Friday, November 30, 2012

Corruption, Youth & the Nation

Youth Power of India 

Prakash Katoch
[Lt Gen Prakash Katoch is one of India's most decorated Military Leader with a record of leading many high risk commando missions and commanding Special Forces and Formations with great success through some of the most hazardous operations. He always was where war, terror or crisis was at its worst. Matching his valour, he has a sharp brain and an intellect that make him the most sought after advisor on national security, international relations, strategic affairs, military, technical and topical issues. Over 160 articles authored by him have appeared in various magazines and journals. He holds the Field Marshal KM Cariappa Chair of Excellence at the USI of India and is authoring a book on “Special Forces of India.” Has been contracted by the Centre For Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi to author a book on “Netcentricity and Indian Military.”]

In 1947, our population was 350 million. As per the 2011 census it stood at 1.02 billion. Today we already are 1.21 billion constituting 17.3 percent of world population, implying every sixth human being on earth is Indian. At current annual growth rate of 1.58 percent, our population will cross 1.53 billion surpassing China by 2025. Presently, 50 percent of our population is 25 years and below and if you count upto 35 years age it comes to 65 percent. Conversely, most countries are struggling with bulk population on wrong side of 60 years. 72.2 percent of our population lives in 6,38,000 villages while 27.8 percent is in 5,480 towns and cities. We also have the largest illiterate population in the world.
Thomas Friedman says, “India is the sole country of 21st Century with abundant youth power”. The million dollar question is how will India maximize this asset?  

Today, there are some 40 million illegal weapons (of total 73 million globally) circulating within India with an annual illegal trade of $4 million. These include the crude locally manufactured plus the sophisticated ones with terrorist and insurgent organizations bought on the world market and being supplied by both China and Pakistan. In December 2010, in a single district of Bihar (Munger District) the police seized 65 illegal weapons. 

In recent times there were reports of a rave party in Mumbai (attended by some cricketers as well) where media went berserk about 100 gms of drugs. The World drug Trade Report tells you that in year 2009 itself (one single year) 3.2 metric tons of drugs came from Pakistan to India through land borders. Post the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, MJ akbar wrote an article as to why are we surprised about the Pakistani trawler having come all the way from Karachi to Mumbai. As per him such trawlers carrying drugs from Karachi to Mumbai arrive practically every day with connivance of the politicians and the police, to whet the demand of five star hotels and high and mighty. 

India has been rated 95th in the CPI (Corruption Perception Index) with a 3.1 rating amongst 178 countries for the past decade. Similarly, we continue to be rated 134th in the HDI (human Development Index), which should be a matter of shame. Even the Prime Minister has talked about the pathetic state of malnutrition in children. As per an internal study of the Planning Commission itself, of every Re 1 spent, only 17 Paisa reach ground level (incidentally Rajiv Gandhi had mentioned the same figure as PM and three years back rahul Gandhi said only 7 Paisa reach ground). Govt spent Rs 1,85,000 crores during FY 2011-2012. Transporting this figure to the 17 Paisa matrix implies of the Rs 1,85,000 crores spent, only Rs 31,450 crores reached ground level (Hopefully !). The balance Rs 1,50, 550 crores was consumed by what the Planning Commission referes to as ‘administration’ (read corruption). 

As per MHA, there are some 29 terrorist organizations operating in the country. The internet gives the number as 123. There is namesake / nil administration in the Maoist areas. No security forces go into the 4000 sq kms Abu Madh area of Dandkaranya Forest that the Maoists declared liberated two years back. Ironically, as per an MP, DGP of a particular State has been paying ‘hafta’ to the Maoists for his own protection. Youth are being lured by terrorist organizations by mere promise of regular pay. Maoists now have a Rs 1500 crore annual financial outlay and have commenced growing poppy (Taliban style), one acre of poppy giving them Rs 1 crore annually. Lower level politicians are involved for their own vote bank, personal safety or simply shut their eyes. Maoists are operating in 16 states now with Nepalese Maoists to the North and Southern tip touching Kerala where the PFI (Popular Front of India) has already picked up arms courtesy LeT foot prints in Kerala. Maoists have started striking in Assam. China has recently gifted an AK 47 manufacturing facility to the Kachen rebels in North Myanmar and the weapons have started flowing to PLA in Manipur and to the Maoists. China has been supporting the ULFA and is establishing links with Naga insurgents. LeT has been attending Maoists meetings for last two years. I am not writing about J&K as you are well aware what Pakistan is doing, plus the latest ISI efforts to revive the Punjab militancy. Yet the Govt said in 2010 that the Maoist problem will be resolved in next 2-3 years. Incidentally, sophisticated weapons and communication have been recovered underground in Odisha (J&K style) stashed for future use and the LTTE trained the Maoists have periodically demonstrated finesse in use of explosives. 

Without proper channelizing, India’s youth power can become a serious liability if it takes the wrong direction. Inimical forces interested in plunging India deeper into violence and chaos could gleefully misguide them. This, in turn would make the already complex management of social change insurmountable with our burgeoning population racing to overtake China over the next two decades.   

