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Monday, 25 July 2011

From Today's Papers - 25 Jul 2011






Army Chief still has option of judicial review

Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, July 24 The Defence Ministry’s decision, taken on Thursday, about Indian Army Chief General VK Singh’s date of birth (DoB) has raised fresh questions, especially at the manner of record keeping and dealing with sensitive issues that have the potential to harm the Army. The row would get murkier if the Army Chief opts to seek a judicial review.  Window of hope  The General’s matriculation certificate says his DoB is May 10, 1951. The Supreme Court in various verdicts has upheld that the matriculation certificate is the final document to decide DoBs. This gives the General the option of judicial review  Defence Minister AK Antony, who is known for his integrity, took the decision on the basis of the advice of the Law Ministry and conveyed to the Army chief that his DoB would be accepted as May 10, 1950, and not May 10, 1951.  Amusingly, the Army, all these years, has been maintaining two records. The Military Secretary’s (MS) office says the DoB of the chief is May 1950 while the Adjutant General’s (AG) branch lists it as May 1951.  The genesis of this confusion lies some 45 years ago in the General’s admission form filled for the National Defence Academy that said his DoB was 1950. The form was supposedly filled in by a teacher in his school and the General, then a 16-year-old boy freshly out of school, signed it. The matriculation certificate of General VK Singh says his DoB is May 1951.  The Army rules 1954 allow a correction in records within two years of being commissioned. But this particular rule on corrections was amended in the mid-1970s. Till then, it allowed a “reasonable time” for corrections. The Supreme Court in various verdicts has upheld that the matriculation certificate is the final document to decide DoBs. This gives the General the option of judicial review. But will he opt for it remains to be seen as it would be seen that he is hankering for an extension.  A senior officer, who is in the know of things, explained, “The very fact that there were two records - one with the MS Branch and the other with the AG branch - indicates that the Army Chief or his father - a former Colonel in the Indian Army - had made efforts to get corrected the anomaly arising out of the NDA form. Notably, the MS branch does not have a system to verify DoBs. It draws its records from the AG’s branch.”  Some of the questions that need a hard look are: Who allowed two records to continue for four decades? The General’s DoB was checked each time he was promoted especially since age is a criteria for senior ranks in the forces, why was it not sorted out?  Can the Defence Minister’s decision end this debate for a chief who is at present “fathering” the transformation of the Indian Army? How many more such cases of dual age records exist in the Army? In case of General VK Singh, the Defence Ministry’s verdict has raised fresh questions that stem from defence regulations which prohibit any alteration in records. In his case, which set of records will be taken into account remains to be seen.  The matter will have to addressed at a higher level as General VK Singh was appointed Army chief by the Prime Minister-headed Appointment Committee of Cabinet (ACC) as per his May 1950 record. The AG’s records need to be amended to bring it in line with the Cabinet decision.  The first time the DoB issue cropped up was in 2006 when the chief, then a Major General was slated to be promoted as Lieutenant General. The chief then gave an undertaking that he would accept any decision in the interest of the force. In 2008, Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash raised the matter again when Gen VK Singh was to be appointed Eastern Army Commander.  In case, the May 1950 DoB is accepted, Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh could be the next chief. But if the May 1951 DoB is accepted, Lt Gen KT Parnaik, Northern Army commander could be the chief. The chief retires at 62 while Lt-Generals retire at 60 years of age.  Messy figure work  * In Military Secretary’s (MS) records, General VK Singh’s date of birth (DoB) is May 10, 1950 * The Adjutant General’s (AG) branch lists it as May 10, 1951 * The MS branch doesn’t have a system to verify DoBs. It draws its records from the AG’s branch * General VK Singh was appointed Army chief according to his May 1950 record by the Appointment Committee of Cabinet. Hence, the AG’s records need to be amended to bring it in line with the Cabinet decision

Cementing strategic ties US and India need to get serious

by Harsh V. Pant  At a time of growing concerns about India-US relations, the second annual strategic dialogue between the two sides was held in New Delhi last week. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in India in part to restore the lustre that seems to have disappeared from the India-US ties and in part to remove doubts about America’s support for India’s core concerns. The much-hyped visit by President Barack Obama to India last November today seems a distant memory, as New Delhi and Washington have been struggling to give substance to a relationship that seems to be losing traction over the last few months in the absence of a single defining idea.  A range of issues, including terrorism, the Af-Pak situation, nuclear cooperation and India’s role in the Asia-Pacific, were on the agenda for the latest round of the strategic dialogue. On terrorism, Mrs Clinton promised to lean “hard” on Pakistan, reiterating that the US has made it clear to the Pakistan government that “confronting violent extremism of all sorts is in its interest.” She went on to underline that the US did not “believe that there are any terrorists who should be given safe havens and free pass by any government.”  Though Mrs Clinton maintained that the US remains “fully” committed to the civilian nuclear pact with India, she made it clear that there were “issues” which required to be resolved by India and the US in the civil nuclear field without going into the specifics.  More significant was her speech in Chennai where she asked India to exercise political influence in consonance with its growing economic weight in the international system. Exhorting India “to lead,” she asked New Delhi to do more to integrate economically with neighbours like Afghanistan and Pakistan and to take a more assertive role in the Asia-Pacific.  There is growing frustration in Washington about India’s inability to take a leadership role either in its immediate neighbourhood or in its extended periphery. As the situation in Afghanistan has unravelled and as China’s rise has upended the balance of power in East Asia, there was an expectation that India would be a valuable partner in bringing some semblance of stability in these regions. But India has failed to articulate a coherent policy response to these fundamental challenges to its own and regional security.  Meanwhile, many in New Delhi have argued that there have been contradictory signals from the Obama Administration on Pakistan and China, two core Indian security concerns. Despite sharing a broad convergence of interests with India, the US has been reluctant to acknowledge India’s role in Af-Pak. During the latest visit too, Mrs Clinton made it clear that there were limits to what the US can do to influence Pakistan’s policy vis-à-vis terrorism and extremism.  The US has been reluctant to support a higher profile for India in Afghanistan even as many in India want to expand New Delhi’s security footprint in that country. As the Obama Administration’s plans to end the combat role of American military in Afghanistan by 2014 have become more concrete, the choices for India are getting limited, especially as there has been little change in the mindset of the Pakistani security apparatus that having a pliable government is crucial in order to have a strategic depth vis-à-vis India.  Meanwhile, the last big idea that transformed the nature of the India-US ties under the Bush Administration is also facing setbacks. A few weeks back at its 2011 plenary meeting in the Netherlands, the 46-nation nuclear cartel, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), came up with new guidelines regarding the tightening of exports of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies. Though the exact formulation of the new guidelines have not been made public, they seem to underscore that the transfer of sensitive ENR technologies will exclude nations which are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and do not have full-scope safeguards. This has led to an intense debate in India as it seems to go against the spirit of the NSG exemption granted in 2008. In an unprecedented move, the NSG gave a crucial waiver to New Delhi, enabling it to carry out nuclear commerce, and ended 34 years of India’s isolation from international mainstream in the wake of the 1974 nuclear tests.  But the Obama Administration’s ideological rigidity on non-proliferation is showing signs of destroying the hard won gains from the nuclear rapprochement between India and the US. The Obama Administration’s support for the new ENR guidelines also stems from its ideological commitment to the extant nuclear non-proliferation regime. Successive US Administrations have viewed nuclear proliferation as the biggest threat to the American and global security, but unlike its predecessor the present dispensation in Washington DC believes that the regime framework needs to be strengthened to counter the proliferation threat. Mrs Clinton’s latest visit has failed to allay Indian concerns fully.  The two governments in New Delhi and Washington DC are, for different reasons, constrained from taking their bilateral relationship any further. Both are consumed by domestic challenges. As a consequence, the last two years have witnessed a lot of rhetoric but very little substantive movement. Today there is no big defining idea in the relationship and even the nuclear deal which got both bureaucracies united for some time is facing critical issues. In the short-to-medium term, the India-US relationship will remain circumscribed. On the nuclear deal, New Delhi cannot give Washington DC what it wants, and on Af-Pak, Washington DC can’t deliver what India wants. India can indeed be an important partner of the US in managing the changing strategic landscape in Af-Pak and the Asia-Pacific. But to achieve the full potential of such a partnership, the US will have to acknowledge Indian security interests and India will have to take a leadership role.

Lankan soldiers sent back from TN: Indian reports

Twenty five Sri Lankan soldiers who went for special training in a defence academy in Tamil Nadu on Friday were sent back to Sri Lanka because of protests from some Tamil groups there, Indian media reports said yesterday.  They said the 25 soldiers were scheduled to take up special training at the elite Defence Service Staff College at Wellington in Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu.  The soldiers were put on a bus to Chennai from where they were to take a flight back home, the reports said. Some 200 activists of various pro-Sri Lankan Tamil outfits had earlier staged a demonstration in front of the Madras Regimental Centre (MRC) at Wellington to protest over the training programme. The protesters were from the Periyar Dravida Kazhagam (PDK), Naam Tamizhar Party (NTP) and the Viduuthualai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK).  Military spokesperson Ubaya Mediwala, however, denied any Sri Lankan soldiers had been listed for a training programme in South India.

Assam Rifles lecture for pupils

IMPHAL: Personnel of 43 Assam Rifles of the Army's Red Shield Division organized a motivational lecture for students of Saikul village in the tribal-dominated Senapati district. The lecture was organized with support from Kuki Students' Organization (KSO), which helped the forces to gather interested students.  The lecture covered topics related to Indian Army, ways of joining the armed forces and also advantages of being a soldier of the 'elite Indian Army', a defence statement said. Altogether, 56 students attended the lecture and returned motivated towards joining the armed forces, the statement said, adding that the lecture broadened the horizon of the students and gave an insight into the armed forces for the young aspirants.

