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Saturday, 1 March 2014

From Today's Papers - 01 Mar 2014

 Appointment of Navy Chief likely next week
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
The new Chief for the Indian Navy is likely to be appointed next week. A process of vetting is on at various levels of the government. This includes a “final background check” before the officer is elevated to command the fourth-largest Navy in the world.

Since Admiral DK Joshi resigned suddenly on February 26, he upset the succession line that would have happened in due course. All three top senior most Vice Admirals, who are in contention now, would not have been in the race had Admiral Joshi completed his full tenure till August 31, 2015.

Since Vice Admirals retire at the age of 60 and the Chief at 62, all three would have retired, leaving it for Vice Admiral Satish Soni to take over. Soni is now fourth on the seniority list.

The Ministry of Defence has presented names of three Vice Admirals with their seniorities and recent annual confidential reports to the appointments committee of cabinet. The Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the Home Minister are members of the ACC in this case.

Officers remembered

A wreath laying ceremony was held at the Indian Naval Hospital Asvini to honour Lieutenant Commander Kapish Singh Muwal and Lieutenant Commander Manoranjan Kumar in Mumbai on Friday. The two had died in the accident on board INS Sindhuratna.
 PR Kumar is new DGMO
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
Lieut General PR Kumar was today appointed the Director General Military Operations (DGMO), replacing Lt General Vinod Bhatia, who retired today.

Lt General Kumar, who has commanded the Mathura-based 1 Strike of the Army, is from Regiment Artillery. His is currently the Director General (Aviation) overlooking the Army’s expanding fleet of helicopters that will now include the armed version of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).

Lt General Kumar will assume office tomorrow. Besides running the military operations, the DGMO has a crucial role of maintaining telephonic contact with his Pakistan counterpart on a weekly basis.
Submarine INS Sindhuratna fire: 'He would have loved to die in war, he'd say this is embarrassing'
Lieutenant Commander Kapish Muwal was 32 years old, Lieutenant Manoranjan Kumar was 30. Both the young men, officers of the Indian Navy, died saving other sailors when a fire broke out on their submarine, the INS Sindhuratna early on Wednesday morning.

This evening, Navy personnel gathered in Mumbai to lay wreaths and pay tribute to the officers

Their families are disconsolate. Ashish, brother of Lt Commander Muwal, said, "If my brother was here, he would have told me, I would have loved to die in battle...this is embarrassing. This is not death fit for a defence officer."

He said his brother had told him that the INS Sindhuratna was not fit to go to sea. "My brother knew the submarine was defective. Everyone knew it was defective. It was sent for trial one last time. It was only for one day and it proved fatal. It is a bad joke which has taken two precious lives."

At Lt Cdr Manoranjan Kumar's home in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, no one dared break the news to his mother on Thursday. The family reportedly disconnected its cable TV connection and stopped all visitors from coming home.

"Manoranjan studied engineering for four years before joining the navy. He was the brightest in the is a shock for us," said his cousin Rajesh Kumar. The officer's father has left for Mumbai to bring back his body. The officer was reportedly engaged to be married.

The officers' bodies were found in an airtight compartment of the submarine after it was brought to the Naval harbour in Mumbai yesterday. Seven sailors had been airlifted to hospital soon after smoke was detected in the submarine, which was being sea-tested after a refit.

A battery leak had reportedly started the fire, and poisonous fumes from fire extinguishers filled two compartments.

Survivors say the two officers pushed their comrades out of the compartments and were checking to see whether anyone was left when a hatch closed, trapping them inside.

Their bodies were reportedly bloated and disfigured due to hours of exposure to toxic gases.

Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi cited a series of accidents on his watch while resigning on Wednesday.
India's defence sector needs better working conditions
India has the tremendous disadvantage of having two hostile and some not-so-friendly neighbours. In this situation a declining morale of the guardians of the nation’s frontiers is the last thing that the government or society wants.

In two days in succession there have been news highlighting the plight of two wings of the Indian defence forces. Just a day after the fire tragedy on the INS Sindhuratna — costing the lives of two naval officers — came the report on Thursday of a Rashtriya Rifles soldier in Jammu and Kashmir killing five of his colleagues before turning the trigger on himself.

While the first is a question of technological preparedness, the lack of which can be deadly, the second, the latest in a series, is one of stress that India’s army has to go through while guarding inhospitable terrain, away from family or home. It is noteworthy that a large number of cases of fratricidal killing have occurred in J&K. According to a statement from the defence ministry in Parliament, about 100 soldiers are committing suicide each year since 2003. With the advent of the mobile phone, pressure from families thousands of miles away can be excruciating. Also, studies done by the Defence Institute of Psychological Research point to a breakdown in officer-soldier relations. The problem has been compounded by the fact the army personnel is short by about 45,000, including more than 10,000 of officer rank.

Another problem of the defence forces relates to anomalies in the pay structure and the pension system. Till the mid-70s there used to be a separate pay commission for the defence sector. Once that was done away with, distortions began to emerge in the way salary scales were determined and the consequence of this was a plethora of litigation, leading to a Supreme Court order directing the government to pay salary arrears with interest to more than 20,000 soldiers, serving as well as retired. Representation in the pay commission has been a long-standing demand, which has again been ignored by the government for the seventh pay commission. In addition to this, though soldiers retiring before 60 are sometimes re-employed by the Centre, the practice of deducting their pension that they are supposed to get as retired servicemen from their new salary has been a source of disaffection.

India has the tremendous disadvantage of having two hostile and some not-so-friendly neighbours. In this situation a declining morale of the guardians of the nation’s frontiers is the last thing that the government or society wants. A career in defence — once a matter of prestige — is in danger of losing its attractiveness. The new government should do everything at its command to restore healthy working conditions in the army. A beginning towards that end can be not involving the army in tackling things such as communal riots and let the soldiers remain in the barracks except in a war-like situation.
Too late to ask: Is AK Antony right for defence?
The sacking of naval chief DK Joshi following yet another submarine mishap points to the turbulent nature of defence minister AK Antony's tenure. Generally known for his calm, composed and near-reclusive nature, the Kerala strongman clearly found the defence ministry much beyond his capabilities to handle.

The various mishaps that happened to naval vessels, the long tug-of-war the minister had with former army chief VK Singh, the so-called "coup" attempt during Singh's tenure, the cancelling of various defence deals, the corruption allegation against former air chief SP Tyagi, and the perceived gulf of mistrust that developed between the army and the government have become the hallmarks of Antony's stewardship of the ministry.

"There is no denying the fact that Antony is an honest man. But during his tenure, deficit of trust between the forces and ministry widened a lot. The episode of General VK Singh and now Admiral DK Joshi has exposed the trust deficit," a retired Lt General of Indian army told dna. Another officer claimed that despite repeated demands and even an alarm raised by the forces, the defence ministry kept many crucial army acquisitions on the backburner.

"We need a person who is not pro-self, but pro-India, and can thus utilise the resources to the best, rather than sitting on files for the sake of personal, intangible gains," said Air Vice-Marshal (retd) Kapil Kak.

Antony may have achieved the record as the longest-serving defence minister of the country, but in his tenure of seven years, the nation's defence preparedness has suffered. His over-cautious approach has led to long delays, a complaint which has been following him since his days as chief minister of Kerala.

While handling General VK Singh's age row, the defence ministry was completely on the back foot as the former army chief went to the Supreme Court against the order of the defence ministry. VK Singh was the first army chief in the history of Independent India, who went to court against a government decision.

In a recent disclosure, then director general of military operations, claimed that a panicked defence secretary summoned him to know about the movement of troops on the day VK Singh had approached the Supreme Court and asked that the troops be sent back. This was the incident that gave rise to 'coup attempt' rumours.

"There was a misconception or there was perceptional difference or there may be distrust," Lt General AK Choudhary, the DGMO reportedly told the media. The very fact that such an incident happened is indication of the trust deficit between the forces and the executive which has never happened.

"If you ask me, there was no trust deficit between me and the defence minister. Deficit of trust was created by the babus of the defence ministry as I was taking on the issue of rampant corruption in the corridors of ministry and particularly in the defence public sector units. Babus do influence defence minister for their vested interest," Gen VK Singh (retired) told dna.

"The issue was highlighted by me in my book as well that babus did their best to develop a trust deficit between the defence minister and me because I was exposing them."

Even in the navy chief's resignation episode, we should look into the circumstances orchestrated by the defence ministry which led to his departure. Taking moral responsibility for mishaps is certainly a moral booster for the forces. But, the real culprits are the defence ministry officials, who did not bother to look at long-pending demands of the navy, VK Singh said.

"He is completely a self-centered man. Self revival is his first instinct. He neither has the ability to control his officers nor has faith in them. He did not take action after the then army chief General VK Singh informed him about the bribery episode. Instead, he sat on the issue and only handed it over to the CBI after it was highlighted by the media," a former Lt General told dna.

"In an attempt to protect his image of an honest man, he has blacklisted almost all major defence firms. But he has not been able to find fault in the ministry and circumstances under which these private companies bribe officials of his ministry," an army officer added.
Sindhuratna: With Saints like Antony, give me a sinner any day

If you had to make a choice between a saintly but incompetent leader and a not-so-saintly but competent one, which one would you choose? I am asking this question in the context of yesterday’s naval mishap involving a fire on submarine INS Sindhuratna, which has seen the exit of the Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi, who has chosen to take constructive responsibility for this and other mishaps under his watch. According to The Indian Express, in the last six months, the Indian Navy has seen nearly 10 disasters, the worst being the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak last August after a series of unexplained blasts near the Mumbai dockyard. It killed 18 navymen.

If the navy is busy sinking and damaging its own ships, who needs a navy? And do we need a saintly defence minister presiding over an accident-prone and self-destructive force of men in uniform? We can also pose the incompetent saint question in the larger context of the last 10 years. The UPA government is headed by Honest Manmohan and the defence ministry by Saint Antony. The honest PM-cum-Topnotch Economist has presided over India's largest scams and the destruction of economic growth; the Saint has mediated over the decimation of the prestige and power of India's armed forces where we destroy our own naval vessels, where our army is fighting with itself while China occupies our territory checking for weak links, the government panics over non-existent army coups, and the air force loses more aircraft to accidents that warfare. Nobody has ever accused Manmohan or Antony of ever taking a bribe, but honesty in one area of personal life is no good if it means letting malign influences taking control of the exchequer and playing ducks and drakes with the country's interests. In this sense, both Honest Manmohan and St Antony have been disasters - and possibly even dishonest. The chowkidar who looks the other way when the thief enters your house has no moral right to claim he didn't see the robbery - even if that is technically correct. Wilful blindness is dishonesty – and probably worse than the use of dishonest means to a desirable end. Salman Khurshid has kicked up a storm by calling Narendra Modi impotent with reference to 2002, but fails to see the consistent impotence of the UPA government in almost every area of governance – from politics to economics. While we can take the case against Honest Manmohan as proved beyond doubt (2G, Coalgate, CWG, and economic slowdown), especially since his own party has now dumped him, the case against St Antony the Incompetent has not been much talked about. St Antony’s problem is not that he is honest and poor as a churchmouse, which he is, but he more that he is the mouse that doesn’t roar when it needs to. And here, the Saint’s failings are more than clear. Consider just a few of them: One, in the controversy over the age of the previous army chief, Gen VK Singh, Antony let the issue fester till the only outcome possible was an ugly one. Clearly, Antony did not step in to find an amicable solution by either extending his tenure according to his stated age, or getting him to exit gracefully by offering him another post-retirement option. The net result was an army corps divided on communal lines. Two The Indian Express hinted in a 2012 story that the defence ministry went into a panic when it found that two military units were moving towards Delhi in January 2012 just when the VK Singh affair was hitting the fan. It was later shown that the panic was the result of suspicious minds in the defence ministry. This should have alerted Antony to this simple fact: that relations between civilian bosses and military officers had sunk to a new low. But instead of arresting the situation, he let things slide further. Three: the series of naval and air force disasters (four accidents involving Sukhois) should have alerted the Saint to the dangers of not attending to festering issues of defence acquisitions and modernisation, apart from the resultant low morale of the forces. But accident after accident – the Express counts 10 naval ones in the last six months, starting with the sinking of the INS Sindhurakshak in August 2013 – failed to alert him. In fact, budget constraints have led India to delay naval and air force modernisation and acquisition plans. The postponement of the Rafale fighter aircraft deal is one such case. This means the Indian Air Force is weaker too. There is no evidence that Antony fought tooth-and-nail to give his men in uniform the best equipment to fight with. Four Antony made a fool of himself last August when, after the killing of five Indian soldiers on the line of control by Pakistani soldiers, he claimed that the dirty work was done by around 20 “heavily-armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan army uniforms”. A day later, he changed his story to say that “specialist troops of Pakistan army were involved in the attack…”. Clearly, the original story must have been prompted by the PMO’s need to mend fences with Pakistan, and the corrected version came after the truth could no longer be hidden. Is this what a defence minister is supposed to do? Five St Antony does not take bribes, but the evidence is that he does not act on issues that could involve hanky-panky either. Three cases come to mind. #1: In the Agusta helicopter deal, where India signed up for 12 AW-101 helicopters for a price of €560 million (around Rs 4,600 crore), an Italian investigation has established that bribes amounting around €51 million may have been paid to middlemen. Though bribery was suspected as far back as in 2009, St Antony did nothing. It is only when the Italians ended up arresting Finmeccanica CEO Guiseppe Orsi that St Antony ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe – which will probably go nowhere. Finmeccanica is the parent of AgustaWestland. Is it possible for any honest minister to not be aware of the fact that commissions are paid in such deal? #2: It was the same with the Tatra army truck, where too kickbacks are alleged to have been paid. In 2012, Gen VK Singh, when he was army chief, disclosed that he was offered a Rs 14 crore bribe to okay the deal, and even reported this to Antony. But Antony did not act on it till the general talked to the media about it. #3: In the run-up to the 2009 general elections, a big newsbreak involved the payment of a huge “commission” in a Rs 10,000 crore defence deal involving Israel Aerospace Industries. As we noted before, Antony’s ministry allowed the Israeli firm to bill a huge Rs 600 crore as “business charges”, and failed to kick up a storm over this clause in the agreement. Note the timing of the deal: it was signed in February 2009, just weeks before the UPA government announced dates for the May general elections. Is it possible for any honest minister to not be aware of the contours of the commission and the deal? Where did the commission money go? What were the business charges incurred? For a much smaller payment of Rs 64 crore, Rajiv Gandhi got himself entangled in the Bofors controversy. He could never wash off the stigma. But a Rs 600 crore payment under St Antony has completely gone under the radar (Read the full story here). The problem with mere honesty without competence is that you can neither be honest nor deliver the right results. In an imperfect world it may not be possible to have a corruption-free defence establishment, but surely we can have a competent one where corruption is minimised and our armed forces are safe? Rajiv Gandhi may have got singed by the Bofors deal, but at least he got us the right guns – which proved their worth at Kargil. Honest Manmohan and St Antony have just told us that if it is a straight choice between saintly incompetence plus impotence, and not-so-saintly competence, we should choose the latter. Between a Manmohan and a Pranab Mukherjee or P Chidambaram, I would choose any of the latter two. Anyday.
Distrust between Antony & defence forces a worry for India

As submarine INS Sindhuratna made its way to the Mumbai Harbour, it carried with it the news the Navy was dreading- confirmation of the death of the two officers who were "unaccounted for" during the mishap on board.

Even as the Indian Navy is saddled with an aging fleet and has seen a wave of 11 mishaps involving warships in the last few months, Defence Minister AK Antony said he was saddened by the resignation of Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi, but its prompt acceptance seems to underline the trust deficit between the armed forces and the Defence Ministry. As submarine INS Sindhuratna made its way to the Mumbai Harbour, it carried with it the news the Navy was dreading- confirmation of the death of the two officers who were "unaccounted for" during the mishap on board. In Delhi, when Admiral Joshi resigned soon after the accident, Defence Minister AK Antony tried to clear the air on why the Navy Chief resigned. While Antony is all praise for the former Navy chief for doing the honourable thing, it is an open secret in the South Block that relations between the two were strained over the string of disasters the Navy has witnessed under Joshi's leadership. With over 11 major and minor incidents on warships and submarines over the last 10 months, the Navy's safety track record is under the scanner. But also under the scanner is Antony's own track record as a Defence minister. The common complaint the forces have had against him is that for 10 years he has sat on important files related to upgradation, mordenisation and acquisitions. As a result India's submarine fleet is down to 13 as compared with China's 50. The purchase of 126 Rafale fighter jets from France to replace the Indian Air Force's ageing fleet has also been put on hold. But the bigger disaster has been the way the Defence Minister has dealt with his chiefs. It is widely believed that had Antony not let the age issue of Gen VK Singh fester, he could have prevented the ugliness that followed. The distrust between the Army and the Ministry had reached such a low that the movement of two military units towards Delhi in 2012 had the Ministry of Defence in a state of panic smelling a coup. Then again Antony made a fool of himself in August 2013 when five Indian soldiers were killed on the LoC. First he claimed that it was the handiwork of terrorists dressed in Pakistani army uniforms, a day later, came a U-turn as he blamed the Pakistan Army directly. And for someone who is called 'St Antony' for his squeaky clean image, the Defence Minister has also some big alleged scams break during his tenure. The Rs 4600 crore AugustaWestland VVIP chopper deal and allegations of 'commission' in a Rs 10,000 crore Defence deal involving Israel Aerospace Industries. With his resignation, Admiral Joshi has become the first peace time defence chief in Independent India to quit active service. Question arises as of by not following his lead, will AK Antony go down in history as one of the most incompetent Defence Minister the country has ever had.

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