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Friday, 23 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 23 Dec 2011

Parliament panel favours one rank-one pension  Says financial liability of Rs 3,000 cr a year incorrect
Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, December 22 Recommending the grant of one rank-one pension (OROP) to retired armed forces personnel, the Parliament’s Committee on Petitions has said that it is not convinced with the hurdles projected by the Ministry of Defence in implementing the proposal.  Observing that the financial liability for implementing OROP is Rs 1,300 crore for 20110-12 "which is not a very big amount for a country of our size and economy and also considering the purpose for which it would be utilised", the committee said it is not convinced with the version of the Finance Ministry that implementing OROP would generate similar requests from civilian employees because the terms and conditions of service of the two are vastly different and much harsher and difficult for the military.  The committee, in its report tabled in Rajya Sabha yesterday, also found to be incorrect, the financial liability of Rs 3,000 crore per annum put forth by the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare (DOEW) for OROP.  Nixing financial, administrative and legal hurdles projected by the DOEW, the committee observed,” The defence services serve the nation with utmost devotion and selflessness but their demands are consistently being ignored, not by the heads of the Armed Forces, but by bureaucrats. It’s a typical example of bureaucratic apathy.” The Committee observed that the demands of veterans, including OROP, were included in the election manifestos of various parties but not given effect  “The findings of the committee were appreciable and pro-veteran,” said Maj Navdeep Singh, a High Court lawyer dealing with service matters. “Even the legal difficulties expressed by DOEW have no legs to stand upon. It claimed that the Supreme Court had upheld the implementation of cut-off dates in pensionary matters in various cases. However, what DESW did not mention is the fact that there are many more decisions, including very recent ones, where cut-off dates have been deprecated,” he added. Further, the committee did not accept DOWS’ claims on legal issues and held that on the contrary.
Strained US-Pak relations not good for India, Afghan
Two recent developments marking a new low in the plummeting US-Pak relationship following the killing of Osama bin Laden in the meticulously planned operation by the US special forces on May 2, 2011 happen to be rather ironically-timed coincidences. The first was the US attack killing 26 Pakistani soldiers on November 26, 2011, exactly three years after 10 Pakistani terrorists attacked Mumbai and the second was the US announcing a cut in aid to Pakistan almost exactly 40 years after sending its 7th Fleet into Indian waters to support Pakistan, which had provoked the third India-Pakistan War in December 1971. Pakistan waged both the 1965 and 1971 wars against India with weapons doled out to it by the US. Ratcheting up pressure on its “troubled strategic ally,” leaders of the US negotiating panel, comprising armed services committees from both parties in the House and Senate including Republican Senator John McCain, agreed to freeze $700 million in US aid to Pakistan until it offers to help in the fight against the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the region. IEDs used by terrorists have been the most effective weapon against the US and coalition troops in Afghanistan. Many are made using ammonium nitrate, a common fertiliser shipped across the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan. The freeze on US aid was agreed as part of a defence bill that is expected to be passed this week. “The vast majority of the material used to make improvised explosive devices used against US forces in Afghanistan originates from two fertiliser factories inside Pakistan,” McCain said in the Senate. With $20 billion allocated for security and economic aid since 2001, Pakistan has been one of the largest recipients of US foreign aid. While the cutback announced is only a small proportion of the $20 billion, it may lead to greater cuts as calls in the US grow shriller to penalise Islamabad for not only failing to act against militant groups, but worst, helping them. Pakistan was reported to have subsequently arrested military officers suspected of spying for US intelligence agencies and it decided to expel more than a 100 US military trainers and tighten the process of granting visas to US military personnel. This move provoked an immediate reaction in slashing US aid, already a subject of heated debate within the US administration since the killing of bin Laden. Expressing increasing frustration with Pakistan’s efforts in the war against terror, US legislators reportedly made numerous proposals to make US aid to Pakistan conditional on more cooperation in fighting militants such as the Haqqani network, which Washington believes operates out of Pakistan and attacks US troops in Afghanistan. In July, after Washington’s announcement of suspension of $800 million worth of security aid, Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told a foreign news agency: “The army in the past as well as at present has conducted successful military operations using its own resources without any external support whatsoever.” The suspended aid reportedly included about $300 million to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 1,00,000 soldiers along the Afghan border, Pakistan claims to have deployed 1,40,000 troops in the northwest, but to do more to crack down on militants, such as the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network which uses its soil to attack in Afghanistan, the Army says its troops are too over-stretched. The US also depends on Pakistan as a sea port and land corridor for moving its military supplies by road into Afghanistan. The threats came from Pakistan’s defence minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar who said that troops would be pulled back from nearly 1,100 check posts set up along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as his country could not afford to keep forces deployed there following the suspension of US military assistance. Clarifying that $300 million of the suspended aid was specifically meant for troops serving in the troubled tribal region, he further claimed that the proposed US move would sabotage efforts against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the region and that if the