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Monday, 17 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 17 Nov

6thPC: Update on Lt Gen and HAG+

http://livefist.blogspot.com/2008/11/6thpc-update-on-lt-gen-and-hag.html

In the early November meeting between the three chiefs and Expenditure Secretary Sushama Nath, it is learnt that the chiefs kicked of the topic on the Lieutenant General pay scale by indicating that the status of a Lt Gen had remained completely inert for the last three decades, despite that the fact that Heads of Police had been constantly upgraded with each passing Pay Commission.

At this point, it is learnt that the Expenditure Secretary placed on record that neither the 6thPC nor the government resolution had altered the existing position or status of the Lt Gen rank in relation to the DGP rank. A presentation was then made by the services side to illustrate the "constant erosion of status":

* III CPC

(i) Police head in each state an IG, equal to a Maj Gen

(ii) All Lt Gens were superior to head of police in the state

* IV CPC

(i) Created posts of DG Police in larger states with pay scales equal to a Lt Gen

(ii) Also, ex-cadre posts of Addl DG Police were created in the scale of IG Police

* V CPC

(i) Encadred Addl DG Police and granted the same scale as a Lt Gen

(ii) Also upgraded DG Police to a superior scale, that is, of Rs 24,050-26,000

(iii) Smaller states granted posts of DG Police in higher scales

(iv) Group of Officers was referred the issue of "restoration of status of Lt Gen", who referred the matter to the government

* AVSC

The Ajai Vikram Singh Committee also recommended extension of scale of DGP to Lt Gen

* VI CPC

(i) Services demand for restoration of status equation with DG Police not addressed by the CPC

(ii) IPS demand for creation of posts of Spl DG Police was also not accepted

* Government Resolution

(i) One DGP per state however, placed in the apex scale of Rs 80,000 (fixed) with status of Secretary

(ii) All of ther DGPs given a new higher scale of HAG+

This marked the end of the presentation. At this point, it is learnt that Army chief General Deepak Kapoor spoke about the "adverse impact" of the lower status of Lt Gens, particularly in areas where the Army was deployed in the counter-insurgency role, such as J&K and the North East -- areas where Corps Commanders are required to head unified command structures. It was also apparently indicated that the existing position of the Warrant of Precedence was that of Lt Gen in article 24, whereas the DGPs of state and central Paramilitary forces placed at a lower article 25.

At this juncture, the Expenditure Secretary is understood to have suggested that in future, officers would stagnate at the top of the scale in PB-4 long before their promotion to the three-star rank. In response, the chiefs indicated that a similar stagnation would also occur in the civil services -- and this could not from any angle be taken as a reason for denying Lt Gens the HAG+ scale. General Kapoor is understood to have re-emphasised at this point once more that the issue was not of monetary gains, but about status, particularly in the coordination of operations in J&K and the North East.

LiveFist Column: Preamble, Gamble, Scramble

http://livefist.blogspot.com/2008/11/livefist-column-preamble-gamble.html

AIR MARSHAL Sharad Y Savur (Retd)

Former AOC-in-C

SOUTHERN AIR COMMAND

Let’s start with the Preamble. Many of us have perused the following and most of the Armed Forces (serving, retired, wise, foolish, knowledgeable and ignorant) have got it engraved in their hearts and minds after the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) made a mockery of a Govt constituted 6th Central Pay Commission and a fool of the GoI. The website reads that “Government constituted the Sixth Central Pay Commission vide Resolution No. 5/2/2006-E.III (A) dated October 5, 2006”. Its Terms of Reference were:

A. To examine the principles, the date of effect thereof that should govern the structure of pay, allowances and other facilities/benefits whether in cash or in kind to the following categories of employees -- Central Government employees -– industrial and non-industrial; Personnel belonging to the All India Services; Personnel belonging to the Defence Forces; Personnel of the Union Territories; Officers and employees of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department; and Members of the regulatory bodies (excluding the RBI) set up under Acts of Parliament.

B. To transform the Central Government Organisations into modern, professional and citizen-friendly entities that is dedicated to the service of the people.

C. To work out a comprehensive pay package for the categories of Central Government employees mentioned at (A) above that is suitably linked to promoting efficiency, productivity and economy through rationalization of structures, organizations, systems and processes within the Government, with a view to leveraging economy, accountability, responsibility, transparency, assimilation of technology and discipline.

D. To harmonize the functioning of the Central Government Organisations with the demands of the emerging global economic scenario. This would also take in account, among other relevant factors, the totality of benefits available to the employees, need of rationalization and simplification, thereof, the prevailing pay structure and retirement benefits available under the Central Public Sector Undertakings, the economic conditions in the country, the need to observe fiscal prudence in the management of the economy, the resources of the Central Government and the demands thereon on account of economic and social development, defence, national security and the global economic scenario, and the impact upon the finances of the States if the recommendations are adopted by the States.

E. To examine the principles which should govern the structure of pension, death-cum-retirement gratuity, family pension and other terminal or recurring benefits having financial implications to the present and former Central Government employees appointed before January 1, 2004.

F. To make recommendations with respect to the general principles,financial parameters and conditions which should govern payment of bonus and the desirability and feasibility of introducing Productivity Linked Incentive Scheme in place of the existing ad hoc bonus scheme in various Departments and to recommend specific formulae for determining the productivity index and other related parameters.

G. To examine desirability and the need to sanction any interim relief till the time the recommendations of the Commission are made and accepted by the Government.

An Additional Terms of Reference through a subsequent Resolution No.5/2/2006-E.III.(A) dated 8th August, 2007, the terms of reference were to include the officers and employees of the Supreme Court.

Came March 2008 and the SCPC (or 6th CPC) published its recommendations. Two things happened – the 6th CPC wound up and its Secretary became the Secretary in the Min of Finance. Presumably, the Gamble.

It was known that the recommendations of the 6th CPC would be sent to the Cabinet Secretary for processing. Again two things happened – the Cab Secy, a busy man even otherwise, delegated the work to a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) and the Govt got busy ensuring its own longevity by seeking to push through the Indo-US nuclear deal, making political deals of its own. Presumably, the omnipresent Secretary in the avatar of the Secretary, Expenditure sensed her opportunity. The scene - she already knows what is in the 600 odd pages report of the 6th CPC. So, the CoS entrusts the entire work to her.

Presumably, she knew that most Secretaries have enough in their hands (no pun) and on their minds than to peruse those pages. She also must have presumed that as long as P4 ( power, pelf, prestige and position) of the IAS was enhanced, there would be no questions asked and all signatures would be appended on the dotted lines.

Presumably, the gamble is that those slighted/downgraded would either be too busy fighting the insurgents or the terrorists (on behalf of the Central Police Organisations (CPOs) or undoing the negligence of the IAS in that cutely worded expression ‘aid to civil power’ (please note the terms coined by the IAS).

Presumably but unfortunately, the CoS, even the Secretary Expenditure, forgot something important. It was only in the days of the British Raj that Commissions in the Armed Forces were sold to those who could pay or bestowed on those whom the British favoured. It was not some professional organization – trained, responsible and accountable. CoS also forgot that the soldiers, sailors and airmen today are signifiethercantly better educated than they were 50 years ago. CoS also forgot, presumably in their blinkered pursuit of power at any cost, that the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force always cooperate with each other in times of war. And this was war – of principles, for fairplay, for justice.

The gamble back-fired. Now, the Scramble.

The Govt won its battle in Parliament and the PM needed to blow his trumpet. Someone might have told him that showing the victory sign to TV cameras outside Parliament House was not adequate (“Sir, more than half of India cannot and does not own a TV set”). So from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Dr Manmohan Singh announced, amongst other things, that the recommendations of the Pay Commission have been approved by the Govt.

Maybe his PS was not aware of the facts. Semantics or grammatical or factual error that remains uncorrected till date is that the Govt approved the recommendations of the CoS. Technically, the recommendations of the 6th CPC were not accepted because many were overturned by the CoS. Many out there in the ether world must be muttering to themselves – we knew that this guy was an idiot, now does he have to prove it? But today’s mountain waves in the cybersphere (that’s not Bushism) prove me right!

If the Govt wanted the amendments recommended by the CoS to be incorporated then it should have re-convened the 6th CPC and asked it to re-examine and amend the recommendations. But the 6th CPC was wound up. So the nation has something but it is a hybrid – some recommendations of the 6th CPC and the rest changes made by the CoS to benefit themselves at the cost of everyone else – IPS, CPOs, IDAS, MES, AFHQS et al.

Which brings me to two questions – how can the recommendations of a legally constituted and gazetted 6th CPC be overturned or amended by the CoS? Can you imagine the Supreme Court’s judgment being amended by prison authorities?

The Armed Forces protested, but they did not stage a coup. That had been already done by the IAS led bureaucracy when a Cabinet Secretary, a super-bureaucrat, was set up in the 1970s, (but that and other things in another blog post).

Some learned and erudite gentleman, made editorial observations that appeared to draw inspiration from these rumours. He used the example of setting up war memorials as his respect for the Armed Forces. How ironical that a living issue was compared to dead heroes! How much is being done for war widows, their children, even disabled veterans could have been a better example and even my cynical heart would have missed a beat.

In their true role as the guardians of the Sovereignty of India’s borders, seas and skies, the Armed Forces paid yet another tribute to the Father of the Nation (the supreme apostle of non-violence, non-cooperation and protestor on behalf of the oppressed) who lost his life for the Nation. The Chiefs of the Armed Forces (embodiment of violence?) took lessons from Mahatma Gandhi.

The Armed Forces Chiefs followed the chain of command and communications in expressing their opinions substantiated with proof backed by lucid and logical arguments. They informed the Raksha Mantri. He took up their case.

To believe that RM was either incompetent (as that editor made it out to be) or ignorant is to write the ridiculous. AK Antony is trusted enough to discipline errant Congressmen and women. So would he, as RM, have acquiesced to what the Chiefs were doing if they were wrong?

Temporarily blinded by their “brilliance” and bereft of that invincibility in the glare of TV cameras, the bureaucracy now scrambles to save itself in the way it knows how. It spreads rumours or inspired leaks that the Chiefs had disobeyed the Govt.

How and what did the Chiefs disobey? MoD had not released orders for implementing the recommendations of the CoS and not even the recommendations of the 6th CPC. So what were the Chiefs disobeying? Have they not read that there are sections in the Armed Forces Acts that one can represent against illegal orders? Did the IAS expect the Armed Forces to believe that the CoS recommendations are those of the 6th CPC?

Are the Central Police Organizations (CPOs) really casting their lines and fishing in troubled waters? Or is that another Nathism? The Armed Forces don’t say that the IAS got this, so give us the same. The Armed Forces say loudly, clearly “DON’T OVERTURN THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE 6th CPC AND SUPPLANT IT WITH Nathism”. Jai Hind.

(Air Marshal Savur retired in 2006 as AOC-in-C, Southern Air Command. A decorated transport pilot, Air Marshal Savur has flown several VIPs, including former PMs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. He now lives and works near Bangalore.)

War on terror costs Pakistan Rs 2 trillion

Press Trust of India

Sunday, November 16, 2008 (Islamabad)

Pakistan has spent over Rs 2082.942 billion on the 'war on terror' since 2004, a document released by the Ministry of Finance said on Sunday.

This included direct cost of Rs 450.222 billion and indirect cost of Rs 1632.720 billion, said the Draft Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper-II, released here.

The economy suffered direct and indirect losses in terms of exports, foreign investment, privatisation, industrial production and tax collection because of the continuing war on terror.

According to the document, Pakistan's participation in the anti-terrorism campaign has led to the massive unemployment in the affected regions.

Frequent bombings, worsening law and order situation and displacement of the local population have taken a toll on the socio-economic fabric of the country, it added.

"The government is in the process of devising a strategic policy to overcome the menace of terrorism which have captivated the entire country," the document said.

The anti-terror campaign which began in the wake of the World Trade Centre bombing in the US in 2001, over-strained Pakistan's budget as allocation for law enforcement agencies had to be increased significantly.

This resulted in erosion of resources for the development projects all over Pakistan, particularly FATA and NWFP areas in addition to human sufferings and resettlement costs.

"It is apprehended that Foreign Direct Investment, which witnessed a steep rise over the past several years may be adversely affected by the ongoing anti-terrorism campaign in FATA and other areas of NWFP," it added.

The document said that Pakistan's participation in the international campaign has led to an excessive increase in the country's credit risk, which has in turn made borrowing from the market extremely expensive.

It said that Pakistan's sovereign bonds have under-performed due to increased law and order concerns amongst other reasons, including domestic political and economic stability.

'Soft borders' policy will help settle Kashmir issue: Zardari

Press Trust of India

Sunday, November 16, 2008 (Islamabad)

Favouring a policy of "soft borders" for Kashmir, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has said greater contacts between the peoples on the two sides will pave the way for a final settlement of the issue.

Citing the recent opening of the cross LoC trade "as just one step to bring the Kashmiris together," Zardari said this was a crucial move for ushering in peace and prosperity in the whole region.

"The opening of cross LoC trade recently is just one step to bring the Kashmiris together. Who knows this step... might turn out to be a lead forward for ushering in peace and prosperity in the whole region", the President said in a message read at a national conference in memory of eminent intellectual Khan Zaman Mirza in Mirpur late on Saturday night.

Zardari said his government is moving steadily to find an honourable solution to the Kashmir issue "in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people," a news agency reported.

"We believe that the policy of soft borders - so that the people of the two parts of Kashmir can meet, travel and do business - can be pursued without compromising on the issue of Kashmir," he said.

Lankan forces advance towards LTTE bastions in Jaffna

Press Trust of India

Sunday, November 16, 2008 (Colombo)

Fresh from their success in capturing the entire North-western coast, the Sri Lankan Air Force fighter jets on Sunday pounded LTTE bunkers and seized hundreds of arms and ammunitions while recovering the bodies of two militants, officials said on Sunday.

Sri Lanka Air Force fighter jets pounded LTTE positions in the Muhamalai area in Jaffna early this morning. Air Force spokesperson Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said that the air strikes were taken in support of ground troops.

In ground clashes, Task Force-I troops battling in Nallur and south of Nevil in Kilinochchi faced stiff enemy resistance but forged ahead, the army said. Following the clashes, troops found one dead LTTE cadre, three T-56 weapons and one radio set from the area.

The 59 Division troops in the North East of Welioya sector over-ran well-fortified sixteen bunkers in the north of Andankulam and directed heavy fire on the LTTE yesterday, the army said.

The troops also recovered a decomposed body of an LTTE cadre with his dog tag, 5500 T-56 and 800 MPMG ammunitions, nine hand grenades and 192 anti-personnel mines. After capturing the north-west coast, troops began advancing to the un-cleared area of Paranthan in the LTTE stronghold of Kilinochchi.

"Just hours after valiant troops bagged the strategically important Pooneryn yesterday, a group of eleven more civilians got trapped in un-cleared areas of Paranthan, near the seized area in Ponnar using a Sea route early this morning," the defence ministry said.

Those civilians including six women had "escaped from the LTTE custody" and sailed on a dinghy to seek security under the government troops, serving Jaffna peninsula, it said. The civilians were directed to the nearest Internally Displaced Persons camp after providing them with refreshments, it said.

Meanwhile, confrontations erupted in Kilaly, Muhamalai, Kattirasan and Vembadukera FDLs in Jaffna yesterday leading to casualties among the tiger rebels, the army said.

"The LTTE cadres operating ahead of the Forward Defence Line (FDL) directed heavy fire in order to provoke the troops serving that area and the security forces returned the fire," it said. Heavy casualties were reported from the enemy side, the ministry said.

Separately, the 57 Division Troops in deep north of Akkarayankulam were involved in fierce fighting yesterday, rendering damages to the rebels, the military said.

The LTTE fighters resorted to continuous mortar firing towards the advancing troops but the troops reacted causing damages to their weaponry, the military said quoting technical sources.

At eastern Trincomalee, security forces recovered a sizable cache of arms and ammunition during search operations yesterday, the army said. Meanwhile, troops operating in the general area of Madhukanda in Vavuniya recovered three hand grenades during a search and clear operation.

Lankan army inches closer to Prabhakaran

T V Sriram in Colombo | PTI | November 16, 2008 | 19:55 IST

Fresh from their success in capturing the entire north-western coast, the Sri Lankan Air Force fighter jets on Sunday pounded bunkers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and seized hundreds of arms and ammunitions while recovering the bodies of two militants, officials said.

Sri Lanka Air Force fighter jets pounded LTTE positions in the Muhamalai area in Jaffna early Sunday morning.

Air Force spokesperson Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said that the air strikes were taken in support of ground troops. In ground clashes, Task Force-I troops battling in Nallur and south of Nevil in Kilinochchi faced stiff enemy resistance but forged ahead, the army said.

Following the clashes, troops found one dead LTTE cadre, three T-56 weapons and one radio set from the area. The 59 Division troops in the North East of Welioya sector over-ran well-fortified sixteen bunkers in the north of Andankulam and directed heavy fire on the LTTE on Saturday, the army said.

The troops also recovered a decomposed body of an LTTE cadre with his dog tag, 5500 T-56 and 800 MPMG ammunitions, nine hand grenades and 192 anti-personnel mines.

After capturing the north-west coast, troops began advancing to the un-cleared area of Paranthan in the LTTE stronghold of Kilinochchi.


"Just hours after valiant troops bagged the strategically important Pooneryn on Saturday, a group of eleven more civilians got trapped in un-cleared areas of Paranthan, near the seized area in Ponnar using a Sea route early Sunday morning," the defence ministry said.

Those civilians, including six women, had 'escaped from the LTTE custody' and sailed on a dinghy to seek security under the government troops, serving Jaffna peninsula, it said.

The civilians were directed to the nearest Internally Displaced Persons camp after providing them with refreshments, it said.

Meanwhile, confrontations erupted in Kilaly, Muhamalai, Kattirasan and Vembadukera FDLs in Jaffna on Saturday, leading to casualties among the tiger rebels, the army said.

"The LTTE cadres operating ahead of the Forward Defence Line directed heavy fire in order to provoke the troops serving that area and the security forces returned the fire," it said.

Heavy casualties were reported from the enemy side, the ministry said.

Separately, the 57 Division Troops in deep north of Akkarayankulam were involved in fierce fighting on Saturday, rendering damages to the rebels, the military said.

The LTTE fighters resorted to continuous mortar firing towards the advancing troops but the troops reacted, causing damages to their weaponry, the military said quoting technical sources.

At eastern Trincomalee, security forces recovered a sizable cache of arms and ammunition during search operations on Saturday, the army said.

Meanwhile, troops operating in the general area of Madhukanda in Vavuniya recovered three hand grenades during a search and clear operation.

India Seeks ‘Velvet Divorce’ from Iran

by M K Bhadrakumar, 16 November 2008

Amid the rubble of the Middle East policy of the George W. Bush-Ehud Olmert duo, there has been a true success story. The United States and Israel have largely succeeded in snatching India from the “other” side of the Middle Eastern geopolitical divide. This became evident more than once in the past week.

On October 26, US forces based in Iraq attacked the Syrian border village of Sukkaryiah. The attack triggered outrage regionally. Even the Arab League, which has an ambivalent attitude toward Damascus, felt compelled to condemn Washington. But Delhi looked away. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who paid a five-day visit to India in June (the first visit by a Syrian head of state in more than three decades), must be bemused why Delhi didn’t say at least what was so patently obvious, namely, it is wrong to violate the territorial integrity of a sovereign country.

Only in June had an Indian spokesman claimed that Assad’s visit “further consolidated the excellent relations that exist between India and Syria and identified new areas of bilateral cooperation”.

This dichotomy in India’s diplomacy with regard to the Muslim Middle East—excellent photo opportunities not quite translating as official policy and ultimately degenerating as publicity exercises in the competitive environment of Indian politics—was again on display during the weekend visit to Tehran by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, from October 31 to November 2.

Kashmir Issue in Focus

MUKHERJEE’S visit was badly timed. Only a few weeks had passed since Delhi hosted two visits by the Israeli and US Army chiefs, Avi Mizrahi and George Casey, to the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir in a clear policy departure from past practice. The visits marked a quantum leap in US-Israel-India security cooperation. It provo-ked some sharp comments in the official Iranian media—about Delhi opening the door to Israeli and US involvement in the “Kashmir problem” against the backdrop of the Islamic militancy in the adjoining Pakistani tribal areas and in Afghanistan.

Just four days before Mukherjee arrived in Tehran, the Tehran Times newspaper, which is credited with reflecting Iranian thinking, featured an article roundly condemning the Indian stance on the Kashmir issue. Titled “The Black Day of Kashmir—61 Years of Pain”, the article was osten-sibly meant to coincide with the anniversary of the Indian military intervention in Kashmir on October 27, 1947, which it called “one of the darkest chapters in the history of South Asia”.

The article amounted to an unvarnished endorsement of the Pakistani point of view. It said: “India continues to defy the world by denying Kashmiris their inalienable right to determine their destiny … The atmosphere of tension in India-Pakistan relations has engendered instability and insecurity in South Asia. The urgency of the situation and the need to resolve the dispute as soon as possible cannot be over-emphasised … The world’s Muslims will always stand by the Kashmiris until they succeed in their struggle to attain the right to self-determination.”

The lengthy article recalled Iran’s “deep-rooted spiritual and cultural bonds with the people of Kashmir” and went on to fondly underscore that in Tehran, Kashmir is known as “Little Iran”— Kashmir-Iran-e-saghir.

Such rhetoric on the eve of a Foreign Minister-level visit from India hardly served the purpose of a “curtain-raiser”, except to warn Delhi in advance that it cannot be business as usual in Iran-India relations and that the chill in bilateral ties and the dissipation of mutual understanding must not be lightly taken as a mere hiccup. Simply put, if Delhi’s intention was to project a semblance of normalcy in India’s relations with Iran and to create a favourable impact thereby on Muslim opinion in India, Tehran decided it would not play ball.

Washington and Tel Aviv must be quietly chuckling. Up until some three years ago, there was a constant refrain in India-Iran political exchanges—that their relationship constituted a factor of peace and stability in the region. But the mantra was completely lacking in the pronounce-ments of the two sides during Mukherjee’s visit. The two countries are drifting apart.

Indian Naval Deployment

MUKHERJEE candidly admitted that “in this changing context, we need to look at India-Iran relations afresh”. Indeed, that “context” is dramatically changing. A fortnight before the visit, Delhi deployed for the first time ever a warship in the Persian Gulf region, which will operate in close coordination with the Western navies under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in the region.

Mukherjee assertively said in Tehran: “India has a natural and abiding stake in the safety and security of the sea lanes of communication from the Malacca Strait to the Persian Gulf.”

But Delhi didn’t consult Tehran beforehand. Delhi instead approached Oman for assistance in berthing facilities for its warship. Tehran, meanwhile, views the Western naval deploy-ments in the Persian Gulf with alarm. Last week, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mohammadi criticised the expansion of NATO to the East and called on regional governments to “distance themselves from competitive and hostile policies”.

Tehran would have most certainly noted Delhi’s decision to host a large-scale naval exercise with the US along India’s western coast in late October in which the nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and US nuclear submarines and frigates participated. Iran has since announced the opening of a new naval base in the southern port of Jask in the eastern part of the Strait of Hormuz. According to the Chief of the Iranian Navy, Admiral Habibollah Sayari, “With this new naval base, a new line of defence was created in the Persian Gulf. If necessarywe can prevent any enemy from enter-ing the Persian Gulf’s strategic area.”

Sayari announced that Iran proposed to build yet another naval base to establish “an impenetrable line of defence at the entrance to the Sea of Oman”. He added: “If the enemy goes insane, we will drown them at the bottom of the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman before they reach the Strait of Hormuz and the entrance to the Persian Gulf.” Curiously, the Iranian anno-uncement coincided with the consultations of National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan in Oman regrading an Indian proposal that the Sultanate provide berthing facilities for the Indian warship deployed in the region.

Though Mukherjee’s visit to Tehran ended on November 2, it has not yet been revealed whether President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received him. A call on the Iranian President—and, perhaps Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—was customary for visiting Indian Foreign Ministers in the halcy-on days of the India-Iran strategic partnership. In another sign of the change in the Iranian mood, Tehran “downgraded” the Joint Economic Commission with India. Mottaki is no longer its co-chairman, as is the practice with Iran’s other major interlocutors and partner counries.

Thus, a series of icebergs has been lately slicing through the hull of the Titanic that used to be the grand old India-Iran “strategic partnership”. A disaster was waiting to happen ever since India voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency three years ago following US President George W. Bush’s entreaties with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Pipedream of Energy Cooperation

AT the root of it lies unprecedented US-Israeli interference in India’s Iran policy. Such interference is nothing new since the early 1990s, when Delhi established diplomatic relations with Israel. Delhi skilfully navigated the relationship with Iran, despite the robust growth of ties with Israel on a parallel track.

However, things began changing three to four years ago as Indian foreign policy in the region began getting more “security-centric” and ties with Israel were elevated as a pivotal relationship. Today, in the Iranian perception, Delhi’s avowal that it is capable of buttressing the India-Iran relationship from the predatorial skill of US and Israeli diplomacy lacks credibility.

Tehran used to respect India’s perceived political will to retain its autonomy of action and thinking on regional issues. That confidence seems to have evaporated. Mottaki forcefully pleaded with Mukherjee that the two countries should focus on a relationship that served their “real interests” rather than fall into the “conspiracies of foreign powers” which hatch “mischief aimed at sowing discord” in Iran-India relations.

The litmus test is the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. It is obvious that Delhi is dragging its feet on the project, despite its great potential to boost India’s energy security— all because of US and Israeli pressure. Tehran finds itself in a dilemma. No doubt it is keen to partner with India in the project, but Tehran realises that political will is lacking in Delhi.

At the same time, Tehran cannot cut out India altogether as it estimates it is only logical that some day soon, under a different leadership in Delhi, India will revert to this project in its compelling self-interest. The Iranian frustration showed when Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari told the media soon after Mukherjee concluded his visit: “Considering that we have lost many opportunities in the ‘peace pipeline’ project due to India’s procrastination, we have told that country to engage more actively.”

The US $ 7.5 billion, 2700-kilometre pipeline has been in discussion for almost two decades. The pipeline is to begin from Iran’s Assalouyeh energy zone in the south and stretch over 1100 kilometres through Iran. In Pakistan it is to pass through Balochistan and Sindh before linking up Rajasthan and Gujarat in western India.

Strategy Toward Afghanistan

AGAIN, the geopolitics of the region dictate that Delhi and Tehran explore the frontiers of a common strategy towards Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban’s resurgence is apparent and its induction by the US into a coalition government in Kabul in the not-too-distant future appears highly probable. Mukherjee could have conceivably utilised the visit for such purpose.

The Iranian side indeed appeared keen for a purposeful dialogue on Afghanistan. But Delhi isn’t willing. The priority in the Indian mindset is to harmonise its regional policies with the US (and Israel) as regards the “war on terror”. That includes Delhi’s Afghan policy.

The powerful Chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council and former President, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told Mukherjee: “Resolving the current crisis in Afghanistan requires extensive coopera-tion between Iran, India and Pakistan. This cooperation can bring tranquility to the region … The experience of the Soviet Union in this country [Afghanistan] shows that the path the West is now treading in Afghanistan will not yield the desired results. The signs that are currently observed in Afghanistan show that the West is not capable of resolving the problems of this country.”

Mukherjee responded: “No country outside the region can find a solution to the problems of regional countries and the regional states them-selves should resolve the problems through cooperation with each other.” He added that India, Iran and Pakistan could play “important roles in regional events” and their cooperation would “help establish peace and stability” in the region.

The Indian timidity is despite the fact that India and Iran were staunch allies supporting the anti-Taliban alliance until the US invasion of Afgha-nistan in 2001. Delhi would be aware that Tehran has sharply reacted to the current US, British, Saudi and Pakistani efforts to accommodate the Taliban. Actually, the Indian and Iranian positions have striking similarity insofar as neither thinks there is anything conceivable as “good Taliban”. Yet, Delhi shies from coordinating with Tehran lest it tread on US-Israeli sensitivities.

The Obama Factor

SO far so good. But what happens if a Barack Obama presidency moves toward normalisation of relations with Iran? Indeed, Russia and China seem to be getting ready for such an eventuality. Iran’s admission into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a full member has now become a certainty, with both the Russian and Chinese Prime Ministers affirming their support of the Iranian candidacy. Iran has been offered membership of the Black Sea Union. Russia is forming a gas cartel with Iran. (The SCO compri-ses China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.)

Above all, Delhi will face a new situation if Obama revisits the “war on terror”. As well-known Lebanese commentator Rami Khouri thoughtfully wrote: “US-backed governments in half-a-dozen countries are losing their battles and political confrontations with Islamist-led indige-nous oppositions, and have to form national unity governments or explore other means of power … The American-Afghan tentative move to engage the Taliban politically is … a welcome sign that Washington is finally learning the value of seeing and resolving conflicts in their wider local and regional context. We may well see something similar happen in Iraq, including American-Iranian-Saudi-Syrian contacts in the near future.”

During his visit to Tehran, Mukherjee charac-terised the Persian Gulf as India’s “proximate neighbourhood”, but there is no evidence Delhi has thought through its Middle East policy against the backdrop of impending shifts and realign-ments in the geopolitics of the region. Creative diplomacy lies in keeping all options open at a time of extreme volatility in regional politics.

On the other hand, it is a measure of the success of the US-Israeli diplomacy in recent years that Delhi increasingly finds itself at odds with Tehran’s growing ambitions as a regional power, whereas sufficient elbow room is available for them to co-exist. There is no real clash of interests between India and Iran. So, ultimately, who is to blame—Washington, Tel Aviv or New Delhi?

As far as Tehran is concerned, it is countering the US’ containment strategy and India’s political support is no more an imperative need in the denouement of the Iran nuclear file. Moreover, as Iran’s engagement by the West advances, Tehran will have no dearth of partners for energy cooperation. Least of all, the Gulf Cooperation Council states themselves are seeking accommo-dation with Iran and, arguably, they won’t need India as a “balancer”. The net result is that any weakening of India’s strong ties with Iran at the present juncture can only debilitate Delhi’s overall foreign policy in the Persian Gulf region in the critical period that lies ahead. Delhi may ruffle feathers not only in Tehran but in regional capitals too—apart from Islamabad —if it presses ahead with the claim to be the pre-eminent power between the Persian Gulf and the Malacca Strait.

The Persian Gulf is a tough neighbourhood and any grandstanding will not pass unnoticed. With only a fortnight to go for Manmohan to pay his first-ever visit to Saudi Arabia, Riyadh abruptly sought a postponement. If there is any political symbolism behind the Saudi move, it will surely emerge.

(Courtesy: Asia Times) Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Focus on job evaluation of officers

I am yet to come across logical arguments for examining the issue of comparison of job and pay scales of Army officers vis-à-vis IAS and IPS officers. As an HR consultant, I have been designing common job evaluation system for years. It is mostly based on giving marks out of total points allotted to a standard set of factors for all jobs to be compared.

The factors include specialisation, complexity of job knowledge, level of planning, organisation and execution of resources for optimal results, creativity and job hazards, leadership level, internal and external interaction and job specifications in terms of education, level of training and experience, etc. The total points scored by a job establishes its standing within its own hierarchy as compared to those of other varied jobs in diverse fields.

One concept is that the risk of life as a job hazard for Army officers cannot be stretched beyond a point and it is to be treated as one of the factors to be evaluated in the system. Consider the role of a District Collector or Deputy Commissioner. He is responsible for so many things — law and order, development and planning. Compare his work with those of Army and IPS officers.

The Sixth Pay Commission must have followed its own job evaluation system and the same can be re-evaluated, if required.

D.S. REEN, HR Consultant, Panchkula

Air Force to Reactivate Nyama Airfield Near Chinese Border

After Daulat Beg Oldi and Fuk Che airfields in Ladakh, India is aggressively pursuing plans to re-open the Nyama Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) for IAF operations close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. However, the IAF plans to reopen the Chu Shul ALG in the region have been shelved for the moment, but could be revived later.

"We are working on the Nyama ALG and hopefully it would be open for fixed wing aircraft operations soon. Work has already commenced there and we will be using it in the near future," Western Air Command (WAC) chief Air Marshal Pranab Kumar Barbora told reporters here today. "If the government wants, Nyama ALG can be developed into a proper airfield and can be used for transport aircraft operations also," he said.

When Nyama gets ready, it will be IAF's 3rd ALG in Ladakh to be reopened nearer to the Chinese and Pakistani borders in the last six months in the region of Jammu and Kashmir. The IAF has been reopening airfields to strengthen its air maintenance operations and promotion of tourism in the region, which is the gateway to the highest battlefield, Siachen Glacier.

"IAF had received a request from the government to see if it can develop airfields in the region for tourism purpose. We found that reopening these airfields was possible and could be used for air maintenance operations also," Barbora said.

Indian Air Force Shore Based Training Facility to be Set Up in Goa

To help its fighter pilots hone their skills ahead of more aircraft carriers joining the fleet, the Navy is setting up a shore-based training facility (SBTF) in Goa for MiG-29K and Naval LCA aircraft. This will be the third such mock flight

deck facility in the world, with only the US and Russia having the other two.

The work on the SBTF has already started at the Naval air base INS Hansa, which houses the Navy's fighter squadrons and training squadrons flying the existing fleet of ea Harriers, Navy sources said. The work on setting up the SBTF with the ski-jump facing the sea-front in INS Hansa has been handed over to Goa Shipyard Limited, a Defence public sector undertaking, through the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).

GSL sources said the SBTF is likely to be completed next year, much ahead of schedule in 2010. Coinciding with the SBTF getting ready for use by naval fighter pilots for training, India would get the delivery of the first four MiG-29Ks early next year, after a delay of nearly six months from the original deadline of September this year.

The rest 12 of the 16 MiG-29Ks, for which India signed a deal with Russia in January 2004, would come by later next year.

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