Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Thursday, 5 June 2008

From Today's Papers - 5 Jun

Indian Army may face fuel rationing, say oil companies
The Indian Army consumes a little less than half a million tonnes of petroleum products a year, 94% of which is supplied by Indian Oil Corp.
Utpal Bhaskar
New Delhi: Even as the government continues to send out mixed signals on the decision to raise prices of transport and cooking fuel, the country’s state-owned oil marketing companies have raised the pitch of their efforts to secure an increase in prices by saying their supplies to the army could be hit if this isn’t done soon.
Mint had reported on 29 May that these oil marketing companies which sell fuel at a government-mandated subsidized price, thereby incurring huge losses, were addressing the crisis brought about by the soaring price of crude by cutting back supplies in parts of the country.
“We cannot negate the possibility that if the current situation persists, the crisis will not affect the requirements of the Indian Army. It is very unfortunate,” said a senior government official who did not wish to be identified.
The Indian Army consumes a little less than half a million tonnes of petroleum products a year, 94% of which is supplied by Indian Oil Corp., or IOC, the country’s largest oil marketing firm.
This demand is expected to increase on the back of increased troop movement necessitated by more anti-terror operations in various parts of the country.
Restricting sales: Indian Oil Corp. chairman and MD Sarthak Behuria. ( Ashesh Shah / Mint)
Restricting sales: Indian Oil Corp. chairman and MD Sarthak Behuria. ( Ashesh Shah / Mint)
A senior executive at IOC, who did not wish to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the issue, said: “As of today, there is no crisis (for the army) but if the bail-out package is not announced shortly, we cannot rule out anything.”
Defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar could not be reached for comment.
IOC and Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd have started restricting supply to dealers who retail their products and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd is set to follow suit this week.
“We have restricted our sales subject to availability. The market will have to feel the pinch for diesel and petrol. There will be pressure in some parts of the country over the next few weeks. We have seen this kind of crisis in the (19) 80s and the ’90s. I am not saying there will be a dry-out. However, there would be a panic situation,” Sarthak Behuria, chairman and managing director of IOC, said last week.
The United Progressive Alliance government’s policy of getting state-owned oil marketers to sell fuel at a price lower than ths cost of production is expected to result in losses of Rs2 trillion for such firms in 2008-09.
The government may decide on a marginal increase in fuel prices by Rs2 per litre on diesel and Rs4 per litre on petrol, accompanied by a reduction in the customs duty on crude oil by half to 2.5%, and on diesel and petrol by a third to 5%.
The government is in a bind over increasing fuel prices because political parties supporting the coalition government at the Centre are strongly opposed to any increase in prices.

Ajai Shukla: Defining `self-reliance` for defence

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi June 3, 2008, 4:35 IST

After years of bureaucratic empire building in which the DRDO used the rhetoric of "self-reliance" to accumulate a wealth of funds, manpower and laboratories, now a blizzard of media, military and ministry criticism has forced the abandonment of that autarkic worldview. Phrases like "indigenous capability" are out; "international cooperation" and "integrated management" are in. Much of the transformation is driven by India's changed circumstances. International technology denial regimes have given way to initiatives with global arms majors for joint technology development.

This raises a vital question for defence planners: Is it time to redefine the notion of "self-reliance"? There is self-reliance in design, which the DRDO has historically propagated; and there is self-reliance in manufacture, i.e. the licensed production in India of military equipment that was designed elsewhere.

The DRDO has realised the need to be more discriminating in choosing the technologies it will develop. Strategic technologies that will always be denied — nuclear, missile and electronic warfare technology amongst them — will remain the responsibility of the DRDO, regardless of how long and painful the development process. But with India now able to leverage its enormous expenditure on defence to buy technologies that were unavailable earlier, it is possible to be far pickier in choosing between technologies that could be bought and those that the DRDO must necessarily develop.

Development time is utterly critical in making this choice. A product is only worth developing if the military can be provided a usable version of it before an equivalent product comes up for sale on the market. Except for the strategic technologies mentioned above, even the most technologically advanced products do eventually become available off the shelf. The AESA aircraft radar, until recently a product that the US sold nobody, is already figuring on the catalogues of many aircraft manufacturers.

If the product seems likely to be "buyable" before it can be developed, the DRDO must resist the temptation to go in for development. One of the fundamentals of defence economy is that developing a military product is usually far more expensive than buying the same product off the shelf. The expenditure of a development programme becomes justifiable if the product is made available to the military before it becomes available on the international market. If the development cycle takes longer than the international laboratory-to-market cycle, the decision to develop that product — at least for that generation of equipment — was a wasted one.

The DRDO's counter-argument has traditionally been that no development effort is wasted. The technological gains of even a failed development programme like the Trishul missile, or so the DRDO argues, are realised while building the next generation of that (or similar) equipment. The opportunity cost of a failed programme then becomes justifiable. But that argument presumes that, at some stage, a future generation of that equipment enters service with the military, by overtaking its commercially available equivalents on the time-development curve.

Nor is the opportunity cost of a failed product ever scrutinised. Hundreds of crores poured into, say, an abortive missile project are hundreds of crores that could have gone into modernising airfields, or electrifying a border fence, or even building married accommodation for soldiers to improve their morale. But while it's easy to audit money spent, it is far more difficult to critically evaluate the losses caused by an expenditure that wasn't ever made.

Besides design capability, self-reliance stems equally from manufacturing capability. Self-reliance can thus be evaluated also in terms of the percentage of defence production that is done in India. This percentage can be boosted through several policy reforms — e.g. mandated transfer of manufacturing technology, licensed production, greater offset requirements — all of which are realisable by leveraging India's enormous buying power in the defence industry.

Where India's design capability lags global state-of-the-art by a serious margin, that technology is not up for sale, and development time seems prohibitive, funding partnership and licensed manufacture is an economically prudent option when compared with outright purchase. While India considers which fighter aircraft to buy, several countries that plan their purchases better joined the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme. This fifth generation aircraft, being developed by US companies, is being partly funded by several other partner countries. The technologies in the JSF are so far ahead of what the partner countries are capable of that they are willing to fund US R&D and bid for a share of the manufacture.

While this cannot compare with the option of designing and building ones own fighter aircraft, it is a better intermediate strategy than an off-the-shelf purchase of the kind that India is embarking upon. A joint programme would give India the option of shaping the design specifications of the equipment in question, while "de-risking" the development process. India's military managers could consider such procurement strategies.

All these themes are provided for in the MoD's forthcoming rulebook, the Defence Procurement Policy of 2008 (DPP-2008); it provides for all these possibilities. It classifies defence procurements as "Make", (items that the DRDO will develop and industry will make); "Buy and Make" (items where the technology and manufacturing capability will be bought, and industry will make); and "Buy" (items which will be bought outright). But good decision-making by the MoD will, like most military decisions, remain a deeply subjective and a risky process.



The people have a right to know what went wrong in 1962 when India went to war with China.


August 1963: Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru with a wounded jawan in a Tezpur hospital in what was then North East Frontier Agency, or NEFA.

IT is surely time that the Government of India bestirred itself on inquiries and studies on the wars in which the country’s blood and treasure were expended. The people have a right to know why and how things went the way they did. Eight years ago, the Kargil Review Committee noted: “India has not published authoritative histories of the 1965 and 1971 wars. It is necessary to publish authentic accounts of the 1965 and 1971 wars and to establish the facts.”

If the reports are now in the public domain, it is not because of state action. “Private enterprise” paved the way on the Internet. We owe it to K. Subrahmanyam’s exertions and commitment.

Referring to the Kargil Review Committee’s Report, Defence Minister A.K. Anthony disclosed, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on November 21, 2007, “A committee to review the publication of war histories was constituted by the government. The committee has given its recommendations which are being considered for arriving at a final decision on this issue.”

Its report should be published soon. The people are entitled to know when the committee was set up, its composition and terms of reference and its findings and recommendations.

Did publication of the Henderson-Brooks-P.S. Bhagat report on the 1962 war with China form part of its remit? On February 27, 2008, the Defence Minister announced in Parliament the government’s decision not to publish that report. The ground he cited was specious: “Sensitivity of information contained in the report and its security implications” – 45 years after the report was submitted.

On November 9, 1962, while the war was on, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru told the Rajya Sabha that there would be an inquiry at a “suitable time” into the charges of “unpreparedness”. Implied in the promise, surely, was an assurance that the result would be shared with Parliament and the nation. It was instituted to allay public disquiet. He said, clearly enough, “I hope there will be an inquiry so as to find out what mistakes or errors were committed and who were responsible for them.” This was for public edification no less than the government’s.On April 1, 1963, Defence Minister Y.B. Chavan informed the Lok Sabha that “with my approval the Chief of Army Staff [COAS] had ordered a thorough investigation to be carried out”. He specified the issues for the probe. The task was entrusted to Lieutenant-General T.B. Henderson-Brooks and Brigadier P.S. Bhagat. On May 12, they submitted their report to the COAS, who, in turn, forwarded it to the Defence Minister, with his comments, on July 2. Chavan made a formal statement on the report to the Lok Sabha on September 2, 1963.

“Consideration of security”

“This inquiry is the type of inquiry which the Prime Minister had in mind when he promised such an inquiry to the House in November 1992.” But, he now said, “it would not be in the public interest to lay the report on the table of the House”. Not even an abridged or edited version of it, consistent with “consideration of security”. Since that was the consideration, there should be no bar to its publication now. “Information about the strength and deployment of our forces and their locations would be of invaluable use to our enemies” in 1963. It is pure history in 2008.

In 1970, a mere seven years later, came Neville Maxwell’s book India’s China War. Its reference to “an unpublished Indian Army report on these events” and, indeed, the contents of the book, left none in doubt that he had had access to the report. All doubt has since been dispelled by his citation of precise details of the report in an article entitled “Henderson-Brooks Report: An Introduction” published in the Economic and Political Weekly on April 14, 2001, He subsequently put it up on the Internet. He wrote: “The Henderson-Brooks Report is long (its main section, excluding recommendations and many annexures, covers nearly 200 foolscap pages), detailed and far ranging. This introduction will touch only upon some select points, to give the flavour of the whole…..”

Are the people of India to be denied a report that is available and has been publicised by a foreign writer? Or, is the government waiting for him to put the entire report online?

In 1963, the nation readily accepted Chavan’s plea of “the public interest”. In 2008, it cannot and must not. Section 8(1) (a) of the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005, says that “there shall be no obligation to give any citizen information the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect ... the security, the strategic … interests of the State, relations with a foreign State …” None of these applies today. Note that Section 8 (1) does not impose a bar. It says only that there is no “obligation” to give the information. It is open to the government in its discretion to provide it even if it falls within Section 8 (1) (a). Clause 2 explicitly confers that discretion: “if public interest in disclosure overweighs the harm to the protected interests”.

In recent years, Chinese journals and memoirs have provided China’s version of the war of 1962. India’s relations with China will not suffer by publication of the report, nor will national security. Those who support its suppression on the grounds that it would affect a great national hero’s reputation do Jawaharlal Nehru’s memory no service. Whole shelves of libraries are full of studies documenting Winston Churchill’s mistakes during the Second World War. The opposition of the day, the Jan Sangh, the Swatantra and the Socialists, were all for “action”, crying “appeasement”. They are as culpable as he on the foolish adventure that was the Forward Policy. Partisanship in such a matter is indecent. Statements by leaders of the opposition during that period, if recalled, would do them little credit. It was a national failure, and publication of a study of the war is very much in the national interest.

War inquiries have hallowed precedents. Britain held an inquiry into the conduct of the Crimean War in the 19th century. During the First World War, a Special Commission was set up by an Act of Parliament to inquire into the Dardanelles campaign. The terms of reference were “for the purpose of inquiring into the origin, inception and conduct of operations or war in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli, including the supply of drafts, reinforcements, ammunition and equipment to the troops and fleet, the provision for the sick and wounded, and the responsibility of those departments of the government whose duty it has been to minister to the wants of the forces employed in that theatre of war”.

Pentagon papers

What was the genesis of the famous Pentagon Papers? In 1967, Defence Secretary Robert McNamara commissioned a study of how the United States had come to fall into the deep marsh that was Vietnam.

A Vietnam History Task Force produced, in 47 volumes of documents, a history of the U.S.’ involvement in the Vietnam war. Fifteen sets of these, known as the Pentagon Papers, were prepared. Daniel Ellsberg, a former official in the Defence Department, secretly copied them while still in government service. He gave them to The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Supreme Court upheld their publication.

A modern classic

There is a modern classic – the Report of the Inquiry Commission headed by Dr. Shimon Agranat, President of Israel’s Supreme Court, and comprising four other members, on the Yom Kippur War. It began on October 6, 1973, and ended on October 22, when Egypt agreed on a ceasefire. The Israeli Cabinet appointed the commission as early as on November 18 to probe, mainly, two matters – intelligence and deployment of the Israeli Defence Forces. It submitted a report on April 1, 1974, but promised a further report that would contain “a detailed description of the facts and a complete exposition of the Commission’s conclusions”. The “Partial Report” was published in 1975.

The Commission cautioned that the later report would “contain many secret facts which in all probability will rule out publications in full”. On April 4, 1994, the Cabinet authorised the release of the final report. It runs into seven volumes. Significant extracts from the classic were reproduced in a book published in 2000.

The terms of reference covered politicians in power as well as soldiers: “The information, in the days preceding the Yom Kippur War, concerning the enemy’s moves and his intentions to open war, as well as the assessments and the decisions of the duly authorised military and civilian bodies with regard to the aforementioned information.

“The Israeli Defence Forces’ deployment for battle in general, its preparedness in the days preceding the Yom Kippur War and its actions up to the containment of the enemy.”

Eliyahu Winograd, a retired judge, was asked to inquire into Israel’s war against the Hizbollah in Lebanon in 2006. His 629-page final report was published on January 30, 2008. He found “grave failings” among both political and military leaders. An interim report was published on April 30, 2007, with remarkable despatch. It censured Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who had testified before the inquiry. One wishes our judges would show similar despatch and our politicians equal concern for transparency.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Pentagon Papers case provides a good guide for the government, as also for the Central Information Commission if it is moved to order disclosure. Justice Hugo Black said: “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.”

Justice Potter Stewart propounded a good test – “direct immediate and irreparable damage to our Nation and its people”. The case was decided in June 1971, while the Vietnam war was on.

A more recent precedent is even more relevant. Clause 2 of Section 8 of the RTI explicitly confers a discretion: “if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.” Invoking such a provision in the Freedom of Information Act, the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, ordered, on February 26, 2008, disclosure of the minutes of two Cabinet meetings in March 2003 at which Ministers discussed Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith’s advice on the legality of the war on Iraq.

That war is still on. The 1962 war ended that very year.•

Mega order planned to replace Cheetah, Chetak
Armed Forces will get 400 new helicopters; 200 of them would be bought in ‘flyaway’ condition
K. Raghu
Bangalore: The defence ministry is working on a plan to acquire 400 light helicopters for the Armed Forces to replace its ageing Cheetah and Chetak fleet, which the army and air force have been using for more than three decades.
India is expected to buy half of the helicopters from a yet-to-be decided foreign vendor and the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will be asked to design and build the remaining.
New entrant: A file photo of the new version of the Dhruv helicopter during its flight at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd base in Bangalore. (Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint)
New entrant: A file photo of the new version of the Dhruv helicopter during its flight at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd base in Bangalore. (Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint)
“There is an urgent need (of helicopters) for the army. This (plan) is to ensure that there is no further delay,” said one person familiar with the matter, who did not want to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the deal.
The defence ministry had initially planned to issue a tender for 384 helicopters. In December, it withdrew a contract for 197 helicopters awarded to Eurocopter, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., following complaints by rival US-based Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. that its bid was rejected on “flimsy” grounds.
Under the new plan, about 200 helicopters would be bought in flyaway condition, or without any local integration, from vendors such as Bell Helicopter, British-Italian firm AgustaWestland, Russia’s Kamov and Eurocopter. India would not insist on local production under licence as that would be time-consuming.
HAL, meanwhile, has six years to design and build a home-grown light observation helicopter in the 2.5-3 tonne class, and help replenish the remaining fleet of Cheetah helicopters, said people familiar with the development.
Light helicopters weigh around 3 tonnes.
The new plan will have foreign helicopter makers sourcing aero components and systems of half of the contract value from local vendors under the offset policy for defence deals. The policy mandates vendors to source 30% of the value of contracts worth Rs300 crore or more from local players in a bid to boost India’s defence manufacturing industry.
Analysts say that the army needs light helicopters urgently to replace the Cheetah choppers. “It should have been bought yesterday, not today,” said Ratan Shrivastava, director for aerospace and defence at research firm Frost and Sullivan. “Aircraft is replaced if it is of vintage or due to usage. Both the airframe and engines of Cheetah is over 30 years old,” he said.
Defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar would not confirm this development, but said the ministry would issue a request for proposal (RFP) shortly for the light helicopters. “Only when the RFP is issued, we will know the exact details,” he said.
HAL has built two indigenous helicopters—Lancer, a light attack helicopter based on the Cheetah platform, and Dhruv, the twin-engine advanced light helicopter in use with the Armed Forces.
It is also designing and building a helicopter gunship, the first flight of which is expected this year.

Defence Minister to address the Lohegaon issue

Express News Service

Posted online: Thursday, June 05, 2008 at 2248 hrs IST

Pune, June 4
Khed MP meets A K Antony to discuss the Lohegaon, Talegaon Dabhade issue

Defence Minister A K Antony has agreed to study the matter of the Lohegaon farmers who are agitating against the notice disallowing construction in the 900 metre radius of the ‘bomb godown’ inside the Lohegaon air force station.

The Defence Minister has also agreed to study the matter regarding the compensation to be given to the displaced farmers of Talegaon Dabhade due to the ‘missile project’ of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

An assurance towards this was given to the Khed MP Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil of Shiv Sena who had a meeting with the minister on June 3 in New Delhi. The earlier scheduled meeting in Pune on May 31 was cancelled as the minister was unwell.

Patil, who is a member of the parliamentary standing committee on Ministry of Defence and Consultative Committee on Ministry of Defence told The Indian Express that the Defence Minister gave him a patient hearing. “He was very positive,”said Patil who has also submitted a written representation on both the issues.

In his letter, Patil said around 600 farmer families, who had settled in Lohegaon for generations, will stand to be affected.

“The state government had collected huge registration charges and stamp duties and entered the names of landowners in their official records.

“To now apply restrictions that disallow any kind of activity on these lands is unfair and would cause immense hardship to a large number of innocent people who would be affected by the ban,” he said.

He has also pointed out that the Air Force authorities have constructed a compound wall around the “bomb godown” only about two years ago replacing a barbed wire fence. How is it that in two years time it has suddenly become “sensitive” causing a large number of common people extreme mental anguish,” said Patil.

He has requested the Defence Minister to retract the decision. “If at all for security reasons, the ban needs to be implemented. Landowners, whose property falls within 100 metres of the compound, should be compensated at market rates transparently determined or they need to be offered land free of cost by the Air Force at some other suitable location,” said Patil.

In his letter regarding the Talegaon Dabhade issue, he said that the former defence minister Pranab Mukherjee had agreed to enhance the compensation for the people to Rs 15 lakh and had assured a package of Rs 5.50 lakh. He had even told if they cannot pay the market price, the project should be shifted out.

“The farmers agreed to give peaceful possession of their lands to the DRDO as it was a defence project. At the time of acquisition the market rate was Rs 25.30 lakh per acre whereas they were given only Rs 5.50 lakh as per the ready reckoner.

The Defence Minister decided to enhance the compensation but the minutes of the meeting have not been forwarded,” Patil said.

He has requested the minister to forward the minutes of the meeting of January 1 2006 to the Collector of Pune to settle the issue amicably, he added.

GCs awarded at IMA passing-out parade
Umesh Dewan
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, June 4
Amid a jampacked Khetrapal auditorium in the Indian Military Academy, Lt-Gen P. K. Rampal, Commandant, IMA, gave away the awards to outstanding Gentlemen Cadet (GC), in various fields during their training here at the academy.

During an impressive award ceremony organised for the passing out of the GCs today, Lt-Gen Rampal while felicitating the winners told the GCs that they had selected noblest of all professions and hence should never indulge in any sort of dubious means to achieve their goal.

“You know your strength and weakness. Hence, what you think you can achieve, set a goal slightly bigger than that and work hard to achieve it”, exhorted Lt- Gen Rampal. Terming knowledge as the most important weapon in the battlefield and need for having “knowledge warriors”, he advised the GCs to take interest in different types of courses, which they undertake, while in-service.

“Never ill-treat JCOs and try to gain from their experience”, was another word of advise from Lt-Gen Rampal.

Lt-Gen Rampal further said the IMA developed skills, helped built character and finally produced vibrant, confident and skillful young leaders, who were ready to sacrifice their life for the sake of their nation. He also told the GCs to ensure that their individual religious affiliations never affect the morale of the troops in any manner.

Some of the award winners include BCQM Dipak Chander Jha (Parachute Regt Medal and Kr Bhagwati Singh Trophy for best in endurance and physical toughness), GC Sidharth Singh (Governor of Uttarakhand Trophy for standing overall first in academics) and Rudra Pratap Singh Rana (Rajputana Rifles Medal for being best in tactical ability, initiative and leadership).

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal