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Why more Indian soldiers die in suicides and fratricides than in combat?

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Every now and then, media flash news of suicides and fratricides in Indian armed forces.

A Sepoy, Prince Kumar (25), shot himself at Chinar camp in Rehambal   Udhampur (IHK) shot himself dead with his service rifle on January 17, 2020. He was a resident of Hoshiarpur in Punjab, posted in 112 Territorial Army and was on guard duty (India Today/PTI January 18, 2020).  On March 21, 2019, a jawan (soldier) Ajit  Kumar from 187th Central Reserve police Force Battalion took out his service rifle and shot dead three of his colleagues _ a fratricide, or fragging in military jargon. He later shot himself, too.

One jawan commits suicide every third day.  Some politicians, including Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav has publicly taunted Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (PTI, March 21, 2019), `Pulwama attack was a conspiracy’. And ‘jawans were killed for votes’

In a written reply, India’s minister of state for defence,  Shripad Naik,  told the Lok Sabha (house of people) `The Indian Navy, Air Force and Army reported 95 cases of suicide by their personnel in  2019’.   Navy reported two cases, Air Force 20 cases and Army 73 cases of suicide last year.

In 2018, there were 8, 16 and 83 suicide cases in the three forces’. In 2017, the number of suicide cases was 5, 21 and 77 in Navy, Air Force and Army, respectively (Economic Times, March 4, 2020). Between 2011 and 2018,  there were 891 deaths by suicide of members of the Indian armed forces (NewsClick, Feb. 19, 2019). NDTV (Jan.7, 2019) reported ` Number Of Suicides [was] Highest In Army Among Three Armed Forces (The Week (August 6, 2018) reported `More Indian soldiers killed by themselves than by enemies …

Over the period 2001-20, suicides and fragging remained unabated among forces.  Not only India’s defence ministry but also its home ministry lamented the trend. Psychological counseling and compulsory yoga exercise could not check the trend.  Even over 40 per cent of women, rarely deputed for combat duty, in paramilitary forces, committed suicide. It was baffling that the women’s suicides took place often at peace stations.

Suicides vis-à-vis `action’ casualties

According to home ministry data, the number of jawan belonging to regular as well as paramilitary forces who committed suicides is more than those killed in action.

Suicides and fragging in three services

According to data compiled by the defence ministry for the period January 1, 2014 to

March 31, 2017, one person on duty from armed forces (army, navy and air force) commits suicide every three days. Data presented indicated 348 regulars committed suicide while on duty. Of these 276 were from the army, 12 from navy and 60 from the air force. India’s defence ministry shrugged off the blame for military suicides. It says the suicides are upshot of family problems and land disputes back at home. However media (including BBC) and retired officers blamed poor leadership, supercilious, or stark callous attitude of seniors, refusal to grant leave even in genuine need.

Suicides in para-military forces

No definition

India has multiplicity of paramilitary forces. The Assam Rifles , and Central Armed Police Forces (CAP) with compenents: Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) – 313,678 personnel, Border Security Force (BSF) 257,363, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) 89,432 personnel, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) 144,418, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) 76,337.  India’s active troops are 1,395,100, reservists 2,142,800, paramilitary forces and CAP 1,403,700. The force deployed within occupied Kashmir for patrolling, cordon-and-search operations is 780,000, lately increased to 900,000.

During the last six years, approximately 700 jawan of the CAP committed suicide and the rate of voluntary retirement was approximately 9,000 jawan per year. The suicides and killed-in-action ratio is highest in SSB (1:8), followed by CISF, (1:63) and ITBP (1:4).

Suicides of jawans

India’s home ministry reported `during the last six years, approximately 700 jawan of the Central Armed Police Forces committed suicide and the rate of voluntary retirement is approximately 9,000 personnel per year’.  Elaborating on its findings, the home ministry did not give figures for an exact six-year period but cited varying years _ 2001 for the BSF, 2012 for the CRPF,  2006 for the ITBP, 2013 for the CISF and SSB and 2014 for the AR. According to the ministry, 189 CRPF personnel committed suicide since 2012, while 175 were killed in action in the same period. In the Border Security Force, there were 529 suicides since 2001 while the force lost 491 jawan in action. The ministry also said that 62 ITBP jawan committed suicide since 2006 while just 16 were killed in action during the same period. In the CISF, 63 personnel ended their lives since  2013 and just one jawan died in action. The number of suicides in the SSB, since 2013, is 32 as against four killed in action.

In the case of the AR, since 2014, 27 personnel committed suicide and 33 personnel were killed in action. The suicides and killed in action ratio is the highest in SSB (1:8), followed by CISF (1:63) and ITBP (1:4).

Suicides of para-military women

Over 40 per cent of women in paramilitary forces commit suicide, despite never having to face combat duty. India’s National Crime Records Bureau data shows that women only constitute 2 per cent of all central paramilitary personnel. However, they account for more than 40 per cent of the suicides. Suicide rate for women in these forces is 396.9 per lakh compared to just 11.2 per lakh for men. There is clear evidence to suggest that women are more stress-prone than men. India’s army chief publicly taunted women for their unsuitability for quasi-military duty.

Yerkes-Dodson Stress Model (YDSM)

The Indian Army took short and long term measures to maintain optimum stress levels among its troops. But, it was of no avail.  The YDSM postulates that a certain degree of stress level (optimum stress level) is necessary to make troops live an active and productive life.

Real problems

Discrimination

The real malaise is discrimination between jawan and officers. The segregation prevails not only during service but also after retirement. The forces provide dreary toilets, kitchens and messes to jawan as against exotic facilities for officers.  A famous club `Colaba Mumbai-United Services Club ‘used to display a sign-board at its gate “SAILORS AND  DOGS NOT ALLOWED INSIDE”.

Invisible and undefined targets

The troops are trained in conventional warfare where targets are visible to naked eye. They fail to identify `enemy’ in disturbed areas. If someone does not halt in response to `halt’ order, they kill the innocent civilian. On knowing that they have killed innocent persons they remain traumatised for a long time.

Exhaustive analysis by Major General Samay Ram

Samy says , `The concern [about suicides and fratricides ] is genuine as the [Indian] army is losing approximately 100-120 men  per 100,000 in suicides’ (page 79 ibid..).He says, `They [soldiers] have no desire to kill themselves or their comrades, least of all their officers. Let us not make them do so, by a callous approach and not ameliorating their concerns.  Pious f platitudes are no substitute for substantive action’ (page 88, Stresss, Suicide and Fratricide in the Army: crisis within, 2011, Vij Books India Pvt Ltd, New Delhi -India).

He believes with the additional commitments in Jammu and Kashmir, the number off such cases has gone up. This probably is the main reason for the rising incidents of fratricides (page 89, ibid.). He advises officers not to “use intemperate language” or punish juniors in public. `All soldiers are upset by criticism, humiliation or harassment’ (page 91 ibid..). Soldiers get violent because their colleagues and officers don’t solve their problems’ (page 93 ibid.).`Provocation is precipitated mainly by humiliation, criticism, family problem and non-grant of leave, use of abusive intemperate language, and unjust distribution of duties under influence of alcohol. Out of these humiliation is the biggest provocation (Refer to article Fragging: Humiliation biggest trigger, Times of India 9 June 2007) (page 95 ibid..).

Samay quotes Defence Institute of Psychological Research in support of his view. He says, `Surveys in both commands (Northern and Eastern) indicates officers believe that lack of cordial relations between the leader and the led is the cause. Jawans believe that humiliation harassment by officer higher up is a significant trigger’ (page 96, ibid.)

Counter Intelligence and counter-terrorism duty by army 

He laments `army is deployed because of police and Central Police Organisation forces being ill- equipped and not fully trained. Who knows what happens in Naxalites and Maoist affected areas’ General Rodrigues, chief of Indian army staff  in the 1990 had reservations about `constant   employment of the army in CI/CT(page 146, ibid..). K. Subramanyam, `voiced deep concern over increasing employment of the army in the secondary  role (Prolonged anti-insurgency  taking toll on jawans by Rajat Pandit, Times of India 11 January 2007)’ (p.147, ibid.).

Conclusion

Most of the suicides occur while on duty and often in occupied Kashmir or in the North East. The suicides are wrongly devolved to problems back at home. The nexus between suicide and duty stress cannot be ignored. Caste-based discrimination, poor leadership skills, supercilious, or even outright callous attitude of officers, also, exacerbate the problem.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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Defense

The Proxy War of Libya: Unravelling the Complexities

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The African continent has been infamous for its desolate conditions and impoverished lifestyle for years. The violence has not spared the region either since the extremely unstable Middle-East has set the vendetta throughout the region, verging Africa in the east. Whether it comes to the spreading influence of ISIS under the flag of Boko Haram; a terrorist organisation operating in Chad and North-eastern Nigeria, or the rampant corruption scandals and ream of military cops in Zimbabwe, the region rivals the instability of its eastern neighbour. However, one conflict stands out in Northern Africa, in terms of high-stake involvement of foreign powers and policies that have riven the country, not unlike Syria in the Middle-East. Libya is one instance in Africa that has faced the civil war for almost a decade yet involves not only local powers but is also a focal point that has caused the NATO powers to be at odds.

