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Saturday, 19 September 2015

From Today's Papers - 19 Sep 2015

42 killed in Pak air base attack
16 offering prayers among dead | 13 militants from Pak Taliban shot
Afzal Khan from Islamabad
At least 42 persons, including 13 militants, were killed on Friday when heavily armed Taliban terrorists in military uniforms launched a brazen attack on a Pakistan Air Force base and a mosque inside the compound, in one of the deadliest assaults on a defence facility.

A group of gunmen wearing explosives-laden jackets and armed with grenades, mortars, AK-47 rifles attacked a guard post as they tried to fight their way into the Badaber air base, 6 km outside Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

At least 16 persons offering prayers at a mosque inside the air force camp were shot dead by the militants, military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said.

Addressing a press conference he said that seven other people were killed in the ablution area of the mosque.

An army captain was also among 29 persons killed in the attack on the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base and a mosque inside it, Geo TV reported. (With PTI inputs)
Civil-military divide: Mind the gap
The OROP crisis highlights the long-simmering distrust between the government and the defence services. This is dangerous. Seemingly little things can trigger disaffection because the world view of the civilians is opposed to that of the defence personnel.
THE Pakistan Army originated in the Indian Army, their bureaucrats and politicians were once ours. And yet, a breakdown of relations between them has led to terrible consequences. Virtually the same thing happened in Myanmar. Servicemen, of all nationalities,   believe that politicians are driven by a hunger for power; bureaucrats by a thirst for the privileges of tenure in office. Similarly, netas and babus, worldwide, are convinced that Servicemen are uniformed dolts, fit only to carry out orders and become cannon fodder. The OROP imbroglio is the result of these skewed perceptions.

This is not a new problem. Warriors of many societies, throughout history, tended to associate with other like-minded people. They were the artisans of war as others were specialists in construction, copper crafting, medicine or worship. Professionals tended to cluster together, share technical secrets, intermarry and form themselves into guilds. In the late Vedic period in our land, these professional guilds coalesced into exclusive castes. This proud exclusivity is the source of the problem.

Defence personnel have evolved into an exclusive guild, a jati. Their cohesion is insured by self-contained, sequestered, environments, adherence to revered customs and traditions, and unquestioning loyalty to their comrades. When your life depends on others, trust is obligatory. It cannot be bought because no one will put a price on his or her life. This was brought into sharp focus during one of the annual cruises organised for Members of Parliament by the Indian Navy. An MP asked one of our officers, “For a poor country like ours, don't you think you are being paid too much?” The Lieutenant smiled at the politician “What price do you put on your life, sir?”  The neta was taken aback. “How can I put a price on my life? How can anyone?” The young officer nodded, “Exactly. When your life is threatened by an enemy, we put our lives on the line to protect you. My salary is your life insurance, sir”. The MP smiled wanly and waddled away.

Service personnel face frequent transfers, retire young and are unable to put down their roots long enough to acquire the wealth of their peers in other professions. They have had to find another ballast to give purpose to their lives: honour. They are sustained by the driving power of honour. The Japanese samurai had their bushido code, “the way of the warrior”, valuing honour more than life. Rajputs had a similar code. When Rajput warriors faced certain defeat, their women and children immolated themselves, while the men rushed out armed and naked welcoming the glory of death on the battlefield as a matter of martial honour. They were not paid to die: they were inspired to die. Such traditions gave rise to guilds of professional fighters, eventually forming the Kshatriya caste of hereditary warriors. 

 The OROP imbroglio is an auto-immune affliction born out of the guild-caste stratification of our society. The British structured their Indian Army on such variations. The mores of our Armed Forces glorify these distinctions, while widening the gap between servicemen and civilians. This has also given rise to a conflict of perceptions.

The Defence Services tend to see the world in terms of black and white, right and wrong. There is no time for doubts on the battlefield. Their civilian counterparts, however, spend their lives adjusting and compromising. It is difficult for one to understand the other, or not to have a mutual contempt for each other. Nevertheless, this dichotomy is hazardous and must not be allowed to grow.  Seemingly little things can trigger disaffection. The British officers of the East India Company's Army thought that the grease used on their bullets was an insignificant thing.  This “misunderstanding” festered and led to the trauma of 1857 and the eventual crash of the British Empire.

As a couple that has experienced life on both sides of the gap, we don't believe that things have reached that impasse. But we do see disturbing signs of disaffection. When service personnel put up a complaint to their seniors, they never use the word “we”. We implies collective action and, unlike in civilian organisations, collective action is anathema in the Defence Services. Clearly, ex-servicemen, brought up in this tradition, must have been hard pressed to stage a public protest. Their conduct is being watched with anguish by their sons and daughters who are serving personnel.

In particular, the decision to pit one uniformed service against another, to use young policemen to manhandle grey-haired, retired soldiers engaged in a peaceful, permitted protest was one of the most ill-advised actions taken by any state. It was our Tiananmen moment. It was the reprehensible act of a cowardly state masquerading in a masculine image. Its subsequent silence on this shameful event has not been interpreted as toughness but as the shame of a guilty mind. This disgraceful incident has been discussed and dissected wherever servicemen and their families meet and, naturally, in the absence of a sincere apology or explanation, it is growing in size and gravity. When this burgeoning chimera eventually emerges to confront its presumed tormentors, the consequences could be very ugly.

Any attempt at appeasement by offering incentives to one section of ex-servicemen and not the other, jawans vs officers for instance, will be seen as the divisive tactic of netas and babus who feather their own nests at every opportunity but throw crumbs to the Services. The offer may be accepted by some, but the tactic will be viewed with contempt. The only way to douse this smouldering discontent is to meet the veterans head-on, discuss things with them, arrive at unequivocal terms, and stick to those conditions. Don't depend on smarmy doublespeak and prevarications, or diktat and fiat to ride roughshod over their objections. Other governments have tried such ill-advised tactics and failed. And if these lessons are forgotten, look across our western border.
Five militants killed as Army foils infiltration bid in Gurez
Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, September 18
Five unidentified militants were killed as the Army foiled a fresh infiltration attempt in north Kashmir. It was the first infiltration bid in the Gurez sector of Bandipore district along the Line of Control this year.

Sources said there was prior information about the infiltration of four to five heavily armed militants from the sector and troops had stepped up surveillance in the area.

The militants were intercepted within a kilometre after crossing the LoC and they were engaged by the troops in the dense forest in Kanzalwan, Gurez, nearly 125 km from here around midnight.

“The group of heavily armed militants was challenged and they opened fire, triggering a fierce encounter. The militants divided themselves into small groups as they took cover in rocks and bushes. At dawn, bodies of two militants were recovered. The firefight continued till 1 pm today and three more bodies were recovered from different spots in the forest taking the toll to five,” a source said.

The identity and group affiliation of the slain militants is being established. Defence spokesman Col N N Joshi here said the search operation was continuing in the forest area.

“The alert soldiers effectively foiled the infiltration bid and killed five terrorists who were trying to infiltrate through the LoC in the Gurez sector. Five AK- 47 rifles, 1 RPG (rocket propelled grenade) and 1 UBGL (under barrel grenade launcher) were recovered from the encounter site,” he said.

Gurez was once a key infiltration route for militants and the sector had witnessed many deadly firefights in the past. But in past few years, there has not been much infiltration. However, defence sources said those who attempt to sneak through the Gurez sector were better trained and relatively well equipped as it was the most treacherous stretch to sneak into the Valley along the LoC in Kashmir region.

Defence sources said militants had stepped up efforts to sneak into the Valley as mountain passes along the LoC were likely to get closed by next month due to snow. Infiltration by militants into the Kashmir valley recedes in winter months as the heavy snowfall blocks mountain passes along the LoC.

Prior to the Gurez gunfight, Army had this year foiled 12 attempts by militants to sneak into the Valley from across the LoC. The majority of the infiltration bids were made in north Kashmir's Kupwara district. The Army said 23 militants were killed in these infiltration attempts.

Defence correspondents course for young journalists

Defence Correspondents Course 2015 for journalists from electronic and print media was conducted in Trishakti Corps from 05 Sep to 17 Sep 15. The course was attended by 32 journalists including Gp Capt TK Singha, CPRO, Kolkata. The course was conducted in two phases with the Army Module conducted at Sevoke Road from 05 to 11 Sep 15 and Forward Area Tour conducted from 12 to 16 Sep 15 in Sikkim. The journalists were given an exposure to various training and operational aspects of the Army including their interaction with forward troops. It was an enriching experience for the young journalists who are entering into defence journalism.

General Officer Commanding Trishakti Corps addressed the course and expressed hope that the participants would carry valuable lessons from the course which would help them in defence related reporting in future.

Defence Correspondents Course is meant for journalists from the print and electronic media to acquaint them with the nuances of the armed forces to help become Defence Journalists.
SC Asks Centre to Apprise About Batch Parity in Army Promotion
The Supreme Court today asked the government to apprise it about the factual position on the issue of "batch parity" in promotion of army officers of the rank of Colonel and above belonging to various branches like the Armoured Corps, Engineering, Infantry and Artillery.

A bench comprising Justices T S Thakur and Kurian Joseph asked Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Ministry of Defence, to state the factual and legal positions on the issue concerning army promotions.

The issue was raised when Meenakshi Lekhi, appearing for some Army officers, alleged that the 2009 promotion policy was aimed at providing an edge to officers of the Infantry and discriminated against officers belonging to other divisions.

The ASG referred to the existing policy and said that army officers of certain branches were given "combat edge" in promotions and it has never been disputed.

Lekhi, however, said the position in the army was not like UPSC where promotions of IAS, IPS and other cadres are based on rankings. The successful candidates of NDA and CDS in the army are considered as a group and cannot be discriminated in promotions, she contended.

The bench will resume hearing the matter on September 22.

Earlier, the court had asked the Centre to file a response as to whether it had approved the Army's "command exit promotion" policy which was quashed by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) meant for officers of the rank of Colonel and above from January 2009.

It had also asked the Defence Secretary to file an affidavit stating "whether the government had accepted the recommendations of the AV Singh Committee (AVSC) with regard to the 'command exit promotion policy'".

The bench is hearing the appeal of the Defence Ministry against AFT's decision to quash Army's 'command exit promotion' policy on the ground that it violated Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.

The apex court had on March 25 stayed the March 2 decision of AFT to quash Army's promotion policy.

Some army officers had claimed that the new promotion policy had adversely affected them as it was "arbitrary" and "highly skewed" in favour of Infantry and Artillery, as compared to other branches of the Army. (More)

Earlier, the court had asked the Defence Ministry to file its rejoinder to the response of the officers on whose plea the AFT had passed the order.

Advocate Meenakshi Lekhi, appearing for several officers, had submitted that all ranks of personnel from Colonel and above would be affected due to the "biased" promotion policy.

She was appearing for the main petitioners including Lt Col P K Choudhary on whose plea AFT had said that the 2009 promotion policy had resulted in preferential promotions to officers of select branches of Army and hence should be scrapped.

Some of the army officers had said that personnel of all combative divisions except Infantry and Artillery have joined the fight against the 2009 promotion policy.

In its appeal, the government had justified the promotion policy, saying the Army, being the employer, has a right to have its promotion policy and AFT should not have interfered in the "policy decision".

It further said the age profile of unit commanders in Pakistan and Chinese armies was 35 and 40 years respectively and hence the age limit of battalion commanders in Indian Army also needed to be less.

The government had in 2001 asked the Chief of Army Staff to refer the recommendations of AV Singh Committee (AVSC) on restructuring of the officer cadre of the Army. The AVSC report was aimed at reducing the age of battalion commanders.

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