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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 05 Nov




LEADER ARTICLE: Give Them Their Due

5 Nov 2008, 0000 hrs IST, Nalin Mehta

The hero of the Bangladesh war, Lt Gen J F R Jacob, once commented, only partly in jest, that today's generals do not even enjoy half the authority that he had once enjoyed as a major. The general should know, having served as an army commander and much later as a governor of Punjab and Goa. At one level, his comment was a compliment to the world's largest democracy, one of the few post-colonial countries not to have suffered from the ignominy of a military coup. At another level it pointed to the deep well of discontent brewing within the defence forces over perceived slights by what the forces see as an uncaring and overbearing civilian bureaucracy. That wellspring of discontent is now simmering and the heavens seem to have fallen because of the service chiefs' initial reluctance to accept the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission.

We are being told that never before has a cabinet decision been so defied by sitting chiefs, that this is the incipient beginning of a "revolt" and that the civilian bureaucracy will ultimately hit back and grind the military chiefs further into the dust. Much of the ongoing debate hinges around one single factor: the supposed breakdown of civil-military relations. There is an argument that the manner in which the service chiefs orchestrated their protest was not befitting their status; that they could have registered their protests more unobtrusively and avoided a public stand-off.

The major issue here is about the form, not the substance of the service chiefs' objections. There is virtually no public voice against the demands raised by the defence forces, all of which are essentially rooted in a basic desire for greater status and yes, greater money.

This is why defence minister A K Antony has supported the chiefs: not because he is weak, but because he senses that at the core of these demands is the bursting out of decades of frustration at being treated as dispensable by the babus.

The key issue here is whether the chiefs have upset the balance of civil-military relations. Let us be clear. At a time when India is taking its due seat at the global high table, it remains one of the few leading powers in the world where civilian authority has come to mean a continuing divorce of the defence services from higher policy-making. Far from being a challenge to civilian authority, the chiefs' representation to the defence minister is, in fact, a reiteration of the principle of civilian control. Disagreement does not automatically translate into an open revolt.

Do we expect our chiefs to quietly sign on every dotted line, irrespective of the wisdom of doing so? By that logic, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw who wisely opposed Indira Gandhi's plans for an immediate invasion of East Pakistan in early 1971 to give his army enough time to prepare was equally wrong. But do we not hail the late field marshal for staying firm in his resolve?

The fact is that the defence forces remain the only true Indian institution that has been relatively immune from politicisation and institutionalised corruption of the kind that has come to be associated with the other pillars of the state. This is why at times of dire crisis, from the televised rescue of Prince to the worst communal riots in Gujarat, it is always to the men in olive green that we turn. Given this scenario, it is unfortunate that successive pay commissions have regularly downgraded the men and women in uniform. The fight is about status, not about money.

It is also about operational efficiency. It is officers up to the rank of colonel who provide the army with its fighting teeth and it is here that the Pay Commission has hit hardest.

At times of crises, how do we expect lieutenant colonels to lead smooth joint operations with once subordinate civilian authorities who have suddenly been elevated in the order of precedence? This is a disaster in the making and the foreboding in the rank and file of the forces must not be underestimated. This is particularly important because of the immense dissatisfaction caused by the previous two pay commissions as well, the most public manifestation being the ugly protests by sections of the air force last time around.

The wiser route for the government after that would have been to take corrective action or to put a services representative on the pay panel.

Neither was done and the chiefs are now only responding to the aspirations of the rank and file. They are as much responsible to them as they are to the supreme commander and their articulation of the pay commission grievances should be seen in this light.

In 1986, Lt Gen M L Chibber had written a perceptive account of problems with the civil-military equation in India. Twenty years later, it is even clearer that India is far too large and complex a country for any kind of coordinated or sustained military challenge to the civilian authority. This is why the service chiefs' response to the pay commission should be read not as an act of defiance, but one of despair. The changes demanded in the pay commission are not about strengthening civilian control - that is not even in question - but about bureaucratic churlishness and about giving the armed forces their due.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator.

Finally, Pranab calls China a challenge
5 Nov 2008, 0220 hrs IST, Indrani Bagchi,TNN


NEW DELHI: The rise of China is a strategic challenge to a rising India. After years of dancing around this central factor in India's foreign policy, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, for the first time, has described China as a security "challenge and a priority", but significantly not as an opportunity.

