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Thursday, 30 July 2009

From Today's Papers - 30 Jul 09






Antony says no contract with Russia on Gorshkov
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 29
Several controversies and five years after India announced that a Russian sea-based aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, will be added to the Naval fleet, Defence Minister AK Antony today said: “We have not signed any contract (with the Russians) only negotiations are going on.”

A final decision on the contract will be taken after we verify everything including the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. Nothing has been decided the minister said as he attempted to put a lid on the controversy which started last week when the CAG “ripped through” the ministry of defence for paying some Rs 10,000 crore more than what was due for the aircraft carrier.

Antony’s statement was made to a supplementary question raised by T Shiva of Tamil Nadu in which he also admitted, “I agree Russia has asked for a substantially huge amount.” The CAG report had said that "second-hand" carrier will be 60 per cent costlier than a new one and there is the risk of further delay in its delivery.

In his reply Antony put forward something which may have missed the audit books of the CAG: “Very few countries manufacture such carriers and as per the international relations prevailing in 2004, no country other than Russia was ready to give us a warship of this kind.” Russia agreed to gift the carrier to us. (India had to pay for the re-fit and the fighter jets that would be on the deck of the warship) Russia failed to calculate the cost of the re-fit.

In a way Antony may be right the NATO countries have the capability to make such warships and they were not keen to arm India.





‘No one rank, one pension for officers’
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 29
There would be no one rank-one pension (OROP) scheme for retired commissioned officers of the armed forces. Nor would there be any further improvement in the pension of officers after some recent modifications.

The recommendations of the high-level committee led by the cabinet secretary that looked into the disparities in pension of ex-servicemen that have been forwarded to and accepted by the government, do not include OROP for officers, highly placed Defence ministry sources revealed.

This revelation is contradictory to Defence Minister AK Anthony’s recent statement reported in certain sections of the media that the recommendation of OROP for officers, too, had been accepted.

Modifications carried out in pension regulations post Sixth Pay Commission (SPC) implementation have brought in parity in the pension of personnel below officer rank (PBOR), but officers have been left out. The government letter notifying the recommendations of the committee is expected to be issued shortly.

Pensions of pre-2006 PBOR will now be computed by taking into account the top end of Fifth Pay Commission scales and notionally configuring it within the SPC pay bands instead of basing the same on the minimum of the new scales.

This implies that a jawan who retired before 2006 and was getting a basic pension of Rs 3,700 would now be granted a basic pension of approximately Rs 5,500.

Upgrading the pensions of pre-06 lieutenant generals to Rs 36,500 per month is also among the accepted recommendations.





Sikh soldiers to guard Queen Elizabeth for first time

Press Trust of India, Wednesday July 29, 2009, London


Two Sikh British soldiers have for the first time earned the honour of guarding Queen Elizabeth II.


Twenty six-year-old Signaler Simranjit Singh and Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh, 28, have become the first two Sikhs to join the fleet of royal guards at the Buckingham Palace.


Signaler Singh made history to become the first personnel to wear turban on public duties guarding the 83-year-old monarch and protecting the Crown Jewels. He was soon joined by Lance Corporal Singh.


Signaler Simranjit Singh from Coventry enthusiastically took on the duty in May this year.


He serves with 21st Signal Regiment based in Chippenham, Wiltshire, while Lance Corporal serves with 3rd Regiment Army Air Corps based at Wattisham, Suffolk.





India contributing more than 8,000 troops to UN

Press Trust of India / New Delhi July 29, 2009, 13:30 IST


India has contributed 8,607 troops, police and military observers to nine UN Peacekeeping operations this year and has suffered 131 casualties, government today said. 


Giving the information in the Lok Sabha in response to a written question, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said India is the third largest such contributor. 


He said upto 30 June 2009, India suffered 131 casualties in the UN Peacekeeping operations. 


The minister said in accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 52/177 dated 20 January, 1998, the United Nations pays compensation in case of death and disability during peacekeeping operations.





China for hotline between its Premier & Indian PM

Press Trust of India / New Delhi July 29, 2009, 12:25 IST


Government today said that China has proposed that there should be a hotline between the Chinese Premier and the the Prime Minister of India to maintain regular contacts at the highest level.


"The Chinese side has proposed that there should be a hotline between the Chinese Premier and the PM of India to maintain regular contacts at the highest level," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the Lok Sabha.


In a written reply, he said the two countries are in the process of discussing the technical and other modalities.