          The prevailing system of education in the country is based on ‘providing education for the sake of education’. There is little focus on educating the youth in ethics, values, patriotism and imbibing a sense of nationalism. Question young students on history of ancient India and they cannot go farther back than the British or at best the Moghul eras. They have no idea of the map of India in the periods of Cholas and Ashoka The Great. They are not aware of this part of Indian history and  the affect of India’s civilization and culture over China, Japan, South East, South Asia and Central Asia including the proofs of this that exist on ground even today. How many children know the areas of China annexed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh? How many children know that the Indian Army was once garrisoned at Yatung while China claims Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Tibet’ today? The youth are not exposed to how the Universities of Nalanda and Taxila attracted students from far off foreign lands, the supremacy of India in arithmetic, medicine, astronomy, and numerology, why India was called “Sone KI Chiriya” and why Sanskrit is called the mother of all languages. The TV is doing a good job through serials like ‘Chadragupt Maurya’ (unfortunately the channel itself has been terminated), Shiva Ji, Lakshmi Bai but what is the contribution of our education system in imbibing patriotism and nationalism? Isn’t lack of this is a reason why not many children even watch these historical serials.  

Effect of overpowering winds of consumerism apart, ground level media explosion and information technology expose young minds practically every day to news of scams and corruption, vote bank politics, casteism, regressing human values, blatant misuse of power for personal monetary gains and the like. The message being driven home is that you grab what you want and umbrella of the corrupt, vote banking and political clout will protect you no matter what.   

Significantly, Europeans held a seminar on Maoist Insurgency in India couple of months back because they want to invest in India including in underdeveloped areas. A representative from our CII who attended the seminar has the following to say, which should put our country to shame, “Europeans believe that Indian leaders in politics and business are so blissfully blinded by the new, sometimes ill-gotten, wealth and deceit that they are living in defiance, insolence and denial to comprehend that the day will come, sooner than later, when the have-nots would hit the streets. In a way, it seems to have already started with the monstrous and grotesque acts of the Maoists. And, when that rot occurs, not one political turncoat will escape being lynched”. Are we heading the China way – “The Great Leap”?  rDespite the abundant youth power, look at the shortage of over 14,000 officers in the Army alone? But then how can you expect the youth to be attracted to the Army when we cannot imbibe in them ethics and values, morals, patriotism and nationalism. 

          In backdrop of the above quagmire,  the eight day Rashtra Katha Shibir (literal translation being National Stories Camp), held in December 2011 and attended by an unbelievable number of some 15,000 children of  8 to l8 years age group (50 per cent girls) from Gujarat and some other states was an invigorating surprise to first time speakers. It was the 14th such camp, of which regretfully very little is known in rest of the country. Run by Acharya Dharmabandhu, Founder and Inspirer of the Shri Vedic Mission Trust, this 32-year-old from Tamil Nadu who could have lived in luxury as an IAS officer but post a visit to Somnath Temple few years back, chose instead to set up an Ashram in Village Pransla (some 125 kms from Rajkot) in rural Gujarat and devote his life in providing the beacon for the youth to revive the erstwhile glory of India and facilitate the country in attaining its rightful place in the comity of nations.  

          Acharya Dharmabandhu, with infinite reserves of energy and zeal, has to his credit not only 14 Rashtra Katha Shibirs, which by themselves are stupendous feats, but post the Bhuj earthquake he took the initiative of constructing over 1800 houses in the worst hit villages, organizing some 1117 truckloads of food and fodder, digging 400 wells for water and raising crores of rupees for construction of ponds and check dams, aside from construction of numerous cow farms. The aim of the Shibirs organized by him is to acquaint the youth with the real India, its civilization, culture, heritage, ancient glory, secularism, present day developments in all spheres, dangers facing us including terrorism and fundamentalism; imbibing in them ethics, values, patriotism, nationalism and the need to move as a single secular force to face the future that would automatically facilitate India managing the social change in coming years. The Shri Vedic Mission Trust has an eminently chosen strong foundation in Gen VP Malik, former Army Chief as the Chairman. The Trustees are Mr KPS Gill, former DGP Punjab, Mr Arun Bhagat, former DG IB & BSF, Mr Joginder Sigh, former Director CBI and Mr Suresh Sharma, DIG Punjab Police. 

          The Shibirs provide an all round terrific exposure to the youth including the latest developments in practically every field, as can be gauged from the cross section of dignitaries that have visited and addressed the youth; from President of India to Governors, Chief Ministers of many states from different political parties, Scientists, Educationists, Social Workers, Historians, former Defence and Civil Services Officials - to name a few like Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Wajahat Habibullah, Dr K Kasturirirngan, Professor AR Rao, Dr Kailash Swaminathan,  G Parthasarthy, Admiral L. Ramdas, Ajit Doval, Prashant Mishra, Prakash Singh, Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Auror, HN Dixit, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Iaswant Singh, Narendra Modi, Arif Mohammed Ktran etc. This time speakers at the 14th Rashtra Katha Shibir included Shri Anil Kakodkar, Shri Prashant Mishra, Shri MS Bitta, Lt Gen Nirbhay Sharma, Lt Gen PC Katoch, Maj Gen GD Bakshi, Cmde Uday Bhaskar and the Governor of Gujarat who has attended these camps several times. 

The camp is run akin to that of an army camp with volunteer MBA students overseeing to oversee the administration. The children have a busy schedule. The routine for the youth in the Shibirs is generally from 5 AM to 10 PM, with suitable breaks, implying children are up at around 4 AM. Their exposure includes spheres like national integration, communal and social harmony, disaster management, spiritualism, patriotism, culture and civilization, personality development, yoga, martial arts, horse riding shooting, sports, computer training, environment and the like.   

