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Monday, 24 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 24 Nov

From Lt Col (Retd) Harbhajan Singh Cheema

Apropos to gen Ashok Mehta’s Article “A Tarnished Image”. Forces values mercifully have remained intact. Purohit incidence and other aberrations not with standing, they continue to be an example of secularism, are highly motivated, disciplined and reasonably free from corruption. This is in spite of the fact that ever since independence they have continuously been given a raw deal. Their basic values may have remained in tact; but the same cannot be said of their morale and standards. The quality of officer has been affected. If the men continue to opt for the forces it is because of problem of un-employment. Forces no longer remain to be first choice of the youth. While the selection procedure for in take of officers by en large has not been compromised it has been at the cost of strength, affecting efficiency and functional ability. Where as officer’s children took pride in joining their father’s regiments in the past as parental claim they are no longer opting for career in the Armed Forces leave aside parental claims. It is therefore imperative that prompt corrective measures are adopted. The issue cannot be swept under the carpet any longer if we have to retain the glory of Armed forces and resultant security of the Nation. No country can claim to be great without greatness of their Armed Forces. In order to address this issue, our political leadership needs to rise above petty politics and display statesman ship. They must come out of the influence of babus and give due recognition to the Armed Forces. They should be given not only what they need but what they aptly deserve. Apart from accepting what has been projected by the Forces Chief for implementation of 6th CPC, their problems need to be attended to through civil authorities. They have very short time to attend to their domestic problems during leave. Their cases should be disposed off both in courts as well as civilian offices at priority as a matter of right and not as an obligation. One rank one pension is long out standing demand which needs to be accepted on merit. Ex-servicemen should be included in consumer courts at each level. Civil authorities should form citizen’s welfare cells where ex-servicemen should be included as members. There needs to be perceptible display of respect and recognition of Armed Forces in all walks of life and social and developmental activities. It will not only enhance the prestige of Armed Forces but will bring new work culture in the organization they are asked to participate in. The country without doubt will be the ultimate gainer.

Pay parity for armed forces a difficult task, says Govt


Sun, Nov 23 03:19 PM

Achinta Borah

New Delhi, Nov 23 (PTI): With the armed forces insisting on a pay hike, the government has said it is " very difficult" to maintain a balance in salaries of government servants doing varied jobs.

" It is a very difficult exercise. Because it is not just a question of ensuring that people get better salaries. It is also a question of parities.... Balances," Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar told PTI in an interview.

He was responding to a question on what steps the government was contemplating in view of the armed forces' demand for pay parity.

Chandrasekhar said issues become more complicated when people start feeling that they are being discriminated against by the Pay Commission recommendations. " It is very difficult when people feel that this chap has got more than me...That feeling is there. So, to maintain that kind of balance.... It is very difficult," he said.

The Cabinet Secretary said the ministerial committee headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who had held both Defence and Finance portfolios earlier, was working on to find out a solution to the demands of the defence forces.

The armed forces have recently strongly conveyed to the government that there should be " no dilution " on their demands for pay parity. This comes in the wake of reports that the government was trying to find a " middle path " to break the deadlock over the armed forces' demands that included placing Army Lieutenant Colonels and their equivalents in the Navy and Air Force in Pay Band-4.

Pay parity for armed forces a difficult task, says Govt
Achinta Borah

New Delhi, November 23
With the armed forces insisting on a pay hike, the government has said it is “very difficult” to maintain a balance in salaries of government servants doing varied jobs.

“It is a very difficult exercise. Because it is not just a question of ensuring that people get better salaries. It is also a question of parities.... balances,” cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar told PTI in an interview.

He was responding to a question on what steps the government was contemplating in view of the armed forces' demand for pay parity.

Chandrasekhar said issues become more complicated when people start feeling that they are being discriminated against by the Pay Commission recommendations.

“It is very difficult when people feel that this chap has got more than me...that feeling is there. So, to maintain that kind of balance.... it is very difficult,” he said.

The Cabinet Secretary said the ministerial committee, headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, who had held both defence and finance portfolios earlier, was working on to find out a solution to the demands of the defence forces.

The armed forces have recently strongly conveyed to the government that there should be “no dilution” on their demands for pay parity.

This comes in the wake of reports that the government was trying to find a “middle path” to break the deadlock over the armed forces’ demands that included placing Army Lieutenant Colonels and their equivalents in the Navy and Air Force in Pay Band-4.

