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Thursday, 31 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 31 Oct 2013

Kayani discusses LoC tension with Chinese leaders
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

Gen KayaniNew Delhi, October 30
On a crucial visit to China just a month before his retirement, Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is learnt to have discussed with the Chinese political and military leadership the tension with India over ceasefire violations along the Line of Control.

Security situation in the region and the possible role the two countries could play towards “strategic stability” was also discussed during his meetings with Chinese interlocutors, reports received here said.

Officials said New Delhi was closely monitoring the Pakistani General’s four-day visit to China to see if it had any implications for India against the backdrop of frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along the LoC in the past few months.

The sense here is that the Pakistan Army has intensified its activities along the border with the twin objective of pushing militants into the Kashmir valley and thwarting any attempt at resumption of dialogue between the two countries.

General Kayani, who still holds the veto power on Pakistan’s relations with India, is set to retire in the last week of November. His visit to China is said to be part of the ongoing high-level consultations between the two countries in view of the rapidly changing situation in the region, particularly the endgame in Afghanistan. General Kayani is understood to have discussed with the Chinese military top brass the recently concluded India-Russia defence exercise, “Gang Neva”, along the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan.
Antony blames Pak army for spike in infiltration
Says terrorists can’t sneak in without support of troops on other side
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 30
In a scathing attack on the Pakistan Army, Defence Minister AK Antony on Wednesday accused it of aiding and abetting infiltration of terrorists into India.

“Infiltration is on the rise, and it is going on with the support of elements across the border. I am sure that nothing can happen without the knowledge and tacit support of Pakistan,” the Defence Minister told reporters on the sidelines of a function at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).

Antony said the security forces have observed that the terrorists trying to infiltrate were well-equipped and prepared to sustain for a longer period while carrying out their activities.

"On their side, the border is completely guarded by the Pakistan Army. How can terrorists try to infiltrate into India without the knowledge and support of Pakistan? How can terrorists feel emboldened to increase attempt to infiltrate without the tacit or sometimes open support of the Pakistani armed forces? That is a question worrying us," he said.

About the incidence of firing on the border, he said: “Ceasefire violations are continuing. But this year, unusual developments are taking place. So far, truce violations were taking place only along the LoC. Suddenly, there have been a series of ceasefire violations on the international border. It’s a matter of serious concern.”

“We are repeatedly telling (Pakistan) that India wants improvement in relations. If they are sincere in their attempts, how can this infiltration take place,” he asked.

The Defence Minister said though the level of violations on the international border has fallen down, the armed forces are keeping a watch and are fully prepared to meet any eventuality.

"I am confident that our security forces are able to meet any challenges. They are handling the situation very effectively," he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken up the matter with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif during his US visit in September this year.

On being asked about the newly inked India-China Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), Antony said it was a sincere attempt from both sides to avoid tensions at the border.

On being asked if this could prevent face-off situations like the one in April-May this year, he said: “The fact that we have agreed on a certain set of procedures and mechanisms doesn’t mean nothing will happen. But with the agreement now, if something happens, there are mechanisms to intervene and find solutions. Both sides will make sincere attempts to maintain peace and stability in the border”.

Agusta violated contract

Regarding the Rs 3500-crore deal to buy 12 VIP helicopters and the subsequent show-cause notice to AgustaWestland, the copter-maker, Antony said: “We have to move as per law. They have violated the contract”.

No deadline for fighter jet deal

Antony refused to set a deadline for purchase of 126 fighter jets for the IAF. He said cost negotiations were going on with the French company Dassault Aviation. “I can’t interfere. The government can’t interfere. They have to negotiate, and once that is over there are various other areas of scrutiny.”

On Sino-Indian border pact

The fact that we have agreed on a certain set of procedures and mechanisms doesn’t mean nothing will happen. But with the agreement now, if something happens, there are mechanisms to intervene and find solutions.

Pak opens fire in Akhnoor

Pakistani troops on Wednesday opened fire on forward posts in Jourian sector along the LoC in Akhnoor tehsil of Jammu. “Around 7.45 pm, Pakistani troops opened fire using small arms and automatic weapons in Jourian sector. Our troops responded with similar calibre weapons,” said Jammu-based defence spokesperson, Col RK Palta. An Army source said the Pakistani Army targeted two posts—Sangam and Bada --- in Hamirpur and Gigrayal area of Khour block in Jourian sector.
Pak Army is helping infiltration, says Antony
Taking on the Pakistani military establishment for the spate of violent incidents on the border in Jammu and Kashmir in recent weeks, Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday said that infiltration has been increasing with the tacit support of the Pakistani Army and better-equipped terrorists are attempting to cross over.

The comments were Antony's first on the trouble along the India-Pakistan frontier, which includes an unprecedented exchange of fire between troops of the two countries since the 2003 ceasefire.

