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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

From Today's Papers - 15 Mar 2012
Defence Ministry clears promotions of senior Army officers
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, March 13
After seeking a slew of clarifications over the past five months, the Ministry of Defence today cleared the much-awaited promotions of senior Army officers, albeit with a rider.

Despite the clearance of the promotion list today, the Ministry will separately review the promotion policy which, at present, allows for five discretionary marks to an officer based on the judgement of the top commanders of the Army, sources said.

The list cleared today has promotions for Brigadiers who will become Major Generals and those for Major Generals who will be promoted as Lieutenant Generals. In the Army, all officers are not promoted to the next rank. It is a selection process. Those who are left out retire and do not carry on till 60 years of age. Over 40 Major Generals and 60 Brigadiers have been considered by the Army boards for promotions.
The promotion boards were conducted by the Army in the middle of October 2011 and had been pending ratification by the Ministry of Defence. In case of officers who have been promoted as Major Generals, the Defence Minister is competent to ratify and the same and that has been done, said a senior functionary while adding that the cases of those to be promoted as Lt Generals have been sent to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister.

Crucially, some of the Major General who are to be promoted as Lt Generals, were slated to retire on March 31. A promotion will mean they will serve for two more years that is till the age of 60.
HC stays Maj Gen’s GCM in equipment scam
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, March 13
The Delhi High Court today stayed the trial by general court martial (GCM) of Maj Gen Anil Sarup, who is facing trial for alleged irregularities in procurement of equipment for troops proceeding on a UN peacekeeping mission.

A division bench of the High Court (HC), comprising Justice Anil Kumar and Justice SK Misra today directed the Army not to proceed with the GCM till April 25, when the case comes up for hearing next.

The GCM, which commenced at Jalandhar in February, was scheduled to re-assemble on March 14 after being adjourned. On the previous date of hearing on February 9, the HC had directed the Army to file an affidavit-reply on Sarup’s petition and the petitioner to file his rejoinder thereof so that they could be taken up for consideration by the bench in today’s hearing.

Sarup’s counsel, Col SK Aggarwal (retd) said the Army did not file its affidavit in time for them to prepare their rejoinder and the affidavit was placed before the bench by an officer representing the Army today.

Maj Gen Anil Sarup, who has now retired, faces five charges under Section 52 and 63 of the Army Act for intent to defraud and acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline.

A court of inquiry (COI) presided over by Lt Gen PC Katoch, then Director General, Information Systems, at Army headquarters, found that prices of items procured for troops when Sarup was serving as Additional Director General Ordnance Services at Army Headquarters, were heavily inflated vis-à-vis market rates. Following this, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command ordered disciplinary action to be initiated against him.
Indian, US troops conduct joint drill in Bathinda
SP Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 13
The troops of the Bathinda-based Chetak Corps along with a contingent of US troops today conducted a joint cordon and drill here to neutralise terrorists in an abandoned village in the desert ranges.

The drill, codenamed “Desert Lark”, saw the Indian and US troops establish a cordon using their combat vehicles at night and then conduct dismounted searches by day to flush out insurgents as also use the third dimension as part of the operation.

The Sarvada Saviours troops focused on the challenges faced by Sappers in the domain of countering threats of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), infrastructure development in strife-torn regions and inaccessible areas and execution of rescue and relief operations during natural calamities or disasters. The exercise provided an opportunity to both sides to understand functioning of Engineer Brigades with special emphasis on operations under United Nations mandate in troubled areas.

The exercise was witnessed by an Indian and US Army delegation, headed by the GOC-in-C South Western Command, Lt.General Gian Bhushan and Lt Gen Francis "Frank" Wiercinski, commander of the US Army Pacific, as also the co-chair of the Executive Steering Group (ESG) for the Indo-US army training events and exchanges. In addition, a number of senior members of the Indian Army also witnessed the drills and interacted with the troops participating in the exercise, both at Mahajan and Bathinda.

The ongoing fortnight-long exercise “Yudh Abhyas” is part of a series of joint exercises between the Indian and the United States Armies since 2005, agreed upon under the New Framework of India-US Defence Relationship.

The seventh edition of “Yudh Abhyas” is under way since March 5 in two locations under the South Western Command.
Indian Army craves for the right BOOM

Will India be able to win another Kargil war? Over 400 155 mm artillery guns with their deadly firepower, bought from Swedish firm AB Bofors in 1986, helped India regain its hills in Kashmir from Pakistan in 1999. But with no induction of artillery guns since the Bofors deal was inked during the Rajiv Gandhi regime, will the world's third largest army with Soviet-era guns and depleting Bofors howitzers be able to defeat its adversaries. At a time when China and Pakistan are busy equipping their armies with advanced 155 mm howitzers, India is too cautious to materialize any artillery deal after the alleged Bofors kickback scam.

From time immemorial, artillery guns, considered the 'God of War', have proved their mettle. Artillery not only provides cover to soldiers in the forefront of the battlefield but also weakens enemy's strength by breaching their defences.

Even as terror factories are mushrooming along our western border and the Dragon dancing furiously along the eastern border, India's artillery modernization programme remains stuck in red-tapism. The India Army recently decided to raise mountain divisions in the North-East only after seeing China developing infrastructure and boosting military strength along its side of the Arunachal border. But the army, it seems, has forgotten that soldiers without an artillery support are like sitting ducks.

After a long spell of over two decades, the need for artillery upgradation was first felt in 2008, when the defence ministry issued three global tenders for 155mm howitzers for the mountains, the plains and self-propelled guns for the deserts. As part of its over Rs 20,000-crore artillery modernisation plan, the army looked for 400 towed artillery guns (worth Rs 3,200 crore), 100 tracked guns (costing Rs 3,400 crore), 814 mounted truck guns (Rs 8500 crore), 145 ultralight guns (Rs 2500 crore) and 180 wheeled guns (Rs 4700 crore). Just when a deal for 120 tracked and 180 wheeled self-propelled (SP) 155mm guns was about to be concluded after years of protracted trials, South African arms manufacturer Denel, a leading contender for the contract, was found involved in a corruption scam in an earlier deal for anti-material rifles and was blacklisted . The other two howitzers in contention, Soltam of Israel and BAE systems (which own Bofors of Sweden), did not meet the laid-down criteria and the army headquarters recommended fresh trials. This set the artillery upgrade programme back three to four years.

In a fresh tender floated, BAE Systems, one of the favourites for the towed artillery contract, chose not to bid, citing 'watered-down' parameters that would allow inferior guns also to chip in and meet the qualitative requirements. Another contender, Singapore Technologies Kinetics, was not invited to bid in wake of allegations of its role in corruption cases related to the former chairman of the Ordinance Factory Board, Sudipta Ghosh. Till last year, the army had made four attempts to procure 400 towed artillery howitzers but all failed.

India's plan to procure M777 howitzers from the US through the government-to-government route (foreign military sale) has also not materialized till now.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has been modernizing its artillery in recent years to bolster its mechanized formations. Using the garb of war against terrorism, Pakistan bought 115 used M-109A5 155mm self-propelled howitzers under a $56 million deal with the US in 2006. It had also locally manufactured Turkish MKEK Panter towed 155mm howitzers after getting 12 guns for evaluation in 2007. A combination of the Turkish Panter howitzers, along with the American AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder and Chinese SLC-2 radars, has improved the accuracy of Pakistan's long-range artillery. The US-made M-109 A5 155 mm howitzers has given Pakistan an edge over the Indian Army, which is years away from inducting similar systems.

In 2004, according to a defence report, India had 4,175 towed artillery and 200 self-propelled guns while Pakistan had 3,952 towed artillery and 260 self-propelled guns--almost on a par with India. China was far ahead of India in 2004 as it had 14,000 towed artillery and 1,700 self-propelled guns.

Forget the facts and figures, even army chief General V K Singh admitted that the induction of modern artillery guns was not proceeding at a desired pace, saying “while other advanced nations have leapt far ahead in the field, we are still lagging behind".

Some say the possibility of a war with Pakistan or China is remote as both are nuclear nations. However, one forgets that nukes are strategic weapons which are not meant for battle. In a conventional war, the real strength of an army is assessed with the firepower of its artillery.

We are already late by two decades in artillery modernization. It's high time the army stood up and went for the government-to-government route to buy top-of-the-line howitzers available in the global market. If we don't go for the right BOOM now, we are surely going to be DOOMED
Why Muslim headcount in Indian Army necessary?
Perhaps the reasons for keeping things such secretly wrapped are the substandard statistics of Muslims serving the army. While there is no official report, but the strength of Muslims is roughly around 2% and the figure comes around 29,000 in the million-strong Indian army, according to a news channel survey programme titled Minority Report. And If the number of Muslims serving in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) infantry that has over 50% Muslims and those in other wings not directly dealing with warfare are excluded, the proportion is definitely too low. So out of a Muslim population of nearly 20 crores, barely 29,000 Muslims were found suitable for Indian Army. Is it not pathetic!

Adding to the woes it’s equally regretful that there has not been a single Muslim Army Chief except Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif, PVSM who as the first Muslim Chief of Air Staff of the IAF was involved fully in the re-equipment and modernization plans of the air force. He convinced the government to approve the procurement of the Jaguar strike aircraft, a proposal which was lying dormant for over 8 years. He also held negotiations with the Russians and saw the induction of the MiG-23 and later, the MiG-25 aircraft into the IAF. And what could be more unfortunate than the incident that even Rasoolan Bibi, wife (widow) of Hawaldar Abdul Hameed- who was conferred the nation’s highest gallantry award Param Vir Chakra posthumously during the 1965 India-Pakistan war, literally had to beg President Pratibha Patil’s intervention to get her cataract operated in 2008.

History of Muslim under-representation in Indian army
But coming back to the real issue, the reason for the Muslim under-representation in the Indian army lies partly in history, and its public revelation must harm nobody. Whatever the exact percentage, a huge Muslim under-representation in our army is a fact. So is a huge Sikh over-representation. See the contrast. Sikhs form 1.86 per cent of India’s population but number around 8 per cent in the Indian army. While Muslims comprise about 18 per cent of India’s population but are 2 per cent in the army. Why is this truth about Muslim under-representation in the armed forces going censored? But an illogical love of confidentiality causes Indian rulers to hide information whose public admission would harm nobody. Just as Muslims are under-represented in the army, so are the Bengalis, Biharis, Oriyas, south Indians or Gujaratis. And just as Sikhs are over-represented, so are the Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Gurkhas, Marathas and others. The Indian army’s recruitment pattern was set 150 years ago by India’s 1857 uprising. Shocked by the revolt, the British army adopted a recruitment strategy that punished the groups which rebelled against them and rewarded the ones that stayed trustworthy. Because Muslims of Awadh, Bihar and West Bengal led the uprising against the British, the British army stopped hiring soldiers from these areas. Also blacklisted from these places were high-caste Hindus whose regiments in Bengal were also mutineers. In disparity, the British raised the recruitment of castes that had stood by the British to put down the revolution and honored as martial races, they received preferential treatment in army recruitment for the following 90 years. Like any institution, the Indian army is a prisoner of the past.

Even today, the Indian Army favors enlisting men from the martial races. Their over-representation in the Indian army is enormous and figures bear this out. Of 2.87 lakh jawans hired by the army in between 2004 to 2006, a disproportionate 44,471 came from three “martial” states, Punjab, Haryana, and the mountain state of Uttaranchal. So these states which account for 5 per cent of India’s population provided 15 per cent of India’s army jawans.

In contrast, the fewest recruits came from “non-martial” West Bengal and Bihar. These two states account for 30 per cent of India’s population, but they provided only 14 per cent of army jawans in this three-year period. So the Indian army has not only a religion-based disparity in recruitment, but also one based on caste and region. A glimpse of this discrimination was provided by a press release issued by a defence office in Jammu ten years ago. Seeking recruits for the Indian army, the press release said: “No vacancies for Muslims and tradesmen.” Meaning that aggressive Dogras were welcome to apply, but not Hindu business castes like the Baniyas and the Khatris.

Why does India have separate regiments for the Sikhs, Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Mahars, the Nagas, even the Gurkhas, but not a single regiment for the Muslims? This is tragic but it’s the truth which shouldn’t be suppressed. It should be recognized and dealt with. Muslim under-recruitment in the Indian army is an outcome of Partition. India and Pakistan’s antagonism is seen in both countries as Hindu versus Muslim terms, which is absolutely incorrect. But this chauvinism in itself discourages qualified Muslim youths from applying, which drives down Muslim numbers even more. Hence it’s quite right that the Muslims under-recruitment in the army strips the community of a good, life-long source of employment. It’s a sad situation which is not so easy to correct.

India’s armed forces are averse to hire Muslims as soldiers because they suspect the community’s loyalty to India. This discrimination is a natural outcome of the bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan over 60 years. In similar situations, the same thing happens all over the world. The Israeli army doesn’t trust its Arab soldiers in jobs related to defence security. The Buddhist Sinhalese army under-recruits its Hindu Tamils for fear that their sympathies could lie with the Tamil Tigers. And After 9/11, US army recruiters would probably screen a Muslim American volunteer more thoroughly than a Christian American.

Composition of Indian Army
This under-representation of Muslims and other caste or regional groups benefits the over-represented ones. The composition of the Indian army is totally awry numbers-wise. West Bengal’s population is eight times that of Uttaranchal. But Uttaranchal provided almost the same number of army recruits as West Bengal almost every year. Compare a “martial” Punjab with a non-martial Gujarat. Punjab’s population is half that of Gujarat. But it provided four times as many people to the Indian army as Gujarat. The Indian army hired far more recruits in Rajasthan than in Tamil Nadu though Tamil Nadu’s population is higher. So basically, the Indian army is subjugated numbers-wise by Sikhs and Hindi-speaking Hindus of north India. This imperfect current status quo must go. Why Muslims are expected to wear patriotism on their sleeves and there is absolutely no reason to disbelieve or distrust people of this community. Muslims are as much Indian as any other in this country and have always stood firmly on the forefront whenever there’s a call of duty for the country. A few untoward stray incidents must not stand in account for the test of loyalty always, as because going by such biased benchmark it may initiate an awful precedent. As many such incidents had offenders, perpetrators who were not from the minority community.

This unwritten divisive law of mistrust and bias must go. But none of it will end until we help make these things end by taking some proactive steps. This current state of mind and pertinent approach will only lead to more divergence and separation between the largest minority (Muslims) and the ruling majority (Hindus). And the entire country will be perpetually distrustful, forever looking over our shoulders and living a life in fear, that fear framed by metal detectors, security cameras, and sharp glances at people who appear to be with grown beard and a skull cap. Hence in the end following the chart below will enlighten the vocabulary of the people who presume Muslims as alien or anti Indians.
Indian, US troops take part in simulated military operation
Troops of Indian and US armies conducted night operations to neutralise and flush out insurgents hiding in a village in Rajasthan during an exercise codenamed 'Desert Lark'.

The simulated operation was part of the ongoing war game - codenamed 'Exercise Yudh Abhyas'- between the two armies.

The drill saw Indian and US troops establishing a cordon using their combat vehicles at night and then conduct dismounted searches by day to flush out insurgents, Army officials said on Tuesday.

The drill was performed in the Mahajan Field Range near Bikaner last night and was witnessed by delegation leaders from both the sides.

The seventh edition of Yudh Abhyas is taking place at two locations under the South Western Command of the Indian Army.

While the field training exercises are being conducted at Mahajan range, the Army Engineers from both sides are involved in Ex Sarvada Saviour at Bathinda.

"Ex Sarvada Saviour is focused on challenges faced by Sappers in countering threats of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), infrastructure development in strife torn regions and execution of rescue and relief operations during natural calamities or disasters," an army official said.

The field training exercise comprises troops from 2nd Squadron, 14th US Cavalry Regiment from 25th Infantry Division, along with a platoon of Strykers, and a similar sized Indian Army contingent of mechanised infantry.

A number of key surveillance, communications and lED detection and neutralisation technologies, available with both sides, are being fielded in the exercise, the officials said.

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