Friday, July 29, 2016

Concept of Civil Military Parity; Defence Forces; Third Pillar of Governance

Rewards by 7th Pay Commission to defense forces and its acceptance by BJP Govt has send shock waves and disbelief among soldiers. On promise of Narendra Modi, Soldiers voted in mass for BJP govt hoping to get justice for a humiliating and unconstitutional treatment given to them by Cong Govt under Mrs Indra Gandhi just after a historic win in 1971 war with Pakistan.

Mrs Gandhi; instead of rewarding soldiers for their unparalleled historic victory gave them humiliating injustice in 1973 by reducing their status, pay and pension drastically. Mrs Gandhi not only gave shabby treatment to soldiers but she also tweaked promotion procedures of military to have better control to create a succession line for top military Generals and Chiefs. The arrangements put by her in place went much beyond keeping a justified constitutional loyalty check on senior leadership to create her personal team of loyalist Generals. Caste and religion factor also became important to her. Though detrimental to national security, she was successful to a large extent in subverting professional military leadership to create submissive line of loyalists. Her returns were immediate when top military leadership failed to oppose unconstitutional declaration of emergency. Though military leadership was nervous and they later advised her to lift it to restore democracy but the damage was already done. The submissive line of generals so created with personal loyalties failed to oppose her decision to attack Golden Temple. They also failed to oppose decision of Rajive Gandhi to launch "OP PAWAN" in Sri Lanka. They also failed in their constitutional duty to intervene to prevent Sikh genocide in Delhi. Army Chiefs and leadership were not even consulted for military fall outs when Bajpai Govt signed Lahore declaration, it resulted in Kargil War.  Now the situation is that political Govt refuses to even acknowledge presence of Military Chiefs and leadership in their decision making procedures thus debarring themselves from a professional military advice risking national security.

With above situation in existence yet another severe blow has been delivered by BJP's Modi Govt to further crush the pride of soldiers. Acceptance of humiliating recommendations of 7th Pay Commission for defense forces by BJP Govt ignoring concerns of military leadership and veterans has put soldiers in state of shock. The situation now is that soldiers, who are backbone of national military and nuke power to protect national sovereignty, in terms of life time earnings, are now paid lesser than Forest Guards and Central Armed Police Force. Life Time earnings in eyes of HR professionals is a single most key parameter to judge how rewarding a career is?   Life Time Earnings of any career forms the base of creating a reward system in terms of compensations. With 7th Pay Commission recommendations in place a reward system has been created where soldier's life time earnings are above home guards and below forest guards. The acceptance of humiliating recommendations of 7th Pay Commission for defense forces has no professional  justification and violates all established professional HR principles of creating a reward system for a career.

The ego based whims and fancies of insecure, corrupt and lustful political Govt establishment without any accountability, justifications and reasoning to over control military power of the nation might even crush the very defense apparatus which protects and provides space for democracy to function. Indian constitution under article 53 while giving out executive powers of the union, clearly recognizes executive military authority of the nation as vested in a civilian Supreme Commander  as distinct dimension and gives it a key executive role in support of democracy by creating loyalties of defense forces to the command authority of its supreme commander, military commanders, constitution and we the people. Military oaths of allegiance are accordingly structured. Article 53 of Indian constitution if read in conjunction with article 34 on martial law and military oath taken, establishes a well defined role for executive military authority of the nation to defend and protect constitutional rights and freedom of "We The People". It is therefore constitutional duty of military leadership to stand up in defense of democracy if it is under threat from any corner. It may be from corrupt politicians controlled by crony capitalists with suspected loyalties creating caste and communal hate filled atmosphere for political power and which may also trigger civil wars.  With such distinct provisions in constitution about roles of executive military authority,  article 309-313 therefore accept distinct military service conditions and demands separate laws for their service conditions including distinct compensation  packages for them.

Our constitution recognizes three pillars of governance and not two as is taught or perceived.  First pillar is the executive political authority of the nation exercised by elected President through democratically elected parliament and government and assisted by civil servants. Second pillar of governance is national judiciary. It is the prime duty of  Chief Justice of India to defend constitution by giving right interpretation of the constitutional provisions and laws to the govt and people thereby helping govt in establishing rule of law. Third pillar is executive military authority of the nation which is exercised by a civilian Supreme Commander of defense forces and military commanders under authority of command given to them under provisions of warrants or commission. Each Officer and JCO of the Indian military is therefore given authority of command by a parchment of commission after he/her takes oath of allegiance. Such parchment of commission are signed by an authorized military officer (not by PM or any minister or IAS) under a warrant signed by Supreme commander that is President. Constitution recognizes distinct status of these commissioned officers and therefore gives them the privilege of using their ranks as titles prefixing these before their names under constitution article 18.

With structure of these three pillars, our constitution ensures that a healthy and socialist democracy protects the freedom, respect and dignity of we the people. The military authority which is third pillar of democracy remains in silent but observant mode beyond public visibility during peace times wherein democratically elected government is given complete space to exercise their authority interpreted by second pillar of Judiciary. Though in national wars or disturbed areas military predominantly becomes active and visible but under emergency and special legal provisions of the constitution, it still remains under political directions of the elected civil govt. It is only when there are direct threats to civil political authorities and judiciary where in these institutions are unable to function due to any reasons or threat, Military Authorities under article 34 of the constitution are duty bound to take command of situation to restore civilian authority to protect democracy, dignity and freedom of we the people. During peace and war times it is duty of each military commissioned officer to remain politically observant and that is the reason in their oaths word "OBSERVE" finds the place.

No govt of the day shall defy constitution and its spirit to serve people. In relation to military authority and service condition of the soldiers, every govt is legally bound to respect constitutional provisions. On eve of national independence the question of how to compensate soldiers as per their constitutional roles, was faced by members of constituent assembly elected to draft constitution. J L Nehru then formed a committee to recommend compensation structure for soldiers of independent India. It was first time then the principle of parity only for compensation of soldiers was accepted. These principle of parity of soldiers only for compensation were in line with constitution being framed. Major salient point of these principles were:

1. Length of the service of the military officers and soldiers will be key detrimental factor to create parity of status and compensation with IAS and civil servants.

2. Life time earnings of soldiers will have an marginal edge over others civilian govt staff.

3. To ensure above 75% pension will be given to soldiers and 50% to military officers who retire young as against only 25 or 30% to the civilians. Though the same is subject to change but fundamentally such change shall not violate principles as given in points 1 and 2 above.

The above principles of parity for status and compensation of soldiers were fundamentally based on sound established professional HR practices which are even so relevant today.

It was Mrs Gandhi, who after gaining political victory over Pakistan based on a landslide military victory given by soldiers, started treating herself as goddess and developed dictatorial attributes and aspirations. A forthright professional military advice coming from true military leaders loyal to democracy like FM Sam Manekshaw, was taken as threat to her aspirations to become master of political power of India and become immortal. In 1973 accordingly, to serve her personal interests and dictatorial aspirations, she tweaked military promotion system and also delivered a blow to their status and compensation packages to make them weak and helpless. Idea was to cut military leaders below knees of politicians and civilian babus to eliminate any obstacle in their unconstitutional aspirations and corrupt deeds.  Allahabad HC judgement came as a shock to Mrs Gandhi and directly attacked her ulterior motives. She declared emergency. Her design to cut military leaders below knees paid off when none of them actually stood against unconstitutional declaration of emergency though three services chiefs politely refused to involve soldiers actively in enforcement of emergency. Later three services chiefs advised PM to lift emergency and call for elections. Mrs Gandhi then attacked independence of Judiciary and created a system of inserting loyalists as judges. Two pillars of democracy were attacked by Mrs Gandhi and  weakened. Nation has paid and still paying a heavy price for it. Justice system in the country has collapsed, professional military advice has no significance to political leadership leading them to commit more and more foreign policy and security blunders.

In any democracy due to sensitivity of moral of serving soldiers and risks of national security associated with it, military veterans take the lead as citizens soldiers to create a voice in favor of people. They help in creating public opinion which in return keeps politicians under check. In India unfortunately military veterans till 15 years back, have kept quite and lived an ignored and isolated lives. It is only now military veterans are creating visible voices using power of social media and connecting with people. It is a welcome and healthy sign for the democracy. Military Veterans have stakes of blood and life in democracy. Military veterans, as citizen soldiers shall therefore express independent issue based political voices with people without any bias to any political leader or political party. Military Veterans undertook OROP agitation for justice to soldiers to the streets. The agitation became visible and touched the nerves of people. BJP and Narendra Modi finding a political opportunity, created an hype of nationalism and promised to undo injustice done by Mrs Gandhi with soldiers.

7th Pay Commission was formed by UPA govt with its Chairman who had known disliking for military soldiers. Then army chief, Gen Bikarm Singh who is said to be related to then PM Manmohan Singh, as Chairman of Chiefs of staff committee, wrote a letter to Govt asking them not constitute a separate pay commission for military. He dumped the age old well justified demand of soldiers to have a separate pay commission. It was a betrayal of soldiers by their own chief. Driven by desire to further cut down soldiers and also hurt by soldiers agitation and views in social media, naturally 7th Pay Commission gave a very humiliating recommendations for the military soldiers. Taking lead from the word 'Parity' as given  in the terms of references of the govt letter which constituted 7th Pay Commission, the commission ignored the spirit of parity as established by Nehru Govt ( as explained above) and followed the line of ulterior motives of  Mrs Gandhi and further reduced the compensation package of soldiers.  OROP demand of soldiers has been extended to all others and their life time earning packages have been comparatively reduced further.

Soldiers had last hope from proclaimed nationalist govt of BJP and Narendra Modi. Three services chiefs wrote a letter to govt expressing discontentment. They also met PM to appraise him. retired military chiefs wrote a letter to PM which has not even been acknowledged by his office. Govt ignoring concerns of soldiers, went ahead and has notified humiliating and unjustified recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission with minor modifications in military pay matrix.

Conceptually why are govt notification on 7th Pay Commission for soldiers humiliating?

1. It doesn't respect distinct constitutional identity, role and status of the soldiers. When the MP is paid like MP, A judge like judge, an IAS like IAS then why a soldier is not paid like soldier?

2. It doesn't follow the concept of parity as established after much debate when the Indian Constitution was framed by the constituent assembly. The concept actually has been killed when in name of parity Life Time Earnings of military soldiers have been fixed lesser than a forest guard and constables of CAPF and Police and just above home guards.

3.  Compensation packages given doesn't match with the job profile of the military soldiers. The users of Nukes and state of art technologies to fight modern hybrid wars which can wipe of nations, are paid lesser than managers of forests who cant even extinguish forest fires without help of soldiers.

4. Primary role of military is to operate in international environment. Wars are fought between/ among nations. Thus the status and compensation packages to soldiers shall follow international best practices and protocols. Though (surprisingly and shockingly) India has not notified civil military parity list as required under Geneva convention for wars but it doesn't mean Indian govt will expose and humiliate their own soldiers in international environment and specially so in face of enemies. 7th Pay Commission has cited the US compensation packages. As per US Civil Military Parity notification under Geneva Convention a US Brigadier is clubbed with their highest pay grade of the civil servant. That means the highest pay grade of US civil servant is equal to HAG/ Apex Grade of IAS in India. That means a US Brigadier as per Geneva convention and US notification is equal in status of HAG/ APEX Grade of IAS officers of India? But than what is the status of Indian Brigadier? An IAS officer/ DM of 5 years of service boasts to be senior to a Brigadier? How will you maintain international protocols ensuring respect to your own Brigadier? Isn't it humiliating for military to operate in their primary roles? Why has India not notified Civil Military Parity List as required under Geneva convention to which India is a signatory? Pak can not be held accountable for violating Geneva Convention in case of Capt Kalia as India has not notified such list?

5. JCOs of India military are commissioned and gazetted officers and they are paid non gazetted salaries?  Technically and legally a JCO can be nominated as members of the Court of Inquiry?As commanders, NCOs of Indian army carry the authority to order fire and arrest like sub inspectors of Police but they are paid like Head Constables who have no legal powers? Are not these compensation packages to JCOs and NCO humiliating?

6. A Captain and equivalent  and above of Indian Military can under Summary General Court Martial not only give death sentences but also confirm and execute same without reference to any court or president. In CI operations an Inspector of Police or CAPF behave much superior to him? Isn't it humiliating?

Govt and babus may argue that they are well within their rights and authority to fix compensation packages of soldiers? Yes agreed but can they, while doing so, show total disregard to established HR principles accepted by govt while framing the constitution, constitutional status and job profile of the soldiers?   Worst can they do it without giving any reason or justification to flaunt unconstitutional authority and that is what is happening when Political leadership and Babus are giving no reasons and justifications and maintaining a mysterious, insulting and ignoring silence?

General VP Malik, Ex Army Chief was right to say on TV, that soldiers are being taken for granted. Their mature obedient silence keeping national security in mind is being misconstrued. Should a situation be allowed to explode by pushing soldiers beyond their thresholds of tolerance or patience? Very wrong signals are going from Govt to soldiers when PM  has all times to fly to Lahore to meet PM of Pakistan but has no ears to listen to his own military chiefs or time to meet military veterans in-spite of various requests?

Political Govt of BJP and Narendra Modi must act within established democratic norms under constitution and talk with reasons and justifications. Govt shall not be managed with whims and fancies of politicians and babus. Soldiers are most mature lots. They have been more loyal to democracy and constitution than politicians and babus who have bad records of corruption and one de-fecto coup of declaring emergency. Not trusting soldiers and ignoring them in a humiliating manners will surely add fuel to fire.

BJP in their manifesto did promise a Military Commission to manage all problems of soldiers, best way forward is:

1. Constitute Military Commission of two, jointly under an Ex Military Chief and a SC Judge with an IAS secretory to manage all problems of soldiers including their pay and packages and post service settlements.

2. Let Govt publish a Comparative Table of Life Time Earnings including pensions of all govt services and soldiers and then see how best can the established principle of parity at time of independence be put in effect and if the govt is not in the position to pay financial benefits then how best soldiers be compensated by other means ? The issue can then be managed by Military Commission.

3. Amend constitution to Include "Welfare and Resettlement of Soldiers" in concurrent list of the constitution thereby making central and state govts accountable for their welfare and  resettlement. 

4. Let newly constituted Military Commission draft out a law on "Service Conditions of Defense Forces" under the provisions of Constitution articles 309-313. Such laws already exist for all other govt services. Existing Defense Services Regulation doesn't cover all aspect of service conditions and also lack required statutory sanctions.   

Let us not play with national security. Fortunately soldiers are not asking moon and are talking reason. So why not talk reason and justification with them. Keeping discontentment simmering may prove to be highly disastrous. Soldiers are last resort of the nation and third pillar of the constitution. Let us not take any chance. Rising above egos, administer their status and compensation in just manner.

Let good sense prevail.  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

As A Soldier I ask; Withdraw AFSPA - Politicians Will Never Do It? They are Fooling People

There has been an intense debate in country over withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act on ground of it being called draconian law which empowers army to search any premise and arrest any suspected person without warrant in areas declared disturbed by govt.

The law in legal perspectives, only extends executive powers of arrest of police to army empowering them to use military force. In other words the law facilitates use of military force by civil govt to assist police in execution of arrests in areas where security situations are disturbed. The law in no way tempers with rest of the legal procedures of civilian justice system.  The law is necessitated as police in these areas finds themselves unable to enforce law and order, therefore required military force is used to execute arrests to maintain order.

There is no doubt about AFSPA being harsh as it allows soldiers to use military force on their own civilian population. But it is also a fact that such harsh laws are required to deal with a situation which has gone out of control of civil authorities. The real problem is not in the application of law but failure of political and civilian authorities to take charge when the situation has become almost normal after counter insurgency operations by the military. It is this failure on part of political and civilian authority which actually prolongs military deployments in police duties to cause hardships not only to civilian population but soldiers too.

For example in Kashmir after almost decade plus of counter insurgency operations and fighting a Pak sponsored proxy war, soldiers could bring democracy back to give people an elected govt. Politicians failed to catch and build the momentum of normalcy created by soldiers. The situation erupted again indicating a loose hold of politicians on population. It is this disconnect between politicians and populations which creates disturbance where in army's deployment is prolonged.

It is a known fact that soldiers dislike being used in prolonged police duties in  counter insurgency operations as it affects their war preparedness.  During Kargil war soldiers did take some time to shed hangover of CI operations to come back on war fighting grid.

It is actually the politicians and civil administration which doesn't want army to go back to barracks. They lack confidence to take charge of the situation. Army being around gives them a safe and secure atmosphere wherein they keep engaging in corruption and loot. In insurgency infested areas as the central assistance in form of more funding goes up so is the corruption. The fact is In Kashmir corruption levels have gone up since the time insurgency erupted. In Assam and NE activities like coal, drugs, gold and wood smuggling has increased with insurgency. Terrorists, politicians and babus have ganged up in this joint loot. Police has stopped doing security duties as army is around. If the people are at discomfort due to ongoing military operations their anger increases when they see politicians and govt officials engaged in heightened corruption activities. Naturally they come to streets as they are being crushed from two sides.

But what is the fault of soldiers? It is not their job to do police duties. They are not trained to use minimum force. They always shoot to kill. Politicians and Govt have to make up their minds. If the situation has been restored to normalcy and it is a law and order problem then let soldiers go back to barracks and let civil authority  take charge. Expecting army to operate under civil criminal laws for law and order duties will be highly disastrous. Army is not police and shall not be converted into one or else who will fight national wars? Soldiers are also humans. They have capacity limitations and surely can not adapt to two roles same times which are 180 degree apart in nature and when you have CAPF then why expect soldiers to do their jobs? After all life time earnings of CAPF soldiers is more then twice than military soldiers. Military soldiers are surely not scavengers. They have a constitutionally well defined executive role and they shall concentrate on that.

Politicians are doing double talk and firing guns from shoulders of soldiers. To public it is said "Army is against lifting of AFSPA" and on other side Politicians don't want soldiers to go back to barracks as they feel insecure if it happens. Politicians want to use army soldiers like police constables and get them beaten from terrorists by amending AFSPA? Why? Why this insistence? Don't convert lions into sheep? The day that happens country's security structure will collapse. Let us not forget soldiers did desert posts in 62 war. If you pitch soldiers without protecting their pride and logistics, best of the armies will melt.

Let good sense prevail.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pak Army Infiltration in Kargil ; Was it a Blunder by Political and Army Leadership?

Kargil conflict was a regional war, fought from May to Jul 1999 in highest treacherous mountains of Himalayas along northern part of LOC between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. It was an armed conflict which was fought by India to evict Pakistan's Army Infiltrators from Indian side of LOC. Whenever Kargil conflict is debated one question always comes up for discussion and that is "Was Indian Army lax in It's surveillance on LOC which allowed Pakistan Army to infiltrate and occupy dominating positions undetected?

Strategically Indian Army's always gave highest importance to Kargil mountains as it dominates  Sri Nagar Leh Highway. Then what actually went wrong that such dominating heights were vacated well before onset of freezing winters to be occupied by Pak Army? It was said that Indian Army vacated some defensive posts along LOC located at extremely high altitudes before freezing winters as it had no winter clothing and equipment to sustain troops in minus 40 degree temperatures. Apparently it sound logical as Pakistan Army also could not occupy these highest in such extreme winters but question still remains why did Indian Army vacate these defensive posts well before onset of extreme winters? It looks such practice was being implemented for few years which was noticed by Pak Army and exploited to infiltrate.

What were the compulsions of Indian army? It is a well known fact that flanks of Indian Army in Kashmir were turned by Pakistan fueling insurgency in Kashmir in form of a proxy war. Security situation in Kashmir Valley was at its worst compelling Indian Army to deplete troops deployed on LOC and Chinese LAC  and use them for counter insurgency operations but moot question still remains? Should a professional army deplete troops on main defensive line facing enemy for using them in rear areas for  counter insurgency operations? Was situation so desperate? Indian Military leadership surely is not that incompetent to have failed to make realistic assessments. In 1997, I had helped my Brigade Commander in drafting a review of threat assessment of Northern Command. I remember it clearly, we having identified Kargil as a potent infiltration route for Pak Army to make an attempt to capture few dominating heights along Sri Nagar Leh Highway and had recommended no depletion of defenses in this area.  In spite of such clear assessments still defensive deployment was denuded? Why?

We all know that Bajpai Govt under strong influence of then NSA; Brijesh Mishra, deteriorating security situation in J&K and under pressure from USA, was making a weak political pitch to open an dialogue with Pakistan. Bajpai visited Lahore and signed Lahore declaration with Pak PM; Nawaz Sharif and Kashmir dispute for first time after Shimla agreement, was brought as agenda for discussion. Bajpai - Nawaz meeting kicked a deceptive friendly cloud which was used as cover by Pak army to infiltrate in  Kargil to put a political question mark on validity of accepted LOC under Shimla Agreement. Kargil infiltration by Pak army had more political fall out than military. Nawaz Sharif contrary to the claims made, was fully on board in his military's misadventure.

With above political backdrop, was it Indian political leadership which made a wrong assessment of Pak Army not making any hostile move on LOC in such friendly atmosphere and Indian Army could move out more troops from LOC to use them for counter insurgency operations? It looks military leaders at highest levels also accepted the argument. It is a known fact that during peace time any change in active army deployment needs military and political approvals. It was therefore impossible for Indian army to have tempered with troops deployment on main defensive lines with out clear political directives.  Unfortunately Kargil Committee report has not reviewed political directives for CI operations in Kashmir when Bajpai was visiting Lahor. The question still remain unanswered? Being from army and having helped in drafting review of threat assessment of Northern Command, I can say that army was full aware of sensitivity of Kargil defenses and could have not denuded it unless there were political directives to do so? Let us not forget no top army commander has been punished for such lapse? Does it also strengthen the suspicion that  it was political leadership which was responsible to direct army to change its deployment on LOC?

Whatever may be the reason, fact is denuding main defensive line on LOC in Kargil was a serious lapse which gave Pak Army an opportunity to exploit against India to politically raise the pitch of Kashmir dispute. Political leadership of Bajpai may have blundered but Indian army leadership also can not escape the blame as they take oath of allegiance to defend constitution and if political leadership is wrong in any military decision it is duty of military leaders to stand against it within given constitutional space. Early redeployment of troops in Kargil was surely a blunder for which Indian army paid a heavy price.