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Monday, 13 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 13 Oct





The service chiefs’ protest

The real issue is that India needs comprehensive military reforms, not mere salary increases for officers

Sushant K. Singh and Nitin Pai

In 1905, Lord George Nathaniel Curzon resigned as the British viceroy of India. The reason—his feud with Lord Kitchener, commander-in-chief of the British Indian Army, over civilian control of the Armed Forces. Kitchener was a war hero and held emotional sway over British voters. London, obviously, asked Curzon to go.

A similar scene is now being re-enacted in a democratic India. The three defence services, in unison, have refused to accept the orders of the Union cabinet on the Sixth Central Pay Commission award. The three service chiefs cited “the larger interest of the services” in an open communication to the rank and file.

The defence services have two main grouses against the current pay award: reduction in status of military officers and lower pay than their civilian counterparts. While the pay commission and the government have gone by existent parities, the services refer to the extant Warrant of Precedence. The issue of salaries of lieutenant colonels is being projected as the main bone of contention by the services. Yet, this ignores the fact that while a lieutenant colonel used to lead a battalion of nearly 1,000 soldiers three decades ago, today, he only leads a sub-unit of 150. We have come to this pass due to a lack of appetite—both among civilians and among the Armed Forces—for fundamental military reforms that would make the profile of the Armed Forces consistent with the rest of the economy. At the heart of this unfortunate controversy lies the fact that the government has gone about dealing with the issues of military pay and procurement independently, without considering them within the overall context of root-branch reform of the Armed Forces.

The arguments of the Armed Forces are often couched in emotional terms—unstable family life, staying at far-off places and risk to life. While these are valid, the pay commission has already considered these aspects. It has allocated an additional component called military service pay to the members of the Armed Forces. Tax-free liberal compensatory allowances for postings at Siachen and other difficult locations stand doubled after the pay commission report. In contrast, paramilitary forces and civilian officials working in corresponding areas do not enjoy these benefits.

The recent acts of the service chiefs on pay threaten a prudent constitutional balance

It is understandable that the Armed Forces should think they deserve more. However, instead of using the institutional mechanism for redressal, they have indulged in a game of political brinkmanship, raising demands publicly through the media.Ex-servicemen, who have no locus standi in the matter, have unconscionably taken up the cudgels as a public front for the defence services.

After announcing a ministerial committee headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee to address their demands, the Union government asked the service chiefs to notify the new pay. In direct defiance of government, the defence services delayed the notification. And far from nipping the tendency in the bud several months ago, defence minister A.K. Antony let the situation drift to this extent. This precedent cannot be a good sign for civil-military relations at a time when India has an acute need to rethink and modernize its Armed Forces.

India is an exception among the countries that gained independence from colonial rule in the last century. It has not experienced a spell of military rule due to the vision of its founding fathers, who devised an effective model for civilian control of the military. The Armed Forces, as envisaged in the Constitution, are a technical arm carrying out the policies of the government, responsible to the Union cabinet through the defence minister and its bureaucratic staff. In any modern democracy, the military commanders—those who actually have operational control of troops—are outside the governmental system, while there are some uniformed members in the government in the role of specialist military advisers. Parliament, through the Union cabinet and the defence ministry, has the last word on military policy. That our parliamentarians generally do not take too deep an interest in defence policy should not come in the way of appreciating the value of ensuring that civilian control of the Armed Forces remains robust and unchallenged.

The recent acts of the service chiefs threaten this prudent constitutional balance. While the government must make every effort to address the genuine grievances of the Armed Forces, they must also accept that the Union government has the final authority on this matter. The Union government must rein in the service chiefs and ensure the sanctity of the established civil-military relationship. Indeed, Mukherjee’s group of ministers would do even better to seize this opportunity to set the ball rolling on the comprehensive reform of India’s defence services. Respected voices in the strategic establishment have been calling for a blue ribbon commission that would conduct a comprehensive review of Indian defence policy. The unfortunate incidents of recent weeks are an urgent reminder of the need to heed that call.

