Tag Archives: Indian Army

PATHANKOT ATTACK: Armed forces did well to take on terrorists but govt’s defensiveness hurt morale says top commander

Air Marshal_S.B.Deo
Air Marshal SB Deo (retired) was the senior-most military commander on the ground when the Pathankot air force station was attacked by multiple terrorists in the wee hours of January 2, 2016.

Having landed there hours before the terrorists struck and stayed after they were neutralised, Air Marshal Deo had a view of the counter-attack which few did. After hanging up his boots as the Vice Chief of the Indian Air Force last year, the distinguished air warrior who is also a FCL (Fighter Combat Leader) and a “Cat A” Qualified Flying Instructor with over 3800 hours opened up on his experience to BBC’s Jugal Purohit. 

The interview was conducted at Nagpur.

Jugal Purohit
BBC Correspondent Jugal Purohit

Q: The third anniversary of Pathankot attack is upon us. If you can tell us something about your role, your memories of what you saw.

A: By attacking an airfield, you are talking it to an entirely different level. Pathankot is situated in Punjab, not in J&K, not in any kind of disputed territory and airfields were never meant to be protected the way you are protecting your borders because airfields are in our territory and we are protecting the airfields only against aerial threat. So from that angle, it is a soft target and to this day I keep wondering why was the government on the defensive on Pathankot attack. It was a job well done.

Q: What in the government’s response made you feel that they were on the defensive?

A: I really don’t know. There was a very concerted media campaign that pulled out things that were thirty years old, people getting at GARUDs (IAF special forces) saying GARUDs are bad, GARUDs are this and that. For God’s sake you ask the army about Garuds! They’ve won one Ashok Chakra, (many) Kirti Chakras, Shaurya Chakras and…the government really didn’t have to be on the defensive. Let’s talk about Lt Col Niranjan (NSG officer who was killed by an IED on a dead terrorist’s body), the kind of press he got, its treason man! I can’t imagine and the rumours that he was taking a selfie! The GARUDs were hurt very badly. They came to me and said look at the kind of stories that are being leaked.

Q: It would have helped the morale had the govt not been that defensive?

A: Yes, it would have. Definitely. Government to my mind did not have to be on the defensive. Pathankot was a well handled operation. An airfield is a target rich environment. In an airfield there is so much to be attacked, there is fuel, aircraft and we managed to protect all that.

Q: Did you have a discussion with the govt over them being defensive and the impact it had on the men?

A: I did discuss, there were occasions. But the GARUDs proved themselves in Kashmir. It left me with little to say actually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: How do you want people to remember Pathankot?

A: It was a job well done. Lessons have been learnt and I hope for Pakistan’s sake that something similar won’t happen again. Because if it does then Pakistan will have to pay a far heavier price than it did during the surgical strikes.

Two lessons that we learnt from Pathankot – one is a technical lesson which we always knew but something like Pathankot had to happen perhaps. That lesson is that 5.56 mm ammunition calibre of guns is of no use in such situations. Terrorists coming here are like rabid dogs, having pumped themselves with steroids and injections, they have lost fear and don’t expect to be looked after and want to keep pressing the trigger. We need ammunition that can kill, not merely injure.

Second concerns the perimeter security of bases. You will say three years have gone and what has happened but making a system like the Integrated Perimeter Security System (IPSS) foolproof and thereafter ensuring you follow all norms of procurement, it takes a while. And this is the first system that we are trying. So while I agree that it has taken longer than it should but still it is on track. So once such a system comes in and it is deployed at bases then you are far more certain that there will be no intrusions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: NIA says terrorists were left undetected near the Military Engineering Services (MES) sheds where there were dilapidated sheds, some vehicles…

A: Let me tell you what their plan was. Their plan was to get out from there (MES sheds). Get to the vehicle yard, pick up a vehicle and drive inside. And once you have a vehicle with you and that was what we were worried about, that when you are inside a vehicle you can quickly move from place to place. They could have created havoc inside. So it was very important to isolate them and also to ensure that they were not in the technical area (where aircraft and vital assets are stored). We didn’t know where they were. So the first thing we did with the help of the army was to sanitise the technical area. That helped us a great deal. Once we were sure that they were not in the technical area we kept the airfield open, the NSG could fly in. Thereafter the army which has a lot of experience, withdrew for the night. They said they didn’t know where the threat could be. Even they could’ve been under threat. In fact the NSG wanted to split their resources and they had a discussion with us and decided to stay at the airfield only.