Former Indian Army Chief Says China and Pakistan Articulating ‘Joint Interest’ against India, Says: ‘Indian Armed Forces have No Alternative But to Factor in the Two-Pronged Threat’

In a recent article, former Indian Army Chief General V. P. Malik called upon India to beef up its military preparedness in view of China’s growing military presence in Pakistani Kashmir along the Line of Control (LoC), which divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India. Malik’s article comes after Lt.-General K. T. Parnaik, chief of the Northern Command of Indian Army, warned in early April 2011 that India faces a threat from the Chinese troops in Pakistani Kashmir.  There have been reports of more than 11,000 Chinese troops being stationed in Gilgit Baltistan, an ethnically distinct region that has traditionally been considered as part of Pakistani Kashmir. But now, Indian intelligence reports confirm that Chinese are also inside Pakistani Kashmir along the LoC. Lt.-Gen. Parnaik said: “we hear many people today who are concerned about the complicity of the Chinese if there were to be hostilities between India and Pakistan… Not only because they are in the neighborhood but the fact that they are actually stationed and present on the LoC.”[1]  In his article, General V. P. Malik noted that China and Pakistan are articulating a “joint interest” vis-a-vis India, and close cooperation between their militaries poses a threat to India’s security. He wrote: “Though the Chinese army would not point guns towards our posts on the LoC, the fact that they are there reflects their ‘joint’ interest and enhancement of strategic and operational preparedness on the LoC along with Pakistan.”  Following are excerpts from the article:[2]  “It is Also Known that China Plans to Construct a Railway Line and Oil Pipelines from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar Port in Pakistan”  “Two years ago, a ministry of defense (MoD) report had stated that ‘the possibility of China and Pakistan joining forces in India’s farthest frontiers [in Kashmir], illegally occupied by the two neighbors, would have direct military implications for India.’ That possibility is now a reality…  “[In early April 2011] the Northern Army Commander (NAC) confirmed that Chinese troops are present on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC) [which divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India].  “Though the Chinese army would not point guns towards our posts on the LoC, the fact that they are there reflects their ‘joint’ interest and enhancement of strategic and operational preparedness on the LoC along with Pakistan.  “What the NAC has stated is not new. The Chinese military presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), purportedly to improve infrastructure, became visible last year.  “It is also known that China plans to construct a railway line and oil pipelines from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar port in Pakistan.”  “With an Assertive China, the Dispute over Accession of… [Kashmir] to India is No Longer a Bilateral Issue between India and Pakistan…”  “Another development needs to be linked to this issue. The MoD notes that the Sino-Indian border is 4,056-km long and includes the whole of the western sector including Aksai Chin, PoK, and the Shaqsgam Valley (ceded by Pakistan to China in an India-disputed agreement in March 1963).  “But in a statement [in] a Chinese newspaper in 2010, the Indian ambassador to China put the border length to be 3,488 km. The Chinese newspaper added its own comment along with the interview: ‘There is no settled length of the common border. The Chinese government often refers to the border length as being about 2,000 km.’  “Now, the Chinese [newspaper] has made this figure (2,000 km) the new norm in the official characterization of the border with India. It appears to have knocked off almost the whole of the western sector boundary and has questioned Indian sovereignty over J&K [Jammu & Kashmir].  “With an assertive China, the dispute over the accession of J&K to India is no longer a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, but a trilateral issue among India, Pakistan, and China. It has thus ensured integrity, authority, and security over Aksai Chin and the Shaqsgam Valley held by China.”  “In the Coming Financial Year, China Plans to Spend $91.6 Billion on Defense, and this Does Not Include Its Budget for Internal Security”  “While planning for the north-western sector [Pakistan and China], the Indian armed forces have no alternative but to factor in the two-pronged threat. It is now obvious that as China develops, it will become more aggressive and create new pressures on the border issue.  “China is known to be assertive in its diplomacy on security and military issues. It will attempt to exploit our diplomatic appeasement postures and defense weaknesses on the ground to its advantage.  “India cannot afford to let the latest developments go uncontested diplomatically. In the interest of its own security and Asian stability, it must build a sympathetic international lobby.  “In the coming financial year, China plans to spend $91.6 billion on defense, and this does not include its budget for internal security. India’s approved defense budget this year is $34 billion.  “India must pay greater attention to its defense preparedness, particularly on the northwestern borders. There’s an urgent need to build defense infrastructure along the northern border.  “According to media reports, our border road-building programs in the north are three years behind schedule. Aside fom making up shortages and replacing obsolescent weapon systems with newer ones at the earliest, we must build rapid reactive military capability for all under-developed areas in the Himalayas.  “India must not become complacent, as we did before 1962 [war with China].”



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