There was an error in this gadget


Saturday, October 3, 2009

IIT Professors: Maligned or Mollycoddled?

On first glance, the average educated Indian heart bleeds at the plight of our IIT professors. Mine did too. It appears they have decided to starve, so that our nation may grow healthier.
Old wounds are quickly re-opened. Anger comes flooding in... about reservations, government meddling in teaching content, subverting fine educational institutions et al.
And then there is this halo about the IITs and IIMs in the national psyche. To top it all, our inherent respect for our gurus, causes us to feel for them in a culturally unique manner that works in favour of the striking professors.
But, for a moment, if we take a step back and look at the matter as it stands, several key questions arise, that deserve to be asked. And answered.
Firstly, in terms of quality of life, is an IIT professor really living on the fringes of society? Staying in a crowded mohalla somewhere, and catching a public bus to go to work everyday?
Not really... most of them have very comfortable campus homes, in green, pollution-free and well-maintained environments. They stroll to work, breathing fresher air than what is available to even a Mercedes passenger on the roads outside.
So let's talk quality of life here, and not just how many greenbacks the government is pouring into one's bank a/c.
Should performance be rewarded? Sure. That, too, is a no-brainer.
But, even in the corporate sector, one does not get paid more merely for having joined a particular company. You have to demonstrate individual merit. There are performance targets. If one overachieves, one is recognised.
The argument that an IIT professor is somehow a more enlightened being, and is doing more important service than someone teaching, at, say, a government arts college, is an arrogant assumption in itself.
The arrogance is unravelled by one simple fact. Not only does the government provide good facilities and a decent base pay package, it also allows the professors to take on consulting assignments and earn as much as they wish to.
The truth is several of these professors do earn big bucks on the basis of their individual brilliance, through consulting engagements.
Then the bogey of “brain drain”. Another one of those scare tactics, designed to create the hype that we are soon going to be bereft of all talent. But, if one considers it, this disparity exists in almost every single field of public service today.
The brightest army men in India get paid lesser than their counterparts in the US... so do the police... so do CEOs of public sector banks, and so on and so forth.
So are we to assume that everyone is on the cusp of quitting en masse, and heading for distant shores. If they are, why haven't they done so over the last 30 years?
Finally, the shrill cries for autonomy. Every intelligent Indian wants to see lesser and lesser government intervention in the running of academic institutions. But, let’s also ask, what have these institutions done for themselves over the decades to justify and take forward such a demand?
Over the years, they have remained content to largely survive on tax payer money. Except for the odd lab or endowment scheme floated by enthusiastic alumni, there appear to be hardly any consistent self-funding mechanisms in evidence, or even being worked upon.
There is no corpus built up. There are no lines of PPP programmes being rolled out. Neither are the honorable professors able to make themselves generally wealthy, nor the institutions that they work for!

Then on what basis can a dependent child negotiate with its parent for freedom?

At the end of it all, one is left feeling somewhat bemused. We want to stand by our elite institutions and its erudite professors. We would like to help them break free from the chains of government.
If only they would be willing to get out of their comfortable armchairs inside cocooned campuses, and take the trouble to do so!

China flaunts visa power

I WONDER :  As always, UPA taken by surprise and its time for govt to regret once more!

As always, UPA taken by surprise!

That the Chinese Embassy here has started issuing visas in the form of separate stapled sheets to those from Jammu & Kashmir wanting to visit China is a move that has been clearly designed to provoke India further. Although Chinese Embassy officials have tried their best to play down the matter saying that these were valid visas and that it is the Indian immigration authorities’ problem that they were not being accepted, the message behind the move is too conspicuous to be overlooked. China had recently started issuing these ‘new’ visas to those hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, which it considers a part of ‘south Tibet’. That these visas are now being issued to those from Jammu & Kashmir could only mean one thing — Beijing questions the status of Jammu & Kashmir as a State of the Union of India. Whichever way one looks at it, and no matter how much of a sophisticated spin Beijing tries to put on its decision to issue these ‘new’ visas, the bottom line is China has decided to undertake a campaign aimed at frustrating India on several fronts. The Chinese military’s incursions and Beijing’s stance on border related issues are just part of this elaborate campaign. So are China’s efforts to stonewall India at various international fora and Beijing’s aggressive drive to acquire naval bases in South Asia to encircle India. The ‘new’ visas are yet another Chinese ploy to get India worked up.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that China has a specific strategy vis-√†-vis India. It is also becoming evident that New Delhi has little or no clue as to what that is. This can be gauged by the awkward responses the Government has been making. On the Chinese incursions, the Government first tried to play down the intrusions, then said they were nothing new and that the media was guilty of ‘hyping’ things up, and finally meekly added that our armed forces were capable of meeting any challenge. On the visa issue, all that our Ministry of External Affairs could muster up is an expression of “justified concern” to the Chinese Government. One would have thought that something far stronger would have been in order — perhaps a tit-for-tat visa policy. The shaky responses to the provocations betray a sense of hesitancy on the part of the UPA Government to take Beijing head on. We would rather indulge in ‘constructive’ diplomatic engagements to promote bilateral relations in an “all round manner”.