 

 

 

 

Q: If their plan was to take a vehicle and go around, the terrorists had one full day (they entered on January 1 and were detected on January 2 as per the NIA). What kept them from doing what they wanted to?

A: The time to attack is always the wee hours of the morning. So they have come all the way and they reached us by 4am and by then the base is sort of awake thus making it not the right time to attack. The right time is an hour or two earlier. And they need to rest so that they could prepare for a fight. So tactically, what they were doing was correct by waiting for the right time.

Q: So the terrorists waiting and planning in a way helped the IAF buy time too.

A:  Absolutely yes. We had a C130 aircraft airborne. I had the UAVs flying. Our communication worked well. We were getting a live display of whatever the UAV was seeing sitting in our control room. So that helped us.

First information of a possible terrorist attack came to me at 3 ‘o’ clock in the afternoon as the C-in-C (Commander in Chief, Western Air Command) and I got this from the chief of air staff (CAS) who was speaking to the NSA (National Security Advisor) and at that time we had the intelligence to show that yes, the airfield could be one of the targets. In fact when I reached there, there was still some of vacillation among authorities there whether it is a law and order issue or actually a terrorist issue till the time I clarified that if somebody cries wolf ten times then ten times you need to stand up – that is one lesson we have learnt.

Well I was there to take stock of the situation since it had come from the highest of quarters and I had to satisfy myself and I would have gone back the next day if there was nothing but its just that when I was there the shooting started. So once the shooting starts then I can’t go back.  It looks very bad and and honestly for me it was a very exciting experience. I had a first look at how our young people fight and that was the most heartening thing.

Q: If you had issued instructions for the base to prepare assuming the terrorists had already sneaked in then why were the DSC men unarmed?

A: I agree with you. They should have been with weapons. They should not have come out in the open. If they just been under lock down. There would have been fewer casualties. It would have helped had they gone into a lockdown properly.

Q: How do you explain an operation where we don’t know how many terrorists there were?

A: Things are always very uncertain.

Q: How many terrorists were there in reality? If there were four then they were killed on Jan 2 and if there were six, which the NIA investigation does not there were, then we kept on the operation on for long.

A: NIA knows best, I really don’t know. Only a scientific inquiry can establish.

Q: We were told firing happened. Forces retaliated.

A: We did feel then that there was somebody inside but then strange things happen when you are under fire.

Q: Do you feel that perhaps there were some terrorists who may have escaped

A: No possibility of that. I don’t think so.

Q: When the Pakistani investigators were allowed inside Pathankot, was the air force consulted?

A: We were consulted. We made sure we broke the wall. They didn’t get to see anything else that they couldn’t have using Google.

Q: How do you see the impact of the Rafale on IAF and armed forces going forward?

A: Yes. Pace of acquisition will become slower. Defence preparedness will be compromised and we will also end up paying more for the delay that occurs.

Q: Far from bringing out cleaner process, you feel the impact of this controversy will be negative.

A: Yes. I can’t fault the procedures. They are sometimes far too pedantic. We should encourage people to take clean decisions.

 

 

REPORTER’S TAKE: WHY PATHANKOT STILL HAUNTS INDIA?

Air Marshal SB Deo’s words provide a much needed understanding of what unfolded behind the high walls of the air force station at Pathankot in those critical hours.

Arguably the operation was a tactical success.

However it came at a steep price.

Three years later, the shadow of Pathankot continues to haunt the policy makers.

