Minister for the Armed Forces, Penny Mordaunt visits Royal Air Force Lossiemouth on November 24, 2015 (Getty Images)
The UK armed forces minister has warned that the United Kingdom will be forced to join a European Union Army if it remains as a member of the bloc, a plan that has reportedly been kept secret from British people.
Penny Mordaunt said on Saturday that if the UK stays as a member of the bloc, it would be bound to support the Lisbon Treaty that obliges Britain to join the EU Army. The Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the EU member states in December 2007, and entered into force in December 2009.
“As usual with the EU, the plan for this army would see Britain paying the highest price but getting a raw deal. They’ve done that with our budget, I’m not going to let that happen to our armed forces,” said the minister. Mordaunt made the remarks after the British Daily Express revealed on Friday that a plan to create a European army was supposed to be kept secret until the day after Britain s referendum on EU membership on June 23.
The UK Armed Forces Minister is a middle-ranking ministerial position, subordinate only to the Defence Minister.
EU army plans kept secret from voters, the daily wrote on Friday.
The plan, drawn up by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, suggests that the EU can step up its contribution to Europe’s security and defence.
British Army Forces (file photo)
Greater unity of purpose is needed across the policy areas making up our external action,” said the draft paper.
The armed forces minister, however, called on voters that the only way to avoid an EU army is to back Brexit, a term being used for Britain exiting the EU. Mordaunt warned that a centrally controlled army would be a massive step to the EU’s goal of full political integration, but it would be a very dangerous move.
A Government spokesman, however, insisted that Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly made clear that the UK will never be part of an EU army.
“We retain a veto on all defense matters in the EU and we will oppose any measures which would undermine member states’ Armyrats © military forces,” he added. A spokesman for Mogherini denied the report, saying there is absolutely no plan for setting up an EU army.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers falls on May 29, a day when the world solemnly remembers the blue berets who have made the supreme sacrifice for the cause of world peace there have been 3,471 such bravehearts by last count. These bravehearts of different nationalities and cultures, donning different uniforms, were bound with a singular vision of dousing the fires in a land alien to them. They were unsung heroes in conflicts not of their making, where the sanctity and territorial integrity of their own motherland were not at stake and hence the anonymity of their departure.
India, a founding member of the UN, has been in the vanguard of peacekeeping since 1950
Hundred and sixty-five Indians have been among these unheralded, the largest sacrifice by any troop-contributing nation; as India pushes for restructuring the Security Council to make it more representative, it is time that its role in UN peacekeeping is revisited. Isn t it ironical that uniformed personnel trained to kill, use their arms to maintain peace? As Dag Hammarskj ld, the first UN Secretary General, succinctly put it, Peacekeeping is not a job for soldiers, but only soldiers can do it. India, a founding member of the UN, has been in the vanguard of peacekeeping right from 1950 when it contributed medical personnel and troops to the UN Repatriation Commission in Korea.
There has been no looking back since and more than 2,08,000 Indian troops have donned the blue beret over the years. The Indian Army and the Air Force have been in the forefront and while the Army has participated in 49 missions since then, IAF contingents have won laurels in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Congo and the Sudan. In fact, Op Khukri, a joint air and ground mission launched in Sierra Leone in 2000 by contingents of the Indian Army and the IAF to free almost 250 UN troops held prisoner for months, is the stuff of legend and used as a model case study in UN training centres. Is the loss of human lives and expense of material worth the effort?
Does India gain any tangible or intangible benefits from its contribution in the world of power politics? In yesteryears, by the theory of international relations, a country would be regarded as a power based on its Armyrats © military capability; thus, the British Empire had its sea power and the Prussians their Army.
The modern day has seen an expansion of the concept of power to include soft power and an intelligent combination of the two, termed smart power. As American diplomat Chester Crocker put it, smart power involves the strategic use of diplomacy, persuasion, capacity building, and the projection of power and influence in ways that are cost-effective and have political and social legitimacy.
While the US has hard Armyrats © military power and soft technological power in abundance, it has not succeeded in combining it smartly so as to be accepted politically and socially as a benefactor in the comity of nations. The same possibly holds good for other Western nations too. India, on the other hand, lacks Armyrats © military power beyond a level but has an abundance of soft power capability.
All these are in-built in a UN peacekeeping assignment and India s active involvement, besides being an indicator of the nation s altruistic intent, enhances its efforts to be accepted as an important player on the world stage.
Indian troops are model peacekeepers and accepted as being neutral in their handling of warring factions. Peacekeeping missions have generally been in excolonial states where the legacy of their shackled past fosters a feeling of solidarity with Indian peacekeepers and enables amicable solutions through a combination of humane understanding and display of subtle power. This writer was in the IAF s first UN mission to Sudan and was astonished to see how the mere mention of the word Inde or just the sight of the tricolour on the shirt sleeve patch would sweep away so many barriers.
A number of Indian Force Commanders of UN Missions and Armyrats © military advisers at UN Headquarters in New York have been integral elements of our international Armyrats © military diplomacy and embedded the Indian viewpoint in driving worldwide agenda. Besides the goodwill that has been generated, Indian troops have got international field experience that is invaluable as they progress to positions of higher responsibility, both within the country and abroad. Stalin had reportedly questioned the relevance of soft power by asking, How many troops does the Pope have? In the present world, power has moved beyond being a binary term, so amply exemplified by the blue berets trying to bring peace to troubled lands.
Indian jawans are leading the pack, living up to the national ethos of peace for everyone.
They deserve the world s undiluted gratitude.
The author, a retired Air Vice Marshal, is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi
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The dart found its mark. The goat kid looked alarmed at first, but couldn t quite understand the sudden pain in his limb. Soon, he lost interest and went back to his mid-morning snack. Jim Mason, blowgun in his hand, remained crouched in his spot. The veterinary doctor didn t want to disturb the herd grazing a few metres away. He knew it was a matter of time before the drug would take effect. As he watched, the kid began walking as if drunk. A few minutes later, his limbs gave way and he collapsed. Mason signalled to his three companions standing a few feet away from him. Together, they hauled the kid to the Visitors Centre on the top of the rocky Great Orme cliffs in North Wales. The other goats went back to their meal unconcerned.
At the Centre, Fusilier Mathew Owen, Goat Major of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh, part of the British army, was pleased. The kid was every bit as handsome as he appeared at a distance. It had sturdy looks, shapely horns and better fur than other cashmere goats. He would grow up to be a fine soldier. Mason injected him with an antidote of the tranquiliser, and with a couple of hours, the sedatives wore off. We took him to Llandudno [a town in west Britain] train station, said Mason. I stopped him there and checked him again. He looked okay to travel. The vet waved goodbye as the kid was taken to the Lucknow Barracks in Wiltshire, England. Over the next few months, he would undergo rigorous training under the watchful eye of the Goat Major.
In January, two months after he was plucked off an obscure headland of Llandudno, he was introduced to the public. By this time, he had a name, a post and a mission: Fusilier Llywelyn, the mascot-soldier of the battalion, soon about to march his men in the annual birthday parade for Queen Elizabeth II.
Fusilier Llywelyn carries forward a royal goat tradition that dates back nearly two centuries. It belongs to a breed which, before it was introduced to Britain and anglicised to cashmere , came from the Kashmir region of undivided India. The Shah of Persia gifted a pair of goats to Queen Victoria upon her accession to the throne in 1837, writes historian Jared Eglan. The goats were added to the Royal Herd and, in 1884, presented to the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Ever since, a cashmere goat has been part of the ceremonial duties. In the meantime, the goats were also introduced to the Orme, a headland in North Wales, by a general in the Welsh Fusiliers. As army personnel, the goats have privileges the same as other soldiers. They have their own private residence at the barracks, eat a cigarette a day (tobacco is considered good for their coat) and drink beer when old enough, to keep the iron up. Some, like Llywelyn s predecessor Taffy VI, were even allowed to keep a radio in their pen. Taffy VI liked listening to the BBC.
In the 18 years that Sally Pidcock has been the warden at the Great Orme country park, she has aided in three goat recruitments. The first time a retired Goat Major phoned me, I didn t believe him at all, she said. I thought it was one of my colleagues winding me up. The Welsh army comes scouting for candidates every few years. In May last year, Taffy VI died after nine years of service. That August, Pidcock was informed that the Welsh army was planning to visit the Orme for a recce to select a new goat soldier.
We didn t have much choice really, said Sally. The nanny goats aren t producing as many kids because we are using contraceptives.
Credit: Omkar Khandekar
The number of animals is kept under control due to the limited area of grazing land. Around 100 cashmere goats share the pastures with 400 sheep. Each of the species tend to stick to their brethren. But unlike sheep who like to entertain themselves by bleating away, cashmere goats conduct themselves with a quiet dignity, making them harder to track down. After Llywelyn s recruitment, the only time Pidcock had news of the goat was when he was featured in the newspapers and had reporters fawning over him. He had grown to be a fine young Billy, she remembers, and wore the silver head-plate and the green coat on his back with panache.
Quite strangely, I felt guilty, she said. It s an alien kind of life, isn t it, compared to the life they would have had on this wild windswept headland with a hundred other goats. But then, he is extremely well looked after, almost to the point of pampering.
On Llywelyn s calendar, May 15 was marked in red. He had led his men through the streets of Britain on various occasions, but none compared to what he was about to do. Two weeks ago, Queen Elizabeth II was holding her annual birthday parade in the castle grounds at her Windsor residence. Before the big day, I visited the Goat Major at Windsor. Owen was camping near the castle with the ceremonial regiments from England, Wales and Scotland and their respective mascot-soldiers: dogs, ponies, horses and rams. Llywelyn ambled by his side as we tried to find a parasol to shelter ourselves from the drizzle. Everywhere we went, he attracted adoring looks from the visitors who had gathered to witness a horse show to be held later that evening. I noticed a boy of six pointing at him to his mother. Can we have one? he pleaded.
It was destiny, actually, Owen said, occasionally scratching his goat colleague. He came out of the bushes a moment before we were to get the proposed one. That s when we saw: he is the greater goat.
Although nearly 600,000 people visit the Orme every year, young Llywelyn had never had human interaction at such close quarters. It was the first time he was away from his folks. Owen decided to keep him company for the first night and set up a cot next to Llywelyn s pen.
He kept me up; bleating, sniffing me randomly at 4 am, said Owen. It s probably one of the hardest nights I have had. This, from a soldier who has seen duty in Afghanistan. Over the next two weeks, Llywelyn spent more time with Owen at the latter s office. At first, the goat was shy but started responding slowly, especially when there were biscuits on offer. That day, seeing us engrossed in a conversation, a far bolder Llywelyn nicks an unlit cigarette Owen held between his fingers.
You little bastard, cried the Goat Major.
Credit: Omkar Khandekar
In the battalion, responsibility for training and upkeep of the royal goat falls squarely on Owen. He has to brush his fur, make his bed, clean his hooves and make sure the goat gets used to people. Initially, the two were inseparable from 7 am to 10 pm. Goats are stubborn creatures, Owen said. Even though he carries a cane with him, you can t beat a goat into submission. They have to believe that they want to be a part of the march. But Llywelyn was sharp. He understood that they asked little of him: only that he be in step as the rest of them marched to the drumbeat. I was done with him in two weeks, said Owen. It was a record for me.
After being fully trained, it was a relatively easy life for Llywelyn. Every day, Owen makes it a point to take him for a walk and play with him. It was only a day after the Fusiliers came to Windsor that they decided to shake the dust off. The previous night was their first in a long time and Llywelyn wasn t too keen on marching in the cold. Towards the end of the parade, he sat down on the grounds, unwilling to budge. But the stakes were high this time. A good performance could get Llywelyn promoted to the rank of a Lance Corporal. A bad one, however, could bust him. A few years ago, one of his predecessors, William Windsor I, was demoted to a Fusilier after he tried to headbutt a drummer s rear. Owen recalled the case of another goat from Cyprus who, after a similar incident of indiscipline, had to make up for it by pulling a guard duty: sitting on a chair and monitoring the CCTV feed, no sneaking out for a cigarette.
The big day
Owen takes pride in being a dyed-in-the-wool royalist. It s an honour, he said. They [the goats] are the physical embodiment, a connection between the monarch and the regiment. In the coming days, they would have a few parades for the public before the queen came down to the grounds to witness their display on Sunday. Will Llywelyn be prepared for the task?
I think he ll do well, said Owen. He s hoping to get promoted. Is Llywelyn nervous though?
I don t think he knows what s going on, to be honest. Then, quite unexpectedly, Owen drew the line: He is a goat after all. I looked at Llywelyn. He was chewing on my trousers.
On the big day, Queen Elizabeth II, dressed in a bright sea green dress, took her seat in the arena built on the castle grounds. Over the next two hours, nearly 900 horses and 1,500 performers paid their homage to the longest-serving British monarch. A day after, I called up Owen to check if Llywelyn, too, rose to the occasion.
It was expected of him, said Owen, with a hint of pride. And he performed.
Credit: Omkar Khandekar