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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 27 Apr 2011

'Major Iqbal' among four charged in 26/11 Mumbai attacks
Indo-Asian News Service, Updated: April 26, 2011 18:35 IST  Chicago:  US federal prosecutors have added four top Pakistani terrorists linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfit as accused for helping Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana to plot the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack.  The four identified as Sajid Mir, Abu Qahafa, Mazhar Iqbal and "Major Iqbal" were charged on Monday in US district court in Chicago, though none of them is in US custody.  All four are charged with one count of conspiracy to murder and maim in India, while Mir, Abu Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal have been additionally charged with conspiracy to bomb public places in India.  They also face six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India, which carry maximum sentences of death or life imprisonment.  
The revised indictment comes three weeks before the scheduled May 16 trial of Rana, a Canadian citizen who is accused of using his First World Immigration Services business to provide cover to Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, to scout targets for the Mumbai attack.  Headley, the son of an American mother and Pakistani father, pleaded guilty in March 2010 to 12 criminal counts, including aiding and abetting the murder of Americans in Mumbai, and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in a plea deal to escape the death penalty.  Mir, also known as "Wasi", aka "Ibrahim" and "Sajid Majeed", who reportedly joined the Pakistan based terror outfit LeT at age 16, allegedly worked as Headley's handler for two years.  Ten terrorists sneaked into Mumbai Nov 26, 2008, and went on a three-day killing spree, leaving 166 people dead. One of the terrorists, Ajmal Amir Kasab, was caught alive and arrested. The terror strike strained India-Pakistan relations.  The new indictment says that "during the course of attacks in Mumbai, the attackers were in telephonic contact with defendants Sajid Mir, Abu Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal, all of whom were then located in Pakistan".  "More specifically, during the course of the attacks, the attackers were advised to, among other actions, kill hostages, set fires and throw grenades," the indictment said.  "Sajid Mir also sought to arrange the release of a hostage in exchange for the release of a captured attacker."  The US prosecutors also accused Mir of working with Headley to plan a terrorist attack on a Danish newspaper, which in 2005 published cartoons on Prophet Mohammed.  There is also a warrant for Mir's arrest in India. During the Mumbai attack, Indian police intercepted phone calls between Mir and his terror teams in Mumbai.  Terrorist group Harkat ul Jihad al Islami leader Ilyas Kashmiri and retired Pakistani military man Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed also were charged in a previous indictment but their whereabouts are unknown.  Rana faces life imprisonment if convicted on the charges he provided material support to the Mumbai attackers

Pakistan troops violate LoC ceasefire
Jammu, April 26 (IANS) In another ceasefire violation, Pakistani troops opened heavy gunfire on Indian posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir late Tuesday evening, defence sources said.  The Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing on the Indian posts in Poonch sector, about 240 km north of Jammu, at around 7.30 p.m., the sources said.  The Indian troops retaliated and the exchange of fire continued almost for 90 minutes.  The Indian Army will take up the matter with the Pakistani Army Wednesday, the sources said.

