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Saturday, 7 April 2012

From Today's Papers - 07 Apr 2012

Forced to quit after injury, woman cadet set to rejoin OTA
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, April 6
A woman cadet who was “compelled” to resign from the Officers Training Academy (OTA) after a spinal injury has been directed by the Delhi HC to join back. The court observed that her resignation was not voluntary and was withdrawn before it was accepted.

Shivanjali Sharma had joined the Officers Training Academy in October 2010 and sustained a fracture in the backbone after she fell from a staircase. The incident took place after just five days of training. She was admitted to the Military Hospital, Chennai, but apparently her injury was not diagnosed.

In spite of her complaining of severe back and stomach pain, she was discharged from hospital holding her fit for duty. Her request for sick leave was also declined.

As she continued to suffer from severe pains, she tendered her resignation from training. “In these circumstances, which were beyond her control. Since the Officers Training Academy authorities had failed to get her injury diagnosed and provide proper treatment, she was compelled to resign,” her counsel, Maj (retd) K Ramesh said.

Diagnosis at a private hospital revealed a fracture in the tailbone. She wanted to rejoin training after treatment and requested the Army Chief to allow her join training in the next batch.

However, the Army Training Command held that she was unfit to join training even in the next course.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Anil Kumar and Justice SK Misra held the resignation, which was given by her under compulsion and was withdrawn before it was accepted, is set aside. 

Panel to discuss Army’s ‘lack of preparedness’
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, April 6
The lack of ammunition for artillery guns and gaps in the air defence, two issues flagged by Army Chief Gen VK Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a secret letter, will be discussed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence on Monday.

The two issues will form the core of the meeting on April 9 as the panel of MPs had demanded detailed presentation from the officials of the Ministry of Defence and the Army. “Each subject will be discussed and officials will be questioned,” said a senior MP.

The contents on preparedness of the force in the presentation given by the MoD and Army to the committee on April 4 did not match with the picture painted by the Army Chief in the letter to the Prime Minister, said sources. The MPs demanded that the facts raised by the Army Chief should be informed to the MPs also. The Chief, in his letter, which was leaked to the media last week, had said there were 97 obsolete weapons in the air defence and ammunition stock was so low that they would not last more than 3-4 days in case of a war.

Naresh Gujral, SAD MP from Punjab, said, “I will make a fresh demand when the committee meets on Monday to summon the Army Chief and ask him to explain to the MPs what he meant in that letter and what all needs to be done.”

“There was a mismatch somewhere. The panel wants to be informed about the shortages raised by the Army Chief and suggest ways and means to overcome these,” Manish Tewari said.

The scope of discussions will be vast and the panel is expected to suggest some rapid steps and recommend a few changes to ramp up acquisition and production.

MPs in the Parliamentary Committee headed by Satpal Maharaj from Uttarakhand have been raising key issues on defence and security issues, but proceedings are rarely reported by media due to the sensitive nature of the subject. 

Krishna snubs Beijing over South China Sea
Shubhadeep Choudhury/TNS
Bangalore, April 6
A day after a Chinese official said India would pay a heavy price for exploring oil in the disputed South China Sea, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna today said its waters were the “property of the world” and did not come under the jurisdiction of any nation.

The warning by Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS), came on Thursday, a day after China lost political round on the issue at the Asean summit in Cambodia.

Interacting with reporters here, Krishna said, “India maintains that South China Sea is the property of the world. I think those tradeways must be free from any nation’s interference.”

Krishna said the area should rather be used for increasing trade-related activities amongst nations. “This has been accepted by Asean countries and by China in their dialogue with the Asean group of nations. India subscribes to the theory that these tradeways should be freeways for trade to prosper,” he said.

China has been repeatedly objecting to oil exploration by India and other activity in the South China Sea region where it has territorial disputes with Asean countries like Vietnam.

A top Chinese Foreign Ministry official had warned India ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to New Delhi last month to refrain from oil exploration in the area to ensure “peace and stability”.

India signed an agreement with Vietnam last October to expand and promote oil exploration in the South China Sea.

The pact between the Indian and Vietnamese state-owned oil companies included new investments and the exploration and supply of oil and gas to the countries.

US Navy jet crashes into apartment building in Virginia
Virginia Beach:  A US Navy jet crashed Friday into an apartment building in Virginia and both pilots ejected, the Navy and media reports said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries on the ground. TV footage showed billowing black smoke, and local TV stations said the jet hit an apartment building.

The Navy did not immediately return telephone messages, but the Navy confirmed on its official Twitter account that both pilots ejected. They were being treated for injuries that were not considered life threatening.
The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk newspaper quoted a spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic who said the jet crashed in the sprawling resort city.

The area has a large concentration of military bases, including Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base.

Army Chief says no notification needed, no clarification sought
In his first major interview since the controversy over the alleged unauthorised movement of two Army units in January broke out, Army Chief General V. K. Singh told The Hindu on Friday that these were “routine exercises” for which there was no requirement to “notify” the government. He also categorically rejected any link between the troop exercises and his petition on the date of birth issue in the Supreme Court, calling it “fables of a sick mind.”

