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Friday, 3 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 04 Oct

Heed the cry of the armed forces

M P Anil Kumar | October 03, 2008 | 16:34 IST

Fighter pilot.'�Whenever I introduced myself that way, while in service and now out of it, I could always espy a sense of awe and admiration.��

Yet, I have forever regarded the infantry officer more than anyone else.�For, I have been mesmerised by his mettle to command unquestioned obedience from the men he led into battle when everyone knew a likely death lurked round the bend.�

But the soldier also knew that his officer would do his utmost to ensure the soldier's safety, and thus reposed unwavering faith in his leadership and followed him in the charge, hollering the war cry.

Infantry officers are moulded out of an extraordinary metal and they form a rare breed.� And warriors like them are the ones who make soldiering the noble profession that it is.�Where else will you find subordinates ready to live and die for you?

Unlike this sod, the Union government does not apparently think in such mushy terms about the image of its soldiers, sailors and airmen.�Otherwise, it would not have compelled the three services chiefs to petition the defence minister to restore the existing parity with those from other central services, with respect to the Sixth Central Pay Commission (SCPC) awards.�(A section of the media regrettably painted this as whinging and blackmail by the defence forces.�Far from the truth.�More than pay, what they are actually pleading is for the restoration of status and honour trampled hitherto by successive governments.)

In response, the government has constituted a panel of three top cabinet ministers to address the discordant subjects (upgrade lieutenant colonel to pay band 4, place lieutenant general in higher administrative grade plus and restore pensionary benefits of personnel below officer rank) highlighted by the chiefs.

The sitrep

The forces had earlier raised several disquieting anomalies in the SCPC recommendations, and sought equitable remuneration for the kind of toil they do day in, day out.�The government tasked a committee of secretaries to fix it. Given the composition of IAS officers in the committee, only a nincompoop would have expected justice for the servicemen.�

The committee should have conjured up adequate pecuniary compensation for the posts in which the officers have to serve long, and also where the deficit of officers was most grave.�But instead of smoothening ruffled feathers, its prescription made more hackles to rise.�The fear of antagonists sabotaging the hope for obtaining a fair deal had come true.

Worse, the government twisted the knife in at a time when the three services were fighting a rearguard battle to attract talented candidates and to stem the exit of middle-rung officers.�Not a soul in the government, evidently, has grasped the acuteness of crisis hobbling the armed forces.�Nor has anyone attempted to fathom the depth of their discontentment nor estimate the fallout of the peacetime attrition.�

Small wonder then that the services, which lumped the humiliation of its systematic downgrading all these years, were forced to tell the nation that they have had enough.�The high and mighty clearly had not heard of the idiom even a worm will turn.

Military vis-�-vis civil service: two universes

Forget the primary role of defending our national territory, waters and air space.�Forget fighting the armed inimical elements in Jammu & Kashmir, the Northeast and elsewhere.�Now the services are requisitioned to do the salvage job, every day.

When the deluge ravaged Bihar, Assam, UP and Orissa recently, the army, navy and air force had to be marshalled to mount rescue missions.�The civil administration was conspicuous by its truancy, making one wonder why crores are spent on such slothful and corrupt bodies, as the army will be SOSed ultimately.�Mind you, these bodies are headed by IAS officers, the lot mainly responsible for the rotten state of governance in this country.

Not just natural disasters; they are summoned when the police bungle too.�When a party of the anti-Naxal force Greyhounds was ambushed at Chitrakonda in the hills of Malkangiri district of Orissa on June 29, while boating in a reservoir, as the escape routes were heavily mined, the rescue operations had to be supported by air in marginal weather. The air effort and the team of 30 divers were provided by Eastern Naval Command headquartered at Visakhapatnam.

Let me recall a recent newsbrief in a mainstream English daily as a primer to give you a peek into the contrastive ethos of the military and civilian universes.�The vice chief of naval staff lamented that when the navy was called in for rescue and relief in inundated parts of Bihar, formal orders did not come in immediately from the government, and the financial head of the ministry of defence refused to release funds, forcing the navy to use its non-public funds to rush relief teams.�

For the babu, the written order dripping officialese is gospel, does not matter if such devotion leads to the drowning of hundreds of citizens!

The serviceman could be excused if he thought that he was being used by the politicians and bureaucrats to conceal their incompetence and to clean up the accumulated mess excreted by their rank misrule.

The army, given the emasculation of the state police, will continue to be employed for internal security -- counter-terrorism, and before long it will be tasked to�crush the subnationalist forces and insurrectionists like the Maoists.�With body bags set to become an everyday sight, how many parents will be willing to send their sons to this death trap?�

Since the very idea of India is at stake, both the polity and policy mavens need to put heads together to pre-empt the portent.�But who, ensconced in ivory towers, cares?

The holy warrant of precedence

Why is the State unconscionably shoving its boots on the face of the military?�What explains its downhill journey in the warrant of precedence?

Lately, in an article, retired Lt Gen Harwant Singh cited why the defence officers were being hard-bone-by.�The bureaucracy, taking advantage of the Congress party's detestation of the military, kept the pot stirred by raising the odds of a military coup, and worked up this fear to emasculate the status of the top echelon, at the cost of the nation's overall strategic disadvantage.

A committee of secretaries revises the warrant of precedence periodically.�Gen Harwant Singh writes that as the chief of defence staff in 1981, Gen O P Malhotra raised the issue of downgrading of service officers in the warrant of precedence (this has direct bearing on the pay).�

In response, the committee of secretaries recorded, "Military officers were placed unduly high in the old warrant of precedence, presumably as it was considered essential for officers of an army of occupation to be given special status and authority."�Mind you, it is not Mirwaiz�Umar Farooq but the bureaucrats that called the Indian Army as an army of occupation!�

Of course, Gen Malhotra riposted that the pliant colonial bureaucracy (civil servants and police) was the tool of oppression wielded by the Raj to quell the freedom movement, not the army. fact, the strike of naval ratings in Bombay on February 18, 1946, that spread to major cities was what signalled to the British that it was time to pack their bags and decamp.

Gen Harwant Singh rightly concluded that it was highly malicious for anyone to decry the Indian Army as an army of occupation.

Once the political class colluded with the bureaucracy, there was no stopping the descent down the warrant of precedence.�Perhaps the mandarins still see the military as an army of occupation, which should explain why they are pulling out all the stops to belittle it. their effort to further throttle the services through the SCPC.

Course of action

When I was commissioned into the IAF in 1984, the air force pilot had the highest starting pay among the central government Class I officers.�(That is history; the Book has been overwritten several times.)

Smitten by aircraft, bewitched by flying, fascinated by the frisson of foiling gravity, I joined the IAF. The smell of adventure in the air, the prestige associated with the uniform and the decent quality of life it offered were simply inciting appetisers.�Oddly, till I was handed my first pay packet, after prevailing three rigorous years at the National Defence Academy and another exacting year at the Air Force Academy, I did not know what my starting pay would be!

Will I embrace the IAF again?�I doubt.�Gone are those days of chasing quixotic idealism to quench an inner itch.�Now lads want to know how much their sweat will swell the bank account.�Unless military service is made attractive, few will want to join it.�Period.

A decade back, an IAS officer of Maharashtra cadre, a friend, told me he had brought out a paper on the need for officers both military and civilian to bury the hatchet, complement each other, and work together for the larger cause of nation-building instead of cutting the other down to size.�Although his supremacist brethren laughed his treatise out of court, I ditto his standpoint.

Though carved out of the same governmental womb, the professions of arms and file-pushing are as different, alas as cold to each other, as the Ambani brothers.�So, in the long run, the answer lies in delinking both the pay and stature of the armed forces from their civilian counterparts.�

As the nature of jobs, career prospects, hierarchy, attributes, hardships and workplaces are poles apart, the very precept of inter se parity sounds disjointed.�Actually it is preposterous to liken a major general with 33 years of service to a joint secretary having 17 years under his belt.�

The pyramidal promotion-prospects of the forces and everyone-makes-it framework of the civil services are beyond comparison.�Therefore, prudence suggests that instead of indulging in structural tinkering through pay commissions, it makes sense to have a separate pay commission for the defence forces.�That is the only durable solution.

As for now, the recently convened ministerial panel must heed the cry of the armed forces and reinstate its stolen status and benefits.�It is their due.�High morale is the best known force multiplier.

A nation neglects its soldiers at its peril.

M P Anil Kumar is a former fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force.

More posts for armed forces
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 3
In what will change the structure and profile of the Indian armed forces, the Union Cabinet today approved to open up more posts at the top-level.

The cabinet today approved a proposal of the ministry of defence for upgradation of 1,896 posts across the three services. These posts are between Col and Lt-Gen and their parallel ranks in the Navy and Air Force. This will result in quicker promotions as these ranks will be in addition to the existing ranks at the top-level.

The total number of sanctioned posts in the forces remains the same, it is just that there will more openings at the top-level while posts at the middle-level will be rationalised. At present, a vast majority of officers do not make beyond the Lt-Col level. It was at this level that a majority of officers were retiring or were seeking premature release due to stagnation.

This is seen as a major step within the forces to improve career mobility, to fulfil aspirations and to achieve effectiveness by bringing down age profile of commanding officers. The decision of the Cabinet was based on phase-II of the Ajay Vikram Singh Committee (AVSC) report.

The Cabinet also approved the proposal for the reduction in the regular cadre and corresponding increase in the support cadre consisting of short service commissioned (SSC) officers and re-employed officers (for Army). The SSC officers will now comprise about 60 per cent of all ranks at the lower level, that is Lt, Capt, Major and Lt-Col.

Defence minister A.K. Antony played a crucial role in evolving a consensus among the Services. The measures taken today will also lead to progressive promotion of junior batches, without adversely affecting promotional aspects of senior batches, thereby reducing the age profile of officers in select ranks.

The upgradation will be carried out in the Army over a period of five years, in the Navy over the next ten years and in the Air Force over a period of five years. It may be recalled that the ministry of defence had set up a committee in July 16, 2001, under the chairmanship of Ajay Vikram Singh and had representatives of the three services.

The committee submitted its report in February 2003 and the defence minister accorded in principle approval to the report in September 2003.

The following are the additional posts

Army: 1051; Lt-Gen 20(68); Maj-Gen 75(215); Brig 222(867); Col 784(4240).

Air Force: 503; Air Marshall 6(20); Air Vice-Marshall 21(31); Air Comdr 61(68); Gp Capt 285(415).

Navy: 342; Vice-Admiral 4(18); Rear-Admiral14(54); Commodore/Captain 342(485).

Govt approves 1,896 new posts in defence forces

October 03, 2008 | 16:41 IST

To smoothen ruffled feathers of the armed forces over "discriminatory" pay commission report, the government on Friday approved 1,896 new posts in the three defence forces at the top level from colonels to lieutenant generals and their equivalents. "The cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has taken a decision to implement the Phase-II of Ajai Vikram Singh Committee report," Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dashmunsi told reporters soon after the meeting.

The implementation of Phase II of the report that recommended creation of the additional posts will ensure quicker promotions to army, navy and air force officers. The decision is also aimed at stemming the high rate of attrition among middle-rung officers from majors to colonels and their equivalents in the three services, which already face a shortage of about 13,000 officers, mostly in the middle-rung. The move will cost the exchequer Rs 8.44 crore annually, government sources said.

Under the proposal, the army will get about 1,051 new posts upgraded in select ranks and it will be implemented over a five-year period.

The upgraded or created posts included 20 lieutenant generals, 75 major generals, 222 brigadiers and 734 colonels.

The army already has 61 lt generals, 199 major generals, 824 brigadiers and 3,389 colonels serving it at present.

The navy, on the other hand, would get 342 posts of commanders upgraded to select grade ranks from within the authorised strength of the Indian Navy. But this would be done over 10 years.

The Cabinet approved the creation of four new vice admiral, 14 rear admiral and 324 commodore and captain ranks under the AVSC report.

Navy already has 15 vice admirals, 43 rear admirals and 418 commodores and captains serving it at present.

The air force too would get 503 new posts by restructuring of the officer cadre of select ranks over a five-year period.

That would comprise of six air marshals, 21 air vice marshals, 61 air commodore and 415 group captains.

Already, the IAF has an existing strength of 22 air marshals, 47 air vice marshals, 131 air commodores and 476 group captains serving at present.

With the armed forces not attracting enough talent in recent times and with premature retirements plaguing them the government had set-up the committee under former Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh to suggest ways of making the services attractive as a career for the youth.

Based on the committee's recommendations for restructuring of the officer cadre, the government implemented the Phase I of the report concerning lower rungs from captains to lt colonels in the army and their equivalents in the navy and air force in 2004.

