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Rising Suicides In Army:RESTORE DIGNITY, IMPROVE PAY, Col. (Ret.) P. K. Vasudeva, 30 July 2007 Print E-mail

There has been a sharp rise in suicides in Indian army in the past five years. The trend in the third largest and one of the best disciplined armies in the world is a cause of grave concern for the defence ministry, political leaders, psychiatrists and socio-economic circles besides the army. Over 100 soldiers took their lives last year alone. This alongwith killings by subordinates and colleagues has brought shame to the army. The reasons need to be investigated and remedial measures taken.

Though the army has not fought a full-blown war in the last three decades, the force is bogged down with fighting domestic insurgencies, guarding restive borders, responding to authorities request to quell civil riots, rescue operations during natural calamities like floods and cyclones, etc which is its  secondary role. 

Any suicide is one too many, but in this case the rate — less than 10 per 100,000 since 2001 — is not substantially different from the average for the general population. The rate for the US Army in 2005 was 13. Indeed, historically modern armies have had to grapple with the problem, with periodic ups and downs in the rates. Meanwhile, a growing trend of fratricidal killings within the Indian Army is of greater and immediate concern. 

Woman officer, Captain Megha Razdan took her life by hanging herself at her home in a cantonment area in Jammu. She left a suicide note. Another woman officer, Lieutenant Sushmita Chakraborty, fatally shot herself at Udhampur, the northern command headquarters, last June 2006. Pankaj Jha, a medium-level officer, shot himself with a service revolver. The list includes others such as Capt Sunit Kohli, Maj Sobha Rani, Lt Sushmita Chatterjee.

The country’s 1.1 million-strong army has recorded an annual average of 100 suicides in recent years, mainly due to the rigours of combating revolts in Kashmir and the remote North East. Dozens of soldiers, including officers, have also been killed by colleagues in quarrels over not being granted leave and other personal issues. The army has lost 72 soldiers to enemy attacks so far this year and another 32 have been killed by their colleagues.

Figures reveal that since 2002, over 450 soldiers have killed themselves, while about 100 died after being shot by their colleagues in the trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir. StressKashmir and troops regularly kill their comrades in a region where a separatist revolt has claimed over 45,000 lives since 1989. levels are high among soldiers posted in

The Ministry of Defence has given the following figures of suicides: 120 in 2003, 116 in 2004, 119 in 2005 and 132 in 2006. In fact, concerned over the growing numbers, South Block has written to the Army to act more liberally in the grant of leave to its soldiers as a stress relieving measure.

The million-strong force, according to analysts, is under tremendous stress. In fact, the army is losing more soldiers in these incidents than in action against the enemy. Most experts attribute the growing stress to low morale, bad service conditions, lack of adequate home leave, unattractive pay and a communication gap with superiors. In addition family problems could also be a factor.  

To counter suicides, the Indian army is giving its soldiers psychology lessons. About 50 junior officers have now been trained in psychology to help their men battle the stress. In addition, it has introduced yoga to soldiers. Manas K Mandal, head of Defence Institute of Psychological Research, said he had interviewed about 2,000 military personnel and identified nearly 150 reasons for rising stress levels.

According to him soldiers should get counseling, both before they go on leave and on return to help them develop a strong attachment to their units. Other measures could be such as self-help steps to de-stress and encouraging soldiers not to shy away from seeking professional help. Changes would also need to be made in the selection of troops so that “we get the right man for the right job”.

Spokesman Col SK Sakhuja says soldiers kill each other when one of them perceives that they are being harassed by superiors or when they have heated arguments among themselves. “We have strengthened formal and informal interaction between soldiers and officers. Leave policy, especially for soldiers posted in difficult areas, has been liberalised so that a soldier can go home to sort out his domestic problems,” he says. “Also, counselling by officers, psychiatrics and religious teachers is being undertaken.” Delhi-based psychiatrist Achal Bhagat says a combination of stress and high alcohol consumption could lead to frayed nerves.