General Singh spoke to The Hindu at Nepal Army's 11th Brigade base, right before his return to Delhi after a two-day visit.

The Army Chief termed the report on the troop movement, which appeared in The Indian Express on Wednesday, “absurd and deplorable.” Asked who could be behind it, he said, “There are so many theories doing the rounds. There was a newspaper story which said it was being done at the behest of a central minister. Sections of the bureaucracy can be feeding wrong inputs. They have made a mountain out of a molehill … God knows who all may be involved, nor do I want to waste time thinking about it.”

Referring to an interview he had given to The Week in March, he said, “I had mentioned it last month itself that, you know, tomorrow there will be exercises — and a big story will be made out of it.” So did he have an inkling of the story that eventually appeared? “It is like this. When there is general suspicion, you can do anything. Funny ideas can be planted.”

On the facts of the report itself, General Singh said these were “routine exercises.” Asked if the Army had notified the government, he replied, “Notify for what? What was happening? We keep doing this so many times.”

Responding to a question whether the civilian authority on the night of January 16 — the date of the reported movement — had asked him for a clarification, General Singh said, “It was not like that. No clarification was asked for. These were routine issues. I don't think one or two units should ever bother anyone. It was not as if the whole of the armoured division was marching towards Delhi. This is just a figment of imagination.”

General Singh rejected any link between the timing of the troop exercises, and his petition regarding his date of birth in the Supreme Court. “How is there any connection?” When pointed out that there were suggestions that the movement was meant to ‘scare' the government or exert pressure, he responded, “You have gone to the Supreme Court. What is there to scare the government for? These are fables of a sick mind. Anyone who makes a connection needs to see a psychiatrist. I had followed the laid down norms of a democratic constitution and gone to the SC. Where is the doubt left?”

Asserting that civil-military relations in India were good, the Army Chief said, “There is nothing wrong. I am on the same page as the government. We enjoy good relations, and I have no differences with the Raksha Mantri.” He accused “rogue elements of the bureaucracy” of wanting to “blow things up.”

General Singh said that anyone who joins the Army takes a “pledge to uphold the Constitution of India.” “No other service does it. You will not find anyone else more committed to the country, to the Constitution, and to democracy … The Army is the upholder of the country's values.” Those who think differently about the Army ‘need their heads examined' and are the ‘biggest anti-nationals,' he added.

India’s defence procurement problematique
This week we are debating national security and as usual the issues are being obscured by high-pitched rhetoric aimed at the lowest common denominator. Tragically this episode too shall pass and all the problems will stay unresolved

This week, in national defence and security, India has attracted global attention for all the wrong reasons. Consider: India has been dubbed as the world’s largest spender on military equipment and thus a lucrative paradise for weapons merchants; a controversy related to the Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh’s date of birth which was dragged to the Supreme Court; General Singh’s interview to a national news daily, which sparked a nationwide debate on the issue of corruption in defence deals; and very recently the story of a military drill published in another prominent national daily, which has sparked a heated debate on the issue of national security.

While issues related to military spending have largely escaped debates on larger dynamics of military efforts by states, other controversies or developments have led to a nationwide debate on two important issues: corruption in defence deals and deteriorating civil-military relations in India.

Barring the age controversy, all other developments are intricately linked to the issue of arms procurement — corruption, delays in procurement, non-transparency and non-accountability, over-lapping institutional mechanisms, civil-military relations and ill-planned spending leading to lopsided military modernisation. The subject of arms procurement is considered esoteric and thus it is no surprise that the national debate is dominated by the so-called members of the Indian strategic community who have been debating the issue day in and day out. What is actually missing in the debate is much needed ‘focus’ as well as ‘direction’.

I advance six arguments for consideration on the issue of arms procurement. First, there is a distinction between procurement budget and arms imports. India’s procurement budget is about $17 bn in FY2012-13, of which about $12 billion is to be spent on arms purchases from abroad, including committed liabilities (about 70 per cent) and fresh purchases (about 30 per cent). The capital expenditure of major countries like the US ($220 bn), China ($60 billion), UK ($31 billion), France ($34 billion), Germany ($27 billion), Saudi Arabia ($21 billion) and Japan ($ 26 billion) spend much more than India. What most analysts ignore is the fact that except for India and Saudi Arabia, all other countries’ arms procurement is largely met through domestic sources.

Second, India has a fairly comprehensive procedure for arms procurement, known as the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). This document has been revised eight times in recent years. What is important to understand is that the DPP lays the guidelines for procurement related to only the armed forces. The DRDO, defence public sector units and ordnance factories follow their respective procurement guidelines. Many of the arms deals which are signed as part of inter-government agreements or through ‘fast track’ procedure, are exempt from following DPP. As the MoD does not publish details of arms purchases, it is difficult to establish whether a particular deal has gone through DPP or not. Allegations of corruption in defence deals would be less if most of the arms purchases go through tendering process.