raids continued there could be cross-border fighting. Referring to the controversy over Shamsi airbase, reportedly used by US drones, Mukhtar said the US, through the UAE, had been allowed the use of the airbase for “non-lethal weaponry, such as unarmed drones, and as a logistics support site”. “The understanding was that the drones would fly from Shamsi base but only for surveillance. They were not supposed to be lethal and the next thing we knew they were using it for military attacks,” he was quoted. Responding to US’ assertion that Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was in Pakistan’s tribal area, Mukhtar said he hoped that the US would not act on its own like the May 2 raid against Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad. “This time round, we hope the Americans will work with the Pakistanis and share the intelligence,” he said. However, as per recent reports, Islamabad has closed the border crossings used by US coalition forces to transfer fuel and other supplies for their troops in Afghanistan. On December 12, a senior Pakistani military official was cited by a foreign news agency stating that Pakistan will shoot down any US drone that intrudes its airspace. According to the new Pakistani defence policy, the official was quoted: “Any object entering into our airspace, including US drones, will be treated as hostile and be shot down.” Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was reported to have warned the US and Nato that any future cross-border attack would be met with a ‘detrimental response’. “The democratic government would not allow a similar attack on the country’s sovereignty and any attempt in future will definitely meet the detrimental response,” he said. Afghanistan and the US have frequently criticised Pakistan for not doing enough to target sanctuaries on its soil from where terrorists regularly launch attacks against Nato troops in Afghanistan. The Afghan government has also accused Pakistan of firing hundreds of rockets into Kunar over the past few months and killing at least 40 people, an allegation denied by Pakistan. Since 2004, US drones are estimated to have carried out more than 300 attacks inside Pakistan. On November 28, Maj Gen Abbas had reiterated that no shots were fired from the two posts in Pakistan’s Mohmand Tribal Agency, situated 330 yards behind a mountain ridge, beyond which are Afghanistan’s Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. Pakistan does not believe Nato troops could have mistaken the posts as Taliban militant bases. While India has welcomed the US decision to cut aid to Pakistan, there is nothing for it to feel secure about. Exit of the bulk of coalition forces from Afghanistan will give terrorists greater freedom of movement and action. India will have to be alert in Jammu and Kashmir and for its reconstruction and assistance organisations in Afghanistan.
NE security prompts Army chief’s visit to Myanmar
With the security of north-east states in view and intensification of bilateral defence cooperation on the anvil, India is sending army chief General VK Singh to Myanmar on a five-day official visit next month. Top government sources said General Singh will be in Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, between January 5 and 9, 2012, and interact with the new top leadership of the country with an aim to clearing Myanmar of Indian northeast insurgent camps.  India sent satellite images of these camps across the Moreh border through home ministry channels after Myanmar President Thein Sein visited India last October.  Myanmar, on its part, has raised the issue of camps of the Kachin Liberation Army in the Tirap-Changlang sector in Arunachal Pradesh.  While the finer points of Singh’s visit are being discussed at the level of national security advisor Shiv Shanker Menon, New Delhi is ready to supply arms to Naypyidaw even though the latter only wants repair and maintenance of its weapons.  However, one of the key agendas of the visit is to offer to build the Ledo-Pangsau Pass-Tanai section of Stillwell Road, which leads to Yunan province in China. The contract of the Tanai-Pangsau pass road section was awarded to a Chinese joint venture last year after the ministry of external affairs and R&AW did not show interest in building the strategic road.  Although the sector commanders on both sides are in touch with each other on a quarterly basis, New Delhi wants to intensify engagement so that insurgent groups are choked of arms supplies and cadre in the north-eastern states.  New Delhi senses an opportunity in this as Bangladesh is doing its bit to stop anti-Indian activities on its soil.  It is learnt that the outcome of Gen Singh’s visit may pave the way for defence minister AK Antony going to Naypyidaw.
Pak ups infiltration ante in Poonch
The Indian Army on Thursday reported yet another incident of ceasefire violation by the Pakistan Army in Krishnaghati sector of Poonch district. This is the third incident of ceasefire violation in the same sector this month. Unprovoked ceasefire violations previously took place on December 5 and 14.  According to an official source, “Around midnight, jawans deployed along the Line of Control foiled a major infiltration bid in KG sector of Poonch district by pushing the armed infiltrators back into the Pakistan territory.”  Official sources said the jawans had first noticed suspected movement of a group of infiltrators in Nangi Tekri area of Krishna Ghati sector.  As the infiltrators moved closer to the barbed wire fence to sneak in, the jawans challenged them. At the same time, Pakistani soldiers provided cover fire to the infiltrators and targeted the forward Indian posts in a clear act of ceasefire violation.  The exchange of fire continued for over two hours. The Indian troops effectively retaliated the firing to prevent any major infiltration bid, official sources said.  Meanwhile, officiating defence spokesman SN Acharya while confirming the incident of unprovoked ceasefire violation said, “Both the sides exchanged small arms fire intermittently for over two hours between 11.30 pm and 2 am after first noticing the movement of suspected infiltrators.” He said the Pakistani Army fired approximately 700-800 rounds of fire targeting the forward Indian posts.  In view of the harsh weather conditions prevailing along the LoC, the Army authorities are making all possible efforts to plug the infiltration routes to prevent major attempts at infiltration.  The volatile situation in Pakistan is also putting pressure on the Pakistani  army to shift the focus of attention from the role of US Army inAfghanistan/Pakistan to Kashmir.
