Saturday, March 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



A period of missed opportunities

IT was a pleasure to go through the thoughtful article of the well known historian, Mr V.N. Dutta “A Period of Missed Opportunities” (Feb 13). He has stated in the article: “Jawahar Lal Nehru ruled out the possibility of war with China. India did not know that China was building the Aksai Chin road by linking Sinkiang with Tibet, posing thereby a threat to India.” His threat perception is very apt indeed. I may like to throw some light on it.

In 1952, I (then a Capt) along with an engineer officer, Capt Suri, and 10 soldiers of Kumaon and Ladakh militia was detailed to reconnoiter the southern part of the Aksai Chin area in northeastern Ladakh. The patrol was to proceed along the track to Hot Spring near Chang Chenmo river after crossing Chang La (17,500 ft) and Marsmik La (height 18,300) and then turn northeast and go to Lanak


  La which according to us was on the boundary of India and Tibet. La in Tibetan means a pass. Both the IB and the military intelligence were not sure about the location of the Chinese forward posts along Tibet-India border. Initially they wanted the patrol personnel to go in civil clothes but since we were not in possession of civil clothes, and it would have taken a few weeks to purchase and get these stitched, the idea was dropped, as the patrol was to be sent out quickly. One of the tasks given to the patrol was to find out if there was any Chinese forces in the Southern Aksai Chin, particularly in the area between Hot Spring and Lanak La (height 17,800 feet) a stretch of about 40 kilometres.

The patrol found no Chinese troops in this area. However, near Lanak La, there were reports from the locals that the Chinese intended to construct a road starting from Lanak La to Yarkand in Sinkiang province of China, which lies northwest of Tibet. It was also reported that the Chinese troops and some engineers were patrolling in the Aksai Chin area, with a view to constructing a road joining Western Tibet with Sinkiang. All this information was reported in our patrol report. Aksai Chin area is a very high plateau. Even the Chang Chenmo river that flows in this area is at a height of about 15,000 ft. The area is completely devoid of tree cover or vegetation for that matter. There is little rainfall in the area. The snowfall is also not heavy, except on passes like Marsmik La/Chang La/Lanak La. So construction of road does not pose much problem.

No wonder the Chinese later constructed the road starting from Lanak La and running north west to Sinkiang. The Chinese in due course also occupied the area up to the Hot Spring — a distance of approximately 40 km west of Lanak La, while our patrol had found no Chinese troops in this area in 1952.

Our patrol report made the authorities feel happy. The Ministry of Defence as well as Army HQ sent a letter of appreciation to the patrol leaders which are my prize possession. However, the patrol report was classified as Top Secret.

Maj Gen Rajendra Nath (retd)

No red-tapism in Army, please

The editorial, “The General speaks” (Feb 18), was an eye-opener for the government. The Chief of Army Staff, Gen V.P. Malik, rightly held on February 15 that there was utmost need for bureaucracy to act with promptitude on matters concerning the country’s security situation.

Frank Whittle said during World War II that a nation’s ability to fight a modern war was as good as its technological ability. We in India have it. Financial constraints too can be overcome by rearranging priorities in fund allocation. But what hinders our plans is the procedural delay involved in handling files by bureaucracy.

In 1962 India faced total humiliation at the hands of the Chinese in NEFA, our siren song of “Hindi-Chini bhai bhai notwithstanding. In the recent past Indian Prime Minister, Mr A.B. Vajpayee, had taken a peace-bus to Lahore when the Pak PM and his hand-picked Army Chief, Gen Parvez Musharraf, were planning “Kargil”.

The country’s security situation has attracted the attention of even the Constitution review panel chairman. What did a talented Mr Krishna Menon give us as Defence Minister? Humiliation at the hands of the Chinese! Mulayam Singh Yadav may be knowing anything and everything about craft in politics but nothing about defence. Mr George Fernandes may prove a good lecturer on socialism but not the least a military strategist.

It’s time we learn from the developed world and had defence experts as our Defence Ministers. We have a number of distinguished retired Army Generals in the country. Why not utilise their services for the country’s defence when China and Pakistan both have fixed their hawkish eyes on our borders? The Generals know better on no-first-use of nuclear weapons than politicians.



Solar power

Solar energy is available in abundance in India because of its location advantage. However, it has remained more or less untapped. India deploys less than 5 per cent of solar energy out of which half is used only for fish grain and primitive paper drying in hand paper mills etc.

Experts have suggested solar crematoria in villages of the country to save wood and forests being otherwise used for cremation. Even lighting, cooking and water heating is another area where solar energy can replace electrical load. We must teach our students how to use solar cookers.

We also have to focus on water resources management wherein water is recycled for alternative use as done by Israel and some other countries.


Food production

Thanks to the adoption of the green revolution technology by the enterprising farming community, Punjab economy has scaled new highs. The state has the highest per capita income in the country. The central food pool gets overwhelming contribution from Punjab, which is over 60 per cent of total national foodstocks procured every year. These marvellous achievements on the food front in Punjab sometimes erroneously lead people to give credence to half-truths and bloomers.

In this context, I cite a case in point from The Tribune (Feb. 12) relating to the feature on, “States of India — Punjab —facts and figures”. It has been stated that with less than 2 per cent of India’s total area. Punjab produces more than 10 per cent of India’s foodgrain and more wheat than all other states combined. It is true that Punjab contributes more than 10 per cent of national food production but the statement relating to the position of Punjab in respect of wheat production is far from truth. The number one wheat-producing state in India is Uttar Pradesh. During 1997-98, UP produced 23 million tonnes of wheat followed by Punjab 12.7 million tonnes, Haryana 7.6 million tonnes and M.P. 7.3 million tonnes. Punjab produces only about 20 per cent of total wheat production in India. However it tops in yield per hectare. Ludhiana district has the distinction of holding world record in wheat productivity. The district has recorded over 40 q/ha as against the national yield of 22.5 q/ha.



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