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Monday, 1 June 2015

MoD clips fiscal powers of military officers
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
Introducing major changes in rules, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has virtually stripped military officers of their discretionary financial powers across the board. While revising the powers from the level of Vice-Chief down to middle rung officers, the MoD has imposed additional checks and oversight mechanisms.

The new orders, circulated earlier this month, state that there would be no inherent financial powers in the new dispensation. Therefore, the Competent Financial Authority (CFA) at every level would be required to exercise the delegated powers in consultation with the Integrated Financial Adviser (IFA), a civilian officer from the defence Accounts Department posted to military establishments.

Another major change is the introduction of a collegiate-based mechanism, referred to as “procurement committee”, probably to speed up the procurement cycle. The committee will be formed by all CFAs within their domain and will deal with all stages of procurement from the preparation of the request for proposal to the final supply order.

Detailed schedules have also been drawn up for each service, listing the financial powers for different ranks under various heads and categories. The rules were last notified in 2006. “All procurement, works and non-procurement powers in schedules are required to be exercised with concurrence of the IFA concerned,” the orders state.

The new orders also provide that at any stage of procurement, the CFA can overrule the advice of the IFA by a written order giving reasons for the same. There are also provisions for making emergency purchases or executing some specific works without prior approvals from the IFA. Pointing out that decentralisation of decision-making was one of the key components of good governance in large and complex organisations like defence, the MoD has contended that any effective system of delegation needed to necessarily have an appropriate oversight mechanism as an integral element of the ecosystem based upon the principle of reasonable assurance to the executive at the highest level.
Sushma draws the line for talks with Pak
KV Prasad

Tribune News Service

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said the government’s policy towards Pakistan was clear and guided by three principles, including talks without any third party intervention.

Rejecting the policy’s characterisation as “on-off” or “confused”, she said: “Our policy’s outlining guiding principles are — First, all issues can be resolved amicably through talks. Second, talks will only be held between the two nations without any third party intervention. Third, all this can only happen in a conducive atmosphere that includes action against perpetrators of terror.”

On the change in the government’s attitude after Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Hurriyat leaders ahead of the foreign secretary-level talks last year, Swaraj said: “Unlike past when separatists sought meetings, this time the Pakistani Ambassador invited them four days before the talks were scheduled. This suggests that Islamabad wants to make them (separatists) party to the dialogue, which is unacceptable to New Delhi.” Swaraj was addressing a press conference on India's relations with the world in the past one year that saw 162 diplomatic engagements with 101 countries between the Prime Minister, herself and her Deputy the Minister of State for External Affairs.She said the parameters to measure success of “transformational diplomacy” were visits, dialogue and outcome and dovetailing the NDA government's flagship programmes to the thrust on “diplomacy for development”. “This resulted in 39 per cent increase in the FDI that translates into $28.82 billion inflow between April 2014 and February 2015,” she said.

Besides increased engagement with immediate neighbours, the year saw interaction with major powers, including the US, China, Russia and multi-lateral fora like the BRICS. On her keeping a “low profile”, Swaraj said: “I choose to work without the hype, while the proactive PM is a support and not a challenge.”

On Pakistan, she said the swings in their relationship did not come in their way of extending assistance in the time of need. “The PM had called his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after the Peshawar school terror attack, Indian naval ships took three Pakistani nationals on board from Yemen just as Islamabad rescued 11 Indians and flew them back home in a special plane as cases in point,” she said.

On China, she said the PM firmly labelled the work being done by Beijing in the Pak-occupied Kashmir as “unacceptable” while lodging formal protest through diplomatic channels. She said: “India stands for freedom of navigation in the high seas and our commercial oil exploration activity in the South China Sea is as per international norms.” On stapled visas Beijing issues to some Indian citizens, she said the matter would be resolved soon through talks.

Swaraj said: “President Obama's comment on religious tolerance means he is not aware of the country that has a history of Vasudeva Kutumb (whole world being a family).”
Modi seeks time on OROP, says past govts did nothing
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 31
Under attack from ex-servicemen over delay in announcing ‘one rank, one pension’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today sought some time while accusing the previous governments of doing little on the issue during the last four decades. “For the 40 years you have shown patience, give me some time to work and together we will resolve the problems. I reassure the country once again', Prime Minister Modi said during his “Mann Ki Baat” on All India Radio today.

His government, the Prime Minister said, was committed to the promise made during a rally of ex-servicemen. However, he acknowledged the matter was not as simple as he assumed but rather vexed.

It was at a BJP rally last September in the presence of former Army Chief and now Union Minister V K Singh that he made the announcement.

During the last two days, the Prime Minister made his thought known — first through the interview to The Tribune and today through the radio — on the issue that has agitated the ex-servicemen who recently registered protest by staying away from an official function of the defence minister. While the Prime Minister said that political parties were indulging in politics over the issue, he underscored the respect he has as a human being for those who protect the country, those who retired and those who made sacrifices.

Is it not a fact that the issue of 'one rank, one pension' has been hanging fire for the last 40 years? Is it not a fact that all the previous governments only talked but did nothing...I assure you. I have made a promise in the midst of ex-servicemen that my government will implement ‘one rank, one pension’. We do not shun our responsibility," he said.

The government, he emphasised, was seeking to simplify the issue complicated over the past 40 years and had directed every department to find out a solution acceptable to all.

There is no need to give a running commentary or provide information to the media every minute. Having grown up in an ideology in which the lives of soldiers and ex-servicemen have special importance, Modi asserted his government will find a solution to OROP.

In his address, the PM also touched up success and learning lessons from failures in examinations, the wide options available before children, launch of kisan television channel and what it would do to transform rural lives, spirit of travel and domestic tourism and how people can learn and imbibe from visits to different places.
Will buy only 36 Rafales, don’t need 126: Parrikar
New Delhi, May 31
Terming the UPA’s proposed deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets as “economically unviable” and not required, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said the NDA government will buy only 36 French aircraft, to be used for strategic purposes, and no more.

Parrikar also raised questions on the tendering process initiated by former Defence Minister AK Antony and said his predecessor had “hammered” the tender in such a way that the Rafale deal would have never seen the light of the day.

Rejecting criticism from the Congress that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had bypassed the Finance Ministry and the Defence Acquisition Council, the apex body of the Defence Ministry that takes the call on military projects, Parrikar said “the deal is yet to be inked” and they should hold their horses till the process was complete.

He expressed confidence that the committee, which has been set up to work out the contract, would complete the task in the next 2-3 months.

The Modi government has scrapped the over $20 billion deal for 126 Rafales more than three years after Dassault was declared the lowest bidder during the UPA’s tenure.

During his visit to France last month, the Prime Minister announced the decision to buy 36 of these jets in a fly-away condition under a government-to-government (G2G) contract.

Parrikar underlined that the decision to acquire 36 Rafales came in view of the “urgent requirement” of the Indian Air Force. “We are not buying the rest. We are only buying the direct 36,” Parrikar said.

He said the UPA deal for 126 Rafales was way too expensive and it would have hampered other modernisation plans of the Indian military. The deal would have required around Rs 1.3 lakh crore over a period of 10-11 years, he said.

Would there be any money for any other work? I also feel like having a BMW and Mercedes. But I don’t because I can’t afford it. First I can’t afford it and second I don’t need it. So, 126 Rafales was economically unviable. It was not required,” he said. — PTI
China’s new military strategy sets fresh ‘markers’ for India
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 31
A Chinese white paper on military strategy sets new ‘markers’ for India’s long-term politico-military strategy — of ensuring peace along the disputed un-demarcated 3,488-km-long frontier with China and smooth facilitation of its east-going trade through contested waters of the South China Sea.

The white paper, outlining a ‘strategic guideline for active defence’ and ‘building of Chinese armed forces’, was released by the Chinese Ministry of National Defence on May 26 in Beijing. The Chinese document lists security of overseas interests concerning energy and resources and strategic sea lines of communication (SLOCs) as an imminent issue. The SLOC, carrying some 70 per cent of trade and oil of China, pass by the Indian coast. New Delhi dominates the northern edge of the vital straits of Mallaca and Beijing is edgy about it.

For India, this means China would increase its ship and submarine patrols in the Indian Ocean. The white paper says the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will gradually shift its focus towards “open seas protection,” and enhance its capabilities for strategic deterrence and counterattack. It will continue regular combat readiness patrols and maintain a military presence in relevant sea areas.