Antony said that while ceasefire violations in the past were concentrated on the Line of Control, the recent prolonged firing on the international border in the Jammu area is a matter of "more serious concern".

"Instead of preventing infiltration or trying to minimise infiltration attempts, attempts are increasing. That means, these are going on with the support of elements across the border. But I am sure nothing has happened without the support and knowledge and tacit support of Pakistani Army," Antony said, speaking on the sidelines of an event at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.

Stressing the role of the Pakistani army in the incidents, just as Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh had done, Antony said that there is "open support" in Pakistan for the infiltration attempts.

"On the Pakistani side, the border is completely guarded by the Pakistani Army. How can terrorists try to infiltrate into India without knowledge and support of Pakistan? How can the terrorists embolden to increase the attempt to infiltrate without the tacit or sometimes open support of their armed forces? That is a question that is worrying us," Antony said.

The defence minister also said that the recent spate of infiltrations had been carried out by militants who were not only better equipped than in the past but are also geared to sustain themselves for longer periods to carry out subversive activities in India.

"Ceasefire violations are still continuing. But this year, unusual developments have taking place. So far, ceasefire violations were taking place only on the LoC. Suddenly, there is a series of ceasefire violations on the international border. That is more a matter of serious concern," he said.

The minster also linked the violations on the border with bilateral relations, raising questions on Pakistan's intention. "We are repeatedly telling that India wants improvement in relations. If they are sincere in their attempts, how can this infiltration take place...and infiltration attempts are also increasing," he said, adding that the armed forces are capable of meeting challenges on the border.

On the recent pact with China on border cooperation, Antony said mechanisms have been put in place to prevent face-offs and efforts are being made to keep the border peaceful. "If anything happens, there are mechanisms to immediately intervene and find solutions as quickly as possible. That is a new development. Both sides are making sincere efforts to maintain peace and stability," he said.

On the notice to Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland for the cancellation of the VVIP helicopter deal following corruption charges, Antony said that there is enough proof that the integrity pact was violated. "They have violated the contract. We have taken steps to protect our interests...the final show cause notice has been served. We have given them 21 days to reply to it," he said.
Pak violates ceasefire in Poonch
JAMMU: Pakistan army violated ceasefire and fired at Indian border posts along the line of control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu & Kashmir on Tuesday morning.

"Pakistan troops fired small arms and automatics in Gambhir Battalion area of Bhimber Gali," defence spokesman Col R K Palta said, adding there was no loss of life or injury. In the exchange that lasted about two hours, Indian army retaliated with similar caliber weapons, he said.

Though India has already recorded 236 ceasefire violations this year — the highest over the last decade — no serious firing incident has occurred across the LoC since the one at the Mendhar sector on October 23. While 184 of the violations occurred across the LoC, 51 were recorded along the 198-km stretch of the International Boundary in J&K.
Defence graft

New Delhi, Oct. 29 (PTI): A Delhi court today sentenced two former defence ministry officials and a retired army man to four years in jail for causing a loss of over Rs 7.3 crore to the state exchequer.

P.R.S. Rao, A.K. Sharma and I.B. Uppal were among 12 persons booked by the CBI in 1998 for causing loss to the government by clearing bills against which no consignment was demanded or received between 1994-97.
India Offers the Pragati Short Range Missile for Export
India’s Defence Research establishment (DRDO) is promoting an indigenously developed short range ballistic missile called Pragati, designed to strike targets at ranges of 60 – 170 kilometers. The new missile meets the limitations of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) limiting the export of missile technology carrying warheads heavier than half a ton beyond 300 kilometers. As such, it is positioned to compete with a number of similar weapons already available from the China, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Russia and the USA.

It is based on the Prahaar missile, developed by the DRDO for the Indian Army and is considered as the export variant of that missile. Although India has been promoting the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile for export, Pragati will be the first ballistic missile offered for export. The first international appearance of the missile was this week at the ADEX defense expo in Seoul.

The new missile measures 7.4 meters (24′, 3″) and 0.42 meter (16.5″) in diameter, it carries a conventional warhead weighing up to 200 kg. The Pragati missile uses solid propellant and is launched from a Mobile Launcher System (MLS). 2-6 missiles are carried by each vehicle (depending on the configuration). The system is designed for quick reaction, enabling a second missile launch five seconds after the first has cleared the rail. The Indian missile Prahaar was tested in 2011 striking a target at a range of 150 km with a precision of 10 meters.

At a maximum speed of 4 Mach the flight time would be 120 – 360 seconds. The missile uses a combination of thrust vectoring and aerodynamic control to stabilize its ascent and shape flight trajectory to achieve a circular error point (CEP) hit probability of ‘less than 20 meters’. For guidance, Pragati uses a combination of Ring Laser Gyro (RLG) based inertial navigation system assisted by global positioning navigation (GPS) reference.

