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Sunday, 13 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 13 Jul

20,000 mines worth Rs 10 cr found defective
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 12
The ammunition factory at Kirkee, under the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), failed to adopt amended specifications and manufactured mines according to old design, using substandard material, which resulted in about 20,000 mines being discarded and involved a loss of around Rs 10 crore. Based upon an Army indent, the OFB had placed an order with the factory for the supply of 32,000 anti-personnel mines to the Central Ammunition Depot. According to the latest Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report, the factory had been experiencing problems in the manufacture of the mines. To sort them out and improve user satisfaction, the factory had convened a meeting with representatives from High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL), which had designed the ammunition, and Directorate General of Quality Assurance. The problems faced by the factory were discussed and based upon the decision taken at the meeting HEMRL amended the specifications. Accordingly, authorities at the factory were informed in 2002.The factory, however, continued to manufacture the mines as per old specifications. The mines were issued to the ordnance depot after clearance by the senior quality assurance establishment concerned. However, during routine inspection of the mines at the depot a number of defects were noticed and reported to the factory and the OFB. A defect investigation committee was constituted by the factory, which in April 2006 reported a number of defects in the mines. After considering the committee report, the Director General of Ordnance Factories advised the ordnance depot that approximately 20,000 mines affected be destroyed in view of their poor physical properties.“The nature of defects pointed out by the committee confirms that the factory did not adopt the amended specifications. It is also indicative of use of substandard material by the factory in the manufacturing of mines,” the CAG observed. “The role played by the inspectorates in clearing the mines manufactured as per old specifications is open to question,” he added. The CAG has also noted that the ammunition factory has an obligation to replace the mines condemned for destruction, free of cost.

Pak behind embassy attack: NSA

New Delhi, July 12
India has a "fair amount" of intelligence inputs about Pakistan's involvement in the Monday's suicide attack on its embassy in Kabul, National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan said on Saturday.

“We not only suspect but we have a fair amount of intelligence (on the involvement of Pakistan),” Narayanan told television channels when asked whether India suspects Pakistan's involvement in the attack.

“The ISI needs to be destroyed. We made this point, whenever we have had a chance, to interlocutors across the world... there might have been some tactical restraint for some time, obviously that restraint is no longer present,” he said.

Specifically asked about reports that ISI was behind the Kabul attack, Narayanan said, “we have no doubt that the ISI is behind this”.

“The people of this country deserve to know the facts rather than being carried away by people who make statements that these are insinuations. There are no insinuations,” Narayanan said.

Four Indians, including senior IFS officer V V Rao and Brigadier R D Mehta, India’s Defence Attache, were killed in the blast caused by a suicide bomber driving an explosive-laden vehicle.

The NSA said there was a need to retaliate to such acts of terror. “I think we need to pay back in the same coin. We are quite clear in our mind,” he said.

When asked who should be paid back, he replied, “Those who are responsible.”

Asked whether such acts would impede the peace process, he said: “I don't think ISI has ever been a part of the peace process.... I think we need to make a distinction” between the two.

He said India-Pakistan relations were sought to be improved through a comprehensive dialogue mechanism.

“The anti-terror mechanism was one piece of this picture. The hope was that in course of time both sides would share whatever information they have and come up with a holistic idea of what was going on,” he said.

“Talk-talk is better than fight-fight. But it hasn't worked so far. In some way, we haven't arrived at the decision that we should go for fight-fight so let talk-talk continue for the moment,” Narayanan said. — PTI

Ulfa cadre call for peace, lay down arms

Ex-Ulfa ultras gave up arms in their bid to bring normalcy in Assam. But flip-flop by the government to hold talks with the ULFA separatist group has caused doubts of having a definite policy or strategy in addressing the problem of militancy.

THE DIBRUGARH and Tinsukia district ex-militants’ organisation, Asom Unnayan and Samannoi Manch welcomed the ceasefire of ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies of the 28th battalion of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) at a press meet held at Chabua Sahitya Sabha Bhawan in Assam.

Surrendered militants who were present in the press meet were Manjeet Gohain, Surjya Gohain, Pranjal Saikia, Lakhi Saikia, Pranab Baruah, Krishna Barua.

The meet was organised under tight security of CRPF and police personnel. Appeals were also made to the government to drop all cases against the surrendered ULFA personnel.

The Manch had made an appeal that the government and ULFA leaders C-in-C Paresh Baruah and Arabinda Rajkhowa should meet and hold talks to find a proper solution and bring an end to the long-lasting violence that has been taking place in the state.

