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Friday, 6 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 06 May 2011

Controversy over Army chief’s date of birth rages on
Replying to RTI query, Army says no communication from Gen VK Singh  New Delhi, May 5 a controversy over Army Chief General VK Singh’s age, the Army has said no communication was received from him for making any alteration in his date of birth. Responding to an RTI application seeking to ascertain details of the date of birth records of Gen Singh, the Army provided a response received from Adjutant General branch, which said as per records his date of birth is May 10, 1951.  “As per records maintained in the AG’s branch, the officer has never written for any alteration,” Integrated Headquarters of Defence Ministry (Army) replied to a question seeking to know if Gen Singh had “ever written” for alteration in his date of birth records because of a wrong entry.  According to some reports, Gen Singh is said to have a written number of letters to the then Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor and the then Military Secretary Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash for reconciliation of different dates of birth mentioned in the records.  The RTI application that was filed on March 28 before the controversy over the date of birth of the Army Chief erupted had also sought to know file notings on the communications received from Gen Singh in connection with alleged two records of the date of birth maintained in two different branches of the force.  “The date of birth as recorded at the time of commission of the officer is May 10, 1951. No correction to the same has been effected in our records,” the reply said. The Army chief's date of birth varied in the records of the Adjutant General’s and Military Secretary’s branches. The AG branch, the official record keeper for salary and pension, has May 10, 1951 as Gen Singh’s date of birth, but the Military Secretary’s (MS) branch, in charge of promotions and postings, records his date of birth as May 10, 1950.  The Army in response to the RTI application gave only the Adjutant General’s records, but did not make public controversial records of MS branch where the alleged error took place. As per the rules, an Army Chief can serve for three years or up to the age of 62, whichever is earlier.  The issue of date of birth also has bearing over his successor. If he retires in June 2012, Lt Gen Bikram Singh will be the most-likely successor and if he gets an extension as per AG branch record, Lt Gen KT Parnaik would be the likely successor. — PTI

Pak warns US, India on Abbottabad-like strike
Slams Washington for unilateral action Afzal Khan in Islamabad  A day after the US talked of more Abbottabads if Pakistan did not act against terror, Pakistan retaliated by warning both the US and India against any further covert operation in its territory, saying this would lead to a “terrible catastrophe”.  “Our armed forces have the capacity, ability and determination to defend the security and sovereignty of the country,” Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said on Thursday at the first news conference by a senior Pakistani official after the US operation that killed Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. Any country that attempts to "mimic" the unilateral act of the US will find it has made a "basic miscalculation", he said.  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had on Wednesday warned of more Abbottabads. “The US will again carry out special operations in Pakistan like the one that killed Osama to target high-profile terrorists, if Pakistan does not act against terror suspects holed up in that country,” he had said.  Admitting that the US assault that killed Osama bin Laden did achieve “important results”, he said: “This cannot be taken as a rule.”  Responding to a query on the remarks of Indian military officials about mounting a raid against leaders of Pakistan-based terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Bashir said such comments are “a matter of concern”.  “I only see them as symptomatic of trends and tendencies within the Indian establishment and their armed forces to subver the agenda of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I don’t think the Indian leadership would really subscribe to this”.  But he observed, “We shall not be intimidated and there should be no misunderstanding about our determination to defend ourselves,” adding that any sort of adventurism would lead to catastrophic consequences. Bashir also took strong exception to the statement by CIA chief Leon Panetta insinuating either complicity or incompetence on part of the Pakistan’s intelligence agency by avowing ignorance about Osama’s presence in Abbottabad.  “The theme of complicity coming from Mr Panetta is based on false charges and motivated to pressure Pakistan to do more,” Bashir said.  