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Monday, 13 September 2010

From Today's Papers - 13 Sep 2010

South Asian security India faces a major challenge
by Air Marshal R.S.Bedi (retd)  India lies at the centre of the South Asian peninsula surrounded by a number of countries. Most of these countries are beset with political instability and economic deprivation. With China also becoming India’s immediate neighbour (eighth) after the British nurtured buffer state of Tibet was annexed by it in 1951 and conceded by Nehru as an autonomous region of China, the security environment in the region became all the more intimidating. Being geographically and demographically diminutive, these countries suffer from a sense of insecurity and tend to go in for alliances outside the region.  China soon began to exploit the situation and intervened in the internal affairs of these countries by providing them political, economic and military support in pursuance of its own strategic goals vis-a-vis India. This led to an all weather friendship between China and Pakistan. Earlier also, it was Pakistan that brought super power rivalry in the region by joining the western alliances in the early fifties to seek insurance against India. Ever since, it has remained deeply mired in its strategic games and literally survives on the politico-economic succour provided by them.  Machinations of these powers and newly evolving politico-strategic alliances have resulted in unprecedented changes in the security environment of South Asia. The US and China both need Pakistan for their respective strategic considerations and meet its demands for cash and weapons as per its terms. China in total disregard to global ethics went on to help Pakistan to become a nuclear state. It served China’s purpose of keeping India embroiled in an incessant proxy war with a smaller neighbour. China’s attempts to befriend India’s other neighbours like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka through devious means are no less threatening.  With India, it prefers to keep the border issue alive, continues to build massive infrastructure all along it, objects to India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh, and as mentioned earlier, continues to prop up Pakistan in particular against India. China’s belligerence and assertiveness in total disregard to other’s concern belies its claim of ‘peaceful rise’. Its ever-increasing proclivity for brinkmanship in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, just as in resource-rich islands of South China sea will only provoke pushback from others in order to contain the growing power of China. China’s increasing presence in South Asia, as a result of complicity of Pakistan and Myanmar, a few areas of convergence with India notwithstanding, is fraught with danger,  Having got involved in the US-run war in Afghanistan, Pakistan has suffered heavily as a nation. Politically, it’s in turmoil. Its sovereignty stands eroded. American UAVs operating from its bases are killing its people with impunity. It finds itself in a precarious situation of a helpless spectator to the Americans’ doing there. The army is too being forced to fight the US war against its own people. It has suffered heavy casualties in these engagements. Its own terrorist organisations nurtured as strategic assets are now increasingly involved with insurgency within the state of Pakistan. As a nation, Pakistan is on the verge of collapse. It is not in India’s interest to have an unstable and tottering Pakistan on its western borders.  Unfortunately, the military has not allowed the civilian governments to function unfettered. The current civilian dispensation is constrained to tow Gen. Kayani’s line on national affairs. Interestingly, it was Gen. Kayani who actually conducted the strategic dialogue with the US recently in Washington from behind the scenes, although on the face of it, it was Foreign Minister Qureshi who was leading the Pak delegation.  The army exercises full control on foreign affairs, especially vis-a-vis India, Afghanistan and the country’s nuclear policy. Hostility towards India and its complicity with terror remains its fundamental priority. Despite two decades of jihad supported by the ISI, it has achieved little more than keeping the region on the boil. The army is not sure of its standing in Pakistan in the event of an amicable resolution of outstanding issues between the two countries. The Pakistani military, therefore, remains a big obstacle in achieving regional peace. Gen. Kayani’s recent statement that India is the principal security threat was to only justify the ongoing asymmetric war against India. Any scope of dealing with the Pak military directly to resolve the Indo-Pak imbroglio can, therefore, be set aside. As long as the army is able to maintain its primacy in the affairs of the nation, scope for any rapprochement with Pakistan seems rather remote. Indo-Pak relations will remain hostage to this.  It’s for this reason that 26/11 will hang fire indefinitely till it gradually goes off the radar screen. The military brass can ill-afford to allow investigating agencies to question them since both the army and the navy were directly involved in it. India can do little except make periodic noises and seek help from here and there but without avail. As long as the US needs Pakistan in Afghanistan, it is futile to expect any support from it.  Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan is based on its perception that it is crucial from the point of view of much needed strategic depth against India. It also considers Afghanistan as a part of its area of influence where it views any interference from other outsiders as inimical to its interest. Whether Afghanistan will allow itself to be used or influenced by an outside power like Pakistan is a moot point. Afghans are known to be fiercely independent ever since the state of Afghanistan came into being in the mid-18th century. Even the mighty British empire was unable to control tribal Afghanistan. Afghanistan is unlikely to play any subservient role to its neighbour, particularly Pakistan which is known to be involved in violence and negating welfare measures there.  Pakistan has been trying to undermine India’s efforts to help Afghan people by attacking the Indian embassy in Kabul and getting Indian workers killed through hired elements. This has been amply revealed by Wikileaks. Notwithstanding, Pakistan continues to work hard to realise its dream of installing a friendly regime of Afghan Taliban so as to exercise control over them and the country after the US withdraws from Afghanistan by mid next year. It is, however, to be seen to what extent Pakistan is able to influence Afghans in meeting its objectives.  Having sunk $1.3 billion in development schemes in Afghanistan, India can hardly bow out of it. India certainly doesn’t want Pakistan to call the shots in Kabul. It is, therefore, in India’s interest that the US doesn’t beat a hasty retreat from Afghanistan. How this complex conflict situation is handled by India where a number of countries, including China, Russia and Iran are interested has to be seen.  So long as the Pakistani army stays in political business the South Asian security scenario will remain uncertain. India’s exasperation will only grow further at Pakistan’s ever-increasing cussedness. The political leadership in India must remember that there is no place for political morality, acquiescence or undue deference. It’s the national interest that is paramount.

New-age arms for crowd control 
New Delhi, September 12 Non-lethal weapons have come into government focus now after numerous civilian deaths in Jammu and Kashmir prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to advocate the use of alternative measures for crowd control.  A just-concluded defence expo here was the scouting ground for top officials of several security agencies and state police departments for non-lethal weapons (NLWs) and those dealing in such arms described the response as overwhelming.  Among the two NLWs on display was the 'JPX Jet Protector' -- shaped like a gun, it releases powerful concentrations of high grade Oleoresin Capsicum, a devastatingly inflammatory agent with accuracy to destabilise a person at 30 ft distance.  "The response was fantastic from security agencies. We got a lot of feedback for its trials from senior officials of the Home Department, NSG, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh Police. Some asked if we could increase the range as they had to deal with stone-pelters. We are looking into these points," said Jonathan Raj, a Banglore-based importer of the non-lethal weapons.  A senior Home Ministry official told PTI that the Working Group set up to examine the use of non-lethal weapons by security personnel was looking at various kinds of such weapons in the market and this high-powered panel would soon submit its recommendations to the government.  "We are examining various equipment available in the country and from abroad for purchase of non-lethal weapons.  The JPX Jet Protector was a much sought-after device as it is light-weight, has features like those in all hand-held guns and is cost-effective too. — PTI

War widow pension restored after 30 years
Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, September 12 Thirty years after the family pension of a soldier’s widow was abruptly stopped, it has now been restored. Ordering release of the pension, the Armed Forces Tribunal has directed that the widow should also be paid arrears for three years preceding the date of her petition along with 12 per cent interest within 90 days.  Kamla Devi’s husband, Nk Sis Ram was enrolled in the Army as a combatant from June 1963 and had died in service in July 1968. After his death, she was granted family pension, but suddenly in 1980 the pension, according to the petitioner, was discontinued without any process of law.  She made representations from time to time, but without any result. In November 2009, she served a legal notice on the pension authorities and was informed that she was disqualified for family pension because she had remarried. Thereafter, she approached the Tribunal.  The respondents, in reply before the Tribunal, stated that Kamla Devi was in receipt of ordinary family pension, but consequent to her remarriage with her real brother-in-law, she was disqualified to receive the ordinary family pension and same was accordingly discontinued. It was also submitted by the respondents that Sis Ram, while serving with 259 Coy ASC (Supply), had committed suicide. Special family pension claim by his widow was adjudicated by the Principal Controller of Defence Account (Pensions), Allahabad, and rejected as the death was due to suicide, which was neither attributable nor aggravated by military service.  The Tribunal observed that the when the family pension was discontinued in 1980, at least she should have been served with a notice in this regard, but it seemed to have not been done and suddenly family pension was discontinued on the ground that she has remarried.  Further, a circular issued by the government in November 2008 for implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations clearly mentioned that remarriage was no more a disqualification for family pension.

If govt takes a decision, it's final: Antony on AFSPA 
NDTV Correspondent, Updated: September 12, 2010 12:41 IST  PLAYClick to Expand & Play Thiruvananthapuram:  A day ahead of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meet to discuss a Kashmir peace package, Defence Minister AK Antony has downplayed the reported differences between his ministry and the Home Ministry over the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).  Denying any serious differences, he said there were bound to be different points of view, but if the government takes a decision, then it is final.  "There are no serious differences. It's the same government. When there is a discussion, there are different points of view. But if the government takes a decision, it's final. No differences. It's all speculation. Besides, we don't share to the public details of discussions in CCS and Core Group," said Antony.  When reporters persisted with their query on the issue, he said "I am not for any public debate on this matter, adding, anyway the CCS is going to discuss the matter on Monday."

Sack Omar, don't dilute AFSPA, says BJP
September 12, 2010 22:30 IST Tags: AFSPA, Cabinet Committee on Security, Advani, BJP, Omar Abdullah Share this Ask Users Write a Comment  On the eve of the crucial meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security on Kashmir, The Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] demanded the removal of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah [ Images ], saying his government has "completely collapsed" and warned that any dilution of AFSPA would only allow the separatists and miscreants to call the shots. Click!  Top BJP leaders, who met at L K Advani's [ Images ] residence in New Delhi [ Images ], said, "it is time he (Abdullah)is replaced by a more acceptable person." An unpopular chief minister suffers a complete alienation from his people, it said.  The party came out with a one page statement accusing the centre of being "completely devoid of any vision" on how to deal with the situation.  The meeting attended by Advani, Sushma Swaraj [ Images ], Arun Jaitley, S S Ahluwalia [ Images ] and Ravishankar Prasad was held a day before the CCS meet which is expected to consider a slew of measures to address the volatile Kashmir situation.  The CCS is likely to discuss steps like partial withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act for breaking the impasse in Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ].  In its statement, the BJP said that the last three months have seen a "sudden worsening" of the situation in the Valley.  The party cautioned the Centre against any dilution of AFSPA saying this is not the time for appeasement of separatists or vote bank politics. "This is a time for action. The government should not under any circumstances consider lifting the AFSPA from any disturbed district of the state. The security environment must be strengthened, the miscreants must feel scared and not allowed to call the shots," it said.

'Indian' Dhruv copter gets Italian makeover
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi September 13, 2010, 0:24 IST  The Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) has been widely regarded as a triumph of indigenous military rotorcraft design and manufacturing. Scores of Dhruvs already flying in army colours will be joined by another 159, which the military ordered last year from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). And, Ecuador’s air force chose the Dhruv ALH in an international tender in 2008 for seven helicopters.  But now it emerges that the Dhruv is struggling with a serious problem. The army, which was to be supplied 20 Dhruvs last year, refused to accept any until HAL fixed a problem that was restricting the Dhruv’s cruising speed to 250 kilometers per hour, significantly short of the 270 kmph that HAL specifications promise. Unable to find a cure, HAL has brought in a consultant: Italian aerospace propulsion major, Avio.  India’s military sets high store by the Dhruv’s engine power; the helicopter must operate from tiny landing grounds at 6,500 meters (about 21,000 feet), which is the altitude of Sonam Post, India’s highest helipad on the Siachen Glacier. But even after paying French engine-maker, Turbomeca, Rs 1,000 crore to design the Shakti engine —- a superb performer at high altitudes —- the Dhruv’s Integrated Dynamic System, or IDS, which transfers power from the Shakti engines to the helicopter rotors, is not performing optimally. That, say HAL engineers, has reduced speed, high-altitude capability, and the life of the IDS.  The Italian consultants will now scrutinise the Dhruv’s IDS to diagnose the problem. Avio will start by building a single HAL-designed IDS in Avio’s facilities in Italy, using their own materials and tools. They will then test-run this for 400-500 hours; if it works perfectly, it would be evident that the flaw lies in HAL’s manufacturing, rather than the IDS design. On the other hand, if the Avio-built IDS performs poorly during the test run, there is clearly a design problem. Avio will then redesign the IDS.  A senior HAL official explained to Business Standard: “Avio will review the whole design, on a purely consultancy basis. They will give us a redesign… that will be the first phase. We will have to translate that new design into an engineered product. And, after that, we’ll have to do the ground testing and the flight-testing. It will be a long-drawn affair.”  Avio, Business Standard has learned, was HAL’s second choice. But the first choice consultant, an American company, had so much work on its plate that it had to turn HAL away.  Meanwhile, India’s army and air force — strapped for helicopters — have no choice but to accept and fly Dhruvs, even though they are performing below par and metal keeps chipping off inside the IDS. HAL has itself implemented six changes inside the IDS and 30 helicopters have been flying with these changes for some 400 hours. So far, there has been no major problem.  “This is not dangerous for the pilots”, says a senior HAL official. “Heavy chipping of metal would warn us about an impending failure of the IDS. There is a monitoring system inside the IDS, which checks for the presence of tiny metal chips in the oil. There is no danger of sudden, catastrophic failure in flight.”  Top officials in the Ministry of Defence have conveyed strong displeasure to HAL over what they consider a “sloppy” work culture. Talking to Business Standard on condition of anonimity, a MoD official points out, “The Avio consultancy will place HAL’s work culture under serious scrutiny. To identify the fault in the Dhruv’s IDS, Avio has insisted on auditing HAL’s facilities and practices. This will amount to a full external audit, which will highlight systemic and procedural problems that HAL would never have identified on its own.”  But the MoD also accepts that the aerospace establishment, hungry for success, developed the Dhruv in haste and introduced it into operational service without adequate testing. Illustrating this point, the MoD official says: “The IAF asked for about 75 design changes while HAL was developing the Dhruv. This prevented a coherent and systematic design process. And, thereafter, HAL was too eager to introduce the Dhruv into service. It has now emerged that it was unwise of HAL, and of the IAF, to operationalise the Dhruv before the design was fully stabilised.”  This year, the army and the IAF will introduce 31 new HAL-built Dhruv Mark 3 helicopters into service. These are part of an order placed on HAL last year for 159 Dhruv helicopters to be supplied by 2015. Of these, 83 are utility helicopters called Dhruv Mark 3, used for transporting people. The other 76 are Mark 4 helicopters, which will be fitted with cannons, rockets, missiles and electronic warfare equipment. These are called Dhruv (Weapon Systems Integrated), or Dhruv (WSI).

