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Monday, 12 July 2010

From Today's Papers - 11 Jul 2010

Special powers for armed forces We need clarity, not emotions
by Lt-Gen Vijay Oberoi (retd)  The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, better known as AFSPA, has been brought out of wraps at various opportune times – opportune for those who have either something to gain, i.e. the insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir, political parties always ready to fish in troubled waters, with an eye on electoral gains or those who are regular establishment-baiters, who have made it a habit to take the plunge headlong in any controversy with the belief that if it is against an organ of the government, it needed to be opposed!  Many have called AFSPA a draconian law and have vehemently supported its repeal, but having read quite a few of their views and watched them pontificating on TV, I am convinced that most lack even a rudimentary, let alone in-depth knowledge on the subject. This Act has been in force for over five decades because it was essential for the conduct of smooth counter-insurgency operations by the army. It will continue to be needed as long as the army is employed on counter-insurgency/ terrorism tasks.  The Act was promulgated on September 11, 1958. The rationale for bringing the Act on the statute book needs to be appreciated. When the army was first employed on counter-insurgency tasks in Nagaland in the 1950s, two aspects came to the fore immediately. First, unlike in the case of maintenance of law and order, when the army is called out in ‘aid to the civil authority’, where time is available to employ the police before committing the army, operations against insurgents are entirely of a different genre, as the insurgents do not give any time for such niceties.  The insurgents we are fighting today are heavily armed, they act speedily, commit heinous crimes and disappear. Unless the army counters such actions with speed and not wait for orders from higher civil or military authorities, nothing would be achieved.  Secondly, the soldiers and officers of the army had to be protected from prosecution for consequential action taken against insurgents in good faith as part of their operations. Here too, the Act does contain the important caveat that the army personnel can be prosecuted with the Centre’s sanction, if their actions warrant it. There is, therefore, no blanket immunity from the laws of the land.  Over the years, some army personnel have indeed been prosecuted where a prima facie case existed. However, it is also true that due to the exceptional care which all army commanders take when their troops are employed against insurgents, such cases are few and far between.  After the initial employment in Nagaland, the employment of the army on counter-insurgency tasks continued increasing, till it was progressively employed in all the north-eastern states for such tasks. Along with such employment, AFSPA was also invoked in all affected states.  When insurgency erupted in Srinagar in 1990, the Act was extended to the Valley. Later, as the activities of the insurgents spread, first to the Poonch-Rajauri area, then to Doda and Bhadarwah and finally to the whole state, the entire state was brought under the Act’s purview in stages. It can thus be seen that AFSPA was invoked progressively only when the situation required the deployment of the army.  The army is designed and structured for fighting external enemies of the nation. Consequently, they are not given any police powers. However, when the nation wants the army to conduct counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations, then they must be given the legal authority to conduct their operations without the impediment of getting clearances from the higher authorities.  If this is not done, they would be unable to function efficiently and defeat the insurgents and terrorists at their own game. It is for this reason that the Act gives four powers to army personnel. These are for ‘enter and search’, ‘arrest without warrant’, ‘destroy arms dumps or other fortifications’ and ‘fire or use force after due warning where possible’. Once again, there is a safeguard in the Act, which stipulates that the arrested person(s) will be handed over speedily to the nearest police station.  The law stipulates that AFSPA can be imposed only after the area in question is declared a ‘disturbed area’ by the state government concerned. When this writer was the Director-General Military Operations (DGMO) and the army was asked to deploy in the Doda-Bhadarwah area, we requested for the invocation of the Act. The state government was reluctant to do so on account of political considerations, but we did not commence operations till the Act was invoked.  Clearly, the Army has no desire to get embroiled in counter-insurgency tasks. It is not the army’s job. However, despite over 50 years of insurgency in our country, the state police as well as the central police forces (CPOs) have not been made capable of tackling insurgency. Consequently, in each case the army was inducted to carry out counter insurgency/ terrorist operations. If the national leadership tasks the army for conducting such non-military operations, then it is incumbent on the leadership to provide the legal wherewithal to all army personnel employed on such tasks.  It is only then that the operations will be conducted in the usual efficient manner of the army and would be result-oriented. They also must be legally protected. It is because these two aspects have been catered for that the army has been neutralising the insurgents and terrorists, so that normalcy is restored and the political leaders and officials can restart governing.

Have not built on the gains in J&K: Army chief to NDTV 
Nitin Gokhale, Updated: July 11, 2010 08:10 IST  PLAYClick to Expand & Play New Delhi:  The Army says there are a host of measures, besides deploying the Army, to bring the situation in Kashmir under control. In an exclusive interview to NDTV's Defence Editor Nitin Gokhale, Army Chief General VK Singh said Army gains on the security front have not been capitalised on in Kashmir.  Here's an excerpt from the interview:  NDTV: Let me straight away ask you a question on the current situation in Kashmir.  Gen Singh: The situation in Kashmir has been tense for quite for some time now and the reasons are many. The basic reason has been that we have not been able to build up on the gains that we have made over a period of time. People are passing instructions. The separatists are able to garner support and I think the population is fairly gullible...they take it as they see.      What measures would you suggest from the Army's side?  Gen Singh: I think as far as the Army is concerned, a lot of work has been done. Situation has been brought to a particular level when other initiatives should have been taken...first of all there should be concerted efforts to identify those miscreants. There are people who are passing instructions on the phone etc. They have to be identified, there are people who are financing the protest - they should be identified. After that starts how to connect with the common man and build confidence in him so that he can stay away from the miscreants. Then there are administrative measures and measures to be taken by elected leaders at various levels to build confidence. Last but not the least, if you want to impose a curfew for some time for containing the particular area it has to be total. You cannot have a half-hearted measure.  NDTV: Is that the reason why Army was brought in as a deterrent?  Gen Singh: I really won't say as to why there was such a thing. Army was already there, what is there to be requisitioned. It is already carrying out operations with the police in conjunction with the state. We are there for various things. I think there was some sort of a loss of confidence and that is why we said yes. We are as much concerned as anybody else.

Pak spy held in Chandigarh
July 10, 2010 23:49 IST Tags: Pawan Kumar, Kashif Ali, Indian Army, IPC, Pakistan Share this Ask Users Write a Comment  A Pakistani national, who allegedly used to pass vital defence information to his masters across the border, was arrested  on Saturday. Twenty four-year-old Kashif Ali, hailing from Faisalabad in Pakistan, was arrested from sector 44 of the Union Territory on Saturday evening, police said.  Ali was staying in the city for the past two-and-a-half year under the assumed name of Pawan Kumar. He used to collect vital information regarding Army's Western Command Headquarters at Chandi Mandir and the Air Force station and was passing this to Pakistan.  A driving licence issued by the Transport Authority, Delhi [ Images ], in the name of Pawan Kumar, a camera and some documents relating to the Indian Army [ Images ] were recovered from him, police said. During questioning, Ali told his interrogators that that he took training in weapons in Pakistan. A case was registered against him under various section of the IPC, the Official Secrets Act and the Foreigners Act, police said.

Entry restricted
 She was staring intently at the  television when I walked in. The look on Mummy’s face suggested bewilderment. I  could tell she was displeased with something she’d heard.  “What’s grabbed your attention?” I asked, trying to snap her concentration with a little deliberate levity.  “It’s the judges”, she replied gravely. “They seem to think they know how to run the army better than the army chief! They want to force him to take in women officers. On the other hand, he’s  reluctant to do so. Surely this is something the man should be allowed to decide  for himself?”  Even at 93 the issue had riled Mummy. First as a wife and then as a widow, she’s spent over seven decades connected to the army and firmly believes she understands it better than most. Judges, who have no martial tradition to boast of and little understanding of the services, are unlikely to change her mind. And Mummy can be pretty obstinate.  “Don’t you think women have a right to join the army if they want to?” It wasn’t a serious question so much as an attempt to engage her in conversation. But Mummy saw it as an opportunity to teach me a thing or two.  “Don’t be silly” she shot back. “No one has a right to join the army. It’s not a birthright conferred upon you. Not unless you qualify and you are accepted. In this case, the army is the best judge of what they want and who meets their standards or requirement.”  “Oh, come now, Mummy”, I responded, still trying to be jocular despite her heavily crossed eye-brows and clearly visible irritation. “Don’t you think women in uniform parading down Rajpath would make a fetching sight?”  I think she snorted. At least it sounded like that. At any rate her contempt for my comment was difficult to miss.  “But the judges aren’t only talking of decorative roles. Would you feel safe if the defence of India was left in the care of women indulging in hand-to-hand combat with strapping lads from China and Pakistan?” Mummy waited for the import of her question to sink in. When she thought it had, she delivered her coup de grace. “When you’re faced with the prospect of ending up as chopsuey or burra kebab I think you’ll be very grateful for a tough male soldier ready to sacrifice his life for you!”  The force of that rejoinder took me  aback. I had no idea Mummy had such strong and passionate views. But now that I had made this discovery I was keen to find out more.  “But there are non-combat roles women can perform. What’s wrong with that?”  “If only you’d use your head you’d  realise non-combat roles are meant for the second rank. Do you want women to be in a position where they are permanently inferior?” This time Mummy positively spat out her words. So I decided to change tack.  “And do you agree with the argument that soldiers don’t like taking orders from women? The army says it goes against their cultural grain.”  “It depends on which women you mean. They may not like being commanded by one but they’ll bloody well do as they’re told when spoken to by a senior officer’s wife!” Clearly that must’ve brought back happy memories because Mummy started smiling.  “Now enough of this nonsense or I’ll  think you’re as daft as those silly  judges.”

Pakistani spy arrested in Chandigarh
IANS, Jul 10, 2010, 10.09pm IST CHANDIGARH: A Pakistani spy, who had sent vital defence information from India to his country, was arrested on Saturday, police said.  According to police, the spy was identified as Kashif Ali, 24, a resident of Faisalabad in Pakistan's Punjab province was staying here for the last two-and-a-half years, under the name of Pawan Kumar.  "Working on a secret tip-off, police arrested Ali from Sector 44 here. Initially he insisted he was Pawan Kumar, a resident of New Delhi, but after a strenuous interrogation, he confessed his real identity. He admitted that he had also taken weaponry training from Pakistan," IGP Pradeep Srivastava told reporters here.  "Ali was collecting vital information regarding (Army's) Western Command headquarters at Chandimandir (in the neighbouring Panchkula town) and air force station here and was passing it to Pakistan," he said.  Copies of restricted documents of the Indian Army were also recovered from him, the officer said.  In May 2010, Punjab Police had arrested a Pakistani spy from near an Indian Air Force station from Mullanpur, in Mohali district of Punjab, around 10 km from Chandigarh.

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