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Thursday, 20 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 20 Nov

Pay Commission

by: Lt. Gen. RP Agarwal (Retd), PVSM, VSM


‘Googling’ for “sixth pay commission” throws up 4,76,000 pages worth of results – an indication of the unprecedented interest and deliberations it has engendered. The media boom and social networking over the internet have ensured that each nuance of the report has been dissected and examined for ramifications. Anomalies that would have hitherto gone unnoticed till much after the implementation were picked up and circulated via mail groups, discussion forums and blogs. The recommendations concerning the Armed Forces have been particularly contentious and to make matters worse, the Committee appointed to resolve the anomalies has, on the contrary, introduced more of the same. While the Group of Ministers constituted for amelioration is expected to address these, it would also be prudent to take this opportunity to examine certain core issues which are the basis of divergence between the military and civilian points of view regarding the status, pay and perks.

Concerns have been voiced about the fact that the forces have been consistently downgraded in status vis a vis civilian counterparts ever since independence. There is no disputing this as the C-in-C of the Army prior to independence was second in the warrant of precedence, after the Viceroy. In fact, his official residence was the Teen Murti Bhawan, which became the Prime Minister’s residence after independence. As on date, the COAS is 12th in the warrant, and the slip is not merely 10 places, considering that most of the 11 slots above him are occupied by scores of people. Correspondingly, the warrant has been adjusted downwards at all levels.

The reason for this slide is not very difficult to perceive. The distinction between the soldier and civil administrator was not so marked prior to independence. The role of the Army, and consequently the position occupied by it, under colonial rule, was vastly different from that in a democracy. Notwithstanding the fact that the Indian Civil Service provided the steel frame of administration as a precursor to the IAS, a large number of civil appointments at district level upwards were held by military officers, or erstwhile military officers. These roles were switched back and forth, and the protocol or inter se status was therefore clearly defined. The fact that badges of rank of police are same as that of the Army is a legacy of this system. Post independence, however, the Army’s role is rightfully restricted to defence of the nation, and the ever widening chasm between it and the civil counterparts has resulted in an erosion of the warrant of precedence.

The issue of career progression vis a vis the civilian counterparts is another cause of frustration within the services. The peculiar nature of service necessitates a pyramidical hierarchy within the forces. For instance, for every general officer added, a suitable organisation / portfolio for him to handle needs to be created within the forces. Considering that the size of the forces is more or less static, this is difficult to implement. In the case of civil services, however, the size of the cadre is not relative to any particular organisation. Apart from promoting officers in situ while they continue to perform the same duties, adequate scope for lateral movement to PSUs, corporations and other organisations is open to them. To that end, comparing the promotional avenues in the forces with other services such as the IAS, IPS or similar cadres amounts to an attempt at comparing two dissimilar things on a common platform. Unless, of course, we have Colonels commanding companies, Brigadiers battalions, and so on. Some may argue that there is nothing wrong in this, and even cite the example of say the police, where every state today has 10 - 12 DGPs, some looking after ridiculously mundane things such as stationery (maybe an exaggeration, but just about). This approach has inherent flaws that would supersede the marginal improvement to the pyramid that it would provide. It still would not be adequate to meet the aspirations of all the regular officers who join the service. We cannot hope to match the assured career progression of the IAS or the IPS wherein the rank of a JS or IG / ADG is assured to everyone joining, for the simple reason that in these organisations, the number of such ranks is equal to the annual intake.

Obviously, number of officers to be commissioned cannot be restricted to the number of Maj Gens, since effective junior leadership is a key requisite of the forces. The civil services are not bound by this requirement and junior level vacancies are filled up by support cadres and promotees. In fact, in case all the civil services also relied on a system of regular professional officers manning the junior level posts, while they might face career progression problems similar to the Army, the quality of administration might improve drastically.