Patriotism is encouraged including through songs composed and sung by the children who also put up plays and skits. Youth have the opportunity to learn horse riding, shooting etc : 

National Integration, Communal and Social Harmony, Disater Management, Spiritualism, Patriotism, Culture and Civilization, Personality Development, Yoga, Health, Martial Arts, Computer Training, Environment are part of the daily fare. It is a singular experience watch thousands of children sitting in disciplined fashion in rapt attention listening to various speakers. They keep sending written questions, some very intelligent ones that are answered by the speakers to the satisfaction of the audience. The sight of 15,000 children sitting in such disciplined environment in a remote village in Gujarat takes first time visitors by complete surprise : 

The 14th Rashtra Katha Shibir also had stalls put up by the National Disaster Reserve Force (NDRF) training children in disaster management : 

          Living under canvas provides the youth a sense of adventure, bonhomie and opportunity to make new friends. A visit to the 24 x 7 kitchen brings home the massive administration involved in catering for fresh, nutritious, hot and timely food at such gigantic scale. The food is organic with abundant dose of fresh milk, butter and desi ghee. Organic wheat is mechanically ground and mechanically kneaded within the kitchen complex:   

          The surprising part is that though the last camp in December 2011 was the 14th of its kind and these 14 Shibirs have had a stream of eminent speakers and visitors from all over India yet including from all hues of political parties, such an endevour has not been taken up at the national level despite crores of rupees periodically spent on election rallies. Hopefully, it is intransigence and not the reason that the powers that be fear awakening of the youth of India. Logically, such camps should be run by all States in India every year under patronage of both the Centre and concerned States. The Education Ministry should be focusing on how to incorporate values, ethics, patriotism, nationalism in our education system rather than playing with ideas like reducing the MBBS curriculum by one year. Another surprising part is that moment you mention these Shibirs or the Shri Vedic Mission Trust, the first reaction is that it must be a front of the RSS, till you apprise them as to who the Chairman and the Trustees are. Kudos to Acharya Dharmabandhu for achieving what he has in such short time despite no support from the Centre. All he wishes for is spread of the light he has lit. The citizenry will definitely want this but are the powers that be listening? The media should take a break from sensationalism and help spread this message. The Defence Force, particularly the Army, need to patronize such events and provide assistance as possible besides deputing speakers who are serving. Serving officers from Central Armed Police Forces are already doing so. Talks by military officers will help alleviate a sense of patriotism in the youth.  

The next such camp is being held at the same location from 30 December 2012 to 06 January 2013. 15,000 children from 13 States including from far away Nagaland, Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha are attending besides other States. The organizers make complete arrangements for travel and stay. Anyone interested can contact Acharya Dharmabandu at +919099100000 or +919466065030.  



The author is a veteran Lieutenant General of Indian Army.









Monday, November 26, 2012

National Integration

 The Threat Within – A Ticking Time Bomb!

Brig R S Chhikara
[Brig RS Chhikara (Retd) is a senior military veteran of the Corps of Signals who has has hands on experience of strategic defence planning having held a number of high profile General Staff appointments in the Indian Army. Currently on the panel of a number of Organisations dedicated to societal and national issues, he writes regularly for periodicals and newspapers.  Here, he draws attention of readers to the issue of national integration and warns us of grave danger unless immediate remedial measures are effectively adopted. ]

A nation’s security paradigm has two distinct dimensions namely the external and the internal.  The first is reasonably well understood, widely debated and analysed. The second - the internal dimension of our security and integrity are neither clearly understood nor debated with the degree of gravity they represent.

We have China and Pakistan as our adversaries with a disturbing history of conflicts. Our relationship with other immediate neighbours is none too stable. The increasing talibanisation of Pakistan, acute instability in Afghanistan and increasing Chinese interest in the region add another sinister dimension to our external security paradigm. The defence forces are beginning to take baby steps towards coping with the possibility of a two front war. The Government of India, its security, diplomatic, economic and energy agencies etc are hopefully seized of the external security challenges and are making efforts to cope.

But, on the internal front, the situation is indeed worrisome with Pakistan and China actively fanning flames of separatism in Kashmir and the North East.  Proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir accompanied by the political cacophony seeking abolition of AFSPA, terrorist cells spread throughout the country and the withdrawal of MCOCA, the ever expanding foot print of Maoism in more than one third of the country and Lack of meaningful control over illegal immigration in Assam leading to social conflict throughout the North East are serious existing threats to national unity and integrity.

If that was not bad enough, other more sinister threats to India’s security and national integrity are lurking in the internal environment which are not even being openly acknowledged.  

1. Democracy as practiced in India is predicated on creating and sustaining ever deeper and wider  division of society into sectorial vote banks based on creed, caste , khap, language, ethnicity etc. Every politician tries to make these divisions more bitter and permanent.

2. Parties in power promote and perpetuate reservations and quotas to nurture their vote banks. Crony capitalism to favour the friendly elite, alienates sections that are outside the partiy’s vote bank or fund bank.

3. Our administrative,  law and order and judicial systems are incorrigibly corrupt and inefficient creating conditions for people taking law into their own hands.

4. Administrative and development bureaucracy is entirely unresponsive. Public security, health, education, transportation, power supply, water supply and civic services, all are in a state of terminal decay. There is complete lack of accountability.

Wide spread disaffection, frustration, anger and hatred among large communities which stand segmented into adversarial groups is reaching unmanageable proportions. The country is descending into lawlessness and anarchy.

We have witnessed the Gujjar Community in Rajasthan bringing  the entire North and West regions to a grinding halt; Tamilnadu high jacking our sensitive relationship with Sri Lanka; Bengal seriously impeding  international agreements with Bangladesh;  Shiv Sena encouraging and perhaps engineering serious conflict in Maharashtra  by fanning the Marathi Manoos sentiment Karnataka’s intransigence in the matter of water sharing threatening the basis of india’s federal structure,  communal clashes becoming routine in Mulayam ruled Uttar Pradesh and manifestation of institutionalised oppression of  Scheduled castes and tribals  

All in all, public angst against corruption, mis-governance and sectarian policies is reaching breaking point.  Individuals and groups, even the silent majority, now feel compelled to protest. These protests could manifest as sectarian clashes or militant anti-establishment agitation. Such a situation will undoubtedly be exploited by unscrupulous elements aided and abetted by inimical external influence.

The arrogant ruling elite may be tempted to use disproportionate force to suppress the surge of public protests. Real and more sinister possibilities will then emerge. Significant sections of police may well be sympathetic to the cause of their brethren on the streets. Alternately, if they resort to excessive coercion, they would be looked upon as parts of the corrupt establishment and may themselves, along with their families, become targets of attack leading to a complete paralysis of the state.   

This could then lead to the Armed Forces being sucked into the conflict.  As it is, there is considerable anti-establishment sentiment within the rank and file of the armed forces due to perceived injustice done to them by the ruling politico- bureaucratic combine. Catastrophic results could emerge if the armed forces, then feel tempted or compelled to supplant existing democratic institutions who would have in any case lost their moral credentials to represent the people.  

J K Rowling had said, “We (a nation) are as strong as we are united - as weak as we are divided.” It is a nation’s soft power (soft strength) that makes societies and nations cohesive and resilient. This intrinsic strength is derived from its culture, the concepts and practices of its political ideology, the efficacy of its law and order, justice and service delivery systems and equity quotient of its policies. It is only when these ideologies, policies and systems are seen to be working for the good of the people at large that the people see themselves as stake holders in  the nation state. It is only then that people stand together to protect and preserve it.   

This scenario may sound alarming but it certainly is not farfetched. Complete absence of public morality and all pervasive corruption in governance impacting the day to day lives of the people are symptoms of the same disease that had caused Naxalism, Maoism and regional separatism to sprout and grow. There are urgent lessons here for our politicians, administrators and society leaders to learn.  We need to remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “ A  house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Sunday, November 18, 2012

National Security

Reigniting Kashmir 

Prakash Katoch
[Lt Gen Prakash Katoch is one of India's most decorated Military Leader with a record of leading many high risk commando missions and commanding Special Forces and Formations with great success through some of the most hazardous operations. He always was where war, terror or crisis was at its worst.  Matching his valour, he has a sharp brain and an intellect that make him the most sought after advisor on national security, international relations, strategic affairs, military, technical and topical issues.  Over 160 articles authored by him have appeared in various magazines and journals.  He holds the Field Marshal KM Cariappa Chair of Excellence at the USI of India and is authoring a book on “Special Forces of India.” Has been contracted by the Centre For Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi to author a book on “Netcentricity and Indian Military.”]

John Quinton, American writer once wrote, “Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.” Appears happening in Kashmir, at least on the Indian side. Some ‘overnight’ security strategists wake up one fine morning feeling they are best judges of matters military; better than the military itself. Last year the Chief Minister of J&K suddenly decided J&K was the most serene place on earth and declared arbitrarily, without reference to stake holders, he would revoke AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) naming areas including known terrorist strongholds. A terrorist incident immediately thereafter even led a squeamish politician from the same party accusing the Army of engineering the attack.

Interestingly, the CM’s statement came despite 195 terrorist incidents in J&K during 2011, spate of infiltration attempts, LeT training 21 female suicide bombers for attacking J&K, CM demanding 50 additional police battalions and the Centre allocating INR 499 crores to J&K for upgrading weaponry to fight terror. Luckily, status quo was maintained after much discussion including diluting AFSPA that could be highly disadvantageous to security forces fighting vicious insurgency and exposing troops to decades of litigation for legitimate acts.  

Presently, the CM is again gunning for revoking AFSPA despite continuous unprovoked firing by Pakistan, the  State admitting 3084 youth of J&K are undergoing arms training in 42 terrorist camps across border, 2500 terrorists in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir awaiting chance of infiltration, focused killing of Panchayat (village level elected body) members by Pakistani terrorists, over 100 Panchayat members resigning and Centre rushing 7000 additional Central Reserve Police Force personnel to J&K to control the deteriorating security situation. Can there be a worse example of short sightedness for narrow political goals?  

Last year when the Army Chief remarked that J&K administration had not capitalized on low levels of violence maintained by security forces, the present CM’s father went ballistic; himself an erstwhile CM of J&K who came to power following massive rigging of elections in 1987 initiating insurgency in the State. Army is sent in when the State administration fails. AFSPA in J&K came into effect through an Act of Parliament on 10 September, 1990 when its requirement was felt by the Parliament to provide administrative and legal mechanism for Armed Forces in counter-insurgency. AFSPA is not a tool for the Armed Forces to run riot. Politically motivated human rights groups may portray AFSPA as ‘draconian’ and ‘human rights abuse’ but the record of Indian Armed Forces compared to say counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and even Sri Lanka has been exceptional with minimal possible collateral damage and without use of heavy weapons, air and artillery. National Human Rights Commission statistics prove that only 4-5 percent of human rights abuse allegations have proved true and armed forces have ensured exemplary punishments in every case.  

Armed Forces do not want prolonged deployment in counter insurgency but the State administration has to do their part to normalize environment, which is sadly lacking. The CM continuously rejects implementation of 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Indian Constitution that empowers Panchayats. Delhi Policy Group (Think Tank based in New Delhi) held a comprehensive round table on J&K with politicians of every hue of J&K whose unanimous antipathy was that the State Government is ensuring Panchayats have no powers. How then can governance improve at the grassroots? Isn’t this by design, insurgency and criminalization of politics having become a currency for retaining power. The opposition in J&K too has clear links with Hijbul Mujahideen.  

The phenomenon is not new in India; take the hate speeches in Assam during Emergency era that created ULFA, Illegal Migrants - Determination by Tribunals Act of 1984 for Assam that regularized illegal Bangladeshi immigrants (many possibly trained in terrorist camps) drastically altering demographic profile till struck down in 2005 by Supreme Court as “unconstitutional”, training and arming Bodos, creation of Bhindranwale and what have you. Nagaland was perfect for optimizing political gains since all insurgents were based in adjoining state of Manipur and could be summoned to keep up violence when required. India used an entire Division to decimate the Maoist movement at Naxalbari few years back, yet the movement has been allowed to grow exponentially largely through mis-governance. Political power apart, insurgency is good for individual finances. The Centre doles out enormous funds, accountability not sought andno one the wiser. Presently, the Indian Home Minister has talked of “credible intelligence reports of Pakistan trying to stir up trouble in India by helping terrorist infiltration” but what the stance of the Centre will be next summer with elections approaching is anybody’s guess especially if Pakistan ensures a prolonged tactical pause.  

For political gains, the Centre may go to any length as demonstrated by the underhand Track II agreement to demilitarize Siachen without debate in Parliament. Since government officials formally briefed the Track II Team prior to proceeding to Lahore, it makes it official and smacks of intrigue at highest levels. Perhaps AFSPA could not be revoked presently because of stiff opposition by the Northern Army Commander but he retires next year. A mischievous report titled ‘Kashmir Vs Northern Command’ in ‘Geopolitics’ of October 2012 talking of differing perception of Army Headquarters and Northern Command indicates government’s dirty tricks department in play.  

The Army Chief categorically stated recently he is against Siachen demilitarization yet the government ignored his advice. Next summer may see revoking AFSPA from J&K since J&K is part of the ruling coalition. Last time when militancy similarly went down in J&K, Pakistan made massive intrusions in Kargil forcing diversion of troops that facilitated infiltration. Revoking of AFSPA will re-ignite Kashmir Valley while withdrawal from Siachen will set Ladakh afire with terrorist bases mushrooming all over Ladakh and Zanskar Ranges. Hopefully, rumours that the new Foreign Minister has been brought in just to ensure this are untrue but John Quinton must know we don’t need to buy tunnels here, we dig our own!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Pritish Nandy
(Courtsey: Times of India Blogs)

(Pritish Nandy, a Padma Sri laureate, is a renowned figure in Indian media, politics and public life.  He is admired, respected and even feard for his sharp, pointed yet objective and pragmatic opinion on major national issues. His expression of concern, caution and anguish at the fast degenerating standards of Indian polity and failing governance should make every Indian sit up and take note before the ship wrecks and sinks).

I like Manmohan Singh. He has immaculate credentials. It’s these credentials that have seen the UPA through its most stormy years. If Singh wasn’t Prime Minister, the Government would have collapsed a long time back. No, not because of its inherent coalition contradictions but because it’s simply not possible for so many crooks with conflicting agendas to loot the country together, almost as if in perfect unison. The Indian Political Philharmonic Orchestra must be the world’s most amazing cacophony of rogues, rascals and robbers. Luckily for the UPA, there was always Singh to fall back on. Most middle class Indians refuse to be cynical. We know exactly what’s happening around us, we criticise it constantly, but when it comes to the crunch we all rally around the nation and the flag.

We are not bat-brained paranoids. Neither are we wide-eyed innocents ready to buy into every ridiculous explanation thrown our way to explain the loot that’s taking place in broad daylight. But the latest season of scams has flummoxed all. This is not just Alibaba and his chaalis chors. Everyone among the chaalis chors is another Alibaba with his own forty thieves. That’s the way the pyramid of crime operates today. But because Singh, soft spoken and self effacing, is the face of this  Government, India has kept faith.But now, enough is enough. Neither Singh nor Pranab Mukherjee, nor anyone else is capable any more of saving this Government. It’s neck deep in its own sticky sleaze. What’s worse, you haven’t seen anything yet. All these scams are but the tip of the iceberg. Talk to anyone and you will get an instant dhobi list of scams in queue to break. No, I am not saying this. Congress leaders are, in private.

Look at Singh, wan and waylost. Or Mukherjee going apopleptic in faux anger because he has to defend what he knows is indefensible. They look less convincing than Rakhi Sawant playing Joan of Arc. The problem is: We have voted into power the stupidest bunch of thieves. They are such losers that they can’t steal a hamburger without leaving ketchup stains all over. Yet they are constantly trying to pull off the biggest scams in history. From Rs 64 crore in Bofors, they have upped the ante to Rs 1,70,0000 crore in 2G and no, I am not including hundreds of aircraft Air India bought while sinking into bankruptcy and preposterous sums spent on arms deals that have made India the world’s second largest arms buyer when we can’t provide food and healthcare to 60% Indians. Our leaders are making deals on the sly with greedy builders, land sharks, illegal mining companies, corporate fixers, shady arms dealers and, O yes, US diplomats who want to manipulate our political choices. And, what’s more amazing, they do it like bungling idiots. Even Inspector Clouseau can outwit them. But that doesn’t mean they are not malevolent. These are people who are destroying India from within. They are not just robbing you, me, and the exchequer. They are destroying institutions, subverting laws, vandalising our heritage and history, and trying to build a dazzling, amoral edifice of crime and corruption unprecedented in the nation’s history.
It’s a scary scenario that could turn the land of the Mahatma into one gigantic Gotham City with a flyover to hell. But my question is more basic: Can we trust these idiots to run this great nation?

If you travel and meet people across India, you will realise that for every scam that breaks—and currently there’s one breaking every week—there are ten more waiting in line. The media has never had it so good! And it’s the same gang whose names keep coming up. Kalmadi, Satish Sharma, Sant Chatwal, Ashok Chavan. The NCP lot. The DMK. And everyone, in private, is protesting his own innocence, pointing fingers at someone else. It’s a sure sign of a collapsing regime. It’s what happened when Rajiv with a staggering majority in parliament lost his mandate to govern. Rats alone don’t leap off a sinking ship. So do everyone else. So even though Singh, like Pontius Pilate, may wash his hands off every scam that hits the headlines, the fact is: The longer this Government stays, the more compromised the Congress will be, and the less capable of coming back to power.
You can’t allow the sovereignty of a nation to be compromised just to win a confidence vote. You can’t bribe MPs to get your way in parliament. You can’t allow a shady hotelier, with CBI cases against him, to play roving diplomat and, worse, give him a Padma Bhushan for it. You can’t appoint a tainted bureaucrat as the nation’s CVC. You can’t file a FIR against a corrupt CM and then allow him to melt away. You can’t let the prime witness to the nation’s biggest scam, who offered to turn approver, be murdered in broad daylight and pretend it’s a suicide. If this is the best this Government can do, it’s time to step down.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Perfect Murders

Prakash Katoch

Media hysteria about army causing wasteful expenditure of rupees 100 crores needs analysis. If an Army Chief’s top secret letter to the Prime Minister can be leaked to the media, what is so great about an “internal audit” of Ministry of Defence (MoD) being leaked? No holy cow will take responsibility for the leak and any probe is out of the question. How do you probe deliberate leaks? Then there are the ‘army coup’ story types who willingly stoop to any low despite revelation of properties 20 times the known source of income and rapid rise to abnormal affluence. Flooding the media accusing Army Commander’s negligent decisions and attributing this so called “wasteful expenditure” to two Army Chief's including the present one without inquiry is hardly surprising.  It is good to keep the armed forces under pressure and periodically show them in bad light. Keeps the ISI smiling also especially if they don’t have to pay, or do they also?
Most interesting was the recent TV debate featuring a former Army Commander and a former CAG, besides others. The main issue was purchase of bullet proof jackets for troops fighting terrorists in Kashmir. The latter repeatedly harped on why “procedurally” these bullet proof jackets should not have been purchased. Finally, the former Army Commander asked him if any other indigenous bullet proof jacket was available in the country that be purchased. Our man was dumbfounded but the anchor instantly intervened saying there was no time for further discussion (as if the reply would need eternity), adding he would call them next day to continue the debate, which he never did. What the former Army Commander implied was simply this – am I supposed to get my soldiers shot by terrorists while you “procedurally” sort out how to permit purchase of bullet proof jackets and patkas? Northern and Eastern Army Commanders have enhanced financial powers, with due government sanction for maintaining operational preparedness and saving lives notwithstanding bureaucratic jealousy and the urge for centralized control at any cost.
At Command levels, institutionalized process exists for taking such decisions for emergent purchases. The Integrated Financial Authority (MoD representative) is part of it and undertakes stringent pre-audit. Discretionary financial powers are provided for situations where time is of essence; normal procedure too lengthy to meet emergent needs. Should emergent procurements then be subjected to same procedural requirements?  Have we forgotten what bureaucratic red tape did to troops in Siachen? Till quite recently, the procedure followed was annual provisioning review for procuring special clothing, which commenced on first April only and had no provision for maintaining reserves. Special clothing invariably arrived late (sometimes in October) after winters fully set in. Crucial items like special socks kept lying at Delhi for want of DGQA (Directorate General of Quality Assurance – directly under MoD) clearance while troops got frost bitten and lost limbs. It is irrelevant whether delays were to extract the pound of flesh by DGQA or technical.
Who is accountable for these delays while soldiers are maimed for life or shot/killed without protective gear? Aren’t these perfect murders - read culprits perfect murderers who don’t get nailed? In 1999, an Army Division occupied posts in Kargil Sector, some as high and as cold as Siachen but special clothing was authorized to some 5000 troops of this formation only in 2005 and that too only two-third of projected demand. Who is accountable for frost bitten cases from 1999 to 2005 in Kargil Sector? Our armchair warriors in ministries couldn’t care less for lives of our soldiers; military, para-military forces, central armed police forces and police. The MoD in any case is a conglomerate of generalists, sans domain knowledge, some of whom were forced to visit Siachen when George Fernandez was Defence Minister. Ironically, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (President of India) too has been sidelined through Machiavellian manipulation of ‘The Transaction of Business Rules, 1961’. Even dismissal/ appointment of Service Chiefs are not referred to the Supreme Commander any more. The Committee of Secretaries rules the roost subjugating all ministries including MoD.
The Supreme Commanders watch silently while military veterans return their medals and gallantry awards with petitions inked in their own blood or when government fools the nation with announcements like “Financial Bonanza for Veterans – Government Sanctions OROP”; a blatant lie and a cruel joke on the military. Even the belated correction of basic pay done by the Cabinet Secretary chaired Committee has not been followed up through a government notification despite several weeks having elapsed. Arrears on account of rank pay authorized since 1986 are being given from 2006 only and individual officers made responsible to produce all the documents. Who ate up the lakhs/crores of rupees spent on computerization of entire CDA? But, the million dollar question this nation needs to ask is can the soldiers be allowed to be murdered and maimed behind the cover of red tape? Isn’t time more than overdue to affix bureaucratic accountability?
The author is a former Special Forces Lieutenant General of Indian Army

Friday, November 09, 2012

‘Siachen Track II Forum’ on a Treacherous Trek

Karan Kharb

Peace and good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan or between India and China are very much needed and would be any day a welcome scenario. Sadly, these relations have been far from peaceful or good neighbourly with a history of more blood flow than trade and trust across borders. India’s initiatives for Peace and friendship with Pakistan have almost always been betrayed even while Agreements were being drafted or formally signed. Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif were celebrating peace at Lahore when the Pak Army was busy infiltrating to capture Kargil and cut off Siachen. Peace parleys for confidence building measures were going on between the two countries when Mumbai 26/11 was sprung under the aegis of Pakistan Army/ISI. Yet, peoples on both sides of the border need and deserve peace and there is ample scope for cooperation to benefit from each other in numerous fields. 
But peace cannot be begged.  To be lasting, it has to be negotiated from a position of strength, honour, dignity and abiding mutual trust. Therefore, the quality and duration of peace should logically be dependent on the discretion of the more powerful of the two. Having suffered several defeats and dismemberment at India’s hands, Pakistan should seek peace more eagerly than India.  Ironically and illogically, however, it is India that has been always at the receiving end while Pakistan has been getting away with her audacious mischiefs, outright anti-India tirade and perpetrating attacks deep inside India through proxy squads of terrorists trained, equipped and financed under a well organised military system.  At last count, over 42  training academies – more mildly called ‘Camps’ – are currently running in Pakistan and POK even when, in a grotesque development, some of India’s very own revered strategists including a former Air Force Chief have been easily convinced by their Pakistani counterparts to coax the Indian Army to depart from Siachen as a step towards peace. Called ‘Track II Forum’, they are a group of retired military brass from Pakistan and India seeking ‘demilitarisation’ of Siachen Glacier, world’s highest battlefield, dominantly held by Indian troops since 1984. Ever since, the Pakistan Army has tried to dislodge the Indian troops and capture Siachen but in vain.
Or is it the other way round? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was once quoted in India Today (May 14, 2012) thus: "Siachen is called the highest battlefield, where living is very difficult. Now the time has come that we make efforts that this is converted from a point of conflict to the symbol of peace." The report went on, “Sources in the Government say the Prime Minister has endorsed the Siachen talks on demilitarisation. For him, they say, the world's highest battlefield - and a snow-capped symbol of Indian Army's enduring sacrifice-comes without the baggage of Jammu and Kashmir and forward movement (read demilitarisation) would mean creating the right atmosphere for talks derailed by the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Demilitarisation is his CBM (confidence building measure) offer to Pakistan.” The Indian Military viewpoint has always been unambiguous and steadfastly against any ‘demilitarisation’ of Siachen. The Government, in all fairness, must respect and accept this professional opinion from country’s Military Authorities responsible to defend these borders rather than yielding to pressure or blackmail from invisible quarters. 
What is perplexing is that the proposal to demilitarise Siachen is said to have germinated in secretive parleys among some very senior military veterans – Indians and Pakistanis – organised as ‘Track II Forum’ under the aegis of ‘Atlantic Council of Ottawa’ and ‘Atlantic Council of US’ (latter headed by Shuja Nawaz – a close confidant of Gen Kiyani) at exotic locales in the world. The Forum flaunting themselves as angels of Peace, promise to replace animosities and age-old trust deficit between India and Pakistan with peace, friendship and cooperation. ‘Demilitarisation’, a euphemism for ‘withdrawal’ or ‘abandonment’ of Siachen by India, is the first step they have proposed while remaining quiet on far more serious issues affecting daily life of millions of people on both sides of the border.
Siachen at an altitude of 22000 ft has nothing to sustain life. All it has is scarce oxygen, chilly winds, icy gorges, debilitating fog, sleet, snow and temperature sinking to minus 50 degree Celsius. No birds fly there, no plants grow, no flowing streams – only frozen glaciers, no life whatsoever! Yet, the gallant Indian soldiers stand here to keep vigil throughout the glacial expanse in sheer defiance to nature and enemy. Even in these adversities, Indian troops holding these dominating heights enjoy a tactical advantage which renders it impossible for the Pakistan Army to wrest control of ‘key terrain features’ in this area by fighting. But Indian occupation of these features denies Pakistan Army the freedom to encroach into Indian territory and stake claims subsequently as is evident by Pakistan’s persistence on delineating the LC from NJ 9842 to Karakoram Pass.  The Track II ‘demilitarisation’ proposal, therefore, is Pakistan Army’s silent attack by other nobler looking means to capture strategically important objective in the region. If this were not so, why are they ignoring to address a host of other higher priority issues hampering normalisation process? Siachen being a desolate uninhabitable tract has no bearing on trade, industry, transport or any other human activity to affect life in Pakistan. Why then is it given such a prominence for normalising relations between the two nations?  Since early 2004, even the opposing forces of the two countries have remained largely quiet in this region. Why should a quiet, tranquil Siachen be a cause of anxiety to Pakistan at this stage? Far from being an innocuous peace drive, the move is loaded with Pakistan’s strategic move to unhinge and upturn Indian defences in the region without military manoeuvre.
The vital strategic significance of Siachen is further heightened when viewed in relation to the LC that should justifiably run north from NJ 9842 to the vicinity of the Wakhan Corridor, the western extremity of the original State of J&K ceded to India by the Maharaja genuinely and legally, as also the proximity of Shaksgam Valley illegally ceded by Pakistan to China.  
Also, it is the strategic value of these dominating heights that stand between a Pak-China link-up.  There are rumours that part of upper Gilgit-Baltistan has been leased by Pakistan to China for a period of 50 years.  Presence of Chinese troops and labour in the Baltik  region lend substance to these inputs.  Imagine a geography that would conjoin Xingjiang, Shaksgam, POK (Baltistan), Aksai Chin and Tibet while Siachen is left bereft of Indian troops. If and when that happens, it would be tantamount to ceding areas north of Khardung La range to Pakistan putting life in the Nubra and Shyok Valleys at their mercy and opening floodgates for unhindered infiltration into Ladakh. Indian positions in Ladakh, Leh and Kargil would also be under serious jeopardy. Siachen in its present state stands formidably to deny Pakistan and China such strategic advantages besides asserting India’s sovereign authority over her territory in the region where border, LC or AGPL is yet to be authenticated.
If they were indeed promoting peace and friendship between India and Pakistan, there were other urgencies and priorities that should have caught the attention of Track II Forum.  Siachen is not harming Pakistan in any way yet, whereas the terrorist training camps in Pakistan have been bleeding India. The Forum is strangely quiet on this issue. Why are they also not asking Pakistan to expatriate the terrorists and criminals wanted for their crimes in India and now roaming about freely and honourably in Pakistan? Why are they not seeking an undertaking from the Pakistani authorities to stop anti-India tirade at international forums?
If ‘demilitarisation’ of Siachen were logical and prudent in the Track II reckoning, there would be no logic or prudence for India to hold geographical features anywhere along the Line of Control by the same reckoning. With in-house calls for withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Jammu & Kashmir already gaining eloquence, it is not impossible to foresee that vacating Siachen would ultimately trigger a demand for the Indian Army to ‘demilitarise’ J&K.  By that corollary China would perhaps be the first to seek ‘demilitarisation’ of Arunachal Pradesh. It seems Track II Forum has big future and can plan their exotic jaunts in style!
Some Indian delegates in the Track II Forum are ducking questions and, bereft of argument, some of them brazenly conclude saying, “Siachen demil……… it is my personal opinion? You may agree or disagree with it but in my retired capacity, I am free to express whatever I feel!” That is sad and grossly wrongly held notion. Agreed that retirement frees you from the rules and norms that restricted your ‘free and frank’ expression, but the position you held before demitting office has given you an identity and status that conveys credibility and influences public opinion. Personal opinions of personalities who become publicly recognisable should not be loosely tossed around under the plea of one’s fundamental rights. Even on retirement, military leaders cannot relinquish in life their commitment to ‘the safety, honour and welfare’ of their country and violation of this Chetwodian virtue should be viewed most seriously. The Track II proposal to ‘demilitarise’ (which actually means abandoning) Siachen is not only wrong but a treacherous proposal that smacks of some conspiracy hatched to inflict significant damage through apparently innocuous means and cunning machinations.     
Ideally, entire Indo-Pak border and Line of Control/Actual Ground Position Line should be demilitarised. Maybe one day it will happen too.  Perhaps by now both the countries would have achieved such good neighbourliness only if Pakistan had not betrayed India’s trust every time we moved closer to peace and friendship. Given the history of frequent betrayals, infiltration, cross border terrorism and Kargil, India would vacate Siachen at her own peril. Pakistan cannot afford to evict the Indian Army from its dominating positions at the Earth’s highest battlefield militarily.  Track II strategy therefore is a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan co-opting Indian veterans and journalists under the aegis of so-called Atlantic Council of Ottawa to make their sinister scheme appear transparent, non-partisan and credible to evict Indian troops from Siachen which Pakistan needs desperately but cannot snatch it from India by force. An Army that is used to planning and executing coups to topple governments seems to have also perfected yet another art of launching quiet warfare in the garb of cool diplomacy to evict the Indian Army from its defences! It is therefore highly expedient for the India Army to consider and include such unconventional machinations and ‘diplomatic manoeuvrings’ as factors while planning war-games to be able to see beyond what looks apparent in our enemy's posturing.