Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Tuesday, 31 December 2013

From Today's Papers - 31 Jan 2013

 Killing by US drones questionable
Aerial platforms could become a major security risk in future
Air Marshal RS Bedi (retd)

THE US has been conducting drone operations in a number of countries with a view to eliminating extremists and jihadi elements that are seen as the source of international terrorism. Pakistan has been one of the victims of this policy. Its north-western border, particularly the province of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, seems to bear the brunt of these attacks.
Hundreds of ‘jihadi’ elements and a number of leading persons, including Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Afghan Haqqani leaders have been killed in these attacks. Hakeemullah Mehsud, head of the TTP was killed a few days after the summit meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President Barack Obama, despite the issue having been raised by the former.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, are multipurpose technological marvel that can neutralise minuscule ground targets as small as a human body with unmatched accuracy. These are being employed extensively by the US and some other major powers, particularly Israel, for targeted killing of their perceived enemies. While these powers may be eliminating threat to their national security to some degree, their unilateral action without the concurrence of the target country has serious international ramifications, both legal and ethical.

The Americans continue to ignore Pakistan government’s protests against violation of its sovereignty and kill its citizens without any inhibition. But surprisingly, Pakistan has neither taken up the issue at any international level nor attempted to shoot down these highly air interception vulnerable drones. There is a wide suspicion that in this case the Pakistan army unable to subdue the ‘jihadi’ elements despite heavy casualties has perhaps agreed tacitly to look over the shoulder while the CIA continues with its task.

Pakistan is not the only country where the US has resorted to such precise killing of unsuspecting victims from the air. It has been using the drones in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Libya with amazing effectiveness. Thousands of people have been killed in these countries in this manner.
Thus, unmanned armed drones emerged as the single-most effective weapon system with the Americans in taking on the Taliban leadership selectively. At any given time, dozens of drones loiter over Afghanistan. They spy on the Al Qaida and insurgents round the clock, and strike as soon as the target is identified. Success of drone strikes in eliminating the militants on the CIA hit list led the US to intensify these low-cost high-dividend operations in a big way.

It would not be out of place to mention here that following the US example, a number of European countries, as also third world countries, have acquired the UAVs. Some countries, particularly the US and Israel, are presently investing heavily in drone projects, for that seems to be the future. The Israelis, like the Americans, have long resorted to the targeted killing of their enemy, the Palestinian insurgents. The Israelis justify their option even if it is tantamount to assassination because of the existential threat they face. The Americans too justify this type of extra-judicial killing as self defence in the war against the Al Qaida. Notwithstanding, this asymmetric warfare is tantamount to summary execution and may, in not-too-distant a future, be considered as a crime against humanity in an undeclared war situation.

There is another aspect of drone operations that needs to be taken note of. The drones have the potential of being used by the so-called non-state actors and terrorists of various hues. The danger also lies in these drones being exploited by lesser nations for devious purposes. Unless some measures are taken, as in the case of weapons of mass destruction, there is a danger of these aerial platforms becoming a major security risk in the future.

Besides, drone attacks raise serious legal and ethical questions. Presently, the powers that be are conducting these operations with total disregard to violation of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the legality of such operations. It’s strange that there is hardly any explicit criticism by any country. Nor for that matter have any of the international forums or the human right organisations raised their voice against such unethical practices by major powers.

However desirable, the elimination of these extremists in this fashion is questionable to say the least. ‘Jihadi’ criminals must not go unpunished but targeting them like this is illegal and unethical. Technological advances outpacing the existing international laws and conventions perhaps require new set of regulations and their acceptability.
 Be wary of information detractors
The army deserves to be complimented on its ability to see through the lengthy procedure of military justice with a sense of balance and ensure that the alleged perpetrators are brought to justice, but like in any such system patience has to be exercised so that justice is meted out and seen to be correctly executed.
Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd)

