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Friday, 19 August 2011

From Today's Papers - 19 Aug 2011



Kashmir internal matter of India: US Senator

Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, August 18 Even as he observed that there had been an improvement in the situation in the Kashmir valley, influential US Senator John McCain today said Jammu and Kashmir would continue to be a source of tension as long as it remained a significant issue between India and Pakistan.  McCain, who contested the 2008 presidential election against US President Barack Obama in 2008 as a Republican nominee, made it clear that Kashmir was an internal matter of India and Washington or any other nation had no business to comment on the sovereign affairs of this country.  Addressing a press conference here, McCain, who met National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon this morning, said he had had been encouraged from what he saw in Kashmir during his just-concluded visit to the state. The sense of security was returning to one of the most beautiful places on earth, thanks to increased economic activity in the state and better handling of issues by the authorities.  McCain said he had met Governor NN Vohra, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and top army officials during the course of his visit.  Asked if he had discussed the Kashmir issue with Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani during his visit to Pakistan, the Senator replied in the negative, adding that the focus was on US-Pak ties.  McCain also spoke about the ‘troubled connections’ between the Pakistani military and terrorist groups like the Haqqani network and the LeT.  McCain hoped Pakistan would emerge "a successful democratic nation" and underlined the need for strengthening democratic civilian rule in that country.  The senator said the US had resolved not to let the Taliban return to Afghanistan and was trying to help develop a secure nation that "will not be a base for terrorists".  "The US has a critical stake in India's success," McCain said. He expressed confidence that the India-US relationship "can be and should be the indispensable partnership of the 21st century".  US not involved in Hazare’s protest  New Delhi: In an obvious reference to the ongoing agitation by the Anna Hazare team in support of a strong Lokpal Bill, US Senator John McCain today hoped that India would resolve its ‘current political disputes’ through its own democratic systems peacefully and democratically. “The US does not involve itself in what is taking place in the world’s largest democracy and neither has it any intention..,” McCain told a press conference when asked about speculation that he cancelled his political appointments following the comments by Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi suggesting the US was behind Hazare’s agitation. He said the current protests were “expression” of a democratic system, which might not be one of the most pleasant experiences. — TNS










SSC officers denied benefits of new promotion policy

Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, August 18 Over six years after the Army revamped its promotion policy to ensure faster advancement up the hierarchy, a bizarre situation has come to light where the Army has not granted the benefit of “normal” pay, allowances and promotions to Short Service Commission (SSC) officers, including women, who entered the service prior to 2006.  Consequently, male SSC officers are eligible for promotion to Captain after 9 years of service while women officers can become Captain after 5 years vis-à-vis just 2 years for regular officers or SSC officers commissioned in 2006 and after. Further, while regular and post-2006 SSC officers can become Major and Lieutenant Colonel after 6 and 13 years of service, respectively, the affected SSC officers have been rendered ineligible for promotion to these ranks.  Army sources familiar with the issue said this anomaly could affect a few hundred officers. Taking up a petition filed by a woman officer, Jasreen Dhillon, based in the Western Command, the Armed Forces Tribunal yesterday issued notices to the Union of India and the others concerned.  To make military service more attractive and to rationalise varied promotional avenues, the government implemented the recommendations of the A V Singh Committee in December 2004, under which time-bound promotions were provided for the ranks of Captain, Major and Lieutenant Colonel after 2, 6 and 13 years of service, respectively. The earlier time span for these promotions was 5, 10 and 15-18 years. The government’s sanction letter sated that the new policy was applicable to all officers of all arms and services, except the medical fraternity for which separate orders were issued later. According to the petition, no cut-off date was prescribed and no exception was carved out for any cadre and the policy was applicable to all officers, including those from the SSC and women.  In May 2005, however, Army Headquarters issued a letter stating that SSC male officers would continue to be governed by the policy issued in 1974, which provided that such officers would remain lieutenants for their entire service and be promoted to captain after 9 years. The letter also said that women officers would be promoted to Captain after 5 years of service as per the policy applicable to them at the time of commissioning.  The rationale given by Army Headquarters was that under Army Rule 2 (d) (iii), the service of such officers is not considered as “reckonable commissioned service” and that only permanent commissioned officers were considered as having “reckonable commissioned service”. The petition has contended that this rule is meant to determine seniority between members and the accused in a court martial and has nothing to do with promotions or administrative aspects.  Later in 2005, the gazette notification clarified that the new policy as applicable to regular officers, was also extended to SSC officers, including women. Then in 2006, the SSC scheme was modified to make it more attractive and the earlier stipulation of 5 years extendable by 5 years and then by 4 years (5+5+4) was changed to 10 years extendable by 4 years (10+4). Officers were given an option to switch over to the new scheme, but those who opted to remain under the 5+5+4 pattern were again denied the benefits of the AV Singh Committee.








Military in Pakistan No govt can go against its wishes

Whatever Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar may say about the role of the military, particularly the army, in policy matters, it is the most influential institution in that country. No one will take it seriously when she says, “We sometimes overrate the role of the military and overrate their intentions, specially when it comes to India.” History cannot be ignored. Pakistan’s history is full of incidents when the army has been in the forefront in deciding the country’s policy in any area. It is not only that the army has ruled Pakistan for a number of years since its creation in 1947. Even when Pakistan has had a civilian government, it has been guided by the army. Sometimes the civilian government of the day did not know what the army did, as it happened in the case of the India-Pakistan Kargil war. The then Prime Minister, Mr Nawaz Sharif, was kept in the dark when the army under Gen Pervez Musharraf launched its Kargil programme that proved to be disastrous for Pakistan.  Now take the case of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. When the PPP formed its government after the 2008 elections, Mr Gilani, a Benazir Bhutto loyalist, was chosen to become Prime Minister with an understanding that Mr Asif Ali Zardari would take charge from him later on. However, Mr Gilani proved to be a smart Alec, as he developed closeness with General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. His position became unassailable with the army’s backing. Mr Zardari had to settle for the President’s post. Even then Mr Zardari kept looking for an opportunity to remove Mr Gilani but in vain. The inference that can be easily drawn is that anyone who is in the good books of the army cannot be touched.  Whether Mrs Khar admits it or not, Pakistan’s policy in the case of both India and Afghanistan is decided by the army. Most Pakistan-based terrorist outfits working against India had been created by the ISI, headed by a senior army officer. President Zardari has been giving hints for some time that Pakistan is interested in mending fences with India. There is a large constituency of people in favour of promoting people-to-people contacts. But this is not possible because the army thinks differently.









In 2010, 707 cr spent on NCC, but just 79 cadets joined forces

Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, August 18 The expenditure of hundreds of crores of rupees being incurred on training schoolchildren under the National Cadet Corps (NCC) programme is not resulting in adequate number of admissions of NCC students into the armed forces special entry courses.  The cost-to-benefit ratio in terms of money spent and the number of NCC cadets joining the forces is very high. The Ministry of Defence spent Rs 707 crore during the last fiscal to have around 12 lakh students on NCC rolls across the country. However, only 79 such students finally made it to the armed forces in 2010. Parliament was yesterday informed that the spending on NCC students was Rs 562 crore for the fiscal ending March 2009.  Avinash Rai Khanna, BJP MP from Punjab, who raised the issue in Parliament, said, “The ministry needs to look at the costs and also the results.” Meanwhile, sources said one of the reasons for the NCC getting huge number of enrolments across the country was the academic value of an NCC “A” certificate. This is graded as an extra-curricular activity like sports and it helps in getting a minor boost in marks for further admissions to various colleges and courses.  The number of NCC cadets is the highest (1.22 lakh) are in Andhra Pradesh. The northern states also have impressive numbers: Punjab (44,803), Haryana (33,642), Himachal Pradesh (23,740), Uttarakhand (24,183), Delhi (38,547) and Chandigarh (4,314).  The number of students with NCC background getting into the forces has never been very high. The number was the highest in 2004 when 104 students got through. The number of such recruitments (79) last year was the highest for the past four years. Parliament was also informed that the 24 sainik schools across the country have been sending a reasonable number of students to the NDA.










Defence outlay triggers fast until death

Islamabad: While corruption is seen as the topmost problem confronting the nation's people after terrorism, a social worker has sought to take aim at military spending which accounts for over 40 per cent of the budget each year.  A well-known social worker and businessman in Islamabad, Raja Jahangir Akhtar, has announced that he is preparing to go on a hunger strike unto death in protest against the massive budget allocation for the military by the government.  Akhtar has been known for his espousal of social issues for over three decades and has been arrested on many occasions, even being sentenced to one year's imprisonment and 10 floggings by a military court during the General Zia-ul-Haq-era in the early 80s.  He told this correspondent on phone: "I would continue my hunger strike till acceptance of my demands or unto death." The thrust of his demands made public through an open letter to political parties remains peace with neighbouring India and a simultaneous diversion of military expenditure to development sector.  Economic challenges  "One way to meet our current economic challenges to end our confrontation with India and Afghanistan like the Soviet Union did against America and other western countries. We can do this by maintaining the strength of our army at a level which existed before the 1965 war," read his letter. The activist proposes a golden handshake to "the rest of the army which can serve the country in a better way" after settling for a manageable size of the military.  Though news about Anna Hazare's agitation against corruption in India has found echoes in Pakistan as well, Akhtar says his inspiration is purely homegrown and has nothing to do with what is happening across the border. He hastens to add that he personally fully backs Hazare's demands in India. He had earlier planned to begin his hunger strike from July 21 but has now set the start date for September 12.  Akhtar demands removal of all headquarters of defence forces in civilian areas so as to avoid civilian casualties in the event of any outbreak of war.  "Hiroshima is the worst example. It was general headquarters of Japan's defence forces when America used nuclear weapons during the Second World War," he wrote in the letter.  By achieving reduction in military budget, the activist suggests that every district in Pakistan "may be provided with infrastructure for education from primary to intermediate level. Children of marginalised sections of society be provided with free education".  Akthar has delayed his hunger strike until after Ramadan as he won't be able to maintain vital liquid intake otherwise. He is planning to launch his protest in Islamabad from September 12.  "I firmly believe that Pakistan faces no external threat. Whatever threat we face is from within. We need to divert all our resources to end poverty, promote education and improve public health," he said.






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