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Monday, 3 December 2012

From Today's Papers - 03 Dec 2012
Should Army officers be allowed to marry foreigners?
A disturbing trend of playing to a liberal gallery is leading a section of the judiciary to give low weightage to rules regarding such a sensitive service as the Indian Army. Recently, the Karnataka High Court dismissed a writ appeal by the Army challenging a single judge order directing it to allow an officer to resign in order to marry a foreigner. On November 21, 2012, a division bench headed by Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen dismissed the appeal, told the Army not to behave like a ‘khaap panchayat’, and imposed costs of Rs 75,000 on the service.
Briefly, Major Vikas Kumar, serving in the Corps of Signals and a resident of Koramangala, Bangalore, sought permission to marry Arnila Rangamali Gunaratne, a Sri Lankan national residing in the same area. The Army rejected his application on September 19, 2011 and refused to discharge him from service to facilitate the marriage. He approached the High Court where Justice BS Patil on December 7, 2011 directed the Army to consider his application and relieve him from service. The Army ignored the directions and Kumar again approached the court. On June 18, Justice HN Nagamohan Das quashed the Army order rejecting his application.
The Army challenged this order, but a division bench headed by the Chief Justice held that the Army could not have refused discharge to the Major as directed by the single judge. Counsel for the Union Government said the Army did not consider the Major’s application as the girl had not consented to taking up Indian citizenship, so the Major could lose terminal benefits. Untimely termination of service involves refunding the entire cost of training incurred by the State.
While not quibbling over the legal merits of the case, one feels the bench took an unduly liberal approach to the issue. The Corps of Signals is an extremely sensitive wing handling communications and surveillance activities. Yet the High Court saw nothing amiss in a serving officer of the rank of Major becoming intimate with a foreign national.
The Court showed disdain for the authorities ordering a probe into how the officer came into contact with a foreign national. This is surely the crux of the matter – how the officer was introduced to the lady; how the relationship grew into a desire for marriage; and whether any breach of security had taken place in the interregnum.
When the Army frowned on the relationship and refused to release the officer on grounds of a severe staff crunch (a well-known fact), the Chief Justice reprimanded the Army for acting like a ‘khaap panchayat’ saying, “We can’t understand the Army’s stand at all. This is most unfortunate for the man. One of India’s Presidents, also the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, was married to a foreigner”.
This reference to the late KR Narayanan who married Ma Tint Tint of Burma while serving in the Foreign Office cannot be used to establish a convention or legal precedent that civilian or military officers of the Government of India can marry foreign nationals.
Unfortunately, under the Nehruvian dispensation, IFS officers closely aligned with the ruling elite have been permitted to marry foreign nationals and remain in service, too often holding senior and sensitive posts, something unheard of in other major world capitals. An equal number of serving officers have been denied permission to marry foreigners, on seemingly ad hoc grounds.
It cannot be accidental that all officers permitted to marry foreigners and remain in service were those who married citizens of Western nations, or their known client states. Permission was invariably denied to persons on the wrong side of Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain, despite the supposed Socialist leanings of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Left-leaning intellectuals, who have dominated the public discourse in India, never highlight this anomaly because Marxism (in its varied strains) is a Western ideology and they derive their legitimacy from a coterie of academics and activists rooted in Western universities.
Thus, secularists, socialists, assorted leftists, human rights wallahs, jholawallahs et al are all creatures from the Western stable, with one thing in common – a deep fear and hatred of India’s native civilisation and culture, and its taking its legitimate place in the public arena. Their internal struggles vis-à-vis each other have never been allowed to ignore this reality. In recent years, a section of the Judiciary has begun to seek approval from this gallery. Orders which undermine the famed discipline of the armed forces derive from this tendency.
In a similar recent case, Major Yogesh Chandra Madhav Sayankar of 60 Rashtriya Rifles (Naga), serving in Jammu & Kashmir, took the Chief of Army Staff, Director General of Military Intelligence, and others to court over permission to marry Shruti Kulkarni, a US citizen.
Denied permission to resign and marry a foreigner, he challenged the same under Article 226 of the Constitution. Major Sayankar had met Shruti Kulkarni while on vacation in Pune in 2009, through mutual friends, and they got engaged in December 2009. She was unwilling to renounce her American citizenship, so he sought release from service, presumably to settle with her in the US.
The Army argued in Court that the petitioner was a permanent commissioned officer in a service responsible for protecting the nation, and there is a severe deficiency in the cadre. If an officer is allowed to resign to marry a foreign national refusing to accept Indian citizenship, it may set an incorrect precedent. In future, officers could seek to resign to contest elections or form trade unions, which are unacceptable in the Armed Forces.
The petitioner in this case expressed willingness to reimburse the cost of his training, approximately Rs 3 lakh, and finally married against Army advice – a severe breach of discipline. In the circumstances, on March 25, 2011, a bench headed by Bombay High Court Chief Justice SJ Vazifdar asked the authorities to accept the officer’s resignation.
Clearly, our contemporary environment does not favour old fashioned nationalism.
14 die as Taliban storm Afghan NATO base

