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Monday, 22 September 2008

From Today's Papers - 22 Sep

MoD blinks on Lt-Col pay demand but tells services to promptly implement hike

New Delhi, September 20 Responding to complaints by the three service chiefs, Defence Minister A K Antony has agreed to recommend raising the pay band for officers of Lieutenant Colonel rank and their equivalents.
At the same time, the UPA has sent a polite memo to all three services to issue the “government draft notification letter” without any further delay as new salaries and arrears have to be paid to the armed forces on October 1, 2008.
Although the Defence Ministry issued the “draft notification letter” for civilians, the armed forces tactically delayed issuing the letter as part of pressure on the Government to address their complaints.
The three chiefs have knocked on the doors of the Defence Ministry, Finance Ministry and even the Prime Minister’s Office seeking what they call “parity with honour” with civilian and paramilitary counterparts.
Finance Ministry sources said the Defence Ministry, in a letter dated September 16, recommended that Lieutenant Colonels and their equivalents be placed in Pay Band 4 (Rs 37,400-67,000) instead of the present Pay Band 3 (Rs 15,600-39,100). This means the Government will shell out an extra Rs 109 crore annually.
This was one of the demands of the services who claimed that even the Lt Colonel equivalent in the Coast Guard would draw a higher salary if the ones in the military were kept in Pay Band 3.
Sources said the Defence Ministry has also recommended status quo ante in the case of pension for PBORs (personnel below officer rank).
The Sixth Pay Commission report said that PBORs should get an opportunity for lateral entry into paramilitary forces and Central Police Organisations but they would forego 50 per cent of the pension calculated on the basis of the last pay drawn on retirement.
Until lateral entry for retired PBORs is approved and implemented, the MoD wants to go back to the Fifth Pay Commission report that allowed personnel to get full pension without serving the requisite number of years for entitlement.
The MoD has also informed the Finance Ministry that it is deferring any decision on the armed forces’ demand that Lt Generals, who are heads of organisations — like the Director General Infantry — be included in the new category of HAG-plus (Higher Administrative Grade).
As of now, Army Commanders draw pay equivalent to the Secretary to Government of India with other Lt Generals equivalent to the rank and pay of Additional Secretaries. The armed forces now want. a separate bracket between Additional Secretaries and Secretaries to adjust Lt Generals who are heading organisations like mechanized forces or artillery etc.

Russian Defence Minister to visit India next week

Moscow (PTI): Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov is to visit New Delhi next week to kickstart the preparations for the Indo-Russian summit in early December when Dmitry Medvedev is scheduled to embark upon his maiden India voyage as President.

Serdyukov's trip, crucial for clearing the problems accumulated in bilateral defence ties, would be followed by several other visits to New Delhi by senior Russian officials.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Secretary of Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov -- Moscow's pointman on trade and economic cooperation with India -- will tour India to set the stage for the New Delhi summit.

During his three-day visit on September 28-30, Serdyukov is to co-chair the 8th session of the Indo-Russian Inter-governmental Commission (IRIGC) on military-technical cooperation with Defence Minister A K Antony to review the bilateral defence projects, including the vexed issue of cost escalation and delay in the retrofitting of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier.

Russia is asking for additional amount of USD 1.2 billion to complete the refit and seagoing trials of 44.5 thousand tonner vessel to be inducted as INS Vikramaditya.

War in Afghanistan
Why does the US think it can win?
by Robert Fisk

Poor old Algerians. They are being served the same old pap from their cruel government. In 1997, the Pouvoir announced a “final victory” over their vicious Islamist enemies. On at least three occasions, I reported – not, of course, without appropriate cynicism – that the Algerian authorities believed their enemies were finally beaten because the “terrorists” were so desperate that they were beheading every man, woman and child in the villages they captured in the mountains around Algiers and Oran.

And now they’re at it again. After a ferocious resurgence of car bombing by their newly merged “al-Qa’ida in the Maghreb” antagonists, the decrepit old FLN government in Algiers has announced the “terminal phase” in its battle against armed Islamists.

As the Algerian journalist Hocine Belaffoufi said with consummate wit the other day, “According to this political discourse ... the increase in attacks represents undeniable proof of the defeat of terrorism. The more terrorism collapsed, the more the attacks increased ... so the stronger (terrorism) becomes, the fewer attacks there will be.”

We, of course, have been peddling this crackpot nonsense for years in south-west Asia. First of all, back in 2001, we won the war in Afghanistan by overthrowing the Taliban. Then we marched off to win the war in Iraq.

Now – with at least one suicide bombing a day and the nation carved up into mutually antagonistic sectarian enclaves – we have won the war in Iraq and are heading back to re-win the war in Afghanistan where the Taliban, so thoroughly trounced by our chaps seven years ago, have proved their moral and political bankruptcy by recapturing half the country.

It seems an age since Donald “Stuff Happens” Rumsfeld declared,”A government has been put in place (in Afghanistan), and the Islamists are no more the law in Kabul. Of course, from time to time a hand grenade, a mortar explodes – but in New York and in San Francisco, victims also fall. As for me, I’m full of hope.”

Oddly, back in the eighties, I heard exactly the same from a Soviet general at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan – yes, the very same Bagram airbase where the CIA lads tortured to death a few of the Afghans who escaped the earlier Russian massacres.

Only “terrorist remnants” remained in the Afghan mountains, the jolly Russian general assured us. Afghan troops, along with the limited Soviet “intervention” forces, were restoring peace to democratic Afghanistan.

And now? After the “unimaginable” progress in Iraq – I am quoting the fantasist who still occupies the White House – the Americans are going to hip-hop 8,000 soldiers out of Mesopotamia and dump another 4,700 into the hellfire of Afghanistan. Too few, too late, too slow, as one of my French colleagues commented acidly.

It would need at least another 10,000 troops to hope to put an end to these Taliban devils who are now equipped with more sophisticated weapons, better trained and increasingly – sad to say – tolerated by the local civilian population. For Afghanistan, read Irakistan.

Back in the late 19th century, the Taliban – yes, the British actually called their black-turbaned enemies “Talibs” – would cut the throats of captured British soldiers. Now this unhappy tradition is repeated – and we are surprised! Two of the American soldiers seized when the Taliban stormed into their mountain base on 13 July this year were executed by their captors.

The Soviet general at Bagram now has his amanuensis in General David McKiernan, the senior US officer in Afghanistan, who proudly announced last month that US forces had killed “between 30 and 35 Taliban” in a raid on Azizabad near Herat.

“In the light of emerging evidence pertaining (sic) to civilian casualties in the ... counter-insurgency operation,” the luckless general now says, he feels it “prudent” – another big sic here – to review his original investigation.

The evidence “pertaining”, of course, is that the Americans probably killed 90 people in Azizabad, most of them women and children. We – let us be frank and own up to our role in the hapless Nato alliance in Afghanistan – have now slaughtered more than 500 Afghan civilians this year alone. These include a Nato missile attack on a wedding party in July when we splattered 47 of the guests all over the village of Deh Bala.

And Obama and McCain really think they’re going to win in Afghanistan – before, I suppose, rushing their soldiers back to Iraq when the Baghdad government collapses.

What the British couldn’t do in the 19th century and what the Russians couldn’t do at the end of the 20th century, we’re going to achieve at the start of the 21 century, taking our terrible war into nuclear-armed Pakistan just for good measure. Fantasy again.

Joseph Conrad, who understood the powerlessness of powerful nations, would surely have made something of this. Yes, we have lost after we won in Afghanistan and now we will lose as we try to win again. Stuff happens.

Gymkhana poll
by Devi Cherian

The annual elections of the 95-year-old Delhi Gymkhana Club are always fought as a prestigeous battle, especially after senior officers of the forces have started taking part in them.

Come August and phone calls start going all over India to various civil and defence officers for canvassing. Some candidates for the post of executive member send their biodata all over.

Now after former Army Chief J.J. Singh retired and went off to Arunachal as Governor, Lt General Rajender Singh is fighting the election for the President’s post. Pitted against him is the former Air Marshal P.S. Ahluwalia.

Serving officers like Rajender Singh need clearance from Army Headquarters. J.J. had got the clearance. As per the deal worked out last year, Ahluwalia withdrew from the elections and allowed JJ Singh to be elected unopposed on the understanding that he would be the unanimous choice.

According to his supporters, the General should have honoured the deal made in front of former presidents. Let us see which of the two heavy weights wins the battle this year.

In Gymkhana the waiting period for entry is up to 35 years for ordinary private guys. For civil and defence officers it can take 15 to 18 years. The newly renovated club has a barber shop, a masseur shop, tennis courts and a bakery. Top IAS and IPS officers have made the club their home over the years and have fought enough battles among themselves.

Army personnel killed in gun battle with militants at LoC in J-K

Srinagar, Sept 21 (ANI): An Army personnel was killed today in a fierce gun battle on the Line of Control (LoC) between Indian troops and militants, in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The militants entered the country under the cover of firing from Pakistani side of the border in Poonch. >A group of armed militants entered the Indian territory from Kabaristan post of Pakistan and were trapped by troops close to Kalash Indian post between Zeroline and border fencing along LoC in Poonch district today, according to Defence officials.

Sepoy Chiba of 1stAssam Regiment died in the gun battle, they said, adding that infiltration by militants followed the heavy cross-border firing on Indian positions along LoC since Saturday.

They further said, "The encounter is taking place in a dense forest and as it is a heavily mined area, we cannot cross to that side, thereby making the operation very difficult." (ANI)

Jawan dies in cross-LoC fire
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Rajouri, September 21
In one of the biggest violation of the more than four-year-old truce, Pakistani troops allegedly fired on an Indian forward post in Banda Chechian area of Poonch district today.

This comes a day before the India and Pakistan joint working group on the cross-Line of Control (LoC) confidence-building measures meets in Delhi to finalise the modalities and items to be traded across the LoC.

Army sources said Pakistani troops resorted to “indiscriminate” fire from their forward posts of Kabristan and Kallas on the Indian forward posts of Kallas and FDL in Banda Chechian area. The Pakistani troops reportedly gave cover fire to a group of 3-4 infiltrating militants. “Pakistani troops fired about 1,500 rounds from heavy machine gun, light machine gun and BMG on the Indian posts to push in militants”, Army sources said. The fire was returned by the Indian troops.

Two infiltrating militants were shot dead by the Indian troops. Sepoy Chiba of the 1 Assam regiment was killed, while three jawans were injured in the incident.

Army sources informed that the militants were trapped at the “no-mans” land near the LoC and were firing along with Pakistani troops on the Indian posts.

The bodies of the two slain militants were still lying on the no-mans land. The encounter was reportedly on till the last reports came in.

Even as the Army authorities are tight-lipped on the matter, official spokesperson of the ministry of defence, Lt Col. S.D. Goswami, said the Army authorities had not given any details of the incident to his office.

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