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Thursday, 19 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 19 Jan 2012
Counter-insurgency allowance to Armymen deputed to BRO restored
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
In an order that would benefit hundreds of Army personnel deputed to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the Supreme Court has upheld an order passed by the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) that restored grant of counter-insurgency (CI) allowance to military personnel deployed in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the North-East.

The appeal against the tribunal's order was filed by the government despite the Additional Solicitor General's opinion that the tribunal had settled the issue in proper perspective and it was not a case fit for filing an appeal. The apex court dismissed the appeal yesterday.

Till 2008, counter-insurgency allowance was being paid to regular Army troops as well as the BRO cadre. In that year, it was stopped for Army personnel on deputation to the BRO on the pretext of an audit objection that the BRO units were not performing any operational role. Besides, civilians in the BRO units were not being paid any such allowance. The government had also initiated recovery of allowance that was being paid to the deputees since 1994 as part of their emoluments.

Allowing a petition filed by Brig AK Bhutani and several officers, the AFT Bench comprising Justice NP Gupta and Lt Gen HS Panag, while restoring the allowance last year, had also directed the government to refund the recovered amount with 10 per cent interest.

The petitioners maintained that their military allowances were protected under the BRO Regulations and that they faced the same risks as other Army officers in the area. They had also pointed out that it was incorrect for the government to discriminate between officers posted to Army units vis-à-vis those posted to BRO units when the bullets of terrorists made no such distinction between personnel deployed in trying conditions. Also, Military Engineer Services' staff was getting the CI allowance that the petitioners were being deprived of.

The file with the ASG's opinion was received from the Law Ministry for implementation of the order. An undersecretary in the Defence Ministry put up a note stating that though the ministry intends to go along with the legal opinion, the matter also should be referred to the Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) in context of the audit objections.

Sources said that military pay and allowances do not come under the charter of the BRDB at all. The file was sent to the BRDB secretariat following which the appeal was filed.
Implications of Pak crisis
India should never lower its guard
by G. Parthasarathy

THE appointment of Brigadier Sarfraz Ali as Commander of the Rawalpindi-based 111 Brigade on January 11, just after Prime Minister Gilani sacked Army Chief Kayani's handpicked Defence Secretary Lt-General Naeem Khalid Lodhi, brought back memories of personally witnessing a newly appointed 111 Brigade Commander spearheading a coup to overthrow and arrest Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October 1999. That coup came after serious differences emerged between Mr Sharif and Army Chief Musharraf over who should take the blame for the Kargil fiasco. The 111 Brigade has executed virtually every overthrow of the civilian government by the military. It could play a similar role if and when the army decides to act to oust the present government. Conventional wisdom, however, suggests that the army would avoid direct or unilateral action, as in the past.

While the 1999 coup was triggered by events involving relations with India, the roots of the present differences between the military and the elected government lie in the tensions in relations with the US, following the Abbottabad raid. That raid resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden and shame and disgrace for the Pakistan Army, internally and internationally. The Musharraf coup was followed by a series of terrorist attacks across India, culminating in the attack on the Red Fort by the Lashkar-e-Toiba and on Parliament by the Jaish-e-Mohammed in 2001. But will it be wise to presume that just because circumstances are different, we can now be more relaxed and sanguine, ruling out any possibility of similar terrorist attacks on India? It would be the height of folly to relax our guard.

On December 18, a number of jihadi groups and political outfits described as the Pakistan Defence Council staged a massive rally in Lahore, with speakers provocatively raving and ranting against the United States and India. Among the politicians present were representatives of Islamic parties like the Jamat-e-Islami and, more significantly, members of Imran Khan's Tehriq-e-Insaf. Mr Imran Khan's close links with the ISI and the military establishment are well documented. Former ISI Chief General Hamid Gul was a founding member of his party. While Mr Imran Khan professes his desire for good neighbourly relations with India and his abhorrence of jihadi violence, he still retains links with the Taliban. It would not be prudent to assume that he has had a "change of heart," especially given his links with the military and the ISI.

The Lahore rally on December 18 was organised by the Lashkar-e-Toiba under its pseudonym, the Jamat-ud-Dawa, (JUD). Both the Lashkar and the Jamat are designated by the UN as international terrorist organisations. The two most prominent slogans at the rally were "Permanently cut off NATO supply line", and "Reject MFN (for India)". India was accused of conducting a "water war" against Pakistan, to deprive its people of much-needed water.

Speaking on the occasion, the JUD leader Hafiz Rehman Malik thundered: "Our men are trained to use rifles and Kalashnikovs. When they head towards India with weapons, no one can stop them." Ever since Pakistan was compelled to move more troops from its borders with India to areas adjacent to the Durand Line, the army and the ISI have carefully calibrated the nature and extent of terrorist attacks on India. The NIA was told by Daood Gilani aka David Coleman Headley during his interrogation that though terrorist groups backed by the ISI were tasked a few years ago by the ISI to shift their jihadi energies to attacking the Americans in Afghanistan, their desire for jihad against India was still strong.