  • Barely five months before Pathankot was breached, a high-profile terrorist attack was carried out in Dina Nagar in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. This attack, at a driving distance of less than 30km from Pathankot, should’ve been enough to put the counter-terrorist mechanism into action.
  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its charge sheet mentions that ‘four heavily armed terrorists infiltrated into Indian territory on 30.12.2015 from Pakistan, after illegally crossing the Indo-Pak border through the forest near the Simbal Border Outpost of the Border Security Force’. That they could not be confronted till 0235hours of January 2, 2016 raises questions about India’s preparedness. The NIA suggests that the terrorists after infiltrating the airbase post 4am on January 1 rested, made multiple calls to their relatives and handlers and could hide undetected for nearly 24 hours. Astonishing!
  • Another question concerns the number of terrorists who actually targetted Pathankot. If you ask the NIA, the number is four. The then defence minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar after touring the base following the attack had said, ‘NIA will confirm the presence of six terrorists’. Three years after, Air Marshal SB Deo remained unsure. Did some of the terrorists who attacked Pathankot managed to flee? Or was there an incorrect estimation made about the number of terrorists?
  • While describing the two terrorists who he claimed were the last to be eliminated, Mr Parrikar said they were armed not with AK-47 rifles but with pistols and grenades.
  • A parliamentary panel had hinted at Indian narco-syndicate facilitating the terrorists’ entry and journey into Pathankot. That was an issue left unaddressed.
  • While terrorists are supposed to not follow a pattern and throw up surprises, surprisingly, after Pathankot, many military bases in India have been attacked – Nagrota, Sunjuwan and Uri among others. What does this show?
  • Similarly the sequence of events at the airbase remains muddled. While all stake holders agree that the air force’s Garud commandos were the first to engage the terrorists, the then Defence Minister Mr Parrikar inside Parliament had said thereafter the NSG took the fight. However, the General Officer Commanding Army’s Western Command Lieutenant General KJ Singh under whose purview the Pathankot region fell said it was the Army and not the NSG that took on terrorists!
  • Pakistan which initially had shown support in investigating the case at its end, sent its Joint Investigation Team to India between March 27 – April 1, 2016. While the NIA claims it was provided with all elements including a visit to the air base, reciprocal cooperation has remained a non-starter.
  • India’s allegations against Pakistan whether it concerns terrorism or drug trade emanating from the latter into the former are not new. Yet, about 12km of the total 558km-long international border that the state of Punjab shares with Pakistan has been left unaddressed. Being riverine territory, erecting fences may not be possible but technological solutions have to be found.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was approached for its comment but chose not to respond.

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DEFENCE BUDGET: Was NDA better than the UPA?

Before we ride into the world of numbers and compare budget data, two lines by historian Geoffrey Blainey will help understand why this matters.

“Wars usually end when the fighting nations agree on their relative strength, and wars usually begin when fighting nations disagree on the relative strength”, he wrote.

For India, sandwiched between China and Pakistan, two closely aligned, nuclear-armed adversaries with whom India has fought wars and continues to have outstanding issues, the security environment is unlike what any other country faces.

And we are not even touching upon myriad internal security challenges yet where the intervention of the military cannot be ruled out.

A perception of weakness or degradation of military capabilities can trigger a military misadventure as past conflicts have proven.

It is in this environment that India’s million-plus armed forces seek better and increased resources.

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The T-90 tanks at the Republic Day Parade in January 2019. Photo Courtesy: GD Mehra from the Ministry of Defence.

Let’s rewind now.

At the end of government formation in May 2014, the Narendra Modi government lacked a full-time defence minister. Arun Jaitley, who was also the finance minister would handle the defence portfolio it was said. Many spun it around to say this would help the defence forces since by default the defence minister would have the keys to finance ministry.

How has the script played out?

  • On July 10, 2014 Arun Jaitley delivered the first budget of the present government and allocated Rs 2,33,872 crore – nearly Rs 5000 crore more than what the UPA did in its final budget presentation in February 2014 which was a roughly 9 per cent hike on the defence outlay from 2013-14.
  • The first full budget of the present government was delivered on February 28, 2015. Budget to budget, the defence outlay announced worth Rs 255443 crore was a hike of nearly 9 per cent.
  • When presenting the union budget on February 29, 2016, Jaitley did not mention defence spending! While this raised eyebrows, it was later revealed that defence spending was pegged at Rs 2,58,502 crore – a mere 2 per cent growth over what was announced a year ago. Not surprisingly on December 15, 2015, Prime Minister Modi, addressing the Combined Commanders Conference on board the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya said, “At a time when major powers are reducing their forces and rely more on technology, we are still constantly seeking to expand the size of our forces. Modernisation and expansion of forces at the same time is a difficult and unnecessary goal.”
  • On February 1, 2017, the finance minister announced Rs 2,74,114 crore as the defence budget. Seen plainly against the year before, the increase in the budget was barely 6 per cent. Writing for the defence ministry-funded Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Laxman K Behera, a research fellow termed it ‘grossly inadequate’.
  • Last year on February 1, the finance minister allocated Rs 2,95,511 crore for defence – an 8 per cent hike from the budget of the year before.
  • In his maiden budget speech, finance minister Piyush Goyal said, “Our Defence Budget will be crossing Rs 3,00,000 crore for the first time in 2019-20.” Fine print revealed the total allocation to be in excess of Rs 3,18,847 crore – an eight per cent hike.

So was the NDA a better government when it came to providing the defence forces the resources they needed or was the UPA better?

Amit Cowshish, former Financial Advisor (Acquisition), Ministry of Defence said, “Between the two, the trend has hardly changed. The gap between what is projected as requirement and what is provided has been there for nearly 15 years. At different points that gap has widened or reduced but not filled.”

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The Sukhoi 30MKI acquired from Russia is the IAF’s frontline fighter. Photo Courtesy: Ministry of Defence

When viewed from the perspective of serving armed forces senior officers or parliamentarians (including BJP leaders) defence budget under the Modi government has remained a sore point.

Here’s what some of them have said.

  • ‘As a percentage of the GDP has fallen but in real terms our budgets continue to grow and we have been promised that budget will be made available. We would have liked it to grow at a faster pace but there are competing demands and we are conscious of that.’ – Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) in November 2018

 

  • ‘…defence expenditure at 1.56% of GDP was at the lowest level since 1962 when India-China war was fought. In the current geo-political scenario, a country of the size of India cannot afford complacency…’ – Estimates Committee under senior BJP leader and MP, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi on July 25, 2018

 

  • ‘…the Budget of 2018-19 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little set back. Committed liabilities of 2017 which will also get passed on to 2018 will further accentuate the situation.’ – Vice Chief of Army Staff to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence in March 2018

 

  • ‘…percentage share of Air Force budget has declined considerably during the last few years…Allocations made under the capital head for the Air Force, which is largely accountable for modernization budget of the Service, has consistently plummeted. In the year 2007-08, it was to the tune of 17.51 per cent of the total defence budget and has gone down to 11.96 per cent in the year 2016-17.’ Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence in March 2018.

This piece first appeared on BBC HINDI news site on February 1, 2019

To salvage Kashmir, Modi needs three strategies plus an end to the brashness

Emerging from the foothills of the Pir Panjal range in Jammu and Kashmir, river Jhelum is known for the speed and ferocity with which it barges into Srinagar before entering Pakistan.

Yet when seen against the rapid developments in the state in the last fortnight, Jhelum appears to have been outpaced.

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Former CM Mehbooba Mufti addressing the press following the day’s developments on June 19 in Srinagar. Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times

The experiment of the BJP aligning with the PDP, termed as the coming together of two poles, now lies buried.

Yet that is not the subject of this essay.

In Lucknow on May 29, on the eve of the Narendra Modi government completing four years, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh offered a one-liner when it came to speaking about his ministry’s achievements in Jammu and Kashmir. He said, “Our Government has successfully eliminated 619 terrorists in four years, compared to 413 terrorists killed during four years of UPA Government for the period 2010-13”. http://www.pib.nic.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1533815#.Ww1iKItJck4.twitter

Matters on the ground however are hardly as simple.

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Scenes from the aftermath of the floods in Kashmir in 2014. The author was witness to the massive exercise launched to rescue everyone stranded, whether tourists or locals. This one was taken at Srinagar airfield.

From the summer of 2014, when New Delhi deployed its might towards pulling ordinary Kashmiris out of harm’s way during the floods and the Prime Minister’s subsequent Diwali in Srinagar to a historic voter turnout and the coming together of the BJP and PDP to form the state government.

From the peaks of optimism of a ‘development-oriented’ agenda for alliance to the depths of darkness in eruption of public anger following the killing of militant Burhan Wani and the 7 per cent voter turnout for Lok Sabha bypoll last year.

From the ‘jubilation’ over the retaliatory surgical strikes and the killing of over 200 militants in a single year by the security forces (213 in 2017) to the subsequent announcement of the Ramzan ceasefire.

From the death of that ceasefire to the death locally elected governance in one of India’s most troubled states.

Things have been anything but simple, anything but predictable.

The only constant has been the intent of the Pakistani state, consistently accused by India of fomenting trouble in the state.

How is it to live in a literal state of flux?

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Image from my visit to the valley in 2016. This was the scene in north Kashmir’s Handwara town.

Muneeb Mir, a businessman based out of Pampore in the volatile region of south Kashmir told me, “On the ground, there is only confusion and chaos, with no one seemingly in control. We all want something to cling to, something to hope from but there is nothing. We are rapidly going back to how bad the situation was when militancy first erupted in the 90s”. One of the residents told me they spend days wondering where next has violence erupted and at which moment the government would suspend internet services.

With the state set to witness the Governor’s rule, what is the hope they have from the centre? “A further hardening of stance at least till 2019 elections,” Muneeb added.

Another resident of the state who I spoke said even before the collapse of the state government, governance had all but stalled. Elected representatives are no longer able to as much as address their constituents forget about getting work executed.

Within the society, many say, the space for conversation has shrunk. Tempers run high and divergence is not liked. A young freelance journalist from south Kashmir said, “The sentiment of alienation has never been addressed. Woh sentiment zinda hai (that sentiment is alive) and the grouse erupts in different ways. I have seen people losing it, sometimes some demand azaadi even when they face a traffic problem in Srinagar!”

The deterioration of sentiments came along with that of the security scenario. Levels (http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/jandk/data_sheets/annual_casualties.htm), whether in terms of civilians, soldiers or militants killed in 2017-18 have regressed, they today mirror what was seen nearly a decade ago.

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Though taken in 2014 in the RS Pura sector on Jammu region, matters have only worsened thereafter. Courtesy: Indian Express

Coming to the population along the state’s border, whether the Line of Control (LoC) or the International Border (IB), data shows their plight has seldom been as bad after India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire in 2003. Violations of the ceasefire agreement, as recorded by India, have seen a massive spike in 2017-18. While there were four civilians who died out of these violations between 2004 to 2013, in the period thereafter, 67 deaths have been recorded. Similarly, whether it is the Army or the Border Security Force (BSF), if 35 fatalities were recorded from 2004 to 2013, the number has shot up to 94 as on February 2018. (http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/jandk/data_sheets/CFAViolationsoffical.htm)Ever since the state election in 2014, the BJP has been actively involved in the governance of both, the state and the centre.

What has been its strategy?

In September 2016, months after Burhan Wani’s killing evoked outrage which took Delhi by surprise prompting many to seek a dialogue, BJP’s General Secretary Ram Madhav had famously said ‘not talking was also a part of strategy’.

Instead of normalising ties with the society and isolating those who profess violence, where has this lack of engagement taken us?

The BJP’s professed approach in fact flies in the face of classic counter-insurgency practices.

Lieutenant General Rostum K Nanavatty who retired as the chief of the Northern Command in his book Internal Armed Conflict In India gave us a sense of where the blame lied. He wrote, “Protraction of conflict is essentially because of the government’s inability to capitalise on the successful conduct of operations by the security forces – to build civil counter-insurgency capacities within the state; to provide good governance and to arrive at a mutually acceptable political solution to the problem”.

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Former Director of the IB, Dineshwar Sharma has been meeting the stakeholders. Courtesy: NDTV

Former Director of Intelligence Bureau (DIB) Dineshwar Sharma appointed last year as Delhi’s point-person on the ground recently said, “There are historical facts about the Kashmir dispute, nobody can deny that. But the main cause of unrest today is that over the years more negative kind of influences have gone into the minds of the youth; may be this has come from the internet, social media, the way politics is played, the way people keep publically airing their views, I think that has affected”. (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/dineshwar-sharma-jammu-and-kashmir-interlocutor-militancy-dialogue-5204169/)

More than ever perhaps, Delhi needs to substitute brashness with boldness.

Bravado, as is said, may stir the crowd but courage needs no audience.

As things stand, the security set up is no longer bound by a ceasefire.

Yet three clear strategies need to be incorporated.

First must be a robust counter-radicalisation strategy that works towards ensuring that the youth do not fall prey to what they receive on the open web.

Second, the wheels of governance in the state need to move. The state alone can lend confidence to its teachers, students, doctors, traders and citizens that normalcy can and will arrive.

And at the end comes the question of trust.

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IG Traffic in J&K, Basant Rath. Courtesy: New Indian Express

Muneeb Mir from Pampore cited the example of Basant Rath, the Inspector General of Police in the state and said, “Why is he able to go to the heart of Srinagar and play cricket with the youngsters whereas no one else from the government goes there without massive security? It’s because people trust his intent. For a long time, everyone has suspected Delhi’s intent. Its actions till date have only re-affirmed this suspicion”.

 

#StateOfPlay: Celebrating surgical strikes? No thanks.

By Jugal R Purohit

Speaking at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the media for its coverage of the first anniversary of the surgical strikes. These strikes were conducted in the aftermath of the Uri camp attack which led to the death of 18 army personnel on September 18 last year.

Incidentally, even as the PM was speaking, security personnel in Srinagar were responding to a boisterous attempt by three terrorists to script another Uri-like attack. They targeted the battalion headquarters of the Border Security Force (BSF) where close to 200 personnel and their families were present.

In the year gone by, several such attempts have been made by the terrorists. The surgical strikes, one can say, have neither deterred them nor their Pakistan-based handlers.

Yet none of this came in the way of ‘celebrating’ the operation.

Did anyone ask if all measures to prevent such Uri-like camp intrusions had been implemented? If yes, why are they still taking place? If they haven’t been implemented then why so?

These strikes were meant to be yet another option in deterring Pakistan from aiding and abetting terrorism in Kashmir. What are the other options? How have we implemented them? What happened to the question of delivering better governance in the state which to my mind is the biggest step in coming closer to solving quagmire?

For one, Delhi claims it has refined the counter-terror mechanism in Kashmir because of which it has achieved more terrorist kills in comparison to previous years. Adding to the argument, those on the ground insist the present year is a calmer one (167 violent incidents recorded till June 30, 2017) coming after 322 recorded incidents – highest in the last five years – in 2016. A senior officer in Srinagar reasoned, “We are controlling better, more tightly than before.”

Along the Line of Control (LoC), the surgical strikes were followed by a severe intensification of cross-LoC firing. The 449 ceasefire violations in 2016, bulk of which were recorded in the aftermath of the surgical strikes, consumed the lives of seven security personnel (not to speak of those 29,000 who had been temporarily displaced or the civilians who’ve been hit, killed or lost property). Interestingly, if you are to keep the casualties in the months of October and November of last year aside, data between April 2016 and March 2017 shows India only lost two service personnel in the firing.

But this isn’t all that happened.

