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Friday, 24 June 2016

From Today's Papers - 24 Jun 2016

Not So Good going on NSG
Opposition from multiple nations as Modi pushes case with China
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 23
India made the final push for its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent today. While Modi asked Jinping to “make a fair and objective assessment of India’s application”, the news coming from Seoul, where a special session of the NSG is being held to discuss India's membership, was not that positive.

Apart from China, which has been vocal about its opposition, Brazil, New Zealand, Ireland and Turkey were also not welcoming about India’s induction into the elite nuclear club. Most of these nations have expressed reservations about India not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The special session of the NSG, which began post-dinner in Seoul, concluded without reaching any decision on India’s membership. The discussions will continue tomorrow when a final call on India’s candidature can be expected.

Meanwhile, Pakistan made sure that it was not left behind in the game for the NSG membership and its President Mamnoon Hussain also met Jinping in Tashkent today. According to a press note issued by the Pakistan foreign ministry, both leaders discussed the issue of Pakistan's entry into the NSG.

Pakistan has been consistently saying if an exception can be made for India, it should also be allowed to join the NSG. Both India and Pakistan have not signed the NPT. Hussain told Jinping that “any exception given for NSG membership could disturb strategic stability in South Asia”.

The meeting between Modi and Jinping lasted for about 45 minutes. The Ministry of External Affairs said most of the meeting was devoted to this issue and Modi told Jinping that “China should contribute to the emerging consensus in Seoul”. The Chinese side did not come out with any details of the meeting and made no comments on what had been the response of Jinping to the Modi's request.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar led a team of officials in Seoul, lobbying for India's candidature. Despite the US, the UK, France and Switzerland backing the India's bid, the going has been tough for India.

While China's opposition was always known, what might come as a shock to many here is the resistance being put up by smaller countries. India, in a bid to woo many of these nations, had sent senior diplomats of the foreign ministry to these countries so as to address their concerns.

For now, the suspense continues as discussion will resume in Seoul tomorrow morning on India’s bid for the NSG membership. The final outcome will then seal the deal for India—one way or the other.
Can’t give ‘lame excuses’ for project delays: DRDO chief
Kolkata, June 23
As it faces flak for delays in executing defence projects, the state-run DRDO chief today said it couldn’t give “lame excuses” and that the reasons for the hold-up were being explained to the government.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at the same time said it was not only ready to compete with foreign companies, but also to export products in the wake of the FDI reforms unveiled in the defence sector.

On Monday, the government announced the opening up of the defence sector by allowing foreign companies to own up to 100 per cent equity.

When asked at a news conference about the repeated delays in the execution of various projects by the DRDO, its Director General S Christopher said when those programmes and projects were taken up they never realised the complexity.

“If I have said seven years (for delivering a product), then at the end of seven years someone will knock at my door. So that is the problem of miscalculation of number of years,” he said.

The second issue, he noted, was that during the gestation period the requirement of the defence forces sometimes increases and therefore the product development takes more time.

“A new product takes a lot of time (to develop) even in other countries. When you take submarines, it takes not less than three decades. Air-borne air-warning system has taken not less than 15 years even in the US. We are also in a similar situation,” he said.

“These are areas where we are stuck. We can’t give lame excuses. We are explaining these to the government,” he said.

The DRDO, functioning under the Ministry of Defence, undertakes design and development of products and technologies to suit the requirement of the three wings of the Indian armed forces. “There may be a possibility when a big company with 100 per cent FDI comes with its technology and gives us competition. We are raring to go for the competition,” he said.

On the government’s thrust on “Make in India”, Christopher said it was a bonanza as far as DRDO was concerned. — PTI
Parrikar likely to approve purchase of artillery guns
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 23
In what will be the first major weapon purchase aimed at bolstering the upcoming Mountain Strike Corps of the Army, the Ministry of Defence is expected to approve the purchase of 145 artillery guns specially meant for deployment in the Himalayas.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, is scheduled to meet on Saturday to take a final call on the purchase of the 155mm M777 ultra-light howitzer (ULH). It will also decide on new warships carrying deadly missiles. It will also discuss the issue of having the ‘midget’ submarines used for special operations under the sea.