He defended the ISI’s record in combating terrorism saying it is not equated by any other agency in the world. He recalled how the ISI successfully arrested hundreds of key Al-Qaida operatives since 2002. He said the problems faced by the world and Pakistan resulted from the US’ Tora Bora operation in Afghanistan.  “The operation was carried out against our advice and allowed Al-Qaida leaders to disperse all over Pakistan,” he added. He reiterated that the US operation was made possible by leads provided by Pakistan that also resulted in the arrest of the courier in Abbotabad.  He said that the US Chairman of Join Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen immediately talked to Army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani after the operation. “It was Mr Mullen who referred to the sovereignty issue in the course of their conversation.” (With inputs from agencies)

India wants US forces to stay in Kabul
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, May 5 India’s worries about the situation in Afghanistan have only increased in the wake Osama bin Laden’s killing deep inside Pakistan. It is not in favour of a hasty withdrawal by US-led coalition forces from the war-ravaged nation.  New Delhi would frankly convey this opinion to the American side when US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visits India later this month, official sources said.  India’s apprehension is that the US, emboldened by the success of its mission to kill bin Laden, might actually start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan from July this year, leaving New Delhi exposed to an unfriendly Pakistan-dominated neighbourhood.  Agency reports, meanwhile, suggested that India has issued a high security alert for its missions and other interests in Afghanistan in the wake of bin Laden’s killing. Drawing attention towards Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reaction to the Al-Qaida chief’s death, the sources said he was obviously alluding to Pakistan when he stated that the war against terrorism should not be fought in the villages of Afghanistan but in the sanctuaries, the hubs and the recruiting centres of terrorists.  The sources said any precipitous withdrawal of coalition forces from the embattled nation would spell disaster for the whole region as it would give a free hand to Pakistan-based terror outfits like the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) to run amok in Afghanistan. There was much more needed to be done in Afghanistan to stabilise the situation in the battle-scarred country.Observing that the threat to the region from terrorist syndicates had not diminished even after the death of bin Laden, the sources said it was necessary for the coalition forces to stay the course in Afghanistan so that there was no regression to the situation that existed before 2001.  On the West’s proposal for reconciliation with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the sources said a cautious approach must be adopted in the matter. “One can’t disregard the red lines that were drawn towards the reconciliation process at the International Donors’ Conference on Afghanistan in London (in January 2010)…otherwise the recipe is going to be disturbing for the entire region.’’  New Delhi’s view is that any reconciliation with the Taliban must be transparent and Afghan-led and not brokered by Pakistan. In this connection, they also pointed out how ‘jihadi’ outfits in Pakistan had declared bin Laden a martyr. “This should make us sit up and realise that the ‘jehadi’ mindset can’t be discarded so easily,” they added in the context of attempts at reintegrating the Taliban into the mainstream of the Afghan society.  India, on its part, would continue with its massive reconstruction programme in Afghanistan. It would also like Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and Central Asian countries to be fully involved in finding a solution to the Afghan crisis. “We don’t want Pakistan to be excluded from the process but at the same time no attempt should be made to exclude India either,” they added in an obvious reference to Pakistan’s bid to isolate India on the Afghan issue.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was scheduled to visit Afghanistan this week to reaffirm India’s commitment to the goal of achieving peace in the troubled nation and to review the progress of various projects undertaken by India there.   Geelani’s appeal: Offer prayers for Osama  Srinagar: The hardline APHC chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has appealed to all Imams, religious scholars and people to offer special prayers for the last rites in absentia after the Friday prayers for the Al-Qaida’s founder leader, Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan by a US Navy team on last Sunday night.Geelani described Osama as a “martyr”, but added that the 9/11 bombing of the twin towers in New York was a terrorist activity.

India looks to other countries for spares of Russian military equipment
NEW DELHI: Russia may remain India's biggest defence supplier for the next two decades but its tardy supply of spares and after-sales service is forcing New Delhi to increasingly tap other countries to maintain Russian-origin aircraft, helicopters and other weapon systems.  Over the last couple of months, IAF has floated a slew of global tenders for spares and special tools for MiG-23 and MiG-29 fighters, IL-76 and AN-32 transport aircraft, Mi-17 helicopters and OSA-AK surface-to-air missile systems.  Now, the Army too has jumped on to the bandwagon for different equipment, which includes a global RFI (request for information) for acquiring "active protection and counter-measure systems'' for its T-90S main-battle tanks, which have faced several technical problems since their induction began over the last decade.  "Yes, the international market is being explored to get spares for our Russian-origin equipment. We will still go to the Russian OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) for specialized spares. But we can get generalized spares at much cheaper rates from elsewhere,'' said a senior officer.  This comes after years of India trying to get Russia to ensure uninterrupted supply of spares and regular maintenance, with even defence minister A K Antony regularly raising it with his Russian counterpart.  "In some cases, Russia has resolved the issue. But in many others, problems with breakdown and service maintenance spares continue...some acute, some manageable,'' said another officer.  India has had an expansive defence partnership with Russia, with the latter notching up military sales well over $35 billion since the 1960s, leading to over 60% of equipment held by Indian armed forces being of Russian-origin.  Ongoing bilateral defence projects are worth another $15 billion or so. IAF, for instance, is progressively inducting 272 Sukhoi-30MKIs at a cost of around $12 billion from Russia.  The figures will further zoom north with India slated to spend $35 billion over the next two decades to induct 250 to 300 of the stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) from 2020 onwards.  India, however, has consciously moved towards other countries like Israel, France, UK and US for its military requirements over the last decade to ensure that "not all its eggs are in the Russian basket''.  Apart from proper after-sales service, New Delhi has been telling Moscow to stick to delivery schedules, not jack up costs mid-way through execution of agreements and remove roadblocks in transfer of technology.  Russia, of course, is the only country which supplies "certain sensitive'' military technology to India. India later this year, for instance, will get the K-152 Nerpa Akula-II nuclear-powered submarine from Russia on a 10-year lease.  Russia has also played a major technical role in the development of India's first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant (destroyer of enemies), which is scheduled to be commissioned next year.

Cornered Pak turns on India
nitially on the defensive after US navy commandos raided Osama bin Laden's hideout in a Pakistani military town near Islamabad and killed the al Qaeda chief on Monday, Pakistan on Thursday charged the Indian establishment and armed forces with trying to subvert Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's peace related stories      * Talks with Pakistan on course     * Pakistan military breaks silence, admits 'shortcomings'     * Pakistanis say US shot bin Laden in "cold blood"     * Pak army will 'review' US cooperation if more raids  agenda.  In a statement that neither amused nor surprised New Delhi, Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir warned that "any misadventure" would lead to a "terrible catastrophe" in the region.  He
was reacting to army chief General VK Singh's remarks on Wednesday that all three wings of India's defence forces were capable of carrying out a US-like operation in Pakistan.  Though Bashir criticised the US for violating Pakistan's sovereignty by carrying out the operation without keeping Islamabad in the loop, his tough talk was aimed at New Delhi.  "Any other country that would ever act (similarly) on the assumption that it has the might... will find it has made a basic miscalculation," Bashir said.  Responding to Bashir's statement, an Indian official said, "When cornered, Pakistan usually employs such tactics to divert attention. This time, it is to divert attention from the present mess Islamabad is in."  The official, however, said "such rhetoric" would not derail the dialogue process resumed by Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani.  "Their aim is to provoke India in the belief that it will set off a chain reaction of allegations and counter-allegations. That is not going to happen," the official said.  The bilateral dialogue process - suspended after the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 - was given a fresh impetus by Singh when he invited Gilani for the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final cricket match in Mohali on March 30.  The two countries have already held talks at the level of the secretaries of home and commerce. The two water resources secretaries will meet next, on May 11-14, followed by other teams to discuss the Sir Creek and Siachen issues later this month.  Indian sources told HT, "As far as we are concerned, the dialogue process as directed by the Prime Minister and his Pakistani counterpart in Thimpu and reiterated in Mohali will continue. We see the dialogue as a gradual approach towards a cordial and cooperative relationship with Pakistan."

Paraplegic general to review parade
For the first time in the history of the Indian Army a paraplegic officer would be reviewing an attestation parade.  On May 7, Major General Sunil Kumar Razdan will review the parade at the Parachute Regiment Training Centre (PRTC) in Bangalore during which recruits of the Para regiment after successfully completing their training will take oath to serve the motherland.  Razdan the first wheelchair-bound General of the army was wounded in the spinal cord during a gun battle with militants in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990’s, leaving him paralysed below the waist.  Razdan, then a Lieutenant Colonel successfully led a 20-member team of Special Forces to rescue 14 women who were abducted by militants who were holed up in a hideout in the Damal Kunzipur region of the strife-torn state.  During the 16-hour operation on October 8, 1994 — which also happened to be his birthday — a militant fired at Razdan, injuring his spine. He was airlifted to the Army Hospital in New Delhi where he was treated for his injuries.  For this heroic effort government had awarded him the Kirti Chakra, the country’s second highest peace-time gallantry award. He is currently posted in the Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters in Delhi.  An officer at the PRTC told DNA that the reason Razdan was invited to review the parade was to install confidence in the young recruits who will become soldiers of the army following a nine month long training.  “There cannot be a better person than Razdan to motivate these young recruits. He is an ideal role model for the recruits who can see and get inspired by his achievements. One must remember that he has battled all odds in the last 15 years to reach where he is now. He has risen from a Lieutenant Colonel (when injured) to a Major General which is no ordinary feat,” he said.

Exploring Pakistan’s Nuclear Thresholds – Analysis
Written by: Khan A. Sufyan May 5, 2011
Recent testing of short range ballistic and cruise missiles by Pakistan has initiated a debate in India regarding possible use of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons by Pakistan and the strategic instability it has caused. Pakistan’s declared nuclear format clearly indicates deterrence against conventional as well as nuclear threat. To provide credibility to such deterrence a full spectrum response capability is essential which also devolves around the principle difference between the use of tactical nuclear weapons and tactical use of nuclear weapons.  Contrarily, the Indians state that their nuclear capability principally acts as deterrence against the use of nuclear weapons by any adversary. This clearly indicates that against Pakistan they intend to fight a conventional war using their superior conventional forces. An attempt to acquire anti-ballistic missile defence capability is also indicative of such intent. Pakistan India Relations  Pakistan India Relations  Various Indian Defence Ministers and Chiefs of Army Staffs, on different occasions have stated that all wars fought between India and Pakistan were limited in nature and that limited wars are possible in future also, under a nuclear overhang. It has been further qualified that the limited war would be fought for attainment of shallow objectives, while remaining short of Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds.  Accurate identification of an adversary’s nuclear thresholds is indeed a difficult proposition. Though the nuclear policies and various strategies guiding nuclear responses have relatively been well profiled by various nuclear weapon states, the thresholds however, have never been made public in the manner. More often than not, this ambiguity is deliberately left in order to cause uncertainty in adversary’s decision making calculus. This may force imposition of restrictions as to how deep or shallow the objectives of attacking forces may have to be.  In India – Pakistan nuclear environment as well, such circumspection has apparently added to the deterrence value and may dictate the duration, thrusts and locations in the application of forces. An examination of Pakistan’s possible nuclear thresholds will be in order to see if the Indian doctrine of conventional war under nuclear overhang is at all valid.  A Pre-emptive Response Threshold (PRT) may be evoked against Indian actions that may be premeditated, pre-emptive, incautious and accidental or events spiraling out of control. These strikes may invariably be launched on Indian territory and may take the form of nuclear strike on Indian armed forces, cities and economic and communication centers. The response may even be undertaken due to preparatory engagement of targets inside Pakistani territory, threatening strategic and forward assembly of Indian troops, on escalation of nuclear alert status or even an accidental or rogue firing of Indian nuclear missiles.  An Early Response Threshold (ERT) may result in a nuclear retaliation during the early stages of Indian offensive after the international border has been crossed. Early nuclear response may be resorted to when sensitive locations (important towns/cities etc close to the international border) of psycho-social and communication/economic importance are threatened or captured. It could also be the combined resultant affect of an existential extreme political and economic situation, exacerbation of which is blamed on India and may be undertaken by a government under intense public pressure.  In a Delayed Response Threshold (DRT) the nuclear strikes may be undertaken only after saturation of the conventional response. Evoking of such a response may vary according to the peculiar geographical lay of international border or contiguity of various sensitive locations to the international border and may even take the form of certain imaginary lines drawn on the map.  Finally, the Accumulative Response Threshold (ART) may be evoked if India initiates a graduated application of force. In such a scenario, a naval coercion gradually escalated to blockade coupled with graduated conventional selective air and ground strikes on economic targets, communication infrastructure, politically sensitive locations and military targets are undertaken. The accumulative destructive effect of such conventional strikes may evoke either an early or a delayed nuclear response depending on the summative effect of destruction that has taken place.  These thresholds highlight the fact that even limited wars which Indian defence intelligentsia believes in, are fraught with the threat of nuclear response even before the attacking forces attempt to cross the international border. The decision to initiate war therefore, even limited, must carefully factor in the nuclear response during the early stages of mobilization.  The Indian stated position that their nuclear warfare preparations are against China which would automatically take care of Pakistan’s nuclear threat, has indirectly infused a sense of inconsequentiality of Pakistan’s nuclear capability and has forced Pakistan to improve her nuclear response. This has led to stability – instability paradox for which only the Indians are responsible and not Pakistan.  With China factored in by the Indians, the bilateral India-Pakistan discussions on any nuclear restraint regime may not be helpful towards amenable regional environment. Therefore, inclusion of China in a regional strategic stability can produce the desired results.

