SOLDIERS MUST VOTE FOR RIGHTS
Date: 15 Apr 2009
Soldiers must vote for rights
Ashok K Mehta in The Pioneer, April 15, 2009.
National security, which is rarely discussed in Parliament, has been trivialised at the hustings too — “You sent a Minister with terrorists to Kandahar while we sent commandos to Mumbai.” The debate is in the past tense and in negative.
Traditionally defence issues have arisen following military and operational mishaps and not as part of any institutionalised defence and security strategy formulation. Barring the 1971 military success over Pakistan which eventually became a case of battlefield victory turning into political defeat, the record is one of self-inflicted lapses. The premature acceptance in 1948 of a ceasefire in Jammu & Kashmir, the Himalayan blunder of 1962 exacerbated by the no-use of IAF, the strategic folly of returning Haji Pir Pass and Point 13620 in Kargil to Pakistan in 1965, the mindless storming of the Golden Temple in 1984 and even the ill-managed expeditionary force to Sri Lanka in 1987 will all figure in the hall of foul-ups.
Nineteen eighty-eight served as a turning point for externally-sponsored low intensity conflict becoming a proxy war. Nuclear tests on the sub-continent a decade later virtually sanitised the proxy war, encouraging Kandahar, Kargil and culminating in Parakram and Mumbai. No war has been fought since 1971 though border skirmishes and terror-related crises have become routine since the late-1980s. India, which has a high grade world’s fourth largest military, is unable to stop cross-border terrorism.
The British left us with sound political institutions and systems of governance. But strategic culture and military thought were not among them. For 50 of the 60 years after independence it was during Congress rule, unencumbered by coalition imperatives, that strategic mistakes were made. Ingrained in its leadership and psyche is a strong defensive and passive mentality that infected the military and locked it in an intellectual straitjacket. The economic reforms of the 1990s brought down the defence budget to below two per cent of GDP, emaciating defence preparedness. By the time of Kargil, Army Chief Gen VP Malik had to say: “We will fight with what we have.”
The BJP’s performance was a shade better given it arrived with the nuclear bang. Fortunately the after-Kargil report led to a hundred recommendations on defence reform though regrettably, few could be implemented — especially the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff. Although the BJP had a robust defence programme, ‘India Shining’ robbed it of another term to institutionalise them.
The worst hit is internal security. Maoists struck thrice in the last week killing 30 security personnel. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh periodically describes Maoists as the single biggest internal threat facing the country. The insurgency in Assam should have been quelled a decade ago once Operation Rhino and Operation Bajrang were launched in the early-1990s, but recent political meddling has undone the gains from Operation All Clear in Bhutan in 2003 that had rooting out ULFA as its objective. Widespread infiltration from Bangladesh, the Congress’s historical vote-bank, has created a grave security threat. This month’s bombing campaign in Assam is ULFA’s signal that it is fit, alive and kicking.
The unabated and unresponded spell of terrorist attacks mapping the country and culminating in Mumbai in the last four years has amazed security experts. The Government’s usual reaction has been: “Sorry. But we’re not soft on terror and will give a fitting reply.” The oldest victim of terror has had no counter-terrorism strategy to protect the people of this country. Mumbai and elections have finally forced the Congress to produce its counter-terror document which is Mission Number One and Pledge to Zero Tolerance to Terror. The accent is defensive and reactive, not punitive or preemptive. The BJP is saying it will send troops to Pakistan to stop terrorism. Only a comprehensive Homeland Security model can remove the deficiencies of internal insecurity.
National security strategy and defence and perspective plans gather dust since 2007. For the third time, the defence budget has dipped below two per cent of the GDP and Rs 17,000 crore on modernisation has returned to the Treasury over five years which has affected defence preparedness. The IAF has slumped from 39 to 32 squadrons, naval ship strength has declined by a third and the Army is deficient in aviation, artillery and counter-terrorism equipment. The military has lost its conventional edge over Pakistan, worst of all, in Jammu & Kashmir, the theatre of decision.
The Sixth Pay Commission was a good opportunity to raise the morale and image of the services, given the shortages in the officer corps. Civilian-bureaucratic stranglehold over adjudicating the status and salary of the fighting forces has led to massive resentment in the ranks. By the Service Chiefs blinking first after a maze of duplicitous committees to redress the anomalies, soldiers have lost to civilian and para-military counterparts — Lt Generals in higher administrative grade, Lt Colonels in pay and grade bands and sepoys in enhanced service weightage for pension. The Government has reasserted civilian bureaucratic control over the armed forces.
The one rank one pension issue has demonstrated through the ex-servicemen’s movement that the most obedient and disciplined force can also lose its cool. The Sixth Pay Commission has created four classes within a class: Pre-1966, post-1966 to December 2005, post-January 2006 to September 2008, and post- October 2008. Further, Major Generals are in court as their pension is less than Brigadiers, altogether leading to confusion worst confounded.
The ex-servicemen are likely to vote BJP, which has promised not only one rank, one pay but also income tax exempt pay for servicemen. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, who gave India under a Congress Government its first military victory in 1,000 years, was not conferred a Bharat Ratna. A country that does not care for the izzat and iqbal (respect and welfare) of the armed forces is harming their apolitical, secular and disciplined disposition.
In the military mind and public perception the BJP stands for making India militarily strong though the bigger challenge for a future Government is political will to employ usable military forces to deter and punish cross-border terrorism. National security, especially internal security must be depoliticised and governed by a national political consensus. Defence planning and strategic security culture must be taught to those who represent the people in Parliament. As the political class of India and the people remember its soldiers only during Kargil, Mumbai and tsunami, soldiers and ex-servicemen must vote for their rights.
INDIAN ARMED FORCES BETRAYED WHEN NEHRU AND GANDHI UNCONDITIONALLY SURRENDERED LAHORE IN 1947 WITHOUT A FIGHT.
INDIAN ARMY DEGRADED DUE TO VARIOUS BOGUS AND INCONCLUSIVE CEASE FIRES, ESPECIALLY IN KASHMIR.
INDIAN ARMY INSULTED WHEN FORCED TO SURRENDER TERRITORY CAPTURED BY THEM (EAST BENGAL) IN 1972.
INDIAN ARMY INSULTED AND DEGRADED DUE TO DOWNGRADING OF THEIR PRE-PARTITION STATUS AND PAY SCALES AND IN NUMEROUS OTHER WAYS.
THE CORRUPT NATIVE RULERS HAVE DONE EVERYTHING TO PLUNDER THE COUNTRY, SUPPRESS THE NATIVES, AND PRACTICE NEPOTISM AND CORRUPTION AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL THUS OFFERING EXTREME PROVOCATION TO THE ARMY TO ARREST THEM ALL AND HANG THEM TO DEATH IN ORDER TO USHER IN REAL RAM RAJYA.
LIKE THE NATION, THE INDIAN ARMY GENERALS ARE TIMID, AND TOO CONFUSED & DIVIDED AMONG THEMSELVES, TO SORT THINGS OUT EVEN FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR OFFICERS & JAWANS, LEAVE ASIDE THE COUNTRY.
THE CURRENT SLIDE DOWNHILL INTO MUSLIM APPEASEMENT, PERPETUAL ONE DYNASTY SWAY AND MORE CORRUPTION IS PUSHING THE COUNTRY INEVITABLY TOWARDS CIVIL WAR WHERE MUSLIMS WILL FIGHT FOR SUPREMACY WITH HINDU FACTOR ELIMINATED SINCE PARTITION IN 1947.