The Venerable N Ram of The HINDU …

Posted on March 10, 2019. Filed under: Personalities, Uncategorized |

In an interview with The Wire’s Arfa Khanum Sherwani, N. Ram, chairman of The Hindu publishing group, talks about the role that secret documents play in investigating potential wrong-doing and the government pressures that accompany such journalism. 

Edited excerpts:

The attorney general says that the documents you published in The Hindu were stolen from the defence ministry, which is a punishable offence under the Official Secrets Act, and that the government wants a thorough enquiry and investigation. 

We have not stolen the documents from anyone. We have not paid for these documents and we are fully protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution – the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

We are also protected by section 8(a)(1) and 8(2) of the Right to Information Act which has overtaken the Official Secrets Act of 1923 – that’s what I have been legally advised.

This is not the first time that documents that have been leaked – Mr Prashant Bhushan himself has done that in cases like the coal block allocation case and so on. The courts have looked into it and accepted them. So they are not stolen.

But I also note from the statement by the Editors Guild of India that they are condemning his (attorney general’s) comments before the Supreme Court and the threat to go after the media and The Hindu in particular. He later clarified that they are not contemplating any investigation or prosecution against journalists and lawyers who publish this information. So if that is true and confirmed, then it’s good. We are not concerned about it because we are fully protected and we have done the right thing.

This was published in public interest. This matter was suppressed and this information was suppressed.

You can say this information wants to be free (*chuckles*) because they were on the price of fully fledged combat aircrafts, on parallel negotiations, on dissent within the Indian negotiating team, on doing away with anti-corruption clauses, the presence of commission agents, the deal or influence, or denying access to the books of the companies.

Remember that these are not demands made on the French government so much. They are made on commercial supplier like Dassault Aviation and MBDA France – the weapon-fighter supplier. So why on earth would you do away with standard anti-corruption clauses on which penalties are laid down in case of violations?

And finally, the issue of bank guarantees which was discussed in the fifth article.

But they are saying that this goes against national interest. They have gone to the extent of saying that this has actually, in a way, compromised national security. Do you think by raising this issue to this level and making headlines – even if they do not go further with it – they have done their job? Which is primarily making people aware that they are capable of doing that… that they can intimidate and threaten journalists.

Yes, that is a good point, and I think it is that point which the statement by the Editors Guild of India makes. Despite noting this clarification, they say that they condemn the comments made by the attorney general before the Supreme Court. And also made the same point about sending a message out so that there is a chilling effect on independent and especially investigative journalism. So I agree with you on that.

But on the other hand, we must contest this. People should not be afraid because there is an overarching climate of fear in the present ecosystem of media in this government, more than there was at any time in recent memory.

We have to go back to the Emergency days to see this kind and scaled oppression. I am not comparing that with this but in recent times, no attempt has been made this way to create a climate of fear.

I would also like to add that the major media organisations have brought it upon themselves – to play a propaganda role.

This reminds me of some famous lines about British journalists by Humbert Wolfe. It runs like this:

You cannot hope

to bribe or twist,

thank God! the

British journalist.

But, seeing what

the man will do

unbribed, there’s

no occasion to.

I think these lines apply very much to many sections of our mainstream media –  major media organisations, particularly television channels; many of them – not all of them but many of them which are involved full scale in propaganda role for the government on major issues.

Very briefly, my last question is about the politics around Rafale. After Pulwama and these airstrikes in Pakistan, it seemed that maybe the government was hoping that Rafale would not longer be an issue. But now their nervousness shows that the government still thinks that it is an important political issue which may decide or may impact their fate in May.

Yes, I think that after the Pulwama terror strike and the Balakot action – whatever it was – by India, by the Indian Air Force, I think the BJP thought it could take control of the narrative to some extent, which may have worked particularly in the Hindi speaking region because you have all these hyper-nationalists, jingoists, rhetorics, ‘teach them a lesson…we know what to do’ and so on. Not just macho, but jingoistic. So they think that this will affect the mood, and to some extent, it may have.

My understanding is that corruption is never the top issue in an election. Whether it was Bofors or the 2G spectrum issue, which finally turned out to be a damp squib in court. It was never the top issue. The top issues are shown in a number of public opinion polls, including the last India Today poll which was quite a serious poll. Usually, issues come around unemployment, underemployment, agrarian distress in a period of high inflation, the price rise, and so on.

Also read: Rafale Deal: The Mystery of the 3-Billion-Euro Price Hike

Corruption figures in the top three or four, I would say. If there’s a focus on major corruption issue – a scandal – it serves as a catalyst. It gives a lot of emotional power to the opposition to take it up, and that I see seems to fit the case. And I would say that Congress president Rahul Gandhi has made full use of this. His aggressive stance is being absolutely uninhibited in campaigning on these issues, bringing it out repeatedly.

I think that would surely have an impact because the Congress still matters in this country. And it’s perhaps in some phase of revival. So I think they are determined to make this an issue and independent media should also be on the job.

I appreciate the role of, particularly the digital-only and independent media organisations – The Wire, The Caravan, Scroll, and so on. I think they are doing a good job. In this case, The Hindu has taken a lead – [as] in the Bofors.

But I see this not as the work of one particular media organisation. On the one hand, there is competition, but there is also some sort of collective effort. You build on what other people have.

I think you also have to credit other organisations for information. For example, I used notes from The Wire – the sanitised notes which were shared with the parties before the Supreme Court in the petition filed by Prashant Bhushan the others. I think The Wire had the full text. Even if it was sanitised, it had some interesting information. The Caravan likewise had materials on the benchmark price.

I have also seen M.K. Venu’s articlesSiddharth Varadarjan’s editorials, and so on. I think we need to compete on one hand, but on the other hand, it’s a collaborative exercise.

I think that’s how journalism proceeds. You saw that with The New York Times and The Washington Post – at the peak of their investigative efforts, where they were talking about the Pentagon papers.