There were number of talks that were held earlier, but the flip-flop by the government to hold talks with the ULFA separatist group has caused doubts of having a definite policy or strategy in addressing the problem of militancy in the area, for which the local people are be targeted by the security personnel during every operation that’s being carried out.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that the government is ready to hold direct talks with leaders of ULFA and fresh effort will be put into motion and to facilitate the peace process in the state

Army being trained to counter N-threat
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 12
Ever wondered what will happen in case nuclear, biological or chemical warfare is unleashed on the country? Well, the nation’s strategic planners have ensured that enough men in the Indian Army and the central paramilitary have been trained to form “quick reaction teams” to handle an emergency.

Over the years these teams have been equipped with newer technologies. This includes items like a watch-based measurement for gamma and neutron levels, besides high-end gadgetry that will decontaminate water and protect against radiation through the air. With reports emanating that even terrorists could unleash agents like biological or chemical warfare, the past couple of years have been used to intensify training. “There has been a major thrust in the past and this is a focus area,” said a senior officer.

The training has been carried out without much publicity or fuss to counter what is called the nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) threat. Close to 60 per cent of the army personnel in the fighting units have been trained at a special training school in Gwalior, said sources here. The communication line between the national capital and various critical commands have been “nuclear fortified” which means the links will work even in case of a nuclear attack. Nuclear fortified bunkers have been built at strategic locations for civilian and defence use.

Jawans have been trained to clean contaminated water by biological and chemical weapons. An equipment, called the portable gas chromotograph, has been provided to recognise and measure upto 20 various gases in the atmosphere simultaneously. Instruments that can recognise radiation-levels have been developed and about 4 lakh fully protected suits with respiratory masks have been stock-piled, said well placed sources while confirming the preparedness.

Notably, these protective suits will have a small patch on them to detect any radiation in the air. The colourless patch will turn yellow or orange in colour depending upon the intensity of the radiation. Jawans will also have an injector that can pierce through their clothings and inject anti-dotes.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has developed a tank mounted with equipment for monitoring radiologically and chemically contaminated areas. This will provide real-time communication of digital data to commanders stationed 20 kms away and help in troop-deployment. A mobile reconnaissance laboratory has been developed and is in use.

Anti-dotes have been prepared to counter biological weapons. The water purifier and the machine that detects residual vapour of “nerve gas” and blister causing agents are among others. About Rs 700 crore have been spent so far to train the battalions and provide equipment, said official sources, while adding that it is a continuous process.

Army rescues baby from Kaza village

13 Jul 2008, 0319 hrs IST, Anand Bodh,TNN

CHANDIGARH: The happiness over birth of her baby didn't last long for Kesang Dolma (24) as she was told that her newborn has developed some complications and is suffering from Oesophageal Attrecia.

The baby needed immediate life-saving surgery. As the baby was delivered in remote Kaza village of tribal Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, Kesang and her husband Dawa were clueless as how to take the child to either Shimla or Chandigarh - where surgery could be performed.

But on Saturday Kesang and Dawa got a pleasant surprise when the MI-17 helicopter of the state government landed at Kaza helipad at around 12.30 pm to save the newborn despite rough weather condition. This may be just another evacuation operation for the Army and state government, but for the tribal people of this Himalayan region it was a gesture, which they will never forget in their lives.

Chhering Dorje, a Kaza resident, said since Friday morning the relatives of Kesang Dolma were in a fix as how to take the child to Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla, or PGI, Chandigarh.

The Army coming to the rescue of a newborn has left the people of Kaza ecstatic. “It was good to see the helicopter landing here accompanied by Army medical officer just to evacuate the baby,” Dorje told TOI over phone from Kaza.

Dr Sherap, medical officer, Community Health Centre, Kaza, said Kesang Dolma delivered the child on Thursday night and during the medical examination of child on Friday morning, complications were detected. He said as the family came to know about it, they took the baby to mission hospital in Kaza, but the doctors there too failed to do anything for the child.

Coping with China

Multi-pronged strategy needed

by Rup Narayan Das

THE media, at times, has the alacrity to jump the gun in its enthusiasm to steal the limelight and in the process misses the forest for the wood. For example, when the scheduled meeting of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee with Chinese Premier Wen Jibao, during his four-day tour to China concluded on the 8th of this month, was cancelled so as to enable the Chinese Premier to rush to China’s Sichuan province, which was struck with the aftershock of the devastating earthquake, a section of the media reported that Mukherjee was snubbed and it hastily made a comparison with such an incident earlier when a scheduled visit of the minister with his Russian counterpart was cancelled at the last minute.

At a time when China was recovering from the aftershock of the earthquake and when it recorded a fresh tremor and there was panic among people, perhaps, the priority before the Chinese Premier was to assuage the sagging morale of the people rather than the courtesy call with the Indian Foreign Minister.

Be that as it may, the big question is: How do you cope with China, India’s mighty neighbour? This issue has always dominated the Indian defence and foreign policy establishment and will continue to do so, particularly at a time when the two Asian giants have made rapid strides.

