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Monday, 2 December 2013

From Today's Papers - 02 Dec 2013

Army to stick to two-stream promotion policy for officers
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 1
Former Army Chief General VK Singh’s proposal made in 2011 for merging two separate promotional avenues for officers of the rank of Major General and above has been formally dropped by the Army headquarters.

As of now, the existing ‘two-stream’ promotion policy shall continue when officers are promoted from Brigadier to Major General and then onwards as Lt Generals, said sources, adding that this was also the opinion of the Ministry of Defence.

The ‘two-stream’ policy segregates officers in two distinct paths of progression when they get promoted as Major General. The categorisation is done on the basis of the annual confidential reports of the officers. While one category is called ‘Command-and Staff’, the other is termed as ‘Only Staff’. Officers in the former stream go on to command divisions and corps and are also in contention to become Army commanders. Those in ‘only staff’ do not get this chance.

The two-stream policy had come into force in 2009 during the tenure of General Deepak Kapoor. In 2010, the then Army Chief Gen VK Singh sought to merge the ‘two streams’ saying it was a suggestion of a study conducted within the Army.

The Defence Ministry had rejected the proposal saying that promotion policies can’t change with every new chief and told the Army to go for an in-depth study to iron out differences. The Army has now opted to maintain status quo and abandon VK Singh’s proposal.

One of the reasons to create the ‘two-stream’ policy was to ‘adjust’ greater number of officers after some senior posts were added by the ministry on the recommendation of the Ajai Vikram Singh Committee (AVSC). While the cadre has grown, very few posts have been created at the Command-level formations. So, the segregation of streams is considered important to allow only a fixed number of officers in the Command stream.

In the past four years, two mountain divisions have been added allowing for two Major General-level vacancies in the Command stream. A new Mountain strike crops is coming up and this could open up at least four posts - one Lt General and three at the Maj-Gen level. “All new promotees cannot be put into a single stream as this would reduce the tenure for officer at the helm, seriously impacting readiness and making the tenure meaningless”, said a senior functionary in the ministry.

Currently, a Major General gets to command a division for around 12-15 months and a Lt General commands a corps for around 12 months. If everyone is put in one stream, the tenures will get reduced drastically. On the flip-side, those who get selected for ‘only staff’ stream lose out on commanding battle formations and have to be contended with desk-bound jobs, leading to heart-burn. A division has around 15,000-18,000 troops while a corps has about 45,000 troops.

The twin streams

The ‘two-stream’ policy segregates officers in two categories — Command-and Staff and Only Staff — when they get promoted as Major General. The categorisation is on the basis of ACRs

Officers in the Command and Staff stream go on to command divisions and corps and are also in the race to become Army commanders. Those in ‘only staff’ category don’t get this chance

VK Singh’s merger idea

The two-stream policy had come into force in 2009 during General Deepak Kapoor’ tenure. In 2010, then Army Chief Gen VK Singh sought to merge the ‘two streams’ saying it was a suggestion of a study conducted within the Army

The Defence Ministry had rejected the proposal saying that promotion policies can’t change with every new chief

The Army has now opted to maintain status quo and abandon VK Singh’s proposal
 Don't aggravate border trouble: China to India

New Delhi/Shanghai, December 1
China has urged India not to aggravate problems on the border shared by the two nations, a day after President Pranab Mukherjee toured Arunachal Pradesh and called it an integral part of the country.

The two countries, which fought a brief border war in 1962, only last month signed a pact to ensure that differences on the border do not spark a confrontation. But Pranab's visit to Arunachal Pradesh in the remote eastern stretch of the Himalayas that China claims as its own provoked a fresh exchange of words.

"We hope that India will proceed along with China, protecting our broad relationship, and will not take any measures that could complicate the problem, and together we can protect peace and security in the border regions," China's official news agency, Xinhua, quoted Qin Gang, a spokesman of the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as saying.

China has of late grown increasingly assertive and questioned New Delhi's claims over Arunachal, calling it instead South Tibet. Mukherjee told members of the Assembly it was "a core stakeholder in India's Look East foreign policy" that intends to link the country's northeast with South East Asia. "We seek to make our neighbours partners in our development," Mukherjee said in Itanagar.

