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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

From Today's Papers - 30 Jun 2015

China, Pakistan’s strategic Kashmir game
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would confer added status on China as an economic superpower. Also, easy access to the Arabian sea would enhance China’s standing internationally, hence the anxiety to keep Pakistan in good humour.
BEIJING’S move at the UN blocking action against Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, one of the masterminds of  26/11,  should  be read  as a small  piece in the larger game that China and Pakistan are playing in South Asia, particularly Jammu and Kashmir. By vetoing  action against Pakistan on the release  of Lakhvi, China has shown  with an assertive demonstration  that for it Pakistan matters more  in its geo-strategic  scheme of things in South Asia  than even the growth of  radical Islam  and terrorism in its own backyard Xinjiang.  It’s not that China is oblivious of dangers of terrorism,  but it is playing a bigger game where it probably thinks that radicalism and terrorism would not hurt it.  History is replete with the facts that terrorism doesn’t know any boundaries. If the terrorists could strike at the geographically and militarily invincible America  in September 2001, they would not spare anyone.  China knows it but for now sees larger gains through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPC); hence its anxiety to please Pakistan.

Before  and after 26/11 and before and after his arrest, Lakhvi, the top-most man in Lashkar-e-Toiba hierarchy, perhaps second only to  the founder of the pan-Islamic terror group’s founder Hafiz Sayeed, had been involved in drafting strategies to up the ante in Kashmir.   A series of attacks that took place in 2000  and  subsequent years  in Kashmir, including the suicide attack on the legislative Assembly in  October 2001, the massacre of soldiers and their wives and  children in Kaluchak near Jammu in May 2002, had his and the LeT stamp all over. This radical group also put in place a new strategy of recruiting the educated  youth from well-off families  in Kashmir.

China  has  two clear objectives in stalling the move at the UN against Lakhvi. One, it is  trying to keep Pakistan in good humour  because of its larger objectives of  reaching Gwadar  port in Baluchistan, Pakistan.  The  status that CEPC would confer on China as an economic superpower  with an easy access to Arabian sea would add to its standing  internationally. It has already frayed many nerves  by  laying its  claim on the South China sea,  where it is  reclaiming the reefs and  even challenging the US. 

This is one part of the story. Secondly,  China is  co-opting  Kashmir in its geo-strategic  ambitions.  Pakistan has willingly accepted this  unspoken suzerainty  over Kashmir.  A beginning  in the recent past was made  when China refused regular visas to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. It would give only stapled visas to the J&K residents. In the case of the North-eastern state  of Arunachal Pradesh, it  asserted its claim that the land belonged to  China; for J&K, it joined the narrative that this Himalayan state divided between India and Pakistan was a disputed territory. In 2009, then Chinese assistant minister for foreign affairs in charge of Asian affairs, Hu  Zhengyue  had told journalists in Beijing, “Kashmir is an issue  that has been long-standing left  from history. The issue touches  the bilateral relations  between the relevant countries (India and Pakistan).  As a friend, China will be happy  if we can play  a constructive role  in resolving the issue.”

What followed next was not surprising. Kashmiri separatists — both factions of the Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq respectively — hailed the statement and  urged China to play  its role in resolving the K-issue. They made China a party to what they call “K-dispute.” Before that, they were eager to see the US play the mediatory role  in resolving the Kashmir issue.  The  geo-political game had started changing, but the Indian leadership missed the point. Now it is finding that costs have become dearer.

The hints  as to what kind of  policy  China would be adopting vis-à-vis Kashmir  were too visible to be ignored. The biggest snub before this Lakhvi episode   came when China refused to clarify the Line of Actual Control LAC).  The LAC also passes through Ladakh  in Jammu and Kashmir and this cold desert region has witnessed a series of stand-offs  between Chinese and Indian troops, primarily because of the PLA troops’ intrusion into the Indian side of the LAC.

These intrusions embarrassed  New Delhi at critical junctures  in the recent  years.  New Delhi’s meek  theory that China and India had different perceptions about the LAC  that’s why  there were “transgressions” (not intrusions) by the PLA troops. This was a poor diplomacy smacking of weaknesses in the foreign policy strategy.

Beyond these incidents, Pakistan’s narrative is changing.  While rejecting Indian objections to   the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on the ground that  it passes through the  “disputed areas,” Pakistan’s Finance Minister Isshfaq Dar  told the National Assembly on  June 23, “ What disputed territory. Gilgit-Baltistan is part of Pakistan. Azad Kashmir is part of Pakistan.”

This audacity  and arrogance in tone and tenor comes straightway from Beijing’s unqualified support to Pakistan. This has also something  to do with the internal situation in Jammu and Kashmir, where the PDP-BJP coalition’ government’s failure to address the basic issues of governance  has widened the space for the radical Islam and  promoted  the dangerous narratives  of the regional, sub-regional and religious divide. This sense of overconfidence was further exhibited by  Pakistan at Geneva. Pakistan’s mission at Geneva said that: “Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute and  it should be settled by granting the right to self-determination to the people of the region.”

It may be read as a contradiction in Pakistan’s stand at home and abroad. That would be a mistake. Now, when Pakistan talks about dispute, it relates only to the part that is with India. The whole of the state  of Jammu and Kashmir  had acceded to India, including Gilgit Baltistan,  and the territory that Pakistan occupies and calls “Azad Kashmir.” Besides, the areas that it has gifted to China  to construct Karokaram highway,  known  as N-35  in Pakistan, are also part of the undivided J&K, which legally has been acceded to India.  The Karakoram  highway is being upgraded. Both neighbours have ignored Indian objections.

As it is clear now, things would change. China and Pakistan  would  draw closer to  each other. India would be squeezed in Jammu and Kashmir. Given the current geo-strategic games of China and Pakistan, no other conclusion can be drawn.
Protests in Assam over death in Army ‘custody’
Bijay Sankar Bora

Tribune News Service

Guwahati, June 29
Protests are raging following the death of a 45-year-old man ‘in the custody’ of the Army, which picked him up from his residence in a village located in the jurisdiction of the Bijni police station in Chirang district of Assam on the night of June 26.

Ratneswar Brahma later died in Lower Assam Hospital in Bongaigaon in the wee hours of June 28. An FIR has been lodged by the family with the Bijni police in connection with the death.

The All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) today sent a memorandum to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the National Human Rights Commission demanding arrest of the Army men responsible for the death of the man, end to atrocities and killing of innocent people in counter-insurgency operations, investigation into the incident and adequate compensation to the victim’s family. The ABSU has called for 12-hour Chirang district bandh tomorrow.

An official source in Chirang district claimed Ratenswar Brahma, a daily-wage earner, was picked up by personnel of 7 Sikh Light Infantry Regiment based at Panbari in Chirang district from his residence around 10.30 pm on June 26 for questioning.

When the family members contacted the Army camp the next day, the Army first denied Ratneswar’s presence in the camp. The family members were later promised that he would be released soon.

On June 27, the Army admitted Ratneswar to Lower Assam Hospital in Bongaigaon, where he died early on June 28.

Enraged at the death, the family members and locals first refused to accept the body. They relented after Deputy Commissioner R K Mazumder and Superintendent of Police Ranjan Bhuyan of Chirang district gave a written assurance of police investigation, adequate compensation and providing a copy of post-mortem report. The body was cremated early this morning.

The Army, in a statement, claimed Ratneswar was an over-ground worker of the banned NDFB-S outfit and apprehended by troops in the late night of 26th June for questioning. The vehicle in which he was being brought developed some snag and even as the vehicle was being rectified, Brahma jumped out and tried to flee. He fell down and injured himself when the troops chased him.
Chinese praise for Indian tank Arjun
Beijing, June 29
India’s indigenous main battle tank (MBT) Arjun, which was developed after years of delays and cost-overruns, came in for praise from a top Chinese military research academy here that concentrates on the engineering requirements of the armed forces.

Senior Colonel Liu Degang, deputy commander of the Beijing-based academy, said the MBT is “very good” for Indian conditions. Liu, who was receiving a group of Indian journalists at the academy that also doubles as a research institute for its tanks and heavy armour, said India had done well to develop its own MBT. The Arjun tank took nearly two decades, from the time the first prototype was revealed, to be inducted into the Indian Army and an upgraded version, Arjun MK-II, is reportedly being developed. A visit to such a military research centre in China is rare and even the locally based Indian journalists have never been invited there. Liu, as senior commander, is ranked equivalent to a brigadier. — IANS
For Rescue Ops in Kashmir, Defence Ministry's Rs. 500 Crore Bill: NDTV Exclusive
Srinagar:  For relief and rescue operations during the floods that battered Kashmir last year, the union defence ministry produced a bill of Rs. 500 crore, reveal documents accessed by NDTV.

The amount was diverted by the Centre from Rs. 1,602 crore given to Jammu and Kashmir as part of the State Disaster Response Fund.

300 people died and over 1.5 million were affected in the floods that devastated large parts of Kashmir, especially Srinagar, in September. Over two lakh people, including tourists, were rescued and essential supplies like food, water and medicine were air-dropped in what the armed forces called "Operation Megh Rahat."

Documents accessed exclusively by NDTV show that the operation came with a large bill for services rendered.

A letter dated February 6 from the home ministry to the state government on central assistance, lists "payment of Air Bills for airdropping of essential supplies and rescue (tentative Rs. 500 crore) as per actual, based on the bills raised by the ministry of defence."

The home ministry letter says that the money has been taken from the "State Disaster Response Fund account of the states for instant disasters."

The Defence Ministry says it is routine after any such relief operation to raise costs because the government needs to account for material, man hours and cost incurred by the Indian Air Force in sorties.

"This is general deducted from the relief package that is subsequently announced," a defence ministry official said.

"This is a book debit, there is no cash transfer. During disaster relief operations, the forces incur huge expenses, which needs to be refunded," the official explained.
Defence Matters: ‘One rank one pension’ quandry
The resolution of ‘one rank one pension’ (OROP) has been hanging fire for close to three decades. The issue arose because of the gross injustice done to the defence services in a range of areas concerning their pay and pension as compared to civil services. Right from the time the demand for OROP was projected, every conceivable ploy has been deployed by successive governments to stall the case. Now, when this issue is expected to be finally resolved, some hearts in the government have started bleeding for the soldier and have come up with the observation that in this OROP, soldiers stand to gain very little as compared to officers. Where were these ‘bleeding hearts’ all these decades when a soldier was persistently and grossly discriminated against?

Till about the fifties, a defence services retiree drew 70% of his last pay drawn as pension, whereas a civil employee’s pension was 30% of his last pay drawn.

Higher pension for defence personnel was due to their rather early retirement and extremely limited promotion avenues, leaving aside the travails of military service. The government reduced the pension of defence services retirees from 70% to 50% and jacked up that of civilian employees from 30%to 50%. This was done without any justification as there was no change in the employment parameters of the two set of employees.

To earn full pension, that is, 50% of the last pay drawn, an employee has to serve for 33 years. But in the case of army, over 85% are compulsorily retired before that length of service. Later, dispensation of 10 years was given which was subsequently increased to 12 years. Even with this dispensation, 80% of military personnel do not get 50% of the last pay as pension. In their case pension works out to approximately 37% of the last pay drawn. It has been a simple case where you compulsorily retire a soldier after 17 years’ service and then tell him that he cannot get full pension because he did not serve up to 33 years.


The latest move has been to instigate some directors general of central police organisations to contend before the Union home minister that the grant of OROP to defence personnel would lower the morale of their police personnel. One has to be a complete moron to weigh in the same scale the one who retires at 60 with another who is compulsorily retired at age 34-37 (even ignoring all the travails of military service) and then demand principle of parity in pensions, based on OROP.

Yet another ploy to delay and perhaps deny OROP is a crude attempt to create some rift between officers and soldiers, when the government alleges that it is the officers who stand to gain more than soldiers. This is being done by highlighting the gap in the increase in pension in the case of officers and that of soldiers. False and mischievous as it is, it has all the portents of creating serious problems in officer-man relationship in the military. Such false projections will greatly harm military as a cohesive and potent force.

Equally in this mischief the babu is deliberately concealing some pertinent facts. What is not being adequately explained is that on July 1, 2008, and again on September 24, 2012, as a sort of modified OROP, pension of only other ranks was increased, while officers (other than Lt Gens) were left out. However, in their case, the increase in their pension should have been from 2006, rather than from 2008. Unfortunately, successive governments have been given to cheating and cutting corners when it comes to defence services personnel’s entitlements.

So the aim to now rig up this issue of lesser increase for soldiers compared to officers is to put one more spanner in the works. These ‘bleeding hearts’ who have suddenly come alive should rather pitch in for waiving 33 years’ conditionality to earn 50% of the last pay drawn as pension, in the case of soldiers. This is what the top brass of the defence services must pitch in for. They owe this to their soldiers.


Now, notwithstanding the clarity brought about by the Koshyari Committee of Parliament, the finance minister has come up with yet another suggestion of a base pension for each rank and an additional amount for each year of service, in lieu of OROP. He seems to propose that all this be put before the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) to work out the details. He is merely further muddying the waters.

The Koshyari Committee had opined that payments be made from April 1, 2014, till the award of the 7th CPC was announced. Thereafter, the salaries of the serving personnel may be fixed by the 7th CPC and consequently pensions of defence personnel will follow as per rules. However, in all fairness, the 7th CPC needs to restore the differential of pension as existing prior to the 3rd CPC, which affects the largest number of exservicemen. The increase in civilian pensions and decrease in pensions of defence personnel was patently unjustified and against all norms of justice.

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