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Friday, 19 February 2010

From Today's Papers - 19 Feb 2010






Jawans suffering inane crucifixion in Kashmir

No mission can be successful if the soldier in the field feels let down. Attempt to integrate a territory by intimidating the people with mammoth military presence for long period is the first blunder. It is compounded by de-motivating the forces.

CJ: Natteri Adigal


Indian Army News :

LeT commander killed

TUMULTUOUS RECEPTIONS by overjoyed public, led by prominent citizens, given to victorious soldiers occasionally appearing in newspapers and magazines are only one side of the story. On the ground, however, it does not take long for the adoration to turn into fear and open hostility. After all, the military is supposed to do the hatchet job for existing or aspirant rulers, often going against popular sentiments.


For the public esteem not to evaporate, soldiers have to go back to barracks in a matter of days or weeks. Even during this time, it is important that the rulers do not deliver a double whammy to the troopers – already finding themselves as hate-objects. No military mission can be successful if the soldier in the field feels let down. It is particularly true in case of paratroopers like CRPF and BSF. Double whammy is what New Delhi has dealt to BSF in Srinagar recently.


A constable Lakhwinder Kumar was handed over by his bosses to Jammu and Kashmir police after being accused of cold blooded murder. Based on his statement, his commandant RK Virdi was suspended pending inquiry. Another 15 troopers of the 68th battalion involved in the incident were relocated. Their weapons were seized by the Special Investigation Team of the State police. BSF too has appointed an inquiry officer of the rank of Inspector General based in the north-east to get at the culprit.


Anyone can imagine the level of commitment and motivation the soldiers and officers will have when ordered to quell any riot in future. True, the main body of the forces is made up of sections unable to find lucrative employment within the society. They get fed and clothed somewhat more assuredly than the rural masses. But, it is unfair to let them make "sacrifices for protecting the country" for satisfying whims of comfortably-placed 'patriots'. Rich tributes are paid in case they lose life or limb but they are expected to be devoid of feelings when alive. Nobody bothers why they must "make sacrifices" due to lack of good sense by others.

Recent incidents in Srinagar come as a grim reminder of this tragedy.


After the death of Zahid Farooq Sheikh, a Standard 10 student of Srinagar's Nishat area had brought thousands of residents on the streets, Ali Mohammad Sagar, J&K minister for law and parliamentary affairs, wondered after the life of the boy was taken away in a cold blooded manner by security personnel: "Government is essentially for the welfare of the people and how can it tolerate innocents getting killed?"


Ali Mohammad added: "Government believes in zero tolerance towards human rights violations and human rights violators irrespective of their associations will not be spared." In reality, however, there have been numerous instances when dastardly violation were tolerated by the State. That is inevitable, given that the J&K government is minutely mastered by New Delhi. Human rights violations are an integral part of suppression of popular uprising encountered when attempting to bring around a fiercely self-assertive population.


Eleven million people of Kashmir – a territory controlled in parts by Indian and Pakistan and claimed by both in full despite repeated UN fiats endorsing their right to self-determination – have seen numerous cases of indiscriminate killings and arson in six decades. Apart from regular armed forces, they have to brave the frustrations of several 'paramilitary' troops delegated to do the dirty job. It is only natural that the treacherously long tenures amidst a hostile population, under constant fear of losing life or limb, should blunt human values frequently.


Zahid and his friends were on their way home after a cricket game was rained out. They came across some paramilitary vehicles and began chanting, ''We want freedom'' and ''Indian forces leave Kashmir."' These slogans have become commonplace now among the youth of the valley. The convoy halted and some troopers alighted. By the time the residents came rushing, the boy had been brutally shot dead, live cartridges lying all around. Possibly, there was another commonplace phenomenon, stone-throwing, which provoked the forces, but it is not certain.


The slaying of the boy came close on the heels of a 13-year-old Standard-7 student Wamik Farooq losing his life, hit by a tear gas shell fired by police at Rajouri Kadal. A case was registered to identify the culprits and police confessed, "The unfortunate killing of the boy is a mystery"


The fury of Nishat residents was directed at CRPF, whose headquarters was hardly half a km away. It was the keenness of the force to defend itself that prevented the murder passing off as another faceless homicide by the armed forces. CRPF spokesman P Tripathi denied the charge, saying, "None of our jawans opened fire. CRPF was neither deployed nor patrolling the area at the time of the incident." CCTV footage had recorded the convoy of three vehicles of BSF crossing the HQ, exactly two minutes after the shoot-out.


Special Director General PPS Siddhu was left with no option but to own up the inhuman atrocity. He said, "The prima facie evidence has revealed the possibility of involvement of Constable Lakhwinder Kumar of 68 battalion of BSF. . . As a consequence he has been handed over to the local police for further investigations." The SIT headed by a senior superintendent of police stumble upon the more sinister violation. He refused to be scapegoat and said he fired at a teenager boy under specific orders from his commandant.


The police team may get to interrogate Virdi. Such lofty reactions to calm down public fury have not been new. But, they never translate into perceivable and credible actions of punishing the guilty. MM Pallam Raju, Indian minister of state for defence, declared after the handing over the jawan to J&K police: "As far as the armed forces' presence in Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, we have a zero tolerance policy towards how they behave with the public. Any aberration in their behaviour in such aspects is dealt with in a strong manner." It is in this context that Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, observed: "The promise that Zahid Farooq's killers will be identified and brought to justice is a long overdue step in addressing abuses by government forces."


Notwithstanding HRW's certificate, the jarring note in the whole episode is hard to ignore. No doubt, it is laudable when any government resolves to severely punish culprits when dastardly crimes are encountered. Deterrent punishment is a must in crimes that violate human rights. However, there are instances when culprits happen to be doing their work – violation of human rights – as part of their job. There is a danger of a catastrophic mutiny when their patience is repeatedly tested.


In case of Kashmir, the rulers in New Delhi have, for long, been going against the grain of the wisdom that use of force can only be effective for short durations. Eventually, only the will of the people would prevail. The cost of defying UN-mandated solutions calling for self determination to decide Kashmir's fate is prohibitively expensive already.


Apart from the direct military expenses to station 700,000 troops, there is the indirect expense due to numerous terror attacks across the country. No intelligence and security agencies, howsoever efficient, can avoid the tremendous loss and damage when fighting such attacks. No wonder, the rank of India is constantly sliding down in terms of real per-capita income and human development index, even as the rulers claim that it is an emerging superpower.


The only beneficiaries of hawkish posture are the middlemen who enjoy kickbacks in the process. The folly of criminal rulers is compounded by lack of conviction on the part of the top brass. They appear to be more concerned at cultivating the rulers than to motivating committed troopers, who get crucified for no fault of theirs.







Akula nuclear submarine to be delivered to India by May

Vinay Shukla/ PTI / Moscow February 18, 2010, 17:57 IST


Indian Navy will regain its underwater warfare nuclear capability in the next 60-days with the Russians assuring that the Akula-II class attack submarine the Nerpa would be delivered by mid-May.


The assurance that the nuclear submarine would be delivered "strictly on schedule" was given by top Russian shipbuilding officials to the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is to visit New Delhi on a state visit next month.


Nerpa has been handed over to the Russian Navy for its sea trials.


"The 518th project, the Nerpa submarine is currently completing trials in the Pacific basin. We believe that we will be able to deliver it on time, according to agreed schedule," Chief of the United Shipbuilding Corporation Roman Trotsenko told Putin at today's meeting.


The Nerpa would be provided to the Indian Navy on 10 year lease and is scheduled to touch the Indian coast some time in May under its rechristened name of INS Chakra.


The Akula-II class Nerpa submarine is one of the Russia's most modern, largest and quietest submarines armed with sophisticated missiles.


The deep sea warfare vessel was hit by an accident in November 2008 while on trial in the Sea of Japan due to release of toxic Freon from its fire-suppression system.


In May 2009 Putin had personally flown to Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East to inspect the defence shipyard and had ordered to complete the project by the end of December.







Defence Min expects 15-20% rise in Budget allocation

Press Trust of India / New Delhi February 18, 2010, 13:19 IST


Defence Ministry is expecting a 15 to 20 per cent increase in its Budget allocation for the next fiscal due to rise in expenditure on its modernisation drive and commitments following pay review.


Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said he expects an increase in the budgetary allocation this fiscal from 2009-10 figure of Rs 1,41,703 crore.


"Certainly we are expecting an increase because of the increase in revenue expenditure, implementation of 6th Pay Commission Report. Apart from that, there is an emphasis on modernisation and new acquisitions," he said.


Keeping this in mind, Raju said, the Ministry expects an increase in the Budget, which "might be 10-15 per cent or 15-20 per cent".


"I am hopeful of an increase of at least 15-20 per cent," he told reporters on the sidelines of Assocham International Conference on Indian Defence here.


In the 2009-10 Budget, the allocation for Defence Ministry saw a 34 per cent increase from Rs 1,05,600 crore which is one of the highest in country's history. The planned expenditure had been pegged at Rs 86, 879 crore in this fiscal.


Asked whether there was any plan to increase the 26 per cent cap on FDI in defence sector, Raju said at the moment, the government was not thinking on this line though there is a request from the industry.


"We are not considering it (increasing the FDI cap) at this moment," Raju said.


Refusing to give any time-frame for increasing the FDI cap in defence sector, he said, "We will see if there is a need in the future. The government in its wisdom has now restricted it to 26 per cent."


On privatisation of ordnance factories, he said there is "no thought" in the government on this line. However, Raju emphasised on the need for modernising the ordnance factories, shipyards and other Defence PSUs with an objective to attain greater quality.


He admitted that at some point of time, there has been negligence "somewhere in between". "Modernisation has to be an ongoing process. It has be consistent and constant," he said.


Earlier addressing the gathering, he said government has the responsibility to look after employees of ordnance factories as it was not proper to leave them in the lurch.


However, the Minister was of the view that there was a failure in modernising the ordnance factories as they did not pump in money for research and development.


"This gives an opportunity for private sector. They can bring in Gen-Next technology".


Raju appealed to the private sector to contribute to the development of the defence sector in the country. He said there was a need for greater synergy between public and private sectors.


"We are sort of looking to utlise the capabilities of the private sector. Public sector alone will not alone be considered for the development of sector," he said.


However, Raju cautioned that in certain areas private sector cannot be allowed as the government likes "certain areas to be protected".


Raju said the Ministry was also working on a policy on defence production.


"We have initiated the process for optimally harness the potential in this area. We will be consulting all the stake holders in this regard," he said.


The Minister said efforts are being made to attract scientists and experts to the defence sector. "We are restructuring the DRDO."







US-China relations
Possible impact on India
by Inder Malhotra

IN November last when President Barack Obama of the United States paid his first visit to China the world was struck by the unusual and excessive deference he showed to the host country. In order not to offend the Chinese he had declined to receive the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and pushed human rights down on his agenda even before leaving for Beijing. For this he received much flak in his country but seemed not to care. Throughout his stay in China he took great care not to step on his hosts' corns, even while his Chinese counterpart, Mr Hu Jintao, spoke bluntly, especially about the signs of "protectionism" in America.

Commentators across the globe considered all this rather odd though they were fully aware of China's enormous economic clout vis-à-vis the US at a time when the latter was struggling to overcome the economic recession. No wonder, the inheritors of the Middle Kingdom syndrome merrily talked of "G-2" which means US-China duopoly.