Third, despite best efforts, the MoD has not been able to address the issue of time delays in arms procurement. Though the situation has improved marginally over the past five years, the problem still remains. A large contract normally takes 36 to 52 months for fructification and at every step of eleven phases — from request for proposal (RFP) to post-contract administration — timelines have been provided in the DPP. The MoD does not clarify in which stage a particular procurement gets delayed. The reasons for delay in contract should actually be explained by the MoD at least to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence from time to time. The absence of punitive clauses for non-adherence to timelines by vendors is also a major problem that needs to be rectified by the MoD.

Fourth, the problems in arms procurement largely emanate from non-transparency and non-accountability. The DPP, unfortunately, has not been able to address this issue. Over-lapping procurement related institutional mechanisms within the MoD have only perpetuated non-accountability. Superficial attempts like bringing all the services headquarters within the administrative control of the MoD have certainly not addressed the issue. A glaring example of institutional complexity related to accountability is the meeting of offsets conditions. The issue of accountability related to offsets is sandwiched between the office of the Director General (Acquisitions) and the Department of Defence Production and neither of them is willing to take  responsibility. Similarly, no single authority is accountable for any procedural lapse at any stage of procurement.

Fifth, the Indian Army’s modernisation programme has been severely hit due to a series of cancellation of contracts in artillery, helicopters, etc. largely due to allegations of corruption. This would lead to a serious imbalance in the comprehensive military modernisation programme that has been underway since 2007. A look at the revised and actual expenditures incurred by the MoD would suggest that Air Force and Navy have largely met their procurement targets from their allocated resources while the Army has lagged behind. Despite many Army contracts earmarked into the planning process from the headquarters, most of the items have not only unearthed the ‘Bofors’ syndrome, thus making the babus uncomfortable to take decisions, but also ended up in single vendor situation, all the more reason for the babus to not to take any decision on such procurement or at best defer the tender / contract. Major land-based vendors like Denel, Israeli Military Industry, Singapore Kinetic Technologies, RheinmetallDefence have been blacklisted, thus  leaving only a few players in such sectors.

Last but not least, while investigations into corrupt practices in defence contracts would certainly be carried out by relevant agencies, it makes much sense to strengthen the vigilance department of the MoD and its coordinating mechanisms with other central investigative agencies. Reportedly, the Defence Minister’s office receives an average of ten complaints per week. A rational assumption would suggest that the in-house vigilance department would not be able to investigate all the allegations, which calls for more human resources as well as twin investigative as well as prosecuting authorities.

The issue of national defence and security is certainly not esoteric and hence should not be discussed in isolation. A country that spends 15 per cent of its national (Central Government) expenditure on national defence (armed forces and DRDO) and 23 per cent on national security (armed forces and all other security forces like para-military, police) must explain to its citizens as to whether its spending on security is justifiably utilised or not. Unfortunately, netas do not debate these issues in Parliament, the babus in the MoD do not care, the strategic community prefers to keep their knowledge to themselves and often tend to trivialise the issues, the media sensationalises the issues but does not care to amplify causes, aam admi is kept in the dark while the sena (soldier) suffers in silence.

Civil-military tensions in India
However unhappy, I cannot comment on the story of The Indian Express hinting at a coup with the march of 800 troops towards Delhi, because I have no access to the source of that information. Therefore, I confine myself to the witch-hunt on the leakage of a letter by Chief of Army Staff Vijay Kumar (VK) Singh.

The general seems to have spilled the beans on the Indian defence’s unpreparedness. Instead of finding out why the armed forces failed to acquire the much-needed equipment, the government’s attention is concentrated on locating the media man who was able to pry into top secret papers and disseminate the leaked information.

The armed forces are like a sacred cow. No one in India, the media nor the political parties, comment on military affairs. We think that it is not in the interest of the country to say anything derogatory about it. We feel that even a limited criticism may demoralise the armed forces.

As a journalist, I feel proud that someone from my fraternity had the contacts to reveal what the general wrote in secrecy. A media person is a communicator and it is his or her duty to inform others about what happens behind the scenes. The journalist who has the courage to disclose any such information to his fellow countrymen should not be punished for doing so.

Free information is essential in a free society because it evokes free response. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, said: “I would rather have a completely free press with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom than a suppressed or regulated press.”

Indeed, the unedifying controversy between General VK Singh and Defence Minister AK Anthony has exposed the system and those who occupy the domineering positions. Nearly all former top-brass members in the armed forces have taken the general’s side and those of the civil force have taken the minister’s side. Now, the debate has been reduced to a confrontation between civil and military forces.

The entire gamut of discussion is the stand taken by the general and its denial by Anthony. That both sides have mishandled the situation is an understatement. It looks as if the two have been going out of their way to hurt each other. Some of the observations made by ex-army officers smack of Bonapartism, which they should realise does not fit into the parlance within a democratic system.

Officials working in the defence ministry and the military headquarters are public servants, whether they belong to civil or military divisions. One cannot and should not try to score points against the other because this is harmful to the country. Both have been yoked to the same chariot and must walk in tandem to take it forward so that the armed forces are in fine fettle.