Jalalabad, December 2
At least 14 persons were killed when Taliban insurgents launched a major suicide attack against a NATO base at an Afghan city airport. Several foreign troops were injured in the attack, officials said.

Nine attackers were among those killed, some blowing themselves up in two vehicles at the perimeter gate of the Jalalabad airport and others shot as they attempted to storm the base, the police said.

NATO helicopters fired on the insurgents as they followed up the car bombing with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms fire.

The Taliban claimed insurgents had entered the airport, which is close to the eastern border with Pakistan, but this was denied by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“Insurgents including suicide bombers attacked the perimeter of the Jalalabad air base this morning,” a spokesman told AFP. “None of the attackers succeeded breaching the perimeter.

“I can confirm that there were helicopters involved in the coalition response to the attack.

“A number of ISAF forces were wounded,” he added, noting that it was ISAF policy not to disclose the number of those injured.

The airport complex has multiple layers of security, with the NATO base set well back from the first entrance, which an Afghan official said had been breached.

Three Afghan guards were killed and 14 wounded, while two civilians also died and four others were injured, police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal told AFP.

“First there was a car bombing next to the entrance followed by gun attack by the insurgents,” a senior Afghan security official said. “They couldn’t reach NATO forces and they were killed in the area between the first and second gates.” — AFP
Menon in Beijing; Army chief reviews border security

Kolkata, December 2
On a day when National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon arrived in Beijing for carrying forward the border talks, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh reviewed the operational preparedness of troops along the China border in the NorthEast.

“Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag briefed the Army Chief on the operational preparedness and the security scenario in the eastern region,” a defence spokesperson said. The Eastern Command is in-charge of securing the region east of Kolkata up to Arunachal covering boundary with China.

India is upgrading its defence preparedness along the eastern boundary by raising more troops, new formations and deploying more lethal assets such as the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.

This was Gen Singh's maiden visit to the Fort William-based Command headquarter since taking over as Army Chief on May 31, this year.

The visit follows his earlier visits to the three Corps headquarters under Eastern Command based at Sukna, Dimapur and Tezpur in recent months.

“It is virtually a homecoming,” said Gen Singh on arrival. Having commanded the Eastern Command for over two years, this is one formation that is very close to my heart," he said.

As a mark of respect to former Prime Minister I K Gujral, who passed away on Friday, several planned social events were cancelled during the visit, the spokesperson said.

The Army Chief, who has so far addressed nearly 16,000 officers during his official visits to various formations and units across the country, including via video conferencing, addressed over 250 officers posted in and around Kolkata.

Sharing his vision to enhance operational effectiveness of the Army, he dwelt on some of the thrust areas that include effective fulfilment of the constitutional obligations and assigned roles, including force modernisation as per stipulated time lines.

Gen Singh also stressed on effective human resource management to ensure highest standards of motivation and morale.

“In my reckoning, unless these people are happy, the Army cannot be strong and happy. We cannot afford to ignore our ex-servicemen and 'veer naris' (war widows)” he said, while delving on various measures initiated for their welfare.

Menon in Beijing for talks

Beijing: In the first high-level Sino-India contact since the once-in-a-decade leadership change in the ruling CPC, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon arrived here on Sunday for wide-ranging talks on bilateral ties, including the vexed border issue.

During his three-days stay here, Menon would be meeting some of the new leaders elected during last month's Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) to succeed the outgoing administration headed by President Hu Jintao.

There is no official announcement here about Menon's schedule.

Besides holding talks with his counterpart and China's top diplomat Dai Bingguo, who too would retire in March next year, Menon is expected to call on Vice Premier Li Keqiang, the number two leader in the seven-member new Standing Committee of the party headed by General Secretary Xi Jinping, according to official sources.

Li is tipped to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao when he steps down in March after which a new administration headed by Xi, who would replace President Hu Jintao, would take over power formally.

The two officials designated as Special Representatives for the talks to resolve the border issue would review the progress achieved during the last 15 rounds of parleys and exchange views on a wide spectrum of bilateral relations, according to officials.
Pak civilian regime hesitant to address core issues: India
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, December 2
As the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government nears completion of its five-year term in office in March, New Delhi believes the civilian regime in Islamabad has shown sincerity in taking the bilateral relationship forward though it is hesitant to address issues of vital importance to India because of domestic reasons.

“Our experience over the last two-three years with the civilian leadership has shown that the focus is on improving relations on the commercial side, particularly trade and connectivity, as also on people-to-people contacts,” senior government sources said.

They pointed out that it was apparently dawning on the leadership in Islamabad that an improved relationship with India was in Pakistan's own national interest as it would fetch the country rich economic dividends.

The sources said Pakistan was now ready to open with India in areas in which it was not even possible to imagine a few years back. They also referred to the upcoming cricket series between India and Pakistan in December-January, which has already led to an unprecedented excitement among the lovers of the game in the two countries.

However, the sources emphasised that it could not be business-as-usual between the two countries until Pakistan showed sincerity in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. They regretted that the seven suspects accused of playing a role in the Mumbai mayhem were yet to be prosecuted in Pakistan. Despite repeated requests, Islamabad has still not provided to New Delhi the voice samples of the Pakistan-based handlers of the terrorists who massacred 166 people in Mumbai four years back.

New Delhi is well aware of the fact that Pakistan's policy on India was not decided in Islamabad but at the Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi. But it has no intention to open a direct dialogue with the Pakistan Army and would like democracy to take roots in the neighbouring country.

The sources also drew attention to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's articulation on several occasions that peace with Pakistan was in the larger economic interest of India. He has long held the view that India could not take its rightful place in the comity of nation as long as relations with Pakistan were tense.

Asked about the much-anticipated visit of Manmohan Singh to Pakistan, the sources said the trip has been on India's 'radar' for quite some time now. The PM himself was keen on the visit but at the same time, he also wanted that such a trip should be result-oriented and not an exercise in futility.

Key demands remain unheeded

    Seven suspects accused of playing a role in the Mumbai mayhem were yet to be prosecuted in Pakistan
    Despite repeated requests, Islamabad has still not provided to New Delhi the voice samples of the Pakistan-based handlers of the 26\11 attackers
Factors behind Gaza war
Why did Israel agree to ceasefire?
by CR Gharekhan

Available evidence suggests that the November 14-21 war between Israel and Hamas started with the targeted assassination of Ahmad Jabari, the military commander of Hamas, on November 14. We have this on the authority of Gershon Baskin, the Israeli peace activist who played the key role in mediating the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by and remained in the custody of Hamas for five years until his release in 2011. During the course of that mediation, Baskin had established close working relationship with Jabari.

Baskin makes it clear that he did not trust Jabari whom he held responsible for several anti-Israeli terror attacks. But he did feel that establishing contact with Jabari could pave the way for an extended truce with Hamas. Accordingly, he was actively engaged in contacting Jabari through the Egyptian intelligence. Baskin says that he had forwarded the draft of a proposal which could have served as the basis for working out a long-term truce. Baskin had no illusions and he could not be certain of the prospects of his efforts, but he does feel strongly that Israel destroyed any chance of making progress by assassinating Jabari on the day he had sent his proposal. Once Jabari was killed, there was no way Hamas would not respond. 'Jabari is dead, and so is the chance for a mutually beneficial long-term ceasefire understanding,’ Baskin wrote.

Of course, Israel has the right to defend itself. As an independent, sovereign country, and a member of the United Nations, it has, like other states, every right to protect its land and people against foreign aggression as also to take measures to deal with terrorist acts. But when certain states declare repeatedly that Israel has the right to defend itself, this implies that it has the right to use indiscriminate and disproportionate force. What about people in the Gaza Strip? Do they have the right to defend themselves? What exactly is the legal status of Gaza? It is an 'occupied territory'. Israel pulled out its settlers from the strip a few years ago but that did not make it an 'unoccupied' territory. Israel has maintained its tight grip on the strip in the form of a siege for the past half a dozen and more years; in fact, since 1967.

Israel's right of self-defence must be matched with the Palestinians' right of self-determination; that is the proper equation. The right of self-determination carries with it the right to resist foreign occupation, but it does not confer any right to kill innocent people. Nearly every definition of terrorism permits the right to use force against occupiers, against their armed people, such as the settlers in occupied areas, but not to kill innocent civilians.

The primary cause for the periodic hostilities between Israel and Gaza is the non-recognition by Israel and the West of the result of the democratic election in the Palestinian territories held in 2006. When Hamas won the overall majority in the occupied territories, Israel and the United States refused to accept the verdict of the people. That was certainly a case of selective respect for democracy. Some observers believe that President Abbas was not unhappy at the decision not to recognise the result of the election.

Hamas' coup against Fateh in June 2007 divided, for good it would seem, the Palestinian national movement. Several efforts by Egypt and one by Saudi Arabia to reconcile the two have failed. After the ceasefire agreement with Israel of November 21 Hamas seems to have become more self-confident. Its political leadership has made statements indicating willingness to discuss unifying nationalist ranks. Hamas Prime Minister Haniye reversed his earlier position and extended support to President Abbas' initiative in the UN demanding observer state status for Palestine. This change is probably tactical. The one thing that Hamas desires is to be accepted into the fold of the PLO, which Fateh has resisted. Fateh fears that if Hamas becomes a part of the PLO, it would slowly but surely take over the organisation which, officially, still is recognised as representing all the Palestinian people.

Israel's main objective in launching the offensive was to destroy or capture Fajr-5 rockets supplied by Iran, but that would have involved a massive ground operation with many risks, including Israeli casualties and forfeiting whatever sympathy it had won, with a condemnatory resolution in the United Nations a certainty. At some stage, the possibility of Hizbollah joining in the war might also have occurred to Israel.

The question arises: why did Netanyahu agree to the ceasefire, without achieving any real success? He even managed to further weaken Abbas' position with his people, an outcome he may or may not have wished. Under the circumstances, Abbas had no choice but to proceed with his initiative in the UN despite American threats to cut off all assistance; backing down to American pressure would have completely destroyed him politically. One report suggests that in return for agreeing to the ceasefire, Netanyahu has obtained President Obama's commitment to deploy American troops in Sinai with a view to intercepting the material coming from Sudan and Libya for Hamas; this does not seem plausible since it would presuppose the consent of the Egyptian President for such deployment, something Mohamed Morsi cannot afford to agree to.

The war gave Israel an opportunity to test its Iron Dome missile defence system which proved its effectiveness by destroying more than 60 per cent of incoming rockets. But Hamas has emerged the clear winner. Its isolation has ended and its prestige has gone up in the region. The North African Arab states, where Arab Spring has happened, have had to come out in its support. In addition to the $400 million pledged by Qatar before the hostilities started, Hamas will surely receive aid from some Arab states for reconstruction. Its support base in the West Bank has increased. The day after the ceasefire, Israel rounded up 50 Hamas activists in the West Bank. Ever since the flotilla affair, Hamas has developed close relations with Turkey which, till then, was close to Israel. Hamas has been smart in supporting the Syrian rebels , in the process upsetting Iran, its benefactor so far, and relocated its presence from Damascus to Jordan and Egypt. It has obtained Israel's commitment to keep open the border crossings permitting the movement of goods and people between Gaza and Israel; Israel, of course, will maintain the blockade of Gaza. The tunnels between Gaza and Egypt will become fully operational and all sorts of stuff will come into the strip. Hamas will get ready for the next round, with the help of some members of the international community.

Obama, in his second term, has the opportunity to try and break the deadlock on the Palestinian issue. He knows that this is one problem which makes his country very unpopular in the Middle East and is a drag on the US policy towards the whole region. It is used by the radicals to justify their extremism. Hamas has made a few moderate noises. Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas, said in Cairo on November 21 that he would accept a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as capital and the right of return. The significant point is that he is not demanding the establishment of a Palestinian state on the whole of historical Palestine, thus implicitly accepting the existence of Israel. Incidentally, when Hamas fought the election in 2006, it tacitly recognised Israel since the elections were held within the ambit of the Oslo accords which explicitly recognised Israel. His demand regarding Jerusalem and the right of return can be negotiated. He says categorically that when the Palestinian state is created, that will be the time to think of recognising Israel. If Israel is genuine about the two-state solution, it will have to engage Hamas, in addition to Fateh, in negotiations.

Israel will have election in January, and if Netanyahu wins the polls there would be no reason for optimism. He is on record as having opposed the Oslo accords and has taken the position that a future Palestinian state can have no more than 40 per cent of the West Bank. This writer has long maintained that the Palestinian problem is unlikely to be resolved for a very long time.
Tata to unveil India's first indigenous 155 mm Bofors-type howitzer

The Tata group is to unveil India's first indigenously developed 155 mm howitzer in New Delhi on Monday.

The 155/52 mm howitzer is mounted on an eight-wheeled Tata truck for enhanced mobility. The gun was developed by its defence subsidiary Tata Power Strategic Electronics Division (SED) this year. The 'mounted gun system' can fire a six-round salvo on a target 40 km away in less than three minutes.

The truck-mounted howitzer will be displayed at an army seminar at the Maneckshaw centre tomorrow. The rollout comes even as the Indian Army and the Ministry of Defence have struggled to import howitzers over the past 25 years.

The Army acquired its last howitzers over 25 years ago, 410 FH-77B howitzers from AB Bofors of Sweden in 1987. Since then, the army's howitzer arsenal has been critically depleted.

Tata Power SED, the defence arm of the $ 100 billion Tata group, began work on its 'Mounted Gun Project' over two years ago. The prototype gun was rolled out of the Tata Power SED facility in Bangalore's electronic city this October. It will spearhead the group's bid for the Army's requirement for 814 mounted gun systems for Rs.8500 crore.

The Tata gun is India's first new howitzer since its purchase of Bofors guns. The subsequent bribery scandal torpedoed the acquisition of additional howitzers from Sweden.

The Bofors howitzers performed spectacularly in the Kargil conflict of 1999. The Indian Army wants to buy over 2200 such howitzers in five different categories but has been unable to do so because of other bribery scandals involving firms like Rheinmetall, Singapore Technologies Kinetics, Soltam and Denel.

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