A PRS Legislative Research Jammu and Kashmir Budget analysis of 2017-18 tells us that investment in the state which amounted for Rs 4866 crore from 2009-10 to 2014-15, averaging Rs 973 crore a year, slowed down to Rs 267 crore in 2015-16. What does that mean on the ground? Rate of unemployment for persons between 18-29 years of age in the state hovered at 24.6 per cent when the national average was 13.2 per cent. Among persons between 15-17 years of age, it was at 57.7 per cent when the corresponding national average was 19.8 per cent.
(http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1484568158_JK%202017-18%20Budget%20Analysis.pdf)

 

State’s Finance Minister Haseeb A Drabu, on January 11, 2017, made an insightful comment when he said, “Unemployment is a social issue of serious magnitude in the state. Even as the rate of unemployment is supposed to be very high in the state, we do not have actual figures” (http://jakfinance.nic.in/Budget17/speechEng.pdf)

 

In J&K, when comparing the average growth between 2005-10 and 2010-15, a decline is seen from 5.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent. In agriculture (which employs 64 per cent of the population and contributes 22 per cent to the economy), manufacturing (employs 11 per cent and contributes 25 per cent) and services (employs 25 per cent and contributes 53 per cent), the current levels of growth pale when compared to the growth in 2005-10. (http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1464866443_Jammu%20and%20Kashmir%20Budget%20Analysis%202016-17.pdf)

 

Two recent news reports from Srinagar caught my eye.

The Indian Express reported on October 4 that ‘schools, especially higher secondary ones, have been open for a little more than hundred days throughout the 11-month session so far. It is the second consecutive year that schools in the valley have remained shut for most part of the academic session’.  Day after, Hindustan Times quoted, ‘Combined cases of drug abuse and related psychological issues also went up from more than 14,500 cases in 2014 to 33,222 in 2016, a staggering 130% increase in two years. This year till April alone, this number is 13,352’.

Did Delhi and Srinagar face any questions over this?

When I tried finding out a voice on the ground to understand the human story from these numbers, I bumped into Muneeb Mir (37), a businessman operating from Pampore. He said, “We see the iron fist of the government, we see a return to the cordon and search approach we thought we had last seen in the 90s. We understand it helps the rightist agenda of the government to be seen as muscular but what really worries us is this – earlier the narrative of the government was one thing and the narrative of the people the other. Today that line has blurred and this dominating rightist narrative worries us.”

Speaking of anniversaries, it was in October 1947 that Jammu and Kashmir’s erstwhile ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession, paving the way for the state to become a part of India. An undated letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to Hari Singh published in Ramachandra Guha’s seminal ‘India After Gandhi’ carried the following text:

“Even if military forces held Kashmir for a while, a later consequence might be a strong reaction against this. Essentially, therefore, this is a problem of psychological approach to the mass of the people and of making them feel they will be benefited by being in the Indian Union. If the average Muslim feels that he has no safe or secure place in the Union, then obviously he will look elsewhere. Our basic policy must keep this in view, or else we fail”.

So, what happened?

THIS PIECE FIRST APPEARED ON THE SITE DAILYO:

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/surgical-stirke-uri-attack-kashmir-insurgency/story/1/19947.html

 

QUICK ANALYSIS: My two bits on the soon-to-be-signed deal for 145 M777 ULTRA LIGHT guns

ULH M777 was introduced in 2006 in Afghanistan where, its makers claim, it has fired over 40,000 rounds.
http://m.indiatoday.in/video/all-you-should-know-about-indias-rs-5000-crore-m777-howitzer-deal-with-us/1/825047.html

KAMOV-226T: An air ambulance which is now the cure for IAF & Army’s chopper woes


Report appeared in MAIL TODAY newspaper dated Oct 16, 2016

VIDEO: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/kamov-226-t-make-in-india-siachen/1/788099.html

READ ONLINE:

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/iaf-indian-army-helicopter-india-russia-kamov-226t-manohar-parrikar/1/787562.html

LINK: AK Antony, India’s longest-serving Defence minister gave his first interview in the last eight years. I was the lucky journalist. Watch here.

Here he gives his take on how the defence of India has been handled in the year gone by: