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Sunday, 22 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 22 Mar 09

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’62 war to remain under wraps
CIC turns down appeal to make Henderson Brooks report public
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has turned down the appeal of former MP Kuldip Nayar for making the analysis of the 1962 India-China war, brought out in the Henderson Brooks report, public.

A bench of Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and Information Commissioner M.L. Sharma today ruled that the analysis would remain confidential at this stage as it contains sensitive information over which the stance of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) till date has been that it cannot be declassified.

In its order the bench said, “This division bench agrees that no part of the report might at this stage be disclosed”.

Former Rajya Sabha MP Kuldip Nayar had sought the report, which was submitted three decades ago as an “internal review” to the MoD, under the RTI Act. He had moved an application in front of the Chief Information Commissioner in August 2007 after his earlier appeal was not taken into account by the CIC.

The bench took into account various arguments from the MoD including that of ministry’s joint secretary Bimal Julka before taking the decision.

Julka in his reply to the CIC said: “As regards merit of the present complaint, it is informed that the matter has been reviewed from time to time, in consultation with the Army Headquarters and till date it has been the consistent stand for the ministry not to declassify the report”.

Nayar had initially written to the MoD in 2005 seeking the report saying that the report, which was now being 43-year-old, should have been formally available in the Archives of India, 30 years after it was submitted.

The MoD informed him that the Army Headquarters was of the view that the document was presently classified and contains information, which is sensitive. In view of the above, your request for making available the copy of the document is regretted.

On CIC seeking the details from the MoD, it was informed that the report prepared by Lt Gen Henderson Brooks and Brig Prem Bhagat was a part of internal review conducted on the orders of the then chief of Army staff Gen Choudhary.

“Reports of internal review are not even submitted to the government let alone placed in the public domain. Disclosure of this information will amount to disclosure of the Army’s operational strategy in the North-East and the discussion on deployments has a direct bearing on the question of the demarcation of the Line of Actual Control between India and China, a live issue under examination between the two countries at present,” MoD said.

The CIC bench then also inspected the original report, which had been placed before it, including the conclusion contained in pages 199 to 222 of the main report and came to the conclusion that it had a bearing on national security.

“We have examined the report specifically in terms of its bearing on present national security. There is no doubt that the issue of the India-China Border particularly along the North-East parts of India is still a live issue with ongoing negotiations between the two countries on this matter,” the bench said, while adding that the disclosure of information of which the Henderson Brooks report carries considerable detail on what precipitated the war of 1962 between India and China will seriously compromise both security and the relationship between India and China, thus having a bearing both on internal and external security.

“We have examined the report from the point of view of severability u/s 10(1). For reasons that we consider unwise to discuss in this decision notice, this bench agrees that no part of the report might at this stage be disclosed.”

British Thinktank Warns
of 'Global Pandemic of Unrest'

A leading British thinktank Friday warned of the "grave threat" of social unrest in response to the global recession over the next two years.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in a paper published Friday, rated the risk of upheaval that could "disrupt economies and topple governments" as "high or very high" in 95 countries.

"Popular anger around the world is growing as a result of rising unemployment, pay cuts and freezes, bail-outs for banks, and falls in house prices and the value of savings and pension funds," said the EIU paper, entitled Manning the Barricades.

"As people lose confidence in the ability of governments to restore stability, protests look increasingly likely."

A spate of incidents in recent months had shown that the global economic downturn was having political repercussions.

"This is being seen as a harbinger of worse to come. There is growing concern about a possible global pandemic of unrest," said the paper.

Top of the list of high-risk countries were Zimbabwe, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia and Sudan.

However, three of the European Union's neighbours - Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia-Herguegovina - were rated as being at "very high risk" of social upheaval.

The paper pointed out that two European governments - in Iceland and in Latvia - had already fallen as a result of crisis.

In Europe, Britain was "not immune" from the danger of serious social unrest and "more likely" to suffer from it than Germany and the Netherlands, but "less likely" than France and the US.

A lot depended on how US President Barack Obama responded to pressure to "defend American jobs and companies against foreign imports," said the paper.

"As the downturn worsens, far more intense and long-lasting events can be expected, such as armed rebellions, military coups, civil conflicts and perhaps even wars between states," it said.

Pak troops fire at Indian posts in Uri; soldier injured

Press Trust of India

Saturday, March 21, 2009, (Srinagar)

In a major ceasefire violation after a gap of few months, Pakistani troops fired throughout the night at Indian posts in Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir, leaving a soldier injured.

A defence spokesman said on Saturday that Pakistani troops fired between 1500 to 2000 rounds at the Indian posts in Kamalkote area of Uri sector between 10 pm on Friday night and 3 am on Saturday morning. Lance Naik Prakash Singh of 10 JAK rifles was injured in the firing.

He said the firing from across the border was unprovoked adding that the Indian troops returned the fire but used small arms fire.

India and Pakistan announced a ceasefire on the borders of the two countries in 2003.

Gilani raises Kashmir issue with CIA chief

Press Trust of India

Saturday, March 21, 2009, (Islamabad)

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday underscored the need for an early resolution of the "core issue of Kashmir" with India to allow Islamabad to concentrate on eradicating extremism and terrorism.

During a meeting with visiting US Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta, Gilani briefed him on Pakistan's campaign against terrorism and its quest for peaceful relation with all its neighbours, particularly India and Afghanistan.

Gilani "underscored the importance of an early resolution of the core issue of Kashmir to enable Pakistan to singularly focus its attention on eradicating the menaces of extremism and terrorism," said an official statement.

Gilani also briefed Panetta about the cooperation offered by Pakistan to India to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice.

The premier and the CIA chief discussed matters of mutual interest and the multi-faceted cooperation between Pakistan and the US, it said.

Panetta expressed satisfaction at the "existing cooperation between Pakistan and the US in various fields and commended the role of Pakistan's armed forces and institution as the bulwark in the war against terrorism," it said.

He also assured Gilani that the US administration would expedite the passage of the Kerry-Lugar bill for economic aid to Pakistan.

Pak targets India for LoC firing

Press Trust of India

Saturday, March 21, 2009, (Islamabad)

Pakistan on Saturday accused Indian troops of resorting to "unprovoked firing" on the Line of Control and violating a ceasefire prevailing along the frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir.

A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations said that "Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing on the Line of Control in Pando sector near Chakoti, Muzaffarabad last night".

Military officials said there were no casualties among the Pakistani troops.

A "strong protest has been lodged with Indian authorities for the ceasefire violation", the ISPR statement said.

India and Pakistan put in place a ceasefire along the frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir in November 2003 and guns have been almost silent since then. However, incidents of firing have occurred along the LoC in the past few months.

Shortly after the Mumbai attacks, Pakistani officials had alleged that Indian troops had opened fire in the Chum sector on the LoC on December 22.

Pak breaks ceasfire, fires at Indian posts in Uri

Press Trust Of India

Srinagar: In a major ceasefire violation after a gap of few months, Pakistani troops fired throughout Friday night at Indian posts in Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir, leaving a soldier injured.

A defence spokesman said on Saturday that Pakistani troops fired between 1500 to 2000 rounds at the Indian posts in Kamalkote area of Uri sector between 2200 hrs IST on Friday night and 0300 hers IST Saturday morning.

Lance Naik Prakash Singh of 10 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles was injured in the firing.

The spokesman said firing from across the border was unprovoked and Indian troops returned the fire using small arms.

India and Pakistan announced a ceasefire on the borders of the two countries in 2003.

India accuses Pakistan over Kashmir exchange

By Mukhtar Ahmad

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir (CNN) -- India says Pakistani troops in Kashmir fired "indiscriminately" at Indian positions Friday night.

Indian officials describe the incident on Saturday as the first major violation this year of the more than five-year cease-fire along the Line of Control, the border between both countries in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

"Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing on our positions in the Uri sector of the Line of Control for four hours last night, causing injury to a trooper.

"They fired indiscriminately, using small and automatic weapons at our positions in the Uri sector. Our troops had to respond to the unprovoked firing from the Pakistani positions," Lt. Col. J.S. Brar, Indian defense spokesman, told CNN.

A Pakistani response was not immediately available.

Indian defense sources in Kashmir said the firing was "apparently intended to give a cover" to militants infiltrating the Line of Control.

India has been accusing neighboring, nuclear-armed Pakistan of "arming and abetting" the infiltrators, a charge denied by Pakistan.

The two countries have gone to war over Kashmir twice, and came close to another war during the Kargil crisis in 1999.

Relations between the two south Asian nations have seen a thaw and a positive journey after a bilateral cease-fire on the Line of Control in November 2003. But relations suddenly slumped in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror strikes in November.

Analysts think the exchange of fire between the two armies may lead to further tensions between the two countries.

Over more than five years, several Kashmir-related confidence building measures were put in place, including a bus service that crosses the Line of Control, and trade initiatives that didn't take off as intended.

Also Saturday, the defense spokesman said four militants were killed by the Indian army in two separate encounters in north Kashmir.

Kashmir has been in the throes of a violent separatist campaign for nearly 20 years. Authorities say 43,000 people have been killed, but nongovernmental organizations and human rights groups put the number of dead at twice the official count.

China military trains first public relations team


BEIJING (AP) — China's military is training propaganda teams for the first time to explain its actions to the outside world, as the traditionally insular and secretive force engages more with other countries' militaries and deploys its ships and personnel abroad.

An initial class of 51 officers graduated this week in an effort to "raise the opinion-forming ability of the force's foreign propaganda team and advance the innovation and development of the military propaganda work," the official People's Liberation Army Daily reported Friday.

The two-week training course included classes dealing with China's recent dispatch of ships to carry out anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, as well as joint China-India anti-terror drills and other international missions, it said.

Course work included mock news conferences with reporters from the PLA Daily and the official Xinhua News Agency, the PLA Daily said.

In recent years, the army has embarked on U.N. peacekeeping operations, joint training with other countries' militaries, and a growing list of port calls and goodwill missions.

The dispatch in December of three ships to combat piracy off Somalia marked the first time the navy has been sent on a mission so far from China's shores.

Yan Xuetong, head of Tsinghua University's Institute of International Studies, said China's growing military involvement made such media training an imperative.

"The Chinese army needs to know about international practice. They need to know how to show friendliness when meeting foreign military officials, and they need to learn how to give public speeches in front of the media," Yan said.

The military's growing foreign involvement has raised some concerns among regional rivals, such as Japan and India, prompting China to downplay any future aggressive role for its armed forces.

However, Chinese officers remain highly sensitive to what they see as a "China threat" sentiment abroad — reflecting the military's long-standing perception of itself as a purely defensive force that poses no danger to other nations.

The U.S. and other foreign militaries have long complained about the PLA's lack of openness, particularly regarding the intent behind its ballooning defense spending.

China's generals, who take their orders from the Communist Party leadership, have rejected such complaints but have also moved gradually to lower their curtain of secrecy.

In recent years, foreign military attaches have been invited to view some PLA training, while the navies of Japan, the United States and other regional powers have been asked to send vessels to join a sail-by next month marking the Chinese navy's 60th anniversary.

The Defense Ministry has also announced the establishment of a spokesman's office to accept media inquiries, although there has been little apparent follow through.

Repeated calls to the spokesman's office on Friday rang unanswered.

SAF, Indian army exercise

MORE than 500 soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are taking part in a bilateral armour exercise with the Indian Army in central India.

The joint exercise, codenamed Bold Kurukshetra, began on March 2 and will end on March 21.

The soldiers from the Singapore side are from the 42nd Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment and Headquarters, and th 4th Singapore Armoured Brigade, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) in a statement on Saturday.

As part of the exercise, the two armies conducted joint planning and training, and executed integrated manoeuvres, including a live-firing exercise.

This is the fifth in the Bold Kurukshetra series of annual exercises between Singapore and India.

Mindef said the exercise underscored 'the warm defence relationship between Singapore and India'.

The SAF and the Indian Armed Forces also interact regularly through visits, courses, seminars and other professional exchanges.

Good ties with Pakistan vital to India’s security: experts

* Indian military analysts ask government to tread cautiously against Pakistan as New Delhi’s actions can have regional implications

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: Indian military experts on Friday said the country’s security lay in friendly relations with Pakistan, asking the government to tread cautiously against its neighbour, as it could have regional implications.

A daylong seminar attended by Indian strategists, military experts and noted defence writers organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) concluded that India’s aggressive posture might result in Islamabad withdrawing its forces deployed along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which would be more detrimental to regional security.

They also rejected any military solution to the problems in Afghanistan and pleaded for more economic support. The experts asked India to actively work with Saudi Arabia in dealing with Pakistan, which along with the United States, China and India can help stabilise Afghanistan.

They also urged New Delhi to engage positively with Central Asian countries and deliberate carefully on the feasibility of Indian troop deployment in Afghanistan.

Describing the Mumbai attacks as a major setback, they asked for a clear-cut national directive and response structure.

CLAWS Director Brigadier (r) Gurmeet Kanwal asked for policies to ensure that fundamentalist terrorism did not spread to the east of the Indus River.

Air Vice Marshall (r) Kapil Kak said the spread of terrorism in Pakistan would affect India’s security adversely, adding China was also proving a problem rather a solution.

Former ambassador Rajiv Sikri said in the long run, India and Pakistan had common interests in Afghanistan. “Both India and Pakistan must realise that one day NATO, the US, and Europe will leave the region,” he said.

He said India needed to study the Pakistani Army, its powers, perks, and ideological leanings, besides the nature of Pakistan society and military, as well as the dynamics of internal politics.

Noted defence writer Manoj Josh said India needed to participate in the joint battle against the Taliban. The US can solve the problem of Afghanistan with the help of Central Asian countries and Russia, he said.\03\21\story_21-3-2009_pg7_16

A first: Woman cadets pass out from OTA
Anjali Singh Deswal
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 21
A total of 151 cadets, 111 gentlemen cadets and 40 lady cadets, passed out as commissioned officers in the Indian Army from Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai, today. It was for the first time when women cadets passed out after receiving training at par with their male counterparts, both in terms of time period and training standards, from the OTA. The President of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil reviewed the parade.

The parade was commanded by academy under officer Prashant Pillai, who also was awarded the prestigious sword of honour apart from silver medal for standing second in order of merit. Battalion under officer Shikha Bhaduria received the gold medal for standing first in order of merit along with several other medals.

Others who received the awards were Cadet Manu Balraj Singh, who got the best overall firer of the academy and was presented the 5 GR silver medal, Cadet Meera got an award for being the first in academics.

The Chief of the Army staff Gen Deepak Kapoor was also present on the occasion along with other senior defence officers. Cadets from Afghanistan, Seychelles and Jamaica also passed out from the academy. Cadets from other countries said the training in India was very systematic.

Patil while addressing the parade said, “It is a matter of pride that the women, who have joined the force, have completed successfully the full training in the first short service course for women. Terrorism posses a grave threat to global peace, stability and progress.

India has been a victim of terrorist attacks. This menace has to be dealt with determinedly and eradicated. I wish you all success in your career. I remind you of your duty, karma and dharma in one line, ‘For the Honour of India Serve with Honour’”.

3-fold increase in maternity leave for officers
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
The period of maternity leave for women officers in the armed forces has been increased three times to 180 days instead of the earlier 60 days.

A letter issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to the three service headquarters on March 16 states that the orders will be effective with retrospective effect from September 1, 2008.

The Sixth Central Pay Commission had recommended that the maternity leave for women service officers be increased and brought to par with their civilian counterparts. The MoD had passed a resolution in this regard on August 30, 2008, and the financial concurrence for this was finally accorded on March 13.

According to the MoD letter, women officers, who are still on maternity leave, would be entitled to extension of leave up to 180 days and would be permitted to avail the balance period.

In cases where women have joined duty on September 1, 2008, or thereafter after having availed 60 days leave, they would be permitted to avail the balance period of maternity leave on full pay even now.

Tribune Special

Buy the best for armed forces

The acquisition system should be transparent, says Admiral Arun Prakash (retd)

WITH two military campaigns on his hands, and with the economy in dire straits, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is reportedly stalking the corridors of the Pentagon, seeking to axe high cost weapon systems.

This has sent shivers down the spines of the US Service Chiefs, because there are unlikely to be any holy cows, and any programme, including the F-22 Raptor fighter, a new class of 100,000-ton aircraft-carriers or the army’s Future Combat System could qualify for the chop.

India’s defence appropriation of Rs 141,000 crore (US $28 billion) voted on account for the coming fiscal year may be dwarfed by the US defence budget of $611 billion, but it is said to mark a notional increase of 34 per cent over last year’s funding. While we do not know exactly what proportion will remain for modernisation after meeting the post-Pay Commission revenue demands, no hatchet-wielding specter should haunt our Service Chiefs.

While India’s strategic community will inevitably lament that defence spending should have received a higher proportion of GDP, the armed forces are unlikely to be overly perturbed. The frustration and quandary of the Service Headquarters (SHQ) resides in their inability to persuade the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to shed bureaucratic attitudes, and emerge from its state of stasis so that the annual budgetary allocations can be spent on vitally needed equipment for our fighting forces. However, unbeknown to the tax-payer as well the law-maker, there are anomalies in defence acquisition which go well beyond this problem.

The first issue relates to the absence of institutional scrutiny and objective oversight of the force planning processes routinely undertaken by the SHQ. In the absence of a cogent articulation of national interests and security objectives by the Indian state, the armed forces, left to their own devices, have for the past 60 years, tended to plan in strategic vacuity.

This has often resulted in weapon-systems being acquired capriciously; either because they were foisted on us at “friendship prices” (or even as gifts), or because we wanted to “keep up with the Joneses” in the technology domain.

Since forces built on such principles are not underpinned by a vision of our long-term national interests (which must include shaping of our future strategic neighbourhood), they may lack the capability, doctrinal as well as material, to combat all threats that emerge.

The second issue is that of the huge parochial pressures (largely professional in nature), generated by the service constituencies, on their respective Chiefs. Such pressures tend to reduce the Service Chiefs to “Chieftains”, battling relentlessly to safeguard the perceived interests of their own service, rather than focusing on the common weal of national security as members of the collegial Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).

There was a time, not too long ago, when one service would openly snipe at another, especially if it considered that its “roles and missions” were being encroached upon; aviation assets being the most frequent casus belli.

Currently, a gentleman’s agreement, is in force; which forbids one service from commenting on the acquisition plans of another, provided there is no mutual interference. The natural consequence of this unstated truce is that service acquisition proposals, no matter how profligate or illogical, rarely receive the ruthless scrutiny and inquiry obligatory for requisitioning such large expenditures. The Chairman, COSC, being merely the first amongst equals, seldom presumes to undertake this hazardous task, which is then left to the less than knowledgeable mandarins of the MoD.

This leads to the third issue relating to a concept known as “effect-based operations” or EBO, adopted by the more advanced and economy-conscious armed forces. EBO is explained by the following simple example. Should we want to undertake a limited precision strike on a terrorist training camp in our neighbourhood, the “effect” desired would be the delivery of “X” tons of high explosive with a specified accuracy on target.

Under the EBO concept, this mission could be accomplished with equal dexterity by air force strike aircraft, army missile or artillery units, naval carrier-borne fighters and even cruise-missile armed submarines. The actual choice of weapon system would be dictated by a variety of factors including effectiveness, economy of effort and surprise etc, but the conceptual flexibility bestowed by EBO enables wider discretion in weapon acquisition choices.

Such a concept remains alien to the Indian system because currently, each service is accustomed to demanding and getting what it thinks is best for itself. For example, India must be unique amongst military powers, in that we can embark upon the acquisition of major weapon-systems like fighter aircraft, tanks and artillery in huge numbers, or nuclear submarines, and aircraft carriers costing billions of rupees without the semblance of public discussion.

Neither politicians nor Parliament, and not even the MoD, have the time or inclination to dwell on many vital issues of contention: the evolving threat-environment, the technology versus numbers or technology versus manpower conundrums that exist in this context. So hardware continues to be demanded arbitrarily by our SHQ, or imposed on us imperiously by foreign governments.

Finally, perhaps the worst kept secret in the country is the predatory interest that the politician takes in every substantive arms acquisition deal that is concluded, and the hypocritical mud-slinging that follows in its wake. Unless a bi-partisan “hands-off” agreement can be reached between major political parties, the MoD will remain in a state of stasis, on this account, and defence preparedness will continue to suffer.

We cannot live in this fool’s paradise forever. Defence budgets are going to start shrinking; and the people will demand accountability of Parliament, MoD and the SHQ, sooner than later. The answer lies in opening up the defence acquisition system and making it as transparent as we possibly can.

Enlightened political involvement must be invited and encouraged in matters of force modernisation, which have a vital bearing on national security. Above all, we must reform our archaic and dysfunctional higher defence organisation.

Little Sri Lanka, next doors, has demonstrated brilliantly, the benefits to be garnered from integrated planning and joint-service synergy in operations. Even if the politicians and bureaucrats continue to nurture irrational antipathy to a Chief of Defence Staff, let the new government, post-elections, operationally integrate our armed forces and merge the SHQ with the MoD without further ado.

The recent displays of blatant praetorianism across our eastern and western borders have served to confirm that the Indian armed forces are truly the sole sub-continental inheritors of the priceless apolitical tradition bequeathed by their British progenitors.

Armies are sent into battle only when statesmen and diplomats have been unsuccessful in ensuring peace. Our Armed forces have not only fought gallantly on the battlefield but consistently and impartially upheld India’s integrity and secular democratic tradition, when all others have failed the nation.

Their darkest hour occurred in the wake of Operation Blue Star; an unseen internal crisis which threatened to rend the taut fabric of discipline and loyalty which binds together our magnificent Army. The manner in which it contained and defused this calamity will remain another (untold) saga of outstanding military leadership.

This monastic devotion to discipline is the reason that Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army and the Free Indian Legion are, till today, spoken of in hushed tones in the service environment. The exact details of the 1942 Royal Indian Navy mutiny (even though it imparted a decisive impetus to the freedom movement) will forever remain confined to confidential volumes kept under lock and key on board every warship.

Similarly, public expressions of defiance like hunger-strikes, dharnas, marches and demonstrations by civilians cause acute discomfort to the soldier, sailor and airman because they run contrary to the essence of all that he has been ever taught: unquestioning respect and obedience of lawful authority.

Once he doffs his uniform, an ex-Serviceman (ESM) is technically liberated from the restraints of military discipline, and is free to adopt the demeanor and behaviour of any civilian on the street. But deep inside, his soul cringes at the very thought of conducting himself in a manner which would have brought disrepute to his uniform, unit or service.

Why then did our ESM start resorting to demonstrations about 10 months ago, in the heart of the national capital as well as in many states? Why did they thereafter graduate to relay fasts at Jantar Mantar? And why are they now surrendering their precious medals to low level functionaries in Rashtrapati Bhavan?

Though they have conducted themselves in a most dignified and orderly manner, the very fact that veterans ranging from Generals to Jawans have been marching on the streets and squatting on footpaths has sent shock waves throughout the services community; even if the media and our fellow citizens have largely ignored this disturbing development.

This writer is not about to argue the case of the ESM, but a brief summary of events would help to orient the reader. In early-2006 when the Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC) loomed into sight, the Service Chiefs, individually and collectively, through the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), appealed to the Defence Minister, on the basis of bitter past experience, that a service member be included in the CPC. This request having been declined, when the CPC Report was released in 2008, the services found to their dismay that the recommendations expectedly contained many glaring anomalies impacting adversely on serving personnel as well as ESM.

At the persistent urgings of the Service Chiefs, a Review Committee was constituted; ironically yet again bereft of a service representative. The Review Committee aggravated the anomalous situation by arbitrarily making some further unwarranted modifications.

A series of instructions were issued by the Defence Accounts and pension disbursing authorities which were self-contradictory and compounded the prevailing confusion as well as unhappiness. While the Chairman, COSC, took up the issues relating to serving personnel with the Government, the ESM became convinced that since no one was listening to them, they had no choice but to adopt agitational methods. They have, therefore, taken to the streets since April 2008.

Military veterans, world-wide are objects of spontaneous respect, affection and admiration because they are national symbols of courage, patriotism and sacrifice; a segment deserving of special consideration by the government. The grievances of our ESM, should, therefore, have been handled with far more sensitivity and responsiveness, than they actually were.

The current ESM movement has been able to mobilise opinion country-wide and gather self-sustaining momentum, mainly due to connectivity provided by the Internet and cellular phone networks. While the MoD seems to have adopted a disdainful and detached stance towards their grievances, the ESM roll-on agenda now encompasses canvassing political support for their cause, and even the formation of an ESM political party which will put up candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Thus it is now obvious that, while the nation slept, the process of “politicisation” of our armed forces is well under way, if not complete. The Sixth CPC has also inflicted serious collateral damage by deepening the existing civil-military chasm and thereby further slowing down the languid functioning of the MoD.

As a former Army Chief has pointed out, the ESM retain “an umbilical connection” with the serving personnel; they hail from the same regions or neighbouring villages and often belong to the same family. In any case, the Services and ESM are one big family. No one should have any doubts that the essence of whatever happens at Jantar Mantar or India Gate will slowly but surely filter back by a process of “reverse osmosis” to the men in uniform.

Were this to happen — even by default — it would constitute the most grievous injury to be needlessly inflicted on itself by the Indian state. India’s democracy requires that the armed forces must be restored to their original pristine apolitical state at the earliest.

The surest way of doing this is to remove the ESM from the streets, and the best means would be to constitute a Blue Ribbon Commission to examine and address their grievances. This can be done right now, because the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct does not come in the way.

The writer is a former Chief of Naval Staff

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