Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Friday, 8 June 2012

From Today's Papers - 08 Jun 2012
Cabinet panel on security clears agenda for Siachen talks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
At the forthcoming Defence-Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan, New Delhi will stick to its stand seeking authentication of troop positions on the 2,600-sq km Siachen Glacier before any demilitarisation can take place.

The issue came up at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) which cleared the stand to be adopted by India in this regard, sources said. Defence secretaries of the two countries will meet for their annual conference in Islamabad on June 11 and 12. The two officials are supposed to suggest a solution to the issue.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and his Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani have expressed a desire that the glacier be demilitarised. The call had come after more than 140 Pakistan Army Soldiers lost their lives in an avalanche in April this year.

Defence Minister AK Antony, has already made the country’s stand on Siachen clear. “India is clear. We want authentication of the present positions (held by Indian troops). This is a pre-requisite before we can proceed further”. New Delhi has always insisted it will pull back troops only after joint “authentication” of the frontline along the 109-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), that is the name of the de-facto border on the glacier. The AGPL has never been marked on the ground or on any document accepted by both sides. If Pakistan violates a demilitarisation treaty, it would enjoy easier access to Siachen, leaving India at a serious disadvantage. New Delhi wants iron cast international guarantees against any violations.

On the other hand, Pakistan resists “authentication” as a pre-requisite to de-militarisation. This was its stance during the last round of Defence Secretary-level talks in May 2011. An authentication would legitimise the AGPL, which, in turn, would regularise India’s claims. Pakistan wants demilitarisation, withdrawal and authentication to proceed simultaneously. Last month, after General Kayani’s call for a mutual withdrawal, Islamabad announced it would stick to its traditional position.

It was in April 1984 that the Army and the IAF gained control of the glacier in a joint operation ‘Megdhoot’.

delhi to stick to its stand

* New Delhi will stick to its stand seeking authentication of troop positions on the 2,600-sq km Siachen Glacier before any demilitarisation can take place

* Defence secretaries of the two countries will meet for their annual conference in Islamabad on June 11 and 12
Maoist commander arrested in Delhi
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung/TNS

New Delhi, June 7
A Jharkhand-based commander of a Local Guerrilla Squad (LGS), armed wing of the banned CPI (Maoist), who had been involved in the killing of numerous security personnel, was arrested by the Delhi Police in the national capital last afternoon.

The 27-year-old Maoist has been identified as Shiv Kumar, alias Shiva, and also known as Hero. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime and Railways) Sanjay Kumar Jain said Shiv was nabbed from Samaipur Badli in Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar. The police recovered a 9-mm pistol with two live cartridges from him.

“He was heading a LGS that consisted of about 20 to 30 men and operated in Jharkhand’s two districts - Lohardaga and Latehar. Shiv is an ace fighter, an expert at handling guns, including the AK-47 and the INSAS, and is proficient at making and planting explosives such as an IED (improvised explosive device) and land mines. Shiv’s group calls the remote-controlled IEDs as “Krishna-Arjun”. In the name, Krishna signifies the remote and Arjun represents the connection in the explosive,” said Sanjay Jain.
Army Chief lifts ban on Lt Gen Suhag
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
Just a week after taking over as the Army Chief, General Bikram Singh has taken the first step to undo the bitterness that had developed in the past few months. He has lifted the Discipline and Vigilance (DV) ban imposed by his predecessor on Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, one of the senior Army officers.

The just-retired Army Chief General VK Singh had imposed a ban on Lt Gen Suhag which had shocked sections of the Army and also the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which saw this as an attempt to tweak the line of succession in the Army - largely the senior-most officer becomes the Chief.

Lt Gen Suhag, presently General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the Dimapur-based 3 Corps, is in line to be the next chief of the 1.13 million-strong Indian Army.

Sources said the DV ban has been lifted and this will pave the way for his promotion as GoC-in-C of the Kolkatta-based Eastern Army Command. Following the imposition of a ban, his promotion had been held back while his compatriot Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra was promoted and he took charge of the Chandimandir-based Western Army Command. Today’s move means Gen Suhag can be promoted and will end one of the bitter controversies which had divided the Army.

Lt-Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag was first issued a show cause notice on May 19 even while he was on leave in Delhi tending to his ailing mother. He was asked to join back duty and reply within seven days. A DV was imposed on him without even waiting for his reply to the notice. This sent alarm bells ringing in the MoD as it saw that this would not stand scrutiny in court and called for the files.

Had the DV ban continued, he would have been overlooked and lost the chance to be promoted as GoC-in-C, ultimately missing out on a chance to become the Army Chief. Notably, had the Supreme Court accepted Gen VK Singh’s plea that he was born on May 10, 1951 and not on May 10, 1950 as recorded in the Ministry of Defence, Gen Bikram Singh would not have made it to the top job and Lt Gen Suhag also would also have lost out. A chief retires at 62 while Lt Generals retire at 60 years of age.

When the row had erupted, Gen VK Singh had said, “There was no vendetta (in his actions against Gen Suhag).”
Undoing recent damage to Army
Merely forgetting the “turbulence” won’t do
by Inder Malhotra

OVER the passing of the baton from former Army Chief General V. K. Singh to the present Chief of the Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, there has been an audible sigh of relief in the country deeply distressed by the former chief’s shenanigans beginning with his unprecedented decision to drag the government to a court of law on a petty personal issue of the date of his birth. Defence Minister A. K. Antony has described the sad interlude as “turbulence of the last few months”, and has advised all concerned to “forget” it so that this “baggage” is jettisoned.

Unexceptionable words these, but totally inadequate. Merely to forget what has happened and do nothing about its consequences would be nothing short of perpetuating the mess. The serious damage done to so fine an institution as the Indian Army has to be undone, both quickly in a manner that is not only fair but also seen to be so.

The two of the most serious problems that need immediate attention are best summed up by the distinguished army veteran, Lt-General (retired) Satish Nambiar, with impeccable credentials to pronounce on the subject: First, civil-military relations “rarely cordial even at the best of times are at their worst in living memory right now”. And secondly, the Army has “never before been subjected to such division and subversion of loyalties at the senior level”. To combat these twin-evils is a stupendous task.

It follows that while the new Army Chief, with a meritorious career, will have to exert all his personal and professional qualities to the utmost, he would also need full cooperation from the political leadership and the civilian bureaucracy of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Hopefully, the recommendations of the Task Force on Security would help overcome the problem that civilian supremacy over the military — which the Indian armed forces have always accepted willingly — has become the supremacy of the civil servants. Be that as it may, nothing should be allowed to impede the undoing of the wrongs that have piled up.

In this context, Mr Antony has his task cut out for him. With all due respect, it must be said that in the past he erred. It was within his power to nip in the bud the date-of-birth controversy, the starting point of all the dismal developments that followed. It was indeed his duty to do so. But unfortunately he didn’t. Nor did he make any effort to put an end to the spate of Gen V. K. Singh’s highly controversial interviews subsequently. It is not known whether he sought the intervention of the Prime Minister who is, after all, ultimately responsible for national security. The country can no longer afford such casual approach. The Defence Minister and, if necessary, the Prime Minister must firmly oversee the remedial measures that are now absolutely essential.

At the same time it should be recognised that the Gen V. K. Singh affair has heavily polarised not only the army officer corps at higher levels as well as ex-servicemen, including retired generals, but also apparently the entire Indian society. That perilous polarisation persists. Even today, there is a petition before the Supreme Court seeking a review of its earlier verdict rejecting the public interest litigation seeking the quashing of Gen Bikram Singh’s appointment as the Army Chief.

One expects that, as in all other democracies, all political parties and even all sections of civil society would refrain from dragging the armed forces into the vortex of partisan or parochial politics. But what can one say about a polity in which 20 Rajput MPs, cutting across party lines, seek a meeting with the Prime Minister to plead the case of a general belonging to their caste? About other efforts to arouse the caste sentiment in this connection the less said the better. In all fairness, it must also be acknowledged that in the midst of a murky atmosphere, Gen V. K. Singh did focus the country’s attention on some of the glaring shortcomings in the national security apparatus. Through his leaked letter to the Prime Minister he drove home the message that modernisation of and improvement in the operational preparedness of the armed forces is grossly inadequate and tardy. Presumably because the letter hit the headlines in a fraught ambience the government’s response was surprisingly prompt. There was a sudden acceleration of decision-making in the MoD. Let there be no slackening of this pace. Gen Bikram Singh and his senior colleagues must play their part in ensuring this.