The Cabinet Secretary said when the armed forces raised the issue of pay parity, the Committee of Secretaries took up it immediately and deliberated on how to find a solution to it for the satisfaction of the defence personnel. “When the armed forces raised the issue, we sat together at the official level with Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister (P M Nair) and decided that the best thing would be to request the higher level.” So we requested the external affairs minister because he was both defence and finance minister earlier and could consult defence minister and finance Minister and give his views,” he said.

Chandrasekhar said a "large majority" of government officials, including the Group C and Group D employees, accepted the Pay Commission recommendations and were "more or less satisfied".

“I do not have too many complaints and whatever complaints are there, we have created a mechanism. We got the anomaly committee, we got a fast-track committee to look into those issues," he said. Highlighting the difficult task carried out by the Sixth Pay Commission while framing the recommendations, Chandrasekhar said they had to make a huge change in the structure. “See normally we used to get pay scales. Here we have gone away from pay scales to the Pay-Band structure, which is an entirely different structure. So, to maintain the parity was pretty difficult. But still I think we did a pretty good job,” he said. — PTI

Retd Lt Gen accuses ex-Army chief of falsely implicating him

NDTV Correspondent

Sunday, November 23, 2008 (New Delhi)

Retired Lieutenent General S K Sahni claims that his former boss falsely implicated him in a case of corruption, even slapping a court martial on him.

Speaking exclusively to NDTV, General Sahni who is the highest ranking official to face a court martial, has accused former Army chief J J Singh as being the man responsible for his plight.

"A lot of senior officers who didn't like my way of working conspired against me, especially the former Army Chief J J Singh who has levelled allegations against me and sought an inquiry," said S K Sahni, Retd Lieutenent General. (Watch)

Following Sahni's ourburst J J Singh's office has said that defamatory comments made by Let Gen Sahni is subject to libel. It has also said that the investigations are based on a written complaint by the Ministry of Defence and there is no personal issue involved. Singh's office further said that there is documentary evidence to support the inquiry.

The Army decided to initiate General Court Martial (GCM) against Sahni, who retired in 2006 as the Army's Director General (Supply and Transport), on corruption charges for allegedly procuring poor quality food items for troops in 2004.

Army law provides disciplinary proceedings against its officers upto three years of retirement.

(With PTI inputs)

Grant permanent commission to serving women: HC

New Delhi, November 23
Pressing for gender equality in armed forces, the Delhi High Court has directed the Centre to ensure serving women officers in defence forces are granted permanent commission without delay.

The High Court’s tough talk on benefits for women serving officers followed the government’s claim that it had decided to grant permanent commission to women officers who would be recruited in future.

The government’s policy decision, however, did not go down well with the High Court which directed it not to overlook the cause of the serving women officers.

“This is a salutary step taken by the three Armed Services but still falls short of our expectations. This would imply that there was no jam yesterday, no jam today and only jam tomorrow,” observed a Division Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Mool Chand Garg in an order.

“It may not be possible to reopen past cases but we can see no cogent reason why at least for women personnel who are still in service, the policy can not be made applicable,” the court ordered.

Following High Court’s earlier direction to treat women officers at par with their male counterparts in armed forces, the Central government in September took a policy decision to grant permanent commission to those women officers who would be recruited in future in Judge Advocate General and education departments.

It was decided that the benefits would not be extended to serving women officers.

The direction came on petitions filed by women officers, through counsel Rekha Palli, seeking direction to the Centre to stop alleged discrimination against them in the matter of grant of permanent commission.

The petitioners contended that unlike their male counterpart they were not granted permanent commission and were forced to retire after 10 years of service despite being fit for the job.

“Female officers cannot be discriminated against by declining to grant them permanent commission and by releasing them from service after just 10 years when they are physically fit,” she said. — PTI

Pak declares cyber war on India
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
Pakistan has declared war on India in the cyber space. Pakistani hackers under the name of Pakistan Cyber Army (PCA) today hacked the official websites of the Oil and Natural Gas Authority (ONGC) and three other websites.

The defacement of the Indian websites was in retaliation to the hacking of the website of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, allegedly by Indian hackers under the guides of the Hindu Militant Group (HMG). The Pakistani website was reportedly hacked on November 17.

The ONGC website, which remained defaced for over hours, read the message from the PCA, WARNING Indian hackers against any further ‘intrusion in Pakistan’s cyber space’. The message read: “This is a message from the PCA for HMG in return to the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority defacement. Back off, go read some course books. Else you will loose both, your name and this game. We will literally SMOKE YOUR DOORS OFF like other groups did before. This is a warning for the Indian authorities either to launch inquiry against HMG or get ready for more action. We are sleeping but not dead. Now face the consequences”.

The official website of the public sector oil major was defaced around 4.30 pm. As the news of the hacking flowed through the cyber space, the ONGC authorities got into action and the website was restored around 5.30 pm. Confirming the defacement, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, said they had managed to remove the obscene remarks on the website within a short span of time.

Though not much is known about the PCA except that the hacked page is posted on Yahoo geocities under the user name doser-dalnet. The Indian hackers, HMG is run by a guy called Sneak, who calls himself and his group as Guardians of Hindustan. They share the ideology of the Hindu militant organisations and are very active on social networking site, Orkut. They have hacked number of Pakistani online communities and also owned responsibility.

Ezhimala Naval Academy to commission in January

Kozhikode, November 23
The prestigious Ezhimala Naval Academy in Kannur district in Kerala will be commissioned in January next, defence minister A.K. Antony today said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to inaugurate the academy built at a cost of Rs 721 crore, he told reporters after addressing a function in connection with the ‘Army Mela-2008’ here.

All the training and academic programmes of the Indian Navy will be shifted to the new academy, perhaps the biggest in Asia, once it becomes fully operational, Antony said.

The academy can at a time train 750 cadets, including those from friendly countries. — UNI

Need for Indian response in Somalia’s waters

Siddharth Ramana

23 Nov 2008

After months of negotiations, hijacked Ship MV Stolt Valor, which carried 18 Indian nationals on board was released. The Japanese firm which owned the ship has reportedly paid a ransom of $2.5 million to the Somalia based pirates. It was another example of the piracy off the horn of Africa which was resolved through ransom payment.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has noted that piracy in the region has risen by a significant 10% as compared to the considerable wane witnessed in other parts of the world this year. The report also reflects the increasing brazenness of the Somali pirates operating with modern armory and impunity.

India has earlier too borne witness to the acts of pirates when earlier this year, for example, the MV Victoria which embarked from Mumbai, with Indians among others on board was hijacked by pirates. Although subsequently released under ambiguous terms, it is speculated that ransom money was paid.

The Indian government’s belated response in dealing with the crises reflects a callous attitude to a very important region. Despite interests in maintaining a stronger presence, the government had stalled a decision for hot pursuit of pirates, arguing for discussions among the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Law and Shipping (Times of India, 20 September 2008).

Contrasting the Stolt story with that of the French luxury yacht Le Ponant, which was hijacked by Somalia based pirates, the French government ordered a military operation with special commandos to launch a daring rescue of the hostages. While the French example cannot be feasible in all scenarios, it certainly pitches the case to act as a deterrent to the criminals of the high seas.

It was only after intense pressure from the wife of captive Captain Prabhat Goyal, that the government relented into allowing an Indian warship into the region to protect “Indian interests”. However, the Indian navy has a deeper strategic objective to achieve through its cooperation with other navies in the region in curbing piracy in the region.

In the past too, the Indian navy has helped combat piracy and has successfully contributed in patrolling the once piracy infested Malacca straits in South East Asia. Yemen too has been open to cooperating with regional powers in combating the menace of piracy. Already, the Indian navy has helped foiled two attempts since its deployment in the region. Patrolling the region provides India an effective image boost in the neighboring Arab countries, while also allowing for joint cooperation with NATO navies in the region.

The opportunity to patrol the Gulf of Aden would also bolster the ‘blue water’ capabilities of the Indian navy. Technically, a blue water navy is taken as one able to operate over 200 miles (320 kilometers) from shore. This is a measure which can also be used to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.

Naval deployments are a readily available and particularly public demonstration of diplomacy, of showing the flag, of showing support, more dramatically and more visually showing India’s presence in an immediate, flexible, and readily redeployable manner. Sleek stealth destroyers like INS Talwar lend themselves to long range diplomatic deployments, explicitly highlighting India’s naval capability and implicitly showcasing India itself as an advanced high tech power in the world. (Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, 10/2).

Projecting strong naval capability and a firmer hand against pirates is accentuated by the fact that since as much as 90% by volume and 77% by value of India's foreign trade transits over the seas. A senior defense ministry official articulates “The Gulf of Aden provides access to the Suez Canal through which sizable portion of India's trade flows. Indian Navy's presence in the area will help to protect our sea-borne trade”.

Even though Indian ships may not necessarily be the targets of Somali pirates, the number of Indian hostages taken or killed is very high. Sunil Nair, spokesman for the National Seafarers Union of India (NSUI), explains that the English speaking capability of Indian workers result in high intakes of workers from the subcontinent. In 2008, for example, out of 52 incidents of piracy, 24 cases involved Indian seafarers. The contribution of these sailors to the national economy is significant and warrants immediate attention for their safety (Times of India, 12 October 2008).

Additionally, piracy action also has a terrorist crossover effect, and therefore needs to be dealt with. There are fears that ‘opportunistic pirates, many of whom operate in Muslim-dominated nations, could make common cause with Islamic extremists’ (Terrorism Monitor, 6/16). This fear was reiterated by Yemen’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dr Ali Hassan when he spoke about the element of hostage taking for ransom could be exploited by terrorist elements in the region (Al-Motamar, 7 October 2008).

India’s concerns can be addressed through working under the legal sanction of UNSC resolution 1816 (2008), which authorizes “all necessary means” to repress acts of piracy in Somali waters with cooperating states. India belatedly realized this threat and is actively moving into the troubled waters.

PM pulls up intelligence, home dept on terror issue

Meetu Jain


TALKING TOUGH: PM Manmohan Singh trained his guns straight on the intelligence and the home ministry

New Delhi: With just a few months to go for the Lok Sabha elections, the UPA government has begun putting together a new plan to fight terror.

This involves the setting up of a task force under the national security advisor.

What plagues the UPA government is the realisation that one blast after another and the country's police is clueless.

The police force has been caught unawares by not just the Islamic brand of terror but also now by what is widely termed as the Hindu one as well.

Leading BJP chief ministers claim that there are very few intelligence leads on terror attacks.

“The intelligence reports are like weather reports,” said Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje.

But now it seems the Prime Minister too speaks the language of the opposition.

There is no input from the intelligence department on time, accuses the Prime Minister.

In fact, at the two day police chief meet, PM Manmohan Singh has literally set a deadline for his home minister to tackle terror.

He has suggested the setting up of a task force under the national security advisor.

That will give a road map within 100 days for better intelligence and policing.

He's also suggested a standing committee of DGPs to advise the home ministry on policing.

This move adds to the PM recommending more policemen to man the home ministry.

Not only is the Prime Minister not buying the home minister's argument that terrorism and communal violence have come down under him but he now been forced to come up with a road map on tackling terror.

These suggestions come ahead of a general election.

Pak upset over its truncated map in US daily


New Delhi: A redrawn map of South Asia that appeared in The New York Times showing a truncated Pakistan, reduced to an elongated sliver of land, has sparked fear among military planners in Islamabad.

Many in Pakistan fear that India and Afghanistan are colluding to destroy the only nuclear powered-Muslim nation with the US help, a media report said on Sunday.

The New York Times published a map of Pakistan which it claimed was in wide circulation among sections of the Pakistani establishment.

The map not only shows Baluchistan as independent, it also shows the North West Frontier Province as part of Afghanistan, reducing Pakistan to a thin sliver of virtually indefensible territory.

The map was published in the US Armed Forces Journal in 2006 and is known to reflect thinking at that time in neo-conservative circles.

The New York Times quoted unnamed Pakistani diplomatic sources as saying the map indicated Islamabad's uneasiness with US policy and doubts about its intentions.

It's not clear why the Pakistanis are worried about the map now, while the original version published in the US Armed Forces Journal showed vast parts of the Islamic world sliced up including US allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The map, first circulated as a theoretical exercise in some American neoconservative circles, has fueled a belief among Pakistanis that what the United States really wants is the breakup of their country, The New York Times reported.

That notion, it says, may strike Americans as strange coming from an ally of 50 years but as the incoming Barack Obama administration tries to coax greater cooperation from Pakistan in the fight against militancy, it can hardly be ignored.

Pakistan, says The New York Times, is upset over the Indo-American civilian nuclear deal as also big investments made by New Delhi in Afghanistan.

In this context, the paper makes special reference to the Iranian border road which, it says, would ultimately provide access to India to Iranian port of Chabahar, circumventing Pakistan.

(With inputs from PTI)

A Short Story for Veterans: The Sack Lunches

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation. 'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.

'Chicago - to Great Lakes Base. We'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Iraq '
After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be a couple of hours before we reached Chicago, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time.

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. 'No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks. I'll wait till we get to Chicago '
His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. 'Take a lunch to all those soldiers.' She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. 'My son was a soldier in Iraq; it's almost like you are doing it for him.'

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, 'Which do you like best - beef or chicken?'

'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. 'This is your thanks.'

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A man stopped me. 'I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.' He handed me twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, and said, 'I want to shake your hand.'

Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain's hand. With a booming voice he said, 'I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.' I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed in Chicago I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. 'It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.'

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers. As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a sandwich.
It seemed so little...

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to; 'The United States of America '

for an amount of; 'Up to and including my life.'

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in This country who no longer understand it.'

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