Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Friday, 4 July 2014

From Today's Papers - 04 Jul 2014

 Army Chief holds talks with Chinese military

Beijing, July 3
Army Chief General Bikram Singh today held talks with China's military top brass discussing a host of issues, including maintenance of peace at the boundary, implementation of the new border defence mechanism and maritime cooperation.

Singh, who is the first Indian Army Chief to visit China in nine years, held a number of meetings, starting with Chief of General Staff of People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Fang Fenghui.

Singh held wide-ranging talks with Fang, discussing increasing military to military contacts, implementation of last year's Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) and stepping up high-level exchanges between the two militaries, Indian officials said.

Singh exchanged views with Feng on a wide range of issues, including the maintenance of peace on the border, maritime cooperation, interactions between the armed forces and issues relating to global security, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. This year is the "Year of Friendly Exchanges" between China and India. — PTI
Why the discord over a century-old accord
Dinesh Kumar

A century ago, on July 3, 1914, an accord was purportedly reached between China, Tibet and then British-ruled India, which continues to have a bearing on Sino-Indian relations to this day. The Simla Convention, which started on October 13, 1913, and concluded on July 3, 1914, was meant to define and demarcate the boundaries between India and Outer Tibet and between China and Inner Tibet. The British had then proposed the 'division' of Tibet into 'Inner' Tibet, which was to be under Chinese control, and 'Outer' Tibet, which was to have a sovereign like status. The accord, or agreement, as it is variously known, reached after tripartite talks between the three, led to the creation of what is popularly referred to as the McMahon Line in the north-east, which China has consistently rejected.
A series of political intrigues had both preceded and succeeded the holding of the tripartite talks, which is important to know in order to understand the context in which the convention was held. It goes back to the start of the 20th century when the ‘Great Game’ was at play. Colonial Britain, with its vast empire in the region, feared that Czarist Russia might be secretly planning to extend its influence over the strategically located Tibet. Whether or not Russia had any such plans in the region is a matter of much debate. But one of the factors that had reportedly sparked off London’s suspicions was the Mongolian-Russian monk Aquang Dorji’s (also referred to by the Russian name Dorzhiev) proximity to the 13th Dalai Lama. His political influence led to the signing of a treaty between Tibet and Mongolia in Ulan Bator (capital of Mongolia) in 1913, which incidentally he had signed on behalf of Tibet under the Tibetan name of Khen-chen Lobsang Ngawang.
But the process of countering Russia had begun well before then. The British began involving China in matters pertaining to Tibet. In 1904, it sent a military expedition headed by Colonel Francis Younghusband to Lhasa from where the Dalai Lama temporarily fled to Mongolia. The British managed to open up trade agencies at Gyangtse, Yaltung and Gartok in Tibet, a long cherished desire of London. But the British were unable to make a breakthrough with the Tibetan government in Lhasa which consistently rebuffed all overtures. So in 1905 the British turned to the 9th Panchen Lama in nearby Shigatse, considering that he had influence over a vast area of Tibet bordering India.

With Lhasa discouraging Britain’s moves, London decided to create an autonomous region in that portion of Tibet owing allegiance to the Panchen Lama independent of Lhasa with the purpose of securing India’s northern border. And so Captain O’Conner went to Shigatse and extended an invitation on behalf of the British Indian government to the Panchen Lama to visit India. But then a number of rollercoaster events occurred in quick succession. The Panchen Lama visited India in 1906 but did not get the expected attention. Reason: Lord Curzon had been replaced by Lord Minto as Viceroy and suddenly London was no longer that enthusiastic in promoting the Panchen Lama. Lhasa understandably took a dim view of the Panchen Lama’s visit to British ruled India. This was not helped by the fact that in 1911, during a visit of the Dalai Lama to India, the Chinese took the step of bringing the Panchen Lama to Lhasa and putting him up at the Norbulingka, the Dalai lama’s traditional summer residence.

Breaking point

Tensions were building up and a breaking point was now fast approaching. In 1910, Chinese General Chao Erh-feng forced his way into Lhasa, which resulted in the Dalai Lama fleeing to India and spending over two years in Kalimpong. The following year, in 1911, the rule of the Manchu imperial dynasty ended in China and was replaced by the republican nationalists with Yuan Shih K’ai becoming the first President of the Chinese republic.