"We believe that India's future and our own best economic interests are served by closer integration with Asia," Pranab said. China lays claim to more than 90,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) disputed by New Delhi in the eastern sector of the Himalayas, while India says China occupies 38,000 square km of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west. — Reuters
 Dangers of cuts in the defence budget
Lt Gen J.S. Bajwa (Retd)

India must strive to develop Comprehensive Nation Power (CNP) to tackle the challenges posed by the shift in the global strategic focus towards the Asia-Pacific region, marked by jostling between the US and China, as well as the intense competition among nations in the security arena despite growing inter-dependence”.
The statement was made by the Prime Minister at the Combined Commanders Conference as reported by the media on November 23, 2013. In his address, to quote media reports, he warned that India might have to trim the defence budget due to the economic slowdown over the last two years. The armed forces will have to exercise “prudence” and “cut our coat according to our cloth” in their defence acquisition plans.

This comes three days after the media reported that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) had finally issued the Government Sanction Letter (GSL) to the Army for raising of the new Mountain Strike Corps (or as some insist to term it as ‘Strategic Reserve’) based on the approval of the same by the Cabinet Committee on Security on July 17, 2013. The GSL is the authority for the Army to initiate all processes for physically raising, equipping, locating and operationalising the Corps. It is also a concrete acceptance by the government of making available funds for this new raising.

However, the PM’s warning of a defence budget cut sends dichotomous signals. In addition, with the PM directing that there is need to exercise prudence in defence acquisitions and that the defence acquisition plans should bear in mind the need to cut the coat according to the cloth hints at a substantial slow down in the whole exercise. This latest direction of the PM will render the new Mountain Strike Corps as the first casualty of a budget cut. As reported earlier in the media, General VK Singh, former Chief of Army Staff, had apprised the PM of the existing “critical hollowness” of the Army in ammunition and equipment which was pegged at a staggering Rs 41,000 crore and would take several years for 100 per cent operational capability to be achieved, provided the defence budget caters for it and the procurement or indigenous Defence Public Sector units can manufacture and deliver these as required.
While the Prime Minister emphasised the need to tackle the challenges as will arise with the global strategic shift towards the Asia-Pacific Region, the likely defence budget cut indicated by him while addressing military commanders is an immediate dampener for the proposed modernisation and critical new raisings

With another Rs 90,000 crore, as is being quoted, required for the operationalising of the Mountain Strike Corps, the situation seems grimmer and pessimistically dismal. Logistic infrastructure that will be required to be constructed for locating and then operationally deploying such a corps will entail additional expenditure. Figuratively, it would entail a committed expenditure of approximately Rs 20,000 -- 25,000 crore every year for the next seven to eight years.

While the manpower and the headquarters will be raised by side-stepping and subsequently made up through fresh recruitment, however, initially the equipment for this corps will have to be issued from the existing reserves which are in the obsolete and obsolescence phases of their technology life-span. As a result the Mountain Strike Corps will, first, be deficient in equipment (sharing the existing poverty), and second, the equipment will not be optimally matching the role assigned to it as the long elaborate red taped procurement procedure will commence once these units start forming on ground. Maybe, the annual armed forces data compiled by the likes of SIPRI will indicate existence of such a force, but its operational potential will be long in the building up.

From the operational point of view, for offensive operations in the mountains and that too in the extreme high altitude areas, deployment of a force of this size is likely to be constrained for the type of task assigned to it, that is, “Rapid-reaction in high altitude areas”. Even for deployment piece-meal in independent brigade group or division size forces, there will be requirement of extensive and elaborate preparation in terms of infrastructure like well concealed and protected logistic areas on the various axis in Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim (as indicated by the media reports), advance landing grounds (ALG), forward area armament and refuelling points (FAARP), large helipads as forward mounting bases, road network (minimum classification 40) to induct follow on forces and to be able to logistically sustain the additional forces that will move forward in the wake of such operations.

All this will require induction of weapons and equipment incorporating modern technology, most of which will, perforce, have to be imported. For example, suitable transport aircraft in the large numbers are required, such as the Hercules C-130J, six of which have been recently acquired by the Indian Air Force; rotary wing aircraft that are able to operate optimally at these extreme altitudes – the forces may even consider procurement of the V-22 OSPREY, (the successful tilt-rotor technology aircraft being exploited by the United States Marine Corps) for viable Special Forces operations as the even the best rotary wing aircraft in the global aircraft market have their limitations in performance on the Himalayan altitudes; unmanned aerial vehicles/drones for surveillance and even the armed variety for quick response; fire support assets that can be moved under-slung at these altitudes and maintaining a continuous supply of ammunition for these guns and multi-barrel rocket launchers besides so much more.

All these vital weapon systems and equipment are to be acquired, either through imports or under the clause of “develop and make indigenously”. In the former case of importing the equipment, the Defence Procurement Procedure is elaborately red-taped and as a result it proceeds at a snail’s pace. Moreover, the officials and bureaucrats dread the consequences of a witch-hunt that could be initiated years after the deal is signed which seems to have become the norm. While in the latter case, the Defence Research and Development Organisation has failed the armed forces in developing or harnessing modern weapons and equipment technology so as to be able to design and produce state-of-art products to meet their requirements. All this entails heavy financial support, which seems in jeopardy.

While the PM emphasised the need to tackle the challenges as will arise with the global strategic shift towards the Asia-Pacific Region, the likely defence budget cut was an immediate dampener to India’s regional power status aspirations. Merely making a statement with regard to CNP does not prepare the armed forces or the country to be able to, meet head on, the varied challenges that will arise in the evolving dynamic geo-political scenario unfolding in the Asia-Pacific Region.

The PM in his address referred to Comprehensive National Power – a term made fashionable by the Chinese research endeavour of a faculty member of the National Defence University (NDU), Beijing. The Chinese NDU was established to prepare them to take on a commensurate role as a future power of global reckoning. Consequently, the Chinese NDU systematically approached the issue of national security and contributed substantially to national security strategy formulation and policy decision making. They have simultaneously addressed the aspects of economy, science and technology, education, infrastructure and defence research and development and defence industry, reprioritising in sync with economic growth.

India too has initiated steps to set up the Indian National Defence University (INDU) when the PM laid its foundation stone in May this year. However, the process of it fructifying is not before 2018 that too if the bureaucracy does not throw in spanners seeing that there is not much gain in it for them or if it is perceived that the Services are likely to have a more substantive say in policy making. Till then CNP will remain an impressive figure of speech with no substance to back such reference.

The Combined Commanders Conference was always scheduled in the month of October every year, when the Army had its week long Army Commanders Conference (as also similar conferences being held by the other two Services). One day out of this week was usually earmarked for the PM addressing the Combined Commanders Conference. This is an annual feature and could be included in the PM’s schedule well before time. The fact that it was now rescheduled to November is a subtle indication of the level of importance given to Service matters by those responsible in advising the PM and his scheduling as much by those accepting such a change in institutional practices.

All put together, the constraints of funds, the acquisition procedures and the attitude towards national security are indicative that the forebodings for equipping and operationalising the Mountain Strike Corps in the seven years time frame, as visualised, are ominous, and bleak.
Strangled by fund crunch

The Mountain Strike Corps has been conceived to enhance India’s offensive capability in high altitude areas along the Himalayas

In is envisioned to have a strength of about 50,000 troops equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and specialised aerial platforms to assist deployment

The PM's warning of a likely defence budget cut could render the proposed Corps as the first casualty

The new Corps will require additional manpower and induction of new weapon systems and equipment, the total cost of which is pegged at Rs 90,000 crore

While import of military equipment is bogged down in red-tape, the DRDO has failed to develop indigenous weapon systems
Table defence agreement with China in Parliament: BJP
BJP today asked the UPA government to table in Parliament during its forthcoming winter session the Border Defence Agreement Cooperation signed with China by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Beijing in October.

BJP president Rajnath Singh also said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not think of taking Parliament into confidence before entering into the agreement.

"Recently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited China where he signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement which has many controversial clauses. One clause, as I am made to understand, is that border forces of either country would not tail each other if they inadvertently entered each other's territory," he said, addressing a public rally here.

"They (UPA) did not take Parliament into confidence. Parliament session is starting from December 5. We will raise this question in the Parliament...The agreement with China should be tabled in Parliament," he said.

The BJP leader also said India should issue stapled visas to Tibetans in response to China issuing such visas to those living in Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

"If China says it will issue stapled visa to people of Arunachal Pradesh and J&K, Prime Minister should tell China strongly that India will also issue stapled visas to people living in Tibet...This answer should be given to them," Singh said.

Criticising the stand taken by India during the incursion by Chinese troops into Indian territory, he said, "Chinese Army stayed in tents in DoB for 21 days. I want to ask the PM and External Affairs Minister why Chinese and Indian Army troops retreated? China had to leave as they had intruded into this side, but why Indian troops were forced to return from their own land? PM and External Affairs Minister should answer to people of India.
Gen Sharif assumes charge as Pak's army chief
 ISLAMABAD: Career infantry officer Gen Raheel Sharif, considered to be a moderate and an old India hand, today took over the command of the 600,000-strong Pakistan Army from Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Gen Kayani, the longest serving army chief under a civilian government, passed the baton of command to 57-year- old Gen Sharif at an impressive ceremony held at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.

Gen Sharif was chosen by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as the 15th chief of the Pakistan Army on Wednesday.

The army chief is considered to be the most powerful person in Pakistan, with the military having ruled the country for more than half its 66-year history.

Gen Sharif, who holds the Hilal-i-Imtiaz award, is the younger brother of highly decorated Major Shabbir Sharif, who was killed in the 1971 war with India.

He had superseded senior most military officer Lt Gen Haroon Aslam to the post. Aslam took early retirement and tendered his resignation yesterday.

Gen Sharif assumes charge amid tensions on the border with India and Pakistan's fight with Taliban insurgents and increased violence in the country.

Pakistani analysts view Sharif, who now heads the 600,000-strong army, as a moderate who sees the militant threat inside Pakistan as just as important as the strategic tussle with India.

Before his last posting as a Principal Staff Officer in General Headquarters, Sharif commanded the Gujranwala-based XXX Corps, which is responsible for the Line of Control and the international border in Punjab, between 2010 and 2012.

He is considered an old India hand and played a key role in framing Pakistan's response to the Indian Army's new doctrines, sources said.

Though Prime Minister Sharif has pressed for peace with India, it will all depend on what Gen Sharif really wants.
Will keep terrorists at bay during 2014 J&K polls: Indian Army
 The Army would take steps to keep at bay terrorists and other subversive elements who might try to interfere with the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections due next year, a top Army officer said.

"We are not concerned if people vote or not. However, there is no doubt that terrorists might try to interfere with the election process and we will ensure that they do not get the space to carry out their evil designs," General officer Commanding of the Army's 15 Corps Lt Gen Gurmit Singh told PTI.

The Corps Commander said there was desperation among the militant ranks across the Line of Control to push in as many ultras into the Valley as possible ahead of the elections.

"From election perspective, next three to four months are very critical. The terrorists will try to subvert the elections and for that they need to reinforce their numbers in the Valley," he said.

According to Lt Gen Singh, the Army will carry out area- domination exercise, especially in rural areas of Kashmir, to keep at bay the militants and other subversive elements.

He said the Army has no direct role to play in the elections in Kashmir but it would ensure a conducive atmosphere for those willing to cast votes.

"We are an apolitical organisation and do not play any direct role in conduct of elections anywhere in the country, including Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

Separatists in the past have accused the Army and other security forces of forcing people to cast votes in order to boost the credibility of elections in Kashmir.

Lt Gen Singh said the recent infiltration bid in Keran sector was a new strategy by militant handlers in Pakistan to push in large number of ultras into the Valley from multiple points with the aim of taking the security grid by surprise.

"Due to the excellent counter-infiltration grid in place, we have been able to thwart this new methodology they (Pakistani handlers of militants) wanted to try," he said.

The Corps Commander said the Keran infiltration bid in September was a departure from the tactics used by militants in the past as only small groups of two to three ultras would try to sneak across the Line of Control.

"The fact that eight terrorists were killed in the operation and 66 assorted weapons were recovered indicates that the group was very large," he said.

The Corps Commander said the large number of pistols seized from Keran indicated that militants would use these weapons for targeted killings, particularly political workers.

He said the ultras had tried to infiltrate from various points within Keran sector with the aim that some of them manage to get past the counter-infiltration grid and reach the hinterland.

"There has been desperation among the militant ranks to reinforce the foot soldiers and revitalise the command following neutralisation of over 100 active militants in the Valley which included arrest of several top militant commanders," he said.

Lt Gen Singh said although there were increased number of infiltration bids from across the LoC this year, the vigil maintained by the Army has ensured that the "nefarious designs of inimical elements were thwarted".

"The counter-infiltration grid is a multi-layer system ... sometimes we deliberately allow terrorists to cross the first layer and catch them at the second to ensure the success of the operation," he said.

The Army commander said more than 40 militants were killed in the operations along the Line of Control this year while 31 of them were eliminated in anti-militancy operations in the hinterland.

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