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Saturday, 24 January 2009

From Today's Papers - 24 Jan 09




Pay anomalies: Naval chief lists pending issues
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 23
In the first-ever official communiqué to the three-week old contentious and half-baked decision on the pay related anomalies of the armed forces, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta yesterday handed over a letter to the Defence Minister AK Antony. It lists out the issues that are pending and need to be looked into immediately.

Sources confirmed that Admiral Mehta, in his capacity as the Chief of Staff’s Committee, has listed out the aspects that are still rankling the forces. The latest move of the forces comes after the Prime Minister Office (PMO) sent out a note on December 30.

The three forces contributed their inputs that were collated for Admiral Mehta and the same has been handed over to the Defence Minister. The high-powered committee set up for sorting out issues of command, control and status of the armed forces personnel will also be told about the issues. The Defence Secretary heads the committee.

The PMO note did not sort out two core issues that the forces had originally raised. These were grant of higher administrative grade (plus) to all Lt Generals restoring their parity with the DGP’s in states. The other was the grade pay at par with their counter parts in civilian services. These anomalies remain and the same form part of the letter handed over to Antony.

Yesterday, Antony while speaking at a function said "sincere" efforts to resolve pay anomalies were being made. “The remaining issues, we are examining,” he added.

The PMO had agreed to one demand that was to retain 70 per cent pensionary weightage to the jawans. The fourth demand was agreed but with riders. It stated that the Lt Colonels would be placed in pay band-IV salaries provided they were in “combat or ready-to-combat” roles. Those on deputation would not get it. There are about 2,000 such officers on deputation to various forces like NSG, Assam rifles or other such posts.

The forces will also point out to a 1970 order of the Ministry of Defence that says the last drawn pay of an officer would be protected.

Armed force’s demand on lifting the Bar on Lt.Col’s deputation

QuantcastThe armed forces have asked the government to withdraw a controversial order stopping Lt Colonels from being sent on deputation. In a letter dated January 14, the services say that not doing so will cause man management problems and reduce the army’s combat worthiness.

A government order dated December 31, 2008 had elevated Lt Colonels into the Pay Band 4 created by the Sixth Pay Commission, but asked the armed forces to send out officers equivalent to Major and Colonel (one rank above and below Lt Colonel, respectively) instead.

“Due to the government order, in one stroke, these vacancies on deputation have become unavailable to the services. Retaining such officers in units will lead to man management problems and thus reduce their combat worthiness,” says the January 14 letter from Vice Admiral D.K. Dewan, Chairman of the Principal Personnel Officers Committee.

The letter puts forth a series of arguments against banning Lt Colonels from deputations –from arguing that it would create a series of anomalies in fixing the pay of Lt Colonels and equivalents to the fact that they were against the principles of natural justice.

Lt Colonels and their equivalent form the largest percentage of cadre strength in the armed forces officers and spend from 13 to 26 years in service. Hence, posting them on deputation is an inescapable necessity, the letter states. Lt Colonels/equivalent with more than 17/18 years of service are non-empanelled for promotion. In order to maintain a youthful profile and to ensure that officers in the units are junior to Commanding Officers, senior Lt Colonels and their equivalent are posted on staff, Extra Regimental Employment and deputation.

Presently, approximately 2100 Lt Colonels and their equivalent ranks (Commanders, Wing Commanders) are on deputation. The armed forces say they cannot spare so many equivalent officers on deputation. They already have a shortage of Majors and Colonels and their equivalents are needed to man key operational appointments.

The letter says denying PB-4 to Lt Colonels on deputation will have ‘long term adverse implications on the officer cadre management of the services and combat worthiness of the units. Further, it will reduce efficacy of the organisations to which Lt Colonels are posted as they are user representatives and involved in joint research, development, production and training in organizations such as the DGQA, DRDCO, Ordnance factories and NCC.

The letter notes that the government order is against the spirit of the Ajai Vikram Singh committee report which recommended a youthful profile for the armed forces.

The letter questions the concept of ‘combat ready’ or ‘ready-to-combat’ jobs as mentioned in the January letter from the PMO. “Even ships, units and establishments located in peace stations are always in operational readiness. In an era of asymmetrical warfare, this aspect becomes more relevant as the recent Mumbai terror attacks have proved, when units of the army, navy and air force were pressed into action at the shortest notice possible,” the letter states.

