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Sunday, 19 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 19 Oct

Who let the politicians out?

It's very simple. A military coup, that is. One collective word is all it needs to convert this nation from a democratic country to a progressive economy with martial law.

The armed forces will take over the nation, and no one can do a thing about it. Not the police force, not Manmohan Singh(=Sonia Gandhi), not A.K. Antony. No one. A movement will arise so suddenly and with the fury of a raging tsunami, that it will rewrite India's future, inject discipline in the blood of every Indian, unscrew unopened bottles of potential and terrorise the intestines out of those who dare to oppose them or irrigate the minds of others with vile thoughts. Corruption will be eliminated 90% and progress will double. Indeed, the souls of our forefathers who fought for real freedom, will rest whole-heartily under this military control. Ironic, but true.

The question here is, why won't they do it?

Let me tell you what bothers me. I am the 19 year old daughter of a retired government servant, an army officer to be specific (note the "Servant".. absolutely true in case of the armed forces)

My father, who retired as a Colonel, is not a reciever of the PVSM, AVSM, VSM, or even the VC for that matter. He was a part of the army, served an ordinary Colonel's role, did not jump in front of a bullet to save his men, or plan an intelligent strategy to capture some enemy territory. He was a part of both major wars with Pakistan and China, returned without being a decorated war hero, served in regiments in both borders, saw extreme weather conditions and backward technology and most importantly, he enjoyed and took immense pride in doing all this and serving the nation.

Yet, I feel my father is a greater man than many "greats" in this nation. Shahrukh Khan, or Pratibha Patil,to begin with:neither of them have sacrificed more than a sleepless night or compromised on their Saturday morning sleep for the nation.

I don't blame you for saying, "Oh, she's an army officer's daughter, obviously that's why she's biased". I don't deny it. It is true. I am biased. And I want every single person in this country, if not the world to be biased. I can only tell you what it is like to have seen these people up, close and personal, to have heard true incidents of bravery and selflessness and then know they're are being paid peanuts, to sacrifice their lives without hesitation for the nation.

When I was 16, my family took a holiday to Arunachal Pradesh, to the regiment where my father had been in command, more than 20 years ago. From a scenic , quaint little town called Tenga, on the banks of a gushing river, we travelled to a snow desert near the Chinese border called Bumla. Here, in the middle of nowhere, one could see a small board stuck in the ice reading "Welcome to India". For as far as our eyes could see in all four directions, there was nothing but snow. Beside that board stood a guard, probably of south Indian origin, in 6 layers of clothing, a giant wind-cheater and the heaviest pair of snow-boots imaginable, against constant rapid winds, endless lengths and immense depths of ice, pacing an abandoned minefield from the 1962 war, looking through a telescope at Chinese vantage points to track enemy positions and moves.

He didn't opt to be there, but when he chose the forces as a career he knew what he would be facing, and he faces it with valour, for he has the patriotism that you and I and many of our politicians lack. Tomorrow he may die in battle, but I know for sure, that no one who has joined the forces will ever regret taking up that profession. If he dies in an act of bravery, he will most probably be awarded a VC or PVC medal for the same, posthumously. Then the government might give his family a lump sum and/or a measly monthly stipend of Rs.850 to Rs.1500. I ask you, is that all this man's life is worth?

What about a serving soldier? He mostly hails from small areas or rural backgrounds with an uneducated wife and 2 children back in his village alone.Typical, but true. This man, who has time in the forward areas only to eat, sleep and watch the enemy, hardly sees his family. His entire salary is sent back home to his spouse, who faces the brunt of yet again uneducated parents-in-law ready to blame her for anything that happens to their son. In such a situation, a soldier's wife receiving the pitiful salary of her husband will be left an orphan in the middle of the road, simply for the lack of money.

Then, these war heroes, and martyrs are forgotten within minutes, no, wait, seconds of their death. No one forgets to come for the Republic Day parade ,or to place that wreath they didn't order on the grave of some memorial they don't know was built for what om Independence day. Just because it is protocol. Protocol to "remember" (or forget?) these people on these "days" meant for our nation, to "remember" them for the 30 seconds it takes you to read patriotic forwards and messages in your in boxes on email and on your cellphone.

Like a 90-year old war veteran said, I guess it's the forces who are to be blamed. Right from the 3rd pay commission-who screwed up royally- the three forces have always put the pride of serving the nation over money. I guess it's their fault they didn't demand it then.

My father and I have been discussing this issue for a while now, and my blood boils, every single time I see our so-called Defence minister Mr.A.K.Antony defending his stupidity on a podium which he does not deserve. Have you for a minute stopped and thought about why you at home are able to enjoy your evening spent listening to your iPod, or watching a DVD on your 42-inch LCD? It is because you live in India, where the borders, threatened by invasion every second, are guarded constantly, by the watchful eyes of some 27-year old son of a mother who sits far away in a remote town, praying consciously every second for the safety of her son. If that guard decided to look away for even a minute, he would be dead, within seconds, and there would be an invasion leading to chaos everywhere. Soon, India would become a replicate Iraq, pandemonium prevailing,where you would need the permission of your invaders to even use the toilet, which under normal circumstances would be your birthright.

Sometimes it's scary, how something so simple and routine is linked to something so complex and out of hand. From all of you who saw these reports of the military's peaceful war against the government on television, some of you changed the channel since it didn't concern you, some saw the report and took it in as general knowledge, and some burnt rage over it for a few seconds. Those whose blood still boils, would be the ones who have actually some patriotism left in their blood.

Am I being too philosophical for a nineteen year old? Most of you might say yes, but I say, why not? You would too, if you saw the fire in the eyes of these people the way I do.

And what is it, with Mr.Antony's comment on discipline? I'm sorry Mr.Antony, but you politicians, who hit each other with chappals, and microphones, use unparliamentary language in the parliament, come half an hour late to a meeting, and do not know the words of the national anthem, are talking about discipline.Please, don't make me laugh.Or with the panel that is enquiring IAS officers having IAS officers in it! Why don't we have a separate pay commission for the Military like most other countries do? Why do we have to put up with a cock-eyed system? Why does a DGP get paid almost twice as much as his equivalent in the forces? Why does the army have to replace the fire-brigade, police force and everyone else, when it is specifically mentioned that the forces are only for training during peace and attack during war. Why does the government involve the forces in flood relief , earthquake relief, tsunami relief, and more recently, rescuing of children fallen in pits? Then to put the cherry on the icing, you pay them in a pay scale adopted in 1948?

I have faced and will face a lot of criticism for my views.As some of my friends say, we do get good rations, accommodation and cheaper FMCGs and alcohol. Rations and accommodation -anyone in a decent government service gets that. Cheaper FMCGs- The least the government can do is to remove the taxes off the MRP of many products and make it available to the average soldier, who in return is willing to pay the price of his life for his nation. Cheap alcohol- yes, a bottle of rum is relatively cheaper. Why don't you spend one year of your life to replace a soldier in snowy altitudes, in nothing but a tent or in the blistering heat of the Thar with the only wind bringing sandstorms along with it or in the jungles of Nagaland with the leeches sucking your blood out and I'm sure ANY soldier you replace to give him precious time with his family will gladly give you all the rum he can ever get in his life, simply so you dont die of exhaustion and depression and actually live to tell your tale.Simply, so you can survive.

Let me remind you (non)patriotic souls, that the life of a person in the armed forces is one filled with dignity and pride, and I believe it should reflect in how much s/he is paid, for glamour and corruption rule the roost today, and that bias will take our country nowhere.

Hoping for the best to come for our brave men and women.


Premature retirement in Army not an easy affair now
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 18
Faced with requests for premature retirement from its officers, the Army headquarters, in a confidential move has now decided to be more stringent in agreeing to such requests.

With this, the forces hope to tide over the shortage of officers. On other hand, it will make it tougher for those who want to opt out of the forces and use their experience in other fields.

Officers of the forces are in huge demand in MNCs and also in industries, which require logistics and man management.

A high-level meeting of the Armed Forces was held last week in which the matter came up about officers seeking premature release from the forces even after the Sixth Pay Commission was announced and even after more posts were sanctioned by the Cabinet at the top and middle level. Army Chief-General Deepak Kapoor chaired the meeting that was attended by all Principal Staff Officers, who are in the rank of Let-Gen and head their units.

Sources said it had been decided to informally hold back the applications of those who had applied purely on the basis of having completed the minimum 20 years of service. Completion of this period is a mandatory requirement for officers unless they are retired, killed or declared medically unfit, earlier than this.

The other categories for seeking premature release are: If an officer has been superseded three times in row and missed his promotion boards for ranks of Colonel and above. In case an officer falls into a permanent low medical category and thirdly on compassionate grounds.

Sources said since the other three categories could not be touched, the only option left for the forces was to retain those who were wanting to leave after completing 20 years of service.

Though a formal written order is yet to be issued, verbal instructions have been made to hold back officers, said a senior functionary.

The completion of 20 years of service cannot be treated as a benchmark and it was not the right of an officer to seek release on this basis, is the opinion of the top brass that makes decisions.

Within the Army officers say the government should let such officers go. These are grudging and unwilling workers, who are perpetually chasing their applications for premature release.

Tackling Pirates
India rushes warship to Gulf of Aden

New Delhi, October 18
India today rushed its front line warship to the Gulf of Aden to protect Indian merchant vessels sailing in the high seas off the east African coast from armed pirates.

“The Navy has already re-deployed a warship to the Gulf of Aden. The ship, which was in the region, was asked to rush to the Gulf of Aden following the government orders,” a Naval officer told PTI here.

“The ship has enough endurance to remain there and provide security to Indian flagships carrying cargo till another warship is sent there to replace it,” the officer said.

Navy sources said the re-deployed warship was a stealth frigate and it had the wherewithal to protect Indian merchant ships sailing through the Gulf of Aden.

It is most likely to remain in the region near the Horn of Africa for a month.

The government has said the Indian naval presence in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operation would not be restricted to just one ship and more could be deployed, whenever needed.

The government had on Friday approved a Navy’s proposal to send its warships to the east African coast for protecting Indian flag-bearing merchant ships.

Earlier in the day, minister of state for defence M.M. Pallam Raju said the government was taking serious measures to safeguard Indian interests in the Indian Ocean Region. — PTI

Progress in N-cooperation with China, says Pak
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

The US may not be interested in extending civilian nuclear cooperation to Pakistan, but Beijing certainly is. Islamabad on Saturday said progress had been made in civilian- nuclear cooperation with China to go ahead with Chashma-III and Chashma-IV nuclear plants to generate additional 680MW electricity and meet the country’s growing power demand.

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while briefing mediapersons about the outcome at the end of the four-day visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to China, said it had reinforced the strong bonds existing between the two countries. President Zardari has promised to visit China after every three months.

About seeking approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for these power plants, the foreign minister said Pakistan was fully cognizant of its international obligations.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on finance Shaukat Tareen, who addressed the joint press briefing, said Chinese companies had been pledged $1.2 billion in various sectors in Pakistan.

He said the focus was on seeking greater investment on strategic ongoing and future projects in Pakistan, besides greater involvement on steel and cement sectors.

Tareen said talks were held to improve the trade balance that was heavily tilted towards China, with around $5 billion of imports from China, in contrast to $1 billion exports from Pakistan.

Qureshi highlighted the several successes of the visit, including the pledge to meet much more than the existing resource gap Pakistan was currently facing.

He mentioned the agreement on acquisition of Paksat-IR for Pakistan and a deal to improve agriculture production, improvement of Pakistan's mineral sector, signing of a free trade agreement on trade and services sector by the end of this year.

Ronald Reagan takes on India's finest

October 18, 2008

The new Malabar series of wargames come close on the heels of frontline Indian Air Force Sukhoi fighters taking part for the first time in fighter exercises at the world's most advanced air wargames complex at Nellis Air Base in the Nevada desert of the United States.

US Navy will be represented by Ronald Reagan Strike Group, including nuclear-powered Ronald Regan.

The other ships include USS Chancellorsville, USS Gridley, US Decatur, USS Thach and USS Bridge, an underway replenishment tanker. In addition, Los Angeles class nuclear powered submarine, USS Springfield will make up for American side.

Pak water team to visit Baglihar dam

Press Trust of India

Saturday, October 18, 2008 (New Delhi)

A high-level Pakistani official team will visit Jammu and Kashmir on Monday for an on-the-spot assessment of the water-level in Chenab river in the backdrop of its suspicion that India had stopped the flow of water.

The Pakistani delegation, led by Indus Water Commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah, will visit Baglihar power project during its two-day stay in the state, officials said in New Delhi on Saturday.

The delegation, which arrived in New Delhi on Saturday, will inspect water storage in the Baglihar dam built on Chenab, besides the water flow in the river.

After their visit to the site, Shah will hold two-day talks with his Indian counterpart G Ranganathan from October 22 on the issue of Chenab river water sharing and other related subjects, the officials said.

The Pakistani delegation's visit to Chenab and the bilateral talks have been warranted by Islamabad's allegation that India had stopped the flow of water from the river for construction of Baglihar power project in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan has claimed that its crops had been affected because of this.

India has said the flow was low because of lesser availability of water in the river.

Under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty between the two countries, Pakistan has the exclusive right over Chenab river.

The 450 MW Baglihar project on river Chenab, which was caught in a prolonged tussle between India and Pakistan before World Bank gave a go-ahead for its construction over a year ago, was commissioned over a week.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said on Sunday that the issue could "damage ties" between the two countries.

US Marines to hold joint exercise in Ladakh

Mir Ehsan Posted online: Oct 19, 2008 at 0056 hrs

Srinagar, October 18 : After the Royal Marines, the US marines will also be holding a joint military exercise with the Indian Army in Ladakh.

US Army Chief General George Casey along with his Indian counterpart Deepak Kapoor visited Ladakh and its adjoining areas to select the location where the Indo-US military exercises would be held. “Dates for these joint exercises could be decided only after the US Army chief will get satisfied with the venues for these exercises,” Defence spokesman, Lt Col Anil Mathur told The Indian Express.

The visiting US General Casey was briefed about different venues and glacial peaks in Ladakh by the senior formation commanders of the Army. Mathur said the aim behind the joint exercise would be to impart warfare techniques to each other especially in handling mountain warfare. “The joint exercise would be small and could take place at the company level,” he said.

The mountainous region of Ladakh assumes significance for the joint exercise as its terrain resembles that of the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, where the US marines are fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda militants as part of the NATO peace force. Sources said the aim behind the exercise is to learn from the military experiences of Indian troops, who have been dealing with insurgency for the past two decades.

Earlier in 2006, Indian and US Special Forces held mountain warfare exercises in the same region close to the China border. Pakistan, already had expressed annoyance over the visit of US Army chief to the Siachen glacier. However, it is not clear whether General Casey visited Siachen or not. The defence spokesman denied General Casey’s visit to Siachen. “He (Casey) only visited Ladakh, not Siachen,” said Mathur.

Last year, the UK marines were in Ladakh to participate in a similar joint exercise. The exercises were held for three weeks in September.

Need for coherent national strategy

Gen Mirza Aslam Beg

The contemporary times are characterized by rapidity of change, which demand correct and prompt responses. We, therefore have to develop the mechanism for continuous study and evaluation of all current issues and problems, having bearing on national security. Unfortunately we don’t have any such institution in the country. The existing National Security Council (NSC) gets activated only when a crisis occurs and works as a ‘crisis management team.’ This is not enough. Regretfully, NSC like Kalabagh Dam is an issue which has been politicized. No one dare promote its cause. With a cool mind we now have to institutionalize the system – name it as you like - which could come up with responses, to the challenges we face today. The unipolar world order is gradually transforming into a mutli-polar world order. While the United States remains the most powerful of all, the emerging centres of geo-economic power, such as European Union, Russia, China, India and Japan, are competing with each other, to carve-out a place for themselves in the global affairs dominated by multi-dimensional security concerns. The phenomenon of Islamic Resistance “the shadow armies, led by committed believers” is acting as the arbiter, determining the contours of the emerging world order. The recent problems of economic melt-down, makes this transformation more complex.

The competing world powers as well as others, therefore, are developing economic policies and plans, to face the present crisis. Pakistan should be no exception, because it is facing serious economic and fiscal problems, which can be solved with a clear vision and sound policies. For the last thirty years, Pakistan has stood in the way of military aggression in Afghanistan. Also has faced the consequences of Iran-Iraq war. After 9/11, in particular, its national security interests have been seriously challenged. Afghanistan now is the focus of attention of all the global and regional powers, turning Afghanistan into a cauldron, creating serious military, economic and psycho-social problems for Pakistan. Such multi-dimensional threat to Pakistan, demand serious thinking, policy options, strategies and plans to protect national security interests.

There is no direct military threat to Pakistan from the Indian side at present, because peace in South Asia is very vital for the United States in order to support their military ventures in Afghanistan. In fact, after the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, between USA and India, USA has assigned India a definite role in Afghanistan, where India has been able to establish a vast spy network, operating against Pakistan and all the neighbouring countries. As a consequence, in the border regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan army is engaged in a proxy war, imposed in collusion with USA. As a result, the writ of the government has been challenged, in areas of Swat and Balochistan, because militancy is being supported from across the borders. In Afghanistan, the war is coming to a decisive phase now. The year 2009 is critical, when the occupation forces will be forced to leave and Taliban will prevail. Pakistan must therefore prepare itself to engage with new Afghanistan. Similarly the militancy in Balochistan, led by Balochistan Liberation Army, must be eliminated by application of military, political and economic means. Despondency and political expediency in dealing with this threat will be harmful.Pakistan must maintain a balanced correlation of military forces with India, investing mainly for the ‘sharpening of the technological cutting edge.’ At the same time Pakistan must develop a new military policy to acquire a significant capability of “men and missiles”, which has proved to be the winning factor in Iraq and Afghanistan, against adversaries and the best example is that of Israel-Hizbullah war in Lebanon of 2005. India with USA’s support, has embarked upon modernization and build-up of its armed forces. Pakistan need not enter into an armed race with India, but “invest in men to fight positional defence, and missiles to carry the war into the enemy territory.” Thus the concept of ‘offensive defense’ would be a vital element of our military strategy, against India in particular. The missile attacks by the American predators have a demoralizing effect on the nation. This must be challenged and stopped by our air force and army.

India has signed the agreement with United States for transfer of nuclear technology which will give significant advantage to India, to apply nuclear technology for multi-purposes. It will also enable India, to develop 50-60 nuclear war heads, a year, but Pakistan need not enter into a nuclear-arms-race with India either. Our policy of Nuclear Restraint and maintenance of the minimum credible deterrence is good enough to maintain the balance of terror. Nevertheless nuclear technology for peaceful purposes can be acquired from China and other friendly countries. We need to augment our energy deficiency from all possible means - nuclear, coal, wind and hydel, to end the frustration of our people and the damage to economic productivity.

Suicide attacks, bomb blasts, galloping inflation, rising prices, energy and food deficit, together, have created serious psycho-social impact on the minds of the nation. These are the basic challenges, which the government cannot afford to keep on the back burner. The people, therefore rightly comment that, today’s Pakistan has “no money, no energy, no peace and no government.” Therefore the government must undertake prompt measures to redeem the situation, and its fast eroding credibility. There are no perceptible signs of improvement, which in turn, makes people despondent. Nations do undergo crises but a determined approach serves as a great palliative, which, unfortunately is lacking. A coherent national strategy, well deliberated through national consensus in the Parliament, is the vital imperative.

Our diplomatic policy needs a review, to create balance in our relations with USA, India, China, Russia and Iran in particular. Such an opportunity will be available, with the impending show-down in Afghanistan, in the very near future. Pakistan’s proactive measures will determine the requisite resilience it needs to adjust to the emerging realities.

The 18th February 2008 mandate of the people of Pakistan must be respected. Disrespect to the mandates of 1970 and 1988, has cost Pakistan dearly. The 18th February elections are unique, in the sense that, all the political forces are vying for political unity and harmony, offering a great opportunity to PPP government to exploit, to its advantage. Crises, often brings opportunities in its wake. It is the right “vision’ which could turn the tide. No doubt, Pakistan is facing serious problems, on its borders with Afghanistan; terrorism; depressing law and order situation and an unprecedented serious economic crunch. Such are the challenges, which will test the resolve and resilience of the nation and the determination of the elected government, to face these challenges. Pakistani nation has faced very serious problems in the past and succeeded in surmounting them. The present crisis is one such challenge which the nation is prepared to face with grace and dignity. A grand opportunity has been bestowed upon us to free our people from the increasing scourge of poverty, deprivation and bloody violence. A poet rightly lamented: “Oh God! That bread should be so dear and flesh and blood so cheap.”

US cold shoulders Pak protest as its army chief visits Siachen news October 2008

Jammu: US army chief General George Casey on Friday visited Siachen glacier, the highest battle field in the world, even as his country chose to cold shoulder protests from Pakistan. The continually developing defence interactions between the US and India appear to be deepening with every passing day for Siachen is a matter of some sensitivity for Pakistan. It considers the glacier to be disputed territory and the visit of the US army chief to this bitterly contested region can only be taken as a pointed snub delivered by the US to its proclaimed strategic ally in the region.

Gen Casey visited the glacier along with Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor.

For the record, the general's visit to the region is intended to study Indian expertise in high-altitude battlefield conditions, which could come in handy for US troops in the mountainous Afghanistan frontier abutting Pakistan.

The trip is part of Gen Casey's three day visit to India

Meanwhile, Islamabad's loud protest over Gen. Casey's visit to the glacier drew a blank in Washington where a senior US official not only confirmed the General's trip but also pointedly ignored the Pakistani protest.

"As you all know, Gen Casey is in India and he was up in Siachen today," Evan Feigenbaum, deputy assistant secretary for south and central Asian affairs, told an Indian media round table on Friday on US-India relations. "Exciting things are happening in defence."

