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Friday, 18 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 18 Jul

Sending a Message


July 17th, 2008 Posted in Army, Civil-Military relations, Human Resources, Media, Military, National security, Politics He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils for time is the greatest innovator. – Sir Francis Bacon

Three stories about the Army have caught the attention in the last couple of days. The first one is about a women officer alleging sexual harassment by her superiors, the army refuting it strongly and the defence minister instituting an independent enquiry over their heads.

This is not the first incident of its type and such incidents earlier have been prominently highlighted by the media. Many officers would like to believe that the fault lies with the women officers, as they are unable to handle the requirements of the defence services. However, the counterargument is that the entry of women into the services is an inviolable fact and the services have to adapt or change their organisational culture to integrate them into the organisation. Fifteen years after women were first inducted into the defence services, it sounds incongruous to now say that the services would have been better without them. Read this post on granting permanent commission to women in the services.

The modern Indian society will never accept that the women be kept out of the services as the only other institutions putting forth such resistance against women would be some Madarsas run by fundamentalist mullahs or Panchayats run by caste groups in UP, Haryana and Bihar. Do the Indian defence services aspire to be bracketed in the same league? Even if they ostensibly do not, the message that the services send across is similar.

The second one is another incident of fratricidal killing in the army, where a soldier has shot a Major dead, after the soldier was refused leave.

When such incidents are a one-off case, they can be ignored as aberrations. This incident is, however, another one in the long list of incidents over the last few years. As far as drawing the conclusion of such incidents happening in active areas, it is because the troopers have easy access to live ammunition and weapons. The grievances might be existing in the “peace areas” as well, and maybe even in greater number, but they do not result is similar actions because the resources to undertake such actions are unavailable to them. Read this post for more details on suicides and fragging incidents in the army.

The message that again goes across is of an organisation in decline, in a tailspin. The continual nature of such incidents also reflects poorly on the prescriptive measures initiated by the services and their unwillingness to learn from their mistakes.

The third one is on the front page of the Indian Express today. The report contends that the Army chief has approached the President, with their grievances against the pay commission recommendations. The army has said that it is a part of the routine report and there was no aim to bypass the government or the cabinet.

The message that the story purports to craft is that the army is poorly paid, the government doesn’t care about it and the army chief has taken recourse to an extreme step of petitioning the President of India. While this may or may not be true, the story creates this distinct impression in the mind of any reader.

These three stories about the army appear in a single day in a prominent national daily. They are also repeatedly played over at other media outlets. More importantly than the text, there is a sub-text to these stories which is grasped by the readers. The sub-text delivers the message, though it may be unintended — of services which continue to be rooted in their feudal past, a colonial cultural mindset, disconnected with today’s political, social and cultural realities and worst, ready to pass the blame on to the external factors. Is the message delivered by these stories the right message about the services to be delivered to an average reader?

Imagine a similar message being send across by any other organisation that has an officer shortage of around 25 percent, laments the quality of material aspiring to join the organisation, has huge retention problems in its officer cadre and is grappling with other myriad HR issues. A corporate organisation delivering this message would be seen as permanently devaluing and damaging its brand on its way to a sureshot bankruptcy. What is the equivalent of corporate bankruptcy for a military organisation?

As a wag put it so irreverently, all this is a cause for hope and rejoice for all well-meaning Indians. His logic — the faster the services continue to sink deeper in this morass, the greater the chances that the government will soon take heed and institute a systemic and cultural overhaul. This blogger contends that the wag is overestimating the reformist capability of the government; the politicians and the bureaucrats must be thrilled to bits to see the services top brass joining their league of self-serving, selfish government functionaries, unconcerned about the larger good of the organisations they lord over.

You never find yourself until you face the truth. — Pearl Bailey

NATO Targets Militants in Pakistan

NATO forces have attacked targets inside Pakistan after coming under fire from militants in the country's North Waziristan region, the alliance has announced.
The attack with helicopter gunships and artillery came after NATO Task Force (TF) Currahee in Afghanistan's Paktika province "received multiple rocket attacks from militants inside Pakistan on July 15", a statement posted on the NATO website said.
"The troops identified a qalat (mound) as the point of origin of the attacks and responded in self-defence with a combination of fire from attack helicopters and artillery into Pakistan," the statement said.
The attack had been "coordinated" with the Pakistani military, NATO said.
"TF Currahee and the Pakistan military coordinated their operation closely from the outset. The Pakistani military agreed to assist and search the area if the border firing continued," the NATO statement said.
The attack came even as NATO denied media reports about the build-up of hundreds of its troops in Afghanistan for an eventual incursion into Pakistani territory to fight Taliban insurgents.
NATO spokesperson James Appathurai told reporters in Brussels Wednesday that the reports published in Indian and Pakistani media were "inaccurate".
"There is not, nor is there going to be an incursion of NATO troops into Pakistan. There is no planning for that and there is no mandate for that and there is no troop movement in that direction," he maintained.
"Let me be very clear to the Indian press, the Pakistani press, the international press that there is no planning for, intention for incursion of NATO troops into Pakistan," Appathurai said at his weekly press briefing.
NATO has some 50,000 troops under its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan.

Greater threat as J&K jihadis bond with Taliban

RAWALPINDI: The threat from Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists to India may have deepened with reports coming in about 300 jihadi fighters, including some from Kashmiri groups, coming together for a secret gathering in the city that serves as headquarters to the Pakistani army.
The groups, launched long ago with Pakistani army's support to fight in Kashmir, agreed in the June meeting to resolve their differences and commit more fighters to Afghanistan.
That India, heavily invested in Afghan reconstruction, along with the US is firmly in Taliban crosshairs on both sides of the Hindu Kush, was evident with the massive attack last week on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which killed one diplomat, the defence attache and two ITBP guards.
On Sunday, Taliban terrorists launched their deadliest attack on US troops in three years, killing nine American soldiers in the northeastern province of Kunar.
"The message was that the jihad in Kashmir is still continuing but it is not the most important right now. Afghanistan is the fighting ground, against the Americans there," Toor Gul was quoted as saying, a leader of the militant group Hizb-ul Mujahedeen, as saying. He said the groups included the al-Qaida-linked Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, banned by Pakistan and branded terrorists by the US.
Pakistan's Mohmand and Bajaur tribal areas are emerging as increasingly strong insurgent centers, according to Gul, the militant. His information was corroborated by Pakistani and western officials. Both those tribal areas are right next door to Afghanistan's Kunar province. "Before there were special, hidden places for training. But now they are all over Bajaur and Mohmand," he said. "Even in houses there is training going on."
The US military says militant attacks in eastern Afghanistan have increased 40% this year over 2007. "The trend of being equated as targets with Americans is very dangerous. We are now being seen by Taliban and al-Qaida forces as two countries coming together to fight them," said a senior security expert with the Indian government. "This may result in more attacks on soft Indian targets, both in India and Afghanistan," he said.
Pakistani military and European intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the June meeting and said it was the second such gathering this year. A senior military official described the inability to prevent the meetings as "an intelligence failure." Despite growing pressure on Pakistan to quell Islamic militancy, jihadi groups within its borders are in fact increasing their cooperation to attack American and Nato forces in Afghanistan, according to interviews with a wide range of militants, intelligence officials and military officers.

French firm cleared over Indian submarine deal, says official
17 Jul, 2008, 1855 hrs IST, AGENCIES

NEW DELHI: Indian detectives have found no evidence to support allegations of bribery surrounding a deal with a French defence firm to buy Scorpene submarines, an official said Thursday.
The Delhi High Court had last year ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into claims kickbacks were involved in the 2.4 billion euro deal.
But the CBI has asked the court to close the case because it could not find evidence of bribery, a CBI official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"All angles of the case had been examined and we found no evidence of wrongdoing," the CBI official said.
In October 2005 India signed contracts worth 2.4 billion euros (3.8 billion dollars) with Armaris, which is owned by France's Thales, and European defence firm MBDA to buy six of the Franco-Spanish submarines.
The deal is a technology transfer agreement. The submarines will be assembled in India, but French naval group Direction des Compagnies Navales (DCN) will produce various key parts requiring equipment that is unavailable in Indian shipyards.
An Indian pressure group and the main opposition party alleged New Delhi was shielding Indian middlemen who took commissions from French defence giant Thales to clinch the deal.
Thales and the French government denied the allegations. Earlier this year, India scrapped a 600-million-dollar deal to buy 197 military helicopters from the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) after allegations of corruption in the bidding process.
India banned middlemen in military deals following charges of bribery in a multi-billion-dollar artillery deal in the 1980s with Swedish firm Bofors.
That scandal led to the downfall of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's government in 1989. The slain leader's Congress party, which today heads the government -- is now led by his widow Sonia.

Ajai Shukla: Planning for doomsday

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi July 15, 2008, 0:50 IST

It's called "mission creep" … the creeping expansion of objectives, and the resources that are deployed towards a strategic aim. After a bloody week in Afghanistan — not just for India, but for Afghan civilians and US forces as well — New Delhi is confronting an urgent question: should India send in more forces, even the military, to secure our interests in that volatile country?

Accelerating that re-evaluation has been media commentary calling for increased military presence. A respected national daily editorially observed, "After the Kabul bombing, India must come to terms with an important question that it has avoided debating so far. New Delhi cannot continue to expand its economic and diplomatic activity in Afghanistan, while avoiding a commensurate increase in its military presence there. For too long, New Delhi has deferred to Pakistani and American sensitivities about raising India's strategic profile in Afghanistan."

This dilemma was at the heart of Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon's Sunday visit to Kabul, ostensibly to rally morale in the embassy. Fortunately there was no discernible sign of mission creep. Menon assured President Hamid Karzai that India will stand fast in Afghanistan, but the primary responsibility for safeguarding the 4,000 Indian doctors, engineers, scientists, executives and labourers there remains with Kabul.

The concept of "Indian security for Indian workers" is an attractive one for a country proud of its military, but must be evaluated cautiously, with a clear understanding that Afghanistan is transitioning from insurgency to civil war. Troops are sent into a deteriorating situation only if their presence can transform impending defeat into a realistic chance of victory. The situation in Afghanistan may have moved beyond that point.

India's engagement with that country, therefore, must be characterised by the deployment of "soft power", not the military. The palpable Afghan affection for India flows more from its engagement with Mumbai than with New Delhi. Indian films, music, dance, food, and the peaceful generosity of Indians have transformed our country in Afghan minds into an idyll that far exceeds the reality. This perception has been reinforced by clever aid diplomacy; India has sunk three quarters of a billion dollars in Afghanistan's medical facilities, educational institutions, public transport, irrigation schemes, even that country's parliament building.

To now throw troops into what will inevitably become a bloody struggle for power risks smudging India's benevolent image. Even with the mandate to do no more than safeguard Indian workers and assets in Afghanistan, an enhanced Indian security presence will find its role expanding as the environment becomes more hostile. The very presence of an Indian force will be a magnet for renewed attacks.

Instead, Indian planners should be considering that, perhaps three years along, US and NATO forces may pull out of Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai would be history, and Afghanistan itself divided into different zones of control. In that Afghanistan, India's physical presence may well be reduced to zero. The ITBP will have pulled out; development projects will have shut down; elements hostile to India may well control large parts of the country; the embassy and India's consulates may close shop. This is what happened in 1996; today, only American and European support — fickle, and already wavering — prevents a return to that time.

The US and NATO militaries are already losing the battle as they realise too late that the battlefield is not confined to Afghan soil. After the killing of nine US soldiers on Sunday in a Taliban assault on a US post near the Pakistan border, General David McKiernan, the top NATO commander, fumed that militants based in Pakistan had staged attacks in Afghanistan "almost every day I have been here."

Unlike Russia, which faced the same situation in the 1980s — an insurgency operating from Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan — the US and NATO are making strenuous efforts to shut off Taliban support across the Durand Line. On Saturday, the US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, paid an unscheduled visit to Pakistan. He demanded to meet army chief, General Pervez Kiyani, and told him, apparently in the baldest possible terms, that if the Pakistan army was not going to crack down in the NWFP tribal areas, then US and NATO forces in Afghanistan would operate across the border into Pakistan.

But despite those threats, and the occasional cross-border foray, western forces in Afghanistan can hardly influence events in Pakistan's tribal areas. Only the Pakistan army can do that, but remains unwilling to do so. General Kiyani drew Admiral Mullen's attention to the 800 Pakistani soldiers who have already been killed in counter-militancy operations in the NWFP, suggesting that Pakistan had already done enough. (India has lost close to 7,000 soldiers in J&K.) The army brass in Pakistan — which will eventually have the final word on this — has not yet come round to accepting that the military has little choice but to transform the NWFP from a sanctuary into a battlefield.

Without that realisation in Rawalpindi, a couple of years more of rising casualties in Afghanistan could well trigger a US and NATO pullout. India's actions today must create influence and goodwill that will sustain itself even without a physical presence. New Delhi must play its own hand in The Great Game in Afghanistan, building bridges with every community and spreading developmental aid across different regions. The Afghan government must be urged to provide the security needed for these projects to continue as long as possible. And if India is forced to pull out in another interregnum of turmoil, we will continue to reap the benefits of a low-key, aid-driven policy.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Mathew calls on VS

Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Lt. General Thomas Mathew, Adjutant General, Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence (Army) called on Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan here on Thursday.

The General is the senior most Keralite officer serving in the Indian Army, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Defence. He appraised the Chief Minister of the various welfare schemes put in place by the Army for the benefit of serving and retired defence personnel.

The General also visited Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran and the Chief Secretary.

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