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Thursday, 29 May 2008

From Today's Papers - 29 May

Floundering on defence
UPA must do more on national security
by Gurmeet Kanwal

Four years ago, when the new ruling coalition, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), had finalised its common minimum programme (CMP) for governance, the formulation contained a few brief paragraphs on foreign policy and national security. The CMP accorded a very high priority to defence modernisation and promised to eliminate delays and ensure that allotted funds were “spent fully at the earliest”.

The coalition declared that it would make the National Security Council (NSC) a “professional and effective institution” and would appoint a full-time National Security Advisor (NSA). It also held out the assurance that “there will be no compromise in the fight against terrorism”, expressed concern at the manner in which the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) had been misused, and proposed to repeal it.

The CMP also spelt out its intention to establish a new Department of Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare and proclaimed that the “long-pending issue of one-rank, one-pension will be re-examined.”

The section on foreign policy dwelt on the UPA government’s intention to “maintain the independence of India’s foreign policy stance on all regional and global issues” while pursuing “closer strategic and economic engagement with the USA.” The new government said that it would “accord the highest priority to building closer political, economic and other ties with its neighbours in South Asia.”

It would continue a systematic dialogue with Pakistan “on a sustained basis,” support peace talks in Sri Lanka, further expand trade and investment with China and “seriously” pursue talks on the border issue.

Perhaps in deference to the Left Parties’ anti-nuclear sentiments, the CMP made no mention of the UPA’s stand on India’s nuclear policy of credible minimum deterrence and strategy of no first use. All of the aims and objectives contained in the CMP were unexceptionable and were generally in line with the stated positions of the Congress and the Left Parties with only minor variations.

This appeared to augur well for a national consensus on major foreign policy and security issues as it was considered unlikely that the constituents of the outgoing National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would have objections to any of the provisions spelt out in the CMP. However, with only one year of the UPA’s five-year term remaining, the implementation of the CMP has been lackluster.

Sadly, the lack of political consensus has almost checkmated the UPA government’s most importance foreign policy and national security initiative – the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.

Despite the almost unanimous approval accorded to this agreement by the nuclear scientists, the leading lights among the members of the strategic community – including former Generals, Admirals and Marshals, diplomats and academics, and the irrefutable logic of obtaining uranium supplies and nuclear reactor technology quickly to further India’s nuclear energy programme, India’s political class has allowed coalition politics to prevail over national interest.

The stubborn resistance of the Left Parties and the incomprehensible vacillation of the BJP and some of its NDA allies have stymied a key initiative that would have set India firmly on the road to world power status and pulled it out of the doghouse of nuclear apartheid and a disadvantageous technology denial regime. Only a political miracle can now salvage this deal before a new US Administration takes office in January 2009.

Much still needs to be done to improve long-term defence planning and inter-ministerial coordination for the holistic assessment of emerging threats and challenges. The evolution of a comprehensive National Security Strategy (NSS) is a mandatory pre-requisite for the armed forces to plan their force structures and weapons and equipment acquisitions to meet future challenges.

The first step in the NSS process is to conduct an inter-departmental Strategic Defence Review with multi-agency inputs. This must be ordered post haste by the National Security Council that has at long last begun to meet fairly regularly to consider the formulations and proposals of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and the Strategic Policy Group (SPG).

The NDA government had dragged its feet on some important measures despite the recommendations made by its own Group of Ministers that had reviewed the suggestions of the four task forces formed after the Kargil Review Committee Report was submitted. The UPA government has also ignored these issues completely.

These include the creation of a post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to provide single-point military advice to the Cabinet Committee on Security and the genuine integration of the headquarters (HQ) of the three Services with the Ministry of Defence. Equally important for efficient functioning is the need for the government to delegate responsibility for the financial management of the revenue budget to the Services HQ.

The modernisation plans of the three Services are continuing to stagnate, raising the spectre of being out gunned by the Pakistanis some time in the future, even as China is gradually converting its quantitative superiority to a qualitative edge and tightening the screws in its strategic encirclement of India.

Another important measure that is being glossed over is to raise the defence budget from the present abysmally low level of less than 2.0 per cent of the GDP to first 3.0 per cent and then gradually to 3.5 per cent, a figure the Indian economy can easily sustain.

The Finance Minister must ratify his predecessor’s decision to institute a rolling, non-lapsable defence modernisation fund of Rs. 25,000 crore by incorporating it in the defence budget for the year 2008-09.

The UPA government has its work cut out for its last year in office and Defence Minster A K Antony must take up the cudgels in right earnest - if this government is to leave a positive mark on India’s defence preparedness before it demits office.

Meditation — Army way
by Maj-Gen Jatinder Singh (retd)

This is a true incident of early 1972. In the western theatre we had captured most of Shakargarh Bulge. Our Artillery Regiment was “in direct support” of an infantry brigade during the war and this affiliation remained in place till end-72 when we handed back the captured areas to Pakistan. This affiliation was marked with camaraderie and bonhomie interspersed with leg pulling.

Our battery commander, Maj JK Vasdhani (JK for short) was a grizzled, serious looking person but with a fantastic sense of humour though occasionally sardonic. He was able to convince outsiders of what to us (his juniors) seemed ludicrous.

He enjoyed a lively rapport with the supported infantry battalion commanding officer (CO). I was one of the forward observation officers (FOO) and our gun position officer (GPO) was young Lt SS Singh (Shashank Shekhar Singh, later the UP Cabinet Secretary with the Mayawati Government).

SS as we called him was very enterprising and Maj JK gave him an unusual task when SS proceeded on a short leave to Lucknow during Feb 72. The results of this enterprise were highlighted during one of our regular get-togethers in the battalion officers mess after return of S.S.

Major JK on entering the mess and after exchanging the usual pleasantries suddenly went into a “silent mode”. The CO tried to converse with JK. Each time JK would put his fingers on his lips and then point to his nameplate. It was slightly larger than the usual nameplate worn by officers but it had a shutter on the lower half below his name. We were aghast at JK’s actions. JK again pointed at the shutter and we looked closer to see a “OUT” in the open half of the shutter.

After agonising minutes of silence he moved the shutter to ‘IN’ position and started conversing with the CO. He convinced the CO that an Army order had been issued which laid down that all ‘field officers’ (Officers with the rank of Majors and above) were to use these shuttered name plates. Whenever these field officers wanted to meditate/contemplate they could shift the shutter to “OUT” position and this was to imply that they were not to be disturbed.

The CO took JK’s word and started berating his Adjutant as to how the gunners had this Army order and why had they not received the same. The Adjutant called up the brigade and there was reasonable amount of confusion at the brigade and battalion for the next few hours. During the dinner get-together JK entered the mess with a ration (Meat on hoof — Army parlance) Bakra in tow and after handing the bakra over to the CO he followed it up by shifting the shutter to ‘IN’ position and let out a loud guffaw.

What followed was a boisterous evening set in motion by scotch for all by JK and a pat for SS for getting the shutter name plate.

Sixth Pay Commission
Panel wants govt to pay arrears in phased manner

New Delhi, May 28
Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council wants the government to pay its employees in phased manner and deposit part of the estimated arrear of 18,000 crore in their Provident Fund while implementing the sixth pay panel report to minimise its impact on inflation.

“Since the payment of arrears in cash could result in marginal rise in inflation rate due to spurt in demand for various products, the EAC has said that government should consider depositing part of the arrears due to employees in provident fund and pay the remaining amount in a phased manner,” official sources said.

The council, headed by noted economist and former Reserve Bank governor C. Rangarajan, is of the opinion that the payment of arrears in one go could result in further rise in prices, especially of manufactured goods and consumer products.

“The government had paid the arrears in a phased manner while implementing the report of previous Pay Commissions, so it can consider it again,” said Rangarajan.

The council, which advises Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on important economic matters, had earlier said the inflation rate could come down to 5 to 5.5 per cent after about four months following good monsoon and measures taken by the government. — PTI

Army for tougher law

Tezpur, May 28: The army today advocated tougher legal provisions to win the fight against insurgency.

GOC, 4 Corps, Lt Gen. B.S. Jaswal, told newsmen in this garrison town that it has become imperative to stop arrested militants from getting bail easily to effectively curb militancy.

“We need to have tougher legal provisions in place as we have reports about most arrested militants returning to the rebel fold once they are out on bail. To stop this recycling we need to have tougher laws. I will not be able to say the kind of legislation required as I am not well versed in that subject but it should be something like putting the arrested militants behind bars for a longer duration,” the GOC, who assumed charge in August, said.

Building a strong case in favour of tougher legislation against those who endanger public safety, Gen. Jaswal said a longer term behind bars would not only de-motivate the militants but also keep them away from their mentors. “Anybody carrying explosives or arms that threatens public safety has to be dealt with firmly,” he said.

Citing an example to prove his point, he said a militant was arrested in Sivasagar district with three IEDs. “He was arrested but got out on bail. He was re-arrested with five IEDs. This proves that they go back to the organisation. This can be stopped only if there is tougher legislation.”

The senior army official, who is in charge of the operations group of the Unified Command in the state, said it would not be militarily possible to decimate insurgency in three years as claimed by the state government recently. Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said the Tarun Gogoi-led government would be able to resolve the problems plaguing Assam, including insurgency vis-à-vis Ulfa, in three years.

“Militarily, our experience shows that it is not possible to wipe out insurgency, which is nothing but terrorism here. But if the present trend of operations continues, it can definitely be brought down to a manageable level..”

Describing 2007 as the “golden year” in the fight against militants as counter-insurgency operations has neutralised around 3,000 militants by way of arrests and encounters, Gen. Jaswal said the morale of Ulfa was extremely low. “We have been able to neutralise around 80 leaders of Ulfa.”

Yesterday, I was apprised by the state government at a meeting of the operations group that there were around 40 Ulfa leaders in Bangladesh. Their strength is clearly diminishing and this is because of the support of the common man to the security forces and sustained operations. Today, there was big chasm between their leaders within the country and outside,” he said.


Army on standby in Ambala
Tribune News Service

Ambala, May 28
The Army was placed on standby in Ambala district late this evening following intelligence reports of possible violence by Gujjars around the areas of Panipat, Sonepat and areas particularly adjoining the National Highway-1 (NH-1).

According to sources in the home ministry, the Army, which was earlier in the day issued a general alert, was late in the night ordered to be prepared for development at a short notice.

Sources said the intelligence reports received from areas of Panipat and Sonepat indicated that the Gujjars could resort to violence in case they were prevented from entering New Delhi. Reports also indicated that apart from stopping vehicular traffic on the NH-1, they may attempt to disrupt the Ambala-Delhi line.

Defence sellers must part with technology: Antony


28 May 2008, Wednesday

MAKING IT clear that future defence procurements in India will have to be based on technology sharing and co-production, Defence Minister AK Antony has stated that companies planning to sell major defence products in India must be prepared to part with technology.

Speaking shortly before his departure from Berlin, Antony said, "The era of procurement alone is over as far as India is concerned." He further said, "We would like to have fruitful defence cooperation with countries, which are prepared to transfer technology and are interested in co-designing, co-development and co-production of defence products."

Referring to Indo-German defence co-operation, Antony said that he had impressed upon his German counterpart Dr Franz Josef Jung on Monday (May 26) that India is a responsible country and that Germany should be flexible towards India so far as technology transfer issues are concerned.

The minister was optimistic that outstanding issues in this regard would be settled soon in India’s favour in the near future.

Antony was in Germany to attend the

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