Archive for July, 2017

Checks n Balances and a Great Soldier …

Posted on July 31, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Personalities, Searching for Success |

Gen KM Bhimaya …

The founding fathers had carefully inserted this feature as a safeguard against the putative tyranny of one branch of the government over the other: the tyranny of the judicial branch over the legislative, for example.

This powerful feature has worked very effectively in the U.S. government for over 240 years. On some occasions, it has frustrated the President, and on others, it has infuriated the Congress. On reflection, however, it has helped moderate popular passion and judicial overreach.

The preceding paragraph is an over simplistic introduction of a basic feature that sometimes has had far reaching implications on the lives of the citizens and on the decision/law making processes of the government in power.

The “Checks and Balances” are exercised through the Presidential veto, the override of this veto, filibuster, amended bills to circumvent judicial interpretations, and so on.

The recent solitary negative vote by Senator John McCain (a former Presidential candidate) spelled the doom of the much-debated health care reform, that is, the plan that the Republicans crafted to repeal and replace the Obama care.

Three Republican senators crossed the aisle and voted against the bill that their party had curated diligently and assiduously. All of the dissenting senators proclaimed without hesitation that their loyalty was to their respective constituencies, not to the President.

Senator McCain’s vote was crucial in defeating the bill. Republicans had 52 senators and an additional casting vote of the Vice President in their favor. They could afford to lose two votes only. Eventually, they lost three, and with that, the bill.

Senator McCain is a war hero whose father and grand-father had been full Admirals in the U.S. Navy. He is the recipient of Distinguished Flying Cross, among others. He was a prisoner of war for over five years in Vietnam and had refused an offer of early repatriation with which his captors had tempted him for propaganda purposes.

Although diagnosed with brain cancer, he got a temporary discharge from the hospital to be able to participate in voting. He did not vote against this bill impulsively, but after consulting with the opposition, particularly with the Senate Minority leader.

In so doing, he saved medical coverage for millions of seniors with pre-existing conditions, and those who depended upon Medicaid for their survival.

PPS What about our Supreme Court”s Over Reach in the National Anthem Case as well as the Liquor Ban on Hotels near Highways?

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Xi JinPing – MANN KI BAAT …

Posted on July 30, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Searching for Success |

How do we Measure Up, Mr Modi?

BEIJING, July 30 (Xinhua) — The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will officially celebrate its 90th anniversary of founding on Tuesday in the midst of unprecedented reform.

Just several days ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a workshop of provincial and ministerial officials that military reform is historic, and he lauded breakthroughs and achievements in major fields.

Xi put forward the dream of building a strong army during an inspection of the armed forces in southern China in December 2012, less than a month after he assumed office as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission (CMC).

At a meeting with national lawmakers from the armed forces on March 11, 2013, Xi said that following the command of the Party, being capable of winning wars, and having a proper working style were fundamental to building a strong and modern force.

Following a series of inspections of military units and thorough studies, Xi further elaborated on the requirements of reforming the armed forces at a CMC meeting held from Nov. 24 to 26, 2015.

Taking into consideration the larger global picture as well as the profound and complicated changes occurring internationally, Xi called for greater wisdom and courage throughout national defense and military reform.

He also proposed a timetable, saying that key achievements in the reform must be made by 2020.

A series of major structural reforms have been made public since Dec. 31, 2015, following the establishment of the PLA Army general command, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force.

The following month, the four general departments — staff, politics, logistics and armaments — were reorganized into 15 agencies of the CMC, and five theater commands were initiated on Feb. 1, replacing the seven military area commands.

Theater commands focus on the study and command of wars and are essential parts of the joint operation command system, according to Yuan Yubai, commander of the the Southern Theater Command.

The reform is structured so that the CMC takes charge of the overall military administration, while theater commands focus on operations and different services on troop developments, said Cai Hongshuo, deputy head of the expert panel of the CMC’s leading group on reform.

Last December, Xi said the military’s structure had to be readjusted and optimized to adapt to rapid changes to the global military environment.
A key feature of the structural reform is downsized ground forces.

Army Commander Li Zuocheng said the reform has brought huge changes to the army service, including the installation of the army general command and major personnel cuts, with army troops currently accounting for less than 50 percent of the overall armed forces.

On April 18 this year, Xi had a group meeting with the leading officers of 84 reshuffled units at the corps level. Ten days later, Defense Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun announced that the CMC had decided to regroup the country’s army groups from the previous 18 to 13.

Yang said the regroup was a crucial step to building a strong and modernized new type of army and was important to shifting the focus of the PLA from quantity to quality and efficiency.

The reform also stresses the importance of regulating power within the military, demanding a strict system to supervise the use of power.
A new discipline inspection commission has been established within the CMC, and disciplinary inspectors have been sent to CMC departments and theater commands.

The CMC has built an audit office, and a political and legal affairs commission. Adjustments have also been made to improve the military judicial system.

Military education institutions were reshuffled. There are now 43 military education institutions, including two — the National Defense University of the PLA and the National University of Defense Technology — directly under the CMC, 35 specialized in specific armed services, and six armed police forces.

Integrated military and civilian development has also been upgraded to a national strategy to promote the coordinated development of national defense and the econom

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Chinese Expansionism …

Posted on July 21, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

Sanjay Kumar comments on an Article in CNN

Now that it is clear to everyone that Pakistan’s CPEC is not just a road infrastructure project, but a plan to propel Pakistan into a prosperous ‘Chinese province look alike’.