The cost negotiation with BAE Systems for the supply of 145 guns is complete and the deal is expected to be signed at price between $725 million and $740 million. This will be the main ground-based weapon for the Mountain Strike Corps. The BAE has further tied up with Mahindra to make 50 per cent of the guns in India.

BAE Systems will be asked to start deliveries within six months after signing the contract. In May last year, the DAC had approved the purchase of the ULH, which was originally proposed in 2008. Made of titanium, each gun weighs 4,000 kg, making it transportable by CH-47 Chinook helicopters, C-17 Globemaster and the C-130 Hercules aircraft or by trucks to ensure increased mobility in the mountains.

In case of the warships, the Navy will be setting six missile carrying vessels that will replace the 1980’s design Soviet-era ships of this type. These will carry the BrahMos, surface-to-air missiles, medium-range guns, and close-in weapons systems. It will cost Rs 13,000 crore (approx).

Also, the DAC will approve the installation of the 300-km range BrahMos missile on six warships, three of the Delhi class and three of the Talwar class. It will cost Rs 2,700 crore.

The DAC will also decide on buying 44,000 automatic hand-held carbines for the Army. An Israeli company has emerged as the top bidder following trials.
'Pocket Battleships' Part Of Navy's Mega-Growth Plans
On a day when the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told Armed Forces commanders to focus on India's 'Look East' policy by stepping up joint exercises with friendly countries in South East Asia, details have emerged of plans to significantly expand the Navy's war-fighting capability.

On Saturday, the Defence Acquisition Committee of the Ministry of Defence is expected to review and clear proposals worth nearly Rs. 29,000 crore for a host of new generation warships, upgrades and Naval fighting systems.
Among the most significant, is a proposal to construct an all-new class of six next-generation missile boats in India, which, once completed, will be among the most powerful vessels of their class in the world. The 1,250-ton 'pocket battleships' are to be armed with Brahmos anti-shipping missiles which can strike targets at sea and on land 300 kilometres away.

The boats, which will replace the Navy's ageing Prabal class missile-boats, will also be equipped with surface to air missiles, close-in-weapon-systems to intercept hostile missiles, a main gun and point defence guns to counter threats, potentially from terrorists operating in small fast boats. They will be built in India and with the project likely to cost Rs. 13,000 crores.
Heavily armed for their size, the missile boats follow a recent trend of modern Navies building a new generation of small missile armed ships. In October last year, the Russian Navy launched 26 missiles from four small frigates and corvettes in the Caspian Sea to strike ISIS targets more than 1,500 kilometres away.

The Indian Navy, for its part, has long favoured small missile boats. In the 1971 war against Pakistan, an Indian variant of the 245 ton Russian designed Osa class missile boats caused widespread destruction on Pakistani shipping in and around Karachi harbour in the first use of anti-ship missiles in combat in the region. This was only the second time in Naval warfare that anti-ship missiles had been used successfully in combat. So successful was Operation Trident as it was known, that the Navy celebrates Navy Day every year on December 4 to mark the occasion.

Other than missile boats, the Navy is set to significantly upgrade its legacy Delhi class destroyers and the relatively new Talwar class frigates with the made-in-India Brahmos missile, significantly expanding their offensive firepower. The existing weaponry of less-capable Klub anti-ship missiles which currently equip the Delhi and Talwar class may be transferred to older warships though these plans are still being finalised. The deal to upgrade these warships will cost 2700 crores which will include the entire Brahmos missile complex including practice missile rounds.

Significantly, the Navy wants to upgrade its ability to carry out clandestine operations by its Marine Commandos who will now be equipped with two Special Operations Vehicles (SOV), essentially mini-submarines, to be built at Hindustan Shipyards Limited in Visakhapatnam. Each SOV will embark three swimmer delivery vehicles (SDV) to be used by specialist divers in commando operations. This project is worth Rs. 2000 crores.

As part of its overall blue-water plans, the Navy sees fleet support ships as an essential force-multiplier giving it the ability to operate far away from Indian shores. To this end, Hindustan Shipyards Limited and Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea have been in talks for the construction of five Fleet Support Ships in India worth Rs. 9000 crores. It is unclear at this stage if the deal will involve a government to government deal between India and South Korea or will be negotiated between the two companies involved.

Finally, the Navy plans to acquire five diving support craft in a Make-in-India proposal for 150 crores to replace its elderly vessels.

