Sanjha Morcha

Is Enforced Army Service for Civil Service Aspirants Necessary?by Lt Gen SYED ATA HASNAIN

The Parliamentary Committee on Defence is reported to have recommended five years of compulsory military service for anyone who wants subsequent employment with the state or the central government. The committee apparently wants the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to prepare such a proposal and take this to the Centre.

On the face of it, the perception and recommendation of the Committee reflects the core feelings of most Indians that a dose of compulsory military training for ‘all citizens’ will only do good for the people and the nation. It is reflective of the deep reverence the nation has for its armed forces, their basic value system, discipline, training, sense of duty, and patriotism.

However, on the outset it is necessary to explain that executing such a desire is impractical given the sheer size of our recruitable male and female population (gender equation being a compulsion too). Examples of nations such as Israel, Singapore, Switzerland or the Nordic states, which follow such a system, cannot be taken as a model. Their population bases and nature of threats are altogether different. However, giving the Parliamentary Committee its due, there is nothing such as conscription in the recommendations set out.

All that the committee has done is that it has sent a broad proposal concerning only aspirants for government service and that too for only gazetted ranks. Five years compulsory service in the armed forces will, as per its perception, achieve two things:

  • First, it will instil in the civil services (aspirants) an inherent discipline that the men in uniform follow, along with their regimentation, ethics, morals and values.
  • Second, it will help overcome the acute shortages that continue to persist, especially in officer ranks, the army in particular.

(Photo: Reuters)

Also Read: Nagrota Attack: Anti-Terror Training Is the Chink in Army’s Armour

Advantages of the Proposal

Some more advantages can be perceived with a closer examination of the proposal. Among them is the likely progressive improvement in civil-military relations as more civil services officers having undergone military service reach higher ranks of bureaucracy or police services.

This is an aspect of functioning in India which has drawn much negativity. In future years, the bond of the uniform, the respect for camaraderie built in the ranks, essentials of regimental bonding and much more will come forward to overcome traditional rivalry.

No one is denying that rivalry may still exist but denting it will help the system.

There can be no doubt about the fact that the proposal will need many summers before it can be approved, and refinement will include experimentation and lessons, besides a full look at terms of service for each type of personnel.

But the issue it will impact in full is the shortage of officers; there is no need to address shortage of soldiers as that is self-corrective, being an issue of exit and entry statistics at a given time.

The armed forces are always accused of having a pyramidal system for the officer cadre where wastage is extremely high. This is because the majority joins the ‘main cadre,’ thus becoming aspirants for long service and higher rank. This makes competition intense. Existing alongside is a ‘support cadre’ – those in service for a shorter duration and not aspiring for long service and higher selection rank.

Army chief Bipin Rawat.
Army chief Bipin Rawat.
(Photo: The Quint)

Also Read: Soldier Speak: How the Army Upholds Unity in Linguistic Diversity

Bolstering Support Cadres, Overcoming Deficiency

Ideally every service of the armed forces should have a large officer based ‘support cadre’ and a lean ‘main cadre’ so that the force remains young in profile with quicker promotions and less competition. In India, however, it’s the other way around. Any reversal of this cannot happen in isolation.

Those exiting also have to be taken care of, by side stepping them into other services that don’t require stringent standards of physical fitness. In India, no other service accepts them despite a Cabinet-approved proposal of 2004, on what is called the ‘peel factor’ (employing those peeling off from the cadre at different stages).

The induction of civil service aspirants will obviously be to the ‘support cadre’ to strengthen that and overcome the problem of deficiency of officers. Both men and women aspirants can join the support cadre through a short service commission for five years or so.

Stringent medical and physical fitness standards will need to be adopted and can be anticipated as one of the obstacles to the final clearance of this proposal.

In addition, there can be consideration for ante date seniority for those who do military service and then join the civil services; that is if the civil services cadre could have acceptance with a dual intake pattern, combination of those who serve the armed forces and those who come in directly. All these details will obviously be examined with a fine tooth comb, and the DoPT is adept at evolving cadres with varying terms and conditions.

The Indian Army stands for discipline and rigour.
The Indian Army stands for discipline and rigour.
(Photo: The Quint)

What the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee do not deserve is outright rejection as some kind of a hare-brained idea. It needs to run the gamut of serious examination followed by short-term experimentation. If successful, it will have achieved much, but a conclusive decision appears to be a good distance away.

(The writer, a former GOC of the army’s 15 Corps, is also former commander of the Uri-based Kala Pahar Brigade. He is now associated with Vivekanand International Foundation and Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies. He can be reached at @atahasnain53. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Sapper cremated in Mansa village

Tribune News Service

Mansa, March 6

Kalloh village in Mansa district today bid adieu to its native, Sapper Amandeep Singh (25), who had died after being trapped in an avalanche in Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday. He was on snow-clearance duty with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).Amandeep Singh, who had joined the 114 Engineer Brigade Mother Unit five years ago, was cremated with full state honours in his village. He is survived by father Rohi Singh, mother Sukhjeet Kaur and four siblings.Those present during the cremation included MLA Nazar Singh Manshahia, DSP Bahadur Singh Rao and Tehsildar Amarjit Singh.“In this hour of grief, the Army stands in solidarity with the bereaved family of the martyr and remains committed to their dignity and well-being,” an Army spokesperson said.

India’s military base in Seychelles hits wall

India’s military base in Seychelles hits wall

Smita Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 28

India’s ambition of setting up a joint military base in the remote coral Assumption (Assomption) Islands has suffered a major jolt. Giving in to Opposition protests, Seychelles President Danny Faure has reportedly shelved plans to present an amended agreement for ratification in parliament in April.Faure, who was recently in India at the inaugural summit of the International Solar Alliance, was quoted by local media as saying: “It is not proper for me to send the agreement to the Speaker when the Leader of the Opposition, who is in majority in the Assembly, has signalled he will not ratify it.”Under the agreement struck in 2015 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, India is to invest $550 million in building the base to be shared by militaries of both countries for up to 30 years. New Delhi wants to ensure safety of its vessels in southern Indian Ocean and increase strategic presence in waters with an aggressive China expanding its maritime footprint. Seychelles government agreed the deal would help coastguards to patrol its 1.3 million square kilometres Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).Assumption has strategic importance for monitoring shipping of international vessels through Mozambique Channel. After consistent protests by locals, even some ruling party members and the political opposition on grounds of sovereignty and environmental concerns, the deal was revised this year to clarify issues such as prohibition of any nuclear use of the island as well as India not be allowed to use the base in war.Indian-origin leader of opposition Wavel Ramkalawan was invited in January to attend the Global PIO Parliamentary Conference in Delhi. Despite India’s attempts at engaging Ramkalawan, he was quoted as saying: “I hope I have made it clear that this is the end of the Assumption agreement and that I don’t expect to see it on any agenda between President Faure and the Opposition.”

Govt paid Rs 1,670 cr per Rafale jet: Cong

New Delhi, March 9

The Congress today attacked the BJP for paying a much higher price for Rafale fighter jets than some other countries had paid around the same time India signed the major defence purchase deal in 2016.Citing the Dassault Aviation’s Annual Report, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Randeep Surjewala and former MoS Defence Jitender Singh said Dassault sold 48 jets to Qatar and Egypt in 2015 at the price of Rs 1,319 crore a jet and then 11 months later sold the same jet to India for Rs 1,670 crore a jet.“The price differential on every jet purchased by India is Rs 351 crore. Why did India pay an extra Rs 12,630 crore for 36 Rafale jets,” Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Azad asked today.The Congress asked the government why it junked the deal signed by the UPA which had negotiated the price of one Rafale jet at Rs 526 crore in December 2012.The Congress further accused PM Narendra Modi of violating the mandatory “defence procurement procedure” by unilaterally announcing on April 10, 2015 the purchase of 36 Rafale jets. “Why were the requirements of price discovery through contract negotiation committee and price negotiation committees not followed?” asked Surjewala. The Congress also questioned Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for citing emergency to purchase 36 jets off the shelf when none has been delivered even 35 months after the deal. — TNS

10 Army men killed along LoC since Jan 1

10 Army men killed along LoC since Jan 1
Smoke billows from the hills after shelling by Pakistan in Rajouri. File photo

Amir Karim Tantray

Tribune News Service

Jammu, March 6

In all, 10 soldiers and a Border Security Force (BSF) jawan have been martyred along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K since January 1 this year.Also, Pakistan violated the ceasefire agreement over 400 times. In two months, three more BSF jawans were also martyred along the 198-km-long International Border, which falls only in the Jammu region.The violence has spread from the Akhnoor sector of Jammu district to the Tangdhar sector of Kupwara district, thus involving a major portion of the LoC, which has caused great inconvenience to the people living nearby.Though the month of January and first two weeks of February witnessed shelling and firing on the LoC in the Jammu region only, but thereafter places such as Uri and Tangdhar falling on north of Pir Panjal in the Kashmir valley also witnessed exchange of heavy artillery.Meanwhile, the Pakistan army targeted particularly Akhnoor, Sunderbani, Nowshera, Bhimber Gali, Krishna Ghati and Poonch sectors along the LoC in the Jammu region and Uri and Tangdhar sectors of the Kashmir valley.The Army has been claiming that Pakistan army resorts to unprovoked ceasefire violations along the LoC every time, which most of the times is aimed at facilitating infiltration and at times giving cover fire to their Border Action Team members. However, the Army has responded to the violations and has caused extensive damage to the Pakistan army.

official data reveals…

  • According to the government, the Pakistan army violated the truce agreement 351 times till February 21 this year
  • After February 21, the Pakistan army continuously violated the agreement and the number has gone beyond 400
  • Three more BSF jawans were martyred along the 198-km-long International Border, which falls only in the Jammu region

Maiden solo sortie by IAF first woman combat pilot

Maiden solo sortie by IAF first woman combat pilot
Flying Officer Bhawana Kanth

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 17

The country’s oldest airbase, Ambala, witnessed another landmark in the history of military aviation when the Air Force’s first woman combat pilot, Flying Officer Bhawana Kanth, flew her maiden solo sortie in a fighter aircraft from the base on Friday.Bhawana took off in a MiG-21 Bison belonging to the IAF’s No.3 Squadron, the Cobras, from Ambala, where she has been posted, at 2 pm and the sortie lasted about half an hour.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)She became the second woman combat pilot to fly a fighter solo. Flying Officer Avani Chauturvedi, posted with No. 23 Squadron, the Panthers, became the first to fly solo in a fighter from the Jamnagar airbase on February 22.An engineer, Bhawana is among the three pioneering women combat pilots in the IAF, the third being Flying Officer Mohana Singh. They were commissioned into the IAF in June, 2016, by the then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal near Hyderabad. They underwent training on the Hawk advanced trainer jets for about a year before moving on to fly the supersonic fighters.The Bisons are the last remaining variants of the venerable MiG-21 fighter that entered the IAF service in the early 1960s. 

C17 lands on China border

C17 lands on China border
C-17 Globemaster at Tuting airfield in Arunachal Pradesh. — ANI
  • Sending a message to China, the IAF on Tuesday landed the C17 Globemaster, the biggest transport aircraft in its stable, at the advanced landing ground at Tuting in Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Describing the mission as historic, an IAF spokesman said the mammoth C17 Globemaster could execute this mission owing to the sublime flying skills of the pilots
  • After completion of the trial landing, the C17 also carried out an operational mission airlifting operational load into the austere airfield. TNS


How forces got Jaish chief in 10 minutes

How forces got Jaish chief in 10 minutes

Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, March 6

Barely a few minutes of gunfight led to the killing of Jaish-e-Mohammad top militant in Kashmir who masterminded all recent fidayaeen attacks in J&K.Jaish operational commander Mufti Waqas, a resident of Pakistan, was killed in a meticulous operation on Monday evening at Hatiwara, Awantipora, nearly 20 km from Srinagar.Upon receiving “pinpoint” input about Waqas’ presence in a house with a small attic in the village on Monday afternoon, security forces planned the operation. The police suspect that Waqas had arrived in the village late Sunday. A joint operation was launched by the police, 50 Rashtriya Rifles Battalion and 130 Battalion of the CRPF in a congested locality, though the suspected house was located in an open area, sources said, adding that the security forces had considered the possibility of the operation continuing through the night.“After the cordon was laid around 5 pm, the militant commander was offered surrender through the house owner, which he declined. The inmates of the house were taken out. The militant commander came out running and fired in a bid to escape. In the nearly 10-minute gunfight Waqas was killed,” a security officer in south Kashmir said. “It was a crisp and clean operation.”The anti-militancy operation was called off by 7 in the evening.After infiltrating into the Valley last year, Waqas was operating in the Tral area of Pulwama district, said police sources. Waqas and the 3-foot-tall local militant commander Noor Mohammad Trali together revived the Jaish outfit and planned fidayeen attacks. Trali was killed in December last year close to the village where Waqas was killed last evening. “Waqas was close to Jaish founder Maulana Azhar Masood, whose nephew Talha Rashid worked under Waqas,” another police officer in Srinagar said while terming the killing of Waqas as the biggest success of the year. Talha was killed in November last year in a gunfight in Pulwama.A police spokesman on Monday had said the slain militant commander was the chief architect of attacks on the security forces, including the strikes at District Police Lines, Pulwama, on August 26 last year, Lethpora CRPF camp on January 1 and Sunjuwan Army camp on February 10.Meanwhile, Tral, Awantipora and Pampore towns observed a shutdown over the killing of Waqas.

Crisp encounter

  • A joint operation was launched at Hatiwara, Awantipora, after input about Mufti Waqas’ presence in a house in the village.
  • After the cordon was laid around 5 pm on Monday, the Jaish commander was given the surrender offer through the house owner, which he declined.
  • The inmates of the house were taken out. Waqas came out of the house running and fired in a bid to escape. In 10 minutes, he was killed in a crisp and clean operation, said a security officer.

Mosul tragedy & the lesson by KC Singh

Mosul tragedy & the lesson

KC Singh

Human life has transient value in huge nations like India as news gets swept away by new and juicier distractions. The death of 39 missing Indians, mostly from Punjab, raises questions about Indian power and effectiveness in rescuing its citizens caught in civil strife abroad. India has had successes in the past, but the Mosul tragedy needs investigation. Great powers fight for every citizen’s life and security. The US has been known to even negotiate despite stated policy of non-negotiation with abductors. Even Israel, with a similar stance, has compromised for the release of captured soldiers. The Mosul tragedy resulted from the sudden collapse of Iraqi forces in northern and western Iraq as the IS captured many cities, including Mosul, the second largest Iraqi city. It was known that the Shia-led Iraqi regime had been alienating Sunnis and letting this sectarian approach degrade the US trained Iraqi military and its command and control structure. President Barack Obama, unwilling to re-enter the Iraqi morass, watched from the sidelines as the security conditions deteriorated. But even the US could not anticipate its suddenness or extent. The geographical reason for this is that Iraqi cities are on the two great rivers of Tigris and Euphrates. The former runs south from the Turkish border and on it lies major northern cities like Mosul and Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. It flows through the Turcoman and Sunni parts of Iraqi population. The Euphrates comes from the west, from Syria. To the west of Mosul is sparsely populated land providing little density to resist a quick assault like that of the IS. Undoubtedly, the local Sunni population initially welcomed rather than resisted the IS ingress. Should India have foreseen this and urged its workers to move south or blocked them well before the tragedy unfolded in the region? In hindsight, the answer is in the affirmative, but in real time, it is impossible to monitor the flow of workers, who may initially go to one Gulf nation and then move where jobs beckon. It is also difficult to dissuade persons whose families have borrowed huge sums to send them abroad, chasing dreams of prosperity, to abandon jobs, particularly when their employers flee and wages remain unpaid. The Ministry of External Affairs needs to rejig its strategy and have its political divisions coordinate better with those monitoring consular issues to anticipate flashpoints well before crises. This century has seen more intra-state conflict than regular wars. Mosul abductions occurred in June 2014. Interestingly, 46 nurses, who were in Tikrit, south of Mosul, were caught in the same upsurge. It is unclear how they were extracted, but not the 39 held in Mosul. The argument that they were detained by a group to which Iraqis or Indians had access does not square with the route adopted for their release. They were taken north to Mosul for handing over near Kurdish-controlled Erbil, thus transiting the IS-controlled territory. Similarly, Turkish diplomats and truck drivers were released by Turks. Even Bangladeshi workers were released once their religion was known. Did ransom and influential Malayali Gulf contacts play a role in the release of nurses? Contrariwise, did the Akali-BJP government keep dilly-dallying while Delhi approached West Asian and Gulf capitals for help, rather than devising a direct strategy? The cold-blooded killing of 39 Indians — the 40th Masih having escaped and returned to India — needs thorough investigation to ensure no Indian Government ever dissimulates to conceal its helplessness. Knowing that the IS was ruthless in eliminating non-Muslims in its custody, particularly if they were not Christians, time was of the essence. Each day passed was a day too many to rescue the abductees. Some self-congratulatory stories appeared about the nurses getting released due to the efforts of an adviser in PM Narendra Modi’s office using his intelligence assets in West Asia. It seems those assets had less interest in poor workers from Punjab. The only players with some leverage with the IS at that stage were Turkey, Qatar and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Turkey was first going to get its own diplomats and citizens released before running errands for others, particularly India with which it had functional, but not outstanding relations. India must have asked the others. But the primary responsibility would have fallen on the Indian mission in Iraq as it needed to invoke relationships it should have built outside the Baghdad bureaucracy with non-Shia sources in northern Iraq. Some senior military advisers with the IS were former Saddam military brass. Did India bother to revive links to them or rested on its oars in Baghdad? That is the kind of parallel intelligence network that all nations maintain. Excessive dependence on the US or its surrogates in Baghdad, or other capitals, leads to the very geostrategic swamp where Obama and the Gulf nations found themselves once the Islamic caliphate was announced by Baghdadi in Mosul. The Modi government having failed to get any link to the IS that was reliable set about selling the “they are alive” story. Masih the escapee was dubbed unreliable and as it turns out now, when the bodies of the unfortunate have been found and identified, was speaking truth all along. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj altered the message as Mosul’s liberation approached and there was still no sign of the boys. “It is a sin,” she proclaimed to declare someone dead without proof. What do we call raising hopes of families unrealistically to only dash them after four years of assurances? A modified story was floated post-Mosul liberation that abductees are probably in Badush prison. An Indian television channel, within hours, showed the prison reduced to dust. The US, with its eyes in the skies and electronic intel, should have been able to provide answers about the missing Indians long before Mosul was reduced to rubble. These questions need answering and unless lessons are learnt, the deaths of these poor souls would have been in vain. At the very least, the government should compensate the families for their pain and material loss. The writer is a former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs

More of Bharat joins in The wages of accumulated rural distress

More of Bharat joins in

The huge phalanx of protesting farmers has won over Mumbaikars with their self-discipline and compassion. Incredulous urbanites have watched a spectacle of exemplary fortitude as the salt of the earth — the tribal, the landless and the marginal farmer — braved the scorching sun and roofless nights as they silently walked hundreds of kilometres from their farmsteads to the state’s political and financial capital to seek their due. Social media has posted amazing pictures of a sea of farmers walking past populated areas at the break of dawn so as not to inconvenience children during exam time. CM Fadnavis was “technically” correct but  came off looking insensitive and extremely condescending when he said the sea of agitating rural India was “technically” not farmers. Many of the feet are bare, calloused and bruised. This was not merely the tractor-crowd whose sole focus is personal aggrandisement in the form of debt waivers and high crop purchase prices. These sons of the soil seek not just immediate respite from farm distress, but also devolution of the rights-based promises made to rural India by successive ruling arrangements, especially the Forests Act and land rights to the tiller. Another principal communitarian demand relates to the apprehensions triggered by river interlinking projects. Rural India is not asking for the unattainable. It simply seeks an assurance against being left out or being made the victims of the New Delhi’s model of vikas. The massive “Long March” is not the only manifestation of rural India’s resentment over the short shrift given to its fears, suspicions and aspirations. From Tamil Nadu to Madhya Pradesh, people in villages are up in arms against a non-existent public delivery system and denial of a rights-based existence. The discipline displayed by the marchers exemplifies the legendary forbearance of the Indian peasantry. But it is being tested. Successive protests are gathering more and more adherents; the previous edition pales in comparison to the numbers who participated in the current march. The governments at the Centre and the states can ignore these storm clouds only at their peril.