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Author: Prakash Katoch

AgustaWestland case: Why arrest SP Tyagi and let babus, politicians go scot-free?

It isn’t funny that a ‘CBI special court’ has virtually ‘slapped’ the CBI while granting bail to Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi (retired) in the AugustaWestland probe. While the CBI had arrested Tyagi accusing him of receiving kickbacks illegally in the VVIP helicopter deal, the CBI special court has observed that the CBI had failed to show when and how much of the alleged bribe was paid to him, even though the investigation had gone on for almost four years. Special Judge Arvind Kumar also pointed out that the allegation that Tyagi’s properties were linked to the alleged illegal gratification was not investigated in over three-and-a-half years despite the CBI having seized the documents regarding his properties in 2013, but more than three years and nine months later, no investigation was conducted in this regard.

File image of SP Tyagi. PTI

File image of SP Tyagi. PTI

It may be noted that CBI was given four days custody following his recent arrest, however, the Bureau had it extended. The CBI special court made following important observations: Tyagi retired in 2007 and the CBI’s view that he influenced witnesses does not hold water; the present case is based on documents; the accused joined the investigation as and when called by the CBI and has also been interrogated in custody; allegations of whether he received kickbacks, and in what manner he was connected in the alleged conspiracy, can only be looked into during the trial stage; he has been in custody for 18 days. No purpose will be served by keeping the accused behind bars. CBI counsel and additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta opposed Tyagi’s bail plea, arguing that they had found “new” evidence to build the case against Tyagi. Here the question is why this “new evidence” could not be shared with the CBI special court, or is it based on the hope that some “new evidence” will crop up with the Italian court reopening the case?

So now the question is that if the CBI did not have sufficient evidence against Tyagi, why was he arrested at this point of time and kept imprisoned for 18 days? Was this a fake “earthquake” warning for the UPA akin to the Congress vice-president’s threat to rock the Parliament? What a terrible shame that despite having exceptionally strong assistance from the Italian courts, who have virtually handed India the case on a plate, only Tyagi and two other accused are questioned and jailed while the bureaucrats, the politicians and the then SPG director involved are not questioned. As someone remarked on social media, “Just imagine what is going to happen to all the other UPA scam cases in the hands of CBI/Supreme Court where there is no external court assistance — actual culprits are going to get off scot-free.”

In the AugustaWestland probe, the following facts already public can hardly be ignored:

One, the helicopters in question were required by the SPG to fly VVIPs.

Two, the requirement of helicopters from eight to 12 was increased by the PMO.

Three, IAF had insisted since 1988 that service ceiling of 6,000 metres was an operational necessity to access all border areas, also reiterated to the defence secretary in January 2004.

Four, under instructions issued by the NSA in March 2005, fresh supplier quality requirements were evolved in consultation with PMO and SPG; a meeting chaired by the defence secretary in May 2005 decided to lower the service ceiling to 4,500 metres. This was obviously later approved by the defence minister — facilitating the purchase of AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopters which fly only up to 4,572 metres.

Five, there is no way Tyagi could have lowered the flying ceiling of the required helicopters without the indulgence of MoD, NSA, SPG and PMO.

Six, the then director, SPG (who used to accompany the Congress president during her foreign visits) was present during the so-called trials abroad on ‘representational helicopters’, based on which the deal for importing AugustaWestland helicopters was signed.

Seven, middleman Guido Haschke’s diary revealed the jotting of apparent beneficiaries.

So logically, the then defence minister, NSA, defence secretary, SPG director and officials of the PMO and Ministry of Defence should have been probed by now along with Tyagi, but no move has been made on this front as yet. Significantly, on 14 December, the Supreme Court ruled in another case that was just based on uncorroborated evidence of statements and records of hawala dealers or corporate diaries that investigations can’t be undertaken, never mind prosecution. So, hasn’t Tyagi been arrested because of similarly frivolous reasons — statements by middlemen?

The million dollar question is: Will the government of the day take up the gauntlet to smash what is generally referred to as the ‘Hamam‘?

The 1993 NN Vohra Committee Report while establishing the nexus between governmental functionaries, political leaders and others with various mafia organisations and crime syndicates, enabling the development of significant muscle and money power to operate with impunity, had finally opined that “leakage about the linkages of crime syndicates, senior government functionaries or political leaders in the states or at the Centre could have a destabilising effect on the functioning of government”. So there was no follow-up to this report.

Of the scores of defence scams since Independence, how many politicians and bureaucrats were probed, arrested, prosecuted? Of course, VK Krishna Menon had the distinction of initiating the first one — the Jeep Scandal of 1948, wherein he as India’s High Commissioner to the UK signed a deal with a company in England to supply 200 jeeps (bypassing all government regulations) for the Army costing Rs 80 lakh, but only 155 jeeps were supplied. The case was closed in 1955 and Jawaharlal Nehru appointed Menon as defence minister. And despite the ignominy of 1962, we have a Krishna Menon Marg in his name in the heart of the Capital.

On a different wavelength but hardly surprising, Francois Gautier writes on Facebook:

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 15:51 IST

Chief of Defence Staff coming? A flood of questions on ‘when’ and ‘who’ but still no answers

The last day of 2016 — 31 December — was to be a unique situation when reins of both the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) were to be taken over by new Service Chiefs. Two Service Chiefs retiring together in itself would have been unique because it would have implied Admiral Sunil Lanba, present Naval Chief will continue as the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) till he hangs his spurs in July 2019, which is if the government does not appoint a Permanent Chairman COSC (PC COSC) or a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in the interim. Though there have been plenty rumours, even indications by the Defence Minister, that a PC COSC or CDS is in the offing, it is not the political calculations of when such announcement will be made or who should be the incumbent, but in what form and with what authority this new appointment will be positioned.

Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag. PTIArmy Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag. PTI

Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag. PTI

Should the government take a decision now, any out of General Dalbir Singh Suhag, Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi, Lieutenant General PM Hariz, or for that matter any officer of equivalent rank from Indian Navy or Indian Air Force could be appointed PC COSC or CDS, with the previous government already having stated that the CDS / PC COSC need not be senior to the Service Chiefs. But, whether a CDS / PC COSC will actually get appointed itself is a question mark, given the games Ministry of Defence plays that can beat Chinese Checkers any day.

South Block is famous for rumours and intrigue but what is cooking, the flavour floats in all directions. The fact that General Dalbir Singh Suhag, present Army Chief has been given 10 days extension can mean two things: first, that Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, Army Chief Designate gets more time for taking over from the General Suhag, and; second, when the current Air Chief retires on 31 December, Suhag will become senior to Sunil Lamba for taking over the baton of Chairman COSC in the rotational capacity. In both instances, after 31 December, Suhag would be senior-most to be Chairman COSC. Why has the government given Suhag the 10-day extension is perhaps to elevate him either as CDS or PC COSC, even as the previous government had clarified that the PC COSC / CDS may not be senior to the Service Chiefs. Another rumour going strong is that Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, Eastern Army Commander, may be positioned as PC COSC or CDS. But, whether a CDS / PC COSC will actually get appointed itself is a question mark, given the games Ministry of Defence plays that can beat Chinese Checkers any day.

It may be recalled that news reports of July 2015, quoting Ministry of Defence sources, talked about the proposal to create the post of a PC COSC being at “an advanced stage” albeit the issue required ultimate approval by the Union cabinet. Significantly, media also stated that in creating the post of PC COSC, the three Service Chiefs will be left operationally-independent to run their own Services. The perception being built was that the PC COSC would: one, provide single-point advice to the government; two, inject synergy between the Services in doctrinal, planning, procurement and operational matters; three, prioritise inter-service procurements to build long-term capabilities; four, manage country’s strategic resources and nuclear arsenal, and; five, integrate Services HQ with Ministry of Defence and reduce civil-military divide.

Such jargon may impress the public but the establishment and the military know that the PC COSC ‘without operational powers’ would be no different from the current system of having a rotational chairman; primarily making projections for the annual defence budget, in addition to the responsibility of Out of Area Contingencies (OOAC).

Reports of the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) and follow up Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by then deputy prime minister LK Advani had both strongly recommended creation of the CDS. The term PC COSC was recommended by the Naresh Chandra Committee after Naresh Chandra was reportedly briefed by then NSA, Shivshankar Menon to make such recommendation. It was a bureaucratic mischief deliberately to water down the CDS. There is every reason to believe that top bureaucrat and then prime minister Manmohan Singh was behind this. The duo were also behind inserting the reference to Balochistan in the joint statement after the India-Pakistan summit at Sharam El Sheikh in 2009, which was ‘not’ part of draft sent by our mission in Islamabad. Manmohan and Shivshankar Menon were the reason why the Indian contingent of the Indo-Pak Track II, under the aegis of the Atlantic Council of Ottawa, recommended that India withdraw from Saltoro range in Siachen area at a great strategic disadvantage.

Menon is known to have briefed three officers of the Indian contingent personally. Sanjay Baru in his book The Accidental Prime Minister reveals that Manmohan wanted India to vacate Siachen (Noble Peace Prize – never mind the reason) while Sonia Gandhi favoured this at a later date (hoping for sonny becoming PM?). Not without reason, Tufail Ahmad, reviewing Bharat Karnad’s book Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet) wonders should Manmohan Singh, Shivshankar Menon, Salman Khurshid and MK Narayanan be tried for treason against India’s national interests along with crimes against our future generations? Not that there is no precedence – returning 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war (POW) in accordance with the 1971 Shimla Agreement but not getting back our 54 POW from Pakistani jails.

As to appointment of a CDS, Pranab Mukherjee, then defence minister (now President) had brought up the issue in a tri-Service meeting at HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), wherein the then Chairman COSC and Naval Chief, the Army Chief and the Vice-Chief of Air Staff (representing the Air Chief who was on foreign visit) unequivocally voiced that not only was a CDS necessary but the CDS must be given full operational powers over the military, in order to make him effective. The defence minister then stunned all by saying couple months back not only was appointing a CDS decided but even who would be appointed. He, however, said there was no political consensus, adding in the same breath “but then plenty decisions are taken without political consensus”. That was 11 years back.

But selling the idea that PC COSC or CDS will indeed by “single point advisor” to the government is deflecting from the truth. The document under which HQ IDS was established, while referring to the CDS says, “As and when a CDS is appointed, he will have equal voting rights as Service Chiefs and in case of disagreement by two Service Chiefs, arbitration will be done by MoD.” It has been drafted so craftily by the bureaucracy that no one is wiser. Under such rules, if two Service Chiefs disagree with the CDS / PC COSC, it is the bureaucrat sitting in Ministry of Defence who will arbitrate. Can you imagine such a system within the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force where two army commanders/equivalents put up dissent notes and the Ministry of Defence arbitrate – definitely not. So, why such provision in case of the CDS?

The concept behind raising of HQ Integrated Defence Staff, an initiative of then defence minister George Fernandes, was that it would be part and parcel of Ministry of Defence but it came up as a separate HQ. The bureaucracy ensured this integration did not take place, a major reason being money, corruption and continuing bureaucratic bliss of enjoying authority sans responsibility. Even the Americans wonder how the military functions in India with its Ministry of Defence without military officers on deputation or permanent absorption. It is for the same reason that the military despite being users have been kept out of the design, planning and decision-making levels of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Ordnance Factories Board and Defence Public Sector Undertakings. Continuing with the British legacy, the defence secretary, not defence minister is officially tasked with defence of India and the Services HQ officially designated as “Attached Offices”.

What the country needs is a CDS with full operational powers and HQ IDS getting fully merged with the Ministry of Defence. This is all the more vital given the rising threats facing us. A CDS with full operational powers, aside from being a single point advice to the government, should synergize the military with speedy capacity building in network-centric capabilities, and fighting hybrid wars.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant General.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 17:31 IST

Demonetisation: India can’t win its black money war by going soft on political parties

It is becoming abundantly clear that all the hoopla and about going after black money through demonetisation was more of a spoof. The media, particularly the social media, was hyper about how many stashes of black money political parties had lost, with names like Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Arvind Kejriwal figuring conspicuously.

Then there was plenty of news about politicians from various parties caught with lakhs or crores of cash. That the banks too were laundering cash without political involvement itself is questionable. But the fact remains that bulk of the cash seized as ‘black money’ is new currency. All this while frequent briefings including the current withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 a week is not respected by many banks because they simply don’t have the cash unless you can stand in queues for days drawing Rs 4,000 or Rs 6,000 each day. Statements of more money being sent to rural areas, but then many news channels show chaos in rural areas as well.

Revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia. ReutersRevenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia. Reuters

Revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia. Reuters

So why not come clean and admit it will take 4-6 months to set things right, instead of 2-3 weeks which banks admit is impossible?

In the backdrop of the above, it was a shocker to hear revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia telling reporters that political parties depositing the demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in their account(s), will not face income tax investigation – so sky is the limit. Adhia was replying to in response to a question that whether the government is also investigation political parties/political treasuries depositing their own cash in banks. Adhia specifically said, “If a deposit is in the account of a political party, they are exempt. But if it is deposited in individual’s account then that information will come into our radar. If the individual is putting money in his own account, then we will get information.” But politicians are no fools in such matters; stash must’ve gone white already through accounts of followers, Jan Dhan, whatever. Sections 13A of the Income Tax Act, 1961 grants exemption from tax to political parties in respect of their income from house property, other sources, capital gains and income by way of contributions received from any person.

Significantly, Adhia’s statement came on a day winter session of Parliament ended with all the shouting and sloganeering about demonetisation, AgustaWestland helicopter scam, allegations, counter allegations – of which the end result remains a question mark in the same vein as over past decades. For that matter in the case of AgustaWestland, no defence deal or scam can happen without the express involvement of the defence secretary and the DG (Acquisition), who before signing defence deals, make sure that the bribes reach the intended beneficiaries. Even Gen VK Singh, former COAS and presently MoS (External Affairs) states clearly in his autobiography that the corruption pipeline goes right up to the PMO. So let us see how thorough this probe and prosecution will be and with what end result. Does this explain why AK Anthony is doing jumping-jack putting all the blame on the IAF, least CBI probes how much was his cut in the AgustaWestland scam and what route it followed?

The 1993 Vohra Committee report while establishing the nexus between governmental functionaries, political leaders and others with various mafia organisation and crime syndicates, enabling development of significant muscle and money power to operate with impunity, had finally opined that “leakage whatever about the linkages of crime Syndicate senior Government functionaries or political leaders in the states or at the centre could have a destabilizing effect on the functioning of Government.” So, naturally there was no follow up to this report. But in this era of digitisation and connectivity (no matter not complete) all you need is an opinion poll pan-India as to which cross-section has and makes maximum black money in India, the overwhelming majority will be the political parties and politicians, corporate-with-blessings of the polity, and the like. In fact, that is the talk in every nukkad, shop, bank, gatherings of any size. But then is not what the 1993 Vohra Committee Report was implicitly pointed out?

So, if the bulk of the black money and loot is with the political parties, even though bulk is not in currency, where do we go from here – what sort of black money recovery are we executing? Sure Sections 13A of the Income Tax Act, 1961 grants exemption from tax to political parties in respect of their income from house property, other sources, capital gains and income by way of contributions received from any person. But given that government has launched a war against black money and corruption, why could Sections 13A of the Income Tax Act, 1961 not be amended before the demonetisation drive was launched.

This should have been very much possible considering the surreptitious manner in which FCRA Act 2010 was amended, legalising foreign donations – from ‘unknown’ sources? Why couldn’t a limit be put on what the political parties can deposit in their account and beyond which what percentage would be taxed, and how steep? After all, there are financial limits laid on electioneering also. Leaving limitless deposits by political parties without any taxation actually amounts to a farce being played about fighting a war against black money and corruption through demonetisation, permitting other hoarders now to deposit any amount with 50 percent taxation notwithstanding.

When Modi recently remarked about ‘state funding’ of elections, he was aware that money matters in politics because parties need ever-increasing resources for administration and election campaigns. But he was possibly looking for solutions to problems like: how money should not be allowed to buy access to decision-making power; how to sanction illicit donations and prevent trading in influence; should the state impose limits on corporate donations; and, should parties receive public funding? But looking at the mammoth political expenditure in our country, would it be ethical to use public funds for elections, what will be the tax burden on the common man, and how will it affect development? If that is the reason for the impossible drive of going cashless overnight without adequate infrastructure and education, to simply tax every transaction, it certainly needs a serious relook. It doesn’t take any intelligence to realize that next couple of years, India will need a mix of cash and cashless. If we don’t want to admit it, that is a different issue. The litmus test for Modi, therefore, is how to draw the black money out from the political parties, without which the war on black money will be largely ineffective.

The author is a veteran Lt. Gen.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 20:21 IST

India-US ‘major defence partnership’ must address New Delhi’s strategic concerns

US Ambassador to India Richard Rahul Verma has recently stated that the US-Pakistan relationship is “complex”, while US relations with India are more broad-based.

In saying so, Verma will be acutely aware that the US-Pakistan relationship is already on the trajectory towards becoming far more complex with Pakistan being inexorably subsumed by China, the CIA-ISI relationship notwithstanding. With China gearing up to establish an oceanic front in the Gwadar-Omari-Karachi region, a future US-China Cold War-like situation may be inevitable no matter the pretenses, and how and in what timeframe the transition from lukewarm to cold takes place, which will be resisted by China.

President-elect Donald Trump’s statement that the US may not necessarily be bound with the ‘One China’ policy raised hackles in China with Beijing hitting back that it would help the foes of America. Only time will tell how Trump’s remarks about the ‘One China’ policy are followed through in future. However, in all probability he will act against China’s economic policy of ‘dumping’ goods abroad at the cost of target countries. But if China says it will help America’s foes, it is already doing so through proxies of Pakistan as well as through its own links with the Taliban.

File image of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with Defence Secretary Ash Carter at a joint news conference at the Pentagon. News18

File image of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with Defence Secretary Ash Carter at a joint news conference at the Pentagon. News18

What will affect South Asia most is how the Trump administration deals with Pakistan now that Generals Michael T Flynn (former director of US Defence Intelligence Agency) and James Mattis (former commander of US Central Command) will be the next National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defence respectively. This is particularly so given their firm views about countering terrorism. Notwithstanding the joint statement on conclusion of the recent ‘Heart of Asia’ Summit categorically naming Pakistani proxies operating in Afghanistan, this had already been explicitly brought out in the report of the United Nations Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) in July 2016. These facts have been ignored by the US in the past despite Pakistani proxies, Haqqani Network in particular, targeting US-Nato forces in Afghanistan

With the US Senate clearing a bill characterising India as a “major defence partner”, India-US relations have taken a leap. The 2017 National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) was passed by the US House of Representatives by 375 votes to 34. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visited Washington in June this year, President Barack Obama had said he looks at India as a major defence partner of the US. The US Senate has now cleared the decks to put an official seal on it before it goes for signatures to Obama, which should be a mere formality. It is significant to note that after the passage of the bill — within 180 days, the secretary of defence and the secretary of state are required to jointly submit to the Congressional Defence Committee, the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives a report on how the US is supporting its defence relationship with India.

The India-US joint statement issued during the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to India in August 2016 had noted that robust defence ties were the “bedrock” of bilateral strategic and commercial ties, making reference to the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and the title of “major defence partner” for India that Obama envisaged. In December 2016, Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter made an official visit to India for the seventh institutionalised interaction with Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar. The joint statement issued during Carter’s visit finalised India’s designation as a “major defence partner” of the US. This special status is unique to India and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level on par with that of America’s closest allies and partners, ensuring enduring cooperation in future.

The emergence of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative ( DTTI) as an integral and enduring component of India-US security cooperation is a sign that the relationship has matured to a level of strategic importance. The DTTI will strengthen India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative and both sides committed to convening all-new DTTI working groups prior to the next DTTI group meeting anticipated for February 2017. India-US defence relations in recent years have been on an escalating trajectory. The signing of the Defence Framework Agreement in 2015 was a major signpost.

This along with other agreements laid the blueprint for collaboration between defence establishments of both nations, enabling deeper cooperation. Joint exchange opportunities, in both personnel and training exercises, have expanded and strengthened our bilateral cooperation. The signing of the LEMOA has facilitated additional opportunities for practical engagement and exchange.

What does ‘major defence partner’ imply?

Logically, it should result in greater sharing of defence technologies (state-of-the-art ones), co-production of armaments as part of ‘Make in India’ and dovetailing defence plans with the US approach through coordination in military logistics, and in strategic and satellite communications and sensors. The US is also looking at early signing of the Communication and Information Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA) joint agreements that would complete the trinity of foundational agreements for bilateral defence ties.

File image of Donald Trump and James Mattis. AP

File image of Donald Trump and James Mattis. AP

Admiral John Richardson had visited India in February 2016 coinciding with India hosting the spectacular international fleet review, in which the US Navy also participated. The year 2016 also saw the navies of India, US and Japan participating in the MALABAR exercise in the Western Pacific, much to the chagrin of China. The India-US Maritime Dialogue has been ongoing with strategic interests converging with respect to the Indo-Pacific region.

But while the US interests in the bilateral relationship centre mainly on cooperation on the seas and defence industry cooperation, the ‘major defence partnership’ must also address India’s concerns in South Asia. These include the China-Pakistan nexus exporting terrorism to India and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s newly appointed DG ISI, Naveed Mukhtar, has called for Pakistan to be more aggressive against Indian interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan is in illegal occupation of PoK and China-occupied Shaksgam and Aksai Chin — all Indian Territories. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor together with Chinese naval vessels and submarines at Gwadar have strategic implications both for India and the region including on future operations in the IOR. Similarly, the PLA’s lodgment in Gilgit-Baltistan, and deployment of strategic weapon platforms have serious implications.

Now that President Vladimir Putin has indicated he will work with Trump in countering terrorism, attention must be paid to Pakistan as the epicentre of terrorism which is supported and abetted by China. The India-US Defence Partnership must focus on these issues, particularly targeting the epicentre of terrorism, ensuring stability and economic progress of Afghanistan and connectivity within South Asia.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 13:00 IST

AgustaWestland scam heats up, but will justice reach its logical end?

Close on the heels of the news of CBI filing charge sheet against the former Telecom Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and others (including two former BSNL Chief General managers) in the illegal telephone exchange case that reportedly caused a loss of Rs 1.78 crores to the exchequer, has come the news that the CBI has arrested the former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi for allegedly accepting bribe in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal. Tyagi was reportedly arrested along with his cousin Sanjiv Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan. In February 2010, the then UPA government had signed a contract with UK-based AgustaWestland to purchase 12 x AW101 helicopters for the IAF at an estimated cost of Rs 3,600 crore.

Much has happened since the UPA government signed the deal with AgustaWestland in 2010 for procuring VVIP helicopters for the President, the Prime Minister and others. Three helicopters had been delivered to India before the deal was put on hold in 2013 after Bruno Spagnolini, CEO of AgustaWestland and Guiseppe Orsi, Chairman of Italian parent company Finmeccanica, were arrested in Italy on charges of bribing middlemen to acquire the deal with the IAF.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

As a follow-up, AK Anthony, then Defence Minister, ordered a probe into the matter. The CBI registered a case against the former IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) SP Tyagi and 12 others, including his cousins and European middlemen, in March 2013. ACM Tyagi who commanded the IAF between 2004 and 2007 was accused by investigators in Italy and India of helping AgustaWestland win the helicopter contract by tailoring specifications at the instance of his cousins.

The specific allegations accused ACM Tyagi of reducing the required flying ceiling of the helicopters from 6,000 m to 4,500 m which helped AgustaWestland qualify. ACM Tyagi claimed that the change of specifications was a collective decision involving many departments. As per reports, the Enforcement Directorate alleges that payments were made through Tunisia-registered companies controlled by Switzerland-based intermediaries Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa and transferred to accounts in India and Mauritius.

In September 2014, ED arrested Gautam Khaitan on allegations of kickbacks in the 3,600 crore deal. However, in October 2014, an Italian lower court acquitted Orsi and former AgustaWestland chairman Spagnolini. Then in April 2016, a Milan Court of Appeals sentenced Orsi to four and half years and Spagnolini to four years in jail on charges of false accounting and bribing Indian officials including Tyagi. Earlier, in April 2016, Christian James Michel, the middleman in the deal had said he is willing to face Indian authorities for investigation, also writing a letter to the effect to PM Modi. Reasons why Michel had offered at this stage to cooperate are not known but he reportedly has links with the Gandhi family; so he could genuinely want to cooperate or try and lead the investigators up the gum tree.

When in May 2016 the AgustaWestland scam surfaced in media and Parliament rocked, it appeared the culprits, including high and mighty politicos and babus, would land up pronto in Tihar. But then things appeared to have cooled off. Now both the charge sheet against Dyanidhi Maran and Co and arrests in connection with the AgustaWestland scam are being attributed to Rakesh Asthana, recently appointed as the interim CBI chief. That intelligence agencies are not free from corruption and submit to diktats of political masters is quite well known.

One example of this was when the erstwhile UPA government even managed to pit the IB against the CBI for obvious political gain. But in the instant case of AgustaWestland, three things are relevant: first, over the past few months while ACM Tyagi and his Vice Chief were being questioned, no bureaucrat was summoned by CBI or ED; second, the CBI team that travelled to Italy did not probe Haschke for the jotting in his diary specifically naming the Defence Secretary, Joint Secretary (Air), AFA, DG Acquisition, CVC besides others — apparent beneficiaries? Instead, the CBI team visiting Italy during the UPA regime focused only on the role of IAF officers and some others, and; third, earlier this year, an Italian court had also exonerated ACM Tyagi of all charges.

There have been numerous articles and indications over the months that role of Shashi Kant Sharma, who was appointed CAG under exceptional circumstances by UPA, should logically be central to the ongoing AgustaWestland probe but there is no move yet to question him. Sharma, considered indispensable by Congress in MoD, has had the dubious distinction of being: DG Acquisition in MoD during signing the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal; Defence Secretary during closure of Army’s Technical Support Division through a sham board and during fake rumour of army coup; as CAG ignored SC order to appear in court “personally” for Contempt of Court for not executing SC orders on Rank Pay when Defence Secretary.

In the VVIP chopper scam, lowering of the QR was arbitrarily by ACM Tyagi, whether on suggested by his cousins or without, is illogical. To think that ‘any’ defence scam can occur without the involvement of the Defence Secretary and the DG Acquisition in MoD is downright stupid. A veteran ambassador, originally IAS, says when posted to MoD his first brief was to forget all else, just concentrate on what procurements are in pipeline and how much money could be made.

Most importantly, mystery remains who conducted trials abroad on representative helicopters and was BV Wanchoo, then Director SPG, on board during trials? Why did Wanchoo immediately step down as Governor of Goa when he was questioned in this regard? Was he protecting his political masters? MoD has reportedly asked CBI and ED to hasten the probe but it is to be seen if all involved would be interrogated and prosecuted guilty.

Scams in India have a way to be buried or go astray. Not only should the jottings of Haschke with regard to the AgustaWestland scam be probed, in the Purulia drop, Kim Davy (real name Niels Christian Nielsen) claimed it was Congress conspiracy in conjunction RAW and MI5 to overthrow the communist government in West Bengal. Are we really to believe that the probe was right in concluding that the Purulia drop was meant for a defunct organisation like Anand Margis? For that matter shouldn’t the Eurocopter Scam be probed; what bribes were taken, what part returned when the deal was called off, and what retained by whom? Justice in all cases including in AgustaWestland should be complete, not merely meted out to scapegoats.

The author is veteran Lieutenant General of Indian Army

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 12:21 IST

Samba attack: Focused research is necessary for detection of underground infiltration

Pump a rat with narcotics from both ends and see how it burrows through the mud like a mole, rabbit-eared bandicoot bilby, or an inebriated chipmunk. It is no surprise that the three terrorists who were killed near Chamliyal on 29 November carrying AK-47s, 8mm pistol, 20 grenades, GPS set, chained IED, explosives and food items, had according to DG BSF KK Sharma, ‘probably’ crawled through an 80 metre-long cross-border tunnel that was detected by the BSF along the International Border (IB) the next day — on 30 November.

Sharma said there might more tunnels and the matter would be raised with Pakistan. He also said there is no technology to trace tunnels easily and that the BSF is in touch with several countries, including Israel, and institutions like IIT-Delhi to look for solutions.

Speaking to the media, Sharma made the following points: The three terrorists killed in Samba, Jammu on Tuesday (November 29) might have crawled through an 80 metre-long tunnel under farmlands to cross the IB. After the operation in Samba at the Chamliyal border outpost, no breach of the border fence was found; on Wednesday (30 November) morning, a small 2×2 metre tunnel was found in a field where farming is done and the soil is soft; the tunnel is about 75-80 metres from the IB and about 35-40 metre from the fence. By the end of 2017, the BSF will have a patrol-less, multi-layered smart fence along its borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh as 20 big global firms are undertaking a technical evaluation for the same.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

It will be prudent to examine the following in the above context: One, taking up the issue with Pakistan is routine procedure but amounts to asking a confounded terrorist if he believes in violence; two, breaching the border isn’t simply cutting through the border fence – breach also implies getting across via the underground tunnel. In this instance, the IB was very much breached; three, this is not the first time that Pakistan has infiltrated terrorists through tunnels – there have been such occurrences in the past, and; four, a “patrol-less smart fence” is Utopian considering that the opening of this tunnel was 75-80 metres on our side of the IB.

Patrolling can’t be just along the fence especially when infiltration at times is assisted from the Indian side, even if for smuggling narcotics. Besides, traitors can always orchestrate ‘temporary technical failure’ of particular section of the smart fence. So, there can’t be any shortcut to patrolling. Smart fence is only a more powerful force multiplier.

Tunneling for operations, terrorism, smuggling is a global phenomenon. North Korea is estimated to have dug some 103 tunnels under the heavily guarded and well-fenced demilitarised military zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea. Two have been discovered and opened for public viewing. These are large enough to push a brigade-sized force across in one hour with small vehicles. These were discovered by chance when a farmer observed smoke coming out of the ground. Properly fortified and lighted, these tunnels are meant for military offensive by North Korea. Israel suffers similar menace of multiple tunnels made by Hamas from the direction of the Gaza Strip. These are for terror attacks and to escalate conflict, but if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) enter Gaza, they would encounter a network of tunnels, which implies the problem of first locating individual tunnel and then destroying it. So Gaza Strip has both offensive and defensive tunnels.

After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas seized control in 2007, the tunnels became a weapon that Hamas could deploy at will. The tunnel system branches beneath many Gazan towns and cities, running some dozens of kilometres within the Gaza Strip. They are used for hiding weapons and ammunition, facilitating communication, plus concealing and deploying militants, rocket teams and mobile anti-tank missile teams, making detection from air difficult. Hamas used cross-border tunnels to capture Gilad Shalit in 2006 and many times during the 2014 conflict. In July 2014, it was Hamas’ use of a tunnel near Sufa that spurred Benjamin Netanyahu to launch a ground operation in Gaza. During 2014, the IDF went in to neutralise 32 of these tunnels, 14 of which crossed into Israel. The IDF estimates Hamas spent around $30-$90 million, using 600,000 tons of concrete to build 36 dozen tunnels, some individually costing $3 million to construct.

Many tunnels dug from the Pakistani side have been discovered in India in recent years for smuggling and terrorism, including targeting urban areas. These include: March 2016, 10 feet underground tunnel, 3×4 feet diameter, 30 metre inside India in RS Pura sector to target Jammu. The tunnel was 200-300 metre inside Pakistan; 2014, 50 metre tunnel discovered near Pallanwala in Jammu sector, 10 feet underground, 3×4 feet diameter; 2014, 23 metre tunnel discovered in Chillyari in Samba district; 2012, 400 metre long and 20 feet deep tunnel with ventilation discovered near Pathankot; 2012, 540 metre long tunnel found dug into the Indian side cutting through Pakistan from the zero line. In 2009, a tunnel was found near Chakkla post along the LoC when it caved in due to heavy rains; 2008, tunnel found in Rajasthan’s Barmer sector probably meant for smuggling; March 2001, tunnel found in Gurdaspur area running 135 metre into India.

In Pakistan’s case, it is not the terrorist-rodents that are nurtured by the military, but also is assisted by godmother China and China’s second protégé – North Korea. Pakistan-North Korea nuclear nexus is well-known and goes as far back as the mid 1990s, North Korean technicians and engineers were developing missile silos in Pakistan. China is presently developing some 22 tunnels in Gilgit-Baltistan where the locals are denied entry. Some of these obviously would house strategic weapons. With China’s expertise in tunneling including the Metok tunnel, China may well be assisting Pakistan in establishing a tunnel network in PoK to surprise Indian forces against any offensive in case of conflict. Tunnels also have strategic significance if a weapon of mass disturbance (if not destruction) can be smuggled through it. The fact that some of the tunnels discovered could not have been dug without machinery and are proximate to Pakistani posts along the IB/LoC prove they are part of the offensive plan of the Pakistani military at sub-conventional level. We must also acknowledge that more our border fence is strengthened, making it smart, more would be the Pakistani effort towards tunneling.

In August 2014, the IDF announced they had successfully tested a system that could be used to detect tunnels, using combination of sensors and special transmitters to locate underground tunnels. The IDF expects development to cost up to NIS 1.5 billion. However, Amir Oren, senior correspondent with Haaretz wrote on 26 April, 2016, “In another two years, perhaps Israel will have perfected its response to the tunnels”. This is one area that must become priority in India-Israel cooperation, in addition to research within India. Tunneling affects our security and should not be treated as the baby of the BSF alone. The MoD should be looking at this seriously including developing a concept for our armed forces – both defensive and pro-active. In addition, we must have 24×7 satellite surveillance of our borders. Where Isro is helping chart the underground course of Saraswati river below the Thar desert, perhaps focused research could lead to detecting underground infiltration.

(The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army.)

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 14:44 IST

By putting onus of India-Pakistan talks on New Delhi, Abdul Basit is at his slimy best

Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India at New Delhi showed a glimpse of classic chutzpah by announcing that the onus for any bilateral engagement on sidelines of the forthcoming Heart of Asia conference at Amritsar is on India. Well-timed, his statement comes right before the arrival of Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister Sartaj Aziz on 4 December to participate in the event.

Basit’s logic behind the ‘onus being on India’ is because India is the host nation for the Heart of Asia conference. But Basit would be at pains to explain which international regulation or norm binds the host nation to take the initiative to propose bilateral dialogue. Why isn’t Pakistan asking for such dialogue at Amritsar? The media describing Basit’s announcement as having put the ‘ball in India’s court for any bilateral engagement’ is certainly way off the mark.

The fact remains that nether Aziz nor Basit, or for that matter Pakistan, has the guts to ask India for opening up the stalled India-Pakistan dialogue not only because of Pakistan’s heightening proxy war on India, but also through demonstrative future plans with respect to India. That is why Aziz is slipping into Amritsar directly for the Heart of Asia conference and slinking back immediately after the event. There is no way he could have requested for a bilateral dialogue and planned to make it more meaningful with a stopover at New Delhi. Basit’s statement hopes to provide ‘Dutch courage’ to Aziz as he represents a country notorious for being the epicentre of terrorism.

File image of Abdul Basit. CNN-News18

File image of Abdul Basit. CNN-News18

There is clear evidence of Pakistan’s complicity in the beheading of an Indian Army soldier in the Machil sector of Jammu and Kashmir recently; the handiwork of a Pakistan Army-backed BAT (border action team) equipped with grenades sporting Pakistani markings as well as night sights and radio sets with US markings, as the search of the area found. It is a different issue that after the mutilation of our soldier’s body, the heavy retribution extracted by the Indian Army through a fire assault in PoK forced the DGMO of Pakistan to call up his Indian counterpart for ‘unscheduled talks’, after which there has been lull in ceasefire violations by both countries after over a month of heavy exchanges.

The ceasefire along the LoC has been violated by Pakistan hundreds of times since it was agreed to by both nations in 2003. Its sanctity was anyway irrelevant with Pakistan not only breaching it time and again through artillery and mortar fire but also providing cross-border covering fire for every infiltration — which happens on an average at least once a week. Of late, Pakistan has also been violating the International Border in addition to the LoC, plus deliberately targeting civilian villages. What the Pakistani Army did not expect was the surgical strikes by Indian Special Forces into PoK, following the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack at the army base at Uri, and although Pakistan (Nawaz Sharif and Raheel Sharif included) maintained that the said surgical strikes had not taken place, a telephonic intercept of the superintendent of police of Mirpur in PoK confirmed the casualties that the surgical strikes had inflicted. More recently, Pakistan suffered heavy casualties because of Indian fire assaults in response to the Pakistan army’s BAT action that saw an Indian soldier mutilated.

The ceasefire violations by Pakistan may have somewhat reduced (temporary break?) but the terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir continue to occur on a daily basis — the directions for which come from the Pakistan military and its proxies including the covert arm of the Inter-Services Intelligence. At the time of writing, encounters between terrorists and security forces are taking place in the Nagrota and Samba areas of Jammu and Kashmir. So, the Pakistani military is in no mood to change its policy of inflicting ‘thousand cuts’ on India, irrespective of Pakistan’s army chief having been changed. By avoiding ceasefire violations but increasing the terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan is avoiding casualties on its side of the LoC, yet stepping up attacks on Indian security forces. This, despite Lieutenant-General DS Hooda — Northern Army commander — categorically stating that de-escalation depends on Pakistan checking terrorism against India, thereby implying we will continue to hit back across the LoC when deemed necessary.

Basit has said that Pakistan wants dialogue along the lines of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue (CBD) that the two countries announced when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Islamabad in December 2015; dialogue on all outstanding issues, including terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir. But Basit fails to acknowledge that much water has flowed under the bridge since then, because of which India had conveyed to Pakistan that any bilateral dialogue would have to be preceded by Pakistan stopping terrorism against India. Should Basit, Aziz and co use a wee bit of intelligence, what India has said does not merely mean a temporary halt in terror attacks but it also means that Islamabad must take effective action against the anti-India terrorist groups in PoK and Pakistan, which in effect are patronized by the Pakistani military.

A cross-section in India may feel that Basit’s above statements are a change of heart or perhaps he is getting ‘de-radicalised’. Nothing could actually be farther from the truth. Meeting and briefing Hurriyat separatists along with his ISI-trained diplomats holed up in the Pakistani High Commission, Basit has been playing a major role in supporting and upping terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. If he is acting the peace parody before the arrival of Aziz in Amritsar, he is merely playing up Pakistan’s policy of TPAW (Talk Peace, Act War). In doing so, he is also playing up to Pakistan’s military constituency, particularly to Qamar Javed Bajwa, the new Pakistani army chief, lest he be ordered to get back home. Without doubt, Basit will be hoping to replace Aziz one day as the de facto foreign minister of Pakistan one day, if not the foreign minister proper.

There is plenty of speculation about what would be Pakistan’s India policy with Bajwa now holding the country’s reins from the background. The indications are already on ground through the setting up of a high-level committee in Pakistan to formulate ‘a doable and sustainable’ policy to highlight the Kashmir issue globally. This committee was obviously formed not only in consultation with the Pakistani military but perhaps on behest of the latter. More significantly, it will be ‘controlled’ and directed by the military with members as senior officials from ministries of defence, interior and information, the military operations directorate, ISI and Intelligence Bureau, but none from the foreign ministry. With the Kashmir obsession of the Pakistani military, it is unlikely that Raheel Sharif did not discuss formation of such a committee with the military hierarchy, which included Bajwa. So, it may be naïve to think about any change of heart with Bajwa assuming command.

Dawn described the real purpose of the above committee as a measure for “reaching out to Indians who are opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘extremist policies’.” So, we should expect ISI’s love blooming with the type of politician who pleaded to Pakistani news channel to help dethrone Modi. Interestingly this politician is known at home as the ‘pole tortoise’; doesn’t know how he climbed up, doesn’t know what to do atop, and doesn’t know how to get down. Pakistan will not only compensate these types for whatever they lost because of demonetisation, and cater for their next seven generations, but perhaps also confer them with the Nishaan-e-Pakistan, Pakistan’s highest civilian award.

Therefore, the only change in Pakistan’s policy towards India may perhaps be more non-kinetic measures added to whatever it is presently doing, to tray and destabilise India as much as possible. The five government mints in Pakistan are probably working round the clock already for faking the new Indian currency.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 13:45 IST

Will demonetisation lead to a hi-tech election clash? We’ll have to wait and see

Given the commotion within and outside Parliament (some sullen, some outrageous statements, threats and boasts), demonetisation sure has raised considerable political heat. Black money stashes of political parties apparently suffered hits across the board in varying measures; even some chief ministers — including prospective ones — are struggling to hide their frustration, while others are distributing free laptops publicly.

Then you have this spent fellow cackling about the PoK, even though an inquiry into ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits could have nailed him good and proper. There is a rumour that just after 2018, new currency notes of Rs 2,000 denomination may also be withdrawn. Surely, this will hit black money stashes for the 2019 General Election, but given the hint, trust the Indian system of jugaad for alternatives. Besides, foreign donations to political parties have been legalised, so why fret?

How much black money demonetisation will scrap and to what extent it can be regenerated will depend on multiple factors, which the government will have examined, but given the fixation with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, faking new currency notes should not take Pakistan too long. Interestingly, while the government recovered X amount of money from the voluntary income disclosure scheme (IDS) that ended in September 2016, Indonesia reportedly recovered 100 times this amount with a smaller penalty imposed on disclosed amounts.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Economists agree that black money can’t be stamped out completely. The NN Vohra Committee, constituted vide MHA Order No S/7937/SS(ISP)/93 dated 9 July, 1993, had significantly revealed the criminalisation of politics and the nexus between government functionaries and mafias; a major conclusion being that “any leakage whatsoever about the linkages of crime syndicates and senior government functionaries or political leaders in the states or at the Centre could have a destabilising effect on the functioning of the government”.

When the Vohra Committee said that money power is used to develop a network of muscle-power which is also used by the politicians during elections, the reference was not to any particular political party. Corruption obviously is across the board. We may say that a majority of scams occurred between 2004 and 2014, but why are the culprits walking free, some even in Parliament? That’s why a scam like the Tatra Truck Scam is frozen because it ran through many governments. The Vohra Committee also spoke of “pressures exerted whenever corrupt and undesirable officers are shifted from sensitive assignments”, but we have scamsters deserving prosecution nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Live and let live may be a global norm but if the big fish remain untouched, the war against corruption and black money will remain incomplete.

Demonetisation was very much needed albeit the collateral damage due to lack of adequate logistical management, certainly could have been reduced with better planning. Digital India, going cashless and optimal digitisation has much potential in curbing black money and transforming the economy in the long run, even as there is the fear of losing your money with worldwide incidents of hard-earned savings wiped out partially or in full through cyber crimes by individuals and syndicates. India too has had its share of this, some reported, some not.

But the reason for political temperatures going through the roof with demonetisation is the forthcoming slew of elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in 2017 — the exact dates for which are to be announced in January. So the gloves are off. John Lyly said “All is fair in love and war” in his novel Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit in 1579, but politics has preceded love and war since then. And if technology has empowered one and all including non-state actors, it has done so for political parties too. Already, the demonetisation digital war on social media is growing by the day with dedicated teams of political parties trying to outdo their opponents.

But first, considering the considerable cyber prowess of our adversaries, are we building adequate safeguards in our Digital India programs?

Given the stated financial outlays, the answer is no, as it appeared in discussions on the sidelines of an international cyber-security conference. One question being debated was that given our fixation of caste, creed and reservations (the latter has been prolonged by decades in contradiction of what Dr BR Ambedkar wanted), what havoc will it cause if demographic and individual statistics at the state and Centre levels are hacked and ‘changed’?

The manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched demonetisation can best be described as a ‘revolution’, not ‘evolution’, and a revolution always causes much turbulence which is absent in the case of evolution. At the same time, demonetisation would also have caused discomfort to some from his own political party, of which he would be acutely aware. It is no secret that when he disbanded the Planning Commission (functioning under the UPA-I and UPA-II) that was pocketing 10 percent of whatever money was sanctioned to states, plenty eyebrows went up — why now when it is our turn?

So let us see dispassionately examine who will want Modi to win a second tenure as Prime Minister of India in 2019:

Pakistan and China? Certainly not
Opposition parties? Most definitely not
Coalition partners? Some may, some won’t
His own party? Some may not, no matter the numbers.

File image of Narendra Modi. AP

File image of Narendra Modi. AP

In addition, there will be other internal and external forces inimical to India including those who simply don’t want India to grow beyond a point. China, who wants India boxed in within South Asia, has already referred to Modi’s demonetisation drive as a “gamble”. The simple inference therefore is that multiple methods will be employed by political parties in conjunction their local and foreign benefactor; financial muscle, perception-building and optimising technology etc, but what else?

In a civil appeal No 9093 of 2013 (Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 13735 of 2012), Dr Subramanian Swamy, the appellant contended that the present system of electronic voting machines (EVMs) did not meet all international standards and although ECI maintains EVMs cannot be tampered with, EVMs like all electronic equipments, are open to hacking. The requirement of a printout apprising the voter of his or her vote was rightly registered, and was to be deposited in a box for use by ECI in case of dispute.

According to the counsel for ECI, apprehension that EVMs could be tampered with were baseless and ECI was exploring possibility of incorporating viable Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system in EVMs to make elections more transparent. The court ruled that the VVPAT is indispensable for free and fair elections and must be introduced in a phased manner. The VVPAT is a printer-like machine that is attached to individual EVMs that allows voters to verify that their vote has been cast correctly.

Whether the VVPAT has been installed in all EVMs is not known. But VVPAT is a separate issue, not very relevant to cyber crime. Symantec Security Response has already demonstrated that EVMs can be hacked by devices that are easy to acquire and cost no more than $16 (~Rs 1,100). Such hacking can be undertaken before the voting or ‘after’ the voting. While the Hillary Clinton camp accuses Russia of tampering with the recent US Presidential Election, trust our ECI to keep insisting our EVMs are ‘different’ and tamper proof. But guess what professional hackers in India including those who have worked for government have to say about our EVMs?

One, they are highly rudimentary in terms of cyber safety; two, they can be hacked 100 percent and three, they ‘have been tampered with’ on some occasions in the past.

The above indicates that mass-scale rigging is possible in elections by optimising technology. The government will do well to examine the above issues. Much will be at stake during elections in the six states next year, with a direct bearing on the 2019 General Election.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 12:52 IST

Demonetisation: Drive must have hit terrorism hard but we shouldn’t ignore roots of corruption

The demonetisation drive has hit terrorist organisations with large money caches lying waste, even though some may be laundered white money through the illegal money exchange racket, some glimpses of which are on electronic media. But there would plenty frustration, which may be vented through sabotage and terrorist acts. So, more violence should be expected. It would also be good if capacity building in local police is examined to provide succor during disasters like what has happened to the Patna-Indore train. In the instant case, visuals of local police standing around awaiting arrival of NDRF teams and the Army is not reassuring. This could well be part of training and equipping for civil defence-cum-disaster relief incorporating the public and NGOs. Delhi police is ready with its team of ‘plain clothes officers’ consisting farmers, homemakers, self-employed individuals, jhuggi dwellers, social workers, retired officials, students, advocates and army veterans (total 264 people including 49 women) – enrolled under the ‘police mitra’ scheme for prevention of crime, maintenance of law and order, and communal harmony. Good initiative, but why not pan-India when we needed the ‘billion-eyes-on-the-ground’ concept a decade back, being sixth on the global terrorist index?

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Demonetisation has brought relative peace to Jammu and Kashmir, for whatever period of time, because the separatists are unable to pay daily stone-pelting wages to their ‘street gangs’. Yet the number of schools burnt or ransacked keep going up – 34th school targeted yesterday over past 100 days, even as ceasefire violations by Pakistan continue unabated. The police in Jammu and Kashmir have recovered not only fake Rs 100 notes but also machines owned by local criminal gangs for printing fake currency. But if Rs 100 notes too are being faked, then these could also be used for stone pelting, even if the number of ‘employees’ reduces. Besides, payments received via hawala are generally never traced, as per police officials. Significantly, production of fake Indian currency in Pakistan is in government mints. No matter which paper or ink is used in the new Re 2000 and 500 notes, these being faked by Pakistan at a future date can hardly be ruled out. Chinese assistance to Pakistan in faking our new currency notes can also be taken for granted, being within ambit of the Chinese concept of ‘unrestricted warfare’. As for the Maoists, they will regain wealth though extortion, looting and poppy cultivation in due course of time.

NIA reports of 2013 revealed that Kashmiri terrorist groups had received US$ 100 million for terror operations in past two years, over the past 10 years, some Rs 600 crores were diverted to J&K terrorism from within India, Rs 98 crores were diverted in one single year from the Jammu and Kashmir Affectees Fund, and that the Jammu and Kashmir Affectees Relief Trust (JKART) has been facilitating Pakistani infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, goods sent through trucks to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) were intentionally overpriced two-three times in the vouchers and additional money received was diverted for terrorist operations. It is unthinkable that Jammu and Kashmir politicians did not get share from the pie. Under the NIA Act, the NIA can take over any case related to terror suo motu except in Jammu and Kashmir where it needs the state government’s permission before it can start any investigation. Last year, Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra had suggested that the Ranbir Penal Code be brought under the NIA Act, but whether this has been implemented is not known. So, terrorist funding in Jammu and Kashmir apparently is easier than balance India, even though transactions of some Rs 38 crores from 17 accounts in four banks of South Kashmir were under NIA scanner in August this year for suspected terror links.

Demonetisation has hit political parties too, though the general belief is that big fish will remain untouched beyond some financial penalties, not targeting them personally through early prosecution and exemplary message to the rank and file. Then, it is not only the low-level politicians who are dependent on Maoists and radical support but there are also politicians of various hues that have links with inimical organisations. According to veteran RAW officers, politicians of various hues are under ISI blackmail having used hawala which is handled by ‘D’ company – franchisee of ISI. Some actions by these individuals have been obvious but they continue to flourish because of political clout and vote bank politics. As in the case of terrorist organisations, demonetisation having hit black money stocks of political parties too may result in venting anger through violence. India has been witness to criminalisation of politics, as also the perpetrators getting away completely or lightly.

Finally is the question of foreign funding of political parties that have been ‘legalised’, which cannot be without adverse fallouts, coming with a price tag. What portion of this comes from our adversaries via third party is also difficult to establish. Such funding would aim for a certain type of government in India, depending on the individual / group / national interests of those providing the finances. Some may want a strong India, but most may not. When the string of IEDs blew up at the pre-general election rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Patna (IED under the dais he was speaking from luckily did not fire), can you really pinpoint who wanted him assassinated – Maoists, radicals, another political party or those furnishing election funds from abroad? For that matter, a cross-section is wondering whether the chaotic manner in which the demonetisation scheme is being executed (no matter perception building through media) is by design to show the prime minister in poor light.

The bottom-line is that while euphoria over terrorist funding being hit by demonetisation is justified, we need to go into the roots within the country – for black money, terrorist funding and endemic corruption. Modi has the best of intentions but the system needs a major ‘top-down’ overhaul, not to forget we have the worst bureaucracy in Asia past 20 years. When the equivalent of Lok Ayukta was established in Singapore (then high on corruption), overnight 150 politicians, officials and mafia dons were jailed. Can there be similar action in India?

The author is veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 16:29 IST

India should speed up commitments in Chabahar port as China renews interest

During his recent visit to Japan, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe welcomed the prospects of cooperation between the two countries for promoting peace and prosperity in South Asia and neighbouring region such as Iran and Afghanistan.

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani (R), Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (L) and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (C). Getty Images  (Photo by Pool / Iran Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani (R), Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (L) and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (C). Getty Images  (Photo by Pool / Iran Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani (R), Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (L) and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (C). Getty Images
(Photo by Pool / Iran Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

This, as agreed upon by both the countries, would be done through bilateral and trilateral cooperation, inter-alia, in the development of infrastructure and connectivity for Chabahar, the port in southeastern Iran, directing their officials to expeditiously work out details for such a cooperation.

The trilateral engagement between India, Iran and Afghanistan during the visit of PM Modi’s visit to Iran in May 2016 was historic, expanding avenues of trade for India with Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Russia through the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC). Chabahar is Iran’s only oceanic port and consists of two separate ports named ‘Shahid Kalantari’ and ‘Shahid Beheshti’, each of which has five berths – overall 10 berths. India and Iran first agreed upon plans to further develop ‘Shahid Beheshti’ port in 2003, but India was deterred by sanctions against Iran. Under the Indo-Iranian agreement of May 2016, India would refurbish one of the berths at ‘Shahid Beheshti’, and reconstruct a 600-meter long container handling facility at the port. The bilateral agreement between India and Iran gives India the right to develop two berths of the Chabahar port as agreed in 2015, allowing them to be operated for 10 years by India Ports Global, which is a joint venture between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust, in partnership with Iran’s Aria Banader.

Along with the development of Chahabar port, India is also to construct a railway line linking Chahabar with Zahedan on the Iran-Afghanistan border, which beyond Zahedan will be linked to the Iranian Railway running west and then north close to the Iran-Afghanistan border, avoiding the volatile Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

India’s development of Chabahar will be at a cost of $85 million over the course of 18 months. Upon completion of upgrade works as agreed to in May 2016, Chabahar’s capacity will be increased to 8 million tonnes from the current 2.5 million tonnes capacity. India’s investment is supplemented with a $150 million credit line to Iran through Exim Bank of India. India has also offered to supply $400 million worth of steel towards the construction of the rail link Chabahar-Zahedan.

Chabahar port and the INSTC give India the strategic access for trade with Afghanistan and Eurasia, faced with denial of the land route by Pakistan. Recent operationalising of Gwadar port, as also the CPEC, makes this even more significant. Gwadar port has been leased for operations to a Chinese company (read China) for 49 years. In December 2011, regional Pakistani newspapers reported Chinese military taking over Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan considering leasing Gilgit-Baltistan to China for 50 years. In all probability, this would have happened secretly, what with Chinese digging 22 tunnels in this area capable of housing strategic weapons.

Though China wants India to join CPEC, it gives advantage India without opening the land access to Afghanistan. Conversely, such a move would raise the enormous India-China bilateral trade balance even more in China’s favour. Recent reservations shown by Pakistani senators against India joining CPEC could well be ruse to lure India joining the CPEC, thereby legitimising Chinese presence and projects in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is Indian territory.

It is not just blockading India’s NSG membership, protecting Masood Azhar at UN or denying visa to India’s badminton team manager on grounds he hails from Arunachal Pradesh, the Chinese stance indicates constraining India at every opportunity. India may feel there is enough space for both India and China to grow economically but China doesn’t feel that way at all, as demonstrated time and again by her. Iran’s recent refusal to accept the proposal by ONGC Videsh to develop Iran’s Farzad-B oilfield at a cost of $10 billion doesn’t bode well. This agreement was to be signed in October 2016. The 12.8 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves named Farzad-B was discovered by a consortium of OVL, Oil India Ltd and Indian Oil Corporation in 2008. Though India is still hopeful of pulling off the deal by February 2017, Iran’s action may have been influenced by China.