According to a study conducted by two Indian psychiatrists SK Das and S Chaudhry, the commonest psychotic disorder amongst Indian forces was 38.56 per cent schizophrenia, while alcohol dependence syndrome is 14.17 per cent and neurotic depression 9.8 per cent were among other disorders driving the personnel to suicide and killing their own colleagues.

The main causes of the suicides can also be broadly put across as: First, poor leadership. The armed forces do not need psychologists and psychiatrists to treat the soldiers. What it needs is proper leadership who can motivate their men in thick and thin. This poor leadership is because the intake in the armed forces is the last priority of the youth simply because of poor service conditions and poor promotion avenues. Despite being competent individuals, they get poor pay and allowances even after putting 20 to 30 years of service.

Second, the soldiers’ pay and allowances are less than that of a skilled labourer in the industry. Though the defence forces are responsible for maintaining the national sovereignty and integrity of the country, it is the lowest paid service and in a state of neglect. The soldiers retire at the age of 34 years after serving 17 years in the Army when their real life starts for earning and looking after their parents, family and children. The officers retire at an average age of 52 when they still have domestic responsibilities to shoulder.

Third, there is no coordination between the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence otherwise all the armed forces men and officers could have served unto the age of 58 years through lateral entry. And last, the downward trend in the warrant of precedence has brought down the image of the defence services to the lowest ebb.

It is shocking that the armed forces are remembered only when there is an internal disturbance or external threat to the country. Once tackled, the defence forces are forgotten. Unless the service conditions are improved and the honour and dignity of the armed forces restored, the suicides will continue unabated resulting in poor demoralizing trend in the services. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

Indo-Pak Arms Budget: BELY PEACEFUL LIVING, by Col. P. K. Vasudeva (Retd), 16 July 07 Print E-mail

DEFENCE NOTES

New Delhi, 16 July 2007


Indo-Pak Arms Budget

 BELY PEACEFUL LIVING

By Col. P. K. Vasudeva (Retd)

Defence expenditure has been a major issue and an ongoing concern in the developing world, particularly in India and Pakistan. Especially as the money spent on arms is invariably at the expense of more pressing needs of social and infrastructure development. However, both countries are maintaining an autonomous capability to defend their nation's sovereignty.

Though Pakistan has no threat from India, it is determined to have arms superiority for annexing Kashmir. This has been the strategy of all its Governments --- past and present. Perhaps, also of future Governments.

In the past, Pakistan's defence expenditure has always been on the higher side. Notwithstanding, the fact that its fragile economy has been unable to support the military spending and it has been at the cost of expenses earmarked for development. The reasons put forth by Islamabad for it high defence budget is the perceived security threat from India, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (which gave the military an opportunity to fulfill its long desired modernization plans) and domestic factors such as societal violence and sectarianism.

Given the immense control the military enjoys over the decision-making process, the defence budget has been prioritised over the social sector. Thus, leading to the retarded growth of the social sector and has badly affected Pakistan's economy. Initially, the declining development budget was financed through debt. Consequently, debt repayment and debt servicing increased the non-development budget.

With the progression of time, borrowings have financed the non-development budget also. Currently, Pakistan is in a position where new loans are being acquired to repay the old ones. Plainly, the defence expenditure has escalated the miseries of Pakistan.

Today, a heavy debt burden, rising inflation and a nation starving for development mark the economy of Pakistan, but it continues to focus on its ever-increasing defence expenditure. Islamabad has always accorded priority to territorial security as compared to social and economic security, using the argument that only its military strength and stability can ensure the overall security of the country.

The Pakistan Government also believes that the effective defence of the borders and the resultant expenditure provide strong spin-off effects for the economy. The implementation of this belief is evident in the gradual increase in the nation's defence expenditure, despite the fact that the Pakistani economy is increasingly unable to support this burden. Resulting in the steadily widening gap between its economic growth and its defence expenditure. 

Hence its forces are currently on a modernisation drive with approved plans to acquire some of the most modern weapons systems. Pakistan has proposed an increase of about 10 per cent in its annual defence budget but the actual spending could be far higher as the Government said it planned to allocate separate funds for acquisition of F-16s multi-role fighter jets from the United States and the JF-17 Thunder fighters from China.

The allocation for defence for the financial year beginning from 1July 2007 has been increased to Rs. 275 billion from Rs. 250.2 billion in the budget presented by Minister of State for Finance Omar Ayub Khan. The defence outlay for 2007-08 is more than 17 per cent of the total budget outlay of Rs 1.8 trillion. “Pakistan is a nuclear power,” said Khan in his budget speech, adding, “If any one looks at us with bad motive, we will respond with full force”.

The Daily Times quoted a defence official and stated that the 10 per cent increase in the defence budget was made in view of the tense situation on the western border with Afghanistan, the rising cost of the war on terror and increasing inflation.

The Government, on its part, averred that the defence expenditure had been decreasing as a percentage of the total gross domestic products for the last five years. The defence spending was 6.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) a few years ago, but it has now come down to 3.5 per cent of the GDP.

Significantly, Pakistan plans to buy a conglomeration of over 70 new and refurbished F-16 fighters fitted with latest weapons systems from the US and is also currently finalising plans to acquire 150 JF-17 Thunder fighters being jointly produced with China. The programme to manufacture the JF-17 Thunders apparently was on course against the backdrop that Russia has reportedly decided to supply 120 high-powered RD-93 jet engines, disregarding Indian objections.

On the other hand, India's defence spending for the year 2007-08 went up to Rs. 96,000 crore from the previous year's budgeted allocation of Rs. 89,000 crore. However, documents reveal that what was actually spent was just Rs. 86,000 crore. Therefore, in real terms, the increase in the current budget is 11.6 per cent or Rs.10,000 crore.

In 1999, India spent Rs. 48,500 crore on defence including the cost of the Kargil conflict.   Now the defence forces want that amount to be more than doubled. True, going by the current threat scenario the case for such a huge hike in the defence budget seems to be rather inflated as the peace process with Pakistan is under way. However, defence modernisation should continue.

Moreover, what is of primary importance is to get better and an improved quality of human resource as the present lot is not up to the mark given the rise in the incidents of suicides and shooting of fellow colleagues. This is possible if the career prospects of the armed forces personnel are made more attractive to draw highly motivated youth to the forces.

Thus, the military has planned a massive up gradation of its mainly 1990s-era weapons systems, mostly from its Cold War ally, the erstwhile Soviet Union, now Russia. The plans include the purchase of 126 new combat aircrafts to replace an ageing fleet of MiG-21s. Hence, a sum of Rs 41,000 crore has been allocated for capital expenditure against last year's budgeted figure of Rs. 37,500 crore.

According to the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, India figures at eighth and Pakistan at 38th in their defence spending out of all the countries in the world. The USChina on defence. In 2005, while India spent $22 billion ie 2.3 per cent of its GDP on defence, Pakistan spent $3.7 billion or 4.3 per cent of its GDP. spends the highest followed by

In sum, compared to Pakistan’s budget India must spend at least three per cent of its GDP on defence from the present 2.3 per cent if it wants to retain its supremacy among its hostile neighbours. A higher budgetary allocation would not only act as a security deterrent but also improve the lot of a neglected army and its soldiers who are the lowest paid in the country. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News and Feature Alliance)

Indo-Pak Arms Budget:BELY PEACEFUL LIVING, by Col. P.K. Vasudeva (Retd), 16 Jul 2007 Print E-mail

DEFENCE NOTES

New Delhi, 16 July 2007

Indo-Pak Arms Budget

BELY PEACEFUL LIVING

By Col. P. K. Vasudeva (Retd)

 

Defence expenditure has been a major issue and an ongoing concern in the developing world, particularly in India and Pakistan. Especially as the money spent on arms is invariably at the expense of more pressing needs of social and infrastructure development. However, both countries are maintaining an autonomous capability to defend their nation's sovereignty.

Though Pakistan has no threat from India, it is determined to have arms superiority for annexing Kashmir. This has been the strategy of all its Governments --- past and present. Perhaps, also of future Governments.

In the past, Pakistan's defence expenditure has always been on the higher side. Notwithstanding, the fact that its fragile economy has been unable to support the military spending and it has been at the cost of expenses earmarked for development. The reasons put forth by Islamabad for it high defence budget is the perceived security threat from India, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (which gave the military an opportunity to fulfill its long desired modernization plans) and domestic factors such as societal violence and sectarianism.

Given the immense control the military enjoys over the decision-making process, the defence budget has been prioritised over the social sector. Thus, leading to the retarded growth of the social sector and has badly affected Pakistan's economy. Initially, the declining development budget was financed through debt. Consequently, debt repayment and debt servicing increased the non-development budget.

With the progression of time, borrowings have financed the non-development budget also. Currently, Pakistan is in a position where new loans are being acquired to repay the old ones. Plainly, the defence expenditure has escalated the miseries of Pakistan.

Today, a heavy debt burden, rising inflation and a nation starving for development mark the economy of Pakistan, but it continues to focus on its ever-increasing defence expenditure. Islamabad has always accorded priority to territorial security as compared to social and economic security, using the argument that only its military strength and stability can ensure the overall security of the country.

The Pakistan Government also believes that the effective defence of the borders and the resultant expenditure provide strong spin-off effects for the economy. The implementation of this belief is evident in the gradual increase in the nation's defence expenditure, despite the fact that the Pakistani economy is increasingly unable to support this burden. Resulting in the steadily widening gap between its economic growth and its defence expenditure.

Hence its forces are currently on a modernisation drive with approved plans to acquire some of the most modern weapons systems. Pakistan has proposed an increase of about 10 per cent in its annual defence budget but the actual spending could be far higher as the Government said it planned to allocate separate funds for acquisition of F-16s multi-role fighter jets from the United States and the JF-17 Thunder fighters from China.

The allocation for defence for the financial year beginning from 1July 2007 has been increased to Rs. 275 billion from Rs. 250.2 billion in the budget presented by Minister of State for Finance Omar Ayub Khan. The defence outlay for 2007-08 is more than 17 per cent of the total budget outlay of Rs 1.8 trillion. “Pakistan is a nuclear power,” said Khan in his budget speech, adding, “If any one looks at us with bad motive, we will respond with full force”.

The Daily Times quoted a defence official and stated that the 10 per cent increase in the defence budget was made in view of the tense situation on the western border with Afghanistan, the rising cost of the war on terror and increasing inflation.

The Government, on its part, averred that the defence expenditure had been decreasing as a percentage of the total gross domestic products for the last five years. The defence spending was 6.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) a few years ago, but it has now come down to 3.5 per cent of the GDP.

Significantly, Pakistan plans to buy a conglomeration of over 70 new and refurbished F-16 fighters fitted with latest weapons systems from the US and is also currently finalising plans to acquire 150 JF-17 Thunder fighters being jointly produced with China. The programme to manufacture the JF-17 Thunders apparently was on course against the backdrop that Russia has reportedly decided to supply 120 high-powered RD-93 jet engines, disregarding Indian objections.

On the other hand, India's defence spending for the year 2007-08 went up to Rs. 96,000 crore from the previous year's budgeted allocation of Rs. 89,000 crore. However, documents reveal that what was actually spent was just Rs. 86,000 crore. Therefore, in real terms, the increase in the current budget is 11.6 per cent or Rs.10,000 crore.

In 1999, India spent Rs. 48,500 crore on defence including the cost of the Kargil conflict. Now the defence forces want that amount to be more than doubled. True, going by the current threat scenario the case for such a huge hike in the defence budget seems to be rather inflated as the peace process with Pakistan is under way. However, defence modernisation should continue.

Moreover, what is of primary importance is to get better and an improved quality of human resource as the present lot is not up to the mark given the rise in the incidents of suicides and shooting of fellow colleagues. This is possible if the career prospects of the armed forces personnel are made more attractive to draw highly motivated youth to the forces.

