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Veterans of a lesser state

September 16, 2009 at 9:50 pm , by admin

Last Sunday yet another batch of veterans returned their medals (some 5,000 of them) in an event that largely went unnoticed save for minor mentions in a few newspapers such as this item in the Times of India. In the humdrum of the hectically paced 60 hour workweeks with the economy is recession to boot, who has the time for a clutch of crusty old men who, in any case, have already done all that they could for the nation, and can be conveniently forgotten. Or placated with a few sops here and there.

The gesture comes as a final mark of disgust and despair after months of unsuccessfully trying to sensitize an apathetic government and a mal-intentioned bureaucracy about the justness of their case. They have been asking for ‘One Rank One Pension’, meaning that veterans who retired at a particular rank get equal pension, irrespective of the date of their retirement. This, incidentally, is what is happening for all other services by virtue of their rank / grade structures. In the case of the armed forces, however, different bands of pensions have been created with each successive Pay Commission. Through calculations and contortions that absolutely defy any logic, you have a situation where a Lt Gen who retired in 1995 getting less pension than a Colonel who retires today.

Just before the Lok Sabha elections, politicians of all hues and shapes started wooing the veterans casting greedy eyes on what they came to realize was a sizeable vote bank. Parity in pensions was promised by all, including the UPA which was elected back to power. The matter was referred to a select committee in vintage bureaucratic maneuvering, which came out with some more contorted mathematics, attempted to drive a wedge between the officers and others, and generally made a larger mess than existed. This done, the government has washed its hands with blatantly blase assertions that they have fulfilled their promise of OROP.

Contrast the attitude of the Indian government towards its veterans with the sentiments expressed by President Obama in this speech to veterans.

The entire speech is worth reading, for it not only brings out the difference alluded to here, but also in the entire paradigm in which national security and the military, and the responsibilities of the state towards the soldier, are viewed.

Here are a few excerpts relating to veterans in particular …..

To all those who have served America — our forces, your families, our veterans — you have done your duty. You have fulfilled your responsibilities. And now a grateful nation must fulfill ours. And that is what I want to talk about today…..

Whether you’ve left the service in 2009 or 1949, we will fulfill our responsibility to deliver the benefits and care that you earned. And that’s why I’ve pledged to build nothing less than a 21st-century VA…..

We’re dramatically increasing funding for veterans health care. This includes hundreds of millions of dollars to serve veterans in rural areas, as well as the unique needs of our growing number of women veterans. We’re restoring access to VA health care for a half-million veterans who lost their eligibility in recent years….

And since there’s been so much misinformation out there about health insurance reform, let me say this: One thing that reform won’t change is veterans’ health care. No one is going to take away your benefits — that is the plain and simple truth. (Applause.) We’re expanding access to your health care, not reducing it. (Applause.)…..I’ve also directed Secretary Shinseki to focus on a top priority — reducing homelessness among veterans…..And we’re keeping our promise to fulfill another top priority at the VA — cutting the red tape and inefficiencies that cause backlogs and delays in the claims process…..

We’re going to challenge each of our 57 regional VA offices to come up with the best ways of doing business, of harnessing the best information technologies, of cutting red tape and breaking through the bureaucracy. And then we’re going to fund the best ideas and put them into action, all with a simple mission: cut those backlogs, slash those wait times, deliver your benefits sooner….

Now, taken together, these investments represent a historic increase in our commitment to America’s veterans — a 15 percent increase over last year’s funding levels and the largest increase in the VA budget in more than 30 years. And over the next five years we’ll invest another $25 billion to make sure that our veterans are getting what they need. These are major investments, and these are difficult times. Fiscal discipline demands that we make hard decisions — sacrificing certain things we can’t afford. But let me be clear. America’s commitment to its veterans are not just lines on a budget. They are bonds that are sacred — a sacred trust we’re honor bound to uphold…..

And our nation says it can not afford the funds required to ensure the dignity of parity to its veterans.

US rings nuke alarm bells
Al-Qaida seeking nuclear secrets from Pakistan
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Al-Qaida is trying desperately to get its hands on nuclear secrets from Pakistan, according to a top US official.

US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, told a congressional reception, “Al-Qaida is still there in the region, ever dangerous and publicly asking people to attack the US and publicly asking nuclear engineers to give them nuclear secrets from Pakistan.”

This alarming accusation is being taken seriously in light of Pakistan’s history of leaking nuclear secrets and comes on the heels of similar claims made in a report to US lawmakers.

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report — “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues” — Al-Qaida has also sought assistance from the Khan network. Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said the United States ‘received fragmentary information from an intelligence service’ that in 1998 Osama bin Laden had ‘sent emissaries to establish contact’ with the network. Other Pakistani sources could also provide nuclear material to terrorist organisations. According to a 2005 report by the commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States regarding weapons of mass destruction, Al-Qaida ‘had established contact with Pakistani scientists who discussed development of nuclear devices that would require hard-to-obtain materials like uranium to create a nuclear explosion.’ Tenet explains that these scientists were affiliated with a different organisation than the Khan network. Congressional Research Service, a bipartisan independent research wing of the US Congress, prepares reports for lawmakers.

Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, was notorious for running a nuclear black market that proliferated nuclear technology to rogue nations. He was placed under house arrest in 2004 following a confession made to former President Pervez Musharraf that he had leaked nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. The Lahore High Court ruled last month that Khan should be released from his five-year house detention, but in a fresh order restricted his movements “for his own safety.”

The US, which has unsuccessfully sought access to Khan in order to learn the extent of his nuclear black market, continues to view him as ‘radioactive’.

US lawmakers in March introduced legislation aimed at cutting off military aid to Pakistan unless US officials could question Khan. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly also noted, “Our concerns over the potential for … proliferation activities by Dr Khan are well known to the Pakistani government. We believe that he remains a proliferation risk.” The CRS report noted that since the 2004 revelations of an extensive international nuclear proliferation network run by AQ Khan, as well as possible connections between Pakistani nuclear scientists and Al-Qaeda, Islamabad has made additional efforts to improve export controls and monitor nuclear personnel. “The main security challenges for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal are keeping the integrity of the command structure, ensuring physical security, and preventing illicit proliferation from insiders,” the report says.

Meanwhile, Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday that nations have become safer due to an accumulation of knowledge about Al-Qaeda and its affiliate groups. This data “enables us to be more aggressive in expanding that knowledge and stopping things before they happen,” he said, adding, “The ability to be more aggressive is founded upon the much larger and more sophisticated understanding of the adversary that we have gained across various administrations in recent years.”

Blair said Al-Qaida has an ‘avowed goal’ of conducting attacks on the United States in western Pakistan, where it is seeking safe haven with various Taliban groups. “These groups have more recently also said that they are in favour of attacks in the West. So it’s a shifting calculus, but it’s fundamentally based on the harm that they would do to the United States’ troops and allies,” he said.

At another event in Washington, India’s ambassador to the United States, Meera Shankar, said in light of recent claims by Musharraf that Pakistan diverted US military aid to beefing up its capabilities against India, Shankar said the US government should build safeguards into military assistance to Pakistan. “We do feel that in the security field, the assistance should be more tightly focused on building counterinsurgency capabilities rather than conventional defence equipment, which can be diverted for other purposes,” said Shankar.

Dalai Lama can visit Arunachal: Krishna

New Delhi, September 16
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna on Wednesday dismissed China’s objections to Dalai Lama’s proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh later this year, and said that the Tibetan leader is “free to go anywhere in India”.

“Arunachal Pradesh is a part of India and Dalai Lama is free to go anywhere in India,” Krishna told a news channel here. “The only question is that he is not expected to comment on political developments,” Krishna said.

Dalai Lama has sought the Indian government’s permission to visit Tawang, a monastery town in AP, which is claimed by China.

Tibet’s exiled leader plans to go there in November to inaugurate a hospital for which he had donated Rs.20 lakh.

China has voiced “strong concern” over the proposed visit saying it “further reveals the Dalai clique’s anti-China and separatist essence”.

“We firmly oppose Dalai visiting the so-called Arunachal Pradesh,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu. Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile headquartered in Indian town of Dharamsala, rubbished Beijing’s objections to the Dalai Lama’s visit.

“Arunachal and its Tawang region are an integral part of India. If Dalai Lama, who is staying here for the last 50 years, is visiting any part of the country why does this bother China?” he said.