Nothing wrong in Manmohan Singh seeking talks with Gen Kayani
The prime minister's office has denied a report in The Times, London, that prime minister Manmohan Singh had appointed an "unofficial envoy" for "secret talks" with Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. But there's more to this than meets the eye.  As pointed out by the media, there is glaring contradiction in the The Times' news item - Cricket-inspired thaw pushes rivals into secret talks. It was not possible for Manmohan Singh to have conceived the idea of inviting the Pakistani prime minister for talks during World Cup semifinal almost a year in advance. Yet, some sort of an effort being made by the Indian PM to reach out to General Kayani for the revival of peace process is highly likely. There are many power centres in Pakistan but on its relationship with India, the Pakistan army is the final arbitrator.  In 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with the high hopes of brokering peace between the warring neighbours, rode a bus to Lahore. Vajpayee and Nawaz Shrarif had even reached to an agreement, namely the 'Lahore Declaration'. Barely a month later, the peace bus was found stranded on the Kargil heights; the two neighbours got engaged in a limited war.  President Zardari can never attain a statesman-like status but his natural instinct is to have peace with India. Within days of his taking over as president of Pakistan, he announced possibility of "good news within a month" on Kashmir. He even tried to change the basic premise of Pakistan's national security doctrine by declaring that Pakistan had adopted a "no first strike" nuclear war policy. His statement created a furore in Pakistan and the Pakistani defence establishment soon came out with a strong rebuttal that their own president is "not fully informed or completely aware of" the national security doctrine. Zardari had also categorised militants active in Kashmir as "terrorists".  It's widely believed that after the exit of General Musharraf, New Delhi was able to revive the peace process with the newly elected government in Pakistan headed by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) but that General Kayani proved to be a real hurdle. A diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks confirms the real impediment. Former British foreign secretary David Miliband, after his visit to Pakistan on November 25, 2008, had assessed: "There was a 'deal on paper' and both prime minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari were 'ready' to sign it." Miliband had thought the remaining obstacle was Pakistani military chief staff general Kayani: "He remained 'reluctant' and needed to be persuaded." Miliband has visited Pakistan just a day before 26/11 and that there was a "deal on paper" as late as November 2008 is quite significant. Despite America midwifing a 'peace deal' and a democratically elected government in Pakistan reasonably keen to have a normal relationship with India, that the Pakistan military is able to torpedo the entire peace process sufficiently indicates the real power centre in Pakistan.  The military holding the fulcrum of power in Pakistan is a hard reality. New Delhi has all along conducted business with military dictators and military backed civilian governments in Pakistan.  Therefore, Manmohan Singh trying to open channels of communication with the all-powerful military chief should not come as a surprise. It is quite possible that Manmohan Singh is eager to pick the threads from where Musharraf had left and may have sent feelers to General Kayani. Ironically, the architect of Kargil eventually proved to be a potential peacemaker.  The progress made from 2004-07 in the 'backchannel' is the bedrock of what is being described as "deal on paper".It's the most favourable bargain wherein India could have clinched the deal without losing an inch of territory under its control in Kashmir.  It is true that only a military dictator in Pakistan can make amends to its deeply entrenched Kashmir policy and anti-India outlook. In this regard, Musharraf proved to be more than handy. But there are other critical factors also that prompted Musharraf to think of normalising its relations with India. The fall of the Taliban after 9/11 deprived Pakistan of its so-called strategic depth. On the contrary, it was facing the prospect of getting squeezed between a hostile Afghanistan and an antagonised India.  The Taliban forcing a stalemate and the forthcoming American withdrawal from Afghanistan has dramatically altered the geopolitics of the region. Despite the risk of a failing state still looming large, Pakistan, in comparison to 2001, is presently better placed. That's the reason why it wants to start a fresh and is not inclined to pick the threads from where they were left in 2007.  India seems to have missed a rare opportunity.

India's explosive detection technology may be used by U.S. soon
The U.S.' Homeland Security department may soon be using a technology developed by Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to detect explosives, after it proved a success in insurgency and militancy affected areas in India.  The DRDO today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with US-based firm Crowe and Company LLC to further develop the Explosive Detection Kit (EDK) to meet the standards set by regulatory institutions in America, before introducing it in U.S. Army and Homeland Security forces.  Faye Crowe, President of the Company, after signing the MoU said, "After getting necessary approvals from the US regulatory institutions, we are planning to introduce the EDK to the US army and US homeland security forces and in other international markets."  Developed by DRDO's Pune-based High Energy Material Research Lab (HEMRL), EDK can detect explosives of any combination based on TNT, dynamite or black powder.  "The testing requires only 3 to 5 mg of suspected sample. It comes packed in a box the size of a vanity case and in miniature vials that can be kept in shirt pockets. It contains reagents capable of detecting explosives, even in extremely small quantities," a DRDO spokesperson said here.  S Sundaresh, Chief Controller R&D, Armaments & Combat Engineering, stated that the technology is very effective and is in use by Indian security forces and would now help the international community also.  The technology is being widely used by the Bomb Detection Squads (BDS) of the Indian Army, paramilitary and police in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Back Channel with Pakistan Army: A Gambit Worth Trying