Indians get it wrong all the time. they are forever commenting on bits and pieces and never get the big picture of China’s global gaming.

The big picture is WORLD DOMINANCE and Pakistan will be the showpiece to sell to the world in terms of what you will get if you submit your allegiance to China.

This makes them a de-facto alternate to US, while hoping to make India look like a chaotic, infrastructure wise poor cousin to Pakistan……… or an example of , ‘this is how you will be if you don’t join us’ .

Whether its Artificial intelligence where China has left Indian behind in future IT, quantum mechanics, robots, capital markets, solar production, phones, bullet trains, TV’s, manufacturing, military hardware, securing raw material resources across the world by setting up a Infrastructure bank to finance developing world governments needs to build their country free from traditional western institutions, aimed to help the west dominate the world.

They have a grand vision and are going sector by sector. They have a vision and India has none. We are not able to manage our tiny neighbor’s trust like Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

India has become an irritant in China’s grand plan- not a threat in their minds. India is not a small country that you can flick off. But it’s a huge, chaotic , melodramatic , noisy irritant and maybe a pest that makes big noises on social and mass media – with jocular comments from corny journalists, random illiterates and even some politicians about confronting the Chinese.

In the Chinese mind we are not in the run for any greatness but just an irritant for them. But others could flock to them.

The Doklam standoff has to be seen in this light. It’s not just a simple issue of a strategic piece of barren land in a non essential part of China but something useful to keep India in a state of perpetual anxiety.

Something they can use to divide the Indian army deployment every time we become adventurous about their investments in a country called Pakistan. This has suddenly become a question of ‘Loss of Face’ in front of a world that has noticed the standoff and is waiting to see if this bully will pulverize the boy who had the courage to stand up.

The world will take its cue from what happens in the next few weeks . Those who wonder why China went so extremely shrill for a small piece of land for the first time, did not understand what is at stake here on a larger scale from the Chinese point of view. China has unknowingly, unwittingly and accidentally been propelled into a situation where there is a lot at stake in terms of the pride and big boy image they have cultivated across the world.

The article from CNN points to many executional flaws on various bits and pieces . But what it does not , which is the same as what many Indian commentators do not get is that the sum of the parts is always larger than the whole.

Yes its true that Sri Lanka and Myanmar are a bit upset with the toys they got from China, as it does not play as well as the shopkeeper said it would. Having said that , they are still aware that someone gave them toys to play while the other suitor promises a lot of brotherhood and are in the habit of going away without giving anything and have a tendency to unpredictable mood swings and random actions.

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Dokala in the 1990s …

Posted on July 20, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Searching for Success, Uncategorized |

Brig Jasbir Singh Bawa when Company Commander at Dokala Beg in early 1990s

There was a time when hostilities had not marred the pristine beauty of the landscape. With the recent month-long India-China impasse, the areas of Doklam plateau, Dokala, trijunction in east Sikkim and the Chicken’s neck-Siliguri corridor have been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Once upon a time there were in this area friendly Chinese patrols once every quarter or so. There was tension free peace that let you enjoy the sheer beauty of Dokala. It was the abode of an exceptionally happy family on the eastern-most tip of east Sikkim that descended sharply to the Jaldhaka wildlife sanctuary thence to the Siliguri corridor.

Dokala, the most beautiful area in all of east Sikkim, is a lush green meadow in sharp contrast to the surrounding countryside that is characterised by jagged, rocky ridge lines without a blade of grass for miles together.

Significantly lower in altitude than the Batang la/Nathula ridge line, Dokala is approximately a two-km-long pass with a width varying from 150 to about 400 m.

We were deployed at its north-western base. The meadow is green except during the four winter months. Almost through the year, the green turf of the meadow is interspersed with clumps of wild flowers – wild blue poppy, small rhododendrons and numerous tubulars add to the kaleidoscope of daisies in white, yellow, shades of red and blue.

I have enjoyed many a walk with my trusted buddy and radio operator on the soft surface of Dokala, on our way up and down the formidable Gamochin Peak which dominates the pass from the South.

Gamochin, a huge rocky feature, towers over the neighbouring heights and Dokala. The climb to Gamochin is a sheer wall and can only be negotiated by fixed rope — a challenge even for seasoned climbers. Troops deployed on the feature would welcome us with hot pakoras to be downed with a drink of warm jam water and glucose. As you regain your breath after the gruelling climb, the reality of scaling an impossible-looking massif sinks in.

The view from its top is mesmerising. On a clear day you could catch the Kanchenjunga in all its glory – with just a speck of cloud covering the summit. Come winter and the ascent on snow and ice walls gets tougher. Coming down is sheer ecstasy thanks to the innovative snow sledges that the boys would make.

The Company Commander’s hut at Dokala is designed to host senior visiting officers – should they get stuck due to the weather. It has huge perplex glass windows on three sides, with a breathtaking view of the mother of all Himalayan peaks – the Kanchenjunga.

At day break on clear winter mornings would be the crimson glow that drapes the eastern slope of this Mountain – a sight transports you to another world. The colours gradually change from a riveting deep crimson to orange to golden yellow, seamlessly meshing into each other as dawn gives way to a fresh bright day.

The full moon nights at Dokala were also special. The Kanchenjunga would look more glorious while the snowy shine of the majestic Gamochin would be complemented by a seemingly endless silver sheen on Dokala.

Many such sights were enjoyed around a bonfire – memories of which refuse to fade. We would send a routine patrol to the trijunction then down to the Jaldhaka, circuit the base of our deployment, eventually emerging at the northern entrance of Dokala.

This meant climbing about 1,000 feet from the post, going down a steep descent of about 4,000 feet and again climbing up to 11,500 ft or so and getting back to Dokala. The distance covered approx 15 kilometre. The bulk of the area fell within the Jaldhaka wildlife sanctuary.

In keeping with a compulsive tribal trait, a large number of animal traps were set up by us in this area before it was declared a sanctuary. There would always be a rush of volunteers for this tri-weekly patrol and understandably so — the boys would reap the fruits of their labour returning with plenty of small game caught in the traps.

These patrols would generally get back in the late afternoon to a hero’s welcome, particularly so on Saturdays for that meant a big bonfire, generous drinking and endless kahanis, singing and a guitar and makeshift degchi drums. All followed by a feast.

Of course all the while we were driven on training, keeping watch, patrolling and negotiating tough climbs to fetch stores and rations throughout the week.

Those were the days.

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Loving Tribute to a Soldier by a Lover of Soldiering …

Posted on July 20, 2017. Filed under: Pakistan, Uncategorized |

Brigadier Jafar Khan (18 August 1939 – 11 May 2017) – Hamid Hussain

Brigadier Jafar Khan passed away in May 2017. Jafar belonged to a family with long association with the army. His grandfather was Khan Bahadur Risaldar Major Malik Muhammad Gulsher Khan Gheba. Born in 1860, young Gulsher was an expert horseman. In 1880, he rode into Mardan with his horse and servant to join legendary Guides (then a mixed regiment of cavalry & infantry).

As far as regimental pride and reputation was concerned Guides was ‘it’. Eager young Pathan, Punjabi Muslim, Sikhs, Afghan, Gurkha and even men from Persia and Turkistan showed up at Guides headquarters in Mardan. Discipline was not maintained by regulations but a simple threat of being discharged from Guides was shameful enough for any man to show slackness. Guides were never short of funds and raised money from willing recruits. Some were willing to pay the princely sum of 300 rupees to join the regiment. At any given time, as many as thirty would be recruits attached themselves with Guides without pay and bringing their own horse and servant. They accompanied the regiment in the battle with the hope that if a man became casualty they would be enlisted on the spot.

This was the Guides that Gulsher joined. After eleven years of service with the regiment, he retired in 1891 at the rank of Daffadar. This short service was norm for some young men of landed aristocracy as they went back to administer their agricultural lands. His close friend and regimental buddy was Malik Muzzafar Khan Tiwana of Shahpur. Muzzafar retired as Jamadar of Guides. Gulsher accompanied his friend to Shahpur to manage the land. Muzzafar recommended Gulsher to British authorities when a remount depot was established at Sargodha. Gulsher was recalled and appointed Viceroy Commissioned Officer (VCO) Risaldar of the depot. He remained at the depot as Chief Native Officer until his death.

Gulsher was an expert horseman and given the title of “Shahsawar-e-Hind” (Horseman of India). He attended coronation Durbar in Delhi on 09 December 1911. A young English woman Ethel Grace Smith; wife of Sergeant Major Fred Killburn of 2nd Regiment Royal Artillery was in the audience at Delhi Durbar. She remembered the ‘tattoo’ in the evening and it was a scene from a fairy tale. A handsome Indian on his horse appeared against the night sky. Gulsher riding his favorite mare ‘Gul-e-Mahboob’ climbed about hundred stairs lit by lamps on both sides of the main platform and then climbed down with the same grace. The man and the horse performed like a symphony to a dazzled audience and this was Gulsher at his best. Little did she know that her family will be linked with the family of this Indian? Ethel’s grand-daughter Rosemary Young married grandson of Gulsher; Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan in 1955. Gulsher died suddenly from possibly a brain hemorrhage in 1913 at the age of fifty three.

Gulsher named his son Malik Muzzafar Khan Gheba (1901-1989) after his close friend. On the recommendation of another Tiwana stalwart Malik Omar Hayat Khan, Muzzafar was appointed Jamadar of Remount, Veterinary & Farm Corps (RVF&C). In 1941, he was commissioned as an officer and retired in 1956 at the rank of Captain. He was recalled during 1965 war and promoted Major. Muzzafar’s three sons joined army and all were PIFFERS. Brigadier Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan was from 8 Frontier Force Regiment (8 FF), Colonel Muhammad Mumtaz Khan was from 5 FF and Jafar joined his grandfather’s regiment Guides Cavalry.

Jafar was educated at Lawrence College at Ghora Gali (Peak House 1949-57). College’s alumni are known as Gallians. He joined 21st Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) course and commissioned on 23 April 1960. He excelled at PMA and passed out on top of merit list winning coveted sword of honor.

He joined his grandfather’s legendary Guides Cavalry. Later, he was appointed Adjutant of President’s Body Guards (PBG) in 1964 and he proceeded to command PBG in 1967-68. He reverted back to his regiment in 1968 and attended 1970 staff college course at Quetta. In 1971, he was appointed Brigade Major (BM) of Dacca based 57th Infantry Brigade commanded by Brigadier (later Lieutenant General) Muhammad Jahanzeb “Bobby” Arbab.

