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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

From Today's Papers - 18 Dec 2013

India, Pak DGMOs to meet on Dec 24
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 17
The Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan will meet at the Wagah-Attari land crossing between the two neighbours on December 24, the first-ever such meeting since July 1999.

Indian DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia has been invited by his Pakistani counterpart Maj Gen Amir Riaz for talks through diplomatic channels of the foreign offices on either side.

The invite has been accepted by India after consultations between the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Defence. The Wagah-Attari crossing is around 29 km west of Amritsar.

The two officers will discuss measures to lower tension along the 749-km-long Line of Control. An understanding on DGMOs’ meeting was reached when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York in September.

A ceasefire agreement was signed between the two countries in 2003. Either side accuses the other of repeated ceasefire violations with troops firing across the LoC, killing and injuring civilians, damaging homes and sporadic killing of troops. Both countries have aggressive action teams that patrol the border.

One such Pakistan Army patrol team killed two Indian soldiers in January and beheaded one of them. Another attack was carried out in August when five Indian soldiers were killed. When the Indian side retaliated, Pakistan alleged their villages were shelled and three soldiers killed.

The last time the military establishments of India and Pakistan met through their DGMOs for talks to establish tranquillity on the LoC was more than 14 years ago on July 11, 1999, towards the end of Kargil hostilities. The meeting was more to facilitate withdrawal of Pakistani troops without the Indians firing at them. The recent talks had got delayed in modalities as the United States and Pakistan had been insisting that the foreign offices on either side should lead the meeting and the DGMOs be part of it.

Resolving differences

* Indian DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia has been invited by his Pakistani counterpart Maj Gen Amir Riaz for talks

* The two officers will discuss measures to lower tension along the Line of Control

* An understanding on DGMOs’ meeting was reached when Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif met in New York in September
Army Had Eight Flag Meetings With Pak, 34 With China
Indian Army has held eight flag meetings with Pakistani army and 34 with Chinese PLA this year to resolve local issues.

Defence Minister A K Antony said flag meetings with Pakistani side have been effective in dealing with cases of ceasefire violations, construction activities, infiltration attempts and return of inadvertent crossers.

Those with Chinese side assist in maintaining peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control, he said in a written reply to Lok Sabha yesterday.

Indian and Pakistani army commanders had held seven, nine and 17 flag meetings in 2012, 2011 and 2010 respectively while the numbers of such meetings between Indian and Chinese army commanders were 24, 34, 32 in these years, he said.

"The established mechanisms of hotline messages, flag meetings as well as weekly talks between the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan are used to ensure tranquillity on the LoC," he said.

In addition, a Working Mechanism on Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China Border Affairs has been put into place since 2012, Antony said, adding that four meetings of WMCC have been held so far.
Defense minister returns from India with gifts and reassurances
Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim has returned from his five day official visit to India bearing gifts and reassurances of better defense cooperation and hope for improved bilateral relations.

A major highlight of the trip was India’s gift to Maldives military, a locally manufactured ‘Dhruv’ Advanced Lightweight Helicopter (ALH). The Helicopter the second India has gifted – will reach Maldives in two months.

India also assured the delivery of a landing craft within this period – promised during Nazim’s previous visit to India as President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Defence minister. During that visit, nine months ago, India promised seven new radar systems, in addition to three radar systems India had already gifted to the Maldives.

Nazim also addressed specific issues of concern that had emerged during the previous administration’s period of weakened ties with India.

The shortage of construction material imported from India following a special quota for Maldives being revoked in February 2013, and the difficulties in acquiring medical Visa for Maldivians traveling to India were discussed.

Both issues will be discussed further during President Yameen’s official visit to India early next year.

Nazim’s visit – from 11-15 December – was prompted by an invitation from his counterpart AK Anthony. During the visit, Nazim met many senior government officials, amongst them Minister of Home Affairs Sushilkumar Shinde, Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral DK Joshi and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne.

Nazim requested Indian assistance to acquire equipment and training for disaster management and fire and rescue services – a coast guard vessel for patrolling the Maldives’ EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and an auxiliary vessel to improve logistical support across the country.

Training opportunities were also sought in other areas such as aviation security, pilot training, air traffic control training, MBBS and specialist medical training.

During the visit, the Maldives defense minister informed Indian officials of the progress of the Composite Training Center being constructed at Maafilaafushi (Lhaviyani Atoll) with Indian financial assistance.  A ten-story building for the Coast Guard and the Ministry of Defense and National Security also is all set to be built at the current Coast Guard Building’s location with Indian grant aid.

Apart from improving the military, Nazim’s main focus during the visit was on health security, especially regarding the development of MNDF’s ‘Senahiya’ military hospital – officially inaugurated by Indian Defense minister in September 2012.

Nazim sought Indian assistance in getting medical equipment such as CT scan and MRI machines for the hospital. India also agreed to deputise Indian Armed Forces medical specialists to Senahiya and other regions of Maldives in a near future.

Training of MNDF medical specialists was also discussed, while the Indian defense minister announced the opportunity for MNDF personnel to be treated for major surgeries and serious illnesses at India’s armed forces medical institutions
Army in the throes of change
 The Indian Army has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. Gen. V. K. Singh’s controversy-laden tenure, reports of officer-men clashes, corruption allegations and stories of soldiers sleeping while on operations along the Line of Control have all led to unwelcome media attention.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister chose to highlight the issue of officer-men relations, addressing his senior military commanders with uncharacteristic bluntness: “You are responsible for the lives and welfare of your men and women in uniform. As commanders, you also have to introspect over fidelity to inviolable principles and set an example. Where the institution has frayed, remedial policy initiatives are imperative.”

Indeed, as with most other institutions, the Indian Army is grappling with rapid societal change, but its current “zero tolerance” policy is a typical knee-jerk reaction to a complex problem.

It needs to break from some of its traditions and be more transparent and logical, incorporating different aspects of military sociology. It is not known, however, whether the army is alive to the challenge of embracing change, or if change will have to be forced upon it.

Incidents of clashes between officers and men have been described in the media, often in sensationalistic fashion. In the recent past, there have been “incidents” involving an artillery unit deployed for training in Leh, two armoured units deployed in Samba and Gurdaspur, and, just a few months ago, an infantry unit training in Meerut. Alarmingly, these incidents occurred in combat arms where officer-men relations are of utmost importance.

Also, all these units were deployed in peace stations, belying the opinions expressed by many who blamed the incidents on prolonged employment in stressful counter-insurgency or other operational duties.

Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Defence Minister A. K. Antony described these incidents as “aberrations” and said “commanders have been instructed to have zero tolerance towards such cases”.

It may be that these are “aberrations” but the problem is that we will never really know. At fault is the army’s “cover-up culture”.

Simply put, due to a misplaced sense of regimental pride and loyalty, a number of incidents are not honestly examined. More importantly, the findings of the Court of Inquiries that are inevitably ordered are not widely disseminated.

Litany of issues

As a result, while zero tolerance may indeed be an appropriate post-incident policy, it does not address the structural problems arising out of an army in the middle of widespread societal and attitudinal change.

The most widely acknowledged problem is a debilitating shortage of officers. Currently, there is a shortage of approximately 11,000 officers , almost all of them below the rank of a Colonel.

Units have to function with very few officers who often hold multiple responsibilities. As a result, junior officers are unable to spend as much time as they did in the past with the men.

With official and social interaction – whether during training, on the sports field, or for everyday routines like roll-calls and activity parades –curtailed, the bonds between officers and men have weakened.

A senior Defence Ministry official, in a deposition to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, argued that due to a shortage of officers, “the type of interaction which we need at our junior officers’ level is lacking”.

One way of addressing this is to discourage, as far as is operationally feasible, junior officers below, say, three years of service from assuming any appointment at headquarters. Instead, they should be exclusively detailed for platoon-level activities so that they can spend as much time as possible with the men.

A shortage of officers leads to a high demand for careerist, and competent officers for staff duties and subsequently, few are available for battalion or regimental soldiering. As a result, there are not enough positive role models for young officers to emulate and their “grooming” suffers.

Unimaginative policies

Unimaginative human resource development policies and the relentless pressure of peacetime soldiering has only compounded matters. A source of tension between officers and men is the archaic sahayak culture, or the use of soldiers to assist officers in their administrative duties.

Those who defend this practice usually say this is an extension of the buddy system in which soldiers look after each other.

Having a buddy in the field frees up the officer to concentrate on operational responsibilities. Problems however arise from the use of sahayaks in peace stations with its potential for misuse and clashes, regardless of who is at fault, with officer’s wives and family members. A sahayak is not supposed to do any menial work. But in practice, they are employed to do all sorts of jobs.

On this issue, when a representative of the Army was pressed by the Standing Committee on Defence with the observation that jawans were found working in the residences of officers, his answer was startling: “[He] would have been attending the work at home due to reverence.” Such convoluted justifications aside, officers who defend this practice should answer one question: If they were to join the army as combatant soldiers, how many of them would volunteer to serve as sahayaks in a peace station?

The answer to this question should thereafter be considered together with the first law of leadership: one cannot ask others to do what the leader would not do.

The policy prescription appears relatively simple: continue with the practice of sahayaks in field areas and discontinue it in peace stations. Indeed, a few years ago there was some discussion, based on an internal army study, of hiring civilians as Assistants; a measure that was apparently examined after A. K. Antony pressured the army to re-examine the use of sahayaks. Unfortunately, like with many of his other visions, the Defence Minister so far has been unable to implement this idea so far.

Need for change

As Indian society changes, the old safety nets of joint families are slowly disappearing while discussions on television featuring feuding senior officers, corruption allegations, and smeared institutions, are being keenly followed in langars and barrack rooms. In addition, there are changes in the expectations of both officers and soldiers.

The army’s attitude towards gender, symbolised by its challenge to a High Court order recommending permanent commission for women, is indicative of misogyny. In this respect, the Navy and the Air Force have shown themselves to be far more progressive.

Over time, there will be more interest and hunger for information from civil society and politicians on such aspects of military administration. All these developments will force the army to change.

The best way forward is to allow the field of military sociology to develop and enlist the help of social scientists, mental health professionals and human resources specialists.

(The author is an Assistant Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.)
Border cooperation pact helped defuse tension in Ladakh: Antony
 Defence Minister A.K. Antony gave the recently-signed Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) the credit for quickly defusing the situation in Ladakh on the border with China.

“Don’t expect miracles in resolving the issue. What we are trying is that till a satisfactory solution on the boundary issue is found, whenever incidents take place on the border, through discussions and official mechanism, [we will] resolve those issues. Of late, we have been able to resolve issues without much delay. That is an improvement,’’ he said here on Monday, hours after China returned two Indians it had taken into captivity.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Vijay Diwas function, he said: “After the agreement, by and large, whenever any issue arises, we are able to resolve it as quickly as possible. It does not mean that there would not be any issue as long as the India-China border issue is unsettled. There can always be possibility.”

According to officials, a flag meeting was quickly organised and the PLA returned the two men who had apparently crossed over to the Chinese perception of the LAC to recover cattle. They said transgression to the other side of the LAC by cattle including even Yaks happen in both the eastern and western sectors, generally during snowstorms. Sometimes, the other side doesn’t bother, letting livestock breeders retrieve their cattle but make it a point to show the photographic evidence at the next border meeting. Often the cattle can’t be found and after the other side is told about it, efforts are made to locate and return it.

Mr. Antony said no miracles should be expected from the boundary resolution talks between the special representatives but this dialogue had led to both sides resolving to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border.

They were not forcibly taken away, says Army

The Indian Army on Monday denied that Chinese troops entered India in the Chumar area of Ladakh on December 4 and forcibly took away five porters and their mules. Reports in the media stated that the porters and animals were taken by the People’s Liberation Army in Chumar, along the Line of Actual Control, and released a week later on December 11.

The Army said: “Three Indians crossed the international border to retrieve their horses that had strayed across the border at Chumar. They were apprehended by the Chinese and returned after a flag meeting.”

The Army sources said the Indian nationals were apprehended by the Chinese only after they crossed the border. However, they were returned during the flag meeting at the Spangur Chinese BPM Hut on December 11.

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