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Thursday, 25 September 2008

From Today's Papers - 25 Sep






















Disillusioned military
Political apathy is breaking down the great Indian tradition of soldiering, writes Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi.

23 September 2008: While civilian employees of the Central government would be counting their fatter pay packets by the end of the month, the Indian military would have no such luck. Their revised emoluments are still awaiting resolution. The reason is not monetary but something more dear to the defence forces: honour and izzat. What do they mean? Essentially, the defence forces are trying to impress on the political leadership the urgent need to restore to the military its previous exalted status, failing which national security may be jeopardized. The huge shortage of officers, which continues to increase, will get progressively worse, resulting in sub-standard military leadership. And the only national instrument that has always delivered and that has the confidence of polity will gradually weaken and become ineffective. The early military leaders of independent India like Cariappa and Thimayya, to name only two, had left behind a legacy of nationalism, personal and professional values, and an apolitical approach. "Soldiering" was their sole message. This was nurtured by subsequent military leaders and it became a way of life in the armed forces. Military veterans, too, carried this ethos to their retired lives. This is now on the verge of breaking down, unless urgent action is taken. This "soldiering" culture was cultivated in an environment where the political leadership was highly suspicious of the military. It is regrettable that this perception has not changed even after six decades of the military always acting in national interest. This perception is in large measure exacerbated by the bureaucracy to meet its selfish ends. The civilian bureaucracy's self-promoting activities have included framing rules of business of government in a manner that without its advice, nay consent, even elected representatives cannot pursue policies of good governance. Eventually, the political leadership joined the self-aggrandizing bureaucracy. One consequence of this was the infamous Licence-Permit-Quota Raj which institutionalized political corruption. The so-called "Hindu rate of growth" followed, till visionary leaders and economists forced the bureaucracy to open up a decade ago. During India's economic rise, it is the Indian military that secured peace in the country. But while occasional leaders, entrepreneurs and farmers are commended for national contribution, the military has every time been studiously ignored and marginalized. Let me illustrate this with but four unrelated examples. First, the military has been steadily downgraded both in status and in being kept out of the policy-formulating loop. Second, deliberately no CDS has been appointed for the last seven years because it would undermine the position of the defence secretary. Third, the celebration of India's biggest victory of 1971 has become a political football, depending on the regime in power. Early this year, angst in the military peaked on account of the callous treatment of the departed 1971 war hero, the formidable Sam Bahadur. Finally, an extremely high bravery award was conferred on a bureaucrat because he happened to be at the site of a bomb blast, thus belittling the award, and degrading exceptional courage. But the military bore the many provocations, true to its ethos "that the country always came first", until recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission exploded anger across the board, in all ranks and amongst both serving personnel and veterans. Military veterans have been unprecedentedly provoked to take their protests to the streets. More about it in my next piece, if there is still interest in your soldiers who continue to give their today for your tomorrow. Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff.


India, Pakistan can Jointly Combat Terror: PM
By Manish Chand


On Board Air India One
A day before he meets Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari here, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday he would will ask Zardari to address the issue of cross-border terror, but underlined that both countries could covert this "common challenge" into an opportunity to jointly combat terrorism.

"There are enormous challenges ahead for both India and Pakistan. We are to see how peace can be brought and how we can work together," Manmohan Singh told reporters aboard his special aircraft on his way to New York.

"India-Pakistan relations are about challenges. We face common challenges and we will seek to convert them into opportunities," the prime minister said when asked about his agenda for talks with Zardari.

Manmohan Singh will meet Zardari at the United Nations headquarters in New York Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly - the first meeting between them since Zardari became the president early this month. This will also be their first meeting since the serial blasts in Delhi and the attack on Marriot Hotel in the heart of Islamabad last week.

"That is among the challenges we have to meet," the prime minister said when asked whether he will take up the issue of continuing cross-border terrorism with Zardari.

Lauding the "advent of democracy in Pakistan", the prime minister set a positive tone for the talks, saying: "We are looking forward to working together."

India concedes that Pakistan, too, is a victim of terrorism but feels strongly that it did not detract from its alleged complicity in terror attacks in India. This is the no- nonsense message on cross-border terrorism Manmohan Singh will convey to Zardari, the widower of former prime minister Benazir Butto who was killed in a suicide attack last year.

Besides cross-border terrorism, increasing Line of Control (LoC) ceasefire violations, infiltration and the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul will figure prominently in Manmohan Singh's talks with Zardari. The two leaders are also likely to announce the start of cross-border trade through Jammu and Kashmir, expected to begin Oct 1.

Manmohan Singh will remind Zardari of Pakistan's Jan 6, 2004, commitment not to allow its territory to be used for anti-India terror and take up the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul for which New Delhi has blamed Pakistan's spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), an official source said.

The prime minister will also ask Zaradri to use his influence to stem the flow of cross-border terror which New Delhi feels is being masterminded by the ISI, the source added.

Manmohan Singh's meeting with Zardari would be an occasion to give a push to the languishing peace process between the two countries and will give New Delhi a sense of Zardari's position in the evolving civil-military equations in Pakistan.



India Military Faces Manpower Shortage Thanks to Economic Boom

By Jay Shankar

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Ashok Gowda quit India's army three years ago to build a software business. The reason: The country's economic boom may allow him to earn six times as much in the private sector as he got as a military engineer.

``For serving the nation, I do not get paid'' as much, Gowda said. He used to get 23,000 rupees ($519) a month. ``Now, once the company starts operations, I will be earning 150,000 rupees every month,'' he said from Bangalore.

Gowda shows why India's armed forces face a manpower shortage. The army has 11,371 fewer officers than it needs. The navy has 1,461 unfilled slots. The air force has enough planes for 300 more pilots than it has.

India's economy, Asia's third largest, has grown an average of 8.9 percent a year since 2004, creating more than 60 million jobs, many in technology, health care, automobile manufacturing, entertainment and other higher-paying industries.

Those businesses compete for graduates and engineers with a 1.3 million-member military that maintains a strategic balance between India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed nations.

Gowda, 37, a computer science graduate, served 12 years in the army's radar division and later was in the military's Defense Research Development Organization. Now he's setting up a software company to make products for military jets and helicopters as well as commercial airlines.

``Promotions are very slow'' in the military, Gowda said. Though ``the army gives you accommodation, food, clothes,'' he added, ``at the end of the month there is hardly any money in my pocket. That pinches.''

Promotion Denied

V.M. Raghunath ended a 24-year military career 18 months ago. Formerly an air force wing commander, he became a vice president for SBF Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. after being denied three promotions, he said.

``There is a bare minimum a person aspires to meet the standards of his family,'' said Raghunath, 46, in his Bangalore office. ``I was getting about 25,000 rupees in hand. Now it is 150 times more.''

India plans to increase defense spending by as much as 10 percent this fiscal year, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said in April. The budget will total $27 billion this year, including money for more aircraft, helicopters and weapons to counter Pakistan's purchases of jets from the U.S.

To counter the lure of private business, the military is carrying out a publicity campaign to entice young people, Defense Minister A.K. Antony said last year.

Retirement Rush

Recruitment at the National Defense Academy and the Indian Military College are falling and there is a ``huge queue for retirement,'' said Major General Satbir Singh, 62, a sixth- generation officer who retired four years ago and is part of a group calling for military salary increases.

Last year, 542 army officers sought early retirement, up from 407 in 2006 and 312 in 2005.

In an interview from Gurgoan, Singh said every officer dreams of sending his children to good schools, but many can't afford them. Today, he added, no one wants to marry an officer because the pay is too low to compensate for the risk of being widowed.

``My son-in-law is an officer in the military and earns 25,000 rupees a month,'' Singh said. ``If he joins a private company, say an airline, he will earn 300,000 rupees every month. If the government does not see the writing on the wall, then the security of the nation is endangered.''

No Thanks

Singh said a new pay structure announced last month downgrades lieutenant colonels to the point where civil servants in comparable posts make more. Many personnel are so dissatisfied with pay increases announced at the same time that they are refusing to accept them, he added.

``There has been an erosion of self-esteem, respect and dignity of a soldier,'' Singh said.

With a population of more than 1 billion people, India has an army of 1.1 million, a navy of 47,000 and an air force of 120,000 that has 1,700 aircraft and is the world's fourth largest.

A quarter of the army is deployed in Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan territory that India and Pakistan both claim. The region has sparked two of the three wars the adversaries have fought since their independence in 1947. The army also guards the border with China, where war erupted in 1962, and the frontier with Bangladesh.

Disaster Relief

India also uses its military for internal matters. It was deployed during religious riots in 2002 in the state of Gujarat. It helped relief-and-rescue operations after last month's floods in Bihar and Assam, which affected 6 million people, as well as the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2004 tsunami.

``When bureaucracy fails, the army is called in to handle floods, riots and earthquakes,'' Singh said.

The army's officer shortage is mainly in the ranks of lieutenant colonels and below, which it calls ``the cutting edge'' of its needs because they lead troops in combat.

To retain officers, the army this year proposed paying 1 million rupees for completing 10 years of service and an extra 200,000 rupees a year after that. The army also will grant officers two years ``professional enhancement leave'' and consider post-retirement re-employment, it said. The plan requires government approval.

The army doesn't consider compulsory military service an option for addressing shortages. In a democracy, no one can be forced to do any labor, it said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jay Shankar in Bangalore at jshankar1@bloomberg.net



India, China agree to cooperate in civil nuke energy, discuss boundary question


New York, Sept 24 (ANI): India and China on Wednesday announced that they have agreed to cooperate in the civilian uses of nuclear energy and accepted that talks relating to the vexed boundary question needed to be taken forward by the Special Representatives of the two countries.

Talking to reporters afr Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao here this morning on the sidelines of the 63rd UN General Assembly, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said: "The meeting between our Prime Minister and Premier Wen Jiabao was positive and cordial.

The two prime ministers agreed on expanding bilateral cooperation in civilian uses of nuclear energy, an issue which has figured during high-level exchanges between the two Asian giants."

The meeting, which was held at the Waldorf Hotel, lasted for an hour. The results emerging from the deliberations assume significance in the wake of recent tensions in bilateral ties following China's reported attempts to block a consensus on the India-specific waiver regarding its civil nuclear cooperation pact with the United States at the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in Vienna earlier this month.It maybe recalled that during his recent visit to New Delhi, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi reassured the Indian leadership that Beijing's role in Vienna was not aimed at blocking India-specific safeguards, but to ensure an informed and consensual approach to the US-India civil nuclear deal.

Foreign Secretary Menon also said that both leaders voiced satisfaction over the progress in resolving the vexed boundary dispute that has plagued bilateral ties for close to five decades.

On the boundary question, Menon said: It was agreed that both countries (India and China) have cooperated in the past and will cooperate in the future. We also spoke and expressed satisfaction over the boundary question and recognize that it is a complicated issue. It was agreed that the Special Representatives of the two sides (Dai Bingguo and M.K.Narayanan) will continue their talks."

Earlier this month, India and China failed to reach any specific agreements on the boundary issue in the 12th round of negotiations, but decided to pursue their goal for a "fair and reasonable" solution.

"Chinese State Councillor and Vice-Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and Indian National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan headed their delegations for the talks, which were pragmatic, candid and friendly," a bland statement issued in Beijing by the Chinese Foreign Ministry had said then.

The two sides had two days of in-camera talks. "They (Bingguo and Narayanan) agreed that both countries would carry out the guidelines of their leaders, maintain negotiations and seek a fair and reasonable solution acceptable to both sides," the statement said.

According to the official mouth piece Xinhua, it was not clear if the two sides had discussed the status of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, which has long been a serious bone of contention.

During a meeting with Narayanan, Bingguo indicated that the two countries should maintain peace along the disputed border till a solution was found to the issue.

India says China is illegally occupying 43,180 sq km of Jammu and Kashmir [Images] including 5,180 sq km illegally ceded to Beijing by Islamabad under the Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement in 1963. On the other hand, China accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)



Air Force Chief calls for a self reliant Indian aerospace Industry


New Delhi, Sept 24 (ANI): Air Chief Marshall F. M. Major, PVSM, AVSM, SC, VM, ADC, called for an immediate need to develop a conducive environment facilitated towards energizing the Aerospace industry here today.

He was addressing the member of the industry, during a session organised by the Confederatioof Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi today.

"Aerospace Industry cannot be managed as just a public sector outfit in the years to come. Indian aerospace and defence industry calls for an immediate need to develop a conducive environment facilitated towards energizing the Aerospace industry," said Major. "The modernization bid needs to be integrated with the private setup available in the industry today," he added.

He also announced that the third international conference of "Energizing Indian Aerospace Industry - New Partnerships, New Opportunities" will be held in Delhi from November 7-8 this year. The Air Chief Marshall highlighted on the need for the aerospace industry to develop certain niche capabilities which could be strategic importance for the country. As India moves ahead in its quest to attain global status, the Indian aerospace industry, both military and civil stands uniquely poised today, on the threshold of catapulting itself into the global arena.

Stressing on the need for integrating the Indian aerospace supply chain with the global counterparts, the Chief of the Air Staff claimed that Indian Air Force (IAF) is taking strong steps towards self reliance."The industry should keep itself updated with the technology and the development areas of core competencies," he further stated.

Considering the immense potential of civil aviation and defence sector, the session threw light on the requirements of the Industry. In the midst of large scale modernization, the Indian Air Force industry has been opened up to private players.

This presents vast and varied opportunities ranging from every imaginable components of aviation. "In order to meet its goal of reducing dependence on imports, a strategic shift will offer the required thrust towards building skills and infrastructure for engineering and manufacturing in the aerospace sector," the Air Force Chief added. Given so many challenges in the growth road map ahead, spiraling cost of oil and the acute shortage of skilled human resource among others, India today is witnessing a dynamic change in the nature of growth of the aerospace sector.

The emergence of a transparent policy framework by the government and consequent infusion of foreign investment and technology transfers will have a favorable impact on the industry, facilitating the great potential in the civil aviation sector as well.The Indian Air Force has transformed itself with a definitive strategic orientation, thus acquiring transcontinental dimensions, further strengthening its capabilities with data links, across-the-board networking and real time connectivity with space based assets underway. (ANI)



'Misinformation campaign on growing Indo-US defence ties'

New Delhi (PTI): Defence Minister A K Antony on wednesday took a snipe at critics of the growing India-US defence cooperation, saying a "misinformation campaign" was going on.

"Last year, some people (read Left parties) said it sent a message. The Malabar series of Indo-US naval exercise invited a lot of criticism. Why should some people try to spread misinformation (on India and US militaries exercising frequently)," Antony told reporters after attending the Coast Guard Commanders Conference here.

Stating that a policy decision had been taken to hold only bilateral exercise in the Malabar series between Indian and US Navies, he said last year, it was different, as a multi-lateral exercise involving the Australian, Japanese and Singaporean ships took place.

"Only last year, something different happened. Instead of an Indo-US bilateral exercise, a multilateral exercise took place. This year there is no multilateral exercise. But would be a bilateral one, similar to what has been happening for the last 16 years," he said.

When asked if the US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan would be part of the Malabar exercise this year, the minister said he would not be able to name the ships participating in the bilateral naval exercise right now.

Noting that Malabar exercise was a regular feature between Indian and US navies and that it was nothing new, Antony appealed to critics "not to spread misinformation," on the exercise series started in 1992.


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