Grab the reins of power
“All praise is for the Almighty who bestowed sovereignty upon the army, then made the people subservient to the army and the army subservient to its own interests” — Justice M R Kayani  Here we are today, at the lowest point in our recent history. Found not in a cave of Tora Bora or in the ragged mountains of Waziristan but in the serenity of Abbottabad, living within a mile of the famous parade ground of PMA Kakul, next door neighbour to an Army Major and in the city that hosts three regimental centres, Osama Bin Laden, in our very own country. Many had feared that this day would come, but never imagined he would be living in such a suspiciously well protected manner.  By this time, I can assume with a high confidence that opinions and columns in the hundreds, if not thousands, have been written on what was Pakistan’s role in the raid, how Pakistan could have missed the most wanted man on Earth, what it means for Pakistan and how to move on. But, in the midst of all, we are losing a battle that we, the ‘bloody civilians’, have been eager to fight for too long.  Imagine this. The hurriedly called morning meeting at the roundtable in GHQ on May 2. Major and Lieutenant Generals tense and nervous, not knowing what to say. The General, K, possibly broke the ice by asking everyone about their last evening’s score on the 9-holes at the state subsidised Rawalpindi Golf Club. It was a birdie on the difficult 6th, he said. Oh, and he allegedly met the Chief Minister of Punjab too for some unknown reason.  What goes on in the corridors of military power is a mystery to us. What guides their actions remains a complex web of calculations, strategic they say, often immoral, disgusting, irrational and suicidal in our eyes. They value their assets, they hedge their bets and they play both sides of the game and try to bluff the single most powerful country in the world, to which they have played as a near mercenary force for a fair time (“Our Army can be Your Army” said Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the darling of the khaki apologists).  What we know today is that this is possibly the biggest embarrassment the military has faced in a long, long time. Forget 1971, it was far more morally disastrous but it had its jingoistic and racist supporters, but even in the eyes of the khaki-apologist, today the military is naked and deserving of criticism. The khaki apologist who becomes a constitutionalist when it comes to the failings of the army (the politicians are the constitutional power holders, they guided the actions, they “sold the country”, not the Army – is the usual defence) and are cognizant of the military’s powers only when it is on the good side of things, is angry today too. There are too many questions.  Did we protect him? Did we give him refuge? Why would we do that? If not, did we ignore his presence? Are we this incompetent? Did the Field Intelligence Unit (FIU) never ask a question about a mysterious seven kanal house with a three-story building, built by settlers known from being Waziristan? Is the holy mother of all agencies so inept and useless that in the sweeps done around areas visited regularly by the Army Chief and the upper hierarchy, they never got suspicious of the house and its residents? How did bin Laden come to Abbottabad in the first place? Did he take a Rs. 70, 13-seater Hiace ride from Mansehra and stop off at the Baloch Regimental Center?  If not, then why did they allow a foreign power to come in and hunt him down? Did our forces coordinate and collaborate with the US on the raid? Why are they not speaking? It is not as if they would not want to take credit for it. The logic of avoiding the local terrorists’ wrath is just too pathetic, they already target us. Mullah Omar’s, Hekmatyar’s and Haqqani’s anger be damned, this is their protector we are talking about. It is stupid, nay unimaginable, that our forces collaborated extensively and do not want to take credit for it. They would not risk inviting the wrath of the international media that they have called upon themselves today.  And then there is the ultimate nightmare. If they did not know about the operation, then really, like the Foreign Office in its poorly worded, shamefully funny press statement says, we failed to respond in time to nothing less than an invasion? At cruise speed, terrain hugging and avoiding radars, a UH-60 “Blackhawk” (or even the secretive stealth helicopter that are rumoured to have been used, although non-stealth Chinooks are alleged to have provided support too) would have easily spent more than 30 minutes inside Pakistani territory before the soldiers roped down into the compound. A 40-minute operation and then the return ride. In all, the US team spent at least an hour-and-a-half inside Pakistan and we failed to respond? Were our radars jammed completely? Did we even fail to respond to visual sighting of a bunch of helicopters? Is our response time so slow? With three regimental centres in a highly militarised town, no one was able to answer to a 40-minute ground operation by foreign forces? Are our defenses so inept and weak? Did we scramble jets? When did we, if, realise that it was a friendly country conducting an anti-terrorism raid and not “the enemy”? What is the purpose of keeping the armed forces if they consume such a large chunk of our budget and fail to respond to nothing less than an invasion that lasted for 90 full minutes?  I am, for not a single moment, arguing we should have shot down the Americans. I for one believe they did the right thing. For all we know, it was the nightmare we have, that some sympathetic group in our very forces protected the most wanted man on Earth. The questions I pose are the multitude that people from various facets of life and inclinations ask. They ask what would happen if India were to carry out the “surgical strike” that their jingoists threaten of? They ask, yes India is not the United States, but how could our air defense systems be so easily jammed and fooled and tricked? They ask, what is the response time to an invasion? What is the purpose of an Army that let’s others not just operate in its territory, but come in, operate and go back?  So, today, we are at a point where the Army’s defenses are weak. It is being criticised by the international community and ever so slightly, by locals too. But the criticism is weak and non-existent in comparison to what it should be. This is the time when the Army is rightfully exposed to the most criticism. If you ever held any views on civil-military balance that did not hold civilians in contempt, right now is the time to shout and be heard.  If there’s anything that can be guaranteed, it is that the military will remain the most dominant player in the echelons of power for the times to come. And because that will happen, we will continue to fight for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, we will continue to hold India as the mortal enemy, we will continue to amass even more nuclear weapons, procure even more fighter jets and buy another air refueler and what not. We will remain an impoverished, militarised, third world country. And as long as we remain militarised, and existing only to fight against the mythical enemy, the schools will remain dysfunctional, the hospitals non-existent and the people, poor, hungry and malnutritioned.  Barely 40 hours before the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or SEAL Team Six, fast roped down into the compound of Osama bin Laden, our Army Chief told a ceremony at the annual ‘Youm-e-Shuhuda’ (Day of the Martyrs) that prosperity must not come at the cost of honour and dignity. Where was the honour and dignity when, like the Foreign Office says, soldiers from another country basically invaded ours, operated and went back, without even so much as a bird being swatted in response?  The political process is an evolutionary one. Slowly, and slowly, we are moving towards a functional democracy. A Public Accounts Committee functions well today, maybe another institution of accountability and justice and public service will improve tomorrow. The politics of urbanisation is here. But amongst all this evolutionary change, unless the fish with the small legs comes out of the water, the process of evolution will face the ultimate barrier – the military.  I do not aim to demonise the military here. Our soldiers have laid down immense sacrifices for the protection of our boundaries. They have protected us from threats, both internal and external. Even today, make no mistake, we are at a state of war for such a large active deployment of soldiers is nothing short of a full-fledged war, and they are the constant targets of the forces of evil and enemies of humanity. But it is the higher direction of war that is misguided and irrational. We wanted to liberate Kashmir in 1965 and we failed. It only resulted in a large loss of life, loss of sympathy for the Kashmir cause and a permanent setback to the economy. We sent soldiers to die on the peaks of Kargil, fooling a Prime Minister and a nation and thinking that the world would accept that those were “non-state actors” and not our own soldiers. We abandoned our own uniformed men to die on the peaks when we could not even supply them with the basic food supplies for our war was adventurous and the shenanigans of a would-be autocrat. We have lost too many soldiers to the misguided policies of our higher brass. The soldier is just a pawn in the games of the powerful, for his life is a small price in the game of chess they play.  For all their failings, the politicians we have are ones we elected. Incompetent, greedy and often despicable as they are (supporting rapists and honour killers), they represent the collective will of the people in a system marred by inefficiencies and problems. Today is the time for them to come into action. It is not the time to be busy installing gas pipes in UC-84 of Muzaffargarh or to be making sure that their brothers and cousins got the 10 kilometre road construction contract. Today is the time to hold the military accountable for their failures and their actions and bring some direction to the state of affairs.  If there was a time for all facets of society to collectively bargain for change and demand action, this is the time. Come what may, a loosely tied group of non-elected, unelectable, “civil society activists” cannot bring change. Change has to come from the political class. Only they have the tools and the platform to do it. It is directly affected by the media and the perceived voice of the public. The fire breathing demagogues of television ape each other. Kharbooza kharboozey ko dekh kar rang pakarta hai. One of them rips apart a poetic self-righteous line on sovereignty and others feel the need to do so. Imagine that if we can collectively raise hue and cry, how the politicians cannot become sensible and secure enough to take action and hold the military accountable. While it would be commendable if they could resign for their failures, but they get extensions, it is upto the public to demand accountability. Intelligence failures in 1965 were never addressed, the concerned officer was promoted(!). In 1999, the adventurer toppled the government. Isn’t it time we demanded accountability of the powerful and unaccountable?  The Kargil Review Committee Report, commonly called the Subrahmanyam Report, was just a small step in the evolution of India’s civil-military balance. The politicians held their military accountable for the failures of Kargil. We never did that. Today is the most opportune time to do that. Constitute a Parliamentary Commission, for we do not have a Subrahmanyam, nor should we rely on ex-bureaucrats to do that. Select a few hawks, a Tehmina Daultana and a Khawaja Asif. Select a few mild, calculated and efficient politicians, a Raza Rabbani and SherryRehman. Do not put dubiously pro-military politicians like Chaudhry Nisar or ex-generals like Jehangir Ashraf Qazi on it. Summon the DG ISI, DG MI, DG IB. Summon the Army Chief. Summon the bureaucrats. Summon the experts. Summon everybody. Make them testify. Ask them the tough questions. Make the report, if not the proceedings, public.  What should they ask them? I cannot imagine that anybody would even want to ask the unimaginable (did we protect him?). It can only be an intelligence failure inquiry. The good that can come out of this exercise is enormous. A much needed and necessary reform in the intelligence community, a reform in the civil-military balance and a reform in the culture that defines the rules of Islamabad. For once, we could even bring the ISI under civilian control and make it focus on intelligence and counter-terrorism not chasing journalists on CD-70s. For once, we could, just maybe, begin to redress the civilian-military [im]balance in the favour of the civilians. Define the policy, make the policy and own it. Do not let the Generals do it for you anymore. We can, for the first time ever, dream of a national security and foreign policy dictated not by Rawalpindi and Aabpara, but one where civilians make competent decisions, impose their supervision and enable the military to competently implement it.  The op-ed writers, the TV anchors and the pundits are busy answering the questions that either the west has or the old, aged line around the smokescreen of sovereignty. They are missing the point. There is good that holds for us in this.  In the wake of 1971, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto passed gagging orders to prevent the media from criticising the military. The soldiers who returned later were protected by the state and no one was allowed to criticise their actions. Their honour was literally restored by Bhutto. And they sent him to the gallows.  We must not put a shroud on the failures of the military anymore. We have embarrassed our country a lot already. Today is the time for reform, redress and for us to start a new beginning.The military must face music for its actions and failures. Civilian power must be recognised. Strike while the iron is hot.

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