From a Services Career

Gen Rawat speaks ala Timmy n Sam …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

From The Indian Express –

Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat today said the country should be prepared for a two-front war, insisting China has started “flexing its muscles”, while there seems to be no scope for reconciliation with Pakistan whose military and polity saw an adversary in India.

Referring to the 73-day long Doklam standoff, the Army chief warned that the situation could gradually snowball into a larger conflict on the northern border.

He said there is a possibility that these conflicts could be limited in space and time or can expand into an all out war along the entire frontier, with Pakistan taking advantage of the situation.

“We have to be prepared. In our context, therefore, warfare lies within the realm of reality,” he said, adding the Army’s supremacy among the three services must be maintained to successfully combat external security threats.

The comments by Gen. Rawat came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a “forward-looking” approach to Sino-India ties, putting behind the Doklam standoff. The Army Chief said India cannot afford to let its guard down against China.

“As far as northern adversary is concerned, the flexing of muscle has started. The salami slicing, taking over territory in a very gradual manner, testing our limits of threshold is something we have to be wary about and remain prepared for situations emerging which could gradually emerge into conflict,” he said.

In military parlance ‘salami slicing’ denotes divide and conquer process of threats and alliances used to overcome opposition. He was speaking at a seminar organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies. The Army chief also talked about China engaging in a psychological warfare by using the media and information technology against India during the Doklam face-off.

The Army chief rejected the notion that credible deterrence could prevent war and pitched for adequate budgetary allocation for the armed forces. Talking about Pakistan, Gen. Rawat said there was no scope for any reconciliation with that country.

“As far as our western adversary is considered, we don’t see any scope of reconciliation, because their military, the polity, and the people in that nation have been made to believe that there is an adversary, India, which is all out to break their nation into pieces,” he said.

Gen. Rawat also wondered how long the country will continue to tolerate the proxy war by Pakistan and when it would conclude that Pakistan has crossed the threshold limit, adding the scope of a possible conflict is difficult to predict.

He said it was for the political masters to take a call on the issue.

Rawat also explained that credible deterrence does not take away the threat of war. “Nuclear weapons are weapons of deterrence. Yes, they are. But to say that they can deter war or they will not allow nations to go to war, in our context that may also not be true,” he said.

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Maj Navdeep Singh to the Rescue of the Defense Services …

Posted on August 27, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career |

Ajai Shukla –

In an important move towards reforming departmental justice across the board, but especially for the military, the Supreme Court issued the central government a show cause notice on Friday, asking why its recently promulgated rules for the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) should not be struck down.

The apex court was responding to a writ petition, filed by Punjab & Haryana High Court lawyer and founding president of the AFT Bar Association, Navdeep Singh, through Supreme Court lawyer Aishwarya Bhati, seeking reforms of the AFT and a check on “excessive tribunalisation”.

The AFT was set up in 2009 under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007. Soldiers, sailors and airmen are required to petition the AFT for justice, rather than civil courts. The AFT was intended to reduce military related cases in civil courts. Instead, as the Singh-Bhati petition points out, the backlog in defence-related cases has increased from 9,000 to 16,000 after creation of the AFT.

Legal experts have assailed the government’s creation of more and more departmental tribunals and the concentration of powers in their hands, as a ploy to bypass the independent judicial system. “A departmental tribunal takes a large number of cases out of the courts and places them under a quasi-judicial departmental body. Next, the government takes control of the appointment and functioning of the judicial officers who sit on the tribunal, keeping them under the government’s thumb”, explains a prominent legal expert.

The petition says this is evident from the new AFT rules, which were promulgated by the Finance Ministry on June 1, based on an enabling provision in the Finance Act, which Parliament passed as a money bill in April. The new rules decrease the tenure of AFT judges from four years to three; do away with the need for consultation with the Chief Justice of India before appointing AFT judges; and tweak the rules for the selection procedure, effectively permitting two secretary-rank officers on the Selection Committee to choose the judges they want.

There were already grave questions over the AFT’s independence, since it functions administratively under the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which is the first respondent in most cases filed by soldiers, sailors and airmen before the AFT.

Further, as Business Standard reported (April 2, 2013, “RTI reveals MoD largesse to Armed Forces Tribunal”) Right to Information requests have highlighted the MoD’s patronage of AFT judges. The MoD admitted spending over Rs 67 lakhs for “official foreign visits” by AFT chairperson and members, and providing judges with unauthorized canteen cards to shop at subsidised military retail outlets. Apparently hoping to influence judgments, the ministry admitted to inviting AFT judges to army units to “sensitise” them about cases before them.

In November 2012, the Punjab & Haryana High Court ordered that the AFT be placed under the Ministry of Law & Justice. The MoD has appealed this verdict in the Supreme Court, but bypassed the process by promulgating new rules this year.

The petition heard today notes that the government had itself termed departmental tribunals a “stopgap arrangement”, and sought a road map for reforming tribunals and returning certain jurisdictions back to the regular courts. The petition also questions why the regular judiciary is not being strengthened instead of resorting to excessive tribunalisation.

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1971 War – Pak Wins Sabuna Drain Battle …

Posted on August 17, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

As received from Sikander Mirza, who was kind enough to send it to me after reading my version of this Battle. Wonderful that Shahbir Sharif was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s highest Gallantry Award and then later his younger brother became Pak Army Chief following Gen Kayani.

During the 1971 War, India attacked East Pakistan on 21st November 1971. The General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi launched an attack on India on the western front (West Pakistan) on 3rd December 1971. After the Chamb Jaurian thrust Pak still had a 5 Division strong reserve under Gen. Tikka Khan. However at Suliemanke, two companies of 6 Frontier Force were ordered to take the Sabuna Drain.