In 2011, Beijing and Tehran signed a deal giving China exclusive rights to multiple several Iranian oil and gas fields through 2024, including rights to build necessary infrastructures. In return, China promised to treat any foreign attack against these regions as attacks against its own sovereign territory, and defend them as such. China needs no prior permission from the Iranian government to maintain and increase its military presence in Iran and will control the movement of Iranians in and out of these territories. According to Green Experts of Iran, this agreement was the basis for PLA’s General Zhang Zhaozhong stating, “China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third World War.” China and Iran aim to increase bilateral trade to $600 billion within the next decade, even though economists feel it is not attainable.

Prior to the Indo-Iranian agreement on Chabahar, Iran had offered the same project to China and Pakistan also in addition to India, with China, Pakistan not responding. But lately Iranians at international forums have been conveying: India agreed to develop Chabahar in 2003 but despite the US being amenable to India doing so, India remained complacent. There are no plans to link Chabahar and Gwadar by road or rail, and China and Pakistan are now evincing interest in developing Chabahar. The implication of this should be very clear. There may be multiple reasons why India refrained from developing Chabahar after agreeing to do so in 2003, but it did emerge in 2015 that there were problems in clearing backlog payments for imported Iranian oil even through European banks because of the sanctions.

The US House of Representatives has now voted to renew the Iran Sanctions Act for an additional 10 years. The act is scheduled to expire by year end, barring its renewal. As of now, there is no word on when the US Senate intends to vote on the extension. However, Iran maintains that even non-nuclear sanctions, particularly the prohibition on Iranian access to the American financial system and use of the dollar discourage foreign companies from investing in Iran, subverts the economic rewards it expected from the nuclear agreement. When India physically commenced developing Chabahar and how much has been completed is not known, but there is clearly need for speed, in addition to quality.

Early leveraging the Indo-Japanese partnership into the project and ironing out problems of fiscal investment, if any, on account of continuing sanctions (of whatever form) is the need of the hour. Considering that the development work by India was to be completed in 18 months, we should actually aim to deliver it by September 2017.

The author is veteran Lieutenant General of the Indian Army.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 15:54 IST

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: ‘Highway of Terror’ turns operational at last

On 13 November, the under-development China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) became operational in the sense that the first convoy of trucks laden with Chinese goods traversing the CPEC’s 3,000-kilometre journey from Kashgar in China arrived at Gwadar and was further seen off in a Chinese ship from Gwadar to West Asia and Africa. Pakistan’s top civilian and military leaders were reportedly present at Gwadar to see off the Chinese ship.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated that Pakistan will provide the best possible security to foreign investors to enable them to use Gwadar for international trade. As per current plans, the CPEC is to absorb $46 billion of Chinese investment — $11 billion from the Chinese government and the remaining $35 billion from private companies in China. Pakistan expects its GDP to rise because of the CPEC and for 700,000 jobs to be created for Pakistanis.

File image of Pakistan's Gwadar Port. AFP

File image of Pakistan’s Gwadar Port. AFP

There is no denying that Chinese infrastructure development is very quick, whether in terms of the railway line to Lhasa and to Hairatan on the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan border (inaugurated on 7 September), the One-Belt-One-Road system, communications in Tibet, multiple gas and oil pipelines or the CPEC itself. Gwadar Port has been developed in record time by a Chinese company with China bearing the complete cost for its development; gratis to Pakistan. The road link from Karachi to Gwadar too was developed speedily. No Pakistani can enter Gwadar Port (guarded by the PLA) without a valid ID card. Pakistan is responsible for the security of the CPEC with all costs to be borne by Islamabad. The country has in fact has raised additional forces specifically to guard the CPEC, with a major portion of this special security force deployed in Balochistan.

There was commotion in Pakistan when then minister of Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan announced in 2011 that the US had been asked to vacate the Shamsi airbase even though the US had already ceased all operations from Shamsi three months earlier, after the Raymond Davis affair. Calls of national pride getting hurt were raised in letting a foreign power use Pakistani soil. But it finally emerged that Shamsi was built by Arab sheikhs for falcon-hunting in the early 1990s but had been occupied by the CIA since at least 2004, when Google Earth images showed Predator drones parked on the runway.

Confirmation came during the 13 May, 2011 joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament (held in camera) that the Shamsi airbase was under the purview of the UAE and not under the control of the Pakistani Air Force. Obviously, the civil-military hierarchy received hefty sums for handing over Shamsi to the UAE, as would have Nawaz and Raheel Sharif for bartering Pakistan’s sovereignty to China in exchange for Gwadar and the CPEC. Interestingly, Nawaz was also Prime Minister of Pakistan in the early 1990s.

According to analysts, economically it is 11 times cheaper to transport the same goods by sea even to and from China than through the CPEC, although the sea journey is longer. Of course, the CPEC is the alternative to China’s Malacca Dilemma should the Straits of Malacca be choked. The question here is whether the Malacca Dilemma is created by China on purpose and hyped for consumption by the Chinese people? If China’s intentions are ‘peaceful’ as bandied about perpetually and the world is for freedom of navigation and global commons, under what circumstances would the Straits of Malacca, and even Sunda Straits, be blocked for Chinese commercial ships and its navy, and for what duration?

Besides, how the blocking of these straits, especially the Straits of Malacca will adversely impact international trade of most countries of the world is another issue.

A closer examination would indicate that such an eventuality is highly unlikely, even with the Indian Ocean veering towards becoming the centre of gravity for future conflict, given the lethality and reach of modern era weaponry.

Under cover of economic activity for “mutual benefit” and “good for the region”, what China will never admit is that the CPEC is China’s Strategic Highway to the Indian Ocean. The Chinese are masters at strategic deception: Talk peace, prepare for war and conceal true intentions. The CPEC became even more important when Myanmar denied China the use of its territory for a similar strategic purpose. China keeps harping for India to join the CPEC but on the question of land access for India to Afghanistan and Central Asia, Beijing responds that the CPEC is only a bilateral arrangement with Pakistan.

The obvious intention is to keep India restrained, plus if the CPEC is only a ‘bilateral’ arrangement then why the façade of asking India to join it? Clearly, Gwadar is a future Chinese ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) base, which together with the Pakistani naval bases of Karachi and Omari to which China has access, would challenge India at sea.

File image of Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. AP

File image of Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. AP

But what should also be of most concern is the Chinese history of creating ‘depth’ to whatever it considers vital in strategic terms. Immediately, on ousting the Kuomintang regime, Mao Tse Tung announced, “Tibet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and North East Frontier Agency are its fingers”. Tibet was annexed by China also because it comprises 26 percent of China’s land and is the country’s water tower. Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia were captured to provide a buffer to the mainland. China captured 38,000 square kilometres of Jammu and Kashmir to give adequate depth to its Western Highway.

Going by the same analogy, what would be the Chinese strategy for providing ‘depth’ to the CPEC running through Pakistan (from North to South), which itself is obsessed about strategic depth? Moreover, the CPEC is running through Gilgit-Baltistan that is afflicted with public dissatisfaction and shifting it West is not possible because of the highly volatile FATA region. But most of the CPEC can’t avoid Balochistan where insurgency simmers because of the Pakistani genocide.

Under the circumstances, the CPEC can become the target of terror attacks. So what better strategy to provide depth to the CPEC but through sub-conventional operations (read terror attacks)? And precisely this appears to have been operationalised. China has deep links with Taliban even the membership based in Qatar, while Pakistan has a hold on both Talibans (through the Haqqani Network chief Sirajuddin Haqqani). The Islamic State in Afghanistan-Pakistan is the creation of Pakistan, and most importantly, all Pakistani proxies are also Chinese proxies. That is why with the strategic-yet-covert lodgment of the PLA in PoK and Pakistan, terror attacks in Afghanistan and violence in Jammu and Kashmir (including ceasefire violations by Pakistan) have shot up exponentially.

The Pakistani objective of carving out more Afghan territory for strategic depth (implying influence at sub-conventional level) is in sync with China’s strategic designs. Pakistan’s growing hostility towards India suits China similarly. Repeated terror attacks in Balochistan aids Pakistani designs to subdue the Balochi population and eliminate as many non-Sunnis as possible.

Terror attacks against Balochis suit China very well too as it discourages Balochi insurgents from any feeble attempts to disrupt the CPEC which is guarded by the Pakistani Army.

On balance, the CPEC has by default or design become a “Highway of Terror” – more for exporting terror than being subjected to terror attacks.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 12:01 IST

Pakistan eyes Chinese J-20: It’s time for India to trot in fifth-generation fighter race

Pakistan has evinced interest in acquiring the export variant of China’s first fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). China recently showcased two of its advanced J-20 stealth fighters in a fly-over at an air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong province of China on 1 November 2016. This was the first, public show of the J-20 warplane which is regarded as a major breakthrough for China. The country otherwise mostly relies on Russian aircraft including advanced versions of Sukhois. The Pakistani Air Force also took part in the air show in Zhuhai flying its J-17 Thunder jets which are jointly manufactured by China. Pakistan reportedly is already in talks with China to buy the FC-31 – an export variant of the same aircraft. The FC-31 too was briefly flown in the 2014 Zhuhai air show.

China unveils its J-20 stealth fighter during an air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, 1 November  2016. ReutersChina unveils its J-20 stealth fighter during an air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, 1 November  2016. Reuters

China unveils its J-20 stealth fighter during an air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, 1 November 2016. Reuters

The Zhuhai air show was a weeklong affair and the J-20 flew for the weeklong show every day, taking off from an airfield in nearby Foshan. The J-20 is a long-range radar-evading fighter jet equipped with air-to-air missiles, resembling Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor. China has reportedly built six prototypes of this FGFA. China is also developing the J-31 which is supposed to sequel American F-35 Lightning II. A People’s Liberation Air Force (PLAF) official told the media that the J-20 was not being showcased on ground as public display as visitors could not be permitted to come close because of secrecy, stating, “J-20 contains many of China’s top technologies in stealth aircraft plus other military secrets that include the J-20’s body shape, the proportion of its wing and body and other secrets as aircraft experts can easily calculate its stealth parameters from its exterior.”

India is going in for the development of its own FGFA jointly with Russia. In February this year, India and Russia revived talks on the delayed FGFA project after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar approved the deal. The fifth-generation fighter jet will be on par with the capabilities of Russia’s PAK-FA T-50 aircraft, a fifth-generation fighter, but since the jet will be designed over the next few years, it is likely to exceed in some specifics, in that it may be more advanced than the present version of Russia’s PAK-FA T-50.

“The agreement has been completed on our end; we are ready to sign it. It is now down to the Indian side. There are some formalities to figure out, but I think it will be signed by the end of this year,” Sergi Chemezov, CEO of Russia’s Rostech State Corporation told The Economic Times. “The FGFA project will produce a state of the art fighter jet, and it will be the result of the work on Russia’s most modern technology done by both Russian and Indian engineers. As Fifth Generation, it means fifth generation speed, ballistics and military equipment, avionics and stealth capabilities among other qualities,” he said.

India and Russia have already inked military deals worth Rs 60,000 crore during the Brics summit held in Goa. Now, Russia is hoping to get another order on FGFA by end of the current year. Under the new offer, India will need to contribute $3.7 billion instead of $6 billion towards technological know-how and some three prototypes of the fighters. During the recent India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military and Technical Cooperation co-chaired by Parrikar and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu the FGFA project and upgrades of SU-31 aircraft in service with the IAF were discussed.

China’s J-20 had earlier made news when its picture covered under a tarpaulin at Daocheng Yading airport in Tibet appeared during September 2016. This raised speculations that this FGFA may be deployed on the India-China border. However, the China Military Online then stated, “it is said that J-20 will be put into service soon but the China-India border is apparently not the ideal place for its deployment”, adding, “In addition, the world’s highest airport there does not have a complete set of supporting facilities and such shortage will impede the function of J-20.” But then the aircraft parked there obviously had come for trials and necessary support and maintenance facilities at high altitude airbases in Tibet can be created concurrent to fielding of the J-20 albeit the China Military Online also commented, “If India is to deploy the BrahMos missile on the China-India border, then the Daocheng Yading airport will likely become its target.”

It is apparent that the FGFA race will be speeding up in the sub-continent over the next few years. The China-Pakistan nexus has shown exponential growth since the PLA has made its strategic lodgment in Gilgit-Baltistan under the pretext of developing hydel projects. This has been further reinforced through the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in which China is investing $46 billion; $11 billion by the Chinese government and balance $35 billion by private companies of China. The CPEC is actually the strategic highway of China for land access to the Indian Ocean that is emerging as the centre of gravity of future conflict. Gwadar is coming as a Chinese naval base under the pretext of a trade base or ‘Strategic Support Base’ as China would like to portray.

The IMF and economists have warned that the CPEC may be a debt trap for Pakistan as repayment obligations that come with this investment will be serious. But there should be no doubt that China will see it through because of her own strategic interests, especially given that the Pakistani military hierarchy has more or less acquiesced to let Pakistan become a satellite state of China. That is why China is developing Gwadar port and its infrastructure including airfield through Chinese companies on a gratis basis. Gwadar, together with Pakistani naval bases at Omari and Karachi would give China extended reach and dominance over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Purchase of export version of the Chinese J-20 may draw Pakistan more into the debt trap but then China can always extend soft long-term repayment plan, even lease some of these aircraft for long periods. At the same time, basing of these aircraft flown by PLAF is also very much possible under the pretext of training, exercises etc. India needs to accelerate its proposed FGFA development jointly with Russia.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant General of the Indian Army.

First Published On : Nov 12, 2016 21:46 IST

Narendra Modi’s Japan visit: Will Shinzo Abe take the next step for bilateral ties?

During the visit of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to India in December 2015, a joint statement titled ‘India and Japan Vision 2025: Special Strategic and Global Partnership Working Together for Peace and Prosperity of the Indo-Pacific Region and the World‘ was issued. This vision encompassed a deep, broad-based and action-oriented partnership, acknowledging congruence of political, economic and strategic interests and capability of responding to global and regional challenges.

Among the takeaways was the signing of an MoU for Japan’s High Speed Railways (HSR) technologies (the Shinkansen system) for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route. Trilateral dialogues between Japan, India and the US have been ongoing and the inaugural Japan-India-Australia trialogue has also taken place. These mechanisms could contribute to regional efforts to evolve an open, inclusive, stable and transparent economic, political and security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region.

File image of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. Reuters

File image of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. Reuters

Japanese defence minister Gen Nakatani visited India in July 2016 after the Malabar 2016 exercise held in the Western Pacific in which Indian, Japanese and American navies participated. A major preceding occurrence was ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the Philippines versus China case; ruling in favour of Manila, negating Beijing’s so-called historical claims in the South China Sea (SCS) and censuring China for her illegal activities in the SCS. Both Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Nakatani urged all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, reaffirming the importance of respecting international law — as reflected notably in the UNCLOS, the need for peaceful settlement of all disputes without any threat or use of force, and of ensuring freedom and safety of navigation and over-flight as well as unimpeded lawful commerce in international waters.

India and Japan have been holding exchanges and talks at military-to-military level and information exchanges on maritime data with both countries being prominent maritime states in the Indo-Pacific. There has been agreement on technology transfer and protection of military information, a framework for collaboration in field of defence in high-tech areas is being looked at. India identifies Japan as privileged partner in the ‘Make in India’ program and an important strategic partner in its ‘Act East Policy’. The India-Japan Civilian Nuclear Deal is one of the crucial elements of cooperation in the Indo-Japanese relationship. An MoU exists between Indian Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard for Establishment of a Collaborative Relationship to Combat Crimes at Sea and Develop Regional Cooperation.

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan on 11 and 12 November, the Japanese foreign ministry spokesperson has been saying that Tokyo is encouraging India to speak up more on South China Sea disputes. There is no doubt that China’s growing assertiveness in East China Sea (ECS), particularly China’s use of civilian boat militias to challenge Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands has created added tension in the region.

Interestingly, when a Chinese panelist at a recent international seminar at New Delhi was questioned about China using civilian boat-militia storming Senkaku Islands, he denied government involvement, adding, “maybe Chinese fishermen want more fish”. But as far as the Japanese foreign Ministry encouraging India more to speak up more on SCS disputes, our MEA spokesman has already clearly and categorically stated that India respects the UNCLOS judgment and calls for greater openness of the international seas and trading routes and no single nation can hold hegemony over it. This not only includes South China Sea but entire Indo-Pacific region.

One major issue during Modi’s third summit with Abe will be the India-Japan Civilian Nuclear Deal, under discussion since 2008. Alhough Japanese media indicates the agreement could be signed during the forthcoming summit, Japanese officials have been non-committal about it beyond saying that the agreement is being looked at from the legal angle. Whether this will be concluded before the end of Modi’s visit is not confirmed. However, during the visit ofAbe to India in December 2015, the initial agreement had noted the need to complete “necessary internal procedures”. The implication of this is that even after India and Japan sign the civil-nuclear agreement, for it to come into effect it must be approved by the Japanese Parliament (Diet). Japan’s Diet has always been sensitive to anything connected with nuclear, understandably being the only country having been subjected to nuclear attack, that too twice — at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Interestingly in 1994, then Japanese prime minister Tsutomu Hata had stated in the Diet that Japan has the knowhow to make the nuclear bomb. His government fell after one week.

Another major takeaway from Modi’s visit is likely to be the deal worth some Rs 10,000 crores for Japan to supply India with 12 x US-2i amphibious aircraft. This is featuring both in Indian and Japanese media. India plans to equip the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard with six each of these aircraft. Japan has reportedly agreed to reduce the price, earlier pegged at $1.6 billion (Rs 10,720 crore) for the 12 aircraft, to clinch the deal and expand its strategic partnership with India. The four turbo-prop US-2i is capable of short take-offs from land or water. Meant for search and rescue, it can also transport 30 combat troops. Interestingly, Japan had proposed in mid-1990s positioning 2 x US-2i amphibious aircraft in Andaman and Nicobar for search-and-rescue at sea.

File image of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with Narendra Modi. Reuters

File image of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with Narendra Modi. Reuters

The Japanese proposal was free of cost with both the amphibious aircraft to under joint control of India and Japan, and to be operated jointly by both countries. Ironically, India did not respond and two decades later, we are buying the same aircraft.

Maritime security too would be an obvious focus area during the upcoming summit, considering the growing assertiveness of China and her clear denouncement of global norms and laws. Peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific is vital to both India and Japan. But while Japan seeks more focus on maritime security cooperation in its bilateral and multilateral engagements including with India, at the same time it must also push the India-Japan Civil Nuclear Deal past the Diet and bring it to early implementation. There is also plenty scope and mutual gain for both countries to bond in areas like nuclear engineering, cyberspace, space, power generation, 3D printing with robotics and other technological collaboration for coping with emerging threats.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

NDTV India ban: Freedom of Speech can’t be exploited to jeopardise national security

Flying abroad recently on an international flight, an erudite Indian journalist, well established in high-end social circuits at home and abroad, especially in our immediate neighbourhood in general and our western neighbour in particular, wondered aloud how the term ‘presstitutes’ came about in India, whether it was coined by a military veteran-turned-politician and why this term?

She had probably never heard of John Swinton, the former chief of staff of The New York Times, who addressed New York Press Club in 1953, saying:

“There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job.”

Swinton went on to say:

“If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press. We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

Representational image. Twitter @ndtv

Representational image. Twitter @ndtv

Whether ‘intellectual prostitutes’ is better than ‘presstitutes’ or vice-versa may be debated but speaking of the aforementioned reporter (who was part of an Indian delegation,) she announced in a bilateral discussion with a friendly country, “I do not agree with any of my delegation members that Pakistan should be called a terrorist state”. This was more shocking since no other country including Pakistan was present — this being a bilateral dialogue between India and the friendly country. When told later that she should have spoken this way, she shot back reasons A, B, C, D, and E why she cannot be faulted — the sum total of which was ‘Freedom of Speech’. When asked whether she saw any difference between a debate on TV in India versus projecting one’s own country’s viewpoint as part of an Indian delegation especially when Pakistan has upped its proxy war on India, she gave a blank look as if some gibberish was being thrown her way.

Not to mention that when told our response to Pakistan must include the sub-conventional, her query after years of journalism was, “What is sub-conventional?”. Of course she took umbrage when another delegation member (a former IAS official) told her that she appeared to be the elder version of a Indian television journalist and columnist who works as a consulting editor with a New Delhi-based TV channel.

Now let us look at the commotion over NDTV India being blocked for 24 hours for broadcasting sensitive information during the terrorist attack on the IAF airbase at Pathankot. The Opposition is delighted with added ammunition to disrupt the forthcoming Winter Session of Parliament, in addition to the OROP-related suicide by Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal, the disappearance of JNU student Najeeb Ahmad (could he have left the country?), surgical strikes, civilian casualties due Pakistani ceasefire violations and what-have-you — official work, including GST, be damned. NDTV India’s day-long ban is being equated with the years of Emergency. According to others, India is going the Pakistan way, with Islamabad having imposed restrictions on Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida, putting him on the Exit Control List for breaking a story on the tiff between Pakistan’s civil and military leadership.

The intriguing part is that while Pakistan acted against Almeida almost instantaneously, the action against NDTV India comes almost 10 months after the event. Besides, what does the single-day ban convey? What type of token for having broadcast “sensitive information”? The decision reportedly was taken by an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) comprising joint secretaries from the ministries of Home, Defence, External Affairs, I&B, Health and Family, Women and Child Development, plus representative of the Advertising Standards Council of India — all in all, a diverse and august group. According to the grapevine, the IMC found the TV channel to have violated the provisions of the Program Code, specifically Clause 6 (1) (p) of the code, in its coverage of the Pathankot terrorist attack.

The Program and Advertising Code of the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994 has been incorporated in the Cable Act and is taken from the content code governing All India Radio. But when Clause 6 (1) (p) of the code was added in June 2015, doesn’t the action against NDTV after almost 10 months after the broadcast show the lackadaisical and callous manner in which we deal with what has been referred to as a leak of “sensitive information”? After the elapse of so many months, it is difficult to remember what the broadcast really was considering every channel was broadcasting continuous coverage of the terror attack. But what exactly did NDTV India broadcast that was not being broadcast by some of the other channels, if not all? If the information endangered national security, did the IMC inform the NSA? And, isn’t a one-day ban akin to the knee-jerk reaction of arresting Hurriyat leader SAS Geelani and then sending a delegation to meet him next day?

The Editors Guild of India is up in arms:

“The decision to take the channel off the air for a day is a direct violation of the freedom of the media and therefore the citizens of India, and amounts to harsh censorship imposed by the government reminiscent of the Emergency. This first-of-its-kind order to impose a blackout has seen the Central government entrust itself with the power to intervene in the functioning of the media and take arbitrary punitive action as and when it does not agree with the coverage.”

The case of a token ban on NDTV India and its justification can be argued by concerned parties, even the highest — at the Supreme Court-level, and one cannot argue whether it was right or wrong. However, as a nation we must acknowledge that our reporting is devoid of any sense of national security when needed most.

Some of the prominent examples include:

– Entire layout of Parliament shown post the terrorist attack, including who sits where and routes of entry and exit.
– Continuous coverage during terrorist attacks especially the 26 November, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai giving location and movement of own troops, giving advantage to Pakistani terrorists.
– Pincers and arrows of Strike Corps objectives in enemy territory being shown after corps-level exercises.
– Options for future operations being openly discussed by TV channels with maps and models post the recent surgical strikes.
– Visuals and broadcasts that incite racial and communal violence.

Forget China and Pakistan, but name one other country where broadcasts like the above are made. They all are careful not to jeopardise national security. Where, and if, national security is involved, forget token bans, there should be prosecution — Freedom of Speech can’t be exploited to jeopardise national security.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

(Firstpost is from the same stable as IBN7 which competes with NDTV India)

Mandatory voting in army: With military facing disparaging assaults, why every soldier must vote

• It showed the rapid spread and growth of mafias and economic lobbies which have, over the years, developed extensive network with bureaucrats/government functionaries, politicians, media persons and strategically located individuals in the non-state sector; with some also having international linkages, including with foreign intelligence agencies.

• It established that any leakage about the linkages of crime syndicate with senior government functionaries or political leaders in the states or at the Centre could have a destabilising effect on the functioning of the government.

Naturally, the above report has remained buried somewhere because it poses the threat of “destabilising” the functioning of any government. India is not like Singapore, a country where 150 politicians and bureaucrats were jailed overnight when their equivalent of the Lokpal Bill came into being.

No wonder then that former Defense Minister AK Antony couldn’t sleep after discovering the capabilities of the army’s Technical Support Division (TSD). As a result, the TSD was killed off pronto, on trumped up charges, because it “could” have been intercepted by the “mafia”.

Never mind the fact that the mobile interceptors in question were actually imported by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), which functions directly under the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and not the army.

China is known to extract value in strategic terms for financial gain. Similarly, the mafia can extract value by attracting foreign funding. As a result, the military is continuously put down and many of the defence-industrial complexes remain out-dated.

The prime minister may push hard for “ease of business” but the mafia gets massive foreign funding, and which country wants to see a strong India? The inability to act against the mafia makes it bolder. Remember the efforts under the previous government to hollow the system by pitting the IB against the CBI?

But then the realisation dawned that the IPS manning the intelligence agencies were also privy to the mafia dealings. So now, the mafia is going full blast against the military; even trying to pitch the CAPF against the military (remember the police baton charging military veterans at Jantar Mantar).

In terms of ranking and emoluments, the bureaucracy and civilian defence employees should be left aside. Of course, unlike any other country in the world, the same ranks and uniforms of the military, were quietly introduced into the police forces.

When some military veterans first gave a call for a protest at Jantar Mantar in 2015, an organisation called “Patriots Front” wrote a letter to the prime minister, warning him of a military coup and recommended that “anti-coup measures be put in place”.

Even today, the so called “patriots” dismiss the soldiers’ demands as just “whining”. The soldiers just want their status to be respected, as given in the Constitution and they want the serious imbalances and disparities between soldiers and other government civil employees be rectified, taking into account the average career earnings including pension benefits.

For example, the non-functional upgradation (NFU) demand of the armed forces was reportedly turned down on the pretext that it was applicable only to class ‘A’ officers, like IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS, etc. That begs the question: What is the class of the military officers who are commissioned by the President of India?

Does the government have an explanation for this? Why should 45 percent of the defence pension outlay be consumed by 22 percent civilians under the MoD?

In such an environment, what should the military do? There is no need for the service chiefs to bow down to such “unlawful commands”, even as the mafia appears to be hell-bent upon demolishing the military.

But aside from representing the hierarchy on specific issues, the least the service chiefs must do is to ensure that soldiers must not be denied their right to cast their vote, especially since many of their fundamental rights are already severely curbed as part of their service.

The manner in which caste, creed, and religion are played in our country clearly indicate that anything and everything goes, and anything can be sold for votes. Even US President Barrack Obama celebrated Diwali in the White House and so did the United Nations (perhaps on the behest of the US) with an eye on the Indian origin voters going into next week’s Presidential election.

Fortunately, the Election Commission of India has authorised every military soldier to vote during the elections (both state and local) at the station they are posted in — thanks to the efforts of Rajeev Chandrashekhar, former member of parliament.

Legislative Assembly elections are due in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Goa and Manipur next year, and the battle lines are tightly drawn; especially in UP, where every vote will count.

When the army formations voted during the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election, the change in the political attitude towards the army was electric. Interestingly, on discovering that army division at Allahabad would also participate in the 2007 election, a recent Congress defectee from Allahabad to BJP, had executed a summersault at par with perhaps Dipa Karmakar; from complaining against the army to becoming all sugar and honey, in all but a few seconds.

It is true that no political party wants the military to vote as the soldiers vote without a consideration for caste, creed, religion, in the true spirit of “India first”. This often upsets the political calculations. Not only will there be hints for the military to abstain, spanners will be put out like — first get your voter identity cards made; and that voting is impossible where soldiers with even one day of service are authorised to vote.

But, there is precedence to overcome this. In the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election, serving soldiers were permitted to vote showing their service identity cards, and the list of eligible military voters was submitted to both the UP and the Election Commission well in advance. In fact, special voting booths were established within military cantonments, where soldiers voted under the supervision of Election Commission representatives.

With Gujarat passing a law to make voting mandatory, this approach should be adopted as dictum even in the military. With the military facing disparaging assaults, every soldier must at least get to vote. This should be the resolve of the service chiefs.

There should be no need for one chief to convince the other two. The three service chiefs actually owe this to their command. The routine instructions for getting soldiers voting cards fooled no one. The only question that remains is, do the chairman chiefs of Staff Committee and the service chiefs have it in them?

The author is veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army.

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Armed forces’ pay-and-rank parity: PMO told defence ministry to get forces involved in policy; MoD did opposite

Barely 10 days after the present government was sworn in May 2014, national dailies headlined “PMO tells MoD, MHA: Get forces involved in policy“, elaborating that in an attempt to improve the working environment for the armed forces and other internal security outfits, the Prime Minister’s Office has directed the home and defence ministries to ensure that decisions, especially those relating to the uniformed forces, should be taken only after detailed consultations with their top officers.

The news item elaborated that PMO strongly believed matters relating to the armed forces should not be decided by civilian bureaucrats sitting in North and South Block and that the military leadership should be involved more in decision-making.

Above report further added Prime Minister Narendra Modi had signaled: key decision cannot be left to the bureaucrats; forces must be involved at every stage as they have firsthand experience of what is happening on the ground; entire process of procurement of weapons and equipment was deeply influenced by bureaucrats who have virtually no experience in this field.

The news report quoting a senior official added that any new welfare scheme for armed or paramilitary forces gets drafted by a joint secretary or director-level officer will now change and actual operations officers from the forces will have a greater say.

Was that a lip service or did it get lip-locked by the mafia?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

It is often asked who are the mafia, for which no simple definition may apply. But remember the open letter by Anil Manibhai Naik, CEO of L&T to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that amongst other things said, “And the defence production (ministry) joint secretaries and secretaries of the defence ministry are on the boards of all public sector – sickest of sick units you can think of who cannot take out one conventional submarine out for 15 years now with the result that the gap is widening between us and China and bulk of the time we resort to imports out of no choice,” adding, “The whole (defence) industry which could have really flowered around very high technological development and taken India to the next and the next level of technological achievement and excellence is not happening.”

Of course, Manibhai would not know that while he lamented about submarines, 15 years were being taken to produce an assault rifle that was no match to top ten of its class available globally.

If you think that was long ago, witness the meeting on 24 October 2016 called by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to meet ex-servicemen wherein he indicated at the outset his hurt at the various mails derogatory towards the “bureaucracy” and requested the veteran community from using such language.

Perhaps he is right and the bureaucracy should be placed on the pedestal given the fact that despite joint secretary’s of Ministry on Defence on all boards of the DRDO, DPSUs and Ordinance Factories, India has continued to import 70 percent of its defence needs past several decades. Do you understand now why the reorganisation of MoD and injecting military professional doesn’t happen, why HQ IDS cannot be merged with MoD, why users (military) are not at the design, planning and decision making levels of governmental defence-industrial set up, and why the military must be put down any which way with welfare and prestige of serving, veterans, widows, disabled be damned.

The Defence Minister’s insistence to Service Chiefs to immediately implement 7th CPC that brings military below the CAPF, Service Chiefs decision to wait for the anomalies to be resolved first, MoD’s 30 September letter bringing the disability pension of military drastically down from what was earlier vide 6th CPC and MoD eventually forced to refer the issue to the ‘Anomalies Committee’ has been in the news.

Of course, one part of the forked tongue is tweeting disability pension as per 6th CPC for military personnel have been restored. But whom do you believe and how come the anomalies committee has become so very efficient? Had we become so administratively efficient, even World Bank would not have slammed us for ‘ease of business’. The government versus judiciary feud is in the news, but past several months the Armed Forces Tribunals (AFT) are lying defunct because the post of civilian judge to head AFTs are lying vacant. But with the type of mischief against the military being engineered anyway, why bother about any justice by AFTs.

But look at the misinformation campaign launched about government letter No A/24577/CAO/CP Cell dated October 18 that equated: civilian Group B section officer with army captain; civilian joint director with full colonel (earlier equated with Lt Col); civilian director with brigadier (earlier equated with full colonel); principal director with major general (earlier equated with brigadier). According to media, not only did this letter have MoD approval, objections by armed forces were overruled by the Defence Minister – in a note to MoD in August-September this year, army had “categorically objected to the systematic downgrading of defence officers in status/equivalence vis-à-vis civilian officers”.

Following above expose, another media report emerged quoting MoD officials that the October 18 letter in question downgrading the military ranks vis-à-vis civilian officers was only due to “functional” reasons (also stated by the Defence Minister) which is a very poor excuse because it ‘does’ downgrade military ranks. Will the Defence Minister explain what is the “functional” reason and what are the “non-functional part” of the military-civil relationship, or is it because the military is the only government service that has been deliberately denied the NFU while the balance government services including the civilian defence employees are enjoying the same?

Additionally, while MoD denies any reduction in the military’s status (without cancelling the October 18 letter) and that existing functional equivalence as clarified in 1991 and further reiterated in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2005 has only been re-affirmed, another media report states that all these letters cited by MoD were superseded in 2009 by a Group of Ministers report (formally equating army colonels with civilian directors) which was approved by the government. So, does the Defence Minister have the foggiest idea that he is being led up the gum tree by his ministry with the explicit aim to create discord in the military establishment through deliberately downgrading military ranks vis-a-vis civilian defence officials?

Now MoD has struck again with approval of Defence Minister by creating two new civilian positions of Additional Director General (ADG) to look after engineering projects in Army’s Northern and Eastern Commands. This policy decision has been taken arbitrarily by MoD – whatever happened to the PMO missive to involve forces in policy decisions? Leave aside consulting the Engineer-in-Chief and concerned Commands, even Service Chiefs were ignored. Without doubt these ADGs will show two fingers to Army Commanders Northern and Eastern Commands; already there have been cases where civilian officers object to official meetings chaired by the Commanding Officers stating they draw more pay and hence it is they who should chair the meeting. That is why these new ADGs are being placed at Jammu and Guwahati instead of being co-located with respective Command HQ. And you guessed it – Guwahati because 7th CPC grants Rs 75,000 monthly hazard allowance to a civilian government official posted at Guwahati and perhaps the guy at Jammu will be quietly given double that amount with Pakistan shelling villages in vicinity of LoC.

Frankly, this whole exercise of creating to civilian ADG posts in Northern and Eastern Commands stinks about money – getting control of funds with (MES) offices and Chief Construction Engineers (CCE) reporting now to these civilian ADGs. There will be automatic setback to functionality and operational requirements of the military as decisions will be taken by bureaucrats sitting in MoD – exactly what PM Modi referred to above. Take the case of the Border Roads directly under MoD and the recent brouhaha of road construction in Arunachal Pradesh. It is all about connecting the villages close to the border. Little is happening about road construction to forward army posts where soldiers still have to walk two-three days to reach them. With the MES offices and Chief Construction Engineers (CCE) going under the civilian ADGs, matters will get worse.

There is fresh news that government is appointing a three-member committee to look into the issue of pay and rank parity with regard to the military. Obviously it would have no military member – perhaps all bureaucrats under the weird logic that if all the anomalies were on behest bureaucrats, they would be best suited to resolve them. The Reddy Commission on OROP anomalies submitted its report to the government three days back; what surprise it holds is not known. But if the government is really serious about resolving the civilian versus military pay and rank parity, the solution is actually very simple – combatize the civilian defence employees; give them military training and make them part of the military. This will also beef up security. NDA-I is considered by far the best for armed forces. Which way NDA-II is heading, readers can decide.

The author is veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army.

How the anti-military constituency is preventing India from becoming global defence player

Alongside the business of exporting terrorism, it seems that Pakistan can also throw up periodic howlers; the latest one being Imran Khan’s accusations against Nawaz Sharif, blaming him for “isolating” the army. This comes as no surprise as Imran’s constituency is itself a militant stronghold and because two army guys are always seated behind Sharif, trying to obfuscate their assassin countenance.

But, leaving aside the cliché that the Pakistani army owns their country, what can be said about India? A recent article in a national daily lambasted the politicisation of the ‘surgical strikes’ and the recent arm-twisting of Bollywood producers, forcing them to donate money to the Army Welfare Fund for hiring Pakistani actors. The article also highlighted some crucial, unsolved and sensitive issues that need to be resolved if India is to become serious about its defence.

Apart from the lack of military modernisation and the need to address welfare problems (pay anomalies, controversy over disability pension), issues like keeping senior military posts vacant; Cabinet’s Appointment Committee ignoring merit; lack of CDS; little military say in strategic security formulation; bureaucratic control over military instead of political control, etc. also need to be looked into. Especially since India is currently facing serious challenges on both the Pakistani and Chinese borders.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The recent row over the Ministry of Defence’s 30 September notification, drastically lowering the disability pension of military personnel by converting the percentage based system (as effective under the sixth Central Pay Commission) to a fixed slab system, has been in the news. The fact that this notification was issued two days after the surgical strikes made it even more cynical, especially when coupled with certain boisterous and comical pronouncements by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

The government has since been forced to refer the disability pension case to the Anomalies Committee, but the mere fact that the notification was issued implied that either the defence minister had no idea about it all (as he talked of VRS at the time of the press briefing for One Rank One Pension scheme) or he was party to it indirectly.

Then came the letter purportedly written by the serving DGAFMS to the defence secretary, that stated that the military generals were misusing the provision of the disability pension. All these accusations were duly trashed and rebutted, though it is still not clear whether this was deliberate mischief.

But lo and behold, an old letter from the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) to the Chief of Army Staff, written in September 2015, has emerged saying that a large number of army officers belonging to the “non-fighting corps” have been getting the disability medical grading.

The said CGDA should have actually been awarded a Padma series award for making such a path-breaking discovery, even though the CGDA wouldn’t be able to identify which are the “non-fighting corps” in the army. Of course, the CGDA would have no observation about a civilian defence employee of MoD tripping on a banana peel, losing an eye and claiming disability pension. After all, the CGDA, as the MoD employees, can well be categorised as ‘fighting corps’ – for fighting with the military all the time.

Another article published in a national daily cites a government letter that talks about rank “equivalence” between defence officers and “armed forces headquarters civil service officers”. The equivalence defined reportedly implies: A civilian Group B section officer is now equated with an army captain; a civilian joint director, who till now was equated with an army lieutenant colonel, will now be equal to an army full colonel; a civilian director, earlier equated with army full colonel, will now be equated with army brigadier; and a civilian principal director, earlier equated with army brigadier, will now be equated with an army major general.

This letter, signed by a joint secretary, states that the rank equation laid down in it is to be followed in assigning duties/functional responsibilities and for all purposes such as channel of reporting, detailing of officers for training courses, providing stenographic assistance etc. According to the article, this letter has the approval of the MoD. If this be true, then Parrikar has done more damage to the military than even AK Anthony.

A file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTIA file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Anthony ensured that the equipping of our military came down to 1962 levels, but Parrikar, together with the present government, appears to be hell bent upon denigrating the soldiers and denying them their dues. Taking cover behind ‘mischievous bureaucrats’ can’t work anymore; responsibilities will have to be taken for such deliberate misdeeds.

Nukkad talk generally has some basis but the following can’t really have any basis: That the prime minister is indifferent to the military, hailing from a state where not many still join the military; that the defence minister has little knowledge of matters military, even though he boasts he made the military realise their capabilities and that the RSS is behind the success of the surgical strikes; the finance minister continues smarting because of the inglorious electoral defeat he suffered at the hands of an army veteran; and, the National Security Advisor is getting back at the army for not promoting his father beyond the rank of major.

Such ludicrous and loose talks would continue to figure in the ‘free speech’ paradigm, but the important question is why is the anti-military constituency prospering in India and who is behind it?

The dual China-Pakistan threat has enlarged as never before, pan the spectrum of conflict, yet the government has made no move to define a cohesive national security strategy, nor has it undertaken a comprehensive defence review. China’s entire border with Myanmar, India and Afghanistan have been placed under its newly constituted Western Theatre Command, backed by the Rocket Force and the Strategic Support Force.

There is no move to synergise our military. Following the Kargil Review Committee Report, the Group of Ministers (GoP) headed by the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister LK Advani had strongly recommended the establishment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) but this has been ignored.

BR Ambedkar is always praised for drafting the Constitution but his missive to have reservation in small percentages only for a decade plus has been drastically reversed. While reservations are increasing because of the insatiable hunger for votes, does the government realise that the CDS is vital for the defence of the country. Establishment of the CDS and replacing the MoD with a department of defence (DoD) manned by military professionals should have been the first priority of the Modi government.

The ‘Make in India’ programme, ironically, is focused on big ticket projects only, neglecting the cutting edge where the battle is actually being fought. A holistic appraisal of the requirements is missing altogether. The users (military) is deliberately kept away from the defence-industrial complex, whereas they should have been integrated as part of the design, planning and decision making levels of these organisations.

The indigenous 5.56mm INSAS assault rifle, with its numerous faults, took 15 years to be produced despite the fact that 17 state-of-the-art rifles from 11 countries were handed over to the DRDO at the very beginning. Army’s attempt to import assault rifles were consistently scuttled, while some CAPF were permitted to do so.

The defence minister announced in 2014 the “emergent” procurement of 50,000 bullet-proof jackets for the army. But, till date, not a single one has been procured, while the army’s deficiency of this item has shot past 3,50,000 already. It is ironic then that the John Hopkins School of Advanced Studies (SAIS), US, is undertaking a project study on ‘why isn’t the Indian defence industry a globally competitive defence player’, something that should have been another priority of the defence minister.

The study will include several aspects of the problem, including: How should the Indian defence industry position itself in the market by anticipating the global security environment; and, how ought the Indian defence industry lobby the Government of India to shape foreign policy and defence diplomacy.

The MoD has been referred to as the MaD (ministry against defence) in military circles for the past several years now, and for good reason as well. But, clearly the time has come for the prime minister to intervene before the anti-military constituency does even more damage.

The author is veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army.

Jammu and Kashmir: De-radicalisation will require planning and a counter-narrative

Speaking at a recent Police Commemoration Day function, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti urged the police to try to bring youths who have fled their homes to join militancy back to the mainstream. “I request the police to try to bring them back to their homes. Instead of being killed in encounters, if it is possible to bring them back, make them a part of the mainstream, give them bats, balls and good education, instead of guns,” she said. According to her, those who have taken up arms are local boys: Didn’t she miss the foreign terrorists? She stressed that ending militancy and restoring peace were a prerequisite for repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (Afspa) and to seek the starting of the dialogue process in the state. She said that “black laws” like Afspa would be repealed from the state when the situation improves.

File image of Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

File image of Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

Mehbooba makes it sound so very easy.

All the police needs to do is try and flick the switch that will bring the wayward youths back to the mainstream. So it is the job of the police to do so and then the state authorities can repeal the black laws (read Afspa) and everything will be hunky dory once again. Of course the gullible public will not know that removing Afspa is very much in her power; all she needs to do is to have the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Area Act removed and the army will happily go back to its primary task of defending the borders with Afspa automatically being removed. The catch, of course, is that should she have the Disturbed Area Act removed without creating conditions to do so (bring normalcy back), she and her government — largely ineffective anyway — will be at the mercy of terrorists. Not that she doesn’t know that neither did the army draft or ask for Afspa, nor does the army enjoy deployments in the hinterland against its own public. And yet, Afspa is essential if the army is to control violence in a better manner than police forces.

Militancy is generally associated with politico-socio-economic problems but in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistan factor (now fully backed by China) outweighs other factors. Adoption of the Wahhabi-Salafi culture in Pakistan has been institutionalised in Pakistan over the past several years. Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad wrote in 2008, “The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s schools, colleges and universities has had a profound effect on young people. Militant jihad has become a part of the culture in college and university campuses, with armed groups inviting students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan.”

It is this same Wahhabi-Salafi culture that Pakistan has been able to induce in the Kashmir Valley, gradually but consistently, using clerics and Hurriyat separatist leaders — whose presence is infiltrated by trained terrorists, arms, narcotics and money. The insistence of our intelligence agencies that Hurriyat separatists are “irrelevant” has helped Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. It is an open secret that militants in Jammu and Kashmir are being financed by China, and the Chinese have established huge control over Kashmiri separatist leaders. The recent discovery of Chinese flags from terrorist hideouts in Baramulla provides further evidence of China’s nefarious designs.

Mufti is out of sync saying those that have taken up arms are local youths.

What about the hundreds of foreign terrorists that have been killed over the years?
What about the anti-India venom being broadcast from loudspeakers atop mosques?
Is it the voice of some rabid mullahs or is it others who hold the clerics hostage?
What about the daily separatist diktat in the vernacular dailies?
Are all these again supposed to be righted by the same switch the police is required to flick?
What about subversion of some members of the police force?
How do the conditions compare with that of early 1990s when Pakistan had the upper hand when it came to Jammu and Kashmir militancy?

In his autobiography Gorkha Hat and Maroon Beret, Lietenant-General Chandra Shekhar (former Vice-Chief of Army Staff) describes the period of the early 1990s when Pakistani, Afghan and Arab terrorists were fighting in Jammu and Kashmir, parts of the state police were subverted, one battalion of the armed police had to be disarmed, and in one instance, the state’s home secretary Habib Rehman and then director-general of police BS Bedi were taken hostage in the police control room. The army had to deploy infantry combat vehicles (ICVs) to secure their release, fortunately without firing a shot. In the present situation, weren’t many police stations attacked, abandoned and arms looted?

What exactly is the Jammu and Kashmir government doing to stem the replacement of the Sufi culture by hardliner Wahhabi-Salafi preaching? This is not the job of security forces even if they can assist in information warfare. Speaking about Pakistani designs in Afghanistan, a Pakistani military scholar describes the Pakistan-sponsored Taliban that regards regard all Shias, Ismailis, non-Pashtuns, moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred. Pakistan will plan similarly for Jammu and Kashmir using Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen etc.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The state government’s attitude of just sitting back and letting security forces keep levels of violence down amounts to a sure recipe for disaster. De-radicalisation is no joke. It has to be a well thought-out strategy and in Jammu and Kashmir, must include the hardliner Wahhabi-Salafi preachers and clerics that may need to be tackled through multiple methods. As for the youths, just saying they should return to play with bats and balls is hardly enough.

De-radicalisation must be a strategy that is employed on a continuous basis at the personal level, aided by modern technology as applicable. De-radicalisation programs must have a separate focus for select communities, regions, teachers, youths, children, mothers, apprehended terrorists along with the population at large that could support terrorists. The discourse of Muslim leaders should be part of the de-radicalisation programs. The education system must be integrated into the national mainstream. Ethics and true nationalism should form part of the education system. The introduction of the National Cadet Corps in most schools and colleges will be fruitful. Communities must be kept informed and empowered to challenge radical ideology. Psychological operations should include exposing terrorist abuses, conditions in PoK vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir, and that Pakistan as the epicentre of terrorism has brought ridicule to Muslims and Islam globally. Alternatives to expend youth energies and employment opportunities must be part of the program. Finally, the de-radicalisation programs must be periodically reviewed in relation to the ongoing radicalisation, to ensure it is effective and course-corrections are made, where required.

Civil society can contribute greatly in preventing and countering terrorism rather than encourage terrorism especially since it gives voice to the marginalized and vulnerable people and victims of terrorism, generating awareness and providing constructive outlet for redress of grievances. Non-traditional actors like NGOs, foundations, charities, public-private partnerships and private businesses are capable and credible partners in local communities. Despite Pakistan-sponsored propaganda, the public needs to be sensitised that our army respects human rights far more than Pakistan where aerial bombings and artillery barrages are used periodically with scant regard to collateral damage.

Finally, the adoption of a proactive approach in countering proxy wars is imperative for establishing an effective deterrence, and for controlling enemy faultlines instead of the enemy controlling ours. This should include a dynamic information warfare strategy. The situation in Jammu and Kashmir sure needs a national response but the state government has a major role to play in this and can’t simply depend on security forces for the return of normalcy.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

Let China change approach to India if it wants us to accept Chinese products

Dogs, wolves, jackals, coyotes all bark usually because of excitement, fear or in frustration. But when China’s Xinhua says that India generally “barks” about trade imbalance, it actually amounts to China barking in frustration. Since all media in China is state controlled and state directed, the arrogance and conceit displayed in their media reflects the bigoted stance of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Government. During Prime Minister Modi’s last visit to China, an oped in China’s Global Times (CCP’s official mouthpiece) stated, “Due to the Indian elite’s confidence in their democracy, and the inferiority of its ordinary people, few Indians are able to treat Sino-Indian ties accurately, objectively and rationally.”

Notice the idiotic reference to Indians as “inferiority of its ordinary people” as if the Chinese were fathered by some superlative aliens — which may well be the misconception considering President Xi Jinping’s recent statement that the moon has proved to be an “inescapable part of China” due to an ancient marriage between Chinese Princess Wen Cheng and an ancient ruler based on the moon during the 7th Century, albeit Jinping didn’t elaborate which moon considering scientists have discovered 1500 galaxies or whether Wen Cheng betrothed alien kings of all the moons.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

But getting back to the “bark” of Xinhua, the frustration is writ large because the same Indian population referred to as “inferiority of its ordinary people” has delivered a solid kick to China from totally unexpected quarters – shunning Chinese goods, and this is just the beginning. There is no government directive to not buy Chinese goods but the Indian population is wise enough to understand that by abetting Pakistani terrorism, China herself has become a terrorist state. Indian businessmen see no reason to stock Chinese products even if they are cheaper and one ignores the low grade stuff dumped in India. Signs of shops displaying “we don’t sell Chinese products” are on social media. As per some estimates, sale of Chinese products in last quarter in India have gone down by up to 20 percent. Chinese firecrackers during the festival of Diwali during 2015 were shunned anyway because of their highly toxic emissions, which should be the norm this year too. In fact, the government should consider releasing a white paper giving details of Indian small-scale industries that have been forced to shut down over the years on account of Chinese goods dumped in India.

India has no issue with the Chinese population but why should we buy Chinese products when China is abetting Pakistan’s proxy war on India and in fact uses Pakistani proxies to hurt India in accordance with her ancient strategy to ‘kill with a borrowed knife”; the knife being Pakistan. It is not the recent discovery of Chinese and Pakistani flags in Baramula alone but the China-Pakistan sub-conventional nexus dates back to 1960s when Chou-en-Lai advised Ayub Khan that Pakistan should prepare for prolonged conflict with India instead of short-term wars. He advised Pakistan to raise a Militia Force to act behind enemy (Indian) lines. In 1966, when a Pakistani delegation went to Beijing and was met by Chou en Lai, latter while discussing India raised his clenched fist and said, “This is capable of delivering a forceful blow, but if you cut off one finger, the fist loses its power, not by one-fifth, but by fifty percent. If you wipe out a couple of hundred thousand of the enemy spread over a long front, its impact is not as great as wiping out an entire battalion or a brigade – the enemy’s morale is dealt a devastating blow. We know this from practical experience.” Witness the shamelessness with which China is protecting JeM chief Azhar Masood at the UN despite his role in numerous terrorist attacks in India. Besides, the United Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) report released in July 2016 has specifically highlighted both JeM and LeT involved in terrorist acts in Afghanistan.

Review recent Pakistan sponsored terror attacks in India and Afghanistan and it can easily be concluded that their intensity and periodicity have gone up with Chinese entry into POK and commencement of development of the CPEC. Intelligence reports have been indicating that China is funding terrorists in J&K. And, why would China not be coordinating terrorist attacks in India and Afghanistan in conjunction Pakistan? Earlier British sources had contended Chinese specialists were training Taliban fighters in the use of infrared-guided surface-to-air missiles, which was supported by a 13 May, 2008 classified US document released by WikiLeaks. Also, Aviation Week of 23 December 2010 reported Chinese military personnel were advising Pakistani Taliban how to fight the NATO led ISAF. The China-Pakistan sub-conventional nexus keeps Kashmir Valley on the boil and advances Pakistan’s strategic depth in Afghanistan. Pakistani Generals have bartered their country’s sovereignty to China by permitting China develop her Super Strategic Highway to the Indian Ocean under the euphuism of CPEC, the adverse effects of which will be felt by the Pakistani public in years to follow. Already rumblings in Pakistan refer to the CPEC as another ‘East India Company’ but more is to follow with China bidding to buy 40% stakes in Pakistan’s stock exchange. It appears the 2012 prophesy by former Pakistani officer and defence analyst Agha H Amin was bang on wherein he said, “There is no doubt that Pakistan will be a semi autonomous Chinese province by 2030 or so… Pakistani Baluchistan by 2030 would be a completely Chinese run show”.

China is the largest economy in terms of PPP, second largest GDP and third largest investor in the world. She has reserves of over $3 trillion and contributes to some 30% plus of world trade. But at the same time China’s debt in 2015 was 254 percent of her GDP, there was 30% increase in protests by workers across China last year, and unemployment rate amongst graduates in China too is 30%. That is why the efforts of OBOR, CPEC, MST etc for which ready governmental finances are hard to find. China’s comprehensive national power (CNP) but 54% of her defence budget dedicated to internal threats is part of her infirmities. Ironically, increase in CNP has revived China’s ancient mindset rooted in her historical ‘Tian Xia’ (under the Heaven) concept which traditionally views “all territories” as belonging to the Chinese and due to which, they attach no sense to territory. That is why they have no compunctions about claiming 90,000 sq kms of Arunachal Pradesh on sudden impulse, arbitrarily extend her EEZ with no regard to her neigbours or print new world map showing Hawaii and most Micronesia as Chinese territory.

To bring China to her senses the only way is what the Indian public has begun to do — stop buying Chinese products. The effect is more since China is fully aware that the Indian middle class is heading towards the greatest expansion in the world, with attenuated purchasing power, while the Chinese population grows old. Sure we need about $2 trillion investment to expand our economy and China is welcome to invest, and it will, considering the impediments she will face in OBOR, CPEC, MST because of the geopolitical competition. Indians should desist buying Chinese products with alternative availability of products that are indigenous, Japanese, South Korean, Taiwanese etc. Let China change her stance towards India if she wants the Indian population to accept Chinese products. The world could take a cue from the Indian population.

The author is veteran Lt General of the Indian Army.

Fact or fiction, abuse of disability benefits by defence personnel must be thoroughly probed

A national daily has alleged that a former lieutenant general when heading the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) as director general wrote to the Defence Secretary alleging: one, top military officers nearing retirement are abusing disability benefits for higher and tax-free pensions; two, “alarming trend” of absolutely fit generals, admirals and air marshals are exploiting the welfare measure by getting themselves placed in the lower medical category.

Representative image. Reuters

Representative image. Reuters

A medical downgrade entitles a soldier to better retirement benefits. And the provision was allegedly being misused by few veteran officers who claimed disability benefits for diseases such as corns in their feet, eczema (a skin disorder), and hearing loss. The daily, Hindustan Times, says it has in its possession the letter which was purportedly written by the said DG, AFMS, in December 2014, but has not apparently been made public.

The daily, however, has printed excerpts of the letter, which reads: “I would like to apprise you of an alarming trend evolving in the services, with regards to claims for disability pension being preferred by senior officers of the rank of lieutenant general and major general and their equivalent… Specialists and medical officers working in hospitals under their command find themselves constrained to oblige these officers… Top officers who retired in Shape-1 were submitting ‘post discharge claims’ for disabilities… they claim to have contracted while in service… The provision was being misused by few veteran officers who claimed disability benefits for diseases such as corns in their feet, eczema, a skin disorder, and hearing loss contracted while in service.”

The said former DG who retired in June 2016 has reportedly told Hindustan Times that he pursued the matter for one-and-half years after writing the letter, and the details that emerged were shocking. The daily quotes “sources” stating that the claims for disability pensions have shot up significantly during the last 10 years following the implementation of the sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC) in 2006 that enhanced benefits. However, according to the report, “A detailed scrutiny of records showed that before 2006 hardly any top officers claimed disability pension. But by 2015, about 21 percent of them were claiming benefits. If someone has disability, they should declare it earlier in service and not a few months before retirement.”

The timing of this letter “accessed” by the daily is noteworthy since the government is under considerable fire for a notification issued by the Ministry of Defence on 30 September 2016 (two days after the successful surgical strikes) which grants pensionary awards based on recommendations of the seventh CPC. The said notification reduces the amount of admissible disability benefits to pensioners relegating rates to the “slab system” that was prevalent prior to the 6th CPC. It places disabled defence pensioners at a sharp disadvantage.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar reportedly told the Service Chiefs to immediately implement the seventh CPC despite it denigrating the military to lowest levels, even below the police, and an unprecedented stand by military asking it to wait for the anomalies to be resolved before implementing seventh CPC. And the Service Chiefs are right in wanting the anomalies to be tackled first. In fact, even the Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued a notice to the Central government directing it to use a sensitive approach while hearing views of the defence personnel. It also directed the Anomaly Committee to take into account the views of the defence personnel.

Sure the Defence Minister has referred the issue of calculating disability pension for soldiers to the Anomaly Committee of the Seventh CPC last week, but why was he not aware of it before issuing the notification from MoD on 30 September? And who has leaked the above-purported letter (if there is one) to the media, and why now?

The game of denigrating the military and hitting at the morale of soldiers is not new. It is part of the asymmetric war of our enemies, and the infusion of foreign funds are very much part of it. If the huge amount of money spent on moulding perceptions in the Westland Helicopter deal is any indication, why not weaken the military? In India, under the cliché of “free speech”, anything goes anyway, even if Hafiz Saeed showers accolades on someone. Remember the fellow who headlined the fake story of an army coup. He was reportedly briefed by a Union minister (presently sitting in Rajya Sabha) because his son’s arms dealings were somehow not getting adequate attention. So, this journo goes and posts his story even as he is living way beyond his means, and is loathed by majority journo colleagues. But who can really touch him when he is smart enough to gain the tutelage of a Union minister, including in the present set up? So, no one is happier than the guys across the border.

But let us assume that the above-mentioned letter is genuine and that the government would not have “leaked” it if had not been slammed for drastically reducing the disability pension of military personnel through MoD’s 30 September notification. Many would be unaware that the Directorate General of the Armed Forces Medical Services (DG AFMS) functions directly under the MoD. The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) and the follow up Group of Ministers (headed by then deputy prime minister and home minister LK Advani) reports, under which Headquarter Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS) was established, had recommended that both DG AFMS and the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) be brought under HQ IDS. However, this did not happen. Little wonder then that when a service chief went to call on the defence minister for the first time, the latter wanted to know how his relatives could be treated at the Army’s Research & Referral Hospital.

As for DGQA, the bottleneck for “certifying” items is well known, and you can well guess how bottlenecks are greased. There was a time when no reserves of special clothing for soldiers deployed on the Saltoto Range in Siachen Glacier area were maintained. Instead, there was a system called ‘Annual Provisioning Review’ which meant that the process of import of the items commenced with the new financial year) and by the time the items were imported, cleared by the DGQA and reached the troops, winters would have set in with many frostbite cases for the lack of adequate special clothing. The DGMS and DGQA continue to be under MoD, not under HQ IDS.

As to the former DG AFMS who reportedly authored the above letter, few questions need to be answered: One, since he was elevated to DG AFMS after serving as DG MS (Army) under Army HQ, did he, as advisor to the Army Chief (s), apprise the Army Chief of such happenings and recommend action against defaulters, or, did he keep quiet currying favour least he missed out elevation to DG AFMS. Two, since misuse of the provision has been reported by him since 2006, was he as a medical doctor pressurised to give the wrong certification? Did he submit to such pressure? Three, can he come on record to say he did apprise the Army Chief of such purported wrong practices? Four, if he did not apprise the Army Chief about such wrongdoings, did he issue any instructions or advisory as DGMS (Army) to Commands and hospitals warning them about such practice? Did he ask that he be informed immediately of any such incident on occurrence? Five, did he issue a similar advisory to the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force once he became DG AFMS? Five, did he send the full names and particulars of the defaulters when he reportedly wrote to the Defence Secretary, and if so, what action did he recommend? Six, was he, as DGMS (Army) or DG AFMS, aware that post-retirement grant of the disability pension is admissible to both military personnel and defence employees, and the reasons why it is permitted. Seven, since he retired in June 2016, why did he wait till the government was slammed because of the 30 September notification. Who, asked him to do so and why is he currying favour now? And, lastly, eight, is he amenable to release names of the so-called defaulters (both person granted disability and the medico certifying the same), or request the government to do so in order to clear his name because of the above questions? If not then this so called DG AFMS should stop using the title of Lt Gen.

The bottom line is that whether fact or fiction, the issue needs to be thoroughly probed, not left out as just another issue.

The author is a veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army.

Indian media must expose Pakistan’s hand in terrorism in Afghanistan

Pakistani media and Pakistani bloggers have warned their government and security agencies that Pakistan is on the verge of global isolation. A prominent Pakistani daily in its editorial has blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi behind this move, saying he is sparing no effort in highlighting cross-border terror attacks by Pakistan at every international forum including indirectly calling Pakistan “mothership of terror” during the recent Brics meet. The editorial says, “Modi’s statement shows just how committed New Delhi is when it comes to isolating Pakistan globally. From cancelling SAARC summit to boycotting Pakistani artists, the Modi regime is hell-bent on weakening Pakistan at every international forum. When and if isolated, the impact would be drastic, and Pakistan would never want that.”

Not that the Pakistani government is not worried, as was disclosed by participants of the Heart Security Dialogue held in Afghanistan held recently, who had travelled to Pakistan earlier. The angst of the civil society in Pakistan is obvious as the above mentioned daily mentioned that the Pakistani government and security agencies “should at least have the decency to admit that Pakistan still isn’t 100 per cent sure which non-state actor is good or bad”, adding just days earlier, even a ruling party lawmaker demanded action against non-state actors who happen to be the very ones that New Delhi has alleged Islamabad is using for cross-border terrorist attacks. The paper also mentioned the episode of Dawn reporter Cyril Almeida.

Afghan soldiers inspects the site of suicide attack In Kabul. Image used for representational purpose. APAfghan soldiers inspects the site of suicide attack In Kabul. Image used for representational purpose. AP

Afghan soldiers inspects the site of suicide attack In Kabul. Image used for representational purpose. AP

With reference to Saarc, the summit that was scheduled in Islamabad is ‘postponed’ by Pakistan and not cancelled and to blame PM Modi for the same is wrong as Saarc members are sovereign nations who take their own decisions. For example, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh recently stated a media interview, “It is over the situation in Pakistan that we decided to pull out (from the Saarc summit in Islamabad). Terror from Pakistan has gone everywhere, which is why many of us felt frustrated by Pakistan. India pulled because of the Uri attack, but for Bangladesh the reason is totally different. One of the other main reason of my government for Saarc pullout was hurt felt over Pakistan’s strident criticism of the war crimes process in Bangladesh in which dozen Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, accused of brutalities during the liberation war in 1971, have been hanged or indicted.” As to Pakistani film actors returning to Pakistan, it was of their own volition because they refused to sympathise with victims of Uri attack and condemn propagators of the dastardly attack and the Indian Motion Pictures Association (IMPA) who previously had held a condolence meet to sympathise with the victims of Army School, Abbotabad. IMPA indicted these Pakistani artist for making distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists.

But the most significant issue is that the term ‘non-state actor’ with reference to cross-border terrorism by Pakistan must be dropped being misnomer. There are no non-state actors in Pakistan undertaking cross-border terrorist acts. On the contrary, they are all state-supported; not only armed, funded, trained but also are operating mixed with disguised regulars from Pakistani Mujahid battalions and ISI operatives. The leaders of these so called non-state actors have been provided state protection, rabid mullahs like Hafiz Saeed and Azhar Masood are de-facto foreign policy spokespersons, terrorist organisations have been dovetailed with army establishments and intelligence reports indicate that terrorist along the LoC with India have been put in uniform of Pakistani Rangers post the surgical strikes by India.

While Indian media has been covering news reports about terror attacks in Afghanistan, it is imperative that Pakistan’s proxy war in Afghanistan be highlighted much more prominently, Afghanistan being our strategic partner. Report by UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (Unama) released in July 2016 shows that 5,166 people were killed or maimed in Afghanistan between January to June 2016 and total civilian casualties as per “conservative estimates” between January 2009 and 30 June 2016 were 64,000 including 23000 killed and 41,000 injured. The UNAMA report goes on to say that majority of these casualties have been caused by the Taliban and groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Union, Islamic State etc. Look at the horrendous horrific human tragedy in Afghanistan mainly because of Pakistan’s export of terrorism.

It may be recalled that Musharraf, former President of Pakistan has been boasting, “Osama-bin-Laden, Ayman-al-Zawahiri, Haqqanis are our heroes ….. We trained the LeT against India.” Now LeT is also being used for proxy war against Afghanistan. Earlier we had Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on Foreign Affairs (then also NSA) to Pakistan Prime Minister telling to BBC in an interview, “Pakistan should not engage in a war with those (insurgents / militants) whose target is not Pakistan.” US intelligence had admitted in February 2016 that Both Taliban (Afghan and Pakistan) have largely coalesced. The link is the Haqqanis that are based in Pakistan past three decades plus and Sirajuddin Haqqani, chief of Haqqani network and protégé of ISI is deputy leader of Afghan Taliban. US intelligence also reveals that Khorasan branch of IS formed is “amalgamation of primarily disaffected and rebranded former Afghan Taliban and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members”. Apparently, they were cobbled together in Peshawar region and have been pushed west into Afghanistan. Also, Voice of America recently reported Afghanistan officially telling Pakistan that Hafiz Saeed, former LeT chief is directing IS operations in Afghanistan.

It would be for the betterment of Pakistan if the Pakistani army returns to barracks and let true democracy flourish.

So the so called Islamic State (IS)  in Afghanistan is obviously mixed with LeT and other Pakistani proxies like JeM etc. The human toll in Afghanistan is mounting at incredible pace. Recently, 33 Muslim worshippers were killed and 82 injured in two separate terror attacks in Kabul and Balkh in Afghanistan. Intelligence now confirms that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, both Pakistan based, are also attacking Afghanistan. There should be little doubt that Pakistan’s military is doing all this with its stated aim of achieving ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan and influence Central Asia. Former Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had admitted that Pakistan does not wish to ‘hold’ the cherished strategic depth but wants to ‘control’ it. In doing so, Pakistan is repeatedly targeting Hazaras in Afghanistan, aiming to create an ethnic divide.

There is also danger that the IS in Iraq-Syria under major attack will be welcomed by Pakistan with open arms and used for cross-border attacks. Pakistan is using JeM to attack both India and Afghanistan but China still continues to put its so-called ‘technical hold’ at the UN to stop Azhar Masood being branded terrorist; ‘technical hold” being an euphuism for abetting Pakistani terrorism. This, despite China being only country that is drilling oil commercially in Afghanistan since 2012 and making huge profits in copper mines extraction.

Not only are India and Afghanistan strategic partners, they are both being subjected to Pakistan’s proxy war. The Pakistani military may have acquired the hide of the rhinoceros but public opinion in Pakistan is important and latter’s concerns have begun to reflect in their media. It should therefore be incumbent on media of both countries, particularly of India, to prominently highlight Pakistan’s proxy war both on India and Afghanistan. A media blitz is warranted to expose the nefarious wrong doings and stranglehold of the Pakistani military on their own country leading them down the vortex of terror. While the youth in Pakistan are being systematically radicalised, they actually need to be exposed to what how and why the Pakistani military lost East Pakistan and 93,000 military personnel surrendered as prisoners of war. It would be for the betterment of Pakistan if the Pakistani army returns to barracks and let true democracy flourish.

The author is veteran Lt General of the Indian Army

Surgical strikes may earn Modi govt public goodwill, but soldier still denied his dues

Surgical strikes have become the flavor of the season with news, discussions and debates continuing endlessly. It is amusing to watch media Napoleons working vigorously reconstructing the scene on models of the areas of PoK where the 28 September strikes took place, adding personal embellishments — some even hilariously amusing — about how the Special Forces went in, executing high altitude, high opening (HAHO) combat military technique. It is unclear whether they confused HAHO with Naga Ho Ho, and dreamed of themselves in Pentagon’s operations room the previous night or they were simply shocked by Pierce Brosnan endorsing Pan Bahar. But, they did manage to get some not so junior veterans to nod their heads in unison. Certainly not beyond them to next describe that the special forces commandos actually tunneled underground all the way to envelop the terrorist launch pads.

This followed a report that we had also launched surgical strikes in cyberspace — Indian hackers singed the Pakistan government network and locked their computers in the wake of Pakistani hackers defacing Indian sites, and Pakistani hackers reportedly offering to pay our hackers with Bitcoins in order to have their systems unlocked.

Of course this did not start any war in the political area for there were no claims – only an unverified report, no calls for giving proof and certainly no Ghulam Akbar, SP of Mirpur spilling the beans from across the border. On the contrary, the Bitcoins bit may have cocked the years of the enterprising ones; wondering what this hitherto unheard currency is about, what technological find it is, how they can add it to their personal stash and whether it would be categorized black or white money.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

But then, there is this third surgical strike which has been executed with such finesse that no one knows who held the scalpel and who the surgeons are, while the media is busy with the din of the other types of surgical operations. On 30 September 2016, MoD has issued the notification for grant of pensionary awards based on the recommendations of the 7th CPC. This notification very regressively has reduced the amount of disability benefits admissible to disability pensioners relegating the rates to the ‘slab system’ as was prevalent prior to the 6th CPC thereby placing defence disability pensioners at a sharp disadvantage as compared to civil disability pensioners. Would it surprise the public that under this notification, even if a military officer of three star rank is disabled completely (read 100 percent) in combat, he will get a ‘disability pension’ of Rs 27,000 whereas if a secretary level officer of the government becomes 100 percent disabled whether having fallen off his balcony or for any other reason, he will get ‘disability pension’ of Rs 67,500.

With respect to the above vastly differing ‘disability pension’ mentioned above, the difference before the issue of this notification was zero. When the government has not promulgated the ‘allowances’ part of 7th CPC till the anomalies are addressed post representations by the military, why have such grave anomalies in disability pension been promulgated? The fact that this unjustifiable notification was issued just two days after the military executed the surgical strikes in POK hurts even more. The question now is whether the bureaucracy has managed to undercut the Modi Government or is this with connivance of the polity. Would the defence minister go beyond theatrics claiming: “I made the Army realize their power”, and explain why this injustice is heaped upon the Armed Forces – is this a gift for the surgical strikes? The 7th CPC apparently is the unfinished grand design of the politico-bureaucratic nexus to completely degrade and demoralise the Armed Forces. It has brought Armed Forces below other government employees including IAS, central armed police forces, police, even the civilian defence employees, with latter consuming large share of the defence pension budget despite their small numbers.

The public would also be unaware the manner in which Armed Forces have been/are being dealt with by all governments. By now, it must be common knowledge that after the liberation of Bangladesh and Indian Armed forces having taken 93,000 Pakistani military prisoners (largest after World war II), a hard blow was inflicted on the Armed Forces arbitrarily by the 3rd CPC wherein pension of soldiers was reduced from 70 percent to 50 percent of last pay drawn. But how many would know that Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi who lost a leg in battle as a young officer and later became the Vice Chief of Army Staff, had to fight a seven year legal battle to get his disability pension after superannuating from service. So what do you expect soldiers would have to undergo if this is happening to a Vice Chief level officer. And don’t think this happens only during Congress rule. Based on a petition filed by a military veteran that the Government constituted Anomalies Committees to look into 7th CPC recommendations is not granting any opportunity to hear or interact with official defence establishment and even the Standing Committee on Welfare of Ex-servicemen which was ordered to hold meetings every three months by none less than the Defence Minister has not even held a single meeting thereby undermining political authority by lower officials, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice to the Central Government, also directing that in the meantime the Anomaly Committee shall take into account the views on anomalies affecting defence personnel.

Government may take the surgical strikes in POK to the public for vote-bank politicking for undoubtedly this was a bold decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But till the surgical strikes against the ethos and honour of the Armed Forces continue and the soldier is denigrated and denied his due, our enemy’s hybrid warfare of making India hollow from within will keep succeeding. Both the MoD and MoF appear to be playing to the advantage of our enemies – loved by the latter. The question is have the Prime Minister and the NSA being an Army officer’s son taken note, and more importantly would this be rectified?

The author is veteran Lt. General of the Indian Army. 

Sealing India-Pakistan border: Good beginning but govt should relook border infrastructure

The Home Minister on Friday stated that the government has decided to seal the entire stretch of the 3,323-km-long Indo-Pak border (1,225 km in Jammu and Kashmir, 553 km in Punjab, 1,037 km in Rajasthan and 508 km in Gujarat) by December 2018. Rajnath Singh also said that the development of the procedure will be done in a planned way, with a monitoring framework set up to review the progress, monthly, quarterly, bi-annually and annually. On the question of securing the riverine belts and areas where it is geographically unfeasible to put the physical barrier along the border, Singh said that the government will look into technological solutions to ensure every inch of our land is guarded. It may be recalled that similar indications had also been given by the government after the recent terrorist attacks in Gurdaspur and the IAF base at Pathankot.

On the question of securing the riverine belts and areas where it is geographically unfeasible to put the physical barrier along the border, Singh said that the government will look into technological solutions to ensure every inch of our land is guarded. It may be recalled that similar indications had also been given by the government after the recent terrorist attacks in Gurdaspur and the IAF base at Pathankot.

File image of Union minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

File image of Union minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

The decision is warranted with heightened proxy war by Pakistan that is likely to escalate further. Incidents of infiltration have gone up and 100 terrorists are reportedly ready to infiltrate from launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Infiltration has also been attempted through the international border in Punjab and J&K in addition to trans-border smuggling of goods, narcotics and fake Indian currency in Punjab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat.

India fenced and floodlit 461 km of Punjab’s border with Pakistan from 1988 to 1993. The 1,048 km Rajasthan-Pakistan border was fenced and floodlit by 1999. Of the construction of 340 km of border roads and 137 km of link roads along Pakistan border in Gujarat sector sanctioned, 294 km of border roads and 136 Km of link roads had been completed till a few years back. The challenges remained along the LoC in J&K and the unfenced 93 km of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. BSF had also proposed shifting of 23.380 km of fencing closer to the border in certain stretches of Ferozepur sector in Punjab due to the problems being faced by farmers in cultivating their lands. A dozen laser walls are already installed in the India-Pakistan border in Punjab in areas prone to infiltration.

India has erected 407 km border fencing in J&K in areas where there is high threat but the gaps between posts can only be covered through patrolling or ambushes which spread the security forces thin on the ground and is not 100 percent foolproof despite best efforts especially in hours of darkness, fog and adverse weather. Pakistan has been employing heavy cross-border firing to assist the infiltration and terrorists have also been using explosives to make gaps in the fencing or dig holes under the fence. In addition, heavy snows buried the fence especially in north Kashmir and large portions are also destroyed annually because of avalanches.

The new fence tried out – in consultation with the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) – uses stronger material and will have night-vision cameras, alarms and visual map displays integrated with the fence, all linked to a monitoring room, giving the local military commanders real-time data enabling quick reaction against any attempt to tamper with the fence. The fence is also proposed to be lit up using LED lighting where feasible. Existing fence in Jammu Sector is already lighted.

There is no denying that we need ‘smart’ borders. As per news reports, Israel has evinced interest in helping out in this venture. We need to optimize the best technology. Abroad, solar panels, rechargeable batteries, and diesel generators support extensive floodlighting with enough power. Operators pan and tilt the cameras remotely whenever any suspicious activity is observed. However, such arrangements are not feasible along active borders where Pakistan resorts to unprovoked firingy. Modern electronic surveillance involves detection of movement, and is largely based on seismic, acoustic, inductive sensors, and infrared sensors. Seismic sensors can distinguish between people and vehicles. Inductive sensors detect metal in an object that is moving, while an IR sensors can detect human body heat from a distance of up to 100 metres. The Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS) in use by the Army are mostly imported and primarily meant for guarding houses or premises. These are ineffective with snowfall and the DRDO has not been able to come up with one suitable for snow conditions.

However, despite smart fence fitted with cameras and consoles with commanders, limitations of adverse weather and visibility conditions will continue. This needs to be beefed up with Night Vision Devices (NVDs), Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) and Hand Held Thermal Imagers (HHTIs) which are in very limited numbers. The army post at Uri, which recently suffered a ghastly terrorist attack, did not have a single thermal imager despite being under enemy observation from three directions. The use of radars, as done abroad to detect smugglers as along the US-Mexico border, has the danger of giving away the electronic signatures of the equipment to the enemy. Besides, radars also have a dead zone. A mix of electronic surveillance and dogs would be very successful.

We use the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) for surveillance but in limited numbers, because of the paucity of resources and restrictions on flying of multiple UAVs simultaneously in the same area or zone. There is a need to speed up the induction of the Battlefield Surveillance System (BSS), Battlefield Management System (BMS) in the army, and equipping infantry with hand-held Mini Aerial Vehicles (MAVs). Modern MAVs with forward-looking IR can identify objects at extremely long distances. America’s MQ-9 Reaper UAV used for homeland security has cameras capable of identifying an object the size of a milk carton from altitudes of 60,000 feet, forward-looking IR detecting humans at distance of 60 km. MAVs are also being weaponised. The US military is developing swarms of tiny unarmed drones that can hover, crawl and even kill targets. These micro UAVs will work in swarms to provide complex surveillance of borders and battlefields. Aside from a laser weapon they can also be armed with incapacitating chemicals, combustible payloads or even explosives for precision targeting.

Despite excellent achievements of Isro, we still have not gone for 24×7 satellite surveillance along our borders with both China and Pakistan. China already has 24×7 satellite surveillance along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India. A recent media report of a 45km-deep Chinese incursion in Arunachal points to this critical void. Iran is building a 700km-long, 10-feet-high and a three-feet-thick wall along its border with Pakistan, which is still not complete. If we are going for a similar 3,323-km-long Indo-Pak border wall with Israeli assistance, it is unlikely to be completed by December 2018. Nevertheless, it would be a good beginning and we must ‘not’ neglect other borders especially border infrastructure in the northeast, which remains pathetic because of gross neglect over a decade by the previous government.

The government must also seriously consider three issues. Firstly, the Army’s Technical Support Division (TSD) that the UPA government disbanded to the great advantage of Pakistan’s ISI, must be re-established if the NDA government is serious about countering Pakistan’s proxy war on India. Secondly, the government needs to examine the villages located close to the border. When Farooq Abdullah, then the chief minister of J&K, was asked why the few border villages very close to the LoC could not be relocated in hinterland J&K by a foreign student at the National Defence College Course in 2000, he said he had thought about it and had already asked the Centre for Rs 120 crores to shift the first village. Creating a vacant belt would deter infiltration since any movement can be engaged by fire. Also, we may not mine the LoC but certainly patrols can keep adding IEDs.

Third, the principle of ‘One Border, One Force’ that we have muddled up completely because of turf wars. China has put her entire border along Myanmar, India and Afghanistan under the newly-created Western Theatre Command, which includes militias and border forces. The least we can do is putting our entire land and sea borders under the MoD. This would pay off immensely when it comes to defending India.

The author is veteran Lt. General

Surgical strikes sent right political message to Pakistan, but let’s not go overboard

While opposition parties were expected to politicise India’s surgical strikes in PoK on 28 September, our electronic media appears to have gone more than berserk. The opposition fears are natural with the approaching elections particularly in Uttar Pradesh where they would not want the NDA government to draw any political mileage having demonstrated a pro-active stance against rogue Pakistan.

So while they support government action, they make direct and indirect suggestions that the strikes were a big hoax by the Centre that has created the adverse prevailing situation. Those media hawks aligned cross-border or with the Opposition including those funded from dubious sources directly or through media houses located abroad continue to play games that certainly are not in our national interests. But they are secure in the knowledge that India is yet to find a solution on how to differentiate between ‘sedition’ and ‘freedom of press’ – similar to confusing ‘bureaucratic control’ over military with ‘civilian control’ whereas it should actually be ‘political control’ over the military. So these media hawks are naturally revered by our adversaries.

Then there is this politician famously called ‘pole tortoise’ who is obsessed with cross-border love, who reportedly consulted a surgeon and surmised that surgical strike implies cutting a limb, crippling the enemy and deterring terrorism but Pakistan’s response shows nothing has been cut off or deterred. His conclusion therefore is that these strikes were not ‘surgical’ but perhaps could have been categorised as ‘general medication’. But wait, he has more pearls of wisdom – he says launch pads are used by missiles, not guerillas, who are very mobile and infiltrate wherever opportunity beckons; they are not stationary targets (read like missile launch pads). Apparently, this tortoise could have taught a thing or two to Liddell Hart, Colin Grey and others. The Opposition sure doesn’t want the government to gain because of their bold action and stern political message to Pakistan in the forthcoming elections in UP, Punjab and other states. So, they have adopted the policy to praise the military but demand proof — not realizing they doubt and denigrate their own military in the process. But then there are many of those who are prepared to sell anything of the sake of votes.

Representational imageRepresentational image

Representational image

There are others of the same ilk holding important positions that are patronized more by Pakistan and do the latter’s bidding. So whatever they say publicly finds widespread mention in the Pakistani media. Take for example the recent exhortations by Delhi CM to release evidence of the surgical raids undertaken by India. This, in the backdrop of the massive disinformation campaign launched by Pakistan, which was not required in the first place if nothing had really happened or rather the cross-LoC strikes had not been executed. But let us examine the demand for release of photographic evidence to prove that the strikes actually took place, which actually amounts to doubting their own military. It is known by and large by now that the above mentioned surgical strikes were monitored by Cartosat-2.

However, satellites clips of even US and Israel operations only show movement of personnel as small-sized gray-white blobs. These cannot differentiate between friend and foe and certainly cannot identify any individual. A launch pad for 8-10 terrorists actually implies an overnight halting place, not an elaborate set up like the some of the crows would believe it to be. Filming can hardly be expected as done by US Navy Seals in Abottabad or like the movie Zero Dark Thirty. Besides, Indian Special Forces do not have the wherewithal yet to upload live pictures directly to the satellite. Whatever photos/video evidence taken cannot certify these were shot at a particular place – there are no signboards like this is Delhi CM’s residence or that is his bedroom.

Pakistan’s ISPR knows this full well and that is why increased Pakistani demands, including its sympathisers in India, to release the photos. When Pakistan can say that the Uri terrorist attack was the handiwork of RAW, why would they not say the same when evidence is released by India — that these pictures are taken within India? Most importantly, you cannot expect your own military to be part of such hoax. In fact with our NSA speaking to his counterpart in the US before these strikes, these operations may have monitored by US satellites also. Surprisingly Pakistan never asked for photographic evidence when they lost East Pakistan, when General AAK Niazi signed the instrument of surrender and when 93,000 Pakistani military men laid down their arms. So, why the demand now – is it because they have been shocked out of their wits? Why fire at civilians in villages in desperation now? Nawaz Sharif yelling “naked aggression” immediately post the strike was proof enough.

But it is shameful to see and hear the crows and frogs within our country who are cawing and croaking without any sense of national pride.

The media continues to go berserk; debating future operational options, pitting senior military veterans, even former Service Chiefs in these senseless debates. In which country do you see this type of nonsocial drama? Who discusses options like this in public? Of course there can always be an odd journalist who can’t get over his childhood shock of having seen his father go down in disgrace. But then there are others who will produce sand models showing future options, akin to arrows and pincers shown after every corps level exercises or like layout of the Parliament was shown after it was attacked by terrorists. Then media’s love for Special Forces shoots up after every major terror attack or incidents like the US raid to kill Osama-bin-Laden or say our last raid along the Myanmar border. So this time also the very same sets of questions were brought up by many channels, including whether our boys can execute the Abbotabad type of raid? This without knowing how many years it took the US to build up intelligence, how it was acquired, mechanics of the raid to kill Osama, suppression of Pakistani air defences and the like. The more enterprising ones wanted to know details of all types of weaponry and equipment our Special Forces hold. Some having heard Special Forces had been employed, talked about para-dropping, combat free-fall and even helicopters landing across the across the LoC. The whole process is akin to discussing scams in India – intense debate and then shoved under the carpet till next scam comes up; in this case till the next major terror attack or Special Forces action.

What we need to realise is that though these surgical strikes sent the right political message to Pakistan, they were executed on foot and given the distance across the LoC were tactical. Though Special Forces were used, these could have been undertaken by regular infantry too. The primary employment of Special Forces should be at the strategic level. But that is something that the hierarchy is unlikely to address in the near future given the type of higher defence structures that we have.

Meanwhile, let the crows caw and the frogs croak but let us not go overboard about these surgical strikes.

The author is veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army who has served in Kashmir

Pakistan launches disinformation offensive after surgical strikes on PoK

Expectedly, Pakistan has mounted a massive campaign of disinformation against the surgical strikes in PoK by India on 28 September — to attempt to portray that these strikes never occurred. This was logically response with Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani army chief — who is due to retire shortly — made to look silly with all the chest-thumping about the Pakistani Army being on full alert for 10 days since the attack on the Indian Army’s Uri post.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his defence minister Khawaja Asif looked equally silly and shell-shocked. That is why they baulked and released chaotic and contradictory statements; Nawaz proclaiming naked aggression by India, till obviously told to shut up by the military and ISI, who denied that anything happened. And later, Asif, who was shouting from the rooftops about how India will be destroyed through nuclear strikes, till he too was cautioned by the US. Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Hafiz Saeed naturally went berserk: His ego was obviously hurt as advisor to the ISI and coordinator for terror attacks in India and Afghanistan despite a US bounty on his head.

Much before the surgical strikes in PoK, the media had already reported that large terrorist training camps like at Mansera and Muzaffarabad had been shifted out anyway

Significantly, Voice of America had reported only recently about Afghan officials telling Pakistan that Saeed was directing Islamic State attacks inside Afghanistan, and that he is not to be confused with the Hafiz Saeed of Velayat Khorasan who was recently killed in Afghanistan.

Adolf Hitler is quoted (somewhat erroneously) as having written: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed”. This was echoed by John F Kennedy who quoted Hitler as having said, “No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as truth”. China mastered this art completely, one example being the sustained campaign of the so called “Peaceful Rise of China”, whereas its rise has consistently been most violent. China’s protégé Pakistan has not lagged behind either. Meet a Pakistani and he will tell you that Pakistan won the 1965 India-Pakistan War; oblivious of the enormous graveyard of Pakistani tanks and the territory lost (including the strategic Hajipir Pass and the adjoining mountain massifs).

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

In fact, he will tell you Ayub Khan is worshipped in Pakistan for having won the 1965 war. For that matter, the Pakistani public is unaware that Pakistan’s Qaid-e-Azam post, located at a height of 6,500 metres (the highest post on the Saltoro Range in the Siachen Glacier area) was captured by India in 1987 and renamed Bana Post. Pakistani tourists and correspondents on the Pakistani side continue to be shown some peak from a distance and told that it is the Qaid-e-Azam post, which is held by Pakistan. In fact, in the mid-1990s, a Pakistani captain who leaked information about the loss of the Qaid-e-Azam post to the media had to face a court martial and was cashiered out of service.

Then came the 1999 Kargil Conflict which General Pervez Musharraf claimed to have won. Would the Pakistani public know that Musharraf refused to take the bodies of Pakistani soldiers killed in the conflict because he wanted to showcase them as freedom fighters? In addition, the dead bodies of some 500 soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry were unceremoniously dumped at their doorsteps in the dead of night. This was reported in detail in the monthly edition of Dawn magazine in 1999, but how many Pakistanis would have read it? It is the same Musharraf who in a TV interview on 28 October, 2015 revealed that the Pakistani government had trained and bolstered terror groups such as the Taliban and LeT, and that Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahari, Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi were considered heroes in Pakistan.

And now, the BBC is showing a YouTube video of Pakistan’s DGAC, ISPR conducting correspondents at Tatta Paani (Hot Spring) area showing that there are no signs of Indian Army’s surgical raids to destroy any launch pad. Correspondents are then invited to get into helicopters and visit the other claimed strike areas to see for themselves the myth/lies of Indian claims. Incidentally, it is known that the BBC is wholly funded by the British Foreign Office. Not only are BBC correspondents selected after being interviewed at the foreign office, serving correspondents not toeing the government line are simply given the marching orders.

The BBC-ISPR links are well known, as is BBC’s Pakistan bias. That is why BBC never mentions the BJP without the prefix “India’s Hindu Nationalist Party”. However, this notwithstanding, there are two possibilities along which ISPRs disinformation campaign is being run. It is quite possible that either they are taking the correspondents to some places other than those struck or have worked diligently to obliterate all signs before taking them to these locations — either of the two options are feasible. Even if the correspondents were taken to say area of Tatta Paani, the launch pad could be anywhere in that general area, hidden from view. After all, launch pads for say eight to 10 terrorists hardly require large area and don’t require much effort to obliterate signs of having been raided.

Much before the surgical strikes in PoK, the media had already reported that large terrorist training camps like at Mansera and Muzaffarabad had been shifted out anyway.

The interesting part of the disinformation campaign mounted by the ISPR is the exploitation of the social media including WhatsApp. Although neither the Government of India nor the Indian Army has released any photographs, social media is flooded with photographs that are clearly not related to the strikes in PoK conducted on 28 September. This is being done in a professional fashion, setting in motion or deliberately inserting a chain of questions, claims and counter claims that would be picked up by Pakistani sympathisers in India as well as politicians of Opposition parties.

Not only are BBC correspondents selected after being interviewed at the foreign office, serving correspondents not toeing the government line are simply given the marching orders

It would not be surprising that the Chinese are advising the ISPR on how to refine their skills on information warfare. After all a detailed study by Harvard University has recently established that the Chinese government fabricates around 488 million social media comments annually (nearly the same as one day of Twitter’s total global volume) in a massive effort to distract its citizens from bad news and sensitive political debates. China providing tacit approval to Pakistan’s proxy war on India is well established. That is why China has extended her protective cover to a terrorist like Masood Azhar at the UN. That it would have provided Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) — which provides encryption for instant messaging conversations — to Pakistani proxies is also quite possible.

That ISPR’s disinformation campaign will slip into inertia is obvious. But as per our media, photographic evidence of the surgical raids is in possession of the government and will be released when the government so desires. That being the case, the ISPR disinformation campaign can continue the way Pakistan wants because the later it is countered, the better the effect.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army, who has served in Kashmir

After Surgical Strikes in POK – Pakistan launches disinformation offensive

Expectedly, Pakistan has mounted a massive campaign of disinformation against the surgical strikes in PoK by India on 28 September — to attempt to portray that these strikes never occurred. This was logically response with Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani army chief — who is due to retire shortly — made to look silly with all the chest-thumping about the Pakistani Army being on full alert for 10 days since the attack on the Indian Army’s Uri post.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his defence minister Khawaja Asif looked equally silly and shell-shocked. That is why they baulked and released chaotic and contradictory statements; Nawaz proclaiming naked aggression by India, till obviously told to shut up by the military and ISI, who denied that anything happened. And later, Asif, who was shouting from the rooftops about how India will be destroyed through nuclear strikes, till he too was cautioned by the US. Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Hafiz Saeed naturally went berserk: His ego was obviously hurt as advisor to the ISI and coordinator for terror attacks in India and Afghanistan despite a US bounty on his head.

Much before the surgical strikes in PoK, the media had already reported that large terrorist training camps like at Mansera and Muzaffarabad had been shifted out anyway

Significantly, Voice of America had reported only recently about Afghan officials telling Pakistan that Saeed was directing Islamic State attacks inside Afghanistan, and that he is not to be confused with the Hafiz Saeed of Velayat Khorasan who was recently killed in Afghanistan.

Adolf Hitler is quoted (somewhat erroneously) as having written: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed”. This was echoed by John F Kennedy who quoted Hitler as having said, “No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as truth”. China mastered this art completely, one example being the sustained campaign of the so called “Peaceful Rise of China”, whereas its rise has consistently been most violent. China’s protégé Pakistan has not lagged behind either. Meet a Pakistani and he will tell you that Pakistan won the 1965 India-Pakistan War; oblivious of the enormous graveyard of Pakistani tanks and the territory lost (including the strategic Hajipir Pass and the adjoining mountain massifs).

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

In fact, he will tell you Ayub Khan is worshipped in Pakistan for having won the 1965 war. For that matter, the Pakistani public is unaware that Pakistan’s Qaid-e-Azam post, located at a height of 6,500 metres (the highest post on the Saltoro Range in the Siachen Glacier area) was captured by India in 1987 and renamed Bana Post. Pakistani tourists and correspondents on the Pakistani side continue to be shown some peak from a distance and told that it is the Qaid-e-Azam post, which is held by Pakistan. In fact, in the mid-1990s, a Pakistani captain who leaked information about the loss of the Qaid-e-Azam post to the media had to face a court martial and was cashiered out of service.

Then came the 1999 Kargil Conflict which General Pervez Musharraf claimed to have won. Would the Pakistani public know that Musharraf refused to take the bodies of Pakistani soldiers killed in the conflict because he wanted to showcase them as freedom fighters? In addition, the dead bodies of some 500 soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry were unceremoniously dumped at their doorsteps in the dead of night. This was reported in detail in the monthly edition of Dawn magazine in 1999, but how many Pakistanis would have read it? It is the same Musharraf who in a TV interview on 28 October, 2015 revealed that the Pakistani government had trained and bolstered terror groups such as the Taliban and LeT, and that Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahari, Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi were considered heroes in Pakistan.

And now, the BBC is showing a YouTube video of Pakistan’s DGAC, ISPR conducting correspondents at Tatta Paani (Hot Spring) area showing that there are no signs of Indian Army’s surgical raids to destroy any launch pad. Correspondents are then invited to get into helicopters and visit the other claimed strike areas to see for themselves the myth/lies of Indian claims. Incidentally, it is known that the BBC is wholly funded by the British Foreign Office. Not only are BBC correspondents selected after being interviewed at the foreign office, serving correspondents not toeing the government line are simply given the marching orders.

The BBC-ISPR links are well known, as is BBC’s Pakistan bias. That is why BBC never mentions the BJP without the prefix “India’s Hindu Nationalist Party”. However, this notwithstanding, there are two possibilities along which ISPRs disinformation campaign is being run. It is quite possible that either they are taking the correspondents to some places other than those struck or have worked diligently to obliterate all signs before taking them to these locations — either of the two options are feasible. Even if the correspondents were taken to say area of Tatta Paani, the launch pad could be anywhere in that general area, hidden from view. After all, launch pads for say eight to 10 terrorists hardly require large area and don’t require much effort to obliterate signs of having been raided.

Much before the surgical strikes in PoK, the media had already reported that large terrorist training camps like at Mansera and Muzaffarabad had been shifted out anyway.

The interesting part of the disinformation campaign mounted by the ISPR is the exploitation of the social media including WhatsApp. Although neither the Government of India nor the Indian Army has released any photographs, social media is flooded with photographs that are clearly not related to the strikes in PoK conducted on 28 September. This is being done in a professional fashion, setting in motion or deliberately inserting a chain of questions, claims and counter claims that would be picked up by Pakistani sympathisers in India as well as politicians of Opposition parties.

Not only are BBC correspondents selected after being interviewed at the foreign office, serving correspondents not toeing the government line are simply given the marching orders

It would not be surprising that the Chinese are advising the ISPR on how to refine their skills on information warfare. After all a detailed study by Harvard University has recently established that the Chinese government fabricates around 488 million social media comments annually (nearly the same as one day of Twitter’s total global volume) in a massive effort to distract its citizens from bad news and sensitive political debates. China providing tacit approval to Pakistan’s proxy war on India is well established. That is why China has extended her protective cover to a terrorist like Masood Azhar at the UN. That it would have provided Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) — which provides encryption for instant messaging conversations — to Pakistani proxies is also quite possible.

That ISPR’s disinformation campaign will slip into inertia is obvious. But as per our media, photographic evidence of the surgical raids is in possession of the government and will be released when the government so desires. That being the case, the ISPR disinformation campaign can continue the way Pakistan wants because the later it is countered, the better the effect.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army, who has served in Kashmir

It’s time Modi govt reviewed response to possible Pakistan-sponsored nuclear attacks

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic US Presidential nominee has gone on record to voice concern over the possible threatening scenario of Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons falling into the hands of jihadis. According to media reports, Hillary said, “Pakistan is running full speed to develop tactical nukes in their continuing hostility with India …..we live in fear that they’re going to have a coup, that jihadists are going to take over the government, they’re going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you’ll have suicide nuclear bombers”. Fears expressed by Hillary have been expressed by many in the past as well, but coming from her, a former Secretary of State and now Presidential nominee, they have special meaning.

However, given the recent record of activities of the Pakistani government, the jihadist takeover of Pakistan is already underway. In fact, the midpoint may have been crossed already taking a cue from from Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Nuclear and High Energy Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, who wrote in August 2011. “An extremist takeover of Pakistan is probably no further than five to 10 years away. The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA, and that madrassas are the only institutions serving as jihad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation state.”

File photo of Hafiz Saeed. AFPFile photo of Hafiz Saeed. AFP

File photo of Hafiz Saeed. AFP

Today, radical mullahs like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and Salahuddin are not only intimately linked to the Pakistani military as advisors and coordinating terror attacks in India and Afghanistan, they have become de-facto foreign policy spokesmen holding open rallies to preach jihad through terror; Hafiz Saeed despite US bounty on his head. What other proof is needed about jihadi takeover? It is no more a question of jihadis getting hold of tactical nukes as Hillary fears, they could be ‘given’ tactical nukes and tasked. At the same time, the Pakistani Army, though rashly exporting terror, is not stupid to use a nuclear weapon (whether tactical or nuclear crossing the nuclear threshold) during war, for they know that consequences for Pakistan will be catastrophic. The frequent nuclear threats are because of their fear of conventional war with India, window for which exists, however limited. But conventional wars of yester-decades have been overtaken by hybrid wars, which raise the possibility of jihadi nuclear threat that may be orchestrated by Pakistan in the hope it would not be traced back to them.

Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) terrorism is a reality, what with the 1995 Sarin Gas attacks on Tokyo Subway, anthrax attacks in the US in 2001, and Sarin gas use in Syria now. A study by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies reveals that during 2013 only, there were 153 cases spanning 30 countries where radiological and nuclear materials were lost, including 141 involving dangerously radioactive materials, albeit not usable in nuclear weapons. The platforms for nuclear terrorism can be any — from ‘lone wolf’ to 9/11-type aerial ones. The military-feudal-politico clique ruling Pakistan with intimate terror links represent the hidden jihadi face of Pakistan. The Pakistani military has never won a war, albeit they have fooled the public that they won the 1965 War, the 1999 Kargil conflict and didn’t even lose the Quaid-e-Azam post on the Saltoro Range in the Siachen glacier area, which was captured by India and renamed Bana Post.

The Pakistani military hierarchy has been strutting on the strength of terrorist power although they faced severe criticism when Osama bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces in Abbottabad. But now, Indian Special Forces have struck in PoK, even as Pakistan is in denial and their media says it is Pakistan that has killed eight to nine Indian soldiers, whose bodies Indians have not been able to retrieve yet. Raheel Sharif, Pakistani Army chief rumoured to be promoted to field marshal, is obviously smarting after the surgical cross-LoC strikes by India. He and Nawaz Sharif mentioned-in-dispatches in Panama Papers would be looking to demonstrate to the Pakistani public they still hold the aces to destabilise any country directly or indirectly.

Pakistan has no legal claim to PoK under the Indian Independence Act of 1947 and the Radcliffe Boundary Commission Accord. Besides, the UN Resolution on Kashmir had asked Pakistan to vacate PoK (clearly marking her aggressor) before any plebiscite, this resolution itself not being binding and rendered redundant after the 1972 Shimla Agreement. Yet Musharraf, who should have been court martialled for his Kargil misadventure and jailed for the killing of Nawab Bugti and the genocide unleashed in Balochistan that continues to-date says, “Even if the Kashmir issue is resolved, jihad against India will continue.” Musharraf’s successors are no different. The chances of Pakistan reforming itself and giving up terror are practically zero.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter had earlier said while India has generally shown responsible behaviour with nuclear technology, China conducts itself professionally and nuclear weapons in Pakistan are entangled in a history of tensions. But it is conspicuous to note that Pakistani-sponsored terrorism both in India and Afghanistan has escalated exponentially, post China’s announcement of $46 billion investment in the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) and PLA’s covert deployments in Gilgit-Baltistan. China’s economic interests in Afghanistan are protected through Pakistani proxies and her own links with Taliban, but China is using Pakistan to keep India boxed in within South Asia and to curb India’s economic development — in line with her ambition for a multipolar world but a China-centric unipolar Asia.

The Pakistani military hierarchy has been strutting on the strength of terrorist power although they faced severe criticism when Osama bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces in Abbottabad

More significantly, Thomas Reed, former US Air Force Secretary (himself having designed two nuclear devices) in his book The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation wrote that China under Deng Xiaoping decided to proliferate nuclear technology to Communists and Muslims in the third world based on the strategy that if the West started getting nuked by Muslim terrorists or another Communist country without Chinese fingerprints, it would be good for China. That is how Pakistan and North Korea became the nuclear talons of the Chinese dragon. What reinforces Chinese denials is that while China raised a host of objections to exposures in Reed’s book, all were withdrawn after Reed quoted his discussion with Chinese scientists. Also, though China declared in 1997 that she had dismantled her ‘offensive’ chemical warfare (CW) programme, the US maintains that China has an ‘advanced’ CW program under the cover of research and development.

Three years before the terrorist attack on our Parliament, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) had done a comprehensive pan-India study listing out possible terror targets — in case of Delhi, the Parliament was top priority. Yet when the attack occurred, we were quite unprepared. The explanation of NSCS was that they only make recommendations but can’t execute them; lack of coordination on such vital security issues being the bane of India. The Modi government would do well to review our response to possible Pakistan-sponsored CBRN terror attacks — not only for an effective crushing reply to the perpetrators, but also for establishing early warning systems, prevention (as possible), emergency health care, antidotes, quarantine and the like. The world would do well to unite against such possibility, the target not being India alone.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army who has served in Kashmir

India Army’s surgical strikes across LoC: Pakistan plays brave, but shock palpable

Multiple strikes by Indian Special Forces on Pakistan’s terrorist launch pads-cum-terrorist camps on night of 28 September should have deflated some of the putrid gas because of which Pakistani leaders and their army have been strutting around making wild statements. The world knows that the Pakistani Army has not won a single war, has lost half its country during the birth of Bangladesh and surrendered 93,000 prisoners of war to India. Pakistan sheltered Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US Special Forces at Abbotabad; besides, Mullah Mansour Akhtar too was killed inside Pakistan, in the Balochistan province.

Despite this and without adequate pressure from US and China, Pakistan has been conducting a proxy war against India and Afghanistan with impunity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gone out of his way with an extended hand of friendship to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, but the latter was hell-bent on stabbing India in the back — just like all previous Pakistani presidents and prime ministers, with their own military as the Sword of Damocles over their heads.

The manner in which the surgical strikes were conducted at seven widely-dispersed locations astride the LoC so successfully by elements of two Special Forces units of the Northern Command speaks highly of professionalism. The success of these actions also should be seen in the backdrop of the fact that the Pakistani Army was on high alert for the past 10 days, not to mention the night flights by F-16s over Islamabad, and Nawaz and his defence minister Khawaja Asif along with Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and COAS Raheel Sharif talking of war and twitching their nuclear tails.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The fact that the Pakistani Army was taken by surprise, tried to intervene with Indian Special Forces strikes and lost four regular Pakistani soldiers (two, as admitted by Nawaz) adds to the success. The clinical strikes inflicted heavy casualties on the terrorists, their supporters and the Pakistani Army without any loss to India’s troops. The capture and interrogation of the Pakistani-origin guides who helped the Pakistani terrorists during the Uri attack had once again confirmed the Pakistani Army’s involvement — which was not only denied by Nawaz, but countered in the most absurd terms by saying that the Uri attack was engineered from within India.

After the Uri terror attack, there was tremendous pressure on the government to retaliate. In between there were also fake reports of our Special Forces having gone across the LoC, struck terrorist locations, killed 20 and injured some 200. This was perhaps a deliberate ruse to lull the enemy and it obviously worked. The Pakistani military was clearly confident that India would not resort to any physical action of this type. The intended targets, however, were being kept under constant surveillance following the attack on the army camp at Uri, to be struck at the right time. These strikes would have come as a terrific jolt to Pakistan. In fact, the surprise was so complete that the Pakistani posts opened fire only after our troops were safely back home. These strikes, under the leadership of Modi, have demonstrated to the world — Pakistan in particular — that India cannot be viewed as a ‘soft’ State. Pakistan was apparently expecting a conventional response, which it feared most; hence, the periodic nuclear sabre-rattling.

The list of some 35-40 terrorist training camps in PoK along with their locations has been available with the Indian Parliament. The Pakistani hierarchy appears to be milling around in surprise. Pakistan’s ISI is trying to showcase that nothing much has happened, but the shock effect is palpable. Our strikes in PoK are definitely not any aggression because PoK territory is an integral part of India; terrorists were struck, not the Pakistani military, and our troops returned having completed the assigned task successfully. Will Pakistan curb its terrorist activities now? There is no question absolutely because the Pakistani military not only holds Pakistan and the Pakistani public to ransom, it has infiltrated ever department and organ in Pakistan: Economic, administrative and so on.

More significantly, Pakistani scholar Ayesha Siddiqa in her book Military Inc had propounded in 2007 that the Pakistani military’s private-industrial-corporate complex was to the tune of $20 billion already. This figure must have multiplied several times over, and to retain this power and money, the Pakistani military must have conflict both with India and Afghanistan. So, it is not going to give up Pakistan using terrorism as a state policy.

For all the peaceniks who feared any physical retaliation to the Uri attack (war, including nuclear war), I hope it is clear once for all that there is plenty of space below conventional war. In fact, the response to asymmetric war must always be asymmetric. We should have realised this after Operation Parakram following the Parliament attack. We should have struck Pakistan sub-conventionally both after the 26 November, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and the Parliament attack. Not that we should have not have done so after the terror attack on the IAF base in Pathankot this January, as well as earlier ones.

The manner in which the surgical strikes were conducted at seven widely-dispersed locations astride the LoC so successfully by elements of two Special Forces units of the Northern Command speaks highly of professionalism

At the same time, we must acknowledge that these cross-LoC strikes by our Special Forces were around three kilometres across, rightly exploiting the porosity of the border — a factor that has been used mainly by Pakistan till now, to India’s disadvantage. With these trans-border strikes, Pakistanis will be more alert. However, the option of such future strikes will remain possible. At the same time, while Special Forces are central to an asymmetric response, a direct form of trans-border actions of this type is just ‘one’ task with which they should be tasked. Special Forces provide the government with multiple low-cost options without or with ambiguous options.

They should be employed on politico-military missions at the strategic level. The government will do well to establish the Special Operations Command, directly under Modi for such tasks, leaving actions like these multiple trans-border strikes to the Military Special Forces. Interestingly, the Pakistani media has criticised escalation along the LoC but has “rejected” India’s claim of having conducted the cross-border surgical strikes. However, escalation by Pakistan is very much on the cards, given the Pakistani military psyche discussed above.

We should be geared for terrorism across India and an escalation in the forms of terrorist attacks — even chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks or lone wolf attacks. In addition, cross-border attacks from Pakistan could increase. Should there be more escalation, Pakistan can be expected to ‘deploy’ its nuclear weapons and publicise it. Besides calling its nuclear buff, Islamabad has to be told that New Delhi’s ‘No First Use’ doctrine applies to the ‘threat’ of nuclear attack as well.

Additionally, our Special Forces have already been conducting joint training. Should Pakistan continue with its proxy war on India and Afghanistan, there should be ample opportunities for joint operations by these two forces against Pakistan. Modi has once again demonstrated that his leadership is class apart. Kudos to him and congratulations to our Special Forces and IAF helicopter pilots for the above highly successful surgical strikes in PoK.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army who has served in Kashmir

Increasing ‘happiness quotient’ of Indian soldiers: A concept that belongs on paper alone

Multiple media reports state that the that DRDO is to tie-up with IIT-Kharagpur to increase the ‘happiness quotient’ of Indian soldiers; some say the endeavour is devised to bring the smile back to the faces of the soldiers, and others say it’s to heighten the morale of soldiers. A comprehensive soldier fitness programme is reportedly being worked out, aimed at increasing happiness quotient of the Indian Army. Manas K Mandal, director-general of Life Sciences at DRDO says, “We are looking at devising ways to build resilience among our soldiers, and it can be done by increasing the happiness quotient among them. We will be working with the Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness at IIT-Kharagpur.”

Mandal, along with Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, director of IIT-Kharagpur told the media that “that an increase in happiness levels increases productivity, resulting in increased sense of loyalty in soldiers”. The reports state that “hundreds of soldiers have committed suicide due to stress in the past six or seven years and many cases of suicides have been reported in Kashmir after the Burhan Wani case.”

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The idea of the ‘happiness quotient’ has apparently been derived from the concept of gross national happiness (GNH) and the happiness index introduced by the King of Bhutan in 1972. Bhutan is ranked first in the world happiness index. Mandal told the media, “Unlike the US Army serving in Afghanistan, where soldiers require programmes to de-stress, our men on the frontlines do not need such tools. Most of our soldiers come from struggling families and continue to face hardships on the job, so they are much less vulnerable compared to US soldiers in Afghanistan, who are used to abundance.”

“Working in extreme weather conditions (in Siachen, for example) for a prolonged period does require a lot of resilience, which we can induce through this programme (read proposed programme),” Chakrabarti said, adding, “This is an emerging discipline and is going to be one of the key pillars by which human development will happen.”

In the above context, both Mandal and Chakrabarti would be well-advised to be very careful of what they say to the media with reference to the army. The loyalty of the Indian soldier is unquestionably the very best. An odd case of fratricide does not mean that you start questioning the loyalty of soldiers and start working on a programme to educate soldiers across the board about loyalty. On the contrary, those involved with working on the proposed programme need to go and spend some days living with troops at the frontline to see why they are stressed out. Dr Abdul Kalam (later president) as principal scientific advisor had remarked after his first visit to Siachen, “I wish I had come to this area earlier during my 26 years with the DRDO.”

Both Mandal and Chakrabarti actually owe an apology to the army soldiers for questioning their loyalty, especially at a time when the army is being denigrated, including by putting army soldiers below the policeman in terms of pay and allowances.

Morale again is a function of command. No amount of courses, cadres or education programs can teach morale to the soldiers unless there is an improvement in the stressful environment in which they are operating. Quoting Wani’s killing when talking of soldier suicides is also stupid. Surely, soldiers are not committing suicide in mourning or euphoria over this terrorist having been killed. Much before Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on yoga and successfully introduced the International Yoga Day, whole infantry battalions were practicing yoga during their entire tenure on the Saltoro Massif in Siachen Glacier, and had been coming out stress-free, some even without a single weather casualty. Mandal should also know that number of suicides in units deployed in peace is more than in those in units deployed in the field.

The logic that our soldiers coming from struggling families that continue to face hardships on the job, so they are much less vulnerable to stress cannot be applied across the board because what is described as “struggling families” are mostly joint families. The soldier becomes aware of family or social clash immediately with modern communications, and since he cannot rush home every time because of commitments, his stress levels go up. The civil administration seldom entertains problems of the families back home and why should they when you have politicos making occasional statements that soldiers are meant to die anyway?

The Centre making any effort toward sthis is out of the question when peacefully-protesting veterans are baton-charged by the police, while serving soldiers including wards of those being beaten up, watch in horror. The defence minister tells Service Chiefs to immediately implement 7th Pay Commission, placing the soldiers under even the police and civilian defence employees, and the department of ex-servicemen (DESW) takes pleasure in denying dues to every widow and even the war-wounded and disabled, forcing them into prolonged litigation they can ill-afford.

How can the DRDO-IIT evolve programs for the military without going and living with the soldiers along the LoC and experiencing battle environments in conflict situations?

The happiness quotient is directly proportional to pay commissions and the partial OROP that has been granted, plus living conditions of the soldiers and their families. The abject penury of the families of the 18 martyrs of the Uri attack shown on TV was moving. With the breadwinner gone, every penny is vital to them, especially when there is no provision to even provide a job to a family member as in the case of police. The type of response for the Uri attack doesn’t raise the morale or happiness of the soldier either with terrorists having killed and burned alive 18 of their kin.

Sure, the army must ensure that the officer-soldier relationship remains the very best at all times but what is the DRDO and IIT going to do about the happiness quotient in the civil-military relationship that appears to have reached its lowest nadir? How will Mandal tackle the mounting happiness quotient of the politico-bureaucratic mafia that goes euphoric every time the happiness quotient of the soldier declines? Besides, what Mandal knows and Chakrabarti does not is that during the Kargil Conflict, General VP Malik — then Army Chief — was forced to say, “We will fight with what we have.”

The DRDO is the acknowledged culprit within the military as the prime contributor to the low levels of happiness of the soldier. With its sprawling mass and manpower, the DRDO has failed to provide the soldier with adequate clothing, weapons, surveillance equipment for day and night operations, communications, survival equipment etc when say in the LoC environment, the threat to life is greater and demands on the soldier to remain vigilant 24×7 are constantly giving them limited sleep — leave alone the hawks angling to increase their stress through human rights violation allegations, most of which are false.

The Bhutanese concept of GNH and happiness index of the Bhutanese in Bhutan’s environment is something entirely different from the happiness quotient of the Indian soldier. From what is apparent, the proposed programme is still an “emerging discipline” and the Rekhi Centre of IIT-Kharagpur primarily runs eight-week programmes for corporate organisations. How can the DRDO-IIT evolve programs for the military without going and living with the soldiers along the LoC and experiencing battle environments in conflict situations? The policymakers need to look into these issues least we land up in another wasteful project of the DRDO sans any significant gain.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

Uri Attack: Continuous strategic intelligence will help respond to asymmetric threats

Same old story; another terrorist attack albeit this time more heinous in Uri using incendiaries to burn the wounded, and higher number of casualties. There events have been dissected, conferences held, prime minister warned the perpetrators, home minister cancelled his US trip, DGMO talked about Jaish-e-Mohammad JeM involvement on national TV, there was a flurry of officials sent to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), TV debates, proclamations about what needs to be done, Raheel Sharif brought out his ‘nuclear’ approach, so on and so forth. Could we have consigned bodies of the four terrorists to flames (they burned our soldiers, didn’t they?), televised it and showed live to the world — have you not been harping terrorists have no religion? But this apart, are we going to do anything beyond ‘Artomacy’ (artillery bombardment and diplomacy)? If that is all then our civilian areas will also be targeted by Pakistani artillery and mortars. And, while you may be happy about the diplomatic isolation of Pakistan, there will be more cautionary remarks by the US (sanctions – you must be kidding!) to go after terrorists organisations, China will hug Pakistan more tightly — end of the story. The Hurriyat separatists would be mighty amused, as would the ISI and their terrorist protégés.

When will we learn that we have to fight our own war? The global powers, themselves using proxy forces, will go by their own national interests. Have we not understood why foreign intelligence related to Pakistan is coming to us piecemeal, as and when it suits the interests of the country providing it? Following the January terrorist attack on the IAF base at Pathankot, the editorial of Washington Times of 6 January titled ‘Islamic terrorists open a new front’ said, “Just what the civilised world needs, a new front in the war against radical Islamic terrorism: Two terrorists were killed this week in an attack on the Pathankot Indian Air Force Base.”

Smoke rises from the Army Brigade camp in Uri. PTISmoke rises from the Army Brigade camp in Uri. PTI

Smoke rises from the Army Brigade camp in Uri. PTI

Of the 1,67,221 terrorist related fatalities in period 2001-2015, only 2.2 percent were suffered by US and Western Europe which included 11 September 2001 attacks; which is a is happy situation, while 75 percent of those killed were in 25 Muslim-majority countries. Significantly, Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Endowment had said in 2012, “India being continuously subjected to terror actually suits many … India is a sponge that absorbs global terror.” Also, post the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, Tellis recommended to a Senate panel that US must go for the evisceration of the LeT and allied terrorist groups with or without the cooperation of Pakistan. But there is hardly any pressure on Pakistan. Pakistan was as big a country with nuclear weapons in 2001 when Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State threatened Pakistan to join the global war on terror (GWOT) or they would be “bombed into stone age”.

Late MK Dhar, former Joint Director IB wrote in his book Open Secrets – India’s intelligence unveiled published in 2005, “I continued to advocate for an aggressive and proactive counter and forward intelligence thrust against Pakistan. My voice was rarely heard and mostly ignored. The Pakistani establishment is a geopolitical bully. The best response to blunt such a bully is to take the war inside his home. India has allowed itself to be blackmailed by Pakistan even before it went nuclear. The sabre rattling of ‘coercive diplomacy’, which is nothing but sterile military power, cannot convince the Islamist Pakistani Establishment that India can take the border skirmishes inside their homes and hit at the very roots of the jaundiced Islamist groups.” Dhar was obviously referring these recommendations while he was in service, much before he wrote the book post retirement.

Similarly, Jaswant Singh, former Foreign Minister and Defence Minister wrote in his book A Call to Honour, “Terrorism in India – as an aspect of our current history, now virtually an ideology, a new tool of coercion in the conduct of internal and external relations — has redefined both internal and international relations — has redefined both inter-state and intrastate dynamism. There are issues here that we have, sadly, neither sufficiently grasped nor addressed. Whatever we have done has been ad hoc. This is a sure recipe for ultimate failure”. If any more proof was needed we are a soft state, Army’s sub-conventional warfare doctrine, preamble of which was signed by Defence Minister AK Anthony, is confined to its own side of the border.

So, how should India respond? Sure the diplomatic pressure must be accelerated including at the UN to isolate Pakistan. Conventional PGM strike at carefully selected target(s) too is an option that would also call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff once for all. The two-way porosity of the LoC should also be exploited to hit the enemy hard. But the most important issue is to understand that conventional response is no match to asymmetric and irregular war. Diplomatic efforts sure should be accelerated to get Pakistan declared terrorist state, terror organisations blacklisted and getting their leaders isolated and declared terrorists. But such measures do not suffice by themselves. You cannot protect your house without effective policing in streets. We need to take control of Pakistan’s fault-lines, which are so many one can actually pick and choose. Special forces have been employed in conjunction national intelligence agencies to good effect by USA, UK, France, Israel, Germany and China, but despite being subjected to terror for decades and continuing voids in strategic intelligence this has not happened in India. We have a host of special forces that must be used in conjunction intelligence agencies to control Pakistani fault-lines since these forces operate without or with ambiguous signatures. Their tasks no more focus solely on direct action but span continuous strategic intelligence and shaping the environment in own national interest, in addition to politico-military actions at the strategic level. Unless this is acknowledged and put in motion, we will never be able to respond to asymmetric threats appropriately. Concurrently there is need to synchronise global political, intelligence, military, cyber and diplomatic efforts towards identifying, isolating and stemming the specific sources of financial and armed support to terrorist organisations.

When Zia-ul-Haq ushered in Wahabism, he set Pakistan on the trail to consume itself through Islamic radicalisation. Raheel Sharif will be remembered for letting in the PLA, setting Pakistan in the path of US-China strategic competition on land, similar to what’s happening on the waters of South China Sea. But while that takes its own time, we should be prepared to fight the sub-conventional on our own steam.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

Direct talks with Pakistan military is a rubbish idea: India must continue to engage Nawaz Sharif-govt on terror

In the backdrop of Pakistan’s escalating proxy war on India, a cross-section here is rooting for India to open direct talks with the Pakistani military. Pakistan’s reasons for upping their dirty tricks are pretty obvious; the ISI are euphoric with presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK), notwithstanding they have bartered the country’s sovereignty, but more important is the need to divert attention from the ongoing genocide in Balochistan, the Gilgit-Baltistan region and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The turmoil in Gilgit-Baltistan region has taken a new turn with the recently rigged elections in PoK where the military forced a win for Nawaz Sharif and the latter, gushing with gratitude, has dropped his fake mask of goodwill towards India, not that anyone believed this bogus peacenik was unaware of the Kargil intrusions in his previous tenure as the prime minister of that country. Though Pakistan’s “kill and dump” policy in Balochistan has been in news for the past few years, genocide of Balochis has taken a systemised dastardly turn. News reporters in Balochistan have been killed regularly but on 8 August, some 60 senior Balochi lawyers were killed in a well-planned suicide bomb blast in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. Both the Pakistan Taliban and Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast that killed 70 and injured more than a hundred. As per reports, there are very few lawyers left in Balochistan and it will take years for the legal community to recover from this tragedy.

The section of Indian media who are rooting for direct talks with the Pakistan military are grossly unaware of the ground realities. Isn’t it a shame, in that case, that a cross-section of our media channels are hell-bent on reporting that inflames more violence in the Kashmir Valley? As John Swinton, former chief of New York Times told the New York press club, “We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes.  We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance.  Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men.  We are intellectual prostitutes.”

Sure this doesn’t apply across the board in India, but none of them ever undertook an audit of ISI funds flowing in to mould opinions. So you have Hafiz Saeed publicly showering appreciation on the chosen few. Not surprising then that we have the editorial of a prominent daily recommending that India must talk to the Pakistani army and the ISI because: they determine the policies in Pakistan; the Americans and Chinese regularly talk to them, and; since the Pakistani army and ISI fears India intends to harm Pakistan and uses asymmetric means for doing so, we should calm their fears.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

Such recommendations reflect the ‘frog in the well’ syndrome, if not wilfully motivated. Sure, the Pakistani military and the ISI (which are one and the same) determine the policy in Pakistan — particularly foreign and defence — but just look around and see how proffered olive branches by India and Afghanistan have been repeatedly rebuffed by Pakistan — Vajpayee’s Lahore bus journey, Modi’s surprise visit to Nawaz Sharif’s Lahore abode being just two examples.

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in his 13-years of presidency made 19 trips to Pakistan with extended hand of friendship but failed. As a youngster, Karzai had stayed in Pakistan and fought against the Soviets with the Mujahideen. Pakistan was the first country President Ashraf Ghani visited, where he broke protocol and drove to the office of the Pakistani army chief’s office in Islamabad to meet him. But today, Ashraf Ghani is as disillusioned with Pakistan as Hamid Karzai.

The Americans and Chinese have sure been talking to the Pakistani military. America has been doing so since the SEATO-CENTO, later GWOT days and beyond. The US somehow can’t get over their gratitude to Pakistan for brokering US-China thaw during the Nixon-Kissinger era. China, of course, is indebted to Pakistan for: gifting them the Shaksgam Valley in PoK during 1963; consenting to become a nuclear talon of the Chinese dragon; brokering Chinese contacts with Taliban even before the US invasion of Afghanistan; help keep Uighurs in Xinjiang under check; despite being a champion of Islamic jihad, keeping a lid on the Chinese atrocities and curbs on Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang; keep China’s commercial interests in Afghanistan safe through Pakistani proxies; help keep India in check as part of the China-Pakistan construct; granting development of Gwadar as a Chinese SSBN base to a Chinese company; development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to permit strategic outreach through land to the Indian Ocean; and permitting stationing of PLA troops in PoK-Pakistan, including establishment of a strategic pivot in Gilgit-Baltistan for operations in any direction.

As to Pakistan’s fear that India means to harm her, not many would know that the US had in the past recommended to Pakistan to go for a ‘no war pact’ with India, which Pakistan rejected. Pakistan also knows that the only asymmetric means India employs against her is diplomacy since intelligence gathering by countries is a common feature globally and doesn’t strictly come under asymmetric.

In fact, it is this lack of employment of asymmetric means by India to establish effective deterrence to Pakistan’s proxy war that stimulates Pakistan to raise this bogey, akin to her cries of being victim of terrorism but following institutionalised state policy of promoting terrorism. The Pakistani military-ISI are the focal point of some 13 plus international and regional terrorist organisation, having underhand links with the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and even the control of both Taliban through the Haqqani network and the Islamic State in Afghanistan. When Pakistani national Asim Umar, currently AQIS chief, gave the call to target police and executive officials in India, it was at the behest of the Pakistani military.

While demitting office of the President, Hamid Karzai had said that no peace can come to Afghanistan until US and Pakistan want it. America’s intransigence to Pakistani terror continues albeit Mark Toner, US State Department Deputy Spokesman recently asked Pakistan to act against terror groups targeting its neighbours and not just the ones that pose a threat to it, alleging Pakistan was going after terror groups ‘selectively’; take it as mild admonishment or sweet nothing. But the third most important player in the region is China who forms the sub-conventional construct against India in conjunction with Pakistan. Not only did China recommend to Pakistan in mid 1960’s to raise a militia to fight behind enemy (Indian) lines but referring to India and clenching his fist Zhou Enlai told a Pakistani delegation, “This is capable of delivering a forceful blow, but if you cut off one finger, the fist loses its power, not by one-fifth, but by fifty percent. If you wipe out a couple of hundred thousand of the enemy spread over a long front, its impact is not as great as wiping out an entire battalion or a brigade – the enemy’s morale is dealt a devastating blow. We know this from practical experience.”

Talks are always good but, in a way, we are already talking to the Pakistani military. The current NSA of Pakistan Naseer Khan Janjua is a lieutenant general of the Pakistani army and personal appointee of the army chief. Hot lines between the DGMOs exist. There is every reason to believe that the Pakistani army would be represented incognito in every bilateral-level discussion. The ruling elite of the Pakistani military are the descendents of Musharraf who refused to shake hands with Vajpayee in Lahore and who had no compunction in stating, “Even if the Kashmir issue is resolved, jihad against India will continue”. The bottom-line is, indirect or direct rule over Pakistan gives her military unlimited power and money, for which conflict with India and Afghanistan is necessary. That is why Hafiz Saeed has become a foreign policy spokesperson of Pakistan and that is why Afghanistan has officially told Pakistan recently that Hafiz Saeed is directing Islamic State attacks in Afghanistan.

This ground reality must be understood least next some recommend direct talks with the likes of Hafiz Saeed. We should continue engaging the elected Pakistani government on terror and go earnest in countering Pakistan’s proxy war optimising all means of asymmetric warfare.

The author is retired veteran Lieutenant General of the Indian Army

From Pampore to Infinity: Why India must exploit Pakistan’s fault-lines

Much has been written, said and debated about the recent ambush of a CRPF convoy in Pamporev – killing eight and seriously injuring 22. How many times Pampore has been mentioned in such notorious setting in the last 27 years of terrorism in J&K is anybody’s guess.

Incidentally, the first time when a vehicle was blown up in an IED (improvised explosive device) attack, it was an army one-ton vehicle travelling from Khrew to Srinagar, in 1990, in which an army JCO lost his legs. Now, as back then, the usual blame game is on.

A Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) version of the incident quoted in a prominent magazine read, “While Road Opening Party (RoP) duties are of the CRPF, it is the Army’s duty to dominate the area and protect the corridor. There were lapses at multiple levels, both by the CRPF and the Army, mainly in the Army’s area of domination and corridor protection,”

File photo of Indian PM Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. PTIFile photo of Indian PM Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. PTI

File photo of Indian PM Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. PTI

“The stretch where the CRPF bus came under attack was completely unprotected. The bus got separated from the main convoy for a few minutes. That was time enough for terrorists to target it.”

According to a CRPF official, “The army mine protected vehicle (MPV) response was delayed”. So on and so forth.

According to the media, more MPVs are to be sent to J&K. The home minister is to visit J&K in the aftermath of the Pampore ambush. Statements have been made that the terrorists are feeling frustrated and want to keep the pressure up, and that the army is free to “react” in any manner.

Media has also flashed that the army is to conduct RoP duties – whether this is indeed an official direction which applies to the entire stretch of roads in troubled part of J&K, in addition to area under domination, is unclear. There have been plenty articles on the ambush, some suggesting that the convoy timings be reviewed, CI/CT (Counter-terrorism/Counter-insurgency) command structure be reviewed (actual unity of command instead of Unified Command), and highlighting the need for reviewing tactics; some suggesting that the Mehbooba government is taking baby steps to denounce terror, and the likes.

There are discussions on social media as as well about the need for cross-border raid(s) – like against two terrorist camps in Myanmar. One scholar has commented that the removal of bunkers close to roads in face of public protests (orchestrated by terrorists?) has increased the chances of terrorist strikes. All these recommendations and comments are germane to dealing with the issue undoubtedly.

However, two issues talked about by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his interview to Arnab Goswami are also significantly relevant in the above context: First, the PM reflected aloud as to who should India talk to in Pakistan about the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ (read red lines) with respect to terrorism; will it be the elected government or with other actors. He also said that because of this India will have to be on the alert all the time.

Second, on the issue of terrorism, Modi said that, ‘the world never bought India’s theory on terrorism. They would sometimes dismiss it by saying that it’s your law and order problem. Today, the world has to accept what India has been saying about terrorism. India’s dialogue on terrorism, the losses India has suffered due to terrorism, the losses suffered by humanity, the world is now acknowledging that.’ What the Prime Minister said reflects the ground reality, but it needs to be examined more closely if we indeed want to change from our current CI-CT policies, and method of countering proxy wars being waged on us by our opponents.

In the above context, India must acknowledge the following ground realities that are likely to remain unchanged:

One, the Pakistani military’s control over their country is increasing by the day – the entire parliament meeting at Rawalpindi in the Army HQ being just one indication; Pakistani military ‘must’ continue to sponsor terror and persisting confrontation with India and Afghanistan in order to remain in power and make billions – the namesake democracy remains powerless; Pakistani military has bartered the country’s sovereignty, and not only for economic gains; to say that terrorists are getting demoralized is fooling ourselves considering that just eight to ten terrorists striking Charlie Hebdo shook entire Europe – and Pakistan is hatching thousands, if not millions, of radicals annually.

And, with Pakistan willingly providing China a lifeline to the Indian Ocean, China will wilfully partner Pakistan in terrorism, even nuclear terrorism – with Pakistan assisting China against Uyghurs in Xinjiang and whitewashing China’s genocide in Xinjiang in exchange for China’s help in whitewashing the Pakistani genocide in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan – you scratch mine and I scratch yours; the US administration continues to back the Pakistani military – witness recent US announcement of $800 million aid to Pakistan simultaneous to Pakistan granting Rs 300 million to Darul Haqqania madrassa (University of Jihad) for the year 2016-2017 – Mullah Mansour Akhtar and Sirajuddin Haqqani being two of its prominent products.

There have been three major terrorist strikes in J&K on CRPF and BSF in the past five months (twice in Pampore), killing 15 security personnel. Whether there will be any incidents during the Amarnath Yatra that kicked off on Friday, is yet to be seen.

Sure, a review of all CI-CT measures including command and control, intelligence, timings of move, need for security bunkers etc must be reviewed, but is that all that needs to be addressed when cross-border terrorism is being sponsored by Pakistan, or shall we say China-Pakistan since China too is pumping in money to fuel terrorism in J&K?

The mere fact that China backed Pakistan is again demanding more evidence in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks clearly indicates that there can be no improvement from the Pakistani side irrespective of the false solace we are drawing from gloating that Pakistan stands isolated and no one can blame India for not trying for peace – the blame is entirely on Pakistan.

But, does this change the ground situation in any way? Is Pakistan really “isolated” with China completely supporting her protégé – with PLA (People’s Liberation Army) inducted into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), with three army divisions eventually to be deployed, and the US looking the other way?

“I continued to advocate for an aggressive and proactive counter and forward intelligence thrust against Pakistan. My voice was rarely heard and mostly ignored. The Pakistani establishment is a geopolitical bully. The best response to blunt such a bully is to take the war inside his home. India has allowed itself to be blackmailed by Pakistan even before it went nuclear,” wrote MK Dhar, former Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau, in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s intelligence unveiled’, published in 2005, 11 years ago.

“The sabre rattling of ‘coercive diplomacy’, which is nothing but sterile military power, cannot convince the Islamist Pakistani Establishment that India can take the border skirmishes inside their homes and hit at the very roots of the jaundiced Islamist groups”, Dhar wrote.

Merely saying that the army is free to ‘respond’ is pointless – unless we are content with artillery barrages or an odd tactical level raid to satisfy egos momentarily. Army’s existing sub-conventional doctrine with its much publicised cliché of ‘iron fist in velvet glove’ is totally inward looking.

Pakistan has co-located her terrorist training facilities with army establishments saying any strike on these would be considered an act of war. But then today’s war is at sub-conventional level and while conventional strikes remain an option, best will be getting hold of the numerous fault-lines of our opponents and exploiting them as deterrents.

This must be done through covert politico-military missions at the strategic level controlled by the highest political authority – the prime minister. In the absence of this, we can continue to remain in the current state of Parkinson’s from Pampore to infinity. Hiding behind the Emperor’s clothes of doing much cross-border does not match with the happenings on the ground.

(The author is a veteran Lieutenant General)

When India and China can agree on CWC, then why not on NSG?

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully convinces the global community during his foreign visits that India should be allowed into the Nuclear Supply Group (NSG), given the country’s impeccable nonproliferation record and nuclear know how, China is doing its best to deny India the exalted status.

India applied for NSG membership on 12 May, 2016, and the fate of the application will be known when the extraordinary plenary meeting of the NSG is held on 9 and 10 June. The United States, Russia and other major powers support India’s contention. Switzerland, which was against the Indian bid, has now agreed to support – a major diplomatic victory that Modi scored in Geneva on 5 June.

President Pranab Mukherjee meets China's Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. File photo ReutersPresident Pranab Mukherjee meets China's Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. File photo Reuters

President Pranab Mukherjee meets China’s Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. File photo Reuters

The NSG comprised 48 nuclear supplier states that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon states. It aims at averting nuclear exports for commercial and peaceful purposes from being used to make nuclear weapons. Its members are expected to forgo nuclear trade with governments that do not subject themselves to international measures and inspections designed to provide confidence that their nuclear imports are not used to develop nuclear arms.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to talk to Ambassador Rafael M Grossi, chairman of the NSG, during his visit to Delhi. Underscoring the importance of the NSG, he told me that global demand for clean nuclear energy is growing, notwithstanding what the critics may say (China has or proposes to have 30 Nuclear Power Plants (NPP). India wants to have eight or 10 of them. Bangladesh is building one. NPPs are under construction in Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America and East Europe. And here, one is not talking of the already well established NPPs in the developed world). Hence, there is going to be more and more nuclear trade – fuel, machineries and technologies. And here comes the importance of non-proliferation and transparency. The NSG tries to ensure transparency in nuclear trade. The NSG guidelines require that importing states provide assurances to NSG members that proposed deals will not contribute to the creation of nuclear weapons. Potential recipients are also expected to have physical security measures in place to prevent theft or unauthorised use of their imports and to promise that nuclear materials and information will not be transferred to a third party without the explicit permission of the original exporter.

In addition, final destinations for any transfer must have International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards in place. The IAEA is charged with verifying that non-nuclear-weapon states are not illicitly pursuing nuclear weapons. IAEA safeguards are to prevent nuclear material or technology from being stolen or misappropriated for weapons include inspections, remote monitoring, seals, and other measures.

The guidelines comprised two parts, each of which was created in response to a significant proliferation event that highlighted shortcomings in the then-existing export control systems. Part I lists materials and technology designed specifically for nuclear use. These include fissile materials, nuclear reactors and equipment, and reprocessing and enrichment equipment. Part II identifies dual-use goods, which are non-nuclear items with legitimate civilian applications that can also be used to develop weapons. Machine tools and lasers are two types of dual-use goods.

In sum, Grossi told me, “The mandate of the NSG is to produce, export, import nuclear material and equipment; exchange information on export and import policies; prevent misuse or abuse of legitimate trade of nuclear goods for hostile use and offer technological expertise to countries seeking its assistance.”

Once a country is admitted as a member of the NSG, what benefits do accrue to it? Does it make access to technology, equipment and material easier? Does each transfer have to be approved by the NSG? Grossi’s answers were, “In today’s world, no country operates in isolation. Nuclear industry is a big industry and you must have international cooperation as well as the needed mechanisms. Here, the membership of the NSG helps in providing comforts both to the nuclear supplier and recipient. Once admitted, a NSG member (1) gets timely information on nuclear matters, (2) contributes by way of information, (3) has confirmed credentials, (4) can act as an instrument of harmonisation and coordination , and (5) is part of a very transparent process with regard to the material, equipment and technology. These advantages cannot be quantified, but these generate a very positive atmosphere.”

However, the NSG chairman made it clear that not each transfer of information related to the nuclear field has to be approved by the NSG. “The NSG is not a supra-national authority. It is only a mechanism for exchange of information; it provides a forum for consultation,” he said.

Importantly, Grossi was evasive on India’s prospects for joining the NSG. “India’s membership quest is a work in process. India is important. No member in NSG is against India. India is far more advanced in nuclear energy than many NSG members. You just cannot ignore India. India is a key nuclear power that has focused on developing its nuclear energy for use in the agriculture sector, in the field of medicine, in the development of its nuclear plants. It has an excellent reputation, an indisputable role, which will be much more in the future. The globalisation of India’s nuclear programme is something to be welcomed.

“But then, ultimately, it (decision on India’s membership) is going to be a political decision. The NSG functions on the premise of compatibility and consensus through established guidelines. If I were to talk about how India could contribute to strengthening the NSG, I would say, in a very general statement, that all countries active in the nuclear field have something to contribute. Nobody denies this fact. The important thing is to fine tune the process; where consensus can be achieved, to do it in a fair, concise and transparent manner.”

However, Grossi was hopeful that there would be a consensus on India. And he had a point when he said, “My role as the chairman of the NSG is to facilitate the process of consensus on India’s membership. As it is, without being a member of the NSG and without being a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), India has already got some concessions from the IAEA in 2008 on nuclear trade. So in India’s case, we are no longer very orthodox and legalistic. My responsibility, therefore, is to tell everybody where we can meet half-way. I am playing the role of an honest broker on the question of India’s membership. In fact, my experience in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) tells me that we can find a consensus on India. If in CWC India, Pakistan and China could agree, it is not impossible to see India joining the NSG.”

I will like to emphasise the particular sentence of the NSG chairman – “So in India’s case, we are no longer very orthodox and legalistic.” But this is precisely what China is being, when it talks of blocking India on the grounds that it is not a member of the NPT. Even legalistically, China does not make any sense when it says that membership of the NPT is a prerequisite for NSG membership. When the NSG was set up in 1974, France, then a non-signatory to the NPT, became a member. Japan had not ratified the NPT when it became a member of the NSG. Neither had Argentina and Brazil.

The truth is that the Chinese objection to India’s membership in NSG is essentially political. Despite all its talks on the desirability of a multipolar world, China will never tolerate India emerging as one of these poles. In Beijing’s multipolar world, there is only one Asian pole, and that is China. For China, India is part of the “strategic periphery” which China has historically sought to weaken, control, or diplomatically manipulate. Pakistan is a pawn in this Chinese diplomatic game. There are, thus, obvious limitations to the “Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai (Indians and Chinese are brothers)” idea. And they constitute the biggest challenge to Modi in the realms of foreign policy.

Has DRDO taken Defence Minister Parrikar and India for a ride?

On 30 March, 2016, media headlines stated: ‘Enough of Akash, says Army as it opts for Israeli missiles’.

The report quoting MoD sources went on to say that the Army has made it clear that it does not want any more Akash regiments after it gets the first two ordered earlier for Rs 14,180 crore, with six firing batteries and hundreds of missiles each. This marks a major blow to the ‘Make in India’ policy, especially since the Navy is turning to France for similar requirements after dumping the Akash missiles for its warships due to “stabilisation problems”.

The message was unmistakable

First, military prefers imported systems, especially the Army — why else would they stop after “ordering” two regiments worth of Akash?

Second, the military was shattering the ‘Make in India’ dream kickstarted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On 27 April 2016, a Press Information Bureau (PIB) release gave details of products/systems developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) that have either been inducted in the defence forces or are in the process of trials/production/induction, as listed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a written reply to KC Tyagi in the Rajya Sabha. This list included the Akash Weapon System. On 4 May, 2016, another PIB release carried a written reply by Parrikar to Sanjay Raut in the Rajya Sabha with respect to the Akash Weapon System, which can be summarised as the following:

File photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTIFile photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

-Proper trials of Akash missile were conducted prior to induction into Armed Forces
-Development user trials were completed ‘successfully’ in 2007
-Orders were placed for two squadrons by IAF in 2008 and six squadrons in 2010
-User trial of production equipment was done successfully in 2012
-Post-induction user trials for Akash Air Force equipment was conducted successfully in 2014
-An order was placed for two regiments by the Indian Army and First Off Production Model (FOPM) trials were successfully conducted in 2014
-Post-induction trials by the Army were conducted successfully in 2016
-Akash Missile System is successfully inducted and is performing as per the expectations of the armed forces.

The production of Akash is being handled by Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Ltd with the help of a number of major and MSME industries spread all across the country. So, Akash is a successful example of the ‘Make in India’ policy and proves that the government’s initiatives are successful in defence manufacturing.

What are we missing here?

Does the military deserve to be kicked for its penchant for imports and the way it undermined ‘Make in India’? To start with, the Akash Weapon System has nothing to do with Modi’s call for ‘Make in India’ given in 2014. Akash was one of the five core missile systems of the integrated guided missile development program launched by the DRDO in 1984; Akash was to replace the Russian Kvadrat System with the Army for providing air defence cover for mechanised forces during manoeuvre battles. Some 23 years later, when the trials were done in 2007, these were a complete fiasco. The Army found that while on the move, Akash could not negotiate undulating ground appropriately and had difficulty in acquiring even slow-moving helicopters, leave alone fast-moving aircraft.

The Army therefore rejected Akash outright because it did not meet the requirement of providing air defence for mechanised forces during manoeuvre battles. So Akash was ‘given’ to the IAF. The IAF did not mind because IAF deploys air defence weapons for protection of vulnerable points and vulnerable areas in layers. So, Akash became one of the air defence weapon in this multi-layered air defence.

In early 2015, the media exploded with the news that the Army will finally get some desperately-needed supersonic firepower to take on enemy fighters, helicopters, drones and sub-sonic cruise missiles after years of grappling with obsolete air defence weapons with the “Improved Akash Weapon System”, and what made this even more significant was that the improved Akash Weapon System is 96 percent indigenous.

Quoting ministry of defence sources, the report said that Parrikar was slated to symbolically hand over the first Akash to the Army in early April, adding the first full Akash Regiment should be ready by June-July 2015 with second one following by end-2016. But what the Army found to its horror is that this so called ‘Improved Akash’ is still incapable of providing air defence for mechanised forces during manoeuvre battle like the vintage Kvadrat.

So, the Army perforce has to use the ‘Improved Kvadrat’ in static role. It is for the same reason, that the Navy rejected Akash; for problem of stabilization. What should a matter of grave concern that this while we already have the technology of guns firing on the move past several years; – naval guns aboard ships and tanks in Army – the T-90 Russian tank being by far the best for accuracy on the move. Why could this technology not be incorporated in the Akash Weapon System despite three decades of development – to acquire and engage targets on the move.

The question that the civilian friends would ask is why did the Army accept the two Akash Regiments in the first place? The fiasco of the 2007 Development User trials compared to what the Defence Minister recently apprised the Rajya Sabha has been mentioned above. The system puts tremendous pressure on the Services on the plea that when so much money and time has been spent on developing a product / system, at least buy “some” to compensate the development / part development costs.

Such pressure is invariably at the level of the Defence Secretary or Secretary Defence Production. The Army would have likely agreed for two regiments worth because Army’s air defence equipment anyway is 90% obsolete. Perhaps then there was a move to make Army buy more of these Akash regiments, and that is where the Army said enough is enough. Since Akash does not meet the operational requirements of the Army, quite naturally, Army has gone in for procurement of four QR-SAM regiments through the global tender route. Missile systems from Israel, Russia and Sweden have undergone extensive field trials conducted by the Army.

The results have not been officially declared but Israeli Spyder QR-SAMs have reportedly topped in the trials. For reasons discussed above, the IAF sure is inducting more Akash squadrons but if Akash was so versatile (despite three decades of development), why would IAF be looking for imports. It may be noted that IAF is inducting four Spyder QR-SAM squadrons February 2017 onwards.

One does not expect Defence Minister Parrikar to know the above and his written replies perforce are drafts prepared by the MoD bureaucrats. But the question is when the Defence Minister says in his written reply, “Akash Missile System is successfully inducted and is performing as per the expectations of the Services … Thus, Akash, is a successful example of ‘Make in India’ and proves government’s initiatives are successful in defence manufacturing”, how much of it is true?

Hasn’t Parrikar and the nation been taken for a ride?

Akash incidentally is just one example of inadequate and unaccountable functioning of the DRDO. Scores of articles have highlighted multiple products and inadequacies in a long list of products and systems, leave aside numerous CAG reports indicating rampant corruption and sub-standard products. As per recent reports, Government is contemplating setting up not-for-profit firm to foster innovation and create R&D ecosystem.

Hopefully, this firm would also focus on military and dual-use R&D too, because the DRDO has hardly been able to meet military’s requirements. Much thought is needed on the issue.

The author is a retired Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

Disappointing figures for FDI in defence indicate that a greater push is needed

According to Japanese firm Nomura, foreign direct investment (FDI) in India during financial year 2015 was to the tune of US$ 34.9 billion. This is a massive 61.6% jump from US$ 21.6 billion during 2014. According to the report, the FY 2015 inflows are 1.7% of GDP, up from 1.1% in the previous year. The obvious reason is India opening up to the world, remodeling its economic policies and in particular the ‘Make in India’ call given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Economic Survey released on 27 February this year states that FDI in India has received a dramatic boost from the launch of the Make in India initiative, major objectives behind the Make in India being job creation and skill enhancement in 25 sectors of the economy, including automobiles, aviation, biotechnology, chemicals, construction, defence manufacturing, electrical machinery, electronic systems and mining.
After the September 2014 launch of ‘Make in India, there was an almost 40% increase in FDI inflows from October 2014 to June 2015 over a similar period in previous year. Entities from several countries like Japan, China, France and South Korea announced their intention to invest in India in various industrial and infrastructure projects. According to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP): FDI inflows under the approval route (which requires prior government permission) increased by 87% during 2014-15 with an inflow of $2.22 billion; more than 90% of FDI was through the automatic route, and; during 2014-15, foreign institutional investment rose by an unprecedented 717% to $40.92 billion.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Under the Make in India program, the government has reportedly awarded 56 defence manufacturing permits to private sector entities in the past one year, after allowing 49% FDI in the defence sector in August 2014, compared with 47 granted in the preceding three years. Singapore, Mauritius, Netherlands and the US account for the major share of FDI inflows into India. Out of FDI equity inflows of $24.8 billion during 2015-16 (April-November), more than 60% came from Singapore and Mauritius.
However, when the figures of FDI in defence were laid down in Parliament on 29 April 2016, they were quite disappointing. The written reply given by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar read, “The actual flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) takes time to mature. From August 2014 to February 2016, a total amount of Rs.112.35 lakh (Rs 1.12 crore) has come into the country as FDI in the defence sector”. This actually amounts to a pittance compared to the overall FDI coming in and the Make in India campaign. There is no doubt that funds flowing in through FDI are also suspect with ongoing investigations in the VVIP helicopter scam indicating possibility of bribe money of some Rs 100-120 crore having come through FDI. Significantly, the Economic Survey mentioned herein also states, “These inflows need perhaps to be examined more closely to determine whether they constitute actual investment or are diversions from other sources to avail of tax benefits under the Double Tax Avoidance Agreement that these countries have with India.”
Notwithstanding the above, there is a need to seriously examine why the defence sector has failed to attract FDI even in the backdrop that when the Modi government took over in May 2014, it hiked the FDI limit from 26% to 49% in defence equipment manufacturing, and also announced the ‘Make in India’ campaign to encourage Indian industry to take over some sections of manufacturing which were being imported. Significantly, the Parliament had also approved FDI in defence sector beyond 49% on case-to-case basis, obviously for state-of-the-art products. The hesitation of FDI in defence is because of multiple factors, as discussed in succeeding paragraphs.
-First, the DPP-2016 issued is incomplete: criteria for choosing strategic partners are not defined; whether wholly-owned subsidiaries of foreign companies qualify as Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) is not clear; detailed offset guidelines not notified; no changes mentioned to the Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap (TPCR) in vogue in the past decade and a half which hasn’t helped much; no worthwhile changes in other procedures including the Fast Track Procedure (FTP); no changes in the Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) mechanism in terms of combining it with TEC or Staff Evaluation Committee and raising its threshold from the existing INR 300 crores as also dropping of the DPSU member as recommended by the defence private industry, and; chapter containing the revised standard contract document as well as various annexure and appendices has not been released.
-Second, just facilitating foreign companies to bypass government and the FIPB in finalizing defence investment deals is unlikely to suffice. The issues of IPR and the number and guarantee of what would be absorbed in India too need to be addressed.
-Third, The private sector continues to doubt the government’s resolve in providing a level playing field. Many of them cite example of the Army’s Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) project where fresh expression of interest (EoI) was issued in March 2014, yet four entities empanelled in 2010 were also included, which they feel was done only to accommodate the OFB. They visualize OFB being selected as one of the development agency, leaving just one remaining vacancy for balance private industry.

-Fourth, while Parliament approved FDI in defence beyond 49% on case to case basis in 2014, MoD has still to define what “state-of-the-art”. This is an atrocious state of affairs, which has only come to light when FIPB was questioned about the Tata-AugustaWestland JV to manufacture helicopters in India. Obviously all cases pertaining to FDI in defence beyond 49% are stuck because of the same reason.
So, when Defence Minister Parrikar told Parliament “The actual flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) takes time to mature”, it obviously includes the incompetent bureaucracy of MoD which is unable to define past two years what state-of-the-art implies. Can you have a better example of red tape, that too in backdrop of mounting criticalities of the military that includes a void of 1000 helicopters? In the past several years, the DIPP of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has been recommending 74% FDI in defence in case of ToT and 100% FDI in case of making available state-of-the-art technology.

Clearly much more facilitation for Make in India is required. The government must also get on with the vital need to reorganize the higher defence set up, which is adversely affecting the defence of India. It is time to bring military professionals in MoD, as also having a defence secretary from outside the IAS, as recently suggested by Ashish Puntambekar, Designer, Defence Economic Zone Project through a letter to the Defence Minister, post his exasperating experiences with MoD bureaucrats. Revelations from the ongoing AugustaWestalnd helicopter scam also underline the urgent need for reorganizing the MoD.

The author is veteran Lieutenant General of Indian Army.

Why roping in Army instead of IDS for joint commands is bad move

Media is agog with news that following China having re-structured its military commands and with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s recent maiden visit to China – during which he also visited China’s newly integrated Western Command – there is a move to have Joint Service Commands in the Indian military.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Image courtesy ibnliveDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Image courtesy ibnlive

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Image courtesy ibnlive

According to media, the Army, being the largest service, has been asked to work out integration with the IAF and the Navy for having joint commands, and this is possibly being discussed at the ongoing Army Commanders Conference. If army indeed has been so tasked, it is ludicrous because working out joint commands is the task of HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), not any single service. Significantly, considerable work on the issue was done a decade back, which the bureaucracy may not have bought to the notice of the present government.

Lack of true operational jointness in the military has been the bane of India right from 1962 where the use of IAF could have had a different outcome. Even during the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka, the joint command established was highly ad hoc. Later, Gen VP Malik, former army chief went on record to say, “It  is  not  my case that service  chiefs do not cooperate in war. Were they not to do so, it would be churlish. But in war, cooperative synergies are simply not good enough.” His successor, General S Padmanabhan stated, “There is no escaping the military logic of   creating suitably constituted Integrated Theatre Commands and functional commands for the Armed Forces as a whole.” Much later, another army chief stated at a Unified Commanders Conference, “We have very good synergy within the three chiefs. We golf together once a month and follow it up with breakfast.” This perhaps was more of a joke but also at least half the truth.

Creation of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) undoubtedly are significant milestones albeit the former has little teeth, forcing it to perpetually look over the shoulder. Hopefully, an integrated Aerospace Command, Cyber Command and Special Operations Command will see the light of the day. However, in terms of the overall jointmanship paradigm of our military true jointmanship exists mainly within HQ IDS. Jointmanship in balance military is at an extremely nascent stage. Even HQ IDS, instead of merging with MoD as intended, has emerged akin to any Service HQ. The Group of Ministers (GoM) post Kargil Conflict had recommended integration of Service HQ into MoD with progressive decentralization of decision making powers and delegation of financial powers, which has not happened. As in British India, the defence secretary, not defence minister, continues to be responsible for India’s defence, and similarly the Services HQ continue as “attached offices”.

Lack of strategic forethought in the politico-bureaucratic dispensation and the higher defence set up sans military participation in national level decision making has had direct bearing on military integration and jointness. In 2004, prime minister Manmohan Singh stated at Unified Commanders Conference, “Reforms within the armed forces also involve recognition of the fact that our navy, air force and army can no longer function in compartments with exclusive chains of command and single service operational plans.” Immediately thereafter, HQ IDS ordered five comprehensive studies for establishment of joint commands, which were presented and analysed at HQ IDS with all three services represented at Director General Military Operations and equivalent levels. All agreed this was the much needed reorganisation, also indicating which joint commands should be Bi-Service (army-air force) and which should be Tri-Service. Thereafter, the issue got lost amid politico-bureaucratic inertia. With basic work for joint commands already in place, HQ IDS simply needs to be directed to review these recommendations in conjunction with the services in one-two months, then make a presentation to the defence minister, followed by one to the CCS presided over by the Prime Minister. There was never a need to take inspiration from China.

Going by media, a permanent chairman COSC (PC COSC) is in the offing, that too without operational powers. No military can have adequate capacity building and synergy, if overseen by a ‘committee’. The Kargil Review Committee and the follow up GoM reports had strongly recommended appointing a CDS. Latter report categorically stated, “The functioning of COSC has, to date, revealed serious weaknesses in its ability to provide single point military advice to the government, and resolve substantive inter-Service doctrinal, planning, policy and operational issues adequately. This institution needs to be appropriately revamped to discharge its responsibilities efficiently and effectively, including the facilitation of “jointness” and synergy among the Defence Services.” The hitherto unheard of Permanent Chairman COSC (PC COSC) was recommended by the Naresh Chandra Committee after Naresh Chandra was reportedly briefed by then NSA to pointedly make such recommendation. Manoj Joshi, also member of the Naresh Chandra Committee, later disclosed that Ministry of Defence did not want CDS because they thought that the defence secretary and his IAS colleagues will be “somehow diminished”. Can there be a more idiotic reason like ‘loss of turf’ for not appointing a CDS?

While establishing HQ IDS, bureaucracy also put on paper, “As and when a CDS is appointed, he will have equal voting rights as Service Chiefs and in case of disagreement by two Service Chiefs, arbitration will be done by MoD”. So, how can the CDS ever be a ‘single point’ adviser to the political authority? Within the military, we never have dissent notes by army commanders and equivalents, respective chiefs being the single voice for his service, so why this provision in case of CDS? Obviously the intent was to facilitates the ‘divide and rule’ policy of the bureaucracy. Whether we continue with rotational Chairman COSC or have a two-year permanent incumbent, both are toothless creations. Despite COSC and HQ IDS in place for over a decade, neither voice or data networks nor  radio communications of the three services are interoperable to desired degree. Each service develops networks on its own and starts thinking of interoperability later. Common standards and protocols, and unifying secrecy algorithm have not been evolved. Finalising and adoption of standards and protocols, mutually compatible database structures, development / deployment of interfaces between systems using disparate platforms and commonality of hardware are challenges which need to be overcome. There is absence of knowledge management. Collaborative working needs to be looked at closely, not only across the military but also within each service.

The battlefield of tomorrow requires Effect Based Operations (EBOs). EBOs which can only succeed if all components of national power are brought to bear, in turn implying that military must have full spectrum joint operations capability and an integrated approach at all levels of conflict. Efficient defence management calls for enhanced jointmanship that can contribute to optimum utilisation of the meagre resources by addressing in built redundancies in the process of force organization, equipping and establishing its support system. For all his, CDS is essential, including to set in motion fast-paced revolution in military affairs under directions of the Prime Minister.

US members of the Indo-US Defence Planning Group that first met in New Delhi post 9/11 wondered how the military functions in India with MoD sans military officers. As to reducing military manpower, particularly of army, two issues are involved. First, army’s counter-insurgency commitment may go up with burgeoning unemployment, accelerating population, and long gestation period before adequate jobs are created. The second, little understood, is that digitisation of military, especially army requires initial surge of manpower till across the board adequate technical expertise is developed. Arbitrary cutting down of manpower, if ordered, will have adverse effect on operational capabilities. The Modi government would do well to dispassionately consider the above issues. Urgent administrative reforms need to be pushed through despite bureaucratic stonewalling, without which any structures below MoD including joint commands will never achieve their full potential.

(The author is former Lieutenant General of Indian Army.)

Unrest in Handwara indicates that Pakistan will go to any extent to claim Kashmir

The Srinagar Valley is smoldering. There was the violence at NIT, Srinagar, with media reporting that 2,000 non-Kashmiri students had left NIT, and another 1,000 non-Kashmiri students proceeded on leave. The Centre was forced to rush in CAPF units, with some students alleging that the local police beat up non-Kashmiri students who actually were the very victims of the student violence. The issue has not died down. There were calls to move the NIT out of Srinagar which the CM refused. Now student unrest is being reported in Rajouri as well.
The fires in Handwara are still burning after the violence erupted post allegations that a local minor girl was molested by army soldiers. It is a sad commentary that some Kashmiri radicals will even molest and rape local girls in order to please their masters from Pakistan’s ISI. The allegation of molestation created unprecedented violence including a mob of frenzied youth attacking an army camp. The army opened fire in self-defence which resulted in the deaths of five youths. The girl, accompanied by her father, was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Handwara, where she revealed that after school hours on 12 April, she entered a public toilet on way back home but as she came out, she was confronted, assaulted and dragged by two boys and her bag was snatched. One of the boys was in school uniform. Significantly, a video shot right after the alleged Handwara molestation is on the social media, where the girl clearly says that no soldier tried to molest her, and that local boys had already planned to create disturbance and just wanted an excuse for it. The girl from Handwara was exceptionally brave and persisted with the truth, despite threats to her and her family from terrorists and their sympathizers. Otherwise, the situation could have been uglier.

Security personnel in Handwara. File photo. PTISecurity personnel in Handwara. File photo. PTI

Security personnel in Handwara. File photo. PTI

The separatist Hurriyat Conference questioned the credibility of the girl’s statement before the CJM and raised the issue of the youth killed because of army firing. Yes, innocent lives were lost, but it is not the army which is responsible for killing people in Kashmir. The Pakistan’s ISI and their Indian protégés (Hurriyat included) behind the violence want the world to focus its attention on Kashmir while the ISI and the Pakistan Army is slaughtering Baloch people into silence and targeting the Shia population of Gilgit-Baltistan (already reduced from 70% to 50%) through demographic invasion, institutionalized killings and military courts steamrolling valid descent. A former CISF officer, veteran of the 1st CISF Course, wrote on social media, “If you are surrounded by 1000 people who want to kill you…They are trying to burn you to death and pelting stones at you and the ones next to you, what will you do? Army men in Handwara were in the same situation. If they hadn’t fired, the mob would have lynched them. Is that what you want? If not, please support your Jawans. They did what they did to save the lives of their colleagues. Jai Hind”.
Now a blog (not any national daily) has reported that the state government is quietly shifting art treasures (including oil paintings, acrylic paintings, sculptures, artifacts wooden works, modern Art, Basohli paintings and a collection of the works of top artists of the country – collected over 58 years) on display at Kala Kendra, Jammu under pretext of ‘inadequate storage capacity’ and ‘suitable weather conditions in the Valley’. Significantly, the J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages (JKAACL) is the custodian of these art works. Shifting these 300 paintings, 91 miniatures, 34 artifacts, 80 sculptors and a number of rare photographs has already commenced. The State Minister of State for Culture and Education was not even aware of the shifting having commenced till recently because the move was apparently ordered during the fag end of Governor’s rule. It is possible that even the Governor not aware of it. Significantly, it is being reported these art works are being shifted to the Academy’s strong room at Lal Mandi Srinagar, which was flooded with water in September 2014 causing immense damage to historic manuscripts and other art works. It is difficult to decipher whether this is an attempt to destroy old art, akin to what the Taliban and IS did elsewhere. If these art works are on display in Jammu, why can’t they remain on display to the public? The authorities can install air-conditioners and add additional accommodation, as required. Is this not better than locking them up in a strong room in Lal Mandi, awaiting the next deluge?
During 2013, the media, quoting the NIA had reported: one, Kashmiri terrorist groups had received US$ 100 million for terror operations in past two years; two, over the past 10 years. some Rs 600 crores were diverted to terrorism in J&K from within India; three, Rs 98 crores were diverted in one single year from the J&K Affectees Fund; four, the J&K Affectees Relief Trust (JAKART) has been facilitating Pakistani infiltration into J&K and; five, goods sent through trucks to POK were intentionally overpriced two-three times and additional money received was being diverted to terrorist operations. Syed Salahuddin, HuM chief has been involved in exploiting JAKART for funneling more than Rs 100 crore in J&K; manipulating funds meant for relief to finance terrorism in the state. The ISI has also been pumping in fake Indian currency, narcotics and drug money into J&K, drug proceeds being significant amount obtained through Taliban links.

With 42 terrorist training camps running full steam in PoK, the main branches of terror financing from Pakistan at Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Muzzafarabad service collection points at Pulwama, Kupwara, Sopore, Budgam, Doda, Baramula and Srinagar. It is unthinkable that with all the illegal funding coming in to finance terror, the politicians of J&K are not getting their pie. For example, how is it that the State Government is not aware of such a large diversion of funds from JAKART? Rackets like overpricing of goods transported by trucks, narcotics and fake Indian currency rackets would obviously have political connections including through the state intelligence. The irony of J&K is that none of the state governments have tried to focus on improving administration leave aside correcting the anti-national narrative, because retaining status quo implies enormous funds from all directions. So, while successful panchayat level elections are lauded, panchayats per se have little powers and hardly any finances. That is why no government in J&K has released data of the massive number of AIDS cases in the Valley courtesy Pakistani infiltrators. That is why, Pakistani and IS flags can be waved without fear. Ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pundits was successfully orchestrated by one political party. A subsequent attempt in Doda was made during the last regime.
Pakistan knows well that no matter what they do, including attempts to masquerade PLA Troops on posts along the LoC, it cannot get them J&K. Radical politicians and rabble rousers in J&K know this too. The more Pakistan implodes; the more ISI will attempt to destabilize India, J&K in particular. Nawaz Sharif being caught in the Panama web is an indication that the Pakistani military is holding all aces. It appears that, aided by China and cajoled by the US, the proxy war levels will be raised by Pakistan. The elder Bhutto had announced we will get the bomb even if we have to eat grass.

The present mantra of the ISI appears to be we will get J&K even if we have to sell our sovereignty to China. Only difference is that Bhutto succeeded in getting the bomb (not that he did not want J&K as well), but ISI can continue to destroy Pakistan until infinity in the vain hope of getting J&K. The Modi government and BJP as a coalition partner in J&K need to work within this paradigm.

The author is a veteran of Indian Army.

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