Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 10 Jan 2012
Pak cross-currents
Govt asserts its supremacy

Who is more powerful in Pakistan today? The obvious answer would have been the military had the question been asked a few years back. The situation seems to be changing with the elected civilian government trying to assert its supremacy. In fact, there is a war of attrition going on in Pakistan between the government on the one side and the judiciary and the army on the other. The latest move by the government is a Cabinet approval to amend the law to force those associated with the judiciary and the military to declare their assets every year to ensure probity in public life. The new law covers all civil servants, judges and military officials.

Parliamentarians have already been declaring their assets in line with the law. It is a different matter that the big fish among them found a way to hide their wealth. Now the law covers all those associated with the power structure. Military officials may not find the law as inconvenient as the members of the judiciary. The reason is that the military is among the least corrupt institutions in Pakistan whereas the judiciary is among the most corrupt like the land administration and the education department, according to the latest study released by Transparency International. Yet the new law will add to the difficulties faced by the heads of both the military and the judiciary.

While the fight between the judiciary headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the civilian government represented by the President-Prime Minister duo has been going on since the formation of the PPP-led ministry in 2008, the war of attrition between the government and the army began with the controversial declaration by a Pakistani-American that the then Ambassador of Pakistan in Washington had submitted a memo to a former US military chief on behalf of President Zardari to prevent a possible army coup. Since then there have been rumours about President Zardari being under pressure from the army chief to quit office. The army, however, could not dislodge the government because of its having been weakened during the past few years, particularly after the killing of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. The latest move by the government, interestingly, shows that the democratic forces in Pakistan are straining hard to have the upper hand.
A matter of honour
Avoidable row over Army Chief’s date of birth
by Lt-Gen Vijay Oberoi (retd)

Trust the government in general and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in particular to disparage the armed forces’ image at the slightest pretext. In the last few years, this seems to have become a norm. The latest is the way a simple issue like the age of Gen V.K. Singh, the current Army Chief, has been made a highly controversial issue. It has been extensively debated in the media for nearly the entire tenure of the Chief, when it could easily have been sorted out as a matter of routine. Now, there is a sudden urgency to the issue as the MoD has peremptorily rejected the plea of the Chief, as requested by him through the medium of a statutory complaint and there is speculation that the Chief may take the issue to the Supreme Court.

A simple case of when a person was born has been unnecessarily dragged into the public gaze because there are vested interests wanting to bring the high office of the Army Chief to such absurd levels where the issue of when the current incumbent was born has become a subject of speculation by the media and various self-appointed analysts, do-gooders and those wanting to please the leadership to meet their personal ends. Some loyalists of the government have even opined that the Chief should resign! Why should he when the MoD, including the person who presides over it, is to blame for this state of affairs? If any resignation is needed, it should be the persons who have brought this simple issue to this sorry impasse!

The facts are simple and straightforward. There is ample documentary evidence that General Singh, the current Army Chief, was born on May 10, 1951. This includes his birth certificate issued by a military hospital; the date in his school leaving certificate; the date in the records of the UPSC; the records of the military academies from where he passed out — the NDA and the IMA — the records maintained by the personnel branch of the Army, Adjutant-General’s (AG’s) Branch; the records with the battalion to which he reported on commissioning; personal record entries in the numerous annual confidential reports (ACR’s) initiated every year and many more documents.

However, the MoD, for reasons best known to it, persists in ignoring all this evidence and thrusting a date one year earlier — May 10, 1950 — as the date of the birth of the Army Chief. Why? Many have commented that this is being done because the powers that be are more concerned with who the next Chief should be in their reckoning and not the facts of the case. This consistent, albeit moronic, stance of the MoD is not only wrong but is also designed to denigrate the image of the General and show him as a self-seeking individual who wants to remain in office for a few months more!

In this perverted milieu, neither the political leadership nor the bureaucrats of the MoD seem to be concerned with the highly adverse repercussions this whole episode is having on the honour, morale and wellbeing of an institution that continues to be the only one in the country that enjoys the continuing respect and confidence of the populace. It is also the only institution that is the ultimate guarantor of the security of the nation. Consequently, its honour and image need to be preserved at all costs, lest the country suffers on account of acts of omission and commission by a few individuals who seem to be more concerned about their personal interests and not the interests of the nation.

