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Sunday, 15 April 2012

From Today's Papers - 15 Apr 2012
Tatra-Army deal case: BEML chief VRS Natarajan to appear before CBI on Tuesday
Annadale needed for calamity relief operations: Army
SHIMLA: The Indian Army in its war against the Himachal Pradesh government to retain control over Annandale ground has reasoned that the place is needed for conducting humanitarian operations in the event of a calamity for the benefit of the entire population of the region.

The ground was on lease with the Army, which expired 30 years ago, but the state government never bothered to reclaim it. Recently Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) floated the idea of building a cricket stadium and since then public support for civilian control of the ground has been increasing. Over the years, the Army has developed a golf course and a club at Annadale which is being used by Army officers and senior IAS and IPS officers of the state as well. But now when demand for reclaiming the ground has gained momentum, Army authorities suddenly have come up with the logic that Annadale, with its open space, offers an ideal location for setting up medical relief facilities, facilities for receipt and dispatch of casualties and forward surgical facilities.

Last Saturday, HPCA president Anurag Thakur had led a rally of school children and citizens from the Ridge to chief minister's residence to submit a list of about one lakh signatures collected through mass signature campaign, that began six months ago, to mobilize public support for transfer of Annadale ground from Army to the state government. Thakur had handed over a charter, urging chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, to take-up the issue with the ministry of defence.

Army in a statement claimed that lease deed between representatives of governor of Punjab and the President of Union of India was executed in 1958, with retrospective effect from 1955 and the deed was renewed between representatives of Himachal Pradesh government and the President up to March 1982. No renewal of deed was done after 1982 but Himachal government continued to accept lease rent up to 2002, it added.

Annadale has generated lot of curiosity ever since HPCA has offered to invest Rs 100 crore to convert the ground into a multi-sports stadium. HPCA has already rejected the Army's claim that the ground can't be vacated for strategic reasons as there is no other such ground available for use during emergencies.

Issue would be taken up with Centre: Dhumal.

Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said that the state government would be presenting the memorandum prepared by Citizen Forum for Annandale to the Union government with the request to return the ground to the state. He said that with the return of the ground, the state, in association with Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, would develop it into a multi-purpose sports complex so that different sports events could be organized.

Annadale for disaster relief operation: Army

Annadale has been with the Army since World War II, a fact amply evident from the memorabilia housed in the Army Heritage Museum located adjacent to the ground, said a statement issued by the Army. Any worthwhile humanitarian and disaster relief operation for Shimla can only be launched from Annadale. For this very reason, the Army and the state conduct a disaster relief exercise every few months in which various agencies get involved and mock drills are carried out, it added.
State and society are apathetic. But military contempt for civilian authority is a real danger, too
Harsh V Pant / Apr 15, 2012, 00:12 IST

Whether or not unexpected troop movements around Delhi in January, on the same day that the army chief took the civilian authorities to the Supreme Court, “spooked” the government to the extent that it was reported in The Indian Express is a matter now for the historians to sort out. But what cannot be denied is that the relations between civilians in government and the military are at an all-time low, and the trust deficit is widening by the day. Yet instead of initiating serious dialogue, the Indian government’s response has been full of banalities, with the prime minister talking in the abstract by emphasising that nothing should be done to “lower the dignity” of the office of the army chief, and the defence minister asserting “confidence” in the “patriotism of the armed forces”.

What do these statements actually mean when the entire edifice that rests on the civil-military balance in India seems to be in turmoil? Much as in other areas, the United Progressive Alliance government seems to be callously abdicating its responsibility, the costs of which will be borne by the nation long after the present set of actors have exited the stage.
Though it might be tempting to view the present turmoil as a function of personalities, something much more substantial is at stake here. More than ever, the balance between the Indian state, Indian society and the nation’s military institutions is out of kilter. This can have grave implications if the equilibrium is not promptly restored, because only nations which are successful in evolving a properly balanced pattern of civil-military relations succeed in their search for security; those who fail merely end up squandering their limited resources, and put at risk their national security.

A state makes a sacred contract with its soldiers: that while they will lay down their lives when called upon to do so, the nation will take good care of their and their families’ needs to the extent its resources would permit. This contract underpins the very survival of a nation, as when its territorial integrity and political independence are under threat, the nation looks upon the only instrument that can protect it — its armed forces. While all governments have to look for a considered bargain between their commitments and power and between power and resources, a responsible government will always be aware of the serious implications of not spending adequate resources on defence.

It remains a fact that, unless adequate provisions are made for defence, no state will be able to pursue its developmental agenda. This is much more important for a country like India that faces a unique security environment with two “adversaries” straddling it on its borders, problems on all sides of its periphery, and rising internal turmoil. As the International Relations theorists have long argued, politics among nations is conducted in the brooding shadow of violence. Either a state remains able and willing to use force to preserve and enhance its interests, or it is forced to live at the mercy of its militarily powerful counterpart.

Indian society, meanwhile, remains largely apathetic about defence issues. It makes Kargil into a television spectacle, an opportunity for journalists to try to show off their temporary bravery by going to the frontlines for a few hours and getting the excitement of covering a war from the inside. And then when it is all over, when the soldiers have been interred, society moves on to new and more exciting spectacles — to song-and-dance reality shows and saas-bahu sagas, oblivious to the everyday struggles of the nation’s soldiers on the frontlines.

Shunned by the larger society and ignored by the state, Indian armed forces today are witnessing unprecedented turmoil and dissatisfaction. Such turmoil within the ranks of any nation’s armed services should be a cause for concern; but, in the case of an India that aspires to join the ranks of the world’s great powers, this is a recipe for disaster.

There is a broader issue here about the Indian military’s growing disdain for their civilian masters and about their knowledge of defence issues. The Indian political class lacks any substantive understanding of the role of force in the pursuit of national interests and projecting national values. Moreover, no independent civilian expertise on defence issues is present in India. One can find students writing their doctoral theses on Mongolia’s foreign policy or domestic politics in Belize, but hardly any research is encouraged on defence-related issues in Indian universities. As a result, one finds ex-servicemen monopolising the discourse on national security and defence issues. They should certainly have an important voice on these matters — but it should not be the only voice.

Yet it is not entirely clear if the top leadership of the armed forces is really up to the task of harmonising the growing imbalance in civil-military relations. The present army chief’s unprecedented step of taking his own government to the Supreme Court on the issue of his date of birth and then his clumsy media-centric handling of the alleged bribe offer to him has demonstrated once again how personalities continue to drive our national security set-up. While the Indian armed forces have often complained of the politico-bureaucratic nexus thwarting the rights of the defence services, the behaviour of the top leadership of the armed services is in danger of being perceived as increasingly petty and bureaucratic itself.

Blaming the government for all the ills afflicting the defence sector seems to be becoming the default position within the ranks of the military. Taking this too far can be really dangerous for the liberal democratic ethos of this nation. The state is responsible for the allocation of resources among important societal values — of which military security is but one. Moreover, Indian armed forces need fundamental reforms, a restructuring that enables them to operate with the greatest possible efficiency in a rapidly-evolving domestic and global context. Amid all the hoopla surrounding corruption in the defence sector, it is important to remember that India is losing some precious time by continuing with a defence policy that remains mired in a time-warp. And the onus is on the armed forces leadership to give Indian defence policy a new direction, a trajectory that does justice to India’s rising stature in the global inter-state hierarchy.

The military exists to serve the state; but a military that lacks societal prestige and the attention of the state will not only endanger the security of the state, but will also pose a challenge to the liberal societal values that we so love to espouse. It has become imperative now to get the balance between the Indian state, society and its military institutions right if India is to avoid the high costs that will inevitably follow if the present turmoil persists. A real dialogue needs to start now.
Ex-defence officials to seek CJI intervention in land-for-Prez row
In a bid to contest the allotment of two huge plots made to President Pratibha Patil for her post-retirement home in Pune, three retired defence officials seek Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia’s intervention early next week.

Two days after the unseemly controversy involving the country’s outgoing President rocked the nation, a gathering of nearly 150-odd retired senior defence personnel settled in Pune staged a candlelight “protest” at the National War Memorial in Ghorpadi on Saturday evening. They decried the allotment of two plots of classified “A1 defence land” in Khadki cantonment to Patil’s “post-retirement” home.

The gathering of retired officials and their families paid homage to the war heroes at a ceremony called specially to express their concern over the Army Southern Command’s decision to allot two plots of land collectively admeasuring 5.5 acres for Patil’s post-retirement bungalow.

Some of those gathered at the ceremony also displayed a banner that carried a photograph of Pratibha Patil and spoke about the plight of service personnel living in rented accommodations.

Egged on by the response at the national war memorial ceremony, the retired Army officers — founder of Justice for Jawans (JFJ) Col (Retd) Suresh Patil, Indian ex-servicemen Movement (IESM) functionary Ravindra Pathak and retired Navy official-cum-RTI activist Anup Awasti — have chalked out their plan of action to take their battle forward.

“The turnout at the candlelight event clearly demonstrates that the retired and serving Army personnel have not taken kindly to the manner in which the southern command bent the rules to allot such huge-size plots to the outgoing President… Come what may, we will oppose the efforts by the powers-that-be in the Army to please the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces who seems unconcerned about thousands of service personnel who have been forced to live in rented accommodations in places like Pune,” Col (retd) Patil told The Pioneer over telephone soon after the stir.

According to Col (retd) Patil, the JFJ, IESM and other service personnel organisations will send a petition to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court on “Monday or Tuesday” seeking the latter’s intervention in the Pratibha Patil land matter.

The rough draft of the petition to CJI, made available to this newspaper, deals at length on the manner in which the Army top brass has allegedly misused the defence land. Among other things, the petitioners describe themselves as: “We are a group of individuals who have come together to seek justice for our serving brethrens and to prevent misuse of land belonging to the Defence department by the high and mighty through manipulation of existing orders”.

“We will annex a lot of documents that we have obtained through RT queries which clearly establish that the rules have been bent. Apart from reiterating that the outgoing President is entitled for 4,498 square including a living area not exceeding 2,000 sq ft,” Col (retd) Patil said.

Col (retd) Patil said the reason behind the aggrieved retired defence officials’ plan to approach the CJI was that they could not have approached the President, “because we have a grievance against her” and that only the CJI could do justice to the service personnel who, he described them as “the men behind the weapons”.

The draft petition, addressing the CJI, states: “We are not seeking to have a legal battle with the Government for we cannot afford the fees involved for a long drawn battle that the Government indulges in, as has been our experience at the Supreme Court level and in non-implementation of Armed Forces Tribunal verdicts.”

Among the prayers that the aggrieved petitioners plan to make to the CJI that the outgoing President may keep up to 6,000 sq ft which includes a Floor Space of Index of one, while returning the remaining part of 5.5 acres of land allotted to her for the construction of her post-retirement bungalow.
Pressure mounts for air force basic trainer aircraft
Purchase has been blocked after a South Korean rival protested an alleged procedural violation by a Swiss company in the evaluation process last year
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi Apr 15, 2012, 00:00 IST

With Parliament’s standing committee on defence intensifying scrutiny into India’s defence preparedness, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be highlighting its near-desperate need for a basic trainer aircraft for its rookie pilots. For 10 months, the defence ministry (MoD) has blocked the purchase of 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mark II basic trainers, a contract worth around Rs 1,800 crore. This after a South Korean rival protested an alleged procedural violation by Swiss company, Pilatus, which emerged the lowest bidder in the evaluation process last year.

The IAF’s urgency stems from the grounding of its entire fleet of HPT-32 Deepak basic trainers since July 31, 2009, after the death of two instructor pilots in a horrific crash took the Deepak’s death toll to 19 pilots in 17 crashes. Alongside measures to make the HPT-32 safer, MoD gave the go-ahead for buying 75 modern basic trainers from the global market; simultaneously, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was to develop and build 106 basic trainers, dubbed the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40).
A former army officer has said that the Indian army has enough ammunition and weapons stock.

"Our nation is completely safe and our army is able to meet any emergency," Lt Gen (retd) Jasbirsinh Dhillon said here yesterday. He addressed students of Atmiya College here at a
seminar on `Management Lessons from Defence'. The seminar had been organised jointly by Atmiya College and Kutch Saurashtra Productivity Council (KSPC).

Army chief VK Singh had recently written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, expressing concern about shortage of weapons and ammunition.

But Dhillon said that "I had been the director general of a weapons manufacturing factory and therefore I can say that the Indian defence has the adequate stock of quality weapons and there is no shortage of any critical weapons".

"Our soldiers' morale is high, and we have nothing to worry about security of our country. Our defence forces have enough stock of ammunition and have enough strength to win any type of war."
‘Defence Ministry must respond positively to move to amend AFSPA'
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was more the symbol of a problem than its cause, say Interlocutors

The Ministry of Defence needs to consider how to respond positively, “rather than negatively,” to proposals for repeal of and amendments to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Group of Interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir has said in their final report.

While stating that the group's impression was that the AFSPA was more the symbol of a problem than its cause, the report went on to add: “But symbols are important for peace processes, and thus the Ministry of Defence needs to consider how to respond positively to this issue rather than negatively.”

The Prime Minister's Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures had also recommended reviewing the Disturbed Areas Act and AFSPA, “and if possible lifting the former and revoking the latter.”

The Jeevan Reddy Commission had proposed the repeal of the AFSPA and the incorporation of some of its provisions into a new national law, to be called the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The Ministry of Home Affairs had also recommended several amendments to the AFSPA, which will bring it in line with the Criminal Procedure Code while allowing for the protections for the armed forces that exist in every democratic country. “These proposals should be reviewed by the Ministry of Defence, and a decision taken at the earliest.”

According to the group, the goal was to arrive at a situation in which troops will be deployed only at the borders. “A step-by-step process would begin with the Army remaining in barracks and transferring any civilian policing duties to the paramilitary, with their onward transfer to the Jammu and Kashmir police. This step has already been taken in most urban areas but could be consolidated in rural areas.”

The group noted that one problem that arose in 2010 was that the J&K police were not trained or equipped to handle the transfer of duties. “Current initiatives at retraining, especially in community policing, as well as the revised Operating Manual, should help bridge the gap, but police-community relations remain volatile, especially in the urban areas, and appear to depend on the individuals in charge of district police stations. In the rural areas, there is a problem of shortage of police but fresh recruitments should fill the gap. In this context, it should be noted that in the mountainous districts of Jammu, which border the LoC, the felt need was for the Village Defense Committees to be incorporated into the police, and to be made multi-ethnic.”

The next step, the report added, was to review military deployments to see whether security installations can be rationalised through reducing their spread to a few strategic locations and creating mobile units for rapid response. “The desire for redeployment of military and/or security forces and installations [created as part of counter-insurgency operations, and not prior cantonments] from the rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir is a heartfelt desire that unites the regional political parties and dissident groups.” Given the large reduction in militancy-related violence, some thinning or strategic concentration of installations was worth considering, the report said. “It is difficult, for example, to see a present rationale for maintaining three camps, belonging to different regiments, cheek-by-jowl with each other, as is the case in Shopian.”
Dialogue with armed groups

Pointing to the absence of a formal commitment to ceasefire or disbandment as one of the obstacles to redeployment, the report said such a commitment would have made security reforms much easier to implement. The Prime Minister's Working Group on CBMs had suggested that an “unconditional dialogue” with armed groups be initiated, and some steps were taken during the “Quiet Diplomacy” of 2008-09. “Since then, however, the issue has not come up again, and it needs to be put back on the agenda.”

Even in the absence of commitments from armed groups to ceasefire, disarm and demobilise, such reforms as are possible still need to be considered, the group suggested. Current numbers for armed militants present in the State were around 350, with bases in districts such as Sopore. Infiltration attempts have risen this year. A significant finding was that all the delegations met by the group were explicit in their view that troops should be concentrated on the borders and LoC to prevent infiltration, and the focus was on internal redeployment alone: a phased withdrawal of troops from residential and agricultural areas.

On the military-to-military CBMs agreed between the governments of India and Pakistan, such as hotlines between commanders of border security forces, the report said their implementation needed to be reviewed and any remaining gaps filled.
Human rights violations

The report referred to the large number of gross human rights violations by a variety of groups, including murder and torture. The issue gained salience with the investigation into unmarked graves, many of which contain bodies of militants killed in counter-insurgency and some of which are alleged to be of missing persons. The group recommended the setting up of a Judicial Commission to establish the best procedures for identification of the bodies in the unmarked graves. The commission would see whether any of the bodies match the DNA of the families of the disappeared persons. The final step would be to try to identify all the bodies in the unmarked graves, and this would depend on cooperation from Pakistan. “The exercise will be a massive and time-consuming one, and all concerned should be prepared to face the fact that they might not, in the end, have the full closure that they need.”

Referring to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) proposed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the report said even if justice cannot be provided for all victims of violence, if some of those guilty of human rights abuses, including militants, were to ask forgiveness from the families of their victims, it would provide closure for many. A TRC, it said, would also have a large impact in Pakistan, altering the “Kashmir narrative” in fundamental ways.

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