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Monday, 16 February 2015

From Today's Papers - 16 Feb 2015

SC to Centre: Be liberal in granting disability pension to soldiers

R Sedhuraman

Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 14
The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to be liberal in granting disability pension to armed forces personnel while invalidating them out of service citing medical disability.

“The provision for payment of disability pension is a beneficial provision which ought to be interpreted liberally so as to benefit those who have been sent home with a disability,” a Bench comprising Justices TS Thakur and R Banumathi held while dismissing as many as 27 appeals filed by the government.

If the disability had nothing to do with the nature of service, “the burden to establish such a disconnect would lie heavily upon the employer...A soldier cannot be asked to prove that the disease was contracted by him on account of military service or was aggravated by the same,” the Bench ruled.

The apex court noted that service and pension rules were clear that every soldier would be presumed to be disease-free at the time of entry into service as he was subjected to proper physical and other tests and found fit to serve in the forces.

“That presumption continues till it is proved by the employer that the disease was neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service. For the employer to say so, the least that is required is a statement of reasons supporting that view. That, we feel, is the true essence of the rules,” the Bench clarified.

The SC rejected the Centre’s contentions against the orders of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in favour of those invalidated out of service on medical disability assessed at more than 20 per cent.
Guns fall silent in Ukraine's Donetsk as ceasefire kicks in
Poroshenko says there is still alarm about encircled town; US urges Russia to implement ceasefire; fighting had escalated in run-up to ceasefire
Shelling stopped abruptly at midnight on Saturday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk after President Petro Poroshenko ordered government forces to halt firing in line with a ceasefire agreement aimed at ending the country's bloody conflict.

Poroshenko, wearing the uniform of the armed forces supreme commander, said in a televised address in the capital Kiev that there was still "alarm" over the situation around Debaltseve, a key transport hub, where government forces have been hard pressed by encircling Russian-backed separatists.

The ceasefire, negotiated in four-power talks on Thursday,  foresees creation of a neutral "buffer zone" and withdrawal of heavy weapons responsible for many of the 5,000 deaths in a conflict that has caused the worst crisis in Russia-West relations since the Cold War a generation ago.

Kiev and NATO have long charged that Moscow has supplied pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine with arms and men, and Washington and its allies have slapped Russia with a series of economic sanctions. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies Moscow is involved in fighting for territory Putin calls "New Russia," although Western officials cite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Pososhenko warned on Saturday night that Ukraine, if it was slapped once, would not offer the other cheek. But, seated alongside armed forces chief of staff Viktor Muzhenko, he added: "I very much hope that the last chance to begin the long and difficult peaceful process for a political settlement will not be wasted."

"As a first step I now give the order to the armed forces of Ukraine... to cease fire at 00:00 hours on February 15," he said.

Military spokesman Vladyslav Selezynov said the Ukrainian armed forces immediately fulfilled Poroshenko's order and the big guns fell silent in Donetsk and some other parts of the separatist-leaning east.

In the hours leading up to the ceasefire, heavy artillery and rocket fire roughly every five seconds had reverberated across Donetsk, the main regional city in the east which is under the control of the secessionists.

In Artemivsk, a town in government-controlled territory north of Debaltseve that has been hit twice in two days by rocket attacks, there was also silence at midnight.

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged implementation of the ceasefire in a telephone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and expressed concern about efforts by Russia and the separatists to cut off Debaltseve, the U.S. State Department said.

U.S. President Barack Obama also expressed "deep concern" about the violence around Debaltseve in a telephone call with Poroshenko, the White House said.

A member of a Ukrainian pro-government unit near the eastern town of Horlivka, who only gave his nickname of Turnir, said on television channel 112 soon after midnight: "It's quiet. It's been quiet for half an hour. But we are waiting. We don't believe them. For the past three days they have been banging us hard."

Debaltseve, a strategic rail junction that lies in a pocket between the two main rebel-held regions, has been the focus of some of the fiercest recent fighting.

Four shells hit Donetsk on Saturday, blasting craters in the streets. A Reuters witness saw one dead body from the attacks.

Obama also talked to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who negotiated the ceasefire this week with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia and France in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

Obama and Merkel "agreed on the pressing need for all signatories to implement the ceasefire and protocol agreements reached at Minsk last September and reaffirmed by the Minsk Implementation Plan this week," the White House said.

The 15-member United Nations Security Council was discussing a Russian-drafted resolution that would welcome the ceasefire agreement and call on all parties to fully implement it.

Diplomats said the council could vote as early as Sunday on the draft resolution.

The U.S. State Department, pressing its case that Russia was backing the rebels in the latest fighting, on Saturday released three commercial photographs that spokeswoman Jen Psaki said showed "the Russian military has deployed large amounts of artillery and multiple rocket launchers around Debaltseve, where it is shelling Ukrainian positions."

"We are confident that these are Russian military, not separatist systems," she said.

On Saturday, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said at a televised briefing in Kiev: "Ahead of midnight, rebels are trying to complete tactically important plans to enlarge the territory under their control, primarily in the direction of Debaltseve."

Heavy shelling could be heard at a rebel checkpoint about 15 km (10 miles) west of Debaltseve, a Reuters witness said, reporting outgoing artillery rounds almost every minute.

A column of new military vehicles and artillery passed through the checkpoint in the direction of Debaltseve. The checkpoint was manned by several dozen professional-looking combatants. Tanks and armoured vehicles could also be seen.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a rebel at the checkpoint said local fighters were being supported by "guests from Russia."

Spokesman Lysenko said separatist forces continued to be reinforced by fighters and military equipment crossing Ukraine's eastern border from Russia over the past 24 hours.

The rebels have advanced far past the line of an earlier ceasefire deal, agreed in September. The new accord appears to envisage them withdrawing their guns around 75 km (50 miles), to take them back behind it, while Ukrainian guns would move 25 km (15 miles) back.

Thursday's accord also prescribed constitutional reform to give more autonomy to eastern Ukraine, where many Russian speakers live. Kiev rejects independence for the "people's republics" the rebels have declared. (Reuters)
Will discuss all issues with India: Sharif

Afzal Khan in Islamabad
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said Pakistan would discuss "all issues, including Kashmir" during the upcoming visit of Indian Foreign Secretary.

"We will welcome the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary as Pakistan wants peaceful relations with its neighbours," Sharif said during a meeting with the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar's visit was announced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday called his Pakistani counterpart Sharif and other heads of the SAARC nations participating in the ICC Cricket World Cup and conveyed best wishes for the showpiece event.

The cricket diplomacy was considered as ice-breaking after a six-month hiatus in Indo-Pak ties. Modi announced that Jaishankar will undertake a "SAARC yatra" soon to strengthen relationship with the countries, including Pakistan.

Sharif urged the media to play a responsible and strong role in support of democracy.
Aircraft carriers, N-powered sub deployed to test Navy’s readiness

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 14
The Navy has deployed its sea-borne aircraft carriers and its lone nuclear- powered submarine to test its sea readiness.

At present, Theatre Readiness Operational Level Exercise (TROPEX-2015) is being conducted off the Goa coast in the Arabian Sea. The exercise is to validate the Navy’s concept of operations and integration of new acquisitions with the fleet with each being connected electronically.

Two wholly networked fleets of the Navy — the Eastern and the Western fleet —were kept widely dispersed across seas in the Indian Ocean, operating in an electronic environment to match technical proficiency. All operations were facilitated by a seamless communication network, including the use of Rukmini—- the Navy’s dedicated satellite.

New weapons, sensors, communication systems and tactics are being tested and tried to optimise the net combat power of the fleets. Over 40 warships, including the two aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and INS Viraat, submarines (including INS Chakra), aircraft and UAVs are deployed. IAF fighter jets, Sukhoi-30-MKI, Mirages and Jaguars will also participate.

The Navy demonstrated multiple facets of operations during the period which encompassed a variety of weapon firings, MiG 29K and Sea Harrier operations from the two aircraft carriers, integration of the P8I aircraft with fleet, and operations by the Navy’s Marine Commandos.

Brahmos test-fired
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh boarded INS Vikramaditya last night and witnessed a successful vertical launch of the Brahmos, a supersonic long-range anti-shipping cruise missile, from the recently commissioned stealth destroyer INS Kolkata.

Parrikar also witnessed a full-scale air power demonstration from INS Vikramaditya and INS Viraat with MiG 29 Ks, Sea Harriers fighter jets, and helicopters, the Seakings, UH3H, ALHs and Chetaks.

The recently acquired MiG 29Ks proved their mettle by showing how a landing is made on the short deck of the aircraft carrier, the Ministry of Defence said.
Myanmar launches fresh air strikes against rebels
Mandalay, February 14
Myanmar rebels today said the national army had launched fresh air strikes following the government’s rare admission that dozens of its soldiers had died in a dramatic resurgence of conflict in a remote region bordering China.

Unrest in Kokang, Shan State, which erupted on February 9 after six years of relative calm, continued yesterday with severe clashes between fighters from several ethnic groups and the Myanmar army, according to Captain Tar Parn La, a spokesman for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

“There were gunships, two jets and two helicopters yesterday,” he told AFP, adding that he had not yet received reports of fighting today.

Myanmar state media yesterday reported that ethnic minority fighters armed with heavy weapons had attempted to capture the Kokang’s main city earlier in the week in a series of assaults that have left at least 50 soldiers dead and dozens more wounded.

It said the army had used air strikes to repel the attacks, which have come as a blow to the quasi-civilian regime as it looks to ink a historic nationwide ceasefire to end the country’s myriad ethnic minority conflicts.

Myanmar’s information minister Ye Htut has blamed local Kokang rebel leader Phone Kya Shin for the fighting and called on Beijing to reign in any local officials who might be helping the group on their side of the border.

An unknown number of people have fled the Kokang unrest, with most crossing the border into China, while some have made their way to the northern Shan city of Lashio, according to Tar Parn La.

He said the Kokang rebels have been joined by the TNLA and the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which have both continued to battle the government’s forces in other areas of Shan and nearby Kachin states. But he said he was unaware of involvement by China, which has called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

It is unclear what provoked the latest round of violence, which coincided with the country’s celebrations of its symbolic Union Day Thursday. — AFP
As World Cup Begins, BSF Jawans Play Cricket Right Next to the Border
Jammu:  As India and Pakistan break ice over cricket, with PM Narendra Modi calling his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Thursday to wish him luck for the World Cup, at the border, jawans of the Border Security Force (BSF) have also decided to take it to the pitch.

BSF men played a cricket match right at the border fence in RS Pura sector of Jammu, right under Pakistani observation towers on Thursday. But there is neither any hostility nor exchange of gunfire.

"The jawans love cricket besides doing duty on the border, they also play volleyball. We want that India should win the World Cup. Duty and cricket are going on simultaneously here," said BSF Inspector Madan Lal.

It is the same border that has seen great escalation lately. In the last month alone there have been eight infiltration bids and over a dozen ceasefire violations. But in the times of tension the game is a great stress reliever.

"Our experience is that Pakistan starts the firing on its own, but the game should be looked at as a game only, but if there is firing from the Pakistani side, we will retaliate appropriately", said Rakesh Kumar, Inspector General, BSF Jammu Range.

There is extreme tension and hostility on the ground at the international border - a game of cricket certainly lightens up the atmosphere and brings in some relief, but at the moment, it is just the BSF who are playing among themselves. One can only hope that the situation improves to the extent that there would be friendly cricket matches at the international border between the BSF and the Pakistani Rangers.

India are the defending World Cup champions. They face Pakistan tomorrow in the first Group Stage match the two countries will play this year. Pakistan has never beaten India in a World Cup match.
When will India reform higher defence management?
The higher defence management structure followed by the British until 1947 essentially revolved around three separately organised military forces, the army, navy and air force, commanded by their own respective Commanders-in-Chief. To ensure some degree of coordination, there was a Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) which was always headed by the Army's Chief of General Staff who, in turn, answered to the Commander-in-Chief India who was a member of the Viceroy's Council. There was a civil bureaucracy as well, finance answerable to the finance member in the Council and administration headed by the defence secretary. In terms of protocol, senior military officials occupied relatively higher status; for example, brigadiers ranked with joint secretaries.

The last viceroy, Admiral Lord Mountbatten, asked his military secretary, General Ismay, to recommend a more relevant organisation for the new nation's armed forces and based on these proposals, a few changes were instituted. First, chairmanship of the COSC was made rotational with the Chief longest in the chair taking that place. Second, three important sub-committees were set up under this body to deal with different aspects, e.g. operations, administration and personnel, with the last two including representatives from the civil bureaucracy of the ministry of defence (MoD). It was hoped that this would result in speedy cohesive decision making while ensuring political supremacy.

Within five years, significant tampering with the structure led to protocol changes such as Chiefs of Services being ranked with and after the Cabinet Secretary, the most senior civil servant. At this same time, joint secretaries were upgraded by being equated with major generals. Over the years, the Chiefs were re-designated Chiefs of Staff, in other words, most senior military advisers to the government, yet allowed to retain their operational command profile; this at a time when in almost all developed, mature democracies, that responsibility was placed under a different and dedicated Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (in the US) and Chief of Defence Staff (UK).

In brief, both command and staff functions, not combinable in any management guru's dictum, remained together under one person. At around the same time, representatives of the civilian bureaucracy began to ignore meetings of the sub-committees of the COSC, preferring to operate from the more exclusive preserves of their offices. Some rules of business drawn up by the bureaucracy categorised the Armed Forces as "Attached Offices of the ministry of defence" (a category on a par with others such as the Films Division in the ministry of information and broadcasting). Amazingly, these same rules made the defence secretary, not his minister, responsible for the defence of India. Inevitably, the distance between the military and the civilians in the MoD kept increasing even as elsewhere in the world, these two elements were getting more and more integrated.

In 2000, following a critical review of the existing structure by a committee headed by that eminent analyst, the late K Subrahmanyam, a Group of Ministers (GOM) was constituted comprising the five most important ministers to look at every aspect of national security of which higher defence management was one. Based on the recommendations of four task forces it set up, the GoM proposed integrating the three military headquarters with the MoD, creating a dedicated post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), setting up a department of defence procurement, restricting defence research and development to areas of critical technologies only.

These suggestions were accepted by the Cabinet save one - the creation of a CDS. Over the next decade, changes were made, some merely cosmetic - e.g. re-nomenclature of say, Naval Headquarters as Integrated Headquarters of the MoD (Navy) and creation of an elaborate office for defence procurement including a Defence Acquisition Council headed by the defence minister himself. There are few indications that any significant results have accrued which could be mentioned positively in any performance audit. On the other hand, delays, cost overruns and charges of corruption in defence procurement have only increased.

In 2009 another committee headed by an eminent person well versed in issues of national security having headed civilian bureaucracies in the Ministries of defence and home and having sat as the Cabinet Secretary, Naresh Chandra, was appointed by the prime minister to review the entire gamut of security. This made several recommendations including those in the realm of higher defence; one of these advised the creation of a dedicated Chairman, COSC as against the rotational system presently in force. It speaks volumes for the importance assigned to this committee that its suggestions remain unattended.

So, there is, obviously, something in our genes that prevents us from getting our higher defence management into reasonably effective shape. For one, the armed forces themselves are a factor. The Chiefs are just unable - and unwilling - to shed their operational command profile. Indeed, nowhere in the world has this been done by them voluntarily. In the US, it required a directive of the Congress, the Goldwater-Nichols Act, to get this done; in the UK, a Navy Chief actually resigned in protest and was shown the door.

The story has been the same almost everywhere. The strongest political leadership is needed to get such a change enforced and neither the earlier Vajpayee government nor that of Manmohan Singh had the appetite to bite this bullet; the smallest whiff of opposition from a few sent them scurrying for cover. Without a central authority, jointness in the military itself has remained just cosmetic.

The second stumbling block is the higher civil bureaucracy, which sees in any change a dilution of its own powers. They are smarter than those in the armed forces, clouding encroachment in their turf under the larger umbrella of 'compromise of civilian authority'. The fact that this means political control and not that of the bureaucrat remains cleverly unstated. The defence secretary continues to be responsible for the defence of India, a truly laughable proposition.

The third element is a continuing bankruptcy of knowledge in our defence ministers about the armed forces - with the possible exception of a very few, Jagjivan Ram and R Venkataraman, at different times, being two. Even worse, bureaucrats posted in the MoD are poorly informed on military issues, a lament publicly articulated by former Defence Secretary N N Vohra.

And finally, unless we get protocol issues sorted out, no easy matter, suspicion and hostility will continue to plague civil-military relations.

So, what lies ahead? Some argue that a running machine needs no fixing. Others see resistance to change as the cause of inaction. What has become abundantly clear is that something really serious will need to happen for us to make course corrections. Kargil came close but even that failed to get things set right. Perhaps, we may need to lose a conflict to see the road ahead. The war of 1962 may have been a sad chapter in India's history but it led to modernisation of India's military capabilities in a way that would never, otherwise, have been possible.

One can only hope that we get our act together before we are, once again, compelled to do so.
Media-Military relations in the age of Twitter and Facebook
The advent of the internet has brought a powerful medium into the information domain. Of all the media vectors (print, television and internet-based social media platforms), this is probably the most nebulous, seamless, largest, quickest and hence the most dangerous. The ability to anonymously transmit and receive information without owning any infrastructure or even hardware has made it an effective tool for the insurgents. The medium also does not lend to government control.
Two unconnected news items over the last one week caught my attention and set me thinking on how the age-old template of military-media interaction has undergone a drastic change in this past decade.

One was a report in The Guardian which said: “The British army is creating a special force of Facebook warriors, skilled in psychological operations and use of social media to engage in unconventional warfare in the information age.The 77th Brigade, to be based in Hermitage, near Newbury, in Berkshire, will be about 1,500-strong... the Brigade will be responsible for what is described as non-lethal warfare... against a background of 24-hour news, smartphones and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, the force will attempt to control the narrative.”

The second was the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) decision to open a twitter account (@SpokespersonMoD). For a Ministry notorious for its opaque nature of decision-making and information dissemination, this was a tectonic shift. What prompted the MoD decision to follow in the footsteps of the highly popular and effective twitter handle of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)—​@MEAIndia—will perhaps never be known, it’s a good first step towards bringing in some transparency in the highly sanitised, fear-ridden corridors of the MoD. Whether the twitter handle will actually be interactive (its first tweet said: “This handle will disseminate authentic info and latest updates from the Indian Ministry of Defence”) is a matter of speculation but the fact that it has joined the social media platform is a sign of our times.
The advent of the internet has brought a powerful medium into the information domain. Of all the media vectors (print, television and internet-based social media platforms), this is probably the most nebulous, seamless, largest, quickest and hence the most dangerous. The ability to anonymously transmit and receive information without owning any infrastructure or even hardware has made it an effective tool for the insurgents. The medium also does not lend to government control.

As a young, highly perceptive serving officer of the Indian Army has written in a private mail to me, “Social media has become an additional element within the operational environment in which nearly anyone with an internet connection can participate. While social media capabilities do not provide information superiority, they have empowered individuals to more effectively share content and consequently influence the narrative of a conflict. Also, social media capabilities have provided a means for individuals and small groups to effectively synchronize actions, even in absence of an authoritative leader. The speed at which participants can add content, truthful or otherwise, to the battle space, forces Armed Forces to change the way they approach this media. Thus the power of this media is value neutral; it can be used by any player. In fact whoever controls the narrative in this field, will occupy the perception high ground.”

These are exactly the reasons why the British Army is forming an Information Brigade. The Guardian report noted: “The 77th will include regulars and reservists and recruitment will begin in the spring. Soldiers with journalism skills and familiarity with social media are among those being sought. An army spokesman said: “77th Brigade is being created to draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare. It recognises that the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be affected in ways that are not necessarily violent.”

The Indian Army came onto the social media platforms in 2013 in a small way but has now gained a considerable presence on Facebook and Twitter. The presence of the Additional Director General, Public Information (ADG PI)—@ADGPI—the nodal agency for all media related issues at Army HQ has a formal role now as the official mouthpiece of the Indian Army. Both the platforms have substantial following and continue to influence favourable opinion for the Army. The credibility of the Army’s social media ventures has been enhanced by multiple references and recommendations which they have received from the accounts of the PMO, PIB, US Army & Amitabh Bachchan to name a few. May be the other two services will soon follow suit.

This is a big change from previous decades when dominance was achieved through rationing information, exercising information control, censorship and propaganda. Those in charge of public information have now realised that such methods are not practical or prudent in the contemporary world. There is a constant increase in the number of sources of information which cannot be muzzled and have to be managed. In coming years, the security forces will therefore have to focus on balancing openness with security to exploit the power of the media, both tactically and strategically. Media strategy can no longer be the job of the public relations officer alone, but must be seen as a command function. A day is not too far when the armed forces may have to think of creating a separate Public Affairs cadre to handle their media and perception management campaigns.

The media that reports on the military and central armed police forces too needs to train and equip itself to discern, detect and dissect national security issues. At the same time, the government, the armed forces and even academics, who deal in issues of national security, have to understand the way traditional media and the new entrants function. There is a crying need to have more interaction between these players without the pressure of deadlines. So far, the tendency is to keep away from each other. That does not help either side.

And as I have said in the past, the traditional media has largely been a friend and supporter of the armed forces. I am not so sure about the new elephant in the tent— the social media. It is wild, it is irreverent, it has its own set of rules and it does not bother about big names and bigger reputations.

As the then National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, said at a cyber security conference a couple of years ago: “Cyberspace is today the fifth domain of human activity, in addition to land, sea, air and outer space. Our dependence upon cyberspace for social, economic, governance, and security functions has also grown exponentially. Unfettered access to information through a global inter-connected Internet empowers individuals and governments, and it poses new challenges to the privacy of individuals and to the capability of Governments and administrators of cyberspace tasked to prevent its misuse. The goverment’s job is complicated by the unique characteristics of cyberspace. It is borderless in nature, both geographically and functionally; anonymity and the difficulty of attribution; the fact that for the present the advantage is with offence rather than defence; and, the relatively anarchic nature of this domain.”

Media practitioners—both traditional and those in the fifth domain—will necessarily continue to focus on the functioning of the military as they view it. It is up to decision-makers and the military leadership to exploit their presence, reach and influence to suit to their own aims and objectives. Therein lies the trick.

In the end I want to leave you with a thought: In my view, more interaction, not less between the media and the military is the way forward. Familiarity in this case will breed more knowledge not contempt.

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