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Thursday, 16 August 2012

From Today's Papers - 16 Aug 2012
Antony promises the eradication of corruption within the Indian Army
On the eve of the 66th Independence Day of India, the defence minister, AK Antony announced additional incentives and perks for the servicemen.
The minister claimed that the defence ministry has completed the construction of 54,000 houses for the servicemen, with another 70,000 units nearing completion. He also maintained that he is committed to the eradication of corruption from the Indian Armed Forces, an issue which has been highlighted by the former army chief, General Vijay Kumar Singh.

The minister conceded that corruption was a serious issue within the armed forces, and that it has badly affected the morale of the troops. Antony also said that corruption in the defence sector can adversely affect the national security, besides having many other implications. He claimed that the defence ministry has already undertaken various methods increase the transparency fairness in the armed forces, thereby reducing the incidents of corruption. He urged the soldiers to work with honesty, hard work, and determination, while speaking in his annual address to the nation.

Antony also said that he has taken steps to ensure the quality of food rations, uniforms, and accommodation given to the soldiers. He further added that the “Aahar” ready-to-eat meals, developed by the defence scientists will be available to the troops within a few months time. He said that the new diet will take care of the nutritional needs of the servicemen, while providing food with a great deal of freshness. He also promised to upgrade the existing schemes which are available to the troops, such as the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) and Married Accommodation Project (MAP).

Talking about the modernisation and indigenization plans of the Armed Forces, Antony said that the latest additions to the Indian Navy, such as the Shivalik class frigate INS Sahyadri, and the Akula class submarine INS Chakra will go a long way in strengthening the capabilities of the naval forces. He also pointed out the opening of the naval air station INS Baaz in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and claimed that the Indian Navy is fully capable of countering any external pressure on the region. He also added the development of the locally designed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is progressing well.
Pakistan Army, Rangers fire on Indian posts on LoC, border

jammu, Aug 15 — Pakistan Army violated the ceasefire for second day Wednesday by firing at two Indian positions on the Line of Control (LoC) late evening on India's Independence Day, army

The incident occurred a few hours after a Border Security Force (BSF) outpost on the international border was attacked.

The army sources said that Pakistani army opened "unprovoked firing" at Kirpan and Kranti posts on the LoC.

The two posts, about 250 km northwest of Jammu, were fired on "indiscriminately by the Pakistani army", the sources said, adding there was no report of any casualty or injury to anyone so far.

"The Indian Army returned the fire after sometime to silence Pakistani guns," they said.

The exchange of fire was going on.

Earlier in the day Pakistani Rangers opened unprovoked fire in Hira Nagar sector of the international border (IB), according to BSF sources.

BSF sources said the Rangers opened fire at Pansera post close to the zero line on the international border, about 65 km south west of Jammu. The firing lasted for over half an hour.

The Indian side did not retaliate, the sources said.

Pakistani Rangers and Army had earlier in the day sent sweets to their Indian counterparts on India's Independence Day.

Pakistani Rangers have been firing at Indian posts almost regularly for the past one week. This was the seventh such incident in the past week, the sources said.

The firing was also a violation of a ceasefire that the Indian and Pakistani governments had agreed to adhere to in November 2003.
India signed just 19 defence offset accords in seven years
By Jon Grevatt

India has completed just 19 defence offset contracts in the seven years since the country's offset policy was introduced, with the majority attached to military aerospace deals, according to data published by the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The MoD information shows that 14 of the concluded offset deals were linked to defence contracts with the Indian Air Force (IAF), while the remainder were Indian Navy (IN) deals. No offsets have been attached to Indian Army defence contracts.

Additionally, 10 of the offset deals were linked to the supply of military aircraft platforms or services while remaining deals were attached to contracts to provide India with C4ISR and missile-related systems.

Only one deal linked to the purchase of naval vessels has secured defence offset.

In a press statement published on 13 August – which cited information provided to parliament by Indian Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju – the MoD did not reveal the total value of the 19 defence offset deals, but previous MoD statements have put the value at around USD2.5 billion.
Indian Army's Growing Morale Problems
Low pay, incompetent leaders, other problems, lead to fragging, suicides

Rising incidents of violent face-offs between officers and soldiers in the Indian Army are becoming a cause for worry. The reasons relate to harsh service conditions, risk to life and limb, low pay, incompetent leadership and a culture of humiliation of enlisted men by their officers.

At least three incidents of violence have been reported in the recent past, prompting the defense minister, A.K Antony, and Army top brass to conduct brainstorming sessions to prevent such occurrences from turning into a wider trend. By one count, four times as many soldiers die by their own hand as those killed in combat. In the past 10 years, more than 1,000 soldiers have committed suicide, while another 73 have died of “fragging,” a Vietnam War term born of the practice of disaffected US enlisted men killing their superiors with fragmentation grenades.

The latest incident took place at Samba in Jammu & Kashmir and was triggered by the suicide of a jawan, or low-ranking enlisted man. In April, a jawan turned his rifle on four of his comrades and killed them after being given what was perceived as a humiliating dressing-down by superior office. In May, a violent incident took place in Ladakh, while a similar fracas happened in June last year in Punjab.

Last week, Antony publicly expressed concern about the brawls in the first official acknowledgement of the government’s worry over the issue.

“Each incident is a matter of concern to me but armed forces are better trained to handle such situations. They are handling it in their own way. I also had a brief discussion with the Army chief and they are handling it,” Antony said.

Statistical evidence of suicides and fragging in the 1.1-million strong Indian army points to growing levels of frustration among the jawans. In 2003-5, suicides hovered around the 100 mark. They rose dramatically over the next three years to touch 150 in 2008. Since then the number of suicides has gone down but remains over 100 every year. At last count, 26 soldiers had died so far in 2012.

Multiple reasons have been attributed for the discontent. According to studies by the Defense Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR), the major causes of suicides in the army were domestic problems, marital discord, stress and financial problems, with soldiers serving far from home and unable to return to their families to solve the issues. Antony recently quoted the report in the Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament.

Psychological aspects relate to the Army being increasingly deployed in low-intensity but long-running and intractable conflict zones in the northeast, Jammu & Kashmir and lately extended to regions afflicted by leftist Maoist rebellions. Rather than being deployed to prevent or fight a war, the army is too often bogged down in domestic insurgencies, guarding its borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh and sometimes being required to bring civilian riots under control. That has created a peculiar situation in which defense forces must deal with multiple goals of eliminating the enemy while ensuring safety and retaining popular support of civilian population.

An Army jawan trained for all-out war situations is often found wanting in handling the emotional animosities of local populations that perceive security forces as instruments of state oppression and interference. In Kashmir, for example, even an inadvertent road accident could lead to riots across the state.

The same soldier ironically is feted by the country and turned into a hero when he succeeds, often posthumously or by sustaining grievous injuries, in killing terrorists, as happened during the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 or fighting against a foreign enemy during the 1999 high-altitude Kargil conflict in the mountainous border between Pakistan and India, dubbed the world’s highest war.

In fact, along with the army, growing incidence of suicides is being recorded in the paramilitary forces the Central Reserve Police Force or the Border Security Force, which are also deployed in high risk internal conflict areas. The economic factors too cannot be ignored.

The bulk of jawans continue to volunteer for duty from rural areas that are undergoing rapid change due to the effects of urbanization and industrialization. A decade back an Army man’s job was eulogized by folks back home for the sacrifices involved and economic stability that a regular military salary provided.

Today the cost of living has risen much more than the wage increments. Given increased land prices and other avenues of income, the army has lost some of its sheen as a sought-after employer. A recent comment in the Indian media reads:

“An objective review of the manner in which the pay, allowances and status of the military have been lowered over the last two decades reveals some startling facts. The average 'fauji' (soldier) retires at a much younger age than the civilian counterpart who serves up to age 60. Many anomalies abound.”

Indeed, it is important for New Delhi to closely look for solutions to pre-empt the disgruntlement among the jawans turning alarming levels. There are already rising instances of industrial unrest in India.

Dissatisfied workers of car manufacturer Maruti brutally assaulted management cadres recently, killing a senior executive and injuring several others. The Maoist violence in large tracts of Central and Eastern India is linked to mining companies exploiting the local tribal populations resulting in deep grievances.

Unlike its neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal, the Indian army has remained largely apolitical and has worked well under civilian political leadership since India’s independence in 1947. The Indian jawan deserves his due.
Indian Army pays homage to Vilasrao Deshmukh
Soldiers of the Indian Army on Wednesday paid homage to former Union Cabinet Minister for Science and Technology Vilasrao Deshmukh, a day after he passed away due to a liver disorder at a hospital in Chennai.

Deshmukh, who was also a former chief minister of Maharashtra, died at the age of 67, on August 14, after battling a liver disorder for several days.

His body would be taken to Babhalgaon, his native village in Maharashtra's Latur District for the last rites where his supporters and well-wishers, including politicians, are expected to come

Late on Tuesday, the Union Cabinet condoled the passing away of Deshmukh.

The Cabinet passed the following resolution: “The Cabinet has learnt with profound sorrow about the passing away of Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh, Union Cabinet Minister, today (14th August, 2012) at Chennai. The Cabinet condoles the untimely and sad demise of Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh was born on 26.05.1945 at Bhabhalgaon in Latur District in Maharashtra. During his long political career, he worked in different capacities both in the State and the Centre. He was a Member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for a long time. He served as Minister of State and the Cabinet Minister in Maharashtra at different intervals. During this period, he handled important Departments including Home, General Administration, Revenue, Cooperation, Public Works, Transport, Legislative Affairs, Tourism, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development, Fisheries, Industry, Rural Development, Education, Technical Education, Sports and Youth Welfare.

He was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra from October 1999 to January 2003 and again from November 2004 to November 2008.

Shri Deshmukh was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2009. He rendered distinguished service in the Union Council of Ministers and variously held important portfolios of the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, the Ministry of Science & Technology, the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the Union Government.

Shri VIlasrao Deshmukh was a valued Member of the Union Cabinet. He was a grassroots political leader with extraordinary sensitivity to the people’s needs. He left an indelible mark in the Ministries he worked in with his commitment and able leadership.

Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh handled his public responsibilities with tact, politeness and grace. He was held in very high esteem across the political spectrum. In his death, the country has lost a popular leader.

The Cabinet places on record its appreciation of Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh’s services to the nation and deep sense of grief and loss at the passing away of Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh and extends its sincere condolences to the members of his family.”

The politician is survived by his wife and three sons, including a Bollywood actor Riteish Deshmukh.

Time for solution, not mere management of Kashmir issue
On a two day trip to Jammu and Kashmir late last month, defence minister AK Antony politely disagreed with chief minister Omar Abdullah on his demand for selective withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Srinagar, Budgam, Jammu and Kathua districts of the politically sensitive state
but agreed to keep the proposal on high table for continuous review.

Antony significantly, however, asked the Indian Army Commanders and the Central Para-Military Forces heads in the state to reduce troop visibility in the state. While Omar Abdullah went into a sulk after the Anthony snub on the Afspa withdrawal, the defence minister told him that the decision to withdraw the Act was not his alone but of the UPA leadership given its security and diplomatic ramifications on the country.

Even though reducing troop visibility is a forward movement in this security forces infested state, defence minister Antony or for that matter the UPA needs to do much more than this cosmetic measure.

In his farewell speech as Chinar Corps Commander Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain last June talked about declining cross border infiltration levels in the state and improving law and order situation. Despite the infiltration figures routinely bandied about by the government, the fact is that cross border terrorism is at an all-time low and violence levels far less than Naxalite affected states.

The credit for low level infiltration and violence is due to a series of factors within the state and across the Line of Control (LoC) and not only because of the security forces. The debate on Afspa withdrawal may go on but there is a strong need to withdraw security forces in support of maintaining law and order in the state that is again moving very slowly towards the paradise that it once was before the violent 1990s. With over five lakh security personnel deployed in the state, the time has come to dispel the notion of a state under Army occupation.

While the government did  withdraw two divisions worth of forces from the state in 2008 and 2009 respectively, there is still far too much force for counter-insurgency duties. The unfortunate results are unfortunate killings like the one in Bandipora and Shopian in the past two months and even fragging within the Indian Army such as in Samba this month and Nyoma last May. Just as the Indian security forces need relief from counter insurgency duties, so do the people of the state from bunkers with machine guns staring at them.

With Pakistan imploding within, there is an opportunity for New Delhi to shrug off the status quo of managing Kashmir, take some fresh political initiatives and take the wind out of the Kashmiri separatists arguments. A valid point that all Kashmiris ask is why is Army deployed in the Valley every time an incident happens while troops are not sent to Dantewada even if 70 CRPF personnel are shot down by the Maoist rebels.

We need to revisit Kashmir again and relook at deployment of Indian forces in the state as tourism is on an all time high and the state economy is looking up despite poor quality of politicians in the Valley and across the Pir Panjal. There is no need for army to be deployed in the hinterland except for a designated reserve for emergency duties and the military should be handling the LoC to maintain tranquillity on the borders and prevent infiltration,. The CI grid should be handed over to the Central para military forces with local police taking over the law and order functions in cities, towns and villages.

The home ministry and the Intelligence Bureau need to be pinned down on their support for withdrawal of Afspa from the state and live up to expectations on count of counter insurgency and operational or active intelligence. While Kashmir expert Director, Intelligence Bureau Nehchal Sandhu has ensured that IB does not get involved in propping up politicians in the state, the Indian Army should reconsider its deployment in the state as there is a scope for vast improvement. People do not need Sadhbhavana from the Army, they want to be left alone to do their routine chores like cooking breakfast and sending children to school.

It is not that violent incidents will cease all together, but then one needs to distinguish between crime and criminals, terror and terrorists. After all, Delhi is the so called rape capital of India and serious violence is a routine in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. One should remember that the Indian Army was deployed in riot hit Kokrajahar only after home ministry asked for it in writing from the defence ministry on July 25, 2012. No army was called after Maharashtra police mishandled the August 11 riot or the Bareilly riots subsequently.

Jammu and Kashmir residents need to be treated with the same yardstick. Sixty six years after Indian independence, it is time for solution and not mere management of the Kashmir issue.

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