Naval ship-building is an area of strength in India and the biggest success-story of this government's Make in India plans in the defence sector. For decades India has been designing and manufacturing the ships it needs from its own aircraft carriers to nuclear submarines.
Indian army team completes mountain cycling expedition

Thursday, 23 June 2016

From Today's Papers - 23 Jun 2016

India seeks to buy patrol drones from US
Washington: India has sent a letter of request to the US for buying patrol drones for protection and vigilance of its maritime assets in the Indian Ocean. It comes less than a fortnight after India was inducted into the Missile Technology Control Regime. The letter seeks purchase of the multi-mission maritime patrol Predator Guardian UAVs from General Atomics. These drones can fly non-stop for over 24 hours and monitor movement of objects as small as a football. PTI

Listening to Mozart may lower BP          

Berlin: Listening to a soothing Mozart symphony may significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate. The study of the effect of different musical genres on the cardiovascular system found that the music of Mozart and Strauss is able to lower blood lipid concentrations and the heart rate. All musical genres resulted in notably lower cortisol concentrations, researchers said. The effect of music was far greater than that of silence. PTI

New AI system can predict human actions     

Boston: Scientists have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system, using videos from YouTube and popular TV shows, that can predict whether two people will hug, kiss or shake hands. Computer systems that predict actions would open up new possibilities ranging from robots that can better navigate human environments, to emergency response systems that predict falls, to virtual reality headsets that feed you suggestions for what to do in different situations. PTI

China to crack down on online comments      

Beijing: China’s Internet regulator has launched a new campaign to clean up the comments sections on websites to prevent the spread of what it calls “harmful information” and to encourage “more helpful, well-intentioned comments” to appear. The Chinese government already exercises widespread controls over the Internet. The Cyberspace Administration of China said the crackdown was aimed at tackling “outstanding problems”. PTI
Top level changes in Army on cards
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 22
As changes in the Army’s top hierarchy are on the cards following the retirement of senior officers, two Lieutenant Generals have proceeded on leave because the government is still to decide their new assignments even though posting orders of officers selected to replace them have already been issued.

Sources said Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command, is tipped to take over as the new Vice-Chief when the incumbent, Lt Gen MMS Rai, retires at the end of next month.

While the posting orders are yet to be issued, two names are doing the rounds to take over as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, from Lt Gen KJ Singh. These are Lt Gen DR Soni, an Armoured Corps officer who till now was commanding the Bathinda-based 10 Corps, and Lt Gen Surinder Singh, a Guards officer commanding 33 Corps in the north-east.

Lt Gen Ashwini Kumar, an Army Air Defence Corps officer, has been appointed as the General Officer Commanding, 10 Corps, in place of Lt Gen Soni. Lt Gen Soni and Lt Gen PS Mehta, GOC, 21 Corps in Bhopal, have been “sent” on leave for about a month till the government decides their new postings.

Officers appointed to replace Lt Gen Soni and Lt Gen Mehta, who have been attached to Headquarters South Western Command and Army Headquarters, are expected to assume charge this week. While Lt Gen Soni is expected to be elevated as an Army Commander, Lt Gen Mehta is tipped to get a staff appointment.

Army sources said that it is not unusual for officers to be sent on “cooling-off” leave till fresh posting orders are issued. Central Army Commander Lt Gen BS Negi, too, was attached to Headquarters Northern Command after completion of his tenure as GOC, 14 Corps, and remained on leave for about a month before proceeding for his current assignment. Similarly, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda had spent a month-long cooling period before taking over in July 2014.

The Chief of Staff, Western Command, Lt Gen Gurdip Singh is also retiring at the end of this month. A Major General posted at Headquarters Eastern Command is expected to take over from him on promotion.
Ahead of NSG’s Seoul talks, Modi to meet Xi in Tashkent
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 22
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to discuss India’s NSG membership with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the two leaders meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet that begins tomorrow in Tashkent.

China, as of today, showed no signs of welcoming India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and stuck to its guns of India being a non-signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and hence not being allowed into the elite group.

Meanwhile, India is indulging in some hectic last-minute diplomacy in Seoul. As first reported by The Tribune on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar today reached Seoul where the NSG session is on. The crucial plenary session is on June 23-24 when India’s candidature is likely to be discussed. Many officials from the Ministry of External Affairs are already in Seoul, lobbying with various member states for India’s entry into the grouping.