Later Watergate, WikiLeaks in which The Hindu had a role along with others. That’s the point I want to make here on those sections of the media that are still independent in the very difficult and corrupt media ecosystem. This role can be played and has to be played in the near future, including in the upcoming elections.

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“I Started at the Top and slowly worked my way Down,” Orson Welles …

Posted on February 17, 2019. Filed under: Uncategorized |


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2018 – Wire’s Most Widely Read …

Posted on December 31, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |


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1965 …

Posted on November 26, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Indian View – The 1965 War was a War which Pak Lost; But India did Not Win.                                                                                    Pak View – We were Saved by Allah, Artillery and – the Indian Army.

It was on Sep 1st 1965, that Pakistan sent its tanks hurtling into the Chamb Jorrian Sector. They were headed straight for the ‘Chickens Neck’ with the aim of cutting India’s only land route to the entire Jammu and Kashmir region.
It had been a phoney war right from Mar of ’65 when Pakistan made disturbing noises in the Rann of Kutch but in Aug it launched its Op Gibralter, hotting up infiltration in Kashmir.
As far as planning at the higher level goes, its Pakistan all the way because its Second planned offensive in the Khem Karan sector caught us napping – and could have been lethal had it not been for the soggy soil which bogged the Pattons of their 1 Armored Division but their Infantry did capture Khem Karan.

How ever it was leadership at the junior level at all places which levelled the playing field for India.
The Army Chief General Chaudhary addressed the officers of the Armoured division which had moved to the Punjab in Mar, in Jalandhar, late in August. He commiserated with our boredom but said he hoped to give us orders shortly to either charge West into Pakistan or return to our base at Jhansi.
Gen Chaudhary had earned pecuniary notoriety when he had marched into the then Nizam’s Hyderabad in order to annexe it into the Indian union. As Southern Army Commander he had carried out some strange recce while ostensibly on shikar before the Army marched into Goa. He had made Chief only because Gen Thapar had been sacked after the bashing by the Chinese in ’62. Now he was about to take the Army into war. One heck of a lucky ‘Bangala Babu’.
There is controversy, (indeed General Chaudhary’s middle name is controversy) regarding whether he panicked during the first week of the war – when Pakistan unleashed its offensive towards Beas in the Khem Karan Sector. This brilliantly conceived operation was aimed at the Beas Bridge, so as to cut off everything of ours to its North.
The situation was really steadied by the courage and coolness of the XI Corps Commander, Jogi Dhillon of the Sappers. This stern, no nonsense and serious soul had even located his HQ North of the Beas River, at Raiya. And of course the single Centurion regiment and the remainder Sherman regiments of Brig Thambi’s Armored Brigade.

It was in the area around Assal Uttar, that the actions of Brig Thambi’s armor, when even the poorly gunned Shermans (which had long since outlived their utility), made mincemeat of the, bogged down Patton’s of Pakistans elite First Armored Division.
Evidently GHQ Rawalpindi, had not taken into consideration the post monsoon quagmirish ground. Indeed it was this that actually saved the day for India. Btw our own Armd Div crossed the IB after 3pm as it got bogged down between the FAA and the IB due the soggy ground – I know because I was there!

However all this is jumping the gun.
Back to Gen Chaudhary and his address. What perturbed me was that the Chief seemed to be more dependent on the cocktail circuit grapevine than on any professional source for his intelligence re Pakistani aims and designs. Maybe that is the way it is or perhaps how he liked to do his stuff!
The Official History of the 1965 war, edited by S N Prasad, blames the Indian Army’s “faulty strategy” which delivered “a large number of inconsequential jabs” and led “to stalemate on all fronts. To be fair, India had the upper hand during the war. It captured nearly four times more territory than Pakistan – specially in Kashmir”.

But imagine an Army Chief who orders the destruction of all Operational Orders and Instructions at the end of the War!

According to the US Library of Congress Country Studies,“A continuation of the fighting would only have led to further losses and ultimate defeat for Pakistan”.

And the History continues, “That would have happened had the then Army Chief, General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri, not miscalculated India’s ammunition stock and tank casualties, forcing the government to accept the ceasefire on September 22, 1965”.

This proves my point that we hardly used our Artillery whereas Pakistan pounded us with theirs.

As regards the Navy with its carrier INS Vikrant being refitted in dry docks and most other vessels under maintenance, the Indian Navy hardly played any part in the war. The Pakistan navy, in fact, destroyed the Indian radar station at Dwarka. The two air forces actively participated, but neither side was able to achieve air superiority. As part of our only Armored Div, the PAK AF gets more marks as I saw more of theirs than ours.
By August the infiltration into the Kashmir Valley had begun in right earnest. Thinking that the iron was hot, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, egged on by the ebullient, ever ambitious Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, took the fateful plunge and ordered his initial tank offensive into the Chamb Jaurian Sector on 1st Sep.
It was, however, not a few hours, when to the whole worlds rude shock and surprise, the puny, diminutive but steely Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, ordered his Chiefs to do what they needed to do.
Air Chief Marshal Arjun Singh sent in, I think it was the Mysteres based in Pathankot, to shoot up the tanks in their tracks – while the Gnats, flying over head gave them air cover. It was that day the Keelor brothers began notching up their kills.
We must remember that our professional thinking was archaic, Second War orientated and bound by the Montgomery written Operations of War pamphlets – three of which, the Advance to Contact and Withdrawal, along with the River Crossing one, proved obsolete and were withdrawn at the end of the war, viz Three of Five Operations of War Bibles!
Pak had fared better as they along with the US Aid had incorporated their organization and tactics. For instance they had a  Recce and Support Bn which held large frontages by the mobile fire power of jeep mounted MMGs and Anti tank guns. And they were also about to demonstrate how artillery is best used.
It is my long reflected opinion that, if only the army, or any unit or formation from section to division, can do three things, then it can be considered thoroughly professional and well trained. First. Reel in and move smoothly and seamlessly and without confusion and casualties from Point A to Point B. Second. Rapidly deploy and dig down fast and deep. Third. Shoot, what ever stuff it has, in the general direction of the enemy. Indeed that is about all that is really needed to be well trained. All else is mere bull and frill.
As a thinking soldier with some six years of service at the time of this war, I had always rated our Artillery as the most professional arm of our Army. Not least because of the outstanding gunner officers it had been my privilege to befriend viz Gurbaksh, the noted mountain gunner, Adi Homji the true Pro and then my first Brigade Major, Ben Gonzalvez. Nearer my seniority was Harry Harbhajan. All officers of character, class and calibre.

And I maintain it was in Artillery that we were totally and completely outclassed by the Pakistanis. And that from Day One and right up to the Cease Fire. Sadly this was both in concept, organization and employment as well as in the type and quantum of equipment and ammunition used with deadly effect.

The Indian Army learnt about the massed use of this great arm from Pakistan. Included was the seemingly lavish expenditure of the apparently abundant and limitless ammunition. Then we also learnt a thing or two about the bold, audacious and imaginative use of Observation Officers and their inclusion in Stay Behind Parties.

Indeed in Artillery, India and Pakistan were not on the same page. We were mere also rans.

Recent books have revisited the Gen Harbaksh controversy re the then Chief ordering a Withdrawal behind the Beas. The subject was hotly debated several years ago with various heavy weights giving their two cents. 

Here is the noted historian and authority on Matters Military, Maj Gen KM Bhimaya (Retd) giving his authoritative summation.

“I have met and interviewed Gen Harbaksh Singh, at his Vasant Vihar residence, way back in 1987, with other members of the Inter Service Study team on the 1965 War. At no time, did he mention about the Withdrawal Orders to Beas Bridge episode. I do not remember having read about these orders in his ‘Dispatches’. If any one has read about this incident, I request it be shared’.

“That brings me to the important question of drawing inferences about momentous historical decisions. Most of the perplexities faced by an analyst arise from the inherent difficulty in divining the mind of a commander who takes such critical decisions’.

“In the instant case, the question is not about the propriety of a decision but whether or not a decision was taken at all. Therefore, in such cases, the primacy of documentary over circumstantial evidence is absolute. Alas, we do not have a semblance of documentary evidence! And with this cloud of uncertainty, a rigorous analyst would label belated claims ‘apocryphal’ – a common euphemism for unverified assertions’.

“At the expense of brevity let me illustrate one more example from the 1971 War. The controversy whether the Indian Armed Forces had planned for the liberation of Bangladesh has been discussed several times. Apart from field commanders, two important staff officers who had major roles in implementing orders were interviewed several times by our team. While Gen Jacob, who had a politico-military role (particularly in obtaining Gen Niazi’s surrender on terms most favorable.”

And now a Pak Version pn this War – far better written –

Pakistan Journos like Ayaz Amir, Ahmed Rashid, Najam Sethi seem far superior to their Indian counterparts. Here is Sep 12, 2012 –Islamabad diary by Ayaz Amir.

Back from a trip to Amritsar and Delhi on Wednesday evening, and too tired to go on to Chakwal as I had meant to – PIA never disappointing, the flight from Delhi late by three hours – I sought refuge under the roof of the Avari, where my poverty usually takes me when in the favored city of the Emperor Jahangir.

And as I sat down to write this on Thursday morning, from somewhere down below on the Mall – it will always be the Mall whatever patriotic name we give it – came the ever-enchanting voice of Noor Jahan the Second, the first being the royal consort of Jahangir. She was singing that haunting song, “Rah-e-haq ke shaheedo…”, a tribute to the martyrs of the 1965 war, and it came suddenly to me that this was the Defense of Pakistan Day, an anniversary remembered with less and less fervor as the years pass…not because respect for our fighting soldiers has in any way diminished but because the truth about that conflict is now more widely understood.

It was a war that Pakistan did not seek; it was a war into which it stumbled. The hawks – the two leading ones being Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the 12 Division Commander, Maj Gen Akhtar Hussain Malik – forgot to make the little calculation that any adventure undertaken in Kashmir would impel or tempt India to straighten out the balance somewhere else, at a time and place of its choosing.

When our Kashmir adventure turned into a serious threat to Indian forces in Kashmir, to no one’s surprise except ours Indian forces crossed the international border on the front stretching from Sialkot to Lahore. Our soldiers fought bravely, at places magnificently, as did junior officers up to the level of battalion commanders. A few brigadiers too distinguished themselves. (The Indian official account of the war, which can be read on the net, generously mentions the performance of some of our fighting units.)

And of course the air force acquitted itself superbly. But if one looks for Mansteins in the higher echelons of command one is likely to be disappointed. There were none, not one strategic manoeuvre worth remembering.

Our self-appointed field marshal, Ayub Khan Tareen, lived to rue his blunder. After the war he was no longer the same man and his grip on national affairs weakened.

The supreme irony of course was that Bhutto whose role in pushing the war was second to none exploited the outcome, and the subsequent Tashkent agreement, to spread the insinuation that had not Ayub chickened out our forces would have won a signal triumph, which of course was complete nonsense.

But he could have been preaching to the mountains. The ceasefire when it came, with no little pushing by the superpowers, came not a moment too soon for our exhausted high command.

But for years and years the myth persisted and it was woven into national legend, that India was out to destroy Pakistan and would have succeeded but for our brave armed forces. The Defense of Pakistan Day commemorates this historiography. This myth would not have mattered if it had not led to lasting, and baleful, consequences. We had a fairly open relationship with India until then.

But with the war the barriers went up and all ties were cut; defense spending sharply increased; more divisions were raised. The ramparts of the national security state rose higher. And barriers went up in our minds as well. India was the enemy and this doctrine superseded all others.

We had been doing fairly well economically, ahead then of such states as Malaysia and South Korea. The war put us off the rails completely. (The only good to come of it were the war songs of Noor Jahan, which are still a marvel to listen to.) With the 1971 war the dogmas learned from the 1965 conflict were reinforced.

Strange, is it not, that the brightest politician of his age should have been the prime carrier of this policy of revanchism and hate? We will fight for a thousand years, was one of his clarion calls, anti-Indianism a plank – nay, an essential component – of his extraordinary success in Punjab in the 1970 elections. And it was Punjab which catapulted him to national power, not Sindh. Think again…

Punjab dyed in the hues of chauvinism, the country as a whole wedded to the notion of undying hostility towards India…the high priest of this doctrine was the secular, de luxe whisky-sipping (occasionally guzzling) Bhutto. Who listens to the boring lectures, or the stale oratory, of the custodians of the two-nation theory headquartered permanently in Lahore? Bhutto’s oratory had a mesmeric effect on the Punjabi mind. And his oratory had two key components: pseudo-revolutionism and jingoistic nationalism.

Only now are the barriers raised then coming down slowly, not because of any fresh dawn of enlightenment but the pressure of cruel circumstance. Our army is engaged in no fake adventure on the eastern front. It is caught in a real and brutal war on our western marches, battling an enemy all the more sinister because the strength and staying power of that enemy comes not from evil Jew or conniving Hindu but from within our own ranks.

Our Indian wars, no matter the causes, were simple, black-and-white affairs. We knew who the army was and Noor Jahan had no trouble singing the glories of our valor, real or imaginary.

The war we are now engaged in is so much more complex because the enemy is not only the visible enemy we see, cutting the throats of our soldiers in the name of Islam. The enemy is also our own confusion which still cannot make out what is at stake. At stake is the nation’s soul, its direction. We emerge from the smoke and fire of this conflict and we can hope for national salvation. We lose, or remain victims of confusion, and we might as well seek a confederation with Somalia or the Sudan (with apologies to both these nations).

A Pakistan which has forsaken the tolerance sought to be inculcated by its founding fathers, a Pakistan losing no sleep at the persecution of its minorities and the killing of Shias, a country which can countenance the victimization of an Aasia Bibi or a Rimsha Masih, is a country in dire need of asking some hard questions of itself. All injustice is bad; injustice perpetrated in the name of religion is infinitely worse. We can be such hypocrites. Are the lives of the Caliphs dead pieces of parchment or living examples to follow? What would the great Omar have done if after a short absence from Makkah he had come to know of the plight of a young Christian girl, Rimsha Masih?

There and then he would have fired the interior minister, the Rehman Malik of his time, and asked the inspector general of police, the kotwal, to run round the city walls with a knapsack on his back. And he would have carried the girl Rimsha on his shoulders to her house and asked her mother if they had enough to eat, and if anything was found wanting, on bended knee he would have cried for Allah’s forgiveness. For was it not Omar who said that if a dog went hungry by the banks of the Euphrates he, the Caliph, would be asked about it on the Day of Judgment?

The Islam which spread so fast from the sands of the Hejaz was a thing of achievement and glory. And to think what we have made of it in this republic founded in the name of Islam?”


And a Personal Aside —

There was this Lt Avtar Singh of our only Medium Regt whom I came across a few days after we had entered Pakistan. This officer, on hearing me lambasting and lamenting our artillery, took me up and promised to show me a thing or two once he was in support of our brigade – he was an OP operating from a tank. Alas a day later, as he was directing fire a direct hit on the turret of his tank sent his arm swirling in the air —-

We met a half century later, courtesy Capt Amarinder, who had old 65 War Veterans for dinner as Maj Shamshad whose Patton had been disabled by a Strim from my company, was also present – again courtesy the Patiala Royal. Avtar and I chatted for over an hour and then he asks me if I knew one Capt Bhullar from the Garhwalis – I nearly killed him!

Any way he remains one Good Gunner!


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Sam on a Personal Enemy …

Posted on October 25, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

A sordid Story which began when Gen Thimayya was Chief and Nehru’s blue eyed Defense Minister – VK Krishna Menon began to under cut and humiliate the Chief in order to pave the way for the rise of the Kashmiri ASC Gen BM Kaul – a distant cousin of the PM.

The Story starts when the Defense Minister visits Maj Gen Sam Manekshaw who was GOC 26 Div and tries to enlist him against his own Chief – Gen Thimayya. Sam of course refuses point blank and thereby begins to  dig his own grave.

This is the cause de terre for the enquiry which was initiated against Sam a year or so later when he was Commandant of the Staff College.

The principle witness against Sam in the enquiry against him was a close colleague and friend – then Col – later Brigadier – Kim Yadav who happened to be the the first CO of a very dear course mate and friend, who vouches his elan and professionalism. Kim was, indeed, an outstanding officer, who was for a while, ADC to Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Years later when Sam took over Western Command where Brig Kim Yadav  was Commanding a Brigade, Sam heard some officers in the Mess, in hushed tones belittling Brig Yadav. Turning to them he says, “Gentlemen, Brig Kim Yadav professionally is  head and shoulders above most of you – all he lacks is character”.

The late PKK Raju, a Rimcollian, was present with the FIFTH when it was part of Kim Yadav’s Brigade and used to narrate this exercise which most every one thought was to fix Kim. This seemed  more so Sam as Army Commander himself attended.

The brigade had performed pretty well and Sam went up for his Summing Up, most every one thought that Sam would now tear apart Kim. But Sam went to the podium, looked round and spoke just one sentence before he shook the Commanders’ hand. He had said was that were he himself commanding the brigade, he could not have done better!

And at the end of the 1971 war, Kim Yadav sent a telegram to Sam, ‘You seem to have won the war all by yourself – without any help from me! My Congratulations’.

Those were the Days and these were the Guys.


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China – South China Sea …

Posted on October 7, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Uncategorized |

By Steven Lee Myers – NYT —– 

In April, on the 69th anniversary of the founding of China’s Navy, the country’s first domestically built aircraft carrier stirred from its berth in the port city of Dalian on the Bohai Sea, tethered to tugboats for a test of its seaworthiness.

“China’s first homegrown aircraft carrier just moved a bit, and the United States, Japan and India squirmed,” a military news website crowed, referring to the three nations China views as its main rivals.

Not long ago, such boasts would have been dismissed as the bravado of a second-string military. No longer.

A modernization program focused on naval and missile forces has shifted the balance of power in the Pacific in ways the United States and its allies are only beginning to digest.

While China lags in projecting firepower on a global scale, it can now challenge American military supremacy in the places that matter most to it: the waters around Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea.

That means a growing section of the Pacific Ocean — where the United States has operated unchallenged since the naval battles of World War II — is once again contested territory, with Chinese warships and aircraft regularly bumping up against those of the United States and its allies.

To prevail in these waters, according to officials and analysts who scrutinize Chinese military developments, China does not need a military that can defeat the United States outright but merely one that can make intervention in the region too costly for Washington to contemplate. Many analysts say Beijing has already achieved that goal.

To do so, it has developed “anti-access” capabilities that use radar, satellites and missiles to neutralize the decisive edge that America’s powerful aircraft carrier strike groups have enjoyed. It is also rapidly expanding its naval forces with the goal of deploying a “blue water” navy that would allow it to defend its growing interests beyond its coastal waters.

“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” the new commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Philip S. Davidson, acknowledged in written remarks submitted during his Senate confirmation process in March.

He described China as a “peer competitor” gaining on the United States not by matching its forces weapon by weapon but by building critical “asymmetrical capabilities,” including with anti-ship missiles and in submarine warfare. “There is no guarantee that the United States would win a future conflict with China,” he concluded.

Last year, the Chinese Navy became the world’s largest, with more warships and submarines than the United States, and it continues to build new ships at a stunning rate. Though the American fleet remains superior qualitatively, it is spread much thinner.

“The task of building a powerful navy has never been as urgent as it is today,” President Xi Jinping declared in April as he presided over a naval procession off the southern Chinese island of Hainan that opened exercises involving 48 ships and submarines. The Ministry of National Defense said they were the largest since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949.

Even as the United States wages a trade war against China, Chinese warships and aircraft have picked up the pace of operations in the waters off Japan, Taiwan, and the islands, shoals and reefs it has claimed in the South China Sea over the objections of Vietnam and the Philippines.

When two American warships — the Higgins, a destroyer, and the Antietam, a cruiser — sailed within a few miles of disputed islands in the Paracels in May, Chinese vessels rushed to challenge what Beijing later denounced as “a provocative act.” China did the same to three Australian ships passing through the South China Sea in April.

Only three years ago, Mr. Xi stood beside President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden and promised not to militarize artificial islands it has built farther south in the Spratlys archipelago. Chinese officials have since acknowledged deploying missiles there, but argue that they are necessary because of American “incursions” in Chinese waters.

When Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Beijing in June, Mr. Xi bluntly warned him that China would not yield “even one inch” of territory it claims as its own.

China’s naval expansion began in 2000 but accelerated sharply after Mr. Xi took command in 2013. He has drastically shifted the military’s focus to naval as well as air and strategic rocket forces, while purging commanders accused of corruption and cutting the traditional land forces.

The People’s Liberation Army — the bedrock of Communist power since the revolution — has actually shrunk in order to free up resources for a more modern fighting force. Since 2015, the army has cut 300,000 enlisted soldiers and officers, paring the military to two million personnel over all, compared with 1.4 million in the United States.

While every branch of China’s armed forces lags behind the United States’ in firepower and experience, China has made significant gains in asymmetrical weaponry to blunt America’s advantages. One focus has been in what American military planners call A2/AD, for “anti-access/area denial,” or what the Chinese call “counter-intervention.”

A centerpiece of this strategy is an arsenal of high-speed ballistic missiles designed to strike moving ships. The latest versions, the DF-21D and, since 2016, the DF-26, are popularly known as “carrier killers,” since they can threaten the most powerful vessels in the American fleet long before they get close to China.

The DF-26, which made its debut in a military parade in Beijing in 2015 and was tested in the Bohai Sea last year, has a range that would allow it to menace ships and bases as far away as Guam, according to the latest Pentagon report on the Chinese military, released this month. These missiles are almost impossible to detect and intercept, and are directed at moving targets by an increasingly sophisticated Chinese network of radar and satellites.

China announced in April that the DF-26 had entered service. State television showed rocket launchers carrying 22 of them, though the number deployed now is unknown. A brigade equipped with them is reported to be based in Henan Province, in central China.

Such missiles pose a particular challenge to American commanders because neutralizing them might require an attack deep inside Chinese territory, which would be a major escalation.

The American Navy has never faced such a threat before, the Congressional Research Office warned in a report in May, adding that some analysts consider the missiles “game changing.”

The “carrier killers” have been supplemented by the deployment this year of missiles in the South China Sea. The weaponry includes the new YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missile, which puts most of the waters between the Philippines and Vietnam in range.

While all-out war between China and the United States seems unthinkable, the Chinese military is preparing for “a limited military conflict from the sea,” according to a 2013 paper in a journal called The Science of Military Strategy.

Lyle Morris, an analyst with the RAND Corporation, said that China’s deployment of missiles in the disputed Paracel and Spratly Islands “will dramatically change how the U.S. military operates” across Asia and the Pacific.

The best American response, he added, would be “to find new and innovative methods” of deploying ships outside their range. Given the longer range of the ballistic missiles, however, that is not possible “in most contingencies” the American Navy would be likely to face in Asia.

The aircraft carrier that put to sea in April for its first trials is China’s second, but the first built domestically. It is the most prominent manifestation of a modernization project meant to propel the country into the upper tier of military powers. Only the United States, with 11 nuclear-powered carriers, operates more than one.

A third Chinese carrier is under construction in a port near Shanghai. Analysts believe China will eventually build five or six.

The Chinese military, traditionally focused on repelling a land invasion, increasingly aims to project power into the “blue waters” of the world to protect China’s expanding economic and diplomatic interests, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

The carriers attract the most attention but China’s naval expansion has been far broader. The Chinese Navy — officially the People’s Liberation Army Navy — has built more than 100 warships and submarines in the last decade alone, more than the entire naval fleets of all but a handful of nations.

Last year, China also introduced the first of a new class of a heavy cruisers — or “super destroyers” — that, according to the American Office of Naval Intelligence, “are comparable in many respects to most modern Western warships.” Two more were launched from dry dock in Dalian in July, the state media reported.

Last year, China counted 317 warships and submarines in active service, compared with 283 in the United States Navy, which has been essentially unrivaled in the open seas since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

A third Chinese carrier is under construction in a port near Shanghai. Analysts believe China will eventually build five or six.

The Chinese military, traditionally focused on repelling a land invasion, increasingly aims to project power into the “blue waters” of the world to protect China’s expanding economic and diplomatic interests, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

The carriers attract the most attention but China’s naval expansion has been far broader. The Chinese Navy — officially the People’s Liberation Army Navy — has built more than 100 warships and submarines in the last decade alone, more than the entire naval fleets of all but a handful of nations.

Last year, China also introduced the first of a new class of a heavy cruisers — or “super destroyers” — that, according to the American Office of Naval Intelligence, “are comparable in many respects to most modern Western warships.” Two more were launched from dry dock in Dalian in July, the state media reported.

Last year, China counted 317 warships and submarines in active service, compared with 283 in the United States Navy, which has been essentially unrivaled in the open seas since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Unlike the Soviet Union, which drained its coffers during the Cold War arms race, military spending in China is a manageable percentage of a growing economy. Beijing’s defense budget now ranks second only to the United States: $228 billion to $610 billion, according to estimates by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The roots of China’s focus on sea power and “area denial” can be traced to what many Chinese viewed as humiliation in 1995 and 1996. When Taiwan moved to hold its first democratic elections, China fired missiles near the island, prompting President Bill Clinton to dispatch two aircraft carriers to the region.

“We avoided the sea, took it as a moat and a joyful little pond to the Middle Kingdom,” a naval analyst, Chen Guoqiang, wrote recently in the official Navy newspaper. “So not only did we lose all the advantages of the sea but also our territories became the prey of the imperialist powers.”

China’s naval buildup since then has been remarkable. In 1995, China built only three new submarines to begin replacing an older fleet that totaled 83. It now has nearly 60 new submarines and plans to expand to nearly 80, according to a report by the United States Congressional Research Service.

As it has in its civilian economy, China has bought or absorbed technologies from the rest of the world, in some cases illicitly. Much of its military hardware is of Soviet origin or modeled on antiquated Soviet designs, but with each new wave of production, analysts say, China is deploying more advanced capabilities.

China’s first aircraft carrier was originally launched by the Soviet Union in 1988 and left to rust when the nation collapsed three years later. Newly independent Ukraine sold it for $20 million to a Chinese investor who claimed it would become a floating casino, though he was really acting on behalf of Beijing, which refurbished the vessel and named it the Liaoning.

The second aircraft carrier — as yet unnamed — is largely based on the Liaoning’s designs, but is reported to have enhanced technology. In February, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation disclosed that it has plans to build nuclear-powered carriers, which have far greater endurance than ones that require refueling stops.

China’s military has encountered some growing pains. It is hampered by corruption, which Mr. Xi has vowed to wipe out, and a lack of combat experience. As a fighting force, it remains untested by combat.

In January, it was embarrassed when one of its most advanced submarines was detected as it neared disputed islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. The attack submarine should never have been spotted.

The second aircraft carrier also appears to have experienced hiccups. Its first sea trials were announced in April and then inexplicably delayed. Not long after the trials went ahead in May, the general manager of China Shipbuilding was placed under investigation for “serious violation of laws and discipline,” the official Xinhua news agency reported, without elaborating.


China’s military advances have nonetheless emboldened the country’s leadership.

The state media declared the carrier Liaoning “combat ready” in the summer after it moved with six other warships through the Miyako Strait that splits Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and conducted its first flight operations in the Pacific.

The Liaoning’s battle group now routinely circles Taiwan. So do Chinese fighter jets and bombers.

China’s new J-20 stealth fighter conducted its first training mission at sea in May, while its strategic bomber, the H-6, landed for the first time on Woody Island in the Paracels. From the airfield there or from those in the Spratly Islands, the bombers could strike all of Southeast Asia.

The recent Pentagon report noted that H-6 flights in the Pacific were intended to demonstrate the ability to strike American bases in Japan and South Korea, and as far away as Guam.

“Competition is the American way of seeing it,” said Li Jie, an analyst with the Chinese Naval Research Institute in Beijing. “China is simply protecting its rights and its interests in the Pacific.”




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Russia on the ‘Spy’ Offensive …

Posted on October 4, 2018. Filed under: From Russia with Love, Uncategorized |

Spying and Counter Spying – their Man is Master in the Kremlin …


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WWI – Indian Contribution …

Posted on September 21, 2018. Filed under: Regimental, Uncategorized |

From Gen KM Bhimaya ...

 The Daily Telegraph, London, dated 8 September 2018, writes –
About how Lord Jitesh Gadhia (the youngest British Indian member of the House of Lords), an Ambassador for the Royal British Legion’s Thank You campaign commemorated the services of the Undivided Indian Army – 11 VCs, of which 2 were won by The Garhwal Rifles Regiment.
The Thank You Campaign was commrmorated together with the current visiting Indian cricket team and the current British cricket team.

The team members wore special, unique poppies made out of khadi, in a fitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, who supported Indian participation and help to the British in their hour of need.

The Indian contribution to the British War Effort is mind- boggling –
1.3 million soldiers and over 10,000 nurses.
Out of which 74,000 lost their lives fighting from the Somme to the Sahara.
Contribution of over 20 billion British pounds – in today’s money,
170,000 animals and 37000 tons of Supplies.
Copy of this Daily Telegraph was sent to Gen Bhimaya by Mrs. Lucy Clarke, widow of Maj ARE Clarke of 2/18 RGR – and daugther-in-law of Brig AE Clarke of the 2/39th and 2/18 RGR.
Brig Clarke was the Center Commandant when The Garhwalis celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the Raising of the Regiment in 1937.
Incidentally while preparing for the Celebration of the Centenary of the Regiment’s Raising in 1987, the Author of this Blog chanced upon the Menu Card of the Golden Jubilee Dinner.
In addition to details of the Dinner, at the Bottom of the Card in Italics was the admonition, ‘No Speeches Please’
At the Centenary Dinner – ALAS!!!


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Great Soccer Players these Spaniards …

Posted on August 28, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Edited Version of Anjan Basu in The Wire –

For many the lumping together in a single memorial of the victims and the victimisers of the Spanish Civil War is outrageous.

Forty-three years after Francisco Franco’s death, Spain may have finally come to grips with a task that it has found so hard to complete – laying to rest the ghost of the dictator.

His tomb is housed inside the Basilica de la Santa Cruz which stands in the monumental memorial complex, not far from Madrid, dedicated to those who died in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

Appropriately called the ‘Valley of the Fallen’, the monument is spread over a staggering 3,360 acres, or 13.6 square kilometres, of Mediterranean woodland and granite boulders on the Sierra de Guadarrama hills, about 50 kilometres north-west of Madrid, with Mount Abantos standing guard over it.

As incredible as it may sound today, the Valley of the Fallen – Spain’s most significant memorial to the Civil War – was commissioned by the very man who had lit the fuse of that war.

After his bloody three-year campaign against the democratically-elected Republican government ended in Franco’s installation as Spain’s El Caudillo, the Leader, the general embarked on the grandiose project of erecting a monument that was to be “a national act of atonement and reconciliation”.

The dictator wanted the memorial to be built on a scale that would equal “the grandeur of the monuments of old, which defy time and memory”. It was indeed a gargantuan project, taking nearly 19 years (1940-1959) to execute and costing nearly 1200 million pesetas.

The centre piece is a gigantic 500-feet-tall cross – the tallest memorial cross in the world – that stands over a massive granite outcrop out of which was hewn an enormous basilica, the Basilica de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caidos, effectively the largest Christian temple in the world, larger than even the venerated St Peter’s in Rome.

The cross can be seen from over 30 kilometres away. One needs to ride a funicular to be able to reach the base of the cross itself.

In the valley, and scattered across its expanse, lie buried over 40,000 of the Civil War dead – both Nationalists and Republicans.

A Benedictine abbey that houses the priests who say mass for the repose of the dead also stands inside the memorial complex, on the far side of the hill that makes up the basilica.

And behind the main altar of the basilica, inside its central nave, lies Francisco Franco in one of the only two marked graves in the entire complex. The other grave, also lying inside the nave, belongs to Primo de Rivera, the notorious founder of the Falangist movement, who was executed for treason against the Republic in 1936 and whose remains Franco got interred here out of gratitude to his benefactor.

Franco happens to be the only person buried in the Valley of the Fallen who did not die in the war that he had ignited. His acolytes thought up the specious justification that the Catholic faith allows the sponsor of a church to be buried within that church’s precinct.

They were not bothered to explain why all the war’s fallen lay in unmarked graves, although the memorial has records relating to each of those buried there.

The most scandalous aspect of this surreal enterprise was that a very large number of Republican Army war prisoners – the government puts their number at no more than 2,700 while others estimate it to be around 20,000 – were made to work on the construction of this humongous project, though Spanish law prohibited forced labour.

Those who died in harness here did not, however, find their final resting place inside the complex. For many in Spain, the lumping together in a single memorial of the victims and the victimisers is completely unacceptable, if not downright outrageous.

The fact that the Civil War’s executioner-in-chief and his chief ideologue lay in state here while numerous patriotic, law-abiding Spaniards – whose only fault was their unwillingness to kowtow to an evil regime – lie inside cold, anonymous pits, makes the Valley of the Fallen a monstrous anachronism.

Most liberals, and all those whose hearts beat in sympathy with the ideals of the failed Republican enterprise – including many whose kith and kin lie buried here – have scrupulously kept their distance from this memorial.

Many abhor this monument while others have adored it over the years.

Every year till 2006, on November 20, the anniversary of Franco’s death, Spanish fascists, neo-Nazis and dyed-in-the-wool Roman Catholic conservatives congregated at the Valley in strength in celebration of their ‘dear departed leader’.

And, come rain or shine, Franco’s grave is known to have been adorned with freshly-cut flowers every day of the year.

Germany ruptured with its Nazi past violently, irrevocably in 1945. But in Spain, Franco was succeeded by King Juan Carlos, who had once memorably described the tyrant as “that exceptional man whom Spain has been immensely fortunate to have”.

The young king openly acknowledged that his own political legitimacy was based on the Civil War victory that cost “so much sad but necessary sacrifice and suffering”.

So Spain’s transition to democracy was necessarily a halting, wobbly process, and the fact that both the army and the church remained deeply entrenched in the country’s power structure, the change in the regime notwithstanding, handicapped the process of democratic transformation.

Western powers led by the US were also keen that the new Spain did not stray from the path of a conservative constitutional monarchy and that ‘radicals’ (meaning socialists) always remained a relatively weak political formation.

Indeed, all through the Cold War years, Francoist Spain had remained a valuable ally of the Western democracies.

However the repressive nature of the Franco regime could never be wished away. All dissidence was treated as criminal activity and ruthless suppression of political resisters, and even their summary executions, continued till 1975, the year Franco died.

Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards lost their lives during the Civil War years and subsequently, during the Franco years. Nearly half a million fled the country to escape persecution.

These wounds remained open, and Spain’s unique – many believe deeply-flawed – approach to the democratisation of its polity and society was the Pacto del Olvido (the Pact of Forgetting), a social-political contract that resolved to put the country’s past firmly behind – effectively saying, “Let us all forget and forgive”.

This compact to collectively not look back to the country’s recent violent past was made into the Amnesty Law of 1977.  While, for the time, nearly every side agreed to go along with it, the law soon began to be questioned on grounds of legitimacy.

Clearly, the Amnesty was loaded in favour of the perpetrators, rather than the victims, of the State’s crimes, and the victims – or their friends and families – could scarcely reconcile to such a law.

Angry debates raged through the 1980s/1990s over how and when to junk the Olvido, clearly no longer in favour with many Spaniards.

The socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, elected in 2004, challenged the continuing validity of the Amnesty Law. While it failed to scrap the law, it passed fairly comprehensive modifications to the Amnesty provisions by bringing in the Ley de Memoria Historica (the Historical Memory Law) of October 31, 2007.

Among other things, the new law gave sanction to recognising the victims on both sides of the Civil War, accorded aid rights to victims (and their descendants) of the war as well as the subsequent dictatorship, and formally – for the first time – condemned the Franco regime for its many atrocities.

Equally importantly, it decreed the removal of all Francoist symbols, memorials and statues from public places, and banned all political events at the Valley of the Fallen.

From 2007, it was no longer possible for Franco’s admirers to pay homage to his memory at the Valley memorial. Franco, though, continued to lie inside Spain’s most important Civil War memorial.

The Historical Memory Law was a bitterly contested piece of legislation, but even the conservative People’s Party (PP) of Mariano Rajoy, which succeeded Zapatero’s socialist government in 2011 and is intrinsically hostile to the reform, did not dare repeal or even amend it.

Then in June this year, the tables were turned on the PP government which had to resign following massive corruption allegations and Pedro Sanchez’s PSOE government was installed.

One of Sanchez’s election promises was to disinter Franco from the Valley of the Fallen by suitably modifying the Historical Memory Law.

He has delivered on that promise now by approving the legislative decree that will enable the exhumation without running the risk of a legal challenge.




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A Book Review by CHAZ …

Posted on August 15, 2018. Filed under: Books, Uncategorized |


‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ – Mark Manson

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people. – Goodreads Synopsis

This one has been at the top of the charts for a while, and after it has been recommended to me multiple times, I thought what the hell. I’m not one much for “self-help” books, (Maybe that’s why I have so many problems…) but this one promises to be different from all the rest.

I secretly thought that most books like this were just a scam trying to make a quick buck by telling you to just be happy. This one is a bit different (You can tell by the title alone), and that is because it knows the target audience – Millennials. (Scary OoOoOoOo)

Millennial has been tossed around in the media and from everyone else that is not a 1101130520_600“Millennial” and usually it is associated with a negative connotation.

The word “entitled” is always used in conjunction with Millennial as well. Mark Manson also knows this, and speaks in depth about this feeling of entitlement.

What really stuck out to me was how Mark explains that there are actually two ways to channel that entitlement. There is the first way that everyone knows: that you deserve something more because of who you are/what you’ve done, and the second way: that because when you make yourself a victim out of a negative experience in your past, you are also expecting different treatment.

Now that seems obvious to understand, I just never thought about how victimizing yourself is also a form of entitlement. There in lies the true power of the “self-help” books – changing your perspective.

Ok… So I am entitled. What now?

Now the main body of the book starts to come into play. Sure we feel that this hard work thumbnail_largewe have done deserves something special – I work harder than everyone else in the office,

I accomplish more, and I need that promotion now! Where the fuck is it?! Maybe the problem is that you are channeling all of your “fucks” into something that is not going to end up paying dividends later on.

Mark tells us that we need to take a step back from caring 110% (and getting 110% emotional) about everything and pick what is really going to matter to us in the long run.

Ask yourself: Why I am giving a fuck about this so much. Why is this so important to me. Why are my emotions going totally fucking berserk over this.

As it turns out, if you ask yourself why enough times, you might end up getting to the root of the problem and fixing your self-entitlement on the way. So stop fucking crying and figure out what really matters to you.

I am focusing on being happy! Where is my progress?

Nope. Mark wants you to actively seek out the negative experiences instead of the positive ones. (But this goes against all of the other self-help books!)

Why would we want to be OK with negative experiences? Because that is how we grow. We learn the most, and grow the most, from all of the negative experiences in our lives.

Mark understands this and makes an attempt to reach us through his own personal journey. Maybe we should have just listened to Alfred all those years ago:

Bruce Wayne: What have I done, Alfred? Everything my family… my father built…

Alfred Pennyworth: The Wayne legacy is more than bricks and mortar, sir.

Bruce Wayne: I wanted to save Gotham. I failed.

Alfred Pennyworth: Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.

Bruce Wayne: You still haven’t given up on me?

Alfred Pennyworth: Never.

It starts to get a little Buddhist, but we need to learn to accept the negative experiences that have come before, and that will come in the future. It is what will make us a better, and stronger, person.  Stop giving a fuck about trying to be happy all of the time.

My Takeaway

I’ve been going through some “Millennial” shit recently and I didn’t even know it. The main thing that has been irking me is my work life. I work too hard, I care toomuch, and I am too ambitious. All of that boils up to one great big pot of entitlement. Aside from the entitlement, I also feel empty. I feel that I am kicking ass all day, giving the world all it’s worth, using the most energetic years of my life, but for what? So some other entitled prick can benefit (or baby-boomer who crashed the houseing market and destroyed the environment)? Take a look at the chart below (shout-out to Kyle for showing me this) –



Ikigai: The Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” Hmm ok then. So where do we see ourselves here? I am smack in the middle Good/Paid For/Need, AKA – “Comfortable, but feeling of emptiness”. Yes I am good at what I do, Yes I get paid a decent amount for it, and OK I guess someone has to do it – but I feel dead inside. I’m not helping anyone really, I’m not making a difference for the better in the world (which is common among Millennials I guess), so why am I trying so hard? That’s where Mark Manson has helped me. I need to sort out in my life what I should give a fuck about, and I need to bring back balance to the force. (Well maybe not that)

It’s time to stop rejecting the negative, time to stop feeling entitled, and time to sort out the fucks.

Want more Millennial context?

Check out this video. Simon Sinek really explains it better than anyone else I’ve ever heard talk about it. The guy is fucking sharp.

Thanks to Gioia @ My Crazy World of Books Blog for sharing this with me. Check out her blog!!

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