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Sunday, 20 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 20 Jul

No diluting of standards to fill
vacancies: Defence ministry

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 19
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) today denied reports that “an order had been issued asking the armed forces to dilute standards to fill up vacancies of officers ”. This is grossly untrue and misrepresentation of facts, said spokesperson Sitanshu Kar, while adding that a letter dated April 3, 2008, from special secretary P.K. Rastogi was wrongly quoted in the news reports. The letter does not mention any thing about lowering of standards, Kar added.

The letter was in response to the discussions in the Rajya Sabha on March 4, this year. This question was on the “gap between requirement of officers and their recruitment in Armed forces”. During the debate, defence minister A.K. Antony had expressed concern that the issue had “attracted a lot of attention in Parliament and the media and needed to be re-examined on priority”. The letter mentions that the measures taken in the past have not made any difference to the situation.

The spokesperson said Rastogi’s letters went on to add that the shortfall in recruitment of officers could be partly attributed to socio-economic environment and resultant changes in career preference, better employment opportunities in other sectors, which could not be controlled by the MoD.

The letter lists 10 different issues and views which is a compilation of the opinions put forth by MPs during the debates in the House, media reports as also views expressed in seminars, symposia etc. However, nowhere in the letter it is mentioned that these are the views of the MoD. It is only an effort to elicit the views of the forces. The MoD has no intention of taking unilateral measures to fill the vacancies of officers without taking the services on board, said the spokesperson.

IED Blast
Nine jawans killed
Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, July 19
Militants blew up an Army convoy by triggering off a massive blast at Narbal on Srinagar-Baramulla highway on Saturday, killing at least nine jawans and injuring at least 20 others, police said. Most of the victims were soldiers heading for their homes on leave. They were in an Army bus, which was targeted by militants 14 km from here by a suspected remote-controlled improvised explosive device (IED) at around 4 pm. It was the first major IED attack on security forces this year. Hizbul Mujahideen called up a local news agency and claimed responsibility for the attack.

The convoy was moving to Srinagar from Chowkibal in Kupwara district. A police official present on the spot told The Tribune that the IED was suspected to be hidden under some material kept on the roadside for construction work. The blast hurtled the bus several feet away on the other side of the road. The front and the left part of the bus were completely damaged.

The blast on the all-important national highway has rattled the top security establishment and the CRPF is likely to be put under scanner as the securing of the highway is its responsibility, a police official said. The blast reaffirms the militant outfits’ determined efforts to step up violence in the state and comes close on the heels of grenade attack on CRPC in Banihal yesterday and another attack on a police station in Doda the day before, in which which killed two persons and left 30 others, mostly civilians, injured.

Security forces were confident that they had blunted militants’ capability of launching any high-profile attack, especially by IED, with killings and arrest of a majority of their top commanders. The arrest of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Rayees Kachroo, an expert in cobbling together deadly IEDs and who was behind the killing of at least 16 Army and CRPF personnel, in March has given a boost to such assertions.

“There have been major infiltrations across LoC this year and the depleted ranks of militant outfits have swelled up. We have definitely tough time ahead,” a senior police official said. Meanwhile, the Army said they have killed three infiltrating militants near LoC in Kupwara district. Another militant was killed in Bandipore. Governor N. N. Vohra spoke to Lt-General Mukesh Sabharwal, GOC, 15 Corps, and expressed his deep shock over the loss of lives in the blast and conveyed his sympathy to the bereaved families.

Brigadier sues Air-Marshal, Maj-Gen for
disputing history
Seeks damages of just Rs 1
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
The controversy generated over the authenticity of the Battle of Laungewala, fought on the western frontier during the 1971 Indo-Pak War, took a new twist with a decorated brigadier suing two former senior officers, who had recently disputed the standing history of the battle. A local court today issued notices for July 26 to Air Marshal M.S. Bawa (retired), Maj-Gen Atma Singh (retired) and eight others on a petition filed by Brig Kuldip Singh Chandpuri (retired), who was then at the centre of the battle and was decorated with the Mahavir Chakra.

In February, Maj-Gen Atma Singh, an artillery air observation pilot, had claimed that the Army had hoodwinked the nation with false tales of valour and it was air power rather than ground action that had crushed the enemy. Atma Singh, who was then commanding No.12 Air Observation Post and was decorated with the Vir Chakra for his actions at Laungewala claimed that no ground battle was fought and the Army had merely rehearsed it on a sand model after the ceasefire to cover up the incompetence of senior commanders.

Two days later, Air Marshal Bawa, claimed that the ground operations at Laungewala were faked and the military leadership had schemed to glorify the Army’s role. At the time of the battle, Bawa was an Air Commodore commanding the Jaisalmer airbase from where the IAF Hunter aircraft had operated. According to the official history, Pakistani forces, backed by armour, had crossed into the Indian territory on the night of December 4-5 and made repeated attacks to overcome the Laungewala post, which was being defended by a company from 23 Punjab under the command of Chandpuri, then a Major.