From this country's point of view Mr Obama's China sojourn was a disaster because he, in a joint statement with Mr Hu, assigned to China a role in promoting India-Pakistan dialogue and "stabilising" the subcontinent that our northern neighbour has constantly tried to destabilise. The ruffled Indian feathers were smoothened, however, when Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh paid a state visit to the US. But Indian concerns haven't been fully removed.

Now there has been a spat between the US and China over President Obama's decision to give Taiwan $6 billion worth of arms and the American demand for a revaluation of the Chinese currency yuan. The Dalai Lama's status as an "hnoured guest" at the White House has also been restored. Vigorous Chinese protests against arms supply to Taiwan are nothing new but this time around these have been more ferocious than before. Similarly, the American sentiment on the yuan's revaluation has turned much sharper because the undervalued yuan gives China undue and huge advantage in world trade.

The key question, however, is whether the current row between the US and China is tactical or a harbinger of strategic change in their relationship. Could things change again, as they have after a lapse of mere three months? In today's world there can be no easy answer to such questions but the factors that would influence the course of events can be identified and analysed.

Unquestionably, the overriding fact is that the US-China relationship is the most important in the world and almost certainly would remain so for the foreseeable future. Both countries have invested heavily is getting closer to each other, and have no incentive to wreck what has been achieved. Secondly, while the US remains the mightiest country, its power is clearly on the decline whereas that of China is on the increase.

The US would surely not like to give the way to the second superpower but it would have to make room for it. One significant sign of this is to be found in the Pentagon's latest Quadrennial Defence Review, published on February 1. It dwells far less on the "dangers" arising from China's rise than did the previous such document, issued in 2006 under the Bush administration. Contrary to what was said four years ago, the new QDR states that China's developing military capabilities could enable it "to play a more substantial and constructive role in international affairs".

The inflamed issue of American arms for Taiwan, too, is not without nuances, despite the heavy storm China has raised. For instance, the Chinese know that President Obama has deleted from the list of Taiwan-bound weapons submarines that Mr Bush wanted to send. Moreover, relations between Taiwan and the mainland these days are very friendly and economically very close. Altogether, therefore, the general expectation is that the current squall over the issue would die down eventually, as in the past. On the other hand, China has broken the military relationship with the US. This might lead to the cancellation of US Defence Secretarty Robert Gates's visit to China. But no one, on either side, has any doubt that Chinese President Hu's visit to the US later this year will take place. No one expects Beijing to carry out its threat to impose sanctions on the manufacturers of weapons being sent to Taipei. China's own dependence on them is substantial.

The US needs China's cooperation in dealing with North Korea's nuclear programme and on this the two countries are in broad agreement. Iran, however, could be a source of disagreement between them. Mr Obama has abandoned his plan to negotiate with the Iranian leaders. He wants instead to enhance the sanctions on Iran for which China's support in the UN Security is necessary. Just a day after the Taiwan announcement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she understood why China hesitated to impose sanctions on "one of its major energy providers" but urged it to think about the "destabilising long-term implications of a nuclear-armed Iran". According to some American commentaries, Washington would be satisfied if China votes against enhanced sanctions but does not veto them.

All in all, therefore, neither the US nor China seems to be working for a breach but for persuading each other to be mutually accommodative. Their relationship, as that between any other two-some among the major powers that prop the world order, such as it is, would be a mixture of cooperation and competition. Conflict seems unlikely. Evidently, every country would pursue its national interest as well as seek maximum possible flexibility in its relations with all principal actors on the world stage.

If India has stoutly to defend its supreme interests, as it must, it has to realise that the international context in which it has to function has become more complex and difficult. As Jim Hoagland has said in Washington Post, the Bush era in which close strategic relations with India had a very high priority is over. Indo-American ties do remain important but this country and the Obama administration "are out of sync" in several respects.

Thanks to America's predicament in Afghanistan, Pakistan has acquired a greater leverage over it. To the extent Pakistan-fixated China gains increased say in world affairs, it would try to impair Indian interests. For example, China advocates a "regional solution" to the Afghan problem that, on the surface, coincides with the Indian view. The reality, however, is that China's definition of regional powers in this context excludes India!







Friend turns 'foe' in tank battle simulator deal

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi February 19, 2010, 0:47 IST


The deeply traditional Indian Army, which prides itself on training outdoors with real equipment, could soon start training on simulators like other high-tech armies.


A hypothetical situation, not too far in the future: after yet another terrorist strike in India, an armoured combat group prepares to raid a terrorist camp near Sialkot, across the Jammu border. Satellite images and photos of the camp taken the previous day by an agent are fed into a simulator, housed in a container next to the tanks. Each tank crew spends time on the simulator, virtually experiencing the next day's operation and rehearsing their individual tasks.


Tata Advanced Systems, partnering Canadian giant, CAE; is competing with Indian simulator developer, Zen Technologies, to provide India's T-72 and T-90 tank regiments with 80 containerised simulators that could be transported anywhere, including to a border launch pad. The MoD will soon announce the winner.


No plan survives contact with the enemy, it is said. But this one has run into problems with a friend! Russian officials have told Business Standard that the T-72 and T-90 are their tanks and nobody other than the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) could produce a simulator without infringing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).


Viktor Komardin, the chief of Russian export controller, Rosoboronexport, pointed out that nobody had consulted Russia. Komardin said, "Is this legal? Is this ethical? Is this proper? If India wants a real simulator, it should be asked for from Russia itself. A quality simulator cannot be created without information from the designer on issues like ballistics and fire control computation."


Indian officials are either unaware of the Russian objection, or are choosing to ignore it. Komardin says no Indian official has approached Russia for a tank simulator, even though Russia has one available.