Then came the breaking point. In April 1912, Yuan Shih K’ai issued a proclamation making Tibet a province of China. Uncomfortable with China as a neighbour of British India, London told Peking (later renamed Beijing) that while it recognised China’s suzerainty over Tibet, it did not recognise China’s right to intervene in Tibet’s internal administration and keeping unlimited troops in Tibet. Further, Britain threatened it would not accord recognition to the Chinese republic and close all communication with Tibet via India unless China gave a written acceptance of this position.

It was then that China agreed to participate in what is known as the Simla Convention. Much to its delight Tibet was invited to the tripartite talks with Arthur Henry McMahon, foreign secretary of the British Indian government, as the chairman. He was assisted by Charles Bell, Political Officer for Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet who was then McMahon’s adviser on Tibetan affairs. China was represented by Ivan Chen and was clearly uncomfortable at Tibet being invited as an equal partner. Tibet was represented by Lonchen Shatra, a confidant of the Dalai Lama.

On behalf of the Dalai Lama, Lonchen Shatra had at first demanded that Tibet be given full authority over both its internal and external affairs; that it would consult the British Indian government only on a few important foreign affairs issues; that only those Chinese running private businesses in Tibet would be allowed to stay in Tibet; and that Dhartse-doh would be the Tibetan border in the east with China. But all these demands were rejected.

It was on February 27, 1914, that McMahon proposed dividing Tibet into Inner and Outer Tibet that would serve as a buffer between India and China, just as Mongolia had been divided to serve as a buffer between Russia and China. The proposal stipulated that Lhasa would have full authority over ‘Outer Tibet’ while China would have unlimited presence in ‘Inner Tibet’. Much later, after Communist China occupied Tibet in 1959, it turned Outer Tibet into the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965 and subsequently merged portions of Inner Tibet into adjacent Chinese provinces.

All three representatives initialled the Simla Agreement comprising 11 Articles arising from the convention in April 1914. But when the time came to sign the document, Ivan Chen refused and walked out, leaving McMahon and Lonchen Shatra to sign. Following the Chinese representative’s walkout, a declaration was added that China would not be entitled to any rights and privileges as a suzerain power in Tibet if it failed to sign or ratify the tripartite agreement. No Chinese representative ever returned to sign the document.

One aftermath of the agreement is that Tibet ceded Tawang and some other areas of what is now Arunachal Pradesh to India. These areas continue to be claimed by China. The implication for Tibet was more severe - a legally truncated territory eventually usurped by China.

Clashing convention

What is surprising is that initially the British themselves had rejected the agreement reached at the Simla Convention. The official treaty record, C.U. Aitchison’s ‘A Collection of Treaties’, was published with a note stating that no binding agreement had been reached at Simla. Apparently the agreement was deemed to be incompatible with the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention which was eventually renounced by both Britain and Russia. Yet it was not until 1937 — 23 years after the agreement was signed and 16 years after the Anglo-Russian Convention had been renounced — that the Survey of India published a map showing the McMahon Line to be the official boundary. In 1938, which was just nine years before India got Independence, the British government finally published the Simla Convention in Aitchison’s Treaties.

In October 2008, which is 94 years after the signing of the 1914 Simla Agreement, the British reversed their earlier continuous stand that China only held suzerainty over Tibet by announcing that it recognised Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. Then British Foreign Secretary David Miliband described the old position as an anachronism originating in the geopolitics of the early 20th century. "We have made clear to the Chinese Government, and publicly, that we do not support Tibetan independence. Like every other EU member state, and the United States, we regard Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China," he stated on October 29, 2008, thereby bringing a closure to the very agreement for which his predecessors had a century ago manoeuvred almost a century ago.

Ironically, it is the signatories (India and Tibet) who have lost out. Soon after Independence, India was quick to first recognise Mao’s take over of China in 1949 making it the second country to do so after Myanmar. Soon after it accepted Tibet to be a part of China. On the other hand a politically weakened Tibet in a post-colonial world of modern realpolitik and with hardly a military force to reckon with was run over by a mighty China which quickly and brutally put down a massive Tibetan revolt against the Chinese in October 1950 leading the Dalai Lama to forever flee to India. The initiator (Britain) has since left the subcontinent and subsequently gone on to disown the convention, governed as it is by its own foreign policy interests. As a result the boycotter (China), which is among the world’s militarily and economically most powerful countries, has so far prevailed. India’s choice lies between taking some radical steps in an attempt to salvage the 1914 agreement or chart a pragmatic course and find a middle way out to resolve the border dispute. Taking either route will be a long drawn affair.

As it stands a century later, the Simla Convention of 1914 is no more. Long live the Simla Convention!
The big deal about the Army’s small arms
Shortly after taking over as the Chief of Army Staff in May 2012, General Bikram Singh had emphatically declared that upgrading the small arms profile of his force was his foremost priority.

Two years later, as Gen. Singh prepares to retire in end July, neither the 5.56mm close quarter battle (CQB) carbines nor the multi-calibre assault rifles he promised are anywhere in sight for the Army’s 359 infantry units and over 100 Special Forces and counter-insurgency battalions, including the Rashtriya Rifles and Assam Rifles.

The Army’s prevailing operational reality is that it does not own a carbine as the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) ceased manufacture of all variants of the WWII 9mm carbines, including ammunition, around 2010.

And, two years later, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) finally endorsed the Army’s persistent complaints regarding the inefficiency of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-designed INdian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56x39mm assault rifles. It agreed that they needed replacing.

The former Defence Minister, A.K. Antony, was forced into admitting in Parliament in late 2012 that the INSAS rifles had been overtaken by “technological development” — a euphemism for a poorly designed weapon system which the Army grudgingly began employing in the late 1990s and, unceasingly, had complained about ever since.
Among largest arms programmes

The Army’s immediate requirement is for around 1,60,080 CQB carbines and over 2,20,000 assault rifles that it aims on meeting through a combination of imports and licensed-manufacture by the OFB. Ultimately, the paramilitaries and special commando units of respective State police forces too will employ either or both weapon systems in what will possibly be one of the world’s largest small arms programmes worth $7-$8 billion.

Gen. Singh’s guarantees, however, remain delusional and, expectedly unaccountable. And, in time-honoured Indian Army tradition, they will now be transferred to his successor, the Army Chief-designate, Lieutenant Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag, to vindicate.

An optimistic time frame in inking the import of 44,618 carbines, which have been undergoing an unending series of trials since August 2012, is another 12-18 months away if not beyond. The deadline to acquire assault rifles, trials for which are scheduled to begin in August, is even longer — certainly not before 2016-17, if not later.

Till then, the Army faces a fait accompli of making do without carbines, a basic infantry weapon. It will also have to make do with inefficient INSAS assault rifles, another indispensable small arm for the force’s largest fighting arm.

Currently, three overseas vendors are undergoing “confirmatory” trials at defence establishments and weapon testing facilities in Dehradun, Kanpur, Mhow and Pune with their CQB carbines. The November 2011 tender for CQB carbines also includes the import of 33.6 million rounds of ammunition.

Competing rivals include Italy’s Baretta, fielding its ARX-160 model, Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) with its Galil ACE carbine and the U.S. Colt featuring the M4. The U.S. subsidiary of Swiss gunmaker Sig Sauer, which was originally part of the tender with its 516 Patrol Rifle, has failed to turn up at the ongoing carbine trials.

Sig is under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of alleged corruption in potentially supplying its wares to the Indian paramilitaries. Alleged arms dealer, Abhishek Verma and his Romanian wife, Anca Neacsu — both are in Tihar jail — once represented Sig’s operations in India.

The carbine trials, expected to conclude by mid-July, will be followed by a final report by the Army, grading the vendors on the performance of their systems. Thereafter, the MoD will open their respective commercial bids, submitted over two years earlier and begin price negotiations with the lowest qualified bidder — or L1 — before inking the deal.

According to insiders associated with the project, this intricate process is almost certain to be protracted, despite the inordinately high expectations of efficiency from the Narendra Modi government. They believe the carbine contract is unlikely to be sealed within the current financial year. However, once signed, weapon and ammunition deliveries are to be concluded within 18 months alongside the transfer of technology to the OFB to licence build the designated carbine.

In short, no Army unit will be equipped with a carbine till well into 2016.

The saga of the assault rifles is even starker.

A multi-service internal review in 2012 of the INSAS assault rifles revealed that they were made from four different kinds of metal, an amalgam almost guaranteed to impair their functioning in the extreme climates of Siachen and Rajasthan.

Surprisingly, the Indian Air Force was the most vociferous in castigating the DRDO over as many as 53 operational inefficiencies in the rifle that the country’s prime weapons development agency took nearly two decades to develop and at great cost.

Inexplicably, the DRDO insisted on the OFB developing the SS-109 round, an extended variant of the SS-109 NATO-standard cartridge for 5.56x39mm rifles aimed at achieving marginally longer range, a capability unnecessary for such a weapon system. This operational superfluity delayed the INSAS programme as it required the import of specialised and expensive German machinery and necessitated the “stop gap” import of millions of ammunition rounds from Israel.

The DRDO-designed and OFB-built rifle also cost several times more than AK-47 assault rifles of which around 100,000 were imported from Bulgaria in the early 1990s for less than $100 each as an “interim” measure at a time when the Kashmiri insurgency was its most virulent and Islamist militants better armed than Army troopers.

The MoD issued the tender for 66,000 5.56mm multi-calibre assault rifles in November 2011 to 43 overseas vendors, five of who responded early the following year.

The competing rifles, required to weigh no more than 3.6kg and to convert readily from 5.56x45mm to 7.62x39mm merely by switching the barrel and magazine for employment in counter-insurgency or conventional roles, include the Czech Republic’s CZ 805 BREN model, IWI’s ACE 1, Baretta’s ARX 160, Colt’s Combat Rifle and Sig Sauer’s SG551. The latter’s participation, however, remains uncertain. A transfer of technology to the OFB to locally build the selected rifle is part of the tender.

Meanwhile, field trials for the rifles are scheduled for early August, nearly 30 months after bids were submitted, as that is the extended time period it surprisingly takes the Army to conduct a paper evaluation of five systems.

But these too have already run into easily avoidable problems.

On security grounds, the rifle vendors are objecting to the Army’s choice of its firing range at Kleeth in the Akhnoor sector hugging the Line of Control (LoC) as the venue for the initial round of trials. A final decision on this is awaited. Thereafter, other trials will follow in diverse weather conditions in Leh, Rajasthan and high humidity areas, all regions where the assault rifles will eventually be employed.
Transforming the soldier

Acquiring these modular, multi-calibre suite of small arms is just part of the Army’s long-delayed Future-Infantry Soldier As a System (F-INSAS) programme envisaged in 2005, but interminably delayed.

The F-INSAS aims at deploying a fully networked infantry in varied terrain and in all-weather conditions with enhanced firepower and mobility for the digitised battlefield. It seeks to transform the infantry soldier into a self-contained fighting machine to enable him to operate across the entire spectrum of war, including nuclear and low intensity conflict, in a network-centric environment.

But senior military officers concede this programme stands delayed by six to seven years almost exclusively because of the Army’s inability in formulating qualitative requirements (QR) to acquire many of these ambitious capabilities.

Even deciding on a multi-purpose tool, akin to a Swiss knife, for example, has been delayed despite trials in 2011 featuring European and American vendors. Officers associated with F-INSAS said this, like other equipment acquisitions, was due to the Army’s rigid procedures, inefficiencies and inability to take timely decisions.

The Army continually blames the MoD for creating bureaucratic hurdles in its modernisation efforts, but fails in acknowledging its own shortcomings in drawing up realistic QRs, conducting timely trials and, above all, realistically determining its operational needs and working towards them economically.

Senior officers privately concede that the “uniforms” are largely responsible for the lack of modernisation, but manage to successfully deflect their own limitations sideways onto the MoD.

Gen. Singh’s tenure, like several other chiefs before him, exemplifies this. It is highlighted by their collective inability to even incrementally upgrade the Army’s war waging capacity be it night fighting capability for its armour fleet, modern artillery, light utility and attack helicopters or infantry combat vehicles, among others.
Chinese Army media cell delegation visits India
A six-member Chinese Army media cell delegation arrived here today on a three-day visit and was briefed about the functioning of media in India.

"The delegation led by Senior Colonel Geng Yansheng, Chief of Information Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of National Defence of China, arrived here and got an overview of the functioning of the Army-Media interface and the current media environment prevalent in India," an Army release said.

The Chinese delegation held meeting with Army's Additional Director General (Public Information) Lt Gen Bobby Matthews and expressed hope that the association would grow and prosper in the times ahead.
This is how a con-man disguised as an Ex-serviceman cons youths wanting to join the Indian Army
Pune: As many as 20 aspirant candidates, who were keen to join Indian Army, were conned to the tune of Rs58.50 lakh by a person who projected himself as an ex-servicemen. The person had promised jobs in defence establishments and took money from these candidates.
The incident came to light when Harshavardhan Bhosale (21), a resident of Sangli, lodged a complaint with Khadki police station against Sandip Gurav, a resident of Kolhapur. P D Patil inspector in-charge of Khadki police station said, “Complainant is a graduate and is unemployed. He works on his father’s farm in Sangli. For two years he is being trying to clear the civil exams but all his attempts were unsuccessful. When he was looking for a job, he met Gurav through a mutual friend who projected himself as an ex-serviceman. The meeting was held in the army canteen in November 2013 and Gurav promised to give him job in defence establishment. He demand Rs2.75 lakh to clear the exams without giving medical and physical tests. Gurav later claimed that the work will be done if he gets more candidates.”
He added, “Complainant contacted other youngsters and collected Rs58.50 lakh from them. Many aspirant candidates are from Kolhapur, Sangli and Solapur. He called everyone in city and made them stay in a Shivajinagar lodge. Gurav collected their documents and made them sign on the medical test papers and claimed that he will give them an offer letter. Later the youths got an offer letter with govt logo along with Army motto, which mentioned that they have to be present in Pune based defence training center on July 2. When the candidates reached the center, they found that the letter was forged.”
From Army to AIIMS, why promotions are controversial
What is common among Dr Sudhir Gupta, Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, Lt Gen Ravi Dastane, Vice Admiral (Retd.) Shekhar Sinha and Lt Gen (Retd.) SK Sinha? Gupta is the current Head of the Department of Forensic Sciences at AIIMS in New Delhi, while the others hail from a military background. But they're all on one list because each was mired in controversy around their promotion to high offices.

Take the latest case of Sudhir Gupta. The professor of Forensic Sciences has shot off a letter on 26 June to the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) alleging that he was under pressure to toe the line of the higher-ups on the autopsy report of Sunanda Pushkar. Pushkar, the wife of former Union minister Shashi Tharoor, died mysteriously at a five-star hotel in New Delhi on 17 January this year. The doctor alleged that since he did not buckle under pressure from the former Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to make changes in the autopsy report, a process was initiated to see him out as head of the department.
Gupta was appointed HoD of the forensic sciences department in 2013, bypassing OP Murthy who could not qualify at that time. However, soon after the new director took charge, "Dr Murthy’s disqualification was ignored at AIIMS's general body meeting to pave way for his (Dr Murthy’s) elevation as the HoD." The forensic department head blamed Azad for using his position to force him out because he had insisted upon giving a professional assessment on the causes of Pushkar's death.

The truth to these allegations will come out once the CAT and CVC pass their order.

The common thread between Gupta's case and those of the aforementioned others is the deadly mix of dirty office politics, unsolicited political intervention, mudslinging in the open and a scar on the institution.

Whether Gupta's allegations are substantiated will emerge eventually, but he has shown the institution in a bad light. This is true even more so of the Indian Army, believed to be one India's best professional and disciplined units.

It is still unclear if Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag will become the next Army Chief on 31 July this year pending a Supreme Court hearing on a petition filed by Lt Gen Ravi Dastane. Although Union Defence Minister Arun Jaitley announced it in Rajya Sabha that Suhag's appointment is final, there is no doubt that the SC will have the final word.

Now Union minister and former Army Chief Gen (Retd) VK Singh's ugly spat with the previous UPA government on his age row had already given the army an image it would never aspire to. The controversy surrounding Lt Gen Suhag only makes matters worse and smacks of  personal vendetta.

On 13 January last year, the Delhi High Court quashed two promotions of Lt Gen SS Thakral, terming them "illegal". He was relegated to the lower rank of Brigadier after the court order.

"A bench of Justices Gita Mittal and JR Midha quashed the promotions given to Lt Gen SS Thakral, a 1974 batch officer, in 2009 and 2011 saying the Staff Selection Board exercised its powers in “bad faith” and without following established procedures"—a report in The Hindu said.

In 1983, former Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen (Retd) SK Sinha was denied elevation as the Chief and his junior Lt Gen AS Vaidya, the then GOC-in-C Eastern Command was appointed as General, thanks to a political intervention by the then Indira Gandhi government.

It is mind-boggling that despite clear guidelines on promotions, right from the junior most to senior most staff, controversies related to appointments to higher offices continue. For instance, the Department Of Personnel and Training has its own Instructions and Guidelines on Seniority. A lot more data is available online on recruitment and promotion rules of many Central institutions including defence and academia.

These controversies regarding promotional hierarchy not only drain resources, chew away valuable time but also divert attention from critical issues.

It is ironic that the judiciary is itself not out of this quagmire. The controversy surrounding senior advocate Gopal Subramanium's withdrawal of candidature for appointment as a Supreme Court judge is the latest example.

Unless institutions are kept free of avoidable controversies like promotions at the top, which should happen on prescribed norms, it will be foolish to expect these institutions to deliver at their best.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal