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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Give military autonomy

DAILY PIONEER


 I WONDER : YOU MAY ALSO LIKE TO READ MY COMMENTS HERE :


Ashok K Mehta

Hijacked by the media, considerable high drama has surrounded the Sukna land case involving senior Generals of the Indian Army. The turnaround by Chief of Army Staff Gen Deepak Kapoor in ordering disciplinary proceedings against his Military Secretary, Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash, who had originally been served a show cause notice under the rubric of administrative action, has also attracted some attention. The last minute switch in Gen Kapoor’s decision was prompted by an advisory issued by Defence Minister AK Antony. Both these events reflect strains in civil-military relations and the progressive diminution of the office of the COAS.

Further illustrating the malaise are three recent professional comments by Gen Kapoor on limited war under nuclear overhang; two-front war doctrine; and integration of armies in Nepal. These valid observations were curiously not supported by the Government. Mr Antony should have been more forthright in defending his and the country’s COAS and not let the flak fly at him from abroad. After all, the first two comments relate to accepted Government policy and should have been upheld.

In 2001, after the terrorist attack on Parliament House, at the traditional Army Day Press briefing the then COAS, Gen Padmanabhan, in response to a question about a nuclear first strike by Pakistan, replied that India’s response will be such that Pakistan will cease to exist. The furore created in Pakistan forced National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra to ask Defence Minister George Fernandes to issue a clarification. But before his did so, he had the grace to consult Gen Padmanabhan. Generals will speak like Generals and not diplomats, thank god. And the advisory from some strategic experts that Service Chiefs preface their remarks with ‘these are my personal views’ is simply baloney. Armed Forces Chiefs voice the feelings of their service, the military and Government policy. They do not speak in their personal capacity.

Returning to the widely-trodden Sukna land, Gen Kapoor, guided by his legal department, opted to follow the administrative action route which gives him many options, including termination of services. The Sukna case has raised a media storm for three months now. Gen Kapoor issued a show cause notice to Lt Gen Prakash three weeks ago. So why on earth did Mr Antony — whose Ministry has been shadowing the case — wait till after the show cause had been given and the reply received? To issue an advisory suddenly shows how out of sync he is with what he ought to be doing to protect the image of the Army and the high office of the COAS. Through his unwise interference in the case, he has diminished the COAS.

Now Lt Gen Prakash has been placed under the Army Act’s Section 123 which subjects him to this law for three years even after he retired last Sunday. There will be a hearing of charges followed by a summary of evidence. Depending on the findings and outcome, disciplinary action could follow. Lt Gen Prakash could appeal to the newly-constituted Army Tribunal and so the Sukna saga will now be long, protracted and hopfully leak-proof.

In 2000, the Ministry of Defence ordered the posting of Vice-Admiral Harinder Singh as Vice-Chief of Naval Staff. Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, citing the Naval Act which authorises the Chief of Naval Staff to select his own staff, wrote back to the Ministry stating that the orders given were in contravention of the Navy Act and were, therefore, ‘unimplementable’. He held his ground and became the first Service Chief in the history of the armed forces to be dismissed by the President by invoking the ‘pleasure principle’. With 60 days left for retirement, Gen Kapoor followed the ‘discretion is the better part of valour’ dictum.

There is no instance of legitimate military dissent in India. The fault has to be shared by Government’s failure in exercising political control, including higher political direction, and the military hierarchy for cowing down, even when compliance was out of order. The only COAS to have put in his papers because of political interference by Defence Minister V Krishna Menon in the professional domain was Gen KS Thimayya. Unfortunately, he withdrew his resignation; otherwise, the history of civil -military relations would have been different.

In 1992, COAS Gen SF Rodrigues let down his office by first giving a controversial interview to this newspaper in which he said “governance is very much the business of the Army” and called two foreign countries “bandicoots”. He later accepted a dressing down in Parliament by Defence Minister Sharad Pawar. Instead of resigning, Gen Rodrigues continued as a lame duck Chief and, surprisingly, the Government which had served the admonition, 15 years later appointed him Governor of Punjab.