Libya, officially recognised as the ‘State of Libya’, is a war-torn country in the Northern periphery of the African continent. The country is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea in the North, Egypt lies to its East and Sudan and Tunisia border in the Southeast and Northwest respectively. Apparent from the topography, Libya stands as an epicentre to the countries ridden with conflicts, stands the ground that was the central root of the infamous Arab Spring uprisings taking a rebellious storm right off its borders in Tunisia back in 2011. While the NATO-led campaign garnered success in overthrowing the notorious dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and thus bringing the draconian regime to an end, it failed to account for the brewing rebels and militias in pockets throughout the state of Libya.

Over the following years, weaponry and ammunition was widely pervaded across the region in spite of strict embargo placed. The pilling artillery and unregulated rebels cycled the instability in the country leading to the successive governments to fail and eventually split the country in two dominant positions: The UN-recognised Government National Accord (GNA), led by Tripoli-based leader and prime minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, and the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by the tailing ally and successor to Gaddafi, General Khalifa Haftar.

While both GNA and LNA vied for the control on Libya, foreign powers involved rather similar to the labyrinth of stakes in Syria, each state split over the side supporting their part of the story and ultimately serving their arching purpose of interference in the region. Despite of the ruling regime of Al-Sarraj since the controversial election win of GNA in 2016, Haftar-led LNA controls an expansive territory and has been launching offensive attacks against the GNA alliance. GNA enjoys the support of US, Turkey, Qatar and Italy; each serving either ideological support or military backing to secure the elected government of Libya. Meanwhile, LNA is backed by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France. While the western powers see GNA as an economically stabilising solution to the Libyan crisis, Russia and France eye Haftar as a key ally to expand influence in the African region and reap control of the oil-rich resources under control of Haftar’s troops in the oil-crescent territory.

The Turkish regime, on the other hand, eye Libya as a direct answer to the Russian influence in the Syrian war that has been pushing the Kurdish alliance stronger along and within the southern borders of Turkey. This has led to recent clashes and direct escalation in the proxy war waged in Syria. Turkey plans to incentivise the leveraging position against Russia in Libya by deploying military advisory to Tripoli to strengthen their position against the Russian-backed Haftar to ultimately deter the alliance from spreading far in the African region.

The power split in Libya was exacerbated in 2017 following the Gulf crisis that led to the boycott of Qatar by the Arab quartet led by Saudi Arabia. Libya stood as a battle ground for both strategic and military positions to one up the other alliance in external power games while the internal matters of Libya are long forgotten and population left clueless and desperate for welfare. Since then, the vested interests in Libya have side-lined yet the peace process has been encouraged by both UN and Merkel-led ‘Berlin process’ in support to the UN efforts to restore peace in Libya. However, the strained relations and foreign demarcation is still apparent even though no escalation has been in action for months.

Now the ceasefires have been in talks for a while and except for a few skirmishes, the powers have been curbed since June 2020. The silence could imply room for diplomatic efforts to push a much-awaited resolve to this complex proxy war. With the recent turn of events in the global political canvas, wheels of the betterment might turn in favour of Libya. Saudi Arabia has recently joined hands with Qatar, opening all borders to the estranged ally and resuming diplomatic relations. Turkey is eying the coveted spot in the European Union since the UK exit. The US in redefining its policies under the revitalising administration of Joseph Biden while Russia deals with the tensed relations with the Gulf since the oil price war shattered the mutual understanding shared for years. The core players of the Libyan Proxy war are dormant and may remain passive due to external complexities to handle. Yet, with regional powers like Egypt threatening invasions in Libya and both GNA and LNA showing no interest in negotiation, a conclusive end to the Libyan crisis is still farfetched.

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Defense

Pakistan Army’s Ranking improved

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According to data issued by the group on its official website, Pakistan Army has been ranked the 10th most powerful in the world out of 133 countries on the Global Firepower index 2021.Especially the Special Services Group (SSG) is among the best in the world.  Just behind; 1- United States PwrIndx: 0.0721,  2- Russia PwrIndx: 0.0796, 3- China PwrIndx: 0.0858, 4- India PwrIndx: 0.1214, 5- Japan PwrIndx: 0.1435, 6- South Korea PwrIndx: 0.1621, 7- France PwrIndx: 0.1691, 8- United Kingdom PwrIndx: 0.2008, 9- Brazil PwrIndx: 0.2037, 10- Pakistan PwrIndx: 0.2083.