The matter of substandard equipment or not procuring the weapons in time is the fallout of petty differences between top civilian and military officials. They stand on false prestige and delay the supply of much-needed weapons. India lost the 1962 war against China because it fought with substandard equipment which should have been discarded much earlier. Then prime minister Nehru was not aware of this deficiency. Now, current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also been kept in the dark.

The letter by the general which was leaked out is categorical about the delay in the procurement of equipment. The general says in his letter that the artillery and tanks that make up the backbone of those formations are near-defunct and the air defence systems protecting them are obsolescent. The letter talks about depleted ammunition for tanks, inadequate air defence weapons and the infantry possessing outdated weaponry. That the enemy has come to know our deficiencies is no reason for closing the stable after the horses have bolted. The fault is unpreparedness, not its disclosure.

Advani sees deep trust deficit between government, Army
Veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani has said the recent report in the Indian Express on the purported unusual troop movement in the third week of January highlights a deep trust deficit between the government and the Army.

In his latest blog, Mr. Advani maintains that the report is “extremely alarming” and suggests that the government-Army relations are at an “all-time low.”

His opinion is in contrast to the position of his party. It had said that it was re-assured by the emphatic denials from the government and the Army.

While on one hand, Mr. Advani terms the media report “extremely alarming,”on the other he says he is relieved that the daily has taken pains to dispel emphatically any sinister meaning being read into the story.

Mr. Advani observes that the report reminds him of an incident immediately after the Congress lost in the 1989 general election. “My friend and neighbour, Vijai Kapoor, former Lt. Governor of the Union Territory of Delhi, met me and narrated to me how in 1989, following the defeat of Rajiv Gandhi's government, the then Home Minister Buta Singh initiated a serious move to call in the Army and how it was aborted.”

Quoting from the autobiography of the then Lt. Governor of Delhi Romesh Bhandari, he says that there was indeed a move to rope in the Army to ward off any trouble from possible march of supporters of Ajit Singh from Haryana and western U.P. to the Capital.

Mr. Bhandari had noted in his book that one night he received a call from Buta Singh about rumours of about lakhs of farmers from Haryana and western U.P. being mobilised by Mr. Ajit Singh and others to march into Delhi in a bid to gherao Parliament and Rashtrapati Bhavan to force Rajiv Gandhi to dissolveParliament without which a new government could not be formed.

“Buta Singh said that Parliament was being dissolved, but there were the legal aspects I have mentioned above. He said that I must take immediate preventive measures and ensure that no law and order situation arose till then. We could not permit such an invasion of Delhi,” he had said.

According to Mr. Bhandari, the Delhi Police, the Intelligence Bureau and the Home Ministry denied knowledge of any such movement towards Capital. “This is all that happened. Madan Lal Khurana projected this as an unsuccessful effort on my part to call in the Army. He should know better that no Governor, Lt. Governor or Chief Minister can call in the armed forces by himself. It has to be routed through the Defence Ministry.”

The threat within?
Was what happened on the night of January 16 really a ?C? attempt? Was it a routine exercise or was the army chief playing mind games with the civilian administration?
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi Apr 07, 2012, 00:51 IST

It is a question to which we might never know the answer. Did the army chief arrange for two military units to “practise mobilisation” on the outskirts of New Delhi as a warning to his boss, Defence Minister A K Antony, on January 16? That was the day that General V K Singh took the unprecedented step of challenging the government in the Supreme Court on the controversy over his age.

It broke as a news storm on Wednesday. The Indian Express reported that political alarm bells had gone off in New Delhi on the foggy night of January 16 when intelligence agencies detected an army battalion from the Hisar-based 33 Armoured Division and a Special Forces unit from the Agra-based 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade moving unexpectedly towards the capital. According to the report, the government reacted to this “unexpected” and “non-notified” military move by recalling Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma from Malaysia. Sharma arrived in Delhi and summoned the army’s Director General of Military Operations, Lt Gen A K Choudhary, to a late-night meeting in his office to “explain what was going on”. The general “was told to send the units back immediately”. The report did not feature the word “coup”, but instead highlighted “confusion and unease” within the top echelons of government at a time of a “strained… political-military relationship.”
The army’s outraged denials have been immediately challenged. Breaking ranks on Thursday, one of the army’s most upright and cerebral recent generals, Lt General Harcharanjit Singh Panag, who was an army commander till he retired in 2009, suggested on Twitter that General Singh had engineered the move to spook the government into believing that a coup was possible if the government tried to sack him. Since the move of the two units was a legitimate training activity, malevolent intent could credibly be denied, suggested Panag. And with the units being given only innocuous training orders, just a handful of people need know the real intent of the move.

In five linked tweets, Panag termed the move a “demonstration”, an action designed to “alter enemy decision-making”. Deniability was created through a “Cover Plan” which Panag explained as “a credible cover to operations undertaken to deceive the enemy”. The troops that participate in a military demonstration “do not know the real aim”, but senior commanders do. Overall, said Panag, the move of the military units to New Delhi was “A Pre-emptive demonstration with a Cover Plan (sic),” which “implies acting before the enemy does to upstage him from implementing his strategy, plan or operations”.