While France today came out in public support for India’s bid, the one nation that seems to be holding up the opposition strongly is of course China. The US and the UK have already supported India as have many other nations such as Switzerland, but since NSG works on consensus, China has to be on board for India’s membership to the club.

China, meanwhile, seems to be sticking to its earlier position and insistence that nations that have not signed the NPT cannot be allowed into the NSG. In a written statement, the office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson today said: “As for the entry of non-NPT countries, the group has never put that on its meeting agenda. Based on what we have at hand, the agenda of this year’s Seoul plenary meeting circulated by the Chair does not include this issue either.”

The ministry, however, acknowledged that three rounds of “informal” discussions were held along a separate channel on the membership of non-NPT members.

It went on to dismiss allegations that China was blocking India’s membership and insisted that only membership of countries that had signed the NPT was on the agenda of talks in Seoul. “Deliberation on the entry of specific countries is on the agenda of the Seoul plenary meeting. However, it is worth noting that the meeting is only to deliberate on the entry application of countries that are state parties to the NPT.”

Pakistan also kept up its grumbling noises and Pakistan National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua today even alleged that America’s efforts to include India in the NSG was part of a “greater design” to contain China and prevent the resurgence of Russia. Pakistan has also said that the US pressure to include India into the NSG has pushed Pakistan closer to China.

With China sticking to its guns, and India pushing with all its diplomatic strength to gain entry into the NSG, the crucial meet now would be between Modi and Jinping. If Modi can convince the Chinese leadership to somehow reverse its stand, Seoul would see a happy ending for India.
Army comes out against road work on China border
 An ambitious road project planned along the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh has hit the Indian Army hurdle. The Army is opposed to constructing any road close to the disputed border with China, said a senior Home Ministry official.

The proposed 1,500-km India-China frontier highway will run parallel along the China border. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, which was initially approached for the project, had declined to work on it citing that it was financially not viable.

The project is said to cost anywhere between Rs. 30,000 and Rs. 40,000 crore. The Home Ministry is now looking to rope in an international contractor to complete the project.

At a meeting last week, the Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO) had opposed the project, and said that the alignment of the roads proposed was not conducive from security point of view.

The DGMO also opposed the demand of opening advance landing grounds for civilian use. The State government has been demanding that all the eight advance landing grounds should be thrown open for civilian aircraft to boost connectivity in the region.

An official said that last week a senior Indian Air Force officer inaugurated the advance landing ground at Mechuka without the consent of the State government.

The proposed highway will pass through Tawang, East Kameng, Upper Subansiri, West Siang, Upper Siang, Dibang Valley, Desali, Chaglagam, Kibito, Dong, Hawai and Vijaynagar on the Arunachal Pradesh border. The government has already relaxed environmental clearances for border area projects.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said, “I will be calling a meeting of all stakeholders soon to resolve the issue. The area needs connectivity.”

Earlier, an Empowered Committee led by Secretary, Border Management, tasked by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), held a meeting with the DGMO where the latter put forth the objections.

A delegation of Arunachal Pradesh MLAs, led by its Chief Minister Kalikho Pul, will soon petition the Prime Minister to resolve the issue. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

From Today's Papers - 21 Jun 2016

China snubs, Foreign Secy Seoul-bound
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 20
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar may soon fly to Seoul ahead of the crucial Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting scheduled for June 24 where India’s membership is likely to come up for discussion. However, China today said India’s membership was not on the agenda of the plenary meet of the NSG.

The statement was in sharp contrast to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s ‘optimism’ yesterday that India was hopeful of convincing China and becoming an NSG member by the year-end.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying today said: “The inclusion of non-NPT members has never been a topic on the agenda of NSG meetings. In Seoul this year, there is no such topic.”

It was also made clear that India might be looking for a credential-based as opposed to a criterion-based approach. China insisted that “NSG should discuss the entry issue of non-NPT countries as a whole instead of specific non-NPT countries joining”.

Jaishankar’s hush-hush visit to China last week coupled with PM Narendra Modi’s scheduled meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent later this week highlights the importance being attached to the NSG berth.
More delay in OROP, panel gets extension
New Delhi, June 20
The tenure of the committee formed on implementation of the “one rank, one pension” (OROP) scheme has been extended by six months up to the middle of December.

The government recently amended the gazette notification issued last year under which the committee headed by former Chief Justice of Patna High Court Justice (Retd) L Narasimha Reddy was scheduled to submit its report by June 14. With the extension, the implementation of OROP may take more time as the panel can submit its report by December 14, official sources said.

The government had announced implementation of OROP on November 7, 2015 to benefit over 25 lakh ex-servicemen and war widows. The OROP mandates payment of uniform pension to the armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of their date of retirement, which implies that bridging the gap between the rate of pension of current and past pensioners at periodic intervals. The other Terms of Reference of the Committee will continue which include measures for the removal of anomalies that may arise in the implementation of the OROP as notified by the government.

The panel is also looking into the measures for the removal of anomalies that may arise out of inter-services issues of the three forces due to implementation of OROP besides implications on service matters. The committee is examining all other matter referred to it by the central government on implementation of the OROP or related issues. In making its recommendations, the committee will take into account the financial impact of its recommendations, as per its Terms of Reference. — PTI
Pak-Afghan officials meet to defuse border tension
Islamabad, June 20
After deadly clashes over the construction of a border gate, Pakistan and Afghanistan today agreed to find an amicable solution to create a mechanism for consulting each other on border issues to avoid such incidents.

A six-member Afghan delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai visited Islamabad to hold discussions with Pakistani officials on the recent clashes over the construction of a security gate by Pakistan at Torkham border crossing and other matters pertaining to border management.

The Pakistan delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry. “Talks between the two delegations were held in a cordial atmosphere marked by a mutual desire to amicably resolve border related issues,” the foreign office said in a statement.

Both sides decided to work in the “spirit of good neighbourly relations and friendly cooperation”. — PTI
Indian Army hands over first concrete bomb shelter to villagers in J&K's Poonch
"As part of civic activities under Sadbhavana (Goodwill) initiative, the Army at Saujiyan constructed an underground concrete bomb shelter at Gali Maidan near the LoC in Poonch district," army spokseman, Lt.Col. Manish Mehta told IANS here, adding that the inauguration and handing over of the shelter ceremony was held today in presence of a large number of villagers and the local army commander.
"The need for this bomb shelter was felt after numerous casualties of villagers took place in the frequent unprovoked firing across the LoC in which the Pakistan Army targeted Indian posts and locals.

"The concrete shelter will provide protection not only to the villagers, but it will also be useful to the Bakarwals (nomadic goatherds) passing through the village," he said, adding that the underground shelter cost approximately Rs 8 lakh and has the provision of attached toilet and solar lighting.
Changes in FDI Policy: Government Relaxes Norms, Allows 100% FDI in Defence and Aviation
The key reform decisions makes India the most open economy in the world for foreign direct investment.
New Delhi: The government on June 20 made changes to the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the second biggest reform in FDI since those announced in November 2015.

According to the amendments are meant to liberalise and simplify FDI policy to provide ease of doing business in the country, leading to larger FDI inflows that will contribute to growth of investment, incomes and employment.
The government has allowed 100% FDI in the aviation sector for scheduled carriers. Under the automatic route, 49% FDI has been permitted.

FDI in defence has also been hiked to 100%. The present FDI regime permits 49% FDI participation in the equity of a company under the automatic route. FDI above 49% is permitted through government approval on a case-to-case basis. However, for foreign airlines investing in scheduled airlines, the limit stays at 49%. The decision to relax FDI norms in the aviation sector had led to a sharp rally in listed carriers such as SpiceJet, Jet Airways and InterGlobe Aviation.

Under the new norms, 74% FDI would be allowed in the pharmaceutical sector under the automatic route, which means that foreign investors will not need government approval to invest up in existing domestic companies. Currently, FDI up to 100% is permitted in new projects in the pharma sector.

FDI limits have been hiked to 100% in teleports (uplinking hubs), DTH and cable networks, with government approval required beyond 49%.

The clause of controlled conditions for 100% FDI under the automatic route for animal husbandry has been done away with under the new policy.

The government also decided to relax local sourcing norms up to three years and a relaxed sourcing regime for another five years for entities undertaking of products having ‘state-of-art’ and ‘cutting edge’ technology.

For NRIs, 100% FDI will continue to be allowed under the automatic route.


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