Sushant Sareen  April 26, 2011  The denial by both the Prime Minister's Office in India and by the military spokesman in Pakistan of the story in The Times of an 'unofficial back channel' that had opened with the de facto ruler of Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kayani, isn't entirely unexpected. If indeed there was such a back channel then it is best kept under the wraps, not so much because it would make public what was being discussed or even negotiated � the details of the 'official' back channel negotiations during the Musharraf era are still secret even though the main protagonists claim to have nearly reached a deal � but more because it would be premature to admit the existence of such a back-channel until it had become a regular feature instead of a one-off contact. On the other hand, if there was no such back-channel contact, then the denials are perfectly in order and would end needless speculation on the nature of contact established between the Indian and Pakistani establishments.  Quite aside the fact that the denials would have come as a dampener for those who believe that there is a dire need for putting in place a channel of communication and dialogue between the establishments of the two countries, the very nature of the contact claimed by The Times � 'unofficial' � raises serious doubts about the efficacy of the so-called back-channel. Even so, there is still a strong case for some sort of contact � in the preliminary stage, perhaps only a military-to-military exchange between the National Defence College in India and National Defence University in Pakistan � being made with Pakistan's military establishment and exploring this track to see if a more sustained engagement is possible with the real rulers of Pakistan as opposed to the civilian show-boys that India has been so comfortable in dealing with.  The aversion in India to dealing directly with Pakistan's military establishment is entirely understandable, but is also unreal given the power dynamics of Pakistani politics. Pakistan is, in a sense, a schizophrenic society. At one level, there is deep distrust and suspicion of the establishment and a tendency to attribute not only the most bizarre conspiracy theories to it but also hold it capable of, if not responsible for, the most horrible crimes. But, at another level, there is an innate, almost blind, trust and faith in the ability and capacity of the military establishment to protect the country and put things right. Most Pakistanis are quick to follow the lead of the army on issues of national security, especially when it comes to relations with India. As a result, when the army allows it, people gladly reach out to India (the 2004-2008 period bears witness to this), and when the army shuns it, the very same people pull back on all contact with India.  This remarkable ability and agility of the Pakistani military establishment to manipulate public opinion must be taken into account by the Indian establishment before it takes any initiative on mending ties with Pakistan. The bottom line is that while India can have as many 'uninterrupted and uninterruptible' dialogues with the civilians in Pakistan as it wants, unless it manages at least a modus vivendi with the all-powerful Pakistan army, none of these dialogues will lead to anything at all. Without getting the Pakistan army on board, any dialogue with Pakistan will either be a dialogue of the deaf or one with the meek and powerless, who, one daresay, are unlikely to inherit Pakistan.  There are essentially two ways that India can approach Pakistan. The first is to engage Pakistani politicians and civil society, promote people-to-people exchanges, trade and what have you, in the hope of creating a constituency of peace that will force the hand of the military establishment to normalise relations with India. But quite frankly, for this strategy to work, India will have to wait till the cows come home. An alternative strategy is to continue with the above strategy, but simultaneously open a sustained channel of communication and engagement � to start with, an 'official and empowered' back-channel � with Pakistan's military establishment.  Needless to say, given the power structure realities of the establishments of the two countries, the back channel contact will have to be handled with great care. In a democratic country like India, a back channel naturally tends to evoke suspicion. One way to counter this is to set up a multi-track back-channel � between intelligence agencies to discuss issues like terrorism etc., between the militaries to discuss purely military matters, and a track in which both top civilian and military officials discuss security and doctrinal issues.  If this 'composite' (given the diplomatic and political sensitivities of the Indian government, perhaps the word 'comprehensive' is more appropriate) back-channel shows promise, and in the course of discussing professional matters, creates an opening for discussing the strategic dimensions of the bilateral relationship, the two sides could consider bringing it on the front channel. In other words, they could make the transition to a 'strategic dialogue' in which a working group comprising designated civilian and military officials led by either the National Security Advisor or the External Affairs Minister discuss matters of higher state policy and the future trajectory of bilateral relations.  But even if the back-channel contact remains a desultory track, there is still something to be said for continuing to engage an adversary but without the hype that normally accompanies any India-Pakistan engagement. If anything, the one thing that the two countries need to avoid is hyping up the expectations of a breakthrough by indulging in high profile jamborees � Mohali comes to mind. Quiet, serious and sustained diplomacy is perhaps the only way forward, even if this takes a long time and denies the politicians the legacy that they so desperately crave to leave behind.

Army chief's age row pits General vs General
New Delhi: There are two different dates of birth for Army Chief General VK Singh in official records, one with the Adjutant General's branch in Army Headquarters that lists May 10, 1951 and the other at the Military Secretary's branch that shows the date as May 10, 1950.  As the Defence Ministry takes its time to examine what date it should agree on and with that the future of who the next Chief of Indian Army will be, correspondences between top brass of the Army on this one issue show a bitter battle, that has pitted generals against generals since 2008.  The names are all too familiar, former Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, his Military Secretary, now retired and the man facing charges in the Sukhna scam, Lt General Avadesh Prakash and the current Chief General VK Singh.  [Army chief's age row pits General vs General</p><p class=] " alt="Army chief's age row pits General vs General  " />  Consider this:  (A) 1 July 2008: Letter from General VK Singh to General Deepak Kapoor, Chief of Army Staff "Since my last discussion on the subject in your office, I have mulled over the entire handling of the issue in great detail. I must also confess that I have been greatly hurt by the aspersions cast on my integrity and military reputation.At the same time I must also emphasise that I have the greatest regard and faith in you, not only as Chief but also as an elder role model. Thus I had no qualms in giving in writing whatever I was asked for, despite my reservations."  This one letter is now being seen as a commitment by General VK Singh to stand by his date of birth as 1950. Many believe the case had been shut with this one commitment. But a closer scrutiny of the same letter and future correspondences point to the contrary, that the case was far from over, in fact had the makings of a messy tangle.  General VK Singh, in the same letter dated July 1, 2008 goes on to say, "I would want to know what are the constraints mentioned by the MS branch which compel them to maintain 10 May 1950 despite the SSC certificate and despite me mentioning 10 May 1951 in all my CRs (confidential reports). How is that CRs which are assiduously checked never rang any bell on this issue in MS Branch till I was to move on promotion as Lt Gen, Is it not an oddity sir ?"  He further questions, "how the MS banch carries out the verification of age since on the basis of the SCC certificate the AGs branch maintained records that showed 1951 as the year of birth."  General VK Singh (then Lieutenant General) also points out that the entire issue be looked at dispassionately and if there were vested and parochial interests, which have clouded the issue, then they must be negated.  (B) The tone and tenor become stronger in a letter dated February 2009 from VK Singh to Lieutenant General Avadhesh Prakash, then Military Secretary once again reiterating that the SSC/10th board certificate, in effect is the authority for all purposes in matters related to age.  That the UPSC (in which the Date of Birth is noted as 1950) does not verify Date of Birth, it only scrutinises the application form for correctness and forwards it.  (c) It's still not the end of the issue and three months later in an even more strongly worded , dated May 6, 2009, once again to the Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash, General VK Singh writes:  "Your letter clearly points out that your branch has no system for verification of date of birth. It is also clear that your predecessor has deliberately not given out the correct fact to the Chief that the MS branch does not carry out any Verification of the Date of the Birth."  "Let me also point out that the acceptance has been given in good faith because the Chief asked me to do so and not because of what your Branch was saying. Hence this argument cannot be used to hide facts and not provide details asked for."  So even as the force and the Defence Ministry grapples with another controversy regarding its top officer, it is important to note that these flurry of letters were running parallel to investigations in the Sukhna land scam, where then Eastern Army Commander, Lieutenant General VK Singh had ordered a Court of Inquiry that was to later reach the top, to the Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash and the Chief, General Deepak Kapoor.

Nag Missile Induction delayed as Indian Army Seeks Changes In Nag Carrier
The induction of the indigenous 'Nag' anti-tank missile has hit another stumbling block as the Indian Army has expressed its discontent over the the missile carrier NAMICA (Nag missile tracked carriers). The Indian Army has now sought re-designing of the NAMICA for optimum performance. It has been established that the NAMICA must have enhanced features that will ensure that the NAMICA complements the third generation Nag ATGM.  The Indian Army's bone of contention is with the NAMICA's limited capabilities. The Indian Army has sought additional features such as a panoramic sight for two commanders, against the present system of having only one such facility for the gunner. Hence, an overhaul in the designing of the NAMICA is being suggested by the Indian Army. Also, an innovation in the chassis system and alteration in the pneumatic suspension can increase the mobility of the NAMICA.  As of now, two systems would be made, one by the state-run Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and the other by the private giant Larsen & Toubro. A comparative trial of these two carriers will occur next year and the configuration of the production version would be selected from the two.  The NAMICA is a tracked infantry combat vehicle (ICV) built for the Indian Army. It is equipped with a thermal imager for target acquisition. NAMICA is a modified BMP-2 ICV produced as "Sarath" in India. The carrier weighs 14.5 tonnes in full combat load and is capable of moving 7 kilometres per hour in water. The NAMICA carrier was put through transportation trials covering 155 km during summer trials. Namica has already undergone floatation trial and it has proved its channel-crossing ability and its capability to perform other manoeuvres. Each NAMICA can carry 12 missiles with eight of them in ready-to-fire mode. Other salient features include advance sighting systems, high pointing accuracy and ergonomic man-machine interface.  According to analysts, this last moment decision to redesign the NAMICA is a case of lack of foresight and planning by India. The NAMICA has been in existence for at least a decade. Although the Nag ATGM was not ready for this entire period, it reflects a lack of foresight to evaluate the NAMICA this late and go for redesigning at this stage. The evaluation of the NAMICA's mobility and sensors could have been performed earlier, as the missile was being readied.  Nag is a fire-and-forget anti-tank missile with a short range. It is developed by Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme of the DRDO. It is a third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) with a 4 kilometre strike range. The Nag ATGM is equipped with the highly potent HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) warhead. Nag ATGM cleared its final validation trials Air Force ranges in Rajasthan in July last year and was expected to be ready for induction this year. In its trials, the missile proved its capability against both moving and stationary targets, covering varying ranges of 500 meters to 2,600 metres. Nag ATGM has already seen two decades of development. The Indian Army has already placed an initial order for 443 missiles and 13 Namicas

Indian Defense Ministry intends to set up logistical headquarters of the leadership of the various military services fight
United States, "Defense News" magazine website reported April 25】 question: the struggle between the various military services in India hampered the formation of Logistics Command
Indian defense officials have said that while India wants to set up a dedicated Logistics Command, but this is because the struggle between the various military services can not progress.  India and Pakistan in Kargil in 1999 the outbreak of the war, India's defense policy-makers to establish such a command, because the battle highlights the Indian Army in the mountains and high altitude combat logistical problems exist. But this idea is still stuck in the present paper. Defense Department officials have said the current situation caused a significant reason is that India's military services led by the Logistics Command which issues undecided.  with Army officials said: "Indian Army's logistics support and the evident lack of coordination between combat the problem." He said, the Indian Army and even the lack of sufficient supplies and ammunition inventory.  a defense analyst agreed, strongly support the formation of Logistics Command.  retired Army Brigadier General, Indian Land Research Center, 古尔米特坎 Val war, said: "India's logistics facilities are sufficient to cope with a defensive posture, but to play a war deterrent, India has a need to move to war the enemy's territory. is outside the region across the Indian border, and the ability to provide logistical support operations should be greatly improved. "  Kanwar said the Army needs a unified and coordinated logistics force to the work of various departments.  he said: "The logistics is the next step in the gradual transition to the unified armed forces of the Logistics Command."  with Army officials said that considering the vast territory of India, changing topography as well as with China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh the long boundary line, set up logistical headquarters will not be easy.  policy research center in India Bharat Carl Leonard security expert, said: "good idea, but in view of the friction between the various military services, this is not feasible unless the defense staff long to come forward. "  a defense analysts believe that logistics is the decisive factor in modern warfare, field commander of the combat capability than the more important.  retired Army Major General Raymond Slavin defense analyst Rahul said: "India will be back to promote the war. In 1971 the eastern front, the war situation that is planned by the joint logistics planning and operational decisions . taking into account the difficult terrain conditions, the Indian Army's dependence on logistics will be more than other countries. "  Indian Army logistics system is basically a computer using a network of armed forces of the material to be administered separately. Air Force logistics system currently in use is called "online materials management system", able to carry out the Air Force inventory and supplies a comprehensive electronic management. Air Force officials have said the network management system for all operations center provides a transparent, real-time logistics information.  exist between the various military services, however a large number of past reserves and ammunition. Although it should be destroyed, but the lack of centralized logistics system, it is not possible to track, register and ordered destroyed.  a Defense Ministry source said that although the Air Force's Material Management System is a step in the digital-line logistics support an important step, but the Indian armed forces still need to cover all the stock of a comprehensive system to help Indian At the same time against China and Pakistan.

'Dirty bomb' bigger threat than war: Army
NEW DELHI: More than full-blown conventional wars with Pakistan or China, India at this point in time is faced more with unconventional threats emanating from jihadi outfits getting hold of "dirty" nuclear bombs, crippling cyber-attacks and "hybrid forms of warfare".  This was the hard-nosed assessment of the Indian defence establishment after defence minister A K Antony inaugurated the Army and IAF commanders' conferences here on Monday.  Army chief General V K Singh, in fact, was quite categorical that "the major concern" at the moment was the ongoing "attempts" by"non-state actors" to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).  This comes in the backdrop of continuing fears that the threat of jihadi outfits gaining access to enriched uranium, nuclear components or technical know-how to make "dirty" bombs -- radiological dispersal devices combining radioactive material with suitable explosives � remains a clear and present danger in Pakistan, with or without official connivance.  There have been instances to underline this fear in the past. In August 2001, for instance, two senior scientists of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme were spotted hobnobbing with Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan. Even thereafter, there have been consistent reports about al-Qaida seeking help of the infamous A Q Khan network to get hold of some sort of a "dirty'' bomb.  Gen Singh, on his part, said while conventional conflicts were not immediately on the horizon, the armed forces could not let their guard down against "hybrids forms of warfare", which basically entails state and non-state actors joining hands to fight a common foe. This, of course, is also nothing new for India, targeted as it has been for long by the ISI-Lashkar-e-Taiba combine.  Echoing similar views, Antony said terrorism emanating from across the border remained India's primary concern. "We are taking adequate steps to ensure any spill-over effect from any adverse development in Pakistan is successfully countered by our armed forces," he said.  The armed forces have to remain vigilant to deal with non-conventional threats, terrorism, cyber and information warfare. "Though a conventional war is unlikely, there is need to maintain maximum level of operational preparedness to deal with such challenges," he added.  Terrorist outfits, for instance, can exploit lax container security at Indian ports to smuggle in `dirty' nuclear bombs or other WMDs, like the Navy has warned in the past.  "Security concerns of the future will increasingly be dictated by economic, geopolitical, environmental, social and demographic considerations. Terrorism, cyber-attacks and sea piracy are some of the major challenges facing the nation," said Antony.  Even as the Af-Pak region remains enmeshed in turmoil, political disturbances in West Asia and North Africa have forced fresh challenges for global security. "We have to be ready with a set of appropriate responses to counterbalance our interests," he said.

Indian Army Chief Age Row: Why Are Right Questions Not Being Asked?
NEW DELHI: The UPA government and the chief of 1.13 million-strong Indian Army are being looked at with suspicion because of latter's actual date of birth: May 10, 1950 or May 10, 1951. The controversy over Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh's age has reached Indian Defence Minister's office, as the issue is likely to affect the line of succession in the Indian Army.  A lot has been written on the issue, but a close scrutiny of the "murky matter" portends that the right questions are not being asked to settle the case. And, in fact, efforts are on to make the nation believe that Indian Army Chief was born on May 10, 1951; that too without giving cemented proof.  The controversy relating to Gen Singh's age reared its head following a Right to Information (RTI) query seeking his correct date of birth. But, the two braches in the army headquarters had different dates in their records.  The Indian Military Secretary's branch, which decides on appointments and promotions, has May 31, 1950 as Singh's date of birth in its records on the basis of his Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) application for joining India's National Defence Academy (NDA).  On the other hand, the Adjutant General's branch, which deals with pay, pensions and welfare, has May 31, 1951 as Singh's date of birth in its records.  It is notable that the rules are clear in India that an Army Chief can serve for three years or up to the age of 62, whichever is earlier. And that is where the determination of Singh's date of birth becomes vital.  If it is found true that Gen Singh was born on May 10, 1951 then he will become eligible for heading Indian army till May 31, 2013. And, if it is established that incumbent army chief was born on May 10, 1950 then he will have to retire on May 31, 2012.  When the matter cropped up, the confused Indian Defence Ministry sent the issue to the Indian Law Ministry for the legal opinion. The law ministry opined that Singh's school leaving certificate should be the document on the basis of which date of birth should be decided. There is no information in public domain what Singh's school leaving certificate says. However, the AG branch points out that Gen. Singh's matriculation certificate puts his date of birth as May 10, 1951.  Now the ball is in the Indian defence ministry's court. The DOB issue of Gen Singh will now go the appointments committee of cabinet for a final decision.    But, let us look at some of the vital points in Gen Singh's date of birth row.  Gen. Singh's undertaking, at the time of being appointed Army Commander and later as Chief, that he would act in "organisational interest", was interpreted as him having accepted 1950 as his year of birth.  But, the highly placed sources in the Indian Army say that in an infantile move, Gen Singh got some well wisher of his to submit a Right to Information query with the Ministry of Defence to open up an old case for changing his date of birth from of May 10, 1950 to May 10, 1951.  If the sources are to be believed then Gen Singh has played his cards perfectly. But, there is one problem: the Indian media and some 'right thinking' gentlemen in uniform are not ready to digest that Gen Singh didn't know that two dates of birth are recorded in the Indian Army records.  They assert that General V. K. Singh must have known all along his true date when he was born, yet this issue was never made public nor put up for debate, then why at the fag end of his career when he should be put into pasture.  They have another uncomfortable question which must be answered.  Didn't NDA do its job well? Established admission procedures in any educational requires that the first verification of applicant is for correctness of name spelling and date of birth followed by mark sheets etc. Does that mean that NDA does not check correctness of entries in application form with documents? What was the age required at that time for appearing in NDA? By filling in the form as 1950, was age advantage obtained for exam appearance? If false info was given for appearing in NDA then one must pay the price with penalty for it.  There are other motley of questions which can't be overlooked, but are not being asked.  What for instance is the right age of the officer and why it has been hidden and continues to be hidden from the public domain? Why is the actual date of birth that is recorded at the time of birth not being disclosed, surely it will be available in the hospital where he was born and in the cantonment board or municipality where his birth was registered, why is the whole thing shrouded in mystery?  Why was the matter not resolved when it became apparent that he was in line for the highest appointments of the Army?  Had this been done the embarrassment that the country is facing now would have been avoided.  But the core question is: did government overlook (intentionally or unintentionally) Singh's date of birth anomaly while giving him the top post?  Whatever may be the answer of this core question, but it is crystal clear that government committed an error while appointing Gen Singh as army chief.  With the Army facing a barrage of illegitimate dealings in land grabbing scandals, perhaps the government, in order to cover up its "own failures" and tide over the crisis of cleaning up the Army's battered reputation, wants Gen Singh's services for another year.  Even a layman would say that in case there was some confusion about Gen Singh's date of birth then surely it should have been resolved through the Law Ministry or the Court before he was considered for the next rank.  Gen Singh's file must have been put up with all details to a high level appointments committee, should one consider that the information that was given on file to the appointments committee was false and misleading. If such is the case then does not the appointment in itself become wrong and fraudulent and should it not be scrapped altogether? Secondly, once an appointment has been made on the basis of certain inputs then how can the inputs be changed midway during the period of the contract?  Anyways, the need of hour is that in the larger and national interests, the matter should be put before public for a healthy debate and the guilty should face the law of the land.

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