The truth is it is not that New Delhi is faltering in its response to China but that it doesn’t know how to respond in the first place. We have no clear-cut China policy to speak of. As a result we are sceptical of doing anything that can later turn out to be counter-productive. The reason why we are in such a dilemma is because most of our foreign policy attention is focussed on Pakistan. It is because of our obsession with Pakistan, and Pakistan alone, that we have completely ignored China and have created a situation where we risk jeopardising our traditional strategic ties with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh. Had the Government given equal attention to all the countries in our neighbourhood, perhaps we would have been in a better position to tackle China and its tactics much better. It is time the Government gets on the ball and starts diversifying its foreign policy energies and formulating a concrete China policy. For, if things continue the way they are, there is no telling what other surprises Beijing might slip by us.

Countering Naxalism

Need to devise a suitable strategy
by K Padmanabhaiah 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reiterated his consistent view that Naxalism poses the gravest internal security threat. He also stated that “We have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace.”
During the last one or two months the Union Home Ministry revisited the entire Naxal issue, and launched a series of new initiatives while at the same time strengthening some of the existing anti-Naxalite programmes. A new elite anti-Naxalite force, “CoBRA”, was established. For the first time pro-active steps have been taken to search, seek and destroy arms dumps of the Naxalites by entering into their strongholds in the jungles instead of the reactive and defensive approach followed till now. How effective are these new initiatives going to be? Has the state at last put aside its vacillating policies and are the state governments and the Centre on the same wavelength in their resolve to fight Naxalism, and is there broad agreement in the anti-Naxal policies and programmes ?
Naxalism in India had its beginnings at Naxalbari in West Bengal in the late sixties as a peasant uprising, but was brought under control by 1972. Around the same time it made its presence felt in a big way in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh but by 1972 it was rooted out from the district by determined police action coupled with a serious and sincere developmental effort. However, by 1980 Naxalism took fresh roots in Andhra Pradesh with the formation of the People’s War Group (PWG). It was able to garner intellectual support from some writers, poets and human rights activists. The state followed off and on a vacillating policy of police encounters and peace parleys leading to escalation in Naxal violence.
The year 2005 was described as one of the bloodiest years in Andhra Pradesh as a result of Naxal-police clashes. As recently as in 2006, Andhra Pradesh was being described as a citadel of Naxalism. However, in the last two years Naxalite violence has been controlled in the state very effectively.
In Bihar, Naxalism made its entry into Shahar and Sandesh blocks of Bhojpur district and held sway over this and some other districts for over one decade. Here again during the last two years or so, the government by successful implementation of development programmes at the grassroot levels has been able to make a very strong dent in these two developmental blocks which were the erstwhile strongholds of Naxals.
It is said that the most important factor in ending Maoist dominance in Bihar was panchayat elections. Similarly, it is reported that effective implementation of the Aaswad Project (Aapki Sarkar Aapke Dwar) in Jehanabad district from 2006 seems to have curtailed Maoist influence. Currently the worst-affected states are Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Some basic questions that need to be answered are: What is Naxalism ? Who is a Naxalite? How is the movement financed and sustained? Who constitute the first and second rung leadership? Who constitute the cadres? What percentage of tribals are with the Naxals? Are the tribals or other poorer sections in remote areas being held hostage by the Naxals? The Naxalite leadership does not believe in the state, has no faith in the democratic or parliamentary system of governance, opposes elections, and believes in an armed struggle to overthrow the state.
With all its shortcomings in actual practice, parliamentary democracy has taken root in the country and people voluntarily subscribing to the Naxalite philosophy will be minuscule. Studies of the growth of Naxalism in specific districts have shown that a couple of Naxal leaders from outside ( mostly from Andhra or Bihar) visit the village chosen for making inroads, identify a local person who feels highly aggrieved with the scheme of things in the village, and form a local committee with a couple of other youth under that person’s leadership and give him a couple of guns. The gun helps in extortions.
With a handsome amount of development funds flowing into the rural areas under various schemes, including the NREGA, extortion from the village-level leadership either in collusion or coercion becomes easier. Any resistance is met with extreme and brutal violence. More extortions give more guns and more IEDs.
There is no doubt that Naxalism is the strongest in the remote hilly, forested and underdeveloped areas in the country where the physical (roads, communications, electricity, etc) as well as social infrastructure like schools, health centres, water supply, and policing is abysmally poor. In the absence of adequate policing, the vacuum is occupied by the Naxal ideologues. There is no security and some of the locals are coerced to join the movement. Even food security is a problem in many of these areas.
There is exploitation of the illiterate and the poor by landlords, forest contractors, beedi manufacturers, mining companies, et al. The administration also is very thinly spread and, more often than not, in cohorts with the rich and the powerful. The grievances of the locals are either not heard, or not redressed with any sympathy. The exploited, alienated and frustrated locals form the base of recruitment to the cadres. To win more recruits, Naxal leaders have been saying that they are prepared to support any cause of the exploited masses.
Half-hearted attempts at some development works like roads or electricity supply lines or communication towers are thwarted by the Naxal groups as they have a vested interest in the area remaining undeveloped.
Therefore, arguments like whether emphasis should be on development rather than on policing, or, as someone has put it, welfare vs warfare is futile. Since Naxalite philosophy is based on armed violent conflict with the state, it has to be met and neutralised squarely by a series of adequate policing actions, including intelligence gathering. Simultaneously, determined and sincere efforts must be made to develop these areas by way of physical and social infrastructure, and adequate governmental presence. Mere development alone would not help unless there is empowerment of the local people and a convincing effort in providing social justice.
One can draw lessons from the experience of Andhra Pradesh also. The state government raised a dedicated police force called Grey Hounds in 1989 to fight Naxalism. But the police had to fight a lone battle against the Naxals, with only nominal support by other wings of the administration or even the political leadership in the state. The political leadershlip in a way abdicated its responsibility by merely shifting its political burden to the police, leaving the latter to cope with it to the best of its ability. There was no firm policy with a couple of years of the ban followed by peace overtures mostly on the eve of the Assembly elections. Naxalite groups were banned in 1992, and the same was lifted in 1995 when talks were held for one year. Talks were started in May 2002 but the same colllapsed in 45 days.
Again talks were promised on the eve of elections in May 2004, and seven rounds of talks were held, which collapsed in January 2005. An interesting development was that while the talks were on, the PWG merged with the CPI (M-L) and the MCC in September 2004 to form the CPI (Maoist), a formidable force. This switch-on-switch-off policy was ultimately given up, and in the last two years a multi-pronged strategy of strong police action coupled with sensible development activities led to a great improvement in curbing Naxalism in the state.
The government is now fully conscious of the magnitude of the Naxalite challenge. For a change there is determination to fight the menace with all means available to the government. There is a commonality of purpose between the Centre and state governments, and they are following a proactive policy, both as regards policing and development. This should yield the necessary results. However, the government should be conscious of the fact that Naxalites are now spreading their tentacles into marine warfare (their actions in the riverine areas bordering Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa and their attack on the Grey Hound force in Balimela reservoir), into mobile warfare (in Jharkhand), into communal clashes (Kandhamal) and into urban areas (Maharashtra) and hence the need to devise a suitable strategy to handle them.

The writer is a former Union Home Secretary

Strength ensures peace

  Antony, IAF chief evoke confidence

It is good that Defence Minister A K Antony and Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik have reassured the country in no uncertain terms that India is busy strengthening its capabilities, just as China is doing. After the drubbing we got in 1962, there are bound to be misgivings in the minds of many whether we are now any better prepared to withstand a similar onslaught. That is why Mr Antony was candid in admitting that while earlier we were “doing nothing”, the government in the past few years has been bolstering the infrastructure. As was mentioned by the air chief some days ago, our air power is only one-third that of China, but we are not sitting ducks either, as was the case in 1962. Much has happened in these 47 years and, in fact, learning from the past mistakes, defence is getting the priority that it deserves. There are numerous shortcomings, but at least things are on the upswing. The nation seems to have learnt the lesson that building strength is the best defence for the country.
This confidence shows in the way India has been dealing with China. Despite the 1962 war, India has engaged with China maturely without letting the past cloud the future for ever. It has rightly not allowed itself to be perturbed over minor incursions and arguments by the Chinese in various sectors. What is all the more creditworthy is the fact that the Indian Army joined in China’s 60-year celebrations whole-heartedly. On the whole two nations have sought to ensure that pending a border settlement peace and tranquility should prevail all along the Line of Actual Control.
Unfortunately, China has soured the atmosphere by starting to issue visas to Kashmiris on separate sheets and not on their passports. The move is being seen as an attempt by Beijing to question the status of Jammu and Kashmir. Apparently, all this is being done to please Pakistan. There is need to take up the matter with China. While good-neighbourly relations have to be maintained, that does not mean that New Delhi should take irritants lightly. 

Army training best: Lamba

Shimla, October 2
The training standard of the Army is the best in the world because the curriculum is dynamic and in-sync with the latest developments both in the field of technology as also doctrines, concepts and philosophy.

Lt-Gen AS Lamba, the new GOC-in-C of the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) who assumed charge here yesterday, said ARTRAC was the “think tank” of the Indian Army. “It is the nodal agency for evolution of concepts, doctrines and institutionalised training,” he said.
He said ARTRAC was mandated to train the Army to successfully undertake operation across the entire spectrum of conflicts, both in peace and war.
“The Army follows a methodical route of analysis of the prevailing security environment, capabilities of our potential adversaries and technological upgrades to evolution of doctrines, concepts and philosophies all of which in turn are absorbed into the training syllabus,” he highlighted.
“Our priorities here at ARTRAC will be absorption of latest technologies, leadership training, information warfare and joint training with other services,” he opined.
He said war gaming and simulation were the “buzz words” in the latest training methodology, which were being incorporated into the Army as well.
Lt-Gen Lamba said the training modules were being constantly updated and upgraded to suit the changing security environment and field requirements and very much in consonance with ARTRAC motto “excellence in the art and science of war”.
“Issues like shift in focus from Pakistan to China are in the realm of national security analysis where the aim is perhaps to strike a balance in our operations,” he said in reply to a query.
When asked about the proposed Manali-Leh rail line, he said though the issue was beyond the realm of ARTRAC, it definitely indicated the deep concern of the people of Himachal Pradesh. 

Govt’s flexibility assurance mollifies IITs

Salaries unchanged, institute boards to frame recruitment, promotion policies
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 2
The two-month-old stir of the IIT Faculty Federation for better pay and promotion policies at the premiere institutes ended today, with the government yielding to the protesters, but not quite.

Keeping the contentious salary structure of teachers unchanged, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal assured the agitating teachers of complete flexibility and autonomy of the IIT system in terms of appointments and promotions.

Emerging from an hour-long meeting with federation members at his residence, Sibal, in a significant departure from the past, said the government had agreed in principle that the guidelines it recently issued in relation to IIT faculty appointments and promotions “were only in the nature of norms, from which the IIT board/directors could deviate in exceptional conditions, which they could themselves define”.

Simply put, Sibal’s assurance means the guidelines are not binding on IITs and can be revisited if the situation so demands. For example, if in a particular discipline of the IIT, there is dearth of faculty, the institute can appoint an assistant professor without honouring the government norm of three-year teaching requirement for IIT faculty at entry. Also, the IIT can absorb the said teacher on regular basis early or later (government mandates contractual appointment) based on his performance.

“Similarly, if there are more deserving professors in the system, the 40 per cent cap on promotions can be reviewed. Ours is not an ideological stand; it is dynamic, not static. But the IIT boards would have to set up their own benchmarks and norms for promoting excellence. They must also come up with a vision for the future and recruitment policy considering their expansion. We are for every move that strengthens the IIT autonomy,” Sibal said, leaving the federation “happy and clear” with his flexibility assurance.

“The minister has clarified our gravest concerns. We are happy that the government proposals won’t rob the IITs of their flexibility. We flourish under the flexible cadre system. But for it, many of us would not even be there,” Dr Soumyo Mukerji of the IIT, Bombay, told The Tribune.

Federation head M Thenmozhi said the government had rested the doubts by terming its proposals dynamic and not static. “We have been assured that norms can be taken up at the institute level. That’s a welcome sign. Salary was not our only concern,” she said.

The MHRD has, meanwhile, asked the federation to raise its other “minor concerns” with the IIT board, which will meet in the capital tomorrow. Broadly, the government has left it on the board to frame the future strategy of IITs with respect to appointments, promotions and autonomy. The board’s proposals will be discussed at the IIT council meeting on October 19.

Sibal also said he would ensure regular redressal of IITs’ concerns through meetings of the IIT council, which hasn’t sat in a long time. “Today on Gandhi Jayanti, we want to tell the country that all is well between the government and the IITs. Both of us want excellence at IITs,” he said.

Federation members were elated over an audience with the minister. “Until a few days back, he was not willing to see us,” said a professor.

Institutes to evolve own norms

New Delhi: The HRD Ministry on Friday asked IIT boards to evolve their own system of appointments and promotions.

To begin with, the ministry has agreed to IITs’ demand of dropping the term “lecturer” from the faculty cadre as is the case with Central universities.

On the demand of recruiting a fresh appointee on regular basis as against contractual, the ministry holds that contracts would give IITs an opportunity to watch the performance of an appointee before a formal appointment. “A stage of probation is applicable to all jobs. We feel a faculty member selected as assistant professor should be assured that he will eventually be taken in as regular faculty. The IIT boards will have the freedom to absorb such a person in regular service, delay or shorten the time of such regularisation,” the MHRD says.

With the IITs opposing the ministry’s stand that only 10 per cent of the total faculty strength would be fresh appointees, Sibal said that the norm is of an advisory nature.

Another debate is this - when an assistant professor applies for promotion as associate professor, the experience required under the Fifth Pay Commission was eight years. The ministry reduced this to six, but IITs want flexibility here.

Further, IITs are against associate professors being asked to put in four years of teaching before seeking professorship.

While the MHRD today allowed IITs flexibility on this norm too, it feels an associate professor must have reasonable experience at an institute of national or international excellence to become a professor. “The background of applying candidates can be verified by selection committees,” says MHRD.

The ministry has also asked the IITs to evolve an innovative performance-related incentive scheme, recently approved by the cabinet. On the norm of three years experience needed at entry level for faculty, it has said the guideline could be ignored if there is dearth of faculty. — TNS

Indigenous cryogenic engine ready for take-off

Close on the heels of display of its military might by China on the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic, India quietly achieved something that will have a far-reaching impact on the country’s defence capabilities.
T K Alex, director of the ISRO Satellite Centre at Bangalore, told the TNS today that an indigenous cryogenic engine had been successfully developed. “The cryogenic engine is ready. It has already reached the space port at Sriharikota (from Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu)”, he said.
The advance would give India the ability to build the dreaded intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). This led the US to prevent Russia from supplying cryogenic technology to India. India’s contract with Russia for buying cryogenic engines came under fire from the US which said it was a violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime to which Russia is a signatory. Eventually, the Russian Federation supplied a limited number of engines to India without the transfer of critical technologies.
Only a few countries, including the US, Russia and France, have the necessary knowhow to build cryogenic engines fuelled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
In December last year, ISRO had successfully conducted the flight acceptance hot test of the indigenous cryogenic engine at its Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendragiri.
The first indigenous cryogenic engine will be used in the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket that is slated to put the experimental communication satellite GSAT-4 in the orbit. “The launch will take place sometime in coming December”, Alex said.
Besides the use of the indigenous cryogenic engine, the GSAT-4 launch would also be unique in many other ways. “For instance, we shall be using the electric propulsion technology for the first time to give the geostationary satellites a longer life span”, he said.
“GSAT-4 itself is not designed to have a long life. But once the technology, known as plasma thrusters, is successfully tested, it will be used in future satellites to give them an enhanced life span”, Alex said.
Electric propulsion technology would be used for sustenance of a satellite for the initial two to three years. “During this period the solar panels (for generating electricity from solar energy) work very well. Afterwards the satellite will switch over to the chemical propulsion mode”, said Alex.
Weighing around two tonnes, GSAT-4 will carry a multi-beam Ka-band bent pipe and regenerative transponder and navigation payload in C, L1 and L5 bands. The satellite reportedly can guide civil and military aircraft.

You can't shoot downs Naxals, govt tells IAF


NEW DELHI: The centre has rejected a proposal for allowing Indian Air Force personnel to fire at Left-wing extremists. Sources said that the government was clear on its policy to restrict the role of IAF in anti-Naxal operations to evacuation, rescue and airlifting of the civilian security forces.

MHA was against engaging either the Army or IAF in the fight against Naxalites as it felt that this may only alienate the tribals further. Besides, the civilian forces are seen to be handling the human issues relating to Left-wing extremism with more tact, as compared to the military which is trained to take on the 'enemy' with full force and might.

Even though the home ministry had earlier considered engaging Rashtriya Rifles in the counter-Naxal operations, the option was ruled out after the view emerged that the Maoists are best handled by civilians forces like CRPF and BSF, who are at the state's disposal and work jointly with the police, even as the Army must concentrate on the borders.

The option of engaging the armed forces in the fight against Naxalites, including the big offensive coming up in November, was also shot down by the affected states.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh had opposed the proposal for armed forces' involvement in countering extremism saying that it could lead to human rights issues as the Army personnel are trained to take on the 'enemy' with full force as in a battle.

Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik had on Thursday said that the Air Force has sought permission to open fire in self-defence after one of the air warriors was killed by Maoists. He expressed worries about collateral damage.

However, defence minister A K Antony had said the government was yet to take a decision on it. Meanwhile, CPI on Friday opposed any use of the Army or Air Force in anti-Naxal operations saying it would have repercussions.

Alleging that the government had 'almost inducted' the Army to fight Maoists, party general secretary A B Bardhan said there was information that CRPF's logistics were being monitored by the Army.

"The Army should not be used to fight a war against our own people. The Indian Air Force is also being mobilised,” he said addressing a press conference after a meeting here of his party's national executive.

Though the government has ruled out using the armed forces directly in operations against Naxals, CPI leader said the Army was already calling the shots.

"In the name of fighting Left extremism, which the prime minister has called the greatest threat to India, they have almost inducted the Army to fight Naxalites. This is unprecedented. The police should do the job," Mr Bardhan said.

Asked if this would be his position if Army was sent into Lalgarh, he shot back "yes, I will oppose Army being used anywhere." Mr Bardhan said that four or five districts in Bastar were surrounded by paramilitary forces. He also alleged that the operations were directed at anyone shouting "lal salaam", which was also a Left slogan.

"Its a war of extermination against those who hold the red banner," he said.

We were forced to use Tricolour as loin cloth


MADURAI: Fishermen attacked by the Lankan navy were forced to use the National Flag as loin cloth when they were strip ped by the navy, who were accompanied by Chinese forces at mid sea, said a fisherman here to a college student who had been involved in collecting the details of atrocities committed on fishermen by the Lankan navy.The study was aimed at facilitating the working of a people’s tribunal, scheduled to be held for December 11 at Thangatchimadam, and in this regard, a session was held by the People’s Watch in the city. The fishermen told students that they incurred the wrath of the Lankan navy when Indian cricket team beat Sri Lanka.They complained that the Lankan navy verbally abused them and added that when the fishermen abducted were found to be blood relatives (especially, fathers and sons), then the navy forced them to indulge in homosexual activities.They said that fathers were also ordered to beat their sons with rods.They also alleged that the Indian navy and the coast guard usually vacated the area on seeing the Lankan navy personnel, and thus, allowed the latter to attack the Indian fishermen. They added that the Indian navy would also beat the fishermen for trespassing into Lankan waters when they were handed over to them by the Lankan navy.They all claimed that there were Chinese personnel present on the Lankan boats. The fishermen clarified to the students that they could clearly make out the differences between the Sinhalese and non- Sinhalese as they had been encountering them for years.They added that they were offered food without salt, and that the Chinese urinated on their food.

Abu Dhabi to host Indian Ocean naval meet in March

New Delhi: The next Indian Navy-initiated Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a pan-Asian maritime security forum, comprising 26 littoral countries of the Indian Ocean, will take place in Abu Dhabi, UAE in March 2010.
“The UAE will be the next chairman of the IONS—thus validating its existence as a pan-Asian security forum and rubbishing Pakistan’s argument terming it as a grouping against the Islamic world,” senior Naval officers told FE. Interestingly, there is no Indian defence attach√© posted in UAE, but the one posted in Muscat, Oman is accredited to UAE.
According to a former naval officer, Ranjit Rai, vice-president Indian Maritime Foundation and an independence defence analyst, “The UAE, which is expanding its Navy, is keen to host the symposium in 2010, as they want to protect their interest in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. The countries of Oman, Iran, and the UAE border the straits and each plays a large part in fostering a secure environment around the Straits.”
“Currently discussions are underway in Mombasa, where decisions to shift the IONS Secretariat to Abu Dhabi, and the agenda for the March symposium will be taken,” said officials. Acknowledging the fact that Middle Eastern nations taking a bigger defence market share, it seemed appropriate to hand over the chairmanship to UAE, although South Africa was short listed too, informed sources.
Earlier this year, under a contract announced by the UAE Armed Forces, Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB) is to build 12 new vessels for the UAE Navy and retrofit 12 existing vessels. The Emirates accounted for 6% of the world’s arms imports between 2004 and 2008, according to the new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the same proportion as South Korea. China and India had 11 and 7% respectively. 

Learning To Live With China

There was a surprise in store this week for those who chose to brave Arunachal Pradesh's damp cold and the three-hour rough ride from Tawang up to Bum La Pass, on the border with Tibet. They were greeted by "happy" arches erected by Chinese soldiers on the other side, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in power . The Chinese were preparing to receive Indian soldiers for a celebratory lunch - and some unfinished business on border management.

Most of this bonhomie is likely to evaporate in just over a month's time when the Dalai Lama reaches the 400-year-old Tawang gompa (monastery) to offer prayers. Historically, this region has had a close relationship with the Tibetan people. The sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, for example, was born in Tawang. So, it's not unnatural for the current Dalai Lama (the 14th) to want to pay obeisance at the Tawang gompa. Still, anything that's seen to accommodate the breakaway Tibetans gets Beijing's hackles up, especially when it's on land claimed by the Chinese.

And so it alternates - blow hot, blow cold - in the uncertain relations between India and China: one day, it's jaw-jaw , another day it's claw-claw . The inscrutable Chinese and the argumentative Indian find each other equally indecipherable. It's not surprising, therefore, that India's China policy rides a trough-peak roller coaster.

New Delhi has been playing down media reports of Chinese "incursions" in an apparent bid not to ruffle feathers in Beijing. Almost simultaneously, the ministry of external affairs was lashing out at China for stapling not stamping visas to the passports of Kashmiri Indians, a signal that J&K was disputed.

The rise and rise of China represents one of contemporary history's tectonic shifts. For an India that fancies itself as an emerging superpower, learning to live with an assertive China is one of its greatest foreign policy challenges, especially as its ambitions are sometimes aligned with the Chinese and sometimes at odds. A People's Daily commentary (Sept 15) points out, "India is still a lesser power than China in terms of its economic and military might, both conventional and non-conventional ."

How can New Delhi and Beijing achieve a steady state of equilibrium that gives both sides the comfort of predictability, and a resultant confidence in each other? That's a question nagging not just India's foreign policy mandarins, but students and practitioners of diplomacy worldwide. As one of the architects of India's China policy (who will be unnamed as will be many interviewed for this story) says: "For India, coping with the rise of China is not a luxury; they're right next door."

Indian policy makers find China's approach to India quite mystifying. On the border, China has vastly superior military machinery. Its economic muscle is much bigger. And yet it appears keen to avoid any confrontation along the 4,056-km undemarcated border. But on many issues of bilateral import, China takes a far more belligerent stand - like seeking to nix India's bid for a place at the UN Security Council; mounting a last-minute scramble to stop the nuclear deal in Vienna; trying to keep India out of an Asian economic community ; blocking ADB from giving Arunachal money for a water project; and denying Arunachal residents Chinese visas.


Indian officials will tell you China's assertiveness is there for all to see - in Australia, in Japan, with the US. Susan Shirk, former diplomat and author of China: Fragile Superpower , tempers the growing unease about Chinese aggressiveness. "I don't see China as being very assertive ," she told TOI Crest. "Its influence has certainly grown. But China makes a great effort to avoid being seen as aggressive , especially in international organisations and in diplomacy. With neighbours, China has been trying to prevent clashes, but that seems to have changed with India recently."

Shirk is possibly referring to the contrast between Chinese attitude with, say, Russia, with which it has speedily worked out border problems, and its tardiness with India on border issues. In a conversation with TOI Crest, Ashley Tellis, author of Interpreting China's Grand Strategy, described China's reaction to India as "atypical" . "China has generally been muted with the countries on its periphery . Except India."

That's not sinking hopes. Said a senior Indian diplomat, "The last thing China wants now is an aggravation of a dispute with the only other rising power in Asia. They have a greater stake than us in de-escalating problems." China analyst, Claude Arpi, offers a more nuanced view: "While the official stand is still the 'peaceful rise of China' , some PLA generals believe 'China cannot emerge in the midst of nightingale songs and swallow dances' . The official line is to avoid a confrontation that will lead nowhere for China."

A greater symmetry on the border, where India is still at a severe disadvantage , would probably give more traction to this official line. "While China has mobilized huge resources to develop its side of the border , our policy has been to keep the border areas underdeveloped because we believed the inhospitable terrain would deter the Chinese from trying to get to Arunachal Pradesh, where China claims 90,000 sq km of territory," says a senior government official. It's only as recently as five years ago that India woke up and started beefing up both military hardware and border infrastructure.

In 2007, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran in a report proposed a big ramp-up of border infrastructure: for instance, two inter-basin roads spanning four rivers in Arunachal, crossed by seven north-south aligned roads at precisely the points where there is a "perception difference" with the Chinese. In Sikkim, where the Chinese have "activated" what was believed to be a "settled" border, India has only one roadlink (NH-31 A), no railhead or airport.

The pace of construction has been maddeningly slow, often impeded by objections from the environment ministry, understandably hyper-sensitive about anything that threatens to unsettle the delicate eco-system of the eastern Himalayas. The glacial pace has meant that officials have had to think of innovative solutions. In Arunachal, where road building is painfully slow, one official said that entire construction teams were airlifted to the line of actual control (LAC), so that the road could be built backwards ! In any case, India believes it is in its interest now to keep things quiet along the LAC as long as it is hamstrung by sloppy infrastructure and defences.


In the global sphere, the story is somewhat different. Despite the pretence that the world is big enough to accommodate the rise of both India and China, the competition remains intense - over markets, construction orders, minerals , land banks - you name it. 

IIT standoff ends after Sibal’s assurance

NEW DELHI: The standoff between the government and the faculty of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) ended on Friday with Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal assuring them that departures could be made from the contentious revised pay structure in exceptional cases.
Briefing the media after a meeting with representatives of the All-India IIT Faculty Federation, Mr. Sibal said: “I have made it clear that what has been decided by the government is in the nature of norms and the IIT system has enough flexibility to deviate from it in exceptional situations.” These exceptions – especially the provision of setting aside 10 per cent recruitments at the entry level annually for Ph.Ds from IITs to retain talent within – can be made by the respective IIT Boards if they cannot meet the requirement.
Conceding the point made by the Federation that the IIT system was a dynamic one, the Minister said the government was open to revisiting the 40 per cent cap on senior professor grade. While the Ministry was maintaining that the cap was introduced to flag off the brighter and better among professors, he said: “If there is a level of excellence that requires relaxing the cap, then we will revisit it.”
‘Work out norms’
At the same time, he said, the IIT system would have to work out norms for making such exceptions.
“We want to protect the level of excellence at the IITs,” he said adding that the meeting helped clear the air and made the faculty members realise that they and the government were on the same wavelength.
Faculty Federation pleased
Pleased with the assurances from Mr. Sibal that departures could be made from the contentious revised pay structure in exceptional cases, president of All-India IIT Faculty Federation M. Thenmozhi said Mr. Sibal had assured them that the new pay structure did not in any way interfere with the flexibility of the IIT system.
Further, the Federation was told that amendments would be made in the September 16 notification on pay revision of teachers in the Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTI) to remove minor irritants.
Though the Federation office-bearers returned satisfied, some of them said they would have to call the general body for wider consensus. Meanwhile, they will meet the IIT Directors on Saturday to iron out the rough spots.
Later in the month – on October 19 – the IIT Council will meet, the Minister said reiterating his willingness to extend greater autonomy to the premier institutions, provided they charted out a road map for the next five years.
While the issue has been festering since August 18 when the Ministry’s first notification on revised pay scales for the CFTI was issued, the Federation adopted restrained forms of agitation after the September 16 notification that was finalised in consultation with the IIT Directors. 

Army joins rescue operations in flood-hit Andhra IANS

Hyderabad: As many as 15 helicopters and about 600 army personnel have been deployed in Andhra Pradesh for rescue and relief operations in flood-hit areas.
The choppers, which will fly from Bangalore, Tirupati and Vijayawada, will also drop food and drinking water packets in the badly affected districts of Kurnool and Mahabubnagar where thousands of people are marooned for the last two days.
The authorities have kept 200,000 food and water packets ready for air dropping.
Commissioner, disaster management, Dinesh Kumar told reporters on Saturday that 250 army personnel in Kurnool district, 170 in Mahabubnagar and 150 in Krishna district have taken up rescue and relief work.
Disaster Management Response Force personnel are also rushing to the flood-hit areas from Tamil Nadu, Pune and Bhubaneswar.
Home Minister P Sabita Indra Reddy said army personnel had reached Kurnool with 48 mechanised boats.
Kurnool town and dozens of surrounding villages are facing threat of complete submergence due to floods in the Krishna river.
The minister said 15 mechanised boats were pressed into service in Mahabubnagar district. 

Navy ex-chief to be new envoy to New Zealand?


Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who has just retired as the chief of the Indian Navy, could be appointed the next high commissioner to New Zealand.
There are not too many examples of former service chiefs being given overseas post- retirement sinecure immediately after the end of their official assignment.
A number of retired Indian Navy officers consider this move by the government as a great morale booster for the forces.
However, Mehta's detractors claim that the Admiral was close to the powers that be and even helped a suddenly " homeless" minister of state for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor, in finding a home after he was forced out of a five- star hotel by his party. Surely, that is not how high commissioners are appointed, countered a former navy chief.
Tharoor was put up at the Kota House, the navy's luxurious transit accommodation for retired chiefs, which also houses the naval officers' mess.
Many of his former colleagues in the Navy and some in the government have expressed surprise at the impending appointment considering Admiral Mehta outspoken views, be it on the issue of pay and pensions for the servicemen or his assessment of the comparative military strength of India and China.
He had created a minor row recently by saying that India had no hope of catching up with China, be it in terms of the latter's gross domestic product or its military power.
While he had found much resonance with his statement among the retired community of officers, many serving members had found Mehta's statement " embarrassing and deplorable".

Courtesy: Mail Today