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Tuesday, 8 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 08 Jan 2013
Ladakh fracas: Disciplinary action okayed against 16 Armymen
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, January 7
Nearly seven months after officers and jawans of an artillery regiment clashed at Nyoma near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in southeastern Ladakh, a Court of Inquiry (CoI) has blamed as many as 56 personnel, including at least five offices, for the incident.

Sources reveal that the CoI has recommended disciplinary action against 16 personnel, including the regiment’s commanding officer, second-in-command and three other officers for failure of command and control, assault, indiscipline and other lapses. In addition, administrative action has been recommended against 40 other personnel for their role in the incident.

The CoI, presided by Brig Ajay Talwar, Deputy General Officer Commanding 3 Infantry Division has forwarded its findings and recommendations to Headquarters 14 Corps at Leh. The CoI had examined 220 witnesses, including officers, JCOs and other ranks, besides five civilians.

Initiation of disciplinary action could, depending upon the outcome of subsequent examination of the CoI report and other legal provisions and decision of the competent authority thereof, entail that those held blameworthy may end up being tried by a general court martial. On May 10 last year, three officers and eight jawans, including the commanding officer of 226 Field Regiment, were injured in the fracas at Mahe firing range near Nyoma, around 20 km from the LAC.

According to earlier reports, the incident had occurred after a Major thrashed a jawan for allegedly misbehaving with his wife. The jawan was not allowed medical treatment which created resentment among other troops. The commanding officer immediately reached the site and admonished the Major publicly, following which he was himself assaulted by the Major and other officers. This further angered the troops who beat up the officers. The Army had termed the incident as “an isolated case of indiscipline”.

The incident

On May 10 last year, three officers and eight jawans, including the commanding officer of 226 Field Regiment, were injured in the fracas at Mahe firing range near Nyoma, around 20 km from the LAC.

CoI findings

    A Court of Inquiry has blamed as many as 56 personnel, including at least five offices, for the incident
    It has recommended disciplinary action against 16 personnel, including the regiment’s commanding officer, second-in-command and three other officers for failure of command and control, assault, indiscipline, etc
    In addition, administrative action has been recommended against 40 other personnel for their role in the incident
Budget curbs will hit IAF overhaul, says Air Chief

Phalodi (Rajasthan), January 7
The decision to curtail the defence budget by Rs 10,000 crore will affect Air Force modernisation projects and the issue will be taken up with the government, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said today.

Browne, who was on a visit to Phalodi Air Force Station near Jodhpur, told reporters that the IAF is on a modernisation spree on various fronts and this has been possible "due to generous sanctioning of the budget by the government and its full utilisation". However, he said, the "curtailment (of budget) will affect modernisation of the Air Force. We will take up the issue with the government in order to work out some solution." The government has imposed around five per cent cut in the Rs 1.93-lakh-crore defence budget in view of the economic slowdown following which key deals like procurement of 126 multi-role combat aircraft are likely to be pushed to the next fiscal.

The Ministry of Finance recently conveyed to the Defence Ministry that there would be a cut of around Rs 10,000 crore. "We look forward to complete modernisation of the IAF by 2022," Browne said, adding that the pace will be affected by the curtailment of budget. Browne was on a visit to Phalodi Air Force Station where he formally inducted the 5th helicopter unit of the upgraded MI-17 V5, a medium-lift chopper. The 6th unit of this helicopter will be deployed in Eastern Command at Hashimara air force base in Assam. "Contract has been signed for 59 more such helicopters," he said. Referring to Phalodi station as strategically important considering its location on western border, the air chief said that the station is being developed expeditiously. Browne said that in the upcoming air exercises, Iron Fist and Live Wire, it will a base for fighter detachment and will play a crucial role Indigenously developed fighter Tejas will also be participating in this exercise Iron Fist for the first time. "This helicopter squadron will now be permanently based on Phalodi base and very soon fighter squadrons will also be deployed here, which will strengthen our position in the western sector," he said. — PTI
7 CRPF men killed in encounter with Maoists

Latehar (Jharkhand), January 7
Seven CRPF personnel were killed and at least nine others injured in a fierce gun battle with Maoist guerrillas in Latehar district today.

Jharkhand Director General of Police G S Rath told PTI that nine/ten other personnel from both CRPF and Jharkhand Jaguar were injured in the gun battle with the Maoists near Katila locality of Amuatikar village of the district.

The CRPF had rushed to the spot after police got information that several Maoist guerrillas, including those from outside the state, had assembled near the place. The encounter broke out when the Maoists from a hill-top fired on the security personnel.

Units drawn from the 112 and 134 battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and state police were out to conduct an anti-Naxal operation when the attack took place.

The security forces have consolidated their positions now and some causalities have been inflicted upon the Naxals too, a CRPF official said in New Delhi. — PTI
‘Guns not a solution to tackle Red rebels’

Jaipur, January 7
Former Army chief VK Singh today blamed successive governments at the Centre and states for the rise of Naxalism in the country, noting that a host of issues like lack of development and violation of people's rights helped strengthening base of the ultras in the country.

"Those who are in power are responsible for the issue of Naxalism. It can not be solved by force deployment, but by social reform and change in policies," Singh said here.

Calling for urgent steps to deal with the challenge in wake of the increasing expansion of Naxals, Singh, however, said the issue could be resolved only through wide-ranging reforms and not by force.

"When CRPF Jawans were killed in an ambush laid by Naxals in Chhattisgarh in 2010, the Centre sought my suggestion over possibility of deployment of Army but I declined because this issue can be solved only by social reforms," he said.

He said factors like injustice on part of the machinery compel people to support Naxals as they start seeing a solution to their problems in the methods used by the ultras.

The number of districts affected with Naxalism was 50 in 1990 and now has increased to around 270, Singh said, underlining the need for urgent attention towards the issue.

General Singh said that ever since his retirement, he has made 'reclaiming India' his mission and objective.

"I read a book in which the author described democracy of the country as kleptocracy, which he explains as a government of the thieves, for the thieves and by the thieves. When scholars are having such a view, I made 'reclaiming India' my objective," he said.

"After retirement, I began to associate like minded people to work together for reclaiming India. I chose to do constructive work to give back to society instead of going to clubs or enjoying golf because I love my people and I want to give them whatever I can," VK Singh said.

Recalling initial days of his career, Singh said becoming Army Chief was not his ambition and he wanted to reach upto the rank of Lieutenant Colonel as his father had retired from this rank.

Singh further said while being in service, he never compromised with self-respect and self-esteem.

"One thing that some armymen do not understand is that a soldier is dedicated to the nation, not to a particular government. This is the reason why army is roped in when other civil arrangements fail," he said.

Singh also laid emphasis on electoral reforms to curb graft, and said corruption was more rampant in civil institutions than in Army. — PTI
AFSPA in J and K
Selective withdrawal may be harmful
by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)

Speaking to the Press on December 21, 2012, Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of J and K, once again demanded selective withdrwal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain districts in the state where insurgent activity is minuscule. He has been persistent in this demand because in his reckoning the situation in the state has vastly improved. Surely, the Chief Minister is well placed to assess the ground reality and the prevailing environment. If he feels confident that in areas from where the AFSPA is removed and military withdrawn, the situation can be handled by the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF,) then why not accept his demand!

However, both the military and the Central government have been opposing this demand, which, in the face of it, appears to be reasonable. There are a number of reasons for Delhi and the military to continue with the application of the AFSPA and deployment of military across the state. For one, Pakistan has not shut down terrorists’ training camps nor has it changed its stance towards the export of terrorist activity in J and K. The military authorities are of the view that the infiltration of terrorists into J and K has not substantially decreased. More importantly, selective lifting of the AFSPA and withdrawal of the military from areas where there is minimal terrorist activity will make the insurgents move into these very areas. After all, insurgents are not tethered to only specific areas of the state.

Once the military moves out from an area and insurgents move in there, the first step they would take is to eliminate all the suspected sources of military intelligence. Even those who were cooperating with the military or even sympathetic to it could be targeted. Insurgents, under normal circumstances, draw sympathy and support from the local population through coercion and terrorising people by resorting to selected killings. But in the case of J and K there exist elements within the state that are perennially in support of the insurgents. Some others work towards perpetuating the uncertainty of the future of the state.

The Indian Army has been engaged in counter-insurgency operations for over six decades. There is no other army in the world which has this range and depth of experience in this field. So, when the military opposes the withdrawal of the AFSPA from certain proposed areas in J and K, the stance rests on this vast experience, gained over a long period of time. On deployment in the insurgency environment, it takes the military considerable time and effort to establish what is called “counter-insurgency grid”: get to know the people, terrain and build intelligence sources. It is this grid and intelligence sources that insurgents invariably target: once the military moves out and they move in. Often, the period of truce or the withdrawal of the security forces is used to regroup themselves.

The AFSPA itself has been under fire. The provocation for a move to abrogate the AFSPA is due to alleged serious violations of human rights by the security forces. Counter-insurgency operations are complex in nature and are carried out under difficult and trying circumstances. Often it is a situation where you kill or get killed. In many encounters, collateral damage in the form of casualties to innocent civilians takes place. During such encounters, invariably it is the insurgents who target innocent civilians knowing full well that it is the security forces who will be blamed. In a virulent insurgency, security forces just cannot operate without the cover of the AFSPA. Without it, there would be much hesitation and caution which would work to the advantage of insurgents.

There has also been a move to water down the contents of the AFSPA. Vested interests have indulged in sustained disinformation and have been demanding removal of certain provisions of the Act. It is not to contend that there are no instances of violation of human rights or highhandedness of security forces. Invariably, the military authorities, in the interest of discipline, etc, have initiated disciplinary action against the offenders.

It is essential to examine, in depth, the likely effect the abrogation of the Act or even diluting its contents will have on such operations. The fact that the Reddy Commission has found it necessary to incorporate provisions of the AFSPA into the Unlawful Activities Act only goes to show that these provisions are essential to combat violent insurgency. However, the fallout of these recommendations, if implemented, is that the Unlawful Activities Act itself will become more rigorous and its application in less hostile situations will invite severe criticism.

Counter-insurgency operations are both difficult and unsavory. They involve mid-night raids on insurgent hideouts, where the exchange of fire is a common feature. Since the initiative is always with the insurgents and death could be lurking behind any corner, bush or house, the situation makes troops edgy and prone to over-reaction. Search operations cause annoyance and inconvenience to those being searched. Where intelligence is inadequate, wrong persons get harassed. Casualties among the security forces often invite over-reaction from them, which the military tries to minimise through training and effective leadership.

Delhi has simply failed in its policies in dealing with insurgencies, be these in the North-East, J and K or elsewhere in the hinterland. Insurgency-plagued states have been flooded with developmental funds with no monitoring system in place. Schemes were completed and hundreds of kilometres of roads built — all on paper — and the funds invariably came back to Delhi to line the coffers of contractors, politicians and bureaucrats. Those funds got deployed in building hotels and farmhouses around Delhi, etc. Disturbing Naga culture, the traditional way of life and exploiting tribal rivalries led to further suspicion and alienation. We have dealt with the people of J and K no differently. The script remains the same; only it is played out differently with certain elements of the state itself joining in this loot. There are others who continue to have a stake in the continuance of insurgency and sustaining an impression of uncertainty of the state's future.

If Omar Abdullah is of the considered view that insurgency in the state is on the vane and he can clearly see its end soon enough, and his police along with Central police organisations can deal with the residual insurgent elements, then he must seek complete withdrawal of the military from this task from all over his state. Selective withdrawal of the military and abrogation of the AFSPA from those areas have its own pitfalls. The troops deployed on the Line of Control need focus only on preventing the infiltration of insurgents into J and K. Equally, the infiltrators who move into J and K, taking routes other than those across the Line of Control, too, need to be checked. Arrangements should be made to ensure safe and unhindered movement of the military’s convoys, etc.

The Chief Minister should also be made to realise that once the military is withdrawn from this task and insurgency picks up again, recalling the Army will make its job doubly difficult. It will take considerable time and result in setbacks and excessive military's casualties in regaining control of the situation.

The writer is a retired Deputy Chief of Army Staff and commanded a corps in J and K during a virulent phase of insurgency.

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