Text of letter addressed by PMO to defence

Refer meeting on November 28 with the EM and RM

i) Lt Colonels in their parent service holding combat or ready to combat jobs may be placed in PB4 and may be given a grade pay of Rs 8000. Lt Colonels on deputation may be given PB4 and Grade Pay of Rs 8000 only when they return from deputation to their parent service

ii) While the dispensation in Para (i) above may apply to Lt Colonels already on deputation, in future no Lt Colonel may be sent on deputation. Only Majors and Colonels may be sent on deputation.

iii) A high powered committee may be set up to resolve command and control functions / status of armed forces officers vis-à-vis paramilitary forces and civilians

iv) In future, pay revision of armed forces may be delinked from civilians and separate board set up for the armed forces.

US remarks welcome but we need action: Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 23
Continuing his “verbal assault” on Pakistan, Defence Minister AK Antony today welcomed the US remarks that Pakistan was the ‘epicentre’ of terrorism and added that apart from solidarity or sympathy, India needed action and it was awaiting results.

Antony was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on the defence industry organised by the CII at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis. He said the world community should cooperate in its efforts to get Pakistan act against terror outfits operating from its soil.

“We expect cooperation from all world communities to get speedy results to our demands”, Antony said while replying to a question on US President Barack Obama calling Pakistan the ‘epicentre’ of terror.

“Apart from solidarity or sympathy, India needs results and we are waiting for the results”, Antony added. India has been telling the world that terrorists operating from across the border are not only a threat to India but also to the entire world, Antony said.

I am happy that there is realisation at many quarters on terrorists operating from across the border. As per the information, terror outfits operate from across the border, he added.

“All those outfits, whch perpetrated the Mumbai terror attacks must be dismantled. The time has come for the world to take action against terror from Pakistani soil”, he said.

Antony expressed his satisfaction with the US realisation that global terrorism emanated from Pakistan.

More than 30-terror outfits are active in Pakistan. It was good that the world had realised that Pakistan was the ‘epicentre’ of terrorism, Antony told reporters here.

Now the world must take action against terror from Pakistani soil, he said. Yesterday, new US President Barack Obama had said Islamist extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan posed a grave threat and that his new administration would tackle it as a single problem under a wider strategy.

Antony reiterated that the Indian armed forces were in a state of ‘preparedness’ and denied that there was any pressure on India from the US against using military option in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

“No responsible country will say that after the 26/11 experience India must not take any steps against terrorists”, he said. Noting that the armed forces were in a state of preparedness after the terror attacks, Antony said they were doing their duty to the nation and they must, according to him, be ready to face any eventuality on the border.

At the seminar he told the attending CII delegates that a defence-specific policy had been made to enhance the indigenous defence industrial capability, as also to usher in transparency and responsibility.

The Offset Policy is expected to benefit the Indian industry through technology inflows, foreign investment, partnership with foreign companies and investment in Indian companies.

R-Day parade to be curtailed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 23
The duration of the Republic Day parade will be curtailed but it will have a display of tanks, latest light helicopters, surface-to-air missiles, the AGNI and specialised infantry combat vehicles, among other aspects.

It will follow the traditional route from the Vijay Chowk till the Red Fort through the traditional route of Rajpath. President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil will take the salute while Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, will be the chief guest. The Commander of the US Navy’s Pacific fleet, Commander Robert F. Willard, will also attend the function.

This year the parade will take approximately an hour and thirty minutes to complete while it normally takes about two hours. A total of 10 bands and 13 pipes of various regiments will provide the music for the march.

Ashok Chakra for Karkare, Unnikrishnan, nine others
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 23
President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil today cleared 11 names for Ashok Chakra award. The cleared names include police officers who were killed in the Mumbai operations and Delhi Police encounter specialist Mohan Chand Sharma.

This is the highest ever dispensation of awards. The list was revised following a controversy surrounding the names of awardees.

The Mumbai anti-terrorist operation has got six Ashok Chakra winners - probably for the first time after Independence for a single operation. Posthumous awardees for Mumbai are Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Havildar Gajendra Singh, who were killed in the operation to flush out terrorists.

Other awardees are Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar and ASI Tukaram Omble, all from the Mumbai Police. It was ASI Omble who had caught Ajmal Kasab with his bare hands as Kasab pumped in bullets killing Omble. Kamte and Salaskar will be awarded for engaging Kasab and his accomplice at Cama Hospital.