As a corollary, since the organisational requirements are so vastly different, the application of the same yardstick for pay and allowances and parity of status is obviously a flawed approach which leads to gross disparities in the lifetime remunerations between armed forces and civil services officers. A detailed analysis of the average earnings of a sample batch of 100 IAS officers and 100 army officers over their entire service is revealing. Taking the timeframe of promotions and the proportion of officers qualifying for the same at various levels into consideration, the difference between an average officer in the two services works out to over Rs 2 Cr ! (See box for details)

The requirement therefore is for a separate pay commission for the services, which takes into account these peculiarities rather than blindly applying the same yardstick as the civil services. Alternatively, the norm of pay parity in terms of years of service, irrespective of the rank at which each is at any given time should be considered. Thus, an officer with 16 years of service in the forces should get the pay equivalent to the highest pay drawn by any cadre with equivalent service, irrespective of the rank at which either is at that time. An Army officer, who would be a Lt Col at such a service, should therefore draw the pay equivalent to that of a JS if IAS officers of his parallel batch have been promoted to JS. He can continue to be equivalent to a Dir as per the existing warrant of precedence, which in any case makes no material difference at this level. In fact, we could limit the comparison to the level of a Maj Gen, there being no necessity to lay down the equivalence with civil officials below this. Also, the badges of rank of the army need to be distinct from that of Police, CPOs and PMFs, to avoid equivalence being implied needlessly and inaccurately.

For all of the above to take shape, there is a need for creating an understanding that the armed forces are a national asset. While they cannot occupy the position of pre-eminence of a colonial army, due credence and attention should be given to ensuring their ‘Izzat O Iqbal’ at a time when drastic measures are required to preserve their cutting edge.

By Vinay Shankar

20 Nov 2008 01:25:00 AM IST

Neglect of military morale

It is a fascinating paradox. The greater the military’s involvement in national security and contribution in the management of national crises, the greater its alienation with the nation’s governing apparatus and those who exercise influence over it. The point is best illustrated by the fallout of the reports of successive pay commissions. The defence services expectations from the Sixth Pay Commission for a change in trend set by the previous pay commissions are again belied. For them one more nail into their coffin of hope.

Despite angry protests and representations the final dispensation promulgated has widened the chasm and brought disaffection within the services to the point of despair. Fervent appeals from the top brass of the three services and considerable lobbying by the retired fraternity of the armed forces evoked little or no sympathy in the quarters that matter. Public support is evidently there but it is of no solace to the armed forces if such adulation does not impact favourably on the outlook of those who decide.

Strangely the media support has also been quite muted and hardly discernible. To some observers it appears as if a ‘gag order’ had been sent out by the powers that be. Whatever the reasons the media support that the armed forces were hoping for has not been forthcoming; no-prime time features — other than the recent burst by one TV channel – or front page headlines espousing the case of the armed forces. To the contrary we have had some esteemed columnists regrettably castigating the service chiefs on the position taken by them — to withhold the new pay implementation orders.

Much has already been said on the subject of the chiefs making public their decision to hold back the dissemination of the government notification on the new pay packages.

However some points merit emphasis.

Firstly, our chiefs in office currently are not flamboyant, iconic personalities in the mould of a few army chiefs of yesteryears.
These gentlemen are reputed to be steady, solid and competent professionals, not the hungry for publicity kind. So it is somewhat ironic that instead of wondering as to why the chiefs have been driven to protest in the manner that they have, we chastise them.

Secondly we should appreciate that that by adopting the position that they have, prospects of their benefiting from the Government’s largesse after retirement have been foreclosed. Sadly their sacrifice of personal interests for the sake of the uniformed family to which they belong has gone quite unacknowledged. Elsewhere such commitment would have been cited as exemplary leadership.

But again curiously if we were to conduct an opinion poll on whether the chiefs were right or wrong across two segments: the bureaucracy and the defence services, my guess is that 90 per cent of the bureaucrats would disapprove while over ninety percent of the service officers would wholeheartedly endorse what the chiefs did. Is there a case for a better understanding of the ethos of the armed forces? Our military may not be perfect but it has served the nation very well. Its role in safeguarding the security and integrity of our country has been invaluable. Contrary to the beliefs and concerns persistently expressed in certain influential quarters it has also remained obsessively apolitical, a strength that has failed to attract the recognition that it deserves. Altogether there is much reason for the nation to be proud of its armed forces.

Right from Independence, our security environment has been far from benign. The future promises to be no better. Even a cursory scan of our security scenario would indicate that the defence services might well be called upon to deal with much bigger and newer challenges. So we must heed their morale. Ignoring the sentiments of the services or turning a blind eye to the simmering discontent which is virtually now out in the open would be unwise. Anger and resentment — are widespread and deep rooted sentiments in the armed forces.

The issues that agitate the defence services go well beyond the scope of the dispensations that a pay commission can award.
Even while remaining strictly within the charter of a pay commission the armed forces are in a way wishing and expecting that all the accumulated injustices heaped on them over the previous pay commissions can now be set right in this instance. This of course is unlikely to happen. So what should be done?

For the government the important thing that must first be done is to shed the accountants approach to dealing with the grievances of the services. What is required is empathy and understanding. Let us not grudge the services the little things like the canteen or rum or the sahayaks or the bungalows in Delhi. Instead the focus should be on addressing the many grievances that the men in uniform nurture.

What are the major issues? The most important — a better deal for the soldier who retires in his forties. His pathetic plight remains unchanged. A pension of about 75 per cent of the last pay drawn that the government is likely to concede albeit reluctantly will not be enough. Much more needs to be done. Next for the officer: what he justifiably seeks is some kind of equivalence in status and pay related to the length of service. To tell the officer that the problem lies within the organisational pyramid of the three services and therefore the government is helpless is rank evasion of responsibility and a brazen display of insensitivity.

There are many more concerns not being dwelt on due to space limitations.

In the short term the government should look at getting over the immediate crisis of the Sixth Pay Commission award. After having crossed this bridge it would be unwise to let matters drift. Instead a committee should be constituted to specially look into all the issues that agitate the military. The importance of careful selection of the members of this committee should be obvious.
Equally important would be the formulation of its terms of reference.

Another grave matter is the grievances that the officer community of the three services especially the army has against the bureaucracy. This is a serious issue. Of late the sentiments being expressed against the bureaucracy are bordering on hate and anger.

If the bureaucrats and the armed forces do not work in harmony and in tandem we will not get the best from our national resources.

How has this grave ‘disconnect’ come about? Then there is the bigger issue of the ramifications of this polarisation. Do we blame the country’s inherited military ethos and the national character of its people? There are no clear answers. This underscores the imperative of reflection and introspection especially but the services, the bureaucracy and the political leadership.

As watch dogs the media must also step in; national security could be at stake

About the author:

Vinay Shankar is a former Director General of the artillery

Navy sinks Somali pirate ship
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 19
The Indian Navy had its second successful strike at pirates in the Gulf of Aden, near strife-torn Somalia, last night even as gunmen from Somalia seized two more vessels despite a large international naval presence off the lawless country.

The Navy’s warship, INS Tabar, which is currently on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden, fired at three ships carrying well armed pirates. A fierce gun battle ensued in which the main ship of the pirates was sunk and they used two other small boats to escape.

The main ship that was sunk was towing two smaller speed boats, Navy sources said today. On November 11, The Indian Navy’s marine commandos had thwarted two attempts by pirates and fired using a chopper. In its brief deployment, the INS Tabar has escorted 35 ships through the Gulf of Aden onto the Suez Canal, including those of other countries. This action is giving international goodwill to the Navy, besides increasing the recognition quotient for India’s maritime force.

Separately, questions are being raised in the security establishment whether there was a danger of the pirates, acting jointly with the Al-Qaeda terrorists or at their instance, blowing up oil-laden supertankers near ports or major route like the Suez canal in order to disrupt maritime trade passing through the region.

Two days ago, pirates captured a 3.18 lakh tonne super oil tanker. The ship is more than 1,000 feet long and is stated to be carrying huge amounts of crude.

Meanwhile, Naval spokesperson Commander Nirad Sinha said today the INS Tabar encountered a pirate vessel, 285 nautical miles south west of Salalah in Oman in the Gulf of Aden.

Commander P.K. Banerjee of the Indian Naval warship closed on to the pirate vessels and asked them to stop for investigation. On repeated calls, the pirates threatened to blow up the Indian warship if it sailed any closer. The pirates were seen roaming on the upper deck of their main ship with guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. They continued giving threatening calls and subsequently fired upon the Indian warship, the spokesperson added.

The Indian ship retaliated in self defence and opened fire using its on board weapons. As a result, a fire broke out on the pirate ship and explosions were seen and heard, possibly due to exploding ammunition that was stored on the vessel by the pirates. Almost simultaneously, two speed boats, that were towed by the main ship were observed breaking off to escape. The Indian naval ship chased the first speed boat, which was later found abandoned. The other boat made good its escape into darkness.

The main ship used by the pirates was similar in description to the vessel mentioned in various piracy bulletins.

While some of the pirates could have escaped in the speed boats, a few on board the destroyed main ship perished, the sources said.

The incident came as shipping groups reported a new surge in hijackings off Somalia and the international maritime bureau said pirates based in the lawless northeast African nation were now out of control.

This year, there have so far been 81 incidents of pirates attack -- 58 in the Gulf of Aden, 12 off the east coast of Somalia and 11 off Tanzania. In 36 of these incidents, the pirates managed to hijack the ships. Twelve of these ships, with a total of 250 crew members, are still in the custody of the Somali pirates.

Indian Navy shows the way, sinks pirate ship

Vishal Thapar


PRIDE OF NAVY: INS Tabar has been deployed in the Gulf of Aden to stop pirates from hijacking ships.

New Delhi: Indian Navy's warship INS Tabar sunk a Somali pirate ship in the Gulf of Aden. It is the first time since 1971 that the Indian Navy has struck an enemy vessel.

INS Tabar sunk the ship following an exchange of gunfire on Monday night and the operation has brought India praise from the world.

The Indian Navy has pulled off an anti-piracy operation which even the French and American warships have been unable to in the past few weeks.

"When we opened fire, the ammunition which was stacked on the mother boat caught fire and there were explosios were heard," Indian Navy Spokesperson Commander Nirad Sinha said.

The success comes barely a week after INS Tabar foiled two piracy attempts in the area.

But with seven reported piracies in the last 12 days by Somali bandits, including that of a Saudi super tanker carrying a $100 million worth of crude oil, the magnitude of the problem is clear.

With the Somali piracy crisis escalating to unprecedented levels, India is taking a lead role in combating the menace. This international crisis could legitimise India's role as the premier maritime power in the region.

In fact, India's role as the prime anti-piracy campaigner may just give a push to its initiative to forge a security framework of Indian Ocean navies, which could have the beginnings of an Asian NATO-like organisation.

"We would like to cooperate with other countries in the Indian Ocean region as also the UN umbrella to ensure that Indian ocean is an area of peace and stability," Commander Sinha said.

India's Navy Chief Sureesh Mehta recently declared piracy as an act of war, signaling a free hand to his force to take the problem head on. The Naval muscle also appears set to give an edge to New Delhi's diplomacy.

Six men who went missing in avalanche are dead, says Army

Press Trust of India

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 (New Delhi)

The Army on Wednesday said six of its men, including a Major, who went missing in an avalanche on Tuesday in Gurez sector of Jammu and Kashmir while searching for three porters, were dead.

Their bodies were found buried under the snow in the avalanche hit areas of Kanjarwan.

However, a Lieutenant, who was part of the seven-member team that went on the search operation, is still missing, they said.

The Army is still carrying out search operations to locate the missing Lieutenant and three porters.

These soldiers were deployed at Kanjarwan and after the three porters, ferrying supplies to their post, went missing in bad weather, the Army had sent the seven-member search party to locate them.

Unfortunately, an avalanche struck when the team was out searching for the porters and they fell victims, Army added.

Security Council Out of Date, Out of Touch:
Top Official

By Lalit K. Jha

United Nations
Observing that the UN Security Council is both out of date and out of touch, the General Assembly president, Miguel d'Escoto of Nicaragua, urged countries to hammer out their differences as soon as possible to make the body more representative and reflective of the realities.

"Peace and security cannot be maintained by a Security Council that is out of date and out of touch," d'Escoto said Tuesday in a speech read in his absence by the Afghan Ambassador to the UN, Zahir Tanin, who is also vice president of the General Assembly .

Referring to the seating arrangement of the Security Council, d'Escoto urged the member nations to move swiftly in its efforts to "rebuild the horseshoe table (into) a circle-shaped one with room for extra seats".

Intergovernmental negotiations on the Security Council's expansion and equitable representation are slated to begin early next year.

However, the debate that followed reflected the sharp differences among members of the General Assembly on the Security Council reforms, with each group sticking to its viewpoint.

The Group of Four or G-4, which comprises India, Germany, Brazil and Japan, insisted that the strength of the council be increased from 15 to 25 by adding six permanent and four non-permanent seats.

Thomas Matussek of Germany said that the G-4 proposal would be the successful approach to guarantee the substance of efforts towards reform.

According to G-4 proposal, the six new permanent members would be elected as follows: two from African states; two from Asian states; one from Latin American and Caribbean states; and one from Western European and other states.

The four new non-permanent members would be elected as follows: one from Africa; one from Asia; one from Eastern Europe; and one from Latin American and Caribbean. New permanent members would not exercise the right of veto until the question of extending that right to them is decided.

However, the G-4 proposal was opposed by "United for Consensus" group which includes countries like Italy, Pakistan and Argentina. As per the proposal put forward by this group, the Security Council would expand to 25 members, including the five permanent members.

The 20 non-permanent members would be elected as follows: six from African states; five from Asian states; four from Latin American and Caribbean states; three from Western European and other states and two from Eastern European states.

The Pakistani ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, said while Africa was united in its position, the G-4 had created "serious rifts" in Asian, West European and Others Group, and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries.

"The African model of regional representation, if applied to all other regions, could garner reciprocal support and thus promote a feasible compromise," he said.

Favoring expansion of the Security Council in both categories of membership, Jean-Pierre Lacroix of France supported new permanent membership for Germany, Brazil, India and Japan as well as permanent representation for Africa.

British ambassador Sir John Sawers said any reform should lead to a body that is more representative of today's global realities but no less effective or capable of taking tough decisions to tackle threats to international peace and security.

Representing India, Vijay Bahuguna, MP, said that without expansion of the permanent membership of the Security Council, the real problems could not begin to be addressed, nor could the political culture of the UN begin to be transformed.

Attempts to portray an "interim model" as a solution are inherently flawed and would increase the numbers without addressing the real issues, he said.

"It would be the worst of both worlds," he said, reiterating India's demands for council reform, including equitable geographical distribution, expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories, and greater representation for developing countries.

Taliban Running Out of Places to Hide:
US Army Commander

By Lalit K. Jha

New York
With the Pakistan army aggressive in its operation against the militants on its side of the border, the Taliban are running out of places to hide, says a US Army commander in charge of operations in Afghanistan.

"They (Taliban) are running out of options on places to go, which I think is a great thing in the long run," said Col. John Spiszer, commander of Task Force Duke. He leads the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, which is responsible for security and stability operations in the crucial Northeastern area of Afghanistan along the Pakistan border.

In a teleconference with reporters from a Forward Operating Base in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, Spiszer said: "We have actually designed some operations to drive the enemy out of Afghanistan. And the Pakistan military is doing operations that really ultimately are in some ways designed to drive them out of Pakistan."

Spiszer anticipated increased violence over the winter compared to earlier years.

"But I think if that is the case, it'll be because the Pakistan military is taking away their (Taliban's) safe havens in Pakistan. So that's going to be a great thing for us in the long run," he said.

In the past several months, the Pakistani army has launched a massive operation against the militants on its border, especially in the tribal areas.

"As we further synchronize our efforts with the Pakistan military and develop our capabilities along the border then these guys are going to start dying on the vine," the American commander said.

"By conducting near-simultaneous operations on both sides of the border, we are making it difficult for the enemy to operate and eliminating his essential safe havens," Spiszer said.

The biggest success is the cooperation and coordination that's developing between the Pakistani military, and coalition and Afghan forces, he added.

Gnat aircraft’s memories live on
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, November 19
A Gnat aircraft hung on a frame at the road near the Bangalore Press Club hardly gets a glance of the passers by. But in 1972, recalls Group Capt P.M. Velankar (retd), the Gnats were a great crowd puller for their success against the Pakistani Sabre Jets in the 1971 war, a feat which had earned the aircraft the sobriquet of “Sabre slayers”.

Velankar recalls how an “Air Force mela” at Kasturchand Park in Nagpur on April 1, 1972, was milling with crowd, thanks to two static Gnats at display at the venue. Later, the two aircrafts were successfully flown back to Sulur near Coimbatore without a flight test being done. “I do not think that would have been possible with any other aircraft but a Gnat,” says Velankar.

Air Comd A.C. Goel (AVSM) recalls how he could fly back safely to the base at Adampur after his aircraft as well as six others participating in the mission were hit by the gunfire of the Pakistanis. “There is not a single case of losing a Gnat in combat due to enemy gunfire when escorting strike missions”, he recalls.

The Gnats have been now phased out of the Indian Air Force (IAF). But, the people associated with it still have fond memories of the aircraft which played a key role in the most decisive victory modern India has ever registered in a full blown war.

Over 200 pilots, engineers and flight-testing experts of yesteryears and their families from India and abroad will assemble in Bangalore on November 21 for the golden jubilee celebrations of Gnat aircraft in India. The event is being jointly organised by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The unique event is slated to be held at HAL’s Ghatge Convention Centre here and some of the prominent pilots of the bygone days have already arrived in Bangalore for the event.

Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major will be the chief guest in the function. A film on Gnat will be screened during the event, while a book on the aircraft edited by Pushpinder Singh will also be released. A photo exhibition will also be set up at the Ghatge Centre.

“The event holds special significance as never in the recent past we have witnessed the coming together of so many experts associated with Gnat under one roof. IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) are proud to be associated with this event which will help the current generation aviators and engineers rub shoulders with some of the jewels of the past,” Sanjeev Sahi, Chairman of Gnat Golden Jubilee Celebrations in India, said.

HAL was the licensed producer of the Gnat in India and rolled out 200 of them for the IAF. The original designers and builders of the Gnat were Folland Aviation of the UK. The IAF was the only air force to operate them in large numbers and use them in combat. The Gnat proved so formidable that the Pakistani pilots were told to avoid combat with the Gnat.

Many defence personnel left out from rolls
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 19
Thousands of armed forces personnel and their family members residing in Delhi Cantonment would not be able to exercise their right to franchise during the Assembly elections this month. The Election Commission has failed to register their names as voters in electoral rolls.

Sources said that house-to-house survey for compiling the electoral rolls, as undertaken by the electoral authorities prior to elections, was not conducted in the areas concerned for registering serving armed forces personnel and their family members.

An officer estimated the number of military personnel and family members who have been deprived of their democratic right to be about 30,000.

According to an officer, a petition was submitted to the chief electoral officer, Delhi, earlier this month to register serving personnel and their eligible family members as voters. The Delhi polls are scheduled for November 29.

“We had written to the chief electoral officer on November 14 and are yet to receive any reply,” Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd) of the Delhi-based Ex-Servicemen’s Organisation, said. “Orders to enlist servicing personnel at voters at their place of posting exist since 1971, but they have never been implemented,” he added. The Supreme Court has also ruled that serving personnel can vote at their place of posting.

“The petition was sent on the last day for withdrawal of candidatures,” Brig H.S. Ghuman (retd) said. “It was within his powers to order a survey or register voters if any anomaly is brought to his notice by that date,” he claimed.

According to law, all serving military personnel have a right to vote at their place of posting. Other alternatives like postal ballots and proxy voting are merely options that may be exercise by an individual at his discretion.

No serving officer has been nominated to compile electoral rolls at military stations. The Election Commission has nominated record officers at regimental centres to prepare rolls of serving soldiers, but it is for the purpose of postal ballots only.

The issue of not registering serving personnel as voters has also cropped up in the past in other stations.

India, China to hold military exercise
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 19
India and China will join hands to conduct military exercise which will help in counter-insurgency operations. The exercise will commence in the second week of December in the hilly areas around Belgaum in Karnataka.

This will be the first-ever joint exercise on the Indian soil. Sources said the exercise was a part of the strategy to have collaborative security arrangement by the two major Asian nations. There was a concern over terrorist-related violence in the region, said sources.

An Indian Army team had visited China in December last year for the first war games between the two countries near the city of Kunming. This will be for the first time that Chinese Army troops will come to India to conduct a military exercise.

India Delays Final Bid Date in Helo Purchase

By vivek raghuvanshi

Published: 17 Nov 13:19 EST (18:19 GMT)

NEW DELHI - The procurement of 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters for the Indian Air Force and Army has been further delayed, as the last date for submission of bids has been postponed.

Sources in the Indian Defence Ministry said the postponement of the last date to submit technical and commercial bids has been extended by two months, from Oct. 24to Dec. 19. Sources said the submission date could be extended further as the competitors are finding it difficult to file their bids with complete details about mandatory offset requirements.

In the $750 million bid floated in July, the Defence Ministry increased the level of mandatory defense offsets from the current level of 30 percent to 50 percent.

The request for proposals has been send to Eurocopter of France, Bell Helicopter, Sikorsky Aircraft, Boeing of the United States, AgustaWestland of Italy and Kamov Design Bureau.

The Defence Ministry had promised the users that the procurement of 197 helicopters would be done on a fast-track basis and the entire procurement completed by 2011. The minimum numbers of helicopters to be inducted will be 30 per year, beginning 24 months after the contract is signed.

As per the initial plans, the Ministry of Defence decided to evaluate technical bids and the trials are expected from February 2009.

The Indian government decided to rebid the program after canceling an initial plan in which EADS had emerged as the front-runner. The government took that step following allegations of a lack of transparency in the selection process by competitor Bell Helicopter.

A total of 384 helicopters are being procured for both the Air Force and Army. Of these, the current tender is for the purchase of 197 helicopters off the shelf while the remaining 187 would be manufactured in India by state-run Hindustan Aerospace under technology transfer.

They fought to the last man for India

November 18, 2008

India may have lost the 1962 war with China, but it was not completely a saga of defeat. Hamstrung by an indecisive leadership and poor military equipment, the Indian army put up a valiant resistance along the McMahon Line. It is another matter the political leadership of the day did not back them.

One such spot where our soldiers fought back, and repelled, the Chinese incursions was at Razang La near Chushul, in the Himalayan heights. On November 18, 1962, 114 soldiers of the 13th Kumaon fought till the last man, and last bullet, in sub-zero temperatures, to beat back the huge Chinese army. A grateful nation acknowledged their valour by posthumously conferring the Param Vir Chakra on Major Shaitan Singh.

Forty-six years later to the day, Tarun Vijay undertook an emotional journey to Chushul and Razang La, site of a memorial to commemorate the brave souls who died so we may live in peace and security, to file this audio report.

'Sir, a national crisis has been created as a result of the Chinese attack on the northern border. China has expansionist designs, it has set its eyes like a vulture on 48,000 square miles of land belonging to India.

'On August 25, 1959, while speaking on the Kerala debates the prime minister (Jawaharlal Nehru) had stated that India would not remain India if per chance it becomes Communist. The same thing applies to China as well. The defence minister (V K Krishna Menon) has a doubtful past and his present conduct is dubious. He has Communist leanings. In his message on the Territorial Army Day he said that India should not keep a large army because keeping a large army was not compatible with our morality.'
-- Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Lok Sabha, December 22, 1959

The ironies of history take strange shapes. In 1962, Nehru didn't listen to the warnings of the erstwhile Jana Sangh, believed 'the Chinese can never attack us' and lost face and land both to his 'bhai'-like friends. Then the government arrested more than 400 top Communist leaders on charges of sedition and invited volunteers of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh to participate in the 1963 Republic Day Parade at Raj Path in New Delhi in full uniform, recognising its services during the war.

In 2008 the Communists have become the darlings of the Congress that still sources its legacy to Nehru, and the RSS is sought to be banned.

By 1962, China had taken Aksai Chin and invaded NEFA.

In 2008, China is still occupying Aksai Chin and has rebuffed our foreign minister with a renewed claim on Arunachal Pradesh (formerly known as NEFA).

But can the nation forget the 1962 war? Who were those who fought and died? For who? And to what avail?

One of the stories India can never forget is the battle we fought in the Indus valley, near Chushul village.

The battle of Rezang La, fought at an altitude of 17,000 feet, is one of the most incredible sagas of valour and courage that Indian soldiers have showed. That was November 18, 1962, exactly 46 years earlier. They fought and died for Indian soil.

In 2008, we are still waiting for a leader to show any will or resolute action to indicate we are serious to take back the land that China grabbed.

The Congress changed post-Nehru, so did the others. Politics and immediate interests have overpowered security concerns, and distinctions between the identities of the enemy and patriots are as blurred as they were in 1962.

Unanswered questions

Forty-six years later, the question remains still unanswered: why did we have to fight a war, and why was it that the brave 114 soldiers of the 13th Kumaon had to offer their supreme sacrifice fighting till the 'last man and last bullet' in sub-zero temperature (minus 15 degrees Celsius) at Rezang La on November 18, 1962? What were the causes of that war and what happened afterwards? Who remembers them except a few ex-soldiers and the patriotic crowd at Rewari (Haryana), hometown of most of the martyred Ahirs who had fought at Rezang La? Why does no politician think it a matter of honour to send his children to join the army? Why do we have an important road in Delhi named after Krishna Menon, the disgraced defence minister of the '62 war, and nothing significant to honour the men who gave their lives to save India in Chushul?

These were the thoughts on my mind when I set out for Chushul last fortnight to get a feel of 'November in Rezang La' and pay my homage to the bravehearts.

The 1962 war with China is a sad story of a completely incapable leadership, favouritism at the top echelons of the army, and a disregard of the nation's security needs by those who were hailed by the people as their saviours. Neville Maxwell, a British journalist, writes in his famous book India's China war: 'At the time of independence, [B M] Kaul appeared to be a failed officer, if not one disgraced. But his courtier wiles, irrelevant or damning until then, were to serve him brilliantly in the new order that independence brought, after he came to the notice of Nehru, a fellow Kashmiri Brahmin and, indeed, distant kinsman.'

Job evaluation

I read D.S. Reen’s letter, “Focus on job evaluation of officers” (Nov 17). His bias against the military is obvious. Military officers have to have a wide range of skills and technical know how. Army officers also exercise legal powers which are subject to review by high courts and, therefore, have good knowledge of law.

In job evaluation, a whole range of issues have to be taken into account, including working conditions, management skills, technical know how and risk to life and limb.

Earlier, Captains and Majors used to be shifted as Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police and they met the job requirement in full measure. They delivered efficient, effective and friendly administration. Consider the situation now. Over 160 districts have no administration worth the name. Maoists rule the roost. The result: corrupt and abysmally poor administration.

Every district town elsewhere is a picture of sloth and decay. Law and order is poor, efficiency is missing and corruption is rampant. All these issues are the result of faulty evaluation of job content and do not seem to figure in Mr Reen’s calculations.

Lt-Gen HARWANT SINGH (retd), Camp: New York

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