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Monday, 6 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 06 Oct

National Interest

Were the Service Chiefs left with another Subtle, skilled and honourable option

Shekhar Gupta and the Indian Express- friends of the Indian Soldier, no doubt deserve to be congratulated on his bold and brilliant analysis of the situation arising out of the ongoing differences between the soldier and the babu.

Before going into the justifications or implications of the situation ,it is important to understand and underscore one important point.

The serving soldier and the veteran are inseparable parts of one larger family. A significant proportion of today’s soldiery is drawn from the sons and grand sons of veterans- Politicians and Babus do not send their precious off springs into such hazardous careers .What happens to a serving soldier today, effects the veteran immediately and will effect the soldier of today, perpetually and even more severely after he becomes a veteran himself. During these two Avtars, the soldier and veteran share the same commitment to discipline, loyalty, the constitution and to National interest.

Agitating veterans; rather than egging the service chiefs on, have been acutely conscious of the long-term implications of their acts of protest. It will be wrong and unfair to imagine any unholy alliance or instigation. Veterans as well as the chiefs have shown exemplary constraint in the face of serious provocation and will hopefully continue to do so unless the vindictive riposte as envisaged by Shekhar brings about a situation with potential for catastrophic consequences.

A strong government may well be tempted to teach the brass a lesson or two but a strong military leadership emerging in spite of safeguards built into the system of promotions and appointments by an ever suspicious bureaucracy and the politician, is by far a more fearful eventuality.

The article more or less endorses the fact that the angst and suspicion of the soldier – Veteran fraternity is fully justified by the self serving and vindictive acts of the babus and the insensitive, inapt and callous attitude of the political leadership towards the genuine interests and serious grievances of the soldier fraternity- Not just through the Sixth Pay Commission but indeed over the six decades since 1947; without any signs of a let up.

The instant action of the chiefs in delaying the notification of a cabinet decision and the issuance of signals down the military chains of command are NOT acts of defiance as being made out . These are acts of communication and confidence building so that soldiers sailors and airmen are informed and reassured that their

genuine interests are under serious consideration by the government of which the chiefs are an integral part. This was indeed essential to check disaffection and despondency taking the better of discipline in units. Reading these as some kind of collective disobedience is foolish, to say the least. Thankfully the soldier and veteran of today understand their unique responsibility to safeguard national interest well beyond his or her own personal interest. Their patriotism, loyalty, discipline, commitment to secular democracy and our constitution remains unshakable. The service chiefs are not petty, unthinking and self centred men- a moral stature to which our scheming babus and politicians can not lay any claim. Lack of faith and communication between commanders and their commands could be extremely dangerous.

There are two more issues that need to be understood by all including the fourth Estate. First, the question of ‘Civilian Authority’ being supreme. The services have no doubts or reservations on this. Their conduct since independence bears testimony if testimony was needed. But then; If the political authority decide to abrogate this authority or perhaps mortgage it to the sycophantic bureaucracy, as has happened, and the later make it their objective to achieve absolute supremacy for their own cadre by throwing the principles of justice , fair play and reason to the winds, the rest of the country and the Aam Admi, can not be blamed for crying foul. This is exactly what has happened and this alone explains the public sympathy for the soldier. Does the Parliament of India really approve the policy that Babudom is indeed the supreme civilian authority in our democracy. There is need for our parliamentarians to take a call on this vital question and in doing so they must be exhorted to rise above the expediency of their immediate and narrow political interest. National interest must remain supreme.

Second; Shekhar Gupta raises the all important question” Was this the only way to handle this”. Given 60 years of relentless and unabashed cynical, scheming, vindictive and insensitive crusade against the soldier, did the politico - bureaucratic combine leave the soldier with any choice? Discipline is not synonymous with abject surrender, submissiveness and subservience. This is not the material with which the Indian soldier is crafted. Nor should it be so. Did the political leadership including the prime Minister, the Finance Minister our Supreme Commander, The President of India or for that matter the supreme party leaders in government or Opposition, indicate any interest, understanding, or sympathy towards the wellbeing and honour of the silent soldier at any stage of the proceedings?

Could you, Shekhar Gupta, be so kind , considerate and supportive even at this late hour to show some light. We are waiting with bated breath to know what other subtle, skilled and honourable management on the part of the service chiefs could have avoided even this minimal and easily manageable level of inherent conflict potential. The soldier is prepared and indeed keenly desirous of an honourable resolution even at considerable cost to his own personal interests provided National interest is safeguarded and fair play is assured.

Brig RS Chhikara,

Veteran, Indian Army

Pay Commission: heed the silent protest
S.G. Vombatkere
05 Oct 2008

Pay scales are important to soldiers, and this term includes all personnel of India’s army, navy and air force, but status (izzat) is far more important. The first is important to satisfy the corporeal and temporal needs of the fighting man and his family; the second is what motivates him to fight for his country and if need be, to sacrifice his life.

In our increasingly materialistic society, the two are inextricably linked. The way a soldier is treated by the public at large and by bureaucracy in particular when he is on duty (official interactions) and off duty (on leave, at a personal level) is part of how the soldier understands where and how he fits into India's society.

The public is not, in general, sufficiently interested in the soldier to understand the reason for the rank structure, and cannot understand what the soldier does or the stresses and risks he undergoes, or that 90% retire before the age of 40 years. Then there are (mercifully few, but influential) people who think the defence budget is a waste of money.

The bureaucrat is known to harbour a sense of superiority vis-à-vis the soldier. The fact of a Brigadier with 24 years service having to deal with a Deputy Commissioner with half that service but equivalent pay adds to that sense; the bureaucrat usually treats the ordinary jawan who gets paid less than a police constable dismissively. Public disinterest and thinly veiled bureaucratic hostility rankle in soldiers’ minds, but the discipline of military training keeps the soldier silent.

Successive Central Pay Commissions (CPCs) have brought down the inter se status of all ranks of the Defence Services with respect to the bureaucracy and police. The recent Sixth CPC is consistent in that respect, with yet another step downwards. For many years, the Defence Services have been asking that since the soldier and the ex-soldier form by far the largest chunk of all government employees and pensioners respectively, the CPC should have representation of at least one serving soldier. But the request has been routinely, even contemptuously, brushed aside.

Because of the consistent degradation of the pay and status of the soldier, the status of senior Defence Services officers vis-à-vis civilian officials has been falling with every CPC. This is nothing but a repeated slap on the face of the soldier amounting to, “Yours not to reason why, yours but to do and die”. All this has been borne patiently and silently by the soldier, under successive insensitive, uncaring or apathetic governments.

The soldier is routinely called out in his secondary role to aid civil power during insurgency, social unrest, natural or man-made disasters, almost always because the civil administration (bureaucrats and police under their control) has proved incompetent in its primary role. If this situation is exacerbated by degrading the soldiers’ status vis-à-vis the bureaucracy and police, it cannot be viewed by the soldier as but a deliberate insult.

The three Service Chiefs conveyed to the Defence Minister that the Sixth CPC Review Committee that went into the anomalies of soldiers” pay once again without Defence Service representation, actually heightened the anomalous situation instead of remedying it. This culminated in their stating that the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission may not be possible because of the sensitivities of soldiers constrained to silence. Sadly, this was interpreted as breach of discipline.

The Indian Express e-newspaper on 28 September 2008 reported: “Service Chiefs back off after Antony tough talk.” The Defence Minister said words to the effect that “...the armed forces cannot unilaterally decide not to implement a Union Cabinet decision and that there was no way the UPA government would let them get away with it.” If the Defence Minister imagines that the Sixth CPC recommendations will bring cheer to the soldier for Diwali, he is sadly misinformed, because it has actually further diminished the soldiers’ status.

On the other hand, it heightens the soldiers’ dismay that his General, Admiral and Air Chief Marshal have been collectively “disciplined.” The Defence Service Chiefs’ acquiescence is not because they were intimidated into submission by the Defence Minister’s “tough talk,” but because of their mature understanding of India’s democracy and desire not to cause a constitutional crisis. Once again we have evidence of the patience and silence of the strong, and the thoughtless actions of the feckless and weak.

Mr. Veerappa Moily’s off-the-cuff remark on NDTV on 28 September 2008: “Men in arms, up in arms,” that the soldier appears to speak about these issues only after he retires, is evidence of his unforgivable ignorance of the conditions of military service that (necessarily) deny the serving soldier the right of freedom of speech and expression and freedom to form associations or unions under Article 19 (a) and (c) of the Constitution. He might like to cogitate on what might happen to India if, God forbid, the suggestive title of NDTV’s programme came true.

Soldiers who have the experience and honour of commanding men in the risky and life-threatening circumstances of military operations understand human nature in general, and in particular of the fighting man, much better than pen-pushing bureaucrats or politicians. It is mature understanding of human nature that a patient and silent man is not weak. Rather, he is patient and silent because he is strong. Testing the patience and misinterpreting the silence of the Indian soldier with respect to the Sixth CPC is not in the best interests of the nation.

Maj. Gen S.G. Vombatkere, a PhD from IIT, Madras, is a retired Army officer

IAF not yet ready for women fighter pilots

PTI | October 05, 2008 | 19:29 IST

With the ethos of the armed forces being overly male, it will take some more time till Indian women don the uniform and the gear of a fighter pilot and fly the combat aircraft for the country's defence.

"There is no denying that the woman staff has expressed desire to fly fighter jets, but the Indian Air Force is not ready as of now," Air Chief Marshal F H Major, who was recently in Shillong, told media persons in Shillong.

However, Major revealed that the force was in the process of carrying out studies to pave the way for fairer sex in the combat roles.

"We are carrying out physiological studies. We also have to examine certain psychological issues involving the women and the job. Only when these are done, can the women officers be cleared for the new roles," Major said.

In 2006, a tri-service study recommended excluding women from close-combat roles 'where chances of physical contact with the enemy are high'.

The chiefs of staff committee recommended in early August that women might be granted permanent commission in select cadres. The Centre a few days back had announced that women in the armed forces would be granted permanent commission in non-combatant roles with same privileges, rights and duties as their male counterparts.

Some senior Air force officials felt allowing women in combat roles involves not only questions of culture, principle and ethics, but also operational demands of the fighting forces -- such as the physical ability to fight, the possibility of hostage situations and the public response that such threats can evoke.

"India is socio-economically and culturally different. Things have to be looked through these perspectives also," the air chief said.

Unlike other countries, in India women were first taken into short-service commission in the early 1990s, even though they have been in armed forces for about 80 years in medical and nursing course.

In the Air Force, women are in ground duties and fly transport aircraft. There are 793 women in the IAF as on date. Of these 63 are from the flying branch, 132 from the technical branch, 126 from the medical and dental branch and the remaining from the non-technical ground duty branches.

In the flying branch, women officers have been flying AN-32, Avro and Dornier aircraft in the transport stream. They are now going to be inducted in advanced platforms like IL-76 aircraft.

Candid Zardari accepts J&K militants are terrorists
Press Trust of India
Sunday, October 05, 2008 (New York)

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has admitted that India is not a threat to his country and described the militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir as terrorists, a statement made perhaps for the first time by a top Pakistani leader.

"India has never been a threat to Pakistan. I, for one, and our democratic government is not scared of Indian influence abroad," Zardari told Wall Street Journal in an interview.

He spoke of the militant groups operating in Kashmir as "terrorists", the paper said, noting that former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf would more likely have called them "freedom fighters".

Replying to a question, Zardari said he had no objection to the India-US nuclear cooperation pact so long as Pakistan is treated "at par".

"Why would we begrudge the largest democracy in the world getting friendly with one of the oldest democracy?" he said.

Asked whether he would consider a free-trade agreement with India, the paper said he responded with a "string of welcome, perhaps even historic, surprises."

While seeking better ties with New Delhi, he noted, "There is no other economic survival for nations like us. We have to trade with our neighbours first."

About Pakistan's economic crisis, the central bank has about two months' worth of foreign currency reserves left to pay for the country's imports of oil and food, Zardari said he looks to the world to "give me $100 billion."

The paper says he imagines Pakistani cement factories being constructed to provide for India's huge infrastructure needs, Pakistani textile mills meeting Indian demand for blue jeans, Pakistani ports being used to relieve the congestion at Indian ones.

Against the backdrop of the US-Pakistan row over the cross-border raids in the restive tribal belt by coalition forces from Afghanistan, Zardari said, "I am not going to fall for this position that it's an unpopular thing to be an American friend. I am an American friend."

About the Pakistani security forces firing on the US aircraft, he said it was merely an incident, "and while incidents do happen, they are not important."

However, he admitted that the US is carrying out Predator missile strikes on the Pakistani soil with his government's consent, the paper claimed.

"We have an understanding, in the sense that we're going after an enemy together," he said.

Zardari also acknowledged the problem that had bedeviled past efforts at US-Pakistani cooperation, particularly in intelligence sharing: the widely held suspicion that Pakistani intelligence services continue to cooperate with, and even arm, the Taliban.

"You know, you keep an uglier alternative around so that you may not be asked to leave," he said, in reference to allegations that while Musharraf was fighting Islamic radicals with one hand, he was protecting them with the other.

Zardari refused to go into further detail other than to say he "solved the problem"; the head of Pakistani intelligence agency ISI Nadeem Taj was replaced earlier this week by Ahmad Shuja Pasha.

"We want to be able to share (US) intelligence," adding, "We need helicopters, we need night goggles, we need equipment of that sort."

He stressed the need for precision and finesse in fighting Islamic militants, rather than large-scale military force. "My eventual concept is that we should be taking them on as they are, as criminals."

Of Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, he said, "The minute I make anybody my enemy, he becomes as big as I am."

First BrahMos squadron by 2012
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 5
The IAF is expected to have its first squadron equipped with the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile by 2012. The missile would add a tremendous punch to the IAF's long-range precision attack capability.

"Trials for the missile's air launched version are scheduled to commence in 2009. The IAF's plans call for the missile to be operational with at least one squadron by 2012," chief executive officer of BrahMos Aerospace, Dr A.S. Pillai, told The Tribune here today.

The Su-30 is the chosen platform with which the missile would be integrated and the requisite modification work is underway. Given its size and weight, only one missile would be carried by a Su-30 on its centerline pylon.

The product of a joint venture between India and Russia, the surface-to-surface version of BrahMos has already been inducted into the Indian Army and the Indian Navy. A number of naval ships are equipped with this missile, which is the only supersonic cruise missile in the world.

Dr Pillai said an underwater launch version of the missile has also been developed and is awaiting trials. The missile would be launched underwater from submarines to attack surface land or sea faring targets. "We are now waiting for the Navy to make an underwater launch platform available for the trials," he said.

The BrahMos has a speed of Mach 2.8 and a range pf 290 km, while enhancing its target penetration capabilities vis-à-vis subsonic missiles, it reduces the enemy's reaction time by one-third. The missile and its associated systems are also compatible with the Network Centric warfare.

Dr Pillai, who is also the chief controller, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said the endeavour was now to expand the production of the missile. "We would like to stabilise production at about 100 missiles a year," he said.

A host of public as well as private enterprises are engaged in the manufacture of the BrahMos missile. What is encouraging in the public-private enterprise is that over a hundred private firms are engaged in its production, Dr Pillai said.

On the heels of the supersonic BrahMos is a hypersonic variant, which could have speeds in excess of Mach 5. A report from Moscow estimated that India could purchase up to 1,000 BrahMos missiles for its armed forces in the next decade, and export 2,000 to other countries during the same period.

A number of foreign countries have also expressed interest in the BrahMos missile. While declining to name the countries, the DRDO chief controller said interested nations include those from NATO.

Chandigarh may be home to IAF’s Hercules

New Delhi, October 5
The Indian Air Force is likely to base its six C-130J Hercules transport aircraft for carrying out Special Forces operations at Chandigarh and Hindon air bases near Delhi.

"The IAF is actively considering Chandigarh and Hindon air bases as the initial home bases for the C-130J Hercules. A final decision on the permanent bases for the aircraft will be taken once the acquisition is complete. A couple of the aircraft will certainly be at Hindon though," a senior IAF official said here today.

The IAF zeroed in on Chandigarh as one of the home bases for the aircraft due to the presence of Special Forces troops in the area and its proximity to Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.

"Most of the operations of our Special Forces are carried out in Jammu and Kashmir. We need to have our aircraft close to the area, where our troops operate and Chandigarh seems to be fitting the bill," he said.

Chandigarh is also currently used by the Air Force to create an "air-bridge" between the plains and high-altitude Siachen Glacier and various parts of Jammu and Kashmir.

Home to the two workhorses - IL-76 heavylift and AN-32 transport aircraft - of the Air Force, Chandigarh air base houses two squadrons of these aircraft for air maintenance of Army troops in Leh and Siachen.

"Chandigarh, being a transport base, already has the infrastructure and experience of hosting 'big birds' like the IL-76s and AN-32s. It can easily operate the C-130J mediumlift transport aircraft," the IAF official said.

Hindon, on the other hand, is in contention because the base is close to Delhi and Manesar, where the elite National Security Guard commandos are based.

"The NSG commandos are also required to be rushed in to different parts of the country at very short notice. So, we have to place the C-130J aircraft close to them also," said the official.

Though Palam airfield is closer to Manesar, it was not considered for C-130J stationing, as it already has heavy commercial and military aircraft traffic, and may not be suitable for placing a Special Operations aircraft which has to fly out at short notice, officials said.

This air base is used by IAF to train its own Special Forces - popularly known as 'Garuds' - who were recently deployed during the 'Red-Flag' NATO air exercise at the US' Nellis air base. IAF had for the first time participated in the exercise this August-September.

The IAF is working with US-based Lockheed Martin for development of infrastructure at these bases, where the C-130Js would be stationed immediately after induction.

Lockheed Martin India's Chief Executive Officer Douglas A Hartwick, asked about the plans for C-130Js for the IAF, said the company's infrastructure division would be working with the Air Force to develop infrastructure at these air bases for C-130Js.

India had last year signed a deal worth a billion US dollars for procuring six C-130J Hercules aircraft for carrying out special operations. — PTI

Checking piracy
Even as our naval strength is inadequate to meet the emerging situation in the region, it is disgusting to see the government’s weakness in not asserting its authority in the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean
Your call to the government that it’s about time to counter the menace of piracy is timely. (“Indian seafarers turn wary of sailing through Somalian waters”, Mint, 1 October, and Quick Edit, 2 October). The defence minister’s statement that “a strategy to counter the threat of piracy would be put in place soon” and “ruling out any hot pursuit of pirates” reflects poor preparedness and the slow pace with which authorities react. Even as our naval strength is inadequate to meet the emerging situation in the region, it’s disgusting to see the government’s weakness in not asserting its authority in the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. It’s not enough to crow about economic growth when little is done to protect our shipping from piracy.
—S. Subramanyan

The Quick Edit

Unreasonable demands”, Mint, 29 September, did not do justice to the issues at hand.
The three Armed Forces chiefs have rightly acted by bringing to the notice of the government the serious anomalies in the Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC) award approved by the Union cabinet.
It’s clear that Armed Forces chiefs acted in the national interest, for such an issue has a direct bearing on the morale and the fighting spirit of the Armed Forces. All previous requests by the chiefs to give justice to the Armed Forces fell on deaf ears. The government, by its stubbornness in not acceding to the genuine demands of the Armed Forces, has ensured that despondency sets in.
Soon after the CPC recommendations were announced in March, various anomalies were pointed out by different departments, including the allied services, academia, the police and the military, among others, and civil servants were tasked with the complex and challenging job of fine-tuning the report. Regrettably, these recommendations of the committee of secretaries that was constituted to harmonize the CPC distorted the final pay scales to the detriment of the Armed Forces in relation to the paramilitary. These distortions at the lieutenant colonel and equivalent level have immediate operational implications and were brought to the notice of the ministry of defence in late August, but from the current pattern of events, it’s evident that the defence minister was not apprised of the enormity of this bureaucratic insensitivity. Why the committee of secretaries came to this decision is intriguing and merits scrutiny at the highest political level.
The implication of this revision of pay bands is that a commandant of the Border Security Force (BSF) and coast guard, who till now was deemed to be junior to an army lieutenant colonel and a naval commander — they wear similar rank badges — will not only receive much higher pay but will have legitimate reason to consider himself to be senior to his military counterparts. The current operational directives to the Indian military as derived from the Constitution envisage that the three Armed Forces of the nation are the lead services and that in times of war, the paramilitary and the coast guard will function under the unified command of the military. The current anomalies in the CPC will completely distort this carefully arrived at hierarchy and given the ongoing low intensity conflict and internal security tasking of the Indian Army, BSF and the Central Reserve Police Force, serious operational imbalances will invariably occur.
Please appreciate that defence personnel have lost their fundamental right to strike work and bargain their emoluments like civilian employees. Even the police personnel can do that. Is it not the responsibility of the government to look into the needs of the defence personnel?
— Col S.L. Narula (retd)

Rectify the anomaly

The Sixth Central Pay Commission has changed the date of annual increment of the 55-lakh Central Government employees. This is immature. Now, there shall be a uniform date of increment i.e. July 1 of every year. An employee completing six months or above will be eligible for increment. The first increment shall be granted on July 1, 2006. This change has been introduced to remove the anomalies with juniors. However, in the process, the Pay Commission has created more anomalies. While some will get the annual increment after six months, others don’t get it even after completing a full year of service in the revised structure. The employees whose date of increment was from February to June would get their annual increments late by 1-5 months. Worse, this isn’t a one-time loss, but recurring loss every year.

Neither the Pay Commission nor the government has assessed the impact of the change. Five-month loss is not a small amount for an employee. Those retiring on June 30 or earlier will be hard hit. The government should rectify this anomaly on priority.

AMARNATH SHARMA, Nangal Township

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