Global Firepower (GFP) list relies on more than 50 factors to determine a nation’s Power Index (‘PwrIndx’) score with categories ranging from military might and financials to logistical capability and geography.

Our unique, in-house formula allows for smaller, more technologically-advanced, nations to compete with larger, lesser-developed ones. In the form of bonuses and penalties, special modifiers are applied to further refine the annual list. Color arrows indicate a year-over-year trend comparison.

The geopolitical environment, especially the regional security situation, is quite hostile. Pakistan is bordering India, a typical adversary and has not accepted Pakistan’s independence from the core of heart, and always trying to damage Pakistan. The Kashmir issue is a long standing issue between the two rivals. On the other hand, the Afghan situation is a permanent security threat for Pakistan. Bordering Iran means always facing a danger of aggression from the US or Israel on Iran, resulting in vulnerabilities in Pakistan. The Middle East is a hot burning region and posing instability in the region. The growing tension between China and the US is also a source of a major headache for Pakistan.

Under such a scenario, Pakistan has to be very conscious regarding its security and sovereignty. Although Pakistan’s ailing economy is not supporting its defense needs, it may not compromise strategic issues for its survival. Pakistan focuses on the quality of its forces instead of quantity. The tough training makes a real difference—the utilization of Science and Technology-enabled Pakistan to maintain its supremacy.

Pakistan is situated at a crucial location – the entrance point to the oil-rich Arabian Gulf is just on the major trading route for energy. Pakistan is at the conjunction of Africa, Europe, Eurasia, Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, and China. Pakistan is a pivotal state and always focus of world powers.

During the cold war era, Pakistan sided with the US and protected the region’s American interests. The US military establishment knows well that as long as Pakistan stands with the US, it can achieve all its strategic goals in the region. However, It was the American choice to give more importance to India and ignore Pakistan.

Pakistan is a peace-loving nation and struggling for the promotion of peace globally. Pakistan always raises its voice at the UN and other international forums for oppressed ones and against any injustice. Pakistan. In the history of seven decades, Pakistan was never involved in any aggression against any country. Pakistan’s official stance is, “We are partner for peace with any country, any nation, or individuals.” Pakistan is a partner and supporter of any peace-initiative in any part of the world. 

However, Pakistan is always prepared to protect its territorial integrity and will not allow any aggressor to harm our sovereignty at any cost. Pakistan is determined for its independence and geographical integrity.

Pakistan is no threat to any country or nation. Neither have any intention of expansion. But always ready to give a tough time to any aggressor.

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Defense

Israel continues its air strikes against Syria after Biden’s inauguration: What’s next?

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A family of four, including two children, died as a result of an alleged Israeli air strike on Hama in northwestern Syria on Friday, January 22, Syrian media said. In addition, four people were injured and three civilian houses were destroyed.

According to a military source quoted by Syrian outlets, Israel launched an air strike at 4 a.m. on Friday from the direction of Lebanese city of Tripoli against some targets on the outskirts of Hama city.

“Syrian air defense systems confronted an Israeli air aggression and shot down most of the hostile missiles,” the source said.

The Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post reported that there were loud sounds of explosions in the area.

In turn, the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on alleged strikes resulted in the death of Syrian citizens.

Over the past time, Israel significantly stepped up its aerial bombardment. This incident was the fifth in a series of Israeli air attacks on targets in Syria in the past month and the first after the inauguration of the U.S. President Joe Biden. Foreign analysts and military experts said that Tel Aviv intensified air strikes on Syria, taking advantage of the vacuum of power in the United States on the eve of Biden taking office as president.

While the Donald Trump administration turned a blind eye on such aggression, a change of power in the United States could remarkably limit Israel in conducting of military operations against Syria and Iran-affiliated armed groups located there. As it was stated during his presidential campaign, Joe Biden intends to pursue a more conciliatory foreign policy towards Iran. In particular, he unequivocally advocated the resumption of the nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. In this regard, Tel Aviv’s unilateral actions against Iranian interests in Syria could harm Washington’s plans to reduce tensions with Tehran.

By continuing air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, Israel obviously sent a massage to the United States that Tel Aviv will consistently run anti-Iran policy, even if it will be in conflict with the interests of the Joe Biden administration. On the other hand, such Israeli behavior threatens to worsen relations with the United States, its main ally.

In the nearest future, the US reaction on the Israeli belligerent approach toward Iran will likely determine whether the relations between Tehran, Tel Aviv and Washington will get better or the escalation will continue.

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