The government, the military, and even the media are treading carefully around what, if Panag is correct, could be termed a near-coup experience. Public discourse has referred coyly to “the C-word” with even Shekhar Gupta, The Indian Express’s chief editor who co-authored the article, telling a probing TV anchor, “I used the C-word but I call it curious, not coup.” Much of India’s reluctance to intellectually confront and discuss the phenomenon of military coups appears to stem from the apprehension that public discussion might have a self-fulfilling effect, indirectly legitimising military interventionism and fuelling praetorian behaviour (the ancient Roman praetorian guard was an elite corps that eventually grabbed a political role).

* * * * *

Is this really a watershed event in the relationship between the government and the military? Will historians look back on January 16 as a key moment when General Singh challenged the government’s processes in court, and simultaneously (if Panag is right) its steeliness and resolve on the highways to Delhi? For now it would appear that General Singh’s confrontation with the government is working well for the military. With sections of Parliament baying for blood, defence ministry officials are in a flurry of activity, clearing policies, procurements and promotions that had needlessly languished, in some cases for years.

On March 20, the ministry cleared the results of a promotion board for major generals which it had obdurately blocked for the preceding six months. On April 2, it cleared the long-delayed revision of the Defence Offset Policy. The same day, Antony reviewed equipment procurements, calling for quicker trials. Although finance has been a key instrument of civilian control over the armed forces, Antony suggested delegating greater financial powers to the services to catalyse speedier acquisition of equipment, platforms and systems. The military’s 15-year Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan, a crucial document that establishes a roadmap for indigenous development and procurement, could be cleared soon, say sources. And, with the Naresh Chandra Committee finalising its recommendations on defence preparedness and the restructuring of the higher defence organisation, insiders have begun betting that the government might soon accept the long-standing suggestion, offered by multiple committees and even a group of ministers, to install a chief of defence staff, a five-star general who will sit atop the tri-service pyramid.

For now, the army is flatly rejecting any link between the ongoing confrontation and the defence ministry’s new sensitivity. Serving generals are even more emphatic in dismissing accusations emerging from The Indian Express article that General Singh exerted illegitimate pressure on the government.

* * * * *

Officers currently serving in army headquarters emphasise that it is wrong to say that there are protocols and regulations that require army movement, at any time, in the National Capital Region to be pre-notified to the defence ministry. “Army units move every day of the week towards Delhi, into Delhi and within Delhi. These include vehicle convoys of units going on firing or training exercises as well as vehicle convoys of units that are moving on transfer from one station to another, a journey that every combat unit makes in two or three years. These unit convoys often make administrative halts in Delhi,” says a brigadier who coordinates army movements.

Serving officers also question how the move of two units (physically, just 500-odd men) to Delhi could possibly be seen as a threat, when two frontline infantry brigades and an artillery brigade (over 10,000 combat soldiers) are permanently located in the capital. This permanent garrison in Delhi was supplemented during that period in January by thousands of additional troops that had come to participate in the Army Day and Republic Day parades.

“Let’s assume for a moment that some crazy army chief was bent on a coup, and wanted even more troops than were already in Delhi. Why would he move troops from Hisar (165 km away) and Agra (204 km away) when there is a full infantry division sitting in Meerut just 70 kilometers away,” asks an officer.

A recently-retired lieutenant general, who wishes to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of discussing even a hypothetical coup, points out that “any successful military coup would require the active support of all six geographical army commanders and also the air force chief. If even one army commander were not on board — and we would be foolish to assume that the incoming chief, Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh, would associate himself with a military coup — any attempt could quickly degenerate into a fratricidal civil war between loyalists and rebels.”

While a successful military coup may be hard to imagine in India, the issue that has sparked the current furore is not an actual coup attempt, but — as Panag implies — the suggestion of a putative attempt to armtwist a weakened government by the subtle application of military pressure. “It would be difficult, if not impossible, to determine conclusively the intention behind the move of these two units from Hisar and Agra. All that the paper trail will reveal is a chain of legitimate orders for a practice exercise. It is the intention behind this move that counts, and intentions lie in the mind,” says a former army chief.

Just as cerebral are the government’s perceptions that determine how it reacts at a particular moment. “I moved 3-4 complete divisions through Delhi at the time when we were pumping troops into Punjab to combat the insurgency,” says the former chief. “That did not create even a moment of tension with the civil administration. But relations between the army and the government were on even keel then, and there was no suspicion between us.”

* * * * *

It is for this reason that a country’s civil-military relations must be based on well-established structures, procedures and spheres of influence, rather than on the mood of the moment that could shift on circumstances and events. In India, there is little understanding or public discussion of the demarcation between the government and the military, and the responsibility and connections between the two.

Samuel Huntington’s masterpiece, his seminal 1957 book, The Soldier and the State, spells out the concept of “objective control” of the military. This model of civilian control, which is implemented in all successful modern democracies, allows the services full autonomy in their professional realm. A military that has ownership of its professional bailiwick, or so the “objective control” thesis postulates, does not involve itself in the political sphere. Civilian control, therefore, is asserted on broader political issues, rather than on day-to-day military functioning. In contrast, “subjective control” neutralises the military’s influence through restrictive civilian controls, extending civilian oversight into spheres within the military’s internal domain. Subjective control is predicated on “civilianising the military”, while objective control aims at “militarising the military”, encouraging professionalism and responsibility within its realm.

Students and observers of the Indian military and the structure of its relationship with the defence ministry and the government of India unanimously agree that, over time, the boundaries of “objective control” have been breached. From long-term planning, to equipment procurement, promotions and dates of birth of army officers, the influence of the civil bureaucracy is pervasive. Ask any military officer his key resentment and there is near-certainty that he will name “the babu”. While a military coup in India is hardly impending and the structures of parliamentary democracy seem likely to endure, grievance and resentment have been simmering within the officer corps. Eric Nordlinger argues in another must-read masterpiece, Soldiers in Politics, Military Coups and Governments, that government failure is seldom more than a triggering condition for a coup. The actual causes of military intervention are civilian encroachment into what the military regards as its legitimate, four-fold sphere of corporate interests: adequate budgetary support, autonomy in managing internal affairs, preservation of its responsibilities in the face of encroachments from rival institutions, and the continuity of the military itself.

Is it time for a broader debate?

Why are India's army and government at loggerheads?
India's civil-military relations, steadily deteriorating for months under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress party-led coalition, has recently suffered a further setback.

The new low follows an exaggerated newspaper report, hinting at an aggressive show of force by a disgruntled army chief, General V K Singh.

The influential Indian Express newspaper on Wednesday reported that in mid-January two army units, including a Special Forces battalion, had marched on New Delhi without telling the proper authorities.

For 18 hours it reportedly panicked the government, already locked with Gen Singh in a legal row over his date of birth.

The report hinted obliquely at a feeble, ill-conceived coup attempt by Gen Singh, but stopped just short of terming it one.

Coincidentally on 16 January, the day of the troop movement, Gen Singh took the dispute over his age to the Supreme Court.

The long-simmering row had already embittered relations between the army headquarters and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Gen Singh was the first serving Indian military chief ever to take the government to court.

He eventually dropped the case after the court indicated it would not rule in his favour. But had he prevailed he would have continued in office for an additional 10 months until March 2013.

For now, he retires on 31 May.

The Express, meanwhile, dramatically reported that the two units from 1 Strike Corps, one of the army's three "sword arms", headquartered at Mathura, 150km (93 miles) east of Delhi, accompanied by around 50 armoured vehicles had marched, unannounced, on the capital.

A nervous federal administration, informed by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) of this seemingly dubious activity managed to stall them, using diversionary tactics involving the local police and after a tense night, ordered the troops back to their respective bases, the paper stated.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister AK Antony immediately dismissed the report as "alarmist" and "baseless", an exaggeratedly dramatic reaction to a routine army exercise.

"The army chief's office is an exalted office. All of us have an obligation to do nothing that lowers its dignity" the prime minister said.

Gen Singh rejected the news report as an "absolutely stupid" reaction to a regular manoeuvre - for which no prior intimation to the federal authorities was necessary - to test the readiness of key units to mobilise swiftly for emergency deployment in foggy conditions, usually prevalent in northern India during winter.

"Some people are trying to throw muck at the government and the army. Such people need to be taken to task," Gen Singh said on Thursday from Nepal's capital, Kathmandu where he was attending a seminar.

The Express, however stands by its report claiming it to be a "meticulous reconstruction and a very sober interpretation of the movement of two key army units" towards Delhi.

Understandably, the news report created a furore across the country with a host of politicians, military men and analysts vociferously and excitedly lining up on either side of the debate on television news channels and newspaper columns.
This picture taken on January 15, 2012 shows Indian Special Forces soldiers marching during the Army Day parade in New Delhi. Until the mid-1990s the army was called out to perform a policing role every sixth day

But the issue continues to fester and army and MoD insiders privately concede that relations between the two remain "tense and un-cooperative" - spawning factions in both departments that greatly exacerbate wild speculation and rumour.

Military officers, however, maintained that the news report would serve not only to "poison" the public mind against the army but, more importantly impinge adversely on its routine operational functioning under Gen Singh's successors.
'Growing distrust'

"The pubic perception of the hitherto respected Indian army over the past few days is a growing distrust of a force which many now believe wants to seize power like in Pakistan" said former Brigadier Arun Sahgal, joint director of Institute of National Security Studies in New Delhi.

The other vital message this crisis would relay to future army chiefs was that perforce, they would need to wary of undertaking even routine manoeuvres classified in the army as standard operating procedure (SOP) for fear of alarming the authorities.

This would seriously depreciate the force's war-fighting capabilities, already blunted by a lack of adequate, updated materiel, as Gen Singh warned in a letter to the prime minister that was recently leaked to a newspaper.

The leak, currently under investigation, further deepened the mistrust between the army and the government.

"The army chief will now have to look over his shoulder all the time, further tightening the already stifling control of the civilian MoD over the military," Brig Sahgal said.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
This file picture taken on January 23, 2012 shows Indian soldiers performing a demonstration drill during an Army Mela (fair) and exhibition at Khasa, some 15 kms from Amritsar.

    the army is simply looked upon by the public as a fiercer and more disciplined constabulary in olive green”

India's military, unlike that of nuclear rivals Pakistan and China, plays no role in either the politics or the administration of the country nor, surprisingly, in formulating or shaping security policy.

"And it will never be like neighbouring militaries for a variety of reasons, the foremost being that democracy for all its shortcomings is firmly entrenched in India," retired Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal said.

However, he warned that with its decision-making capabilities steadily eroded over decades by itinerant and ill-informed MoD civil servants and devious political considerations, the has suffered a dilution in its operational independence and professionalism.

The late K Subrahmanyam, India's best known strategic and nuclear expert, repeatedly criticised the lackadaisical and "lotus eating" attitude of the MoDs "generalist" civil service in its dealings with the military.

"There is no clear understanding among our leaders, our political class, our bureaucracy, business establishment and intellectuals about the nature of the security problems India faces," K Subrahmanyam said at a public lecture in 2000 outlining problems that since have only worsened.

The MoD, he declared, had burdened itself with the house-keeping functions of the armed forces which are best left to them and was not conditioned or trained to think through long-term international and national security issues.

Such shortcomings, he added, were all the more serious and alarming as after 1998 India had emerged as a nuclear weapon state, necessitating greater understanding and maturity of matters strategic and military.

Alongside, over decades the army had become a crisis-management instrument employed endlessly to deal with insurgencies in north-eastern India and in adjoining Punjab and Kashmir provinces in the north.

"Sixty five years after independence the army has been on stand-by for one crisis after another," former Lt Gen PC Katoch said, accustomed to being used not as a war fighting force but for mere policing to ensure internal security.

And though it can be argued that this indicated its flexibility and adaptability it also detracted from its primary role as a military force, he stated.

Statistics of the number of times the army has been employed in aid of civil authority exist in some classified file in the MoD but are rarely revealed.

Until the mid-1990s, for instance, the army was called out to perform a policing role every sixth day.

The end result is that the army is simply looked upon by the public as a fiercer and more disciplined constabulary in olive green.

But after the latest controversy even that role could, worryingly, become downgraded.

Army troop movement: Govt fails to convince House panel
Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and the vice-chiefs of the three services have failed to convince a Parliament panel with their answers to questions arising out of 'The Indian Express' report on non-notified troop movements in the direction of the capital in January.

At least two members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence — Shiromani Akali Dal Rajya Sabha member Naresh Gujral and AIMIM Lok Sabha member from Hyderabad Asaduddin Owaisi — were learnt to have demanded that Army Chief Gen. V K Singh be summoned before the panel.

Gujral is set to send a formal letter to committee chairman Satpal Maharaj, asking that Gen. Singh be called in to not only face questions arising out of the report in The Indian Express on the mobilisation of Army units, but to also clarify the contents of his leaked letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the state of the nation’s defence preparedness.

Tell us: Is the 'trust deficit' between govt and Army, highlighted by IE report, bridgeable?

The Indian Express on Wednesday reported details of an unusual, non-notified movement of two key Army units from Hisar and Agra towards Delhi on January 16-17, only some hours after Gen. Singh went to the Supreme Court against the government on the issue of his date of birth. The movement triggered confusion in the government, and Defence Secretary Sharma flew back from Malaysia ahead of schedule. The Army units, which had reached close to Delhi’s outskirts, were halted and sent back.

Appearing before the committee today, Sharma flatly denied that he had been asked by the government to cut short his visit to Malaysia in the wake of the mobilisation of the Army units. He said he had returned early because of a case that was coming up before the Supreme Court the next day.

But the explanation did not appear to have washed. “He (the defence secretary) is not a lawyer. What was the urgency to return like that?” a committee member said after the meeting.

Owaisi is learnt to have demanded to know why, if, as claimed by Sharma and the vice-chiefs, the movement was “routine”, the Army units were sent back. Apparently, no answer was forthcoming.

Some committee members sought a detailed explanation from the Army and defence establishment about the entire episode at the next meeting of the panel on April 9.

After the meeting, a Congress MP on the committee said, “While they denied The Indian Express report saying that it was a routine exercise, they did not answer specific queries as to why protocol was not followed, why the Army units were sent back and why the defence secretary returned from abroad early. The defence secretary said he cannot react to a newspaper report, but that is not an answer.”

The vice-chiefs also faced some tough questioning regarding the Army Chief’s letter on defence preparedness. Congress MP Manish Tewari said that while the defence committee was meeting to discuss procurement and the budget, the Army Vice-Chief’s presentation reflected none of the concerns flagged by the Chief. Tewari said that the Army should send a detailed report to the committee if there are gaps in defence preparedness.

“The general mood of the committee members regarding the explanation offered by the defence secretary and the vice-chiefs about The Indian Express story was that it was not convincing. Their answers had many gaps. But if they deny it, you have to take it at face value,” said a member.

CAG also warned of serious gaps in nation’s defence
New Delhi: At a time when our politicians are blaming Army Chief Gen VK Singh for allegedly leaking a crucial report to media on country’s military preparedness, they had least bothered when the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had highlighted serious gaps in India’s defence in its critical report much earlier than him.

A report published in a leading daily claimed on Friday that the CAG had in December last year pointed to the hollowness in India's battle preparedness even more critically than Gen Singh’s March 12 letter addressed to the PMO.

What is more frustrating that the same MPs, who were outraged with the Army Chief’s alleged leakage of a crucial report to the media, did nothing to verify the frightening picture of the country’s military preparedness presented by the CAG in its crucial report.

In its report, the CAG had said, “At present the artillery arm of Indian Army comprises of regiments holding a mix of various gun systems whose technology ranges from World War-II and those developed in the 1970s". Indian artillery, in other words, was obsolete.”

Pointing to the need for upgrading the weaponry and providing the modern technological know-how to the armed forces, the CAG was quoted as saying, “Artillery guns of modern technology could not be made available to the troops for over a decade for replacing the existing guns of obsolete technology of 1970 vintage. Acquisition of artillery guns included in the 10th Army Plan has not materialized till now. The abnormal delay in procurement of the new guns had not only impacted the operational preparedness of the Army but also resulted in substantial cost overrun."

Despite the startling revelations made by the CAG, the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is empowered to verify the findings of the auditor, did nothing at that time.

The PAC, which is headed by Opposition leader BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi and comprises 21 members from top political parties, did not even take up the CAG’s findings for a detailed scrutiny.

In its stark report, the CAG had given a regiment-wise and weapon-wise detail of how the Army was facing an acute shortage of ammunitions and modern weaponery, which it should have to be able to defend the country’s sovereignty in the event of a war.

The CAG further stressed that since the controversial purchase of Bofors 155mm Howitzers guns in 1986, the nation has not acquired heavy artillery.

"Self-propelled guns are required to provide continuous fire support to mechanized formations, which normally operate cross-country in plains and deserts ... The Indian Army is presently holding SP guns with technology of 1970s, the CAG report stated, adding, “Acquisition of quantity 'X' of 155mm 52 calibre towed guns and self-propelled guns (wheeled/tracked) was included in the 10th Army Plan (2002-07) but could not materialize as of October 2010 ... This was to be replaced by the Army for its existing force level of 105mm/122mm/130mm guns of obsolete technology."

Not only this, a similar report on the status of Indian Navy was also tabled in Parliament in the Monsoon Session last year by the CAG but its findings were again ignored by our MPs, mainly the PAC.

The CAG report talked of India's lack of competitiveness in sea warfare.

"The Navy followed a flawed approach in acquiring its new fighter aircraft fleet by not finalizing the associated weapon package with the contract for it. Eleven out of 16 MiG 29K aircraft, acquired at a cost of $740 million (Rs 3,400 crore) have been delivered in December 2009 and May 2011. No item of armament contracted for in March 2006 has been delivered as of October 2010 adversely affecting the operational capabilities," it said.

Much hue and cry has been raised over Army Chief’s alleged leak of sensitive information related to the country’s defence preparedness and the political fraternity had even gone to the extent of demanding his resignation, blaming him for opening a covert war against the political establishment.

The disclosure comes at a time when the reported faceoff between Gen VK Singh and the Defence Minister AK Antony had dealt a serious blow to the morale of the Indian Army, which despite several shortcomings remain one of the world’s best armed forces.

Ironically, much later after the CAG’s tabled its stark report, General Singh is being summoned by the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence to explain why India Army was facing acute shortage of ammunition and equipment.
Indian Army is the casualty
The differences, misunderstandings and confrontation between General VK Singh and the defence ministry or, more generally, the Manmohan Singh government makes for riveting politics of a different kind. There are those who have stood up for the general who set out to clean up the army’s Augean stables and, as a consequence, ruffled many feathers. The other side has argued, rather persuasively, that the general who talks of an offer of bribes in a selective fashion to journalists is no friend of the army, and that he is doing more harm than good.

In this furore, what has gone unnoticed is the needs of the army: equipment, ammunition and weapons — in short, modernisation and upgrade of technology — that has got buried under an avalanche of controversy. By sticking to his guns, the general seems to believe he is pleading the army’s case. But he is unintentionally undermining its morale. The government, too, has not been reassuring with its passive response, denials and rationalisation. In this battle between the general and the government, the loser is the army.

The government must see to it that there is no further worsening of the relationship between the army and its civilian masters. And the various warring generals must stand down in the larger interest of the army to avert a clash that hurts the force more than anyone else.

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