The missile system has quick deployment with salvo firing capability. The system includes One Battery Control Center (BCC) command & Control four launch units connected via Fiber Optic/LOS wireless link. The MLS is configured on High Mobility Vehicles (HMV) with six, four or three axles, depending on the weight and number of launchers used (six, four or two canisterised missiles respectively. The MLS has an electro-mechanical auto-leveling and articulation system enabling quick positioning of the system.
Unhappy Army
growing number of clashes between officers and jawans indicate a serious crisis in the Indian Army which has resulted from the prolonged apathy of the military and political leaderships. By PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI

ON October 14, Col B.M. Hansra, the commanding officer of the 22 National Cadet Corps (Army wing) battalion on Batala, was assaulted by jawans after he admonished a havildar for not reporting for duty on time. The havildar, belonging to the Sikh Light Infantry Regiment, was on deputation to the Batala unit. A court of inquiry (CoI) has been ordered into the matter. This was the second such incident involving officers and jawans in a span of five days. On October 10, jawans beat up officers in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh after an altercation during a boxing match. Two Army majors and one jawan, again belonging to the 10 Sikh Light Infantry unit, were injured in the incident. In this incident, too, a CoI has been ordered.

What is worrying is that such face-offs have been on the rise in the last couple of years. On August 8 last year, jawans agitated against the commanding officer and certain functionaries of the 16 Cavalry regiment at Samba in the Jammu region, while on May 10-11, 2012, officers and other ranks of the 226 Artillery regiment clashed at the Mahe field firing range in the Nyoma sector in Leh. Earlier, on April 29, 2010, an altercation took place between an officer and a jawan of the 45 Cavalry unit in Gurdaspur, Punjab.

In all these cases, the Army, which follows a zero-tolerance policy in matters relating to discipline, has taken disciplinary or administrative action against more than 200 officers and jawans. This was following instructions from the Defence Minister that exemplary punishment should be meted out to the guilty in all such cases to ensure that “necessary preventive lessons” are learnt.

Frontline made futile efforts to find out from the Army what institutional mechanisms have been put in place to tackle the problem at its roots. Is psychological/behavioural counselling a part of the training regimen of officers since discipline and respect for hierarchy forms the bedrock of the Army? An Army public relations officer declined to provide any information, maintaining that “these things keep happening out there, sitting here how are we to know what’s happening?”.

The problem of communication gaps has been plaguing the Army. The Army headquarters has no clue as to what is happening out there in its various regiments. According to some senior retired officers, the problems have their roots in the changing socio-economic situation and perception of concepts such as discipline and hierarchy. “In the past few years, the difference between the socio-economic strata of officers and jawans has reduced. Earlier, jawans mostly came from rural areas and were not that well–educated, while officers came from higher socio-economic strata. So complete subordination of jawans to officers was not an issue. Things have changed now. While the majority of officers are sons of Junior Commissioned Officers, jawans also are mostly from the same background. Even when they are from a non-military background, they are better educated and more aspirational than before. They are not willing to put up with the feudal, paternal hierarchy anymore and refuse to accept abusive behaviour by officers. This leads to clashes sometimes,” says Maj. Gen. (retd) Satbir Singh, acting chairman of the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement, himself a psychological/behavioural expert and one who has headed many Service Selection Boards (SSB). He has also been an instructor at the Indian Military Academy (IMA, Dehradun) and has evaluated many doctoral theses on related issues. The changing socio-economic profile of its personnel had to be factored into the Army’s training module, but perhaps that was not happening, he said.

He said more personal interaction between officers and jawans was needed for better bonding, but this would not be possible in view of the shortage of officers the Indian Army is facing. The Army, as per the latest reports, is short of 14,000 officers. This puts the existing lot, especially in operational areas, under tremendous pressure. The actual fallout of this crippling shortage is worrying from the operational point of view. Against the sanctioned strength of 22 to 27 officers for every regiment, only 10 to 12 officers are available in each unit. If one takes into account those on leave or temporary duty or attending courses, and so on, the effective strength comes down to four or five officers a unit, which normally has a manpower of 600 to 800.

“The right amount of supervision is next to impossible in this situation and the first casualty is basic drills, which are an integral part of officers’ interaction with the men. This leads to a communication gap between officers and jawans and all other problems, such as stress, suicides and fratricide, follow suit,” said a senior Army officer.

Stress is a major problem in the Army (Frontline, September 21, 2012). Last year, Defence Minister A.K. Antony asked the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to conduct a study on this aspect and submit a report. The report is likely to be submitted soon.

Army recruitment

On the face of it, if the intake of personnel, especially officers, is streamlined, many problems will disappear. But nothing much seems to be happening on that count. The shortage of officers has not arisen overnight. It is the result of prolonged neglect by the government; figures available for intake point to a steady decline in Army recruitment since 1971. Figures available until 2009, for example, suggest that the recruitment of officers through Permanent Commission and Short Service Commission (SSC) had been declining over the years. In 2006, for instance, only 1,489 cadets joined the IMA for training after their stint in the National Defence Academy (Khadakwasla) against the sanctioned strength of 1,633. In 2007, it was 1,351. In 2008, the sanctioned strength was lowered to 1,540, but only 1,159 joined. In 2009, too, only 1,262 joined against the sanctioned strength of 1,540. At the Officers’ Training Academy (OTA), Chennai, where SSC officers are trained, against the authorised strength of 700 a year, only 575 joined in 2006, 497 in 2007, 407 in 2008 and 315 in 2009. These figures were given out by the Defence Ministry on November 30, 2009, in reply to a question in Parliament. The Defence Minister had then detailed the measures proposed to improve the intake. They are

• Making SSC attractive through measures such as grant of ex-servicemen status to all SSC officers who complete their terms of service and provision of canteen (Canteen Stores Department, or CSD) and medical facilities under the Employees Contributory Health Services (ECHS) scheme.

• Opening of professional training institutes under the Army Welfare Education Society to provide affordable professional education to the children of Army men;

• Image projection campaigns;

• Enhanced physical interaction with the target audience, in which recruiting officers visit universities and colleges for motivational talks; and

• Setting up another OTA.

Significantly enough, none of these measures has been implemented, not even the grant of ex-servicemen status to SSC officers or the provision of ECHS or CSD facilities. A letter written by Maj. Gen. (retd) Satbir Singh to the Defence Minister on August 7, 2012, seeking the implementation of the measures, has remained unacknowledged to date.

Another reason for the shortage of personnel is the recruitment formula, which is based on the recruitable male population in each region. It is fixed at 10 per cent for each region, but often many regions, such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and south India, fail to fill their quota and so seats for these regions remain vacant. Sometimes, such vacancies are filled by candidates from other regions but since it is done on an ad hoc basis there is no consistency in the numbers coming in from each region, serving officers say.

Pay and perks

Add to this the not-so-attractive pay and perks, and the choice of Army as a career falls way below other emerging and more lucrative options. In the matter of pay and perks, it may be mentioned that until the Fourth Pay Commission, the salary of military personnel was a notch higher than that in other government sectors. But this was reversed in 1986 and the pay and pension of the armed forces personnel fell below civilian salaries. To compound the problem, even genuine dues by way of rank pay got embroiled in litigation in the Supreme Court. Military personnel’s demand for “one rank one pension” has been hanging fire. “Army is no longer the first career choice for many; it has become just one of the many second options and the casualty is quality,” said another senior officer.

Why does the government not address these problems? “The political leadership of the day is weak. Maybe it has good intentions, but it is taken for a ride by the bureaucracy,” says former Army chief V.K. Singh, who says many of the problems plaguing the Army have their roots in an indifferent bureaucracy. What is unfortunate is that instead of seeing things for itself, the political leadership is blindly guided by bureaucrats even in such sensitive matters, he says. Besides, he says, there is this ridiculous idea among the civilian rulers that keeping the Army happy and contented will result in it seizing control. Hence, the tendency to brush issues under the carpet.

But for how long? Has it not already caused enough problems? Is it not a fact that otherwise highly motivated soldiers, who are trained to handle pressure, are breaking down and either taking their own lives or attacking their officers, at times even killing them? The chilling reality, according to figures put out by officials of the Defence Ministry, is that the Army is losing more soldiers to suicide and fratricide than to militancy-related incidents. Every third day, a soldier kills himself.

According to A.K. Antony’s statement in Parliament, the suicide rate in the Army is shocking, averaging over 100 every year since 2003. He said 1,018 soldiers had committed suicide since 2003, with the annual toll regularly going over 100. He said fratricide had also become a regular phenomenon in the Army. He informed the House that according to a study done by the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR), a DRDO institution, perceived humiliation and harassment at the hands of their superiors, over and above occupational and family causes, was stressing soldiers so much that they were either killing themselves or taking the lives of their fellow soldiers or officers.

According to the 31st report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, between 2007 and 2010 some 208 soldiers lost their lives in action against militants, while 368 killed themselves and 15 to 30 soldiers attempted to kill themselves.

With such chilling facts staring one in the face and with the unpleasant situation on our borders, one would have thought that both the political and military leaderships would get cracking to set the mental and physical health of the forces right. But, unfortunately, that is not happening. If at all it is happening, it is happening with such secrecy that nobody, not even the forces themselves, knows about it.

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