Services chiefs want own man in pay panel
NEW DELHI: It's the armed forces versus the bureaucracy once again. The Army, Navy and IAF chiefs have lodged a strong protest over the composition of the new top-level committee constituted to look into the pay and pension grievances of serving and retired military personnel.
Admiral Nirmal Verma, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne and General Bikram Singh, in separate letters to defence minister A K Antony over the last week or so, have demanded that a military representative should be included in the committee headed by cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth. The panel includes five other top IAS officers, including principal secretary to the PM, Pulok Chatterji, and defence secretary Shashikant Sharma.
"The committee is looking into our pay and pension grievances in terms of parity with the bureaucracy as well as paramilitary forces. But we have no member in it. We got a bad deal in the 6th Pay Commission, where also the military had no representation despite several requests. The story may be repeated again,'' said a senior military officer.
This raising of the ante by the armed forces is reminiscent of the fight they had mounted four years ago over the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission that had rattled the government.
"But the several anomalies in our pay and pension fixation that cropped up were never resolved. The anomalies are creating functional parity problems in the field,'' said another officer.
As earlier reported by TOI, the new panel was set up on July 12 after Antony wrote a frantic letter to PM Manmohan Singh to express serious alarm over the "growing discontentment'' among the armed forces. Antony had warned that unless some corrective action was taken to "calm the restlessness'', the entire matter "may take a bad turn''.
The committee, which has to submit its final report by August 8, is to also look into ex-servicemen's long-standing demand for one-rank, one-pension (OROP), which has time and again been promised by most parties but never been implemented. Agitated ex-servicemen have been holding regular rallies for the last four years over the issue, and returning their medals to register their protest.
For serving military personnel, the committee is tasked to examine a common pay-scale for in-service junior commissioned officers/other ranks; initial pay-fixation of Lt-Colonel/Colonel/Brigadiers and their equivalents; review grade pay; placing all Lt-Generals in HAG+ (higher administrative grade-plus) scale; and grant of non-functional upgrade to armed forces personnel.
For ex-servicemen, the committee is to examine OROP, enhancement of family pension, dual family pension and family pension to mentally/physically challenged children of military personnel.
When talking to uniformed officers in higher military training institutions and forums, I try to emphasise the perils of an industrial age military. The country has far to go to get anywhere near the technologically-efficient, cyber-savvy, 21st-century modern armed forces of the world.
By this measure the United States military, on a scale of one to 10, scores 10. The next most proficient armed services in terms of being operationally networked with modern weapons is the British military, scoring seven. The Indian armed services, by this reckoning, rate a miserable two or less.
We are lucky that the minor foe the Indian military considers its chief adversary and is most prepared to fight — Pakistan — has armed forces on par with our own, quality-wise. It is the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), however, that in bulk may resemble its Indian counterpart, but is undergoing transformation. Because anything the Chinese undertake to do they do with thoroughness, strategic foresight and speed, the PLA, with rapid modernisation underway, expects to get near enough to the US’ standard of military proficiency by 2035, give or take five years. The danger is real, in the event, that the Indian military will be left so far behind, that inside of 15 years it may be reduced to near impotence in hostilities involving the PLA.
That the country is stuck with a military that apparently cannot think straight is in part because there is so little meaningful strategic thinking being done by the uniformed brass when making force planning and acquisition decisions. Modernising, for example, is just another word for a series of programmes to replace one-for-one weapon systems already in the employ of the various combat arms.
This sad state of affairs persists because there is no single officer in the military tasked with the responsibility for creating an integrated force. Thus, the three armed services are on different wavelengths and time-tables to achieve intra-service connectivity, for instance, without any regard to connecting with each other. Hence, the Air Force claims it will be on a comprehensive communications grid by 2015, the Navy is almost there, while the Army still has far to go.
The Task Force on National Security has submitted its report to the government. Cleverly, it has recommended the appointment of a fourth four-star officer as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CCOS), with the three service chiefs as members alongside. This gets around the tricky problem of a five-star rank officer as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), out-ranking, and, therefore, lording it over the three services chiefs. In theory, the service chiefs would be free to disagree with the chairman, but, with the Integrated Defence Staff and the Strategic Forces Command, with nuclear weapons under its control, reporting to CCOS, what the military will, in effect, have is a CDS by another name. Together with recommendations to establish a desperately needed Special Forces Command controlling the Army paratroopers and para-commando, the Navy’s marine commando, and the IAF’s Garud detachments, a genuine integration of the acquisition process, and commonality of all logistics structures across the three services — except for the operational logistics arms that will stay with the services, and which reform is, presumably, a precursor to a separate and unified Logistics Command — some organisational transformation may finally get underway.
Actually the Task Force has had a wide scope. It has, for instance, suggested separating the posts of the head of DRDO and science adviser to defence minister to avoid a conflict of interest. After all, one of the reasons for DRDO getting its way all these years without delivering performance commensurate with financial investments in its projects is because the same person overseeing DRDO projects also tells the defence minister about the indigenous projects to prioritise and fund. What is proposed, instead, is a National Technology Council chaired by the defence minister that will include a representative of not just the Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) but also of the budding private sector defence industry. This will even out the playing field somewhat, depending on whether the defence minister prevents the combined megaphone of DPSUs and the Department of Defence Production from drowning out the voice of the private sector.
Also mooted is a scheme for cross-postings of military officers in the ministry of external affairs at many levels, including as joint secretaries, the creation of a bureau of political-military affairs, endowing the Vice- Chiefs of Staff of the three armed services with financial powers akin to that of the defence secretary, and posting of a Major-General-rank officer or equivalent from Navy or Air Force as additional secretary in the ministry of defence (MoD). Further, the Task Force has advised drafting a National Security Doctrine (NSD), and for each of the services to configure their separate service doctrines in line with the NSD.
But the government in its wisdom made the Task Force’s report and recommendations run the gauntlet of inter-ministerial process of consultation. A decade ago the recommendation for a CDS by the Committee on Higher Defence Organisation chaired by K.C. Pant was killed by a similar process. This time around though, the inter-ministerial process is sought to be constrained and time-bound. The concerned ministries whose reactions are being elicited — with the response of the MoD carrying the most weight — are required to furnish detailed explanations for opposing any of the Task Force’s recommendations. And all the reactions are to be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office within three months.
The Cabinet Committee on Security will then be convened to weigh the Task Force’s recommendations in the light of MoD’s formal reactions, should these differ, and approve, amend, or turn down each recommendation in turn. With Cabinet approval in hand, the recommendations are expected to be swiftly implemented.
China test fires “new” missile on Tibetan plateau
DHARAMSHALA, August 1: China successfully test fired three new surface-to-air missiles on the Tibetan plateau sometime last month, prompting further questions on its assertions of a “peaceful rise.”
The exercise, as reported by the People’s Liberation Army’s Daily Online on July 20, was targeted at enemy aircrafts from the “south-east” direction - an obvious reference to India.
The exercise was conducted by the Lanzhou Military Area Command at a mountain pass at an altitude of 5000 metres. Observers believe that the new surface-to-air missile tested has been tailor-made for operations in the high altitude terrain and rarefied atmosphere of Tibet.
The Indian defence think-tank, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, noted that the exercise, apart from testing new equipment in the Tibetan environment, has reportedly helped the unit to gather more than a hundred technical data relating to topics like storage and maintenance of equipment, system coordination and troop mobility in the Tibetan plateau.
IDSA said that a similar test was conducted of two missiles in Horqin grasslands, Tongliao, Inner Mongolia by PLA in September last.
The think tank said China’s latest missile test “reveals the security dilemma existing between these two neighbours” and noted that it could lead to the “further intensification of the perception of an armed conflict and the militarisation of the Himalayan region.”
“Development and deployment of the new missile in Tibet would definitely figure in the acquisition and deployment of matching defence hardware on the Indian said,” IDSA said.
Last week, a senior Indian army officer, posted at North West Frontier joined a growing chorus of Indian military experts, including former Army chief General V.K. Singh and the Naresh Chandra Task Force on national security in calling China an enemy nation.
Indo-Tibetan Border Police DIG, Nagender Singh called China an enemy that could not be trusted and said that in the event of a conflict, China should be given a befitting reply.
"Chinese have shrewd intentions. The country is not reliable. They have always remained our enemy and we can never believe what they say," Singh said.
He added that Indian forces will try to reclaim lost territory that China continues to occupy since the 1962 border war.
The Naresh Chandra task force, appointed to review and suggest new steps to reform the security establishment recommended that India should be prepared militarily to deal with an “assertive” China.
"There is concern about China's policy of "containment" of India, marked by growing Chinese interest in countries of South Asia. China will continue to utilize Pakistan as part of its grand strategy for containing India in a ‘South Asian box,’” the panel says.
China’s defence chief proposes India visit as Indian army delegation visits Tibet
DHARAMSHALA, August 1: China’s Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie has expressed his desire to visit India to bolster defence ties after an Indian army delegation reportedly made a rare visit to Tibet last month.
Although details are scare, the multi command Indian military delegation headed by a Major General made a day long visit to Lhasa, Tibet’s capital on July 11 and interacted with the officers of a Chinese military regiment based there.
The visit, seen as efforts by both the Asian giants at improving military ties, was hosted by the Chengdu Military Region, responsible for guarding the disputed border with India.
Recently, Ambassador S Jaishankar became the first Indian envoy to travel to Tibet in a decade. His visit came on the heels of New Delhi’s request to re-open its consulate in Lhasa, fifty years after it was shut following the 1962 border war between India and China.
The last time an Indian military delegation visited Tibet was in August 2009, when Lt Gen V.K. Singh, then Army Commander, Eastern Command paid a weeklong visit to Tibet and China.
According to The Hindu, General Liang will likely visit New Delhi in September, shortly before the 18th Party Congress opens in Beijing to finalise China’s once in a decade leadership change.
The paper quoted sources as saying that the Indian government has “responded positively” to his proposal.
India and China, after becoming neighbours in 1959 with China’s occupation of Tibet, have shared strained military relations that even saw a complete suspension of defence exchanges in 2010 for more than one year.
The People’s Liberation Army had refused to host the then head of the Northern Command, Lieutenant General B.S. Jaswal, on the grounds that he was serving in the “sensitive” region of Jammu and Kashmir.
Army chief meets Rajasthan chief minister
aipur, Aug 1 — Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh Wednesday met Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to exchange views on civil-military relations.
According to a defence ministry official, Gen. Singh was accompanied by Lt. Gen. Gyan Bhushan, chief of the city-based South Western Command, to the chief minister's official residence here.
"They exchanged views on various issues pertaining to civil military relations and also discussed mutual assistance programmes towards development projects and human resources progression in the region," the official said.
They also discussed enhanced incentives for gallantry awardees, establishment of a Rajasthan Ex-servicemen's Corporation and provision of land and monetary grants for the army's welfare schemes, the official added.
The army chief was in Jaipur on a two-day visit to the formation headquarters here.
Gen. Singh, after the meeting with the chief minister, left for Bathinda in Punjab to visit the 10 'Chetak' Corps before returning to Delhi.
Indian Army Chief Visits South west Command
The Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh accompanied by the Army Commander called on Mr Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister Rajasthan, today at Jaipur. They exchanged views on various issues pertaining to civil military relations and also discussed mutual assistance programmes towards development projects and human resources progression in the region. The civil and military dignitaries also had wholesome interaction during the session on enhanced incentives for awardees, establishment of Rajasthan Ex-serviceman Corporation and provision of land and monetary grant for welfare schemes of the Army, which highlighted the concerns of Rajasthan Government towards service veterans. Army Chief thanked the Chief Minister for the positive initiatives in addressing the aspirations of Ex-Servicemen and Veer Naris by the Rajasthan Government.
Gen Singh thereafter departed for Bathinda to visit the Chetak Corps, prior to their return to Delhi.