Tarmak007 -- A bold blog on Indian defence: EXPRESS EXCLUSIVE: Ex Ajeya Warrior begins today | Indo-UK joint military exercise in Belgaum, sans bullets? | Pressure on Karnataka Govt to revoke firing ban

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

EXPRESS EXCLUSIVE: Ex Ajeya Warrior begins today | Indo-UK joint military exercise in Belgaum, sans bullets? | Pressure on Karnataka Govt to revoke firing ban

From the archives: Soldiers part of an Indo-China joint military exercise (above) and Indo-UK exercise (below). Photos: Livefist/Shiv Aroor
By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore:  India’s name in internationally might take a hit, if the visiting British troops arriving in Belgaum for a month-long joint exercise with the Indian Army, returns without firing a single bullet, thanks to the Karnataka government’s November 2012 decision denotifying the Bagdad Asmara Field Firing Range. Ex Ajeya Warrior to be held from April 3 to April 29 aims at testing the preparedness of both armies to carry out joint counter-insurgency operations, in an international scenario. The Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre (MLIRC) is the nodal agency for this exercise, directly falling under the Army’s Southern Command.
Sources tell Express that the 100-member strong British contingent is reaching Belgaum today (April 3). While the MLIRC officials refused to give out any details on the joint exercise, Maj Gen K S Venugopal, former GOC, K&K Sub-Area, had told reporters (on the day of him demitting office) in Bangalore on Sunday that the ‘event will go on as per the schedule.’
The guns have fallen silent at the Bagdad Asmara range ever since the state government went back on their earlier stand of notifying the range till 2020. The government had issued a denotification order on November 23 2012, thereby prematurely terminating a contract issued on May 24 2000, permitting the Army to use the land for artillery and field firing purposes (7469 acres) till 2020.
They can’t fire: MP | During an informal interaction with Express at Bangalore International Airport on March 30, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Belgaum Suresh Angadi said that he is not against the Army, but only the range. “I am not aware of the joint exercise. The state government circular clearly says that they can’t fire even a single bullet. The Army has been shown another place for the range and they should move on,” the MP said.
Angadi has been waging a battle against the Army for shifting the range after he built the Angadi Institute of Technology and Management in the danger area of the range. While the Army says that the institute has come up flouting all norms and sans any NOC, the MP claims that he is well within his rights to provide better education to the children of his constituency.
Training badly hit: Army | Army sources with the Southern Command say that the recruitment training, commando operations have been hit ever since the firing ban came into force. “Now, the joint exercise too will be affected. Today, there is not a single notified firing range at Belgaum. It is an infantry outfit and how can the soldiers be trained without firing their rifles? We are aware that the training in Belgaum has been badly affected,” says a senior Army officer with the Southern Command.
“Even the training at the Junior Leaders Wing –- that conducts the elite commando course for the Army – is tweaking their schedules unable to find an answer.  This has a direct impact on the national security,” the officer said.
Pressure on New Delhi | With the state getting on to election mode, the Army officials have to keep their gun powder dry to sort out the issue permanently, till a new regime takes charge. The Land, Works and Environment wing at the Army HQ in Delhi is preparing a strategy to address the issue. The joint exercise might be held finally as a formality, rather than a prestigious combat event, if the firing permission doesn’t come through.
The Army HQ now wants New Delhi to impress upon the Karnataka government to revoke the denotification so as to undertake firing during the course of the exercise. Army sources say that for the smooth conduct of Ex Ajeya Warrior, the firing ban has to go.
Belgaum DC to decide | A senior government official, who requested anonymity, told Express that the Army's better PR could have saved the situation for couple of more years. "The Army can pay compensation and acquire the land even now. How can a private land be leased out for a national cause without the compensation being paid? The Army knew it in advance about the joint exercise and they should have taken special permission. Now the matter has to be dealt with the Belgaum DC as he is the state government's representative to take a decision," the official said.
Ex Ajeya Warrior | The Indo-UK joint exercise is conducted alternatively in each country with the last one in India held in 2010. Indian Army conducts joint training exercises with lots of foreign countries, including the US, China, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
“The issues involved in the joint training are inter-operability, functional capabilities, familiarity of each others’ weapons and ground-level tactics in dealing with Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorism situations. The exercise is also aimed at increasing defence cooperation, understanding the synergy between both the armies and countries,” says a source.
 Copyright@The New Indian Express

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