Thus, the military has planned a massive up gradation of its mainly 1990s-era weapons systems, mostly from its Cold War ally, the erstwhile Soviet Union, now Russia. The plans include the purchase of 126 new combat aircrafts to replace an ageing fleet of MiG-21s. Hence, a sum of Rs 41,000 crore has been allocated for capital expenditure against last year's budgeted figure of Rs. 37,500 crore.

According to the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, India figures at eighth and Pakistan at 38th in their defence spending out of all the countries in the world. The US spends the highest followed by China on defence. In 2005, while India spent $22 billion ie 2.3 per cent of its GDP on defence, Pakistan spent $3.7 billion or 4.3 per cent of its GDP.

In sum, compared to Pakistan’s budget India must spend at least three per cent of its GDP on defence from the present 2.3 per cent if it wants to retain its supremacy among its hostile neighbours. A higher budgetary allocation would not only act as a security deterrent but also improve the lot of a neglected army and its soldiers who are the lowest paid in the country. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News and Feature Alliance)

Nightmare For Forces?: FAULTY MILITARY PROCUREMENT POLICY, by B.K. Mathur, 18 June 2007 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 18 June 2007

Nightmare For Forces?

FAULTY MILITARY PROCUREMENT POLICY

By B.K. Mathur

Defence Ministry’s one policy that has repeatedly come in for criticism for decades, perhaps since independence, is its military equipment procurement policy. Various Parliamentary Committees have gone into the faults in specific cases time and again. So have several reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). On its part, the Ministry too has made some policy changes from time to time. But flaws in policies and planning continue unabated. The latest on this front is the CAG report tabled in Parliament last month. It stresses that the weapon systems that should have been inducted in the Army within 12 months were not made available to the force anywhere close to that deadline.

The CAG made this remark while going into some acquisitions which were required to be made under the Ministry’s fast track procedure (FTP) for buying weapon systems on emergency basis to cater to urgent operational requirements. But the delay in their procurement has presented a sort of a nightmare to the armed forces. The FTP policy, remember, was introduced in 2002, that is three years after the Kargil operation in 1999. It allows the military establishments to ignore the laid down procurement policy in an effort to plug gaps in the military’s operational capabilities. It has been noticed that the Ministry has compromised “competitiveness” in terms of adequate vendor identification in the name of urgency, but the forces did not get any benefit. Vested interests have invariably prevailed.

Remember, soon after the Kargil operation the, then, Chief of the Army Staff, General V.P. Malik has forcefully commented on the role of Babudom in defence planning and security matters. A frustrated General had minced no words in highlighting during a massive military exercise in Rajasthan, operation Vijay Chakra, that “procedural problems” more than “funds constraints” were coming in the way in modernization of the Army. The military brass has, in fact, been quite upset about the red-tape and delayed acquisition for a considerable period of time. The bureaucracy sits with great comfort on files pertaining to military demands, something which was clearly and concerned reflected in the Kargil operation.

As various reports indicated, the Kargil operation provided in a way the repeat of 1962, when China attacked India and the Army deployed there was caught napping. After the tragedy of the north-eastern Himalayas, India and its traumatized Prime Minister Nehru realized the serious shortages of equipment and such wherewithal which provide to the forces the required teeth to protect the country’s security. The Government then moved fast to go in for heavy purchases to update the armed forces. The result was seen within three years when the Indian forces took on successfully the Pakistani attack in 1965. No doubt, the Indian machinery was undoubtedly inferior to Pakistan’s, but the manpower superiority helped fully.

The real advantage of updating the arms and the men of the forces was clearly seen in 1971 when the Indian forces performed extremely well against Pakistan, both in the eastern and western sectors.  The success prompted the Government to again go in for updating the military machines both from the West and the erstwhile USSR. With the machines, alas, came the scandals connected with military purchases---big slush money, procurement of inferior or outdated weapons and systems. Remember, the big deal in the purchase of fighter aircraft, the Jaguars and Mirages. Both were inducted into the Air Force at least a decade late, when other air forces had begun to go in for the next generation of the aircraft. The delays in almost all purchases were caused by the bureaucracy, aided and abetted by the politicians.

In fact, the system of negotiating with foreign manufacturers officially through the middlemen was dispensed with and the Government started “handling” the manufacturers directly. This led to scandals and wrong contracts and, of course, slush money for the purchases of expensive machines like Jaguar aircraft, submarines and Bofors gun, which caused even the fall of a Government at the Centre.  In this process of increasing corruption in defence deals an effort which Indira Gandhi had made towards increasing indigenization of military hardware started suffering, resulting in more and more dependence on imports. Worse, delayed acquisitions were made from the Western sources, which were at that time surprisingly acquired without production technology.

More than two decades later, one discovered that things were back to square one, resulting in the Kargil tragedy in 1999 and the Army Chief’s reaction quoted at the outset. In fact, the shortcomings which the Indian forces had faced during the Kargil operations had prompted the Defence Ministry to work out the fast procedure to provide for the armed forces the equipment they needed urgently. Even in the case of such acquisitions, the same decades-old malady has continued to be practised by vested interests, concerned more about themselves than the security of the nation. For them, it is just a routine matter what the CAG has pointed out in its latest report.

The striking example of the utter neglect of FTP that the CAG has pointed out is the purchase of electronic warfare systems, which the Army had urgently needed. A contract for this deal was signed more than four years after the Ministry had approved the procurement under the FTP.  Likewise, the purchase of extended range rockets met an almost similar fate. A contract was signed in December 2005, even though the FTP was invoked in August 2002. More time was required for completing the deal. One can go on and on highlight similar delays in acquiring for the forces important machines to keep them in operational readiness.

This kind of delays should not have happened especially in case of FTP on emergency basis. The FTP does away with critical elements of the procurement process like the issue of request for proposals (RFP), and technical evaluation for purchasing an established and tested project. The CAG has faulted the Ministry for going in for the FPT when its application was not justified in some cases. For instance, it says that the electronic warfare system for Kargil and the north-east were an urgent requirement in 1999 when the case for procurement was initiated.  But it was brought under FPT in October 2001 by when it could have been procured through normal procedure. Indeed, vested interests would have suffered.

The frustrating story which the CAG has revealed in its latest report last month is indeed tragic. Despite having in our Defence laboratories excellent scientists and technicians we, in the first place, rush for purchases abroad and then delay in acquiring the machines the forces urgently need. The negotiations with foreign vendors take years, as has concernedly happened in the case of advance jet trainers (AJT), which is actually the lifeline of the IAF. More about it another time. In the present context, the disastrous military equipment policy has indeed cost the armed forces dearly all these years. Time now to set things right.---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

 

An Unprofessional Policy: ARMY DEPLOYMENT, CIVIL CONTROL, by B.K. Mathur, 21 May 2007 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 21 May 2007

An Unprofessional Policy

ARMY DEPLOYMENT, CIVIL CONTROL

By B.K. Mathur

The Army deployment in Jammu and Kashmir for tackling prolonged militancy has raised several issues concerning the country’s armed forces. Two most controversial of them are their deployment for civil duties and, if deployed, under what control and command. This depends upon the type of assignment. Deployment in aid of civil authority has necessarily to be under civil control, but the Jammu and Kashmir assignment is entirely different, where the Army is fighting for years a war-like situation against foreign militants, professionally trained for military operations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. For such a deployment, the Army needs to be given full control and command, without which it becomes difficult for it to achieve its assigned task.

Presently a controversy is going on in J&K between the ruling coalition partners, the Congress and the PDP over the army deployment in the State. The latter party is persisting with its demand to withdraw the Army or reduce its presence in some crucial areas in pursuance of its “healing touch” policy, a policy which the armed forces personnel do not understand by virtue of their basic training. They are trained to “kill” to achieve their target. They have to be reckless with complete control and command. The State’s Chief Minister is against withdrawal or reduction of the Army at this stage in view of the existing situation in which the infiltration has increased during the last two months. But, at the same time, he continues to talk about human rights and advises the Army to observe restrain in handling the militancy, an entirely unprofessional policy.

Military intelligence and the GoC-in-C of the Northern Army Command have informed the Government with facts and figures that the infiltration of trained militants from across the border has increased during the last two months, April and May, as compared to figures of the corresponding period last year, despite the confidence-building measures (CBMs) for peace between the two neighbours. The infiltration has taken place by cutting the barbed wire fencing at several points along the Line of Control (LoC) and attempts to sneak in with the mortar and even artillery support from behind in the Pak-held area, have been foiled by the Army units. At times exchange of fire has taken place for hours together.

Those who have been repeatedly demanding the Army withdrawal to the barracks or its re-deployment seem to have missed the well-planned strategy of the militants; a diabolical gameplan. They are sneaking into the Indian territory but not striking. Instead of increase in violent incidents there is decrease which gives one the impression that the militancy is now under control and that the Governments at the Centre and in the State would be forced under political pressure to withdraw or reduce the Army deployment. It is evident that the gameplan of the militants and their supporters in Islamabad is to regroup the militants and prepare them for their operational readiness for a massive strike as was planned prior to the Kargil operation in 1999.

The first principle of a military operation is to take the enemy by surprise to ensure success. This was their strategy prior to operation when they quietly prepared for a long time as proved by the construction by them of multi-purpose bunkers and ammunition stores not only in Skardu but also close to the LoC. The reaction of the Army based in J&K should obviously be to prepare itself for such an eventuality and be ruthless in handling the militants trying to regroup themselves with the help of local elements. For such a readiness to counter a possible attack, the Army needs to be given compete authority without any political interference or any talk of “healing touch” or “human rights”, notwithstanding the fact that the unified command in the State is headed by the Chief Minister.

The greatest tragedy of nearly too decades of militancy is that the Pak-trained militants have been harboured by a large number of local people across the State and allowed to live and act at will. Such people who harbour the nation’s enemy have not been tackled more because of political reasons rather than Army laxity. In fact, the Army has suffered tremendously all these years of losing large-number of its personnel at the hands of the “hidden militants” living in safe buildings, virtually out-of-bounds for military action. Such militants are not only just harboured but also allowed to carry, and even store, arms and ammunition to kill the men of the security while on the move to tackle the bigger operations by the enemy. The personnel are killed undefended, with their hands tried to their back.

This at once reminds one of the Indian Peace Keeping Force’s (IPKF) mission of the Army against the LTTE in north-eastern parts of Sri Lanka in mid-1980s. This writer visited the area twice and saw with great surprise the Indian soldiers fighting the LTTE offensive with their hands virtually tied to their back. They were asked to keep peace in the region, help the Lankan Government without undertaking any operation intended to kill the enemy or to occupy any land. In the process, the Army lost a large number of its men, without fighting any regular operation. Unfortunately, on their return from the assignment some pro-LTTE element in India equated the IPKF mission with the Mylai operation in Vietnam.

Sri Lanka has again tried last week to get around New Delhi for military assistance to tackle the continuing problem with the LTTE. The Tigers, as the LTTE activists are called, have armed themselves adequately in the last two decades to fight the Lankan forces to get freedom for the Tamilian-dominated north-eastern region of the Island nation. As in 1983-84, Colombo has asked New Delhi for military assistance to fight the Tigers, who have now become much stronger than during the 1980s. They have also acquired air power, which could be a danger to India also. If India fails to help them, the Lankans have indicated they would take military equipment from China and Pakistan. Both Beijing and Islamabad have been trying for long to establish their bases in the Indian Ocean and surely both will jump at the opportunity of military relationship with Colombo.

It would be strategically wise for New Delhi somehow to stop China and Pakistan getting militarily close to Sri Lanka. National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan is right in quickly offering to Colombo “whatever its requirement”, with a rider that New Delhi’s assistance would be confined to “defensive capabilities”. Importantly, if the Army personnel are to be deployed in Sri Lanka even for training or equipment maintenance purposes, they need be sent with clear directions and authority to take on-the-spot decisions required according to situation. In fact, such clear professional directions and authority need to be given to the forces deployed with a defined assignment, like the tackling of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. How they achieve the assigned target is their business---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance))

 

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