Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Dead IAF pilot’s father writes to PM for justice

Military tribunal is highest court for soldiers and veterans, who have no way to appeal tribunal rulings

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 30th Sept 15

In arguing how difficult are the terms and conditions of military service, leaders of the “one rank, one pay” (OROP) agitation have highlighted curtailment of fundamental rights of military personnel (under Article 33 of the Constitution); their subjection to harsh disciplinary codes (Army, Navy, Air Force Acts); prolonged separation from families; and the vastly higher risk of death or injury whilst on duty.

Now Gurbax Singh Dhindsa, the father of a dead Indian Air Force pilot, has underlined the fact that military personnel have little recourse to justice in higher courts.

Mr Dhindsa makes this point in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Law Minister DV Sadanand Gowda. His son, Flying Officer GS Dhindsa, had died during the Kargil conflict, when his MiG-21BIS fighter crashed while taking off from Srinagar on an operational mission on August 18, 1999. Mr Dhindsa’s letter recounts the difficulties he faced in collecting the benefits due to him as the pilot’s next of kin. Like many ex-servicemen who confront such delays, he took the government to court for what should have been paid to him routinely, and with gratitude and honour. Last month, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) --- the military’s departmental tribunal --- ordered the Defence Accounts Department to pay Mr Dhindsa his dead son’s ex-gratia payment, pension and other dues that had been held back illegally for sixteen years. Inexplicably, the AFT failed to order payment of interest.

When Mr Dhindsa decided to move the High Court for grant of interest, he learned that he could not. Article 31 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act rules that AFT judgments cannot be challenged in the high court. Nor can serving defence personnel or veterans or their families petition the Supreme Court unless the case involves a “point of law of general public importance”. Earlier this year, on March 11, ruling on a plea filed by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the Supreme Court endorsed this retrograde provision.

The Supreme Court, in a separate case, is now reconsidering this judgment, which has effectively left defence personnel, veterans and families without remedy after an AFT decision. Earlier a seven-judge Constitution Bench, in L Chandra Kumar versus Union of India, had deemed “unconstitutional” a ruling that prevented High Court review of rulings of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and State Administrative Tribunals (SATs). Yet, for now, military litigants have no recourse beyond the AFT.

Mr Dhindsa writes: “Of course, civilian employees or their families have no such bar. In case I had been the father of a civilian employee denied pension, I could have simply approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and if dissatisfied, the High Court and if still dissatisfied the Supreme Court. But since I am the father of a military martyr I cannot approach the High Court or even the Supreme Court unless I have a case of public importance.”

He goes on: “Even if an appeal was provided as a matter of right to the Supreme Court from each case of the AFT, can you expect defence personnel or their families from the lower socio-economic strata to approach the Supreme Court? Can they afford litigation or even travel to the highest Court of India?”

This question is especially relevant, given that the defence ministry’s well-established legal strategy is to appeal at every level against every court decision that goes against the government, regardless of the merits of the case. That obliges the litigant, most often a poor villager living on his pension, to pay travel and lawyer fees that he cannot possibly afford. Meanwhile, the defence ministry uses taxpayer money to hire high-priced lawyers with the mandate to drag on cases endlessly until the litigant either dies or runs out of money.

Ironically, misinformed sections of the military welcomed the Supreme Court ruling, which they viewed as “quicker justice”, stemming from the removal of one level of appeal. Says prominent military lawyer, Navdeep Singh: “Thankfully people are now realizing that this judgment snatches away the precious fundamental right to approach the High Court, which is available to every citizen. Under the guise of ‘quicker justice’, soldiers and veterans had been placed without a remedy against a tribunal’s judgment. I am glad that the Supreme Court is revisiting the matter”,  

Even so, unless and until the apex court reconsiders its earlier judgment, Mr Dhindsa is left without recourse. His letter rhetorically asks: “When a civilian employee or his family member aggrieved by order of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has a fundamental right to approach the High Court and then the Supreme Court, why should the same right be denied to me?”