This is being seen as a reference to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. In the past few weeks, tensions have ratcheted up with the US and China warning each other over claims in the hydro-carbon rich South China Sea. As India has oil exploration blocks in the sea, any conflict will hit Indian economic interests.

On its land forces, the white paper says People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will continue to reorient to trans-theatre mobility and adapt itself to tasks in different regions. Indian officials are aware that the PLA practices rapid mobility across its military regions of Lanzhou and Chengdu bordering India, the last one being just a few weeks ago. It has a road and railway line running all along the Tibetan plateau abutting the northern side of the Himalayas. For Indian planners this will be new point to watch and look at building road and railways on our side.

Beijing’s document talks about effective use of nuclear and conventional missiles. The PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF) will strive to improve the force structure featuring a combination of both nuclear and conventional capabilities. “The PLASAF will strengthen its capabilities for strategic deterrence”.
The OROP challenge
Suspend stir and wait for Modi to deliver
Better counsel should prevail among ex-servicemen after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told The Tribune in an interview that his government was committed to one rank, one pension (OROP) and no one should have any doubt about it. For the past few years, the country has been witness to spells of public agitation by war veterans, replete with their ribbons and medals, calling on the government to correct the anomaly of paltry pensions to servicemen who retired mid-way in their careers. The UPA accepted the demand and made a budgetary allocation in the closing months of its regime. By then people had lost faith in its capacity to implement and deliver on policy pronouncements. They instead banked on the promise made by Modi to implement OROP at his first election rally after being named the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.

Ex-servicemen began hitting the street and boycotting functions once it became clear Modi's please-all assurance was not going to be translated into action any time soon. While Gen VK Singh had savored pillorying the UPA for not implementing OROP, the favour has been returned by Rahul Gandh, who has told a gathering of ex-servicemen that the Congress will pressure the government on implementing OROP. Gen V. P. Malik has found the sight of agitating ex-officers distasteful but feels they have been pushed into it. In view of Modi's assurance, former officers must suspend the politicking and boycotts and focus on convincing the government into giving a better deal for servicemen of all ranks.

The unrest in the ex-servicemen community is another lesson for the Modi government about not oversimplifying complex issues like that of black money in foreign accounts. The UPA tried to confer OROP but couldn't because of different versions acceptable to different categories of ex-servicemen. The Modi government also faces the same challenges. But it should also use this opportunity to reduce the flab in the armed forces, especially the Army, which cannot modernise fast enough because most of its budget goes towards pay and pensions.
Now, ITBP demands OROP, treatment on par with Army
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 31

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police in its recommendations to the Seventh Central Pay Commission has demanded One Rank One Pension as part of the improvement in its service conditions and financial benefits, which it wants on a par with the Indian Army.

The demand for the OROP by the ITBP comes at a time when ex-servicemen of the defence services are also fighting for it. On his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government was committed to OROP, which seeks to ensure that the defence personnel retiring in the same rank are given a uniform pension, irrespective of the date of retirement.

The ITBP’s reason for demanding OROP is: they are guarding the 3,488-km India-China frontier with the army from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. During war, the ITBP comes under the operational control of the army and is meant to fight to the last man last round like what the army does during war. The ITBP is also involved in anti-Naxal operations in India, is sent on peacekeeping missions abroad and is also providing security cover to VIPs and vital installations.

It is recommended that the ITBP personnel, including all CAPFs (Central Armed Police Forces), may also be granted OROP as in the case of the army, keeping in view the similar or even tougher working conditions which will remove the disparity in the service matters,” reads a memorandum listing the recommendations, which was submitted to the Seventh Central Pay Commission (CPC) by the ITBP on August 8 last year.

The memorandum states that due to the extreme working conditions, the ITBP has been facing several “occupational hazards” such as isolation, insomnia, depression, mental disturbances, prolonged separation from family that induces stress and no social life.

At the same time, the ITBP or the CAPFs are facing identity crisis as they are not treated as defence forces as far as pay, perks and allowances are concerned even though the ITBP has been created as an Armed Force of the Union under the ITBP Act-1992,” reads the memorandum.

One of the most important demands of the ITBP in the memorandum is for Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU). Under this provision, when an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer is posted at the Centre with a specific grade pay, the officers belonging to the batches of Organised Group A Service (OGAS) that are senior by two years or more to the IAS officer, and have not reached that particular grade pay, would be granted the same grade pay on non-functional basis from the date of the posting of the IAS officer at the Centre.

But this facility is not extended to the CAPFs, including the ITBP. The ITBP has also proposed to be granted “CAPFs Service Pay” on the similar conditions and scales as given to the Armed Forces or Military Service Pay.
Three militants killed near Army’s LoC base
Combing continues at Tangdhar to nab other infiltrators
Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 31
Three unidentified militants have been shot dead in an ongoing operation in Tangdhar sector of frontier Kupwara district.

A senior Army officer in Srinagar said the combing operation in the Tangdhar sector, 130 km from here, was on and it was suspected that one or two militants were still hiding in the area.

He said a group of heavily armed militants crossed the Line of Control (LoC) near the Kulsuri ridge in the Tangdhar sector when they were intercepted by an Army patrol around 4 am today.

The terrorists took position in isolated houses and opened fire on

the troops, triggering
an encounter. In a fierce encounter that followed, three terrorists were killed, but their

bodies have not yet
been retrieved,” the officer said.

There are one or two militants still hiding in the area and the operation is on,” he added.

The encounter took place close to the headquarters of the 104 Infantry Brigade which is responsible for guarding nearly 75 km of the Line of Control in the Tangdhar sector.

While the Army maintains that it intercepted the group of infiltrators, police sources said that the encounter erupted after the militants who are believed to have sneaked in last night opened fire on an

Army patrol near Bakhiyan village.

The militants later took position in two houses,” a police source said, adding that the inmates were allowed to leave by the afternoon.

The police sources said the militants had managed to cross the LoC and reach the village without getting noticed.

The latest infiltration, the second in the past one week, happens at a time when there have been a series of attacks on telecom operators in north Kashmir.

On May 25, the Army had claimed to have foiled an infiltration attempt in the same sector. Three Army men and an unidentified militant were killed in the encounter.
One rank, one pension: Army veterans running out of patience
The failure of the NDA government to implement the longstanding demand for one rank, one pension (OROP) in its first year has fanned deep resentment among ex-servicemen who have now decided to boycott official functions, hold rallies and go on hunger strikes in protest.

On Thursday, a 1971 war hero declined to attend a function in Pune where defence minister Manohar Parrikar and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis were to felicitate him. Wing Commander SD Karnik (retd) decided to boycott the function as there was “no action, talk only” by the government on OROP.

The pension scheme is aimed at ensuring that retired soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service receive the same pension, irrespective of their date of retirement. The initial corpus of the scheme is estimated to around Rs 8,300 crore.

Various ex-servicemen groups were hoping that Prime Minister Modi would make an announcement about the implementation of OROP on May 25 during a rally in Mathura to mark the government’s first year in office. The OROP is expected to benefit close to 3 million defence pensioners.

Major General Satbir Singh (retd), who heads the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, said, “We will do all we can to lodge our protest over the non-implementation of the OROP despite the PM’s and defence minister’s assurances. We are planning to hold a big rally in Delhi on June 14 followed by hunger strikes across the country.”

Navy chief Admiral Robin Dhowan asked veterans to be patient, stressing that the government was seized of the matter. Currently, all pre-2006 (the year the 6th pay panel report became effective) pensioners receive lesser pension than not only their counterparts but also their juniors. For instance, a major general who retired in 1995 draws a basic pension of Rs 30,350 but an officer retiring in the same rank after 2006 gets Rs 38,500.

Similarly, a colonel who retired in 2003 gets Rs 26,150, compared to Rs 34,000 drawn by a colonel who retired this year. The implementation of the scheme is expected to benefit 600,000 widows. Decorated veterans have in the past returned their medals, gone on hunger strikes and signed petitions in blood to draw the government’s attention to the OROP issue.

The UPA government had in 2009 declared that it had earmarked Rs 2,200 crore annually to improve the pension of jawans, a step it described as partial implementation of the OROP that had benefitted 1.2 million pensioners.

The OROP proposal was stuck as the defence ministry had to iron out some complex administrative and financial issues. The sticking points in its implementation have been resolved by the defence ministry and the matter is currently being scrutinised by the finance ministry.

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