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Saturday, 21 June 2008

From Today's Papers - 20 Jun

Indian army gets respect abroad, but faces siege within
Jawed Naqvi (The DAWN, Pakistan)
WE have to discover our own Ayesha Siddiqa to do a good job of it or find the expertise of Stephen Cohen to analyse the phenomenon. A look at recent media reports does seem to indicate that the stock of the Indian soldier may be up in the odd neighbouring country like Bangladesh or even in far away Europe but the army is facing a siege within its own ranks. The reason? An increasing number of fine officers are leaving for more lucrative careers in the private sector.
To make matters worse a section of former senior officers are planning to return their gallantry awards to President Pratibha Patil. Their protest is rooted in the same headache an intractable economic crunch, reflected in what the officers consider to be measly raise in the monthly monetary allowance the government announced last month.
‘The executive committee of the War Decorated India (WDI), a nationwide organisation representing the winners of gallantry medals such as Param Vir Chakra (PVC), Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) and Vir Chakra (VrC), has resolved to return the medals in protest against the “piddly raise”. That is what WDI general secretary Capt (retired) Reet M P Singh was quoted as telling the media on Saturday. The proposed move comes soon after a separate armed forces veterans’ protest march to seek a better deal for both serving and retired officers and ranks from the Sixth Pay Commission. The fresh round of anger has all the potential to rattle the government. Press Trust of India quoted Singh, a Vir Chakra winner from the 1965 Indo-Pak war, as describing a stormy meeting of the group in Chandigarh where much anger was vented. Last month, the government had announced a 100 per cent hike to the monthly allowance that it paid to the gallantry award winners. “Doubling of the paltry sum already being paid is like doubling the number zero. It amounts to nothing,” Singh said, voicing the views of 13 of the 18 WDI executive committee members. The protest presents a stark contrast to the visit to the Berlin War Cemetery recently by Indian Defence Minister A K Antony, where amid a sombre mood rich tributes were paid to the Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the Second World War.
As the bugler sounded the “Last Post” at the war cemetery, Antony with senior officials moved towards the memorials built at the cemetery where bodies of 50 soldiers from undivided India were laid to rest during the Second World War. He placed a wreath at the memorial on which “Their Name liveth for ever more” was inscribed. A small detachment of the German Guards stepped forward to aid the minister to place a wreath at the memorial. He showered rose petals as the bugler again blew the “Last Post” signing the end of the mourning period. Two priests chanted prayers as the delegation members placed rose stalks at the graves.
The ceremony should be seen in its right context of course. Thousands of soldiers were mobilised by the erstwhile colonial powers to fight their war in Europe and Africa. They included the Aborigines from Australia, Black and Berber Africans and countless other soldiers from a diverse range of ethnic groups. Indians themselves presented a rich diversity.
In March this year, in a rare gesture given their roller-coaster ties, Bangladesh at last remembered the Indian soldiers who died in action in East Pakistan during the 1971 war. The honour was accorded during an Independence Day parade that was attended by a 10-member Indian delegation including war veterans. This was the first time that Indian officers were formally invited to attend the celebration. The Indian Army men were popularly known as ‘Mitra Bahini’ (allied forces) during the war that led to the creation of Bangladesh from East Pakistan in 1971.
President Iajuddin Ahmed received the elderly veterans and their spouses. No official figure of Indian soldiers killed in the war is available. An unofficial estimate puts it close to 18,000. More than 9,000 Indian soldiers and paramilitary personnel serve on UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and Asia and seem to be in great demand.
Defence correspondent Manu Pubby’s report in the Indian Express last Monday, however, presented a disturbing picture about the army’s troubles at home. The exit of more and more officers opting for early retirement has started to hit where it hurts the most, he says. The contingents seeking early retirement mostly include middle-rank officers who are by and large heading for better careers in the private sector. However, the biggest dent now affecting the army’s actual war fighting capabilities is the exodus from its crucial combat arms, says the Express.
It says that as many as 950 officers from the main fighting arms Infantry, Mechanised Infantry and Armoured Corps have quit over the past five years. Most of them are Lt-Colonels and Colonels that the army will find very difficult to replace. With the army already coping with a shortage of over 11,000 officers, “again mostly in the combat arms”, the increasing number of premature retirement applicants is causing serious concern at Defence Ministry. This year itself, over 800 officers have applied for early release from the army, says the report. “The number of combat arms officers who have left the army has increased from just over 100 in 2004 to nearly 400 last year. As many 150 officers from the three arms have put in their papers just in the first five months of this year. The worst-affected is the Infantry where close to 550 officers have resigned since 2004.”
Most of the departing officers are Lt-Cols and Cols, but an increasing number of Majors and Captains are also now asking for early retirement from the army, indicating that even after foregoing pension benefits, better paying career options are available in the private sector. Already this year, over 150 young Captains and Majors have applied for early release. “The immediate fallout of this exodus is thinning in the number of officers posted in field units and counter insurgency operations,” says the Express. “While the authorised strength of officers in combat units is 20-24, most units posted in active areas have barely half that number of officers.” Former Army Chief General V P Malik has described the phenomenon as a “major cause for worry”. The shortage undermines the war fighting capabilities of the army as it has been forced to do “rationing” of officers to meet minimum combat requirements.
The Indian Army is thus increasingly losing its best officers, who would have easily made it to the top ranks, to the private sector. Last month, 12 officers who had been selected for the higher command course, that is considered vital for promotions to top ranks, opted out as they had decided on quitting the army,” according to the Express report. “A compulsory five year service bond that they would have needed to sign before attending the course did not help matters.
On Thursday, a separate report by NDTV claimed that the problems facing the army were also worsened by its increasing use to combat insurgencies within the borders of India. “Those of us who regularly interact with troops on ground get a distinct feeling of disquiet among officers and jawans on various counts. This is as good a time as any to look at these signs of anxiety if only to kick off a public debate on the issue,” says NDTV.“The biggest anxiety among young and mid-service officers and jawans stems from the proclivity of governments to deploy army in situations, which actually require a combination of police action and political will and not brute force.” Clearly, a serious analysis is overdue.

Counter-insurgency operations
Hyped concern for casualties
by Maj-Gen Ashok Mehta (retd)

ON a winning spree even before the stunning jailbreak in Kandahar, the Taliban were telling the Afghans that “the American (Western) soldiers might have the watches. We have the time”. They are merely recounting a historical fact that occupying forces do not have the stomach for prolonged engagement in Afghanistan. Researching counter-insurgency operations in Washington and London this month, I found it could be very instructive even for Indians — engaged in this game since Independence — to learn from the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite Vietnam, US troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq realised a deficiency of ideas in counter-insurgency operations. Hastily, copies of British manuals of such operations in Malaya and Northern Ireland were ordered. They forgot about the Indian experience in J&K, the North-East and Sri Lanka which regrettably has not been appropriately documented. By the time it was recalled this month, it was found to be practically irrelevant to Iraq and Afghanistan. But India, which has an unfinished internal security and counter-insurgency agenda, could learn from Britain and the US their post-9/11 expertise in homeland security and anti-terrorist operations.
What was found striking in both capitals and in sharp contrast to the Indian approach is the collective concern of the government, media and society for battle casualties, well-being of soldiers and the new-found zest for counter-insurgency operations as opposed to high-tech warfare. The willingness of military commanders to speak out for their troops is refreshingly different from the silent Indian record.
Earlier this month, the US fatalities in Iraq crossed 4000 and that of the UK soldiers in Afghanistan the 100 mark. Especially in London there was serious comment about wasted lives through media headlines: “Our men must know why they are fighting”, “Tell us why our soldiers have to die” and “Our soldiers are heroes but the truth is we’re failing in Afghanistan”. The 100th British soldier being killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan coincided with British Chief of General Staff Gen Richard Dannatt’s outburst that soldiers’ salaries were not even comparable to a London Traffic Warden’s. Unlike in India, the British have a separate pay board, which reviews soldiers’ salaries annually.
The concern for casualties seems hyped. The 100 British casualties in Afghanistan have occurred over a period of seven years. Nearly 300 Indian soldiers are killed annually in J&K alone. Britain lost 1109 troops in Korea, 763 died in Northern Ireland and 255 in the Falklands war. It is not the casualties that should worry the public but the prospect of failure. Despite the high-intensity operations by the British troops in Southern Afghanistan, an exit strategy is not on the horizon.
The far richer-resourced — now armed with anti-stress pills — Americans seem better prepared to fighting it out, being the primary victims of 9/11. The war for Kabul is now by a US-led UN-blessed coalition of NATO forces, but its outgoing American commander, Gen Dan McNeill, says his mission is seriously under-resourced referring to the inequity in burden-sharing among NATO members.
Back in Washington, Gen David Barno (retd), a recent US commander in Kabul, explains how warfare since 9/11 has changed. People would still prefer to engage with “shock and awe” even when the ground reality has changed, he says. General Barno advocates the formation of dedicated counter-insurgency forces for future wars, a debate that has crawled in the Military Operations Directorate of South Block. US troops are fighting urban insurgency in Iraq and its rural variety in Afghanistan. In both the military is creating the time and space for a political solution to end violence to restore peace and the rule of law through good governance. The fact is the counter-insurgency operations account for just 20 per cent of the overall effort, the rest 80 per cent is development and whatever else it takes to establish a stable government.
American counter-insurgency strategy is to clear, hold and build. The Afghan Army, likely to be expanded, is now the most respected institution in the country and by 2011, together with the police, it is expected to operate independently with US advisers for air and logistics support. While NATO is engaged in the world’s largest peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan, American, British and Canadian troops are fighting intense operations. As American forces pull out of Iraq, additional brigades are being pumped into Afghanistan, rectifying an original mistake.
American commanders are being provided plentiful funds for Commanders Emergency Response Programme for civic actions. For the present, the counter-insurgency glass is half full with US support for Afghanistan unlikely to decelerate. In Iraq, however, the US is on the threshold of a politico-military victory. In both countries, rural and urban counter-insurgency is being relearnt the hard way.
The year 2007 was the least violent in Afghanistan. By contrast 2007 was the most violent year ever in neighbouring Pakistan. Many Pakistanis allege that the US was able to divert the war from Afghanistan into Pakistan, a backhander they intend to return with interest. Even before this month’s Rand Corporation report by Seth Jones alleging the Pakistan military’s complicity in arming and training the Taliban in sanctuaries in FATA, speculation was growing in the US that the next big attack against the US could originate from Pakistan.
American Generals noted “discontinuity in behaviour” in Islamabad after the regime change and are not enamoured of the peace deals being struck with the Taliban and the accommodation of Al-Qaeda in the tribal areas.
Counter-insurgency has never been the Pakistan Army’s forte. It has shown little appetite for it, preempting its need through cross -border insurgencies in J&K and Afghanistan. Army Chief Ashfaque Kiyani has reversed his predecessor’s policies of containing sanctuaries and curbing cross-border activities. In Washington’s strategic community, around Dupont Circle, conversation about both a preemptive drive against Pakistan’s tribal areas and a strategic response nearer the heartland to a terrorist strike against the US is audible. Either way, Pakistan is on the hallowed US target list.
There are serious implications and consequences for India in the run up to future scenarios in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are interlinked, the insurgencies in J&K and Afghanistan are entwined in a common breeding ground. The path the suicide bomber has followed from Baghdad to Kabul to Lahore is going eastwards. The fencing across the LoC will not deter the ultimate Islamist jihadi seeking strategic depth on behalf of Pakistan in the east, on a par with his unrealised quest in the west.
The Indian Army must keep abreast with both the urban and rural insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan in insurgent tactics, technology, fire-power and motivation. Countering suicide bombers, the new roadside bombs and Taliban assaults are sound inputs for Indian counter-insurgency manual which is yet to be produced. The jihad in J&K is kid-stuff compared to the guile, grit and sophistication of attacks in Helmand (Afghanistan) or anywhere in Iraq. Designating forces for the rural and urban environment backed up by counter-terrorism teams equipped with light and robust hard and soft wares must begin soon.
For a country that has not fought a conventional war since 1971 and is unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future, its military has been slow in anticipating and adequately adapting to the warfare of the future — counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. It must not get diverted by oddities like network-centric warfare. But restructure and modernise combat units to deal with external and internal security challenges, including the Naxalite People’s War which sooner than later will fall into the Indian Army’s lap. After all, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described it as the most serious internal security threat faced by the country. It is insurgency in the making.

'Space command must to check China'

NEW DELHI: With China developing anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles, lasers and other offensive space capabilities, India has no option but to be fully prepared for "star wars" in the future.
The creation of just "an integrated space cell", announced by defence minister A K Antony last week, will just not do towards achieving this objective. What is needed is a full-fledged tri-service space command for effective tactical, operational and strategic exploitation of the "final frontier".
The disquiet among the Indian military brass over China's deadly counter-space military programme, with "direct-ascent" ASAT missiles, hit-to-kill "kinetic" and directed-energy laser weapons, came clearly through on Monday.
"China's space programme is expanding at an exponentially rapid pace in both offensive and defensive content," said army chief general Deepak Kapoor, adding that space was increasingly becoming the "ultimate military high ground" to dominate in the wars of the future.
Holding that it should be India's endeavour to "optimize space applications for military purposes" at a seminar on "Indian military and space", Gen Kapoor said the establishment of a tri-service space command "is required in the future".
Integrated defence staff chief Lt-General H S Lidder, in turn, added, "With time, we will get sucked into the military race to protect space assets and inevitably there will be a military contest in space. In a life-and-death scenario, space will provide the advantage."
India, of course, has been painfully slow to react to the huge Chinese strides in the military use of space, which was rudely brought home by its January 2007 test of an ASAT weapon, despite having a robust civilian space programme for several years.
India does not even have dedicated military satellites till now, with the armed forces depending on the "dual use" Cartosat-I, Cartosat-II and the recently-launched Cartosat-IIA for their Rs 1,000-crore satellite-based surveillance and reconnaissance (SBS) programme.
With ISRO finally promising to launch dedicated military satellites in the near future, defence scientists are also experimenting with some "high-power laser weapons", say sources. But the operational use of such star wars-like weapons is still several years away.
India's sheer lack of strategic defence planning is exemplified by the fact that though the armed forces, especially the IAF, have been clamouring for an aerospace command for several years now, it remains a mere pipedream.
Finally, just last week, Antony declared that an integrated defence space cell would be created to protect "the growing threat to our space assets". The Defence Space Vision-2020, on its part, identifies just intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, communication and navigation as the thrust areas in the first phase till 2012.
India certainly needs effective utilization of space for "real-time" military communications and reconnaissance missions to keep closer tabs on troop movements, missile silos, military installations and airbases of neighbouring countries.
But this should be followed soon after by other uses of space like missile early-warning, delivery of precision-guided munitions through satellite signals, jamming enemy networks and, of course, ASAT capabilities.

Editorial: Pakistan and India’s ‘official psyche’

A leading Indian journalist writing in an influential Indian news magazine has asked the Indian government to “soften” its policy towards Pakistan in view of significant changes taking place in Pakistan. He was encouraged to make his recommendation after recently visiting Pakistan and witnessing the freedom with which Pakistanis were now analysing their country’s foreign policy in general and the equation with India in particular. His concluding remark in the article was: “This is the moment for India to make major, generous overtures to Pakistan and help consolidate its democratisation and demilitarisation. India can earn tremendous popular goodwill by unilaterally lifting trade barriers and liberalising visas. This will not hurt our economy, but will work in India’s long-term interest. Similarly, India should tell Pakistan that it is prepared to negotiate a gradual demilitarisation of the border: ‘grand reconciliation’ is not mere rhetoric”.
Pakistan has been forced to become introverted by its domestic turmoil and by the weakening of the militaristic view of its relations with India. Now the real threat, it is agreed on all hands, is not external and from India, but from inside, and from non-state elements challenging the writ of the state. This phase of opinion is not a passing one but is based on a permanent shift of opinion about military rule and military interference that Pakistan’s revisionist rivalry with India brings about. In the past, the India-centric policy was bought in Punjab alone, while the other provinces had cooled off; today there is a national consensus on normalisation of relations with India. Indeed, the only policy of President Musharraf that was supported by the general public in Pakistan was his peace-with-India policy. The jihadi organisations set up by the state in the past were greatly disappointed but could do little more than attempt to kill him in the face of the national consensus on normalisation. But as the consensus became strong, the doctrinal stand on Kashmir also slid to the background, with a surprisingly positive response from the two sides of Kashmir. After that, the jihadis have joined forces with the Taliban and other Al Qaeda elements and now confront the Pakistan army in the Tribal Areas.
Consequently, the two mainstream parties in coalition in Pakistan, the PPP and the PMLN, together with a number of parties in the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD), decided to state their intent of normalising relations with India in 2006 in what is known today as the Charter of Democracy. The linkage with “democracy” is significant because the Charter clearly traces all reversals of democracy in Pakistan to the army’s supremacy and its insistence on an adversarial relationship with India. Since the signing of the Charter, leaders of both the parties have separately indicated the extent of normalisation they would like to pursue with India.
The PPP has always been condemned by the “militarists” in Pakistan as a “security risk” because of its policy of seeking normal relations with India. But the PMLN, once wedded to this view, now stands completely disenchanted, and its leader Mr Nawaz Sharif is even more frank in recommending a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s relations with India. Mr Sharif was greatly politically damaged by the Kargil Operation of 1999, which he insists he never okayed as prime minister. His offer to abolish the visa regime with India and seek stronger trade ties with India is now on record and indicates how far the PPP-PMLN coalition is ready to go in calling off Pakistan’s India-centric strategy.
Indian analysts are on record on why the Indian government is not able to take the big decisions which are clearly in India’s favour. One reason is the almost permanent “devolution” or “regionalisation” of electoral power in India which delivers a dispersed writ of governance looking very much like the one prevalent under proportional representation in Europe. The Indian government’s failure to finalise its nuclear deal with the United States is one example of this “weakness”. The other example is the delay in reformulating the “Lok Sabha consensus” on policy on Pakistan. The obstacle comes into view every time there is a bomb explosion in India and the “unofficial consensus” calls it Pakistan-inspired.
The other obstacle is present on both sides, and that is the bureaucracy, which sits on top of a mountain of files representing the negative jurisprudence of the bilateral past. Insistence on reciprocity, as against unilateral action based on national benefit, is the trip-wire on which the politicians trying to normalise are sent sprawling. But bureaucracies always follow meekly in the wake of big acts of statesmanship, and if India is to put an end to the dangerous Indo-Pak imbroglio, it must listen to the advice of its senior journalists. There are other crises in the offing, like disputes over river waters, that are ready to fill the Kashmir dispute vacuum. *

Scramble for cover after Pak ‘tip-off’ row erupts
New Delhi, June 20: India’s defence establishment was today scurrying for cover after sparking a row with huge diplomatic ramifications since claiming that the Pakistan army had tipped off the Indian Army about infiltrators trying to force their way into Kashmir yesterday.
Even as the UPA government is teetering on the brink over the Left’s opposition to the nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is known to be interested in making a trip to Pakistan.
An instance of Indian and Pakistani armies co-operating in Kashmir against militants would set the perfect stage for a signature visit by Singh.
However, that is not to be. The Indian defence ministry spokesperson in Jammu who is also an army officer, Lt Colonel S.D. Goswami, had said yesterday that troops of the Indian Army’s 2/8 Gorkha Rifles in Krishnaghati sector along the Line of Control fired at the militants after being informed by the Pakistan army.This is unprecedented. For years, India has been demanding that Pakistan should demonstrate Pervez Musharraf’s commitment to take on terrorism in Kashmir by acting in concert with India.Yesterday’s announcement could have signalled the beginning of such joint action till army headquarters vehemently denied the report at night.
This morning army chief General Deepak Kapur asked for a report on the incident and how the information that Pakistan reportedly tipped off the troops was made available.
In army headquarters, there is conviction that Goswami, who reports to the defence ministry, was acting without being briefed by the army. But the ministry is unwilling to accept that its spokesperson could have put out something as sensational as the Indian and Pakistani armies acting together without being properly briefed. By the end of the day, the events would leave the army red-faced. Information reaching the ministry suggests Goswami was acting according to his brief.
Yesterday afternoon, the report to the defence ministry said its spokesperson in Jammu was telephoned by the Brigadier General Staff of the 16 Corps in Nagrota, Brigadier Gurdeep Singh, and told there was firing across the LoC in the Krishnaghati (KG) sector. The brigadier telephoned the spokesperson a few hours later and asked him to change his version with “a twist”.
The Indian Army troops, according to this version that was put out to the media, were in a counter-militant operation. There was intermittent firing on the Indian Army’s post named Deep from small arms and (Chinese-made) Pika guns. The Indian Army did not retaliate because it did not want to violate the ceasefire, according to this version. Goswami was also told the information on the movement of militants was shared by the Pakistani army and the Indian troops were acting on that. This is where the catch lies. Indian and Pakistani troops have been known to act in concert along the contested Line of Control and the Siachen Glacier on only a few occasions. A semblance of co-operation was seen mostly for humanitarian reasons, in the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake of October 8, 2005, and last year, when Indian troops requested aid to retrieve the body of a helicopter pilot in the glacier region.
They are never, not even once, known to have publicly acknowledged co-operation in fighting militants. Pakistani media has reported that four soldiers were killed on their side of the LoC by unknown attackers. Indian Army headquarters sources said two militants were killed in firing by troops. With neither the defence ministry nor the army able to give a clean version of the events yesterday, it is difficult to piece together the incidents.

Nishant flight-tested
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 20
Nishant, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by the DRDO for the Army, was successfully flight-tested near Kolar in Karnataka today. The state-of-the-art UAV is developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment, Bangalore, jointly with Defence Electronics Application Laboratory, Dehra Dun, Research and Development (Engineers), Pune, and Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment, Agra, a defence ministry press note here said. Nishant is one of the few UAVs in the world in its weight class capable of catapult launch and can be recovered by using parachute, thus eliminating the need for runway as in the case of conventional take off and landing with wheels. Nishant has completed the development phase and user trials. The present flight tests are pre confirmatory trials before its induction into services. The flight test was witnessed by user representatives in the presence of senior scientists of the DRDO.

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