A hotline between India and Russia is currently operational, Krishna informed.






Pakistan launches psywar over Baluchistan

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, with the help of compliant sections of Pakistan's journalist community, has embarked on a psychological warfare on the issue of the use of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba [ Images ]  by the ISI against India and the demand of the Government of India that it act against the LeT for its involvement in the Mumbai [ Images ] terrorist attacks of 26/11.


The message of the campaign is clear: 'If you want us to act against the LeT, help us in acting against the Baluchistan Liberation Army.'


The BLA has been active in Baluchistan since 2005 and has badly damaged the Punjab [ Images ]i economy by repeatedly disrupting the supply of Sui Gas from the production wells in Baluchistan to industrial and domestic consumers in Pakistan's Punjab. The successful disruption of gas supply to industrial consumers in Punjab and power stations in the rest of Pakistan is partly behind the problems faced by the Pakistani economy and the serious disruptions in power supply in different parts of Pakistan.


Even if the US gives Pakistan billions of dollars in economic assistance, Pakistan's economy will not improve so long as Baluchistan continues to burn due to the grievances of the Baluchis against the Punjabis. The economic difficulties faced by the people due to erratic power supply, which is affecting the daily lives of millions of Pakistanis and damaging agricultural operations, are creating new pockets of alienation in the Seraiki areas of southern Punjab and Sindh.


The Pakistani Army, despite the use of the most ruthless methods of suppression and despite the misuse against the Baluchis of equipment such as helicopter gunships given by the US for use against Al Qaeda [ Images ] and the Taliban [ Images ], has not been able to enforce the Pakistan government's writ in the Baluch majority areas of the province. So long as the Pakistan Army [ Images ] does not succeed in Baluchistan, the much-hyped Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline will remain a pipedream.


So too the much-hyped dream of Gwadar becoming the preferred gateway for the external trade of Central Asian Republics and Xinjiang province of China. More than two years after it was inaugurated by the then president Pervez Musharraf [ Images ], the Chinese-constructed Gwadar port has failed to attract the CARs. The Chinese have  their own problems in the Xinjiang province where the Muslims are in a state of revolt against Han domination in an area which is looked upon by pan-Islamic forces such as Al Qaeda as historically belonging to the Muslim Umma. At a time when the Kashgar area of Xinjiang is threatening to become the North Waziristan of the Central Asian region, it is not surprising that the Chinese are going slow on the various proposals, which had originated from Pakistan, for the further development of Gwadar.


Pakistani leaders are fond of describing Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ] as the jugular vein of Pakistan, using an expression originally coined by Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Pakistan cannot emerge as an industrial power if Baluchistan, the most mineral rich of the Pakistani provinces, remains in a state of revolt. The Baluch revolt has made the Pakistani leaders realise that Baluchistan is Pakistan's real jugular vein. Pakistan's economy will be perpetually in a state of near collapse if there is no stability in Baluchistan.


The federal government -- whether ruled by the military or political leaders -- are not prepared to loosen control of the Punjabi business class over the mineral wealth of Baluchistan. The Baluch demand for independence is not only due to political and ethnic reasons. It is also due to economic reasons. The rest of Pakistan -- particularly Punjab -- used to flourish with the help of the gas and other mineral resources of Baluchistan, with the Baluchs languishing in poverty. The Baluch nationalists have decided -- thus far and no further. For the last three years, they have seen to it that their mineral wealth no longer goes to Punjab and other provinces.


Just as China's problems in Xinjiang are due to the Han colonisation of the province, Pakistan's problems in Baluchistan are due to the Punjabi colonisation of the province. The Baluch freedom struggle is the outcome of the Punjabi colonisation. India has had nothing to do with it.


If India had wanted to take advantage of the widespread alienation among the Baluchs against the Punjabi colonisers, it could have done so in 1971 after crushing the Pakistani Army in the then East Pakistan. Indira Gandhi [ Images ] could have easily ordered the Indian Navy to crush the Pakistan Navy and to move to the Baluch coast and help the Baluch freedom-fighters, who had risen in revolt. She did not do so because she felt that the Baluch problem was Pakistan's internal affair and that it was not in India's interest to further weaken Pakistan.


Despite considerable sympathy and friendly feelings for the problems of the Sindhis, Mohajirs, Baluchis and Pashtuns, far-sighted Indian leaders, who succeeded Indira Gandhi as prime minister, refrained from taking advantage of Pakistan's internal problems in retaliation for its use of terrorism against India. The late G M Syed, father of the Sindhu Desh movement, openly visited India when Rajiv Gandhi [ Images ] was the prime minister. Similarly, many Pashtun, Baluch and Seraiki leaders had openly visited India on many occasions to interact with Congress leaders. The message conveyed to them was very clear: They should sort out their problems with the Government of Pakistan. India would have no role in it. 


Despite this, since 2005, Pakistan has been alleging Indian interference in Baluchistan and is now talking of an alleged Indian role in the Pashtun belt. It is being helped in this exercise by some US non-governmental analysts not well disposed towards India.


Pakistan has now stepped up this campaign for two reasons: Firstly, its economy is steadily worsening as a result of the continuing freedom struggle in Baluchistan. Secondly, its intelligence agencies find in this psywar a pretext for not acting against the LeT.


India should not fall into this trap. It should follow a two-pronged approach. Firstly, it should make it clear that Baluchistan is Pakistan's internal affair and that it has nothing to do with terrorism. Hence, it could not figure in Indo-Pakistan discussions on terrorism. Secondly, Pakistan's attempts to divert the attention of the international community away from the LeT's activities will not be allowed to succeed.


The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi [ Images ] and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:






China opens up a little

The scene looked like Beijing’s version of Mumbai’s Nariman House siege last November. Chinese counter-terrorism commandoes stormed a three-storey building while explosions covered the white structure in smoke. After a brief battle the ‘terrorists’ were silenced.


The battle was staged this week for foreign journalists invited inside barracks of a division of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA, which has grown from its origins as a peasant army in 1927 to becoming a sophisticated 2.3 million-strong military force, is the world's biggest army.


The PLA, feared because of its secrecy and double-digit budget, is now experimenting with an open image.


On the PLA’s 82nd anniversary on August 1, the defence ministry will launch its first official website — Chinese analysts call it a ‘leap forward’.


“We will speed up our opening process,’’ senior colonel Leng Jiesong of the Third Guard Division told the media.


“China is more open to the outside world and so is the PLA.’’


On the October 1, 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, the PLA will march down Beijing’s main east-west avenue in its first military parade since 1999.


The government-run Chinese media has said that the parade will be the biggest-ever and include ‘new weapons.’


But as the US, India, Japan and self-ruled Taiwan worry about China’s military modernisation and plans to build an aircraft carrier, the PLA’s image-makeover is focussed on counter-terror operations.


The rare media visit included a stroll through spartan dormitories with bunk beds, a dining-hall where dumplings were placed beside cupcakes and front-row seats as soldiers blasted targets on a mountainside.






Comment: Relic Of The Past

30 July 2009, 12:00am IST


After all the heated debate, defence minister A K Antony's decision comes as a disappointment. The parliamentary standing committee on defence's

recommendation to scrap the orderly or sahayak system was one he should have endorsed. The sop that he has offered instead that the army's top brass will ensure that the sahayak system is not abused means little. Strict regulations and guidelines have been in place concerning sahayaks since 1947. In the face of their obvious ineffectuality, assurances that they will now be strictly observed strain credulity. He and all the army personnel who have argued for the retention of the system miss the point. The crux of the matter is not whether the guidelines regulating the sahayak system are observed or not. It is whether the system has any place in a modern army.


That a system born out of a feudal mindset and the class distinctions prevailing in the British military of an earlier era should be perpetuated for more than six decades in the army of the largest democracy in the world defies understanding. The British army itself abolished the system after World War II. So did every other military with similar systems. The last one to do so was Pakistan in 2004. Other branches of the Indian armed forces have followed suit as well, switching over to a system of contracted civilian personnel.


In the face of all this, the army's reasons for retaining the system are less than compelling. If, as Antony contends, the sahayak also serves an important operational role in the field, let jawans be used in such situations. It does not explain the need to carry the practice over to peace stations. Neither does the argument of officers posted in inhospitable or dangerous terrain needing assistance with personal tasks to free them to focus on their duties hold much water. Is the Indian army the only one in the world to have personnel in conflict zones?


Army officials do have a point when they argue that misuse of personnel is as rampant in civilian services; it is something that must be looked into as well. But it does not condone inaction on their part. Psychologists have found that humiliation by superiors is among the catalysts for suicides in the army. At a time when it is facing a manpower shortage, the last thing the army can afford is a disintegration of morale. The sahayak system is an anachronism in an army that prides itself on its egalitarian, professional nature. Its time is up.






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