Through the night, men of 23 Punjab held their ground against overwhelming odds, beating back the enemy. As many as five soldiers were killed and five seriously wounded from the company and the battalion was awarded the Battle Honour Laungewala. The battle is a part of the curriculum taught to senior officers in the higher command course at the Army War College and has been immortalised by the Bollywood superhit Border.

Terming the claims of the aforementioned officers as slanderous and libelous, Brigadier Chandpuri has contended that the defendants have tarnished his image and reputation.

In his petition, he has stated that Bawa has contested the remarks on the operation made by his own chief, Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal, who in his book, ‘My Years with the IAF’, has written, “Maj Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, the company commander who took the brunt of the attack and fought with great grit, courage and determination, was awarded a very well-deserved Mahavir Chakra.” Seeking declaration to the effect that the articles published by the defendants are libelous, malicious, scandalous and frivolous because they are based on incorrect facts, the plaintiff has sought permanent injunction restraining the defendants from reiterating their claims regarding the Battle of Laungewala. While seeking compensatory damages of just a single rupee, the petition has sought award exemplary cost in favour of the plaintiff, which would be utilised for the benefit of the Laungewala war veterans.

Army at center of global war on terror

Lisa Curtis

By Shuja Nawaz

Oxford University Press, $34.95, 585 pages


Shuja Nawaz's history of the Pakistan military is excellent reading for anyone seeking to understand the role of the army in Pakistan's development as a nation-state as well as its potential for rolling back the Islamist extremist threat it helped to unleash in the 1990s. The author, hailing from an influential Pakistani military family (his brother, Asif Nawaz, was chief of army in the early 1990s and died under suspicious circumstances while still in office), is well-positioned to provide an objective insider's view of an institution few in the United States comprehend, despite having provided billions of dollars to support it since Sept. 11.

Mr. Nawaz follows the evolution of the army's role in shaping Pakistan's domestic and foreign policy landscape from the country's independence in 1947 up to the Musharraf era, highlighting key decision points and U.S. policy responses.

He recounts how Ayub Khan, Pakistan's first native army chief, realized in the early 1950s that Pakistan would need a superpower friend to survive and therefore convinced American officials to sign a defense pact with Pakistan to stem communist advances in the Middle East. Soon after the two sides inked the agreement in 1954, American officials realized Pakistan had neither the capability nor the will to confront communism and that its genuine strategic concerns revolved around India. The United States ignored aid leakages to preserve the broader strategic relationship and congressional members bemoaned the lack of transparency and accounting of the aid flowing to Pakistan. Sound familiar?

The description of decision making surrounding Pakistan's incursion into the heights of Kargil on the Indian side of the Line of Control in 1999 drives home the pitfalls of allowing an army focused on tactical military gains to remain outside civilian control. Then Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf refused to endorse former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's decision to seek U.S. help in extricating Pakistan gracefully from the ill-conceived operation and insisted the invasion benefited Pakistan by raising the international profile of the Kashmir issue. Mr. Musharraf was oblivious to the fact that the U.S. was angry at Pakistan for having started a border war with nuclear-armed India at the same time Indo-Pakistani diplomatic negotiations were bearing fruit.

The book also contains lessons for U.S. policy-makers. Soon after Washington imposed sanctions on Pakistan and disengaged from Afghanistan in the early 1990s, Pakistani strategists started to focus on policies of "strategic depth" in Afghanistan, which contributed to the birth of the Taliban, and "strategic defiance" against the West. Gen. Aslam Beg, who took over as chief of the army following the death of Mohammad Zia ul-Haque in 1988, supported closer ties to Iran and may have even approved nuclear technology transfers to the Iranian leadership at the time. Gen. Beg represents an anti-West, Islamist-inspired attitude that some others within the Pakistani military almost certainly share, although to what degree and whether such leanings will prevail within the system is still unknown.

Here is where the author both honors the memory of his brother and provides hope for outsiders relying on the better angels in Pakistan's military leadership. Asif Nawaz took over as chief of army from Gen. Beg in 1991 and sought to stabilize U.S.-Pakistan relations despite the sanctions; improve military-to-military ties with India; distance the Army from politics; and make clear to Tehran it would not transfer nuclear technology by explaining, "Pakistan has attained it [nuclear technology] for its own exclusive use."

It would have been interesting for the author to spin out scenarios, based on his extensive research and experience with the Pakistani military, on the future of U.S.-Pakistan military ties, given the tremendous strains brought by the war in Afghanistan and increased U.S. anxiety about the Taliban/al-Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan's tribal areas. Will both sides learn from past mistakes and engage in frank strategic discussions that could better align their efforts and interests in Afghanistan?