US drone raid kills 9 in Pak
A pilotless drone aircraft

Islamabad, Oct. 3 (Reuters): A US missile strike in a Pakistani tribal region known as a haven for Taliban and al Qaida fighters killed at least nine people today, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

A television report put the toll as high as 21.

Intelligence officials said a pilotless drone aircraft launched the attack at around 1530GMT in the village of Mohammad Khel, 30km west of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

“One missile hit the house of Daud Jan,” said one of the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Pakistani military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said he had no information. One intelligence official said nine people were killed, including foreigners. Taliban sources in the area later told Reuters eight were killed and seven wounded. Dawn News reported 21 were killed, including 16 foreigners.

Frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, US forces have in the past month carried out eight missile strikes by pilotless drones and a commando raid on the Pakistani side of the border.

The US strikes into Pakistan, in particular a September 3 raid by ground troops, have angered Pakistan, straining ties between the allies and leading to tension along the border which Pakistani forces have vowed to defend.

Earlier today, Pakistani intelligence officials reported another US airstrike on the North Waziristan village of Datta Khel, closer to the Afghan border. Abbas contradicted that account, saying the airstrike was carried out by the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force on a target across the border in Afghanistan.

On the frontline of CHANGE

They have fire in their belly and a smile on their face. They are breaking stereotypes, battling natural disasters, facing bullets from insurgents and daring to be different every day of their lives. Shruba Mukherjee meets lady officers in the defence services and learns how for them their job is their jasba (passion)

They have fire in their belly, but believe in serving with a smile. And that ‘service’ may be facing bullets from the insurgents, battling with tsunami, evacuating an injured sailor in the middle of the sea or ensuring that their colleagues fighting in the front can get their supplies ready.

They are the lady officers in the defence services — Army, Navy, Air Force — and Central Para military forces, who have "dared to be different."

If the saying that 'success means building houses with the stones thrown at you,' needs examples, it has to be the women in uniform. Majority of them have joined the Defence Forces as they wanted to break stereotypes, sought to get rid of nine-to-five desk jobs and eager to take up new challenges.

Ask Major Saminder Kaur of the Indian Army about what she gets out of the uniform and pat comes her reply, "Oh! I get that kick, that sense of being empowered. Whenever I visit a public place and people look at me in uniform, I can see the appreciation in their eyes and it means a lot to me."

Says Lt Commander Induprabha, Deputy Director (Procurement) of the Indian Navy, "give me a job where every day there is a new challenge, a new dynamism. You can never get bored with your job here."

Wing Commander Lavjeet Kaur of Indian Air Force feels that here, a raw individual is made into a leader.

"Personality is refined, outlook is changed and the officer acquires the ability to bear a lot of stress with patience," she says.

Her colleague in the Indian Army Major Vrishali Chahal echoes the same view when she says, "the responsibilities bestowed upon us at different times in various conditions, be it big or small is a challenge, each moment is a learning phase and accomplishing it each time is like winning Gold for India."

But how does it feel to storm into a male bastion? After all, women officers were inducted in the three wings of the Defence Forces only in the early 90s and even now they are not in the combat force.

‘Soft’ assignments

Reports about sidelining women, giving them "soft" assignments or sexual harassment do come up in the media and often questions are asked how the care-givers in our society are taken care of in the service.

While officially maintaining that they have not faced any subtle discrimination in their places of work, informally a few of them have admitted that they are aware of such cases where Lady officers are sidelined because of their gender and have been given "less important" assignments like those relating to Army Wives' Welfare Associations (AWWA), organisation of ladies welfare and tea parties.

By rule, women are appointed in Logistics, Intelligence, Ordinance, Education and Legal branches in the Defence Forces and do not get combat duties.

The lady officers in Army, Navy and Air Force, who are taken in on short-service commission (except those in Medical branch as they get permanent commission), can continue in service maximum up to 14 years. But neither they get any pension nor there is any scope of guaranteed employment for them in other sectors after they hang their uniform. The officers, however, feel that discrimination is in the minds of the people and not by the organisation as such.

"Suppose I am there in an office party, where I am the only lady officer. As you see in other parties, guests interact among themselves in small groups. Now whenever I go around to join a group, they will stop talking and change the subject," says a lady officer.

"I have asked them why they do it and they say they have to change the topic as they were discussing something 'non-veg.' It is fine as an explanation, but you feel left out," she says. However, Lavjeet believes that once a lady gets into the forces she should think of herself as an officer first and then a woman. "You should not expect or accept any favour from any one because of your gender," she says. But the administrative requirements of a separate accommodation, bathrooms, maternity leave etc are sometimes considered as problems, says an officer.

Separate bathrooms

The Navy cannot have lady officers on regular ships as these vessels do not have separate bathrooms. As a Navy spokesperson says, "the Navy cannot have lady officers on ships due to lack of space and privacy." Women are not employed as sailors. The lady officers' demands for extending maternity leave to six months and opening of crèches especially in field locations for their children are yet to be accepted.

Thus according to the officers, it is basically the game of numbers — more women in uniform would ensure better sensitisation about their requirements.

"The proposal of giving permanent commission to women and admitting them in the National Defence Academy is long overdue," says Captain Kamala Vishnoi of the Indian Army.

"The one basic thing we learned in our training was that everything can be achieved with will power and adequate training. Then why not train the qualified women with will to do so," she says.

However, their colleagues in the para-military forces are a better lot as they are inducted for permanent employment and are entitled to pensions after retirement. CRPF Commandant Seema Dhundia led several counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and also dealt with the law-and-order situation in Ayodhya after the Babri Masjid demolition.

CISF Commandant Sahima Hannan Dutta says that a lady officer in CISF is assigned the same duties, same postings and similar assignments as any other male officer. In fact, the present position of postings in CISF shows that all lady officers are performing duties in the field as opposed to staff jobs which are typically nine-to-five, five days a week and are considered cushy.

Sahima is at present in charge of supervision and administration of Government Building security including the North and South Blocks housing the Prime Minister's Office, Office of the Defence Forces and several important Ministries.

She has also supervised and commanded the security operations of the International Terminal of the Mumbai airport and was in charge of operations and administration and training of 635 staff and sub-officers of armed force of the airport.

Proving a point

But she also recognises that being a lady she has to work more than her male colleagues to prove to her seniors and subordinates that she can be as committed and as hardworking as any other male officer.

Says Vaishali, "any day when I am unable to reach a level of satisfaction at work I try harder the next day. I personally feel if challenges don't exist no human being will be motivated to overcome them or for that matter work.”

To Vaishali, challenges are like math problems, higher the degree of complexity more interesting. "It’s simple, work hard, work smart," she says.

Agrees Induprabha, who was the only lady officer managing and guiding the civil administration in Port Blair about keeping track of the relief materials and then reaching it to those who actually need them most.

It was a Herculean task given the fact that the jetties were practically non-existent and sending relief materials to the cluster of islands was almost impossible. But she worked 24x7 and returned to her mess only when proper inventories were made and relief materials were distributed properly.

"I have my own ways and means of getting jobs done. I had several assignments where I was the only lady officer on the spot and I had to give command to male colleagues, sometimes as old as my father's age. But if you know your subject well, nobody will question you," she says.

It was in appreciation of her professional commitment she was selected to be one of the two lady officers aboard INS Amba, when a pilot project was launched to engage lady officers on ships. It was her responsibility to procure rations for all the 300 sailors on board for the entire sailing period, arrange for their food, ensure the nutritional value of the foodstuff and also test it before serving it on the table.

Lady officers also played a pioneering role in setting up the new naval base at Karwar, near Goa, when Lt Radha Singh, at present Flag Lt to Chief of Naval Staff, was instrumental in putting up on-line inventories and make it easy for the ships to place their requirements.

The best reward for Seema, who led an all-women peace keeping force to Liberia last year, came when the President of Liberia insisted that the 125 odd women personnel from India would guard the Presidential Palace in the strife-torn West African country.

Success at a price

But success comes at a price and Seema knows it better. Even though her children have now grown up (son 17 years and daughter 12), they have not forgiven her for leaving them at her mother's place while she has to report for an outstation assignment.

"I still recall that day when on a very short notice I had to report to our base at Jammu and Kashmir and I had no other option but to drop my children — my son five years and daughter just a few months' old — at my parents' home. I still remember my son's angry face, he did not look at me, nor did he wave at me," says Seema as her eyes turn moist.

Even though her daughter is very proud of her, she keeps on pestering her for leaving the job and sitting at home to give her company.

"She wants me to pick her up from school, to take her to tuitions like her friends' mothers do. And when it comes to career choice, no, she will never don the uniform," says the Commandant who is now heading 88 Mahila Battalion of the CRPF. Similarly, it is a rigorous regimen every day for Shamima, who gets up at six in the morning, send her son to school, cook something for dinner and leave for office at nine.

"On a usual day I leave office at about 1800 hrs and hit the gym for an hour. I reach home at 1930 and supervise my child's studies for an hour before hitting the bed at 2200 hrs," she says. But still they do not want to trade their uniform with anything in this world.

"Our reward is the experience we gain and the respect we get from people. The smile which I saw in the faces of people after receiving food packets in the tsunami-devastated island was worth all the trophies which one might get in her lifetime," says Induprabha.

Shamima has observed that a woman in uniform empowers other women. "My sense of fulfillment stems from the fact that I have been a symbol of empowerment to many women specially students whom I have met," she says.
Perhaps, the love and longing for the uniform is best expressed by Kamala when she says, "it is not just a job, it is a jasba (passion).

India to seal big-ticket military deals

NEW DELHI (AFP) — India said on Friday it was gearing up to seal military contracts worth billions of dollars including a massive fighter jet deal which has prompted a dogfight among global aeronautical giants.

India's move to buy 126 fighter jets worth 12 billion dollars was in its final stages with evaluations of six shortlisted aircraft set to begin next year, Air Chief Marshal Fali Major told a news conference.

"A number of projects now are reaching a conclusion," Major said in New Delhi, referring to contracts due to be awarded.

"The Indian air force is in a state of transformation and we are on the way to modernisation," he said.

US-based Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Russian MiG, Sweden's Saab and French Dassault are vying for the world's richest fighter jet deal in 15 years.

Industry sources said Lockheed Martin's F-16 or Boeing's Super Hornet have already emerged as frontrunners.

The military official's statements came a day after the US Senate endorsed a US-India nuclear deal, removing all hurdles for the resumption of civilian nuclear trade between the two countries after more than three decades.

Experts say the deal will also open doors for the military to buy technology which had been banned for export to India after the US slapped sanctions on the country following its 1998 nuclear weapons tests.

US defence contractors have been lobbying hard to secure deals with India.

Major's comments came less than a week after India and its main arms exporter Russia extended their military ties by 10 years with the sale of 347 tanks and talks on collaboration on a fifth-generation fighter jet.

Most of the big-ticket hardware from countries including Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the United States is destined for the technology-hungry air force.

"The Indian air force needs the capability to support India's resurgent growth and so we are phasing out old equipment with new hardware," Major said.

The air force will also buy six Hercules transport planes from Lockheed Martin for 968 million dollars and will begin final talks for six air-to-air refuelling planes with either Airbus or the Russians this month, Major said.

The first of two Israeli Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control System radar systems worth 1.1 billion dollars would reach India in January, other officials said.

Major, meanwhile, also said India had begun upgrading its military installations and airbases on the border with China to counter any possible threat from its giant Asian neighbour.

"A comprehensive infrastructure development programme has been undertaken in the northeast where roads and advanced landing grounds are being beefed up," he said.

"By 2009 we would have our Sukhoi-30 multi-role fighter jets deployed on the eastern sector," Major said as other officials said military engineers were working at high speed to fortify the Sino-Indian border.

The Indian military says China has also built strategic roads and air fields close to disputed frontier regions.

The two populous countries which have fought a brief but a bitter border war in 1962 still have territorial disputes that not been resolved despite 13 rounds of high-level talks.

Indian Army gets advanced amphibious warship
Oct 3rd, 2008 | By Sindh Today | Category: India

Mumbai, Oct 3 (IANS) One of the most advanced amphibious warships of the Indian Navy, the INS Shardul, was Friday formally affiliated to the 5 Armoured Regiment of Indian Army, at the Mumbai naval harbour.

The ceremony was conducted Friday morning aboard INS Shardul, a large landing ship tank, a defence spokesperson said.

Rear Admiral Anil K. Chopra, flag officer commanding, Western Fleet, Maj. Gen. G.S. Malhi, Commandant of 5 Armoured Regiment Col. R.K. Magotra signed the Charter of Affiliation with Cdr. Shailendra Singh, the commanding officer of INS Shardul.

Shardul, meaning the tiger, symbolises agility, strength and valour and has been built by the Garden Reach workshop, Kolkata.

Loaded with state-of-the-art equipment, INS Shardul is an amphibious warship capable of transporting various kinds of combat operations, personnel and accomplishing all objectives of landing (beaching) operations.

The 5 Armoured Regiment holds some of the most potent and advanced tanks in the world.

Since 2002, the regiment has been at the cutting edge of the mechanised operations.

Though the armed forces have a long tradition of ‘affiliating’ their units, the modern military trend of all three services - army, navy and air force - fighting wars jointly has added an operational aspect to the tradition, observed Rear Admiral Chopra in his welcome remarks.

Air Marshal Radhakrishnan takes over Southern Air Command
Daily News & Updates
India Defence Premium

Air Marshal S Radhakrishnan has taken over as the Air Officer Commanding–in-Chief, Southern Air Command of IAF. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, he has flown over 4000 hours on a variety of combat and trainer aircraft.

He is a Qualified Flying Instructor and a Fighter Combat Leader. He was commissioned into the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force in June 1970.

The Air Marshal has held a variety of operational and staff appointments during his career. His operational assignments include command of a frontline fighter squadron and an Air Defence Direction Centre in the sensitive Rajasthan sector.

He was the Air Officer Commanding of a fighter base in the Eastern sector and the Principal Director of Offensive Operations at Air Headquarters. He was also the Senior Officer-in-Charge Administration at Training Command and on promotion to the rank of Air Marshal was appointed Senior Air Staff Officer at Training Command.

Prior to assuming charge as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Southern Air command he was the Commander-in-Chief of the strategically important Andaman and Nicobar Command, the only operational integrated Command of the Indian Armed Forces where formations of Army, Navy, Air Force and even the Coast Guard are placed under the Command of a single Commander.

The Air Marshal was awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal by the President in January 2002.

IAF makeover in decade, says Air Force chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 3
In view of the rapid acquisition of new aircrafts, helicopters, radars and equipment, the country will see a very different Air force in the next seven-10 years while immediate steps have been taken to build infrastructure in the northeast, said the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Fali Homi Major.

The Air Force is upgrading 39 of its airfields across the country to make them capable of handling all varieties of aircraft. The Air Force chief was addressing a press conference on the 76th Air Force Day in the national Capital here today. He said “our biggest challenge is to be build capacities to address all levels of conflict”. In reply to a question on the Chinese capacity building in Tibet, he said we had already planned to augment infrastructure and the Prime Minister had announced it.

Listing out the changes, the Air Force chief said the Sukhoi-30 MKI was being manufactured here and 230 of these would be inducted by 2014. The other two jets of the VIP squadron would arrive in January next year. The advanced warning and control system would be here in January.

The induction of the hawk jet trainer, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics limited (HAL), has started.

The technical evaluation for buying the 126 medium-range multi-role aircraft (MMRCA) is on and the flight evaluation will commence early next year after short-listing. The evaluation process to buy eight VVIP choppers is on, said the Air Force chief while adding that radars were being built within India and Rohini was fine equipment. Upgradation of AN 32, MiG 29 and Mirage 200 had started.

The IAF was also working to replace the IL 76 transport aircraft. The request of interest will be issued to acquire very heavy transport aircraft. The IAF wants six more mid-flight re-fuelling aircraft. Price negotiations had begun to purchase either the IL 78 or the Airbus 330. On manpower, he said the problem was in recruitment and retention of the officers.

Learn from the US
Needed a department of homeland security
by Harjap Singh Aujla

THE scourge of terrorism has not spared any major country. Even a super power like the US had its share of embarrassing moments. The US used to have a multitude of agencies to deal with the menace of terrorism, but in the absence of a unified nationwide command and control system, it was becoming difficult to deal with this monster.

The magnitude of the embarrassing death and destruction on September 11, 2001, was so enormous that the nation was left with no alternative but to move into a swift and decisive forestalling and preventive regime. The Department of Homeland Security is the end product of the US efforts to rid itself of the scourge of terrorism. After the latest bomb blasts in the heart of India’s national capital, we are left with no alternative but to create our own, equally broad-based department of homeland security.

On a cumulative scale, over the years, India has suffered much more destruction in terms of loss of life, limb and property, but we are uniquely bestowed with so much patience and fortitude that we take every tragedy in stride and move on as if nothing had happened. This uncommon tolerance in our psyche has emboldened the would-be terrorists into bigger and more destructive actions in future.

To start with, the US had a fiercely independent Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Once its powerful director is appointed, with the mutual consent of the President and the US Congress, no authority, however powerful, is permitted to interfere in its investigative and professional independence. On the contrary, its counterpart in India, the Central Bureau of Investigation, is firmly under the control of the Prime Minister and the Home Ministry. In order to give more teeth to the FBI, it has been made an integral part of the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

The US is highly prone to hurricanes, twisters, tropical storms, river flooding, forest fires, earthquakes and other catastrophic natural calamities. Since the states, even in the US, have poorer fiscal resources compared to the Federal Government, a centrally funded “Federal Emergency Management Agency” has been in existence for decades in that country. This agency has also been made a part of the newly created department.

In order to control entry and immigration into the US and to accord citizenship rights to the legally admitted aliens (green card holders), there is an agency called the “US Immigration and Naturalization Service”, which used to be administered as a separate agency under the US Department of State. This agency has now been renamed the “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service” (CIS) and merged into the Department of Homeland Security.

This agency has started finger printing of all incoming foreigners. Previously, every illegal entrant had a lot of rights of appeal against the actions of the immigration and naturalisation service. He/she could not be deported without the culmination of a prolonged litigation process in the US court system. Now, under the new department, the citizenship and immigration service has the right to deport the suspects and criminals to the countries of their origin without going through elaborate legal proceedings. Even the legally admitted aliens (those holding green cards), if caught and convicted of a serious crime, can be deported to the country of origin.

Some of the alien registration card holders are subjected to elaborate finger printing process involving all ten fingers before their applications are approved for citizenship. Applications for citizenship can be kept under name and identity check for several years until it is established beyond doubt that the nation will not be harmed by conferring citizenship on the alien.

These stringent measures have helped in reducing crimes against the state and the citizens of the US. Some suspicious people are not even allowed to land in the US. They are bundled up at the ports of entry and deported back to their countries of origin in the returning flights. Such tough actions, which cannot be appealed, have had the desired results. A criminal now thinks twice before embarking on a journey to the US.

In India, our problem goes back to 1970, when hordes of refugees poured into the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam from across its border with the then East Pakistan. More than 10 million refugees entered India in a year’s time. Even after the end of the Bangladesh war, when there was a pro-Indian government in Bangladesh, no genuine effort was made to deport these foreigners back to their newly liberated country. A majority of those crossing illegally into India stayed put in their new home.

The careless and laidback attitude demonstrated by the authorities of India and the affected states, encouraged so many of their brethren in Bangladesh to enter India clandestinely. According to some estimates, there are 25 million illegal Bangladeshis living and working in India today. Among them are several criminals and anti-India elements. These sleeper cells normally lie low, but when the need arises, they can become a part of the network of terror in the country. India has not been able to identify and deal with such elements.

The intelligence agencies in Pakistan and Bangladesh have infiltrated into this Bangladeshi refugee population and they are using these elements as the carriers of explosives and contraband materials. The undocumented refugees from Bangladesh have not confined their activities only to the states surrounding Bangladesh, but have spread to virtually all the states of India. It appears that the Government of India has no will to deport these elements. Several of them have acquired ration cards in their new cities and towns and many have got registered as voters.

Every passing day is making it more and more difficult to identify and deport these illegal Bangladeshis. No efforts have been made to fingerprint these people to create a database, which could be helpful in identifying the criminals, by comparing their data with that obtained from the scenes of terror strikes.

The present situation in India is not conducive to fighting terrorism. After a new terrorist incident, the Central Government routinely passes on the blame to the state governments and if the state government belongs to an opposition party, its government takes no time in passing on the blame to the Central Government. Such a blame-game hampers proper investigation.

Right now the states in India, particularly those ruled by the BJP, are resisting Central intervention in their sphere of influence. But the American experience of the Department of Homeland Security indicates that in the long run the states will benefit from the “Indian Department of Homeland Security”. Why should the states not allow the Central Government to assume full responsibility in dealing with the incidents of terrorism? In the US, the Department of Homeland Security has huge sums of money at its disposal.

It aids the states, financially and logistically, in upgrading their security apparatus. They acquire and distribute new weapons to the state law-enforcing agencies and they impart training in the use of these weapons. Even in the event of devastating floods, earthquakes, twisters and hurricanes, the department undertakes relief and rehabilitation efforts and the states are required only to cooperate with it. I think India’s financially poor states will, in the long run, gain a lot from the Indian Department of Homeland Security.

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