RIL bags strategic military aviation tie-up with Boeing
US aerospace major to source 30% of its components from Reliance
Our Roving Editor
New Delhi, May 22
India’s one of the richest businessman Mukesh Ambani’s $76 billion Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has bagged a strategic military aviation tie-up with the leading US aerospace company, Boeing, in the field of offsets. That means Boeing will be sourcing 30% of its components worth hundreds of crores of rupees from the RIL.
Sources in the Defence Ministry confirmed to The Tribune on Monday that there was a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in place between the RIL and nearly $80 billion-strong Boeing for the defence offsets programmes.
Since India’s capability in aerospace manufacturing is poor, it is expected that this tie-up could lead to capability build-up in the country in either manufacturing or services.
A Fortune 500 company, the RIL has so far dealt in the businesses of energy and material value chain. But it has been making aggressive moves for past two years to enter lucrative high technology manufacturing, especially in aerospace and homeland security businesses. Indian private sector military aviation segment is expected to touch nearly $100 billion by 2020.
The RIL’s first major leap was in the beginning of 2012, when it signed an MoU with the French aerospace giant Dassault Aviation a week after the Central government on January 31 announced the French fighter Rafale as the winner in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal. Dassault manufactures Rafale combat jets and Falcon business jets, and the proposed venture should foray into both these sectors.
Rafale emerged winner in the ‘dogfight’, beating the other short listed European consortium Eurofighter Typhoon, in over $20 billion (everything included, like co-production) the Indian Air Force deal for the 4.5 generation 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). The deal is yet to be inked. Industry sources said it was likely to be done soon.
In the context of the RIL-Boeing MoU, sources said the Defence Ministry has on order eight Boeing P81 aircraft and the first one is expected to arrive this year. It is estimated that eventually more than 20 P81s could be required to protect India’s vast 7517-km coastline. The P81 aircraft are capable of long-range maritime reconnaissance, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. Pakistan is using P3 aircraft, which is a previous version of the naval reconnaissance aero plane from Boeing.
In addition, Boeing’s offset programme in India runs into several billion dollars. Other programmes include C-17 military transport aircraft, Harpoon missiles, Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy lift helicopters. Apache and Chinook deals are at the negotiation stage.
A senior defence ministry official on condition of anonymity said it was a crying need of the country to establish military hardware manufacturing competency on a large scale to complement what the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has created. The RIL’s and other such private sector ventures are in the national interest. “It is a big ticket business for the RIL which over the years can overshoot its current ventures,” he felt.
The RIL last year incorporated a new firm to enter into aerospace and defence ventures. The new business company - Reliance Aerospace Technologies (P) Limited has been registered with appropriate authorities, including the Registrar of Companies. It is headed by an American Indian aerospace expert, Dr Vivek Lall (44) as President and the CEO. Lall earlier worked with the NASA and defence majors Raytheon and Boeing.
Industry sources said the RIL’s aerospace venture is likely to spend over $1 billion in foreign aircraft components manufacturing area. It is planning to hire over 2,000 engineers over the years. The margin of profit in this high technology oriented industry is huge.
Lall refused to comment on the RIL-Boeing tie-up. Lall, who is the chairman of the Indo-American Strategic Dialogue, also refused to talk about the RIL’s aerospace vision. Recently, he was inducted into the Joint Working Group on cyber security led by the National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister.
Any defence related venture with a foreign firm requires several procedural and security clearances from the government. While in-principle approval for such collaborations already exists as per the Defence Procurement Procedure, the government has cleared an important proposal permitting the Defence Public Sector Undertakings like the HAL to forge partnerships with private sector companies to speed up technology induction as well as production of strategic systems for the armed forces.
The private sector ties-ups with global military giants are in the backdrop of a real push for reforms to boost private industry in India to step up their capabilities. Recently, the Central government announced a set of reforms in the defence sector to boost the private industry.
It is understood that the government is actively considering raising the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit to be greater than 26% in this sector. Apparently, the decision rests with Defence Minister A. K. Antony whether to pull that trigger.
* Sources confirmed that there was a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in place between the RIL and nearly $80 billion-strong Boeing for the defence offsets programmes
* A Fortune 500 company, the RIL has been making aggressive moves for the past two years to enter lucrative high technology manufacturing, especially in aerospace and homeland security businesses
* The RIL last year incorporated a new firm to enter into aerospace and defence ventures. The new business company - Reliance Aerospace Technologies (P) Limited has been registered with appropriate authorities
* It is headed by an American Indian aerospace expert, Dr Vivek Lall (44) as President and the CEO. Lall earlier worked with the NASA and defence majors Raytheon and Boeing
Kabul seeks military equipment from India
New Delhi, May 22
Afghanistan's demand for military equipment from India includes armoured vehicles, utility helicopters, heavy weaponry, sophisticated communication equipment and maintenance of its small fleet of helicopters.
Sources said Afghanistan's wish-list and arguments for seeking the same run into some 15-16 pages which are being studied at various wings of the Ministry of Defence before a final call is made. The US has already welcomed Afghanistan's move to seek military-aid from India which has, since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, been building roads and hospitals.
Kabul's request is to seek an increase in the number of vacancies for its officers to get trained at various institutes, especially those who get trained in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. With the US-led forces exiting Afghanistan in 2014, the strife-torn country is looking to establish a stable government that can manage on its own.
At present some 800 Afghanistan Army personnel get trained each year in India under various courses. This includes the training in counter-terrorism and counter insurgency at the specialised counter insurgency and jungle warfare military school at Vairangte, Mizoram. A training course is also run at the Signals, military nomenclature for those who handle communications between bases, unit at Jabalpur. Another course is in training officers in handling improvised explosive devices besides training in engineering activities like laying iron bridges across mountainous streams and building roads.
The fresh demand includes courses in English, information technology, military policing, managing of stores and logistics. The Indian Army runs one of the difficult supply chains in the world for its troops stationed in one of the most inaccessible terrains in the world at Siachen, remote parts of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
Besides this, India provides pre-commissioning training to Afghan Army cadets in India. The National Defence Academy in Pune, the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun and the Officers Training Academy in Chennai collectively train some 100 officers from Afghanistan each. Sources said increasing the vacancies for Afghan forces would be an easy issue to tackle, the tricky part is the supply of weaponry. New Delhi will also have to keep in mind that China could step in the vacuum.
It includes armoured vehicles, utility helicopters, heavy weaponry, sophisticated communication equipment and maintenance of its small fleet of helicopters
Afghanistan also seeks an increase in the number of vacancies for its officers to get trained at various institutes, especially those which train in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism
At present, some 800 Afghanistan Army personnel get trained each year in India under various courses. The fresh demand includes courses in English, information technology, military policing, managing of stores & logistics
India to raise a strike corps
India is all set to raise a new mountain strike corps, more than 45000 soldiers in all, for deployment against China in the high Himalayas.
The Indian defence ministry has okayed the army’s proposal and put it up with the finance ministry for clearance.
After early May’s fracas with the Chinese at the Depsang bulge, the finance ministry has indicated it will soon clear the proposal.
he defence ministry has asked for 81,000 crore Indian rupees for raising this mountain strike corps alongwith two independent infantry brigades and two independent armoured brigades in it to plug the gaps along the 4000-kilometre Line of Actual Control on the Himalayas.
The clearance for the strike corps which will cost 62,000 crore is on its way, ministry of defence officials said.
Once the finance ministry clears the raising proposal, it will be put up to the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs (CCSA) which is expected to clear it without much delay.
The raising will cover the whole 12th Five Year plan period (2012-2017), they said.
This will not only beef up Indian defences but provide the Indian army “offensive capability” against China which it now lacks.
Indian military formations are tasked in a defensive role on the disputed Himalayan border with China, mainly to hold the line and prevent the Chinese from breaking through, as they did during the 1962 border war.
India raised two mountain divisions, more than 30000 troops in all, in the last two years and deployed in the eastern sector with China, basing one division at Lekhapani in Arunachal Pradesh and another at Missamari in Assam.
The strike corps, when raised will be based in Panagarh in West Bengal and its forward elements will be based in Sikkim and the ‘Chicken neck’ that connects seven northeastern states to the Indian mainland.
While formations deployed on the ‘Chicken neck’ will ensure that is not cut off by the Chinese in the event of an war, those based in Sikkim will be able to strike across into Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) across the Chumbi valley where the Indian army enjoys crucial tactical advantage.
This formation will have rapid reaction elements.
Once the strike corps is raised, Indian military doctrine vis-à-vis China will undergo a change with a clear element of ‘offensive defence’ worked into it.
India has also expedited development of its defence infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control, building key mountain roads, renovating airstrips for airborne landings and supplies, setting up fortifications and much else.
China appears upset with the Indian military effort which will negate its current area dominance on the Line of Actual Control.
Analysts say April-May incursion of a Chinese platoon 19 kms into the Indian-held side of LAC at Depsang Bulge in Eastern Ladakh was a reflection of Beijing’s angst.
Indian army chief General Bikram Singh was not averse to a tough military action to push them out but was restrained by Delhi.
Instead Delhi threatened to cancel Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid’s May 9 visit to Beijing which would have led to the cancellation of Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India( 19-21 May) .
Beijing pulled back its troops and Premier Li tried to allay Indian apprehensions by promising an early settlement of the border dispute – until that happens, he said repeatedly, the two Asian giants have mechanisms in place to handle border tensions.
CBI issues notices in the defence land scam
Jodhpur: Initiating its probe into the alleged defence land scam here, CBI on Wednesday issued notices to the Defence Estate Officer and a trust belonging to a royal family among others.
Defence Minister AK Antony had ordered a CBI probe on May 6 into the land scam involving transfer of a 4.84 acre army plot to Maharaja Harisingh Trust in 2007 by officials of the ministry and the service.
CBI issued notices to the Defence Estate Officer, Maharaja Harisingh Trust, army administration, district authorities and a coloniser seeking all documents pertaining to the land involved from them, sources said.
"CBI will check the procedures followed by the army while handing over the piece of land to the trust. Apart from that they will also probe the intentions behind the transferring of the land and the role of the officers," said a CBI source adding that "we will also check the revenue land records of the land available with the district administration".
Col S D Goswami, defence spokesperson, said that army has nominated an officer to coordinate between army and the CBI.
"We will provide all the documents related to this deal, as and when demanded by the CBI and will offer our full cooperation to the CBI in ascertaining the facts of the matter in order to reach the guilty," said Goswami.
The piece of land, located at the foothills of the Umaid Bhawan Palace, is now being developed as a residential colony and is worth Rs 15 crore, sources said.
According to the revenue records, it is government land but the certified revenue map of this land is not available.
It is alleged that the deal was done in violation of not just the defence ministry's Acquisition, Custody and Relinquishment of Military Lands in India (ACR) Rules. Also, it violates a 1997 government order which explicitely states that efence land cannot be transferred or leased out without approval of the Union Cabinet and no land can be declared private except through a court or government order.
A Himalayan handshake? It’s time for India to bolster border infrastructure
Around the time India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was telling off Chinese Premier Li Keqiang about Chinese shenanighans on the LAC, Defence Minister A.K. Antony was chairing a meeting in the Ministry of Defence reviewing progress on border infrastructure. Informed sources indicated that the minister seemed less than happy. Like it or not, there doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency in India when it comes to building roads along sensitive frontiers.
That complicates Antony’s agenda when he heads to Beijing for talks with his counterpart, likely next month. He knows and the Chinese know that along much of the western and eastern sectors, there are gaps where the Chinese can walk in, perhaps do another face-off. There’s nothing in the May 20 India-China joint statement that followed Manmohan Singh-Li talks to suggest the Chinese won’t do a repeat. You can bet they will, but probably not immediately.
The gaps need to be closed, the forces on the ground beefed up, but the pace at which India moves is elephantine. The constraints range from bureaucratic sluggishness to environmental issues and plain incompetence. But in all fairness the situation along the LAC today is not akin to 1962; things have vastly improved and it’s something the Chinese understand. “Since Kargil, the Chinese have revised their opinion about the Indian army,” said a senior army officer. There’s new respect for the capacities of the Indian Navy, especially its undersea nuclear element. And there’s no doubt about the IAF’s abilities either. The Chinese do have the advantage of numbers, but don’t forget they haven’t fought a war since 1979 (against Vietnam when they got a drubbing!).
Antony may (like Manmohan Singh) want to know from the Chinese why they did what they did at Raki Nulla in Depsang Valley in Ladakh April 15, but as a senior diplomat with long experience of China warned: “Don’t expect the Chinese to ever explain why the Raki Nulla face-off happened. But reading the tea leaves, it would seem somebody perhaps in the military overstepped his brief. We’ll probably learn of some action against that person or persons in course of time.”
The face-off has also lent weight to another argument, that China’s powerful People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a problem responding to the directions of the Chinese state as opposed to the Communist Party. Traditionally, the PLA has been identified with the party and it could well be that the PLA generals have issues with directions given by the government bureaucracy.
This is not to imply a civil-military divide, there isn’t one, says the diplomat. President Xi Jinping heads the Central Military Commission and in the Chinese system, no military commander can act on his own. The face-off was carefully planned, but the media outcry in India perhaps resulted in the face-off lasting longer than the Chinese may have intended.
The official word is India conceded nothing to get the Chinese to leave, but there are reports of the army having to dismantle shelters for surveillance cameras at Chumar in southern Ladakh. There are also reports suggesting the army has ceased “aggressive patrolling” in the Raki Nulla area.
The diplomat clarified that it is the Cabinet Committee on Security alone which defines the limits of patrolling. This is based on inputs from the army, which is hardly likely to suggest measures that could constrain it on the ground. Also, while it is the Ministry of External Affairs that leads discussions with the Chinese on the border, “the MEA basically fronts for the army, basing its discussions with the Chinese on the briefs provided by the army.” (And contrary to media reports, the China Study Group is only an advisory body headed by the Foreign Secretary. It has no executive powers.)
The mystery about the incursion is not going to clear anytime soon. But one point is clear: Antony would have given the word to speed up infrastructure work on the LAC. Hopefully, the elephant’s pace will quicken.
Army sergeant accused of videotaping female cadets
Reuters) - An Army sergeant at the Military Academy has been accused of videotaping female cadets in the showers a West Point, a defense official said on Wednesday, the latest in a series of sex-related incidents that has rocked the armed forces.
Sergeant First Class Michael McClendon was charged last week with four violations of U.S. military law in connection with the incident and has been transferred to a new base pending outcome of an investigation by Army investigators, officials said.
The incident was disclosed on Wednesday hours after Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno told a Senate panel they were addressing the service's sexual harassment and sexual assault problem as their top priority.
"I want to assure this committee of the Army's unwavering commitment to eliminating sexual assault and harassment in our ranks," McHugh said. "These crimes violate virtually everything the Army stands for ... and they will not be tolerated."
But lawmakers voiced concern about the military's handling of the issue, with Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, warning that the incidents "have shaken the trust that many have in the ability of our military to deal with this."
In the incident at West Point, McClendon was charged last week with indecent acts, dereliction of duty, cruelty and another count, Army spokesman George Wright said.
Wright said McClendon was being investigated for possession of inappropriate images taken without consent. He did not elaborate. The New York Times, which first reported the case, said the pictures included female cadets in the shower, which a defense official confirmed on condition of anonymity.
"The Army has notified those involved and offered support services at their individual locations," Wright said. "It appears to be at least a dozen or more alleged victims who may have been photographed without their consent."
McClendon had served as a tactical noncommissioned officer at the prestigious academy since 2009, a job that put him in charge of mentoring and training a company of about 121 cadets, focusing on leadership development and other responsibilities.
General John Campbell, the Army's vice chief of staff, said the service moved to address the situation at West Point as soon as the problem was reported, seeking to reassure cadets that such issues would be "handled quickly and decisively."
The report of charges against McClendon follows a spate of sex-related incidents that have embarrassed the U.S. military and prompted members of Congress to introduce legislation designed to toughen up the Pentagon's handling of sex crimes.
A study released by the Defense Department two weeks ago estimated that reports of unwanted sexual contact in the military, from groping to rape, rose 37 percent in 2012, to about 26,000 cases from 19,000 the previous year.
The report was released just days after Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, who led the Air Force sexual assault prevention effort, was charged with sexual battery involving a civilian woman in a parking lot not far from the Pentagon.
Several days later a U.S. Army sergeant who worked as a sexual assault prevention coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas, was accused of pandering, abusive sexual contact and assault.
McHugh and Odierno said the Army was aggressively moving to retrain and re-evaluate personnel assigned to serve as sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates after some people in those jobs were accused of sexual misconduct.
Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, asked how soldiers where chosen for the positions and whether they were viewed as "throw-away" jobs assigned to whoever was available.
"I hope that's not true," McHugh said. "I've signed a number of directives already to ensure it isn't true."
He and Odierno sent a note to all commanders last week telling them "it is your personal responsibility to ensure these positions are filled by the best qualified individuals," according to a copy of the memo obtained from the Army.
McHugh said he was considering a directive requiring that people who work with sexual assault victims have a more thorough criminal background check, and he said he thought they should probably have behavioral health screening as well.
The Army secretary also advocated additional recognition for people who serve honorably in helping sexual assault victims, such as giving them preference toward promotions later on.
"Without those kinds of incentives, if people don't feel that the jobs are important, they're not likely to bring the kinds of assets and attributes that we wish," McHugh said.
Karzai gives India military equipment "wish list"
(Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday he had given a "wish list" of military equipment to India during a visit this week, presenting a conundrum for New Delhi as it weighs whether arming the Afghan army is in its interests.
India wants to stabilise Afghanistan and is concerned about the resurgence of militant groups after foreign combat troops leave in 2014.
But arming Afghanistan would alarm Pakistan. It takes issue with the influence of its old rival in Afghanistan. India does not want to get drawn into a proxy war with Pakistan, which has ties to the Taliban.
India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2011 under which New Delhi agreed to assist in the training and equipping of Afghan security forces.
India has trained Afghan security force personnel in its military academies, but it has provided little military equipment, according to Indian officials. India's Afghan strategy has centred on boosting its influence through economic reconstruction projects.
"We have a wish list that we have put before the government of India," Karzai told reporters, adding that it was up to India to decide how much help it was prepared to give Afghanistan.
Karzai would not say what was on the list, but India's firstpost.com website said it included 105 mm artillery, medium-lift aircraft, bridge-laying equipment and trucks.
The Indian government had no immediate comment on Karzai's statement. Karzai's spokesman said both countries had agreed not to discuss the contents of the shopping list.
An Indian government official said earlier that India had already provided some military equipment to Afghanistan but he declined to give details. He said he was surprised that Afghanistan was speaking openly about a weapons request.
India is not a major weapons exporter, and suffers chronic shortages of defence equipment itself, including artillery.
Afghanistan's request for military equipment comes as its relations with Pakistan, which have been difficult for decades, are again at a low.
This month, Pakistan border guards and Afghan police clashed over a contested border area. The Afghan police complained they had been out-gunned and said they wanted heavy artillery and tanks.
Afghan security forces have also made no secret of their desire for an air force.
The clash over their border, which Afghanistan has never officially recognised, raised new tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Afghanistan and its Western allies have or years complained that Pakistan has failed to act against militants taking refuge in Pakistan and launching attacks into Afghanistan from Pakistani refuges.
Pakistan denies helping the Taliban and complains of militants fighting the Pakistani state taking refuge in Afghanistan.
But Karzai did not directly criticise Pakistan on Wednesday.
He said no peace deal was possible in Afghanistan without Pakistan's involvement because of its influence over the Taliban, who are fighting to expel Western forces, topple Karzai's government and establish Islamist rule.
"Pakistan cooperation is key to a politically successful peace process and key to the end of violence in Afghanistan," he said.
He said that at a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif last year the latter had acknowledged the danger that "terrorism and radicalism" posed to Pakistan.
"I hope the new prime minister will be able to deliver what he so much wishes to achieve," Karzai said.
Sharif has said he aims to boost ties with India