Thoroughly discredited by the American helicopter-borne attack which exposed that it had provided haven for over five years to Osama bin Laden in the heart of the heavily fortified Abbottabad cantonment, the army hit back at the Americans, asking them to vacate bases and withdraw personnel. This also led to blocking supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan. It raised public passions against the Americans by accusing them of violation of Pakistani sovereignty. It used the infamous "Memogate" affair, involving indiscretions by Mr Hussein Haqqani, Mr. Zardari's handpicked envoy to the US, to get an already hostile judiciary to further turn the screws on the besieged civilian government by issuing a contempt notice on Prime Minister Gilani.

The military is playing for high stakes. It intends to get the Americans to quit Afghanistan, leaving the country open for a Taliban takeover. Domestically, it will work with the judiciary, to force early elections. Given the need to revise electoral rolls, elections in Pakistan can be held after six to eight months.

In the meantime, General Musharraf has announced that he is returning to Pakistan this month, though he may be arrested on return. The military establishment is said to have arranged for its current protégé Imran Khan to quietly meet General Musharraf in London. The military evidently believes that the Americans are desperate to get supply routes to Afghanistan reopened. General Musharraf could serve as a useful interlocutor to get the Americans to accept Pakistan's demands, especially with sections of the American political, diplomatic and academic establishment ever ready to give Pakistan a good conduct certificate, whatever its transgressions. Moreover, General Musharraf is liked by political outfits like the MQM in Karachi and his erstwhile Muslim League protégés like Chaudhri Pervez Elahi, who share his and the army's antipathy towards Mr Nawaz Sharif. But he would require the army's continuous backing, given the antipathy that characterises his relations with Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Many in Pakistan will see the ouster of Mr Zardari as yet another conspiracy against a Sindhi leader, believed to be a Shia.

India has done well not to offer any gratuitous comment on the developments in Pakistan. Unlike in the past, virtually no one in Pakistan is holding India responsible for the country's present travails. The Americans now have the pride of place of being the external villains, responsible for all of Pakistan's present woes. While Pakistan's polity is in a mess, there does appear to have been a fall in terrorist attacks engineered by some of the military's erstwhile jihadi protégés. This is so evidently because recent events have resulted in people like Mr Imran Khan powerfully voicing support for the Afghan Taliban on behalf of the military establishment. What India has to be prepared for is the prospect of having to face a new generation of Pakistani military men, fired up by their belief in the efficacy of jihadi terrorism as an instrument of state policy. We should, therefore, not have exaggerated expectations of any significant turnaround in our current virtually frozen relationship.
Govt awaits SC word on Army Chief's age
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, January 18
Faced with a piquant situation over the Army Chief General VK Singh's petition in the Supreme Court, the government has now decided to wait for the apex court to show the path instead of being pro-active. There are plans to tackle the issue, however, their implementation will depend on the stance taken by the court.

There would be no hurry in taking a decision to pre-empt the court, sources said. Plans to appoint a new Army Chief were shot down by a senior member of the Cabinet Committee on Security last night saying the Supreme Court could take umbrage at it and even point an accusatory finger that this was being done to circumvent court proceedings. The government thinking was largely affected by the outcome of the appointment of PJ Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). The apex court removed him mid-term, causing embarrassment to the government. In this case, the court's stance would be vital.

The Army Chief's petition could possibly come up for hearing in the Supreme Court on January 20. The Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister is slated to meet tomorrow. The government has also asked the National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Defence Secretary Sashi Kant Sharma to talk to General VK Singh.

The sharp divide between General VK Singh and the government has been exposed further. In his petition, the Army Chief has said "the conduct of the respondent (the government) was affecting his reputation and the action on part of the respondent was affecting his image before the general public and the armed forces". Copies of the petition are available through sources.

The petition also cites how the government had violated the Army Act, 1950, saying the Adjutant-General's branch was the official branch for record keeping. He says the Military Secretary branch should have reconciled the record with the Adjutant-General's branch.

An Army Chief "has a right to retire with dignity", Gen VK Singh has pleaded even as he has accepted the government's right to determine his tenure.


    The conduct of the respondent (the government) is affecting his reputation and the action on part of the respondent is affecting his image before the general public and the armed forces.
    The Military Secretary's branch should have reconciled the record with the Adjutant-General's branch.
    He (the Army Chief) was seeking 'harmonisation' of record and not a correction.
    His predecessor General Deepak Kapoor had assured him (Gen VK Singh) that the matter would be settled.

Gen meets Defence Secy

Army Chief Gen VK Singh on Wednesday met Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma even as the government expressed unhappiness over the "unhealthy precedent" set by the head of the force by going to court. Gen VK Singh met Shashikant Sharma in the latter's office for about 30 minutes but it was not clear as to what exactly transpired between them, sources said.
Army Chief has a right to retire with dignity: VK Singh
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Jan 18, 2012, 20:30 IST
An Army Chief "has a right to retire with dignity", General VK Singh has pleaded before the Supreme Court while accepting the government's right to determine his tenure.

Challenging as "illegal and arbitrary" the rejection of his Statutory Complaint to Defence Minister AK Antony on December 30 last for accepting May 10, 1951 as his date of birth, General Singh has said that this was also violative of his fundamental rights.
Seeking the quashing of this order, the Army Chief has pleaded in a 68-page petition that the government be directed to treat May 10, 1951 as his date of birth and "grant all consequential reliefs thereto".

General Singh's unprecedented action in dragging the government to the apex court followed the ministry's insistence that May 10, 1950 would be treated his official date of birth and that he would consequently retire on May 31 this year.

In his petition, he has stated that he wished to make it "abundantly clear at this stage" that regardless of the result of the petition or the controversy surrounding his age, the government "has the right to determine the tenure of his office of the Chief of the Army Staff".

General Singh stated that the government's action and conduct in refusing to accept his contention on his birth date was affecting his image before the general public and the armed forces.

It was his right to have a "dignified life", he pleaded in the petition, adding that an army chief has "a right to retire with dignity".

Referring to the ministry's orders of December 30 and earlier rejecting his case, the Army Chief has said that these orders have "conveniently ignored" his matriculation certificate, entire service record including entry into service, promotions and annual confidential reports.

He has stated that being a highly decorated officer, he had received all his awards, decorations and promotions as per the date of birth being 10.5.1951.

General Singh has enclosed voluminous documents and records with the petition in support of his stand that his year of birth was 1951.

However, he has said that in an application dated 29.7.1965 for admission to National Defence Academy (NDA) course he had, as a 14-year school boy, inadvertently filled his date of birth as 10.5.1950.
Army chief going to SC is unfortunate: govt
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Jan 18, 2012, 15:33 IST
Government today termed the action of Army chief Gen VK Singh going to the Supreme Court for settlement of his age issue as an "unfortunate development" and "not a healthy precedent".

Describing the matter as sensitive, Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju said, "It is an unfortunate development and it is not a healthy precedent either for the (Defence) Ministry or the armed forces."
He was replying to a question on the sidelines of an NCC function here on whether the government is planning to send the Army Chief on leave or if it is looking at the possibility of appointing a new chief.

Asked if the government is embarrassed with Singh dragging it to the apex court on the date of birth issue, he said, "It is not a matter for public debate. It is an unhealthy precedent. It does not auger well either for the Ministry or the forces."

Singh moved the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the government's rejection of his claim on his date of birth. The Defence Ministry had recently rejected his contention that he was born in 1951 and not in 1950.

In its recent order, the Ministry has taken his date of birth as May 10, 1950, and not May 10, 1951, which the General has claimed as real as per his matriculation certificate.
IMA dossier could prove to be chink in chief's armour
Army chief General VK Singh had not only mentioned 1950 as his year of birth while applying for entry to the National Defence Academy in 1965, but also reaffirmed it four years later in his confidential Indian Military Academy dossier.

This is in stark contrast to Singh's assertions that
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1950 was wrongly entered in his NDA form and the year was not reflected in any other record filled in his own handwriting to show that his date of birth is May 10, 1951.
Documents accessed by HT show that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) form for Singh's entry to the NDA on July 29, 1965 and the IMA dossier of July 29, 1969 show May 10, 1950 as his date of birth. It is binding on candidates to fill the forms in their own handwriting.
Singh's argument that his NDA form "was filled as per details given by the school clerk" may not pass muster as the UPSC form clearly stated that "the statements made in the form are true to the best of my knowledge and belief".
With the battlelines drawn between the army chief and the government on his age row, now before the Supreme Court, the repetition of 1950 as his year of birth in the IMA dossier could put Singh's legal team in a tight spot.
Singh's confidants argue that his teacher filled his NDA form and the "error" was duplicated in official documents, including ones held by the Military Secretary's branch.
That contention flies in the face of the IMA dossier filled before Singh was commissioned as an officer in June 1970.
Law ministry officials monitoring the controversy said the army chief in his petition filed in the Supreme Court has not contested the existence of 1950 as his year of birth in the IMA dossier.
Rather, his argument is that he had entered 1950 as his year of birth in the dossier for the sake of "uniform reflection" of facts as mentioned in the UPSC form for admission to the NDA.
A general mess
While the colonial-era tradition of Indian Army officers not discussing women or politics — issues with supposedly disruptive potential — in the officers' mess may be intact, Army politics has always drawn conversation but rarely prompted bad feelings in the way it is doing now. The officer corps — disinterested members aside — is split between those partial to the izzat (honour) argument pushed by the current Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Gen. V.K. Singh, and others, not all necessarily backing Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, GoC-in-C, Eastern Command, who worry that, whatever the merits of Gen. Singh's case, the Army's image has taken a hit.

An amusing side-show saw the Western Army commander, Lt. Gen. S.R. Ghosh who, as the next senior most officer, on discovering he would be in the running for the top post if Gen. Singh was fired or, out of pique or his izzat-logic, resigned before his time was up, quickly reversed a medical disability status fetching higher pension he had secured for himself, and pranced around for reporters to indicate he was in tip-top shape!
Like many other problems that afflict this country, the one relating to the selection of the Chiefs of Staff of the three armed services too was seeded in the early years. In reply to a 1948 note from defence minister Sardar Baldev Singh, asking whether merit or seniority should be the criterion in selecting officers to top posts in the Army, Jawaharlal Nehru insightfully replied that if both merit and seniority were given weightage, seniority would soon elbow out merit. Whatever the reasons ultimately for K.M. Cariappa becoming the commander-in-chief in 1949, the seniority factor unfortunately got the nod. Of the two other officers being considered then — Lieutenant Generals Nathu Singh Rathore and K.S. Rajendrasinhji, the former was brash and outspoken and no doubt irked Nehru. On Nehru's musing out aloud that owing to insufficient command experience of most Indian officers at the time, the Army might benefit from a few more years of British general-ship, the quicksilver Rathore riposted that on that basis the Indian government too would be better off headed by Britons considering most Indian politicians had no experience whatsoever of running government! Rajendrasinhji was the first Indian officer to win a gallantry award (Distinguished Service Order) in the field in World War II.
There is good reason to believe that after his offer to Field Marshal William Slim, the brilliant commander of the Indian Fourteenth Army, which drove the Imperial Japanese land forces out of Southeast Asia, to succeed Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck as commander-in-chief, was turned down, Nehru wanted a fighting general to lead the Army and, a few years later, first asked Rajendrasinhji to replace Gen. Roy Bucher. To both Rathore (who many claim was also offered the post) and Rajendrasinhji is attributed the high-minded statement that their senior, Cariappa, shouldn't be bypassed.
Cariappa as Western Army commander during the 1947-48 Kashmir operations did not impress Nehru with his leadership qualities, who perhaps believed that the battle-hardened Rajendrasinhji would have done a better job of it. In any event, with Cariappa followed by Rajendrasinhji, a wrong precedent was set. The Indian Army has paid a heavy price; not the brightest officers have always headed it. The other two services, being smaller, manage their cadres somewhat better with especially the Navy consistently throwing up competent people as Service Chiefs. The Air Force, whose top posts are monopolised by fighter jocks, falls somewhere in between the Army and the Navy.
With seniority as the sole criterion for promotion, we have a vast majority of officers aspiring to top posts becoming progressively more risk-averse in decision-making as they climb up the steep promotional ladder. The consequence of an over-cautious, almost inert, institutional-qua-leadership mindset has been there for all to see for several decades now. The Army Chiefs, for instance, have stuck to a stunted vision responsible for the skewed order of battle that reveals a singular talent for mistaking the minor foe (Pakistan) for major adversary, even as the real danger posed by the Chinese People's Liberation Army is not addressed, if evidence of the deployment of the main force is anything to go by.
The purely seniority-driven promotion system the military is straitjacketed in means the year of birth is crucial and the documents validating it decisively important. The anomaly with respect to Gen. Singh is that all the records with the Adjutant General (AG) — the record-keeper of the Army — support his contention. The Union Public Service Commission form for admission to the National Defence Academy with the Military Secretary's Office responsible for postings and cadre/career management, however, shows an earlier year of birth. If the AG's records have always determined age-related promotion and tenure, then the government's reliance in this one case on a document available with the MS branch, makes the government's case legally weak, which is probably why COAS has confidently gone to the court.
Braving a bit of egg on its face, the government should let Gen. Singh serve out his full, legitimate term in office. This will have far smaller fallout than if, standing on ego, it ousts him, which will set an even worse precedent and complicate the situation. Until now the selection of Service Chiefs, because based on material criterion (birth year document), was safely pre-determined. The upside was that it absolved the politicians, principally the Prime Minister and defence minister, of applying their minds to choosing military Chiefs of Staff. The negatives of replacing this selection system with the more professionally desirable merit-based one will be strongly resisted by the military as well as the politicians because both will perceive it as disruptive. If the government owns up its fault on the condition that Gen. Singh puts in his papers, or the Army Chief resigns anyway before his retirement date, then the government will have no option, on seniority principle, but to appoint Lt. Gen. Ghosh as COAS, leaving Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh in the lurch. But this is a far better option than permitting a succession plan hatched by a couple of less-than-scrupulous Army Chiefs to go through, thereby avoiding the worst possible denouement imaginable — an enraged Army.
18:05 GMT, January 18, 2012 In the year 2011, there were various highlights in the military diplomatic work of China and a new leap forward has been made at a new starting point. When answering the journalist's questions, Qian Lihua, director-general of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), said, "China's military diplomacy is becoming increasingly pragmatic, active and open, and its strategic function of serving the overall situation of the national foreign affairs and the modernization drive of the military has been constantly strengthened."


JOURNALIST: In the year 2011, China's military diplomacy with its neighboring countries was very active as evidenced by frequent high-level reciprocal visits, consultations and dialogues. What's your opinion of the achievements of the military diplomacy with neighboring countries?

QIAN LIHUA: In the past year, in view of the new changes in the security situation of the neighboring countries, we took stabilizing the neighboring countries as our primary task, gave full play to the unique role of military diplomacy and strengthened the military exchanges and cooperation with the neighboring countries in an all-round way.

The leaders of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the general headquarters/departments of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) visited such countries as Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, the DPRK, Pakistan and India, and the leaders of the defense departments and the armed forces of 14 neighboring countries also visited China. We held defense and security consultations with neighboring countries including Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and India, participated in the defense ministers' meeting of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Shangri-La Dialogue and the ASEAN Regional Forum Security Policy Conference, and held the meeting of chiefs of general staff of the member states of the SCO, the SCO Defense and Security Forum, and the China-ASEAN Defense and Security Dialogue.

China's military has carried out in-depth cooperation with the militaries of neighboring countries in areas such as military training, academy education and personnel training. When Pakistan, Thailand and other neighboring countries were hit by natural disasters, China's military offered help by dispatching professional forces including medical teams and helicopters and assisted relevant government departments in collecting and transporting humanitarian emergency aid packages.

Pragmatic and active peripheral military diplomacy has played a positive role in deepening bilateral relations, stabilizing regional situation and producing a safe national environment. In terms of strategy, China has strengthened strategic communication, further elevated the level of strategic mutual trust and reached a general consensus on maintaining regional peace and stability with its neighboring countries. In terms of pragmatic cooperation, China has learned from one another the salutary experience in military construction and enhanced the capability in jointly tackling new threats and challenges. In terms of the construction of multilateral mechanism, China has actively promoted the construction of regional security mechanism with mutual respect, equality and mutual trust, win-win cooperation and openness and inclusiveness in a bid to safeguard the common interests of the Asia-Pacific countries.

JOURNALIST: How do you view the military relations between China and its neighboring countries under the new circumstances?

QIAN LIHUA: Although at present, some new complicated factors have emerged in the Asia-Pacific region, peace and stability still present the general trend and development and prosperity still are the common aspirations of the people, all of which are irreversible trends of the times. China and its neighboring countries have close geographical locations, cultural similarities and shared interests, which constitute a strong foundation for the development of bilateral relations. China will stick to its peripheral diplomatic principle of building a good-neighborly relationship and partnership and the Chinese military will commit itself to strengthening defense communication and cooperation with neighboring countries. Of course, when it comes to some hot and sensitive issues of regional security and the differences in bilateral relations, we will address those issues head on and face up to those contradictions, candidly express our security concerns, announce our principles and stance and resolutely safeguard our national interests. As long as we can constantly enhance mutual trust and strengthen pragmatic cooperation, the military relations between China and its neighboring countries will withstand the test of the international vicissitudes and develop continuously in a harmonious yet different way.


JOURNALIST: How do you comment on China-US military relations?

QIAN LIHUA: Despite a good start, China-US military relations have had a cooling and twisting development in 2011. High-ranking military officials had frequent exchanges, for example, Robert Gates, US secretary of defense, visited China at the beginning of the year, and the chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff had exchange visits within two months. Regular dialogue and communication were conducted as scheduled. The two sides held the 12th China-US Defense Ministry Consultative Talks, the 7th China-US Defense Ministry Working Level Meeting and the Working Group Meeting on the Consultative Mechanism for Maritime Military Safety. For the first time in history, senior officers of the two militaries attended the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) and the first round of strategic security dialogue under the framework of the S&ED. Communication in specialized fields continued to expand. The two sides had extensive exchanges in fields such as army engineering, military medicine, military archives, humanitarian aid and disaster relief and opened up some important military units to each other.

However, due to the newly-announced plan of large-scale arms sale to Taiwan by the US side, the relations between the two militaries deteriorated again. We strongly oppose the plan and reiterated our stern stance to the US side. Facts have proven that only by respecting and taking into account each other's core interests and major concerns, and by removing major obstacles to the development of bilateral military relations can China-US military relations develop in a healthy, stable and reliable manner.

JOURNALIST: Compared with the ups and downs of China-US military relations, China-Russia military relations have long been relatively stable. What progress has been made in 2011?

QIAN LIHUA: China-Russia military relations are an important component of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership. In 2011, we relied on bilateral high-level visits and multilateral high-level exchanges to develop China-Russia military relations in an all-round way. Leaders of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the general departments/headquarters of the PLA conducted successful visits to Russia. The strategic consultative mechanism between the General Staff Headquarters (GSH) of the PLA and the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces and the working level dialogue mechanism of the defense ministries of the two countries have been running smoothly. Strategic mutual trust of the two sides was further deepened. The two militaries had pragmatic and in-depth communication and cooperation in specialized fields. The defense departments and military leaders of the two countries had effective communication and coordination during activities under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) including the Defense Ministers' Meeting and the meeting of the chiefs of general staff. China and Russia normally conducted cooperation on military technologies, which played a positive role in strengthening mutual trust and deepening bilateral relations.


JOURNALIST: How do you view the international public opinions China is facing?

QIAN LIHUA: China will encounter greater pressure and draw daily increasing global attention as it develops. Among the international public opinions, some are due to lack of understandings of China, some show rational concerns while others are malicious attacks to China. We must stay calm and accustomed to the attention from the international community and step up the efforts of introducing China to the world. Meanwhile, we must timely refute rumors and accusations disregarding facts.

JOURNALIST: In 2011, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of China established a regular press conference mechanism which drew the attention of people from home and abroad. What's your comment about the opening up of Chinese military?

QIAN LIHUA: Since April of 2011, we established a regular press conference mechanism and successfully convened 9 press conferences where we answered sensitive questions relating to military training, combat readiness, equipment development and foreign relations and so on. Those conferences have played a positive role in introducing China's military policies, enhancing trust, clearing doubts and thus increasing the international influence of the Chinese military. The establishment of the regular press conference mechanism marks the normalization and regularization of news release of the MND and the further opening up of the Chinese military. It is encouraging. However, we are sober-minded that compared with the expectations from the media and the outside, there is still space for improvement in the regular press conference mechanism.

The regular press conference of the MND is a miniature of the ever expanding opening up of the Chinese military. We also issued a white paper titled "China's National Defense in 2010" and officially launched the MND website. We gradually initiated communication and cooperation in sharing military news with foreign militaries. Foreign columnists and news reporters had more and more contacts and communication with Chinese military experts, scholars and common officers and men. We have vigorously conducted various public diplomatic activities. The Band of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) staged a visiting performance in the United States, the cultural exchange delegation held a Chinese Military Culture Week in Laos, and for the first time, the "Peace Ark" hospital ship of the PLA Navy visited Latin American countries and rendered humanitarian medical service. The Chinese military officers and men have conducted close-range communication and extensive interaction with their foreign counterparts and foreign people, which have demonstrated high professionalism and enterprising spirit, delivered excellent military culture, and established a positive image of peace, cooperation and openness of the Chinese military.


JOURNALIST: What are the new features and results achieved in the joint drills and trainings in 2011?

QIAN LIHUA: Currently, joint drill and joint training between Chinese and foreign militaries have become a routine in sino-foreign military exchange and cooperation, and they are also an important way to improve the training level of the Chinese military. The year 2011 witnessed 8 joint drills and joint trainings between the Chinese and foreign militaries. These drills and trainings broke the limit of single arm, put joint trainings of multiple services and arms in a prominent place, and strengthened the planning and organization of the drills and trainings which were closer to actual combat, thus gaining multiple benefits of politics, military and diplomacy.

The "Friendship 2011" China-Pakistan anti-terror joint training organized by the Lanzhou Military Area Command (MAC) of the Chinese PLA made breakthroughs in joint command, cross-border intelligence exchange, long-range detachment maneuver and other fields.

The "Edge 2011" China-Indonesia army special force joint training explored the new joint training command mode of "directed by general headquarters, planned by military area command and implemented by army unit".

The China-Pakistan air force joint training, the China-Belarus airborne force joint training and the China-Venezuela airborne force anti-terror joint training in city organized by the Chinese Air Force promoted the military training reform and innovation of the Chinese Air Force.


JOURNALIST: What is the targets of military diplomatic work for 2012 and the future?

QIAN LIHUA: Currently and in a period in the future, China still faces a complicated and severe external environment. We will enhance awareness of the overall situation, potential risks and missions, and always keep in mind that the starting point and foothold of military diplomatic work are to serve the overall interests of the construction and development of the country and the military.

We should deepen sino-foreign military relations and elevate the level of mutual trust and cooperation with foreign militaries, expand pragmatic cooperation with foreign militaries. Real strength is the backing of diplomaticy. With the growing national and military strength, we will pay more attention to planning and designing and promote diplomatic art, in a bid to better safeguard our national interests.
The General V.K. Singh case is a bad precedent
The army chief's decision to go to court follows the government's face off with Central Vigilance Commissioner (P.J. Thomas) and Comptroller and Auditor General (Vinod Rai) in the recent past

There were Army chiefs who enjoyed a warm and cordial relationship with the civilian authorities, and there was Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw who had the freedom to call Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, "sweetie"! However, under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, the army chief has taken the elected government to the apex court. This followed the government's face off with Central Vigilance Commissioner (P.J. Thomas) and Comptroller and Auditor General (Vinod Rai) in the recent past.

Army chief General V.K. Singh has approached the Supreme Court seeking to quash the defence ministry's order by which he would have to retire this year. According to the government, his date of birth is 10 May 1950 instead of 10 May 1951 as claimed by him on the basis of matriculation certificates and other documents. This, the government says is based on the records maintained by the Adjutant-General's office.

A file photo of General V.K. Singh

A file photo of General V.K. Singh

Singh says it was wrongly recorded when the form for the entrance test for joining army was filled, and he may well be right. But he has to answer a number of questions. If his birth was in 1951, why he had not sought to correct the records at the Adjutant General's office? The discrepancies in the records were brought to his notice when he was promoted as division commander and corps commander. He had availed all these promotions on the basis of the birth certificate that says he was born in 1950. This shows that General Singh had made use of his wrong birth records to his advantage – for an early promotion – but when it comes to his disadvantage – an early retirement – he has approached the court for "justice." Although one can argue that the promotions were not only on the basis of seniority, the fact remains that he did not rectify this earlier.

Things have taken this ugly turn may be because government has mishandled the issue internally, as alleged by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party​.

There are number of people who feel that General Singh was right in approaching the court to protect his honor and that he has every right to seek justice just like any citizen. Not many know that he, as a member of Armed Forces, does not enjoy all the fundamental rights bestowed on an ordinary Indian citizen. The Army Act, in fact, curtails certain fundamental rights of members of Armed Forces. The Army Act was made by Parliament using its powers provided under Article 33 of Indian Constitution. The article says: "Power of Parliament to modify the rights conferred by this part in their application etc Parliament, may by law, determine to what extent any of the rights conferred by this part shall, in their application to the members of the Armed Forces…"And section 21 of Army Act 1950 provides "power to modify certain fundamental rights in their application to persons subject to this Act." This means the central government has the right to deny certain fundamental rights of a citizen to the Army personnel. In this case, the central government has yet not evoked its powers under this provision.

If the court accepts his petition and send a notice to the Union Government, this would be the first legal battle between the serving Army chief and the civilian government. When Gen. K. S. Thimmayya gave his resignation in 1961, following his differences of opinion with then defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's intervention did not push the matter forward. Thimmayya eventually withdrew his resignation. When he was superseded by A.S. Vaidya in 1980s for the post of chief of Army, S.K. Sinha quit, but did not take the matter to the court. Then Navy chief Vishnu Bhagawat indirectly approached the court for justice after being dismissed by then BJP-led government in 1998. However the court had dismissed the petition refusing to entertain such a complaint.
India green lights military assistance to Nepal
KATHMANDU: The Government of India on Wednesday has given a green signal to resume the military assistance to Nepal that had been halted for a long time.

India has given the nod to resume the assistance during a bilateral talk held between Deputy Prime Minster and Defence Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar and his Indian counterpart AK Antony.

During the meet, Defence Minister AK Antony assured that India is ready to provide assistance to Nepal for the development of the Nepal Army, adding that there is an intimate relationship between the Indian Army and the Nepal Army.

The Indian Government had stopped military assistance to Nepal during the monarchial regime under Gyanendra's rule.

Expressing concerns over the stalled peace process of Nepal, Antony said Indian Government is always ready to help Nepal for its sustainable peace.

Participants of the meeting were Joint Secretary Shankar Prasad Koirala, IGP Rabindra Pratap Shah, Nepali Ambassador to India Khaga Nath Adhikary, AIGP of Nepal Armed Police Dorje Rai, Major General of the Nepal Army Daman Ghale including Deputy Prime Minister from the Nepali side. Likewise, participants from the Indian side were Defence Minister AK Antony, Defence Secretary Shashi Kanta Sharma, Voice of Chief of Army General SK Singh and Indian Ambassador to Nepal Jayanta Prasad.

