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    Can’t have different medical standards for Generals: AFT

    The Principal Bench of the AFT made these comments in its judgment in the case of a Brigadier of the Army Education Corps (AEC) who had not been promoted to the rank of Major General despite being approved by a promotion board because he was medically unfit.

    punjab, indian army, armed forces, armed forces tribunal, indian express news

    The bench comprising Justice Virender Singh and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra (retd) has said that medical fitness for promotion to higher ranks is an important facet of military services considering the nature of duties performed. (Source: File)

    The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has ruled that there cannot be different set of medical standards for promotion for Combat Arms and Services in the Army in any rank, and in particular senior ranks of Major General and above, where they are to “lead from the front” and set examples for others in the organisation to follow.

    The Principal Bench of the AFT made these comments in its judgment in the case of a Brigadier of the Army Education Corps (AEC) who had not been promoted to the rank of Major General despite being approved by a promotion board because he was medically unfit. The Brigadier had contended that since the only post, which he was to hold as a Major General was located in New Delhi he could be posted there in his low medical category too.

    The bench comprising Justice Virender Singh and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra (retd) has said that medical fitness for promotion to higher ranks is an important facet of military services considering the nature of duties performed.

    “There is no dispute that the requirement of medical fitness is applied uniformly to Combat Arms, Combat Support Arms and Services, including minor corps. An officer, right from his joining the service till he leaves, is subjected to same medical standards applicable for all officers,” the bench said.

    It added that to question the validity of application of similar medical standards for all officers in the Army, irrespective of their Arm, Service or their rank, “is to question the organisation, structure and ethos of the Army,” which is not in the realm of the court. “By allowing discretion and liberal application of medical status for promotion or employment to some Arms or Services or specifically to some officers would make the entire policy discriminatory and biased, which shall be detrimental for a disciplined organisation like the Army,” the order read.

    The bench said that all officers, at the time of joining the Army, follow the same medical standards and eligibility criteria, irrespective of the Arms or Service that they subsequently serve. Consequently, they take oath to serve at land, sea or air, whenever the situation so demands.

    “Medical fitness continues to remain a hallmark of their growth in the Army and their consequent employment as they rise in ranks. Tinkering with this sacred yardstick or questioning the validity of this would shake the very edifice, on which the foundation of the Indian Army is built on. We, thus, have no hesitation to state unequivocally that there cannot and should not be different set of medical standards for promotion for Combat Arms and Service in any rank and in particular senior ranks of Major General and above, where they are to lead from the front and set examples for others in the organisation to follow,” the bench said.

    However, the bench has also said that there is a need for the government to re-visit the guidelines set for the classification of officers suffering from hypertension so as to void any ambiguity in future.

    The AFT order deals with the new health care system in the Army introduced in 2011, which laid down the policy and medical classification of officers. Under this policy a COPE Coding System was put in place to guide the employability of Army Officers under: (a) C – Climate and terrain restrictions (b) O – Degree of medical observation required (c) P – Physical capability limitation (d) E – Exclusive limitations as per disease. In that, with each alphabet depicting a different level and type of restriction/limitation on the serving officers of the Army.

    BJP is using armed forces in polls but Modi govt fighting them in Supreme Court over money by Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R)

    Most of Modi government’s arguments to deny non-functional upgrade to the armed forces won’t stand a layman’s scrutiny let alone legal scrutiny.

    Indian army

    The irony is hard to miss. While India celebrates the performance of the armed forces in the recent, short-lived conflict with Pakistan in Balakot and the political class exploits them for electoral gains, the military personnel continue to fight a battle with the government in the Supreme Court.

    The case pertains to not granting non-functional upgradation (NFU) to the officers of the armed forces that members of some other central services enjoy. The government has been delaying and dithering on financially compensating India’s armed forces that lack adequate promotional avenues.

    What is NFU? How does it work?

    Civil services are classified into All India Services – Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFS) – and Central Civil Services (CCS) – Group A and Group B. Based on cadre review, the CCS Group A have been further sub-divided into Organised (constituted by the Cadre Controlling Authority) and Non-Organised.

    Keeping in view the stagnation in promotion of CCS Group A officers, the Sixth Central Pay Commission recommended NFU, linking their pay scales with those of their batch officers in the IAS. So, two years after the IAS officers are promoted, their batchmates in these services are automatically upgraded to the same level on a non-functional basis, irrespective of whether they are actually promoted or not. The usual system of promotion, meanwhile, continues. This upgrading is applicable for all ranks of officers up to the rank of Additional Secretary.

    Non-grant of NFU to certain services

    The government had initially granted NFU to only CCS Group A (Organised) even though the pay commission made no such distinction. In 2008 it was extended to the All India Services — IPS and IFS. The IAS as such is not entitled to NFU but its promotions are used as a benchmark as these are much faster than the other services.

