CHINA IS THE ILLEGITIMATE OCCUPIER OF NAMKA CHU VALLEY - The Daily Guardian
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CHINA IS THE ILLEGITIMATE OCCUPIER OF NAMKA CHU VALLEY

Post cessation of hostilities in 1962, PLA relocated its forces to pre-war positions on the Chinese side of the McMahon Line. But it did not vacate the northern part of Namka Chu valley. This area is still under the illegal occupation of China.

Ashish Singh

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Relations between India and China revolve around unresolved disputes which have their genesis in colonial era leading to tensions and skirmishes. The root cause lies in an ill-defined and ambiguous, 3,440-km-long border that both countries dispute. In the Northern Sector, British India and China agreed upon the Johnson line in 1865. This line puts the Aksai Chin area under Jammu and Kashmir, India. The Chinese denied following this line after Xinjiang became a part of China. China claimed the Aksai Chin area as its own. India continued to follow the Johnson line till its independence.

As far as eastern part of India is concerned, the origin of the dispute dates back to the early 20th century. The 885-km-long northern boundary of Arunachal Pradesh known as the McMahon Line is a bone of contention between India and China. After the Chinese debacle in Mongolia, the British called for a tripartite conference which was convened at Shimla in 1913 and attended by Sir Henry Mc Mohan of British India, Ivan Chen of China and Lochen Shatra of Tibet to demarcate the boundary between outer and inner Tibet. After several rounds of meetings it was during, Mar 1914 Ivan Chen accepted a line which he initialled on 27 April and signed the draft convention.

The draft treaty recognises the autonomy of outer Tibet and agreed to refrain from interference in administration of outer Tibet. The Chinese objection in the draft treaty was on the boundaries of inner Tibet only. Chinese never objected to the McMahon Line. In fact, at no stage did the Chinese even claim a specific boundary with Assam. The then Chinese authorities objected specifically only to Article 9 of the said Convention that laid down the boundaries between Inner and Outer Tibet.

Other than that, they made it amply clear, on several occasions, which they did not object to any other Article, including that which showed the McMahon Line.  The fact of the matter is that, from the time of the signing of the Simla Convention on 3rd July 1914 till 23rd January 1959 when PM Zhou wrote a letter to Nehru, the Chinese never raised any formal objections to the McMahon Line. In his letter [23 January 1959] Zhou, for the first time ever, made the following points to the Indian Prime Minister Nehru. Firstly, that the Sino-Indian boundary had never been formally delimited and that no treaty or agreement had been concluded between the Chinese Central government and the government of India. Secondly, that the McMahon Line was a product of the British policy of aggression against the Tibetan Region of China. Thirdly, Zhou admitted that the Tibetan Local authorities had signed the Convention but were dissatisfied with the ‘unilaterally drawn’ line.

Nevertheless, Zhou asserted that ‘the Chinese government finds it necessary to take a realistic attitude towards the McMahon Line.’ This stance of Zhou totally ignored his earlier stand that China would take a ‘realistic attitude’. The unilateral denial by China is not justified as the Chinese representative during Simla Convention, Ivan Chen, not only fully participated as a delegate, but on an equal footing with the Tibetan representative.

All arrangements at Simla were made with the knowledge and consent of the Chinese and the Chinese Foreign Minister wrote to the British government on 07 August 1913 that the Chinese plenipotentiary would proceed to India to ‘open negotiations for a treaty jointly with the Tibetan and British plenipotentiaries’. That Tibet participated on an equal footing with China is further supported by the inescapable fact that the three countries formally exchanged and recognised the credentials of each other at the conference. In fact, the then Chinese President, Yuan Shih-kai issued a Presidential Order on 21 April 1912 declaring Tibet to be an administered province of China.

To emphasize the tripartite nature of the Simla Conference, the 1912 Presidential Order was specifically revoked on 13 June 1913 and the Chinese government accepted that all three participants were on an equal footing. Not only were the frontiers of India and Tibet discussed at the conference, but at no stage either at the conference or subsequently did the Chinese object; for the Chinese representative at Simla, Ivan Chen was fully aware of the McMahon Line. It would be travesty to suggest otherwise for he was present at the signing ceremony of the Simla Convention on 3rd July 1914. Discussions on the India-Tibet boundary between the British Indian government and Tibet took place from 15-31 January 1914. At the 4th meeting of the full conference on 17 February 1914, McMahon tabled a statement on the territorial limits of Tibet.

In a map attached to the statement, the ‘historic frontiers’ of Tibet were shown for acceptance that later came to be known as the McMahon Line. There was no Chinese dissent. Discussions between Britain and Tibet followed and that resulted in an agreement which is fully recorded in the exchange of letters between McMahon and Lonchen Shatra. The draft Indo-Tibet boundary was formally confirmed on 24 and 25 March 1914 and submitted at the 7th full meeting of all the delegates on 22 April 1914. On 26 April 1914 Ivan Chen, the Chinese plenipotentiary, officially communicated the Chinese government stand to McMahon and stated:“With the exception of Article 9 of the draft convention, we are prepared to take the main principles, embodied in the other articles, into favourable consideration.” And just prior to the signing of the Simla Convention on 3 July 1914 by the British and Tibetan representatives, the Chinese government, once again, conveyed as follows:This government has several times stated that it gives its support to the majority of the articles of the Convention. The part it is unable to agree is that dealing with the question of the boundary. The fact of the matter is that the Tibetan Plenipotentiary [Lonchen Shatra Paljor Dorje] put his full signature, as per Tibetan custom, for it is not possible to initial in the Tibetan language.

The two maps of 27 April 1914 and 3 July 1914 showing the IndiaTibet boundary bear the full signatures of the Tibetan Plenipotentiary. The map of 27 April 1914 bears the full signature of the Chinese Plenipotentiary, Ivan Chen. The British Plenipotentiary, McMahon initialled the map of 27 April 1914 and the Convention of 3 July 1914, but signed in full the map. Thereafter both the PRC and their predecessors the Kuomintang (ROC) had always maintained that Tibet was a part of China. The PRC also proclaimed an ideological motivation to liberate the Tibetans from a theocratic feudal system.

In September 1949, shortly before the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made it a top priority to incorporate Tibet, Taiwan, Hainan Island, and the Pescadores Islands into the PRC, peacefully or by force. Because Tibet was unlikely to voluntarily give up its de facto independence, Mao in December 1949 ordered that preparations be made to march into Tibet at Qamdo (Chamdo), in order to induce the Tibetan Government to negotiate. The PRC had over a million men under arms and had extensive combat experience from the recently concluded Chinese Civil War.

After months of failed negotiation attempts by Tibet to secure foreign support and assistance, PRC and Tibetan troop build-ups, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) initiated hostilities. As a consequence Tibetan representatives in Beijing and the PRC Government signed the Seventeen Point Agreement on 23 May 1951, authorizing the PLA presence and Central People’s Government rule in Political Tibet.  In 1956, Tibetan militias in the ethnically Tibetan region of eastern Kham started fighting against the government. The militias united to form Chushi Gangdruk Volunteer Force.

When the fighting spread to Lhasa in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet. Both he and the PRC government in Tibet subsequently repudiated the 17 Point Agreement and the PRC government in Tibet dissolved the Tibetan Local Government. The annexation of Tibet into PRC virtually removed the buffer between India and China and this opened up a plethora of disputes between India and China on the control over erstwhile Tibetan regions. As a result of 1959’s Tibetan uprising, India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. India initiated a defensive Forward Policy from 1960 to hinder Chinese military patrols and logistics, in which it placed outposts along the border. Chinese military action grew increasingly aggressive in 1960-62, with China re-commencing previously-banned “forward patrols” in Ladakh from 30 April 1962. 

Various border conflicts and “military incidents” between India and China flared up throughout the summer and autumn of 1962. The Indian Intelligence Bureau received information about a Chinese buildup along the border which could be a precursor to war. On 10 July 1962, 350 Chinese troops surrounded an Indian post in Chushul (north of the McMahon Line) but withdrew after a heated argument via loudspeaker. A contentious issue on the eastern front was the location of the Indian outpost at Dhola in the River Namka Chu gorge, where the borders of India, Bhutan, and Tibet intersect northwest of Tawang.

The post was created on 24 February 1962 and, according to the Henderson Brooks–Bhagat Report, the site ‘was established north of the McMahon Line as shown on maps prior to October/ November 1962 edition. It is believed that the old edition was given to the Chinese by our External Affairs Ministry to indicate the McMahon Line. It is also learnt that we tried to clarify the error in our maps, but the Chinese did not accept our contention.’ In June 1962, Indian forces established an outpost called the Dhola Post in the Namka Chu valley to the south of the Thag La Ridge. In August, China issued diplomatic protests and began occupying positions at the top of Thag La.

On 8 September, a 60-strong PLA unit descended to the south side of the ridge and occupied positions that dominated one of the Indian posts at Namka Chu. On 11 September, it was decided that “all forward posts and patrols were given permission to fire on any armed Chinese who entered Indian Territory”. Chinese troops had crossed the Namka Chu on 8 September, surrounded an Indian outpost in the gorge, and destroyed two bridges on the river. On 20 September, the post was attacked by Chinese forces from the Thagla Ridge to the north, and sporadic fighting continued. The nearby Dhola Post was reinforced and firing from both sides continued in the area throughout September. Three Indian soldiers were wounded when the Chinese threw hand grenades at their position, but otherwise, there were no casualties. The clash at Tseng Jong resulted in Indian casualties of 6 dead and 11 wounded; Chinese media announced their casualties as 77 dead.  Both sides had numerous injuries. The final attack came at 0500 Hr on 20 October. The Indian forces were undermanned, with only an understrength battalion to support them, while the Chinese troops had three regiments positioned on the north side of the river.

The strength of the Chinese attacking force was estimated at 2,000, while the Indians at those outposts numbered only 600.The Chinese had taken up positions on higher ground behind Indian defences and were thus able to attack downhill on the morning of the attack. After the Chinese artillery barrage from the Thagla Ridge overlooking the Namka Chu, the PLA destroyed all Indian artillery positions and surrounding fortifications due to their advantageous position. The Indian border posts as well as Dhola and Khenzemane were captured. Post cessation of hostilities PLA relocated its forces to pre-war positions on the Chinese side of the McMahon Line. However the PLA did not vacate the northern part of Namka Chu valley which is South of McMahon line which China had never objected till 1959, wherein she changed its stance due to selfish reasons. This area is still under illegal occupation against the established norms of mutual respect around the World. The Namka Chu still remains an uncomfortable issue in the broader Chinese strategic circles.

Though it is discussed in many academic and other gatherings, unlike India, China tries to avoid talking about the actuality and operation of the 1962 war and tries to blame India. There seems to be no regret or realisation in China about the illegitimate and illegal occupation of the territory of a sovereign nation. In spite of India, supporting China’s permanent membership in the UN Security Council, something it could easily desist from, the Chinese attitude towards India is hostile. Instead of introspection, Chinese strategic circles have pushed the antiIndia notion in recent times both with regard to the border dispute and overall bilateral relations. The facts clearly establish India’s right over Namka Chu and provide it legitimacy to use all available options to take it back.

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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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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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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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