Exit Is A Smarter Strategy
KANTI BAJPAI, Sep 13, 2010, 12.00am IST  The Indian strategic community thinks that the US must stay in Afghanistan for as long as it takes to wear out the Taliban and ensure stability in that deeply troubled country. It would probably be better for the US to withdraw as quickly as possible and turn its attention to its internal problems, its role in East Asia, and much larger global challenges.  Ten years on, the US should consider pulling out of Afghanistan. While it cannot lose against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, it also cannot win outright. If so, Islamic extremism around the world will prosper. Extremists in Pakistan will celebrate the US quagmire in Afghanistan and the radicalisation of Pakistani opinion. The US's presence may be a bulwark against radicalisation, but it is an equal bet that the longer the US stays, the more radical Pakistan will become. When the US finally pulls out, as it must, Pakistan might collapse into civil war if not extremism. Better then for the US to go when the moderates still have a chance.  Taliban rule in Afghanistan may be more palatable this time round. Mullah Omar is likely to be far more circumspect about extremism and terrorism. The US must, of course, continue to monitor, disrupt, and destroy the workings of al-Qaeda and to bolster homeland defence. Washington can use its air power, particularly the drones, to target Afghan extremists and al-Qaeda if the Taliban continues to support terrorism. The threat of US intervention from the air might well deter the Taliban, which in its new incarnation seems keen to rebuild Afghanistan economically rather than reinstall a pitiless Islamic regime.  For the US, this is a more affordable, efficient way of combating terror than fighting in distant lands. A US pullout from Afghanistan will not be a strategic defeat. It may mark the high point of Islamic extremism which might well recede with the US's departure from Iraq and Afghanistan just as global communism peaked after the US's exit from Vietnam.  The problem with the present US course is that the workings of the US political and economic system, its role in East Asia and issues of the global commons are being neglected. The US political system is now in a logjam, fatally divided between right extremism and a moderate centrism. The economy is heavily in debt (due in part to the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), is growing very slowly, and could be heading towards double-dip recession. No one in the US knows whether the country should spend its way out of trouble or curb the role of the state and stimulate market forces.  Washington has been obsessed with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iraq might yet turn out to be moderately stable and governable. The future of Afghanistan and Pakistan is much darker. Yet what is the worst that could happen a Taliban-led Afghanistan and a radical Pakistan? This could be a formidable combination, but just as likely is that Afghan/Pashtun nationalism and Pakistani/Punjabi nationalism will clash, leaving the two countries in unending contention rather than collusion. Nobody has mastered Afghanistan in the past, and the idea that Pakistan will do so in the years to come is a historical wager that the Pakistani army is likely to lose.  With so much invested in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Americans are not paying enough attention to East Asia and the global commons. China is steadily on the rise. This is not altogether bad: a better balance of power is stabilising for the international system. But the key is balance. In Asia, the balance will be hard to preserve given China's enormous size and potential. The US could wake up very soon to find that Beijing is the hegemon of Asia. Before Washington reacts, the Chinese, who are driving deep into Africa, will also be ensconced in Latin America.  Finally, the US is ignoring the global commons. Global trade and finance, climate change, resource scarcities, and epidemics and disease jeopardise life on the planet far more insidiously and dangerously than Islamic terrorism. The US is the world's most indispensable power, to use Madeleine Albright's boast, in terms of global collective action. It must find its way back to these grand strategic challenges and not lose the woods for the trees.  A US pullout will not be a cataclysm for India. For one thing, the US will no longer be so helpless before Pakistan, and its military aid might reduce significantly. Further, New Delhi has dealt with Af-Pak before, from 1989 to 2001. It could team up with Iran, Russia and perhaps even Pakistan to play a positive role. Islamabad might cooperate to ensure New Delhi does not destabilise Afghanistan, exploit Afghan-Pakistan differences in the future (which are almost inevitable), and draw even closer to the US.  A rampant America, after the Cold War, was not always a progressive force, but at least it provided global leadership. Today, the world faces the possibility of an America riven politically, battered economically and shaken militarily, its forces rattled by the experience of asymmetric warfare. An unconfident America, with a waning sense of power and purpose, fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, is not in India's or the world's interest.

PM to attend armed forces commanders' meet on China, Naxals 
Top 23 commanders of armed forces will strategise for two days from Monday on external challenges from China and internal threat from Maoists during which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too will share his vision.  The annual conference of Army, Navy and Air Force commanders will thrash out the Sino-Indian relations along with officials from the Foreign Office when issues relating to the reported presence of People's Liberation Army troops in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) will also come up for review.  The Prime Minister will inaugurate the conference and address the commanders in an effort to provide direction to the deliberations at the meet, which will be attended by Defence Minister AK Antony.  The military build-up by China including the deployment of its missile units, new airbases and concentration of troops along the Sino-Indian borders, apart from the refusal of a visa to Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal are likely to figure in the discussions, Defence Ministry sources said.  The commanders will also review the armed forces' preparedness to counter the challenges posed by the military might of the PLA, apart from the increased presence of the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean Region and the Asian giant's reported 'string of pearls' strategy to encircle India in the South Asian neighbourhood.  External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao would make a power-point presentation to the conference on the subject, sources said.  On the internal security front, Home Minister P Chidambaram will share his views on the domestic threats including the Naxal menace and the role of the armed forces in tackling them.  Though the government has debated the idea of involving the armed forces in the fight against Maoists on several occasions before, Antony has vetoed it as the services chiefs were against their troops being used in the operations, except from providing logistics and casualty evacuation support.  However, the armed forces, especially the Army, has debated the subject of their deployment in Naxal-affected areas and is said to be preparing themselves for such an eventuality.  Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations of the armed forces, in their civilian support role, too would be discussed with the Home Ministry officials at the conference, the sources added.  National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon would chair a session at the conference while Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik will preside over the event. Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and Army Chief V K Singh too would address the meet.

Strategic Command to acquire 40 nuclear capable fighters 
With an aim of increasing its lethal power, India's tri-services strike force is planning to acquire 40 fighter planes capable of delivering nuclear weapons.  The Strategic Forces Command (SFC) has submitted a proposal to the Defence Ministry for setting up two dedicated squadrons of fighter aircraft which will act as "mini-Air Force", ministry sources said.  This will be the first time that SFC, which at present depends on the Indian Air Force for delivering nuclear weapons under its command, will have its own aerial assets, they said.  The SFC does not want untested fighters but the ones which are battle proven and have capabilities to deliver nuclear-tipped missiles, the sources said.  The aircraft planned to be procured are part of efforts to strengthen the nuclear delivery system which right now is based on land-based ballistic missiles such as the Agni and Prithvi and nuclear-capable fighters such as the Mirage 2000, Su-30 MKI and Jaguars.  Created in January 2003, the SFC is part of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) and is responsible for the management and administration of the country's tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile.  Attempts are underway to complete the nuclear triad by developing the indigenous Arihant class nuclear submarine and under-sea launched versions of the existing ballistic missile systems.  India's nuclear doctrine envisages building a credible minimum deterrent for maintaining a 'second strike capability' which will be massive and designed to induce unacceptable damage on the enemy.  The SFC is headed by a three-star officer from any of the three services and is responsible for implementing directives of the NCA. At present, the force is headed by Lieutenant General B S Nagal.  The force manages and administers all strategic forces by exercising complete command and control over nuclear assets, and producing all contingency plans as needed to fulfil the required tasks.  The operational missile groups of the Army are armed with the 150-250 km short-range Prithvi missiles and the others with the Agni missiles of ranges above 1,5000 km form the nucleus of SFC.

Army’s image on the decline
 11 09 2010 2 0 i Rate This  Quantcast  Hardly  a week goes by when the Army does not find a mention in newspaper columns about alleged violations of human rights, corruption and other misdemeanors. A headline in this newspaper last month read: “Lt-Col gets three years in milk scam”. The trend can no longer be passed off as a mere aberration. Fortunately, the Army Chief, Gen VK Singh, has admitted to the defects in the internal health of the Army. While no stone is left unturned in improving professional excellence, not enough is done to restore the high standards of ethics, leadership and man-management. Still the Army will be voted the best in the indices of loyalty, integrity and sacrifice among the civilian services and other professional bodies.  A newspaper survey of 500 persons in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore last Independence Day found that Indians still saw the security forces as the institutions that safeguarded their freedom the most. As the vertebrae of these institutions, the Army remains staunchly apolitical and firmly under civilian control which itself is rapidly declining in matters of probity and governance. For that reason, the Army retains its title as the last bastion of democracy. During the Independence Day speech last month, for the first time, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh surprisingly omitted the traditional words of praise for the security forces.  Starting with Tehelka and Coffingate, the inventory of corruption cases now includes scams in rations, clothing, medicines, canteen stores, fuel, oil and lubricants, land, military farms, recruitment and so on. An aggressive media has launched sting operations to trap on camera officers taking bribes. The contagion has spread to defence accounts where false claims have been made good. For the first time, three Lieutenant-Generals and one Major-General were implicated in a shadowy land deal, and now the first serving Lieutenant-General is to be court-martialled.  Former Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor admitted that such cases dented the image of the Army but maintained that these were aberrations that needed to be corrected. The wheels of justice move fast within the Army compared to outside the military where it takes decades. The first tinkering by the Army in internal reforms took place after Tehelka in 2001. At least 20 officers of Brigadier rank and above were indicted in various corruption-related cases while others were being investigated. During the last three years 10 officers of General rank have been involved in cases “unbecoming of the conduct of officers”.  