Sunday, May 29, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Photographs released by the Indian Air Force of the Exercise which is taking place in Rajasthan involving 2 Corps and elements of Western Air Command. Lt Gen SR Ghosh, Western Army Commander, got to take a joyride in a Jaguar in the exercise.
Following in the footsteps of the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Khalid Shameem Wyne, has also embarked on a tour involving meeting the officer cadre to take stock of the situation following the US military's covert strike on Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad.
Addressing the student officers of the Command and Staff College in Quetta, General Khalid Shameem Wynne, a four star General, said that the defense forces of Pakistan are well equipped, highly motivated and fully capable to all dimensions of conventional and unconventional threat posed to security and integrity of the country (as reported by Inter Services Public Relations or ISPR). Given the fact that what happened in Abottabad has caused much shame and consternation among Army officers, this is a typical PR statement which does not have any bearing on what the General might have actually said during his meeting with the student officers.
The important thing to note is that the senior leadership of the Pak Army is worried enough to undertake such meetings with junior officers. The last time this happened was in the aftermath of the humiliating defeat suffered by the Pakistan Army in the 1971 war. The then COAS had also undertaken such addresses and was booed in one of them. Does this signify a crises in leadership as far as the top echelon of the Pak Army is concerned? The image of the COAS may well have taken a beating. And this may result him in not getting another extension this year-end if he does not handle his Corps Commanders with care. He managed to get an extension last time because the US was supporting him. This time around with the Osama fiasco, this might not happen.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Air Commodore SC Chafekar takes over as the Air Officer Commanding of 12 Wing in Chandigarh on Monday, the 2nd May. He is the second Commanding Officer of 48 Squadron who takes over as the AOC Chandigarh in succession. But what brings to mind is his remarkable escape, first when the AN-32 which he was co-piloting was shot at and damaged by the Pakistan Army near Kargil, and his subsequent escape from efforts to blame him for the fiasco.
At that point of time Wg Cdr Chafekar was attempting the first landing by a fixed wing aircraft at the newly established airfield in Kargil in 2002.
Let's recall that unfortunate incident in slight detail. As is the wont in this country, any important event has to be hijacked by the powers-that-be. And so this pioneering flight to Kargil had to have the then AOC-in-C, Western Air Command, Air Marshal VK Bhatia, on it. But the Air Marshal was not satisfied by being just the passenger on board. Or for that matter being just a co-pilot. He took over as the Captain of the aircraft and Wg Cdr Chafekar became the co-pilot. Flt Lt V Awasthy was the navigator. On approach to the runway, which was a bit tricky and since the Air Marshal was not familiar flying in this area, the aircraft strayed over to the other side of the LoC and was fired upon by a Pakistan Army unit with a missile which hit one engine.
The aircraft managed to land in Leh and the incident was kept under wraps for a few days. I was then working with the Hindustan Times in Chandigarh and found out about it a couple of days later. My Editor asked me to double check on it and by the time I did so, Gaurav Sawant, then working with Indian Express broke the story.
I was packed off to Leh in double time and what followed was a series of stories with Lt Gen Arjun Ray, the then GOC 14 Corps, saying a couple of things about Air Marshal Bhatia, on record. He was peeved with initial attempts by the Air Marshal to try and fix the blame on friendly fire from Indian Army on peaks around Kargil. I enjoyed doing the stories because Lt Gen Ray could be quite colourful when he wanted to prove a point. Ultimately, he stopped only when the Army Chief asked him to pipe down in interest of harmony among sister services and I got another story to do in Leh. The shooting of LoC-Kargil, the JP Dutta movie on Kargil conflict had started and Lt Gen Ray's son was an Assistant Director in the movie. So Dutta had all the facilities of the 14 Corps at his disposal (also with Army HQs permission) and I had access to an exclusive story. Both, Lt Gen Ray and me, were happy to move on from Chafekar-Bhatia episode.
But to come back to the main story, there were unfortunate attempts to frame Wg Cdr Chafekar and to insinuate that it was he who had erred. But Air Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy, the then Air Chief, intervened and made sure the Court of Inquiry made the right recommendations. Wg Cdr Chafekar, thus escaped through the skin of his teeth, while Air Marshal Bhatia was sent at a significantly lower post of Inspector General Flight Safety while retaining his perks and privledges as a C-in-C. Interesting to note that someone who violated flight safety was made in-charge of it. But that's another story.
And so Wg Cdr Chafekar went on to become Gp Capt, command a squadron in Chandigarh, made some more pioneering landings in DBO, Fukche and Nyoma and now comes back as Air Cmde to the same station.
Here's wishing him more safe landings.