Bravo Company 6 FF, was under a 1965 War Veteran and a Sitara-e-Jurrat Holder, Major Shabbir Sharif, who was also a Sword of Honor of Pakistan Military Academy Kakul.

The Indian Army had created an artificial Bund, steep on the Pakistani side, with a low incline on the Indian side.. In front of this ridge on the Pakistan side, there was also a Drain. There were only two bridges for vehicular traffic. Inside the Ridge there were camouflaged cemented bunkers.

It was important for Pakistan to neutralize this ridge, for it would pave the way for a Pakistani thrust. The ridge was called Saboona ridge, and the bridge was called Gurmakhera bridge. The other bridge was far away, and is not relevant.

At 4:00 P.M., 3rd Dec 1971, Sharif assembled the soldiers of Bravo Company and said, “Men! The moment for which we were commissioned in the Army has arrived. Today, it is a question of honor of the mothers who have borne us. I will only say one thing. If anyone from amongst you runs away from the battlefield – I will shoot him. And if I run away, then you have to swear by the honor of your mothers and sisters, that you will shoot me. Give me your word that you will die today rather than step back.”

At 5:45 PM, Shabir Sharif launched the attack against Gurmakhera Bridge. Before reaching the bridge, Shabir’s men, around 100 in number, had to pass next to the Indian Village of Beriwala. This village was reasonably well protected by the Indian Army. Bravo company knew that there were landmines in the region and a safe route through was not known.

“If you don’t risk, you don’t win wars. At most there will be a 10 percent casualty rate. Have faith in God and keep moving. I will lead.”
Bravo company passed through this landmine area safely without Shabbir having to lead.

When the company reached the bridge, Farooq Afzal was given the task to take a few men and check out things. Two Indian soldiers could be seen standing in front of the bridge. The Pakistani soldiers took them out and camouflaged Indian bunkers overlooking the bridge – two of which had the entire bridge area covered. The Indian fire halted further progress.

Asking Shabbir Sharif through wireless to provide covering fire, Afzal attacked the bridge from the front by breaking up his men into groups of three with the slogan ‘Allah O Akbar’ to distract the Indians from three different sides. The point being that at least one of the three would crawl up to the bridge and reach the area directly beneath the bunkers, where the Indian guns had no reach. The plan was successful but in the process 6 Pakistani soldiers were killed. Having reached directly beneath the two bunkers which were covering the bridge, the Pakistani soldiers took them down by lobbing hand grenades inside.

Once the two bunkers covering the Gurmakhera bridge were neutralized, Shabbir Sharif and his men joined Afzal. It was time to destroy the rest of the bunkers.

An intense battle developed as the Pakistani soldiers neutralizing the bunkers. In some cases where the Indian soldiers finished their ammunition, they threw out their wireless sets on the Pakistanis. Hand to hand combat was also seen while in a few cases the Indians ran away. The most common scene, however, was one in which grenades were lobbed out, and if the Pakistanis survived they would in turn lob back.

Sharif cleared two bunkers himself. While at the first one, he stood next to the bunker and called out the personnel inside to come out. The usual happened and a grenade was tossed out. Sharif threw it back inside, stunning his own men. This action was to become the topic of discussion in the entire company for the next two days.

The second bunker was cleared without daredevilry.

The entire operation of clearing the bunkers and taking control of the Saboona Ridge took 30 minutes. Shabir took out the signal gun and fired a success signal straight up in the air. The other companies were now aware that Sharif and his men had taken control of the Gurmakhera Bridge and the Saboona Ridge. The other companies were to proceed with their attacks, one of which involved capturing the Beriwala village that Sharif had bypassed earlier.

It was pitch dark, Sharif and a few men started collecting the bodies of the Pakistani soldiers who had died in the assault. Digging of new bunkers, this time on the opposite side of the ridge than the one facing Pakistan also began simultaneously.

It was at that time that an old man’s voice was heard from a distance.
“We need to go back to Gurmakhera Village. The Muslims have attacked Beriwala” Shabbir went closer to the old man. The man could not recognize the Pakistani army uniform due to the darkness and believed he was talking to an Indian soldier.

“I brought my son’s barat (wedding procession) to Beriwala in the afternoon. The muslims have captured the village. We had to run during the rukhsati (last ritual of the wedding).” “Don’t you know that there is a war going on?” Shabbir asked in Punjabi, “This is a silly time to have a wedding, that too when you are so close to the border”

“Please protect us. I have a whole procession with me here. Even the girl’s family is here. We need to get back to our village. The muslims are coming in this direction.” Sharif decided not to waste time, or unnecessarily panic the old fellow. “We will take care of the Muslims. You hurry up and get all your people across. And listen to the radio more frequently for any important announcements”

He then alerted all of his men manning the positions at the bridge that a wedding procession was going to be passing through and there should be no fire on it. While the procession was crossing over the ridge, a soldier asked Sharif: “Sir. These people are legitimate POWs. Why are we letting them cross?” Shabbir smiled. “Have a heart soldier. This is the happiest day of their lives. Let’s not make them spend it inside a cell.”

When the news of the Pakistani attack reached the opposing brigade commander, Brig. Surjeet Singh, he immediately ordered Delta company of 4 Jat and a squadron of T-54 tanks to recapture the the Saboona Ridge and the Gurmakhera bridge.

At 11:00 PM, one of Shabbir’s men informed him that he could hear tanks approaching the Gurmakhera Bridge. After Shabbir himself confirmed it, he positioned his rocket launchers near the bridge. There were three rocket launchers at his disposal, and two men were required to man each one. There was also some ammunition that had been taken from the defeated Indian forces on the ridge. Two of the rocket launchers were placed in such a manner that the tanks would have to go past them before they could come near the Gurmakhera bridge or the Saboona ridge. The third was positioned near Shabbir, to be used as a back up in case the first two failed.

When the tanks eventually came in pitch darkness, Shabbir was stunned to see that they passed by the first two positions without any fire from the Pakistani soldiers. Shabbir immediately called the men through wireless, and asked them why they didn’t shoot? “Sir, these are Pakistani tanks”, a soldier replied from the other side.

“No they are not”, Shabbir screamed, “Why would our tanks come from the side of the other bridge. That is not in Pakistani control. Shoot!”

Despite the clarification, there was so much confusion amongst the ranks that no one fired. Shabbir knew that if these had been Pakistani tanks they would have crossed over the ridge 3 km to the West and come as a reinforcement on the Indian side. He got hold of the rocket launcher which was near him, and fired at one of the tanks. When the tank caught flames and illuminated the scene, Sikhs were seen coming out of it. It was at that time that the entire Pakistani force started firing on the Indians.

The Indian foot soldiers were closer to the tanks and they could be easily spotted due to the flames and also due to the aerial advantage that the Pakistani forces had. From the initial 14 tanks that were ordered to attack, only 8 had managed to reach the bridge, and 4 of them had been destroyed in the first 5 minutes of the battle. The others too were safe only because they were out of range of the rocket launchers and Energa grenades (mounted on G3 rifles. The Indian retreat was inevitable. During this skirmish, 10 Pakistanis were killed and 13 injured, while on the Indian side there were 43 killed, numerous injured and 10 were made POWs, including an officer.

Despite the victory, Sharif knew that this was only the beginning and the Indians would definitely try again. He contacted the battalion headquarters and asked for ammunition and landmines. Another mystery was why the Indians had not blown away Gurmakhera bridge, which is usual in such conditions. Around 4:00 AM, an ammunition jeep arrived. In between, there had been a small attack on Sharif and his positions, but had been easily repulsed as the Indians were much less in number and there were no tanks.

When day broke, a search was carried out to find out any Indian soldiers hiding in the captured area. 55 men were rounded up, 3 being officers. Add to these the 10 POWs captured the last night, and Shabbir now had 65 POWs in all. “We should organize a party that escorts them back to our headquarters”, an officer suggested. “It is a long walk. Plus I need every one of my men here”, Shabbir replied.

“But they have to be sent back, we cannot keep an eye on them over here forever.” After a quite moment, Shabbir ordered the officer: “Ask them to take of their shoes” … “What?” exclaimed the officer. “What are we going to do with their shoes”

“Have you ever tried to walk in this area without your shoes?” Shabbir asked, “I have, and I tell you it is next to impossible to go far without them. Firstly you cannot run very fast, and chances of getting injuries on the feet are high.”

The officer assembled all the Indian POWs, “Listen, you see that tree. You will make a line, put your hands above your heads and run to that tree. Our headquarter is over there. Tell them that you will have been sent by Shabbir Sharif. Now, if anyone tries to run away, or break away from the line, I will shoot him and also the man in front and behind him. From this height I will be able to see all that is happening. If everyone starts running at the same time, I will ask my men here to take part in some duck shooting and we will shoot. So do not push me”

The POWs reached the headquarters without any escort. None tried to escape.

Once the POWs had been sent back, Shabbir’s men searched the bunkers thoroughly. A wireless set was found and although it had fixed frequency, the Indians had forgotten to change it during the attack. This gave a tremendous advantage to Shabbir, as he could now listen to the plans that were being made on the Indian side to recapture Gurmakhera bridge.

The other interesting item that was found was a bundle of Indian currency. This was perhaps the salary that was to be distributed amongst the Indian soldiers but had not been done so due to the Pakistan attack. Shabbir ordered the currency to be sent back to the headquarters so that they could give it back after the war – although due to lack of firewood, a small amount of the currency was burnt to make tea.

At 8:30 PM on 4th Dec. 1971, the Indians (4 Jat Regiment) attacked again with a squadron of T-54 tanks. Shabbir knew that they were coming, courtesy the wireless set that had been captured. He was also in a much better position ammunition wise, now having 102 millimeter anti tank guns, and landmines. The battle lasted only 30 minutes, with the Indians retreating with 14 dead, 21 injured and 8 MIAs (missing in action). The Pakistani side suffered minor injuries but no casualty.

Having suffered three defeats in their effort to retake the Gurmakhera bridge or the Saboona Ridge, the Indians finally launched a major attack on Shabbir’s men on the night of 5th Dec 1971. This attack had the support of 4 Jat and 3 Assam and T-54 tanks amidst heavy artillery shelling.

A company commander from the 4 Jat Regiment, Major Narayan Singh, had sworn that he would either retake the bridge or would never return. Narayan Singh was also interested in defeating Shabbir Sharif, as for the last two days he had been hearing from his own men that the Pakistani side had a very tough commander.

While the battle was going on, Narayan Singh with a few men, came close to Shabbir’s position. “Where is Shabbir Sharif?” he called out, “If he has the courage, he should come out and face me like a man”

Shabbir Sharif, being as hot headed as Singh, left his position and jumped in front. Perhaps Narayan Singh could not make out that it was Shabbir Sharif, as it was very dark, and he lobbed a grenade in his direction (it does not make sense for him to call Sharif out and throw a grenade at him). The grenade exploded a few feet away from Shabbir and his shirt caught fire.

A few Pakistani soldiers also came out and tried to put out the fire, as Shabbir himself was only obsessed with Narayan Singh. Seeing the Pakistani soldiers coming out, some of the Indians accompanying Singh were about to open fire when Singh stopped them.

“No firing” he said, “This is a man to man fight” Shabbir too, for his part, told his men to step back. The fire on his shirt had been extinguished. Both the Indian and Pakistani soldiers stepped back, but at the same time never took their guns off each other, or their fingers off the triggers.

A hand to hand combat followed between Sharif and Singh. The soldiers in the direct vicinity were standing close by as armed spectators. The rest of the soldiers (on the ridge) were at the same time involved in the fierce battle that was taking place due to the Indian attack.

Singh had his sten gun in his hand, and Shabbir held his wrist to prevent him from firing. After a short struggle, Shabbir managed to throw Singh on the ground and put his knee on his chest. Taking the sten gun from his hand, he emptied it in Singhs chest. While the Pakistani soldiers came to Sharif to check whether he was alright, those accompanying Singh disappeared in the darkness.

The attack petered yet again in an Indian retreat, although this was done after testing Shabbir’s men to their fullest capabilities. During this attack, there were 3 killed and 11 injured on the Pakistan side, while there were 19 killed, 45 injured, and 34 taken as POWs on the Indian side. 9 Indian tanks were also destroyed in this attack by the Pakistan artillery shelling and anti tank guns (2 or 3 of these tanks were rendered useless for they got stuck in the land before they were taken out).

Later, it was revealed that Major Narayan Singh was given Vir Chakra by India, a medal that is equivalent to the Pakistani Sitara-e-Jurrat, for his performance on the battlefield in 1971.

Shabbir’s right shoulder was badly burnt due to the fire that he had caught while fighting with Singh. When asked by one of his subordinates to go back and get some treatment, he said:, “I didn’t leave men fighting on the battlefield when I was not responsible for them. This time around I am their commander. Do you think I am going to go back leaving these men who I am supposed to command?”

He was referring to the 1965 war, when he as an ordinary Lieutenant, had been injured severely in the arm. Having gone back to the hospital for treatment, his arm was put in plaster and he was told that he cannot take part in the war anymore. He however, escaped from the hospital and went to the front, where he fought the rest of the war with one arm in plaster!

The 5th Dec attack created despondency amongst the Indians. Terming it a crisis, both GOC Major Gen. Ram Singh, and his Artillery Advisor Brig G.S. Reen took effective charge from Brigadier Surjeet Singh.

The Indians attacked yet again at 11:00 AM on 6th Dec. 1971. Shabbir was manning a 102 millimeter gun when a tank fired in his direction. He fired back at the tank and took it out. With a second tank lurking nearby, Shabbir could have abandoned the gun and saved his own life. He instead decided to keep firing at the tank in an attempt to render it useless before it caused any further damage. However, the tank’s shell landed only inches away from Shabbir and exploded throwing Shabbir and two other Pakistani soldiers 5 feet up in the air. Shabbir died seconds after he fell on the ground.

His last words were: “Don’t lose the bridge”

Having seen Shabbir dead, the Pakistani soldiers fought with even more vigor, more out of revenge than for anything else. The Indian attack was beaten back but at grave cost.

After the War, one of the Indian commanders, Col. Shashi Pal, came to the headquarters in the Pakistan area for talks. He was given the currency that Shabbir had sent back from the bunkers with due apologies for the currency that had been burnt for making tea. Shashi Pal shook his head slightly and said, “Politics apart, he was a fine soldier”.

Later it was also found out that the Indians did have the explosives in place to blow up Gurmakhera bridge. But the remote detonation had not worked for one reason or another.

Shabbir’s men had been saved by God, and nothing else.

PS

This seems a colorful version but broadly more detailed than my version which is not first hand but as gleaned from some who took part and a recce of the ground before and after the battle. Shows how different sides see things.
https://improveacrati.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/battle-of-sabuna-drain-1971-indo-pak-war-in-the-west/

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Gen Bhimaya on Leadership …

Posted on August 9, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Guide Posts, Searching for Success, Sports |

Here is the noted Thinker and Historian on Matters Military, commenting on a recent ‘Take’ on this riveting subject. Though the US Brigs SLA Marshal’s and Bill Slim’s lecture to West Point Cadets are among the last words on the subject, the field remains wide open for endless discussion. My vote is for Slim’s take!

LEADERSHIP 101 — BACK TO THE BASICS

To revisit a field that is well-beaten is both exciting and challenging. One is excited to find something new that might pique one’s interest, or that might have escaped one’s attention before. One may also find it challenging because, often, the simplest concept is difficult to explain because of the embedded nuances.

Then, there are always the rewards of serendipity to boot. I leave it to the readers to delve deeper into this bold if unverified statement to identify examples from their own experience.

The preceding thoughts were my initial impulses when I came across a research article on leadership of great team captains in sports (The Wall Street Journal, May 13-14, 2017, C1-C2)

To make it easier for the reader, let me follow the bullet format to list important findings, summarized in this article. Against each finding, I have added some brief but controversial comments in parentheses, primarily to provoke a discussion.

v “The leaders of history’s championship dynasties relied on a range of surprising traits, from dissent and rule-breaking to emotional self-control and a low-key communication style.”
(This is the central finding and readers might want to keep this uppermost in their minds).

· True leaders took care of tough, unglamorous tasks. They did not dazzle in the field but labored in the shadows and often led from the back.
(How true! The true leader toils in the background lending a helping hand to the needy, encouraging the weak, while cleaning up their mistakes firmly but unobtrusively. They seldom crave for recognition; the team’s success is their final reward).

· True leaders broke the rules for a purpose. They are not exemplars of fair play. They often test the limits of the rules, but soon after the objective is achieved, they return to normal. (Does the “out- of- the- box leadership of Major Gogoi fit this description?)

· True leaders communicated practically, not in grand speeches (Simple, understandable language that the riflemen understand is important. This implies ruthless elimination of English words that may mean different things to different riflemen; according to some officers who had the privilege of commanding both the Gorkhas and the Garhwalis, important patrol briefing used to be done by the Subedar Major, to combine experience with clarity of thought and expression. It may not be necessary now as most of us, hopefully, understand the language our troops speak. The important thing is grandiloquence and grandstanding are less important than simplicity and clarity.)

· True leaders knew how to use deeds to motivate. (Words are not enough. True leaders should exercise leadership by example of deeds, not merely by words. Deeds by example have tremendous substantive, as well as symbolic values).

· True leaders are independent thinkers, unafraid to dissent. (While dissent is a necessary part of healthy discourse that often leads to robust decision-making, one does not have to dissent as a matter of habit, or on frivolous issues. Dissent must be grounded in solid reasoning (MacArthur’s dissent with the Navy and the Joint Chief of Staff about his plan for the Inchon landings was not based on his ego, but a careful study of the British General Wolfe’s audacious and successful battle against the French in Quebec).

· True leaders are relentless. (In brief they follow the dictum, “Never give up.” And they cling to this spirit until the end: victory, or fighting to the last).

· True leaders possessed remarkable, emotional self-control. (Now, this is a tough one. This implies the ability to block out negative feelings and supplant it with emotional fortitude: courage in adversity, ability to handle panic with whatever it takes, for example, steadfastness, if possible, and humor, if necessary).

I do not wish to paraphrase the concluding remarks of the author.

He states, “They helped their teams to become dynasties by behaving a certain way, by making the right choices on the job—every hour, every day. They were dedicated to doing whatever it took to make success more likely, even if their efforts were unpopular, controversial, or completely invisible. They were not in it for personal glory but for the greater good of the team.” (Can there be a better epitome of selflessness?)

It is important for officers to study leadership in all walks of life, so they can be eclectic in internalizing their virtues. As leaders, it is our indivisible responsibility to identify leadership potential among our men, and help develop it.

It is a continual responsibility that needs to be shouldered with care and circumspection.

Bhimaya

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Stranger than Fiction …

Posted on August 7, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Searching for Success, The Germans |

The pilot glanced outside his cockpit and froze. He blinked hard and looked again, hoping it was just a mirage. But his co-pilot stared at the same horrible vision. “My God, this is a nightmare,” the co-pilot said.”He’s going to destroy us,” the pilot agreed.

The men were looking at a gray German Messerschmitt fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip. It was five days before Christmas 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber for the kill.

The B-17 Pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission. His bomber had been shot to pieces by swarming fighters, and his plane was alone, struggling to stay in the skies above Germany . Half his crew was wounded, and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen in icicles over the machine guns.

But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer “Pinky” Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something odd happened. The German didn’t pull the trigger. He stared back at the bomber in amazement and respect. Instead of pressing the attack, he nodded at Brown and saluted. What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry recorded during World War Il.

Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket. He eased his index finger off the trigger. He couldn’t shoot. It would be murder. Stigler wasn’t just motivated by vengeance that day. He also lived by a code. He could trace his family’s ancestry to Knights in 16th century Europe . He had once studied to be a priest. A German pilot who spared the enemy, though, risked death in Nazi Germany. If someone reported him, he would be executed. Yet, Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him: “You follow the rules of war for you–not your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity.”

Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mission. He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn’t shoot down the slow-moving bomber. (The Luftwaffe had B-17’s of its own, shot down and rebuilt for secret missions and training.) Stigler escorted the bomber over the North Sea and took one last look at the American Pilot. Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away, and returned to Germany .

“Good luck,” Stigler said to himself. “You’re in God’s hands now.” Franz Stigler didn’t think the big B-17 could make it back to England and wondered for years what happened to the American pilot and crew he encountered in combat.

As he watched the German fighter peel away that December day, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown wasn’t thinking of the philosophical connection between enemies. He was thinking of survival. He flew his crippled plane, filled with wounded, back to his base in England and landed with one of four engines knocked out, one failing, and barely any fuel left. After his bomber came to a stop, he leaned back in his chair and put a hand over a pocket Bible he kept in his flight jacket. Then he sat in silence.

Brown flew more missions before the war ended. Life moved on. He got married, had two daughters, supervised foreign aid for the U.S. State Department during the Vietnam War, and eventually retired to Florida.

Late in life, though, the encounter with the German Pilot began to gnaw at him. He started having nightmares, but in his dream there would be no act of mercy. He would awaken just before his bomber crashed.

Brown took on a new mission. He had to find that German Pilot. Who was he? Why did he save my life? He scoured Military Archives in the U.S. and England . He attended a Pilots’ Reunion and shared his story. He finally placed an ad in a German Newsletter for former Luftwaffe Pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the Pilot.

On January 18, 1990, Brown received a letter. He opened it and read: “Dear Charles, All these years I wondered what happened to that B-17, did she make it home? Did her crew survive their wounds? To hear of your survival has filled me with indescribable joy.”

It was Stigler.

He had had left Germany after the war and moved to Vancouver , British Columbia in 1953. He became a prosperous businessman. Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer, and “it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter.” Brown was so excited, though, that he couldn’t wait to see Stigler. He called Directory Assistance for Vancouver and asked whether there was a number for a Franz Stigler. He dialed the number, and Stigler picked up.

“My God, it’s you!” Brown shouted as tears ran down his cheeks.

Brown had to do more. He wrote a letter to Stigler in which he said: “To say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU on behalf of my surviving crew members and their families appears totally inadequate.”

The two pilots would meet again, but this time in person, in the lobby of a Florida hotel. One of Brown’s friends was there to record the summer reunion. Both men looked like retired businessmen: They were plump, sporting neat ties and formal shirts. They fell into each other’s arms and wept and laughed. They talked about their encounter in a light, jovial tone.

The mood then changed. Someone asked Stigler what he thought about Brown. Stigler sighed and his square jaw tightened He began to fight back tears before he said in heavily accented English, “I love you, Charlie.”

Stigler had lost his brother, his friends, and his country. He was virtually exiled by his countrymen after the war. There were 28,000 pilots who fought for the German Air Force. Only 1,200 survived. The war cost him everything. Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II for Franz. It was the one thing he could be proud of. The meeting helped Brown as well, says his oldest daughter, Dawn Warner.

They met as enemies but Franz Stigler, on left, and Charles Brown, ended up as fishing buddies.

Brown and Stigler became pals. They would take fishing trips together. They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans’ reunions. Their wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became friends.

Brown’s daughter says her father would worry about Stigler’s health and constantly check in on him. “It wasn’t just for show,” she says. “They really did feel for each other. They talked about once a week.” As his friendship with Stigler deepened, something else happened to her father, Warner says “The nightmares went away.”

Brown had written a letter of thanks to Stigler, but one day he showed the extent of his gratitude. He organized a reunion of his surviving crew members along with their extended families. He invited Stigler as a Guest of Honor.

During the reunion, a video was played showing all the faces of the people that now lived–children, grandchildren, relatives–because of Stigler’s act of chivalry. Stigler watched the film from his Seat of Honor.

“Everybody was crying, not just him,” Warner says.
Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008. Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87. They had started off as enemies, became friends, and then something more.

After he died, Warner was searching through Brown’s library when she came across a book on German fighter jets. Stigler had given the book to Brown. Both were country boys who loved to read about planes.

Warner opened the book and saw an inscription Stigler had written to Brown:

“In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter. On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged, it was a wonder that she was still flying. The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me as precious as my brother was. Thanks Charlie.
Your brother, Franz”

__._,_.___

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Dokala in the 1990s …

Posted on July 20, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Searching for Success, Uncategorized |

Brig Jasbir Singh Bawa when Company Commander at Dokala Beg in early 1990s

There was a time when hostilities had not marred the pristine beauty of the landscape. With the recent month-long India-China impasse, the areas of Doklam plateau, Dokala, trijunction in east Sikkim and the Chicken’s neck-Siliguri corridor have been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Once upon a time there were in this area friendly Chinese patrols once every quarter or so. There was tension free peace that let you enjoy the sheer beauty of Dokala. It was the abode of an exceptionally happy family on the eastern-most tip of east Sikkim that descended sharply to the Jaldhaka wildlife sanctuary thence to the Siliguri corridor.

Dokala, the most beautiful area in all of east Sikkim, is a lush green meadow in sharp contrast to the surrounding countryside that is characterised by jagged, rocky ridge lines without a blade of grass for miles together.

Significantly lower in altitude than the Batang la/Nathula ridge line, Dokala is approximately a two-km-long pass with a width varying from 150 to about 400 m.

We were deployed at its north-western base. The meadow is green except during the four winter months. Almost through the year, the green turf of the meadow is interspersed with clumps of wild flowers – wild blue poppy, small rhododendrons and numerous tubulars add to the kaleidoscope of daisies in white, yellow, shades of red and blue.

I have enjoyed many a walk with my trusted buddy and radio operator on the soft surface of Dokala, on our way up and down the formidable Gamochin Peak which dominates the pass from the South.

Gamochin, a huge rocky feature, towers over the neighbouring heights and Dokala. The climb to Gamochin is a sheer wall and can only be negotiated by fixed rope — a challenge even for seasoned climbers. Troops deployed on the feature would welcome us with hot pakoras to be downed with a drink of warm jam water and glucose. As you regain your breath after the gruelling climb, the reality of scaling an impossible-looking massif sinks in.

The view from its top is mesmerising. On a clear day you could catch the Kanchenjunga in all its glory – with just a speck of cloud covering the summit. Come winter and the ascent on snow and ice walls gets tougher. Coming down is sheer ecstasy thanks to the innovative snow sledges that the boys would make.

The Company Commander’s hut at Dokala is designed to host senior visiting officers – should they get stuck due to the weather. It has huge perplex glass windows on three sides, with a breathtaking view of the mother of all Himalayan peaks – the Kanchenjunga.

At day break on clear winter mornings would be the crimson glow that drapes the eastern slope of this Mountain – a sight transports you to another world. The colours gradually change from a riveting deep crimson to orange to golden yellow, seamlessly meshing into each other as dawn gives way to a fresh bright day.

The full moon nights at Dokala were also special. The Kanchenjunga would look more glorious while the snowy shine of the majestic Gamochin would be complemented by a seemingly endless silver sheen on Dokala.

Many such sights were enjoyed around a bonfire – memories of which refuse to fade. We would send a routine patrol to the trijunction then down to the Jaldhaka, circuit the base of our deployment, eventually emerging at the northern entrance of Dokala.

This meant climbing about 1,000 feet from the post, going down a steep descent of about 4,000 feet and again climbing up to 11,500 ft or so and getting back to Dokala. The distance covered approx 15 kilometre. The bulk of the area fell within the Jaldhaka wildlife sanctuary.

In keeping with a compulsive tribal trait, a large number of animal traps were set up by us in this area before it was declared a sanctuary. There would always be a rush of volunteers for this tri-weekly patrol and understandably so — the boys would reap the fruits of their labour returning with plenty of small game caught in the traps.

These patrols would generally get back in the late afternoon to a hero’s welcome, particularly so on Saturdays for that meant a big bonfire, generous drinking and endless kahanis, singing and a guitar and makeshift degchi drums. All followed by a feast.

Of course all the while we were driven on training, keeping watch, patrolling and negotiating tough climbs to fetch stores and rations throughout the week.

Those were the days.

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Insurgency and Counter Insurgency …

Posted on July 17, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, From a Services Career |

By Gen KM Bhimaya …

The politico-military dynamic is inherent in any policy decisions, governing counterinsurgency operations. And then, there is the need to cope with an unwelcome intruder: the changing, and often unanticipated alliance and alignments in international relations. Let me attempt to cut through the abstruseness of my argument by giving some examples.

The “exit” strategy in any conflict is fraught with serious risks. In global conflict, it used to fall into the realm of grand strategy as defined by Liddell Hart in his classic, “The Strategy of Indirect Approach.” And this is the province of diplomacy. Although, armed forces officers, such as General of the Army George Marshall, have distinguished themselves with the formulation and successful implementation of “grand strategy” they are an exception, not the rule.

It is unthinkable that the U.S. civilian and military leaders (Gens Mattis. David Petraeus, and the former commander Stanley McChrystal) who oversaw/ oversee operations in Afghanistan are naive enough not to perceive Pakistan’s ham-handed but effective complicity in nourishing and using the Haqani group. These commanders are well-read scholars, combining in them a rich repertoire of theoretical and practical insights, but they must defer to public opinion.

The Vietnam war was lost by the strong domestic anti-war backlash, not by the “Tet” offensive that was a stunning success. President Obama has often been unfairly accused of soft-pedaling the terrorist challenges in the Middle-East, but he was acutely aware of the dangers of getting involved deeply “with more of the same”, the blundering policy adopted by some of his predecessors during the Vietnam war.

Alas, either the Indian diplomatic initiatives are not aggressive enough to carry conviction, or the U.S. policy makers choose not to acknowledge Pakistan’s mischief, because they do not want to risk losing Pakistan’s logistic and military support for the ongoing operations in Afghanistan. The upshot: Pakistan has been very successful in running with the hare and hunting with the hounds in Afghanistan and the adjoining frontier regions. India has yet to come up with a viable strategy to neutralize Pakistan’s policy of diminishing Indian influence in Afghanistan.

Be that as it may, the central message of my opening comments pertained to the future of the terrorist movements in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. That is, I was attempting a wild prediction, based on the historical evidence relating to the past fortunes and misfortunes of the burgeoning, splinter terrorist groups (the almost defeated ISIS, for example). What should be India’s long- term terrorist target?

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China – India; Eye Ball to Eye Ball …

Posted on July 16, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, From a Services Career, Searching for Success |

Maj Gen Ashok Mehta in the Wire.

The month-long standoff between the Indian army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Doklam sector of Bhutan, though pretty civilised so far, has become the longest ever.

Briefly, the stand-off story so far is this: The PLA has clandestinely been encroaching on Bhutanese territory since the mid-1960s with a long view to build a Class-40 road which can carry medium tanks and artillery through the strategic Chumbi valley which abuts India and Bhutan to a tri-junction point which is the very tip of the Chumbi dagger which is dangerously close to a bottleneck encompassing Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

This time around, the PLA road construction party was initially cautioned by a Bhutanese Army patrol. Later when they failed to stop them, the Indian soldiers in the vicinity arrived to help the Bhutanese to deter the PLA from bulldozing its road construction through territory claimed both by China and Bhutan. This is the first time India has confronted the PLA on third country soil in Bhutan. India has a long-standing commitment to Bhutan’s defence and security even if there in no formal military alliance.

Two issues arise from this illegal and unauthorised activity – the intended road would transgress Bhutanese territory at Doklam and its destination, the tri-junction, is also disputed. According to bilateral agreements between India and China in 2012, and between Bhutan and China in 1988 and 1999, the disputes are to be resolved through the existing dialogue processes.

While India and China have had 19 rounds of Special Representative talks, China and Bhutan have engaged in 28 rounds of border talks though Thimpu has no trade or diplomatic relations with Beijing. In their conversations with Bhutan, China, in 1999, offered a package deal to swap territory in the north with land in the west comprising the eastern shoulder of the Chumbi valley, significantly including the Doklam plateau.

For New Delhi, Indian troops have gone to the aid of a neighbour, Bhutan, because the intended construction of a strategic road from Lhasa-Shigaste to Yadong in the Chumbi valley towards the disputed tri-junction would confer profound strategic military advantage on the PLA. The Chumbi valley dagger would pose a threat not just to Bhutan but also to the critically narrow Siliguri corridor, linking mainland India with its north-east. Moreover, it would send the wrong signal to India’s neighbours that it does not stand by its friends and allies and treaty obligations. Being locked in the valley also poses risks for the PLA.

This is not the first time the PLA has attempted its ‘creep’ strategy to first commandeer territory and then offer to negotiate after having violated standstill agreements. Grabbing Aksai Chin in the late 1950s and more recently its unilateral and illegitimate activity in the South China sea are examples. The sequence of events played out now at Doklam has an uncanny resemblance to intrusive activity in the same area in 1966-67. The history of the incident is encapsulated in an article by sinologist Claude Arpi in The Pioneer. More interestingly, the Chinese then, as now, were trying to unhinge Bhutan from its defence relationship with India. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to remind the Chinese that India would stand by Bhutan, come what may.

The Chinese propaganda machine has launched a relentless psy war campaign which is unprecedented in recent times. It has turned obfuscation to a fine art, deftly combining history and legacy while cherry-picking portions of agreements (1890 Anglo-Chinese Convention) that are laced with coercion. On a daily basis, the foreign ministry, the PLA, Global Times, Xinhua and think tanks are issuing statements and threats, warning India about a repeat of 1962 and teaching it another lesson. They accuse India of reneging on Panchsheel and are repeatedly demanding Indian soldiers retract from the confrontation at Doklam by withdrawing first if any dialogue is to follow. Beijing has put itself in a corner leaving it no wriggle room or a face-saving option. As events have shown, India will not budge as the stakes are too high for it to blink first.

The most celebrated incident of the Indian Army challenging the PLA incursions was in 1986 at a tiny grazing ground in Wangdung near Sumdorong Chu where they established a post west of Tawang. Like at Doklam, the PLA was in the valley dominated by high ridgelines occupied by the Indian army. The dispute was over the alignment of the watershed with India claiming it was north of the grazing ground and China contending it was south of it. India’s strong stand dragged the confrontation for ten months culminating in the landmark visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to Beijing in December 1986. Both sides agreed to withdraw simultaneously from positions they had occupied before the intrusion. During this near eyeball confrontation for ten months, not a shot was fired.

Given the evidence of the recent face-offs, it is unlikely the current stand-off will escalate into a shooting match at Doklam where the PLA is hemmed in by two ridge lines of the Chumbi valley occupied by Indian and Bhutanese troops. Doklam is 40 km from Yadong which is the PLA logistic base. In any short and sharp skirmish in this area, the PLA will not win the argument. On the other hand, it will suffer much greater losses than the Indian troops as it did in the Nathula clash of 1967. Doklam could go the Sumdorong Chu way leading to a meeting of high officials to defuse the crisis.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s brief meeting with Prime Minister Modi and his remarks at the BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit this Friday advocating ‘political and peaceful settlement of regional conflicts and disputes’ indicates the face-off will cool down. At the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, Modi told Xi the two nations must not turn differences into dispute. China’s conditionality that Indian troops must withdraw first for any dialogue to start can be softened by employing the principle of simultaneity. As has happenened in the past, both sides can withdraw together from Doklam and prevent the dispute escalating into a bigger conflict.

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Esprit de Corps …

Posted on July 15, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Regimental, Searching for Success |

By Gem KM Bhimaya

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta was a 22-year-old Rifle Team leader, deployed in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. He was the only living recipient (according to the U.S. Army tradition, a gallant soldier only receives, never wins, an award) of the Congressional Medal of Honor, since the Vietnam war.

In October 2007, he saved one of his buddies, and retrieved another wounded rifleman who had been captured by the insurgents during an ambush. He belonged to the famous 173rd Airborne Brigade of the U.S. Army (7700 decorations, including over 6000 purple hearts.

During my intelligence course in Okinawa (1964), I had an opportunity to observe this formation at close quarters as they were billeted by our B.O. Qs (Bachelor Officers’ Quarters). They were smart, and impeccable in their dress and deportment. They usually hung out with their buddies.

Salvatore Giunta separated from the Army in 2011 to pursue higher college studies (part of G.I. bill). In 2017, Ex- Staff Sergeant did something unique: He returned the coveted medal of honor to his parent Unit: 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team,

While returning the award, he honored his promise implicit in his brief speech at the White House star-studded investiture ceremony, a few years ago.

“If I’m a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman, in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero; so, if you think that that’s a hero — as long as you include everyone with me,” Giunta said at a Pentagon briefing in September 2010.”

When he returned the highest gallantry award to his Unit, Salvatore Giunta was, at his best, proud esprit-de-corps in action.

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The ADARSH Defence Land Scam …

Posted on July 9, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

This is re the Disgraceful Defence Land Scam in which Service Chiefs, Army Commanders and their ilk — among others, were involved in Mumbai’s defence land scam of the 1990s.

The MoD probe report commends two officers who it says were the only ones who stood up for the truth.

The Defence ministry’s inquiry report into the Adarsh housing scandal has indicted 10 top officers for their dubious role but has also commended a Brigadier and a defence estates officer.

The report says that the inquiry committee could find only two people in the entire system who stood up for the “truth”.

SAURAV RAY, the Defence Estates Officer, Mumbai: Steadfastly and repeatedly opposed the proposed transfer of land invoking public interest and security, drew attention to the alienation of prime land, and sought withdrawal of the NOC. Could not get support as all those in the Army at a senior level and the state administration were beneficiaries of Adarsh, and his own superiors did not deem it fit to back him.

Brig. M.K.V. PANICKER, Commander, Mumbai Sub Area: Appreciated and supported the stand of the DEO Ray in trying to prevent the transfer of the land to ACHS, and asserted the unquestioned possession of the Army on the land. Brig. Panicker’s stand remains the only instance from 2000 to 2009 of a senior services officer dealing with the subject taking a position in writing in the Army’s interest against the land alienation proposal.

Comment by Gen KM Bhimaya

A silver lining in an otherwise sordid cloud of “Adarsh” enquiry report (199 page) pays glowing tribute to Maj Gen (then Brig) MKV Panicker for standing tall and firm against mass corruption by senior army officers, including two former Army Chiefs.For details, watch Times of India, video dated July 7/8, 2017.

The link is: “http://www.timesnow.tv/india/video/adarsh-housing-scam-two-former-army-chiefs-among-those-indicted-in-fresh-defence-inquiry/65423

Those of us in the Armed Forces are in a better position than others to visualize the strength of character needed to rise above the dishonest, serving, as well as retired senior officers and to defend and perpetuate the right kind of values.

Well done, General, you have done your Regiment proud!

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