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Friday, 25 April 2014

From Today's Papers - 25 Apr 2014

The appointment of Army Chief
Political parties should stop scoring brownie points on the issue
Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (retd)
In India nothing of significance ever happens without kicking up political dust. Thus far mercifully the defence forces had been kept out of such controversies. Going by some recent media debates, this convention seems passé. The appointment of the next Army Chief, who is to assume office on retirement of the present incumbent, Gen Bikram Singh, on July 31, 2014, has aroused unprecedented interest of political parties out to score brownie points against the opponents in the ongoing parliamentary elections.

An Army Chief is appointed out of the Army Commanders. All the present Army Commanders, and their equivalent, the Vice Chief, have risen to that position through five selection boards. Since statistically only about 40 per cent get selected at each board, the Army Commanders form the top 1.024 per cent of their peers. An Army Commander's post is the highest operational command in our Army. The competence of all Army Commanders is therefore repeatedly established and no further selection is considered necessary. Each of them is capable of and fit for being appointed as the Army Chief. It is based on this premise that the senior-most Army Commander is elevated as the Chief. This convention has been followed almost without exception. Notably, seniority is decided not on a routine first-come principle; it is established on commissioning based on the merit list drawn after four years of training.

The appointment of Army Chief is cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. The ACC comprises the Defence Minister, the Home Minister and the Prime Minister. Unlike a normal committee that sits together and deliberates, the ACC does not meet. Instead, the file moves to different members where it is vetted by the staff with inputs from other agencies such as the IB. The process normally takes two to three months. Besides, the appointment itself is announced two to three months in advance to enable the new incumbent to get a thorough briefing from all operational theatre commands and from different directorates at Army Headquarters.

Considering the above constraints, it is only correct that timely action is taken to process and announce the appointment of the new Army Chief. Delay will not be in organisational interest. It is unfortunate that some parties are giving it a political colour. The appointment of the next Army Chief has no relation to the moral code of conduct imposed by the Election Commission. That code only forbids actions that can influence the voters. To assume that the appointment of the Army Chief would sway public opinion and impact voting pattern against or in favour of a particular political party is indeed incredulous. The code is not intended to bring the defence forces to a standstill.

Some have equated the appointment of Vice Admiral Dhowan as the new Naval Chief, where the seniority principle has been violated, to the case of the next Army Chief. There is absolutely no parallel. The vacancy of the Naval Chief occurred after Admiral Joshi resigned owning moral responsibility for the spate of accidents that have dogged the Navy in the recent past. Admiral Joshi's action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the defence forces and has been rightly applauded. The leadership responsibility in any organisation, more so in the defence forces, is at two levels: the direct responsibility and the supervisory responsibility. Admiral Joshi as the Chief had only supervisory functions and was not directly commanding the ships or units where mishaps occurred. His action was on moral and ethical grounds. Stretching the same principle, the degree of supervisory responsibility of the Flag Officer-in-Command of the Western Naval Command, where most of the accidents occurred, was even higher. Rightly, the FOC-in-C Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha should also have put in his papers following in the footsteps of his Chief. Alternatively, the government could have and should have asked him to quit, which did not happen. His being denied the post of Naval Chief, therefore, makes logical sense. None of this is relevant in the context of the new Army Chief. The only relevant point from the Navy's case is the time taken to process the files and choose the next Chief. The chair of the Naval Chief had unforeseeably fallen vacant on February 26. Considering the urgency, even though all processing actions would have been speeded up, it has taken 50 days to name the new Chief. The Army's case being normal, it would take even longer. The new government will take charge only in the latter half of May and would not be in a position to arrive at a decision in time to permit smooth changeover of the baton. The present government is not only right but in fact is obliged to make the announcement before demitting office. The government must ensure that the Army has a timely and smooth changeover of its Chief. Even the appointment of Gen Bikram Singh was announced three months in advance.

Interestingly, in 2004 the appointment of Vice Admiral Arun Prakash as the next Naval Chief was cleared by the outgoing NDA government on May 11, just two days before they conceded defeat. So why is all the political brouhaha being created in the case of the next Army Chief? According to the prevailing norms and convention, the senior-most Lt Gen must be elevated and well in time. Any off-the-perpendicular deviation, inspired by political or someone's familial preferences, must be eschewed as it will harm the institution of the Army.

Our country is unfortunately riven by religious and caste considerations. The defence forces have stood apart for their secularism, loyalty to the Constitution and for their apolitical character. This must remain so.

The writer is a former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff
 Top posts in Navy to be filled soon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 24
Top posts in the Indian Navy will be filled soon as the file for fresh appointments has been processed by the Ministry of Defence. At present, two senior-level posts are lying vacant. Two vacancies have been created following the resignations by Admiral DK Joshi and Vice Admiral Sekhar Sinha.

Naval headquarters has proposed the name of Vice Admiral Sunil Lanba to be the Vice Chief of the Navy, a post that fell vacated after Admiral Robin Dhowan was elevated as Navy Chief last week. Vice Admiral Lanba, at present, is heading the Delhi-based National Defence College. Lanba is slated to succeeded Admiral Dhowan as the next Navy Chief in May 2016 on the basis of his seniority.

When Admiral Dhowan was elevated, he superseded Western Naval Commander Vice Admiral Sekhar Sinha, who quit under protest. As a replacement for Sinha, the names of Vice Admiral Satish Soni and Vice Admiral Anil Chopra have been suggested.
Govt set to announce Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as next Army chief
NEW DELHI: The government seems determined to announce the name of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as the next Army chief, holding that it was an "apolitical" appointment based on the well-established principle of seniority.

The defence ministry, in fact, is now giving finishing touches to the "process" of background checks and clearances of the five senior-most officers in the "zone of consideration" to take over from General Bikram Singh on his retirement on July 31, say sources.

In the seniority list, Lt-Gen Suhag (current vice-chief) is followed by Lt-Gens Ashok Singh (Southern Command chief), Philip Campose (Western Command), Sanjeev Madhok (Training Command) and Rajan Bakshi (Central Command). Two other senior Lt-Gens, Anil Chait (integrated defence staff chief) and Sanjiv Chachra (Northern Command) are not in the reckoning because they are slated to retire in May-June.

After Admiral R K Dhowan superseded Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha to become the Navy chief on April 17, the 1.18-million strong Army has been all aflutter over whether its own chain of succession would also undergo a change, as was first reported by TOI last week.

It gained currency with BJP warning the UPA regime to not be in a "hurry" to name the new Army chief before demitting office in May, and even complained to the Election Commission (EC). BJP Lok Sabha candidate from Ghaziabad and former Army chief Gen V K Singh, who has made no bones about his repugnance for the Bikram-Suhag line of succession, also jumped in with all guns blazing to further queer the pitch.

But the MoD remains unmoved. It is working to "move" the file for the next Army chief by next week to ensure the political leadership — first defence minister A K Antony and then the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) - gets a fortnight or so "to take a call on the matter", say sources.

The MoD believes the Election Commission (EC) will not hinder the "routine administrative decision" in tune with the long-standing convention to announce the name of a new Service chief at least 60 days in advance.

"The EC's March 27 order gave an omnibus or blanket permission to take decisions on appointments, transfers, contracts and the like. But if required, a stand-alone clearance for Army chief's appointment can also be taken," said a source.

"The Navy chief's appointment was done in unusual circumstances (with Admiral D K Joshi's sudden resignation after a string of warship mishaps). There is no such issue in the Army chief's case, with Lt Gen Suhag's name heading the list of five officers. Over the years, names of Service chiefs have been announced 58 to 89 days in advance," he added.
Manmohan government weakened the Army: VK Singh
Former Army Chief and BJP candidate from Ghaziabad seat VK Singh on Thursday accused Manmohan Singh government of making the Army weak in the last 10 years of his regime.

Singh, who was in Amethi to campaign for party candidate Smriti Irani contesting against Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, said that there were several shortcomings but he being a former army chief was not in a position to speak more about it.

"But I want to say that during 10 year regime of Manmohan government attention was not given on the betterment of Army and it has become weak," he said.
At a meeting in Gauriganj, Singh said that objective of the BJP was to win the hearts of the people.

He said that there was a Modi wave in the country, which was blowing like a "wind of change" which the people have started to feel.
Russia starts border army drill after Ukraine attacks rebels
Slavyansk (Ukraine): Russia ordered new military exercises on the border of Ukraine today and warned of "consequences" after Kiev launched a deadly assault against pro-Kremlin rebels occupying the flash point town of Slavyansk, in an escalation of the crisis. But Ukraine's president vowed to see through the military operation, telling Russia to "stop interfering" in the former Soviet republic, and declaring that Kiev would not yield to "the terrorist threat".

The rocketing tensions sent oil prices up, as US President Barack Obama, who has deployed troops to boost North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO's) defences in eastern European states, accused Russia of reneging on an agreement to defuse the crisis.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in turn attacked the United States and the European Union of "trying to use Ukraine as a pawn in a geopolitical game".

"If Kiev has really begun to use the army against the country's population... That is a very serious crime against its own people," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Ukraine had mobilised 11,000 troops, 160 tanks and gangs of extremists "against peaceful civilians".

"If this war machine is not stopped today, then it will lead to a large number of dead and wounded," he said, as Moscow ordered tactical battalions among its estimated 40,000 troops massed on Ukraine's border to conduct a new "exercise" in response to the offensive.

The show of force came a day after Moscow said it would respond as it did in Georgia in 2008, if its interests in Ukraine were attacked.

Russia had sent troops into South Ossetia in August 2008 after then president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili sought to reestablish control over the breakaway region. But Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov vowed to push on with the offensive to put down the rebellion in the east.

"We will not back down from the terrorist threat. We demand Russia stop interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine and withdraw its troops from the eastern border of Ukraine," Turchynov said in a televised address. Obama accused Moscow of failing to abide by the Geneva deal, which required militias to disarm and cede control of seized buildings.

"We continue to see malicious, armed men taking over buildings, harassing folks who are disagreeing with them, destabilising the region and we haven't seen Russia step out and discouraging it," he said.

Kiev, he said, had sought to enact the accord by pledging an amnesty to the rebels, and to protect the Russian language and decentralise power.

The United States has threatened further sanctions against Russia if it further escalates the situation. While Obama has ruled out sending US or NATO forces into Ukraine, Washington has begun deploying 600 US troops to boost NATO's defences in nearby eastern European states. France also said it was sending four fighter jets to join NATO air patrols over the Baltics.

The latest offensive in Slavyansk came after the body of an abducted local politician was found weighted down in a river near the city. International Monetary Fund said it would on April 30 make a final decision on a huge rescue plan near-bankrupt Ukraine has requested.

The global crisis lender agreed tentatively last month to lend Kiev 14-18 billion USD over two years to lead a broader support package for the economy.
US army plans to remove about 2,000 officers due to budget cuts
SAN ANTONIO: The US Army is looking to cut about 2,000 positions for captains and majors by the end of the year as part of its overall plans to reduce its active duty numbers due to budget cuts, the Army’s chief of staff said on Wednesday.
“Probably this year, we will ask 1,500 captains to leave the service, and we will ask probably 400 to 500 majors to leave the service,” General Ray Odierno, the Army’s top officer, told reporters at an event in Texas.
“That is because we have to get down to the appropriate size.”
The Pentagon said last month it would shrink the US Army to pre-World War Two levels, eliminate the popular A-10 aircraft and reduce military benefits in order to meet 2015 budget spending caps.
Odierno says most of the officers who will be removed from the ranks have served “honorably and heroically on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan” and letting them go will be difficult. He said the planned cut of the Army to 490,000 active duty soldiers will be reached by the end of 2015 and will not prevent the service from carrying out its current missions.
“Depending on the decisions of Congress, we could get as small as 420,000 in the active component,” Odierno said.

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