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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

From Today's Papers - 02 Dec 09

Zero Tolerance for Corruption in the Forces
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
By admin

Apparently the last bastion of probity in this country is under siege - from within. Cases and allegations of corruption and other irregularities against the seniormost ranks of the army have been cropping up with alarming regularity of late. In the last two years or so, one has heard of a serving DGST facing court martial, a Maj Gen being punished for sexual harassment and CBI raids against another Maj Gen who was slated to take over as the DGOS. And now the latest scandal to hit the headlines, taking the cake along with the bakery, involves no lesser people than the Military Secretary and a Corps Commander/ Deputy Chief designate.

A wide range of pertinent issues pop up when discussing this highly regrettable state of affairs. It will be my endeavour to muse on them as comprehensively and logically as possible.

The very first issue is - why is it so surprising or seemingly unacceptable that corruption is creeping into the forces as well.  (Before I go on, a short explanation - while the cases all pertain to the army and the other two services are apparently still ‘clean’, one uses the collective term forces in all fairness, political correctness and the much vaunted spirit of ‘jointmanship’. After all, we also talk about the forces as a whole when talking about the achievements, so the ignominy could also do with some sharing.) There is a school of thought that holds that with corruption having made such deep inroads elsewhere in the country, how could the armed forces remain unaffected? After all, we come from the same stock, live in the same society and are constantly exposed to our cousins in the civil services or elsewhere with their ‘upar ki kamai’. And then, we are no longer insulated from the rest of the society as our predecessors during the Raj and till a long time thereafter were. So it is only natural that the bug of dishonesty travels to the uniformed fraternity. Since integrity may also be lack of opportunity, and opportunity in the services is normally restricted to the upper echelons, that’s where the bug ultimately strikes.

But, be that as it may, corruption in the armed forces must not be explained away so easily as it has ramifications above and beyond those that it has in any other walk of life. Some of these are obvious, others not so.

The very first and obvious issue is the criticality of retaining the fighting edge of armed forces, unencumbered by impediments such as corruption, for the very survival of the nation. While each of the arm or instrument of state compromised by corruption damages some aspect of national well-being, a blunted sword arm could jeopardize its very survival.

And there is no doubt that the blunting effect of corruption will be many times over in the forces than in any other organisation. That is because the edifice of the armed forces is built on the foundations of honour, ‘izzat’, mutual trust and respect and similar values more than anything else. While the babu and the policeman is dealing with the common public as its ‘customer’ or ‘client’, the military commander’s arena is the men he commands. It is obviously not the pay and allowances (sixth pay commission notwithstanding) that compel a soldier to summit icy slopes against enemy fire and plant the standard atop a conquered peak. Its these values, and the unshakable faith in his commanders up the chain. Imagine if the same soldier has reason to believe that the people involved in planning and supervising the operation are acting on motives that are anything but pure, would he still be willing to risk his life and limb to carry out their orders in letter and spirit? One doesn’t think so.

Another facet which causes corruption to be of a greater cause of concern in the armed forces than elsewhere is the complexion of the system for promotions therein. The steep pyramid in the forces is well known. For every officer who is promoted, 2 to 5 (depending on the level  /rank) are passed over. Hence the intense competitive environment for career progression is an established reality. The appraisal system is also notoriously subjective, since absence of tangible deliverables results in assessments often being on the basis of personal impressions and opinions of the assessors. Therefore, a proliferation of less than honest individuals at higher echelons will unleash a vicious circle wherein such people will prefer juniors with similar inclinations over more upright ones. This would lead to self perpetuating immorality - a warped process of natural selection such as Darwin must never have imagined. Such an phenomenon will cause  a geometric progression of corruption accelerating the process of the blunting to a breakneck speed on one hand while causing despondency and resentment in the silent majority of upright individuals left behind in the rat race for promotions.

These factors, combined with the immense trust and affection that the ordinary people repose in the armed forces vis a vis any other institution, which must never be compromised, are reasons enough to view the phenomenon of corruption therein very very seriously.

A quick addendum prior to conclusion. There is a section of opinion that most of the cases of alleged corruption are fabricated or greatly exaggerated by the media. But the reasons for such fabrication itself is a matter of introspection. As was probably the case in a particular Corps where all the Maj Gens vying for the single vacancy of  Lt Gen were playing the proverbial crabs, pulling each other down through allegations and counter allegations of questionable dealings made anonymously or through proxy . Such antics underscore the intense competition amongst too many people fighting for elusive rewards of higher ranks using all possible means to gain an edge  over their comrades at arms, and the damaging impact on the overall image and effectiveness of the armed forces.

There is therefore a case for ‘zero tolerance‘ of corruption and any other forms of irregularities within the armed forces in general and the senior officers in particular. How would such a policy be enforced - well, that’s a complete topic in itself, and suggestions for the same are invited in the form of comments to this post.

Army chief defensive over land scam tainted aide
2 Dec 2009, 1414 hrs IST, AGENCIES
The Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor on Wednesday (November 2) went on the defensive on the Sukhna land scam asking the media not to prejudge senior army officers. Interacting with the media here, General Kapoor said: "Its premature to jump into any conclusions just yet, so don't pass any judgement on senior army officers."

General Kapoor's statement came a day after the Eastern Command urged the media to maintain restraint. "The Court of Inquiry is still going and the report is awaited. My action will be determined by the CoI report," General Kapoor added.

"We need to be just and fair for the image of the army," he said.

On Tuesday, Army's Eastern Command had appealed to the media to exercise restraint in reporting on the Sukna Land issue, involving some officers.

In a statement, the Eastern Army Command said: "Certain media reports have appeared regarding ongoing Court of Inquiry in Sukhna Land issue of Eastern Command. Since the Court of Inquiry is still in progress and not finalized, therefore speculative comments/interferences at this stage about the guilt of an individual is not appropriate."

The statement further went on to say; "It should also be understood that it amounts to character assassination of senior army officers. Premature trials and verdicts by the responsible media should be avoided."

The statement by the Eastern Army Command came days after a court of inquiry reportedly revealed that it found clinching proof against four serving Generals in connection with the Sukna land scam.

Earlier, a section of the media reported that the CoI has indicted Military Secretary Lt. Gen. Avadesh Prakash and Deputy Army Chief-designate Lt Gen P K Rath for their role in issuing a no objection certificate to a private establishment that falsely claimed to be establishing an affiliate of the famous Ajmer-based Mayo College on land adjacent to the Sukhna military station in Darjeeling.

Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash is one of the top eight Principal Staff Officers at the Army headquarters acting as advisors to Army chief General Deepak Kapoor. As Military Secretary, is responsible for the promotion and postings of officers.

Lt-Gen P K Rath was commander of the crucial 33 Corps based in Darjeeling district of West Bengal, under which the Sukna military station comes, when the alleged land scam took place.

The defence ministry has cancelled the appointment of Lt. Gen. Rath as the new Deputy Army Chief (Information Systems and Training).

Lt Gen Rath's, former deputy, Lt. Gen. Ramesh Halgali is currently commanding the 11 Corps at Jalandhar. The Commission of Inquiry has also apparently indicted some other officers in the 'chain in command'.

Sources at the Army headquarters have revealed that evidence is still being collected to try some senior officers for gross improprieties and irregularities through a court-martial.

Defence minister A K Antony has warned the Army that such cases "not only damage the Indian Army's image" but also "adversely affect the ability of senior officers to measure up to the expectations of the men they lead."

4 jawans killed in battery blast
Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, December 1
Four Army personnel of the Motor Transport Section of 20 SATA battalion were killed when the battery they were recharging exploded in the Jalandhar Cantonment area around 8.30 p.m. this night. The workshop also caught fire.

Though Army authorities did not confirm the names, sources said the dead were Naik Lalit Kumar, Lance Naik J Topo, Havildar TS Bhaskar and driver JS Rai. Authorities of 11 Corps swung into action and cordoned off the area. Fire tenders were called to extinguish the blaze and a bomb disposal squad was pressed into service to rule out sabotage angle, Army PRO Naresh Vij said, adding a probe had been ordered. Jalandhar SSP RK Jaiswal ruled out sabotage but the police has sounded an alert in the district.

Pakistan's nuclear arms under threat: Obama
NDTV Correspondent and Agencies, Wednesday December 2, 2009, Washington

President Obama has spelt out America's new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan after holding a series of review meetings to discuss threadbare the situation in the region.

Announcing a surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, Obama said the stakes are even higher in Pakistan as its nuclear weapons are constantly in danger of falling into the hands of terror groups like the al-Qaeda.

Speaking at New York's Military Academy, President Obama said the cancer of terrorism has spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan and the entire region is now the epicentre of terror.

He also said that Headley and Rana, the two terror suspects who are in FBI custody, were sent from this region to commit new acts of terror.

US President Barack Obama said that the cancer of violent extremism has taken roots in the border region of Pakistan and argued the need for the US and its allies to successfully treat it.

"We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border," Obama said at the West Point Military Academy in New York.

"In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who have argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence," he said.

But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism. "Public opinion has turned."

"The Pakistani Army has waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan. And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy," he argued.

Obama said the US was committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust.

We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear," Obama said.

"America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan's democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced
by the fighting.

"And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed," he said.

An effective partnership with Pakistan, Obama said is one of the three core strategies of his administration along with a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action. He said defeated by the US-led international forces in
Afghanistan, the Al Qaeda leaders have established a safe haven in Pakistan.

"After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda's leadership established a safe-haven there," Obama said.

Al-Qaeda have established a safe haven in Pakistan

Defeated by the US-led international forces in Afghanistan, the al-Qaeda leaders have
established a safe haven in Pakistan, President Barack Obama has said.

"After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda's leadership established a safe-haven there," Obama said in his Afghan-policy speech at the West
Point Military Academy in New York.

Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it has been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient Security Forces, he said.

"Over the last several years, Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to take control over swaths of Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism against the Pakistani people," the US President said.

Shortly after taking office, Obama said he approved a long-standing request for more troops.

"After consultations with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognising the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan, and the extremist safe-havens in Pakistan.

"I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian effort," Obama said, adding since then, the US has made progress on some important objectives.

"High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we have stepped up the pressure on al Qaeda world-wide," he said.

"In Pakistan, that nation's Army has gone on its largest offensive in years. In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and it was marred by fraud that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan's laws and
Constitution," he said.

After 9/11, Obama said, within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. "The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope," he said.

Obama promises continued assistance to Pakistan

 US President Barack Obama has promised continued assistance to Pakistan in its fight against violent extremism, the White House said.

The message was conveyed by Obama directly to his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, while his briefing about his new Af-Pak policy last morning over telephone.

"The two Presidents agreed that the close partnership between Pakistan and the United States is vital to success, and President Obama promised to continue to assist Pakistan in its efforts against extremists," the White House said in a statement.

"The President also recognised the profound sacrifices Pakistan has made in its efforts to combat extremists in its northwest and emphasised that our goal is to defeat al-Qaida and to ensure stability in the region," the White House said.

The two leaders discussed the President's decision on the way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the statement said. (With PTI inputs)

IAF grounds all Sukhoi jets after Jaisalmer crash
Press Trust of India / New Delhi December 02, 2009, 11:56 IST

Two days after a Sukhoi fighter jet crashed, the second this year, the Indian Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of 100 SU-30 aircraft. 

"Following the crash at Jaisalmer in Rajasthan on Monday, the IAF has stopped flying all its Sukhoi planes and is conducting precautionary checks on each of the aircraft," an IAF official said here today.  

A Sukhoi fighter jet had crashed during a routine training sortie south-west of Pokharan firing ranges. The two pilots, Wing Commander Srivastava and Flight Lieutenant Arora had bailed out to safety. 

The previous Sukhoi crash took place on April 30 this year near Jaisalmer, killing Wing Commander P S Narah and leaving Wing Commander S V Munje injured. 

The two Sukhoi crashes this year are among the 13 air crashes the IAF suffered in the last 11 months.

The Sukhoi mishaps have come as a setback to the 12 year safety record IAF had achieved with the aircraft which was inducted into the force in 1996. 

IAF currently has five operational Sukhoi squadrons. It aims to have at least 280 Sukhoi air superiority fighters in its fleet.

Tainted by corruption, Army credibility nosedives
CORRUPTION WITHIN ARMY: Panelists discuss if Indian Army is losing its credibility in the eyes of civilians.

After two serving generals were indicted in a land scam in Darjeeling on Monday, in Chandigarh the government has scrapped a deal cleared by Punjab Governor, former army chief General Rodrigues. A decision from the court of inquiry in the Darjeeling case is still pending, but the military embarrassment is complete and the Army's top is brass is desperately trying to save face.

The question that was being asked on CNN-IBN's Talking Point was: Is the Indian Army tainted by corruption? Former Army PRO, Colonel Anil Bhatt; Major General (Retd) Satbir Singh; and senior journalist Kanwar Sandhu joined CNN-IBN to try and answer the question.

CNN-IBN: It seems as if the Darjeeling fraud has two of the top eight generals of the Army under the scanner. The stain of corruption seems to be going higher and higher.

Satbir Singh: I think we are blowing this issue out of proportion. If you look at the whole scene of the country, there are better issues which need to be discussed. As far as the Indian Army is concerned, they are also a part of the same society, the same nation and they cannot be not affected.

CNN-IBN: Are you suggesting that it is not a major issue if top generals of the Army are involved in corruption and that the Army only mirrors society? We thought that the Army was supposed to be distinct, was supposed to be corruption free.

Satbir Singh: No, I wish to tell you that these are isolated incidents and that too the charges have not been proved at all. There is a court of enquiry on. I have known the two officers (who have been named in the scam) during my service and they are excellent officials. If they have used their discretion in some issue, it should be properly investigated and there should be no finger pointing as we are all doing now. Let these generals deliver when there is war. That is all.

CNN-IBN: The two men you are defending have been indicted in a preliminary enquiry, but the Minister of State of Defence Pallam Raju said on Tuesday that fitting action will be taken against those who have been found guilty. It is Rs 269 crore scandal and shockingly takes one right to the top of the Army. Shouldn't the Army be reacting at this time?

Anil Bhatt: We have to take into account the fact that the court of enquiry is still in progress.

CNN-IBN: But the preliminary findings are in.

Anil Bhatt: I don't know whether the preliminary findings have been leaked, leaked with a purpose or not, I cannot comment on that. However, the fact remains that there hasn't been any sale, there hasn't been any purchase. The land in question is two tea estates astride the Sukna 33 headquarters. This core headquarters moved there for the 1962 operations. I believe the land in question is a barren stretch - one of the tea estates at least.

CNN-IBN: You are saying that there is still no proof of corruption and whatever has been done is discretionary.

Anil Bhatt: There is no proof of corruption.

CNN-IBN: But there have been reports which are suggesting that the papers were fraudulent, were forged. These reports are coming in from the Army top brass. As you say the enquiry is still on. We would like to bring in Kanwar Sandhu. Mr Sandhu do you feel that the media is jumping the gun in cases like these? Are we guilty perhaps of hanging the Army before the accused are actually court martialed?

Kanwar Sandhu: I don't agree with either Major General Satbir Singh or with Anil Bhatt. The very fact that a court of enquiry has been ordered against these two senior officers is a very serious matter. One of the officers under a cloud of suspicion happens to be the Military Secretary, responsible for all appointments and postings in the Army. The second person is a Core Commander and the Core is the highest fighting formation of the Indian Army. So it's a very serious matter and the very fact that a court of enquiry has been ordered is proof that some wrong-doing has taken place, though officially the enquiry is not yet out.

CNN-IBN: Anil Bhatt please respond to this.

Anil Bhatt: An enquiry must be ordered whenever there is any doubt. If the enquiry comes out with anything solid, you can be sure that the Army is not going to spare these people.

CNN-IBN: There is a general feeling that when you are in a middle or lower rank, then you have to face the heat but if you are at the top, you may not.

Anil Bhatt: Do you recall the general who got caught in the rum scam? He faced the heat. Then there was A K Lal who was indicted for something, he lost his job. If anything is proved against them, they will lose their jobs. That is the least.

CNN-IBN: Major General Satbir Singh respond to this.

Satbir Singh: There are too many checks and balances within audit and compliance within the Indian Defence Services. It is the Army which has ordered the court of enquiry, so therefore, if they find something let me tell you that action will be taken. Remember quick action was taken in the Tehelka case. Defence Services take immediate note of these things and immediate action is taken. This is not to say that we are defending the two officers.

CNN-IBN: Major General Singh mentioned the Tehelka case. We have seen cases when the Army moves really quickly against officers who are found to be guilty, but civilian courts don't move so quickly. Do you agree with that Mr Sandhu?

Kanwar Sandhu: Yes, when one looks at the environment in which the Armed Forces function, the Army's credibility is still very high. But if you look at the Army's credibility today versus what it was say four decades ago, I think the credibility has definitely nose-dived and particularly in the appointment of senior officers there is need for much greater scrutiny.

CNN-IBN: Anil Bhatt respond to that, because in this case, prima facie there is some kind of wrong-doing. Prima Facie it seems that many of the allegations seem to be true.

Anil Bhatt: Let the court of enquiry be over and you can be sure if there is anyone found guilty, they will be taken to task. There is accountability here. It is not like bureaucrats or politicians who can do far worse and get away with it.

CNN-IBN: Point taken about accountability but the point that Kanwar Sandhu was making was about credibility. Major General Satbir Singh, there have been cases of pilfering of ration, liquor being misused, now a land scam. Has the credibility of the Indian Army in the eyes of the citizens taken a knock?

Satbir Singh: Have you taken a look at so many other scams happening in the country today?

CNN-IBN: Sir the Army was supposed to be different. The respect for the Army came because it was not supposed to be like any other institute.

Satbir Singh: So that is why we need to take note of this at the national level - why is there a shortage of soldiers, why is the youth not coming to join the Armed Forces, why is the right material not coming to us, why are veterans protesting, why has one rank one pension not been granted? The nation is just sleeping over these issues. You know the academies of the Armed Forces are empty. I just want to besiege the conscience of this nation that let us make our security the best.

CNN-IBN: Sir point taken that these cases cannot be generalised, but Colonel Bhatt, is there a credibility crisis or not? Tehelka happened, defence deals came under scrutiny and now you have got a land scam.

Anil Bhatt: On Tehelka, I would like to say that it was a very selective sting operation. But they did not dare to try the same kind of sting with the politicians or the bureaucrats. The other thing is that as a platoon commander, a troop leader, a battery commander one feels like the king. It's like nothing on earth. But the day the Armed Forces officer lands up in New Delhi and when he functions between bureaucrats and politicians who are his leaders, then they see things. The babus and the netas set these examples.

CNN-IBN: So you are saying blame the babus and the netas but do not blame the generals.

Satbir Singh: I see a conspiracy to try and belittle the Armed Forces here. This is not the right thing for the nation. Let us look after these officers, give them equipment, train them well and let us defend this country.

Land Scam
Act against guilty, MoD tells Army
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 1
Defence Minister AK Antony is in favour of taking stern action against the senior Army officers, who are responsible for wrongly issuing a “no-objection certificate” to private individuals for allowing construction on a 70-acre chunk of land adjacent to an Army base in Siliguri.

Antony, who enjoys a clean image, is seeing the recent case as something that could weaken the ability of the Army to handle security challenges. “It will be prompt action against those who will be found guilty”, said sources. Antony wants that accountability should be fixed at the earliest, they added. The Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju told reporters on Tuesday that the Army had been told to act against the guilty.Meanwhile, in a separate development, the Public Relations Officer of the Indian Army Lt-Col S Om Singh termed media reports on the three ‘guilty’ generals as “character assassination of senior army officers”.
He said reports have appeared regarding the ongoing Court of Inquiry. “Since the CoI is still in progress and not finalised, therefore, speculative comments/interferences at this stage about the guilt of an individual is not appropriate”, said the statement that was posted on the PIB website and also-emailed to reporters by the Army PRO. 

Govt asks Army to clean house
2 Dec 2009, 0411 hrs IST, ET Bureau
NEW DELHI: With the Indian Army’s image taking a big hit because of the revelations that a section of its top brass was involved in a massive
scam involving the transfer of 71 acres of cantonment land at Sukna in Darjeeling to a real estate developer, the Manmohan Singh government was on Tuesday constrained to promise punitive action against the officers accused of clearing the deal.

``Whenever there is an irregularity in any procedure or any of the functionings the concerned (defence) service looks into the matter and takes appropriate steps. The ministry had directed the Service — which is the Army in this case — to look into the matter and they will take the appropriate actions,’’ Union minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju told newspersons here on Tuesday.

His senior, Mr A K Antony, has in fact already acknowledged that the scam had inflicted a huge dent on the Army’s standing, and warned that such cases ``not only damage the Indian Army’s image,’’ but also ``adversely affect the ability of senior officers to measure up to the expectations of the men they lead.’’ He asked the Army to send a loud and clear message that corruption will be ``dealt with absolute sternness and promptness.’’

The Court of Inquiry into the Darjeeling land scam case has laid bare the nexus between a Siliguri-based real estate developer and one of the seniormost generals in the Army, who came together draft a dubious Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to clinch the land deal.

The CoI has established through phone records that the real estate developer Dilip Agarwal, who inked the MoU to obtain No Objection Certificates from the Army for 71 acres near the 33 Corps HQ in Sukna Cantonment, was in constant touch with Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash, Military Secretary (MS) at Army HQ, while the deal was being sealed.

While Lt Gen Prakash did not have a direct role in granting the NOCs, the CoI has brought out that that he used his influence as one of the seniormost officers in the Army to ensure that the deal went through.

The case, which is turning out to be a big scandal involving top Army officers, unravelled after it came to light that a massive land deal in Sukna was cleared by the Army against norms

Lt Gen Prakash, who was called to Kolkata for questioning in the case, admitted he had known Agarwal for more than a decade. He was called for questioning after Lt Gen P K Rath, whose appointment as Deputy Chief of Army Staff has since been scrapped by the defence ministry, told the CoI that an educational institution had been recommended by Lt
Gen Prakash.

The inquiry has also established that Lt Gen Prakash was in constant touch with Lt Gen Rath and Agarwal while the deal was being struck. The following phone records were presented at the CoI:

February 7: Lt Gen Prakash called Dilip Agarwal a day before the 33 Corps HQ gave an undertaking to the Commissioner General of Land Reforms, West Bengal on February 8 that the Army had “no objection if an educational institution and residential facility is set up in the proposed land measuring about 71 acres”. This MoU was in direct contradiction to an earlier projection made by the Army in December 2008 that the land should be acquired by the military for security reasons.

March 19: A day before the MoU was to be signed, Agarwal and Lt Gen Prakash spoke four times between 10.30 am and 12.40 pm. This was allegedly the time when the MoU was being drafted in Darjeeling

March 20: The day the MoU granting NoCs for transfer of land was signed between the Army and the educational institution, Agarwal spoke to Lt Gen Prakash on his official phone number at Army HQ at 10.49 am. At 3.49 pm, after the MoU had been signed, Agarwal spoke to Lt Gen Prakash again, this time on his mobile. Agarwal was one of the persons who signed the MoU with the Army.

Army to vacate more 3G spectrum in June
2 Dec 2009, 0033 hrs IST, Joji Thomas Philip, ET Bureau
NEW DELHI: The country’s armed forces will undertake a second round of vacation of third-generation airwaves in June 2010, the defence ministry
has assured the Department of Telecom (DoT). In October 2009, the armed forces had vacated 10 MHz, or two slots of 3G spectrum to be used for commercial telephony, and the defence ministry has now said an equivalent amount will be freed up in June-July 2010.

The defence ministry had conveyed this message to DoT during the last meet of the nine-member empowered group of ministers (EGoM), headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. Third-generation airwaves allow telcos to offer high-end services such as ultra-fast internet and video conferencing on mobile phones. The auctions for 3G spectrum are slated to begin from January 14, 2010, onwards where successful bidders will get 5 MHz (one slot) of third generation airwaves in all circles.

“The EGoM reviewed the progress of vacation of spectrum and noted that the ministry of defence had already released 10 MHz of 3G spectrum. It was also noted that in line with the commitments made in the MoU, the defence ministry had agreed to release another 10 MHz of 3G spectrum by June-July 2010 subject to DoT obtaining the cabinet approval for the alternate exclusive dedicated optic fibre cable network for the defence services by December 3, 2010,” said the minutes of the EGoM, a copy of which is available with ET.

The agreement by the defence forces implies that DoT will have additional 3G spectrum to conduct a second round auctions in late-2010, if the government decides to do so. Besides, DoT can also ensure that all that there will be four 3G operators in all the telecom circles. As per the current estimates, DoT does not have sufficient airwaves for accommodating four players in three circles — Rajasthan and North East, where only two private operators can be awarded these airwaves, and West Bengal, which currently has only three slots.

As per the MoU entered by both ministries earlier this year, DoT is scheduled to build on alternate network fibre optic cable for the armed forces, which would enable the latter to move a bulk of their communication requirements to this network, thus freeing up airwaves for commercial telephony.

The MoU had also stipulated that the forces will release up to 45 MHz of radio frequencies over a three-year period, of which 25 MHz would for the 3G services, and the rest for 2G, the airwaves on which all communications services in the country are currently offered. The MoU also added that the defence forces will release two blocks (10 MHz) of 3G airwaves, and one block of 2G frequencies immediately, while the remaining would be released over a three-year time frame.

The telecom commission, the highest decision-making body of DoT, has already approved the Rs 10,000-crore project to build this alternate network, during its meet on November 23.

DoT secretary PJ Thomas has also assured the defence ministry that the proposal would be presented to the Union Cabinet for approval in its December 3 meet, while adding: “The optic fibre cable for the defence will be implemented, as a mission-mode project with chairman and managing director of BSNL as the mission director and one representative each from the MoD and DoT on the mission team. Every month the project will be monitored by secretary (telecom) and senior officers from the defence ministry and the armed forces”.

Further assuring the armed forces, Mr Thomas had said the EGoM would also be requested to monitor this project every quarter. “I have reviewed the time line for completion of this project, and have directed BSNL to complete it in 3 years, instead of 3.5 years as decided by the GoM,” added Mr Thomas’s communication to the defence ministry.

What led to change of N-command?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

By Muhammad Saleh Zaafir

ISLAMABAD: The change of hands in controlling the National Command Authority (NCA) of Pakistan’s vital strategic assets on the day when the notorious National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) operation ceased to exist for good will have far-reaching implications on the power structure of the country.

It is a demonstration of complete mistrust in the hands from which the authority has been withdrawn and expression of confidence in the person who has assumed it. It is a first reshuffle in Pakistan’s commandand control authority of the strategic assets ever since its inception nine years ago. The authority that deals with domestic system of Pakistan’s invaluable strategic assets has the most obvious external dimensions. The important world capitals and P-5 (permanent five members of the UNSC) had been watching and taking keen interest in the development of the paraphernalia of the command in Pakistan since these are the countries which had been showing their concern about the safety and security of Pakistan’s strategic assets. It is not possible that the change did not have the blessings of these capitals while on domestic front every sane person was expressing concern about the capacity and capability of the previous holder of the command.

The first statement resenting the change and most probably it will be the only one has come from Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, who has become the mouthpiece of New Delhi’s South Block these days to vent Indian anger and wrath on its neighbours.

Sources at the relevant places told The News it was officially clarified last year with the inception of the incumbent government that control of Pakistan’s nuclear programme is unchanged. The president of the country continued to be the chairman of the National Command Authority (NCA) while the prime minister was made the vice-chairman of the same. The control and command structure of the nuclear programme provided the ‘nuclear button’ to the chairman.

The fear was being expressed that some grave mistake might not be committed by the president as he was under colossal duress of various kinds. Reuters reported on April 8, last year that the command and control system for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will stay unchanged under the country’s new government, made up of opponents of President Pervez Musharraf, an official said. “Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was overseen by a National Command Authority (NCA) headed by the president and with the prime minister as its vice-chairman.” The situation remained unchanged for less than fourteen months and ultimately the president had to quit the most powerful assignment. The ordinance to formalize the NCA is present on the agenda of the National Assembly after its adoption by the standing committee on defence.

In the meantime, MNAs Ayaz Amir and Begum Ishrat Ashraf of the PML-N have submitted Amendment to the NCA bill 2009, saying ‘in clause 3, (a) in sub-clause (3) for the word “president” the word “prime minister” shall be substituted; (b) in sub-clause (4), for the word “prime minister” the words “minister for defence”, shall be substituted; and (c) in sub-clause (5), paragraph (b) shall be omitted and the preceding paragraphs will be re-numbered accordingly.

This clause deals with the inclusion of the minister of defence who has been proposed as the vice-chairman of the NCA, sources said.

The two members of the PML-Q namely Dr Attiya Enayatullah and Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat have moved the amendment to the bill, as reported by the standing committee, in clause 7, the following new paragraph (s) shall be added and at the end, namely: “(s) to place before the National Assembly and the Senate each year in the month of January, a certificate of assurance and compliance by the authority regarding the safety, security and management of Pakistan’s nuclear assets as contained in this section.”

Sources told this correspondent the PML-Q movers dropped their amendment to include leader of the opposition in the National Assembly as member of the authority but it was vehemently opposed by another member of the committee belonging to the PML-N. It is expected that they will bring their amendment at the subsequent stage before the adoption of the bill.

The National Command Authority Act 2009 is aimed at complete command and authority over the research, development, production and use of nuclear and space technologies and other related applications in various fields and to provide for the safety and security of all personnel, facilities, information, installations or strategic organizations.

The proposed bill provides a comprehensive legal basis for the functions and powers of the NCA and persons working under it and other related matters. The proposed law re-demonstrates the country’s resolve to continue to exercise complete control and security and safe measures over all matters relating to nuclear and space technologies, nuclear establishments, nuclear systems, nuclear materials, relevant personnel and related information.

The proposed bill is also in line with Pakistan’s obligations under international law, particularly the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1540. “In recognition of the highly sensitive and classified areas of work falling within the domain of the NCA, it is necessary in the national interest to confer certain special powers to the authority in order to exercise proper control over employees, materials, and information and take proper, comprehensive, strict measures to prevent any breach of national security or any action to the prejudice of the interests of Pakistan,” reads the statement of objectives and reasons of the proposed bill.

After thorough deliberations, the NA standing committee on defence recommended some amendments which included the addition of a new sub-clause in the bill which states that “anything done, actions taken, orders passed, instruments made, notifications issued, agreements made, proceedings initiated, processes or communications issued, powers conferred, assumed or exercised, by the authority or its officers on April 12, 2008 and before the commencement of this act shall be deemed to have been validly done, taken, passed, made, issued, initiated, conferred, assumed, and exercised and the provisions of this act shall have, and shall be deemed always to have had effect accordingly”.

The committee also substituted the clause 14 of the bill which reads that the “Industrial Relations Ordinance 2002 not to apply to employees of authority” with “Industrial Relations Act, 2008 not to apply to employees of authority”.

The standing committee also recommended that a sessions judge, notified by the federal government, shall have the jurisdiction to try offences under this act instead of a district and sessions judge. The authorities concerned did not wait for a couple of days to formalize the change and an order had to be issued for shifting of the hands as the two houses of parliament are due to meet separately next week. It is expected that the bill pending in the National Assembly would be transacted on the very first day of the next sitting of the assembly, sources said.

However, the military manages and controls the nuclear weapons on behalf of the NCA. It is also prevalent in India and all other countries possessing nukes. In India a political council at centre takes care of command of the nuclear weapons while the prime minister is the head of it.

Pakistan formally set up the NCA in 2000, two years after it conducted nuclear tests in response to those of rival India, and in December 2007 former president Musharraf enforced an ordinance giving constitutional protection to the NCA.

Sources have pointed out that there was no red button on or under the table of incumbent president in the presidential palace that was linked with the nukes but in theory the president of Pakistan was the final authority to accord orders with regard to the nuclear arsenal till Friday last. Established in April, 1999, by the then-chief of Army staff Gen Pervez Musharraf, the NCA is responsible for policy formulation and exercises control over all the strategic nuclear forces and strategic organizations. The country’s nuclear arsenal was overseen by the NCA, which itself was headed by President Zardari, with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as vice-chairman till Friday last. Key cabinet ministers and the heads of the Army, navy and air force are also members of the NCA, which controls all aspects of the nuclear programme, including deployment and, if ever necessary, the use of the weapons.

According to an international report, the US has helped Pakistan secure its nuclear facilities through various forms of assistance, including a $100 million programme launched under President Bush. In 2000, President Clinton created a joint US-Pakistan commission to develop Pakistan’s command and control system. In the process, the US had insights into Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure. Along with financial assistance, the US also made secret agreements to station US personnel in Pakistan solely to guarantee the safety of the nuclear weapons.

The defence observers have pointed out that President Zardari had submitted in a European court that he has been suffering from dementia. The certificate with regard to the ailment was submitted in the court and he sought relief on account of that. Since then he never produced any certificate that could become proof for his recovery from the acute psychological ailment. He is also on heavy dose of medicines and above all in a situation when his everything is at stake the nuclear button must had to be placed away from him and the authority must had been withdrawn from him. They have proposed that the president can proceed on leave till the thick black clouds hovering over his office are cleared. It has become more essential in the wake of the information that Asif Zardari has also been suffering from insomnia and he is under heavy medication.

The defence analysts have raised their finger at President Asif Zardari’s serious disinterest in the affairs of the armed forces of which he is the supreme commander. The officers and men of the army are offering supreme sacrifices for the motherland but he practically never bothered to visit the troops or he did not visit any hospital to inquire after the health of the injured men and officers of the army. His discourteousness on this account is being widely felt in all services including the civil armed forces (CAF) which are also offering great sacrifices for the cause of the nation.

Diplomatic and political observers are of the view that the change has not come voluntarily but it has been forced to ward off threats to Pakistan’s most precious assets. The shuffle is a conspicuous symbol of change of centre of gravity. It was the only and huge authority that was left with the president if the 17th amendment of the constitution is scrapped. Incidentally, law enforcement agencies including the armed forces’ feelings are that their supreme commander was not seen in action during the full-fledged combat in Swat-Malakand and now in the operation of South Waziristan where the jawans of the valiant armed forces have rendered invaluable sacrifices and safeguarded the motherland. Their supreme commander stayed in his bunker-like fortified multi-star presidency or visiting other countries without describing utility of his travelling.

India To Acquire Russian 130mm Guns

India To Acquire Russian 130mm Guns | India Defence Online

In a sudden turnaround of events, the Indian Army has taken a decision to acquire additional 130mm field guns from the surplus stock of former Soviet republics. This change in policy has been deliberated due to the urgent need to deploy additional artillery along the Sino-Indian border.

Senior Indian Army officials have revealed that they will have to compromise with the 130mm guns as the procurement of light 155mm guns is likely to be delayed due to delays in the defence procurement. The purchase of 155mm guns has been pending for almost a decade. Officials added that the 130mm field guns can be sourced economically and are suited to be deployed along the high altitude border areas.

Currently, the procurement process of ultra light 155mm caliber guns has been stalled since Singapore Technologies, one of the forerunners of the program, was alleged in a scam and blacklisted.

Due to the growing requirements of the Indian Army, a $4 billion artillery modernization programme was cleared which aims to induct roughly 2,814 guns of different types.

The modernization program includes the $1.6 billion project to buy 400 155mm/52-calibre towed artillery guns, which is to be followed by indigenous manufacture of another 1,180 howitzers. The contenders for the acquisition of 400 155mm/52-calibre towed artillery guns are BAE Systems, ST Kinetics of Singapore and Israeli Soltam. India will also acquire 155mm/52-calibre self-propelled tracked guns which is to be followed by indigenous manufacture of another 1,180 howitzers.

There will be an off-the-shelf purchase of 200 155mm/52-calibre mounted gun systems from overseas and will be followed by indigenous manufacture of another 614 such howitzers under transfer of technology. Another project was to acquire 140 air-mobile ultra-light howitzers (ULHs) for $580 million. This is being eagerly awaited since the Indian Army needs ULHs howitzers to ensure artillery can be deployed in remote inaccessible areas.

The new guns are intended to replace the six different calibres the artillery currently deploys. The Indian Army currently has the towed 130 mm M-46 field guns which are used for close support, general support and counter battery fire.

In the mid-90s, India procured about 400 numbers of Russian M-46s and the Field Artillery now has 720 numbers of M-46s. The Indian Army also uses the 105mm Indian Field Guns deployed in the mountainous regions besides the 75mm Pack Gun-Howitzer which remains unsatisfactory in its performance. There is also the 130mm Catapult self-propelled gun which equips only one regiment. Besides, India has the 122mm D-30 towed howitzer used for close support by multiple regiments deployed on the plains.

As for the Bofors 155mm FH-77B howitzer deployed for general support and counter-bombardment, they are successfully deployed along the north-eastern border areas of India. Unfortunately, the Bofors 155mm FH-77B deal got bogged down earlier by a major scandal and India was able to acquire less than one-fourth of the number of howitzers it needed.

The recent move to buy the 130mm field guns has come as an embarrassment since it is a departure from the decision in 1999 to replace all field guns with 155mm caliber guns over the years. Added to that is the fact that no new artillery gun has been inducted ever since the Bofors scam in the 1980s.

Software pangs for defence pensioners
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
Some Defence Pension Disbursing Offices (DPDOs) are refusing to release pension in accordance with new scales till the time they are provided new computer programmes by the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA).

Departmental reply to a query under the RTI, which was produced during hearing of a case before the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), states that the new pension would be fixed on receipt of revised computerised programme from the CGDA as no manual revisions by the DPDO office is authorised.
While majority of veterans drawing their pension through banks are getting their benefits as per the revised scale post-Sixth Pay Commission implementation, those dependent on DPDOs are still getting lesser pension.
Taking up the case of an 80-year old widow, Swaran Kaur, the AFT has ordered that her family pension be revised within two months. The AFT also directed a representative of the Controller of Defence Accounts to be present before it on the next date of hearing to explain the inordinate delay in revising pensions.
Swaran Kaur’s husband, Santok Singh, a World War-II veteran had died in December 2006. He was getting pension in accordance with Fifth Pay Commission rates. In November 2008, Presidential sanction was accorded for raising the scales of pension in accordance with the Sixth Pay Commission.
Under revised rates, the pension of similarly placed individuals was raised from Rs 1,275 per month to Rs 3,500 per month.
Between November 2008 to August 2009, the petitioner and her son visit the DPDO office regularly, but the rates of pension in her case are not revised nor is she paid arrears.
In September 2009, the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts also writes to the DPDO concerned, asking him to act in accordance with the revised scales and make the payment to the widow. However, her pension still remained unrevised.

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