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Thursday, 7 May 2015

From Today's Papers - 07 May 2015

Nyoma fracas:15 Armymen get RI for mutiny
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 6
A summary general court martial (SGCM) has convicted 15 Armymen of mutiny in the infamous clash between officers and men of an artillery unit at Nyoma in Ladakh three years ago and awarded them varying terms of rigorous imprisonment.

The accused, all non-commissioned officers (NCOs), were charged under provisions of Section 37 of the Army Act, which deals with inciting, causing, joining or conspiring with other persons to cause mutiny, read with Section 34 of the Ranbir Penal Code (common intention). Seven of them have been awarded 10-year RI, six have been sentenced to seven-year RI and two have been given five years and three years’ RI for their alleged acts.

The findings and sentence of the SGCM, presided by Colonel RS Dalal, are subject to confirmation by the court’s convening authority. The trial ordered by the General Officer Commanding 8 Mountain Division concluded at Akhnoor near Jammu this week.

The accused have contended that there were a lot of contradictions in the evidence that was brought on record during the trial. They also claimed that the trial by the SGCM was not applicable in their case and the Army should have convened a general court martial instead.

This is the second batch of NCOs that have been convicted in the case. A few months ago, 10 NCOs were similarly tried and awarded 10 years and seven years RI. As many as 168 personnel from the 226 Field Regiment are facing disciplinary action in the case, which is perhaps the largest collective disciplinary action initiated by the Army. Trials of more NCOs and JCOs are expected to be convened shortly.

The Army has already tried the unit’s Commanding Officer and three other officers by court martial for alleged lack of command and control and assaulting a soldier. They have been reprimanded and awarded varying degrees of loss of service for the purpose of pension.
Navy’s wish list: 6 nuke subs, N-powered carrier
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 6
The Navy has asked the government to allow a fleet of six nuclear-powered submarines and is also looking at nuclear power as an option for the next sea-borne aircraft carrier, which will be the follow-on to the INS Vikrant currently being built in Kochi.

“We have proposed to the government that in lieu of the conventional submarines we would like to have more nuclear-powered submarines,” Navy Chief Admiral Robin Dhowan told The Tribune today. The decision is pending at the level of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the Admiral said, adding that the number of nuclear-powered submarines sought was six.

The Admiral was referring to the existing submarine plan announced in 1999 which had spoken of having 24 conventional submarines by 2030. It is out of these 24 subs that the Navy wants six to be nuclear powered. At present, India operates 13 conventional vessels and a nuclear submarine, INS Chakra, leased from Russia, while the indigenous nuclear-powered INS Arihant is undergoing sea trials.

The Indian fleet is grossly inadequate to match China. The annual report to the Congress in the US, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014”, says: “PLA Navy (PLAN) has more than 60 submarines (and) places a high priority on modernisation of its submarine force.”

On the submarine fleet, Admiral Dhowan listed out a multi-pronged plan. First is to ensure timelines are met in the ongoing construction of the six scorpene subs with the first one planned for commissioning next year; second is according “top priority” to the second lot of six such vessels and third is to carry out a refit to extend the life of existing vessels.

About the next sea-borne aircraft carrier, Admiral Dhowan said: “All options are open for the second indigenous aircraft carrier. Nothing has been ruled out. It could be nuclear powered or conventionally powered.”

The Navy, he said, was looking to having three sea-borne carriers in its fleet. “The first indigenous carrier, INS Vikrant, will be inducted by 2018 and now we can plan easily as we can now build such ships on our own,” he said.
Army to reinforce besieged troops in Syria: Assad
Beirut: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday that troops would head to an insurgent-held town to help besieged soldiers holed up on its outskirts and said army setbacks were part of normal warfare. Last month Islamist insurgents including Al-Qaida's wing in Syria, Nusra Front, captured the town of Jisr al-Shughour in Syria's Idlib province, edging closer to the government-held heartland of Latakia along the coast. He was speaking at a school in an undisclosed location at an event to commemorate Syria's Martyrs' Day. Reuters

China ups fight against sex-selective abortions   

Beijing: China has stepped up its clampdown on prenatal gender tests and sex-selective abortions to check gender-ratio imbalance in the country, which has the worst sex ratio in the world. According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the campaign which began last month and set to continue until November, will concentrate on medical, health and family planning institutions as well as illegal fertility agencies, clinics and itinerant physicians. PTI

Record 38 m people internally displaced by conflicts

Geneva: Conflicts and violence in places like Syria and Ukraine have displaced a record 38 million people inside their own countries, equivalent to the total populations of New York, London and Beijing, a watchdog group said. Nearly one third of them — a full 11 million people — were displaced last year alone, with an average of 30,000 people fleeing their homes every day, the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) said in a report. PTI

US satellite debris threatens other space missions

London: An estimated 100 pieces of debris from a US defence satellite, which recently exploded in orbit, could increase collision risk for other spacecraft and missions, a new research has warned. On February 3, the Defence Meteorological Satellite Programme (DMSP) F13 satellite exploded in orbit producing over 100 pieces of space debris that were detected using radar. PTI
Pak Army accuses India of backing terrorism

Islamabad: Pakistan's military has accused India's main intelligence agency of whipping up terrorism in Pakistan in rare public criticism that could increase tension between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The accusation came after a meeting of the army's top commanders at the military's headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi on Tuesday to review an offensive against militants in the northwest and other security issues.

"The conference also took serious notice of RAW's involvement in whipping up terrorism in Pakistan," the army said in a statement, referring to India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), its external intelligence arm.

While Pakistani army officers often privately accuse India of meddling, it is rare for the military to accuse India's spy agency in an official statement.

The neighbours have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over the divided Muslim-majority region of Kashmir which they both claim in full but rule in part.

Pakistan believes India is supporting separatists in resource-rich Baluchistan province, as well as militants fighting the state. It also sees India as fuelling strife in the volatile city of Karachi.

India denies interference in Pakistan but accuses Pakistan of supporting militants who launch attacks in India and fight in Indian Kashmir. India has also accused Pakistan of backing the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies those accusations.

A Pakistani official with knowledge of the commanders' meeting said they had discussed what they believed to be India's involvement in the Baluchistan insurgency.

"It was unanimously felt that India is providing all kinds of support to Pakistan's enemies, be they the (Pakistani) Taliban, or elements in Karachi or in Baluchistan," said the official who declined to be identified.

"There is documentary proof. All evidence is there and we will bring it in the open soon."

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said in a television interview aired later that RAW was "an enemy organisation".

"RAW has been formed to undo Pakistan and to wipe Pakistan off the map of the world," Asif said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made improving ties with India a priority when he won a 2013 election.

But his push was widely seen as causing friction with the army which sees relations with India as its responsibility.

Late last month, Sharif accused India of failing to respond to Pakistan's desire for good relations.

India was angered earlier in April when a Pakistani court freed on bail Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, accused of plotting a 2008 assault on the city of Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.
Indian army has no money to buy new weapons. Is the govt listening?
If you were amongst them who believed that the government is spending too much on defence, here's a shocker! The army has actually run out of money that would help it buy new, modernized weapons and is knocking on the Government's doors. The Indian military report submitted to the parliamentary standing committee has informed that Indian army lacks money to buy weapons.

As per a news report in The Economic Times, the report on the military's concerns was submitted last week and India's generals explained that thanks to a record low budget allocation this year, defence forces won't be able to buy operationally critical equipment like artillery guns, carbines, missiles and antitank systems for the army as well as patrol vessels and surveillance helicopters for the coast guard.

This year's budget gave a hike of 7.9 per cent in military spending, and as a percentage of GDP, total defence spending is 1.7 per cent " the lowest since 1960s. India's army has said the country's defence budget should be brought up to 3 per cent of GDP. China's defence spending is 2 per cent of GDP, Pakistan's 3 per cent, America's 3.8 per cent and Russia's 4.1 per cent, according to ministry of defence estimates.

As per the report, the army has identified 20 key projects it wants to sign but that the "money is not there". "Yes, alot needs to be modernised. We are aware of it. We have got our plans but finally there is a funds crunch. That is being reflected in the way funds get sanctioned on the ground," a senior army Lieutenant General told the panel. The financial daily informs, defence brass is typically not identified in submissions made to House panels.
The Battle Within Indian Army For Promotions
The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case that is likely to have serious implications for the cohesion and ethos of the Indian army. The matter pertains to the policy adopted by the Army Headquarters in 2009 for promotions of officers of the rank of Colonel, Brigadier, Major General and Lieutenant General. A group of nearly 200 serving army officers have challenged this policy, which grants disproportionate vacancies to two arms - the infantry and artillery - and so stunts the career prospects of officers from others arms and services.

In March 2015, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), which is the departmental tribunal of the military, effectively vindicated the stance of the petitioners by holding that the army's policy violated Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the right of equality of opportunity. In response to an appeal by the government, the Supreme Court has stayed the AFT's ruling, but has urged the government to expedite its submissions.

The mere fact that such a large number of officers have chosen the path of litigation underscores the salience of the issue and the simmering discontent in the army. Unless, tactfully handled the outcome of this legal battle might deeply dent the professionalism of the army.

The root of the problem stretches all the way back to the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) of 1999, which recommended reducing the average age of battalion and brigade commanders - i.e., colonels and brigadiers - to enable higher operational efficacy. The KRC was arguably barking up the wrong tree. Enhanced combat effectiveness would actually require reducing the average age of Junior Commissioned Officers, who are typically in their 40s, and at the sharp edge of combat as platoon commanders. 

Be that as it may, in July 2001, the Ministry of Defence constituted the Ajay Vikram Singh Committee-named after the able bureaucrat who led the exercise-to address this issue as well as the related one of limited career progression and thwarted aspirations in the army owing to its steeply pyramidal rank structure. The committee came up with a series of short and longer term proposals aimed at pulling more officers up the chain of command, while peeling off those who had no avenue of advancement.

The short-term measures included increasing vacancies for the ranks of colonel and above: 1484 colonels, 222 brigadiers, 75 major generals, and 20 lieutenant generals. In addition a range of other "peel" measures were suggested including lateral absorption in the government, voluntary retirement scheme and so forth. The longer-term measures recommended an increase in both the intake of Short Service Commissioned Officers (SSCOs) and their ratio vis-a-vis Permanent Commissioned Officers. To make the SSC attractive, the committee recommended steps such as lump-sum grants at the end of the tenure, grant of professional training leave, relaxation of age of entering the civil services and so on.

In retrospect, the committee's pronouncement on the length of the tenures of commanding officers (colonels) proved to be fateful. The panel recommended command tenure of 2.5 years for infantry units; 3 years for artillery, armoured corps, mechanised infantry; 4 years for air defence, engineers and signals; and 5 years for the ordnance and supply corps as well as electrical and mechanical engineers. This decision, taken without any compelling reasoning, gave the infantry an edge in vacancies for promotion. This was over and above the extra 20 per cent accruing to the combat arms - infantry, armour and artillery - under the pro rata scheme, which calculated vacancies for each arm and service in proportion to the number of officers serving in them (below the rank of colonel).

Yet, this laying of down of tenures did not have a totally lopsided impact. In fact, the committee explicitly urged caution in implementing its call for increased vacancies. In 2004, the government announced the release of 750 colonel vacancies in the first phase of implementation. Between February 2004 and September 2006, the average years of service of Colonels selected by promotion boards dropped from 18 to 16 years. The fact that infantry secured nearly a third of these vacancies was not seen as a major or iniquitous departure from the past trend.

In 2009, the Army Headquarters abruptly shifted its policy on promotions. The powers that were used the committee's pronouncement on differing length of tenures to skew the game in favour of infantry and artillery. The pro-rata model was thrown overboard. A new "command exit" model apparently drawing on the committee's recommendation was promulgated. This computed vacancies for colonels in various arms and services by factoring in the length of command tenure. In effect, the disparity between the tenures of commanding officers in, say, the infantry and the ordnance corps entitled the infantry to far more additional vacancies. Thus, during the second phase of implementation, the infantry garnered 441 of the 734 new vacancies: a whopping 77 per cent increase from the first phase. The artillery registered a 53 per cent increase over the two phases. And almost all other branches saw a steep drop in the vacancies allotted to them.

It is no coincidence that successive army chiefs from 2008 have belonged to the artillery and infantry. In fact, the policy was stoutly opposed by several senior lieutenant generals, including army commanders. The Armed Forces Tribunal ruling goes so far as to call the shift in policy "a malicious act". The implications of rigging the colonel vacancies for higher ranks are obvious. The very idea of a "general cadre" from the rank of brigadier stands vitiated.

The Army Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence are arguing that there was no shift in policy in 2009: the army was consistently implementing the committee's recommendations. But the fact remains that between 2004 and 2007, the pro rata system was left unchanged. The Ministry was evidently unaware of the Army Headquarters' policy either in 2004 or in 2009. Either way, it throws unflattering light on the state of civilian control over the military under the previous government.

Whichever way the Supreme Court rules, the army leadership's willingness to play fast-and-loose with so central an issue as promotions does not augur well for the institution. Notwithstanding their formal legal stance, it is incumbent upon the Defence Minister and the Army Chief to take a broad and sympathetic view of the positions espoused by officers from various parts of the army. The damage wrought since 2009 will have to be repaired. In particular, invidious argument that infantry deserves special treatment because it bears the brunt of combat needs to be buried. The army fights as an integrated force in counterinsurgency as much as conventional conflict. As a former infantry officer, I find this claim for affirmative action contemptible.

More importantly, the controversy should not lead to a wholesale abandonment of the sensible recommendations made by the Ajay Vikram Singh Committee. In order to ensure career satisfaction for permanent commissioned officers, it is imperative to increase the intake of SSCOs and so reduce the pressure on the number of contenders for senior ranks. This issue has hung fire for the past decade. If anything, there has been a regression. The SSC used to be a five-year commission with the option of a five-year extension. But now there is a lock-in period of ten years-a duration that would render most officers unfit for a serious civilian career. In consequence, not only has intake failed to increase, but over 60 per cent of SSCOs seek to opt for a permanent commission. Reversing this trend is crucial to restoring the battered organizational balance and cohesion of the army.
Raise your sword arm but not to clap
- Chief bans applause but makes an exception

New Delhi, May 5: General "claptrap" has broken out in the ranks of the Indian Army after its chief today banned the soldiery from bringing palms together in repeated motion to express applause "because it is against military decorum".

Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag, the chief, cited defence minister Manohar Parrikar's expression of surprise after the audience at an annual commanders' conference last month clapped after his speech in military headquarters.

"I did not know that men in uniform clapped," the defence minister is reported to have said.

Parrikar, who was Goa's chief minister and still carries with him a whiff of the casual in his colourful bush shirts that are never tucked in and in his beachwear sandals, is still getting acquainted with military culture since taking over the office in January.

Others present at the conference said Parrikar had said what he did about clapping "half in jest".

The joke was lost on the army chief.

"Hereafter, we will maintain the decorum of not clapping in uniform," Gen. Dalbir Singh told the audience of mostly army officers but also some civilians. The occasion this morning was the induction of a missile system, called the Akash, made by a defence public sector unit after nearly 30 years of research and trials.

But at the conclusion of the event, the army chief proceeded to do what he had advised his men against: he clapped, deliberately and slowly with great showmanship, after a vote of thanks by the official of the company that had made the missile, Bharat Dynamics Ltd. This chief said his act of applauding is a "one-time exception to the rule".
The manual on customs and traditions in the Indian Army does not forbid applauding a speaker by clapping.

"Yes, we clap," said an air force officer who said his service did not share the army chief's sentiment. "But we discourage the thumping of desks, though sometimes that too is done."

"In the navy we often shout to express appreciation," said a commander. "That is because our palms are often greasy from working on our warships," he explained. In the navy, sailors also salute by turning the palm inward to avoid showing greasy hands.

There is no hard-and-fast rule about clapping in the army, said a colonel.

"But you know this chief is austere, and a stickler for discipline; he dislikes flowers, for example, and has told his officers to abandon the practice of gifting them," he explained.

"No," the colonel added. "The gossip that there is a tax on smiling is pure rumour."

The dour Dalbir Singh, who took over as army chief after turbulence at the top, is probably the fittest four-star rank in recent years.

His slim and washboard waistline is still the envy of many of his juniors. He brings to the office he holds the dignity of a fitness freak. That does not include the air of jollity that another officer of the Gorkhas brought into South Block before leading India to its most famous military victory - Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw.

A man of ready wit and repartee, Manekshaw, who died in June 2008 at the age of 94, was widely reputed to hold politicians in utter contempt.

In contrast with Gen. Dalbir Singh's genuflection to his defence minister's (misinterpreted) advice, Manekshaw once said on the military knowledge of politicians: "I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of defence can distinguish a mortar from a motor; a gun from a howitzer; a guerrilla from a gorilla, although a great many resemble the latter."

India's chiefs of army staff have often brought into their jobs personal whims that have been issued as commands to the soldiery. Gen. J.J. Singh, who went on to become governor of Arunachal Pradesh after retiring, famously introduced "Friday Dressing" - ordering all in headquarters in New Delhi to wear battle fatigues on Fridays to express empathy with soldiers on the frontlines.

Gen. V.K. Singh, now minister of state, did away with the practice. His successor, Gen. Bikram Singh, re-instituted it.

Now, with the ban on the manual act of applause by a chief who proceeded to violate it, the army is complaining that it is caught in a "clap-trap".
Keep Military Fit for Fighting at all Times

The standing committee on defence has in its report submitted to Parliament lamented the perilous condition of defence finances. It has found that the defence forces won’t be able to buy operationally critical equipment like artillery guns, carbines, missiles and anti-tank systems for the army as well as patrol vessels and surveillance helicopters for the Coast Guard. The reason is not far to seek. They do not have enough funds to purchase these equipment. This is a sad state of affairs, which does not show government planning in a good light. India is a large country with thousands of kilometres of border and coastline to protect, not only from inimical forces but also terrorists who are looking for opportunities.

When it comes to protecting the nation’s integrity, no cost is too big. Yet, the fact remains that there has been a serious flaw in the allocations made for defence over the years. The present government is not wholly to blame for the situation, though it cannot escape responsibility. It is entitled to some measure of satisfaction that the money earmarked for military purchases this year marks an increase of 7.9 per cent over the last year’s allocation. Allowance, of course, has to be made for the fact that the increase takes care of only inflation. True, inflation has been contained to some extent thanks to the fall in the oil price. But, then, there has also been the depreciation of the rupee against the dollar and other currencies. A better way of understanding defence allocation is to find out how much it is in terms of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Alas, the defence spending this year constitutes only 1.7 per cent of the GDP, which is the lowest since the sixties. The Indian Army is not jingoistic when it says defence spending should not be less than 3 per cent. Comparative data certainly favour the army. For instance, China’s defence spending is 2 per cent of its GDP, which is much more than India’s, Pakistan’s 3 per cent, America’s 3.8 per cent and Russia’s 4.1 per cent. The comparative data suggest that India does not spend as much as it should on defence. There is no reason why India’s defence spending should be less than any other country’s save the US, which has its global concerns. It is time the defence forces are given their due to keep them fit for fighting.

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