Corruption is the third and very painful issue that the former Army Chief, to his credit, has pushed to the fore though it remains a mystery why both he and the Defence Minister sat for nearly two years on the alleged offer of a bribe of Rs 14 crore to Gen Singh. Anyhow, the Tatra scandal has brought into the open how our own public sector undertakings are making huge money by importing equipment from abroad and selling it to the armed forces at inflated prices. Nor is it a solitary example of its kind. However, to root out corruption in the procurement of sophisticated equipment at astronomical cost is not going to be easy unless there is a determined and joint effort by both the political leadership and the top brass. Personal example rather than preaching is called for.

A long neglected but grave problem faced by the Army is the acute shortage of officers. According to one account, an army battalion must have a minimum complement of 25 officers. Very often, it seems there are barely nine because some of them have to go on leave, or are sick or are required to go for training and refresher courses.

As injurious as the shortage of officers is the ageing of the Indian Army down the line. The issue of reducing the very long service under the colours and providing the men alternative employment in paramilitary forces has been hanging fire for more than a decade. And given the faulty procedures of promotion, most army officers become battalion commanders when they are in their late forties and thus overage.
IB gives letter leak report to PM, Defence Minister
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, June 7
Tasked with finding out persons who leaked the then Army Chief General VK Singh’s classified letter on war preparedness to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Intelligence Bureau has submitted its findings to the government.

The findings, submitted to the Prime Minister and Defence Minister AK Antony orally, trace the movement of the letter and how it was leaked, well-placed sources told The Tribune.

The IB had prepared a written report but it was asked to provide details on the subject orally considering the sensitivity of the issue. Persons behind the leak were indirectly or directly benefiting from the intense divide within the Army, which saw

@unprecedented controversies in the past few months, the sources said, adding that some names have been shared with the PM and Antony. It is clear, the sources said, that the motive was to embarrass the government while Parliament was in session.

The Initelligence Bureau has trashed reports that a woman Joint-Secretary level officer in the Cabinet Secretariat leaked the letter. “That woman is not guilty of the leak,” a senior functionary revealed.

In the second week of May when reports had surfaced about the said woman officer, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth had gone on record to state the report was "wrong". The government had also rubbished the reports.

Details of the former Army Chief’s classified letter were published in a newspaper leading to a furore in Parliament with MPs demanding removal of the General. Antony announced an inquiry and asked the Initelligence Bureau to probe. On his part, VK Singh termed the leak as an act of treason and sought punishment for the guilty.

In the last week of May, VK Singh alleged that his letter to the PM was leaked by the Ministry of Defence.
US losing patience with Pakistan: Panetta
Kabul, Afghanistan: Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said on Thursday that the United States was running out of patience with Pakistan over safe havens of insurgents who attack US troops across the border in Afghanistan.

Mr Panetta spoke after talks with Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak on the latest leg of an Asian tour that has taken him to Pakistan's arch-rival India, but not Islamabad in a sign of how dire US-Pakistan relations are.

He singled out the Haqqani network, a Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked faction believed to be based in Pakistan's lawless tribal district of North Waziristan.
"It's an increasing concern that Haqqani safe havens still exist on the other side of the border. Pakistan has to take action from allowing terrorists in their country to attack our forces on the other side of the border," he said.

"We are reaching the limits of our patience here," he added.

Afghan and US officials have blamed the Haqqani network for some of the deadliest attacks of the 10-year war, including a brazen 18-hour assault on Kabul in April -- the biggest to hit the Afghan capital in a decade.

Panetta said that in talks with Pakistan, the United States had made "very clear, time and time again," the need to crack down on Haqqani militants.

Pakistan has resisted US pressure to launch a major offensive against the network in North Waziristan, arguing that it is too overstretched in the fight against local Taliban to take on an enemy that poses no threat to Pakistan.

Independent analysts have suggested that Pakistan is not capable of defeating the Haqqanis, a well organised and disciplined force that can command thousands of fighters.
Defence Minister Antony impressed
India might not be too excited about Washington's new military strategy on the Asia-Pacific region, but defence minister A.K. Antony was very impressed with the smooth talking U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.

The mild mannered Antony appeared comfortable in the company of the soft spoken Panetta. The two had some informal moments at a dinner hosted for the U.S. delegation at the army's battle honours mess on Wednesday.

Panetta, a former CIA chief, took keen interest in the souveniers adorning the walls of the mess and was inquisitive about field marshals Sam Manekshaw and K.M. Cariappa.

The new army chief General Bikram Singh gave Panetta an on-the-spot briefing on the Indian legends.

Read more:
CBI probe finds India biggest buyer of Tatra trucks
NEW DELHI: The CBI probe into Tatra trucks procurement scam has almost established that India is the biggest buyer of T-815 trucks. These trucks are assembled by defence PSU BEML after importing spare parts from Czech Republic-based Tatra a.s. and the firm's other unit in Slovakia.

The investigation agency's Letter Rogatory to these two countries include searching questions about total export to India and why no other country is buying Tatra in such huge quantities, said sources. A team will also visit Czech Republic soon to seek clarifications from the authorities there.

Sources said that Tatra trucks have been facing major problems like non-availability of spare parts and the Army has also made several complaints over a period of time. "For spare parts, BEML has to contact these two countries each time, which is a time-consuming process. We have also learnt that due to delay and non-availability of spare parts, sometimes these are being bought at almost 300% to 400% higher rates," said a CBI source.

To ascertain as to why India has been importing Tatra parts from Czech Republic, and no other country is interested in the vehicle, the agency has also sought all the relevant reports from the Director General of Quality Assurance (DGQA). Earlier, the CBI had sought all the reports and files related to Tatra trucks purchase since 1997 from the DGQA, the ministry of defence (MoD) unit that carries out quality checks for all military procurements. CBI suspects that many officials of different units of MoD and the Army, who joined Ravi Rishi's company Tatra-Sipox UK after retirement, could have played a key role in facilitating the smooth run of Tatra.

The agency is also probing the supply of Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARVs) to the Army. This deal, too, is mired in alleged irregularities.

The investigation is looking at alleged irregularities in assigning supply from the Czechoslovakia-based Tatra a.s., with which the agreement was originally signed in 1986, to Rishi's firm in 1997 showing it as the original equipment manufacturer and the fully-owned subsidiary of the Czech Republic firm in flagrant violation of the rules, said sources.
India will not give up tactical advantage over Pak in Siachen
NEW DELHI: India is not going to give up its tactical and strategic advantage over Pakistan in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region anytime soon, even though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may still want to convert it into "a mountain of peace".

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by the PM, on Thursday cleared the "brief" for the 13th round of the defence secretary-level talks to be held with Pakistan in Islamabad on June 11-12.

Sources said the Indian delegation, led by defence secretary Shashikant Sharma, will insist Pakistan first agree to the three sequential "pre-requisites" of authentication, delineation and demarcation of the respective troop positions on the Saltoro Ridge before any military pullback plans can be discussed.

While there has been some recent buzz of "a breakthrough" on the long-festering Siachen dispute, the Army has cautioned the UPA government against any concessions in the face of Pakistani intransigence in providing iron-clad guarantees for even verifying the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL).

Defence minister A K Antony himself told Parliament in May that "dramatic decisions" should not be expected from the talks slated for next week. Sources said India will tell Pakistan to first "authenticate" the respective troop positions on the AGPL along the Saltoro Ridge since Indian soldiers occupy almost all the "dominating" posts there and Pakistani soldiers are three to seven km away from the glacier.

Second, the authentication process will have to be followed by proper "delineation" both on the map as well as on the ground. This, in turn, will lead to the final "demarcation" of the agreed border. India will only then "consider" the proposed "disengagement" and "redeployment" of troops from the heights varying from 16,000 to 22,000-feet.

With better infrastructure and supply lines in place, the Army is no longer haemorrhaging like it did in the early years after its "Operation Meghdoot" in April 1984 pre-empted Pakistan's `Operation Ababeel' to occupy the icy heights.

Pakistan, which lost 139 soldiers in an avalanche that hit one of its Army camps there in April, is desperate to resolve the dispute since it is bleeding more. Over 3,000 of its soldiers have died in the region since 1984.

India, too, has lost many soldiers. Although the casualty rate has steadily dipped in recent years, the toll stood at 26 last year. Extreme weather and terrain cause more casualties in the icy heights, where temperatures even dip to minus 50-60 degrees, rather than exchange of fire. The guns have largely fallen silent in the world's highest and coldest battlefield since the ceasefire came into force in November, 2003.

"India has all the advantages now...why give them up without any gains?" asked a senior officer. If India was not holding the heights on the Saltoro Ridge, the highest watershed in the area, Pakistani and Chinese armies could link up to bring the Karakoram Pass under their control and threaten the Ladakh region. "The increasing Chinese presence in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan is a fact of life," he added.
Top Army official flies in GoAir cockpit, DGCA summons pilots
NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has summoned a commander and a co-pilot of GoAir for reportedly allowing two people to fly in the cockpit from Leh to Jammu on Wednesday in violation of all aviation safety rules. The regulator will also examine if by doing so, the airline actually carried more people than the 180 passenger seats that its Airbus A-320s has. Sources claimed the two who travelled in the cockpit were senior army officials, including the top army official of Leh — general officer commanding Lt Gen Ravi Dastane.

This alleged violation of safety rules happened on GoAir's G8 151 on Wednesday. A passenger on the flight noticed two persons entering the aircraft and straightway going to the cockpit. "They remained in the cockpit for the entire duration of the flight to Jammu," the passenger said, adding that on being asked how two non-crew members were allowed inside the cockpit, the crew claimed it had DGCA's permission.

Later, DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan was informed about this lapse. "I got a complaint about people being allowed inside the cockpit of the flight. On checking, it was found to be true. I have called the two pilots and airline's the director (safety) to explain this," Bhushan said. The airline refused to comment on this issue.

During initial probe, the regulator has also found some discrepancies in the trim sheet (which has information on passengers) and is investigating if the plane had more passengers than GoAir's configuration of 180 seats in its A-320s with eight being business class and 172 in economy. The two pilots will not be allowed to fly till they explain what happened on the flight to the regulator. Entry inside cockpit is banned for non-crew members due to security reasons.

Meanwhile, aviation minister Ajit Singh has asked DGCA to analyse the current fares and see if airlines are over charging. The instructions came as current domestic airfares have shown a 30% hike due to the demand supply mismatch caused by reduction of capacity by Kingfisher and uncertainty surrounding Air India.
Army chief Bikram Singh lifts discipline and vigilance ban on Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag

Read more at:
Barely a week after General V.K. Singh's retirement as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), the Indian Army on Thursday lifted the discipline and vigilance ban on 3 Corps Commander -- Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag.
Lt Gen Suhag had been issued a show cause notice by Gen Singh during the latter's last days as Army chief in connection with a failed intelligence operation in Assam. Interestingly, Gen Suhag had filed his reply on May 31, the day Gen Singh retired.
Lt Gen Suhag, who is the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Dimapur based 3 Corps, was placed on discipline and vigilance ban by the then COAS for "abdication of responsibility" over the botched Jorhat intelligence operation. Gen V.K. Singh had held Lt Gen Suhag responsible for not taking adequate action against the commanding officer.
However, Gen V.K. Singh's successor -- Gen Bikram Singh -- lifted the discipline and vigilance ban paving the way for Lt Gen Suhag's elevation as the chief of Eastern Command.

Due to the discipline and vigilance ban imposed on him, Suhag's promotion as Eastern Army Commander was held up. The post has been lying vacant since Gen Bikram Singh moved from there to take over as the COAS.

Read more at:
Army chief row – Will history repeat?
Prof NS Rajaram · 6 Comments

The real issue is the state and morale of the defense forces, not the leaked letter or petty politics. Fifty years ago, demoralization and neglect of the armed forces by Nehru and Krishna Menon led to national humiliation in the 1962 China war.

Navaratna Rajaram

            “History does not repeat itself,” it is famously said, “but fools repeat history.” Philosopher-poet George Santayana put it slightly differently when he wrote— “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

            To those old enough to remember the events leading to India’s humiliation in 1962—and both Manmohan Singh and A.K. Antony are old enough—these famous quotes have a familiar ring in our own time, especially in the controversy over the army chief General V.K. Singh’s difficulties with the government. More than fifty years ago, in 1959 to be exact, General Thimmayya, the savior of Kashmir had handed his resignation to Prime Minister Nehru protesting Defense Minister V.K. Krishna Menon‘s refusal to consider his plans for preparing the Army for the forthcoming Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. Nehru refused to accept it and persuaded him to withdraw his resignation. However, little action was taken on Thimmayya’s recommendations and he soon retired.

            When Thimmayya’s term as army chief ended, Nehru and Menon ignored Thimmayya’s recommendation to make General Thorat the army chief, preferring to appoint Pran Nath Thapar. Where Thorat was known as a ‘fighting general’ in the mould of Patton and Rommel, Thapar was known to be politically well connected, related to Nehru by marriage. (He was the uncle of historian Romila Thapar and TV journalist Karan Thapar’s father.) Thanks to family connections, another political general Brij Mohan Kaul was appointed commander of the Indian forces in the vital northeast sector. Kaul was to earn eternal infamy by running away from the battlefield to get himself admitted to a Delhi hospital when the Chinese attacked in 1962.

            Nehru and Menon had no interest in national defense. They saw their positions not as guardians of India but a platform for projecting and preaching their utopian ideas to the world. Above all they, especially Nehru wanted to impress Westerners. In 1948, he ignored Thimmayya’s advice and took Kashmir to the United Nations. At the same time he rejected General Cariappa’s advice to develop the infrastructure in the northeast. He listened instesd to the advice of a British missionary called Verrier Elwin who said that the northeast should be kept primitive to preserve tribal cultures. Elwin pretended to be interested in tribal welfare, but it was only a pretext to exploit them, especially the young girls. He married and divorced at least two tribal girls much younger than himself. He was a Nehru favorite!

            It is not widely known that India was offered a permanent seat in the Security Council when the United Nations was formed. Nehru rejected it insisting that Mao’s China should be given the seat before India. Even when China occupied Tibet in 1950, which was then independent with close ties to India, Nehru ignored the danger and spent his time over the Korean War. Menon even defended the Chinese action claiming that it would never attack India!

            (Personal sidelight: I heard the following story from the famous astrologer the late B.V. Raman whom I used to know quite well though I don’t follow astrology. In spite of their ‘rationalist’ exterior, both Menon and Nehru used to consult him— Menon directly, but Nehru surreptitiously through his emissary the late Gulzarilal Nanda. Dr. Raman predicted that Menon would soon lose his cabinet position and also China would attack India. Menon dismissed him saying, “You may be right about my losing my position, but China will never attack India because we are both socialist countries.” Is this also not a form of superstition? For the record, China later had border wars with both the Soviet Union and Vietnam.)

            Coming to the specifics over the controversy involving the army chief V.K. Singh, he has done a great service to the nation by exposing the corruption. What else should he have done? Keep quiet while pocketing the money? Also, the army chief’s leaked letter to the PM has highlighted serious deficiencies in defense preparedness. Should this also be kept hidden from the public just to protect incompetent and dishonest officials and politicians? Going back fifty years, when the Sino-Indian war started, it was found that our soldiers in the Himalayas didn’t even have winter clothing. There were many non-combat deaths due to frostbite and cold but Nehru and Menon had neglected basic needs. Should we not learn from that sad history?

            Some vested interests have been targeting General V.K. Singh for months. First it was his date of birth which should have been an internal matter, and now this. Why? Because, General Singh is known to be very strict; and totally against corruption and irregularities. This comes in the way of people interested in making money in defense contracts. They want him out of the way as soon as possible.

           Krishna Menon is widely regarded as a Communist ideologue disinterested in money matters. This ignores the fact that Menon presided over the first scam of Independent India. While serving as Indian High Commissioner in London, he ignored established government procedures to sign a deal worth Rs 80 lakh—then an enormous amount—with a foreign firm for the purchase of army jeeps. While most of the money was paid up front, only about 150 jeeps were delivered even though the contract was for many times more. (Each jeep cost the government more than Rs 53,000, which was at least ten times the market value.) But Prime Minister Nehru forced the government to accept them. In the face of the scandal, Nehru inducted Menon into the cabinet, who soon became the second most powerful minister after Nehru.

            Because the amounts involved in defense contracts are so large kickbacks and corruption have always been part of defense procurement in all countries. With the coming of Rajiv Gandhi it was taken to a new level.

The Bofors paradigm

            The Bofors scam in which the Gandhi family and Sonia Gandhi’s close friend and business associate Ottavio Quattrocchi enriched themselves beyond their wildest dreams marks a watershed in modern India. The corruption was not without precedent, and the scale was to be surpassed in our time. But what Bofors represents is a shift in the way Indian politicians and bureaucrats began to look at defense needs. It was no longer to protect the nation, but a mammoth procurement bazaar in which huge profits can be made through kickbacks and commissions.

            So beginning with the Gandhi-Quattrocchi partnership, more attention was given to procurement and spending than analyzing defense needs. With notable exceptions like Dr. Abdul Kalam and the late Raja Ramanna (a nuclear physicists), there was little discussion about defense policy much less strategy or doctrine. Politicians and bureaucrats couldn’t care less about military strategy or defense needs as long as opportunities existed for kickbacks in defense procurements. This factor should be kept in mind as we look at the outrage expressed by politicians over General V.K. Singh’s revelation that he was offered a large bribe to approve substandard army vehicles.

            It is a sign of this state of affairs that even today India has no military doctrine. Does anyone recall a debate in the parliament over military doctrine or strategy? The media is no different. For all the hoopla over Gen Singh’s revelation and the leaked letter, the media is talking more about the scam than its implications for national security. It is no different with the politicians. During the recent elections, did Rahul Gandhi or anyone else talk about security or threats to the nation? Did anyone in the media raise it? All we saw were family exhibits— Rahul in his beard, Priyanka (without one), her husband until finally her little children.

Kautilya on king’s duty

            Excerpts from the letter from the army chief V.K. Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have appeared in newspapers. The letter raised serious questions about important matters relating to national defense. The PM apparently ignored the army chief’s, and possibly the Defense Minister’s concerns. Knowing the strict protocol followed in the army, one can be certain that Defense Minister Antony was fully aware of Gen Singh’s letter and had approved it. This suggests that the leak was probably deliberate, and came from the defense ministry frustrated at the Prime Minister’s indifference with regard to national security.

            We are constantly being told that Dr Manmohan Singh is personally honest though he is presiding over the most corrupt government in modern Indian history. What good is personal honesty when public officials under him are allowed to plunder and loot? After all it was this ‘personally honest man’ who allowed the swindler Ottavio Quattrocchi to get away with his loot. Above all, he has neglected national security. There is no greater duty than preserving the nation’s freedom. The PM Manmohan Singh may not worry about it, but more than 2000 years ago, the greater thinker Kautilya reminded his king of his duty.

            Here are excerpts of a letter written by Kautilya to Emperor Chandragupta. I am grateful to Sri Krishan Kak for bringing it to my attention. The wording may not be exact, but still contains enough wisdom for the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister to read and benefit from. (Their masters in 10 Janpath would benefit too, but they lack the literacy to read it, let alone appreciate its perennial wisdom.) Kautilya discretely but firmly reminded the king that his safety and security as well as of his empire depend on the trust and sacrifice of his soldiers.

            “The Mauryan soldier does not the Royal treasuries enrich nor the Royal granaries fill. He does not carry out trade and commerce nor produce scholars, littérateurs, artistes, artisans, sculptors, architects, craftsmen, doctors and administrators. He does not build roads and ramparts nor dig wells and reservoirs. He does not do any of this directly.

            “The soldier only and merely ensures that the tax, tribute and revenue collectors travel forth and return safely; that the farmer tills, harvests, stores and markets his produce unafraid of pillage; that the trader, merchant and financier function and travel across the length and breadth of the realm unmolested; that the savant, sculptor, maestro and mentor create works of art, literature, philosophy and astrology in quietitude; that the architect designs and builds his Vaastus without tension; that the tutor and the priest teach and preach in peace; that the rishis meditate in wordless silence; that the doctor invents cures and medicines undisturbed; that the mason and bricklayer work unhindered; that the mother and the wife go about their chores and bring up children in harmony and tranquility; that the cattle graze freely without being lifted or stolen.

            “Pataliputra reposes each night in peaceful comfort, O King, secure in the belief that the distant borders of Magadha are inviolate and the interiors are safe and secure, thanks only to the Mauryan Army standing vigil with naked swords and eyes peeled for action, day and night, in weather fair and foul, all eight praharas (round the clock), quite unmindful of personal discomfort and hardship, all through the year, year after year.

            “While the citizenry of the State contributes to see that the State prospers and flourishes, the soldier guarantees it continues to EXIST as a State! To this man, O Rajadhiraja, you owe a debt: please, therefore, see to it, on your own, that the soldier continuously gets his dues in every form and respect, be they his needs or his wants, for he is not likely to ask for them himself.”

            Then Kautilya, known also as Chanakya gave his king this blunt warning: “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha for then, on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King!”

            If the Indian state has been reduced to this condition, its people don’t deserve to be defended by soldiers willing to lay their lives down for the country. Why fight and defend a government and a people who don’t care for them?

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal