AFGHANISTAN: THE EVOLVING KALEIDOSCOPE FOR PAKISTAN AND THE WINDOW FOR INDIA - The Daily Guardian
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AFGHANISTAN: THE EVOLVING KALEIDOSCOPE FOR PAKISTAN AND THE WINDOW FOR INDIA

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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As the US forces are exiting Afghanistan ahead of their timetable, the Taliban offensive has gained tempo in the northeast and south of the country.  It is inexorably bringing the country closer to the expected chaos and an impending civil war. Taliban has claimed control of 85% of the country. Some reports suggest it is around 30%. It could be anywhere in between. However, while the Taliban is gaining ground in many places there are also some places where they are being cleared. The situation is fluid. It is also in the news that Pakistani intelligence and terror outfits, Uzbeks, Uighurs and Chechens are in the forefront of fighting alongside the Taliban as they make inroads to expand territorial control in Afghanistan. There is a lot of analysis and prognosis as to what will happen in future. India’s interests and role in the emerging dispensation is also under the lens. Pakistan, it seems, is emerging as the most important layer in Afghanistan today having waited patiently for 20 years for the Americans to leave and regain its ‘strategic depth’. It is also being opined that Pakistan’s position on the Afghan chessboard is so powerful that it influences every move everyone else makes. Russia and China are riding the Pakistani horse to open the Taliban gateway and secure their interests. Pakistan appears to be once again on a roll and on the verge of controlling all of Afghanistan. Indian analysts are dismayed that India is on the back-foot consigned to the side-lines once again. Just wait. When you read the views of Pakistani opinion makers an alternative reality pops out. Pakistan should have been more careful in what it wished for. It is coming true. All the best to them.

A blast on a bus killed 13 people in north Pakistan on Wednesday, including nine Chinese nationals.The Afghan National Army keeps watch after the US forces left Bagram Airfield in the north of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Arifa Noor in her article in Dawn opines that the unravelling within Afghanistan and the fallout in Pakistan, is not just the refugee problem but also the possible strengthening of the TTP due to its links with the Afghan Taliban. She also comments that Pakistan Government lays far greater emphasis on the past than the future. The future appears dark in most accounts for Pakistan.  However what is more noticeable is the apparent lack of detail. Only a bleak outline in broad brushstrokes is being offered.  She also opines that Pakistan’s policy options are outlined in vague terms to deal with the refugee crisis as well as focusing on counterterrorism within Pakistan. The absence of an economic plan for Afghanistan is pointed out. In addition, she is of the view that the protracted violence will present Pakistan with an uncontrollable situation.

Fahid Hussain in his article examines the impact on Pakistan. He mentions of the marathon meeting of various committees on national security which have spent hours on end discussing Afghanistan with no solid recommendations emerging. There seems to be nothing added to the existing discourse, and the dilemmas that surround it. The military leadership had framed three key policy questions on the Afghanistan situation for the political leadership to consider. (i) What should be Pakistan’s policy regarding the influx of Afghan refugees? (ii) Should Pakistan recognise the Taliban government when they capture Kabul or follow the international community’s decision? (iii) Should Pakistan allow US drones and aircrafts to use our airspace to launch attacks on Afghan territory? All these issues are open ended for now. 

A Dawn report quotes the Pakistani NSA terming the Afghan situation as “extremely bad and out of Pakistan’s control”. An impending risk of an attack by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists was feared. In fact two attacks have  already materialised in Khyber Pakthunwa (KP) with an Army officer and eleven soldiers being ambushed by TTP in one and nine Chinese deaths in a bomb blast in a bus in the other.  Pakistan fears that TTP cadres based in Afghanistan could enter Pakistan disguised as refugees. There is the constant worry that in case of a civil war, Pakistan would not be able to handle the influx of refugees.

Zahid Husain opines that the deteriorating Afghanistan situation across has also worsened Pakistan’s predicament with the threat of the Afghan conflict spilling over to Pakistani soil. He feels that despite the apparent tightrope walking it will be hard for Islamabad to escape the fallout. He is also not sure whether Pakistani policymakers have a clear grasp of the seriousness of the situation or a clear strategy to deal with these challenges. The Taliban’s military success is bound to exacerbate Pakistan’s problem of militancy in the border areas and religious extremism inside the country. They are also worried about transnational militant groups (IS and Al Qaeda) stepping up activities along the Pak-Afghan border region.  A significant part of the Al Qaeda leadership resides in this region and the gives them space to operate in Afghanistan. There seems to be competition among these groups for territorial control. It makes the Durand Line region extremely volatile. In another article he opines that the changing regional geopolitics have created a new alignment of forces. The growing strategic alliance between the US and India and the China-Pakistan axis reflect these emerging geopolitics. 

Muhammad Amir Rana articulates that Pakistani leadership must make clear choices, either going with the US or China. As per him almost everyone believes Pakistan can influence the Taliban, notwithstanding the complications involved in the relationship. Following the Doha deal, the Taliban’s confidence has grown and they have become more assertive. Their advances in Afghanistan has boosted their morale. Taliban’s growing power will decrease Pakistan’s influence over them. He sees Pakistan walking on a tightrope trying to balance its relations with other players. He also mentions that Pakistan and China have many political and strategic convergences, but both need to develop a certain level of mutual trust where the two feel comfortable about each other’s international and regional engagements. 

Yet another report in Dawn mentions that The impact on Pakistan could translate into two outcomes: (i) A fresh influx of refugees into Pakistan to exacerbate the burden that Pakistan is already bearing due to the very large refugee presence in the country (ii) A civil war in Afghanistan could have a spill over effect and regenerate violence and militancy in the border areas including the erstwhile FATA region as well as in Balochistan. Further the major concern is that Afghanistan could descend into chaos fuelling a full-scale civil war with India, Russia and Iran backing different factions and dragging Pakistan into a protracted conflict.

The overall sense one gets is that the Pakistani intelligentsia is in a state of trepidation. The Taliban of today is far different from the one which provided ‘strategic depth’ to Pakistan a quarter century ago. It has clearly stated that while Pakistan is welcome to help them, it cannot dictate or impose its views on them. If Pakistan is using its double forked tongue to say one thing in meetings and do another on ground it is heading into big trouble. Let us be clear. Pakistan cannot manage itself. How can it handle Afghanistan?  Overall, Pakistan can add to the instability in Afghanistan but does not have the capacity or a plan to stabilise it. In the event, Baluchistan and KP will remain militancy prone and unstable. TTP has revitalised. The bad news for Pakistan is that TTP has an agenda of wanting to take on the Pakistan army and overthrow the government in Islamabad. Pakistan is going to be saddled with a refugee problem it cannot afford nor will the West fund it. Russia and China will not be inclined to do so. So all the big talk of cooperation, influence is suspect. I only see misery ahead for an impoverished Pakistan. Its western border will trouble it for a long time.

It is also being reported that China can buy its way out of trouble by putting money on both sides of the table. That is easier said than done. Taliban is the least trustworthy to keep up its promises. That much is proven. In fact they will revert to gory violence as days unfold. There is already evidence of this. In fact, my hunch is that Taliban will say that they will not allow Xinjiang militants (ETIM) to flourish in Afghanistan and put a price on it. They might do exactly the opposite so that China is the new milch cow to blackmail. Iran will not allow the Sunni Taliban to hold complete sway. It has larger implications for the Shia Iran and dominance of the Islamic world. So if one thinks that a Iran–China–Pakistan–Russia axis will develop to stabilise Afghanistan and ride into glory. Forget it. Let us not forget the USA is still around. It has quit Afghanistan but it is not yet out of the game. The US general now in charge, has ominously declared: ‘It’s not the end of the story. It’s the end of a chapter.’ Also remember USA still has to protect its homeland by not letting IS and Al Qaeda hatch another plot to bring down another Twin Towers elsewhere. By exiting Afghanistan, USA has gone into a ‘weapons free’ status. Let us see what happens. It will be interesting to see as to who will put boots on ground. China or Pakistan? Chinese greed for Afghans resources might lead it to outsource everything to Pakistan, which in turn will outsource it to LeT or some such outfit. The chaos is about to begin.

