Wanted! Service Chiefs with Balls

BY SHAILESH RANADE

What do you say about an Army Chief who calls a recent suicide of a jawan as a “minor incident”? What do you say about a Navy chief who drags the other two Chiefs to a Committee of Secretaries to discuss pay and pension anomalies? What do you say about an Air Force Chief who consistently has no opinion on any pressing issue and is more fit for Madame Tussauds Wax Museum?

The Service Chiefs simply lack courage. Many veterans who have spent their best years in the Armed Forces are astonished at their pusillanimity. Not many hours ago, a jawan was perched atop a 200 foot mobile tower and wanted an audience with the country’s Defence Minister. This “isolated incident” is not a failure of middle level officers. It is a failure of leadership at the very top of the Army chain. These are not solitary or minor incidents any more. At least, not in our society where the jawan is a part of the family. If things continue to slide, the outlook is pretty grim for the Services in general and the Army in particular.

Many feel that the current Chiefs simply do not inspire the kind of confidence expected of leaders who can lead men into battle. Does anyone in the higher echelons even pay attention to what they are saying? Do their opinions even matter in the greater scheme of things?

So what’s the time, one may well ask? It’s time, the soldier, seaman and the airman got a new set of Chiefs for their respective forces.

A hypothetical advert for a Service Chief would be something like the one listed below. How we wish it were true!

Wanted! Service Chiefs with Balls

Key Duties/Responsibilities:

  • Lead by personal example.
  • The immediate need is to restore the credibility at Senior Levels.
  • Prepare the Forces under your Command for war at all times. Statements like “we will fight with whatever we have” will be frowned upon.
  • Create an Organization that will conduct an honest appraisal of Officers / PBORs for promotion.
  • You are to assist civilian authority only after due diligence. Outsourcing jobs to the Services is to be treated as overtime.
  • You have to earn the respect and trust of your troops. Suicides will not be treated as “minor incidents”. Neither will jawans climbing mobile towers in desperation be tolerated.
  • You are to ensure that officers and jawans are satisfied with their pay and allowances. You will be required to move heaven and earth if needed. As a last resort, thumping the table of the RM or PM would be acceptable.
  • Well versed in troop management.
  • Improve the promotion prospects and social status of the jawans.
  • You and your senior officers are required to play troop games and shun individual sports like golf, tennis etc.
  • You also need to care for the welfare of the Veteran Community and conduct a “durbar” at least once in 6 months in every Command by rotation.
  • Appoint a Scam Investigator in every Command and take quick action to weed out undesirable elements.
  • Occasionally advise your superiors on good governance, if things start to go awry. Remember, National Defence is all encompassing.
  • Honestly evaluate all arms deals/transactions without any hint of post retirement benefit.
  • Any other duty bestowed upon you by the citizens of India.

You are to avoid:

  • The company of scam tainted ministers, politicians and bureaucrats.
  • Wasteful expenditure like Presidential Fleet Reviews or going one up on your predecessor by flying a President on a Sukhoi-30.
  • Cheap publicity like granting honorary ranks to sports personalities or giving them rides on tanks/ships and fighter aircraft.
  • Repetition of: Bofors Scam, Atta Scam, Rum Scam, Sex Scandal, Adarsh Scam, Sukhna Scam, Tatra Scam, Tehelka Scam, Barak Scam, Scorpene Scam, Gorshkov Scam, NDA Scam, Denel Scam, Coffin Scam, Awantipura Scam, Diesel Scam, ACR Scam, Tilpat Range Scam, Kalpatru Builders Scam, Mutton Scam, Scrap Scam, ECHS Scam, CSD Scam etc. In fact any Scam in any form is anathema.
  • Taking, pilfering, misusing items bought from Service Funds such as stationery, fuel, furnishings, Liquor, transport, etc.
  • Misuse of official machinery and manpower for the benefit of your dependents. You will be required to keep complete control over your spouse, children and other dependents. They are expected to use your personal or public transport. Their expenses are to be debited to your personal account.
  • Illegal acts in the fiscal sphere such as fake billing, selling of NSP arms etc.
  • Attending lavish parties that give the impression that your juniors are “sucking up” to you.
  • Denigrating the office of the Chief by getting appointed as Ambassador or Governor of an inconsequential country/state. You are also to advise retiring senior officers against becoming dalals for arms lobbies, construction houses, shipyards, aircraft industries etc.

Qualifications for the Potential Candidate:

  • You are expected to be a three star officer viz: Lt Gen/Vice Adm/Air Marshal.
  • You should be free from scam taint.
  • You should not be a backdoor entry into Flag Rank.
  • You should not have approached a politician or a bureaucrat for a promotion or a favorable posting.
  • You should not have gone to court or filed a statutory complaint during your career.
  • You should have a soldiers bearing. Officers with reverse chest to waist ratio will not be entertained.
  • War fighting skills may be an advantage though NOT an essential requirement.
  • Irreproachable conduct, restrained attitude, understanding of responsibility and adherence to discipline should come naturally.
  • Two star officers in zone of promotion are encouraged to apply. In the event that no suitable three star officers meet the requirement, the selection would be conducted from the more suitable two star officers.

Remuneration and Perks:

  • Rs 90,000 per month + DA
  • Fully furnished house in Lutyens Zone
  • Security as deemed
  • Free transportation (only for self)
  • Embraer aircraft for inter city travel (only for self). Wives who nominate themselves as ‘President’ AWWA/NWW/AFWWA are entitled to 2 AC train fare
  • Free Medical for life for self and dependents (conditions apply)
  • Security cleared servants at home. No Batmen or Stewards are to be misused
  • Silly things like Rations / CSD subscription / Liquor quota are included

Time to Join
ASAP. You will be required to hit the ground running.

Candidates meeting the above requirement are assured of a rewarding career and the nations’ gratitude.

(Shailesh Ranade is a Guest Blogger with the Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Mecca Summit: Peace initiative or one-upmanship

BY SAEED NAQVI

At the emergency OIC summit in Mecca, Iran’s President Ahmedinejad, Supreme Leader Khamenei’s foreign Policy Adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, President’s senior adviser Mojtaba Samareh-Hashemi, Head of Presidential office Esfandiar Rahim Mashaee, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi were all present.

Did King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia host such a high powered Iranian delegation simply to hand them an insult in a gold salver: that the OIC seeks Syria’s suspension? There are two other tepid resolutions supporting Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar and Palestinians.

Sheikhdoms, monarchies (with open western support) have worked themselves to a frenzy over Syria but Saudi Arabia cannot allow itself the luxury of blind rage. It has a leadership position and its stakes in the West Asia game are much higher. Since the death of successive Crown Princes Sultan bin Abdel Aziz in October 2011 and Naef bin Abdel Aziz in June 2012, intimations of mortality are knocking at the doors of a series of prospective successors. King Abdullah himself was in hospital in Europe when the Arab Spring disturbed his convalescence. In February 2011 he returned and took charge.

He faces dissensions at home. There have been unconfirmed reports that Saudi Spy Chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan has been assassinated. In the absence of any official Saudi confirmation or denial, speculation and innuendo are rife. Former Chief of India’s External intelligence Agency and Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Vikram Sood says: “What must have stunned the Saudi government into silence was not just that Bandar was killed but that the Syrians had the reach to strike deep in Saudi Arabia.”

Also, there is growing restiveness in the Kingdom’s oil bearing and predominantly Shia eastern province. Demonstrations have also been reported from Riyadh.

The Western media has been predicting the fall of Bashar al Assad for the past year. An externally induced civil war is on the cards but the collapse of the regime has not materialized. And for obvious reasons. Americans had to occupy Iraq for a decade before bringing about the messy change that is on show now. Syria is a mirror image of the Iraqi power structure prior to American occupation. Why would Syria then collapse by the exertions of well equipped mercenaries and proxies however much of a space they may have made in some Sunni hearts?

None of this is to suggest that the Saudis are about to throw in the towel.

What is quite possible is that a point of divergence may have been reached between the West and the Arabs who have so far coordinated policy on Syria. Of course some in Washington may still be of the view that regime change in Damascus would be a nice trophy to gift President Obama on the eve of his re election. This would also keep the TV cameras away from Afghanistan where the news is bleak and the promised return of troops is not taking place.

To please some in the West, a possible result may already have been achieved in West Asia: quarreling Muslim Societies, too self absorbed to worry about Israel or Palestine. But a prolonged sectarian strife may not be entirely to Saudi Arabia’s liking. It has its own oil rich Eastern province to worry about. Dammam, the centre of this province, is directly linked by a 37 km causeway to the troubled Kingdom of Bahrain with its 80 percent Shia population in revolt against the Sunni King. Bahrain is home to the United States 5th fleet and a holiday resort for the Saudis tired of their own institutionalized austerities.

Any evaluation of Shia politics in the region would be flawed until it takes into account the considerable influence that the holy city of Najaf exerts on Baghdad, Tehran, the Hezbullah and the majority of Bahrainis.

For several years the whispered demand in Najaf has been to end the “repression” of Bahrain’s Shias.

When the infection of popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt reached Bahrain, there was some confusion in the ranks of the demonstrators, Shias and Sunnis, who at first had even mounted photographs of Mahatma Gandhi to guide their peaceful protest.

Last year a road map towards a shared future was hammered out between US envoy Jeffrey Feltman, Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa and a young Shia leader much admired in Najaf, Sheikh Ali Salman.

This threatened the power of Prime Minister Khalifa Ibn Salman al Khalifa who happens to be the King’s brother. By this time the Prime Minister’s friend and hardline Saudi, Crown Prince Naef was in control in Riyadh. He ordered Armoured Personnel Carriers to rumble down the causeway linking Dammam to Bahrain, inaugurating a phase of endless demonstrations and brutal police repression.

That is why there has to be more to the presence of a high powered delegation from Iran (everybody except the Supreme leader himself) than the statements that have been put out in the public domain.

Is the Feltman plan or something like it being revived in Bahrain? And is something similar being planned for Syria? Remember, the hard line Prince Naef is not around and King Abdullah, emotionally drained, has always been known to be pragmatic. The proposed centre in Riyadh for dialogue between Muslim sects is a conciliatory step. As is Bahrain’s decision to reinstate its ambassador to Tehran.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Great power berserk: Fair is foul, foul is fair

BY SAEED NAQVI

The famous newspaper tycoon, builder of San Simeon castle in California, William Randolph Hearst, knew the nexus between war and journalism. “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war”, he told American artist, illustrator, Frederic Remington.

The brazenness with which the media has been used by the Americans and their cohorts in Libya and now in Syria has its origins in American history.

The general attitude of racial superiority over those currently in the line of fire also has its abiding historical precedents.

When questions were asked about American excesses during the conquest of the Philippines, Senator Albert Beveridge, like so many others in Congress, said: “It has been charged that our conduct of the war has been cruel. Senators must remember that we are not dealing with Americans or Europeans. We are dealing with Orientals.”

It is an undeniable reality that racialism were rampant in the United States in late 19th early 20th centuries when atleast “two negroes were lynched by the mobs every week”. After all, Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights movement was climaxing just the other day when King had to pay with his own life. Also, we tend to forget that Mrs. Margaret Thatcher flatly refused to withdraw support to the apartheid system in South Africa when Rajiv Gandhi along with frontline African statesmen engaged her in London in 1986.

Indeed, it was only in February 1990 that Nelson Mandela’s 27 year long incarceration was brought to an end signaling an end to apartheid.

Despite the debris of war which surround it and over which it towers, there is the human side to the American which gets no play in the media. These are the conscientious objectors, who, atleast since the Iraq occupation are giving up their establishment jobs.

Some months ago, when the Syrian situation was under control, I found myself in the company of Edward Lionel Peck, an ex US-ambassador to several Arab countries, driving in a bus from Damascus to Homs and Hama. That very day, the US ambassador Robert Ford with his French counterpart was driving from Deraa to Hama, Homs and sundry trouble spots, exhorting the people to rise. Obviously there were CIA trained Syrian cells which clustered around the ambassador. That afternoon I visited the palace to meet President Assad’s adviser, Buthaina Shabaan, one of the most elegant women in public life. She was as dazed as I was at the US ambassador combining in his persona both, diplomacy as well as 007 style espionage. As his boss in Baghdad’s Green zone, John Negroponte had praised him for his audacious outdoors diplomacy plus direct action.

A professional diplomat, Ed Peck, was disgusted with what he saw. He wrote to a friend of his also in that bus in Syria: “I have been dismayed by the accolades and support given to Ambassador Ford, our man in – and now out of Syria, for stepping well out of the traditional and appropriate role of a diplomat and actively encouraging the revolt/insurrection/sectarian strife/outside meddling, call it what you will, that is still going on.  It is easy to imagine the US reaction if an ambassador from anywhere were to engage in even distantly related activities here.  I fear my country remains somewhat more than merely insensitive, and is sliding into just plain rampant and offensive arrogance.”

When two planes flew into the twin towers, the US launched an endless (still continuing) war on terror. But when terrorists bomb and kill the Syrian Defence Minister and two other members of Assad’s cabinet, an overjoyed Economist says the attack “is greatly to be welcomed”!

When Al Qaeda and Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas, in March 2001, the world, Washington included, went into convulsion. And now, when Al Qaeda type movements, created by Western intervention in Libya, are destroying heritage sites in Timbaktu, there is barely a whisper.

What is going on? A war against Al Qaeda in Af-Pak and a deliberate manufacture of just those elements in Syria? Has New Delhi forgotten its breast beating against cross-border terrorism in Kashmir atleast since 1989? How will it ever raise that issue again having voted along with the west which stands for cross border terrorism by US, France, UK, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey against Syria?

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Stalin not a bad word in Russia any longer

BY SAEED NAQVI

Stalin is no longer a bad name in Russia.

As I get into the sleek Mercedes parked outside my downtown hotel, the big, burly Russian driver puts aside a book on Stalin he has been reading.

“Why Stalin?” I ask. He points to a large Metro station we pass. “He built this in 1937 the world’s greatest metro system with over 200 stations.” Then he is unstoppable in Russian which ofcourse I cannot follow.

My taxi driver is not the only Russian wrapped in nostalgia about the past. At a seminar on Pluralism and Separatism outside Moscow, in village Rogozinino, Russian scholar Sergey Kurginyan, takes my breath away: “a recent opinion poll suggests that 80% of the Russian population feel the people were better off during the Soviet period.”

Other Russian scholars find Kurginyan way off the mark. “Yes the older generation misses the stability in their lives.” They miss the world’s best public transport system – underground metro, trams, buses, subsidized taxis. “Not only could we reach our destinations easily, but the air was not polluted and there were no traffic jams.”

The younger generation, particularly the one in their 20s, are excited about the new cars, fancy restaurants, shops and shopping malls matching anything in the west.  Not to be ignored are Moscow’s very own tailoring outfits, controlled by Sindhis from Hong Kong and quite in the image of Savile Row.

Russians across the board are sensitive to the status reversal they suffered with the Soviet collapse. This is Vladimir Putin’s strong point: he stokes Russian nationalism by appearing to stand upto the West. Informed opinion in Moscow suggests that Putin would have vetoed UNSC 1973 which gave NATO the right to impose a no-fly zone in Libya.

And now, Putin has dug his heels in on Syria. The view in Moscow is that “terrorism” as means of war will first recoil on countries of the region and then proceed to take its toll in enlarging concentric circles.

This does not mean that Putin is reckless in taking on the West. A source close to the Kremlin put it succinctly: if the choice is between Syria and Russia, then obviously he will not put Russia at risk.

Indeed, there is enough indication that he would like to ease tensions with the West. He needs this breathing space to consolidate on Russia’s vast oil, gas, timber, diamond and endless mineral wealth. Russia’s financial systems are not “globalised” and therefore not vulnerable on the European scale. This confidence provokes the US to devise ways to keep Russia off-balance, externally and internally.

When Pakistan closed the Karachi-Balochistan supply route to Afghanistan, Russians promptly enabled the Americans to set up a transportation hub at Ulyanovsk (ironically, Lenin’s birth place) to utilize the northern route.

Washington insisted that NATO radars in the Czech Republic and Interceptors in Hungary would be a pre-condition for START negotiations. Putin agreed.

Putin also accommodated Washington on other conditions to begin START talks. Kremlin accepted terms which the military was opposed to.

Why? First it fulfills Putin’s desire to accommodate Washington.

Also, Moscow-Washington Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, creates an illusion of superpowers in conversation.

Numerous state sponsored programmes for Russians to study in American universities is part of the friendship offensive with the west.

The impression after a visit to Moscow is that the Kremlin is eager to ease its tensions with the West without compromising on its strategic interests. Recent floods in the south exposed systemic gaps. These Putin would like to plug on a priority basis before looking outwards.

Compared to Europe, Russia is such a cheerful story that Ukraine’s pro Europe bloc may soon wilt. A remarkable success story abutting Russia is Belarus. Call it Stalinist but, without having Russia’s resources, it is totally self sufficient sans crime. It escaped the trauma of Bandit Capitalism conferred on Moscow by the Boris Yeltsin regime.

As far as India is concerned, Russia is numero uno in the fields of Defense, Space and Atomic energy. Agreements for the third and fourth phase of Kudankulam Atomic power project were in the process of being signed during my Moscow stay. While negotiating pressures from the powerful, New Delhi must not be careless with its Russian assets.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)