Jafar was with his brigade commander Bobby Arbab on 20 March 1971 when 2nd East Bengal Regiment refused to open fire on the crowd blocking the railway crossing at Joydevpur. They fired 62 rounds over the heads of the mob and managed to clear the obstacle without killing anybody. However Brigadier Arbab took their action of refusing to fire into the civilian crowd as “disobedience of lawful command” on their part, the CO 2 East Bengal was removed two/three days later. After the fall of East Pakistan, Jafar was Prisoner of War (POW) in India. Jafar’s brother Sarfaraz after command of 31st Punjab in Sylhet was commanding a Mujahid battalion in East Pakistan theatre and also became POW. To my knowledge, this is the only case of two real brothers who became POWs in 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.

Jafar was repatriated in 1973 and he raised 52nd Cavalry in Kharian. He commanded his parent Guides Cavalry in Quetta. In 1977, he was appointed Directing Staff (DS) at Staff College Quetta. In 1979, he was promoted Brigadier and appointed Chief Instructor at Staff College. In 1980, he briefly commanded 2nd Independent Armored Brigade at Malir before proceeding to Royal College for Defence Studies (RCDS) course in London. On his return, he commanded 5th Armored Brigade based in Multan. After he was superseded, he served at Personnel and Administration (PA) directorate and then appointed instructor at National Defense College (NDC); now National Defense University (NDU). He retired on 17 August 1992 after thirty two years of distinguished career in the army.

It is not the rank but personality of an officer that is remembered long after they fade away.

Jafar performed very well at RCDS course and came back with the report that ‘an officer destined for highest ranks in Pakistan army’. This was not to be and there were several factors responsible for it. Old regiments have many godfathers and senior officers of the regiment have a major say in appointments and promotions. Command of an old regiment is a very difficult task. If Commanding Officer (CO) is too strict or refuse favors, he is labeled as a ‘difficult’ person and if he is lenient, he is accused by rival regiments for favoring regimental buddies and succumbing to the regimental ‘bhai bandi’ (regimental brotherhood).

Jafar’s command of Guides Cavalry was not an easy one. Officers who have family connection with the regiment are known as ‘claimants’. Jafar himself had a claim on the regiment but there were several ‘claimants’ serving under him. Lieutenant General Fazl-e-Haq ‘Fazli’ was a close friend and confidant of General Zia ul Haq. Jafar had served under Fazli in Guides as well as PBG. Both were very strong headed personalities and relationship was not always smooth. Sons of several former officers of Guides including Colonel ® Pir Abdullah Shah (ex 14th Scinde Horse, Colonel ® Muhammad Umar Khan, Colonel Abbas Durrani and Major General ® Jahanzeb Khan had followed their fathers to Guides. Jafar commanded the regiment without any favor or prejudice.

He was also a strict disciplinarian and this may have resulted in some friction. When Jafar came back from London with an excellent report, General Zia ul Haq told some people that he would like to meet Jafar but a formal official invitation was not sent. Jafar was encouraged by his friends and family members to contact Chief’s office but he refused. He said that the invitation for the meeting has not come from General Head Quarters (GHQ) therefore he will not seek it.

It was also communicated to him that he was being considered for the Military Secretary (MS) to the President position but he informed that he was not interested in the post. The final straw was his relationship with his GOC Major General (later Lieutenant General) Raja Saroop Khan when he was commanding 5th Armored Brigade in Multan. Saroop gave him a very weak Annual Confidential Report (ACR) and Corps Commander Lieutenant General (later General) Rahimuddin Khan concurred with it.

In 1968, Jafar married daughter of Major General Shahid Hamid (ex 3rd Cavalry & RIASC) resulting in linking of two military families. Jafar was a horse lover and inherited this love for horses from his grandfather. He was great polo player and after retirement retreated to his sanctuary; a farm house named ‘spurs’. He enjoyed his sunset years surrounded by his loved ones and soothing is soul with poetry, bird watching and above all the company of his horses.

Brigadier Jafar was a fine officer and a gentleman. He is remembered with fond memories by many who came in contact with him in professional and personal life. Major General Charles Vyvyan of British army who attended National Defence College (NDC) where Jafar was his instructor had these words for him, “We were in awe of him at NDC – of his unprecedented range of personal qualities and professional abilities, of his huge reserves of moral courage and physical stamina, of his intellectual curiosity, of his integrity, and of his humanity which few could match. There was a craze amongst the younger generation at the end of the last century, to wear bracelets with ‘WWJD’ engraved on them: ‘what would Jesus do’. To me, it always asked ‘what would Jafar do’ – for me, Jafar was someone who’s wisdom, whose advice and guidance, and whose generosity was always a lone star!”

The author of the history of the Guides wrote about the shrine of Guides in Mardan ‘a little kingdom barely a mile square, but full of happy associations for all who have lived there. It is a quiet, unassuming spot, which year by year has bred, and sent forth to fight, many a gallant officer and brave soldier; and which in future years hopes to keep bright the shining record of great deeds that have gone before’. Jafar was a link in that chain. Jafar has now joined his fellow PIFFERS gone before him and I’m sure he is happy in the company of officers, VCOs/JCOs and Other Ranks (ORs) reminiscing about the deeds of valor done over one hundred and sixty years history of the regiment.

Old Soldiers Never Die – They just Fade Away


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US – China Trade Talks fizzle …

Posted on July 19, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

Google News –

U.S. officials led by Jared Kushner, fell short of securing ambitious gains in trade with China in a meeting Wednesday and news conferences planned to cap off the event were canceled as the two countries wrapped up 100 days of trade talks.

The United States unsuccessfully pressed China to make a substantial commitment to cut its steel production, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions. U.S. officials also asked China to do more to reduce its trade surplus with the United States and open its market for agriculture, financial services and data flows, the people said.

In a terse statement released after the talks, the Treasury Department said that China had “acknowledged our shared objective to reduce the trade deficit which both sides will work cooperatively to achieve.” It also pointed to earlier-announced agreements on issues including credit ratings, electronic payments, liquefied natural gas and American beef.

The Treasury and Commerce departments did not provide further comment, while the Chinese Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

One of the few bright spots of the session was that, when Ross pressed the Chinese, they acknowledged the need to reduce the U.S. trade deficit and declared it to be a mutual goal, said an administration source familiar with the negotiations, who spoke anonymously to candidly discuss them.

The Trump administration is considering imposing tariffs or other restrictions on imports of steel and aluminum, on the grounds that China has unfairly flooded the global market with these commodities and made U.S. producers unable to compete. Analysts say the tariffs could come within days.

In a closed-door meeting with the Senate Finance Committee last week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the administration hoped that the threat of harsh action would bring other countries to the negotiating table, according to people who attended the meeting.

In a stern speech that kicked off Wednesday’s talks, Ross pointed out that China accounts for nearly half of the U.S. trade deficit in goods and called for rebalancing the relationship.

“As President Trump has made clear at Mar-a-Lago, the fundamental asymmetry in our trade relationship and market access must be addressed. We must create more balance in our trade by increasing exports of made-in-America goods to China,” Ross said.

At a nearby event highlighting products made in America — the theme the White House had chosen for the week —President Trump pledged to “crack down on foreign countries that cheat.”

“They take our intellectual property like we are a bunch of babies, but no longer,” Trump said of foreign manufacturers.

Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University who focuses on China, said domestic politicaldynamics on both sides of the relationship are driving conflict. The Trump administration is eager to check off policy goals at home after delays in implementing its tax and health-care overhaul, while the Chinese are heading into important political meetings this fall where new leaders will be appointed and do not want to appear weak.

“It looks like the U.S.-China relationship is again entering a rough patch,” Prasad said. “Neither of them can appear to be too soft with the other.”

Trump was initially warm with China’s leaders, praising President Xi Jinping after a meeting at Mar-a-Lago in April where the two countries launched a 100-day action plan to improve trade relations.

In May, the administration cheered initial progress under the talks, as China received its first shipment of beef in 14 years and pledged to begin the purchase of U.S. liquefied natural gas and open its financial-services sector to U.S. companies.

But in June, Trump’s tone turned more critical, as China failed to provide the assistance he wanted in combating the nuclear threat from North Korea.

“Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” Trump tweeted.

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Defence Minister Needed …

Posted on July 18, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

From the Wire -By Sudhansu Mohanty who worked as Controller General of Defence Accounts and then as Financial Adviser, Defence Services before retiring on May 31, 2016.

Amongst India’s ministries, defence, finance, home and external affairs occupy a particularly special place. They are housed in the imperial and imposing North and South Blocks – finance and home in the North and defence and external affairs, along with the all-powerful PMO, in the South.

The state of these ministries – in particular defence – are an indicator of how well the nation is being served and consequently exude the state of India’s overall wellness.

Sadly, of the 38 months that the present government has been in power, it has been without a full-time raksha mantri (defence minister) for close to ten months – more than 25% of its tenancy. Surreal, but that’s how it has been. The government started its innings without a full-time defence minister in May 2014. The finance minister at the time held the additional charge for the first five-and-a-half months, and now continues to hold charge for more than four months since March. The clock keeps ticking and is likely to tick some more.

Changing face of Indian defence establishment

This is rather unfortunate. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is among the larger ministries of the Indian government, both in terms of manpower and budgetary outlay. Historically, it goes back to the military department of the East India Company at Kolkata created in 1776. Through the Charter Act of 1833 to the unification of Bengal, Bombay and Madras presidencies in 1895, to creation of two separate departments (army department and military supply department) in 1906 and to the subsequent merging of the two into one army department in 1909, the face of the Indian defence establishment has changed over time.

The army department was rechristened as the defence department in 1938 and became the MoD in August 1947, with each service placed under its own commander-in-chief, topped by a cabinet minister. Sardar Baldev Singh was the first defence minister of independent India. The government of India is responsible for ensuring the defence of India through the cabinet. The defence minister heads the defence ministry; and the president is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

This is one ministry that is truly gargantuan in size, literally and metaphorically sprawled across the country’s territorial soil, air and water. It is responsible for framing government policy on defence and security issues for effective implementation of these programmes by the services headquarters, inter-service organisations, production units and defence research within the allocated budgetary outlay.

Scope of defence ministry

The sheer range of responsibility can be appreciated from the fact that the integrated defence staff, the three services (of more than 1.5 million strong) and various inter-service organisations, the defence budget (FY 2017-18: Rs 3.6 lakh crore), establishment matters, defence policy, defence co-operation with foreign countries, defence production activities of ordnance factories and defence PSUs come within the ministry’s mandate, as do issues of welfare, resettlement and pension of ex-servicemen.

While the range of activities, impressive in its reach and spread is one thing, so too are its personnel. The civilian bureaucracy and the services headquarters (with their panoply of commanders, in the level of secretary) make this ministry singularly top-heavy.

Not just that. Truth be said, there is an unspoken but palpable undercurrent of difference in approach and perception between the civil and defence bureaucracy. Often the dialectics are resolved by the political master. These two, naturally, meet courtesy the raksha mantri.

There are many such areas in this brick-and-mortar ministry where the raksha mantri remains the lynchpin of all governmental actions and activities.

Ministry’s fund requirement

On budget, setting aside committed expenditure on salary, pension and maintenance of the forces and of the support departments/organisations, what essentially remains is the modernisation budget – the current fiscal year outlay of Rs 86,488 crore rupees. This is the area of high visibility, and loud debates, within the ministry and without. How futile and atmospheric the issue of outlay is can be gauged from a simple example of a roll-on plan.

The parliamentary standing committees have over the years, beginning April 2003, been impressing upon the defence ministry to set up a non-lapsable defence modernisation fund or a roll-on plan to take care of the inevitable fund lapse on capital acquisition at the end of every fiscal. Even the finance minister in the interim budget speech of 2004-05 went ahead and announced creation of the non-lapsable defence modernisation fund with a corpus of Rs 25,000 crore. Someone seemed to have wisened up and gotten real thereafter and the general budget of 2004-05 carried no provision for the same. Yet, committee after committee, year after year, has persisted to buzz with this bee in its bonnet. Last year in April 2016, when the parliamentary standing committee got too insanely persistent for inadequate funds on modernisation, I could hold myself no further. I explained that notwithstanding the general impression of paucity of funds available for modernisation, the truth is just the contrary: the MoD isn’t in a position to spend the funds allocated.

The revised estimate for 2015-16 had been reduced in the wake of non-materialisation of contract for Rafale aircrafts. This frankly wasn’t a new trend but the reality – the way it had panned out over the past many years. So where was the need to create a non-lapsable modernisation fund keeping a certain quantum of funds aside, especially when we resort to deficit budgeting and borrow some more at a far too higher rate to keep the roll-on plan going? But no, they persisted: the fund must be in place. I remember getting back and exasperatingly briefing former defence minister Manohar Parrikar about the whole raft of logic adduced to persevere with the idea. He smiled, exhaled a snort of laughter and said he rather expatiate on capital acquisition in the parliament. And he did in great detail the nuts and bolts and nuances of defence capital acquisition.

Interestingly – and this hasn’t been highlighted in the media for lack of appreciation for what it entails – shortly before Parrikar resigned and moved back to Goa, the financial powers of the raksha mantri were enhanced in February from Rs 500 crore to Rs 2000 crore for services capital annual acquisition plan proposals, and corresponding raise in the financial power of the finance minister from Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 3,000 crore. Contracts above Rs 3,000 crore are to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). On a personal note, I must confess I was stupefied that the proposal was agreed to by the ministry of finance before seeking cabinet approval when under the extant delegation more than 88% of cases of capital acquisition were within the MoD’s delegated power.

The reality is processing of cases in finance ministry had not only instilled greater diligence and discipline but also benefited the MoD in every which way of procurement. In my vision, I saw apparitions of the exacting standards diluted in seeking exemption from the purview of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) for such huge sums up to Rs 2000 crore on individual cases – more than the entire budget of most civil ministries.

The ministry of defence had always been rooting for higher powers on capital procurement – power that is untrammelled, and without scrutiny and due diligence of any external body like the MoF or the CCS. The rationale and refrain for such a dispensation was the due diligence exercised by MoD (finance), headed by a secretary-level financial advisor, as part of the integrated financial adviser system.

Acquisition proposals are but based on future cash liabilities, much beyond the current fiscal year’s sanctioned budget and often going into many future years. To suggest architecture without examination of an independent body as the MoF on financial issues or on the likely budgetary support is hard to commend. In the space department, while the Space Commission includes cabinet secretary, principal secretary to the prime minister and the expenditure secretary amongst others as members of the commission, it does not approve cases of capital nature beyond Rs 1,000 crore. Similar too in the Atomic Energy Commission, projects beyond Rs 1,000 crore are submitted to the CCS despite the member finance of the commission being a secretary-level officer like the financial adviser of defence services.

It also militates against the very basis of checks and balances that is the hallmark of an arm’s length system and is the bedrock for due diligence in cases of humongous expenditure from the consolidated fund of India, that is often fraught with the risk of abuse and the scandal of corruption. The quality and fidelity of processes ought to be the gold standard for expenditure from public funds rather than mere speed in according approval on unceasing operational demands drummed up unremittingly by the services; it may likely turn out to be worse than the disease it seeks to cure, and will be hard to reverse in future.

Again does it not also preempt cross-pollination and cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches from other sectors and lead to inbreeding of practices/processes in MoD, which doubtless will impact on openness and transparency? In effect, the onus today is greater than ever before on the defence minister on issues of capital acquisition.

Unfinished business

Another important concern, as onerous as the one before, is to see through the implementation of the Shekatkar committee’s recommendations that have been accepted by the government: reviewing training, administrative and logistics to optimise defence forces manpower and increase ‘teeth to tail’ ratio; suggesting “redeployment, repositioning and restructuring of manpower and resources” to improve combat capability; suggesting integration of civil infrastructure and resources into the logistic system of the defence forces in war and peace to “avoid duplication and reduce expenditure” and suggesting measures to “correct the bias of defence budget towards revenue expenditure”.

There are many suggestions that are implementable: optimal use and integration of manpower and resources by re-deploying ex-servicemen including retired officers and JCOs in various organisations; increased financial powers to all three service chiefs; restructuring and downsizing of ongoing expenditure by trimming the existing manpower and even closing down certain organisations under the MoD; a joint services war college running a one-year combined course for the three forces to impart jointness; creation of a tri-service intelligence training establishment and a four-star chief of defence staff as the chief single-point adviser to the defence minister on matters military, and generating saving of Rs 25,000 crore annually to fund modernisation.

No less significant is the strategic partnership issue – recently approved by the Union cabinet permitting domestic private companies to form joint ventures with foreign defence equipment manufacturers – on the defence minister’s table waiting to take shape and flight. If it pans out the way it is envisaged, it will open up the hugely lucrative defence industry business to Indian private sector and shoot up India’s self-reliance index in defence procurement. If carried through successfully and transparently, it’ll help whittling down MoD’s fund requirement.

But it’s a big “if” that stares MoD on its face, given that in the past, the ‘make’ and ‘buy and make (Indian)’ template hasn’t really taken off. Though the selection of strategic partnerships is initially confined to four segments – fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines and armoured fighting vehicles/main battle tanks – it has the potential to change the grammar and syntax of Indian as well as global defence equipment industry. But it requires pigeon eyes to discern deficits, plug weaknesses and close monitoring, to ensure that the trajectory’s path lain with countless imponderables is not shambolic.

That said, it would be apt to say that the MoD is on the cusp of a paradigm shift and inevitable action. One wonders how all these important issues are to be handled without a full-time defence minister. The MoD is far too big and complex a ministry to be managed part-time as an additional charge by another minister, no matter how competent and cerebral he is.

With all due regard to the criticisms and reservations articulated by defence experts and commentators on Parrikar’s efficacy as the defence minister, it must be granted that he tried cleaning up the Augean stables and triggered many moves that have fructified or will likely fructify in the foreseeable future. Effacing a legacy of complete inaction isn’t easy, and reinvigorating the sundry cogs is truly an unenviable task.

Today, we live in difficult times: heightened militancy in Kashmir, terrorism and infiltration from across the border, the much hyped and trumped-up “surgical strikes”, accusation of human rights violation in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir under AFSPA and “the General Dyer moment”. The services are a very proud organisation, very obsessed and finicky with their tradition and legacy that they value dearly, and wouldn’t like to forsake. Ironically, even wrong practices that hegemonised during colonial rule and should’ve been long discarded in independent India sadly continue to persist and haemorrhage. But that’s another story and for another day.

Conflict of interest

Yet, more than anything put out here, what’s troubling is that India’s finance minister is holding additional charge of defence. In effect, he who approves as administrative head accords concurrence of a higher order. For the finance minister to double up as the defence minister ex facie impugns the very concept of checks and balances, not to speak of the in-built institutional conflict of interest in according financial concurrence and according due diligence for the CCS. In fact, a 2006 finance ministry order invokes an arm’s length system in processing of cases and captures the essence of the principle of check and balance.

To wit, financial advisers will in no case be assigned any routine administrative functions of the ministry. It is pretty much an incongruity that the finance minister, whose mandate, as per the Allocation of Business Rules, is to appraise and approve plan investment/expenditure of central ministries/CPUs has been mandated to grant administrative and financial approval up to Rs 2,000 crore on capital acquisition qua defence minister, while at the same time he accords enhanced financial approval up to Rs 3000 crore qua finance minister.

And yet, 292 (167+125) out of a total of 1,148 days of the BJP government without a full-time raksha mantri – that is 25.43% of its time in power – isn’t surely what we Indians and the armed forces deserve as a nation.

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Children and Parents …

Posted on July 17, 2017. Filed under: Searching for Success |

Kahlil Gibran – “Your children are from you, but they are not yours.”

Perhaps the best dialogues between a Parent and a grown up Child is in the Sidney Poitier movie, ‘Guess who is coming for Dinner’ It covers both sides of the aisle.

Parents who forge strong, close bonds with their children but ‘LET GO’ when they have grown up are to be admired. As in everything every where, Change is the only Constant.

Parent-child relationship is not permanent and control gradually gives way to need for support.We must not let the child feel deprived or lacking in filial support when they were young. Neither should we let them feel stifled when are growing up.

The role of parents is a journey of love and wisdom! Not only in one’s role as parents, but also in life there are many moments that we need to learn to stand firm or to give way.

Very often some wonder why have children at all? Is it to carry on the family’s name, or is it insurance for old age? Actually it is a wonder and a joy one can not exchange for anything in the World!

Never seek perfection nor accept the unacceptable. As in everything a fine balance is needed. We should only ask for the chance to walk with the journey of life in this beautiful world!

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China – India; Eye Ball to Eye Ball …

Posted on July 16, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, From a Services Career, Searching for Success |

Maj Gen Ashok Mehta in the Wire.

The month-long standoff between the Indian army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Doklam sector of Bhutan, though pretty civilised so far, has become the longest ever.

Briefly, the stand-off story so far is this: The PLA has clandestinely been encroaching on Bhutanese territory since the mid-1960s with a long view to build a Class-40 road which can carry medium tanks and artillery through the strategic Chumbi valley which abuts India and Bhutan to a tri-junction point which is the very tip of the Chumbi dagger which is dangerously close to a bottleneck encompassing Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

This time around, the PLA road construction party was initially cautioned by a Bhutanese Army patrol. Later when they failed to stop them, the Indian soldiers in the vicinity arrived to help the Bhutanese to deter the PLA from bulldozing its road construction through territory claimed both by China and Bhutan. This is the first time India has confronted the PLA on third country soil in Bhutan. India has a long-standing commitment to Bhutan’s defence and security even if there in no formal military alliance.

Two issues arise from this illegal and unauthorised activity – the intended road would transgress Bhutanese territory at Doklam and its destination, the tri-junction, is also disputed. According to bilateral agreements between India and China in 2012, and between Bhutan and China in 1988 and 1999, the disputes are to be resolved through the existing dialogue processes.

While India and China have had 19 rounds of Special Representative talks, China and Bhutan have engaged in 28 rounds of border talks though Thimpu has no trade or diplomatic relations with Beijing. In their conversations with Bhutan, China, in 1999, offered a package deal to swap territory in the north with land in the west comprising the eastern shoulder of the Chumbi valley, significantly including the Doklam plateau.

For New Delhi, Indian troops have gone to the aid of a neighbour, Bhutan, because the intended construction of a strategic road from Lhasa-Shigaste to Yadong in the Chumbi valley towards the disputed tri-junction would confer profound strategic military advantage on the PLA. The Chumbi valley dagger would pose a threat not just to Bhutan but also to the critically narrow Siliguri corridor, linking mainland India with its north-east. Moreover, it would send the wrong signal to India’s neighbours that it does not stand by its friends and allies and treaty obligations. Being locked in the valley also poses risks for the PLA.

This is not the first time the PLA has attempted its ‘creep’ strategy to first commandeer territory and then offer to negotiate after having violated standstill agreements. Grabbing Aksai Chin in the late 1950s and more recently its unilateral and illegitimate activity in the South China sea are examples. The sequence of events played out now at Doklam has an uncanny resemblance to intrusive activity in the same area in 1966-67. The history of the incident is encapsulated in an article by sinologist Claude Arpi in The Pioneer. More interestingly, the Chinese then, as now, were trying to unhinge Bhutan from its defence relationship with India. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to remind the Chinese that India would stand by Bhutan, come what may.

The Chinese propaganda machine has launched a relentless psy war campaign which is unprecedented in recent times. It has turned obfuscation to a fine art, deftly combining history and legacy while cherry-picking portions of agreements (1890 Anglo-Chinese Convention) that are laced with coercion. On a daily basis, the foreign ministry, the PLA, Global Times, Xinhua and think tanks are issuing statements and threats, warning India about a repeat of 1962 and teaching it another lesson. They accuse India of reneging on Panchsheel and are repeatedly demanding Indian soldiers retract from the confrontation at Doklam by withdrawing first if any dialogue is to follow. Beijing has put itself in a corner leaving it no wriggle room or a face-saving option. As events have shown, India will not budge as the stakes are too high for it to blink first.

The most celebrated incident of the Indian Army challenging the PLA incursions was in 1986 at a tiny grazing ground in Wangdung near Sumdorong Chu where they established a post west of Tawang. Like at Doklam, the PLA was in the valley dominated by high ridgelines occupied by the Indian army. The dispute was over the alignment of the watershed with India claiming it was north of the grazing ground and China contending it was south of it. India’s strong stand dragged the confrontation for ten months culminating in the landmark visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to Beijing in December 1986. Both sides agreed to withdraw simultaneously from positions they had occupied before the intrusion. During this near eyeball confrontation for ten months, not a shot was fired.

Given the evidence of the recent face-offs, it is unlikely the current stand-off will escalate into a shooting match at Doklam where the PLA is hemmed in by two ridge lines of the Chumbi valley occupied by Indian and Bhutanese troops. Doklam is 40 km from Yadong which is the PLA logistic base. In any short and sharp skirmish in this area, the PLA will not win the argument. On the other hand, it will suffer much greater losses than the Indian troops as it did in the Nathula clash of 1967. Doklam could go the Sumdorong Chu way leading to a meeting of high officials to defuse the crisis.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s brief meeting with Prime Minister Modi and his remarks at the BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit this Friday advocating ‘political and peaceful settlement of regional conflicts and disputes’ indicates the face-off will cool down. At the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, Modi told Xi the two nations must not turn differences into dispute. China’s conditionality that Indian troops must withdraw first for any dialogue to start can be softened by employing the principle of simultaneity. As has happenened in the past, both sides can withdraw together from Doklam and prevent the dispute escalating into a bigger conflict.

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Example of Esprit de Corps …

Posted on July 15, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Regimental, Searching for Success |

Gen KM Bhimaya writes

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta was a 22-year-old Rifle Team leader, deployed in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. He was the only living recipient (according to the U.S. Army tradition, a gallant soldier only receives, never wins, an award) of the Congressional Medal of Honor, since the Vietnam war.

In October 2007, he saved one of his buddies, and retrieved another wounded rifleman who had been captured by the insurgents during an ambush. He belonged to the famous 173rd Airborne Brigade of the U.S. Army (7700 decorations, including over 6000 purple hearts.

During my intelligence course in Okinawa (1964), I had an opportunity to observe this formation at close quarters as they were billeted by our B.O. Qs (Bachelor Officers’ Quarters). They were smart, and impeccable in their dress and deportment. They usually hung out with their buddies.

Salvatore Giunta separated from the Army in 2011 to pursue higher college studies (part of G.I. bill). In 2017, Ex- Staff Sergeant did something unique: He returned the coveted medal of honor to his parent Unit: 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team,

While returning the award, he honored his promise implicit in his brief speech at the White House star-studded investiture ceremony, a few years ago.

“If I’m a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman, in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero; so, if you think that that’s a hero — as long as you include everyone with me,” Giunta said at a Pentagon briefing in September 2010.”

When he returned the highest gallantry award to his Unit, Salvatore Giunta was, at his best, proud esprit-de-corps in action.

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