On its part the Pakistani foreign office had said Thursday that "any such visit to an area which is disputed and which is under discussion between Pakistan and India will certainly cast a shadow on the ongoing composite dialogue between the two neighbours."

At Siachen, Indian army officials said, Gen Casey was first flown over the 70km glacier for an aerial view after which he landed there to acquaint himself with ground conditions. "This visit of the US army chief is for developing concept and medical aspect of fighting in severe cold conditions and high altitudes," an army official said.

The official said: "Siachen is best for such concept developing as it is a unique battle field."

The US army has to deal with infiltration of Taliban militants in the high altitude terrain of Afghanistan and the Indian Army official said "they want to learn from the Indian army to fight on such inhospitable, rough and rugged terrain".

Gen Casey returned to Delhi later in the day.

Siachen, at 18,000-22,000 feet, is the highest battle field in the world where Pakistan has failed to dislodge Indian positions even after years of fighting.

The knives are out

…between the CPOs and the military over the SCPC.

Saikat Datta, in the Outlook magazine, scoops a a note dated September 1st (COSC/1940) from Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Chairman of the COSC where the Naval Chief claims that–

…the coast guard and the Central Police Organisations (CPOS) were inferior to the navy and should be treated as such.

…the navy is a “senior service” and that it would be unacceptable for commanders and captains in the navy to have parity in pay with their coast guard counterparts. “Command and control will be seriously hampered” says Mehta, “while infighting will seriously jeopardise operations in which the central paramilitary forces work in close concert with the armed forces.”

And the CPOs strike back. Indian Express reports that the CPOs “have strongly opposed some of the demands being made by the Armed Forces, including a proposal to elevate the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel above that of a Commandant in central paramilitary forces (CPMFs).”

In a memorandum submitted to Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee, who heads the committee to look into the grievances of the Armed Forces on the pay commission recommendations, the CPOs have argued that the demand of the Armed Forces was entirely unjustified and would result in operational difficulties if acceded to.

A delegation comprising officials from BSF, CRPF, ITBP and CISF met Mukherjee on Wednesday and explained why they were opposed to certain proposals, sources said. The delegation told the minister that the Armed Forces were using pressure tactics to get their demands met.

…the CPOs have pointed out a number of discrepancies in this argument. Sources said the delegation brought to the notice of the minister that while there were usually more than one Lt Colonel in a battalion — with the senior most being the commanding officer — only one commandant was present in a CPMF battalion.

In an ideal scenario, the defence services and the CPOs should form an intractable part of the national security spectrum. While the CPOs should perform their role as paramilitary forces guarding the borders in peacetime, securing important installations and quelling situations beyond the control of the civil police, the military should focus on countering any external threat and stepping in as a state instrument of the last resort in internal matters. The nation can benefit by a harmonious, cordial and most importantly, trusting relationship between the two. An attitude of unhealthy competition or patronising behaviour from either set of troopers and their leadership will gravely damage the working relationship between them, further straining the effectiveness of the state in dealing with a tenuous internal security situation, where the CPOS and the military operate in tandem.

Saikat also unearths a letter from the Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, who argues that the effort of the pay commission to “equate the status of nurses” with “doctors will seriously impact on the functional relationship” between them. He went on to describe the parity as a grave threat to the “command in military hospitals”.

The essence of Kapoor’s burden was this: if nurses—who are also commissioned officers—are considered on par with doctors, then it will have serious implications on patient care. In short, a nurse of the same rank as a specialist doctor may not follow the doctor’s instructions just because she believes she is of the same rank! As arguments go, this was as specious as they come, leaving an incredulous cabinet secretary to put a “What is this?” remark on the file before forwarding it to the finance ministry.

The Army Chief, with his ill-timed and poorly thought out premise about the nursing officers, has unwittingly taken the debate over the SCPC in an unwarranted direction. It tends to reinforce the impression held by many civil servants that the military officers are mere status jockeys, hankering for more pay and perks from the government and indulging in emotional blackmail to achieve their aims. This can even mar the prospects of other serious demands of the services being considered sympathetically by GoM headed by Pranab Mukherjee. Only time will tell whether this letter from the army chief impacted the case of the services — another two weeks before the GoM gives its final decision.

Also check out two opinion pieces on civil-military relations in India, much in news in wake of the SCPC debate. Inder Malhotra brings out the details of the Thimayya Resignation episode while Harsh Pant talks about finding the right balance between the Indian state, society and its military institutions.

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