The author also shies away from an in-depth discussion on the issue of greatest concern to U.S. policy-makers: The nature of the links between Pakistani officials and Islamist extremists and whether these will be severed in the future. "Pakistan still provides ample opportunity for global terrorist networks to operate, recruit, and train its soldiers in Pakistan," he notes, and he calls on the Army "to break out of its prevaricating behavior vis-a-vis the Islamists." But he avoids detailed prescriptions for how this should be done.

With a weak and fractured government, continued ethnic and sectarian tensions, and an Islamist extremist insurgency gaining ground in the northwest part of the country, the Pakistani military will continue to play a crucial role in helping secure and stabilize the country.

Shuja Nawaz's thorough and informed research in Crossed Swords shines a light on past mistakes made by the Pakistani military and provides insight into its potential future role in supporting a Pakistan that is progressive, prosperous, and engaged with the West. Shuja Nawaz has served both Pakistan, which needs to come to terms with its past, and the U.S., which needs to better understand this critical ally whose future direction will largely determine the outcome of the global struggle against Islamist terrorism.

Lisa Curtis is senior research fellow on South Asia in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation.

Indian Navy Inducts Two Warships Developed by GRSE

Indian navy added two new warships to its fleet. The Water Jet Fast Attack Crafts (WJFAC) INS Cinque and INS Chariyam were launched by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE) at the Khidderpore docks here. The warships are the first part of the 10-ship series, each costing 500 million rupees, to be delivered to the Navy by October 2010.
INS Cinque - named after a pristine Island sanctuary in the Andamans and INS Chariyam - named after an Islet in Lakshadweep, are an improved version of the Fast Attack Crafts with a speed in excess of 35 knots, designed in-house by GRSE. According to Vice Admiral B S Randhawa, India's vast coastline an island territories demand extensive patrolling and monitoring and WJFAC were the best suited for the purpose.
"They have very high speed and long endurance. These ships are extremely useful for patrolling especially in coastal waters in the island territory of Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep. As well as in areas like the sea-lanes between India and Sri Lanka," he said.
The ships will be fitted with CRN-91 Gun along with sensors. The first two ships in this series, INS car Nicobar and INS Chetlat, which were launched in November' 2007, are at the fitting-out stage and are scheduled to be commissioned in the navy from November' 2008.

Stuck in a different age

The problems plaguing the Indian defence services are too well-known to be recounted. Grappling to find the answers to problems of recruiting and retention, this blogger was directed to Don Vandergriff’s blog [hat tip - Nitin Pai]. Although written primarily for the US army, Donald Vandergriff’s forthcoming book Military Recruiting: Finding and Preparing Future Soldiers ought to provides answers to many questions that engulf the Indian defence services today. Read the description of the book, which emphasises the temporal mismatch lying at the heart of the crises engulfing the Indian defence services.

The Industrial Age model continues to shape the way the Army approaches its recruiting, personnel management, training and education. Consequently, the Army’s personnel management paradigm - designed for an earlier era - has been so intimately tied to the maintenance of current Army culture that a self-perpetuating cycle has formed that diminishes the Army’s attempts at developing adaptive leaders and institutions. This cycle can only be broken if the Army accepts rapid evolutionary change as the norm of the new era. Simply recruiting the right people, and then having them step into an antiquated organization means that many of these people will not stay as they come into conflict with the premise of responsibility with authority, but instead their ability to contribute and develop is limited by the nature of a top down, centralized Industrial-Age and hierarchal organization. Today, recruiting and retention data bear this out.

The Army force structure and personnel system in place today evolved from one that worked to support the nation’s mobilization doctrine. Several factors have combined to force the Army to think about the way it develops and nurtures its leaders. Continual modifications to today’s paradigm may not be enough. The U.S. Army still “thinks” and “acts” from an Industrial-Age, mobilization doctrine-based leader development paradigm more than 18 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Industrial Age approach continues to influence the way the Army approaches its recruiting, manning, training and education despite advances in all the before hand mentioned areas. The Army has to do more than post rhetoric about “adaptability” on briefing slides and in literature. The Army’s personnel system designed for an earlier era are so intimately tied to the maintenance of Army culture that they form a self-perpetuating cycle that will diminish and even prevent the Army from becoming an adaptive organization unless it accepts rapid evolutionary change as the norm of the new era. One cannot divorce how the Army accesses, promotes, and selects its leaders from its leader development paradigm. The Army cannot expect to create leaders that grasp and practice adaptability and then after graduation enter an Army that is not adaptive or nurtures innovation. The Army culture must become adaptive and the personnel system evolves into one that nurtures adaptability in its policies, practices, and beliefs.


Who Needs Boots?

Easing recruitment standards will prove to be the army's bane

The Big Round-Up

  • Doing away with selection standards to fill up the shortage. The method was tried once after the Sino-Indian conflict with disastrous consequences.
  • Service headquarters opposes it since it will impact quality
  • MoD wants review of premature retirement to stop the exodus of officers
  • The services say the review will affect morale since it will amount to forcing "reluctant officers" to continue serving


If there has been an eternal jinx on our armed forces, it's the issue of officer shortages.

Defence ministers over time have shown a lack of imagination on the officer shortfall.

Every defence minister since Independence has had to grapple with the problem and, over the years, various allurements have been tried to get young men (and now, women) into the services. In recent times, there's been glitzy ad campaigns to showcase the military.

On other fronts, there have been bids to raise salaries and incentives to make a career in uniform seem lucrative.

But now it seems the MoD's procurement strategy, built around a simple increase-supply-to-meet-demand logic, is being brought to bear on the officer shortage issue also. The solution, articulated in a note by P.K. Rastogi, special secretary in the MoD, and sent to the three service HQs is this: do away with stringent recruitment standards and the number of eligible candidates will automatically go up. There may even be a happy problem of plenty. Or to quote from Rastogi's note: "The services may consider the feasibility of conducting a special drive to fill up the vacancies by giving a one-time dispensation in the QRs (qualitative requirements)."

Should Rastogi's proposal be accepted, it would mean not only compromising standards as a special measure to "fill up the vacancies", but doing away with them altogether. As is obvious, there are inherent dangers in this. As a senior defence officer put it, "It will spell disaster because officers recruited into the services have to tackle very challenging jobs where lives can be lost. Diluting standards or doing away with them, even as a 'one-time dispensation', would have negative fallouts for years to come."

Outlook has a copy of Rastogi's detailed note (D.O No. 1108/08-D(AG) dated April 3, '08) to Air Marshal V.R. Iyer, the then Air Officer Personnel (AOP) in Air HQ. It contains 10 suggestions, some of which do have merit. But it's the one pertaining to dropping QRs which seems most most damaging; for over the years there have been a set of carefully laid down standards to ascertain a young officer's ability to lead men into battle.

Stringent standards are of the essence because the forces now need officers who can not just lead men into battle, but also fly multi-million-dollar combat jets, man ships and command battle-tanks, all in high-tech environments. Each of the three services has its own QRs. "The soldier being recruited today is more educated and more aware. It's an enormous challenge...our young officers are our cutting edge in battle.

This was amply demonstrated in Kargil and any compromise, let alone doing away with QRs even as a one-time dispensation, will have terrible repercussions," an ex-vice chief of army staff told Outlook.

Meanwhile, Rastogi contends his "suggestions" are based on the experience of the military in 1965 when QRs were waived in the aftermath of the 1962 war with China. "We are looking at ways and means to address this issue because the shortage in the three services continues. It's a part of our internal deliberations."

Following the humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese, the Indian military went in for a rapid expansion which led to higher officer intakes. However, the experience proved to be an unhappy one and most emergency commission officers moved to the IAS, IPS or other central government jobs. What Rastogi also seems to have forgotten is the price the services had to pay because of the post-'62 QR waiver. The army had to contend with scores of disciplinary issues, excess manpower, a severe resource crunch and choked avenues for promotions. In the end, the services did away with emergency commissions altogether.

Another suggestion from Rastogi is also bound to create some heartburn. He wants the parameters for premature retirement revisited. Presently, a "permanent commission" means at least 26 years of service but many officers exercise the premature retirement option. This exit policy has helped officers who are unhappy with their military career to opt out and has proved to be a great morale-booster, since it also opens up vacancies for those who choose to continue in service. All three services have expressed reservations with the suggestion. A senior iaf officer points out: "There's little sense in forcing people to serve when they want to quit. Worse, by not granting premature retirement the MoD would be flouting the international conventions on labour ratified by India decades ago."

Incidentally, Rastogi's observations also read like an admission of the MoD's utter failure in tackling the shortage issue. His note says: "The measures undertaken in the past like re-employment of retired officers, image projection campaigns since 1997, as also recent implementation of the Ajai Vikram Singh committee recommendations have not made any difference to the situation."

A senior MoD official puts things in perspective, "If you look at the responses of several defence ministers to parliamentary queries on officer shortage, it clearly shows that these were mere cut-and-paste jobs. It shows a lack of imagination in approaching the subject."

While the three services have been lamenting the shortfall of officers, it has rarely concentrated on arriving at a judicious mix of deployment for staff duties and field operations. For example, army HQ in Delhi continues to have a large number of officers serving in staff appointments while combat formations struggle with vacancies.

Instead of focusing on better manpower policies and improving service conditions, bureaucrats and politicians often look for quickfix solutions. Dispensing with QRs to plug the officers shortage is a prime example of this. The services need officers who have the mettle and calibre. The MoD, though, obviously prefers quantity over quality.

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