Deputy Prime Minister Gachhadar had also held a meeting with Infantry Division Chief of Indian Army VK Singh. The meeting had dwelled on the interests of the Gorkha Army and the consolidation of the Nepal Army.

Gachhadar is scheduled to attend a dinner party hosted by his counterpart Antony and call on DP Tripathi, General Secretary of the Nationalist Congress later today.
Foreign Media on army chief vs govt

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New Delhi:  Certainly, India's army already has plenty to keep it busy. To the northeast lies China, which is quietly but rapidly expanding its military presence along the border. To the northwest lies nuclear-armed Pakistan, which has already fought three wars with India and is now wobbling with political instability.

Yet for weeks, the Indian Army has been embroiled in an achingly public dispute not about national security but about the birth date of its chief. In a drama that has set off emotional sparring on television talk shows and condemnation in newspaper editorials, the army chief, Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh, has insisted that he was born on May 10, 1951. But India's government has insisted that, no, he was born on May 10, 1950.

The answer to the dispute could determine whether General Singh retires in May or 10 months later, as military regulations stipulate that the army chief must step down after three years on the job or upon his 62nd birthday, whichever comes first.

The controversy, which has direct bearing on the succession schedule of India's military command, peaked on Monday when General Singh unexpectedly took the matter to India's Supreme Court. He filed a petition asking the justices to decide a seemingly simple question: When was he born?

"This is about his pride, integrity and honour," said Puneet Bali, one of the lawyers involved in the general's petition.

It is a tale of pride and paperwork, of honour and hubris (and clerical typos) that has become an embarrassment to India's Ministry of Defence and the country's 1.3 million-member army. Some critics have blamed the ministry for badly mishandling the issue, while others have blamed General Singh for pursuing the matter as a way to extend his tenure in the top job.

The situation has created the uncomfortable appearance of India's military leadership squaring off against its civilian leaders. It has also created some awkward political spectacles: On Sunday, General Singh played host to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A. K. Antony to celebrate the country's 64th Army Day. The next day, he sued the government in the Supreme Court.

"There was an element of surprise," said Ashok Mehta, a retired general who has been critical of General Singh's actions. "One of the principles of war is deception. I think he let people believe he wasn't actually going to court."

The practical impact of the case concerns the schedule for leadership changes within the Indian Army. General Singh, who served with distinction in the 1971 war against Pakistan, assumed the army's top job on March 31, 2010. By this timetable, General Singh is scheduled to step down in May, based on the 1950 birth date cited by the government.

However, General Singh's contention that he is actually younger, if upheld, could make him eligible to remain on the job and complete a full three-year term.

In his few public comments, General Singh has dismissed accusations that he is trying to cling to his position and has denied that he is fighting with the Defence Ministry. "It is not something for personal gains, so far as I'm concerned," General Singh recently told the news channel NDTV.

For all the juicy media appeal of the country's top general suing the government he is sworn to defend, the case is also about one of the banes of Indian life: the mountains of paperwork required by the country's bureaucracy. It is not definitively clear how, when or why the conflicting dates began to appear, but as the general began to rise through the ranks, he had two birthdays registered in the army's clerical system. The adjutant general's branch listed his birth year as 1951. The military secretary's branch put the year as 1950. Somewhere, a typo occurred.

The general himself seemingly accepted the 1950 birth date at critical moments in his career. In his last three promotions, culminating in his 2010 appointment as army chief, his birth year was listed as 1950 on official records. But General Singh has argued that he was pressured to accept that false date, according to Indian media accounts. Last year, the general filed an administrative complaint, seeking to have the date changed to 1951; the complaint wended through the system until the Defence Ministry issued a final rejection.

As the controversy percolated in recent months, India's political leaders tried to reassure the public that the situation was not undermining the country's military readiness. Mr. Antony, the defence minister, publicly endorsed General Singh as a military leader. Other government ministers have said they do not think that General Singh is trying to misrepresent his birth date. Yet they said that India's cabinet, in appointing him army chief, did so based on records indicating he was born in 1950, which meant he was not expected to serve in the job for a full three years.

"Rules are rules," Salman Khurshid, the law minister, told the Indian media.

The Supreme Court could choose not to accept General Singh's petition, thus neither ruling nor interfering in the matter. Or it could hold a full-blown hearing in which the general would be allowed to present evidence supporting his claims to a 1951 birth date.

For many retired military leaders, the whole messy spectacle has been disheartening. Many have blamed both the army and the Ministry of Defence for not correcting the problem years ago. Criticism against General Singh has also been harsh, as some have blamed him for failing to heed the military credo that an officer should always put service before self.

"He may be right, in terms of procedure," said Uday Bhaskar, a retired Indian Navy commodore. "But what this has done is diminish the institution and tarnish the individual, no matter how unwarranted it may be."

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