    The officers of the armed forces face maximum stagnation due to the conical pyramidical structure. An IAS officer gets promoted to the rank of Joint Secretary, equivalent to a Major General, after 18 to 20 years in service. An army officer becomes due for promotion to the rank of Major General with 32 to 33 years in service. Most army officers retire in the rank of Colonel at age of 54 years, while all IAS officers retire as Additional Secretary and above, which is equivalent to Lt Gen and above.

    Also read: Good intentions, bad HR practice: Inducting civil service aspirants into the armed forces

    The government’s stand in not extending the NFU to the armed forces and the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) was that these two forces do not meet the criteria of being ‘Organised’ as per the policy laid down.

    A bitter battle has ensued over the last decade between the CAPF and the Ministry of Home Affairs, and between the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence. The CAPF’s case went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the judgment  of the Delhi High Court on 5 February 2019, which granted them NFU.

    Case of the armed forces

    The armed forces, on the other hand, found hurdle in a government unwilling to extend the NFU to them. Years after first taking up the matter in 2008, the armed forces strongly presented its case before the Seventh Central Pay Commission. While its chairman supportedtheir inclusion in the NFU system, the other two members found the NFU concept flawed. They said it was unmeritorious and must be done away with for all services. The government took advantage of this ambiguity and summarily rejected the case, causing a lot of resentment among both the serving and the retired officers.

    After dilly-dallying by the government at subsequent hearings, the case was finally heard on 12 March 2019. The judgement stands reserved.

    Government’s arguments – and counter-arguments

    Most of the arguments presented by the government would not withstand a layman’s scrutiny let alone legal scrutiny. For instance:

    Policy making is government’s exclusive domain.Yes, it is indeed, but all our pay commissions have correlated the pay and allowances of all services, including the armed forces, and tried to maintain parity. The government should be responsible enough to ensure that its policies are on an equal basis and not selective and biased against the armed forces.

    Constitutional right to equality enshrined in Article 14 and 16 is not applicable to armed forces.This is untenable. While Article 33 of theConstitution empowers Parliament to restrict or abrogate somefundamental rights of the armed forces, to misinterpret it to include right to equality in salary and status goes against the very spirit of theConstitution.

    Also read: Central Armed Police Forces to finally get pay parity with their IPS counterparts

    NFU to armed forces will have adverse effect on status, command and control, discipline, efficiency and morale, and reduce the desire to aspire for higher ranks. If anything, the NFU will only provide a greater degree of motivation to super ceded officers. The armed forces have enough safeguards in form of rules, regulations, law and the appraisal system to deal with errant, non-motivated and non performing officers.

    NFU will result in additional financial burden on government.On 12 March 2019 the government for the first time gave out the details of the financial burden – ₹1,065 crore for arrears and ₹269 crore as annual recurring cost. If the financial burden is unbearable, then NFU should be scrapped for all services. The arrears can be given in instalments and Rs 269 crore is hardly a burden on the government.

    Armed forces enjoy various prerequisites and amenities that are not available to the civil services.Most of the ‘subsidised’ amenities are available at par to the other services in one form or the other. Apart from these, the other facilities are from the armed forces private funds built up over the years through contributions by all ranks. This argument only reflects on the petty mind of the bureaucrats.

    The armed forces are entitled to Military Service Pay (MSP).The MSP is based on the erstwhile Special Disturbance Allowance. It is meant to address the intangible constraints and disadvantages unique to military personnel. It is certainly not a compensation for financial loss due to stagnation which is the basis for the NFU.

    Also read: If India continues to politicise military, we may not look very different from Pakistan

    Either due to ignorance or guided by inappropriate advice, the governments since Independence have discriminated against the armed forces in the matter of pay and allowance. Anomalies of pay commissions are only resolved through prolonged litigation stretching over 10-15 years.

    The government should be responsible enough to ensure that its policies are on an equal basis and not selective and biased against the armed forces.

    The armed forces are in the hearts and minds of the public and the political parties hope to win elections by exploiting the soldiers, and yet the government is fighting them tooth and nail in courts for a mere Rs 269 crore.

    Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal.

    Separate fact from fiction, the real from the fake going viral on social media, on HoaXposed .