CAE, however, denies infringing Russian IPR. CAE India President, H J Kamath, told Business Standard, "No proprietary or OEM software or equipment is needed for the simulator. No original equipment has been used, nor do we need any data or source codes from Russia. Everything has been simulated."


Zen Technologies is equally emphatic. The company's President, Kishore Dutt Atluri, says, "We don't need any information from Russia. The physics of the T-72 and T-90 tanks are well known."


Interestingly, CAE is also engaged in developing a full-crew simulator for the Arjun tank, which is made by the Defence R&D Organisation, for which the DRDO has given permission.


This conflict notwithstanding, simulator training is entering military consciousness. Long the primary method of training commercial pilots — because of the enormous cost of flying empty airliners on training sorties —- the logic of cost-effectiveness is now overwhelming the army's traditional preference for live training. The cost of running a tank column (11 litres per kilometre of diesel, plus maintenance and depreciation) is exorbitant compared to the cost of running a simulator.


"Militaries worldwide realise that simulator training is one-tenth the cost of live training on heavy equipment", says Martin Gagne, CAE's military simulation head. "Besides, the new buzzword is "mission rehearsal". Training is not just about flying an aircraft or driving a tank but about preparing for an actual mission."


Besides the large order for tank simulators, which would install simulation training centres in every major tank base, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and CAE will commission, by mid-2010, a Helicopter Academy to Train by Simulation of Flying (HATSOFF), in Bangalore. This facility will allow the switching around of various cockpits, including the Bell 412, the military Dhruv, and the Dauphin.


And Lockheed Martin will provide the six C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft that India has bought along with flight simulators.


A visit to one of the many simulators on display at Defexpo 2010 in Delhi illustrates that the real challenge in simulator design is in creating a realistic environment. Says Zen's Atluri, "Recreating a tank or its gun controls is easy. Recreating an entire virtual world around it is the difficult part."


That is one reason why companies like Zen, which have provided gaming software to companies like Sony, and have long experience in satisfying demanding young video-game enthusiasts, are now making it big in military simulation.








ST Kinetics confident of bagging Indian Army's howitzers contract

Thursday, February 18, 2010,14:06 [IST]

New Delhi, Feb 18 (ANI): Singapore Technologies (ST) Kinetics, which is vying for India's order of 400 towed 155mm/52 calibre field howitzers, is looking for a long term association with the Indian Army and is confident of bagging the contract.


Artillery acquisition is central to the Indian Army's modernization programme. This tender involves outright purchase of 400 towed guns and transfer of technology for manufacture of another 1180 guns.



"Actually, we have a whole lot of products to offer Indian Army. Basically howitzers. We are participating in both howitzer categories and also couple of embodied system," said Ong Meng Hua Patrick, Director Regional Marketing of the ST Kinetics.


"At present our light weight assault rifle is under going trial rounds. We are happy and able to supply to the Indian Armed forces in the near future. We have 42 years of experience in engineering and defence products," he said on Thursday on the sidelines of the DEFEXPO 2010 held in New Delhi.


"Indian Army is a very good customer for howitzers and we are more competent than other people in the market. We have a 155 mm double barrel howitzer, and we are first in the world to produce it," said Patrick.


He said that ST Kinetics lightweight howitzer has got artillery power unit (APU), which enables it to load quickly by pressing a button rather than running round the chamber, and helps soldiers to use them in high altitude and cold weather a lot.


"ST Kinetics is partnering Punj Llyod group. We are confident that they will be able to furnish the requirement of our Indian customers," Patrick said when asked about fulfilling India's Offset clause in the defence contract.


ST Kinetics FH-2000 towed howitzer made by Singapore Technologies (ST), a government-held firm, will face-off with the Bae Land Systems (formerly Bofors) FH77B05.


Two more howitzers in the race were rejected following technical scrutiny of the tender bids, the Rheinmetall's RWG-52 and Israeli Soltam's Athos.


Indian Army bought the Bofors FH77B02 artillery guns more than 22 years back. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)







India, Myanmar: Reluctant brothers in arms

By Brian McCartan



BANGKOK - Myanmar's up and down relationship with neighboring India is on the up again with a new commitment for coordinated counter-insurgency operations along their mutual border. While previous promises to tackle armed groups failed in the actual implementation, analysts suggest there could be new impetus for strategic cooperation.


India's Home Secretary G K Pillai led a delegation to Naypyidaw in January for three days of secretarial-level talks with Myanmar officials led by Brigadier General Phone Swe. The elimination of insurgent camps in Myanmar across the border from India's violence-plagued northeastern region, featured in discussions.


India also reportedly requested progress on demarcating the 1,643 kilometer shared border and a crackdown on the cross border smuggling of narcotics, Chinese-made weapons and other goods. Pillai's meetings followed a visit to Myanmar in October by Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor to discuss "enhanced military cooperation''.


Northeastern India has been wracked by insurgency since the 1950s with various groups demanding independence, autonomy, or a halt to migration into their areas. The Naga went underground in 1956 seeking the formation of a Greater Nagaland encompassing areas of both India and Myanmar.


In the early 1970s, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland began setting up camps in Myanmar's northwestern Sagaing Division. Links were also forged with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), then fighting the Myanmar government, through which it obtained weapons and training from China.


Other northeastern Indian groups followed suit. By the 1980s, the Assamese United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), various Manipuri rebel groups and other smaller ethnic-based groups had also set up camps in Sagaing Division as well as Kachin and Chin States.


Although China ended its assistance to the groups nearly 30 years ago, and the KIA also stopped as a result of its ceasefire with the government in 1994, by 2005 there were still at least 27 full-time camps in western Myanmar. ULFA, which is seeking an independent state for the Assamese, has by different estimates between 3,000 and 6,000 fighters and at least four major camps in Myanmar, including the headquarters of its 28th Battalion.


The Manipuri People's Liberation Front (MPLF), an umbrella organization of several Manipuri groups with a combined strength of up to 7,000 also has camps in Myanmar. Other smaller forces representing ethnic groups such as the Kukis and the Zomis, are also believed to maintain operations in Myanmar.


Despite this large number of armed insurgents on its western border, Myanmar's military has paid much less attention to this area compared to its eastern and northern borders with Thailand and China. Analysts and diplomats believe that this is because the groups represent little immediate threat to Myanmar's territorial integrity and unity.


ULFA, the Manipuris and other groups confine their attacks to targets across the border in India and use Myanmar for rest and training. Some opposition groups have alleged that local Myanmar military officers receive monthly payments from the Indian groups to ignore their cadre and camps.


Myanmar's own insurgent groups in the area are small and not viewed by the generals as posing as big a security threat as the much larger ceasefire and non-ceasefire armies in eastern and northern Myanmar. Groups such as the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA) and the Chin National Front (CNF), which operate in northern Arakan State and Chin State, each number only 100 or 200 men. Operations against these groups usually take the form of periodic sweeps and the occasional ambush.


The exception is the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) faction led by S S Khaplang in Sagaing. The group, which is linked to Naga nationalists on the Indian side of the border, may have as many as several thousand fighters, according to some estimates. The Myanmar Army has pursued the NSCN more determinedly, attacking it was recently as November 2009.


This, however, reflects the general's view that the NSCN's aim of an independent Nagaland is a direct threat to Naypyidaw's unity and national integrity rather than any determination to assist India, analysts say. India, on the other hand, has made the elimination of the insurgent camps a key component of its foreign policy with Myanmar.


Controversial exchanges


India was previously a strong supporter of the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar following the military crackdown of peaceful protestors in 1988. That changed, however, when New Delhi launched its new "Look East" foreign policy in 1991 aimed at counteracting growing Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. Military and diplomatic exchanges were stepped up and new economic and development initiatives put forward.


Considerable effort has been placed on convincing Myanmar's junta to participate in counter-insurgency campaigns along the border. India has offered the regime artillery, radar and radio systems, and Myanmar military officers have attended Indian military academies.


In 2006, apparently as part of a deal to conduct military operations, India said it was planning to transfer an unspecified number of T-55 tanks, armored personnel carriers, 105mm artillery pieces, mortars and helicopters. In October of that year, Indian Army Vice-Chief Lieutenant General S Pattabhiraman told Force magazine, an Indian defense and security monthly, that the transfer of artillery pieces had already begun.


In November 2006, J J Singh, the Indian army's chief of staff pledged to provide training in special warfare tactics to Myanmar soldiers. This was followed by an offer of a multi-million dollar military aid package by Indian Air Force head S P Tyagi during a visit to Naypyidaw that same month. Included in the deal were helicopters, avionics upgrades for Myanmar's Chinese and Russian-made fighters and naval surveillance aircraft. The extensive package may have been granted after Myanmar began limited operations against insurgents in the northwest.


The arms transfers were heavily criticized by foreign governments and human-rights organizations. The British government protested in particular the transfer of two BN-2 Islander maritime surveillance aircraft in August 2006. Heavy international pressure was also placed on India for a plan to transfer light helicopters produced by Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) that included European parts covered under a European Union arms embargo against Myanmar. By December 2007, India had quietly halted the arms transfers.


Myanmar's generals have since shown little determination to carry out military campaigns along the western border. In 1995, a joint operation known as Operation Golden Bird, aimed at flushing out ULFA, NSCN and Manipuri fighters in camps along the border, ended abruptly when Myanmar withdrew its troops after New Delhi presented the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding to pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.


Since then there have been few military operations against insurgent groups based in Myanmar's western regions. Although Myanmar agreed in 2000 to conduct joint operations in exchange for military equipment, few military actions actually took place. An exception was a 2001 raid on four Manipuri camps that resulted in the capture of 192 insurgents and the seizure of 1,600 weapons. Seven insurgent leaders were arrested including UNLF chairman Rajkumar Meghen and Khaidem Hamedou, its general secretary.


All were inexplicably released the following year, much to the chagrin of the Indian government, which expected them to be handed over. Assurances from Myanmar's Senior General Than Shwe in 2004 that Myanmar would not allow Indian insurgent groups to use its territory were similarly followed with inaction. Again agreeing to joint operations with their Indian counterparts in 2007, Myanmar's army did very little on the ground.


Shrinking safe havens


The loss of northwestern Myanmar as a safe area would represent a major setback to Indian insurgents. Not only would they lose areas for training and regroupment, they would also yield an up-to-now reliable conduit for weapons. In January, Arunachal Pradesh home minister Tako Dabi voiced concerns over the smuggling of Chinese-made weapons through Myanmar into India. He accused India's Naga rebels of colluding with the KIA in moving the illicit weapons.


Chinese weapons were sent to the northeastern groups through the KIA in the 1970s, but this route was known to have dried up by the early 1980s as Beijing shifted policy away from backing insurgent movements and withdrew support for the Burmese Communist Party. Black market operators in China's southwestern Yunnan province filled the gap and began making weapons available to Indian groups in the 1990s.


Although the arms were produced by Chinese state-owned weapons factories, they are believed to have been trafficked by unscrupulous factory managers. While the KIA claims to have severed ties to Indian insurgents, they are still believed to have some relations and could be a possible conduit for weapons. A clearer source is the United Wa State Army (UWSA). The group has acted as a broker for Chinese-produced arms as well as selling weapons from their own arms factory near Panghsang on the China border. A Jane's Intelligence Review report in 2008 detailed the UWSA's involvement in trafficking weapons to Myanmar and Indian insurgent groups.


The loss of sanctuary in northwestern Myanmar would be profound considering that the groups have already lost safe havens in Bhutan and Bangladesh. A successful joint military operation in 2003 pushed the groups out of border areas in Bhutan. Last year, a firmer line against Indian insurgent groups sheltering in Bangladesh was taken by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.


Insurgent bank accounts were frozen and the ULFA lost its political leader Arabinda Rajkhowa and deputy commander Raju Baruah when they were arrested by Bangladeshi authorities in Cox's Bazaar in November. The crackdown is believed to have forced the ULFA to shift its camps and cadre to Myanmar. Seizures in Bangladesh of Chinese-made weapons brought in by boat and believed destined for northeastern insurgents suggested that the country's ports had become major gateways for weapons.


Insurgent's weapons supplied from China may also be in jeopardy if the UWSA and the KIA are forced to join the junta's Border Guard Force scheme, which would place them under the direct control of Naypyidaw's War Office. India's lack of influence with China means strategic engagement with Naypyidaw is its only pressure point in putting a stop to the arms trafficking.


Encouraged by these successes, New Delhi is now pushing again for joint operations with Myanmar. Myanmar vowed after the January talks that it plans to carry out coordinated operations with the Indian army against insurgent camps along their mutual border.


As part of these operations, the Myanmar army says it will make efforts to track down and arrest insurgent leaders, especially ULFA commander Paresh Barua. Following the January talks, an Indian home ministry official announced: "Security forces of India and Myanmar will conduct coordinated operations in their respective territories in the next two to three months. The objective of the operation is that no militant can escape to the other side after facing the heat on one side."


No date has been set for the commencement of the operations and coordination between the two forces, including intelligence sharing, has not yet been worked out.


India is already beefing up its forces in the area, recently deploying a field intelligence unit of its Assam Rifles battalion. The government also said it will raise another 26 battalions of Assam Rifles, at the rate of two to three per year, to secure border areas in Nagaland and Manipur states and support counterinsurgency operations.


For its part, Naypyidaw has said it still needs to build up its forces in its remote northwestern regions. They will likely be hard-pressed to launch an offensive in the area while engaged in a war of nerves with former ceasefire groups in the north over a scheme to transform them into military-led border guard forces.


Other forces are needed to contain still-active insurgencies in the eastern part of the country. More forces will presumably be needed to ensure control of central portions of the country in the lead up to general elections planned for the later half of this year.


It would likely be an unpopular move to carry out military operations while voters are going to the polls. However the generals have used the existence of the Indian groups as leverage with New Delhi in the past, and could conceivably use them as bargaining chips to gain legitimacy for the elections from the world's largest democracy.


The junta needs all the international support it can muster for elections which most observers and analysts believe is a forgone conclusion in favor of military-backed candidates. By offering support for an outcome that will likely further consolidate the military's hold on power, New Delhi could yet move the generals towards action in tackling insurgents along the border.








Women in the Armed Forces: misconceptions and facts

By Maj Gen Mrinal Suman

Issue: Vol 25.1 Jan-Mar 2010


The recent debate about the induction of women in the armed forces has been highly skewed and shallow. An issue that critically affects the fighting potential of the armed forces has been reduced to 'equality of sexes' and 'women's liberation'. Many ill-informed observers have trifled such a sensitive matter by terming it as 'conquering the last male bastion'. Sadly, stances have been taken more on the basis of personal views and mind-sets rather than on well evolved logic. Both military and non-military experts are equally guilty in this regard.


In the recent past, the nation was shocked to hear a retired senior Army officer recommending constitution of all women battalions in the Indian Army. There cannot be a more preposterous and perilous proposition. It is equally common to hear the argument that if the Naxalites and LTTE can have women fighters, why the Indian armed forces should be reluctant to do so. Often people quote the number of American women fighting war in Iraq and Afghanistan to question India's stance against allowing women in combat. This article endeavours to remove some common misconceptions and put all issues in their proper perspective.


maj-gen-mrinal-sumanTo start with, it needs to be stressed that the services carry no male chauvinistic mindset. The very fact that daughters of service officers have excelled in all fields proves that service officers do not suffer from any gender bias and are very supportive of women's advancement. However, the issue of women's induction in the services warrants singular treatment.


It will be instructive to take a look at the genesis of the issue. Earlier, entry of women was limited to the Army Medical Corps, the Army Dental Corps and the Military Nursing Service. In the early 90s, a service chief visited the United States and saw women participating in Guards of Honour. He was suitably impressed and wondered why India should lag behind in this aspect. Thus the decision to induct women was neither need-based nor well thought-through. The first batch of women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers joined in 1992. No attempt was made to study likely long term implications of multiple issues involved and their effect on the fighting potential of the services. In other words, a decision of colossal significance was taken in a totally cavalier, slapdash and hasty manner. As the other two services did not want to be seen as 'male-chauvinists', they followed suit. Soon a race got underway between the three services to induct women in maximum number of fields. It is only now that a plethora of complex issues are getting thrown up with resultant adverse fall-out.


Presently, the Indian Army counts 2.44 percent women in its ranks, the Indian Navy 3.0 percent and the Indian Air Force 6.7 percent. The tenure of women SSC officers has since been increased to 14 years. The Government has also approved grant of Permanent Commission to SSC (Women) officers prospectively in Judge Advocate General (JAG) Department and Army Education Corps (AEC) of Army and their corresponding Branch/Cadre in Navy and Air Force, Accounts Branch of the Air Force and Corps of Naval Constructors of the Navy.


Common misconceptions and facts


Women must get equal opportunities in the services!