“When a civilian employee or his family member has a right to a three tier judicial approach, why do I only have one tier? Do we lose our rights just because of joining the defence services rather than civilian jobs?”

“Which court should I approach against order of the AFT when my case (like 99.99% cases) does not involve any ‘point of law of general public importance’?”

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, and Mr Parrikar himself, have promised to end the practice of automatic appeals that wear down litigants, regardless of the merits of their cases. However, the defence ministry’s department of ex-servicemen’s welfare (ESW) scuttles all such attempts, and resentment is rising amongst ex-servicemen.

The AFT was born in August 2009, as a departmental judicial body for providing quick and affordable justice to soldiers, airmen and sailors governed respectively by the Indian Army Act, 1950, Indian Air Force Act, 1950 and the Navy Act, 1957. It rests on the foundations of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 (hereafter, the Act), which envisions a military-oriented substitute for the high courts, with appeals addressed only to the Supreme Court, on matters of “general public importance”. In 2011, the Delhi High Court ruled that litigants could not be deprived of judicial review in a High Court, which the Constitution provided for. However, the Supreme Court struck down that order earlier this year.

There are also serious questions of conflict of interest, with the AFT operating under the defence ministry, which is the respondent in almost every case the AFT hears. The defence ministry argues the Act grants it the powers to make rules, appointments and administer the AFT. In fact, the Act grants those powers to the central government, while the Allocation of Business Rules makes the Ministry of Law and Justice (MOLJ) responsible for the “administration of justice”.

There is a battle raging over control of the AFT. The Punjab & Haryana High Court has acknowledged this conflict of interest, directing in a judgment on Nov 20, 2012 that the AFT be “brought within the control of Department of Justice in the Ministry of Law & Justice.” This judgment cites the aforementioned seven-judge Supreme Court ruling in L Chandra Kumar versus Union of India and R Gandhi versus Union of India, which direct departmental tribunals (such as the AFT) should all be brought under a “wholly independent agency” under the MoLJ, which must “try to ensure that the independence of the members of all such Tribunals is maintained.”

In its Eighteenth Report, tabled in parliament on Mar 20, 2013, the Standing Committee on Defence has backed the setting up of a Central Tribunal Division under the MoLJ, which would exercise administrative control over the AFT, rather than the MoD. “The Committee are of the view that in order to build a strong and independent institution, this step will go a long way,” says the report.

Reform of the AFT is essential for justice to be visibly served. It is to be hoped that Mr Dhindsa’s letter draws the government’s attention to this long overdue measure. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Ezhimala academy churns out officer-engineers for an expanding navy

By Ajai Shukla
Ezhimala, Kerala
Business Standard, 29 Sept 15

A five-kilometre beachfront crescent of sparkling white sand. Dappled sunlight on the water of the bay broken periodically by leaping dolphins. Backwaters lined with coconut palms. While this sounds like a tourist resort, it is in fact the Indian Naval Academy (INA) at Ezhimala (pronounced Erhi-mala), where a demanding four-year syllabus transforms youths into the naval officers who man the country’s warships.

As the warship fleet expands, so does the need for more officers. When India’s newest destroyer, INS Kochi, enters service on Wednesday, the navy will be authorised an additional 40 officers and 350 sailors --- the vessel’s authorised crew.

By 2027, when the current 152-warship navy (including 15 submarines) reaches its planned level of 198 warships, the navy will need 13,700 officers. That is 30 per cent more than the 10,600 officers authorised today (the navy actually makes do with barely 9,000). To train so many officers, the INA will double its capacity from the current 1,300 cadets to 2,700 cadets.

“We have the job of ensuring the navy’s officer numbers increase in step with its equipment holdings”, explains Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar P, the INA commandant.

The INA’s scenic campus is also geared to train 80 foreign cadets from countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania and Namibia, who regard India as the region’s predominant naval power. The navy regards training as an important component of naval diplomacy in the Indian Ocean.

Until 1985, when a much smaller navy required fewer officers, cadets were trained at a smaller establishment at Kochi. That year, training shifted to INS Mandovi, Goa. In 2009, the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh, inaugurated INA Ezhimala. Now, every single naval officer passes through this academy.

Located 35 kilometres from the north Kerala city of Kannur (formerly Cannanore), Ezhimala is steeped in India’s maritime history. Mount Dilli, rising sharply from the sea to an altitude of 260 metres, was a traditional navigational landmark for Arab traders sailing their dhows to India. History records that Vasco da Gama, the first European to voyage to India in 1498, landed in Calicut. In fact, many historians agree that accounts of his landfall after crossing the Arabian Sea indicate he landed first at Mount Dilli, before sailing onwards to Calicut.

Presently, the INA is a major presence at Ezhimala. At a cost of Rs 800 crore, Phase I of the project has built capacity for training 750 naval cadets. Phase II, which has been allocated another Rs 340 crore, will boost the capacity to 1,200 cadets. In fact, a desperate need for more officers means that 1,300 naval cadets are already training here, with infrastructure struggling to catch up.

Rear Admiral MA Hampiholi, the navy’s assistant chief of personnel, explains that a shortfall of training capacity forces the navy to make do with 13 per cent less officers than it is authorised, 18 per cent less sailors and 26 per cent less civilians. Expanding Ezhimala is essential for making up officer numbers.

“Creating officers requires a gestation period. For example, the indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, will be commissioned in 2018. But we need sanctions for those officers now so that they are available in 2018”, explains Hampiholi.

If producing so many officers were not difficult enough, the navy has taken on the extraordinary challenge of training all its cadets as engineering graduates. Ezhimala has an academic affiliation with Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, for granting cadets a B.Tech degree after four years of study, which is recognised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

Naval cadets from the tri-service National Defence Academy, who must follow three years training at Khadakvasla, Maharashtra, with a year of specialist naval training at Ezhimala, must do an additional year of distance education for their M.Sc. degrees in applied sciences.

“To ensure that our cadets can cope with this tough combination of academics, physical training and specialist naval subjects, the navy has taken up with the Union Public Services Commission for an eligibility cut-off of 70 per cent marks in candidates’ 10 + 2 examinations. This would make joining the navy academically tougher than joining the air force or army”, says Ajit Kumar.

The navy’s Manpower Perspective Plan envisions that, by 2027, the fleet will need 13,700 officers, 85,000 sailors and 75,000 civilians, compared to just 8,700 officers, 50,000 sailors and 43,000 civilians today.

Monday, 28 September 2015

India, US sign $3 billion contract for Apache, Chinook helicopters

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Sept 15

On Monday in New Delhi, US and Indian officials signed contracts for the purchase by the Indian Air Force (IAF) of 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, and 15 CH-47F Chinook multi-mission heavy lift helicopters.

Two of the contracts, which were signed in the afternoon between teams from Boeing headquarters in the US and Indian defence ministry officials, were for the “direct commercial sale” (DCS) part of the contracts. This includes the entire Chinook helicopter, and the flying portion of the Apache (less engines), as well as logistic support, spares and services.

The purchase of the Apache weaponry and radar was signed separately as a “foreign military sale” (FMS) purchase by the Indian defence ministry, which signed a “letter of agreement” (LoA) to this effect with the Pentagon. The FMS portion of the sale includes munitions, training, aircraft certification, and components like engines, electro-optical sensors and the radar.

“Contracts for purchase of 15 #Chinook and 22 #Apache Helicopters signed”, tweeted defence ministry spokesperson, Sitanshu Kar, late on Monday evening. He did not release further details.

The value of the deal for both helicopters, including DCS and FMS portions of the sale, is approximately $3 billion.

According to the contract signed, Boeing will start delivering the Chinook and Apache helicopters 36 months from today. The entire delivery is to be completed in 48 months from the signing of the contract.

Both helicopters will be delivered in fly-away condition, i.e. fully-built and ready for operations. Since Boeing is committed to a 30 per cent offset liability, there may be some portions that are built in India.

Already, Indian companies are involved in the building of the Chinook. Bangalore-based Dynamatics Technologies builds the aft pylon and cargo ramps for the Chinook’s global supply chain.

Boeing sources say that additional Indian vendors are being scouted for building more components.

This contract will further consolidate the US position as India’s second-biggest arms supplier, behind only Russia.

The Apache AH-64E is the world’s most fearsome attack helicopter. It is armed with anti-tank missiles, rockets and a chain gun that fires 625 rounds per minute that can rip apart an armoured vehicle. The Apache has flown close to a million mission hours in conflicts from the First Gulf War in 1991 to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Similarly, the Chinook, which first flew in the Vietnam War, but has continuously evolved in design, is one of the world’s most well-reputed heavy lift helicopters. It is capable of underslinging and lifting a light 155 millimetre howitzer to support troops in high altitudes of up to 15,000 feet. 

Friday, 25 September 2015

1965 war anniversary: 50 years on, little has changed

Union ministers at the 1965 war exhibition in Delhi, commemorating the 1965 "victory"

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Sept 2015

The 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war has been widely commemorated in India. There has been more than a touch of jingoism in invoking that “victory”, though a fairer verdict might be that it was a draw, with India’s operational and tactical shortcomings denying it outright victory. That would have begged the question: is our military better prepared today? The answer, sadly, would be no!

Half a century after 1965, India’s military is (with the possible exception of the navy, which did not participate then) arming, equipping, training and planning to fight the same grinding battle of attrition that it did then, instead of transforming itself for modern, high-technology warfare. That involves creating battlefield transparency by digitally networking forces, concentrating swiftly to bring down multiple fire effects on enemy targets, and then dispersing as rapidly to evade retaliation.

Fighting such a war involves, first, creating integrated, tri-service, surveillance networks that include low-orbit satellites, drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), radar networks, air force reconnaissance means and extensive ground-based sensors, fully integrated through secure digital networks. The side that establishes “information dominance” wins modern battle.

Acting on this information needs a tri-service headquarters that evolves joint plans incorporating the air force, army and naval firepower to pulverise the enemy at stand-off ranges. Firepower and its shock impact reduces the infantry-heavy, high-casualty, hand-to-hand fighting that killed millions in the wars of the twentieth century. Ideally, you send high explosive to contact the enemy’s fighting forces. Your soldiers only finish off the job.

Thirdly, to precisely bring together the elements and actions mentioned above, digital networks are needed to link elements of the modern battlefield --- aircraft, warships, tanks, infantrymen, artillery units, missile regiments, surveillance centres, headquarters, and combat support units. Secure voice and data links provide each element of the force an emerging battlefield picture in real time, even as it contributes to that picture.

This so-called “network-centric warfare” was first seen in Operation Desert Storm (the First Gulf War of 1991), broadcast to living rooms worldwide by the Cable News Network (CNN). It was the outcome of a so-called “revolution in military affairs” (RMA), the child of the digital revolution. No longer was God on the side of the bigger battalions. For the first time in modern warfare, firepower and numbers were a function of digital bandwidth and innovative use of the electromagnetic spectrum.

So shocked and awed were the generals of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by Operation Desert Storm that, starting from the mid-1990s, they transformed the operational doctrine of the PLA, which had historically focused on “people’s war”, a euphemism for large numbers of primitively-equipped soldiers. In its place, Beijing is creating a force that could “win a local war under informatized conditions”.

According to the Pentagon, “informatized conditions” is PLA jargon for “enhancing systems and weapons with information capabilities and linking geographically dispersed forces and capabilities into an integrated system capable of unified action”.

In contrast, India’s operational style remains mired in 1965. During the initial stages of that war, the army and air force planned in isolation; so too did the army and air force during the 1999 Kargil conflict. Without a tri-service headquarters that does operational planning (the Integrated Defence Staff, or IDS, is carefully excluded from that) coordinating multi-service operations remains an ad hoc process that depends on personalities and the chemistry between them. The army has no ground strike aircraft and, only now, will get control over attack helicopters. Army generals still complain that the air force allocates too few strike aircraft for supporting ground operations.

Meanwhile, army numbers increase steadily, without the firepower needed to support them in battle. Over the last seven years, the army has added more than 70,000 men, in two new mountain divisions on the Sino-Indian border. Like in 1965, these men are deployed piecemeal on widely-separated mountaintops, with only light integral firepower (machine guns and mortars), and little hope of serious artillery and missile support, attack helicopters, or air force close air support in battle.

To add to the salary bill and leave even less for firepower, another 90,000 soldiers are being added, which will take the bloated force up to 1.3 million personnel. Meanwhile the PLA has slashed more than a million men from its force.

The military, meanwhile, talks up network-centricity but pursues it haphazardly. The army is developing a range of digital networks, including a “tactical communication system” (TCS), which is a mobile, secure, military network over which field forces can digitally communicate; a “command information and decision support system” (CIDSS), which is a “system of systems” that integrates every other system; an “artillery command, control and coordination system” (ACCCS), which controls all artillery in the battle-space; a “battlefield surveillance system” (BSS) that integrates surveillance inputs; a “battlefield management system” (BMS) that links soldiers and systems at battalion level and below.

Yet each of these digital networks is being developed independently, without thought to compatibility or inter-workability. They feature disparate communications systems, where one system’s radios cannot communicate with another’s; and also incompatible geographic interface systems (GIS). Since the army has not thought it fit to lay down common frameworks, it will soon have a large number of mutually incompatible networks that cannot achieve net-centricity.

Instead, the army should have specified open standard software; open GIS consortium (OGC) compliant, and software defined radio (SDR) for communications, since its flexibility would allow an SDR to operate across networks. The defence ministry has a department of standardisation, which has failed to do this.

To complicate the arrangement further, the navy has its own backbone network, called “navy enterprise wide network” (NEWN). The air force has AF-NET and its own CDMA network. The army will have the TCS, BMS, army static communication network (ASCON) and mobile cellular communications system (MCCS). Ironically, none of these digital backbones can communicate seamlessly with each other.

Nor is there any recognition of these potentially fatal weaknesses. The army continues to regard each new weapon system it seeks --- the proposed future infantry combat vehicle (FICV); artillery guns, missile batteries, et al --- in isolation, not as an interlinked part of a battle network. It is crucial for the proposed FICV to be compatible with the BMS network; but the specifications provided to industry do not specify that as an “essential” parameter, only a “desirable” one.

In early September 1965, an infantry battalion, 3 JAT, captured a vital bridge over the Ichhogil Canal at Dograi, setting the stage for an advance on to Lahore, a war-winning victory. That gigantic opportunity was squandered because commanders did not have the full battle picture. If India’s military continues “arming without aiming” as a US commentator put it, there could be worse than missed opportunities in the future. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Parrikar calls for defence exports worth $1 billion

DRDO chief wants bigger R&D budget, 436 more scientists

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Sept 15

In New Delhi on Wednesday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar startled the defence industry by targeting the export of $1 billion (Rs 6,600 crore) worth of DRDO-developed indigenous defence equipment in two-to-three years.

This represents a ten-fold increase over current export levels. On November 28, 2014, the government revealed in parliament that defence exports were: Rs 512 crore in 2011-12; Rs 447 crore in 2012-13, and Rs 686 crore in 2013-14.

In 2014-15, exports are likely to be only marginally higher. On July 24, Minister of State for Defence, Rao Inderjit Singh, told parliament that exports during the year had included Cheetal helicopters and Stallion trucks to Afghanistan; a Dhruv helicopter and bullet proof jackets to Nepal; Dhruv helicopter spares to Ecuador; Sukhoi-30 avionics and MiG fighter and helicopter spares to Malaysia; hull mounted sonars to Myanmar, and other odds and ends.

The defence minister has often talked up the need for higher exports. He has told parliament that a “Defence Export Strategy has been formulated and put in public domain. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for issuing NOC (no objection certificates) for export of military stores has been simplified and made online.”

At last year’s DRDO awards function, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for empowering younger scientists, an implied criticism that led on in January to the removal from service of Dr Avinash Chander, the DRDO’s chief who had already received two service extensions.

This year, Parrikar fired a warning to the DRDO’s “cluster heads”, the seven director generals who direct R&D in the organisation’s seven technology verticals.

He said the cluster heads should “avoid duplication, or overlapping of activities by laboratories for greater economic efficiency”.

Parrikar went on: “Cluster in-charge has a very important role to play. They should not think, ‘This is my last two years, why should we speed up development’”.

Speaking before Parrikar, the DRDO chief, Dr S Christopher had asked the defence ministry to quickly approve the hiring of 436 more scientists, which the DRDO had requested. Noting that DRDO’s strength had remained stagnant since 2001, he said, “A top-heavy organisation with a narrow base is not appropriate.”

Christopher pointed out that the annual DRDO budget of five to six per cent of the defence allocation was inadequate for developing new equipment for the forces, when China was spending 20 per cent of its budget on R&D. He said that India’s military had so far ordered Rs 1,79,071 crore worth of equipment developed by the DRDO.

In a shot across the bows of the air force and the army, Parrikar pointed to the navy’s success in establishing a “close interface” with the DRDO. He called for a similar level of interface between the DRDO and the army and air force.

Christopher made an intriguing revelation while listing out the DRDO’s achievements during the year, mentioning the development of “air independent propulsion” (AIP) for submarines, which he revealed would soon be tested.

AIP is a state-of-the-art propulsion system that makes submarines quieter, and gives them longer endurance since they need not surface for as long as two weeks. In contrast, conventional diesel-electric submarines must surface far more often, since they require air to run their engines. When surfaced, they are vulnerable to detection.

The defence ministry is currently processing the acquisition of six AIP-equipped submarines under Project 75I. With the DRDO claiming to have developed AIP, it might well lobby for Project 75I vessels to have indigenous AIP.

Amongst the awards presented to DRDO laboratories and personnel was one for the successful design of the K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), with a range of 3,500 kilometres. This SLBM, which is being developed for India’s underwater nuclear deterrent, will replace the K-15 missiles that currently equips Arihant-class nuclear submarines. The K-15’s range is just 750 kilometres.

The longer range K-4 missile would add greatly to the survivability of Arihant-class submarines, which could fire them from longer ranges without needing to venture too close to enemy shores. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Book review: 1965, blow by blow

The Monsoon War: Young Officers Reminisce
By Amarinder Singh and Lieutenant General Tajinder Shergill
Publishers: Roli Books, New Delhi
Length: 528 pages
Price: Rs 1965/-

Monsoon War will probably find a place on military history library shelves as the definitive work on the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war by two co-authors who are uniquely qualified to write it.

Captain Amarinder Singh, now Maharaja of Patiala, was then earning his spurs as a regular officer in the army. After being commissioned in 1963, he served during the war as aide-de-camp to its most important commander, Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh, who commanded all Indian ground forces that fought Pakistan. Besides his ringside view of Harbaksh’s decision-making, Amarinder’s perspective benefits from his subsequent political career, and his avocation as a military historian and author of well-regarded books on World War I and the 1999 Kargil conflict.

Amrinder’s co-author, Lt Gen Tajinder Shergill, brings to the book a different, but equally valuable, perspective. Shergill was a young armoured corps commander in the Khemkaran sector, which saw one of the campaign’s crucial battles in which a Pakistani armoured division was halted and destroyed. Shergill was taken prisoner at the end of the war, eventually spending months in a Pakistani prisoner-of-war camp. A thinking general, he provides insightful analysis on armoured warfare and higher military leadership during the war, which has been often criticised as timid, without viewing it through the prism of the time.

These two authors have produced a page-turner that can be criticised only for being overly detailed. Weighing a hefty 2.4 kilogrammes and choc-a-block with maps and bunker-by-bunker battle accounts, this book is not for the weak of wrist or short of attention. This is a one-stop shop for those seeking the complete story of 1965, including the international and sub-continental geopolitical landscape, personality sketches of the key protagonists (Spoiler alert: Field Marshal Ayub Khan was a coward), and riveting snippets of the politics of higher military command.

Monsoon War is handsomely produced. It is crammed with well-captioned black and white photographs, many from personal collections of soldiers who had participated in the fighting. Making it easier to follow are 136 detailed maps that illustrate the terrain and deployment of troops for various battles. There are also detailed appendices listing out commanders, orders of battle, lists of aircraft shot down, summaries of losses, and so on.

While unabashedly an Indian account of the war, the book adds authenticity by also drawing heavily from Pakistani documents. It concludes that India emerged the winner because Pakistan failed in its strategic objective of wresting Kashmir through force; and India’s military inflicted heavy damage on Pakistan’s vaunted war machine that the United States and its allies in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation had built up. This was where Ayub Khan’s skill lay, say the authors: in convincing a na├»ve Washington that Pakistan was its only true friend in the sub-continent and a bulwark against expansion of Soviet influence into South Asia.

Today, India is confident of its military superiority to Pakistan. But in the early 1960s, Washington’s friendship had equipped Pakistan with nine regiments of M-47 and M-48 Patton tanks that were clearly better than Indian armour, except for four regiments of Centurion tanks. In the air, Pakistan’s fighter fleet included eight squadrons of F-86 Sabres and one squadron of the world-class F-104 Starfighter; far more effective than India’s large, but obsolescent, fighter fleet. Yet, on the ground, at least three Pakistani armoured regiments were wiped out in the fighting, even as others were badly depleted.

Much is made today about a “two-front threat” to India from Pakistan and China acting in concert. Yet, as Monsoon War brings out vividly, the “two-front threat” seemed far more real then. The hiding of 1962 was fresh in Indian memories. The China-Pakistan axis was getting daily stronger after Islamabad ceded to Beijing the 5,000 square kilometre Shaksgam Valley, in Gilgit-Baltistan, in 1963. China’s vice premier, Marshal Chen Yi, was voicing his solidarity with Pakistan. And China was not just arming and training Naga rebels in Yunan province, but had also massed 15 army divisions along the Sino-Indian border. As the book brings out, India went into the Monsoon War weak, underequipped and under severe threat, but it emerged victorious.

Amongst the most readable parts of the book are the detailed battle accounts: Major (later lieutenant general) Ranjit Dayal’s heroic capture of the Haji Pir Pass with his troops from 1 PARA; the gritty, hand-to-hand battle by 2 SIKH to capture Raja picquet, high above Poonch; the audacious capture of Dograi, on Lahore’s outskirts, by Lieutenant Colonel Desmond Hayde and his heroes of 3 JAT; the decimation of Pakistan’s armoured division at Khemkaran by 3 CAVALRY and the slogging, tank-versus-tank battle at Phillora in which HODSON’S HORSE destroyed more Pakistani tanks than any other Indian regiment.

The book unsparingly describes the debacles too: an ill-prepared Indian air force that was out-thought and out-fought by the Pakistanis; and the inexcusable abandonment by Major General Niranjan Prasad of his jeep, and maps marked with battle plans, which fell into Pakistani hands.

It has taken 50 years to write a comprehensive history of the 1965 war. I hope the authors lose no time in starting work on a similar account of the 1971 war. They have only six years.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

After 100 days of agitation, ex-servicemen ready for long haul

Seven demands presented, government finalising notification

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Sept 15

Mrs SP Singh, a tiny, rounded woman with laugh lines at the corners of her eyes, seems an ordinary housewife, on her way to buy groceries from a middle-class marketplace. But this wife of a retired lieutenant colonel from the Sikh regiment has found a new routine, travelling to New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar every morning to join hundreds of others like her, from disparate ex-servicemen’s groups, agitating for “one rank one pension” (OROP).

On Tuesday, the public agitation launched on 6th June by the United Front of Ex-Servicemen, completes 100 days.

On September 5, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had announced government’s acceptance of the basic principle of OROP: “that uniform pension be paid to the armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of their date of retirement”. But key ex-servicemen’s demands remained unaddressed, and the agitation continues.

Nor are ex-servicemen taking solace from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurances the day after Parrikar accepted OROP. There was little clarity in Modi’s statement, say ex-servicemen, and no official notification has followed.

“We will go on for 1,000 days if needed. The government has tried to create a rift between ex-servicemen by announcing an award that pleases some sections. But we have a culture of fighting together and we will remain united”, says Mrs Singh.

Since Parrikar announced OROP, the mood has only become feistier. Initially spearheaded by officers, the movement has become more broad-based, with even village-based ex-servicemen associations --- composed mainly of rank-and-file former soldiers --- pledging support and sending representatives to Jantar Mantar.

Major General Satbir Singh, the Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Movement (IESM) chief, who has emerged as the face of the agitation, says the IESM has over 50,000 members and is now supported by over 160 ex-servicemen organisations.

According to General Satbir, the government’s acceptance of OROP, which will cost Rs 18,000-22,000 crore to implement this year, has seven key shortfalls.

These include the government’s exclusion from OROP of servicemen who opt for premature retirement (PMR), before reaching the age of superannuation. On the evening of September 5, Parrikar had done a U-turn, assuring ex-servicemen that those who took PMR would be entitled to OROP. However, this has not yet been officially notified.

Second, ex-servicemen have rejected the government’s offer to “equalise”, or adjust old and new pensions, every five years. Instead, they demand annual “equalisation”.

“The government says annual equalisation will be too complicated. Yet, last week, Mr Parrikar was shown software in Bengaluru, developed by an ex-navy admiral, which takes just seven seconds to calculate an individual’s adjusted pension”, says General Satbir.

Third, ex-servicemen had negotiated that pensions as on March 31, 2014 would be passed on to all pensioners. Yet, Parrikar announced the average pension paid in calendar year 2013 would be paid, holding back one full annual increment.

Fourth, Parrikar announced that OROP would be effective from July 1, 2014, not April 1, as had been agreed in negotiations. With each month’s additional pension amounting to Rs 700 crore, the government was looking to save Rs 2,100 crore.

Fifth, Parrikar wants the average of each pay grade to form the basis for calculating pension of that grade. The ex-servicemen are demanding the top of the scale. Sixth, ex-servicemen demand that OROP be “implemented in perpetuity”, with successive pay commissions “integrating”, not “adjudicating” pensions. Finally, Parrikar announced a one-person judicial commission to adjust pension anomalies over the next six months. Ex-servicemen’s groups, however are demanding a five-member commission, with three of their representatives and one each from the serving military and the defence ministry. This would be disbanded after one month.

Contacted for a comment, defence ministry spokesperson, Sitanshu Kar, responded, “The PM has provided assurances and the ministry is working very hard to produce a notification that will reconcile expectations. This should be out very soon.”

OROP: Seven sticking points

Servicemen who retire prematurely should also get pension after completing qualifying service (officers: 20 years; other ranks: 15 years)
Old and new pensions should be “equalised” annually, not once every five years as government has announced
Date for calculating pensions should be March 31, 2014, not average pension paid in 2013, as Parrikar announced
OROP should be effective from April 1, 2014, not July 1, as Parrikar announced. Each soldier would get three months more of enhanced pension
Pension for each pay grade should be the maximum pension of that grade, not average of maximum and minimum, as government has announced
OROP must be implemented in perpetuity, as a principle. Successive pay commissions could “integrate” pensions, but not “adjudicate” on them
Instead of one-person judicial commission to adjust pension anomalies, five-member commission, with three ex-servicemen members.