The question of the present Chief’s successor should never have been part of the correctness or otherwise of the case — the date of birth — as it is extraneous to the issue under consideration. The rules relating to the selection of a new Chief are very clear. A panel is drawn up of the four or five seniormost Army commanders or equivalent and the government then selects one. Of course, in the past, the government has been selecting the seniormost Army commander, but that is because the government chooses to adopt the easy and non-controversial option of seniority and not the one of merit, although in the past there have been at least two cases where the seniormost was not selected. Be that as it may, it should never have been the reason for ignoring the mass of documentary evidence that confirms the Chief’s date of birth as May 10, 1951. The government can, in any case, select whoever it wants as the next Chief from the panel. If there is a fear that the seniormost will then retire in the normal course, even this can be pre-empted by giving him an extension as was done in the case of General Bewoor a few decades back.

Many right-thinking persons in the country are wondering why the MoD has created this unseemly controversy when the documentary evidence is clear and incontrovertible. Having served for over 40 years in the Army and having held many appointments at Army Headquarters where dealing with the MoD was a frequent affair, I can venture to outline a few reasons. The foremost is that the MoD and, indeed, the hierarchy of the government want either pliable officers or yes-men to head the services or those who can be pressurised to do their bidding on account of extraneous reasons. Any elaboration is neither needed nor desirable.

An independent-thinking chief of a service, who is likely to take a firm stand when he disagrees with what the government wants, as in his military perception it will harm the military and/or the nation, is a big “no-no” for them. At the heart of such thinking are three aspects. Firstly, the government has psyched itself to think that there is an ever-present danger of the military, especially the Army, as has happened in many neighbouring and Third World countries. This is despite the fact that no chief or any other officer of any service at any time since our Independence has shown even an inkling of such thinking. Such irrational thinking on the part of the government is not based on any facts or indicators, except the fear in the minds of the political leadership, which is periodically stoked by their so-called advisers for their own personal and obviously limited ends.

Secondly, the hierarchy is happy with the status quo and has little time for a dynamic person who points out faults/inconsistencies and, in bureaucratic parlance, “rocks the boat”! While many civilian officials demonstrate their loyalty by being yes-men/women, irrespective of the merits of each issue, as long as their own backs are covered and personal requirements, dubious or otherwise, are met, the training and make-up of military personnel preclude them from acting in this manner. On a number of issues the present Chief has asserted his independent views and hence the hierarchy perhaps feels that the sooner he disappears from the scene, the better for them! They seem to be least concerned with what is correct, what is legal and what is good for the nation and the Army.

Thirdly, such a hiatus is in consonance with the past actions of the government, where downgrading the military at every opportunity has now become a norm. This is apparently sought to be justified as strengthening “civil control”, but actually the concept seems to be least understood by our political leadership, irrespective of the party affiliations of the government in power at any particular time.

Despite the technicalities advanced by the government, it is obvious that there has been little application of mind on this issue. This happens when bureaucratese supplants thinking and common sense! It is still not too late for the MoD to make amends so that faith in the correctness of the system is restored, at least to some degree.

The writer is a former Vice-Chief of Army Staff.
The politics behind army chief’s age row
The Indian Army is rallying behind its chief General VK Singh who is caught in an ‘age’ row with the defence ministry. Senior officers do not hesitate to point out that the political dispensation should not have turned the chief’s retirement age into such a major issue, and the dignity of the army chief and the institution should have ‘been respected.’

Fuelling the support is the unpopularity of Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, who is likely to succeed as the next army chief if General VK Singh is retired. Lt General Bikram Singh has been lobbying hard for the post, and has the support of the former army chief and now Governor General JJ Singh. Sources said Lt General Singh, currently the general officer commanding-in-chief, Eastern Command, also has support from within the Prime Minister’s Office.

The anger within the army about what a senior officer described as this ‘conspiracy’ against the current chief is spilling over, with most officers unable to go on record. However, retired officers have started writing articles on the issue although as one brigadier pointed out, ‘several media houses are not interested in our views as it is not in keeping with the defence ministry’s position.’ Defence sources pointed out that reports about the army chief’s age controversy were emanating from the defence ministry, and the army was being wrongly blamed.
The one criticism against General VK Singh has been that he should have spent more time in chasing the implementation of his own report on the Transformation of the Indian Army, and less on what some see as a ‘personal matter.’ However, officers who are supporting him make it clear that the age issue was not a personal matter as it affected the dignity and stature of the army chief’s office as well as the institution of the Indian Army.

Significantly, there are no two views within the army about the fact that the birth year controversy would not have come in the way of General Singh taking over as chief, regardless of whether the government accepted — 1950 or 1951. And as a senior officer pointed out, ‘The defence ministry could have taken the required steps to clear this when General Singh was made corps commander but this was deliberately not done.’

Significantly, if General Singh succeeds in delaying his retirement, the present Northern Command Chief Lt General KT Parnaik will be the most likely candidate for the army chief’s post. He is very popular within the army, seen by his colleagues as well as seniors as a ‘thinking general.’ However, if Lt General Bikram Singh makes it to the top post as seems to be the intention of the Manmohan Singh government, Lt General Parnaik will retire and the army will have lost the benefit of a ‘top notch’ general.
Indian Army officer under scanner after honey-trapped by Pakistan
New Delhi, Dec 20 (IANS)

The officer, from an infantry unit, is now facing a court of inquiry to ascertain if he passed on any sensitive information on the Indian Army's deployments and plans, the sources said. The officer was in Bangladesh this summer to attend a course at one of their military academies when he was trapped by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), sources said.

He allegedly developed an intimate relationship with a women, who was acting at the behest of Pakistan, after meeting her at a party in Dhaka, they added. Unable to bear the pressure from ISI, which had reportedly videotaped him with the woman, the officer opened up about his unenviable position with the Indian High Commission authorities in Dhaka.

Following this, he was immediately packed off to India sometime between September and October this year, sources said. The officer was in Dhaka for a couple of months within which he fell in the honey trap, sources said.

On his return to India, the Indian Army interrogated him to ascertain if he had passed on any Indian Army deployments and plans to Pakistan's ISI. Recently, they initiated the court of inquiry against him to arrive at a conclusion on how to punish him for his commissions and omissions during his Dhaka stint, they added.

This is the second incident of an Indian military officer falling prey to a "honey trap" in the recent years. In 2009, Indian Navy's Commodore Sukhjinder Singh was caught in a 'honey trap' scandal involving him and a Russian woman, after his photographs taken in a compromising position with her came out in the open.

He was the Indian Navy's pointsman in Moscow between 2005 and 2008 to oversee the refit and repair of Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier that India had bought from Russia in 2004. After the Russians pressed for increasing the Indian payment of $974 million made in 2004 twice to $2.9 billion by 2009, India finally had to agree to pay $2.4 billion in February 2010.

Even as the Russians, beginning 2007, made demands for hiking the price of the warship that India plans to rechristen INS Vikramaditya, the commodore was well entrenched in the honey trap. This had led to suspicion that this involvement of the Indian Navy's pointsman in the trap had emboldened the Russians to jack up the cost of the repair and refit of the warship progressing at the Sevmash shipyard in Russia.

Following the photographs coming out in the open, the navy held a court martial that found him guilty. He was sacked and discharged from service without pension benefits for his indiscretion.
Lt Gen Ashok Chaudhary takes over as DGMO
NEW DELHI: Veteran infantry officer Lt Gen Ashok Kumar Chaudhary on Monday took over as Director General Military Operations ( DGMO), succeeding Lt Gen Anand Mohan Verma who proceeded on his superannuation.

An alumnus of National Defence Academy, Chaudhury was commissioned into the Mahar Regiment of Indian Army in 1974 and commanded 12 MAHAR and 10 Sector Rashtriya Rifles in Jammu & Kashmir and 8 Assam Rifles in Manipur, army officials said here.

Besides various staff and instructional duties, he has served as Brigadier General Staff of 16 Corps, deputy director general of Military Operations and additional director General Military Intelligence at Army HQ prior to taking over the reins of Aul Cantt-based 9 Corps.

He has also been an instructor at the Senior Command Wing at Army War College, Mhow.

The officer has been awarded Ati Vishist Seva Medal, Sena Medal, Vishist Seva Medal and the Chief of Army Staff's Commendation for gallantry and distinguished service.
Indian defence delegation in Beijing after visa row
A scaled-down Indian military delegation arrived here today for a four-day defence exchange visit after the original programme of sending a much larger team was hit by a row on denial of visa to an IAF officer from Arunachal Pradesh.

The 15-member delegation headed by Air Vice-Marshal PS Mann would interact with their Chinese counterparts and visit defence installations during its stay in the country.
The delegation comprising officers from all the three defence forces would visit the General Staff Headquarters of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) here tomorrow and meet PLA Deputy Chief, Gen Ma Xiaotian.

Besides Beijing, they are also scheduled to visit Nanjing and Shanghai.

Also on their schedule are visits to naval and airbases, an army unit and PLA University of Science and Technology.

The size of the delegation was reduced from 30 to 15 following denial of visa to IAF Group Captain M Panging by China on the ground that he hailed from Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as part of southern Tibet.

The visit is part of a defence exchange programme between the two countries.
Expect a Chinese attack by June/July
Colonel Anil Athale (retd)

It is time the ministry of defence got cracking in building up the Indian Army's military capability to face the Chinese threat, warns Colonel Anil Athale (retd).

Last year when this author wrote about a Kargil- style foray by China in the near future, the idea was more in the realm of speculation. But the events of the last few months seem to move the likelihood from the speculative to the possible.

But it seems that New Delhi is in deep slumber or has no time to pay attention to such 'minor' issues like national security when all attention is focused on the upcoming assembly election in Uttar Pradesh.

It is, however, unfair to blame the government alo#8800 even the Opposition is equally busy in its perennial game of one 'UP-manship' and has never effectively taken up the issue of defence preparedness in Parliament.

The media is frivolous as ever and is chasing TRPs; unfortunately there are no TRPs to be gained on defence issues.

This is an attempt by a student of history to give a wake-up call.
What makes matters even worse than 'normal' in Delhi today is the inefficiency that has crept in all decision-making due to the 'Diarchy' that prevails in Delhi.

For those unfamiliar with the term -- this was the system in British India when the rulers of the princely states had all the trappings of power but the British resident exercised the real power.

In its second avatar, the United Progressive Alliance resembles that model with real power in the hands of the Gandhi dynasty while the prime minister has all the trappings of power.

What this has done is the pivotal position of the Prime Minister's Office and its job of co-ordination and enforcement of the will of the government on the State machinery is severely compromised.

In case of vital decisions on security issues, this can lead to disasters.

The portents indeed are ominous. On December 14, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Parliament that his government does not share the view that China plans to attack India.

Exactly half a century ago, another Indian prime minister stuck to a similar view, until November 21, 1962.

Broadcasting to the nation that day, that prime minister lamented that in this hour of peril, our heart goes to the people of Assam!

As Jawaharlal Nehru spoke to the nation, the civil administration in Tezpur had begun to burn documents and currency in the government treasury, prison doors were thrown open, and everyone made a beeline to get across the Brahmaputra by whatever means.

The stage was being set for surrendering all territory north of the Brahmaputra to the Chinese.

To the people of my generation, the memories of that day give goose pimples even today. The unfortunate similarities do not end there.
Just a year before that, in 1961, the then defence minister V K Krishna Menon had a scrap in public with the highly esteemed army chief, who resigned and then took back his resignation on the prime minister's advice.

The prime minister then went on to humiliate the general in Parliament. As a consequence, the morale of the army was badly affected.

As someone who has studied that conflict, including the famed Henderson Brooks Report, one can say without any contradiction that 'loss of morale' was the single biggest cause of our debacle in 1962.

It is incredible that exactly after half a century we have a similar confrontation between the army chief and the defence ministry bureaucracy.

One of the horror stories of the 1962 conflict with China was the way India made a frenzied effort to arm the soldiers with modern weapons. The insistence on 'indigenous' production of arms and inability of the local R&D/factories starved Indian soldiers of tools of war.

So, what do we do?

Brand new rifles (the 7.62 SLR) were airdropped at Dirang Zong, of course without ammunition! As if the soldiers are robots who can instantly master new weapons and begin using it!
Our army's modernisation is stuck in red tape of the deepest hue.

Import of the critical lightweight howitzer, so important to provide artillery support to infantry in the mountains, is stuck in the courts/CBI clearances and what not.

Anyone familiar with the armed forces remembers the phrase often used by superiors while giving orders, 'I do not care whether you beg, borrow or steal! I want this done!'

It is time to remind the defence minister that the country expects him to deliver security and efficiency.

His primary job is to ensure honour and safety of the country, and not his honour, that must come last, always and every time (a sort of modified version of the Chetwood pledge that all newly commissioned officers take).

It appears that China is carefully choreographing incidents with India. First, there were several instances of Chinese troops crossing the border, marking their presence. We have dismissed these as 'minor' incidents.

Then there was the verbal spat and exchange of notes over the Indian foray into oil exploration in Vietnam waters. The new year saw ill-treatment of an Indian diplomat. Earlier, there were cases of Indian diamond merchants being imprisoned in China. All these could well be dismissed as minor incidents that involve local officials.
If similar incidents were to take place on the India-Pakistan border, they are not to be taken seriously because in Pakistan nobody is in control of the armed forces or civilian officials.

But China is NOT Pakistan -- the People's Liberation Army, the media (including the Internet) are all under tight party/government control in China.

India would be making a grave error of judgment if it considers these incidents as non serious. There seems to be a design behind these orchestrated events, especially the forays by the PLA.

It is time India woke up. Luckily, we do have some time.

At the moment the Himalayan passes are frozen and no military operations are possible.

The likely threat will only emerge in June/July 2012. It must be made clear that one is not talking of an all-out war.

What we must accept is a short, sharp, attack by the Chinese, more in the nature of a slap!

To those who claim that Indo-Chinese trade is too big -- one needs to remind them that as a proportion of overall Chinese trade with the world, it is of very little consequence!

It is time the ministry of defence cleaned up its act got cracking in building up the Indian Army's military capability to face the Chinese threat.

Next year will mark 50 years since China taught a military lesson to India. Will history repeat itself after 50 years?

The article by Admiral Arun Prakash (retd), the former chief of the naval staff -- India must pause before venturing into choppy waters, on -- seems to provide timely caution.

One is referring here to the Indian decision to explore for oil in cooperation with Vietnam despite Chinese objections. There is no doubt that legally India is right and the Chinese demand absurd.

At another level it can also be seen as a clear 'tit for tat' snub to China that has ignored Indian objections to its projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Unfortunately, such issues are seldom decided on legality and it is the national power projection capability that is the deciding factor and not some articles of a UN convention.

What Admiral Prakash seems to suggest is that the South China Sea is not an appropriate theatre for India to flex its naval muscle.

The sudden burst of clarity from our foreign minister is rather curious. This tough stand comes against the backdrop of a rather tepid response to the Chinese intrusions in Ladakh, recently acknowledged by the defence minister himself.
These episodes brings back the memories of 49 years ago and the disastrous 'forward policy' that India launched to counter Chinese pinpricks and occupation of Aksai Chin.

A full two years before the Chinese attack in 1962, the Indian Army's Western Command based in Shimla had run a two-day exercise 'Sheel' on October 15 and 16, 1960.

The conclusion was that in the prevailing situation where the Indians were heavily outnumbered in Ladakh, it would be advisable to avoid a clash with the Chinese till such time as we built up our strength.

But the government of the day, under the influence of General B M Kaul and Jawharlal Nehru's belief that Chinese would never attack India, pushed on with the 'forward policy' of establishing militarily unviable posts to establish 'legal' claim to Aksai Chin.

When the Chinese began to react violently to these moves, a hare-brained scheme was proposed to open a new front in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.

The two areas are a good 1,000 kilometres apart and India was in no position to launch an offensive action across the McMohan line. But such was the hold of wishful thinking and un-professional soldiers over Delhi that we went on with this madness.

The rest is history and India suffered a terrible blow in the Tawang sector.
The situation of Indian forces is far better in Arunachal Pradesh today -- that is an undeniable fact. But on the other hand, with Chinese forces now present in strength in the Pakistan-occupied areas of Gilgit and Hunza, we may well face a two-pronged threat in a future conflict in Ladakh.

However, all these moves and counter-moves raise a larger question of Chinese intentions. Is it that China wishes to announce its arrival as a 'military superpower' by engendering a conflict with India?

The precedent is the way China used the 2008 Olympics to signal its arrival as an economic superpower (India achieved the exact opposite with its shabby conduct and scams associated with the Commonwealth Games).

Is China looking to provoke India militarily in Ladakh so as to provide a 'casus belli' to launch a Kargil-type adventure against India?

From a purely Chinese perspective, it does look an attractive option. In 1962, due to American pressure, Pakistan was restrained from interfering.

However, with US-Pakistan relations at an all time low, this is unlikely. What is more likely is that Pakistan will activate its proxies within Kashmir to make things as difficult as possible for India.

The 'two front' scenario that many in India have talked about may actually fructify.
With India's military modernisation in limbo for several years, China certainly has the capability to launch a limited foray in Ladakh.

In combination with Pakistan it could carry out a limited offensive in the direction of Leh. India has only a defensive option.

This will achieve several Chinese objectives:

    Assure Pakistan that it can rely on China against India. By keeping India occupied, it will also facilitate the Pakistani foray into Afghanistan in the wake of the American withdrawal.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal