New Delhi,28 Apr:The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony has called upon the top brass of the Indian Army to critically introspect and ensure ‘equity, fair play and transparency at all levels’ so that the faith of officers and Personnel Below Officer Ranks (PBORs) in the system is upheld and the youth is motivated to join the Armed Forces. Addressing the Army Commanders’ Conference here today, Shri Antony hoped that a fair solution to various anomalies relating to the Services in the 6th Pay Commission will be achieved soon.
“The Sixth Pay Commission has submitted its report. The Services have pointed out various anomalies which are being taken up at the appropriate level. I hope a fair solution will be arrived at, at the earliest. Our Government is keen to improve other service conditions like Married Accommodation Project and enhancing opportunities for providing the best education for children of Armed Forces personnel. However, I wish to strongly emphasize that we must look critically within our own system. You must ensure equity, fairplay and transparency at all levels, so that the faith of officers and PBORs in the system is reinforced. This will go a long way in projecting the right image of the Army and in attracting the youth to join the Armed Forces”, he said
Noting that the number of cases of suicide and fratricide has come down considerably, the Defence Minister said that efforts to reduce avoidable loss of lives have to be persisted with. “I would urge all of you to pay your undivided attention to better and more humane man management. Commanders and officers must respect the dignity of the jawans and redress their grievances on priority. You must also provide opportunities for increased qualitative and quantitative interactions with officers and jawans”, he said. Shri Antony called upon the Commanders to play more proactive role in ensuring the welfare of Defence personnel. To meet this objective, he said, Army Commanders are nominated to Rajya Sainik Boards headed by Governors or Chief Ministers of respective states. However, it has been pointed out that Senior Army Officers do not attend meetings of Rajya Sainik Boards regularly. Shri Antony said these meetings are an ideal platform to strengthen contact with the State Governments and should be attended regularly. “The Army Commanders could similarly, look into the grievances of ex-servicemen and families of serving Army personnel residing within their areas of jurisdiction and serve as a bridge between them and the civil administration”.
Shri Antony called upon the Commanders to collectively ensure that personnel issues are addressed urgently and without any favour or rancour. He also told the top brass that the authority vested with Commanders and senior officers must be exercised without any element of arbitrariness or bias. “You have to be extremely careful and prudent on the issue of inter se gradings, which results in delays in promotion. This process needs to be streamlined. The model for quantification of various parameters for promotion of officers needs to be expedited. Urgent remedial measures are also needed to reduce the increase in the number of statutory complaints. The Service headquarters should expedite timely redressal of all complaints within a reasonable time-frame. The proposals for postings need to be scrutinized carefully and ought to be based on merit and actual requirement. The authority vested with commanders and senior officers must be exercised without any element of arbitrariness, or bias”.
Talking about the importance of women in Armed Forces, Shri Antony said it is high time that they are granted their due in the Services. “I have given an assurance in the Rajya Sabha that the Ministry will look into the aspect of grant of permanent commission to women in the non-combatant stream, to begin with. It is a commitment that we all must honour and endeavour to achieve this objective on priority”, he said.
Reiterating Modernization of the Armed Forces as a top priority for the Government, Shri Antony said, we remain firmly committed, at the same time, to the process of indigenization. He said, on its part , being the end user, the Army must make conscious efforts to get involved with the designing and development stages of the production of military hardware, so that the Army’s concerns and requirements can be effectively addressed. ‘All stake holders must work in tandem to enhance our overall defence preparedness’, he said.
The Defence Minister informed the top Army brass that the 11th Defence Plan document has nearly been completed. It will help in addressing various issues pertaining to the development, modernization and upgradation of military hardware and systems. He also informed the House that the Defence Procurement Procedures are being further streamlined to optimize transparency and fairness in our acquisition process. Shri Antony advised the financial planners to utilize allocated resources in such a way that the funds earmarked are neither surrendered nor squandered. ‘We are also laying emphasis on reducing revenue expenditure and at the same time utilizing funds for ‘capital’ acquisitions and modernizations, he said.
Giving a bird’s eye view of the shifting and changing security scenario around the globe, Shri Antony said the Commanders Conference is being held at a time when nations and regions are witnessing political changes and economic turbulence. ‘Rising oil prices have not only led to economic instability, but have also had an impact on the overall security of nations and regions. In a multi-polar world, the all round security and well-being of nations is closely linked to factors such as peace, stability and prosperity. There is a constant realignment of forces, as nations compete with each other to increase their share of geo-strategic space’, he said.
Shri Antony said India’s relationship with other countries is not the outcome of any zero-sum game and that New Delhi would like to play its role in preserving peace and stability in the Asian region, commensurate with its status. Shri Antony briefly touched upon India’s relationship with other countries of the world.
Referring to Russia, he said, New Delhi enjoys a long standing friendship with Moscow and would like to further strengthen the existing ties.
On Indo-US relations, he said we have been making steady progress and cooperation with the United States extends to various areas including security, space, counter-terrorism, energy and environment.
Referring to China, Shri Antony said, though we continue to abide by the confidence building measures mutually agreed upon between the two nations, we have to constantly upgrade our military and economic capabilities. ‘There is no room for complacency’, he said.
Shri Antony said, Pakistan continues to provide covert support to perpetrators of cross-border terrorism and hoped for a ‘more meaningful engagement with the newly elected Government of Pakistan’. He also hoped that Islamabad will take steps to curb cross-border terrorism, effectively. ‘On our part, we have to be eternally vigilant on all fronts’.
On Afghanistan, Shri Antony said, we are committed to provide continuous support to enable Kabul to emerge as a self-sufficient, stable and a democratic state.
Shri Antony said winds of political change have also been sweeping Nepal. Describing the current phase as a defining moment in the history of Nepal, he said India is committed to help Kathmandu in every way to ensure an orderly and constitutional transition to multi-party democracy.
Referring to Bhutan, Shri Antony said that transition to democracy has nearly been completed there. However, we cannot afford to lower our guard as any security related development is bound to have a spillover effect on our country.
Infiltration and illegal immigration from Bangladesh are two issues that continue to be a cause of serious concern for us, Shri Antony said, adding that the Government has been taking up the issues with Dhaka from time to time.
Referring to Myanmar, he said, development of various infrastructure project by other countries there is an issue that has a direct bearing on our security concerns.
Shri Antony said Sri Lanka has been plagued by internal conflict for several years. ‘India and indeed the entire South Asian region stand to gain from the restoration of peace process in the island nation’.
He said, overall, our Government will continue to strive to maintain and strengthen peaceful friendly relations with all our neighbouring countries. It will be our endeavour to resolve all outstanding issues without compromising on our strategic objectives.
Shri Antony reiterated the commitment of the Government to enable the Army to meet its international responsibilities to the best of its ability. India has participated in 43 peacekeeping operations in more than thirty countries, which has earned the country a lot of goodwill. However, there have been some stray incidents, he said, which have tarnished the otherwise impeccable track record of our Army in international missions and exercises. He called upon the Army personnel to uphold the highest standards of professional conduct and decency.
Delving at length the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Shri Antony said it has shown signs of improvement. ‘The incidence of violence in the state has registered a significant drop. The relatively peaceful conditions have created a conducive environment for Assembly elections due to be held later this year. This has been made possible mainly due to the commendable dedication, sacrifices and commitment of the Army’. He referred to the recent decision of the Government to increase the payment of rentals in the State from 2.1 times to 5 times for various categories of land, and asked the top commanders to ensure that timely relief is given to the people for their legitimate dues. This he said will surely go a long way in accelerating the return of peace and normalcy in the state.
Referring to the north-east, Shri Antony said the Government attaches top priority to the development infrastructure in the region. ‘Latest infrastructure would not only enhance the security and defence preparedness of the region and the country, but also accelerate the economic growth and welfare of the region’. Shri Antony said the general situation in the north-east has shown a marked improvement and is by and large peaceful. Recently, elections were successfully conducted in some states. This indicates a yearning for peace among the local people, he said.
The Defence Minister said the role of Army in countering Naxal violence is limited. ‘The Army has provided assistance to states by setting up counter terrorism institutions and by a mechanism of ‘training the trainers’. The task lies clearly in the realm of State Police Forces, Central Police Organisations and Paramilitary forces and they must develop the requisite capacity and efficiency to deal with this menace effectively. However, they must benefit from the Army’s immense experience and expertise in these areas’.
The Army Commanders’ Conference, a half-yearly event that focuses on key policy issues will continue till 02 May 2008.