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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

From Today's Papers - 18 Jun

Army chief to visit Russia

New Delhi (PTI): To strengthen the existing military relations, Army chief General Deepak Kapoor will visit Russia for five days to discuss furthering of ties and pending issues relating to delay in transfer of technology (ToT) for T-90 tanks.

During the trip beginning June 23, Kapoor will visit a Tank Division of the Russian Land Forces seeking new ideas for the Indian Army's Armoured Corps.

Army headquarters sources on Tuesday said that its Kapoor was also scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart, apart from holding discussions with the officials of the Russian ministry of defence and senior military officials on matters of mutual interest.

He is also likely to discuss the delay in the signing of the deal for the Army's requirement of transport helicopters.

Coming as part of the mutual exchange of official visits by top defence officials and officers, the trip comes at a time when there have been changes in the Russian political and military set up.

During the November 2007 visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the two countries had signed agreements for the development and production of Multi-role Transport Aircraft and joint moon exploration.

Arjun versus T-90: Army avoiding trials

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi June 17, 2008, 0:20 IST

India's Arjun tank is fighting its first battle even before it enters service with the army. The Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) and key Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials, confident that the Arjun is superior to the army's Russian T-72 and T-90 tanks, are demanding "comparative trials", where the Arjun, the T-72 and the T-90 are put through endurance and firing trials in identical conditions.

But the army — particularly the nodal Directorate General of Mechanised Forces (DGMF) — is shying away. Earlier, the DGMF declared that the T-72 and T-90 were proven tanks, which needed no further trials.

Now, with the MoD adding its voice to the demand for comparative trials, the DGMF has told Business Standard that they must be put off until the army gets a full squadron of Arjun tanks (14 tanks) and absorbs the expertise to use them.

DRDO sources say the army is stonewalling on accepting the Arjun by demanding levels of performance that neither of its Russian tanks can deliver. Meanwhile, more T-90s are being imported from Russia on the plea that the army is falling short of tanks.

The DRDO's fears are grounded in experience. On July 28, 2005, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee informed Parliament, "The Arjun tank is superior to (the) T-90 tank due to its high power to weight ratio, superior fire on the move capability during day and night and excellent ride comfort. MBT Arjun has gone through all the tests and it is meeting the (requirements) of the Army."

But a year later, in December 2007, India bought 347 more T-90s for Rs 4,900 crores. That despite the MoD's admission in Parliament that the 310 T-90s purchased earlier had problems with their Invar missile systems, and the thermal imagers that are crucial for night fighting.

A comparative trial, says the DRDO, will conclusively establish that the Arjun is a better tank than the T-90. That will at least put a stop to the import of more T-90s.

But the DGMF is putting off such a trial. The DG of Mechanised Forces, Lt Gen D Bhardwaj, told Business Standard, "The Arjun is based on a very stringent GSQR and is in a class by itself. User trials are conducted based on this GSQR. Nevertheless, comparative trials will be conducted once a squadron worth of tanks (i.e. 14 Arjun tanks) is inducted in the army."

This new insistence on 14 tanks will delay the trials at least till December 8. In 2005, the army had agreed to comparative trials, with five Arjun tanks pitted against five T-72s and an equal number of T-90s.

The DGMF had even written the trial directive, spelling out how trials would be conducted. Those trials were postponed as the Arjun was not ready to operate in high summer temperatures. Now, the Arjun is ready but the army is not.

Top MoD officials are no longer buying the DGMF's argument that the Arjun is a dud. The MoD wants comparative trials too. Minister of State for Defence Production, Rao Inderjit Singh, told Business Standard, "The proof of the pudding will be in comparing the Arjun tank with the T-90 tank, as imported. The T-90 is supposed to be a frontline tank; let it have it out with the Arjun. Let them slug it out in the desert … and see which comes off best."

Besides demanding more Arjun tanks in the trials, the DGMF is also proposing to conduct the trials differently. Comparative trials are normally a straightforward test of equipment capability, with all the tanks driving through the same course and firing at similar targets to determine which of them does better.

But the DGMF now plans to add a tactical - and therefore subjective - dimension. The Arjun, the T-72 and the T-90 squadrons will be given operational tasks, e.g. capturing a hill some 150 kilometres away.

The DRDO is crying foul. Major General HM Singh, who spearheaded the Arjun's development for the last 28 years until he retired a fortnight ago, points out that inserting tactics into the trials would give the army a way of putting down the Arjun.

In a tactical exercise the tactical skills of the crew - something that is irrelevant in evaluating a tank - can determine the outcome of the trials. Gen HM Singh asks, "What is it that cannot be determined with five tanks, but can be with fourteen?"

Pakistan: Reigniting Kashmir
By Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle
India’s Defence Minster speaking on activities of terrorists in Kashmir in far away Bangalore stated the obvious, "In the coming months there could be more attempts at infiltration and violence. There are forces within and outside the country who do not want free and fair elections," Antony added. The signs of resurgence of violence in Kashmir were ominous and obvious. After four years of ceasefire on the Line of Control, Jammu and Kashmir saw exchange of heavy fire at Karnah in the Tangdhar sector on the night of 13 May. This was a follow up of similar firing on the International border in the Samba sector on 9 May. Praveen Swami writing in the Hindu recently indicates that there could have been many more minor incidents of cease fire violations which have gone unreported. While the villagers in Karnah have been used to artillery shelling some years back, they had been comfortable with the peace, thus panic gripped after troops exchanged artillery fire for 15 minutes. “Pakistan army fired 12 mortar shells into this side,” said senior army officials. In another incident a soldier was killed in firing in the Mendhar region, in Jammu. The Pakistani military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas of the ISPR called the allegations as "baseless." "No firing from this side of any kind has taken place," Abbas said. A militant was killed during an encounter in Samba, a day after eight persons including three of a family, two militants, two soldiers and a photojournalist of a Jammu based English daily were killed at village Rakh Amb Tali of Kaili Mandi on 9 May.. "We have successfully eliminated two heavily armed militants, who not only attempted to storm an army formation of family quarters but also fought a 12-hour-long battle with the joint operation party at a heavily congested locality in Samba," said General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 9 Corps Lt Gen Vinay Sharma. Chief of the Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor also expressed apprehension that infiltration from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) may increase in the summer months. The infiltration from across the border during 2006 and 2007 was almost same; General Kapoor told newspersons at Tangdar, about 343 militants infiltrated into this side from PoK in 2006 while the number was 311 last year. Intelligence Bureau has blamed the renewed infiltration on the International Border on relaxed vigilance by the Border Security Force. The firing on the Line of Control by Pakistan is seen as an attempt by Pakistani authorities to push in a large number of militants to increase the level of militancy in the Valley which has been flagging with the casualty figure falling below the 1000 mark for the first time after many years in 2007. A briefing was held by the ISI Chief, Nadeem Taj for the newly elected Prime Minister, of Pakistan, Mr Yusuf Raza Gillani and the Pakistan People’s Party Co Chairperson, Mr Asif Zardari at the ISI headquarters recently. The Army chief was also present during this event, seen by many as providing information of ISI activities in Kashmir and the Afghan border rather than taking views on policy matters of the newly elected political representatives. Keeping in view the possibility of increase in infiltration, Army sources said that additional reinforcements have been moved to the 28 Division in Kupwara from the reserves of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps. They have been located at Tangdhar, Keran, Macchal and Gurez sectors. In addition, the army has asked for more units of the Rashtriya Rifles to raise the number of troops in the Kupwara sector to 30,000. Meanwhile in continuing violence a number of terrorists were killed in the state in May. In a major success, security forces eliminated seven top militants in two separate encounters in North and South Kashmir on 17 May. While six militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) were killed in the Tral area of Southern Kashmir, a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant was killed in North Kashmir’s Bandipur district. However the terrorists have struck back killing an Army Lt Colonel of the Border Roads Organization in Kishtwar in Doda district. He was working on a project to link up the Kishtwar area with Anantnag in South Kashmir. Analysts were quick to point out that this attack replicated the one on the Border Roads personnel in Nimroz province of Afghanistan. A team of Hurriyat Conference moderate leaders including the Chairman Mirwaiz Omar is due to visit Pakistan next week. The statesman like Mirwaiz would do well to tell the Pakistani leadership to let Kashmir decide its own leadership through the electoral process. A meeting with the Chief of the Army Staff however may be more fruitful. Some reports say that General Kiyani has been telling Americans that Pakistan Army would rather focus on the Eastern front with India rather than defeating the Taliban. All in all a hot summer is in the offing in the Valley.
June 15, 2008

Army plans Siachen trek despite Pakistan protest

New Delhi, June 17
Notwithstanding Pakistan’s vociferous protests, the Indian Army will organise a civilian mountaineering and trekking expedition to the Siachen Glacier for the second year in a row in October-November this year.

Even before the planned Siachen trekking kicks off, the Indian Army will take out its own expedition to the glacial heights of Khatling on the Indo-Tibetan border in Uttarakhand later this month.

“The Siachen trekking expedition this year is in its planning stage and we are determined to take civilian mountaineers to the glacier this year. Khatling expedition by the Army’s 15 Mechanised Infantry Regiment will take place from June 25 to July 7,” a source in the Army headquarters said. Both the expeditions are meant to show to the international audience that Indian troops hold both the Siachen and Khatling glacial heights and that neither Pakistan nor China were anywhere near the two glaciers.

Amidst reports of frequent intrusions by China’s Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) into the Indian territory along the Indo-Tibetan border, the Khatling expedition would leave imprints of the Army team’s visit to the glacier.

“The imprints could be anything from an Indian-made shoe or a copy of an Indian newspaper adequately sealed in a plastic folder to ensure it does not get wet or damaged in the snowy terrain. This would enable India to assert Khatling Glacier is its territory and counter any future threat of a Chinese claim,” a source said.

The civilian Siachen expedition last September had run into a controversy after Pakistan lodged a strong protest, calling it “incongruous” to ongoing peace efforts between the two countries.

Though the Army halted the trip immediately after the protest, it went ahead with the trekking expedition after a go-ahead was given by the UPA government.

Despite protests from Pakistan, India maintains that it does not need Pakistan’s approval to send trekkers to the 78 km-long Siachen, which is essentially an Indian territory. The Khatling expedition team will comprise two officers and an equal number of junior commissioned officers (JCOs), apart from eight other ranks (ORs), all volunteers from the regiment.

Inducted 10 days prior to the expedition, the team would also have an eight-member support team comprising a JCO and seven ORs.

The volunteers would undertake graduated acclimatisation and endurance exercises in coordination with 2 Rajput Regiment, apart from liaising with the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering at Uttarkasi to gain experience of trekking and survival skills in high altitude. — PTI

Hundreds of people flee after NATO warning
Taliban face new assault

Kandahar, June 17
Hundreds of people fled their houses in southern Afghanistan today as foreign and Afghan forces prepare to drive out Taliban insurgents who have overrun several villages here, officials and witnesses said. Around 600 Taliban insurgents took over several villages in Arghandab district in the south yesterday, days after they had freed hundreds of prisoners, including around 400 militants, after an attack on the main jail in Kandahar city.

“There are hundreds of them (Taliban) with sophisticated weapons. They have blown up several bridges and are planting mines everywhere,” said Mohammad Usman, a taxi driver who evacuated his family on Tuesday.

A Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said they were eyeing Kandahar after Arghandab. “After occupying Arghandab, the Taliban’s next target will be Kandahar. But we will not attack Kandahar with rockets and heavy mortars. We will hit specific targets,” Yousuf told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press.

The Taliban emerged from religious schools on the Pakistani border in Kandahar during the early 1990s and began their takeover of the country from the province, where they still enjoy support.

Ahead of the operation, the defence ministry said hundreds of soldiers have been sent from Kabul to Kandahar. Afghan forces will spearhead the operation, which would be backed by ground and air support from NATO-led troops, the ministry added, without revealing further details.

Ahmad Wali Karzai, the head of Kandahar’s provincial council and brother of President Hamid Karzai, said around 600 Taliban militia had positioned themselves in Arghandab district, which lies 20 km (12 miles) to the north of Kandahar, one of Afghanistan’s largest cities. However, he did not know whether the militants included the 400 that were set free during the jailbreak.

Meanwhile, NATO and Afghan forces have deployed troops to seal-off the area in order to drive the militants from the district, which has an estimated population of 150,000. NATO troops have dropped leaflets by air warning people to leave the district, fleeing villagers said.

Haji Agha Lalai, a member of Kandahar’s provincial council, said 300 families had left and more were leaving their houses. Witnesses said Afghan troops were stationed in many parts of Kandahar city. The insurgents had taken control of eight villages in Arghandab, the defence ministry said in Kabul. The capture of the villages is part of the latest show of power by the militants in Afghanistan, which is suffering its worst spell of violence since 2001.

The flare-up comes despite the presence of more than 60,000 foreign forces under the command of the US military and NATO, as well as about 150,000 Afghan forces. Britain’s Defence Secretary Des Browne told the Parliament on Monday that the government would increase its forces in Afghanistan by 230, taking the total number of British troops there to more than 8,000. — Reuters

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India, Poland defence ties strengthening: Raju
16 Jun, 2008, 2129 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: In a sign of strengthening ties between India and NATO countries, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju on Monday expressed hope that Defence relations between Indian and Poland are set to take off into an era of more participative cooperation.

When Polish Deputy Foreign Miniser Ryszard Schnepf, who is on a visit to Delhi, called on Raju, the latter commended Poland's significant participation in the DefExpo 2008 held here in February, according to a Ministry of Defence (MOD) spokesperson.

The erstwhile member of Warsaw Pact countries, Poland had joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) in 1999 and the European Union (EU) in 2004.

Raju said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation signed in February 2003 during the visit of the then Polish Prime Minister to New Delhi ensured consolidation of defence ties between the two countries.

Poland, which manufactures a large variety of arms and ammunition, has been responsive to New Delhi's interests in the South Asian Region, the spokesman said.

Under the 2003 MoU, the two countries have held three joint working group meetings on defence cooperation, the last one in December 2007.

The two countries periodically exchanged high level visits. Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor visited Warsaw in March this year, the spokesperson added.

Defence budget in Senate for first time

* Allocations for Pakistan Army increase by 4.31pc compared to previous year
* Upper House divided over slashing budgetary allocations

By Muhammad Bilal and Tahir Niaz

ISLAMABAD: The coalition government made history on Tuesday when it presented the details of the defence allocations in Senate for the first time in the country’s sixty-year history.

Leader of the House in Senate Raza Rabbani tabled the defence budget for fiscal year 2008-09. Though the complete details were not presented, the government introduced the budgetary allocation of services break-up for 2008-09 in seven categories: employee-related expenses; operating expenses; travel and transportation; general; physical assets; other stores and stocks; and civil works.

Pakistan Army: According to the budget document, allocations for the Pakistan Army have increased by 4.31 percent as compared to last year with a grant of Rs 128.699 billion. Of this amount, Rs 71.274 billion has been allocated for employee-related expenses, Rs 22.337 billion for operating expenses and Rs 21.527 for physical assets and other stores and stocks.

The budgetary allocation for the Air Force has increased by 5.93 percent in 2008-09 with Rs 71.006 billion, as compared to Rs 67.028 billion allocation in 2007-08.

Similarly, the government has increased the budgetary allocations for the Pakistan Navy by 14.16 percent with a total grant of Rs 29.133 billion, as compared to Rs 25.518 billion in 2007-08. The major share of the budgetary allocation will be spent on physical assets and other stores and stocks.

An amount of Rs 66.467 billion has been set aside for Defence Production Establishment and allied departments, showing as increase of 14.48 percent against last year. Of this amount, Rs 40.129 billion has been allocated for operating expenses and Rs 36.342 billion for general expenses.

Uproar: There was uproar in the Upper House following the presentation of the budget, when the members opened debate with calls to slash the budgetary allocations.

Treasury member Khalid Soomro criticised the army for killing its own citizens in military operations and said its budget should be cut by 50 percent. This incensed opposition members, who almost walked out.

Several, including Gulshan Saeed and Pari Gul Agha strongly voiced their opinions against any criticism of the military.

In his speech, Rabbani said the coalition government had proudly fulfilled its promise by tabling the defence budget in the Senate as pledged by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in the Charter of Democracy. He said this was a first step towards the supremacy of parliament. “Parliament is the supreme institution and all other institutions are accountable to it,” he added.

Opposition leader Kamil Ali Agha also welcomed the government’s step to present the defence budget in parliament, but cautioned against any confrontation among state institutions. He praised the Pakistan Army, saying it had always played an important role in the country’s affairs.

According to APP, Senator Anwar Bhindar said India had increased its defence budget so Pakistan should do the same. He also called for an increase of the total defence budget of the Pakistan Navy.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Ryszard Schnepf called on the Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju here today.

Welcoming the visiting dignitary Raju expressed the hope that the defence ties between the two countries are set to take off into an era of more participative cooperation.

The erstwhile member of the Warsaw Pact countries, Poland joined the NATO in 1999 and the European Union in May 2004.

Raju commended Poland's significant participation in the Defexpo 2008 in New Delhi. He said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Cooperation signed in February 2003 during the visit of the Polish Prime Minister to New Delhi envisaged consolidation of defence ties between the two countries.

Poland, which manufactures a large inventory of arms and ammunition, has been responsive to New Delhi's interests in the South Asian Region.

Under the 2003 MoU, the two countries have held three Joint working group meetings on defence cooperation, the last one in December 2007.

The two countries periodically exchange high level visits. Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor visited Warsaw as recently as in March this year. (ANI)

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