India, said Mukherjee, would have to develop "more sophisticated ways of dealing with these new challenges posed by China".

Addressing the National Defence College on Monday, Mukherjee outlined India's security challenges. "To my mind, the foremost among these would be (a) to cope with the rise of China; (b) maintenance of a peaceful periphery; and (c) managing our relations with the major powers."

Shorn of the excitement of the $60billion bilateral trade figures and a "strategic partnership", Mukherjee described the current phase of India-China ties in stark terms, calling it only "a somewhat normalised relationship".

Ten years after Atal Bihari Vajpayee blamed China's proliferation activities as one of the reasons for India going overtly nuclear, India is again articulating its concerns. In the meantime, the world has changed, as have both India and China. As a homogenous and focused China powered ahead in economic development, funnily enough, so did heterogeneous and chaotic India, to the extent that both countries are now being seen by the world as the twin engines of global growth. But with its growth trajectory intact, fears are growing in many parts of the world that China's rise may not always be "peaceful" as its leadership promises.

Mukherjee said, "We are today faced with a new China. Today's China seeks to further her interests more aggressively than in the past, thanks to the phenomenal increase of her capacities after 30 years of reforms. There are also new set of challenges which China poses such as the strategic challenge as China develops its capabilities in outer space; the geopolitical challenge as it reaches out to various parts of the globe in search of raw materials and resources."

India is not yet fully equipped to deal with the challenges that China poses. For instance, during his return flight from Beijing last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists that his conversation with Chinese president Hu Jintao focused a lot on the future of trans-border rivers.

While India does not articulate this concern often, it's clearly very high priority.

Maj-Gen served show-cause notice
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 4
The Judge Advocate-General, who heads the Legal Department of the armed forces, now faces a show-cause notice to explain as to why action should not be taken against him for “his acts of omission and commission”.

A show-cause notice has been served on JAG Maj-Gen Nilendra Kumar by the Army Headquarters, following a report of a court of inquiry (CoI) of the Army. The CoI has said there have been acts of omission and commission and this individual may be held accountable for the same.

Sources in the Army HQ here said the show-cause notice has been served to the Major-General asking him to explain or justify the acts and why further action should not be initiated against him. A total of 15 charges have been levelled against him, which include some serious irregularities.

This includes obtaining a licence from the Bar Council of India by allegedly mis-representing facts to his senior officers. Being a serving officer, he could not have obtained such a licence. The CoI has found that he authored and published a couple of books on military law and the same were sold in the market while his official residence was the address given by his kin to operate a business.

Others charges include sale of his books and property transactions also. Another allegation was of maintaining a website.

The General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, Lieut-Gen T.K. Sapru had recommended initiation of disciplinary action against the JAG or convening a full-fledged court of inquiry.

The Army had initiated a one-man inquiry, conducted by Lieut-Gen Venugopal, commandant of the EME College. This was for the first time that a formal inquiry has been initiated against the head of the Army’s Legal Department. The CoI was ordered on the directions of the Chief of the Army Staff.

The JAG is the Army’s senior-most legal officer and renders legal advice to the Army chief on various matters pertaining to the functioning of the force. All disciplinary matters, including trial by courts martial, also fall under the jurisdiction of the JAG.

Cross LoC Trade Brings Down Firing, Infiltrations

Jammu
It is just a fortnight since cross border trade between the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir began, finding a good market for the goods on both sides of the divide. A welcome result of this has been a marked decline in the firing and infiltration attempts from the Pakistani side, said an army official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said since trade across the Line of Control (LoC) began Oct 21, "the infiltration attempts and hence the cover fire has come down to negligible levels".

Truckloads of goods are ferried across the border and have found good markets. "You saw how the rice, onions and garlic from Pakistan got sold out in no time at an exhibition in Jammu," said Ram Sahai, president Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jammu. "We are told that our items are also selling the same way on the other side (Pakistan)".

He said: "Besides business and trade, the items being exported to the other side carry emotional value as well."

The infiltration attempts and also firing incidents, described as "ceasefire violations", were happening quite frequently. The security forces attributed it to the desperate attempts by militants to create unrest in the run-up to the assembly elections and setting in of the winter season.

Though the cross-LOC trade has begun on a small note, "it makes a big difference", Sahai said, adding, "with the economy crumbling the world over, even small things make a big count. Every penny in business and trade matters a lot these days."

Aijaz Kazmi, a journalist in Poonch, said: "The people of both sides of Kashmir want this trade to flourish and there has to be peace on the LOC for that or else trade will be the first casualty."

An army official agreed that guns have to be silent "in the greater interest of people on both sides". But, he said: "The army is and will always be on alert against any acts of desperation by militants - whether it's infiltration or strikes."

Ban ki-Moon Rules Out UN Intervention in Kashmir
By Lalit K Jha

United Nations
Ruling out any United Nations intervention in Kashmir unless both India and Pakistan approached the world body, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon Monday hoped the two South Asian neighbors would be able to find a solution to it through dialogue in a peaceful manner.

"If and when both parties (India and Pakistan) to this issue (Kashmir) request ... ask me to provide my good offices, I am willing to do that," Ban told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on his return from his four-nation tour of Philippines, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Given India's known stand on this issue, this is unlikely to happen. New Delhi has always opposed any international intervention on the Kashmir issue.

"But as you know, good offices (of the UN Secretary General) are available when and whenever there is some agreed requests from both parties," Ban said in response to a specific question from a Pakistani journalist if the Secretary General was willing to offer his good offices to find a solution to the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

Referring to his meeting with Indian leaders while he was in New Delhi last week, Ban said he did discuss the Kashmir issue with them. He said he urged the Indian leaders to continue their composite dialogue with Pakistan.

"The recent summit meeting between President (Asif Ali Zardari) of Pakistan and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York provided a very good opportunity in breakthrough in their current relationship," Ban said.

The two leaders had met in New York on the sidelines of the 63rd session of UN General Assembly meeting in September, wherein India and Pakistan agreed on a number of confidence building measures.

He said trade between India and Pakistan has now opened up and exchanges are continuing.

"Through gradual progress in this area I am sure that they will be able to resolve this Kashmir issue through dialogue in a peaceful manner," Ban said.

Cabinet to consider easing FDI in defence production


Press Trust of India / New Delhi November 04, 2008, 18:05 IST


As part of the drive to shore up investor confidence and give thrust to manufacturing, government will consider relaxing rules for foreign direct investment in defence production, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said today.

The issue would be taken up by the Union Cabinet in the near future, he said. "India can become a great manufacturer of defence items. So, we will like to see some easing up there," the minister told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting organised by business chambers with visiting Belgian King Albert II.

He said the Cabinet would consider options to provide new thrust to the manufacturing sector. Besides, streamlining the procedures for FDI would be on the government agenda.

Currently, 26 per cent of FDI is permitted in the defence sector.

Nath said despite troubles in the world economy, India continued to attract FDIs and the target of $35 bn for 2008-09 fiscal would be achieved.

In September this year, FDI inflows went up by 259 % to $ 2.56 bn, against $ 713 mn in the same month last year.

For April-September period this year, the inflows went up to $ 17.21 bn from $ 7.25 bn in the comparable period a year ago, showing a rise of 137%.

The government has made concerted efforts in the last few weeks to limit the impact of shrinking global credit on the Indian economy.

The Reserve Bank has injected liquidity in excess of Rs 2,60,000 cr, besides reducing the overnight lending rates. The prices of aviation turbine fuel have been cut along with scrapping of the import duty.
The banks are considering lowering interest rates as well.

IAF lands AN-32 near Siachen glacier
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 4
In an important strategic move, India today, for the first time ever, landed a fixed-wing aircraft close to the Siachen glacier at a location just 2.5 km inside the line of actual control (LOAC) along China in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian Air Force pilots today landed an AN-32 transport aircraft at Fukche airfield. In IAF records, this is mentioned as an advanced landing ground located at an altitude of 13,000 feet.

Choppers like the Dhruv, Chetak and the MI-17 were landed in the past. Officially, the IAF downplayed the event.

This was the first landing of a fixed wing aircraft and it could facilitate a faster induction of troops in case of exigency and also moving of material. An AN 32 can carry up to 50 people, besides much more quantity of equipment than a chopper.

In the past six months, this is the second high-altitude airfield alongside the Chinese border to have been either activated or upgraded.

The other one was Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip, which was set up in 1962 and was not being used since 1965.

This was re-opened in May this year. This is just 8 km from the Karakoram Highway that connects Pakistan with China in the high Himalayas.

It is strategically located on the ancient trade route connecting Ladakh in India to Yarkand in Xinjiang, China.

The revival of these two air fields will allow India to reinforce its troops and continue deploying forces even in the harsh winter months.

Experts believe that this is very crucial in case a conflict happens when roads are in disuse during winter and high passes are closed due to snowfall.

The only way will be to induct troops by air -- that’s what was done during the 1962 Chinese aggression. These will boost the operational skills of the force on the Indo-China frontier.

All this is part of the efforts to improve air maintenance of far-flung posts in the region bordering China and Pakistan, IAF sources said.

Both these airfields lie close to an axis, which could be used by China to threaten Ladakh. India is most vulnerable in this area.

By activating the airfields, India is also exercising a more assertive presence along the boundary with China.

On the other hand, China has built an impressive array of infrastructure on it side of the border with India.

The Indian Army has been carrying out repair work at the airbase in the past few months to make it fit for landing a transport aircraft.

IAF lands AN-32 near Siachen glacier
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 4
In an important strategic move, India today, for the first time ever, landed a fixed-wing aircraft close to the Siachen glacier at a location just 2.5 km inside the line of actual control (LOAC) along China in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian Air Force pilots today landed an AN-32 transport aircraft at Fukche airfield. In IAF records, this is mentioned as an advanced landing ground located at an altitude of 13,000 feet.

Choppers like the Dhruv, Chetak and the MI-17 were landed in the past. Officially, the IAF downplayed the event.

This was the first landing of a fixed wing aircraft and it could facilitate a faster induction of troops in case of exigency and also moving of material. An AN 32 can carry up to 50 people, besides much more quantity of equipment than a chopper.

In the past six months, this is the second high-altitude airfield alongside the Chinese border to have been either activated or upgraded.

The other one was Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip, which was set up in 1962 and was not being used since 1965.

This was re-opened in May this year. This is just 8 km from the Karakoram Highway that connects Pakistan with China in the high Himalayas.

It is strategically located on the ancient trade route connecting Ladakh in India to Yarkand in Xinjiang, China.

The revival of these two air fields will allow India to reinforce its troops and continue deploying forces even in the harsh winter months.

Experts believe that this is very crucial in case a conflict happens when roads are in disuse during winter and high passes are closed due to snowfall.

The only way will be to induct troops by air -- that’s what was done during the 1962 Chinese aggression. These will boost the operational skills of the force on the Indo-China frontier.

All this is part of the efforts to improve air maintenance of far-flung posts in the region bordering China and Pakistan, IAF sources said.

Both these airfields lie close to an axis, which could be used by China to threaten Ladakh. India is most vulnerable in this area.

By activating the airfields, India is also exercising a more assertive presence along the boundary with China.

On the other hand, China has built an impressive array of infrastructure on it side of the border with India.

The Indian Army has been carrying out repair work at the airbase in the past few months to make it fit for landing a transport aircraft.

India strengthens military relations with China

Special Correspondent

Two sides plan joint army, air exercises

This is the second time an IAF Chief is visiting China

Interactions picked up since Pranab Mukherjee’s visit in 2006

NEW DELHI: After inking a security pact with Japan, India is strengthening its military ties with China. Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major, is in China while the Commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Gen. Wu Shengli, is here for a tour of defence facilities and interacting with senior armed forces officials.

The two sides are also mulling over plans for a joint army exercise in India besides a joint air exercise in the Chinese skies.

Agreement with Japan

India signed the security agreement with Japan during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tokyo last month, when high-level interaction with Chinese military hierarchy were being given the final touches. This helped neutralise the perception that New Delhi was tilting towards Washington’s key ally in the region.

India has also acknowledged Chinese sensitivity to mega multinational naval exercises being held in the Bay of Bengal by strictly limiting this year’s Malabar series of naval exercises to the partner country U.S. rather than opening it up to other nations as was the case last year.

Air Chief Marshal Major is in China for week-long visit till Thursday, marking the second time ever an Indian Air Force chief has visited the country. He met Commander of PLA Air Force, General Xu Qiliang, and will call on Chinese Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie.

He will also visit military units in Hangzhou and witness the Zhuhai Airshow in which the IAF acrobatic team will participate. The IAF Chief will also visit an air defence centre of PLAAF and the headquarters of its 28 Air Division.

The PLAN chief is here for an extended visit during which the vital aspects of the Navy’s defence preparedness will be showcased to him. Gen. Wu has visited the Army’s Special Forces Headquarters at Agra, interacted with the top military hierarchy and met Defence Minister A. K. Antony.

On Wednesday, the PLAN chief will be taken to India’s latest and most modern naval base at Karwar in Karnataka by helicopter where he will be shown the automatic ship lift and maintenance facility. In Goa, he will be acquainted with the Sea Harrier simulation training facility.

In Mumbai on Thursday, the General will be taken to the Navy’s aircraft carrier INS Viraat and given a tour of Mazhgaon Dockyards, where the assembling and integration of the sophisticated Scorpene submarines is being carried out. All these – deck operations from aircraft carrier and ship and submarine building – are areas the Chinese PLAN is interested in.

Slow and steady

India and China have progressively stepped up military contacts both at the headquarters and field levels since resolving to improve bilateral ties in the 1990s. The tempo and quality of the interactions picked up after then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited China in 2006 and signed a memorandum of understanding on exchanges and cooperation in defence.

The intention to increase military-to-military interaction was firmed up with the first defence dialogue in Beijing followed up with the first joint exercises in Kunming last year.

Indo-Polish defence talks held

From ANI

New Delhi, Nov 4: Defence Minister A. K. Antony and his Polish counterpart Bogdan Klich held defence-level talks here today.

Earlier Klich laid wreath at Gandhiji's Samadhi at Rajghat. Later he was given ceremonial Guard of Honour on his arrival at Defence Headquarters in South Block.

Klich is slated to hold talks with the Chairmen of some prominent Defence Public Sector Undertakings including HAL, BEL, BEML and Ordnance Factories Board (OFB).

Polish Defence Minister's visit follows the fourth meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) held here last month. During the JWG meeting held on October 15-17, the two sides agreed to consolidate cooperation in Defence Industry and specialized training of their Armed Forces.

The India-Poland JWG on Defence Cooperation was set up with the signing of an agreement on Defence Cooperation in February 2003 during the visit of Polish Prime Minister to India. The first meeting of the JWG was held in April 2006.

The Polish Defence Minister arrived on a three-day state visit to India today. He will visit a Para Brigade of the Indian Army at Agra on Wednesday before leaving for Vietnam on Thursday.

Army gives Israeli twist to Arjun tale Wants machinery to be improved as suggested by Israel Military Industries

Josy Joseph. New Delhi

The army has added a few new twists, including an Israeli factor, to the ongoing Arjun tank saga, by agreeing to hold comparative trials between the indigenous tank and T-90 and T-72 tanks bought from Russia.
According to authoritative sources, army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor has written to defence minister AK Antony agreeing to hold the comparative trials, but it has put down several conditions for accepting the 124 Arjun tanks ordered earlier. This is the latest twist in the story of the indigenous Arjun tank, which has been under trial for 14 years now.
For the first 62 tanks, the army chief suggested several corrections based on the findings of the army team, which carried out exhaustive field trials of the tank. But what has added a new twist is the army demand that the second batch of 62 tanks be improved according to the standards laid down by the Israel Military Industries (IMI).
DRDO had called in IMI last year to assist it in design improvement and production engineering. But the IMI suggestions have become a fresh albatross around the research agency's neck, as it struggles to get the army to accept the Arjun.
The appointment of IMI as a consultant was surprising for many, but now the army has seized on the DRDO move. The army demand could further delay induction of the entire 124 tanks. "All the 124 hulls are ready. We don't know how we can now carry out major changes," says a source involved in the Arjun project.
Ministry sources say they are looking at "getting at least 14 of them ready by February so that they can take part in summer trials alongside the T-90s and T-72s." The army had for a long time resisted carrying out any comparative trials, but the army chief has now agreed to such trials.
Sources said the army chief has said the first 62 would be accepted with improved firing accuracy, better transmission system and some other minor changes. The transmission system, supplied by a German firm, would need some hardware improvement besides the software improvement carried out recently.
j_josy@dnaindia.net

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