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Sunday, 23 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 23 Nov

From Lt Col (Retd) Harbhajan Singh Cheema

I am referring to Mr. Kuldip Nayar’s article ‘Indian Military Forces, Communal Challenge”. He has talked about Indian Forces being holey cow. I wish to differ with Mr. Nayar. Where have we treated the forces as holy cow? We have been blaming them for all the petty things including human right violations knowing fully well that they have conducted their operations under trying conditions with utmost care. Bofor gun mentioned by Mr. Nayar too was test fired for technical analysis on firing range in the presence of Parliamentary Committee headed by Mr. Jaswant Singh who was in the opposition and is an ex-serviceman. The gun was technically considered good. Kick backs was a different matter. Cases of in discipline in the Armed Forces have been duly covered by media. If these have been reported rarely, it is because Forces have not been afflicted by corruption bug as much as their civilian counters parts. Let Mr. Nayar quote a case where the forces have not taken a prompt disciplinary action against the persons involved.

Our country and the Forces being secular do not mean that we do not have a right to practice religion. Our forces treat all religions with equal respect. All men in the armed forces have right to practice their religion. All religious functions of men, irrespective of their own religion are attended by all officers. There is no scope of religious institutes encouraging fissiparous forces. If there are more then one religious groups in one unit their religious institutes are located side by side in adjoining areas. Men too attend each others religious function in full. In fact they participate in each others religious function in a manner that one cannot differentiate from the other. That may not be the same in case of all the religious institutes in civilian areas. Religious institutes in civilian areas will do well to emulate and learn secularism from Forces religious institutes. If some Forces personnel have been ideologically contaminated to behave the way Lt Col Purohit is alleged to have behaved the fault lays some where else and not in Forces’ Religious Institutes. By denying them the religious institutes in their units/Regimental Centers as suggested by Mr. Nayar we will be exposing them to the communal culture of certain institutes. Also some troops are located so for away from the civilian areas that it is not practical for them to practice their religion as they would wish to. I would earnestly wish Mr. Nayar to visit one of the unit religious institutes, particularly during a religious function to have a first hand knowledge of their culture.

Gen Kapoor to visit SA, Bostwana

New Delhi, November 22
Seeking to enhance India’s ties with nations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor will embark on a weeklong visit to South Africa and Botswana beginning tomorrow.

The Military relations between India and South Africa have been growing in the past decade through high-level visits, exchanges in training and procurement of military hardware.

Gen Kapoor will visit South African Army headquarters, its War College in Pretoria, an Army engineer formation, an air base, a Parachute Regiment Centre and the School of Armour at Bloems Pruit and a naval base in Cape Town.

Kapoor will also visit the War Memorial at Fort Klapper Kop, Army sources said here today.

During the stay, the Army chief is scheduled to hold wide-ranging discussions with South Africa’s National Defence Forces (SANDF) chief General Godfrey Ngwenya and other senior officers, they said.

In the last leg, he will visit Botswana in a bid to further strengthen relations between the two countries. He will go around various military establishments along with the Indian Army’s Training Team (IATT), which is based there to provide military training to the African nation’s forces.

He is expected to call on Botswanian President and meet with their Defence minister and Defence Forces Commander Lt Gen T.H.C Masire, the sources said. — PTI

Govt snips babus’ flights of fancy


New Delhi, Nov. 22: Fasten your seat belts, babus. Air travel expenses during holidays are the government’s latest target as it girds up to tackle the global financial crisis.

After curbs on official tours, the Centre has now ordered all its officials — across ranks or entitlements — to fly only on the cheapest economy class tickets available while utilising their leave travel allowance.

The new rule, which has left several bureaucrats fuming, came into effect on November 10 through a finance ministry office memorandum aimed at meeting the “objective of expenditure management in view of the current economy measures”.

The order has come just over two months after the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations that saw significant salary hikes.

Till now, central government officials were eligible for the same travel arrangements during holidays that they are allowed during official trips, based on their rank.

The cabinet secretary — India’s top bureaucrat — and all other secretaries are allowed business class travel on domestic routes and first class tickets for foreign trips made for official purposes.

Officers of the rank of special secretaries, additional secretaries and joint secretaries are allowed business class travel on domestic and international routes.

Lower ranked officials are allowed economy class travel, but have the freedom to select the flight of their choice.

The finance ministry order, however, makes it clear that “in so far as travel by LTA is concerned... the cheapest economy fare ticket will be allowed, irrespective of entitlements of such officers to travel while on tour”.

Technically, even under the new rule, officials can choose destinations so that the cheapest economy class fare effectively exhausts their LTA as any unutilised amount cannot be encashed.

But many officials travel to pre-planned destinations including, most commonly, hometowns. So a secretary who may have earlier flown business class with his family to the Andaman islands can now only fly economy class on the cheapest flight available.

Some officials are calling the new order “unreasonable”. They also allege it is not clear. “How am I to know which is the cheapest flight that day? Suppose there is a cheap flight leaving in the middle of the night, am I expected to take that instead of one scheduled at a reasonable time,” asked one senior bureaucrat.

The order follows a slew of measures taken by the government earlier this year to tackle the global financial meltdown that has seen leading economies like Germany slump into recession.

In June, when the country was battling the rising inflation that preceded the economic slowdown, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had written to all his cabinet colleagues requesting austerity.

He pleaded against tours involving air travel by ministers or officials unless absolutely necessary.

A number of ministers cancelled planned trips following Singh’s letter.

Pakistan disbands ISI's political wing

PTI | November 22, 2008 | 23:20 IST

The political wing of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency has been disbanded and the organisation will focus only on internal security issues, according to a media report.

A top unnamed ISI official was quoted by Dawn News agency as saying that the agency had shifted its focus from domestic politics to internal security. The ISI would focus on the war against terrorism, which is the most serious security challenge facing Pakistan, the official said.

The ISI's political wing was part of a department that also dealt with counter-intelligence activities. The wing was managed by a brigadier, two colonels and other civil and military officials who would be absorbed in other departments of the ISI, the report said.

The ISI official also said the agency would no longer spy on politicians and their activities. The agency has completely disassociated itself from making or breaking political parties and alliances, the official said.

The ISI will also stop giving security clearance for politicians. The decision to wind up the agency's political wing has been conveyed to the political leadership, the official said.

Several former ISI officials who served in the agency during the regime of former President Pervez Musharraf have recently admitted in media interviews that the organisation played a key role in rigging elections in recent years. The ISI also played a major role in forming the PML-Q party that supported Musharraf after he came to power through a military coup in 1999.

Won't use nuke against India first: Pak

Press Trust of India

Saturday, November 22, 2008 (New Delhi)

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday declared that his country will not be the first to use nuclear weapons against India and would work towards opening trade, besides underscoring that Kashmir belonged to the Kashmiri people.

He also said that Pakistan does not feel threatened by India and New Delhi should also not feel threatened by Islamabad.

Addressing the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit via satellite, Zardari said that he was against nuclear warfare altogether.

"We do not hope to even get to that position when we have to use (nuclear weapons)," he said and proposed a South Asia free of nuclear weapons.

Seeking to reach out to people across the border, he recalled his late wife Benazir Bhutto's lines -- "there is little of Indian in every Pakistani and a little of Pakistani in every Indian."

Zardari also favoured India and Pakistan rising as an "economic block" like greater Europe.

LTTE fall inevitable

Dhaneshi Yatawara reporting from Muhamalai

The Northern Security forces pushed the LTTE further down while the Wanni troops pushed them further north sandwiching between extremely difficult conditions. Last Thursday the LTTE lost their entire Muhamalai Forward Defence Line after being attacked by the Sri Lanka Army.

“We are far superior. Their (LTTE) fall is inevitable,” said Major General G.A. Chandrasiri, Commander of the Jaffna Security Forces. The Jaffna Commander was busy with his troops heavily engaged in the Muhamalai Forward Defence Line.

Every soldier in the FDL awaits his order, support and guidance! From the Commander to the newly recruited Private in the battlefield, all were totally committed in their heart and soul to secure victory.

Honouring heroes

It is ironic that the Muhamalai victory fell within the ‘Ranaviru Upahara’ week (honouring war heroes) as announced by the Government. Especially to countries like ours, each day is a war heroes’ day!

After a four day tough confrontation, troops of the 53 division commanded by Brigadier Kamal Gunaratne and of the 55 division commanded by Brigadier Prasanna de Silva are presently in an advanced position of 500 to 800 meters forward in Muhamalai and Kilali.

Sanguppiddy jetty in Pooneryn from Kerathivu point in Thanankilappu of Jaffna

Previous LTTE defence line now under the Army control

An artillery encampment along Muhamalai defence line

They are in full control of the Tigers’ first defence line of the Northern front extending approximately 8 kilometres from Kadolana area North of the A9 road to Kilali at South of A9 road. Troops consolidated their positions by early hours of past Thursday.

Operation to capture the Muhamalai LTTE defence line was launched last Saturday by the troops of the two divisions under heavy resistance from the LTTE at the initial stages.


Though the Tigers earlier resorted to attack the Army with artillery and mortar from Palai and Soranpatthu areas south of Muhamalai and from coma point in Pooneryn their strength degraded a great deal with the total capture of Pooneryn by the Task Force I of the Wanni front.

Presently, Tigers have been pushed southward to their second defence line located about 600 metres away from the first and further down towards the third defence line! which is at approximately one and a half to two kilometres from the second defence line.

According to ground troops a large numbers of dead bodies of Tiger cadres were seen lying beyond the FDLs and according to the official military reports more than 50 LTTE cadres were killed in their unsuccessful attempt to hold the defence line. Intercepted LTTE radio transmissions reported a heavy toll of casualties among the terrorists during these clashes.

During the ‘Ranaviru Upahara’ Week, we are duty-bound to remember and honour our soldiers who laid down their lives during this battle and those who were injured due to LTTE’s mortar and artillery attacks and heavy mine fields.

“Though the LTTE was trying to give us a hard battle, according to the radio intercepts Tiger cadres were running short of food, water, medicine etc. We heard they were fighting even without a single meal a day,” Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri told us.

At the forefront

According to the ground information we gathered during our visit about 1500 - 2000 LTTE cadres were positioned at this front to face the Army onslaught and the LTTE leadership was unable to withdraw any of them to meet the requirements of the Wanni front line.

The LTTE had to withdraw to the defence line they lost during the recent battle after their attack on SLA in 2006 August 11. It was the decisive factor for the overall security of the entire peninsula.

Eight months after his posting as the Security Forces Commander in Jaffna, Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri faced the crucial turning point on this 11 August 2006.

Though the LTTE were able to hold the defence line, exactly within a month Sri Lanka Army managed to recapture the territory and within four months they restored normalcy in the area. It was surely a well-deserved victory. In this battle LTTE lost 498 cadres and 1135 were injured.

LTTE launched the Muhamalai attack at a time when the Sri Lanka Army was heavily engaged in the humanitarian operation to liberate the East, particularly in the absence of the present dynamic Wanni Defence Lines of the Sri Lanka Army. Hence the intensity of the attack was severe.

“The August 2006, attack so demoralized the LTTE that it had to give up its efforts of regrouping and redirecting against the government forces.

The LTTE not to come forward and attack this front and they became more defensive,” Brigadier Kamal Gunaratne, who was leading the front since August 2006 attack said explaining the enemy position with his experience over the years.

Brigadier Gunaratne was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 55 division for one year and eight months before he became the GOC of 53 Division on April 28 this year.

“The strength and the morale of our battle hardened soldiers to go forward while their colleagues on the either side die or get wounded is remarkable. Victory is not impossible with such soldiers,” Brigadier Gunaratne added.

While the 55 division secures area south of A9 the 53 division secures the northern section of the A9 road including the Nagar Kovil area.

“Now we very well know the exact nature of the LTTE. As a legitimate Army we have advanced well ahead of the Tigers,” Brigadier Prasanna de Silva told us when we met him at the division headquarters.

“They seem to be putting lot of effort to repulse our attacks but we see that their capabilities have gone down in terms of their level of training and the number of well-trained cadres,” Brigadier de Silva, with his vast experience gained during the Eastern liberation, told us.

“With our strategies we were able to cripple the LTTE’s ground leadership. We have totally scuttled their middle run leadership”, he added.Troops in their offensive have also taken care to protect almost all important public places.

Troops were seen on guard near transformers, temples, government as well as semi Government property.

According to information received from the ground troops, the LTTE leader ‘Theepan’ had been acting as the overall leader during the debacle while an area leader ‘Jerry’ was also in the scene. Several of the LTTE’s senior leaders, such as Kalailalagan in the Kilali front and ‘double alpha’, were killed by the recent army attacks.

Marching forward

Amidst heavy resistance the troops were able to hold the Tiger defence line for the past few days despite artillery and motor fire.

Troops also suffered damages but not to the extent claimed by certain sections of the media.

With these developments troops of the Northern defence line are in good posture to march forward, more Southward, may be to link up with the Wanni defence line troops advancing towards Paranthan.

However, the LTTE’s greediness to the precious, rich land will not disappear overnight!

Though the battle against terrorism seems to be on the right track now the Sri Lanka

Army will have to face the most critical and sensitive ground realities. Even under the bloodiest conditions troops are ready to flush out terrorism without leaving a single trace and that is our strength!

Which Way will Warship Admiral Gorshkov Sail?
By Ilya Kramnik

The transfer of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, formerly known as Admiral Gorshkov, to India has been planned for several years already.

Although the warship, under refurbishment since 2004, was to join the Indian Navy in 2008, the carrier's update is behind schedule.

A heavy increase in the costs of both labor and components and Russian shipbuilding complex Sevmash's lack of experience in dealing with large surface ships have all contributed to the delay.

In spring 2007, the announcement that the transfer of Admiral Gorshkov to India would not take place before 2010 was followed by protracted talks on the price and terms of the contract. Verbal agreement on major issues was announced several times, though no final agreement has yet been achieved.

On Nov 13, Sevmash's announcement that the updated carrier would soon be afloat was followed by a notice that the warship could join the Russian navy if no agreement on costs is reached.

Sevmash deputy chief Sergei Novoselov said at least $2 billion are needed to complete the work on the ship.

Meanwhile India reported that it is prepared to allocate no more than a few hundred million dollars for the project. It is unclear when and how this argument will end. Most likely a decision will be taken before the end of this year.

What will it mean for Russia if the ship does not end up in India? On the one hand, a failure to meet commitments to a foreign partner would hit Russia's reputation. On the other, a possible decision to provide funding to complete overhauling of the ship and return it to the Russian navy would favor both the country's defence industry and the navy, which needs an aircraft carrier.

The current state of the Russian armed forces requires an immediate increase in hardware even by reducing military exports, as was the case with the Iskander tactical missile system.

The Iskander is not to be sold abroad until the country's army receives the required number of these launchers.

Regarding the Admiral Gorshkov, what will this ship be like once completed?

It will have a 38,000, 48,000 and 53,000 ton unloaded, standard and laden tonnage, respectively, and a 273-metre long flight deck. The vessel will carry 16 to 20 MiG-29 fighters and six to eight Kamov Ka-28/Ka-31 helicopters.

If sold to India, the ship will also be able to carry Tejas trainer aircraft and Dhruv light helicopters, both made by the country's aeronautic giant Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

Besides aviation, the warship will be fitted with Kinzhal air defence missiles and Kashtan air defence gun/missile systems.

The updated ship will be closest in performance to the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which has a slightly lower laden tonnage of 43,000 tons and a higher endurance thanks to its power plant.

The more rational design of the latter also provides more room on the hangar deck, 4,600 sq m compared to 2,900 on the Admiral Gorshkov, enough to contain up to 40 aircraft.

The Russian ship, however, will be faster and, according to some experts, will have higher sea worthiness, ensuring aircraft operation in adverse weather.

A significant advantage of the Admiral Gorshkov returning into service with the Russian navy would be that it could take to the sea as soon as early next decade, while an advanced aircraft carrier, if put into production in December 2008, would not be completed until 2014 or 2015 at best.

The destiny of the aircraft carrier will be clear soon. It's hard to tell, though, which of the two possible outcomes will be best for Russia.

A tarnished image

Ashok K Mehta

It is the duty of governments to maintain the Army's secular identity

The Indian Army has been taken by surprise by the allegedly anti-national activities of a serving officer who’s now saying that he’s been framed. The Lt Col Purohit case is being described as a freak incident, at best an aberration, the Army contending that its secular and apolitical credentials are as solid as a rock. Instead of being apologetic or in denial of Purohit’s deviations, it should remind the government of some home truths.

The first of these is that today’s army is not yesterday’s army. While still retaining the military values of the past, the face of the force has changed and inevitably too. In the post-Independence era, a different breed of youth joined the army. You resigned your commission if your cheque bounced. Women, politics and religion were taboo in mess conversation. Officers from the elite and upper middle classes joined the army not as a vocation but as a calling. The Army was held in awe and at the height of civil disturbances — a flag march would do the trick to disperse a rioting mob. The secular and apolitical bona fides of soldiers were scrupulously acknowledged and zealously guarded.

This was a tradition inherited from the colonial British Army, assiduously nurtured by insulating it from people and politics by confining them to cantonments. The Army enjoyed high prestige and high salaries and had a key role in decision-making through near-parity with the civil services. After Independence the military was substantially downgraded in protocol and pay and civil and police services elevated to curb the political ambitions of the Army.

Over the years, while demanding the same professional and ethical standards, very little was done to nurture and preserve those values by giving the Army acceptable levels of respect and status in society. The profile of the officer corps and quality of leadership declined dramatically. Today’s upper and middle class youth joins the corporate world and often those who’ve failed elsewhere join the Army virtually as a last resort. This year, the prestigious Indian Military and National Defence Academies are undersubscribed by 40 to 50 per cent. The diminishing quality of leadership has led to incidents like the Tehelka expose, the Siachen fake encounters and sundry cases of corruption. These have tarnished the image of the Army. Yet, as an institution, it is still recognised for its incomparable honesty, integrity and commitment to upholding the core values of democracy.

While the Army is still a potent instrument of state, there are undercurrents of anger and frustration over increasing dilution in respect of “izzat” and role in decision-making. The anomalies of the Sixth Pay Commission have further short-changed soldiers.

The second blind spot in officialdom is the pretence that socio-political transformation has not touched the Army. Over the last 60 years, caste and communal politics have polarised society corrupting governance and challenging the secular and political ethos of the Army.

Although the Army did not play a direct role in the freedom struggle, it played a decisive role in nation-building from J&K and the North East: assisting civil authority in containing secession and extending the writ of the state. The buffer of cantonments got removed long ago as the Army saw first hand the pell-mell of politics and corruption, the nexus between politicians, underground and the bureaucracy.

The third problem is the crisis of governance. Growing Naxal violence, unfinished insurgencies and indigenous and imported terrorism have afflicted the entire country.
Central and state governments appear to be both unable and unwilling to provide any sense of security to people under their charge. Nothing is more frustrating for soldiers than to see the helplessness and inability of governments to protect its people. Col Purohit apparently acted for a collective cause according to his conscience in full knowledge of the consequences of indulging in anti-national activities.

Purohit helping terrorists make bombs may well be an aberration but other rank and file could also be seized with similar dangerous ideas. The Army’s secular and apolitical ethos has been affected by the unprecedented socio-political change, insensitivity of government to soldiers’ grievances and sheer crisis of governance. Soldiers are being stretched to reconcile the gap between the ideals and values they espouse and those their political masters practice.

In Turkey it is the secular Army that monitors any religious deviation on the part of government. India, thank God, is not Turkey. Still it is the duty of governments and political parties to ensure there is minimum strain on the Army in maintaining its secular identity and image. It is up to you and me to protect our Army.

Unfortunately rhetoric and semantics of the current discourse have sidelined the urgent need to combat terrorism about which the government has done nothing in the first place.

The writer is a commentator on south Asian affairs

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! Did you hear the good news? Obama announced a bailout plan for lower and middle class for credit cards, loans, and other various hardships. See more below:

    Loans, Grants, and Assistance for Economic Hardships

    What do you think???



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