Sushant K. Singh and Nitin Pai are associated with Pragati—The Indian National Interest Review. Comments are welcome at theirview@livemint.com

It's not pay - it's a question of status


Q&A: Lt Gen HS Bagga

Aditi Phadnis / New Delhi October 12, 2008, 0:44 IST


(Retd), former Director General (Personnel) in the Army and co-author of the Ajay Vikram Singh (AVS) Committee report on restructuring the Army officer cadre, tells Aditi Phadnis why the men in uniform are not happy.

The government has taken two important HR steps to address the problems of defence personnel. It has announced some financial breaks in the Sixth Pay Commission report, and it has accepted recommendations of the AVS Committee relating to promotions. Are you satisfied?

Let’s take the AVS committee first. A few recommendations have been accepted, but most haven’t. The government has agreed to create and fill additional vacancies of selection grade officers ranging from Colonel to Lieutenant General. It has also agreed to reduce, for purposes of promotion, the number of years in service put in by officers of the rank of Captain and Major. The Lieutenant Colonel was earlier a selection grade rank given after 16 to 17 years. It has now been made a time-based rank after 13 years. The government needs to be complimented for this decision.

But the most important recommendation which could have been a permanent solution to HR issues — making the Short Service Commission (SSC) the prime entry system into the Army — has not been accepted.

When you join the Army, you have the option of making a permanent career of it or leaving it after a fixed tenure. SSC is not an attractive proposition for youngsters today as it does not provide them a full career. After serving for a short tenure, their rehabilitation is the central issue. The report suggests that they be trained for another profession while they are in service.

At this point, we take in 1,000 regular commission and 500 SSC. This ratio, it was suggested, should be reversed as the utility of an officer is felt the most at the junior level. We don’t need so many senior officers because the Army follows a hierarchical system — a steep pyramid, if you like, having a large number of junior officers and very few senior officers

The problem is that all junior officers are extremely capable and it is very difficult to overlook them for promotion if they stay in the system.We need officers to peel off after 12-15 years of service. This can be achieved and more SSC appointed if we do the following:

· Pay Rs 1 lakh for every year of service (because these officers will not be entitled to pension, for which the minimum service needed is 20 years).

· Give two years’ study leave before the end of the tenure so that they can find an appropriate alternative career.

· Relax the age norms for the UPSC exam so that these officers can take the central services examination.

· Make Military Science a subject in the UPSC and allow them to take only four subjects in the examination.

· Transfer them laterally to paramilitary forces as an alternative career.

Till the SSC is effective, the age profile of our Army will not change.

What happens today?
Today, 1,000 officers join as permanent commissioned officers and all 1,000 are in the reckoning for promotions. We promote approximately 400 out of 1,000 as Colonels every year. The rest are superseded as there are no vacancies. If there are only 500 in the reckoning, hardly anyone will be left out.

You cannot lower the age profile overnight. In the interim, we had suggested five steps:

· Additional selection grade vacancies — Col and above — which the government has done. This will bring the age profile down for a few years.

· Allow officers to undertake any course in any university at the Army’s cost, while being considered on duty.

· Provide paid vocational training or study leave without asking the officer to do residual service.

· The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is ready to take Army officers but they say they must be trained. So the government could attach superseded officers with any industrial house at the Army’s cost.

· An attractive Voluntary Service Severance Scheme that encourages superseded officers to leave after 20 years of service to start their own venture.

So what has the government done?
What they’ve done is accepted the recommendation to create additional vacancies across all ranks, without creating the peel-off effect as suggested. This is shortsighted, because it just postpones the problem that will have to be faced again four or five years hence.

We’ve heard the views of the Chiefs on the Sixth Pay Commission. There is a feeling that whatever you give them, the services are always whining.
This is not true. The Chiefs are not asking for additional salary — it is a question of status. Successive Pay Commissions have succeeded only in elevating the status of civil, police and paramilitary forces. In the 1960s, the Raghuramiah Committee had recommended the Army be equated with the IPS. Okay, we said. But over the years, the police have been upgrading their senior ranks, so the senior ranks in the Army are automatically downgraded. For example, in the Warrant of Precedence pre-1947, the head of the police in a state, that is, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), was equal to a Brigadier. Post-1947, an IGP became equal to a Major General. This obtained till the mid 1970s. Today a Director General of Police draws a salary higher than a Lieutenant General, because successive Pay Commissions have increased his salary to match a Lt General’s. Is this justified?

Status today in the Order of Precedence is equated with the salary, or the pay band in which one is located. The Sixth Pay Commission has fixed four pay bands. The civil and paramilitary forces including those working in Army Headquarters who were junior or equal to a Lt Col have been placed in pay band 3, whereas a Lt Col has been placed in pay band 4. We have a large number of Lieutenant Colonels. While their status has not been lowered, the status of other officers has been raised higher than them. This can create operational problems.

Let me give you an example. We have a Lt Gen commanding troops in the north-east which comprises several small states. He handles counterinsurgency operations. Each state has a DG police who was earlier drawing less pay than a Lt Gen and was required to attend all the meetings called by the Lt Gen to coordinate operations among several states. However, ever since the pay of DG Police was raised higher than that of a Lt Gen, they are reluctant to attend such meetings. If the Service Chiefs have voiced their concerns on these two issues should it be taken as an affront ?

This is not the only issue. Earlier Persons Below Officer Rank (PBOR) drew 75 per cent of their pay as pension. Normally a person’s pension is calculated on the basis of the last pay drawn, whereas in the case of PBOR it is calculated on the basis of the highest pay scale of the rank he was holding: for example, a Sepoy may have drawn Rs 3,700 per month at the time of his retirement, but if the highest grade in a sepoy’s salary was Rs 4,700, it was on Rs 4,700 that his pension was calculated. This actually worked out to a pension of nearly 75 per cent. The Sixth Pay Commission has reduced this to 50 per cent, on the ground that the soldier will be entitled to serve in the paramilitary forces after they leave the Army. The problem is, the second part is not happening. So the Chiefs are saying: give them their original pension.

We should not look at this as a problem of the defence forces. We should see it as a national problem.

‘Spare your time to save the country’

Express News Service

Posted: Oct 13, 2008 at 0257 hrs IST

Chandigarh, October 12 ‘The Territorial Army is a voluntary part-time civilian force. It gives civilians an opportunity to receive military training and also provides the country with a reserve force that can assist the Indian Army’

He won the finals of the 1983 cricket World Cup at Lords and made India proud by captaining a weak Indian squad with good leadership qualities. The same person — Kapil Dev — has set the standard for celebrities in various walks of life by joining the Territorial Army (TA) as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Not far behind is Punjab’s Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, who even after being one of the busiest persons in the state, decided to join the Territorial Army.

When the two icons don the Army uniform, it will be a big morale booster for the defence personnel and aspiring youngsters who want to join the same. We are already facing a shortage of officers in the Army and there is a dire need to inspire the youth to opt for the Armed forces. And I believe the two have done a commendable job.

It is certainly a slap on the face of those celebrities and politicians who only talk about patriotism. But when it comes to leading from the front, they vanish from the scene.

The celebrities including film stars, sportsmen and politicians should learn that instead of promoting hair gels and shampoos, they should lead by example and this can be done by enrolling themselves into the Army. It is the need of the hour and a noble way to fill the increasing gap of officers in the Army.

The Territorial Army is a voluntary part-time civilian force that has a role to play in the defence of the country.

It gives the civilians an opportunity to receive military training and also provides the country with a reserve force that can assist the regular Army during operations, whenever required.

Territorial soldiers undergo military training in their spare time either as part of a formed local unit or as specialists in a professional field.

Territorial Army members have a minimum commitment to serve 27 training days per annum, with specialists only required to serve 19 days that normally includes a two-week annual camp. The celebrities can easily spare this small amount of time to serve the country.

Since its inception in October, 1949, the Territorial Army has rendered valuable service, both in times of war and during internal disturbances. One should feel proud in being a member of the Territorial Army.

PEER BABA FROM PAK IS PATRON SAINT OF INDIAN TROOPS

ARIF SHAFI WANI

Before taking position on border posts, every soldier seeks Baba’s blessings; army maintains account of donations which are spent on people's welfare.

Razdaan Post, (Gurez): Decades ago a Saint from Pakistan arrived in this rugged area and made it his abode. He is the patron Saint of the Indian troops who seek his blessing before proceeding toward border posts where, not many years ago, death was a gunshot away.

Cold breeze from an unending stretch of lofty snow-draped mountains flutter rows of green flags on a peak where the shrine of Peer Baba popularly known as Nanga Baba, the naked Saint, is located.

At the entry of the Shrine, the Commanding Officers of the local army units have placed marble stones bearing inscription of their names and date of posting. The practice began in 1947.

The soldiers firmly believe that they return alive from the dangerous LoC only due to the blessings of Peer Baba, said a soldier guarding the Shrine.

Peer Baba is said to have arrived from Maisar, in Pakistan, in 1923 as a 35-year old man, his religion unknown. He first settled at Durmat, now in AJK. Legend has it that he went without water or food for months together. Whenever he came down to Kanzalvan, he asked for food saying ‘nanu tu bukha lagi nasta lao’, in a mixture of Parsi and Urdu.

“He never refused meat offered by local Muslims. Hard of hearing, he spoke very little and was popularly known as Nanga Baba. In February 1940 he came to Razdaan from Durmat and breathed his last. The locals who tried to take the Baba’s body to Bandipiora were attacked by large swarm of honeybees. His body was therefore put to rest here by one of his devotees named Malik,” a soldier said, reading the legend from a hoarding installed by Army in late 50s.

In 1950, the 28 GR of Indian Army constructed a Shrine at the spot. “All defense personnel headed toward Razdan pay their respects at the Ziarat to seek Baba’s blessings. As a mark of respect to Peer Baba the Army personnel in Gurez do not consume meat or alcohol on Tuesday and Friday, which are Peer Baba’s days,” a group of soldiers said.

Army maintains the accounts of donations under Peer Baba Account. According to the soldiers the donations are spent on “welfare of civilian and army personnel in the Gurez Valley.” The money is also used to fund education of poor children, and provide relief to civilians during natural disasters.

Baba’s mausoleum located in a cave-like room is teeming with offerings and votive threads.

Ghulam Muhammad, 65, of Bandipora, who is a frequent visitor to the Shrine, said, “All my wishes have been fulfilled.”

Taliban leader killed by SAS was Pakistan officer

Christina Lamb in Kabul

British officials covered up evidence that a Taliban commander killed by special forces in Helmand last year was in fact a Pakistani military officer, according to highly placed Afghan officials.

The commander, targeted in a compound in the Sangin valley, was one of six killed in the past year by SAS and SBS forces. When the British soldiers entered the compound they discovered a Pakistani military ID on the body.

It was the first physical evidence of covert Pakistani military operations against British forces in Afghanistan even though Islamabad insists it is a close ally in the war against terror.

Britain’s refusal to make the incident public led to a row with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who has long accused London of viewing Afghanistan through the eyes of Pakistani military intelligence, which is widely believed to have been helping the Taliban.

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“He feels he has been telling everyone about Pakistan for the past six years and here was the evidence, yet London refused to release it, because they care more about their relations with Islamabad than Kabul,” said a source close to the president. “He knows Britain is worried about inflaming its large Pakistani population, but that is no excuse.”

So furious was Karzai that he threatened to expel British diplomats. When some months later he was informed by the governor of Helmand that British officials were secretly negotiating with the Taliban, he expelled two men and accused Britain of wanting to set up a training camp for former Taliban fighters.

Karzai will visit London next month for talks with Gordon Brown in an attempt to repair the strained relations between the two countries.

“He is very sad about the breakdown of relations with Britain,” said the source. “He loves British culture and poetry, had a British education [at a school in India], likes tea in the afternoon and thinks Gordon Brown is a very decent man, not a cheat.”

British officials in Kabul refused to comment on the allegation that they had covered up the discovery of a Pakistani soldier. They insisted Karzai’s government had been informed of the negotiations with the Taliban, adding that “the camp was just a place for them to be reintegrated, learn about hygiene and things”.

During the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, officers from Pakistani military intelligence regularly accompanied Afghan mujaheddin inside Afghanistan and directed operations.

The Afghan claims of Pakistani involvement in Helmand were backed by a senior United Nations official who said he had been told by his superiors to keep quiet after Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN apparently threatened to stop contributing forces to peacekeeping missions. Pakistan is the UN’s biggest supplier of peacekeeping troops.

The coalition’s refusal to confront Pakistan changed after the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul last July, when 41 people were killed. According to both British and US intelligence, phone intercepts led directly back to an Afghan cell of Pakistan’s military intelligence.

The past month has seen US forces carry out bombings and a ground raid on Pakistani territory. Claims of Pakistan’s involvement were rejected by Asif Durrani, the country’s chargé d’affaires in Kabul. “Afghanistan wants to blame someone else for its problems and Pakistan is just the whipping boy,” he said.

However, repeated accusations from Karzai about Pakistan’s active support for the Taliban have been backed by a senior US marine officer.

Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Nash, who commanded an embedded training team in eastern Afghanistan from June 2007 to March this year, told the Army Times that Pakistani forces flew repeated helicopter missions into Afghanistan to resupply a Taliban base camp during a fierce battle in June last year. Nash said: “We were on the receiving end of Pakistani military D-30 [a howitzer]. On numerous occasions Afghan border police checkpoints and observation posts were attacked by Pakistani military forces.”

Comments by Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith in The Sunday Times last week that a decisive military victory against the Taliban was not possible and negotiations should be opened have received widespread backing.

General Jean-Louis Georgelin, France’s military chief, said: “There is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and I totally share this feeling.”

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, who initially dismissed the brigadier’s comments as “defeatist”, said on Friday that the US was now prepared to back talks with the Taliban.

The deadly toll

— 120 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002

— At least 4,200 Afghans, including 1,450 civilians, have died this year alone

— Total cost of British operations in the Afghan war from 2001 to 2008 has been £3.2 billion

Russia test fires 5 long-range missiles Press Trust of India
Sunday, October 12, 2008 (Moscow)


Amid increasingly strained ties with the US, Russia has flexed its military muscle by testfiring at least five long-range missiles in a series of high-profile defence exercises over last two days.

President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday watched the firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from "Tula" nuclear submarine in Barents Sea in the north of the country, which for the first time hit a designated target in the equatorial Pacific Ocean 11,457 kilometres away.
Summing up the successful strike practice Medvedev declared, "the nuclear shield of Russia is in perfect order."
"Russia will further strengthen its military component. Of course we will induct newer weapons and force-multipliers into the armed forces," Medvedev said congratulating the national Strategic Nuclear Forces on the successful missile firings in the course of 'Stability-2008' wargames.
The tests come amid increasingly strained ties with the US following the Georgian conflict and consistent Russian opposition to Washington's plans for a missile-defence system based in Poland and the Czech Republic, former Soviet satellites now in NATO.
According to naval spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo, it was the first full-range test of new generation Sineva (NATO code name Skiff) submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

Medvedev watched the firing of 'Topol' nuclear missile from a northern spaceport of Plesetsk in Archangelsk region, which hit the designated target over 6 thousand kilometres away in the far eastern Kura firing range on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

UK army loses key data disc

LONDON: A disc which a tabloid said carries personal details on some 100,000 serving British military personnel is missing, the Ministry of Defence said yesterday.

The military acknowledged a report in The Sun newspaper that contractor EDS lost track of a portable hard drive, but said it could not comment on the claim that it contained names, addresses, passport numbers and driver's licence information of service personnel along with data on 600,000 potential recruits."We don't know what's on it, and we don't even know if there's anything on it," a ministry of defence spokesman said.

A government mandated data security review was unable to account for the disc, according to EDS UK, the British subsidiary of Plano, Texas-based EDS. It said the disk was being stored at its secure facility in Hook, a town 70 kilometres west of London when it went missing.The military said it was investigating the incident, which it said became known earlier this week.The loss is one in a series of information breaches at the ministry. Last month it said a disc carrying sensitive personnel information was stolen from a military base.

Earlier this year, the military said a laptop with details of 600,000 new and prospective recruits was stolen.EDS, an information technology company, has worked on a range of British government projects, including providing support for its pensions department, the ministry of justice's offender management system, and a major contract to upgrade the military's IT infrastructure, according to the company's website.

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