Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Thursday, 23 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 23 Oct

The Great Sepoy Mutiny of 2008

“The Cabinet Secretary and Defence Secretary need to go home. What the hell have they recommended?” asked retired Vice Admiral Raman Puri in an outburst that is echoed within the armed forces. The “pinpricks” of decades have become the last straw for the armed forces, with the Sixth Pay Commission not only failing to address the anomalies between the military and the civilian sector, but actually opening new and very serious issues of parity.

For the first time in Indian independent history, the three defence service chiefs have united to counter a civil decision seen as highly discriminatory and partisan by the military. “Mutiny,” screamed the bureaucrats. “Rubbish,” responded the defence officers. But it was clear to all concerned that the action by the chiefs was unprecedented, and that the Indian military is not in a mood to be pushed around anymore. The military top brass directed the accounts offices not to issue payslips in conformity with the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, and continue with the old scales until their demands were met.

“I am very glad the chiefs have taken this stand,” said retired Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoi. “They are doing their duty towards their men. What these bureaucrats have done is not right at all. They have been doing it in the past as well, but this year they have become excessively greedy.”

Both Puri and Oberoi were of the view that if the Government does not listen to the chiefs now, they will have “no choice but to resign”. Lt. Gen. Oberoi said that the Government will not be able to threaten or sack any of the chiefs on this issue, for if they do so, “they will be in big trouble” as the disaffection will affect the ranks. Vice Admiral Puri said that the chiefs’ dissent “is not a mutiny at all, anything stated in the official line is not mutiny”. And, as he pointed out, the Government had not ordered them to accept the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, but had instead now agreed for a review. But, he admitted, that the Government’s failure to address the four points raised by the defence chiefs would leave them with little option but to submit their resignations. He said that this would amount to pushing them into a “tight corner”, and if they compromise, they “will lose the respect of the men they command”.

Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major and Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta were amazed to find that despite repeated meetings and recommendations with all concerned, the Sixth Pay Commission created new anomalies by reducing the 70% pensionary weightage to the jawans to 50%, with the plea that the demand for allowing them lateral entry into the paramilitary forces had been accepted. This, the Government has let it be known through sources, might be accepted. But a formal announcement has still to be made.

The second discriminatory provision that has stunned all in the defence services is the lowering of pay, and thus parity, of lieutenant colonels with directors in the civil services and equivalents in the police who have been brought into Pay Band 4 while the Army officers have been left in Pay Band 3. Retired Vice Admiral O.P. Bansal pointed out that this places the lieutenant colonel, who commands a battalion, below a commandant of the BSF. The question serving officers are asking is, “Who will issue the commands now when there is a joint operation in Kashmir, the colonel or the policeman?” And this at a time when, as Vice Admiral Bansal said, “The police is corrupt and communalised. They stand and watch when a nun is getting raped. And when matters go out of hand they call in the Army.”

The anger and, as senior officers said, “hurt” in the defence services are visible. Officers are speaking out and as one in the service said, “It is now a fight to the finish. Either they agree to give us parity or they don’t. We will then know where we really stand.” A senior officer pointed out that the problem was not of money but of parity. “We have no problem if they place the lieutenant colonels and the directors and the police commandants in Pay Band 3 instead of 4, but they cannot raise the pay scales of some and leave the military to stew in its own juice,” he said. Significantly, special care is being taken at all levels not to say a word against the politicians. The anger is directed at the IAS officers, “the babus who only look after their own interests”

The third provision that has already had a fallout in Jammu and Kashmir is also high on the list of anomalies submitted by the chiefs to their Minister, A.K. Antony. Here again the deputy police chiefs have been placed in a higher grade than the lieutenant generals. The result is, according to sources, a DGP in Jammu and Kashmir just very recently refused to attend a meeting convened by the lieutenant general in command. “Who is in command now?” the sources asked. “The general or the policeman in the counter-insurgency operations? Now the same will happen in Assam, Nagaland, the entire Northeast.”

The fourth item in the list is parity of Grade Pay between different officers. Lt. Gen. Oberoi pointed out that the question of “one-rank one-pension” had also not been settled. He said that this issue had been raised by the armed forces 25 years ago. In the Fifth Pay Commission it had been conceded for the junior ranks, not including the JCOs and the officers. “We thought that this would now be given under the Sixth Pay Commission, but this time they have withdrawn what they had given last time as well,” he said. The bureaucrats’ argument of unmanageable expenses is not working, for as the sources here pointed out, DCPs have been taken into Pay Band 4 and their numbers far outnumber that of lieutenant colonels and their equivalents in the other services.

The widening gap between the civil services and the armed forces is a major cause of concern. And although no one will say this, it is clear that the politicians in power encourage this and put their weight behind the civil services. Lt. Gen. Oberoi was the only officer spoken to who admitted that “The political class is more comfortable with the bureaucrat than the soldier. If you give a wrong order to the soldier he will protest, while the civil administrator will ensure a way of making it happen.”

Former Navy Chief Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was sacked, again in an entirely unprecedented action, for insisting, amongst other issues, that he would not change his nominee — a young Muslim officer — to the Research and Analysis Wing. Under the rules, the services depute an officer to RAW, but given the external intelligence agency’s unwillingness to employ Muslims, the Admiral’s nominee was struck down. The Navy Chief refused to compromise, and eventually the decision led to his being sacked from the service. Vice Admiral Bansal said, “This created considerable unrest in the ranks at the time.” Admiral Bhagwat told Covert from Mumbai that the absence of parity was “a deliberate attempt to subvert one of the finest and last surviving institutions of the state, the defence services”. He said that the decision of the chiefs was admirable, and that for the officers, the safety and honour of the country comes first, the safety and honour and welfare of the men comes next, and your own welfare comes last

But the problem that has set alarm bells ringing within the armed forces, compelling the chiefs to sink their known differences and act in unison, is deeper than that of just pay and parity. These are part of a deeper malaise. Despite trying to put a happy lid on what were projected as isolated instances, senior officers have not taken the instances of “fragging” [wounding or killing others under stress] and suicides within the Army lightly. As several officers said, that given the other problems, the “least” that could now be ensured for the defence services was higher pay and parity. “We are not asking for special concessions, we are just asking for parity with all the services. Do not humiliate and insult us,” a senior officer said. Admiral Bhagwat added, “We are not like the police, separate from our men. We care for our men.”

All spoken to, retired and serving, were agreed that the problems facing the armed forces were many. The 500-odd suicides in the last four years [this includes fragging] are compounded by applications from any number of officers seeking premature retirement. The defence chiefs are on the record pointing towards a serious shortage of officers — as many as 11,000 in the Army that is worst hit — because of a variety of reasons. These include better and more paying opportunities in the corporate and other sectors; the high demand for military personnel, particularly skilled staff like engineers, doctors and pilots; the tough living conditions within the Army in particular and the prolonged use of the military for civilian jobs like countering insurgency and quelling communal violence. A senior general pointed out, “They know only four words: call out the Army.”

The point made by the senior officers, including the defence chiefs in their interactions with the political bosses, is that the problem is not being able to fill the shortfall. “The issue,” as they said, “is that the better officers are leaving for other jobs and the vacancies are being filled by not as good officers.” In an Army where the sepoy waits for exact, “minutest” orders from the officers, this change will impact directly on operations on the ground. The seniors today fear that from the “best” the Indian military might suddenly find itself compromising on efficiency and even discipline.

The sepoys are also being affected by socio-economic conditions. Most sepoys are drawn from India’s villages, and earlier their families lived in the villages, in an essentially joint family system. These structures are breaking down, with nuclear families now wanting to live in urban areas and finding it difficult to deal with the larger problems in the absence of the soldier. The civil administration cooperated with the Army to ensure their families’ welfare, with petty disputes involving land and other issues being dealt with speedily. A commanding officer said, “Earlier, we just used to send a letter to the civil authority and the problems facing the jawans were immediately addressed. Today, they do not even reply to us.” The result is that stress levels are rising, and the soldier when he returns home for a limited duration is unable to handle the problems that include matrimonial disputes. He is now losing confidence in the system’s support. This, the sources said, was directly responsible for fragging and suicides. The Army has tried to introduce some measures — such as the induction of more psychiatrists, construction of family housing, allowing families to stay for specified durations with the soldiers — but all officers spoken to were unanimous that these would be piecemeal, until and unless the civil administration was made to cooperate.

The problems facing ex-servicemen are also important, with Lt. Gen. Oberoi particularly perturbed that they were not given the same respect as they used to be at home. “Boys now wanting to join are deterred by the fact that these old and retired soldiers are living lives on the margin, with no one listening to them anymore. This was not so earlier, and ex-servicemen were a major source of motivation for new recruits,” he said. As a general said, “The problem is ab sunvai nahin hai. No one listens at any level to the Army.”

It is no one’s case that the defence services are exemplary and above criticism, as the officers were quick to point out. But such is the crisis that the entire military is now speaking in one voice, and the grievances accumulated over the years — and now assuming serious dimensions — are pouring out. Corruption has become a factor, particularly as most of the defence budget is being pumped into acquisitions. Vice Admiral Puri said that in the absence of a policy to make the armed forces self reliant in weaponry, “currently 30% of the defence budget is being spent abroad, soon 60% will be, and we can only be employed as agents”.

There is a quiet determination now at all levels in the defence services to ensure that the Government must meet the demands listed by the three chiefs. The decision by the top brass not to implement the Sixth Pay Commission sent a chill down the civilian spine. The bureaucrats scrambled for cover, planting stories in sections of the media to save their skin and cover the obvious manipulation of pay scales. Defence Minister Antony had one of two choices: sack the chiefs and further exacerbate the situation, or give cognizance to their demands and restore some confidence in the military. He has fortunately chosen the latter. It is now for the Government to ensure that the four basic demands are met, and the defence forces given respect not in rhetoric, but through action on the ground

LTTE suicide squad attack Lankan ships: Navy

Press Trust of India

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 (Colombo)

Tamil Tiger rebels carried out a suicide attack early on Wednesday morning targeting two Sri Lankan merchant ships, which were transporting humanitarian aid in the embattled north, causing a considerable damage to one of the ships, the defence ministry said.

"LTTE militants have carried out a suicide attack targeting Merchant Ship Ruhuna and Nimalawa in the north sea of Sri Lanka at 5.10 am," it said.

One sea tiger militant was killed in the attack which also damaged Sri Lankan merchant ship 'Nimalawa'.

The attack was carried out with an aim to disrupt the essential supplies to the tamil civilians caught in the embattled northern part of the country, the Sri Lankan Navy said.

Navy spokesperson Commander DKP Dassanayke said three LTTE suicide vessels were deployed for the attack.

"Navy sailors, providing security onboard, targeted the vessels and engaged machine gun fire at the approaching suicide boats effectively, and destroyed two of them before ramming on the ships," he said.

The spokesman said, however, one of the suicide boats exploded in close proximity to Merchant Ship Nimalawa causing a considerable damage to the ship's hull.

The third suicide craft has been captured by navy boats, he said, adding the LTTE suicide cadre who was operating the boat is believed to be killed in the Navy retaliation.

Govt won't raise pitiful pay for war heroes


HEROES REBUFFED: Recepients of the Param Vir Chakra get a grant of Rs 3,000 a month.

New Delhi: It was a rebuff for war heroes as the Government turned down a request from Army veterans to increase allowances for military heroes decorated with gallantry awards. Defence Minister A K Antony told Parliament that further revision won't be appropriate after a hike in May.

Currently, recepients of India's highest war-time gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra get a grant of Rs 3,000 a month. There are only three living Param Vir Chakra awardees.

Mahavir chakra and Vir Chakra awardees get Rs 2,400 and Rs 1,700 per month respectively.

Recipients of Shaurya Chakra get RS 1,500 while a Sena Medal recipient gets just Rs 500 per month.

Video -

Army to revamp stress management training
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 22
The direct cost of stress for the Indian armed forces could run into several hundred crores of rupees per year due to man-days of work lost, cost of treatment and deaths, a Parliamentary panel has estimated.

The indirect costs are very difficult to estimate, and include such things as impaired motivation, prolonged unserviceability of equipment, poor decision-making, poor quality of work, loss of creativity and accidents.

Taking cognizance of increasing stress levels in troops because of demanding service conditions and the changing socio-economic environment, the Army is revamping its institutional training methodology on stress management.

With stress being a serious issue, the Headquarters Army Training Command has been tasked to review institutionalised training being imparted on the subject, especially for the junior and middle-rung leaders, the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence has stated in its report released yesterday.

The stress management is included in courses run in various military institutions for platoon commander, potential Subedar Major and junior leaders (NCOs), young officers and junior command courses and all company commander-level courses of all arms and services and the senior command course.

In addition, capsules are also being introduced in the prestigious Defence Service Staff College, Wellington, that will deal with aspects of leadership, improvement in interpersonal relationship, man management and stress management. The capsules will also incorporate case studies on the subject and touch upon the importance and effectiveness of yoga and pranayam, the report stated.

Further, the division and area headquarters have been suggested to organise a training workshop on man management and stress management for five days, which will be attended by at least one officer, one junior commissioned officer and one non-commissioned officer from each unit of the Army.

Committees to review and analyse stress-related incidents and suggest additional measures have been established at the Army, command, corps and divisional headquarters. These committees will also have members from the Army Medical Corps.

Stress, according to the report, has been recognised as a cause for a variety of illnesses and behavioural problems, which could lead to suicide, fratricidal killings, early mortality and desertion from the armed forces.

During 2003-2007, there have been 635 cases of suicide and 67 cases of fratricide in the armed forces. Data released by the Defence Ministry reveals that during the past two years, as many as 3,020 personnel have deserted from the services, out of which 2,384 are from the Army.

Anti-terror mechanism meets tomorrow
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 22
The joint anti-terror mechanism between India and Pakistan will meet here on Friday after a long gap with the focus being on the July 7 Indian embassy bombing in Kabul, for which New Delhi has blamed ISI.

Vivek Katju, special secretary in-charge of political and international organisations in the external affairs ministry, will lead the Indian delegation at the talks while the Pakistani side will be headed by Aizaz Ahmad Choudhry.

The decision to hold an early meeting of the mechanism, formed in September 2006, was taken when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in New York recently.

The national security advisers (NSAs) of the two countries had met here last week for their first-ever official-level dialogue at which they discussed various issues, including terrorism.

India is likely to present to Pakistan ‘evidence’ of the ISI’s complicity in the embassy bombing in which more than 50 persons, including an Indian diplomat and a military attaché, were killed.

“The attack on our embassy is viewed by the government as a dastardly attack perpetuated by the enemies of peace in Afghanistan and our region,” external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Parliament today.

First wargames with China in India

23 Oct 2008, 0404 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit, TNN

NEW DELHI: Despite the recent chill in bilateral relations with Beijing after it tried to derail New Delhi's case for civil nuclear commerce at the Nuclear Suppliers Group, India is all set to host Chinese soldiers for the first time on its territory after the bitter 1962 war.

Defence ministry sources on Wednesday said the first-ever Sino-Indian military combat exercise on Indian soil — with counter-terrorism as its primary thrust area — is likely to be held at Belgaum towards December-end.

"A top Indian Army delegation is currently in Beijing for the initial planning conference to decide the exact theme, setting and level of participation for the exercise," said a source.

The wargames come at a time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to reach Beijing from Tokyo on Thursday evening, to take part in the Asia-Europe summit, which will also lead to bilateral meetings with the Chinese leadership.

"Yes, there has been a downturn in our bilateral relations with China, which, despite promises, held out till the very last in the waiver for us at the NSG meeting in Vienna last month. But now, attempts are being made to arrest the slide," said a senior official.

India, on its part, remains suspicious of the continuing China-Pakistan nexus in the nuclear arena and the ongoing modernization of the 2.5-million-strong People's Liberation Army, with advanced trans-border military capabilities and a wide array of long-range nuclear-tipped missiles.

Then, of course, there is China's military infrastructure build-up in Tibet as well as its strategic manoeuvres in the Indian Ocean Region. Moreover, coupled with the meandering border talks, is the PLA's aggressive policy of intrusions into Indian territory along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control in all three sectors — western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand and Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim and Arunachal).

Nevertheless, the forthcoming joint exercise is being seen as a CBM between the largest and third-largest militaries in the world. This will be the second time the two armies will undertake combat drills together after the first ''hand-in-hand'' exercise was held at Kunming in China in December 2007.

Over the last couple of years, India and China have moved towards institutionalizing defence and military exchanges, with an MoU on defence cooperation and exchanges being signed in May 2006 and the first annual defence dialogue kicking off in November 2007.

Similarly, the military protocol signed during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit here in April 2005, goes far ahead of the earlier November 1996 agreement on maintaining peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control. It lays down that the two armies will "exercise self-restraint" and take "all necessary steps" to avoid any escalation on the LAC.

Pakistan's hidden war

War has come to the world's only Muslim nuclear state. Not just terrorist bombs, but pitched battles bringing refugees down from the mountains and even into Afghanistan. In a powerful dispatch, Andrew Buncombe and Omar Waraich report on the conflict which has left 200,000 people caught between the Pakistani Army, the Taliban and the tribal warlords

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Supporters of Maulana Fazlullah, a hardline cleric who began an uprising against the Pakistani government, in Charbagh, a Taliban stronghold on the Afghan border

There was a loud, sharp sound followed by flames and a massive blast of wind that threw the boy 20 yards. He said it felt as if he had fallen off the mountain. When he pulled himself to his feet, dazed and battered, he found nine members of his family dead and his mother badly wounded. All fell victim to an artillery shell fired by the Pakistani army fighting Taliban fighters in the country's mountainous borders. As soon as the boy's remaining family were able, they fled with the rest of his village. Two months on, 12-year-old Ikram Ullah sits with thousands of others in a wretched, fly-ridden refugee camp, his face streaked with dirt and tears as he tells his story and wonders what will happen to him. "Life here," he says, crouching in the dust among rows of canvas tents, "is filled with sadness and grief."

Ikram is far from alone. Up to 200,000 desperate people have fled their villages and the fighting. Some 20,000 refugees have even crossed the border into Afghanistan. As the Pakistan army bends to pressure from the US to step up its confrontation with Taliban militants in the semi-autonomous tribal areas of Pakistan, the fallout for the civilian population worsens. Every day, their lives are threatened by the pounding jets that sweep into the valleys on bombing and strafing runs and by the clattering helicopter gunships that the Pakistani military uses to spearhead assaults. The people in the dust are the so-called "collateral damage" of Pakistan's own war on terror.

But the political danger goes far beyond. The spread of the Taliban and the seemingly endless cycle of violence they are now provoking threatens the very fabric of Pakistan, an unstable, nuclear-armed state that, at times, appears on the brink of unravelling. The consequences, were that to happen, for the country and the region would be unthinkable. The civilian administration elected this year looks ill-prepared to tackle the emergency. Until now, the conflict has largely played out in the remote tribal areas along Pakistan's north-western border with Afghanistan. For the West, it has been easy enough to ignore: Pakistan's tribal agencies have long been considered all but outside the control of the government in Islamabad.

But that has changed. Militants have escalated their attacks. Areas outside the tribal regions are beginning to suffer the increasing influence of the Taliban. A truck-bomb attack on the five-star Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September left more than 50 people dead, including half-a-dozen foreigners. There have also been attacks on the Prime Minister and the Anti-Terrorism Police headquarters; in August the Taliban claimed responsibility after two suicide bombers killed 70 people in Wah, 20 miles from the capital. In the province's Swat Valley, once a tourist destination called the "Switzerland of Pakistan", the army has also stepped up operations against militants. Last week, shopkeepers in Lahore, long considered a bulwark against extremism, began publicly setting fire to DVDs of pornographic movies after threats from the Taliban.

Lawless mountains

They are a world apart. Pakistan's tribal areas are squeezed between the North-west Frontier Provinces and Afghanistan in a strip that runs north to south-west and contains some of the most mountainous and inhospitable terrain in south Asia. There are seven so-called tribal agencies, North and South Waziristan, Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur, and parts of them are utterly lawless.

They enjoyed autonomy under the British empire and, after independence, it was left up to the tribal chiefs or maliks to agree whether or not to become part of Pakistan. The chiefs managed to ensure they would retain a large degree of autonomy. Peopled by Pashtun tribes, the area has only ever nominally been in the control of thecentral government.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, it was through here that Pakistan – with funding from the US and Saudi Arabia – dispatched arms, supplies and thousands of young fighters to join Afghan militias opposing the Red Army. Praised by Ronald Reagan as "freedom fighters", the mujahedin, or holy warriors, were a crucial factor in the Soviet's decision a decade later to withdraw.

In 1994, after years of civil war in Afghanistan, the government of Benazir Bhutto provided backing to "the students", or Taliban, who were attempting to seize control in Kabul. Ms Bhutto said stability in Afghanistan would help Pakistan. "I don't know how much money they were ultimately given," she said. "It was just carte blanche." Taliban rule ended only when the US invaded after the 2001 al-Qa'ida attacks on New York and Washington.

Many of the Taliban fled into the tribal sanctuaries of Pakistan. Here, among fellow Pashtuns, they have regrouped, resupplied and launched their battle against US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. At the same time, their influence in Pakistan spread, and increasing numbers of Pakistani Taliban were recruited to an anti-US jihad. These fighters have been the target of operations by the military since Pakistan signed up to President George Bush's war on terror.

Under Pervez Musharraf and the recently elected civilian government, negotiated settlements were made with the militants. But in August, after constant pressure from Washington, the Pakistan military launched a major operation in Bajaur, the smallest tribal agency and home to Ikram and his family. It was devastating. "When the fighter jets came into our valley, four people were killed," says Abdul Rauf, a creased-faced 50-year-old refugee from a Bajaur village called Tauheedabada. "All the people were crying, we were frightened. After that, we started to run away."

Aid agencies estimate 200,000 people have been forced from their homes, but that is guesswork. "Since mid-August, we've seen an exodus of about 190,000 people from areas bordering Afghanistan. This includes Bajaur and Swat," said Vivian Tan of UNHCR. "We have no access to most of these border areas, so we're relying completely on government figures."

The army

Pakistan's army is headquartered in the neat and well-tended cantonment district of Rawalpindi, the garrison city near Islamabad. Lt-Col Haider Baseer's office is in a quadrangle planted with sweet-smelling roses. From here, the fight involving 120,000 troops is overseen, and officers bristle at the suggestion that their efforts to root out the militants is only half-hearted.

Beneath a photograph of Pakistan's founder, Muhammad ali-Jinnah, is pinned a map showing the location of ongoing operations. "We are operating in Swat, in Bajaur, in Darra Adam Khel and North and South Waziristan," the colonel points out. The Taliban, he says, is fighting a classic guerrilla war and both the terrain and the enemy is difficult. "Everybody has a gun," he says. "It's their culture." A total of 1,400 soldiers from the Frontier Corps have been killed since 2001. But this war also pitches Muslim against Muslim and often, in the case of the Frontier Corps, Pashtun against Pashtun. There have been reports of desertion and surrender. A military officer based in Swat and Waziristan admitted: "At the beginning, before we were inducted into this war, it was troubling. We asked ourselves, 'How are we going to fight against fellow Muslims?' We were motivated to fight against India and if we die, we were told we become martyrs who go to heaven. Now I am convinced I am fighting this war for my country and my religion. Now we see the criminal elements getting into their fold. They do not represent Islam in any way."

The involvement of US forces is a further complication. For a long time, the US has been using unmanned drones flown from Afghanistan to attack suspected militant hideouts. Sometimes they claim to killal-Qa'ida members, often they kill civilians. In June, a US air strike killed 11 members of the Frontier Corps.

Such attacks have fuelled popular sentiment against the US. But the situation was brought to boiling point in September when US special forces entered Pakistan and attacked the village of Jalal Khel, in the Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan. Up to 20 people were killed, including women and children. The incident triggered outrage in Pakistan. US and Pakistani troops even exchanged fire along the border. "Obviously, no one wants to see foreign soldiers entering the country," says Col Baseer. "We have asked the US to stop the border incursions."

Yet the most serious allegation concerning Pakistan's seemingly lacklustre effort to confront the militants is that parts of the military establishment do not wish to. The shadowy ISI intelligence agency has been accused of maintaining operational links with the Taliban, which it helped create three decades ago.

This summer, the CIA's deputy director, Stephen Kappes, travelled to Islamabad and presented what he said was evidence that mid-level ISI officials were involved in a suicide bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing 54 people. The plot was, the US claims, hatched by the veteran Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who had been described by an ISI official as an "asset".

In Islamabad, a government minister said Pakistan had always considered Afghanistan its "fifth province". He added: "The Taliban was created by the Pakistanis and the CIA. All the problems were created here. Who do you think created these people? That is why they are not prepared to take them on. They consider them their assets."

Even military officers admit that the US and Pakistan have different priorities. US military operations inside Pakistan using unmanned drones have largely targeted militants attacking targets in Afghanistan. The Pakistan military has focused its efforts on militants believed responsible for attacks inside Pakistan such as Baitullah Mehsud, who is blamed for the assassination of Ms Bhutto.

"The priorities are mismatching," the military's chief spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas concedes. He strenuously denies supporting the re-energised Taliban, but admits indirect links are maintained. "Which agency in the world would break its last contact with them?"

Tribal fightback

One morning in mid-August, the day crisp and clean, up to 4,000 Pashtuns from the town of Salarzai in the Bajaur agency arrived for a meeting in pick-ups and trucks. The younger men were dressed in salwar kameez and vests, older tribesmen wore rough woollen clothes. Many were wearing traditional chitrali turbans, reserved for special occasions. Almost everyone was armed, many with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-launchers, "a gift from the Soviet jihad".

The jirga, or council, had been called after Taliban militants attacked and killed two chiefs, or maliks. One of the dead maliks was Shah Zarin Khan, and his supporters addressed the jirga first. For centuries, the system of jirgas – which women are not permitted to attend – have been used by the Pashtun tribes to decide important issues. On this morning, the community had been called to discuss a defence force or lashkar, to take on the Taliban.

Syed Akhunzada Chattan, the local MP, was called to speak. "The sanctuary we gave the Taliban was because we thought they were good people, because they had established peace in Afghanistan, because they fought against a superpower in the form of America," he said. "Then the Taliban started hurting us. These people are the enemy of Pakistan; they want a weak Pakistan. We cannot surrender our area to these people. We have to throw them out."

As Mr Chattan spoke, the villagers raised their fists in solidarity. There and then, it was decided to target the Taliban leaders. Anyone with information about a Taliban fighter would receive 10,000 rupees. Anyone found harbouring such fighters would be fined 1,000,000 rupees and have their home burnt down. Within a week, claims Mr Chattan, the Taliban had been driven from the area.

Some reports suggest the tribes are acting against the Taliban's efforts to impose stricter moral codes than local people wish, but there is evidence that the tribes object mainly to the militants' efforts to seize control in the areas, and to criminal elements and "miscreants" who use the cloak of the Taliban to behave like mafia.

The combination of lashkars and military operations appears to be having results. Last week, Maulvi Omar, a spokesman for the coalition of about 40 Taliban groups, said it was prepared for unconditional talks with Pakistan if the military halted its actions. It also offered to help oust "foreign fighters" from tribal areas.

The Pakistani government rejected the offer. This indicates either that the army believes it has the upper hand or that there is ongoing pressure from Washington to continue its military strikes. Either way, it was the first time the authorities had turned down such an offer of talks.

Identifying the enemy

Inside the bombed-out interior, there is a frenzy of activity. Electricians, plasterers and metal workers are furiously at work while all around is the evidence of destruction. There is rubble, twisted metal, bombed-out windows, but there is also a determination to have the Marriott Hotel ready for a grand reopening party on New Year's Eve.

On the evening of 20 September, a massive truck bomb was detonated at the gates of this Islamabad landmark. At least 54 people were killed. There had been deadlier bomb attacks before and there have been others since but this attack forced a wider audience to take notice of Pakistan's crisis. The conflict was spreading from the remote tribal areas to the cities.

President Asif Ali Zardari, while in New York, called the event Pakistan's 9/11. Mr Zardari, whose wife, Ms Bhutto, was assassinated last December, vowed to continue the fight against militants. "This is a menace, a cancer in Pakistan we will eliminate. We will not be scared of these cowards."

But the attack has forced a debate about how best to confront the militants. With so many casualties, one recent report suggested suicide bombings in Pakistan killed more people in the first eight months of 2008 than in Iraq or Afghanistan. There is also now soul-searching about the nature of the enemy. Religious leaders have also spoken out. Two groups of clerics have issued fatwas against suicide bombings.

Peshawar sits on the very edge of the tribal areas. In the mid-1980s, Osama bin Laden moved his family here from Saudi Arabia and quickly developed his reputation as a supporter of the jihad. Today, for all its modernity and amenities, there is still a hint of the city's position as a frontier town.

The crenellated sandstone walls of a British-built fort now serve as the headquarters of the Frontier Corps. Up to 85 per cent of the fuel used by Western forces in Afghanistan is transported along the historic trade route leading from Peshawar through the Khyber Pass and on to Kabul. Last month, the crossing-point into Afghanistan was temporarily closed by the Pakistani authorities because of poor security.

On a recent evening, the soft golden light of south Asia is slipping away as the faithful arrive to pray at the city's Sunehri mosque. In a large, airy upstairs classroom, the imam, Khan Mohammed Saeed, sits overseeing a group of young boys, hard at their study. The imam is no liberal; his view that Pakistan should be run according to Islamic law would alarm many both inside the country and abroad.

But asked about the militants just miles from where he sat, he does not hesitate. "There are people in the tribal areas and the NWFP who have come to do bomb blasts and destroy our religion," he says. "Our religion does not give us permission to do these things... In none of our teachings or texts or what our learned scholars have taught, is there any permission to do these things."

Who's fighting who


Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan president, widely known as "Mr 10 Per Cent" over numerous corruption cases. He became leader of the main opposition party, the People's Party of Pakistan, after his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated last year, and became president following elections. Army chief of staff General Ashfaq Kayani says the army should remain out of politics but could yet change his mind.

Pakistani Taliban

The Taliban leaders in the wild and woolly tribal areas include former gym fanatic Baitullah Mehsud, wanted for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Maulana Fazlullah, the leader in the picturesque Swat valley (which was formerly a tourist destination) has his own clandestine FM radio station. Faqir Mohammed, in Bajaur, leads a religious group that forcibly imposed Sharia in the tribal areas during the 1990s.


Al-Qa'ida's leader Osama bin Laden, and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, may be hiding in the border regions of Pakistan while senior Taliban leaders may be living in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Tribal leader

Anwar Kamal, a former minister, was the first to rally his tribesmen and form a lashkar, or tribal militia, to beat back the Taliban more than a year ago. Mr Kamal's success in clearing the town of Lakki Marwat, adjoining the tribal areas, has recently been replicated elsewhere.

Faultlines of history

1947 Muslim Pakistan is created out of the partition of India at the end of British rule. More than half a million Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus are killed in riots and massacres following the largest mass migration in history.

1980 After Soviet forces intervene in Afghanistan, the US gives Pakistan military support as they join forces with Saudi Arabia to fund the Islamic mujahedin.

1998 The country explodes five nuclear devices.

1999 General Pervez Musharraf leads a military coup. After 9/11 Pakistan becomes a key US ally in the "war on terror". But as turmoil mounts he is forced to quit.

India, Japan say new security ties not directed against China

Siddharth Varadarajan

Tokyo: On a day that saw India and Japan sign a declaration on security cooperation and assert that their partnership would be “an essential pillar for the future architecture of the region,” it was left to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to introduce a harsh dose of reality by reminding an elite gathering of Japanese and Indian businessmen that the increase in India’s bilateral trade with China in the past one year alone is more than the whole of India’s total trade with Japan.

That one statistic was not intended to minimise the importance India attaches to its “strategic and global partnership” with Japan, Indian officials said, but merely to drive home the point that India was not going to allow its ties with Tokyo to affect its relations with Beijing. Indeed, in a press conference at the residence of Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday evening, Dr. Singh sought to emphasise that India’s economic relations and security cooperation with Japan would not be “at the cost of any third country, least of all China.”

Though the security declaration largely contains elements like joint exercises, disaster management and counter-terrorism which figure in Indian agreements with many countries, what is likely to raise eyebrows around Asia is the fact that Japan considers India so crucial to its strategic calculus that it is only the third country — after the United States and Australia — with which it has signed such a document. And that India appears to have picked Japan as its most important partner for the task of fashioning the political and security dimensions of Asia’s emerging institutional structure.

Like Japan’s agreements with the U.S. and Australia, the “common commitment” of India and Japan to “democracy, open society, human rights and the rule of law” is foregrounded again, though the scope of security cooperation envisaged is far less than Tokyo’s military alliance-driven arrangements with Washington and Canberra. Terrorism, piracy and non-proliferation are covered but there is no reference in the Indo-Japan text to the “new security challenges and threats” referred to in the Japan-Australia agreement — a code phrase for the rise of China.

Mindful of the symbolism, however, Mr. Aso, who is also the intellectual author of the growing security-centric dimension to Japanese foreign policy, sought to play down any suggestion that Tokyo was still pursuing his earlier idea of trilateral or even quadrilateral military cooperation in Asia. Asked whether the Japan-India joint declaration could serve as the framework for an eventual security framework involving the U.S. with China as the special object of concern, he said: “We regard security cooperation with India as very important ... There was a mention of China — and we do not have any assumption of a third country as a target such as China.”

In terms of its contents, the new security declaration essentially builds on the existing momentum in defence ties while seeking to gradually widen the ambit with a view to influencing the nature of Asia’s emerging security architecture. Among the elements of cooperation listed are “policy coordination on regional affairs in the Asia-Pacific region,” “bilateral cooperation within multilateral frameworks in Asia, in particular the East Asia Summit, Asean Regional Forum and the ReCAAP process” against piracy in South-East Asia.

The mechanisms of cooperation include regular foreign office consultations, and defence ministry and armed forces interactions, including “bilateral and multilateral exercises.”

While bilateral exercises are routine, some multilateral exercises have been controversial, like the 2007 Malabar war games at sea involving ships from India, Japan, Australia, the U.S. and Singapore. Both China and Russia conveyed their concerns at the time, saying Asia should avoid “exclusive” groupings.

As the Foreign Minister in the Shinzo Abe government, Mr. Aso had advocated a trilateral security dialogue involving Japan, India and the U.S., an idea South Block was lukewarm to. However, a Track-II interaction involving the former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Japan Institute of International Affairs issued a document in Tokyo this week urging a deepening of Indo-Japan security ties as a stepping stone for working closely with the U.S. towards fashioning “an open and inclusive regional framework in Asia that advances our shared norms and strengthens cooperation on new challenges.”

While acknowledging that the form the security declaration took was new as far as Indian foreign policy was concerned, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told reporters here that this was more a product of Japan’s long-standing reluctance to cooperate in matters other than economic with India. “I wouldn’t say the ideas [in the declaration] are new,” Mr. Menon said, when asked about the significance of the document. “We have 24 counter-terrorism joint working groups, for example, and military exercises with several states. But the format is new because of the particularity of Japan.” He said political and security cooperation was now the “second leg” of the bilateral relationship. And he made it clear India still believed the first leg, economic cooperation, had yet to realise its full potential.

Japan was committing more than $4 billion at this time of global uncertainty to the Delhi-Mumbai freight and industrial corridors, he said, and the number of Japanese companies involved in India had grown dramatically.

While defending the security declaration as one which gave India the opportunity to build on what it was already doing, senior officials concede that the document is largely the product of Mr. Aso’s exertions. Indeed, one official said the erstwhile Yasuo Fukuda government would probably not have considered the security agreement a priority, perhaps because of greater sensitivity over not wanting to send the wrong signals to Beijing and the rest of Asia.

But Mr. Menon emphasised that India did not believe any of its relations were exclusive. He said that at the lunch with Japanese and Indian businessmen, for example, Prime Minister Singh had spoken of India and Japan as part of an ‘arc of prosperity’ that could come up with an “Asian response” to the global financial crisis. “But this is a conversation we will have later this week in Beijing as well, during the Asia-Europe Meeting, with other countries.”

Batmen under fire in Indian army

By Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

Published: October 22 2008 18:30 | Last updated: October 23 2008 04:14

India’s army might be forced to stop its colonial-era practice of assigning soldiers to serve as officers’ personal servants – polishing their shoes and weapons – after a parliamentary committee called it “a shameful system” that should have “no place in independent India”.

The standing parliamentary committee on defence has called for the immediate abolition of the military batman – known as sahayak, or caretaker, in Hindi – who carries out personal chores for officers and their families.

“The committee hardly needs to stress that soldiers are recruited for serving the nation, and not to serve the family members of officers in household work, which is demeaning and humiliating,” said a report this week.

The report – on stress management in the armed forces – concluded that the practice was contributing to stress and discontentin the lower ranks. Indian officers’ large retinue of personal servants has also caused friction with other militaries when Indian forces join United Nations peace-keeping missions abroad.

The system of batmen – who carried out both personal and professional tasks, often in combat – existed in many European militaries in the 19th and early 20th century. The British army called them “soldier-servants” until the term batman was adopted between the world wars.

But while European armies eliminated batmen as recruitment patterns changed after the second world war, the Indian army continued it after its 1947 independence from Britain.

In theory, batmen are asked to maintain officers’ uniforms, weapons and equipment and serve as radio operators, runners and “buddies” in combat. “It’s incorrect to see them purely as glorified servants,” said retired Commodore Uday Bhaskar, former head of the New Delhi-based Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.

The Parliamentary committee found Indian sahayaks were being required to do menial tasks for their officers, including walking their dogs, taking their children to school and even washing clothes.

The call to abolish the system comes amid a bitter wrangle between India’s 1m-strong army and civilian bureaucrats over armed forces’ pay and perks. It also comes at a time of severe shortage of officers.

The use of “servants” to carry out officials’ personal chores at taxpayers’ expense is hardly confined to the armed forces. Throughout India’s civilian administration, officials – from ministers to district collectors in remote rural areas – are granted large retinues to look after all their needs.

“This is how the system has evolved,” Com Bhaskar said. “If you want to have a manpower reduction in the Indian army, then what about the rest of the system?”

Army urged to stop colonial practices

Vishal Thapar


ABOLISH ORDERLIES: Officers are asked to stop using soldiers as domestic helps.

New Delhi: The parliamentary committee on army has sent a strong message asking officers in army to stop using soldiers as domestic helps. It has asked for the practice to be abolished immediately.

A relationship which has stood the test of time is now being subjected to the test of political correctness. A powerful parliamentary committee on Defense has condemned the use of soldiers as orderlies for household chores as "a shameful practice that should have no place in Independent India".

But the Indian Army which is already at loggerheads with the politico-bureaucratic establishment over meager pay insists that the impression of a sahib-servant relationship is highly misplaced and unfair.

“Certainly this is one set of personnel where the buddy during war can be your radio operator and your driver,” says Col (Retd) Anil Bhatt.

The parliamentary committee claims to have based its report on direct feedback from Jawans. It concludes that using soldiers as orderlies is humiliating and lowers their self-esteem, leading to higher-stress, which is increasingly triggering suicide and fratricide.

But the Army says that orderlies, or officer’s buddies, as they're now called, are an organizational necessity to relieve officer on operational duty from getting overwhelmed with personal chores and ceremonial requirements imposed by a peculiar military culture.

The Army wants the misuse of orderlies to be delinked from the legitimate requirement for them. And they're prepared to introduce more checks and balances to ensure that the dignity of soldiers is not trampled upon

“There should be a checklist of do’s and don’ts and one should religiously follow them,” says Col (Retd) Anil Bhatt

There are pointers from the neighbourhood on what could be the way ahead. The Pakistan Army has done away with orderlies. Instead, its officers get an allowance to engage private help. Indian army should now take clue from the arch rivals.

Video -

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal