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Saturday, 18 July 2009

From Today's Papers - 18 Jul 09

Indian Express

The Pioneer

The Pioneer

The Pioneer

Asian Age

Asian Age

Asian Age

Asian Age

The Pioneer

Times of India

Times of India

Brand New Scale (and consequently pension) for all Lieutenant Generals (From Navdeep’s Blog)

SC upholds 105-year law exempting armed forces from toll

Upholding provisions of the 105-year old Indian Tolls Act, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a special leave petition (SLP) seeking withdrawal of concessions provided to Armed Forces personnel under the Act.

A Division Bench comprising Mr Justice Ashok Bhan and Mr Justice Markandey Kadju declined to interfere in the directions issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had dismissed a petition filed by a Chandigarh resident, Sanjeev, in May.

Sanjeev had challenged the provisions of the Act on the ground that it was discriminatory, unconstitutional and against the spirit of Article 14 of the Constitution of India which provided for equality before law. He had also contended that other central government employees and members of the para military forces are not entitled to such concessions.

The HC Division Bench, comprising Mr Justice H S Bedi and Mr Justice Ranjit Singh, however, ruled to the contrary and had dismissed the petitioner’s contentions. Thereafter, he had filed a SLP in the apex court against the HC order.

Section 3(a) of the Indian Tolls (Army & Air Force) Act, 1901, provides for toll tax exemption on all public or private roads and bridges in India to officers and men of the regular forces whether they are on duty or not. Further civil vehicles and animals moving under military orders, are also exempted from payment of toll tax. The Act also has an overriding clause, which causes it to override all other Acts or directions by any legislature or central or state government in India.

The controversy regarding applicability of the Act began a few years ago, when private toll operators under the Build-Operate- Transfer (BOT) system on various roads and bridges had started refusing toll exemption to defence personnel and in certain cases even to defence vehicles.

The issue had then been settled after Chandigarh-based lawyer, Capt Navdeep Singh, took up the matter with the Central Government in 2004 and instructions were issued by government thereafter that the Act was very much applicable to toll roads and bridges being operated under the BOT schemes or otherwise. The instructions also clarified that the Act was applicable even to private vehicles belonging to personnel of the regular forces.

While the problem of illegal charging of toll tax has more or less been settled with the instructions being circulated all over, sporadic incidents of harassment of defence personnel continue to be reported mainly from the Delhi-Noida- Delhi Flyway and from some areas of Himachal Pradesh.

ULFA accuses BSF of abetting influx of B’desh migrants
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 17
The outlawed insurgent group United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has now raised the alarm over what it calls the “unnatural population explosion in Assam’’ resulting from unabated illegal migration from Bangladesh and Nepal into the state. It has also alleged Indian security forces are allowing the migrants to settle in Assam to render its indigenous inhabitants a minority.

In the latest issue of the group’s mouthpiece, ‘Freedom’, ULFA said: “The Indian Border Security Force is facilitating the entry of illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Nepal to settle in Assam. These are the real reasons for the unnaturally high population growth in the state.”

The BSF, however, maintains it has been able to stop illegal migration across the Bangladeshi border. “There has been a sharp decrease in migration from Bangladesh due to our heightened vigil across the frontier,” BSF spokesman Ravi Gandhi said.

Apparently ULFA is trying to exploit the popular emotion against the “unabated illegal migration” from Bangladesh into Assam to regain some of the lost ground among the state’s masses. The banned outfit, whose top leaders are believed to be taking shelter in Bangladesh, has been accused by Indian security forces of colluding with Muslim fundamentalist groups active in areas dominated by illegal migrants, especially the remote Brahmaputra river isles.

A source close to the BSF said ULFA’s sudden outcry against illegal Bangladeshi migrants could be a “tactical move” given that the outfit’s base in Bangladesh is now under scanner of that country’s new regime. “It’s the same ULFA that had earlier criticised the All Assam Students’ Union for the latter’s continuing tirade against illegal Bangladeshi migrants”, the source said.

8 held for Advani's NSG commando's death

The Mangalore police have picked up eight persons in connection with the alleged murder of an National Security Guard commando who used to be part of L K Advanis security cordon.

Suresh Rathore, the NSG commando had passed away on June 28, and the reason for his death, cited at that time was an accident. However on Thursday, the police suspected foul play and arrested eight persons from Moodubidri, near Mangalore suspecting them to be involved in Rathore's death.

Police sources told that Rathore might have had a personal rivalry with these men. On June 28, Rathore was travelling by rickshaw near Moodubidri, when the 8 men allegedly chased him. In a bid to escape from them, Rathore is said to have jumped out of the vehicle, as he landed on the road, Rathore was hit by a jeep and sustained severe injuries.

Vicky Nanjappa

'If something like 26/11 happens, we are ready'

Sheela Bhatt

Gopal Krishna Pillai, a 1972 batch Indian Civil Service officer, became Union home secretary earlier this month after 37 years of service in government. His wife Sudha Pillai is the Union labour secretary.

The Pillais are a well-respected power couple in New Delhi. Sudha and Gopal Krishna met and fell in love when they were at the Indian Administrative Service training academy in Mussourie. Sudha, a Punjabi, who is a post-graduate in psychology and public administration, is also a painter. Gopal Krishna is a postgraduate in science. Both of them joined the Kerala cadre on July 15, 1972. As home secretary, Pillai will have a fixed two-year term till June 2011.

To serve under a demanding minister like Palaniappan Chidambaram is a challenge for Pillai. His previous stint as commerce secretary gave him the cachet to be considered for his current job. It is said that India's government officials are the steel frame on which rests the entire structure of governance. Pillai, one of India's important secretaries who is in charge of the police and public order, has a difficult and challenging job ahead of him.

The ministry of home affairs is the most important ministry because it is responsible for India's internal security.

Pillai has a reputation as a man who believes in taking decisions. He hates delays in moving files and it is the only thing that makes him angry. The home secretary works in his North Block office from 9 am to 9 pm.

After taking charge, he spoke to's Sheela Bhatt in a free-wheeling interview about himself, his new job and the need for a huge dose of pragmatism when one is home secretary of India.

After 37 years in government service, do you still feel like a babu?

I don't feel like a babu. I feel I still have the same amount of energy as I had when I had joined the service 37 years ago. When you join the service, I think, you see things more in terms of black and white. You are idealistic and very energetic.

After 30 years in service you realise that there are so many more aspects to governance which come into play. There are often contradictory aspects to governance like contradictory political forces, contradictory administrative pressures that come into play.

In one sense after 30 years you have a matured outlook but when you are young you see the job as one where something has to be done, then, that's it! It should be done. One is not bothered about anything else. Our job as a sub-divisional magistrate was more straightforward. You just follow the rules, nothing else really mattered to us, then.

In those days were the rules of governance better?

Governance in the states and the Centre is an altogether different story. Then I saw a narrow view. In the Centre you see a larger national picture and its international ramifications. Here you realise that while taking some decisions you have to take in many more views then simply applying the law. In New Delhi, you realise that there are five to six different angles to the same story.

We have a moral duty to our troops: pay up or pull them out

There's plenty of scope for big cuts in the bloated welfare budget to preserve defence spending, says Jeff Randall.

By Jeff Randall

On the day that Gordon Brown swept into Downing Street as Prime Minister, June 27 2007, he addressed the country: "This will be a new Government with new priorities." So much has happened since then that it is often difficult to recall precisely which of the old priorities he found so inappropriate.

Posing outside Number 10, Mr Brown talked about listening to the British people and governing in a new way. And, to be fair, in just two years, many things have changed: banks have been nationalised, unemployment has soared, so too immigration, and the regard in which MPs are held by the electorate has been buried under an avalanche of dodgy expenses.

What has not changed, however, is the low priority given to defence spending by an administration that cannot walk past an official statistic without twisting it for tomorrow's headlines. The art of management is about choice, and the Prime Minister and his sinister cabal have made theirs clear.

When it comes to the nation's budget, the slice allocated to our Armed Forces, compared with the overall size of the cake, is less today than it was in 2001, when the military campaign in Afghanistan began. Despite the chronic over-stretch being endured by our troops in far-off hell-holes, the bill for which is being paid in the blood of teenage squaddies, defence continues to be treated as an unwelcome distraction that buys few votes.

This assertion will, of course, be rejected by ministers panicked by the public's growing revulsion over British deaths in Helmand, but here are the facts. In his 2001 Budget, Mr Brown set aside £24 billion for defence from total public spending that year of £394 billion. Thus defence accounted for 6.09 per cent of the state's annual outlay. This year, Alistair Darling pencilled in £38 billion for defence from total public spending of £671 billion, or 5.66 per cent. In the nine Budgets, 2001 to 2009, the average was 5.5 per cent.

Never mind fine words peddled in Parliament to give an impression of a greater priority for kitting out those in the front line, the Government's spending patterns tell a different story. In 2001, total social security (welfare) payments were 4.6 times bigger than defence spending. This year's social security payments (rebranded "social protection" in 2003), will be £189 billion, or almost five times more than the entire defence allocation. Whom would you rather fund, the Karen Matthews set or British soldiers?

Yes, defence spending has increased in money terms under Mr Brown. But its place in Whitehall's food chain has, at best, gone sideways. The Prime Minister can flip the figures hither and thither, but his "new priorities" do not include a meaningful promotion for Tommy Atkins. He's stuck in the second rank: way behind welfare, health, education; and only marginally ahead of what the Treasury defines as "personal social services" (£31 billion).

As if a lack of sufficient funding to fight foreign wars were not injury enough, Mr Brown has added considerable insult by appointing Bob Ainsworth as Defence Secretary. He ranks 21 on a list of 23 ministers. Those below him could be forgiven for having a crisis of self-esteem, because this is a politician who, even on a fine day with a fair wind, fails to achieve mediocrity. Since taking office, his public performances have been little short of hopeless. Our generals, admirals and air marshals must be weeping into their pink gins.

At Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron scolded Mr Brown for having four defence secretaries in four years. Such has been the speed of the revolving door, the Conservative leader missed one. Since 2005, there have, in fact, been five: Geoff Hoon, John Reid, Des Browne, John Hutton and now Bob-a-Jobsworth. None, I'm afraid, graced the office with distinction.

Not that the prospect of a Tory victory at the next election holds out much hope for a significant reallocation of resources towards defence. Behind the scenes, Mr Cameron and his aides are briefing opinion-formers to expect the worst. More money will be found for the Army, but only at the expense of the RAF and Navy. Writing in the Financial Times, Malcolm Rifkind, a former Conservative defence secretary, stated boldly: "The defence budget of over £34 billion [sic] is simply too big to be exempt from cuts."

This is nonsense. Strip out the defence costs from Mr Darling's shopping list and there is still £633 billion with which to juggle. The issue, as Mr Brown made clear, is about priorities. If the United Kingdom can afford to spend £119 billion protecting the health of its citizens, it can afford to spend a lot more than £38 billion protecting the lives of its soldiers. But is there the will?

I reject Mr Brown's claim that the war in Afghanistan is being waged "to prevent terror coming to the streets of Britain". If that distant country were cleared of al- Qaeda and Taleban fighters tomorrow, Britain would still harbour many home-grown threats. Three of the London Underground bombers came from Leeds; one of the Glasgow Airport attackers was born in Aylesbury. What's more, al-Qaeda has plenty of options beyond Afghanistan, including Somalia and Yemen. Are they next for the Welsh Guards?

But even if I am wrong, and the bloody grind in Helmand is worth the terrible price we are paying, it is unthinkable for the mission to be run on the economics of Aldi. Defence is not like transport or housing. In a theatre of war, pinched pennies cost lives. If British forces are to be deployed as global policemen, they must not be undermined by Treasury bean counters, determined to put the brake on the state's runaway debts. The death of even one British soldier through lack of proper funding is a cause of national disgrace. Ministers responsible should be ashamed of themselves.

How Mr Brown can tell the Commons that recent losses had nothing to do with a lack of helicopters – and still sleep at night – is a mystery. The moral compass he was given at Kirkcaldy High School has gone with the spin.

Yesterday's report from the Defence Select Committee exploded the Prime Minister's self-justifying twaddle. Referring to the Army's capacity to protect troops while carrying out operations with current equipment, it concluded: "We are troubled by the forecast reduction in numbers of medium and heavy lift battlefield helicopters, which will make this worse."

Jack Welch, the legendary boss of General Electric, believed: "Insecure managers create complexity." This applies equally to political weaklings. Mr Brown would have us believe that the challenges defining our military presence in Afghanistan are devilishly difficult to understand. Actually, they could hardly be simpler. We must either pay up or pull out.

Illusion of "China's Attack on India Before 2012"

ByChen Xiaochen, Beijing,Published:July 17,2009

The 2000 km border between China and India has been a notable absence from press headlines in the years since then-Indian PM Vajpayee’s 2003 visit to Beijing. Tensions, however, have risen again as India announced last month a plan to deploy two additional army divisions and two air force squadrons of Su-30 Fighter Unit, some 60,000 soldiers in total, in a disputed border area in the southern part of Tibet, which India claims as its state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Adding fuel to the flames is an article by Bharat Verma, editor of Indian Defense Review, predicting that China will attack India before 2012, leaving only three years to Indian government for preparation.

According to Mr. Verma, “growing unrest in China” due in part to economic downturn will leave the Chinese government looking for something to “divert the attention of its own people from ‘unprecedented’ internal dissent, growing unemployment and financial problems.” China will also want to strike India before the latter becomes powerful, which is the reason for the 2012 “deadline.” India, with its growing affiliation with the West, is yet weak under China’s fire.

But a “China’s attack” is not going to happen, and one wonders at the basis for Mr. Verma’s thinking. First, although it is true that China’s macro-economy has taken a hit from the global financial crisis, the extent of the damage is under control. Recent statistics shows China’s economy grew 7.1% in the first half of 2009, while its foreign exchange reserve has exceeded $2 trillion. China’s stimulus plan has been effective and given people confidence. China will survive the global downturn as well or better than the rest of the world’s economies.

And even if China’s economy was really all that bad, would the government try to distract “unrest” by taking military actions against India? Mr Verma’s reasoning rests on a lack of documentation. Looking into the past 60 years, China has no record of launching a war to divert public attention from anything. Moreover, while Mr. Verma supposes the Chinese Communist Party has no cards to play other than “invading India,” the Party, widely experienced in dealing with domestic disputes, will hardly in only three years have run out of all options facing potential social instability. Moreover, even if Chinese leaders considered such an option, they would certainly be aware that an external war would severely jeopardize domestic affairs.

Other reasons the author mentions in the article are also vague. The Western powers would not take kindly to a Chinese conflict with India, leaving China rightfully reluctant to use force in any case other than extreme provocation. US forces well deployed in Afghanistan and Pakistan could check any China’s military action in South Asia. And then there is also the nuclear problem: there has never been a war between two nuclear equipped nations, and both sides would have to be extremely cautious in decision-making, giving more room for less violent solutions.

Further, it is important to realize there is no reason for China to launch a war, against India in particular. Economic development, rather than military achievement, has long been the consensus of value among China’s core leaders and citizens. Despite occasional calls to “Reoccupy South Tibet (occupied Chinese territory),” China’s decision-making is always cautious. It is not possible to see a Chinese “incursion” into India, even into Tawang, an Indian-occupied Buddhist holy land over which China argues a resolute sovereignty.

Last but not least, China’s strategy, even during the 1962 border war with India, has been mainly oriented towards the east, where Taiwan is its core interest, while the recent Xinjiang unrest highlights China’s growing anti-terrorist tasks in the northwest – both issues are more important than the southwest border. If China were to be involved in a war within the next three years, as unlikely as that seems, the adversary would hardly be India. The best option, the sole option, open for the Chinese government is to negotiate around the disputed territory.

However, there is one scenario where there is possibility for war: an aggressive Indian policy toward China, a “New Forward Policy,” may aggravate border disputes and push China to use force – despite China’s appeal, as far as possible, for peaceful solutions.

Consider the 1959-1962 conflict, the only recorded war between China and India in the long history of their civilizations. After some slight friction with China in 1959, the Indian army implemented aggressive action known as its Forward Policy. The Chinese Army made a limited but successful counterattack in 1962.

Now, it seems “back to the future”. Mr. Verma asserts another war will happen before 2012, a half century after the last, regrettable one. India has started to deploy more troops in the border area, similar to its Forward Policy 50 years ago. Is Mr. Verma’s China-bashing merely a justification for more troops deployed along the border? Will India’s “New Forward Policy”, as the old one did 50 years ago, trigger a “2012 war?”

The answers lie mainly on the Indian side. Given China’s relatively small military garrison in Tibet, Indian’s 60,000 additional soldiers may largely break the balance. If India is as “pacific” as Mr. Verma says, and is sincere in its border negotiation, China-India friendship will remain. After all, China shares a long and mostly friendly cultural exchange with India as well as other neighbors. Now China is seeking deeper cooperation, wider coordination, and better consensus with India, especially in the global recession, and peace is a precondition for doing so. China wants to say, “We are on the same side,” as the Indian Ambassador did in a recent interview in China. Thus, “China will attack India before 2012” is a provocative and inflammatory illusion.

(Chen Xiaochen serves as a journalist of editorial and comments in China Business News.)

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