Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

From Today's Papers - 23 Apr 2014

 India, China mull more meeting points, hotlines
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 22
Senior military officials of India and China today discussed setting up of more border meeting points between local level Army officials and for having hotlines between the top military leadership of the two countries.

Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, Deputy Chief of General Staff (Operations) of the People Liberation Army of China, and his eight-member delegation was locked in discussions with the Indian side led by Vice Chief of the Indian Army Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who was accompanied by Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Lt General PR Kumar. The PLA has no such post as DGMO.

The Chinese side is on a two-day visit in response to an invitation extended by the Government of India in January this year.

An Indian Defence Ministry statement said: “The two sides exchanged views on various issues of mutual interest such as maintenance of peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and enhancing mutual cooperation and understanding between the armies of India and China.”

Measures for implementation of existing bilateral agreements were also discussed, it said. The Chinese side has confirmed their participation in the Fourth India-China joint training exercise scheduled to be held in November 2014 in India.

Sources said the talks focused on maintaining peace along the largely unmarked 4,057-km as a direct contact between the top military brass will help in keeping either side in check and ensure that there are no repeats of the April 2013 incident when Chinese troops had camped in Northern J&K. This is in line with the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) inked on October 23 last year during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing.

The BDCA proposes 'mutual consultations' to facilitate contacts and meetings between relevant organisations. It refers to establishing border personnel meeting sites in all sectors, as well as telephone contacts and telecommunication links at mutually agreed locations along the LAC. It points to setting up a hotline between the military headquarters of the two countries.

At present there are three meeting points for Brigadier-level officers to meet at Spanngur Gap in eastern Ladakh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh. There is keenness to have two more meeting points - one at Kibithoo in eastern Arunachal and the one in Himachal Pradesh.

Year 2014 has been declared as “Year of Friendly Exchanges”. In February, the PLA Delegation led by Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, Deputy Chief of General Staff, had come to India for Annual Defence Dialogue and the Indian Defence Minister had visited China in July 2013. The Chinese side has also confirmed the visit of their Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan to India later this year.
Controversial appointments put Navy at sea
The Navy has created some controversial precedents leading to major upheavals which would forever remain recorded in India’s naval history, the latest being the appointment of Admiral RK Dhowan as the Navy Chief. In this, the government has bypassed two established norms, the first being that he has never headed an operational command. The other is overlooking the principle of seniority
Dinesh Kumar
The Indian Navy, the smallest of the three services, is better known as the ‘silent service’ since it is publicly the least visible considering that its operational area is on the high seas. The Navy also has a far better record of contributing to defence indigenisation with its long and well established record of building warships which is in direct contrast to the Army and the Air Force both of which are entirely import-dependent for practically all their weapon platforms and weapon systems.

Yet despite being a ‘silent service’, the Navy has created some remarkable and controversial precedents leading to some major upheavals which are likely to forever remain recorded in India’s post-Independent naval history. The latest is the unfortunate recent sequence of events which began with a spate of accidents involving ships and submarines which culminated in the unprecedented resignation of Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi.

The resignation, accepted within hours of its submission on 26th February this year, led to the Navy being headed on an ad hoc basis by the Vice Chief of Naval Staff for almost two months (50 days to be precise) – which again is unprecedented – before the latter was formerly appointed to the Navy’s topmost post on 17th April.

However, in appointing Admiral Rabinder Kumar Dhowan as the new CNS, the 24th Navy Chief since Independence, the government has simultaneously bypassed two established norms, one of which is unprecedented. First, Admiral Dhowan has never previously headed an operational command (or even a training command), which is considered an essential requisite for an officer to be considered for appointment as CNS. This is unprecedented for all three services. The Navy has two operational commands – the Western Naval Command with headquarters in Mumbai and the Eastern Naval Command with headquarters in Vishakapatnam while a third, the Southern Naval Command with headquarters in Kochi, is a training command with no real operational jurisdiction on the high seas.

Second, Admiral Dhowan’s appointment has been made after bypassing the principle of seniority. The senior most vice admiral who was in the reckoning for the post of Navy Chief after Admiral Joshi’s resignation, Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C) of the Western Naval Command, which is considered to be the most prestigious and important of all commands and in whose jurisdiction all the major mishaps had occurred, had immediately following the announcement of Admiral Dhowan’s appointment requested voluntary retirement from service which only yesterday was accepted by the government. As a result, two key Navy posts – that of the Vice Chief and FOC-in-C of the Western Command – are currently vacant and require to be filled at the earliest.

Despite its small size (57,000 personnel), which is smaller in strength than the Delhi Police, and the fact that the men in white have otherwise performed with aplomb and with little controversy on the high seas, the Navy has, disproportionately to its size, made greater negative headlines compared to the other two services. Unfortunate as it is, both the office of the Navy Chief and several senior officers have on several occasions in the last two-and-a-half decades engaged in intrigue, manipulation or maneuvering. What is further disconcerting is that on most occasions, the Ministry of Defence has either been a party to these incidents or has spearheaded it.

The history of intrigue, manipulation and controversy mainly began in 1987 when the then Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Radhakrishna Hariram Tahiliani, the Navy’s 13th chief, recommended a short extension in service for Vice Admiral Jayant Ganpat Nadkarni, who was otherwise retiring, in order to facilitate the latter becoming the next Navy Chief. The political dispensation comprising Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was also Defence Minister, and Arun Singh, who was then Minister of State for Defence, accepted the recommendation and in due course Vice Admiral Nadkarni was promoted to the four-star rank of Admiral and appointed CNS on 1st December 1987.

This move (or maneuver?), according to Brigadier (retired) RP Singh and Commodore (retired) Ranjit B. Rai in their jointly authored book Sacked or Sunk? Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was dictated by Admiral Tahiliani’s desire to work out a line of succession for the Navy that would (or should) have led to the appointment of Vice Admiral Sukmal Jain (popularly known as Tony Jain) as the Navy Chief after Admiral Nadkarni’s retirement followed by then Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Vishnu Bhagwat.

What happened subsequently was unprecedented in India’s post-Independence military history. After Admiral Nadkarni took over as CNS, Rear Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was apparently removed from reckoning for the critical post of Fleet Commander of an operational command, an appointment which is considered mandatory for an officer to be considered for the post of FOC-in-C of either of the two operational commands – the Western and Eastern Naval Commands. The Navy exercised its discretion to appoint Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Kailash K. Kohli as Fleet Commander of the Western Naval Command where Rear Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was Chief of Staff.

But it was the questionable manner in which the appointment was effected which appeared to smack of intrigue. Rear Admiral Kohli flew to Mumbai by a late evening flight and was driven in a car belonging to the Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) to the Western Naval Command headquarters where he took charge as Fleet Commander around midnight, all of which was an unprecedented maneuver.

The incident led to a major upheaval in the Navy which lasted several years. For, acting on a tip off that Rear Admiral Kohli was being appointed Fleet Commander, Rear Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat filed a voluminous 405 page petition in the Bombay High Court on 12th September 1990.

The 13 respondents to his writ petition (number 2757) included a wide range of persons and institutions ranging from the Union of India, both the Defence and Home Ministers, the Defence Secretary, the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary at that time to eight top Navy officers beginning with the Navy Chief himself (Admiral Nadkarni) and his immediate senior, the FOC-in-C of the Western Naval Command Vice Admiral Jain. Incidentally, the latter too had been given a special extension until December 1990 with the ostensible aim of his being made Admiral Nadkarni’s successor.

The writ petition had been explosive to say the least and it was for the first time that a senior service officer had taken the Union government, the Defence Ministry, the Prime Minister’s office and virtually the entire top brass of the Navy to court for having been overlooked for an appointment and a for a promotion. While just the petition comprised 146 pages, the 48 annexures had run into 239 pages. The allegations ranged from the petty (parties attended, overseas visits etc by officers) to the more serious (professional impropriety, financial corruption, conspiracy etc) and from the personal to the professional with the reputation of every officer named questioned. Indeed, the petition reads like the Navy was a den of debauchery, conspiracy, degeneration, anti-national activities and corruption which would put Nero to shame.

Eventually, the writ petition resulted in a compromise. Rear Admiral Bhagwat withdrew his petition and was subsequently appointed Fleet Commander of the Eastern Naval Command. The reason(s) for the compromise is a subject of much debate and speculation. Whatever the reason, the compromise was arguably a questionable way out. The charges against the officers were never proved or disproved and yet their reputation was maligned while Rear Admiral Bhagwat got his way notwithstanding.

Vice Admiral Sukmal Jain, against who Rear Admiral Bhagwat had leveled charges of professional and personal impropriety and who was then the senior most vice admiral in line for promotion to the post of CNS, was superseded – the first incident of supersession. Instead, Vice Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas was approved for promotion and he took over as Navy Chief about two months later on 1st December 1990.

Interestingly, Vice Admiral Jain’s supersession and Vice Admiral Ramdas’ appointment was decided before Prime Minister VP Singh (who was also Defence Minister) resigned on 10th November 1990. When Chandra Shekhar took over as Prime Minister that same day, there were still 21 days for Vice Admiral Ramdas to formally take charge as CNS and had soon after taking charge considered reversing his predecessor’s decision and giving Admiral Nadkarni extension for a month in order to consider someone else (possibly Vice Admiral Jain) for the Navy’s top post. However, as brought out in his book My Presidential Years, Ramaswami Venkataraman, who was then President of India, strongly advised against it saying it would set a bad precedent.

The Navy’s saga of courting controversy did not end there. Six years later, Vice Admiral Vishnu Bhgawat, who by then had become FOC-in-C of the Western Naval Command, rose to CNS. He assumed command on 1st October 1996 which led to an upset Vice Admiral Kohli, who by then had become Vice Chief of Naval Staff, to proceed on leave pending retirement later that year. Admiral Bhagwat’s appointment had been preceded by considerable mudslinging against him and all other officers who were under consideration nfor Navy Chief.

Admiral Bhagwat’s tenure as CNS came to an abrupt end when on the evening of 30th December 1998 the government terminated his service for defiance of the civilian government then headed by the BJP-led NDA. Some months before his dismissal from service, a number of senior officers, including two vice admirals, had filed complaints against Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat. Intrigue was again at play. Just as Rear Admiral Kohli had been driven in a MDL car to the Western Naval Command to take over as Fleet Commander at midnight, Vice Admiral Sushil Kumar, then FOC-in-C of the Southern Navy Command was surreptitiously flown in a specially requisitioned aircraft belonging to the Aviation Research Centre, the aviation wing of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) from Kochi to New Delhi on Defence Minister George Fernandes’ instructions and asked to take charge soon after Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was served his dismissal orders after 5.30 pm, which was well past office hours.

Just as Admiral Dhowan has never commanded an operational command, neither had Admiral Sushil Kumar considering that the Southern Naval Command is a training command. But then, Admiral Sushil Kumar is not the only such officer to make to the top post of his service. General Shankar Roychowdhury, who became Army Chief after General Bipin Chandra Joshi died in harness in 1994, too had never commanded an operational command. He was then commanding the Army Training Command or ARTRAC in Shimla, which was designated as an operational command on paper but in Army circles is actually referred to only as a paper command.

The recent sequence of events were perhaps avoidable and could have been handled differently. Admiral Joshi’s resignation on moral grounds need not have been accepted. For, there is a need to define moral grounds. Ships have sunk in the past and yet officers at the helm of affairs have risen in rank. Aircraft have crashed and soldiers killed in both peacetime and conflict. Yet, no Air Chief or Army Chief has resigned. If, however, Admiral Joshi’s resignation needed to be accepted, then a Board of Inquiry should have clearly pinned responsibility before the government decided to supersede the senior most vice admiral. Issues concerning the services, the guardian of the country’s security and the instrument of last resort in case of crisis, needs to be handled far more carefully and with greater seriousness.

House of intrigue

    Unfortunately, both the office of the Navy Chief and several senior officers have on several occasions in the last two-and-a-half decades engaged in intrigue, manipulation or maneuvering.
    What is further disconcerting is that on most occasions, the Ministry of Defence has either been a party to these incidents or has spearheaded it.
Students briefed on career in armed forces
MHOW: Students of Army School recently had an opportunity to understand career possibilities in defence services, as they were in for a lecture by an officer from the Military College of Telecommunications Engineering (MCTE).

School principal Pramod Kumar Tiwari told TOI that MCTE faculty of studies commander Col Rakesh Chopra was the resource person, who spoke on the opportunities at National Defence Academy (NDA) and Indian Military Academy (IMA).

Through lecture cum presentation, he elaborated on the 'Life in the Olive Greens' where students were informed about different doorways to join the Indian Army as an officer. Elaborating on the schedule of Services Selection Board, its selection criteria, examination pattern, various tests, group testing, psychological tests and the interview, he encouraged them to identify and properly utilize opportunities available. Students were also informed about personality traits and other qualities required to achive success in life.

Later, Col Chopra addressed various queries of students, regarding preparation for entrance at various defence institutions.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal