Saturday, September 02, 2017

(Courtesy: China-India Dialogue Magazine)
Expectation for BRICS and the Xiamen Summit

September 2, 2017
China-India Dialogue recently interviewed Professor Swaran Singh Jaswal. He expressed his expectations for the Xiamen summit and his hopes for future BRICS cooperation. This article is edited from a full interview.

Expectation for the Summit

The Xiamen Summit looks like it will be successful considering that all BRICS summits so far have been full of cohesion and consensuses. No problems between BRICS countries have disturbed any consensus building. The highest levels of the Indian government have repeatedly expressed hope that China’s hosting of BRICS would be successful.

During the summit, we may see several important announcements and declarations concerning BRICS. India is particularly looking forward to some clear announcements or action plans to address problems like terrorism, which plagues all these countries. China is also keen to tackle cyber security issues. Initiatives in other specific areas such as women empowerment, human trafficking, and climate change will certainly be launched. China leads in the world in implementing climate change measures, as demonstrated in their commitments in Paris. India has also made important promises. As a result, several issues will see important declarations made in Xiamen.

Of course, China is extremely good at hosting such grand events, and China has considerable experience hosting successful meetings of all kinds as big as the Olympics. The Chinese will produce another great event, and the summit will be organized nicely. It will show that BRICS is really moving forward with strength. The summit will ignite a wave of multilateral efforts from these countries.

Transformation of BRICS

BRICS has changed drastically from the original concept of BRIC incepted by Jim O’Neill. The group was first conceived because the four countries started growing so rapidly that it became clear they would overtake the total economy of G7 industrialized countries. Within two years, another study named Dreaming with BRICsThe Path to 2050, argued that the initial forecasts for the group were too ambitious and that more time would be needed for them to make such an impact. Another predicted that BRIC won’t overtake G7 until 2040. But these writeups were looking at four unrelated countries without imagining that BRIC would become a united force.

BRIC foreign ministers first met on the sidelines of UN General Assembly in 2006. In 2009, Russia hosted the first official summit. The transformation from a concept to an actual group was quick. The nation of South Africa, which had never been considered by O’Neill, was eventually added to bring the total to five countries and changed the acronym to “BRICS.” Soon, the five countries collectively began serving as the driver of global financial governance transformation. From 2009 to 2017, BRICS have expanded its agenda greatly and is now considered the torchbearer for climate change. The Xiamen Summit will feature specialized discussions among top leaders on topics such as human trafficking and woman empowerment. The agenda has expanded beyond what anyone could have imagined. In the future—at least the near future—the time will be ripe for BRICS to consolidate instead of expanding, either in terms of agenda or members, although many countries and organizations are eager to join the grouping. And the agenda needs to be consolidated rather than expanded for the time being. In the near future, BRICS focus should be put on further consolidation of its members. Many mechanisms hold regular meetings but lack a secretariat. Speeches from leaders often focus too much on their own national achievements.

The future demands a shift from individual focus to the focus of the grouping. It will happen as the group shifts from state-to-state relations to people-to-people relations and from inter-state to inter-association connections. Realms such as film, sports, education, information and personnel exchange will emerge as key drivers in creating a BRICS culture. A shift from cooperation in culture to joint work on BRICS culture is the direction BRICS should look in the future. Otherwise, the member will remain disjointed. The sizes of the economies vary, they’re physically far apart, political systems are different, growth rates don’t match and the languages are totally unrelated. How can such a grouping with members so drastically different from each other move closer together? Future focus must be on connecting people and creating BRICS culture. At BRICS forums, the focus should be completely on BRICS, which will happen after BRICS culture evolves.

BRICS has evolved and transformed so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up with the changes. Just a few years ago, the group was just an idea in the head of a Wall Street banker. If the organization continues transforming and evolving so rapidly, it will be difficult to steer. The original focus was to improve and transform global financial governance, towards which the group has taken two important initiatives: New Development Bank and the currency pool. These are solid initiatives. But if BRICS expands to every area, its initiatives will lose power and effectiveness. The attention and energy of the participants cannot be spread to too many areas. Therefore, BRICS needs to consolidate, focus on specific areas, take initiatives that can produce results and effectively implement programs as they did with the New Development Bank.

New Development Bank: Example of Success

BRICS New Development Bank is a successful example of BRICS work. BRICS founded a bank to finance development projects and create a new model of governance. This governance model is influencing financial institutions created in the wake of the Second World War—the Bretton Woods institutions. It should be noted that some voting rights in those institutions have already changed. BRICS stands for democratizing international relations, democratizing global financial governance and especially giving developing countries a voice in decision making. BRICS New Development Bank is a model of this new kind of governance. It is helping as a new model, but also by influencing transformation in old models. The bank is active, employs more than 400 and is already financing projects. We are lucky that the founding president of the New Development Bank hailed from India. This is the concrete example of BRICS success.

Swaran Singh Jaswal is a professor from School of International Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

China's Military Modernisation - Global Security Implications!

(Author: Dr Balwant Singh Negi)

The book of the Moment!

For over two months soldiers of the Chinese Army - the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China - had been wrestling with the Indian Army soldiers staking their claim on the Bhutanese territory at Doklam. Thankfully, sanity prevailed and the duel has not flared up into a war between the two Asian Nuclear powers, and the PLA has reportedly withdrawn from the Bhutanese territory. Belligerent outbursts of the Chinese media are also somewhat subdued now. 

Hardcover, Fully illustrated, indexed,
But is the problem really over? What are China's strategic aims in the region and beyond Asia? Lt Gen Balwant Singh Negi, UYSM, YSM, SM, VSM**, PhD provides a forthright analysis of China's military preparedness and her global ambitions in his latest book "China's Military Modernisation - Global Security Implications" published by Turning Point Publishers.  

The book is available with a discount offer on sale at the following portals:-

Enquiries and orders can also be mailed to or directly to Turning Point Publishers, 1201, (Mahavir Apartments), Sector 29, Noida (UP) - 201303.  

About the Book
Readers, military commanders, bureaucrats, diplomats and anyone concerned with Defence, National Security, Foreign Policy never needed it more! A book that exposes China's military capabilities, intentions and limitations, comes at a time when the dragon is fuming fire at Doklam and other hotspots along the LAC!  

China’s Military Modernisation – Global Security Implications’ is a timely call for India and the world to wake up to the new geo-strategic realities that are not only directly affecting India but also transforming power equations in the emerging global scenario. Verily, this book acquires the top niche in its genre because it is the work of one of India’s top military brains who has been a direct participant in the strategic planning and the tactical tug of war that has marked India-China relations for decades. India and China are both fastest growing economies, and both are nuclear powers. Even as trade and economic cooperation between India and China continue to grow, unresolved border disputes between the two still linger. China's strategic initiatives like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); annexation of the South China Sea isles and her growing interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) now lay bare her expanding hegemonic ambitions in the region.  Projects like the One Belt One Road (OBOR) and the Maritime Silk Route diplomacy are already causing concerns not only for India but also powers like the US, Australia, Japan and smaller nations in the Indo-Pacific. A new boost given by President Xi Jinping to the extensive military reforms and modernisation programme of the PLA has further heightened these concerns.

Written in a simple, direct, lucid style and lavishly illustrated, this book is a concise, compact compendium of knowledge on China’s military and strategic disposition today. It catalyses curiosity and leaves the reader enriched about the emerging geo-strategic matrix in this part of the Globe.

Meet the Author
Dr Balwant Singh Negi is an acknowledged scholar on China matters. Counted among India’s top thinkers on strategic affairs, he is a much sought-after guest speaker on China affairs. He holds an enviable record of academic excellence, strategic and military competence. Besides his double Masters and M Phil degrees, he also holds a PhD from Madras University for his extensive research on China’s Military Modernisation. During his fellowship at a foreign University, the subject of his research was: ‘Prospects for Peace in South Asia with the domino effect of China’s footprints in IOR’

As in his scholastic pursuits, so in his professional career, the author has excelled as a military commander as well. A bachelor and teetotaller, he is known for his spartan lifestyle and altruism. Having ascended to the coveted position of Army Commander (GOC-in-C), Lt Gen (Dr) Balwant Singh Negi is one of the highly decorated generals of the Indian Army.

Chinese President Xi Jinping who is also the Chairman of Central Military Commission said on 30 July 2017 while addressing the PLA's 90th Anniversary Parade at Zhurite, Inner Mongolia:- 

“Today, we are closer than ever to our goal of the 'great rejuvenation' of the Chinese Nation. And more than any time in history, we need to build strong Armed Forces of the people.....I firmly believe that our gallant military has both confidence and ability to defeat all invading enemies."

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Secularism Vs Communal Prejudice

Look how our vote hungry politics has made Secular India a Communally biased country! The system has been progressively vitiated ever since Independence by the Party that has ruled us longest in the past seventy years.
It is expedient for all Indians - Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jain, Buddhists and other brethren to seek an honest reaction from their Conscience on the following facts vis-a-vis the real idea of SECULARISM. 
Note: The following text is quoted here as received on Whatsapp:-
This one should make good sense to all Indians by heart. I think every Indian needs to read this carefully! Without Malice! 
1. There are nearly 52 Muslim countries. Show me one Muslim country which provides Haj subsidy. (Secular India does!).
2. Show me one Muslim country where non-Muslims are extended the special rights that Muslims are accorded in India? 
3. Show me one country where the 85% majority craves for the indulgence of the 15% minority.
4. Show me one Muslim country, which has/had a Non-Muslim as its President or Prime Minister.
5. Show me one Mullah or Maulvi who has issued a 'fatwa' against terrorists/terrorism or Anti-national politicians & Self proclaimed Religious Leaders
6. Hindu-majority Maharashtra, Bihar, Kerala, Pondicherry, etc. have in the past elected Muslims as Chief Ministers. Can you ever imagine a Hindu becoming the Chief Minister of Muslim majority J&K? (There has been none so far and it is unthinkable in the future as well).
7. In 1947, when India was partitioned, the Hindu population in Pakistan was about 24% of its total population. Today it is not even 1%. In 1947, the Hindu population in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was 30%. Today it is about 7%. Probably even less!
8. What happened to the missing Hindus? Do Hindus have human rights?
9. In India, on the contrast, the Muslim population has gone up from 10.4% of the total population in 1951 to more than 14% today whereas the Hindu population has come down from 87.2% in 1951 to less than 85% in 1991. In the context of questions 7 & 8 above, do you still think that Hindus are fundamentalists?
10. In India today, Hindus are close to 85%. If Hindus were intolerant:- 
  • How come Masjids and Madrasas have proliferated and flourished? 
  • How come Muslims are offering Namaz on the road? 
  • How come Muslims are proclaiming 5 times a day on high decibel loud speakers that there is no God except Allah?

11. If Muslims and Christians are enjoying 'Minorities' status in Maharashtra, UP, Bihar etc., why are Hindus not granted 'Minorities' status in J&K, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya etc? Why are only Hindus denied minority rights/privileges in these states?
12. When Christian and Muslim schools are teaching Bible and Quran, why can't Hindus teach Gita or Ramayan in their schools?
13. Do you now admit that Hindus do have problems that need to be addressed - in their own country, at least? Or do you think that those who call themselves Hindus are themselves the problem?
And the last...
14. Abdul Rehman Antulay, former CM of Maharashtra, was made a trustee of the famous Siddhi Vinayak Temple in Prabhadevi, Mumbai. Can a Hindu- even Mulayam or Laloo – ever dream to become a trustee of a Masjid or Madrasa or the Wakf Board?
"Hinduism is not a religion, it is a way of life since 8000 BC"!
A Uniform Civil Code is indeed true SECULARISM because the State then will not distinguish between "Religions" or "Faiths". Anything other than "Equality" in governance is "biased" or lopsided. Every individual must be treated at par without prejudice in a genuinely secular State. Let us rise against the prevalent prejudicial, divisive culture of Pseudo-Secularism and demand for a genuine Secular system of governance in India.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

India Vs China in Asia!

Why is India worried about China consolidating in Sri Lanka? 

by Prof. Swaran Singh

On Saturday, Sri Lanka finally signed a $ 1.1 billion deal selling China 70 percent stake in its strategic Hambantota port. The fact that the Chinese signatory, the state-run China Merchant Port Holdings, is a Hong Kong based firm reminds not just of a similar 99 year lease that Chinese had signed in 1841 following their Opium War with Great Britain. Much closer example would be China's recent 43 year lease for managing Pakistan Gwadar port and adjoining 2,282 acre special economic zone that was singed in November 2015.
But this time round, China has moved several steps forward from than those older models. First, its Concession Agreement for 99-year lease of running operations of the Hambantota port and an enormous special economic zone of 15,000 acres around it has formalised much anticipated "debt-into-equity" swap model. Second, this 99-year Concession Agreement comes after protracted negotiations following their original 2014 draft under the Rajapaksa government but more recently following their January 2017 framework agreement and these negotiations have since been accompanied by widespread public criticism and concerns in Sri Lanka and abroad.
Sri Lankan government had accordingly promised to re-negotiate the deal and has now changed the ratio of Chinese ownership from original 80 to less than 70 per cent. It has also provided security assurances for Colombo's other partners including India, Japan, United States etc as also inserted newer provisions for relocation and compensation for thousands of villagers who will be uprooted from their traditional homes. This wheel of time appears increasingly unstoppable and its pace is likely to be further accelerated as part of China's Belt and Road juggernaut which will ensure that this evolving new model will be further improvised and replicated elsewhere as well.
China has clearly emerged as the fastest growing investor nation in Sri Lanka. This trend had witnessed an upsurge especially following the brutal civil war of 2009. Hambantota that was completed in 2010 represents today as the most symbolic 'flagship' project of their ever expanding partnership involving a slew of several mega projects. Indeed, the new coalition National Unity government came to power in 2015 riding the wave of anti-Rajapaksa sentiment promising to review all Chinese projects sanctioned by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. After a brief period of haggling and talking tough, however, the reality of external debt was to dawn upon these new set of leaders who have gradually moved to accommodating Chinese demands and drifted towards Beijing for Sri Lanka's much needed financial relief and redemption

Debt-traps model
Rising debt has made Sri Lankan leaders admit having landed in debt-trap which remains their most formidable existential challenge with limited exit options. As of April 2017, Sri Lanka's total outstanding external debt stood at $25.61 billion. This means it has to pay back around $2.42 billion during this year itself and this figure will rise to $2.56 for the coming year and so on. Chinese loans alone account for over $8 billion and Chinese projects have especially not yielded any returns. The Hambantota port today presents one such white elephant with no teeth or tusk. It has progressively handled a lesser number of ships each year. From 19 ships in 2015 ships visiting this port have decreased to 14 in 2016 and only ten ships have anchored for the first half of this year. These numbers, of course, exclude car carriers that have been forcibly diverted from Colombo port since the year 2012.
These investments had been originally invited by the Rajapaksa government who had also initiated this "debt-into-equity" framework during 2014. This agreement however could not be signed then in view of declaration of elections followed by the change of government. But the debt trap thus created has not disappeared. The only change today is that new government has reduced the Chinese share ratio from 80:20 to now 69:55 and 30:45 between China Merchant Port Holdings and Sri Lanka Port Authority. Worse, the lease in case of Hambantota involves evicting thousands of villagers which have also triggered simmering resentment though government promises to provide new lands as also appropriate compensations. IN view of Chinese practices elsewhere, Sri Lankan government has also been facing huge resistance from various trade unions and petroleum workers last week had brought the whole nation to a standstill with their two days of stopping fuel distribution.
It is interesting that Namal Rajapaksa, member of parliament and son of former president recently told the BBC how he feels India would "be very uncomfortable with this arrangement." No doubt India's anxieties have also continued.  Provisions of this new deal do provide ample clarifications on how the Chinese company will be responsible only for commercial operations and Sri Lankan navy will be responsible for security yet this 99 lease of this deep-sea port is bound to trigger speculations about this port becoming a base for the Chinese navy. Let alone India, such sentiments have also been expressed by various Chinese commentators. Indian experts of course feel convinced of this being at least potentially part of China's so-called string of pearls. Sitting close to the east-west shipping lines in busy Indian Ocean, port of Hambantota is bound to become a major a major staging post in China's Maritime Silk Road initiative.

Addressing India's Concerns
Sri Lanka of course has made efforts to balance its relations with all major partners. As prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently explained, the accumulated loss of the port was more than $304 million and money realised from the deal will set off the debts Sri Lanka owed to the Chinese.  Before being elected to office leaders of opposition had criticised the project but have gradually come around to understand inevitability about China's help in addressing its problems of port's underperformance and heavy debt repayments. It is reported that port's annual load repayment stands at $59 million and by 2016 the port had suffered loss of $304 million.

As regards India, this Concession Agreement is sure not a happy news but given Colombo's debt situation India perhaps has few options other than accepting this fait acompli and shore up its pragmatic defence mechanism. Already entangled in rough relations with China for last two years India is politically not in a position to choose confrontation with China through any emergency bailout of Sri Lanka in the case of Hambantota. India is believed to having been kept in confidence by Colombo's negotiators who apparently included several specific security clauses in this agreement on insistence from or in deference to India. For instance as per the July 25 cabinet note, the concession agreement has provisions to prohibit "any form of military related activities" by China clarifying that "sole responsibility and authority for such activity and for National Security of the port of Hambantota with the Government of Sri Lanka" which will be the only authority to grant permission to any naval vessels to anchor at this port. Also, all personnel involved in security related apparatus shall be Sri Lankan nationals. While such security assurances may be important yet India can not escape the fact that this deal clearly signifies Sri Lanka's increasing path dependency on China with deeper strategic implications.

Moreover, India also remains engaged in various projects including development of the northern deep-sea port of Trincomalee and an adjoining oil tank farm. India also remains Sri Lanka's largest trading partners with their bilateral trade standing at $4.38 billion. India has also committed development assistance of over $2.6 billion in various loans and grants. But given India's understanding of its core security interests in its immediate periphery Sri Lanka's policy of equidistance itself generates anxieties amongst India's policy makers.  It is equally important for India not to overlook Sri Lanka's domestic unease about this agreement. Their experience with China is likely to make Sri Lankans far too cautious even with India. The 'joint opposition' made up of the Rajapaksa loyalists and Left parties has already been critical of 'giving' Trincomalee to India. There are questions about Sri Lankan leaders overlooking widespread and persistent protests and signing the deal in a hurry without deliberating it in their national parliament. Sri Lanka leaders could have used this to buy time to assuage anxieties of these domestic and foreign stakeholders though they could never have fully addressed their concerns.

Author is Senior Fellow at Institute for National Security Studies Sri Lanka(INSSSL) and professor of Diplomacy and Disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi). This article does not reflect the stance of INSSSL or the Government of Sri Lanka.

Monday, July 24, 2017

India-China Border Stand-off

The great corridor game

By Dr Swaran Singh

Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ preoccupation is making the Chinese accelerate President Xi Jinping’s grand vision, the ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) project. The initiative was launched in 2013 and it might take a few decades, if not more, for the Chinese to complete the project. Currently, China is preparing to hold its first OBOR global summit this summer and it expects to see all world leaders lined up to become part of this post-American China-led globalisation.

Only two prominent nations are likely to be conspicuous by their absence: The US, that will soon have a president who remains wary of China; and India, that remains reticent about OBOR, especially with respect to the project’s offshoots into the Indian Ocean and South Asia. Indeed, even the unpredictable Trump might show up in Beijing following his meeting with Jack Ma, thus completely isolating India in this fast-evolving geopolitics of Eurasia.

India had sought to counter OBOR with Mousam and Sagarmala projects but these have remained a fiction as Indian foreign policy became obsessed with ‘isolating’ Pakistan. The result: Indian foreign policy establishment today finds fault with China blocking India’s efforts in naming Pakistan- based Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar a UN-designated terrorist and criticises China’s efforts to block India’s bid for a full membership to the Nuclear Supplier’s Group. Only the naive would expect China to shoulder India’s burdens!

With Beijing’s rising global stardom, India has surely lost the race with China, but New Delhi remains equally unaware of the fast-shifting sands in South Asia. As part of OBOR, China remains busy promoting (a) the Bangladesh China-India- Myanmar or BCIM Economic Corridor and (b) the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) both promising China access to the Indian Ocean, from the east and west of India. Dr Manmohan Singh had finally reconciled to India’s participation in the former but there has been no response to the same from the Modi government.

No doubt, insurgencies and political divisions in Pakistan’s restive province of Balochistan had a heavy toll on the safety and security of Chinese engineers and assets. The threat even forced China to ask Pakistan to raise a 10,000-strong force for their protection.

Even Pakistani experts widely believe that only Chinese companies will be the biggest beneficiaries from CPEC because the Pakistani leadership supports it, as always, only for their personal gains. The Chinese also understand that this $57 billion network of energy projects, roads and deep-water port linking Kashghar and Gwadar may never become commercially viable. They are already learning lessons from the Sitwe, Gwadar and Hambantota ports. But like the post- World War II United States, post-Cold War China needs its own Marshall Plan to catapult itself to the status of the next superpower.

Then, what are India’s options? It is interesting to note that while the Indian state has pulled away from the limited interest it showed in the BCIM economic corridor and keeps absolute silence on CPEC, Indian society is fast integrating with China. India’s businessmen— from Ambanis tosmall-town traders who fill flights between China and India—are all getting thoroughly entrenched in Chinese capital, equipment and consumer products. There is a bit of China in all top Indian start-ups, from e-commerce platform Snapdeal to mobile wallet giant Paytm, to cab service company Ola and travel portal MakeMyTrip and so on.
But India had agreed to BCIM without resolving borders! India has limited time and options. It cannot remain hostage to its single-minded strategy of isolating Pakistan which has had no effect on China, Russia or the US. Although CPEC has muddled through few milestones, India would be ill-advised to rely on the false comfort of the corridor being engulfed in crisis and a non-starter.

But it is the CPEC which has lately picked up momentum. Both China and Pakistan are now inviting all other stakeholders including their newfound strategic partner Russia into CPEC. If Russia, China and Pakistan hold parleys with Afghanistan in the future, it portends increasing centrality of Pakistan and further marginalisation of India. Emboldened Pakistani generals are already inviting India to join the CPEC which they say is a project “not in, but through” Pakistan and potentially the most crucial link between China’s OBOR and their Maritime Silk Road which involves as many as 65 nations.
China is fast becoming India’s Mecca for higher education, especially medicine. Indian students in China now make up the second largest group of foreign students at 16,694—with only Thailand ahead with 19,976, Russia following with 16,176 and Pakistan with 15,654. In the last two years, India has added the most number of students (3,116 students), followed by Pakistan. Over 8,000 Indian students are studying medicine in China even when the Medical Council of India does not recognise their degree from China. Students have to write a separate exam to practice medicine in India. Same is the trend for other Indian travellers to China, be it politicians, academicians, journalists or tourists.
India has had serious objections to the very nature of the China-Pakistan axis and to China investing in infrastructure in disputed territories of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It is true that China’s own 1963 border settlement treaty with Pakistan calls Kashmir a ‘disputed’ territory. India also has genuine grievances against China for not consulting India, its largest neighbour, before launching the OBOR.

[Dr. Swaran Singh is Professor for Diplomacy and Disarmament at Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament (CIPOD), School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi). He is President of Association of ASIA Scholars, General Secretary of Indian Association of Asian & Pacific Studies, Guest Professor at Research Institute of Indian Ocean Economies, Yunnan University of Finance and Economics (China) and Advisory Board Member of Atlanta-based Communities Without Borders Inc. (United States)].

Saturday, August 29, 2015

OROP - Explaining Whites n Pinks!

OROP Resolution & Future
Brigadier Vijay Raheja, Veteran

Post publication of certain tables in an article on One Rank One Pension (OROP) in a recent edition of India Today, have gone through the source, which has been in circulation in the form of a Draft Government of India Letter (DGL); for over a year. The fact that such a letter exists makes it amply clear that same came into being after due deliberations between Ministry of Defence and stake holders, ie   Service Headquarters and representatives of Ex-Servicemen.
Perusal of DGL brings to fore the intricate detailing and clear mindset aimed at resolving anomalies.
Present Imbroglio and Solutions.
It is not my aim to reinvent the wheel and as such have no intention of starting with definition of OROP on which it is assumed that there is total clarity. Let me therefore come straight to cause(s) that have led to the predicament and then on to painstaking efforts on part of Ministry of Defence and Service Headquarters to resolve matters.
It is concomitant effect of ‘bunching’; a concept followed by successive pay commissions that creates a divide in serving personnel, when people in same rank, having different number years of service are given a fixed starting salary. With subsequent promotions and years of service differential largely gets ironed out since every rank has a top of the scale – however few anomalies do arise. Typical example would be a person retiring on last day of the month, before  increment due month as against his colleague, who has same number of years of service retiring a month later, but with an increment – such cases would be far and few. Coming to pensioners the fixation is at the lowest end of the rank band, irrespective of years of service and hence the need of OROP and periodic review. A stage will come, as and when top of scale is reached for each rank there would be no change in pensions and therefore the misnomer of a 3% increase each year needs to be dispelled. Periodic review would be required to resolve anomalies that may arise, with marginal financial impact.
Adequate safe guards have been inbuilt in DGL to ensure equitable treatment to one and all. Some note worthy measures are enumerated.
To begin with calculation of service rendered for officers who have been promoted from ranks has been brought on an even keel; being different earlier for pre 1986 and pre 1967 commissioned officers. It is now total service from date of enrollment till date of retirement; thereby ensuring same pension to all retirees with number of years of service criteria.
Next it has been ensured that All Honorary Nb Sub, Modified Career Progression Scheme (MACP) Nb Sub and equivalents are granted pension of Nb Sub. Similarly any change/improvement in Hony Lt/Capt and equivalent shall be applicable to regular commissioned officers in ranks of Lt and Capt and equivalent ranks, if it is more beneficial.
As a consequence of introduction of time bound ranks (i.e. up to the rank of Colonel and equivalent), it is proposed that for past pensioners who retired before 16 Dec 2004 i.e. before time period for promotions was reduced, years of service will only be relevant and  table for  higher rank be taken into consideration to determine pension of such retirees.
Finally, a safety clause,  to protect existing  pensioners, has been included  wherein any changes in policy regarding pay or promotion which affect pay/pension of future pensioners, shall also be passed on to the past pensioners
Hopefully, anomalous situation created due to bunching, as suggested by earlier Pay Commission Panels will change. Needless to say that painstaking efforts must have been put in by Service Headquarters to project what is best; as also point out anomalies created over the years to Seventh Pay Commission Panel. In addition, Panel Members have not only travelled over the country and interacted with veterans, but have visited far and remote areas to see working conditions of our troops. Add to this, as someone said, “Aborted Pensions of defence personnel as against Fully Matured Pensions of Civilians” am sure things are bound to change for the Soldier

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

OROP - Time is running out - The Government must Act Fast!

Dear Readers,

BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have all through been most supportive of the military needs. Even before coming to power, Modi had carved out his own niche of trust and camaraderie with the military personnel and the Ex-servicemen (ESM).  They are now, however, puzzled at the undue delay in implementing the OROP (One Rank One Pension) despite the unambiguous assurance given by the Prime Minister at various occasions including his declaration at Siachen Glacier on the eve of Diwali last year. The ESM (2.5 million) are now unhappy and suspect that the Babudom is misleading the Government on the issue of OROP which has been unequivocally been endorsed and approved by the Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister himself. 

The PM declared on Aug 15 that the Govt had saved Rs 15000 cr in gas subsidy after enforcing direct credit system within last one year. It is also officially understood that 40% of food security bill (Rs 2.27 lakh crore this year) is intercepted by corrupt officials and never reaches the target beneficiaries. If this corrupt practice is reduced just by 10%, it will result in annual savings of more than Rs 23000 crore annually keeping the recurring budgetary increases in view. There is also enough scope to cut non-plan government expenditures in many other areas including unduly bloating perks and privileges of MPs and ministers.

The OROP bill has been estimated to be between Rs 8000 cr to Rs 9000 cr. Even if the Govt goes by the highly exaggerated estimates (Rs 12000 cr) being paraded in some media columns, it can still be easily funded from the aforesaid savings.

It is, therefore, abundantly clear that OROP is no extra financial burden on the national exchequer and the payout is very much feasible from within the available resources with the Govt. There is enormous money that needs to be raked in by cutting down the unnecessary "burdens" like subsidies, corruption, black money, rationalization of expenses in high offices and curtailing VVIP culture.
It is reliably learnt that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is fully convinced on the legitimacy and feasibility of clearing OROP soon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been all through inclined to clear the OROP and is also learnt to have ordered the Fin Min to tune in and remove all "technical hurdles" in the way without any further delay.

The QUESTION, however, remains: When is OROP going to be implemented? Lingering wait is dangerous as irate ESM go on Fast unto Death. There have been occasional threats of self-immolation and hanging from the trees at Jantar Mantar. How long will organisers succeed in dissuading ex soldiers and families of martyrs from taking these extreme steps? Even from within the Services, there are gloomy signals of simmering resentment and restlessness among the serving soldiers as well.

The time is running out. The Government must act fast.

Just heard about Col Pushpinder Singh's worsening condition in ICU.  I pray for his recovery back to good health.  I would also implore all others on 'Fast unto Death' to break their fast and await Government decision which hopefully should come soon.    

Best regards,
Karan Kharb
कर्ण खर्ब
उत्कर्ष The Turning Point 
(A Leadership Development Initiative)
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Modi should ignore the naysayers on OROP - 
including the Fin Min

(R Jagannathan, published in 'First Post', Aug 24, 2015 12:34  IST)

If there is a worse way to handle a sensitive issue like OROP - one-rank-one-pension for the defence forces - I am yet to hear about it. The BJP has messed up big time on an issue that is not only very close to its own heart, but one that is long overdue.

Morally, politically and economically, Narendra Modi is making a serious mistake by unconscionably delaying OROP. Most arguments used against OROP are misleading, if not plain wrong.

First, when the previous government had already made a commitment on OROP and the then prime ministerial candidate had promised a full commitment to it in his election campaign, there was no way the decision could have been avoided. The only question that needed to be decided was when the scheme would be implemented and how OROP entitlements will be calculated. Two months was the maximum required after May 2014 for OROP to come into force.

Second, OROP affects the BJP's strongest constituency - the armed forces. As a nationalistic party, the BJP has drawn a disproportionate share of activists and politicians from the ex-servicemen's constituency - and this constituency is huge. The defence forces have 1.3 million serving personnel, another 1.2 million reservists, and many millions of ex-servicemen. And we are not even talking of other paramilitary forces like the NSG, the Assam Rifles, the Special Frontier Force and armed central policing forces like the CRPF, which has over 230 battalions of its own. Add them all and the numbers will surely double at least to around six million.If we assume an average household size of five people per serving or retired defence jawan or officer, we are talking of close to 25-30 million people who will gain from OROP now or in the future. Can the BJP mess around with the futures of such a large constituency?

Third, there is the economic argument. The finance ministry under Arun Jaitley would surely have argued that the fiscal deficit will go for a toss if OROP is implemented this year. But the cost of OROP is reckoned at anything between Rs 8,000-12,000 crore, depending on who you include and how you calculate the rate of pension. This amount would be less than one-tenth the food subsidy, where in fact 40 percent goes to the wrong people. It needs the government to only reduce food subsidy wastage by 10 percent to pay for OROP.

Even assuming the real payout will be twice as large, assuming we include all military and paramilitary personnel, including CRPF, we are talking Rs 25,000 crore. A big amount, no doubt, but not unaffordable to a government committed to cleaning up the wasteful subsidy system. Half the savings have already accrued from cleaning up the LPG subsidy system with the direct cash payments scheme.

An honest approach to the problem of fiscal deficit would have been a simple statement from the government that OROP will be implemented in two stages, with 50 percent of the target -ex-servicemen (the lowest-paid) being eligible from this year, and the other from next year. Alternatively, we could have covered all people upto 75 percent of OROP entitlements this year and 100 percent next year.

To have ex-servicemen on hunger-strike and a minister and former army chief's daughter backing their cause is a public relations disaster for the Prime Minister.

In any case, if the real issue is only the impact on central finances, there is also the counter-argument: when consumption demand in the economy is weak and business is not investing, a higher payment to ex-servicemen may be just the pep consumption demand needs.

It is an established fact that whenever public sector pay rises after the implementation of pay commission recommendations (the next pay commission's recommendations will have to be implemented from next year), consumer demand picks up and growth revives. In an economy that wants to raise its growth momentum and jobs, what can be better than an additional Rs 10,000-20,000 crore in the hands of consumers, thanks to OROP? And remember, higher demand leads to higher tax revenues from increased economic activity and hence lowers the fiscal deficit after a lag.

The economic argument against accepting OROP is thus weak. On the contrary, by sanctioning OROP our defence personnel will not only be defending our border better but also our economy.

The Prime Minister is probably getting bad advice from his finance ministry on OROP. He should over-rule them and announce OROP before Rahul Gandhi turns up at an ex-serviceman's home and offers fake sympathies.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Needed: A Paradigm Shift in J&K

Karan Kharb

                Pakistan proxies and the separatists in Kashmir suddenly seem encouraged and emboldened as was evident recently from the drama enacted by Masrat Alam. These noises must be rasping hard on the BJP ears because its partnership in the state government had generated optimism for peace and progress. The Hurriyat leaders whose diktats to boycott the elections was spurned by the Kashmiri electorate had once seemed to have been consigned into oblivion – but only until the release of Masrat Alam.  He started spewing anti-India venom right from the moment he stepped out of the jail early last month. Flagrantly misleading and provoking the Kashmiri Muslims against India, he sang eulogies in praise of Pakistan and, surrounded by the Pakistani flags, declared. "I am not a citizen of India. Nor do I believe Kashmir to be part of India."  Now, put behind the bars once again, hopefully he will be tried for his audacious anti-India activities including treason.

Ironically, the opposite of what was expected from the new BJP-PDP dispensation is happening in Jammu and Kashmir. The election of 2014, which recorded unprecedented voter turnout despite vigorous boycott campaign mounted by the separatists, was held in a peaceful atmosphere attracting worldwide acclaim as a democratic exercise in the trouble-torn state. Interestingly, however, the poll mandate threw up two arch-rivals in the state politics – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) – as leading contenders for power with 25 and 28 seats in a hung Legislative Assembly of 87 effective seats.  That such political adversaries would become allies and form the government, was largely viewed as impossible. But it happened. Perhaps inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ethos of 'Sabka sath, Sabka vikas', the BJP went ahead and forged an alliance with the PDP after two months of sustained negotiations steered by Ram Madhav and the PDP supremo Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.  Understandably, it raised public expectations but scared the separatist lobbies.

                Unlike other states of the Union, governance in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is uniquely complex. Firstly, being a border state it acquires special geo-political significance, which is heightened even more with Pakistan having ceded Shaksgam Valley to China and the latter launching massive infrastructure development including multi-lane roads in the area. Secondly, besides its mountainous terrain remains covered either by dense forest or by snow, the state is also demographically divided with Jammu-Udhampur having predominantly Hindu population, the Kashmir Valley predominantly Muslim and Ladakh having a mix of sparsely populated by Budhists and Muslims. Thirdly, India's relations with Pakistan and China directly influence politics and happenings in these areas.  Fourthly, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution bestows 'special status' on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which distinguishes it from the rest of the states of the Union. This weird constitutional proviso makes the state look like a 'nation' within a nation.

                Thanks to these outlandish physiognomies of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, governments have been consistently smug in running affairs of the state in a status-quoist manner engendering a privileged class of self-righteous politicians and protected elite of bureaucracy insulated from the people.  The proxy war unleashed by Pakistan against India in this region has been fuelling chaos in the state.  More lives – military as well as civil – have been lost in the last quarter century of violence here than the combined total death toll of last three Indo-Pak wars.  Development has been another serious casualty while official corruption has thrived reducing civil administration to a self-serving mechanism largely denied to the people. The carrot dangling approach of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to placate and win over the Hurriyat and hard core separatists has already flopped.  Masrat Alam has very effectively utilised his brief release from captivity to reignite the fizzling voices of separatism in Srinagar. The brief drama he so diligently enacted with Hafiz Sayeed from Pakistan assuring Jehadis (proxies) in Jammu and Kashmir every kind of support – "Government, Military and moral" – has once again opened up the wound that has festered for over a quarter century now.

Azadi from the Bondage of Article 370
                For the first time in the history of J&K, BJP has partnership in the state government. It has a strong full majority government at the Centre. There is ample evidence for the government to understand that placating tactics and dithering have only led to worsening the situation rather than solving the problems.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the J&K government are today faced with a serious challenge, which they can convert into a grand opportunity to usher in new era of peace, prosperity and genuine azadi by integrating the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the mainstream of sovereign India. The so-called 'special status' under Article 370 has actually promotes 'separatism', inter-se rivalry and mistrust because the distinguishing constitutional provisions treat the state of J&K differently vis-à-vis the rest.  It also kills the fundamental principle of 'EQUALITY' enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution of India. No public interest has been served by it so far.  On the contrary, those in power use it from time to time for personal gains by blackmailing the Central Government under its shadow. 

                To the international community too, continuance of 'special status' for J&K gives an impression of 'some final decision about J&K's still hanging in the air' – an impression Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists have been cashing on to bolster their claims. Viewed from any angle, the provisions of this Article have proved to be a silky noose in the J&K neck.  The principle of equality entitles the people of J&K to be liberated from this royal bondage, which has only hampered their development.  It has deterred the Indian investors and multi-national corporates from investing in J&K.

                Permanent solution to a problem as ticklish as this cannot be easy but how long shall we allow this wound to fester in search of easy solutions? Time is now ripe to administer the bitter pill.  Article 370 must be repealed and the state of Jammu and Kashmir integrated into the national mainstream without further delay.

Fighting the Proxy War
                India has been telling the world what Hafiz Sayeed has audaciously owned up now.  In an interview to a media channel he recently admitted that he and his apparatus including Jamat-ud-Dawa has been "aiding the jehadis in Kashmir with full support from the Pakistan Government and the Army". India has information about a number of terrorist training camps running in Pakistan under the aegis of ISI, Hafiz Sayed and his associates.  The Indian Army hunting and fighting terrorists in the hinterland has been troublesome for the civil population who are frequently subjected to frisking besides facing a host of other hardships in the endemic violence in the region.

                The Indian Army should change its tactics for fighting this war. The Army should mind only the areas of its war time responsibility along the border/Line of Control (LC). Violence in the interior should be handled by the state police and paramilitary forces.  The local

government authorities must assume responsibility for peace and intelligence in their area of responsibility. As a strategic shift, the war should be carried to the enemy territory.  The Indian Army has the capability to carry out special commando missions against designated targets deep inside Pakistan with a fair degree of success.  It is disappointing to see that we have unwittingly neglected the offensive initiatives and developed a more defensive and over protective mind-set over the past few years. Pakistan, on the contrary, has always been proactively offensive and innovative from Kargil onward. 
Despite being aware of India's higher nuclear potential, Pakistan has never felt deterred from hurting India anywhere anytime whereas India has been visibly deterred not only from proactive offensive strikes but even from delivering punitive strokes as reprisal against audacious terror attacks like Mumbai 26/11, Parliament attack, Red Fort attack or beheading of our soldiers at the LC. This stance must change to bolder and devastating punitive actions unless we are preparing to be beaten and defeated in the next war.