in April 2010, the third year of street protests in Kashmir was warming when brief media reports indicated that an army unit de-inducting after spending 24 months on the Line of Control (LoC) allegedly eliminated three young innocent persons in a fake encounter in the Machil area of the North Shamshabari, pass of their bodies as those of foreign terrorists and garner the credit in the “numbers’ game”. Post this incident, a brief inquiry by the Jammu and Kashmir Police indicated that there had been a conspiracy. Identifications were done after exhumation of the bodies and news of the incident went viral, leading to a spurt in the street protests. An alleged isolated incident slurred the army’s reputation and provided an impetus for the 2010 separatist campaign which would paralyze not only Kashmir but almost the entire nation. Machil thus became a byword in the Valley and the latest symbol of alleged human rights violations by the army.
For all the alleged dastardly nature of the incident, the army had to first take stock of the situation. It had been manipulated many times in the past to put it on the back foot, although admittedly it had a history of mistakes, as is wont to happen when any army thanklessly battles a sponsored militancy where the information/disinformation struggle becomes a part of the adversial campaign. It correctly followed the legal procedure to arrive at the current juncture but the skeptics continue to doubt its credentials towards justice.

On December 26, 2013, the nation woke to headlines stating that the perpetrators of the incident were to be tried by a general court martial (GCM). The perceived delay in justice (three and a half years), the apparent lack of knowledge about the military justice system and the emotions connected to the recall of the incident created enough of a potpourri to send the social media into a tizzy. Some perceived that the verdict was about to be announced as also the sentence, while others worked overtime to denigrate the army for the delay, painting it as the typical response of denial of justice by the army. A few explanations on social media put the procedural aspects and facts in the right perspective and better informed people started to change their ideas and in fact appreciate the army’s actions.

Information battle

The 24 year militancy and separatist campaign that the army has been fighting is not about elimination of terrorists alone. Much of the campaign has been about the information battle, something the army has never been very adept at. Its silence at the wrong times has cost it the image of a just army and it has been at the receiving end of smear campaigns even when it takes the correct decisions as it has very creditably done this time. It is all about information and timing. In November 2004, it gained much credit for the quick decision to investigate and put one of its officers through the military justice system. The officer had been accused of raping a mother and her young daughter. The GCM conducted in its wake (in precisely six weeks) found the officer guilty of attempted molestation and sentenced him to “be dismissed from service”, a verdict and sentence which was subsequently confirmed as per procedure but overturned by a higher civil court to which the accused officer appealed as per his rights. It gave enough credit to both the army and the judiciary in India, although many in Kashmir perceived the reversal as a decision of a biased Indian judicial system. The Army did not sufficiently publicise this important judgment of the higher court and that is coming back today to treat its promises of justice with much skepticism.

What is it this time? Why the delay and what is the military justice system all about? The nation must be made aware of this so that it is in a better position to appreciate the difficulties of its army as also those of the innocent populace. It needs to also know that in the conflict zone there are thousands of innocents who have nothing to do with insurgency—ordinary human beings who fight daily battles for existence with dignity and pride. While there may be many who carry emotional support for separatism and may sympathise with militants or separatists, it does not make them villains. The human rights and dignity of these is as much the responsibility of the state (nation) in the overall spirit of the hugely successful democratic model that India has established. In the situation that presents itself, leaders have to perceive things in different shades of grey, much against the usual trend of judging everything in black and white.

Military justice system

The army, smitten by manipulation in the past and matured by its experience, invariably examines misdemeanour by its troops first with an eye to prevent being manipulated. Failure to do so will dampen the dynamism and will of its rank and file. This is an important aspect which needs to be understood by human rights activists. It may lead to delay in initiation of disciplinary proceedings and this delay brings pressure from all quarters including the media and activists. When an act of misdemeanour by uniformed personnel occurs, procedurally the army is supposed to ascertain all facts and whether it occurred on active service, through a court of inquiry (CoI). If the army perceives culpability, it has the choice to file before the appropriate court of law to take over the case for proceedings through the military justice system under the statutory Army Act (1950) read in conjunction with Army Rules. Once the case is taken over, the army authority carries out framing and hearing of charge(s) and thereafter orders recording of the summary of evidence (SoE) which is to done by an officer who should not be related to the case. The proceedings of the SoE are processed for the final decision by the concerned superior authority as to the mode of trial. A military court is then convened by the convening authority and assembles along with an officer from the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Branch who acts as the legal adviser through the proceedings. The GCM, if ordered, comprises a presiding officer and minimum four other officers who cannot be of rank lower than the accused. The GCM can also conduct a joint trial if necessary. There are defending and prosecuting officers appointed who can be supplemented by civilian counsel if required. The proceedings are reduced to writing in each session and civilian witnesses are also called to depose. The verdict and sentence is to be confirmed by an authority higher than the one which convened the court.

What has happened in this particular case? As soon as the Army’s CoI ascertained that the incident occurred at the place of the unit’s deployment on active service, the case was not one of manipulation by inimical parties and there appeared prima facie culpability, the army applied to the court of the judicial magistrate to take over the case. The same was denied on grounds of the contentious aspect whether the incident occurred on “active service” or otherwise. An appeal to the sessions court met a similar fate. The accused remained attached to a headquarters in Kupwara for disciplinary purpose. The army then went for appeal in the J&K High Court under the provisions of Section 125 of the Army Act, which lays down that in the event of concurrent jurisdiction of a criminal court and court martial the discretion lies with the commanding officer of the accused. The opposite parties took considerable time to file their response and the court had to repeatedly adjourn. Through this elongated time the army was unjustifiably accused of delaying tactics and its perception management efforts could not better the bitter campaign to smear it.

Winning the perception game

Eventually, the High Court ruled in favor of the army, directing it to take over the case and try the accused through the military justice system, vindicating the army’s stance. The High Court in its judgment even observed that the counsel for the army had stated that “the petitioners are keen to see the accused…..tried by court martial at the earliest”. Since the CoI had already been completed before the army’s decision to take over the case, recording of SoE was ordered. This is a meticulous procedure which has bearing on the subsequent decisions to decide the type of court to try the accused and the evidence so recorded can be/is used during the proceedings of the court martial. The evidence so recorded would have undergone further legal scrutiny by the army’s legal officers and the procedure for a final decision would then have been initiated which led to the current position to convene a GCM. Thus the trial is only now set to begin as against the popular perception that it is over and verdict is to be announced.

The army needs to be complimented on its ability to see through the entire procedure with a sense of balance and ensure that the alleged perpetrators are brought to justice but like in any such system patience has to be exercised so that justice is meted out and seen to be correctly executed. An information game is bound to ensue. The public at large is justifiably unaware of the of the military justice system. It is now up to the army to ensure that while imparting justice the perception game is not lost because of the lack of information. Perhaps, a near open court with daily briefs on the proceedings would not be a bad idea. There is precedence to this and the army needs to ensure it looks at all options when it comes to the information aspects while the GCM is in progress. There are enough detractors awaiting a slip up.

Flare up in the Valley

On April 30, 2010, the army claimed to have foiled an infiltration bid from across the Line of Control, in the Machil Sector of Kupwara by killing three armed militants from Pakistan. It was, however, subsequently established that the encounter had been staged and that the three alleged militants were in fact civilians who had been lured to the army camp by promising them jobs as porters and then shot. They were identified as Mohammed Shafi, Shehzad Ahmed and Riyaz Ahmed, residents of Nadihal in Baramulla district.

On June 11, there were protests in Srinagar against these killings during which the local police used force to disperse the protesting youth resulting in the death of a 17-year old boy Tufail Ahmad Mattoo. Several protest marches were organised across the Valley in response to the killings. These resulted in clashes with police and the CRPF, in which another boy was killed. This set off a vicious cycle of violent street protests in Kashmir, causing over 120 deaths due to stone-pelting from May to September 2010.

After the incident, complaints from relatives of the victims led to the police arresting three persons, Territorial Army jawan Abbas Shah, Basharat Lone and Abdul Hamid Bhat, both associated with anti-terror operations, for their alleged involvement in the case. The Jammu and Kashmir Police had in July 2010 filed a charge-sheet against an army Colonel, a Major and seven others before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Sopore.

According to reports, Indian intelligence agencies had claimed that these protests and demonstrations were part of covert operations of Pakistani intelligence agencies and were sponsored and supported by them. Media reports earlier in March had suggested that with the support of its intelligence agencies, Pakistan had been once again boosting terrorism in Kashmir.

It was reported that in a meeting held in Muzaffarabad in January 2010, the United Jihad Council called for reinvigorated jihad in Kashmir. In May 2010 increased activities of terrorists was reported from across the border in Neelum valley in Pakistani-administered Gilgit-Baltistan. The locals reported that large numbers of terrorists, who did not appear to be Kashmiri, had set up camps in the area with the intention of crossing into Kashmir. — TNS

Cause of delay

* On establishing that the incident occurred on active service, the army moved the local courts of law to take over the case

* The same was denied on grounds of the contentious aspect whether the incident occurred on active service or otherwise.

* The army then went for appeal in the High Court. The opposite parties took considerable time to file replies and the court had to repeatedly adjourn

* Through this elongated time the army was unjustifiably accused of delaying tactics and its perception management efforts could not better the bitter campaign to smear it

* Eventually, the High Court ruled in favor of the army, directing it to take over the case and try the accused through the military justice system, vindicating the army’s stance
Two Brigadier-rank officers booked for harassing junior

Jaipur, December 30
Six Army officers, including two of Brigadier rank, have been booked by the Ajmer Police for allegedly harassing a lieutenant colonel and trying to prove him mentally ill after he raised his voice against certain irregularities.

Lt Col Arun Kumar of Composite Artillery Brigade in Nasirabad Cantonment alleged that his superiors conspired and tried to prove him mentally ill after he complained against certain irregularities and corrupt practices by the senior officers of the brigade.

Following a court's directive, an FIR was lodged against Brigadier AK Ganguli, Commander of the Brigade, his deputy Col Lalit Agnihotri, Col Rohit Jha, Military Hospital Nasirabad’s Commander Brigadier Sanjeev Vaspyan, Medical Officer Maj SV Rekha and officiating Registrar Maj Gurmendra Singh on December 19.

Defence spokesperson Col S D Goswami said a court of inquiry has already been initiated. "The Army has already instituted a court of inquiry to ascertain the facts. The military chain of command is fully aware of the incident," he said. In the complaint, 54-year old Arun Kumar alleged that he found misuse of funds and other corrupt practices in the brigade and raised a voice against it, but this invited adverse action against him and the Brigade Commander and his deputy conspired against him.

After the complaints, the Brigade Commander allegedly threatened the colonel that he would not be able to continue his service in the Army. On May 17, the Brigadier issued him a notice stating he was mentally ill, following which he was admitted to the military hospital where, Arun alleged, Brigadier Ganguli conspired with the military hospital’s Commander to prove him sick. He was also harassed in the military hospital, he alleged. — PTI

‘Whistleblower’ Colonel

* Lt Col Arun Kumar of Composite Artillery Brigade in Nasirabad Cantt alleged he found misuse of funds in the brigade and raised a voice against it

* This, he says, invited adverse action against him and the Brigade Commander and his deputy conspired and tried to prove him mentally ill

* An FIR has been lodged against six officers: Brigade Commander Brigadier AK Ganguli, his deputy Col Lalit Agnihotri, Col Rohit Jha, Nasirabad Military Hospital Commander Brigadier Sanjeev Vaspyan, Medical Officer Maj SV Rekha and officiating Registrar Maj Gurmendra Singh
 Gen Bikram Singh is CoSC chief

New Delhi, December 30
Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh today took over as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), a body of three service chiefs with the senior-most among them heading it.

He succeeded IAF Chief NAK Browne, who is superannuating on December 31. The IAF Chief has headed the CoSC since September 1, 2012. In the IAF, he will be succeeded by Chief designate Air Marshal Arup Raha. Both, Browne and Raha are fighter pilots.

The IAF Chief handed over the baton to Gen Singh in the presence of Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi at a meeting of the CoSC here. Gen Bikram Singh will head the CoSC till July 31. He is also a frontrunner for being appointed as the Permanent, CoSC — a post that has been recommended by Naresh Chandra Committee for reforms in the higher defence management. — TNS
Army sets up cells for China expertise
The Indian Army has established “China cells” in its Northern, Eastern and Central Commands to gather “expertise” about the giant eastern neighbour. The Army is also making efforts to enable more of its personnel to learn the Mandarin language to familiarise themselves with Chinese culture.
With China remaining an enigma, the Indian Army has taken steps to promote its own understanding of China and the way it functions. Knowledge of Mandarin Chinese and Chinese culture and customs have in the past proved to be of valuable assistance to senior Indian Army officers while dealing with their Chinese counterparts during either routine flag meetings or at meetings called to reduce tension in the wake of any incident. Besides, the Indian Army is also keeping a close watch on Chinese military activities that have the potential to affect Indian security interests.
The government had recently given the Army the go-ahead to establish a mountain strike corps in the eastern sector. India had also signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement recently with China to eliminate the possibility of any sudden military conflagration along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). However, India is worried about increased Chinese military assertiveness in Asia and increased Chinese spending on defence.
The Chinese obsession with coveting Arunachal Pradesh — which it continues to refer to as South Tibet — has also added to India’s worries.
Apart from frequent transgressions by Chinese People’s Liberation Army border patrols into territory that India considers its own, especially in the Ladakh sector, China has also adopted a belligerent attitude recently in maritime disputes with its eastern neighbours Japan and South Korea.
Stretches of the Indian side of the 4,000-km Sino-Indian border falls under the overall jurisdiction of the Indian Army’s Udhampur-based Northern Command, the Lucknow-based Central Command and the Kolkata-based Eastern Command. The Indian Army patrols the LAC while paramilitary forces patrol the international border with China. The LAC is essentially the de-facto border since India and China have differences over its demarcation.
Army sends 25 elderly civilians on motivational tour
A group of 25 elderly civilians and entrepreneurs from Rajouri district today embarked on a motivational tour of north India as part of a programme conducted by the Army.

The motivational tour, having the motto of 'Tajurba Aur Vishwas Desh Aapke Saath', was flagged off from Kalakote today, a defence spokesman said here.

It is being organised by the Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, based at Kalakote, under the aegis of Counter Insurgency Force Uniform, he said.

The group will visit cottage and small scale industries at Amritsar, Chandigarh and Baddi (Himachal Pradesh), he said.

They will also visit Palampur (HP), which has achieved near-green revolution, and will get a unique opportunity to interact with their counterparts and officials of various civic bodies to gain a first hand information on the activities being undertaken by them, he said.

The tour will enable them to undertake similar works in transforming their own methods and practises into a self reliant one, he said.

They will visit important historical places such as Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh and Wagha Border in Amritsar; Rock Garden, Rose Garden and Sukhna Lake at Chandigarh; Tashi Jang Monestary, Tea Garden and Dhauladhar National Park at Palampur, the spokesman said.

The tour is organised with a view to expose the entrepreneurs to the opportunities existing in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, he said.
Indian MoD approves Barak 1, ASW craft contracts
India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) approved four major acquisitions worth INR160 billion (USD2.58 billion) for the Indian Navy (IN) and the Indian Army on 23 December.

The MoD's Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) cleared the INR8.80 billion purchase of 262 Rafael-Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-designed Barak 1 missiles for IN warships and a INR134.40 billion contract to build 16 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) shallow water craft.

The Barak missiles will arm the Barak 1 point defence systems acquired in 2000 and fitted to 12 IN warships, including its lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat . The acquisition was delayed following a ban imposed in 2006 after the MoD accused Rafael-IAI of paying INR1.74 billion in bribes to senior Indian officials, including a retired IN chief, to secure the Barak tender.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal