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Wednesday, 14 May 2008

From Today's Papers - 15 May

More defence papers come under RTI ambit
15 May 2008, 0415 hrs IST,Himanshi Dhawan,TNN

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NEW DELHI: In a move that could open the floodgates for Right to Information (RTI) applications in the defence forces, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has allowed approach papers and notings (documents with remarks related to the officer by his superior) to be put before the review selection board, to be disclosed within 10 days.

CIC had earlier ordered that proceedings of the department promotion committees (DPCs) could be disclosed. In his recent order, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said that since DPCs were not treated as documents exempted under the RTI Act, except those that dealt with annual confidential reports, the documents demanded by the appellant should be disclosed.

Lucknow resident Col (retd) Inder Paul had appealed to the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) — the medical wing of the defence forces — for approach papers related to review selection board meetings held on January 14 and August 8, 2003.

The appeal was rejected by the first appellate authority on the premise that disclosure of the DPC would lead to disclosing of ACRs that was barred. Paul's second appeal was also rejected on similar grounds following which he approached the CIC.

In the order, CIC said that the documents should be given to Paul within 10 days and directed MoD to put forth any objections on record within the time limit.












A historic conflict over military pay
by Brig (retd) M.P. Singh

THERE is a little known instance of a quarrel between Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General and his C-in-C, Sir Charles Napier. The latter had been especially selected to be the C-in-C by the Duke of Wellington during the Second Sikh War to replace the earlier C-in-C, who had suffered a few reverses. The war had ended, however, before Napier assumed command of the Army.

Napier made a small increase in the pay of troops at Wazirabad on the recommendation of Brigadier Hearsay, the Station Commander, which did not conform to an order of Lord Hardinge, the previous Governor General, regarding increase in pay as compensation for high prices.

Napier, who was the next senior to Dalhousie, simply accepted the recommendation, without any reference to the civil government, and was accused of having assumed the functions of the supreme government. The C-in-C explained that he had increased the pay of troops at Wazirabad to mollify a state of insubordination in some Regiments and that he was confident of support from the supreme government regarding pay increase.

Lord Dalhousie did not think it appropriate to reverse the orders of the commander-in-chief in view of his explanation of the circumstances under which he had to increase the pay of the troops, but he conveyed to the Commander-in-Chief: ‘for the future guidance of his Excellency, that the Governor-General-in-Council will not again permit the Commander-in-Chief, under any circumstances, to issue orders which shall change the pay and allowances of troops serving in India and thus practically to exercise an authority which has been reserved, and most properly reserved, for the supreme government alone’.

The C- in -C took the Governor General’s communication as a personal insult and reprimand. He wrote a memorandum, in which he argued in support of the just exercise of his own authority and against the unjust reprimand of the Governor General. Napier blamed Dalhousie for not supporting him when he was faced with the mutiny of troops and declared that he was not sure of the support of the Governor General if such a situation reoccurred and on these grounds he gave out his intention to resign from service.

The Governor General’s attitude became more stiff. He argued further that the claim of the Commander-in-Chief of the army of power to alter the pay and allowances of troops under his command, if conceded, would amount to giving two masters to the empire of India and would render the sure administration of the government plainly impossible.

The Duke of Wellington, though a valiant soldier himself, supported Lord Dalhousie and remarked that Dalhousie was right in giving this direction even if there was a mutiny among troops because it was not unusual to instruct a C-in- C on the terms offered to the mutineers, and that the C-in-C had no right to increase the pay of troops without government’s approval.

He recommended to the Crown to accept Napier’s resignation and the same was accepted and thus the authority of the civil government was vindicated.

Repeated pointers by the C-in-C that the Indian Army units had been off and on in a state of mutiny never cut ice with the civil government and the price for the same was paid in the Mutiny of 1857.

China’s nuclear subs
No need to be hysterical
by Inder Malhotra

IT was entirely unbecoming of a country of India’s size, power and potential to have shouted and screamed over China’s nuclear submarine base at the southernmost edge of its territory in Hainan Island. Sadly, the brouhaha was also typical of the ill-informed panic or excitement that often grips “rising India”. Indeed, the dismal event’s beginning could not have been more bizarre.

Just one London newspaper, Daily Telegraph, had published a satellite photograph of the Chinese N-Sub base. It did so because this particular imagery was based on a “better satellite resolution” than the previous satellite maps. Inevitably, the new map also found its way to Internet. Even so, this would not have caused much reaction because no newspaper across the world thought it necessary to follow up the Telegraph story. However, the BBC chose to broadcast an item on the Telegraph map. Immediately, all hell broke loose here. TV news channels went nearly hysterical about the “Chinese nuclear peril confronting India”.

Pundits of the print media followed suit. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), they reported, was meeting to consider the grim situation. After all, weren’t the Chinese nuclear submarines only 2,000 nautical miles away from the “chokepoint” of Malacca Strait? One paper even reported that the CCS meeting was an “emergency” one, as if those in charge of safeguarding the country’s maritime security had so far been ignorant of the dimensions of the developments on Hainan Island.

At this stage, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, decided to calm those who were pressing the panic button every hour. He declared that it was immaterial where a base of nuclear submarines was located because the range of these subs was huge. One only needed to keep an eye on how many submarines were being deployed. It might have been better if the statement were made by the Navy’s PRO rather than the Chief.

In any case, the truth is that at least since 2004 the Indian Navy and the agency for foreign intelligence — the Research and Analysis Wing, better known by its delightfully appropriate acronym, RAW — have known exactly what the Chinese have been up to on the Hainan. In order that the unseemly show — that persisted even after the Admiral’s clarification — is not repeated in future, the government should be more forthcoming about information on crucial aspects of national defence. It can be sure of getting much useful help from the numerous security think-tanks across the country.

To diffuse the fog of ignorance and folly, let a few fundamental facts be stated. First, Vice-Admiral (retired) A. K. Singh, a former Flag-Officer-Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command and an experienced nuclear submariner, has pertinently pointed out that China is building up a powerful blue water navy to take on the United States, not India. The Chinese do want to be present in the Indian Ocean where the most powerful navy is not Indian but American. Moreover, this state of affairs is bound to last for as long as we can foresee.

Secondly, nuclear submarines do not sail through narrow waters such the Malacca Strait or the various Straits close to Indonesia. China’s N-Subs heading for the Indian Ocean would have to sail between Indonesia and Australia, which is most likely to cause a deep dent in Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s exuberance about China. With a gram of nuclear fuel a submarine can circumnavigate the globe. But then, there is such a thing as the limit on the duration for which the crew of a nuclear submarine can remain submerged under water. This limit does not usually exceed 90 days.

Consequently, China’s nuclear submarines cannot frolic around in the Indian Ocean unless, of course, they can get a “home base” in a country like, say, Pakistan. Such a development would ring alarm bells not just in India but, more to the point, in Japan and America, though the US Navy happily has home bases in Diego Garcia and at Yokosuka in Japan. There can be no stopping the Chinese conventional submarines coming in because they can make use of the “necklace of pearls” that China has built, or is in the process of building, in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Some naval strategists therefore urge that India must not isolate itself from nations that alone can counter an expanding Chinese sea power.

What this country must do is to introspect why its efforts to build a nuclear submarine have been excruciatingly slow. According to Vice-Admiral Singh, India is 10 years behind China in this respect. The talk about developing a nuclear reactor for submarines had begun as far back as the late sixties. The development of the nuclear submarine, codenamed “ATV” or Advance Technology Vehicle, began in the 1980’s.

Some years later, India acquired on lease from the Soviet Union a nuclear submarine for training. But not only was the idea of leasing a second N-Sub given up but even the first one was abruptly returned before it need have been. Now, negotiations are on with Moscow for “leasing” at least one, perhaps two, nuclear submarines. The Russian response, as it has been most of the time, is positive. In addition, the Navy is buying some more conventional submarines from Russia. These, of course, are not available off the shelf. It may, therefore, take two years before the new submarines arrive.

Meanwhile, the work on the ATV, or an indigenous nuclear submarine, has progressed most tardily, and would have been even slower but for timely Russian help. According to the best available information, sea trials of the ATV would begin next year. Even so, the introduction of nuclear subs into service in requisite numbers would take a very long time. The tale of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which has been flying for years but is “still miles away” from induction into operational service in squadron strength, should be warning enough.

As for Arjun, the main battle tank produced by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) decades ago, the Army — for reasons convincing enough to the government — is ordering Russian T-90 tanks for its current requirements. It is also placing a small order for Arjun tanks to “keep the DRDO project going”.

It is this sorry state of affairs that we should be lamenting, and doing something about. Screaming about Chinese doings on Hainan Island will be of no help.

Pak troops fire on Indian positions
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 14
Less than a week after cross border firing in Samba sector of Jammu region, the Pakistan army, violating the ceasefire, reportedly fired from across the LoC on Tuesday evening in Tangdhar sector of Kupwara district in north Kashmir.

The incident took place at around 6 pm when the Pakistan Army opened unprovoked fire towards Papa bunker in Tangdhar area last evening, said defence PRO Lt-Col A. K. Mathur.

He said Pakistan troops fired around 60 to 80 rounds in the area that continued for about eight minutes. There was no retaliation from the troops on this side of the LoC, the spokesman said. No damage or any injury to anyone was not reported as a result of the firing, he added.

According to the officials the matter has been taken up at the level of the DGMO of the two sides and subsequently a flag meeting was being organised to sort out the matter. The matter is being taken up as the Indian Army has lodged a strong protest in view of the incident, first of its kind since ceasefire came into force four and a half years back.

There have been no such incidents reported along the LoC in Kashmir and Ladakh regions of this state since the ceasefire came into force on November 26, 2003. The reports, however, suggested that the unprovoked firing had not been to facilitate the infiltration of armed militants from the other side into Kashmir.

Amid the ongoing ceasefire only two and a half years ago, the troops and people on either side of the LoC had been extending support to those quake affected on either side. Tangdhar in Kupwara district and Uri in Baramulla district, close to the LoC, were the most affected regions along the areas on the other side due to the devastating earthquake on October 8, 2005.

It was last Thursday night that the Border Security Force (BSF) reportedly foiled an infiltration bid on the international border in Samba sector of the Jammu region. The officials had claimed that a group of armed infiltrators, trying to sneak in under the cover of firing by the Pakistan Rangers, had managed to escape.

However, two days later a fierce encounter had taken place in the area in which eight persons including a political leader and his wife and a photojournalist were killed. The incident had raised questions on the BSF claim of foiling the infiltration bid.



Nepali Gorkhas May Soon Not Be a Part
of the Indian Army

By Ritu Sharma

New Delhi
India's first field marshal, S.H.F.J. Manekshaw, preferred calling himself Sam 'Bahadur' as a sign of respect for the brave Gorkha soldiers, most of whom came from Nepal. However, a call by Nepal Maoist chief Prachanda not to allow them to join the Indian army could impact on traditional military ties between the two countries.

"If anyone says he is not afraid of anything, either he is lying or he is a Gorkha," Manekshaw once said.

However, Prachanda, who is poised to head the government in the Himalayan nation, told reporters April 25 that Nepali Gorkhas should not be allowed to join Indian defence forces.

There are two types of Gorkhas in the Indian Army - those hailing from India (who have migrated from Nepal long ago), and the others from Nepal. Under a tripartite agreement signed between India, Nepal and Britain in 1947, Gorkhas from Nepal were allowed to work in the British and Indian armies. Currently, nearly 40,000 Nepali Gorkhas are employed in the Indian Army.

"Nepali Gorkhas have been part of the Indian Army for a very long time. If they are stopped from joining the army then the association between the armies and also the countries will be affected," former Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ved Prakash Malik told IANS.

"Besides the large number of Nepali Gorkha soldiers, we also have a large number of pensioners in the country. The pensioners are looked after by us only. We have opened hospitals and other facilities at Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal," Malik added. In some villages in eastern Nepal, about half of the families have one or more pensioners from the Indian Army.

India and Nepal share such a close relationship that the Indian Army chief is honorary chief of the Nepali Army traditionally and vice-versa.

"It is not just a question of strength but also our proximity and tradition," said Malik.

Besides impacting the age-old ties between the two nations, Prachanda's demand, if acceded to, can lead to anarchy in Nepal due to large-scale unemployment, say military experts here.

"The Indian Army and the British Army - which also has a Gorkha regiment - are a major source of employment for Nepali youth. There can be unrest in the Himalayan kingdom, leading to a big problem," Major General (retd) Afsar Karim told IANS.

Prachanda's call has put the Gorkhas in a moral dilemma - of choosing a life in their country or one that will ensure livelihood and sustenance.

"The Nepali Gorkha soldiers send a lot of money back home, contributing in a big way to the Nepali economy," an army official said.

However, experts do not see any major operational problem for the Indian Army if the Nepali Gorkahs are forbidden from joining.

"If Prachanda's demand ever materialises, the Indian Army would not be affected operationally as the army has reduced considerably the number of Gorkhas," Karim added.

The first battalion of the Gorkha regiment was raised during British rule in 1815. The Gorkhas have served the Indian Army with valour since then.

Gorkhas have played a crucial role in India's three wars with Pakistan (1947-48, 1965 and 1971) and during the India-China conflict in 1962. A Gorkha battalion served with distinction as part of the Indian Army contingent in the United Nations Operations in the Congo (now Zaire) in the 1960s.

(Ritu Sharma is a correspondent with IANS. She can be contacted at ritu.s@ians.in)

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