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Friday, June 13th 2003, 9:54pm

AWNR India - January 1921

ANWR India - January 1921

1. Defence Ministry Changes Hands
2. Navy to lay down capital ship in 1923
3. Al Salif reconstruction begins
4. Football team arrives home

1. Defence Ministry Changes Hands

After months of speculation, it is official: India has a new defence minister. That worthy is retired Colonel Arun Shetty, a former army officer with no less than eleven decorations to his name. Shetty is one of three living recipients of the Raj’s Diamond, which was awarded for his stand against a force of Indochinese insurgents in 1906. His appointment is particularly interesting in that Col. Shetty has not only led men in battle, he has also been wounded by enemy action - barely surviving six bayonet wounds in the same action that won him the Diamond. Although some military insiders were disappointed that yet another army officer was appointed, the consensus was that Shetty was nonetheless a good choice and, as one source put it, “is unlikely to throw away the lives of his men.”

Former Defence Minister V. K. Chandra has, as expected, been appointed Ambassador to Germany, and will take up his new posting in March. Chandra’s tenure as minister including the Andaman War and the inclusion of India in the Cleito Treaty, signed last month in Atlantis. He returned to India this past week aboard SR Hyderabad, having initialled the treaty on behalf of the Raj.

2. Navy to Lay Down Capital Ship in 1923

Admiral of the Navy Sanjay Das has confirmed that the Indian Navy will order its first capital ship for lay-down in 1923.

“At this time we are still looking at two alternatives in the 20,000 to 30,000 ton range. A final decision will be made late this year, and will be ordered in 1922, with a lay-down date of early 1923. The experience gained from her construction and early career will allow the development of improved vessels prior to 1930.”

The Admiral also confirmed that the cruiser Male will be completed to her original design, and not as a coastal defence ship as some reports had suggested. “Although there would be some merit in using her as a test-bed for new weapons systems, we will instead construct a dedicated coastal defence ship to test them. This ship will likely be started next year.”

3. Al Salif Reconstruction Begins

India’s work to rebuild Al Salif has formally started. While emergency repairs had taken place in the days following the assault on the Yemeni town, the very poor state of the town’s infrastructure, coupled with League of Nations pressure, led to authorization of a more thorough civil engineering project.

Brigadier Surendra Kaushal commands the 38th Field Engineer Regiment: “An examination of the town’s infrastructure revealed that there really wasn’t very much at all. The roads were in decent condition, but there is no sewage disposal system, eletricity system, or a safe water distribution system. The town’s port facilities are also in poor condition in some locations - and this is all on top of the actual battle damage caused during the operation in November.”

“Basically, my regiment is going to bring Al Salif into the modern age as far as infrastructure is concerned, so we leave the people with the best standard of living that we can provide for them.”

The project is expected to take a year to eighteen months, during which approximately eight hundred Indian troops from the 38th Regiment will be stationed in a tent town adjacent to the town.

4. Football Team Arrives Home

After four months overseas, India’s football team returned home to a boisterous crowd in Cochin. The team failed to win any of the games played against numerous European national teams, but the general opinion on the streets is that their performance was still impressive. The team will travel to Hyderabad for a banquet before dispersing for some much deserved vacation time.