Lt Gen SK Sinha, who had served in Army Headquarters in every rank, authored the Fourth Pay Commission and knew every bureaucratic trick of the trade, was superseded as COAS as the Government thought he would be a difficult customer. Gen Sinha resigned. The Government notification for part of the Fifth Pay Commission award was signed by Defence Secretary Ajit Kumar even as COAS Gen Ved Malik had put his objections in writing. The same drama was witnessed last year when the three Service Chiefs collectively refused to accept the piecemeal award of the Sixth Pay Commission, insisting the anomalies be addressed first. One newspaper editor called it “unprecedented military dissent” but conveniently omitted the word ‘legitimate’.

Britain's Chief of General Staff, Gen Richard Dannat went public about poor pay and acute shortages of helicopters for his soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, a deficiency endorsed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He was so outspoken that the Government denied him the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff and instead gave the incumbent CDS an unprecedented second term. Service Chiefs must speak out and speak up without hankering for post-retirement jobs such as Governor of Goa or Ambassador to Burkina Faso.

The media revolution, nuclear weaponisation in the sub-continent and think-tank proliferation call for political control that ensures a robust working relationship btween the civil and the military for effective use of military power. The services must regain their professional autonomy and certainly respect by the Government, altering the internal civil-military power balance through genuine integration and without fear that a CDS — when appointed — will spring a coup. Addressing the problem of corruption in the armed forces calls for a ‘trialogue’ between Government, civil society and the military. Aberrations are fraught with the risk of becoming a habit.

Woman officer of Indian Army placed under arrest

THAINDIAN NEWS
 

Chandigarh, Feb 2 (IANS) A woman officer of the Indian Army, facing a general court martial in Punjab’s Zirakpur town on charges of accepting a bribe, has been placed under arrest by an army court, officials here said Tuesday.
Major Dimple Singla, an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s branch of the army, was arrested Monday.

“Major Dimple Singla was booked under three charges. She was absconding and was not attending the trials of GCM. It is our duty to complete the GCM in a time-bound manner, therefore she was arrested yesterday,” Indian Army spokesperson Pardip Das Gupta told IANS.

“Earlier, GCM proceedings were adjourned on Dec 28 last year as Singla was admitted in a hospital with complaints of bad health. However, she left the hospital the next day (Dec 29), without being discharged and did not inform anybody. Due to this, her arrest warrants were issued the same day.”

Following this, officials also raided her house but did not find her.

Singla, meanwhile, appealed before the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal and said that she would appear before the GCM provided she was not arrested. The tribunal denied her plea and directed her to appear before the GCM Feb 1.

Her trial had started in 2007 and she was charged with accepting a bribe for favouring various accused during court martial proceedings. She is also charged with indiscipline and laxity in her professional work.

The Generals and their labyrinth

THE HINDU
 

 I WONDER : WITH THE BASIC FABRIC OF INDIAN ARMED FORCES BEING DAMAGED REPEATEDLY BY QUESTIONING THEIR LOYALTY, INTEGRITY, SINCERITY AND USING ARGUMENTS LIKE "MAY COUP OR INCREASED MILITARIZATION" FOR DENYING BENEFITS (LIKE LATERAL SHIFT ) AND RIGHTFUL PLACE IN THE SOCIETY ( LOWERING BY SUCCESSIVE CPCs AND DOWNWARD SLIDE IN PRESIDENT's  ORDER OF PRECEDENCE), TRYING TO PLACE THEM UNDER BABUs ON THE NAME OF CIVILIAN CONTROL, RECOMMENDING LOWERING OF SELECTION CRITERIA TO INCREASE THEIR NUMBERS QUANTITATIVELY INSTEAD QUALITATIVELY. VETERANS AND DISABLED SOLDIERS MADE TO FIGHT COURT CASES EVEN FOR THEIR JUSTIFIED  RIGHTS. AREN'T WE HEADING FOR MORE PROBLEMS IN FUTURE......ITS TIME WE ADDRESS THE CORE ISSUES.....I PERSONALLY FEEL A SOLDIER HIGH ON SELF ESTEEM WILL ALWAYS BE MORE MOTIVATED, LOYAL , SELF DISCIPLINED AND HONEST..........LETS GIVE IT A DEEP THOUGHT...........

The image of the Indian Army has been badly dented with a section of its top brass implicated in what has come to be known as the Sukhna land scam. The damage could have been mitigated had there been a clear signal from the Army that it was prepared to deal seriously with the alleged misconduct. Regrettably, the controversy was allowed to malinger and was exacerbated by perceptions that the Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, was reluctant to act firmly against his aide and Military Secretary, Lt. General Avadhesh Prakash. Despite an Army Court of Inquiry (CoI) reportedly citing prima facie evidence to the effect that Lt. General Prakash was the key figure in the Sukhna land case, General Kapoor was in favour of milder administrative action rather than a court martial. The change of heart, which came a couple of days before Lt-General Prakash’s retirement on January 31, owes wholly to the very proper intervention of Defence Minister A.K. Antony, a politician respected across the political spectrum for his probity in public life. It was Mr. Antony’s ‘advice’ that the case should be dealt with sternly that persuaded the Army Chief to court martial Lt. General Prakash. Earlier, as recommended by the CoI, General Kapoor approved a court martial for Lt. General P.K. Rath and administrative action against two others; the sticking point was over his aide and Military Secretary.

The four generals are entitled to a fair process, which only a military court can provide under the procedure established by law. But it is important to send a signal that any scent of corruption in the armed forces will be dealt with firmly and without prevarication, even when it involves the top brass. The case itself relates to the issue of a no-objection certificate (NOC) to a realtor, who falsely claimed to be an affiliate of Mayo College, for setting up a school on private land adjacent to the Sukhna military station in Darjeeling district. Among the issues that need to be determined are whether rules and procedures were bent in granting the NOC and if there were security implications in doing so, given the area’s proximity to the border. The Indian Army, which was regarded as an incorruptible institution in the first few decades following Independence, has been affected by a string of corruption scandals in recent times. The only way to check the downslide is to have a policy of zero tolerance of corruption, something that Mr. Antony has stressed more than once. Apart from the moral and economic implications, corruption in the armed forces has a quite obvious bearing on security. It is a risk India can ill afford to take

Army looking for foreign carbines

TIMES OF INDIA
 
 
NAGPUR: It’s not that induction of just advanced weaponry is getting delayed in the armed forces. Same is the case with a simple carbine. It is a gun with a holed barrel commonly seen with a VIPs security guard. The Indian Army wants to replace its old 9mm carbine of World War II vintage with a 5.56 one.

After an earlier plan to make this with foreign collaboration fizzled out, the army has begun scouting for the weapon in open market. A request for information (RFI) was lately posted on Indian Army website inviting details on this type of gun from the vendors. Carbine is smaller than rifles and used for close quarter combat. The army in its RFI has left it upon the vendor to specify the weight, length, rate of fire and so on.

While it wants the interested parties to inform whether their carbine has features like laser spot designator, or flash eliminator. Earlier it was planned to make 5.56 carbines in collaboration with Singapore Technologies Kinetic (STK), at local ordnance factories. However, as is becoming the norm, a commission scandal led to the deal with STK being held up. The former chairman of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) Sudipto Ghosh was arrested in this case. Interestingly, a 5.56 carbine is already being made by two different government agencies in the country. But for some reasons, army is interested in importing it. The one being made by Indian ordnance factory is called ‘Amogh’.

The other one is being developed by the Pune-based Armaments Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), a unit of Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO). The 9 mm carbine currently used by the army and other forces is being made at the ordnance factory in Kanpur. Enquiries at the army spokesperson’s office in New Delhi about the RFI elicited no response. Other sources in the army said a 5.56 carbine is needed so as to achieve standardization of ammunition. Now the army uses rifles and light machine guns of 5.56 calibre so it has to keep 9 mm ammunition just for carbines. “If a5.56 mm carbine is inducted, similar ammunition can be used in different weapons,” said a source in the army.