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Wednesday, 22 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 22 Oct

Services’ contempt of civil authority is not casual
by Arundhati Ghose

The first decade of the 21st century is almost over and what had started as a new era full of promise and optimism, today appears to be a disintegrating mirage with a lumpenised society resorting to violence and mayhem throughout the country and a bizarre and terrifying lack of concern by the political establishment, busy as it appears to be with the pettinesses of its politics.

In the clamour of bomb blasts, the unearthing of terrorist groups, murders, ethnic cleansing, the killing of industrialists by workers, the rampaging of mobs baying for the blood of villagers in Assam, Orissa and Karnataka, the international financial crisis and its impact on the country, the uncontrolled rise of the Talibanisation of a nuclear-armed Pakistan, an insidious and underestimated danger which has raised its venomous head, are being overlooked.

It all started fairly innocuously with the armed forces protesting against the perceived discrimination against them in the recommendations of the Pay Commission; the Cabinet decided that the recommendations should be implemented on October 1, 2008; the three Chiefs of Staff led by the Navy Chief sent an unclassified note to their ranks not to implement the decision of the Cabinet by not submitting their pay slips on October 1.

This is the version of events that have appeared in the press and have not been contradicted. If these are facts, the danger of our armed forces going against the Constitution they have sworn to uphold has caused consternation, dismay and apprehension among many.

The issue is not whether the armed forces have a case or not, maybe they do. The issue is that however grave the provocation, the Constitution places governance in the hands of the civilian authorities, not of the military.

The ramifications of their action must have been known to the service chiefs and an explanation to the country is essential.

Sections of our forces have frequently, perhaps with some justification, complained about the venality and self-serving nature of not just our elected representatives but of the civilian establishment as a whole.

They have chafed at not being consulted on issues of strategic and military interest. Again, perhaps there is room for improvement here. At the same time, envious eyes have been cast across the border to the privileges and power of their counterparts. While most of those serving today would have grown up after Independence, it is after all only 60 years ago that these officers belonged to the same institutions. Such envy would be natural, but nonetheless dangerous.

Today the Pakistan army, in a bizarre twist to the old fable, is like a monster child eating away at the innards of its mother. The Pakistan army and its ISI are destroying the country they are supposed to be serving—that is, of course, after decades of being in power, both political and economic, in the country.

It has so far been a matter of pride for Indians to acknowledge that their armed forces were different; not only did they stay away from politics and political power, but they accepted the primacy of the civilian decision-making on issues of national interest.

The storm that has arisen today clearly has its roots in a general, if widespread, contempt of the forces for their civilian masters and counterparts. It does not appear to be simple and casual rivalry but a deeper feeling that the military could handle things better— if there are mistakes it is due to the corrupt politician and the “babus”, who “mislead” them when the latter are not in actual cahoots with the former.

The most dangerous aspect to this is that should the forces feel that they can get away with challenging the civil authority, showing “defiance” by not following a decision taken by the duly constituted government of the day, other adventures might arise, and as now, India’s middle classes, irate and despairing of the political class, might support these adventures.

So might India Inc as it would, in their imagination, lead to better governance and better opportunities for them to conduct their businesses.

The general reaction to the Emergency, when the “trains ran on time” would support this thesis as would, and one had to admit that Marx sometimes got it right, Marx’s thesis that after a period of misrule by the lumpen proletariat, people would crave for law and order even if it meant dictatorship and facism. Of course, after the Emergency, elections were called; would that situation occur again?

Perhaps, one is being alarmist and overreacting to what was an inadvertent conjunction of events. The apprehension remains, however, and the onus lies in the first place on the three service chiefs to clarify their stand.

Then the politician and the civilian establishment has to draw lessons from this episode: if such deep resentment is permitted to continue to exist, the fabric of our polity will come under threat. It would be pointless then to apportion blame to any one section of the state.

The writer is a former Ambassador of India to the UN at Geneva

60 Years after 1948 War,
India-Pakistan on Trade Highway to Peace

By Muhammad Najeeb, F. Ahmed and Binoo Joshi

Bridging a six-decade divide, India and Pakistan Tuesday moved ahead on the road to peace as the first trade convoys trundled across the Line of Control (LoC) that separates the two Kashmirs to the sound of drumbeats and loud cheers.

As cross-LoC trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakote routes began for the first time since 1948, when commercial ties snapped following the India-Pakistan war a year after the bloody partition of the subcontinent, excitement ran high on both sides.

Old timers recalled with nostalgia the era long gone when trade flowed freely and the young looked forward to the beginning of a new era of peace.

In Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan administered Kashmir, hundreds of waving and cheering people lined up along the 180-km road to Srinagar that crosses the border at Chakothi as the caravan of 14 trucks began their historic journey.

As the first trucks carrying rice, garlic, spices, dry fruit, onions and the famous Peshawri shoes left for Indian Kashmir, a similar convoy from Srinagar carrying goodies like carpets, apples, walnuts and papier mache items left the Salamabad trade facilitation centre.

Both the countries have allowed trade in 21 items that are produced or prepared locally.

"We hope this route will once again bring prosperity to the people of both sides," said Sardar Anis Ali Khan, a trader based in Muzaffarabad.

The move to open the traditional trade route along the Jhelum was decided upon last month when Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met in New York.

According to the agreed formula, Pakistani trucks will travel 20 km inside Indian Kashmir from where Indian trucks will carry the goods to Srinagar and other parts. Likewise, Indian trucks will come 20 km inside Pakistan administered Kashmir and unload goods to be carried by Pakistani trucks to different destinations.

Officials here said truck drivers had been issued special permits to cross the LoC. "Every time, they will be issued single entry permit by both sides," an official at the Muzaffarabad "immigration" office told IANS.

The bureaucratic details did not dim truck driver Asif Hussain's enthusiasm. "Though I won't be able to go to Srinagar and meet people there, at least I'll be able to breathe in the air of (Indian) Kashmir," he said emotionally.

"What wrong have we done? Why are we being punished for the last 60 years?" The people of the two Kashmirs, he said, wanted to live peacefully. "Our two generations have been destroyed."

The sentiment found echo across the divide.

At the Salamabad centre, hundreds of people dressed in their brightest armed with drums and other musical instruments turned up to watch Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra flag off the first convoy of 14 trucks.

Emotions ran high as schoolchildren lined along the route sang "Rab ne Yeh din deklayu. Pardesiya to hun gar ayoo (God has made this possible for us. Oh you who lived in wilderness and exile, you are welcome home once again)".

"I haven't been able to sleep the entire night as I waited for the first light to see the beginning of a new dawn in valley's trade history," said Mehboob Ahmad, a truck driver who with 13 others was getting ready to go to Chakothi.

"Both India and Pakistan must stick to this great CBM (confidence building measure) so that the walls of hatred between the two countries are brought down and a new chapter is written in the history of Kashmir... Trade through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road must continue unfettered for borders to become irrelevant," added Gulam Rasool Bhat, president of the north Kashmir fruit growers association, who came to see his goods being sent to Muzaffarabad.

In Rangar, about 250 km from the winter capital Jammu, similar scenes were played out.

While Governor Vohra was in Salamabad in north Kashmir, his adviser H.H. Tyabji did the honours in Rangar and kick off trade between Poonch and Rawlakote -- only 30 km from each other.

Instead of 14 trucks, however, only three trucks carrying fruits and vegetables crossed the LoC to enter Pakistan administered Kashmir. Pakistan would begin trade on the route Wednesday, officials said.

"We were asked by the Pakistani side to delay the opening of Poonch route as arrangements were not in place on their side, but we wanted it to start on this date as elections are going to keep state machinery busy," Ram Sahai, president of Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told IANS.

"Today, we are just sending fruits and vegetables as gifts for our brethren on the other side of the LoC," he added.

A small beginning for officials, a giant leap for Kashmiris and the often fraught India-Pakistan relationship.

32 Civilians Brave Extreme Weather,
Complete Siachen Trek

By Ritu Sharma

Siachen Base Camp
Thirty-two people have successfully completed the second edition of the civilian trek to the Siachen glacier, conducted by the Indian Army to "send a message that every civilian can visit the region" despite Pakistan's criticism of India's attempt to promote "tourism" in what it describes as a "disputed territory".

All the participants safely returned here Sunday after braving temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius during the nearly 80 km trek to an altitude of 15,000 ft.

"It is an achievement on the part of the participants as the extreme weather conditions and rarefied atmosphere makes things difficult," Col S.K. Sharma, director of Army Mountaineering Institute, told the IANS correspondent who too completed the trek.

The team led by Lt. Col. A.L. Maini was stuck at Camp-II for two days due to heavy snowfall and chilly winds.

"All the participants have performed well. There has only been one evacuation. A cadet had to be air lifted on the second day as his blood pressure and pulse rate declined below normal owing to extremely low temperatures," Maini said.

The bad weather forced the expedition to be cut short, with the team not able to go to its scheduled destination - the Kumar Post. The maximum height the trekkers, comprising of students of military schools, mountaineering enthusiasts and journalists, achieved was 15,000 ft.

"The experience has been overwhelming. Our army has been working in a harsh terrain against all odds. After the trek my regard for the Indian Army has gone up tremendously," said Cadet Mandeep Basera from the Military School in Dholpur, Rajasthan.

The trek is part of India's move to assert its right over the glacier, where the Indian and Pakistani armies had fought a bitter conflict from 1984 till a truce was agreed upon in 2003.

"The Siachen trek is being undertaken to send a message that every civilian with the help of the military can visit this part of the country," an army officer explained.

Pakistan has been conducting trekking expeditions on its side of the glacier. The area on the Pakistan side has been open for long with no requirement of a military liaison officer to accompany trekkers and the permit formalities taking barely two weeks.

The civilian trek to Siachen started last year despite vehement protests from Pakistan, which termed it India's attempt at promoting "tourism" in a "disputed territory".

Pakistan has not lodged a formal protest against the trek this year and India has also kept it a low key affair, with Defence Minister A.K. Antony skipping the flagging off ceremony Oct 7.

Indian panel concerned over suicides in armed forces

* Parliamentary report says troops stress level puts burden on public exchequer
* Calls for statutory provisions to address problems faced by security personnel

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel in India on Tuesday expressed grave concern over an alarming trend of suicides and fratricidal killings in the armed forces and called for reducing stress level causing psychological imbalance in soldiers.

The panel lamented the Defence Ministry’s insensitivity, asking it to make a realistic assessment of the problems plaguing the armed forces to identify areas for urgent reform.

There were 635 cases of suicides and attempted suicides and 67 cases of fratricidal killings in the three services in the past five years and yet the ministry downplayed the prevalence of this high rate. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, headed by Congress MP Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, criticised the ministry for it.

Burden: “Besides adversely affecting efficiency and performance of the defence personnel due to impaired motivation, negative stress level also puts additional burden on the public exchequer in the form of employees’ sickness, cost of medical treatment and loss of trained officers and soldiers,” says the committee in its report on ‘Stress Management in the Armed Forces’ tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The committee suggested that the duration of deployment of the defence service personnel in the counter-insurgency and high altitude operational areas should be rationalised to contain their stress levels.

Pointing out that the existing shortage of officers was also leading to greater stress among junior and middle level officers who had to perform multiple tasks, the committee said the Army Headquarters should be impressed upon ‘to keep the shortage of personnel at unit level to the barest minimum, particularly in the counter-insurgency and border areas so that the situation does not get worse’.

It has criticised the Defence Ministry for sharing with the committee only two of the nine studies undertaken by the armed forces and marking them as ‘secret’ despite having ‘nothing sensitive or strategic, which may adversely affect the interest of the nation’. The committee said it got the impression that no effective follow-up action had been taken after the studies in crucial areas such as sensitising officers and improving basic facilities in the field.

The committee called for making these studies public. “Veil of secrecy should be removed from such studies and the reports should be placed in public domain,” the committee said.

As regards certain measures initiated by the Defence Ministry in the recent past to manage stress in the armed forces, the report said “it is premature to ascertain the efficacy of these measures at this stage” since the committee felt the issue had not been perceived by the ministry to devise appropriate and timely strategy to minimize the stress level of the personnel.

Saying that ‘familial’ reasons were one of the predominating cause of stress among the armed forces, the committee recommended three specific remedial measures — providing family accommodation at the station of choice of the personnel deployed on operational duties in counter-insurgency and border areas; imparting skill development and helping children of the personnel in getting admission in schools and institutions of higher professional and technical studies; and giving more funds to welfare organisations of defence services personnel and their family members to enable them to extend necessary help to the distressed families of different ranks and act as psychological counsellors to soldiers and their family members..

Statutory provisions: It also called for statutory provisions mandating the district authorities to address the problems and grievances of the serving defence personnel and their families within a stipulated timeframe and a centralised mechanism to monitor progress on each complaint received from these personnel or their family members.

13 killed as Pak jets bomb militant hideouts in Bajaur region

Press Trust of India

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 (Islamabad)

At least 13 militants were killed and 18 others injured in air strikes by Pakistani combat jets in the troubled Bajaur tribal region while 17 Taliban fighters were captured by security forces in the Darra Adam Khel area on Tuesday.

The jets bombed militant hideouts in Charmang, Tangi, Mashkoro and Chinar areas of Bajaur Agency, killing 13 militants and injuring 18 others, officials told TV channels.

Gunship helicopters and jets also bombed hideouts in the Taliban strongholds of Rashakai and Loisam but no causalities were reported.

In the Darra Adam Khel area of the North West Frontier Province, security forces arrested 17 militants, including three commanders, during a search operation and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition from them.

Security officials said the arms and ammunition were recovered during a search in Pirjan and Timer Khel areas. The cache included 400 machine guns, 350 missiles, 15 heavy machine guns, three wireless sets, mine detectors and rifles.

More than 200 militants have been arrested in the Darra Adam Khel area over the past few weeks.

Army ready to face any challenge
TEZPUR, Oct 21 – President of India Prathibha Devisingh Patil today appealed to the personnel of the Indian Army to continue working for restoration of peace and for the welfare and development of the region in a more effective manner. Patil assured that the Government was aware of the problems faced by the soldiers and it would leave no stone unturned to address the issues of the armed forces across the country.

Addressing a Sainik Sanmelan here at the Army’s 4 Corps headquarters, the Supreme Commander of the Indian Defence Forces, appreciated the arduous tasks which are being performed by the soldiers in adverse terrain like that of the North East region.

“I feel proud to say that the Army has done commendable job in tackling the insurgency problem of the region and I am pretty sure that they would continue to exhibit the same in the coming days,” the first lady President of the country stated.

“In fact, the Indian Army is totally equipped to face any kind of challenge that may arise. The fact that our soldiers have been facilitated with sophisticated and modern warfare equipment has further added teeth to its firepower,” the President asserted.

Referring to the achievements of Army’s 4 Corps, Patil said, “Be it during the Second World War or the Sino-Indian war in 1962, the soldiers of the Army’s 4 Corps has set new standards of excellence in warfare.”

The Sainik Sanmelan was followed by Barakhana where the president took her meal. Patil also had an informal interactive session with the jawans.

She visited a photo exhibition, which highlighted various activities of the Indian Army.

The President has also sent a consignment of sweets for the jawans posted in the forward areas of Arunachal Pradesh.

Earlier, Chief-of-Army-Staff General Deepak Kapoor, while addressing the gathering, said that the Army’s Gajraj Corps, in the recent past, has done exceptionally well in neutralising the nefarious design of the insurgent groups in the North East.

“This visit by the President holds importance as the ties between India and neighbouring country China is improving,” Kapoor said.

Assam Governor SC Mathur, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Lt General BS Jaswal, GOC, 4 Corps were also present on the occasion, amongst others.

Mily must work under civil admin: speakers

Source: OUR STAFF REPORTER submitted 5 hours 27 minutes ago

LAHORE - The military should work under the civilian elected administration, while the former must function within the ambit of rules, which is only possible through strengthening of the political institutions at every level, and Pakistan needs to learn lessons from international and regional best practices for improving its civil-military relations while moving towards democratic consolidation after establishing civilian and democratic control over the armed forces.
Speakers maintained this here on Tuesday at the inaugural day of the PILDAT International Conference on the Civil-Military Relations. On the first day, four sessions were held, which were chaired by well-known political analysts, and addressed by both local and international political experts.
Special Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa reiterated the position of the PML-N on civilian supremacy over the army and underlined the need for the strengthening of institutions. “Martial law is responsible for the debacle of Dhaka, which put a question mark on the sustainability of democracy in Pakistan. Now democracy empowers state economy, while the military ruins it after showing lack of respect to the constitution,” he maintained.
Former Governor Sindh Lt.-Gen. (r) Moinuddin Haider traced the history of military’s intervention into politics. “Military has no political orientation, but is sucked in when political institutions do not perform. It has interests and worries for Pakistan, but it should be subservient to civil administration for a democratic and prosperous country,” he maintained.
While discussing ‘Comparative Overview of Civil-Military Relations around the World’ Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi said there had been a considerable decline in direct military rule in the first decade of the 21st Century and the trend was towards some kind of participatory governance.
“The military top commanders know that they cannot hold on to power and have to transform military rule into an acceptable civilian rule, while a few military rulers do not intend to give up power altogether either due to self cultivated ‘saviour’ complex or they develop power ambition,” he added.
Addressing Session-II ‘Closer Home: Civil-Military Relations in India’ former Secretary Defence India and currently Director Institute of Defence Studies Narendara Singh Sisodia said a combination of favourable historical circumstances, the committed and visionary leadership in the formative years of India and a strong infrastructure of democratic institutions, together with a professional and apolitical military, had ensured an effective democratic oversight of defence forces in India.
Concluding the Session Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence Senator Nisar A. Memon said politicians in Pakistan, alongside the military, need to work closely together towards carving out a future of Pakistan in which both sides could serve within their established domains.
In Session-III ‘Establishing Democratic Oversight of Defence Sector’ Dr. Volkan Aytar shared the Turkish case study and said discussing security issues and advancing the agenda of the civilian and democratic oversight of the security sector had always been difficult in Turkey. “Human rights associations faced tremendous pressures and difficulties, and even social stigma, and had to fight against claims that they have ‘hidden agendas’ to demoralise the Turkish security forces and undermine the secular and republican roots of the regime,” he said. Sharing the work of Geneva Centre of Democratic Control of Armed Forces Roland Friedrich said the DCAF experiences of different countries had shown that there was no one-fits-all approach for moving security sector governance into a more democratic direction.
Concluding the Session, Justice (r) Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui said there was a dire need to learn from international experiences to put Pakistan’s own house in order.

Govt aware of problems of Indian army: President

Press Trust of India Tezpur, October 21, 2008

President Pratibha Patil on Tuesday assured the armed forces that the nation was aware of the difficulties faced by the troops and the government was engaged in finding ways to provide enhanced facilities so that they could continue to protect the nation's territorial integrity with the same determination.

Addressing troops at the 4 Corps headquarters here on her maiden visit to any army sector in eastern India, the president lauded soldiers for effectively protecting the nation's territorial integrity and tackling terrorism within the country.

She expressed confidence that the country was safe in the hands of the Indian army which was equipped to face any challenges confronting the nation.

"Our armed forces possess the latest modern weapons and I am happy to note that our troops have successfully adopted the new techniques to increase their efficiency," she said.

Besides protecting the frontiers, troops have been engaged in operations against militants and have helped the state government in security-related matters.

The president further lauded the family members of the troops who also made several sacrifices in their daily lives but still continued to inspire their loved ones to protect the nation and "I as the supreme commander of such a force am proud to be the head of such a family."

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