The concept of equality of sexes is unquestionable. Its application should, however, never affect the fighting potential of the armed forces. Two points need to be highlighted here. First, the armed forces are constituted for national defence and there can be no compromise on that issue. Secondly, the armed forces are not a 'Rozgar Yojana' to provide employment to all segments of the society in equal proportion. As it is a question of nation's defence, the best man or woman should be selected for every job. In other words, women should be inducted in the services only if they add value or at least not affect it adversely. No right thinking individual can advocate women's induction at the cost of the fighting potential. That would be disastrous for the country.


Interestingly, demand for equal opportunities is selective in nature. Women want to join only as officers and not as soldiers. Additionally, the concept of equality is given a go-by soon after commissioning. Applications for peace postings and other special dispensations proliferate. They join the military on the plank of equality of sexes but this plank vanishes the day they join the training academy. Thereafter, they again become the weaker sex needing special privileges.


Women can perform all physical tasks as well as men!


Standards of physical fitness of women can never be the same as those of men. It is a biological reality and is true for all fields including sports. In the case of women officers, Indian Army has lowered the standards to appallingly low levels. Even then many women fail to qualify during their pre-commission training. Whereas male cadets are required to run 5 km in 28 minutes, women are given 40 minutes. Similarly, males are required to jump across a 9 feet wide ditch with full equipment and personal weapon; women have to negotiate only a 5 feet wide ditch. Worse, most women fail in the test.


All male officers and soldiers are subjected to annual Battle Physical Efficiency Tests till they attain the age of 45 years. No such tests have been prescribed for women officers to avoid embarrassment to them in front of the troops. Concerns have also been expressed about the susceptibility of Indian women to frequent back problems, pelvic injuries and stress fractures.


A recent review conducted by the British Army concluded that women have neither the upper-body strength nor the physical resilience to withstand intensive combat. Tests in 2000 respondents found that women were eight times more likely than men to sustain injuries other than wounds in action. 


Physical fitness is of lesser importance in modern fighting!


Need for physical effort is dictated by two factors - level of technological development and nature of military's involvement. Requirement for physical prowess undoubtedly reduces as the armies advance technologically. In other words, quantum of physical effort needed is inversely proportional to technological progression. Thus, as an army evolves technologically, more high-tech jobs get generated where technically qualified women can be gainfully employed. In a high-tech army like the US, a woman sitting in the US mainland can effectively guide drone attacks in Afghanistan. India on the other hand is still a second generation technology force which is trying desperately to graduate to the third generation. Indian defence forces are man-power intensive needing physical ground effort. India has very few high-tech jobs.


As regards degree and extent of a military's involvement in active combat duties, countries like Canada and Australia face no internal or external threat and their militaries are generally in peacetime mode with routine passive duties. They can certainly afford to have a larger percentage of women in their forces. Contrast this with India where the majority of army troops are deployed on active combat duties in remote, inhospitable and uncongenial areas. Only physically fit and tough troops can survive. Worse, peace tenures are short and there are very few periods of comparative lull.


Therefore, the Indian services continue to be physical-power intensive and will remain so in the near future. Only the very fit can survive to deliver in India's hostile environment.


The US has deployed a large number of women soldiers for fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!


Although a large number of women have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, their employment has been confined to support functions. Although till the end of 2009, the US and allies had suffered a total of 4689 casualties, there has not been a single woman war casualty. Similarly, despite the fact that the US and allies have suffered 1555 casualties, not a single woman has lost her life in the Afghanistan war so far. Many people tend to confuse casualties due to hostile action with combat casualties. The US has lost 19 female servicemen in Iraq to hostile activities like car bombs, IED blasts and helicopter crashes since the beginning of 2007, but there has been no combat casualty. It is simply because of the fact no women are deployed in combat duties. As a matter of fact, they are forbidden to be placed in direct ground combat with enemy. They generally perform medical, intelligence, logistic and traffic control duties. Women are thus kept sheltered in safe appointments, away from the risk of capture by the adversary.


Even in Israel which has conscription for women (as well as men), women are not allotted active battle field duties. They serve in technical, administrative and training posts to release men for active duty.


If BSF can have an all women battalion to guard border, why not the Indian Army!


The Border Security Force (BSF) has certainly raised an all women battalion and deployed it on the international border. However, the following important facts need to be highlighted:-


    * The battalion is led by male officers and subordinate functionaries.

    * The battalion has not been positioned on the Line of Control where firing and infiltration attempts are frequent. Instead, it has been deployed near Ferozepur on the International Border (IB) which is totally peaceful and where Indian and Pak troops routinely exchange sweets on festivals.

    * Even on IB no independent sector has been entrusted to the women battalion. It has been superimposed on an existing male battalion. Importantly, women perform no night guard duties - these are performed by males.


Earlier, village women were not allowed to go across the border fence to cultivate their fields as no women sentries were available to frisk them. It was a sore point with the border folks. The sole purpose of raising the women battalion is to redress this long standing grievance. Their task is akin to what CISF women have been carrying out at the airports for long - frisking of women. Therefore, it will be incorrect to call the BSF battalion a fighting force.


Women officers help overcome the shortage of officers in the forces!


It is an erroneous impression that there is a shortage of male volunteers for the services. As per the report of the Union Public Service Commission for 2006-07, there were a total of 5,49,365 candidates for 1724 vacancies for all civil services examinations with an Applicants to Post Ratio (APR) of 319. On the other hand, 3,41,818 candidates applied for 793 vacancies in the National Defence Academy (NDA), maintaining APR at a healthy 431. It implies that for every seat in NDA there were 431 applicants. Therefore, it is a fallacy that male volunteers are insufficient. It is just that the services seek very exacting standards for males while women are accepted with abysmally low standards.


Short service commission for women has proved highly productive!


As a matter of fact, short service commission (normally extended to 10 years) has proved to be a totally wasteful and counter-productive exercise. Women normally get commissioned at the age of 23 to 25 years. Within two to three years of their commission, they get married, mostly to colleague male officers. Soon thereafter they start applying for peace postings on compassionate grounds to be with their husbands. Every pregnancy means three years' exemption from physical activities - one year pre-natal and two years post-delivery. With the standard two-child norm, a women officer remains physically inactive for close to six years. It implies that after the first post-commission tenure, a woman officer is rarely in a position to participate in field exercises and has to be exempted all out-door work. Thus the services gain little.


In an informal interaction, a senior Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) questioned the rationale of granting SSC to women. "In the case of men, 25 to 35 years age span is most productive and grant of SSC is understandable. On the other hand, women have to raise their families during that period. By granting SSC to women, we have achieved nothing except increase the load on maternity wards of military hospitals," he opined.


If women can fight as soldiers in LTTE and Naxalite outfits, why not in the services!


Comparing irregular outfits with constitutionally created regular forces shows speciousness of the logic. In any case, even LTTE recruited women only after it fell short of male volunteers. Moreover, women held no high appointments and were generally used as pawns in indoctrinated suicide squads. If one was to carry the comparison forward, LTTE had recruited boys of 15 years to take up arms and act as human bombs. A lawfully structured formal organisation cannot be expected to follow suit.


Indian women officers have proved themselves and established their credibility as leaders!


Not withstanding the public posturing of the services top brass, the experience so far has been highly discouraging. Superior male officers admire their enthusiasm despite the environmental difficulties, but are faced with the twin problems of their safety and useful employment. Additionally, as many duties (like night duty officer) cannot be assigned to women, male officers have to be given additional work load, which they resent. There are also concerns, based on Israeli studies, that soldiers first instinct may be to defend the women in their ranks rather than to fight the enemy.


Male officers also question the logic of having women only as officer. Indian officers pride themselves in the fact that they lead from the front and hence have to be better than their soldiers both physically and professionally. But, by having women only in the officer cadre an impression gets conveyed to the environment that officers' duties are softer and can be carried out by women as well, thereby lowering our standing.


As per an informal survey carried out, 81 percent of the troops were convinced that women officers could never lead them in war efficiently. The balance 19 percent were unsure of their response. Acceptability of women as leaders was thus very poor. Another segment of respondents viewed the whole issue as a political gimmick which did not warrant serious attention. "How can the Government be naïve enough to think that a leader who cannot run, train and exercise with troops and lacks required physical fitness can lead them in war?" they query.


Women in Western forces are well accepted and adjusted!


It is a fallacy. Acceptance of women in the military has not been smooth in any country. Despite efforts made to sensitise the environment, they continue to be confronted with social, behavioural and psychological problems at all levels. To date most countries do not allow women tank crews because of the cramped conditions and lack of privacy. There are also concerns about cramped living conditions on board submarines and dangers posed by fumes inside the submarine to a foetus if a woman becomes pregnant.


Sexual harassment and assaults of women soldiers is known to be blatant and quite prevalent in the US forces. A sexual harassment hotline set up at Aberdeen received 6,825 calls from women from all branches of the military in just two months. Hundreds of women are said to have complained of sexual assault in the forces since the beginning of Iraq war in 2003. Level of moral degradation can be gauged from the fact that 'command rape' has come to be accepted as a common phenomenon in the military - a superior official, under the might of his command authority, can force a subordinate woman soldier to accede to his sexual demands.


A joint survey carried out in 2006 in the UK by the Ministry of Defence and the Equal Opportunities Commission found that 67% of the respondents had experienced sexualised behaviour directed at them personally in the previous 12 months. Worse, over half of those who made a formal complaint stated that there had been negative consequences as a result of which 64 per cent were considering leaving the services.


On the other hand, Indian Armed Forces can be rightfully proud of their record which is far better than that of any advanced nation in the world. Women are treated in a manner befitting their dignity and their safety is ensured.


India needs to exercise caution


It is universally accepted that induction of women in the services should be dictated by the level of technology, prevailing security environment and the nature of likely deployment. Availability of adequate number of male volunteers is another major consideration.


India should follow a graduated approach. Women's expertise, talent and competence should be profitably utilised in areas which are totally non-combat in nature. For the present, women must continue to play their established role in the medical, dental and nursing services, both as short service and permanent commission officers. However, they should not be granted short service commission in any other branch. The Government has rightly approved grant of permanent commission to women in legal and education departments of the three services, accounts branch of the Air Force and constructors of the Navy. Grant of permanent commission should also be considered for women in Survey of India, Military Engineering Service Militarised Cadre and Director General Quality Assurance.


The current policy of non-induction of women in combat arms should continue. Additionally, their entry into Engineers, Signals, Supply Corps, Ordnance and EME (Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) should be deferred till infusion of technology generates adequate number of high-tech jobs.


Finally, it should never be forgotten that the raison d'être for the constitution of the armed forces is to ensure security of the country. Decisions which have a far reaching effect on the defence potential of the armed forces must be taken with due diligence. Instead of replicating a model, India must chart its own policy. It has an experience of 18 years. Honest feedback must be sought to appreciate the true ground situation and initiate corrective measures. Most importantly, the military brass must show moral courage to admit that the present mess demands a holistic review of the policy, protestations of self-styled champions of gender-parity not withstanding. Decisions taken as a matter of political and populist expediency can prove disastrous for the nation in the long run. Defence matters cannot be treated as publicity gimmick to flaunt sexual equality.


Maj Gen Mrinal Suman is India's foremost expert in defence procurement procedures and offsets. He heads Defence Technical Assessment and Advisory Services Group of CII.








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