Others include inspector MC Sharma, who conducted the Batla house encounter in Delhi, and Bahadur Singh Bohra and Colonel Jojan Thomas. Bohra and Thomas will get it for operations in Jammu and Kashmir. Orissa special operations group assistant commandant Pramod Satpathy will be awarded for Anti-naxal operations in Orissa. Meghalaya Police DSP Raymond P Diengdoh will be awarded for an operation in Meghalaya.

Assault on Commanding Officer
Major charged with attempt to murder
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 23
An Army Major, who was accused of assaulting his commanding officer (CO), has been charged with attempt to murder. His trial by a general court martial (GCM) is currently under progress at Kanpur.

The said incident had occurred in the Hisar military station in December 2005. The officer, Maj Sandeep Ahlawat, is facing three charges under provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Army Act for attempt to murder, destruction of evidence and giving false evidence.

The GCM, presided by Brig Amrik Singh, commander of an Infantry brigade, has been convened on the orders of the General Officer Commanding 4 Infantry Division.

Sources revealed that several witnesses who had been summoned to depose before the court, have retired since the alleged incident took place and some of them have turned hostile. This is the third GCM related to the case, with the trial of two other officers being over.

The officer had moved the Lucknow High Court against his trial, but the court had dismissed his petition yesterday. The court was of the opinion that interference was not warranted at this stage and if the officer was aggrieved by the outcome of his trial, he could seek judicial redressal at that time.

Three different courts of inquiries (COI) were convened by the Army to investigate into the circumstances under which the CO sustained serious injuries, for which had to be hospitalised.

US missile attacks kill 20 in Pakistan

IANS

TROUBLED PAST: Pakistan's North and South Waziristan regions border Afghanistan.

Wana (Pakistan): Twenty people, including foreigners, were killed and several others injured in two separate US missile attacks Friday in Pakistan's North and South Waziristan regions bordering Afghanistan, Geo TV reported.

Ten people were killed when missiles fired from a pilotless US aircraft (drone) hit a house in Wana area in South Waziristan, the report said.

Four foreigners were also killed in the attack, it said.

In another incident early on Friday, 10 people were killed and many others injured when missiles fired from a US drone hit a house in North Waziristan bordering Afghanistan. The injured have been rushed to hospital, the report said.

These were the first suspected US missile strikes in the Pakistani territory since US President Barack Obama was inaugurated Jan 20 and comes one day after he appointed Richard Holbrooke as special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan situation is extremely complex, says special US envoy

Lalit K Jha in Washington | PTI | January 23, 2009 | 09:26 IST

Special United States Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said he would soon head towards the troubled region in South Asia to have a first-hand assessment of the situation on the ground.

In his acceptance speech, soon after he was appointed as the Special US Representative for the troubled region by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Holbrooke termed the Pakistan situation as extremely complex.

"I don't think I would advance our goals if I tried to discuss it today," he said on Thursday in the presence of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, besides Clinton, at a function held at the State Department headquarters.

"I wish to get out to the region and report back to the Secretary, the Vice President, and the President," Holbrooke said, indicating his intention to leave for Afghanistan and Pakistan as soon as possible.

Announcing his appointment, Clinton said in this new capacity Holbrooke will coordinate across the entire government an effort to achieve United States' strategic goals in the region.

This effort will be closely coordinated with the United States Agency for International Development, the Defence Department and the National Security Council, she asserted.

Holbrooke said in putting Afghanistan and Pakistan together under one envoy, "we should underscore that we fully respect the fact that Pakistan has its own history, its own traditions, and it is far more than the turbulent, dangerous tribal areas on its western border." The Special Representative said Afghanistan and Pakistan are two very distinct countries with extraordinarily different histories, and yet intertwined by geography, ethnicity, and the current drama.

Acknowledging that this is a very difficult assignment, he said, "Nobody can say the war in Afghanistan has gone well, and yet, as we speak here today, American men and women and their coalition partners are fighting a very difficult struggle against a ruthless and determined enemy without any scruples at all, an enemy that is willing to behead women who dare to teach in a school to young girls, an enemy that has done some of the most odious things on Earth."

"And across the border lurks the greater enemy still, the people who committed the atrocities of September 11, 2001," Holbrooke said in an apparent reference to the safe haven in the border regions of Pakistan.

"We know what our long-term objective is. I hope I will be able to fill out the mandate which Secretary Clinton has mentioned to help coordinate a clearly chaotic foreign assistance programme, which must be pulled together, to work closely with General Petraeus, CENTCOM, Admiral Mullen, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General McKiernan and the command in Afghanistan, to create a more coherent programme," he said.

"If our resources are mobilised and coordinated and pulled together, we can quadruple, quintuple, multiply by tenfold the effectiveness of our efforts there," Holbrooke hoped.

India showcases its military prowess in R-Day parade rehearsal

New Delhi (PTI): India's military prowess and its rich cultural heritage were on Friday showcased during the full dress rehearsal of the Republic Day parade here.

The parade was held on the majestic Rajpath, during which models of lethal fighter jets, missiles and battle tanks were displayed before the public.

It included a model of yet-to-be-inducted Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), Su-30MKI fighters, newly inducted 'Hawks' Advanced Jet Trainers and the Rohini 3D radar.

Obtained from Israel, AWACS, also described as "an eye in the sky," would help boost IAF's capability in both offensive and defence roles.

The indigenously assembled front-line Bhishma T-90 battle tanks, supersonic cruise missile Brahmos, 3,000 km range surface to surface missile Agni 3, and air defence weapon system Akash were also showcased.

A splendid fly-past featuring helicopters Mi-17 IV and Mi-35; Army Aviation Corps' Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters, and fighters Su-30MKI, Jaguar and MiG-29 left hundreds of onlookers spell-bound.

The fly-past also included transport aircraft IL-76, AN-32, Dorniers and a tanker aircraft IL-78.

The parade, led by Paramvir, Ashok Chakra award-winning officers of the armed forces, had march-past of cavalry units of Presidential Guards.

Honouring Commonwealth war heroes with RAF diversity exhibition

Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji

(Rui Vieira/PA Wire)

In a week when Barack Obama has chosen, as one of the first acts of his presidency, to honour the Tuskegee Airmen — members of the pioneer all-black squadrons who flew for the US Army Air Forces in the Second World War — the RAF Museum, Cosford, is already ahead of the game with its Diversity of the Royal Air Force exhibition officially unveiled last week. The exhibition, which will be a permanent feature of the museum, celebrates the immense contribution made by the air and ground crews of black, Asian, East European and other ethnic origins to the development of the RAF.

Whereas the exploits of the Indian Army, Sudan Defence Force, King’s African Rifles and other imperial, colonial or Commonwealth ground units have been well chronicled by historians, the involvement in the RAF of men and women from India, Africa, the West Indies and many smaller colonial possessions was, until comparatively recently, one of the unsung stories of the Second World War.

As war clouds gathered from the mid-1930s the RAF, by then severely overstretched, looked towards the Commonwealth to meet its commitments. Yet in the mindset of the time recruitment focused at first solely on colonial subjects of European origin.

The grim imperatives of war soon swept aside these prejudices, and the ranks were opened to all comers. By the end of the conflict more than 17,500 men and women had volunteered for the RAF; a further 25,000 served in the Royal Indian Air Force.

The Cosford exhibition honours such men as Group Captain Larry Osbourne, OBE, a Trinidadian who joined the RAF in 1943 and became the first Afro-Caribbean officer to reach this rank.

Among the wartime women volunteers is one whose name is deathless — Noor Inayat Khan, posthumously awarded the George Cross after the Germans had murdered her along with three women colleagues at Dachau. The daughter of a leading Sufi mystic and his American wife, and educated in France, she had joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1940 and trained as a radio operator. Her skills recommended her to the Special Operations Excutive (SOE) for whom she was soon returned to German-occupied France, from where she transmitted vital intelligence before being betrayed. In the months leading up to her death in September 1944 she gave away not one scrap of infomation under duress.

One of the most ebullient of the ethnic war veterans is Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji, 90, who was born in Simla, graduated in law from Bombay University and qualified as a pilot at Delhi Flying Club in 1937.

Volunteering for the RAF in 1940, he came to Britain as one of a batch of 24 Indian pilots and after gaining his wings was soon in the thick of the action on Spitfire sweeps over France in 1941. He subsequently flew Tomahawks in the intense air fighting over the Western Desert, and was then posted to Burma flying “Hurribombers” — Hurricanes adapted for reconnaissance and ground attack. One of his most famous recce feats was to locate a force of 300 West African troops under US command who were lost in the jungle, with all hope of finding them given up. Pujji was awarded the DFC for his Burma service. After postwar service in Indian civil aviation he came to England in 1974, ran a hotel in London and now lives in Kent.

Despite the lack of ethnic understanding in those days, many veterans testify to a lack of prejudice in the RAF. Some encountered difficulties only from American (segregated) squadrons and their commanders. As for Mohinder Singh Pujji, who was present at the exhibition’s opening, his only cultural problem was his turban — not at first considered suitable headgear for an RAF fighter pilot. However, it was soon accepted that the RAF cap badge could be affixed to it without prejudice either to his performance or to the dignity of the service. Thereafter, Squadron Leader Pujji wore it proudly on operations to the end of the war.

Royal Air Force Museum, Cosford, Shropshire TF11 8UP, tel 01902 376 200; www.rafmuseum.org.uk/

First Indian woman chaplain for South African army

23 Jan 2009, 1453 hrs IST, IANS

PRETORIA: Caroline Pillay has made history by becoming the first South African of Indian descent to serve as a chaplain in the army.

Pillay was among 275 volunteer recruits who started an intensive training course this week at the air force gymnasium here before they serve for two years in the army.

Undeterred by the fact that at 39 she was almost twice as old as most of the other recruits, Pillay said she was looking forward to stamping her feet even at her "mature" age, confirming that she was fit, healthy and ready to tackle the course.

"The young ones will need my advice and guidance during the basic training and I will probably need their physical assistance," the delicately-built Pillay quipped as she explained that she would be looking after the spiritual needs of the soldiers at 5 SA Infantry Battalion in the town of Ladysmith.

Pillay has a masters degree in theology and hails from a Baptist clerical family in Durban dominated by males, which increased her determination to serve as a chaplain.

Defence minister Charles Nqakula was pleased that Pillay and seven other South African Indian women were among the 79 women volunteer recruits who were joining 5363 men of all races.

Until now, Indian women had largely shunned the military.

"You are truly representative of our society," Nqakula told the recruits.

NATO Calls for More Cooperation With Pakistan to Combat Taliban

By Michael Heath

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called for greater cooperation between the alliance and Pakistan to combat Taliban militants in Afghanistan, saying extra U.S. troops alone won’t defeat the insurgency.

The NATO-led force of about 50,000 soldiers in Afghanistan is battling militants trying to topple the Afghan government. The U.S. plans to deploy as many as 30,000 additional soldiers to try to turn the tide of the insurgency.

Pakistan is a key element in the Afghan struggle as western supply lines run through the country and militants shelter in its north, infiltrating the border to attack international troops in Afghanistan.

NATO wants to set up “coordination centers” along the border to allow better cooperation between Pakistani and international troops, de Hoop Scheffer told reporters in Islamabad yesterday, according to the official Associated Press of Pakistan. He said military force isn’t the only solution to extremism, calling for economic development in the tribal areas.

Thousands of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters sought shelter in northwestern Pakistan after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001.

Opium Crop

At a meeting in Islamabad, Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and de Hoop Scheffer discussed combating opium cultivation in Afghanistan, which is the main source of finance for the Taliban insurgency.

Afghanistan provides more than 90 percent of the world’s supply of opium, the raw ingredient for heroin, and the Taliban may have generated $100 million from last year’s crop, according to the United Nations.

The NATO chief and defense minister also discussed tensions between Pakistan and India following the November terrorist attack on Mumbai. India blames Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attack that left 164 people dead and further strained ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

The tensions have jeopardized Pakistan’s campaign against extremists in the west as the country can only completely focus on the frontier with Afghanistan when its eastern border with India is peaceful, Mukhtar told de Hoop Scheffer. Pakistan has deployed extra troops to its border with India since the Mumbai attacks.

Mukhtar said Pakistan is investigating the events in Mumbai and India needs to understand Pakistan’s position as it is also a victim of terrorism.

Pro-Taliban Cleric

Pakistani security forces backed by helicopter gunships killed 11 militants and wounded nine others in two battles in the Swat Valley yesterday, APP said.

Pakistani forces are fighting supporters of Maulana Fazlullah, a pro-Taliban cleric who started an armed campaign to impose Islamic law in Swat, a once popular tourist resort located north of Islamabad.

Militants in the region last month demanded an end to classes for girls above Grade 4 and threatened to blow up schools that violate the ban. The Taliban banned girls from attending school during their rule of Afghanistan.

A girls’ school was attacked with explosives in the Swat city of Mingora on the night of Jan. 21-22, destroying the building, APP said. It is the 184th school to be attacked by militants, 169 of which were for girls, according to the report.

Students in Swat are on vacation until March 1 and no one was hurt in the attack, APP said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Heath in Sydney at mheath1@bloomberg.net.

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