India needs strategic patience and must use this window of opportunity. A knowledgeable Indian businessman who has lived for two decades in Kabul opines that, Afghans love to hate Pakistanis and hate to love them. On the other hand, everyone in Afghanistan trusts India including Taliban. That surprised me. It is a great thing that people trust India. Hence, patience is the watchword. My hunch is that no dispensation in Afghanistan will leave India out of its future and depend on Pakistan. The Afghan is too proud, independent and wily to do that. I doubt if either China or Pakistan will attempt to feed our ‘two front’ fears for the next 4-5 years when this great instability is emerging on their borders. Simply too risky given India’s inherent strengths. It gives us a great opportunity to sort out our political issues in J&K.

This is also the window to sort out our economy and build military capacities. Shed rhetoric. Shed imagery and imaginary thinking. Do something solid. As far as the military is concerned, it does not matter if we theatrise or not. It matters that we are up to speed in building core military capacities. The challenge before our supremist military leadership who want everyone to “Support” them: it has been 70 years since independence and we are yet to have our indigenous rifles or tanks! The leadership has got what they wanted – rank, power, position and authority. Have they given the men they command what they need to defend the nation? “Support” yourself before you want anyone to “Support” you. Otherwise the nation will certify you as national failures. History is cruel in its coldness of presenting facts. 

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com.

A ‘Dawn’ report quotes the Pakistani NSA terming the Afghan situation “extremely bad and out of Pakistan’s control”. An impending risk of an attack by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists was feared. In fact two attacks have already materialised in Khyber Pakthunwa with an Army officer and eleven soldiers being ambushed by TTP in one and nine Chinese deaths in a bomb blast in a bus in the other. Pakistan fears that TTP cadres based in Afghanistan could enter Pakistan disguised as refugees. There is constant worry that in case of a civil war, Pakistan would not be able to handle the influx of refugees.

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Defence

LET TERRORIST TALIB HUSSAIN NOT A MEMBER OF BJP: J&K BJP CHIEF

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Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina on Monday said the most wanted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Talib Hussain who was apprehended from Reasi district is neither an “active member of the BJP nor a primary member”.

 Speaking to ANI, Raina said, “Hussain is neither an active member of the BJP nor a primary member. There was a letter circular, on the basis of which it is believed that Sheikh Bashir, who is the President of BJP Minority Front of Jammu and Kashmir had appointed Hussain on 9 May.” He termed the reports fake which claimed that one of the two most-wanted LeT terrorists, who were overpowered by locals and handed over to the police, was in charge of the party’s IT cell.

 The BJP leader further said after that Hussain had circulated a letter himself and resigned from the membership of the party on 18 May. “A couple of years ago, Hussain along with with his three colleagues used to come to the BJP office as a media person. He had also interviewed me many times, he used to call himself a reporter for a YouTube channel named ‘New Sehar India’,” Raina said.

 “As a journalist, Hussain clicked photos with us many times in the BJP office. Pakistan terror outfit wanted to target the head office of the BJP of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been done through the targeted medium and carried out such incidents,” he said. “It is too soon to say more on this matter as the investigation is going on. Not only the BJP, but all the offices of other political parties need to be more alert now,” Raina added.

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Defence

INDIAN NAVAL SHIPS SAHYADRI, KADMATT VISIT SINGAPORE

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Indian Naval Ships Sahyadri and Kadmatt, under the Command of Rear Admiral Sanjay Bhalla, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, visited Singapore from 1 to 3 July as part of the deployment to South East Asia. The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Indian Navy personnel engaged in social and informal exchanges as part of a cross-visit to improve mutual cooperation. The visit was aimed at consolidating ties and enhancing mutual understanding.The visit of Indian ships helped enhance maritime co-operation and bolster India’s strong bonds of friendship with Singapore that would further contribute towards security and stability in the region. The ships’ visit coincided with Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day on 1 July. “Indian Navy’s South East Asia deployment INS Sahyadri and INS Kadmatt under Command of Rear Admiral Sanjay Bhalla, FOCEF in Singapore from 1 to 3 July. Professional and social interactions with Singapore Navy to enhance mutual cooperation and understanding and consolidate interoperability” read a tweet shared by the Indian Navy. It added, “Coinciding with Singapore Armed Forces SAF Day, 01 Jul 22, the ships’ visit strengthens maritime cooperation, bolstering India-Singapore bonds of friendship – contributing towards security and stability in the region.”

INS Sahyadri is an indigenously built multi-role stealth Frigate and INS Kadmatt is an indigenously built Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Corvette. The Indo-Pacific vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based region as articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018 is the driving force behind India’s engagement in the region continued to be directed by the Indo-Pacific vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based region as articulated by PM Modi at Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018.In 2021, Singapore Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen participated in the inaugural India Ocean Region Defence Ministers’ Conclave (DMC), wherein he conveyed Singapore’s support to India’s leadership to foster a rules-based maritime order in the Indian Ocean region. This was followed by the annual Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX), conducted by Singapore Navy and Indian Navy. The exercise involved a virtual planning phase followed by a ‘contactless’ sea phase in the southern reaches of the South China Sea within international waters.During the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore’s position as a logistic hub enabled both the public and private sector to source emergency relief supplies such as oxygen- tanks, cylinders, concentrators, ventilators etc. from Singapore to India.

26 Indian Air Force sorties and four Indian Navy Ships transported substantial quantities of these items from Singapore to India till the end of June 2021.

This was followed by the 5th India-Singapore Defence Minister’s dialogue, which was held via virtual conference on 20 January 2021. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh discussed furthering cooperation and engagement with Singapore’s Defence Minister.

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Defence

200 TERRORISTS WAITING TO CROSS, SECURITY FORCES IN J&K ON HIGH ALERT

The BSF and Army have increased patrolling along the LoC to foil infiltration bids.

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Amid intelligence reports suggesting 200 terrorists waiting to cross the border into the Valley, security forces have been put on high alert in Jammu and Kashmir in order to foil infiltration bids. Speaking to The Daily Guardian Review, top sources in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) told that over a dozen launching pads across the Line of Control (LoC) have been found activate by the agency, even as 200 terrorists are waiting to infiltrate from the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

After receiving the intelligence input, the Border Security Force and the Army have increased patrolling along the LoC to foil infiltration bids.

According to the IB report accessed by The Daily Guardian Review, terrorists, affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM),

may use “tunnel and riverine” routes to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir.

The IB report has also identified more than a dozen terrorist launch pads across the LoC. These include three in Sonar, Taubat and Losar areas in Gurez sector, four in Machil sector and three in Mandakuli, Jamua and Kharhajna areas in Tangdhar sector. In addition, four–five launch pads in Gabdoni, Lipa and Bandi areas in Uri and Navgaon sectors have been identified.

Terrorists are also trying to infiltrate through Rajouri–Poonch routes, areas south of Pir Panjal. “The focus of infiltration has largely now shifted to the south of Pir Panjal,” said intelligence sources.

The intelligence input assumes significance in view of the 43-day-long Amarnath Yatra. The annual pilgrimage began on June 30 after a gap of two years.

Though there have been few successful infiltration bids this year, a downward trend is noticeable in comparison to previous years. According to top security officials, there were 130 infiltration bids in 2019.

The number came down to 36 bids in 2020 and 31 in 2021. Security forces have killed 121 terrorists, linked to LeT, JeM and HM, this year till June 28.

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Defence

CENTRE MAKES INTENT CLEAR, NO ROLL BACK OF AGNIPATH

The Union Home Ministry bans 35 WhatsApp group for spreading fake news. At least ten people have been arrested for organising protests.

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The Central government on Sunday made it clear that Agnipath, the newly unveiled policy of recruitment to all three armed forces “will not be rolled back”. “Coming to the rollback of the scheme, no. Why should it be rolled back? It is the only progressive step to making the country young.” Lt Gen Anil Puri, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence announced here in a joint press conference. The announcement came after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had a meeting with all three services chiefs for the second consecutive day.

Explaining the rationale behind the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, Lt Gen Puri told the media persons that there were many casualties in high-altitude battle fields owing to health reasons. “Do you know how many casualties are reported just for health purposes from high-altitude areas? Do read about it, then you would come to know why young is important,” Puri said. Officers from Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy were also present in the joint briefing.

With the announcement made in the briefing it is clear that the contractual recruitment policy for armed forces is here to say notwithstanding the widespread protests against it. In view of the mounting protests, which have left Railways property worth Rs. 200 crore damaged and led to the cancellation of 300 trains, the government has, though, reached out the protesting youth to mollify them. In a slew of measures, the Centre first announced 2-year relaxation in age for 2022 and then extended 10 per cent reservation in Central Armed Police Forces and Assam Rifles to Agniveers whose contract would come to an end after a 4-year stint. The government also extended age relaxation of 5 years to Agniveers in government jobs.

Lt Gen Puri further told

the media persons that initially 46,000 Army aspirants would be recruited in order to ‘analyse’ the scheme “and to build up infra capacity”. Unveiling the numbers the government intends to hire, Puri said, “In the next 4–5 years, our intake (of recruits) will be 50,000–60,000 and will increase to 90,000–1 lakh subsequently.” The number of ‘Agniveers’ would go up to 1.25 lakh eventually, he added.

However, the recruitment to armed forces comes with a caveat. Every Agniveer aspirant would have to furnish a certificate, duly verified by the police, declaring that they were not part of the protests or vandalism. Emphasizing that Indian Army’s foundation was discipline and there was no space for arson or vandalism, Lt Gen Puri said, “Every individual will give a certificate that they were not part of the protest or vandalism. Police verification is 100 per cent, no one can join without that.” Individuals against whom FIRs have been lodged would not be allowed to join the forces.

The Centre also banned 35 WhatsApp groups for spreading fake news on Agnipath scheme and Agniveers, the ministry of home affairs said. At least ten people have been arrested on charges of rumour-mongering and organising protests.

Around 17,600 people take premature retirement from the armed forces, he told the reporters. “No one ever tried to ask them what they will do after retirement?” said Lt Gen Puri. Agniveers would get the same allowance in areas like Siachen and other areas which are applicable to the regular soldiers serving at present, he informed the reporters. The Additional Secretary also said that an Agniveer would get a compensation of Rs 1 crore if he sacrifices his life in service of the nation.

The centre had on June 14 announced the new recruitment policy which seeks to casualise jobs in the armed forces causing huge resentment among army aspirants. Barely two days after the ‘Agnipath’ scheme was unveiled, youth hit the streets across several states leading to violence, arson and vandalism.

In the meanwhile, opposition parties continued slam the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, demanding its withdrawal. Giving a call to the youth of the country to topple the BJP-led government at the Centre, “through democratic, peaceful and non-violent means”, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi on Sunday said, “I urge you to protest peacefully, but don’t stop. These are your rights, this is your country and it is your duty to protect it. Every leader and worker of the Congress is with you.” Priyanka was addressing a ‘Satyagrah’ protest against the schemed held by the Congress Party at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Among the top leaders, who took part in the protest, were Jairam Ramesh, Rajiv Shukla, Sachin Pilot, Salman Khurshid and Alka Lamba.

Her brother Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, who turned 52 on Sunday, asked his party workers to refrain from organizing celebrations on his birthday. “We are concerned with the situation in the country. Crores of youths are anguished. We should share the pain of the youth and their families and stand with them,” Rahul said in a statement.

Slamming the Centre, BSP leader Mayawati on Sunday said that the scheme had left the country’s youth “disappointed and frustrated”.

In a related development, the Rajasthan Cabinet passed a resolution on Sunday demanding the Centre to withdraw the scheme keeping in mind the “larger public interest and the sentiments of the youths”.

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Defence

‘Agnipath’ a trial by fire or an opportunity?

The scheme has possibly been launched with an aim to reduce the ballooning financial burden on the government and also to make the Armed Forces more competitive. However, the plan has its own pitfalls.

Ankit Kumar

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The Ministry of Defence finally announced Agnipath (Tour of Duty), the new scheme of recruitment to Armed Forces. Arguably a more suitable name may have been considered, because of the insinuation – is it a trial by fire or an opportunity? As expected, the scheme has been met with widespread criticism, especially from the veterans and armed forces aspirants. It is not surprising because the new scheme which has been in news since 2020 did not generate enough public debate at the time, which left people only with a vague idea about what it entails. Many did not take it seriously given that the armed forces already have a time-tested recruitment method. But now that the scheme details have been made clear, at least a part of it, it seems the criticism was justified.

The new recruitment scheme is not just radical, in that over a period it will change the composition of the Army, but that once in force it will release three-fourth of the recruits back to civilian life, albeit with some uncertainty about their future. In a country where government jobs are considered attractive, not just because of salary but also for hefty pension, a career in armed forces is preferred especially by youths from rural India. It is only likely that the recruits released after four years of service will knock the door of courts for better benefits.

This is not to say that there were no problems with the existing system. This scheme perhaps has envisaged by the government as a way of reducing the ballooning pay and pension bills. The nature of conflict is also changing, so the maintenance of a large standing army itself has been questioned. But despite expectation of stiff opposition to the new scheme, the government had not made adequate preparation for taking the youth – the primary stakeholder – into confidence. The resultant surprise announcement, after virtually no recruitments in two years, has backfired. Will it solve the problem for which it is being touted as the solution? Are the armed forces leadership completely on board? There are no clear answers as yet.

Therefore, before getting into the pros and cons of the scheme, it is important to understand why government has felt the need to bring this radical reform, when it is strongly being argued that the existing system is working fine. Specifically, it is pertinent to explore the issues government is attempting to resolve with this move.

The Problem – what is it trying to solve

It is argued, rhetorically, that no price is too high to be paid for the safety and security of the state. It may be true when the state is at war, but during peacetime it is a whole another issue. A developing country, like India, has limited resources and financial capacity. The government has to look after the needs of the humongous population and carry out the economic development through these limited resources. Excessive spending on any particular sector means diversion of funds from other sectors, even if it’s done for the state’s defence. The USSR eventually ended up getting disintegrated because, among other reasons, the government prioritised competing in arms race with the U.S., over providing basic needs to its population. Pakistan is another good example of this lopsided budgeting. The Army’s share in national budget is much more than what the state can afford. Pakistan’s defence budget accounts for 4 percent of GDP, compared to 2.9 percent of India’s. But since the Army is the ultimate authority in Pakistan, all governments are forced to keep the Army in good humour by approving their budgetary requisition. Result is that Pakistani economy is in doldrums and people are being asked to give up drinking tea.

Specific to India, the problem that the government is facing is meeting its obligations towards pay and pensions of soldiers and at the same time also undertaking the modernisation of the armed forces. Given the size of the armed forces, especially the Army, the pays and pensions take out a significant chunk out of the overall defence budget, leaving inadequate amount for force modernisation. Salaries and pensions account for nearly 60 percent of total defence budget, leaving a meagre 27 percent for capital acquisition. There is no separate budget for meeting payments obligations and acquiring weapons for modernization. The inflationary factors make capital acquisition (weapons & other materiel) more expensive every passing year. Similarly, the size of pays and pensions is also rising with more retirements every year. This is simply unsustainable and has been raised several times. The pensioners outnumber those in service by significant margin. That is why government has felt it necessary to reform the system that will bring down its commitments on pension.

However, it is easier said than done. Pension is an emotive issue in the country. It is seen as the guarantee of a secure retired life. Already several organisations are pressing for reinstatement of the old pension system which was replaced by the contributory National Pension System (NPS). For most, this is their only source of income in post-retirement civilian life. Only a few manage to obtain well-paying jobs.

The other issue is that of trimming the size of the Army. The Army leadership has time and again emphasised about the need to create a lean and mean fighting force which is more suitable for theatre battle groups. In fact, the proposal for reduction in size of the Army came from their leadership and studies. This means that the recruitment to the armed forces was set to be reduced regardless. However, it is the manner in which the new scheme of recruitment has been announced, as a complete surprise, to the aspirants that has created much discontent.

The Solution – how it is trying to solve it

As per the details released by the government, the old system of recruitment has been abolished. The new recruits will be selected solely through all-India merit Tour of Duty scheme. The scheme seems to be modelled closely to the recruitment system of the U.S. The hope is that since the system has worked well for the U.S., it should work fine for Indian security needs too. But the battle requirements of the U.S., primarily an expeditionary force, are much different than India.

Anyway, back to the solution offered. Only about 25 percent would be offered ranks and made permanent by the armed forces. The competition to be among the one-fourth being retained would be very stiff. Those retained would not only get the full salary and benefits but also the pension, the most lucrative part. Talking to people in rural parts of the country would make it clear that assured pension is what makes a government job most sought after. Other factors come later. The in-hand salary offered to the recruits in the new scheme is quite low. Perhaps government feels that school pass outs deserve only a meagre amount as their salary. Most these recruits have a family to support. Would the salary be enough to do that?

The released 75 percent, the numbers could vary depending upon how many are recruited in a year, would have 11 lakh rupees and a degree. That would get them a job is doubtful. Most logical step would be to go for further studies, which means they’ll end up spending their savings. It is not easy to go back into studies after being in a job.

The assurances provided by the Home Ministry and several state governments that these “retirees” would be prioritised in the state police force & central police force is not very exciting. Governments cannot shut the door for those to join police force who do not come out of the Tour of Duty scheme.

From the government’s perspective, the scheme is perhaps a solution to the challenges it is facing. However, it is clear that its announcement and implementation has not been thought through as well as it should have.

Way Forward

First and foremost, it is a decision by the government, so government has to own it completely and take the necessary steps to douse the fire of resentment as the top priority. The government perhaps blundered by announcing the new recruitment scheme as a complete surprise. No thought was spared about the candidates who had been working hard for past few years to qualify. Undoubtedly, the scheme could have been announced well in advance, thus giving future aspirants knowledge of what lays ahead and the time to prepare and adjust.

People may argue that it is not the job of the armed forces to cater to employment generation in the country. However, that is not how people perceive it. A career in armed forces is seen by those coming from rural parts as lifetime employment. Social status is one thing, the pay and perks ensure that their families lead a comfortable life with opportunities for upward mobility. It will not be easy for government to convince this aspirational population about the benefits of the new scheme.

Still, a middle ground must be found. The life for the Agniveers after release from armed forces is not going to be easy. For those unfortunates who get disabled during service, there’s no guarantee that they will be given the benefits government has announced. Ministry of Defence has the infamous track record of fighting almost every soldier’s disability pension claim in court. There’s no reason to believe this attitude will change for Agniveers.

Government needs to deal with the issue with required compassion. For many armed forces aspirants, joining army is their passion. It’s all they dream about. A better deal needs to offered to them. The aspirants must cease the arson and destruction of precious public property. There are ways to protests, arson and rioting is not among them. If anything, it reflects poorly on those seeking to be part of a highly disciplined organisation.

The author is a Research Scholar with the School of National Security Studies in Central University of Gujarat

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Defence

SOLDIERS’ SUPREME SACRIFICE WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN: RAJNATH SINGH

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday paid homage to the Indian Army soldiers who lost their lives in the Galwan Valley clash two years ago in 2020.Taking to Twitter, Singh, who is on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, posted, “Remembering the heroes of Galwan who fought valiantly for the honour of the country and laid down their lives on June 15-16, 2020. Their courage, bravery and supreme sacrifice will never be forgotten. I pay homage to those bravehearts.” For the first time in nearly 45 years, a violent skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops broke out in the Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020, resulting in losses on both sides and marking a new sour turn in China-India relations. The violent clashes, which mostly took place in and around Ladakh’s Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake, claimed lives on both sides and strained the bilateral relationship.

Even though two years have passed since the deadliest clash in 45 years between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, the two countries are still engaged in talks for the disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). But an early resolution to the standoff is nowhere in sight.

So far, the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have held 14 rounds of talks since the Galwan clashes and one before June 15, 2020, to resolve the standoff but no concrete solution has been arrived at yet.Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today arrived in Srinagar on a two-day visit to the Union Territory. He will be visiting forward areas and interacting with troops during his visit.

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