Heat on Brigadier after junior alleges harassment   Read more at:
A Brigadier's promotion has been stalled by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) on a petition alleging that the officer was harassing a lieutenant-colonel by transferring him to a post to allegedly destroy his career.  Earlier this week, the AFT Kolkata branch passed an interim order, directing the ministry of defence not to take any decision on the promotion of Brigadier P.S. Rathore till the case is resolved.  Rathore is currently serving as deputy judge advocate general (DJAG), HQs south western Command, and was tipped to be the next judge advocate general (JAG) of the Indian Army. JAG is the legal and judicial chief of the army and the branch has legally qualified army officers extending all legal help to the military.  The AFT will resume hearing in February, 2012, on the petition filed by Lt-Colonel Mukul Dev.  A frustrated Dev moved an application to the AFT after a court of inquiry, constituted to decide on his arbitrary transfer and harassment case in 2009, failed to take any punitive action against Rathore, allegedly responsible for hampering the junior officer's career growth.  The brigadier was earlier indicted in the court of inquiry but got away without any punishment. In his application to the AFT, Dev alleged that the court of inquiry had been manipulated by senior officers and that his transfer was a calculated move to harm his career prospects and harass him.  The probe had found six officers "blameworthy" but only four officers were handed down punishments and two brigadiers - U.K. Chopra and Rathore - were let off.  Not satisfied with verdict, Dev filed a statutory complaint with the defence ministry in October, 2009. The ministry, in its proceeding notes, conceded that there has been a violation of the principle of law 'equity of justice'.  "Other officers have either been punished lightly or have been left untouched altogether," the MoD observed.  Earlier in 2008, Lt-Col Dev was transferred to the JAG branch as an assistant JAG but he allegedly became the victim of unfair treatment by senior officers. While he was on 'adequately exercise' (AE) - a tenure which would have enhanced his prospects for promotion, a transfer order was served by Chopra (P&A) of HQ central command forcing a legal professional to do an administrative job.  "I was on mandatory AE period and was surprised to receive such a letter. When I approached Rathore to seek a clarification in this regard, he expressed his ignorance about the matter and advised me proceed to a new appointment location and not to disobey or challenge the order of transfer," Dev said in his petition.  Major-General (Retd) Nilender Kumar, former judge advocate general of the Indian Army, said Dev's transfer was wrong. "It was non-utilisation of a professional and also hampered the career of the junior officer. Rathore acted on his own with the support of MS branch, central command. This was an improper action and calculated to harm the career of the officer," Kumar added.  Though court of inquiry found Chopra and Rathore blameworthy, no opinion was extended to punish any officer for the lapses. After the court of inquiry was abruptly closed, Dev was asked to rejoin the JAG branch in August 2009. He was served a showcause notice vide HQ central Command.   Read more at:
Army stops its boxers from participating in WSB
NEW DELHI: The Indian franchise in the World Series of Boxing is struggling to rope in pugilists employed with the Indian Army as the department is refusing to give them permission to compete in the professional-style event.  Of all the boxers employed with the defence services, the ones attached with the Army are not getting a chance to sign contracts with the Mumbai Fighters as their department is dilly-dallying on giving the requisite No Objection Certificate.  The Mumbai Fighters, owned by Transstadia Pvt. Ltd., features the likes of former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Akhil Kumar and former Asian Championships bronze-medallist Jitender Kumar in the team.  The team management wants to rope in Army boxers, who are considered well-equipped to deal with the rigours of the event's five-round format and have now sought help from the Indian Boxing Federation, the secretary general of which is a serving Army officer - Brig. PK Muralidharan Raja.  "The Navy and Air Force has no problem releasing their boxers for the WSB but it is the Army which is creating problems. They say 'we don't want our boxers to get injured because WSB has no head guards for its competitors' but come on, army boxers of all should not be worried about all this," an IBF official said.  "We have written a letter to the ministry of defence seeking an early resolution to the matter so that these boxers are allowed to participate in one of the biggest international events currently in progress," he said.  The boxers too are keen to participate as winning the individual championships would ensure Olympic qualification.  "Everything set aside, it is a shot at Olympic qualification. We would certainly want to participate," said one of the boxers employed with the Army.

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