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Thursday, 20 March 2014

From Today's Papers - 20 Mar 2014

 No longer a secret
The govt must declassify Henderson Brooks Report

THE Henderson Brooks Report on the 1962 Sino-Indian War posted online by an Australian journalist has revealed what is already well known in government, defence and academic circles - a saga of political and military blunders which almost 52 years ago had cost the lives of over 3,000 soldiers and, even more significantly, had resulted in a serious loss of both face and territory of a nation that aspires to be a power to reckon with.

The report, which the government has declined to authenticate, has been posted online by Neville Maxwell, a former correspondent with The Times, London, who in 1971 had published his landmark book India's China War. It has been known all these years that the book was based on the Henderson Brooks Report, which was first submitted in May 1963, i.e. six months after India's debacle in the Sino-Indian War. In addition, books authored by a number of retired Army officers who had fought in this war have either endorsed or further added to what Neville Maxwell has written, thereby leaving little to imagination. Yet, for over half a century the government has declined to declassify this 'operational review', which incidentally was limited to examining the state of preparedness, conduct and shortcomings of the Army formations involved in the war. For, Lieutenant-General Henderson Brooks was not mandated to examine the functioning of either the Army Headquarters or the Ministry of Defence.

The government should have declassified the Henderson Brooks Report in 1993, which is when the 30-year secrecy clause lapsed. It is a matter of dismay, if not insult, that the Indian public should be furnished a report examining India's military debacle by a foreign national living in faraway Australia who has had access to it for over four decades now. South Block's knee-jerk reaction to block Maxwell's website hardly reflects a progressive mindset. The government must now declassify the entire report considering that there are some portions that are missing in Neville Maxwell's website. The government owes it to the public which has every right to know about India's humiliating defeat from a country with which New Delhi continues to have a disputed border even 67 years after Independence.
 NGOs vulnerable to terror funding: MHA

New Delhi, March 19
With voluntary organisations receiving more than Rs 11,500 crore of foreign funds annually, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has warned that the NGOs in the country were vulnerable to risks of money laundering and terror financing.

In its latest annual report on receipt and utilisation of foreign contribution by voluntary associations, the ministry said since the NGOs work independently outside the government, it is expected that they should be self- regulating and law abiding.

One of the objectives of the national policy on the voluntary sector is to "encourage NGOs to adopt transparent and accountable system of governance and management".

"While it is not proper to make sweeping generalisations, it is necessary to note that the NGO sector in India is vulnerable to the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing," the report said.

In his foreword, Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami said the general policy of the government is not to encourage soliciting of foreign contribution and the endeavour of the ministry has been to bring in transparency and accountability in the operation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act while ensuring national security.

Interestingly, the returns have not been received from nearly 19,000 organizations for which appropriate action has been taken by the Home Ministry for non-compliance of their statutory obligations.

A total of 43,527 NGOs were registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act upto March 31, 2012.

Amongst the purposes for which foreign contribution was received and utilized are: rural development (Rs 945.77 crore), welfare of children (Rs 929.22 crore), construction and maintenance of school/college (Rs 824.11 crore) and research (Rs 539.14 crore). The figures have been captured from the amounts indicated under various standard heads of utilization prescribed in the annual returns.

Further, some NGOs, which have reported receipt and utilization of foreign contribution, have not classified utilization appropriately under the respective standard heads and, therefore, such amount has been shown under the miscellaneous head. — PTI
VK Singh is 2nd Service Chief to contest LS poll
For the second time in the nation’s history, a former Service Chief is contesting elections to the Lok Sabha. Gen VK Singh, whose tenure as Army Chief was marked by confrontation with the government over his date of birth, has been nominated as the BJP candidate from Ghaziabad.

Old timers recall that independent India’s first Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal KM Cariappa, had contested Lok Sabha elections from southern Mumbai in 1971 at the age of 72.

Considered in military circles as the epitome of discipline and professionalism, he refused to join any party and entered the political fray as an Independent.

Cariappa, fondly known as Kipper, was commissioned in the then British Indian Army in 1919 and had served as Army Chief from January 1949 to January 1953, following which he was appointed as India’s High Commissioner to Australia for two-and-a-half years.

Another former Army Chief, Gen Shankar Roychowdhary, had made it to the Rajya Sabha.

Golden jubilee of Siachen Pioneers

The IAF’s 114 helicopter unit, popularly known as the Siachen Pioneers, will celebrate its golden jubilee at Leh on April 5. A function is scheduled to be held at its base. The unit also plans to host a seminar in Delhi later in the year.

Raised on April 1, 1964 at Leh, in the aftermath of the Chinese aggression in Ladakh, the unit is the lifeline for troops at the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield.

It has so far carried out more than 6,000 casualty evacuations in its history and formed the backbone of Operation Meghdoot in 1984 -- the capture of Siachen Glacier by the Indian Army.

The unit also has a special connect with the people of the region. This winter, several rescue missions were carried out to evacuate civilians in the inaccessible Zanskar region, upholding its motto of “Apatsu Mitram” — A Friend in Distress.

13-year fight for disability pension

While instances of jawans struggling to get their pensionary benefits released are common, a case has also come to light where a retired Major General fought for 13 years to get his disability pension.

The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal finally allowed the petition that had challenged an administrative order denying him the benefits.

The Bench, while ordering that the petitioner, Maj Gen JS Kapoor, would be entitled to a disability element of 50 per cent, also ruled that it would be open for the authorities concerned to constitute a re-survey medical board to freshly assess the petitioner’s disability if they so desired.

The officer had retired in 2001 after putting in 38 years of service during which he developed hyper tension due to stress and strain of military service and later even had to undergo cardiac surgery. A medical board had earlier assessed his disability at 20 per cent and had attributed the same to military service.

The medical adviser attached to the Adjutant General’s branch at Army Headquarters, which deals with medical cases concerning officers, however, had refused to sanction the disability element of pension.

IAS officer joins Territorial Army

In the times when differences between the bureaucracy and the armed forces seem to be spiralling, an IAS officer has decided to don military fatigues.

P Manivannan, a Karnataka cadre officer posted as Chief Project Officer with the state Highways Improvement Project, will be commissioned as a lieutenant into the Territorial Army’s (TA) 106 Infantry Battalion (Parachute) at Bangalore. After basic training, he will also undergo parachute training at Agra.

He joined the IAS about 15 years ago. The TA comprises gainfully employed citizens who can be called upon for active service during a national emergency.

A host of eminent people from various walks of life, including political leaders, Bollywood personalities, doctors, lawyers and professionals, have in the past joined the TA though those from the civil services are rare.
The Henderson Brooks morality play
It’s nice to finally have the report. But let’s not swallow it uncritically.

Neville Maxwell’s decision to make public parts of the Henderson-Brooks Report on the 1962 war is welcome and long overdue. Few documents in the contemporary history of India are swathed in as much mystique as the Henderson-Brooks Report. Commissioned in the wake of the debacle, the report has never been officially declassified. Replying to a question in Parliament a couple of years ago, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said that the report could not be released as its contents “are not only extremely sensitive but are of current operational value”. Later, in response to a request for the report under the Right to Information Act, the army headquarters reiterated this position. The army also claimed that reports of internal inquiries are “not even submitted to the government”.

In fact, the Henderson-Brooks report was sent by the army chief to the defence minister in July 1963, who in turn forwarded it to the prime minister. Moreover, its contents are quite well known thanks to Maxwell’s own book, India’s China War (1970), as well as the unpublished official history of the war that was leaked many years ago.

However, the government’s mindless refusal to declassify the report has strengthened the belief that it is the “definitive” account of the war. While the report is a very useful document, it can hardly be the last word on the subject. Indeed, it is more useful for what it tells us about the Indian army’s attempts to institutionally cope with the humiliating defeat of the 1962 war rather than why it occurred in the first place.

The report was commissioned as an “Operational Review” of the army’s performance in the war. From the outset, though, the two-member committee comprising of Lieutenant General Henderson-Brooks and Brigadier Prem Bhagat sought to go beyond this narrow remit. Their efforts to do so were hampered by their lack of access to any documents in the army headquarters or the ministries of defence and external affairs, let alone the prime minister’s secretariat.

Nor did the committee call for testimonies from some key military protagonists. Despite its limited base of documentary evidence, the report told a damning tale. The problem, however, was in the explanation that seemed to emerge from the report.

At bottom, the report told a cautionary tale of meddlesome politicians, compliant military leaders and an ensuing, if avoidable, catastrophe. The underlying message was evident: if only we had had generals capable of “standing up” to overbearing and strategically ignorant political leaders, we could have averted this ignominious outcome.

It is not difficult to see why this interpretation was so congenial to an Indian army smarting from the defeat against China and the subsequent bouts of recrimination. For one thing, it shifted the attention from the army’s performance as a whole to the shoulders of a few incompetent and complaisant commanders and their political superiors. For another, it helped make the case that henceforth politicians should stop “interfering” in professional military matters. Although the report was never released, these conclusions percolated through the Indian strategic establishment. In the aftermath of the war, politicians did become quite chary of intruding into the operational domain of the military — a state of affairs that arguably continues to date. And the morality play scripted in the report became the conventional wisdom on the causes of the debacle.

With hindsight and the benefit of more documentary evidence, it is clear that this narrative is at best problematic and at worst downright wrong. To be sure, it was the civilians who crafted the “forward policy”, whereby small detachments of troops were stationed in areas claimed but unoccupied by the Chinese.

Yet, the available evidence shows that from late-1959 until the adoption of the forward policy, the military advocated a strategy of “defence in depth” — they sought to hold defensive positions far behind the boundary claimed by India. This strategy was obviously incapable of countering Chinese incursions near the boundary — incursions that were the main cause for concern to the political leadership and the main source of domestic political pressure on the government.

The military’s inability to come up with proposals to meet these intrusions gave civilians the upper hand in the formulation of strategy. If the military went along with the forward policy, it was not simply because the civilians rode roughshod over them, but because they had no alternatives to offer and no professional judgement that applied to the situation.

It bears emphasis that this vacuum in military thinking was evident from 1959, when the boundary dispute turned hot. It is comforting but misleading to assume that senior generals like K.S. Thimayya and S.P.P. Thorat had any better ideas to deal with this situation than their successors like P.N. Thapar (army chief in 1962). Nor is it the case that officers like General Thapar were “courtier soldiers” installed by Krishna Menon and Jawaharlal Nehru. After all, it was the military system that had elevated him to the top. Thapar was the seniormost amongst the candidates for the slot — he had served as independent India’s first director of military operations and had performed well subsequently.

This is not to argue that the politicians bore no blame for the defeat. The buck undoubtedly stopped with the prime minister. But a dispassionate assessment would underline the fact that the army also bore an institutional responsibility — one that cannot be attributed merely to a few bad generals. The simple fact is that, from 1959 to 1962, the Indian army’s professional capacities at all levels were put to the test — and found badly wanting.

Nehru once observed that the defeat against China was “a permanent piece of education”. But history offers no straightforward lessons. The search for new evidence has to be complemented by the development of new perspectives. Fifty years on, it should be possible to approach the subject without the passions of that period. It is nice to have the Henderson-Brooks report, but it would be a pity if we were to uncritically swallow it and reinforce the received wisdom.
Sikhs in US Army: India welcomes lawmakers' backing
Over 100 members of Congress from both Democratic and Republican parties made the plea in a March 10 letter to the US defence secretary Chuck Hagel to promote inclusion of Sikhs in the US armed forces by updating their appearance regulations.

The major bipartisan push for change was led by Joe Crowley, democratic vice chair of the democratic caucus in the house, and Rodney Frelinghuysen republican chairman of the House Defence Appropriations Subcommittee.

In a statement on the letter's release, Jaishankar said: "The congressional initiative is an important step towards upholding the cultural rights of the Sikh community in the United States. The large number of signatories to this letter testifies to the important role played by the Sikh community in the United States and its various walks of life."

"The Sikh community's success in the United States is a source of pride for India and a pillar of the India-US partnership," he said.

"India takes pride in being the cradle of Sikhism. The Sikh community is an intrinsic part of India's multi-religious and pluralistic fabric" Speaking of the contributions of the Sikh community in India, Jaishankar said.

"Sikhs have made India proud with their sacrifices, achievements and leadership. India's Sikh sons and daughters have held the highest offices in the land and have served at the highest ranks including at Four Star ranks in the Indian military" he said

"The tremendous progress and prosperity they have achieved, and their enormous contribution to their motherland, speak volumes about their indefatigable spirit of enterprise and diligence," Jaishankar added.

In the last 30 years, only three Sikh Americans -- Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan and Corporal Simran Preet Singh Lamba -- have been granted an accommodation, or permission, to serve in the US Army while maintaining their articles of faith.

Such accommodations are neither permanent nor guaranteed, and must be renewed after virtually every assignment, the lawmakers noted

Sikhs have served in the US Army since World War I, and they are presumptively permitted to serve in the armed forces of America's NATO allies Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as key partner India.
U.S. Army seeks to dismiss general who admitted affair
(Reuters) - A U.S. Army general who pleaded guilty to mistreating a junior female officer during one of several inappropriate relationships should be dismissed from the service for the harm caused by his criminal acts, military lawyers argued on Wednesday.

Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair used the power of his rank to exploit women for personal gratification, breaking the trust given to him as a top officer, said Major Rebecca DiMuro, a special victims prosecutor.

"This is not honorable service," DiMuro said during the government's closing argument at Sinclair's court-martial in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. "When given the ultimate trust, he abused it."

Sinclair's defense lawyers argued the 27-year Army veteran who served five combat tours should be allowed to retire at a reduced rank rather than lose out on his military pension and benefits if dismissed.

"He deserves redemption," said Major Sean Foster, part of the general's defense team.

The trial judge is expected to announce Sinclair's sentence on Thursday, two years after criminal charges upended the career of the former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and focused attention on how the U.S. armed forces handle sexual misconduct cases.

Sinclair's admissions of wrongdoing could bring jail time, though not as severe a punishment as he faced before being absolved of sexual assault charges in a plea deal this week. The agreement with the government put an undisclosed cap on the possible penalties.

Sinclair, 51, a married father of two, told the court he felt deep shame and remorse for the selfish behavior that hurt his family and the Army. He was sent home to Fort Bragg after being stripped of command in southern Afghanistan in May 2012 as a result of the case.

"I have been in limbo, with no purpose and no ability to be useful to the Army or my country," he said in a tearful statement. "I've been frustrated and angry, but I don't have to look any further than the mirror for someone to blame."

The one-star general apologized to the three junior female officers from whom he sought a date or nude photographs and to the female Army captain he admitted he emotionally harmed during an adulterous sexual affair.

"It was my responsibility to ensure that these officers were protected and promoted and I failed them as a leader," Sinclair said.


During her closing argument, the prosecutor said the case was about more than mistakes. DiMuro said Sinclair demonstrated an escalating pattern of misconduct and took steps to make sure he was not exposed, including lying to the captain about his intentions for their relationship in order to keep her close.

Defense attorney Foster said the captain and other female officers were willing participants in their interactions with Sinclair and argued his actions should be considered in the context of an otherwise stellar military career.

About two dozen defense witnesses, many of them male and female soldiers who served with Sinclair, testified that he was an inspirational, fearless leader who cared more about his troops than his bosses.

"He was easily the best brigade commander I worked for," said Colonel Kenneth Kelley, who worked with Sinclair in Germany and Iraq and traveled from Japan to testify on his behalf.

Sinclair also pleaded guilty to military offenses that include possessing pornography on his laptop while deployed in Afghanistan, misusing his government credit card to visit his mistress and using derogatory language to refer to female officers.

Though his main accuser stands by her allegations that he forced her to perform oral sex when she tried to break off their illicit relationship, Sinclair was cleared of sexual assault charges through the plea bargain.

Also dropped were charges that Sinclair had sex with the captain, a military intelligence officer, in a parking lot in Germany and on a hotel balcony in Arizona, and that he threatened to kill her if she exposed the three-year affair.

Prosecutors sought to show through their witnesses that the general was prone to anger and that his actions hurt female junior officers and brought disrepute to the Army.

The rare court-martial against a general unraveled and resulted in the plea deal after Pohl ruled politics appeared to have improperly influenced the Army's decision to reject an earlier offer by Sinclair to plead guilty if the charges of coercive sex acts were dismissed.

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