    Dear Col Raghbir,
    1. Col Mukul Dev, the lone fighter for NFU, just now called me up at 1840 hrs on 21 Mar 2019 and spoke to me for a long time. He gave me chronological sequence of events of his legal case which I have to explain to you and other members of TSEWA, so that we all are in same grid / wavelength /page.
    2. Col Mukul Dev also spoke to me some time back (may be two years) and informed me that he has filed a case for grant of NFU to Armed Forces Officers. I offered him financial support from TSEWA . I visualized at that time itself, that even if he wins the case in AFT Delhi, Min of Def will drag him to Hon’ble Supreme Court as per their SOP. But he politely refused my offer for any financial support. I promised full support of TSEWA for a cause he is fighting for all Armed Forces Officers. Since OROP was sanctioned, I felt all the Pre – 2013 Officers retired will definitely get benefit in OROP – 2018 (even if we do not get benefit in OROP – 2013). 
    3. What Col Mukul Dev told me today is that he alone filed a case in 2015 in Hon’ble AFT Delhi praying for grant of NFU to Armed Forces Officers and the same was admitted sometime in early 2016. After he filed the case slowly 259 other officers (serving and retired) also filed individual cases in AFT Delhi. That means the cases are not Class Action Suits. Col Mukul Dev was given OA No and so are the other 259 officers.  AFT Delhi as per their procedure clubbed all the OAs and delivered on 23 Dec 2016 one common judgment granting NFU not only to those petitioners but to other officers who are not petitioners in AFT Delhi. That means all officers serving and retired will get benefit of NFU from Dec 2013 and they will be paid arrears on account of NFU from 23 Dec 2013 to 23 Dec 2016. You can work out arrears of three years between pay of Lt Col and Maj Gen for three years. 
    4.      The Min of Def went on appeal against judgment of AFT Delhi for granting NFU to Armed Forces Officers whether they were petitioners or not in 2018. Hon’ble Supreme Court then clubbed the 259 other officers tand also clubbed the case of Col Mukul Dev. Arguments are completed on 12 Mar 2019 and judgment is reserved. 
    5. Col Mukul Dev has nothing do with those 259 officers out of whom he said two have already passed away. In the remaining 257, some of them are serving officers and some are retired officers. The Registry of Hon’ble Supreme Court found that Min of Def have not served notices on those 58 out of 257 officers who are respondents. Col Mukul Dev is also one of the respondents. The Hon’ble Supreme Court directed that Min of Def should in next two weeks serve notices on those 58 officers as per the court procedure. Since the Min of Def is the appellant it is mandatory to issue notice to 257 + Col Mukul Dev of their intention of appealing against the judgment of AFT Delhi delivered on 23 Dec 2016 granting NFU to Armed Forces Officers. 
    7. What I could understand from Col Mukul Dev’s talks, now the responsibility of serving notices on 58 respondent officers is that of Min of Def and Col Mukul Dev is in no way connected with them. However, to ensure the Govt of India does not ask for adjournment on some pretext of serving notices to those 58 officers, he has taken upon himself the responsibility of contacting those 58 officers who it was found did not submit vakalatnamas to their respective advocates. I understand all those 259 officers filed individual appeals in AFT Delhi in 2016 therefore might have employed few advocates to argue their case in AFT Delhi. 
    8. I also told him that TSEWA has also requested its members to approach those 58 officers less those who passed away to submit vakalatnamas.
    9. Col Mukul Dev informed me that when contacted some of the respondents out of 58 have said they are not interested in the case and some have flatly refused to pay pittance of Rs 5,000 as legal fees to the advocate on record. He further assured those kanjoos officers to submit the vakalatnamas without any legal fees. Col Mukul Dev informed me that 30 officers have already submitted their vakalatnamas.
    10. Now the position is bit clearer to me. Whether others submit vakalatnamas or not the case will be finally disposed of either by end of Apr 2019 or middle of May 2019.
    11. I also read in Whatsapp the observation of Justice Joseph who heard the argument of ld AG for not sanctioning NFU. The hon’ble justice  reported to have told the learned AG “ Yesterday you were requesting in very humble way not to order any enquiry against Rafale case due to National security but today you are arguing forcefully why Govt of India should not grant NFU to Armed Forces who are defenders of National Security”. This indicates how the winds are blowing.
    12. Therefore TSEWA members also should try to contact these 58 officers or 56 ( as I am told two officers have passed away) to immediately submit their vakalatnams to their respective advocates or to one lady who is advocate on record even without Rs 5,000.
    13. I told Col Mukul Dev that I became little aware of what is NFU after going over his table as to when IAS officers get empaneled to Jt Secy and Addl Secy and how Lt Cols to Maj Gens will get pay of Maj Gen and Lt Gen after 19 and 31 years of service respectively and how even retired officers will get benefit of OROP – 2013, benefit of higher pension as on 01 Jan 2016 and how much arrears we all will get. 
    14. Again, I offered all support of TSEWA to Col Mukul Dev and told him that we all stand behind him solidly and he just has to ask us to do and it will done without demur.
    15. Hopefully once the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court sanctions NFU to Armed Forces Officers, there is no need for any agitation for OROP etc. 
    Warm regards, 
    Brig CS Vidyasagar (Retd)


    Vice Admiral Karambir Singh appointed next Navy chief; to take over on May 31

    Vice Admiral Karambir Singh appointed next Navy chief; to take over on May 31

    Vice Admiral Karambir Singh.

    Ajay Banerjee
    Tribune News Service
    New Delhi, March 23

    Vice Admiral Karambir Singh has been appointed the next Navy chief. He will replace Admiral Sunil Lanba who retires on May 31.

    The Ministry of Defence announced the appointment on Saturday afternoon. Vice Admiral Karambir Singh, who hails from Jalandhar, supersedes Vice Admiral Bimal Verma, the Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command and the senior-most after Admiral Lanba.

    Service chiefs are normally appointed two months in advance. Admiral RK Dhowan had been appointed chief after the 2014 general election was announced.  Ironically, he had also superseded Vice Admiral Sekhar Sinha.

    The BJP government did not go by seniority when it appointed General Bipin Rawat as the Army chief, overlooking Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi.

    Vice Admiral Karambir Singh is currently Commander of the Eastern Naval Command, Vishakapatnam. 

    Commissioned into the Navy in 1980, Vice Admiral Karambir is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy. He earned his wings as a helicopter pilot in 1982 and has flown extensively on the Chetak and Kamov helicopters.

    He has been the Chief of Staff of the Tri-Services Unified Command at Andaman and Nicobar Islands and as the Flag Officer Commanding, Maharashtra and Gujarat Naval Area.


    Rahul Gandhi pays tribute to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev on ‘Shaheed Diwas’ BJP not given a thought till now

    Rahul Gandhi pays tribute to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev on 'Shaheed Diwas'

    Congress president Rahul Gandhi. — PTI

    New Delhi, March 23

    Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday paid tribute to freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru on their death anniversary observed as ‘Shaheed Diwas’ (Martyr’s Day), saying the spirit of revolution espoused by them is running in our veins.

    Gandhi said we will continue to fight the battle for their thoughts and ideals.

    “Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru are not mere names, they are the spirit of revolution running in our veins,” he tweeted in Hindi.

    Rahul Gandhi

      भगत सिंह, सुखदेव, राजगुरु, सिर्फ़ नाम नहीं हैं; हमारे रगों में दौड़ता क्रांति का एक जज़्बा हैं। 

    उनका जीवन, आज भी, हमें मज़बूत बनाता है, आज़ाद बनाता है, इंसान बनाता है।

    शहीद दिवस पर हमारे वीरों को शत् शत् नमन।

    उनके विचारों और आदर्शो की लड़ाई हम जारी रखेंगे।

     “Their lives make us strong even today and make us free and human. On Martyrs Day, we bow our heads to our bravehearts. We will continue to fight the battle for their thoughts and ideals,” Gandhi wrote. — PTI 


    When Bhagat Singh sought legal aid

    On March 23, 1931, Bhagat Singh, along with his associates Sukhdev and Rajguru, was hanged to death for the assassination of British police officer John Saunders. Produced here is the letter written by Bhagat Singh and his comrades on May 8, 1930, to the tribunal, seeking to avail themselves of legal help in the Lahore Conspiracy case. The Punjab Archives, Lahore, has made it public

    Chaman Lal
    Former JNU Professor and Honorary advisor to Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre, Delhi

    A Special Tribunal of three High Court judges was notified by Chief Justice of Punjab High Court Chief Justice Shadi Lal, on May 1, 1930 for the trial of the Lahore Conspiracy case. This tribunal consisted of Justice Coldstream as President and Justice Agha Haider and Justice Hilton as members. While on May 5, five comrades of Bhagat Singh wrote to the tribunal about their decision to boycott the tribunal, 10 other comrades, including Bhagat Singh, wrote on May  8, 1930, their response to avail themselves of legal help for the case.

    This letter had not been found earlier. But in March 2018, the Punjab Archives, Lahore, for the first time after 1931, put up an exhibition of a few exhibits from the over 100 files related to Bhagat Singh. Ammara Ahmad, a Lahore journalist, was kind enough to send the photographs of a few exhibits, including this letter.

    The Punjab Archives, Lahore, has claimed that it has now made all records of Bhagat Singh public and probably digitalised them also. It would be good if the Punjab Government in Chandigarh approached the Punjab Government in Lahore to share all records relating to Bhagat Singh and the records are put on display in Khatkar Kalan (Nawanshahr-Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar State Museum on Bhagat Singh). 

    The following is the text of the letter:

    In the court of the Special Tribunal

    Lahore Conspiracy case, Lahore

    Crown vs. Sukhdev & others

    Charged under secs 302, 120-B+121-A, IPC

    This humble petition of the accused persons Bhagat Singh & others most respectfully showeth:

    (1) That the petitioners are charged with most serious offences including sec. 302 with 120B and 109 IPC

    (2) That the majority of the petitioners have been lodged for the last eight or nine months in jail.

    (3) That with one exception, all the petitioners as stated below belong to distant provinces and as such have no relative here to look after their defence.

    1. Ajay Kumar Ghosh  — Allahabad, U.P

    2. Bejoy Kumar Sinha—Cawnpore, U.P

    3. Prem Dutt — Srinagar, Kashmir

    4. Kamal Nath Tewary—Betiah, Bihar

    5. Shiv Verma —Hardoi, U.P

    6. Jai Dev Kapoor — Hardoi, U.P

    7. S.N. Pande — Cawnpore, U.P.

    8. Kishori Lal — Quetta, Baluchistan

    9. Des Raj — Sialkot, guardian outside India

    (4) That five of the petitioners are unrepresented accused defending their case themselves.

    (5) That for the reasons stated above in paras 3+4, the petitioners can make arrangement for their defence only through their friends, attorneys and members of defence committee.

    (6) That it is therefore prayed that in the interest of justice, the learned court be pleased to grant the petitioners following facilities-

    I. Interviews with friends, attorneys, legal advisors and members of defence committee members and relatives in court during lunch hours or after the rising of the court during the one hour stay… for mutual consultation

    II. Instructions should be sent to the Supdts of Borstal and Central jails for allowing interviews with the same.

    III. Subject to accommodation the legal advisors of the unrepresented accused be given seats in the body of the court room.

    IV. Recognition of the defence committee and permission to two members of committee to sit in the body of the court subject to accommodation.

    (7) That it is prayed that in view of the large number of prosecution exhibits of this case, one of the days of the week preferably Saturday be set for the examination of the exhibits by the accused and their counsels.

    Hand written and signed by-

    1. Bhagat Singh

    2.  Bejoy Kumar Sinha

    3. Ajay Kumar Ghosh

    4. SuPande

    5. Jai Deva Kapor

    6. Kishori Lal Ratan

    7. Prem Datt Varma

    8. Shiv Varma

    9. Kamalnath Tewari

    10. Des Raj

    8th May 1930

    (Official Stamp Lahore)


    Authorities strike down on terror funding in J&K

    Authorities strike down on terror funding in J&K

    NIA officials leave after a raid at the residence of a separatist leader in Srinagar. — PTI file

    Tribune News Service
    New Delhi, March 23

    With the Enforcement Directorate attaching the property of Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali in Gurugram, crackdown by authorities has begun on people and organisations suspected in activities of terror funding, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.

    The authorities in multi agencies moving in coordination are on the job after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) identified 12 others in the May 2017 case relating to the J&K terror funding. Watali is in Tihar jail since last year, sources in the government said today.

    Two other accused, Kamran Yusuf and Javed Ajmed Bhat who have been chargesheeted for their role in stone pelting and anti-India protests, are on bail granted by the trial court, the sources said.

    The government started seizing properties belonging to terror financers identified by the NIA with the Enforcement Directorate initiating action to freeze and seize such assets. Ongoing investigations in the first phase determined and quantified assets valued over Rs 7 crore as proceeds of terror-funding crimes.

    Watali, the sources said, is a major conduit for funnelling terror finances in the country and incriminating documents seized by the ED show he was receiving money from Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin, ISI and Pakistan High Commission at New Delhi and also known to have important sources of Hawala financing operating out of Dubai.

    Funds, the sources added, were made available to the leadership of Valley-based terrorist groups for providing the means to misguide and recruit local youth to terrorist ranks, including from madarsas and mosques. In addition, operational activities of terror groups were also being financed, including attacks on security forces personnel, their camps and convoys, the sources added.

    Money obtained through these channels was also being used by major secessionist formations, particularly All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), the source said, adding these funds were used to maintain top APHC leadership and to use propaganda machinery to arouse disaffection among people of J&K against the Government of India. In addition, the sources said the funds were used to spread false information through media contacts, newspapers and social media.

    In turn, these activities were used to instigate and lure misguided youth to resort to anti-India activities, violent street protests, demonstrations and stone pelting on security forces at encounter sites to foment further violence, the sources said.

    In addition, such funds were used to finance institutions focussed on subverting the local population through selected mosques, madarsas and organisations, including banned Jammat-e-Islami (J&K).

    The sources said in addition to Watali, 10 others under probe in the NIA case of May 2017 regarding funding include Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, Sayed Salahuddin, Aftab Ahmad Shah, Altf Ahmad Shah, Mohammed Nayeem Khan, Farooq Ahmad Dar, Mohadd Akbar Khanday, Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Bashir Ahmad Bhat and Nawal Kishore Kapoor, who is alleged to have remitted Rs 5.6 crore to Watali.

    Good old Shimla a thing of the past

    Good old Shimla a thing of the past

    Col Mahesh Chadha (retd)

    Walking for miles to school across Shimla dales, drinking water at a flowing spring; pelting stones at some pear, apple, plum, fig tree and savouring the raw fruit; plucking a berry or some wild flower; admiring a farmer ploughing his terraced fields with a pair of oxen; giving a helping hand to a whistling shepherd to mentor his sheep and caressing his lamb are unconvincing stories for my grandchildren. It is no surprise, brought up as they are in modern cities, devoid of such heavenly benevolence. They go to school by car or bus, nor do they come across blossoming fruit trees. For them, fruits and flowers are only purchased from vendors; milk from a machine or a carton.

    They wonder at my confidence when I tell them that on the very first day of my school, in 1952, I walked back home to my mother’s utter surprise as she failed to pick me up. Appreciating my initiative, she showed no signs of worry. Shimla was a peaceful, walker’s paradise, then — no traffic hazards; people along the way knew us and children were considered safe everywhere. Today, children wear identity cards, carry mobiles and are collected from school by guardians as a ritual.

    They do not believe that I used to venture out in severe winter, wearing heavy woollens knit by my mother, to enjoy the soft snowflakes on my face; making a snowman and snowballs to hit friends and siblings with! For them, snow may be fun, but shortlived — only during holidays, that too if luck favours it.

    They go to sleep while watching cartoons on TV, whereas for me it was the melodious ringing bells of the mules passing by our house or, at times, the deafening growl of a leopard or a barking deer not far away in the jungle. Sundays meant a picnic, walking to Glen, Annadale, Naldhera or Mashobra for juicy apples and peaches etc. The ‘Big Ben’, mall road, Ridge, ‘Scandal Point’, and Gaiety Theatre were where we would cross path with dignitaries like Dr Rajendra Prasad and Marshal Tito. After a tiring walk, there would be a feast of bhutta, doodh-jalebi or puri-bhaji at Mehru and Nathu halwai. For the kids now, it is malls, pizzas and burgers.

    The heart laments — koi lautade mere beete hue din, that often lure me to the now-flattened hills of my childhood — sans pristine beauty. All that one sees now is dying pines and deodars; drying chashmas, concrete jungles, noisy traffic, pollution, growing population and nobody shaking hands with a tourist.

    Shimla is as bad as other cities where grandchildren live, rendering it worthy of their taunt and unworthy of a melodious story anymore.

    ‘Horses for courses’ lesson for Pakistan by Vikash Narain Rai

    Vikash Narain Rai

    The significance of the Balakot airstrike will wane if the gains do not lead to stabilisation of the turbulent internal security scenario in Kashmir. The stress and strain on national security from LoC intrusions or airspace violations are not as complex to deal with as the internal security stress arising from tackling the Kashmir unrest.

    ‘Horses for courses’ lesson for Pakistan

    Flawed: The Balakot episode has confirmed that the predominantly national security approach to the Kashmir issue is fraught with the danger of war with Pakistan.

    Vikash Narain Rai
    Former Director, National Police Academy, Hyderabad

    NEED we view separately the Pulwama and Balakot incidents? The two seem cause and consequence; the sheer magnitude of the Pulwama attack shocked the nation and culminated in the Balakot bombing; the expanse of India’s political and diplomatic response against Pakistan was extended to include economic sanctions and military strikes. However, there is no denying that keeping the peace in Kashmir has continued to be as arduous after Balakot as it was before Pulwama. Simply put, the internal security dimensions need a fact check independently too.

    According to an old aphorism, a specific racehorse may perform differently depending on the course on which the race is held. The laws of operational surprise are supportive of a small and swift profile. These could be seen, on the fateful day in Pulwama, arraigned against the vast target of slow-moving CRPF convoy of vehicles. ‘Horses for courses’, or lack of clarity thereon has again proved to be the nemesis of our internal security policy-makers. Both the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) have so far refrained from making any exclusive statement explaining the Pulwama attack. Both are operating without the services of credible advisers in the field of internal security.

    Based on national interest perceptions, the profile of a border between two countries may be offensive, defensive, restrictive, facilitative, neutral or a combination of such orientations. Or, like the Indo-Pak border, the picture may be an amalgamation of all possible shades. From the adrenaline-pumping Retreat ceremony at Attari-Wagah to surgical strikes in terrorist-infested stretches, from the Lahore bus and Samjhauta Express friendship journeys to the smuggling of jihadis and armament under intensive fire cover, from trade and religious corridors to hi-tech barriers, it is a strategic map drawn along the contours of peace talks and war histories. The story has gone on too long, inconclusive and uninterrupted. 

    From the national security angle, it was only waiting to be announced that India, too, had added a third-dimension border perspective to the conflict over the Kashmir issue. The highly publicised Balakot airstrike in response to the Pulwama terror attack was exactly that. Since the Simla Agreement, the two countries officially acknowledged the existence of a two-character border in Kashmir: International Border (IB) in the settled area and the Line of Control (LoC) in the claimed area. Pakistan, or rather the Pakistan army, in due course, managed to push terrorism wider and deeper into Indian territory and supported it as the third character of the hostile border. India paid them back regularly through its intelligence and security operations, and now with the Balakot strike, the third dimension in its border response has been formally unleashed.

    The significance of the Balakot strike, however, will wane if the gains do not lead to stabilisation of the turbulent internal security scenario in Kashmir. The stress and strain on national security from LoC intrusions or airspace violations are not as complex to deal with as the internal security stress arising from tackling the Kashmir unrest. While the Balakot air response is a typical ‘horses for courses’ lesson for Pakistan, the Pulwama attack is to be bracketed as a suicidal setback, the result of a long-term faltering of political will to apply this time-tested strategic doctrine in limiting Kashmir militancy. Here the familiar sequence of events cannot be lost sight of: Pulwama preceded Balakot, the internal security catastrophe leading to a national security situation. It was made to look like a compelling threat of war between nuclear neighbours over an operationally avoidable tragedy!

    Let us count the types of hostile borders and lines of control that presently divide Kashmir from the rest of India. The status of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist is one of the foremost issues on the mind of a nation kept obsessed with the national security threat from Pakistan. Either way, though, it would resolve nothing in Kashmir. In contrast, lying uncertain is the relevance of Kashmiri nationalism, which is based on a special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and is equated with deshdroh under the compulsion of supremacist majoritarianism. Simultaneously, it seems Kashmir is destined to be policed differently from the rest of India, by the Army and CRPF. Instead of integrating the trust of a civil police system in day-to-day affairs in Kashmir and using the CRPF as a subsidiary armed support against militants, there is an offensive reliance on strengthening the boastful presence of the Army and the CRPF. There exists, therefore, a visible ‘LoC’ between the Indian Army and the Kashmiri people.

    The Balakot episode has confirmed what the Kargil conflict, coming months after the Lahore peace declaration, had warned about, that the predominantly national security approach to the Kashmir imbroglio is fraught with the danger of war with Pakistan. Irrespective of India’s insistence on bilateralism, this approach can at best hope to bag a geo-political solution in the long run. It presupposes strong diplomacy and a capable military — and India boasts of both. A predominantly internal security approach will require bipartisan politics and statesman-like leadership; India has none at present.

    It is perceived that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf had almost resolved the Kashmir dispute at the Agra summit in 2001. I was a witness to both leaders looking disappointed at not signing the prepared draft. However, the fragility of such a document could never have been in doubt. Parliament was attacked in December that year by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, two Pakistan-based terrorist organisations, resulting in a prolonged standoff. Even the much-referred Vajpayee peace doctrine of Kashmiriyat-Jamhooriyat-Insaniyat, testimony to his statesmanship, will have no chance to grow in soil kept infertile by the manure of outdated internal security.


    IAF is grossly under-equipped by Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd)

    Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd)

    Lack of empathy and understanding of an operational requirement due to bureaucratic procedures and attitudes is a cause for concern. In any other country, where the political and bureaucratic climate is cognisant of military urgencies, many heads would have rolled.

    IAF is grossly under-equipped

    Imperative: Hard power, in quality as well as quantity, is the key to building deterrence to avert future Pulwamas.

    Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd)
    Addl Director General, Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi

    THE Pulwama and Balakot incidents have pushed into the background the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the Indian Air Force (IAF) acquisitions, of which the Rafale deal hogged the limelight. Despite the favourable Pulwama end state being achieved, albeit temporary, there is an imperative that needs urgent government attention. Tucked away in the CAG report is a cry beseeching a look into what one may call ‘defence distress’, paraphrasing the term from the agrarian and farmers’ distress that every politician is talking about. The last two are vote banks which no politician can be reticent about, as they are leveraged through morchas, hartals and strikes. Unfortunately, when defence distress strikes, it is deadly, and often ‘fatal’ in a way. The Balakot incident demonstrated resoundingly that India has had enough of Pakistan’s support to terrorism; however, it should not divert our attention from the fact that defence pangs are a reality and the tell-tale signs should be recognised and acted upon. There are three pointers that need elaboration; though IAF examples are discussed, the issues are valid for other defence forces too.

    Critiquing sub-optimal defence procurement procedures, CAG has commented that the non-conclusion of a usage contract precluded the use of the flight simulator for the C-130 Hercules aircraft till 2016, despite it being ready four years earlier. In the interim, India lost five air warriors and a multi-million-dollar aircraft in 2014, attributed to a training issue. This is the first pointer — lack of empathy and understanding of an operational requirement  due to bureaucratic procedures and attitudes (remember, the simulator was fully ready). In any other country, where the political and bureaucratic climate is cognisant of military urgencies, many heads would have rolled.

    The second pointer is of an intangible kind, which, if neglected, shows up with deadly results later. The HAL-built HPT-32 trainer was grounded in 2009 after many accidents, 13 of which were fatal. Many red flags had been raised about the stone-like gliding quality of the HPT after an engine failure (a frequent occurrence). The IAF had pulled along till the proverbial straw fell on the camel’s back and we lost two flying instructors at the Air Force Academy (AFA). The HPT was grounded, throwing the training profiles of rookie pilots into bedlam, and for the next few years a sub-optimal training pattern on the HJT-16 Kiran was followed. The emergency purchase of the Pilatus aircraft revolutionised training; AFA’s flight line was chock-a-block with the gleaming new trainers till 2017 or so when, due to non-finalisation of maintenance contracts, a severe lack of spares ensued. This is the situation even now, as per media reports. However, training has to continue to ensure a regular pilot feed for frontline squadrons and one is sure that cannibalisation (shifting) of spares among aircraft is being done and extension given to parts whose life is expiring. The situation must be similar for some other fleets, too, as many acquisition and upgrade programmes have been inordinately delayed, a fact stated by the Air Chief last month. This unacceptable situation is the second indicator of a serious problem, where lack of funds could be pushing reliability of war- fighting equipment towards an unsafe zone, which may translate into tragic results later.

    The third warning is where op-preparedness starts getting affected. Under-equipping of the Indian Army was one of the major causes of the 1962 China debacle. At a recent conference, tears welled up in a retired Lt General’s eyes while narrating the humiliation the armed forces had felt then. “Thank God for the subsequent 1965 Indo-Pak war that brought back some self-respect,” remarked the General. After 1962, the government funded an accelerated re-equipping plan and the victory in the 1971 war bears witness to that effort. However, as per recent media reports, we are on the downslide again with a shortage of fighter squadrons and many critical items; soldiers’ rifles are having to be imported by the fast-track route, ammunition is in short supply, and sniper rifles, Naval helicopters and MiG-29 fighters for the IAF are planned to be imported too. But will these just remain plans, as this year’s defence acquisition budget is insufficient even for previously concluded contracts? Answers to these pointers have a bearing on what happens hereafter.

    Will the post-Pulwama happenings deter Pakistan? The answer is an emphatic no. It is time to remember Bernard Brodie, the doyen of strategic thought, who said, “Avoidance of blackmail can be achieved only by demonstrating that our readiness to accept risks need not be and is not less than the blackmailer’s.” 

    History shows that adversaries cannot be reformed as per one’s wish but have to be coped with through management strategies in which hard power is vital to prevent blackmail. Addressing defence concerns (though not a vote catcher) is an imperative first step to ‘manage’ Pakistan and simultaneously weigh against China. While short-term responses after the Pulwama attack will be implemented, long-term solutions require tons of money and decades of time spread over many governments. Of the three attributes that determine deterrence to prevent blackmail — resolve, capability and capacity — the Balakot incident demonstrated the first two; the third, dependent on an indigenous arms base, is in short supply. Politicians of all hues need to put their shoulders to the wheel and address defence preparedness in a bi-partisan manner — indigenous defence R&D and manufacture must be kickstarted. Hard power, in quality and quantity, is the key to building deterrence to avert future Pulwamas. Can every political party elaborate, in its election manifesto, what it would do to address defence preparedness? That would indeed be welcome.

    Views are personal


    Air Cdre Pathania is Jammu station AOC

    Tribune News Service

    Jammu, March 20

    Air Commodore Ajay Singh Pathania took over the command of the Jammu Air Force Station as the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) from Air Commodore SK Mishra today.

    On this occasion, an impressive ceremonial parade by the Air Warriors was held at the Air Force Station in Jammu.

    Air Commodore Pathania was commissioned in the Indian Air Force in 1986. An experienced flying instructor and a graduate of Defence Service Staff College, the officer has flying experience of about 6,000 hours on helicopter and trainer aircraft in India and abroad to his credit.

    He has been the Flight Commander of three types of helicopters and commanded two types of helicopter units, which includes Chetak/Cheetah in the eastern sector of India and MI-25 in UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    He has been the Chief Operational Officer of a premier IAF base and also commanded a Tactical Air Command in the eastern sector. The officer has also served as personal and operational staff at Air Headquarters. He was directly involved in major humanitarian assistance and disaster relief helicopter operations between 2012 and 2015, including in the Kashmir valley, Jammu and Uttarakhand, etc.

    He was instrumental during the rescue and relief operations after the Nepal earthquake as well as the Yemen evacuation in April 2015. He has been the AOC and President of the Air Force Selection Board at Kolkata (Kanchrapara) and Dehradun.

    He was awarded the Chief of the Air Staff commendation in 1995, AOC-in-C HQ Training Command commendation in 1997 and the Vishisht Seva Medal in January 2015.