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Monday, 28 September 2015

From Today's Papers - 28 Sep 2015

Sharif meets UN chief, raises Kashmir issue
United Nations, September 27
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today raised the issue of Jammu and Kashmir during his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and called for holding a plebiscite in the state.

Sharif met Ban before his speech to the UN Sustainable Development Goals here today. According to the Pakistan mission, Sharif urged the Secretary-General to play a role in defusing tension between Pakistan and India and to help end alleged violations at the Line of Control.

Sharif called for implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Kashmir dispute and holding of plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Ban stressed on the need for a dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve tension between them. The meeting is understood to have been dominated by the Kashmir issue. India has maintained that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral one and the UN has no role in it.

The Pakistan Premier is currently in New York to attend the 70th United Nations General Assembly session, where his address is scheduled for September 30.

The Pakistan mission here said the UN chief voiced concern over the tension between India and Pakistan.

On Afghanistan, Sharif said Pakistan wanted to build a new relationship with its neighbour and expressed his country's readiness to assist in promoting the Afghan reconciliation process, if asked to do so.

He also discussed with the UN Secretary-General domestic priorities and the fight to eliminate terrorism.

According to a readout of the meeting provided by Ban's spokesperson, the Secretary-General stressed the "necessity for Pakistan and India to continue their peaceful dialogue". — PTI
OROP and collateral damage
The impasse calls for immediate course correction beyond just pension
THE OROP movement is an unprecedented landmark for the defence forces in the Indian context. Never before were issues pertaining to the forces relegated to the streets of Jantar Mantar for national and political attention. The impact on the morale of the veterans and the forces due to the procrastination, political hardball and ostensible bargaining (on something that was agreed to in totality as part of electoral commitments by both the NDA and UPA, subsequently ratified by Parliament, and then reneged on flimsy grounds like administrative difficulties and fiscal impropriety) has been deliberated ad nauseam and assimilated by the nation; the forces in particular.

While the final verdict on the justness of the OROP, as accepted by the government (fine print still awaited), from that of the construct earlier envisaged and accepted, is still out there, but there are far more consequential fault lines that have emerged out of the procrastination that needs immediate and the highest level of national and executive assuaging. These fault lines are borne of the fundamental ignorance or apathy towards appreciating the construct, structure and ethos of the soldiering comity and its inherent concept of ‘indivisibility’ amongst its rank and file. The OROP movement showed the forces of the land, air and sea to be an integrated setup of an extended family that incorporated all the serving and retired soldiers and officers from the three services. Unexpectedly, and perhaps unwarrantedly, a lesson to the political masters on how an ex-airman from Tirunelveli, along with an ex-sailor from Uttarakhand was seen cheering on the ex-soldier from Punjab, on the fasting dais! All through, they maintained an impeccable code of expressing dissent and refused to entertain any violent, political or mutinous undertones (despite the high-handedness of the police and gross insensitivity of political pundits and armchair experts on matters, military). Ironically, the decorum and the unity in diversity of the protest was a walking, talking personification of the lofty idea of ‘India’, or as all soldiers who swear by the holy grail of the Chetwodian code, “The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command comes next. Your own ease, comfort and safety comes last, always and every time.”

However, the first clear casualty post-OROP is the ‘us-versus-them’ tonality that has posited the bureaucracy against the defence services and their interests. Worms came out of the woodwork and the systematic degradation of the defence forces over the years has got established and rubbed in — an undesirable civil-military equation in any democratic setup. Delay in the implementation and the interim bargaining has only hardened stands and a deeper mistrust has set in. In an increasingly fragile and active national landscape, where the services of the forces are often solicited by civilian masters in quelling natural and manmade disasters, unrests, insurgencies and protests, it does not augur well for the umbilical cord of trust between the civil and military, to look at the other as the literal, ‘other’.

The second key fault line is the unfortunate discourse of comparative work conditions and finger-pointing among the military and the paramilitary, a hitherto healthy respect, has got mutually affronted with lazy attempts by the vested interests in driving a tactical wedge between the two. Our national borders are onioned with layers of intra-military-paramilitary security rings and flanks that have had a tradition of seamless respect, understanding and operational deployment among each other. Today, we potentially acknowledge each other, not as those fellow-brother-in-arms, but as one from a fundamentally different organisation with disparate attributes, work conditions and governmental treatment.

However, the most serious threat of collateral damage is one of the officer-soldier divide that could implode the fighting spirit (read abilities) of our forces. Historically, factually and rightfully, they have prided themselves as an unparalleled fighting force, where the officer leads his men from the front. This bond is sacred, with enough and documented facts about the ratio of officer-to-soldier mortality in battlefield, for the Indian defence forces to be among the highest in the world in modern history. Kargil is an example in recent history. This very microcosm was almostbreeching with simmering canards of selective interests among differing ranks (officers vs soldiers) in the OROP movement. It is a crevice, fraught with unimaginable implications. Ironically, a few feet away from the main protest tent on Jantar Mantar was an alternative OROP setup that sought a very specific and restrictive agenda, unlike the more holistic and unified voice of the initial OROP genesis. Time and delay ultimately led to factionalism among the veterans and their principal movement — albeit not on these lines. But, this danger did show its ugly face and its residual impact lurks around the corner, with the implementation of OROP still pending. It strikes at the very heart of the organisation’s capabilities. So far, the officer-soldier bond has never been divided or questioned. Yes, there have been specific and serious flare-ups, even quasi revolts of units (like in ’84), but these are attributable to a charged up political, social or civilian rationale.

Adding to the cauldron was the unnecessary and occasional political one-upmanship, the forced quasi-unionisation (and now factionalism) of the protest process that was imposed by procrastination and the reduction of the Kargil Diwas and 50 years of the 1965 victory to a political tamasha, and an eye sore was playing out in the near vicinity of the corridors of officialdom with an 84-year-old soldier being roughed up by a Delhi policeman.

Potentially, this very edifice of the forces and their operational imperatives are susceptible to various types and levels of inter-governmental tensions and worse, spectres of self-combustion. OROP is a saga of an avoidable delay, which achieved nothing for the protagonists of procrastination. Therefore, implementation within the committed time frame would have spared the nation, the government and the forces the unnecessary brush to their collective pride and honour. The forces were struggling with deficiencies of manpower, equipment, armaments — OROP may have inadvertently added ‘fighting spirit’ to the list.

‘Indivisibility’ and nationalism form the basic DNA of a soldier’s foundation. The OROP impasse has drifted the narrative towards serious collateral damage that needs immediate course correction beyond financial calculations of pension. This fighting force of veterans and serving combatants feed and march on the incalculable levers of ‘India first’ and pride — reminiscent of the motto of the regiment of the Artillery, Sarvatra Izzat-o-Iqbal (forever with honour and glory). It is this very izzat that has been wounded and that needs to be restored as soon as possible.
IAF Sukhoi to start test flying with BrahMoS in Oct
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 27
In what will provide the Indian Air Force (IAF) with additional lethality, the actual integration process of the BrahMos missile with the frontline fighter jet, the Sukhoi-30-MKI, is set to commence.

The integration, including mating of the 2.4 tonne (2,400 kg) missile — a miniature version of the existing 3,000 kg Naval and land-based BrahMos — is slated to commence in October. It would include four stages of testing with progress depending on the validation of each step and is expected to be a six-month process, concluding in March next year.

The Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of BrahMos Aerospace, Dr Sudhir Kumar Mishra, confirmed to The Tribune: “Tests of Sukhois carrying BrahMoS are slated to commence in October. Integration of the missile with the Sukhoi-30-MKI is a complex system.”

Sources said the first test will be with dead weight of 2,400 kg. The second test will be by carrying a dummy missile and firing it from the plane. The third and fourth stages of testing are scheduled with actual missiles — but without the 200 kg warhead — and will validate the guidance system and accuracy. All tests will be carried out over the Bay of Bengal.

The BrahMos missile — a joint venture between India and Russia — is a two-stage supersonic cruise missile that, once fired, skims along the surface at a height of just 3-4 metre, making it impossible for enemy radars to pick it up. The IAF version will include a “free fall” system allowing the pilot to fire the missile from an altitude as low as 1,000 feet and as high as 46,000 feet. The missile is programmed to adjust the “free fall” and strike at the selected target. This adjustment of the free fall will be part of the four-stage test.

The missile has a 290-km range developed for destruction of high value and strategic installation. The missile has mid-course inertial guidance followed by homing guidance.
War hero dies, but Army fails to take note
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 27
The city and the fraternity of bravehearts lost one of theirs when Capt GS Punia, who was decorated for gallantry in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, passed away here yesterday. He was 73 and is survived by his wife and son.

However, giving protocol a miss, the Army failed to send any representative or a ceremonial guard for the final salute at his funeral today. “We had informed the Army about his demise yesterday, but no one turned up. As per convention, a gallantry recipient is wrapped in the Tricolour, wreaths are laid on behalf of senior commanders and a ceremonial guard reverses arms to pay respects,” SK Madan, president of the President’s Gallantry Awardees Association, who had served with Captain Punia earlier, said.

Captain Punia had suffered a brain haemorrhage on September 17 and had been admitted to the intensive care unit of a private hospital here, but could not survive.

He had been commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery in 1962 and was posted with the Air Observation Post during the war. It was directing artillery fire in the Shakargarh sector when his aircraft had come under fire. Despite this, he kept flying and directing fire. Later, three enemy Sabre fighters attacked his aircraft and it caught fire. He managed to land flaming his aircraft on ground, but lost his right arm and sustained serious burn injuries.
OROP: Ex-servicemen want _five-year clause dropped
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, September 27
Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd), chairman of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM), said here today that agitating ex-servicemen would not accept the clause of five years in the one rank one pension (OROP) scheme. The Union Government had added the clause while announcing OROP benefits on September 5.

Maj Gen Satbir, reacting to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s statement that defence personnel who take voluntary retirement would not be entitled to OROP benefits, said VRS was not applicable to defence forces as defence personnel retire under the premature retirement scheme with an aim to keeping the forces young and physically fit.

He said defence personnel retire at an early age with pension, hence they should also be covered under the OROP scheme. The Central government should equalise pension of defence personnel every year instead of proposed every five years, as it would result in one rank five pension instead of OROP.

He expressed concern that the clause would defeat the purpose of OROP as pension of retired junior officers and other ranks would be much higher than the retired senior defence personnel, who had retired earlier.

Maj Gen Satbir said they had submitted a memorandum to the Defence Minister demanding quashing of all clauses added to the OROP scheme. The Centre Government should constitute a five-member committee comprising three retired defence personnel, one serving personnel and one from the Ministry of Defence to review equalisation of pension.

Earlier, Maj Gen Satbir addressed a gathering at Parade Ground here. He said 60,000 servicemen retire from the Indian defence forces every year, hence OROP would not put much financial burden on the Union Government.

He said the agitating ex-servicemen would hold a series of protests across the country if the Union Government did not accede to their demands till October 4.

Maj Gen C Nandwani (retd), president of the United Front of Ex-servicemen, Uttarakhand Chapter, expressed anguish at the delay in sanctioning of OROP benefits to ex-servicemen. He said same pension benefits should be given to retired defence personnel who held the same rank and had put in an equal number of years of service, irrespective of the date of retirement.

Maj Gen Nandwani said disparity in pension would not be tolerated at any cost. Senior retired defence personnel, including Maj Gen Lalji D Singh, Brig KG Behl, Brig RS Rawat, and Capt AS Bhandari, attended the rally.
Pak shot down IAF transport plane in east: Air Cdr Narender
Neena Sharma

Tribune News Service

Dehradun, September 27
During the 1965 war, Air Commodore Narender Bahadur Singh, then a Wing Commander, carried a reconnaissance mission in East Bengal, then part of Pakistan, while posted in the eastern sector of India that did not see much action.

The 88-year-old fighter pilot, who hails from Amethi but settled in Dehradun, admits candidly that India was not prepared for the war and there was lack of coordination between the Army and the Indian Air Force. “I was posted in Bagdogra then as the Commanding Officer of 20 Wings. We had fighters comprising Vampires and Toofanis in our fleet and were asked to be on alert after the war broke out.

“Following orders from the senior Air Force commander in Siliguri, we were told to take an exploration flight in the eastern part of Pakistan. I flew low but did not detect any activity on the ground and reported the situation back to my seniors. But when we later carried out more sorties inside East Pakistan, the enemy retaliated with vengeance,” said Air Commodore Narender.

The Pakistan Air Force destroyed a twin-engine Packet transport aircraft used by the IAF for supporting troops stationed in higher altitudes by ferrying supplies. “These aircraft are quite big. We could not remove them and hence had to use other means to cover them up but were unsuccessful. Pakistan then mounted air attacks with Sabres from Kurmi Tora and Tejgaon airfields and destroyed these aircraft,” said Air Commodore Narender.

He also remembers how four Vampires waiting to raid East Pakistan became sitting ducks for the Pakistan Air Force and were destroyed in an early morning raid. Air Commodore Narender, who was later posted at 14 Squadron during the 1971 war, says India was better prepared for the war in 1971. “There was better coordination between our forces and intelligence gathering also saw a marked improvement,” he added.

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