Disciplining the Army within its internal legal system is an ongoing process with the Summary Court Martial (SCM), most widely used for this purpose. Between 1999 and 2004 an average of 995 SCMs were held every year. According to The Hindu newspaper, 1215 soldiers were court-martialled in 2000, 1034 in 2001, 1031 in 2002, 945 in 2003 and 87 in 2004. Last year, around 30 officers were convicted through court-martials.  According to CBI sources, three senior officers were charged in a CBI court with purchasing substandard coffins (Coffingate) for carrying bodies of Army personnel killed in the Kargil war. In 2003, the CBI filed an FIR for the first time against Defence Minister George Fernandes and former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sushil Kumar in the Barak missile deal, which was one of the 15 defence contracts that figured in the Tehelka tapes which was entrusted by the government in 2001 to the Justice K Venkataswamy Commission for enquiry. Arms purchase has become the means with which to attack the previous government, said the Vice-Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Pradeep Borbora.  Besides corruption, sullying the image of the Army are two other issues: fake encounters and allegations of human rights violations. After the famous rigged Siachen encounter and the ketch-up Colonel case, the most recent development and one of the triggers for the present unrest in J&K is the Machchal episode where an Infantry battalion on the LoC staged an encounter involving three local persons. Gen V.K. Singh has promised to take exemplary action against the culprits. This must be made public.  Over the years, the performance of units has been judged by body and weapons count during its tenure in a counter-insurgency area. This yardstick is followed the world over with local modifications. A unit is awarded the COAS citation for the best battalion based on this criterion as also its record in human rights and winning hearts and minds. This measurement of performance requires greater oversight to prevent its misuse. The health and vitality of the Army must be judged by the transparency and probity of its performance in internal security operations.  By all accounts, the Indian Army’s human rights record is about the best among the armed forces the world over. The Army’s figures relating to alleged human rights cases are revealing. Of the nearly 3000 cases registered since 2000, only 4 per cent were proven true and offenders cashiered, jailed or “disciplined” within months compared to decades taken in civil courts.  What are the causes for the declining image of the Army. One of the key reasons is the massive expansion from 300,000 in 1947 to a million plus now. The old days’ image of the Army, when soldiers could do no wrong — an officer’s cheque dishonoured by the bank was sufficient reason for him to put in his papers — is gone. Soldiers were role models for values in society. The motto of service before self and the pledge that the safety, security and welfare of “your country” came first, always and every time, followed by the well-being of men under command. “Your own” comfort and safety came last always and every time.  These high principles are not easy to emulate today when the Services do not draw the best material in the market, resulting in a shortage of 12,000 officers. The Sixth Pay Commission and the AV Singh Committee reports I and II, enhancing the pay and rank structure to ensure a younger Army, have helped, but restoring the standards of the past is near impossible. Today’s Army is professionally much richer, and the officer corps more worldly-wise than two decades ago. The platoon, company and battalion commanders are the backbone of the Army as they lead the firefights along the LoC on a daily basis.  The Indian Army is a highly committed institution and has not received the right attention from the media, which has excelled in highlighting merely the negatives. The problem in the Army is the erosion in higher leadership and intellectual dishonesty that has crept in even in the promotion system. Promotion of mediocrity through seniority must be stamped out. Scouting for talent and boldness must be the new mantra to produce the generalship the country deserves. Army chiefs have come and gone. Many high-level studies have led to doctrinal improvements like “cold start”. It is high time we started correcting the deviations in leadership norms without treating them as aberrations. Let the Army not be in denial mode over the loss in the standards but initiate measures top down to restore its image in the eyes of the people and its own soldiers. The government and society must chip in. Still, the Army will have to do much more.

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