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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

From Today's Papers - 05 Sep 2012
Armed Forces win long standing pay battle in Supreme Court
New Delhi: The armed forces won a landmark victory in their long standing battle to get an anomaly in fixation of pay scales for commissioned officers noticed in the 4th Pay Commission.

The Supreme Court today ordered payment of rank pay arrears to all affected officers estimated to number over 20,000 with effect from January 1, 1986.

The government had been told the pay the arrears within 12 weeks. According to sources, the total outgo to government in making this payment will be over Rs. 1500 crore.

Military lawyers told NDTV that historically the most important litigation involving the military has culminated today.

The Supreme Court decided not to interfere in its earlier decision granting the cumulative benefits and arrears of Rank Pay with effect from 01-01-1986 to all affected officers.

It said the benefits shall be released to all officers irrespective of whether they had approached a judicial forum or not.

According to Major Navdeep Singh who specialises in military cases, this matter was carried over from the 4th Central Pay Commission (CPC) when an integrated pay scale of Rs. 2300-5100 was implemented for officers from the rank of 2/Lieutenant to Brigadier. In addition, rank pay was authorised to officers from the rank of Captain to Brigadier ranging from Rs. 200 to 1200 which was to be added into the basic pay for all intents and purposes.

However, while fixing the pay in the new scales, an amount equal to the rank pay was deducted from the emoluments resulting in financial loss to all affected officers. Hence all officers holding the rank of Captain to Brigadier as on 01-01-1986 suffered cumulative losses, Major Navdeep Singh says. The Kerala High Court in a case filed by Major AK Dhanapalan had termed illegal this deduction of rank pay.

Soon thereafter, many similar petitions were filed in various High Courts all over the country which were clubbed together and transferred to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had on March 8, 2010, upheld the Kerala High Court verdict and granted relief to all similarly placed officers.

Things were, however, not to end there since the government constituted a committee to look into the amount involved and went back to the Supreme Court by filing an application for recall of the order dated March 8, 2010 on the grounds that the monetary outgo will be a big burden on the exchequer and also stating therein that many more issues on the subject were not taken into consideration by the Court and hence the order needed to be recalled, Major Navdeep explained.

The biggest credit, he says should go to Retired Defence Officers' Association (RDOA) who had been unflinchingly following up the matter with great zeal in a very objective and balanced manner.
India, China to resume military exercises
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, September 4
India and China on Tuesday announced a series of strategic defence cooperation initiatives, including renewal of joint Army exercises; ramping up of engagement between the two Navies and continuation of peace and tranquility along the border areas in the Himalayas.

The two rising Asian powers also announced that they would work together to maintain “peace and stability” in the Asia-Pacific. The US has also showed interest and announced a rebalance of its forces towards the region.

The announcements came following a 90-minute meeting between Defence Minister AK Antony and his Chinese counterpart General Liang Guanglie here. Antony termed the delegation-level talks as “very fruitful” and said he had accepted an invitation to visit China next year.

A Ministry of Defence statement announced: “It was agreed by the sides to conduct the next round of joint military exercises at the earliest.” Sources explained this could be possible in the first half of 2013.

Indian and Chinese forces had conducted two joint military exercises code named ‘Hand-in-Hand’ in Karnataka in December 2008 and in Kunming in China in 2007. The exercises came to an abrupt halt in 2009 after Beijing refused a visa to a serving Indian General on the premise that he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir.

The two Defence Ministers “proclaimed their decision to work together to maintain peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region”. In September 2010, an incident involving INS Airavaat in the South China Sea had soured relations. Also, China had not taken too kindly to India’s growing interest in oil-blocks off the shore of Vietnam in the South China Sea.

Just last month, just-retired Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma had said India had no plans for active deployments in the South China Sea, indicating that India was not keen to needle China, which is suspicious of foreign warships trawling that sea.

New Delhi and Beijing also announced the first ever “joint maritime search and rescue exercise” by the navies. Since January this year, the two sides and Japan have been cooperating on the high seas to conduct escort patrols for merchant vessels transiting through the piracy-hit waters of the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.

On border security cooperation between troops, the countries agreed to “enhance and maintain peace and tranquility in border areas”.
For Indo-Pak cordial ties
Promoting people-to-people contacts
by Kuldip Nayar

Some recognition at last. That both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should send messages of goodwill to the Hind-Pak Dosti Manch is a welcome development. The Manch is engaged in an endeavour to improve relations between the two countries. This was the 17th year for its members from the Manch and SAFMA (South Asia free Media Association) in Pakistan to light candles at midnight on August 14-15, when the two countries were born, on the Attari-Wagah border. The sky was rent with slogans like “Long Live India-Pakistan Friendship” and “Dono Bhaiyon ko Milne do” (Let Brothers Meet one Another).

Messages by the two governments are an admission of their mistake to have run down the tiny step taken in 1995, which has become a long stride towards improving relations between India and Pakistan.

Zardari has commended the efforts “in pursuit of shared destiny in the subcontinent.” He has paid homage to all those who have been making systematic and concerted efforts for promoting peace and cooperation in the subcontinent.

“The present democratic government and the people wish to see peace and cooperation flourish in the subcontinent. We are committed to it and hope that the search by the two countries together for a peaceful resolution to all disputes through a sustained and productive dialogue will bear fruit…The two countries need durable peace and security to focus on the social and economic development of their peoples…,” said Zardari.

Manmohan Singh too wrote in the same vein. In his message, he said: “I am happy to know that the Hind-Pak Dosti Manch is organising the 17th India-Pakistan Peace Festival at Amritsar on 14-15 August, 2012, as part of its efforts to build public opinion for peace and friendship in South Asia. The Manch is pursuing a worthy cause because sustained peace and friendship in this region are necessary for South Asian countries to effectively focus their energies on tackling challenges such as hunger, poverty, illiteracy and disease…”

It has not been a pleasant experience to light candles at the border. The anti-Pakistan feeling was dominant when we started the journey. Threats, demonstrations and abusive letters were hurled at us whenever we came to the border to light candles or held seminars to determine what was wrong between the two countries and how it would be eliminated. All these years we have not faltered in our resolve that people-to-people contact is the only way to normalise relations.

Both the Congress and the BJP would scoff at the effort and call us “mombatti wale” to belittle the efforts made to rise above the bitterness of Partition. The Indian government has become somewhat cooperative because it gives us permission to go right up to the zero point, even though the border is under curfew from 8 pm. However, the Pakistan government gives permission to go to the border at midnight after the Zardari government has assumed power.

At the border, we exchange flags and sweets and we also sing together Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s couplet: “Hum dekhenge...” It is an emotional journey for all of us because for the most who come to the border, it is not a nostalgia but a commitment to see that the line drawn does not divide the centuries’ old composite culture. Both Hindus and Muslims have lived together for hundreds of years and shared joys and grief, apart from festivals like Eid and Diwali. Why could not they have lived side by side after Partition?

I feel that it is possible to bring back that spirit provided people from both sides consider that the happenings during Partition were a blot on their long history of togetherness. It should be written off as an aberration. Still I wonder why the relationship going back to hundreds of years collapsed like a house of cards? True, the seeds of bitterness were sown long before Partition. Yet killing the neighbours or kidnapping their women shows that both sides have not risen above the medieval, religious thinking.

We still carry the baggage of history. Books on both sides depict Partition from their point of view and underline the differences over religion. Therefore, it becomes inevitable that the borders between India and Pakistan should soften so that people can go into each other’s country without the hassle of visa or police reporting.

But the worst is the role of fundamentalists, more in Pakistan than in India. They are out to wreck the democratic polity on this side. They are still waging a war of Jihad and the messages and images sent by them to foment the migration of people of the Northeast from the different states to Assam show that. Some Indians too have helped the fundamentalists from across the border in this devious move. I am glad to see that the two countries are cooperating in detecting the guilty and punishing them.

However, the manner in which people from the Northeast were forced to shift to Assam is a sad commentary on our secular polity. Mere 200 messages from across the border have exposed India’s secularism. Suppose there were to be 2,000 next time, what would be the state in the country. This is a serious matter which civil society and the government should ponder over because even after 65 years of Independence, we have not been able to achieve national integration.

My greatest worry is to find India and Pakistan stuck in the status quo. Both countries are traversing the same old beaten path and making no progress. The coming visit of India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna provides both sides with a new opportunity to span at least some distance, even if they do not sign any specific agreement.

What should they be discussing on Afghanistan? If Kabul is taken over by the Taliban, it would have disastrous consequences in the entire region.

The recent attack on the Pakistan Air Force base near Islamabad should be a warning. This means that the Taliban have the capability to strike at any place, any time. On the other hand, Pakistan is not seen doing enough to eliminate terrorism. When people in India find that Islamabad is dragging its feet on punishing the perpetrators of the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, they wonder whether the statements by Pakistan against terrorists are credible.

Pakistan is sending mixed messages. It wants to increase business but some of its leading firms have cancelled big deals at the last minute. In economic ties lie the hope. The two countries must realise this.
HC nod for army event at Shivaji Park
The Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted the Indian army permission to organise a celebratory and informative function at Shivaji Park, Dadar, in December. The ground was declared a silence zone in 2010.

The army plans to hold a ‘Know Your Army Mela’ from December 15-16, with the twin objectives of celebrating ‘Vijay Diwas’ and also enhancing awareness about the Indian Army. Vijay Diwas is celebrated in memory of India’s military victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

In a May 2010 order, a Division Bench of Justices F I Rebello and A A Sayed had directed the conversion of the Shivaji Park area into a silence zone, with some relaxations on special days. After the order, several organisations and political parties have approached the High Court seeking permission to hold various events there.

The plea in this case was filed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The civic body said the army had applied to the Assistant Municipal Commissioner of the G-North ward. The BMC said it was not possible to grant permission owing to the May 2010 order, because of which they approached the HC seeking permission for this specific event. The civic body sought the court’s nod for six days, from December 12-17. “Preparation is planned to be done on a large scale for the event,” the plea stated.

A bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice N M Jamdar has granted permission with a condition that the organisers should restore the ground to its original condition within a week.
Chinese defence minister in India, part of effort to ease tensions
Beijing, Sept. 4:

China’s Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie’s visit to India was part of stepped up diplomacy with neighbouring countries by the Chinese military to reduce suspicion, enhance mutual trust and minimise miscalculations over territorial disputes, official media here reported today.

While Gen Liang, the first Chinese Defence Minister to visit India in eight years, arrived in Mumbai on Sunday, a delegation of the People’s Liberation Army led by Deputy Chief of Staff Gen Ma Xiaotian left on an official visit to Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore on a mission to improve ties.

China, which has an unresolved border dispute with India, also has territorial disputes with Vietnam and Malaysia over the South China Sea.

The flurry of diplomacy by the PLA is conducive to reducing miscalculations amid recent territorial disputes and neighbours’ concerns about China’s military strength, state-run China Daily quoted officials as saying.

It said the military and Foreign Ministry have conducted a number of intensive exchanges this year, with the emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. PLA senior military officials have visited about 20 countries including the US.

China is increasingly using military diplomacy to supplement other exchanges, said Meng Xiangqing, deputy director of the Strategic Research Institute at the National Defence University of the PLA.

The central feature of Beijing’s diplomacy is to create a secure region, but “it will not yield when sovereignty and territory are concerned”, he said.

Wan Wei, a researcher at the Academy of Military Science of the PLA, said the purpose of Liang’s visit to India is “crystal clear. It is a demonstration of goodwill since military ties between the two countries have witnessed twists and turns.”

Liang’s 23-member delegation includes Yang Jinshan, commander of the Tibet autonomous region’s military district bordering India.

Fifteen rounds of high-level talks have been held in a bid to resolve the dispute about where the Himalayan border lies.

Indian and Chinese troops took part in counter-terrorism drills in China in 2007 and in India a year later.

According to Sun Shihai, a member of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, the Sino-Indian relationship is moving forward despite difficulties in the past.

“For two giant powers with geographical proximity, problems and disputes are inevitable. But if compared with 20 years ago, you’ll find overwhelming progress made in the fields of economy and cultural exchanges, security and border issues,” he told the State-run Global Times.
Scrap training programme for Lankan army personnel: DMK
Key United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [ Images ] on Tuesday demanded that the Centre should immediately scrap the training programme for Sri Lankan army personnel in the country, arguing that such exercises create doubts in the minds of people of Tamil Nadu about the government's intentions.

A delegation of DMK MPs led by its Parliamentary Party leader T R Baalu met Defence Minister A K Antony and placed their demands before him, explaining the rationale for wanting scrapping of the training programmee.

Training of Sri Lankan army personnel in India [ Images ] ran into a rough weather after they were shifted from an air force station in Tambaram in Chennai following stiff opposition from political parties and other groups in Tamil Nadu.

In the memorandum submitted to Antony, the MPs said India's training to Sri Lankan personnel after the country voted in favour of a resolution at United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this year against that country, creates "doubts in the minds of people of Tamil Nadu about the intentions of the government."

"To allay such fears and doubts, we urge the Government of India to immediately stop training Sri Lankan army personnel, who are accused of perpetrating war crimes against innocent Tamils in that country," the MPs said.

The DMK lawmakers also complained that the 'no change' stand of the Centre with regard to the training programmee has hurt the sentiments of Tamils across the globe.

The issue has also triggered a letter war in the state with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa [ Images ] and her bete noire and DMK chief M Karunanidhi [ Images ] dashing off letters frequently to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images ] seeking scrapping of the training exercise.

Noting that the United Nations secretary general's panel of experts held the Sri Lanka [ Images ]n forces responsible for horrific war crimes and large-scale human rights violations, the DMK members said, "In this context, imparting training to the Sri Lankan army can be seen as endorsing the genocide committed against Tamils in Sri Lanka."

The memorandum also referred to the recent Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation conference on 'Protection of Right to Life and Livelihood of Eelam Tamils' in Chennai under DMK chief M Karunanidhi's leadership, which had passed a resolution opposing imparting training to the Sri Lankan army men in India.
Over 10,000 soldiers opt out of Indian Army
ew Delhi: In what is being seen as a reflection of the disenchantment affecting Indian Army soldiers in their relation with their officers, more than 10,000 soldiers took pre-mature retirement from the force last year.

Elaborating on the issue in Parliament, defence minister AK Antony said that 10,315 soldiers opted for premature retirement in 2011, while the figure for 2010 and 2009 was 7,249 and 7,499 respectively.

He said that the jawans, who are better educated than in the past, retire around a productive age of 35 years to look out for greener pastures instead of continuing in the force.
Over 10,000 soldiers opt out of Indian Army

With two major incidents of scuffles and stand-offs being reported this year - one in Ladakh and another in Samba sector of Jammu & Kashmir - the defence establishment has taken a serious note of the growing discord between officers and jawans under the hierarchical system adapted from the British Army.

Antony said the government has taken a number of steps to keep up the morale of the jawans. The ministry is also undertaking a review of the system of appointing ‘sahayaks’ (called Batman in army parlance).

Sahayaks are actually combatant soldiers who are attached to senior officers for doing their personal work, from polishing his shoes, to maintaining his uniform, taking children to school, doing gardening and assisting the officer’s spouse in her chores.

The Army in April had recommended the abolishing of this colonial-era system and recommended recruitment of civilians for such odd jobs. The proposal has evoked a positive response from the defence ministry but a nod is yet to come as the South Block is reviewing the extra financial burden that the recruitment of civilians will incur.

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