raja Mohan, director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, delivered the 2021 edition of The K. Subrahmanyam Memorial Lecture on the topic of ‘When to Intervene: Using Force Beyond Borders’ on Thursday. The lecture was organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) as a tribute to the memory of a distinguished scholar and one of India’s foremost strategic thinkers, K. Subrahmanyam, who also long served as the Institute’s Director in its formative years. Dr S. Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs, and the son of K. Subrahmanyam, delivered the Vote of Thanks.

In his Welcome Address, Director General, MP-IDSA, Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, highlighted the contributions of Subrahmanyam to the Indian strategic discourse and described him as a man who stood for robust national security structures and postures. Subrahmanyam was one of the first to articulate the notion of “guns and butter” as against “guns versus butter, observed Amb Chinoy. Subrahmanyam was an early advocate of defence reforms, the nuclear option, improved intelligence inputs, and the dexterous engagement of great powers. His advocacy of the nuclear deal with the US also stands out.

In his Lecture, Dr C. Raja Mohan also paid rich homage to Subrahmanyam, describing him as the principal voice that explained the world to India and vice-versa. One of his biggest contributions to the strategic discourse was to free the debate in India from ideological shackles, he observed.

Speaking about the complexities faced by India on the use of force beyond borders, and about carefully managing the unavoidable and dynamic interaction between the domestic political processes of India and other countries, Dr Raja Mohan said that effectiveness, success and legitimacy should all be considered in analysing interventions. India’s decision to use force beyond borders should be based on its judgment of the situation, as it cannot afford to either stand apart, or intervene in every domestic conflict in the neighbourhood, he added. 

Drawing a parallel between India’s traditional and current foreign policy stance, Dr. Raja Mohan said that the country now seems to have moved away from the ‘presumed centrality of non-intervention in foreign policy’ and out of the collective amnesia about the Indian role in the two World wars which the current government has brought to the fore.

Offering the Vote of Thanks, Dr S. Jaishankar recalled many personal episodes in his late father’s life and the impact that his father’s strategic thought had on an entire generation of scholars and practitioners including Dr Raja Mohan and himself.

He added that the use of force abroad may no longer be considered a completely defensive move. Intervention is now also used for the common good, such as humanitarian and disaster relief operations or the development of maritime domain awareness.

Dwelling further on his father, Jaishankar noted that Subrahmanyam was tempered by experience, learnt from the intersection of his thoughts with politics, and gradually evolved with the times. Over the years, his interest expanded beyond the use of narrow military force towards issues such as knowledge economy, supply chains, dependency, leveraging trade, etc. Subrahmanyam also had the opportunity to apply all his rich knowledge and experience during his chairmanship of the Kargil Review Committee and the National Security Advisory Board.

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Defence

ASSAM RIFLES FELICITATES COVID-19 WARRIORS

Ashish Singh

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The Covid warriors worked hand in hand in spreading the awareness and fighting the deadly pandemic. These warriors have worked selflessly to save the humanity. With nationwide rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination drive, these warriors are reaching out to all sections of the society to spread the message about vaccination and its effects.

In its efforts to reach out to the society along with these warriors, 44 Assam Rifles under the aegis of 22 Sect Assam Rifles (AR)/ Inspector General Assam Rifles (IGAR)-EAST in a unique way felicitated these Covid warriors at Tamenglong. Since 16 January Covid-19 vaccination drive has been launched in the state of Manipur. Its prerequisite for the doctors, nursing and other medical staff to be thoroughly aware of the procedures and peculiarities of this vaccination drive. On the sidelines of this function the District Health Society, Tamenglong organised a training session for the medical staff of 44 Assam Rifles in Tamenglong.

The soldiers, being front line workers, are required to be vaccinated timely so that they can discharge their duty well without any risk to their health as well as the without endangering the lives of local populace, especially children and the elders of the society. The interactive and practice session conducted by Dr Sunil Kamei, DIO Tamenglong and his team of four doctors enabled the para medical staff of the unit to conduct vaccination at the unit hospital as well as at the remote outposts.

The CMO and medical team of 44 Assam Rifles felt much more confident in handling and carrying out of vaccination drive for the unit in times to come. Speaking on this occasion the Commandant 44 Assam Rifles thanked Dr Chambo Gonmei, CMO Tamenglong and his medical team for the enriching session and assured them to work hand in hand with them to battle the deadly pandemic till the time it is not fully eradicated from society. He also highlighted various awareness campaigns being undertaken by unit troops in various parts of the district. The troops through posters, banners, plays, interactive sessions, consultive meetings and medical camps are engaged in awareness against Covid-19.

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Navy appoints new FOMA & FOCWF

Ashish Singh

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Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar took over as the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF) from Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, at a formal ceremony held onboard the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya on Wednesday.

Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, a specialist in Gunnery and Missile Warfare, was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 1 July 1988. In a career spanning 32 years, he has commanded five warships on both the Western and Eastern seaboard including the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya.

On promotion to the Flag Rank, he assumed charge as Assistant Controller of Carrier Projects & Assistant Controller of Warships Production & Acquisition overseeing all aspects related to construction and acquisition of warships for the Indian Navy both from Indian as well as foreign shipyards including the indigenous aircraft carrier.

Rear Admiral Atul Anand has assumed the office of Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra Naval Area earlier this week. The formal handing/ taking over ceremony was held at INS Kunjali, where Rear Admiral Atul Anand was presented a guard of honour at a ceremonial parade. The Flag Officer Maharashtra Area, or FOMA, is responsible for administration, coastal security and other maritime operations of the Maharashtra Naval Area. On behalf of the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy, the FOMA liaises with the State Administration as well as the Army and the Air Force in the state of Maharashtra on a regular basis across a wide spectrum of issues.

Rear Admiral Atul Anand was commissioned on 01 Jan 1988, in the Executive Branch of the Indian Navy. He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, the Defence Services Command and Staff College, Mirpur, Bangladesh and the National Defence College, New Delhi. He has also attended the prestigious Advance Security Cooperation Course at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Hawaii, USA. His educational qualifications include an M Phil, M Sc (Defence and Strategic Studies), Masters in Defence Studies and a B.Sc degree. A recipient of the Vishisht Seva Medal, the Admiral has held several key command appointments in his naval career including the command of Torpedo Recovery Vessel IN TRV A72, Missile Boat INS Chatak, Corvette INS Khukri and the Destroyer INS Mumbai.

He has also served as the Navigating Officer of IN Ships Sharda, Ranvijay and Jyoti. In addition, he was the Direction Officer of the Sea Harrier Squadron INAS 300 and Executive Officer of the destroyer INS Delhi. His important Staff appointments include Joint Director Staff Requirements, Directing Staff at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Director Naval Operations and Director Naval Intelligence (Ops). He has also served as the Principal Director Naval Operations and the Principal Director Strategy, Concepts and Transformation at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy). As a Flag Officer, he has served as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence) at IHQ MoD (N) and Deputy Commandant & Chief Instructor at the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla.

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