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Monday, 15 June 2015

From Today's Papers - 15 Jun 2015

Veterans out on streets over delay in OROP
Ex-servicemen today renewed their protest over the delay in implementation of the “One Rank One Pension” (OROP) policy by holding dharnas across the country, including in the capital.

Under the banner of United Front of Ex-servicemen, they demanded immediate implementation of the OROP policy and reminded the Prime Minister of his promise made at a rally of former soldiers at Rewari, Haryana, in the run-up to the 2014 General Election.

They also threatened to launch a relay hunger strike from tomorrow. Their protest came in the backdrop of ‘failed’ talks with the government. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured us that it will be implemented, but it has been one year,” said Colonel (retd) Anil Kaul, the media adviser to Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM).

Major General (Retried) Satbir Singh, vice-chairman of IESM, said protests would continue till the time the OROP was not implemented.

Insisting that the protests were not aimed against any government, but to ensure that the former soldiers get their dues pending for long, they said plans were to approach the President.  They said they had sought an appointment with President Pranab Mukherjee to take up the matter.

The Modi government has said that it is committed to the OROP, one of its key poll promises, but has been unable to implement it till now. Earlier during “Mann ki Baat”, the PM said the issue would be resolved soon.

The OROP envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. Nearly 22 lakh ex-servicemen and over six lakh war widows are expected to benefit once the policy is implemented.

Though the government says it is committed to implementing the OROP, no clarification has been made as to why the scheme is getting delayed.
State-of-art battle tanks to replace T-72
The Army is planning to replace its existing fleet of Soviet-origin main battle tanks, which have been in service since the mid-80s, with a family of modular armoured-fighting vehicles that would be developed in collaboration with the industry.

“The Indian Army is planning to design and develop a new generation, state-of-the-art combat vehicle platform for populating its armoured fighting vehicle fleet in the coming decade. This vehicle, which will be called the future ready combat vehicle (FRCV), will form the base platform for the main battle tank which is planned to replace the existing T-72 tanks in the Armoured Corps,” a request for information (RFI) of the Army stated.

The army envisions to begin inducting the new platforms by 2025-27. It is also planned to subsequently develop other need-based variants like bridge-layers, anti-mine trawlers, command posts, armoured ambulances, engineer vehicles, self-propelled gun platforms and recovery vehicles on this platform.

The Army looking towards developing a new family of armoured vehicles also indicates that the main battle tank, Arjun, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) does not meet its future requirements, even though orders have been placed to equip some regiments it. The Army and the DRDO have been at loggerheads about the performance and capability of the Arjun.

At present the T-72 and the T-90, both procured from Russia and assembled in India, are the mainstay of the Indian Armoured Corps. The T-72 has undergone several upgrades to enhance their capability. The T-90 began entering service in the last decades.

The RFI also states that a ‘future’ combat platform design must cater to ‘future’ battlefield environment and technological possibilities. To address the future scenario and the envisaged force profile, the FRCV, which would be in the “medium tank” category, needs to be developed on a modular concept with a high degree of flexibility in a manner that, as a tank platform, it can address the varying requirements of different terrain and weather configurations. At the same time it can provide the base on which a ‘family of vehicles’, catering to the operational needs of various arms of the Army.

The new tank’s firepower should be well matched to contemporary tanks in engagement ranges, all weather day/night fighting capability, depth of penetration and variety of ammunition. It should have very high all-round protection.
Growing US Middle East dilemmas
How to stem the Islamic State's march?
With President Barack Obama’s decision to send 450 troops to Iraq at its request, in addition to 3,100 already there for training and advisory roles, is it Mission Creep for an America desperate to see an end to its military role in the Middle East, except to succour Israel and its Arab allies? It was the emergence of the Islamic State (IS), or its variant ISIS, that got US military aircraft back in action over the Iraqi and Syrian skies.

President Obama had been bending over backward to ensure that his military could say goodbye to the Middle East in his declared “pivot” to Asia. Even when the Syrian regime had crossed his declared “red line” by using chemical weapons, he hesitated and grasped the Russian proposal to get Syrian chemical weapons out. Indeed, his motto has been to resist Mission Creep.

Yet today we see the dilemmas being presented by a wily enemy who, despite the bombing runs, refuses to surrender or die. In Syria, the Western aim of getting rid of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad gave the IS an opportunity. It got the better of both the West-supported moderate opposition and a weakened Assad regime to impose its own rule over large stretches of the country declaring a caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reportedly injured in a targeted attack. And a year ago the IS captured Iraq's second city Mosul, and most recently, Ramadi.

Not only has the IS proved to be a media savvy organisation but it has also used brutality mixed with charm to strike fear and obedience in its new subjects. Even more surprisingly, it has through a major internet campaign and sympathisers lured many young people from around the world, including the West, to fight for its cause in Syria and Iraq.

With the persistent aerial bombing of IS targets, it was assumed that the Islamic State would feel the heat and its advances would be halted. It has had to vary its fighting routine while making gains. There are, of course, differences between the Syrian and Iraqi theatres.

In Syria, President Assad's side has suffered by US air strikes and non-IS opposition fighters' advance to allow the IS to gain territory over large abandoned areas to set up their caliphate. Aiding the President in the military field are fellow Shia Iran and in diplomacy Russia.

The picture is starkly different in the Shia-dominated administration of Iraq, with both Iran and the Western alliance led by the US fighting the IS. Indeed, the Shia militias, rather than the Iraqi army, have proved the doughtier fighters posing another dilemma for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Most of the fighting is taking place in the Sunni-dominated regions. Sunnis are discriminated against by the new dispensation in Baghdad. Each time Shia militias are in the forefront, more Sunni tribes go sullen or join the IS.

Against this background, American dilemmas grow by the day. One suspects that the IS would dearly like to draw US ground troops back into the operation, with Washington desperately seeking Arab ground support. In fact, even as the drama is being played out in the Syrian-Iraqi theatre, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been striking at Houthi targets in Yemen from air for months to stem the Shia sect taking over the adjoining country.

These developments have led to a measure of gloom in the region. The next US presidential election is already casting its long shadow on American politics, with President Obama motivated by leaving his legacy in his final second term. Can a President who came to office vowing to take American troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan afford to leave office with his country's troops again embroiled in the Middle East?

On the other hand, despite the political compulsions, the US cannot afford to walk away from a Middle East on the boil. President Obama's hope, therefore, is to prevaricate, stiffen Iraqi resolve through new training and toughening programmes to the extent possible co-opt Sunni tribal chieftains. In faraway Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sounded his own bugle of alarm by suggesting that the IS has global ambitions and is a “death cult”.

For the more cynical, there is a déjà vu air about the present happenings. The most powerful military in the world seems unable to master the art of subduing modern defiance. The unwise decision of the last President Bush to invade Iraq will go down in history as a war fought on wrong premises to achieve a string of unattainable objectives. In the bargain, the US presented Iran with the handsome gift of a majority Shia-led Iraq.

The question to ask is whether the incremental measures President Obama has chosen will lead to peace on reasonable terms. Syria is in its fifth year of civil war, with millions living as refugees in neighbouring countries and as displaced people internally. The Shia-allied Alawite faith of President Assad is in minority in a Sunni-majority country with its cast of extremists under the banner of the IS and different stripes of more moderate Sunni-based insurgents. But President Assad has powerful friends in the shape of Iran, the Hezbollah movement in neighbouring Lebanon and the diplomatic support of Russia. The new Cold War between Russia and the West makes cooperation in Syria more difficult.

In Iraq, the twin objectives of the US are not only to try to defeat the IS but also to ensure that the country does not break up into three parts, Shia, Sunni and Kurdistan, which already has a large measure of autonomy and whose people have distinguished themselves as fierce fighters. One thing is clear, it is difficult to forecast the time frame for the mess to clear and the outcome of the division of the Ottoman Empire by Britain and France in 1916 the IS is so dramatically seeking to erase.
One Rank One Pension: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar Asks Ex-Servicemen to be Patient
Jaipur:  Even as ex-servicemen held protests over delay in non-implementation of the 'One Rank, One Pension' scheme, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today sought to assuage their concerns, saying the "promises" made will be kept and that they should be "patient".

"I assure you whatever we have promised that all would be done... but some people need to be patient," Mr Parrikar said addressing a conference here on challenges and solutions regarding border safety.

Upset over the delay in implementation of OROP, ex-servicemen held protests across the country, including in the national capital, demanding its immediate introduction.

The former soldiers have threatened to go an a relay hunger strike from tomorrow.

Mr Parrikar also stressed on "zero tolerance" to acts of terrorism to address concerns about national security.

"You can drop a glass but you don't drop a child because you take all precautions and that is mindset. The day you would take a decision not to drop the glass, you won't drop it ever. Zero tolerance is the only solution for matters related to national security and that has to be the mindset," he said.

Apparently referring to the army's cross-border strikes in Myanmar following the killing of 18 soldiers in an ambush in Manipur, the minister said," A recent incident has changed the national security scenario and there appears to be a change in the mindset of people."

Mr Parrikar said national security may be endangered due to internal disturbances, which could be a result of "internally or externally created problems."

He said external issues could pose a threat to national security as happened during the Bangaladesh liberation war in 1971 when people from that country crossed into India to escape "genocide".

"External issues could be problematic to a nation as it happened in Bangladesh in 1971 when people had started moving to India due to genocide. Danger to India by external factors ... I am not going into details... but it is permutation and combination of various factors," he said.

He identified cyber crime as a new challenge for defence forces.

"If there is a cyber attack or cyber terrorism then there can be a threat to border or it might be converted into a warfare," he said.

He, however, ruled out any security threat due to hacking of defence websites as all vital information was cloud-based and protected against such intrusion.

Mr Parrikar termed counterfeit currency problem or "economic terrorism" as more dangerous than cyber attacks.
People's respect for Indian Army has reduced because of lack of wars: Manohar Parrikar
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday said that the Indian army's importance had diminished, because it hadn't been at war in 40-50 years.

However, perhaps stung by his gaffes in the past, Parrikar was quick to add that he was not endorsing a war.

According to Hindustan Times, Parrikar said that soldiers were facing 'immense difficulties' because 'people's respect for the army has reduced during peacetime'. Parrikar was speaking at a seminar in Jaipur where information and broadcasting minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was also present.

"I have written to many chief ministers (over defence matters). Some have acted on it and at many places it (response) has ended. The primary reason for this is that we have not been to war for 40-50 years. I don't mean to say that we should go to war. I mean to say that without war the army's importance has diminished."

He said two generations of officers have retired without seeing a war, but that doesn't mean the army should not command the respect it deserves. "A country that fails to protect its army cannot progress."

Rathore on the other hand, targeted former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf for his comments that his country's nuclear weapons were not meant for use on Shab-e-Baraat, an oblique warning to India.

"General Musharraf saab cannot enter his own house how he would enter India," he said, referring to treason charges slapped against the former Pakistani dictator.

"Chot kahin aur mari dard kahin aur huya. We warned that whoever harbours terrorism should be afraid. So why Pakistan spoke up?" he said, reacting to Pakistan's response to India's operation in Myanmar.
Former military personnel protest over 'one rank one pension' demand
Thousands of retired military personnel on Sunday piled on pressure on the NDA government to implement the “one rank one pension” (OROP) scheme, holding protests in Delhi and cities across the country and saying the campaign will be intensified with the launch of an indefinite hunger strike.

In Delhi, former armed forces personnel gathered at Jantar Mantar for the protest. A series of ‘mahasangram’ rallies also were organised in cities around the country.

Officials of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), which is spearheading the protests, said an indefinite relay hunger strike will be started from 9am on Monday. Batches of 15 people will join the relay hunger strike, which will continue till the government announces a date for implementing OROP.

The IESM decided to launch the protests after a meeting with defence minister Manohar Parrikar to discuss the OROP issue ended inconclusively.

Maj Gen (retired) Satbir Singh, vice-chairman of the IESM, told the media: “The protest will continue till OROP is implemented. There will be rallies across the country. After the rally, there will be an indefinite hunger strike.”

Singh said the former military personnel intended to hand over their medals to the President, who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces, as a mark of protest.

The former military personnel are expected to meet President Pranab Mukherjee later in the day.

The NDA government has said several times it is committed to the OROP scheme but Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Parrikar have not set a timeframe for rolling it out.

"Whenever there has been any requirement for national security, for earthquake, for floods or in case of a disaster, the army has always been there first to take suitable action. But when it comes to the finances, giving perks, giving benefits, the Indian Army becomes the last organization in this country," Maj Gen (retd) SR Sinho told reporters.

"This system of OROP has been pending for many years. Whenever the elections come, lots of promises are made by various parties that it will be executed soon. 8,000 crores is not a very big amount for a country like India, which has a huge army budget," he added.

Modi brought up the issue during his last monthly radio address and sought more time from the retired personnel to implement the scheme. He has also said his government is trying to frame a definition of OROP that is acceptable to all stakeholders.

The former military personnel have written a letter to the Prime Minister, seeking the implementation of OROP as soon as possible.

The OROP scheme is aimed at ensuring that all retired personnel, who have the same rank and the length of service, receive the same amount of pension, irrespective of their date of retirement. Under the existing policy, military personnel who retired before 2006 receive less pension than those who retired later.

The OROP scheme has been a long-standing demand of nearly three million retired military personnel. More than 600,000 war widows are also expected to benefit from the scheme.

Before last year’s general election, the Congress-led UPA government allocated Rs 500 crore for the OROP scheme. Following its electoral victory, the BJP-led NDA government increased the allocation to Rs 1,000 crore.

But experts have said the actual requirement for immediately implementing the scheme could be more than Rs 8,000 crore.

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