“If he goes to Chinese territories it can raise objection, but in this case it has no business to interfere,” he added. The Tibetan-government-in exile is not recognised by any country in the world.

China’s objections to Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal comes amid reports of Chinese incursions into the Indian territory which have revived the spectre of the China threat.

India cited Chinese threat as its primary reason for going nuclear in 1998. Since then, the two countries have expanded their political and economic ties and are now trying to resolve the decades-long boundary dispute with negotiations. — IANS

India wakes up to Chinese threat
High-level meet to take up obsolete weaponry issue
Ashok Tuteja & Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 16
Better late than never! The government has finally woken up to the China threat and its incursions into the Indian territory. Even as National Security Adviser MK Narayanan holds a high-level meeting here tomorrow to take stock of the situation on the Indo-China border, the Indian armed forces claim to be handicapped due to paucity of the latest weaponry needed in the event of any skirmish.

Shockingly, as the country’s top most strategic planners finalise India’s response, the forces are saddled with weapons that are of 1970s and 1980s vintage. Hardly, the ones needed to ensure military domination.

The NSA’s meeting is likely to be attended by Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Home Secretary GK Pillai, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, services chiefs and top officials of intelligence agencies. At least Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor may not be able to make it since he is not in the capital, sources here said.

Narayanan is India’s point man for ties with China in his capacity as India’s special representative for talks on the lingering boundary dispute. The External Affairs ministry has sought to play down the latest incursions by China, saying there was a difference in perception between the two countries on the delineation of the line of actual control (LAC). The strategic establishment, however, is worried over the frequency with which these violations have been taking place.

Sources said the armed forces will plead in the meeting for taking urgent steps to replace the weapons. Take a look: One variety of the Air defence guns placed along the Sino-Indian border are of 1974 vintage and can fire only till 5000 feet. Another variety was inducted in the 1980s.

The surface-to-air missiles, considered a deadly weapon in the mountains, were bought in the 1980s while another purchase was made in 1990s. The major purchase of self propelled guns, though not deployed in high mountains, were carried out the last time in 1975 while another small quantity was purchased in 1995.

In the case of the big guns of the artillery, the last purchase was in 1985 when the Bofors was procured. Since then India has started the process a few times but did not finalise anything. The project to purchase the ultra light howitzer, that can be slung under a chopper and dropped anywhere in the high mountains, has been put in cold storage.

Meanwhile, amidst mounting tensions, the annual Indo-China military exercise between the two countries is not likely to be conducted this year. As per the agreed rotation policy, it was China’s turn to host it this year. However, no dates have been conveyed so far. Normally, by this time the dates are decided and all logistics are in place.

Ration Scam
Fresh probe ordered against Lt Gen
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 16
While setting aside the court martial proceedings against a Lieutenant General for alleged misappropriation in purchase of dry rations, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has directed the Army to resort to a fresh court of inquiry.

Directing the Army to permit Lt Gen SK Sahni, former Director-General Supplies and Transport at Army Headquarters, to produce and cross-examine witnesses that he wishes to do, the AFT in its order issued earlier this month ruled that the court of inquiry (COI) be completed within eight weeks.

Quashing earlier army orders in the case, the bench, comprising AFT Chairman Justice AK Mathur and Lt Gen ML Naidu (retd) also directed the petitioner to fully co-operate with the COI, failing which it would be open for the presiding officer to proceed ex-parte against him.

Sahni had been attached to Headquarters 11 Corps in September last year for disciplinary proceedings.

The GCM was ordered in November and he was to be tried on nine charges. Terming the proceedings against him as malicious and whimsical, he had moved the Delhi High Court, which quashed the earlier court of inquiry on grounds of procedural lapses.

The court, however, gave the Army liberty to proceed against but the proceedings of the said COI were not used. Thereafter the Army retorted to a different procedure (Rule 22) and proceeded against him.

The AFT observed that in spite of the HC order, the Army had framed charges under Rule 22 by changing the language but substratum of the matter remained the same, thereby violating the court mandate and prejudicing the petitioner.

Pointing out that by not complying Army Rule 180, which gives an accused the right to cross-examine witness in the COI, the petitioner was not given full opportunity under law, the AFT observed that resorting to Rule 22, instead of complying with Rule 180 as directed by the HC, was unwarranted and illegal.

After the impunged COI had, in 2006, blamed Sahni and several others for alleged irregularities in procurement of dry rations, the GOC-in-C, Western Command had ordered disciplinary action against the general and two brigadiers. The issue has since been embroiled in legal wrangling. Others had also moved the court.

Why border intrusions?
China wants to keep its options open
by G. Parthasarathy

ONE abiding feature of our relations with China is our propensity to swing from elation and ecstasy to despondency and despair. Shortly after the visit of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to India in April 2005, our media, China scholars and sections of our Mandarin-speaking mandarins proclaimed that the festering “boundary question” with China was all but resolved. The Manmohan Singh-Wen Jiabao Declaration asserted that India-China relations had acquired “global and strategic significance” and that the two countries would establish a “strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity”.

An agreement laying down “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles” for resolving the border issue said that while respecting the “Line of Actual Control”, India and China would reach a boundary settlement which shall “safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas”, while using “modern cartographic and surveying practices and joint surveys”. Our “scholars” and media ecstatically proclaimed that the reference to “settled populations” in border areas meant that China had given up its claims to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. They were in for a rude shock. Within a year China started publicly and aggressively asserting that the whole of Arunachal was a part of “South Tibet”.

While talks on resolving the border issue have continued regularly after the visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China in December 1988, the problem of Chinese intrusions into our territory arises from the fact that while the Line of Control is defined and demarcated by mutual agreement between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, the “Line of Actual Control” (LOAC), which both sides have pledged to determine and respect, along the China-India border, has never been demarcated. It was decided that the issue of demarcation would be addressed by India and China exchanging maps about the precise location of the LOAC and reconciling differences through negotiations. While maps were exchanged on the Central Sector (adjoining Uttarakhand) and India provided its maps on the LOAC in the western sector (Ladakh) to China in 2002, China refused to provide maps outlining its version of where the LOAC lies, either on the western sector (Ladakh) or the eastern sector (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh). In the face of this impasse, it was decided in 2003 that the two countries would seek a “political solution” to the border issue.

It is evident that despite having agreed in principle that there could not be any change in the status of populated areas in 2005, China is now insistent that it would expect territorial concessions in the populated eastern sector, if it is to accommodate Indian claims in Ladakh. Because of the importance of Tawang as a Buddhist Monastery town, where the sixth Dalai Lama was born, China seeks control of Tawang to secure a fig leaf of legitimacy for its rule in Tibet. India has flatly rejected Chinese claims to Tawang, with Mr Pranab Mukherjee asserting: “Any elected Government in India is not permitted by our Constitution to part with any part of our land that sends representatives to the Indian Parliament”.

Thus, as long as China remains insistent on its claims in Arunachal Pradesh, there can be no settlement of the border issue. India has also indicated that it intends to improve communications near and along its land borders with China, boost its military presence in Arunachal Pradesh and also strengthen its eastern air defences. The entire problem of border intrusions today arises from the fact that China wishes to keep its options open by not spelling out where, in its view, the LOAC lies, so that it can continue to intrude, at a time and place of its choosing, into populated areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh and undermine public confidence in our border areas, in New Delhi’s will and ability to defend our territorial integrity.

Apart from border issues, China has made every effort to undermine Indian security interests in recent years. Pakistan is being assisted by China in boosting its nuclear weapons capabilities by supply of plutonium reactors and reprocessing facilities. Chinese supplies of ballistic and cruise missiles to Pakistan continue, as does the supply of fighter aircraft and frigates. China assists Pakistan-sponsored terrorism by blocking moves in the UN Security Council for action against the Jamat-ud-Dawa and the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hafiz Mohammed Sayed.

While pledging aid for hydro-electric projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, China seeks to block assistance for economic development in Arunachal Pradesh in the Asian Development Bank, on the ground that its status is “disputed”. More ominously, there is now evidence that China is using areas controlled by its protégés in the Kachin State of Myanmar to arm and train our north-eastern insurgent groups in Manipur and elsewhere, in its Yunnan province. One sees similar actions by China to undermine India’s relations with Nepal. Despite this, our mandarins glibly talk of a “strategic and cooperative partnership” with China.

There are areas like climate change, the WTO talks and the development of a multi-polar world order, where India and China have shared interests. China’s actions along India’s land and maritime frontiers and its efforts to undermine India’s regional influence by its policies in countries like Pakistan and Nepal will, however, remain sources of differences. We landed ourselves in disaster in 1962 because we glossed over the realities and misled public opinion domestically and globally. Our mandarins in South Block will do well to remember this when misrepresenting and avoiding a focus on the realities of our relations with China. We should, however, avoid resorting to rhetoric that escalates tensions.

Our Ministry of Defence unfortunately delays action on the acquisition of crucial equipment like fighter aircraft and artillery. Actions speak louder than words. Rather that talking about how we propose to increase troop levels, or modernise our air defences along our borders with China, we should act to expeditiously strengthen defences and road communication networks along our borders. In the meantime, there should be a continuing dialogue and exchanges with China aimed at ensuring that incidents which escalate tensions do not occur along our borders.

We should remember that China still has festering disputes on its maritime boundaries with Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia and that China settles its border disputes only when a weakened neighbour succumbs to its pressures. In the meantime, China does not hesitate to assert its presence across disputed boundaries with militarily weaker neighbours the like Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. The Chinese respect national power and will respect India only if our economic and military strength warrants respect for us as a people and as a country.

‘Operation alert’ on China border

New Delhi, Sep 17, DHNS & Agencies:

In a move that could well be interpreted as strong posturing, the Indian Army has mobilised troops along stretches of the Sino-Indian border in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, defence officials said here on Wednesday.

The Army deployment, part of a larger exercise named “Operation Alert,” involves mobilising about “50 per cent of the troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)” to the forward posts. “The mobilisation would last nearly a month,” a senior Army officer said.

The troops mobilisation comes close on the heels of a high-profile war game launched by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Beijing had deployed close to 50,000 troops in its biggest cross-country tactical mobilisation exercise that sent alarm bells ringing in New Delhi as it was seen as a Chinese effort to improve their ability to deploy troops in Tibet whenever reinforcements were required.

The Army movement in the frontier regions, though not being termed a counter-mobilisation by the Ministry of Defence, is in the wake of a series of border incidents involving periodic incursions by the PLA and at least one instance of Indian airspace violation in June this year.

Chinese ‘intrusions’

In the past months, there have been several reports of Chinese troops intruding into the Indian territory in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir creating anxiety about Beijing’s aggressive designs.

“Operation Alert is an annual exercise conducted during this time of the year to undertake maintenance of the forward posts,” another Indian Army official said.

The Indian government has, however, sought to play down the incursions, saying these were routine incidents that occur due to differences in perception between the two countries about the LAC that came into being after the 1962 Sino-Indian war. The Indian Army has 11 mountain divisions with each division comprising around 16,000 troops and are primarily meant for deployment on the Sino-Indian border.

In June this year, the Indian Air Force inducted four Sukhoi fighter aircraft in Tezpur in upper Assam, which will soon be the base for a full squadron of the IAF’s frontline combat jets.

The Army is not allowed to patrol the border with China which is done by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) as per the guidelines of the China Study Group which includes the foreign secretary and vice-chief of the Army staff who formulate the patrolling policy towards China.

The China Study Group meets in the Military Operations Directorate of the Army Headquarters in South Block.

Govt pulled up for plight of PoWs in Pakistan


ACT, REACT: Court was hearing a PIL filed for release of Anand Patri who has been in a Pakistan jail since 1965.

New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Wednesday took a serious view of the fact that a prisoner of war (POW) of unsound mind has been languishing in a Pakistani jail since 1965 and asked the Central Government what steps were being taken to ensure the release of the man and other POWs.

A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice Manmohan asked the home ministry to file a detailed reply, as to what steps it has taken for the release of the prisoners, within four weeks and slated the matter for October 21, the next date of hearing.

"It's pathetic. A person who has lost his memory and has become of unsound mind, is languishing in jail for the last 44 years," the bench said.

The court was hearing a public interest petition seeking a direction to the government to take steps for the release of Anand Patri who has been in a Pakistan jail since 1965.

The petitioner contended before the court that the government is not taking keen interest to take care about the life and liberty of Patri and also asked for compensation for his legal heirs.

"It is the duty of our government to ensure their welfare, to get them back from Pakistan jail. As per records, it is clearly established that the centre has failed to perform its duty and is not vigilant," the petitioner contended.

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