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Saturday, 30 January 2010

From Today's Papers - 30 Jan 10

Darjeeling Land Scam
Army chief orders Lt Gen’s court martial
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 29
Bringing down the curtains on the controversy surrounding the infamous Darjeeling land scam, Army chief General Deepak Kapoor today ordered court martial proceedings against Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash, a military secretary and the senior-most three-star officer ever to face such an action.

Acting on an unprecedented “advice” from Defence Minister AK Antony, the Army chief issued the instructions for action against Lt Gen Prakash for his role in the issuance of a no-objection certificate to a private firm that falsely claimed to be establishing an affiliate of Ajmer-based Mayo College on the land adjacent to Sukhna cantonment in Darjeeling district of West Bengal.

Initially, General Kapoor had recommended administrative action against Lt Gen Prakash, who was to retire in two days, and had okayed disciplinary action against Lt Gen PK Rath, the then GoC of the 33 Corps at Darjeeling.

Senior Defence Ministry officials confirmed that the “Army chief had ordered disciplinary action against Lt Gen Prakash, who will face a court martial… The chief stuck to the advice from Antony in the case.”

Separately, Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali and Maj Gen P Sen will face administrative action. Show-cause notices had been issued to them about two weeks ago. A court of inquiry ordered by the Eastern Army Commander, Lt Gen VK Singh, who is the Army chief-designate, had recommended “termination of service” for Lt Gen Prakash and administrative action against the other officers.

A court martial could even lead to imprisonment and being “cashiered” from service, which entails loss of rank, decorations and all post-retirement benefits, all depending on the severity of charges. However, Lt Gen Prakash would now get an opportunity to defend himself in the case.

Commenting on today’s move, retired Army officers opined that General Kapoor knew that the unprecedented “advice” from Antony was like an order, which had to be complied with. “It was almost clear that the General was not to defy Antony. The Minister’s clout within the Congress and his clean image was well known and a defiance would not have gone down well. Also, historically any defiance by the men in uniform has been viewed with suspicion by the elected representatives of Parliament,” they said.

One such recent case was in 2008 when the then Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta had refused to implement the “insufficient” recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission. He was asked to tow the line. The opposition parties and the media joined in telling how the Admiral was wrong while being totally in favour of “better pay and perks” for the forces.

Lastly, General Kapoor knew the implications even if he had opted to differ with Antony -- the Minister could have issued instructions himself, which could have caused even more embarrassment. “It was not a policy decision on national security that the Chief should stick to his own line and stand up to the Minister,” said an officer.

Court martial for Military Secretary Avadesh Prakash
Nitin Gokhale, Friday January 29, 2010, New Delhi

One of the Army's senior-most generals will face a court martial for his alleged role in a land scam that runs into hundreds of crores.

The Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor has confirmed that Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash will be court martialled. Prakash is the Military Secretary and among eight principal staff officers to the Army chief, General Deepak Kapoor. (Read: What is court martial?)

The Chief had earlier refused to sack Prakash, despite the recommendation of an internal army inquiry. Instead, Kapoor gave Prakash 15 days to formally explain his role in the case.  

Earlier this week, Defence Minister AK Antony advised the Army to order a court martial.  That was seen as the government's way of expressing its dissatisfaction with what was seen as the Army Chief's inaction against Prakash.  Sources say the government and former army chiefs were worried that the scam, and the lack of disciplinary action against Prakash, suggested that senior officers were being protected by the army.  

Evidence will now be recorded against Prakash, who will later be cross-questioned as part of the court martial.

Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash was indicted by an army inquiry of using his position to help a businessman in Siliguri in West Bengal.

The internal investigation found that Prakash influenced officers to permit a real estate developer to acquire 71 acres next to the Army's 33 Corps Headquarters in Siliguri in West Bengal. The Army, which had earlier told the government that this land could not be sold to any commercial developer for security reasons, okayed the transfer of the land to Agarwal.

The Army's inquiry said Prakash should be sacked for he "became a facilitator in promoting (his friend) Dilip Agarwal's business."

India gets Naval 'gunfire' to destroy enemy targets
K Ramnath Shenoy/PTI / Bangalore January 29, 2010, 10:40 IST

India has developed a new generation multi-sensor, multi-weapon defence system against enemy targets on board naval ships.

The state-of-the-art "Gun Fire Control System" (GFCS) developed by Bharat Electronics Limited will be installed on board the P-28 class of ships.

"The GFCS is a quick reaction, multi-sensor, multi-weapon, short/medium/long range defence system against air, surface or shore targets on board naval ships", a senior official of the Bangalore-based Navratna defence PSU told PTI.

The GFCS is designed to provide air, surface or shore defence with 76 MM and 30 MM guns. Its purpose is to locate a hostile target using a radar or video tracker, acting on early warning search radars and to track its approach with high accuracy, in order to obtain reliable target data.

The data is further processed and used to control the weapons by pointing it in an exact ballistic firing position for eventual destruction of the target. The GFCS continues to track the approaching target, simultaneously pointing the weapon on it, until it is completely destroyed.

The GFCS comprises five functional sub-systems: tracker, weapon control, sight control, combat management system and support systems, each of which can be used as an independent system.

The GFCS for the P-28 class of ships would be "handed over" to Defence Minister A K Antony at a ceremony here in the presence of BEL Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Kumar Datt on February 2.

A state-of-the-art facility, dedicated to manufacture of Digital Flight Control Computer (DFCC) for the Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) at BEL's Bangalore Complex will also come up.

DFCC is a multiple redundant (improving its reliability, one channel will take over if another fails) digital fly-by-wire flight control system of Tejas, which controls manoeuvering of the aircraft.

DFCC is a flight critical sub-system to be manufactured as per AS 9100 standards with stringent in-process and quality control processes, including environmental tests on each unit.

To meet this requirement, BEL has set up this integrated manufacturing facility for assembly, inspection and testing of DFCC, all under one roof.

The facility includes thermal cycling chamber, vibration machine, dehumidifying chambers for storing PCBs, high resolution inspection tools to identify process errors, automated test equipment for rigorous performance testing and engineering test station for testing the DFCC unit.

Antony will inagurate the DFCC.

Women power for ITBP
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Bhanu, January 29
It was a momentous occasion for 209 women, who created history by forming the first batch of women constables to join the ranks of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), on passing out from the Basic Training Center (BTC) here today.

Home Minister P Chidambaram reviewed the parade, which was commanded by Poonam Johari. Terming the Sino-Indian border as the most difficult, where these women constables would be deployed, he said the women personnel would be able to regulate and screen women during international trade between India and China at Nathu La and Sherathung, besides escorting female pilgrims on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

Felicitating parents for taking a bold decision to let their daughters join a force entrusted with guarding one of the most challenging borders in the world, Chidambaram said these constables would always cherish this day even as it was written in golden letters in the history of the ITBP.

VVIP security duties, guarding vital installations, rescue and relief operations, including disaster management and psychological operations at border villages and during festivals, public meetings and agitations are other tasks they are expected to undertake.

ITBP Director General Vikram Srivastava said they would be further trained in counter-insurgency and jungle warfare and mountaineering and skiing as well. A Quick Reaction Team (QRT) and a Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad would also be formed in order to raise an independent women’s battalion, he added.

The Home Minister also gave away awards for excellence during training.

Security, governance top Afghan agenda
by Anita Inder Singh

The Taliban mounted their latest attack on Kabul on January 18 soon after British Foreign Secretary David Miliband affirmed that the London Conference on Afghanistan, which started on January 28, must show that there is a coherent international plan for the future of Afghanistan.

But the attack underlines that an agreement between the West and President Karzai is essential not only for the coherence of any plan that might emerge from the London conference, but more importantly, perhaps, for its implementation.

The Taliban assault highlighted yet again the inextricable intertwining of security and governance.

It was intended to tell the West and Karzai that a surge of 37,000 Nato troops won’t achieve security in Afghanistan and that there will be no reconciliation with moderate or any other Taliban.

The Afghan National Army (ANA) restored order in Kabul. But paradoxes coexist. The ANA’s success served as a reminder that the West has not trained enough Afghans to stabilise their country.

General Stanley McChrystal’s advice, given to the Obama administration last summer, still needs to be followed: building up the Afghan security forces would be “the most important thing we do in the future.” Only then will Karzai’s government be able to establish a legal monopoly of force in Afghanistan.

Insecurity largely explains the weakness of political institutions and the rule of law in Afghanistan. Stable political institutions and a strong rule of law cannot be established in the middle of a war. As Transparency International pointed out in a recent report, instability and corruption reinforce each other.

But Karzai must realise that decent governance is necessary to deliver essential services to ordinary Afghans, and to enhance his legitimacy.

For their part his western allies will not enhance their legitimacy – or his – by publicly berating him for misgovernance.

The western criticism of Karzai can easily be construed as a slight to the proud Afghans: he has said that the poverty of Afghans should not become a means to insult and ridicule them.

In any case, Karzai can turn the tables on his western critics – as he did – by sharply denouncing the killing of civilians in recent Nato attacks.

And rumours that Nato soldiers had desecrated the Koran sparked a violent protest in the southern province of Helmand.

Denials by Nato could not hide the fact that such incidents only play into the hands of the Taliban.

Nato and Karzai must work together to strengthen the government in Kabul. For reconciliation with any ‘moderate’ Taliban, deemed vital by the West to win in Afghanistan, can only be achieved by a strong centre. Reconciliation will not be achieved either by a divided Nato or by Nato and Karzai blaming each other for Afghanistan’s woes.

To some extent the onus for poor governance rests with the West. Omar Zakhilwal, the Afghan Finance Minister (favoured by the West), has said that western countries must share the blame for corruption in Afghanistan and that some in the West were using the issue to make domestic political mileage.

The allegation cannot be dismissed simply because it is made by an Afghan.

So first, Nato must provide security, which will include training more Afghans to assume full responsibility for their country’s defence.

Success will only come when Karzai and his Nato backers agree that Afghans should have a government that is strong enough to protect them and provide them with essential services.

The writer is a Professor at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution in New Delhi

War against Pakistan, China? You’d need Napoleon
India's most senior army officer has declared that the country needs to prepare for a two-front war with China and Pakistan.
Friday, 29 January 2010 10:56

By Shaukat Qadir

In what appear to be deliberately provocative remarks, India’s most senior army officer has declared that the country needs to prepare for a two-front war with China and Pakistan.

Most of the Pakistani media dwelt only on that part of a lengthy statement at the end of last month by General Deepak Kapoor, the chief of the Indian army staff, and consequently it was scoffed at, even in political circles. But there is more to it than that.

To begin with, making contingency plans for all possibilities, however improbable, is bread and butter for all militaries in peacetime. But a two-front war is a nightmare scenario for any country, whatever its military strength. And the challenge of facing China’s military forces by themselves should be sufficiently daunting for the Indians without adding the possibility of taking on Pakistan at the same time (indeed, Pakistan alone would be no walkover for the current Indian military).

It would seem, therefore, that Gen Kapoor is being unrealistic. But before attempting to understand the reasoning behind his assertion, let us examine what else he said.

In preparing for the two-front strategy, Gen Kapoor listed four requirements: first, continuing to develop a “Cold Start” strategy; second, countering “both military and non-military facets of asymmetric and sub-conventional warfare”; third, enhancing “strategic reach and out-of-area capabilities” and attaining “operational synergy” between the three services; and finally, achieving a “technological edge” over India’s opponents.

While “strategic reach and out-of-area capabilities” and achieving a “technological edge” over China appear over-ambitious, it is a sorry military that is still seeking to synergise its tri-service operations. The second requirement is an obvious necessity of the times. It is the first point that needs to be understood from a military perspective.

Cold Start is a concept that the Indian military has been aspiring to for some years, to offset the advantage Pakistan enjoys of being able to assemble forces for war in a shorter period of time; an advantage offered to it by geography alone, because Pakistan lies linear to India, with little depth.

The Indian military is deployed in considerable depth, along both the Chinese border and the Pakistani one. In the event of a war with one of the two countries, some of the forces deployed against the other would have to be moved in support of those at war. Usually, this “assembly” of forces takes place before battle is joined. However, the concept of Cold Start envisages troops moving from peacetime quarters directly into battle.

In military parlance there is a concept referred to as “balance”, which relates to the time-distance between forces; a force is said to be in a state of balance if it is capable of sustaining itself to achieve the assigned mission in a time period within which reserve forces can arrive, permitting the initial force to go further – whether in defence or attack.

In attempting a Cold Start there is an inherent risk to the maintenance of balance between the forces that have joined battle and those leaving barracks to reinforce them. There are too many imponderables, and the operation has to be impeccably planned. This delicate state of balance between his forces lay behind Napoleon’s success at the battles of Ulm and Austerlitz in 1805, when he defeated far superior forces. But then, that was Napoleon and he was at the height of his military powers. His attempt to repeat the feat ended in defeat at Waterloo.

Peacetime military leaderships are usually not trained to take risks; in fact, they tilt towards being over-cautious, although there are exceptions. This applies to the Subcontinent as much as anywhere else. It would be a bold commander who was prepared to undertake military operations without being certain of timely reinforcement.

So the question arises, what provoked Gen Kapoor’s remarks? After all, Pakistan is fighting a domestic war and making continuous overtures for peace with India. Relations between India and China have been steadily improving since the turn of the century; bilateral trade has almost tripled, and occasional hiccups such as the Chinese demands on India relating to the disputed territories of Himachal Pradesh are more tests of each other’s tolerance than gestures of aggression; so why, and why now?

Almost certainly India is looking to the future, at a post-US withdrawal from Afghanistan scenario. Despite US efforts to build up Indian military capabilities as a counter-balance to growing Chinese strength, India remains conscious of its inability to meet China militarily or economically on equal terms.

With the imminent US departure from Afghanistan, China is going to be the undisputed regional power and, without considerably increased assistance from the US, India will never be able to catch up with it.

Simultaneously, the US is committed to assisting Pakistan in its war against terrorists, even after it withdraws from the region. Was Gen Kapoor trying to raise the bogey of such a possibility to receive enhanced aid from the US? Or was he merely talking to his domestic audience in an effort to reassure them?

And in any case, whatever his audience, were they listening? I suppose only time will tell.

Gul Panag calls army chief 'spineless' on Twitter

Bombay News.Net
Friday 29th January, 2010 (IANS)

Bollywood actress Gul Panag tweeted against Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor calling him 'spineless' and asked for a probe into why he recommended mild action against his top aide in a land scam in Sukhna cantonment in West Bengal.

'It is a first. Ministry of Defence had to step in as COAS (chief of army staff) continued his stand of trying to protect the said generals. Now WHY was he protecting them?... I would protect someone if 1. I had something to fear from disclosure 2. I am an accomplice 3. I am spineless. COAS is sadly all three,' Panag said in a series of postings on networking site Twitter Thursday.

Panag's father Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag retired as a top army commander.

In a first of its kind instance, Defence Minister A.K. Antony has 'advised' Kapoor to take disciplinary action against one of his top aides Lt. Gen. Avadesh Prakash which may even lead to the latter's court martial.

Earlier, a court of inquiry had indicted Prakash and Lt. Gen. P.K. Rath in the land scam. While the army chief recommended court martial of Rath, he merely sought an 'explanation' from Prakash.

'COAS (Chief of Army Staff) saving his buddy's neck as he is in all likelihood equally dirty,' the actress said in her tweet.

'I'd like to ask our government to enquire into 1. COAS 'reasons' for being 'soft' on said generals 2. Look into COAS assets,' she added Friday.

Panag is the daughter of Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag who retired as the chief of army's Central Command.

The top army commander was removed as the chief of the Northern Army Command in 2008 as soon as he convened inquiry into the irregularities in the purchase of tents made under the tenure of Kapoor.

In reply to her father's stand on the issue, she said: 'Why involve him? He is retired, What influence can he have? Internally all are aware but powerless to do anything.'

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