Is there enough space in the world for the two to co-exist? This is indeed a very tricky question that defies any simplistic answer. While everybody is talking about China’s ascendancy in the world stage, very little attention is paid to China’s territorial expansion in recent times.

Hong Kong, which was a British colony, reverted to China on July 1, 1997, with a very ingenious and innovative political contrivance called “one country, two systems” under which Hong Kong continues to retain the existing system of governance and economy while being under Chinese sovereignty for fifty years from July 1, 1997.

The “one country, two systems” was the idea of China’s pragmatic leader Deng Xiaoping, which was fine-tuned after protracted parleys between the leaders of China and Britain.

The idea of “one country, two systems” not only united Hong Kong with the mainland, but also facilitated Macao, which was a Portuguese enclave with China a year later in 1998.

Although, Hong Kong’s integration with the mainland does not provide a seamless economic boundary, as Hong Kong continues to remain a separate economic entity with its Hong Kong dollar being intact, nevertheless the dividing line between mainland China and Hong Kong is water thin.

It is also a matter of interest that after the integration of Hong Kong and Macao with the China, the ongoing talks and the unprecedented warmth and bonhomie with Taiwan hold the possibility of unification of Taiwan with the mainland.

The Chinese have already made the offer to replicate the “one country, two systems” to Taiwan with further flexibility. It may be far-fetched as of now, but one cannot rule out the possibility of Taiwan’s unification with the mainland.

What will be its impact on the world and the world economy and how will it affect India? The policy planners have to ponder these aspects. While formulating our approach towards China, we will have to take into account these aspects.

We cannot afford just a short or medium term approach; we have to have a long-term approach to cope with a rising China with its territory and economy expanded and its military further strengthened. The question that policy planners should broach and address is: what would be its impact on the security in the region and on India in particular?

We need to have a multipronged approach to deal with a rising China. It need not, and should not, be confrontational. Neither should it be conciliatory. The relationship should be on equality and reciprocity. The Asian identity and the idea that the next century belongs to Asia should be borne in mind by all players in the region who are the stakeholders.

While defence preparedness is one important aspect, the fact remains that defence should be treated as a deterrent and armed conflict and confrontation are neither desirable nor possible.

What is more important is diplomacy, which is war by other means. China itself has suffered long due to internal turmoil such as during the days of the rural people’s commune and the Cultural Revolution, which affected China’s economy and external relations very badly.

That is why they have embarked, on what they call “harmonious” relations both within and outside. This is a pragmatic approach of the Chinese to deal with both internal polity and economy and also externally.

While at the micro level, there is an institutional mechanism to deal with minor irritants between the two countries and regular and periodic meetings at the political level, what is important as proposed by India, is that the two countries should evolve an open and inclusive security architecture at the macro level.

Elucidating the idea further, Mr. Mukherjee, while addressing the students at Beijing University, rightly said that as two major countries in Asia, India and China should try to work together to evolve a new framework from basic building blocks such as the Asian Regional Forum (ARF) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Comprehensive International Cooperative Association (CICA).

While Russia is already a founder-member of the SCO, it is in the interest of both India and China that the USA is associated in a meaningful way in the Asian Regional Forum (ARF).

In fact, there is already some loud thinking in this regard. Such an idea was already broached at the Asia Security Summit, which concluded its deliberations at Singapore in the first week of June.

Setting the tone and tenor of the deliberations, Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, very rightly said that China and India are thinking very positively about ways to ensure their sustainable rise on the basis of calculations for peace and not hegemony.

A statesman like Lee and a cosmopolitan state like Singapore are uniquely placed to facilitate the convergence of India and China, which will be beneficial to the region and the world at large.

National Defence Academy intake swells to 400

New Delhi, IANS:

There is good news for the officer-depleted Indian armed forces. After facing a drought during its January intake, the premier National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakvasla in Maharashtra has been able to attract 371 cadets for the new course that began last month and hopes to cross the 400 mark.

"For the latest batch, 371 cadets have so far turned up and we are expecting the number to touch 420," an NDA official said. The inter-services institution trains cadets for the three wings of the armed forces.

They graduate after three years and are further trained at the academies of the army, the navy and the air force before being commissioned as officers. This January, the number of cadets joining the academy fell drastically, with only 192 turning up against the sanctioned strength of 300 for the batch.

This had raised questions about the military failing to attract the right kind of candidates due to more attractive opportunities available in the private sector. Reacting to this, Defence Minister A.K. Antony had said: "The shortage is a reality. The government will take positive and active action in consultation with the army to lure youngsters to join the army." NDA commandant Air Marshal T.S. Randhawa had expressed optimism that the January shortfall would be compensated by the June intake.

"For the courses that begin in January, we generally have been receiving fewer candidates as compared to the courses that commence in June. Currently, we are only short of 50 cadets against our sanctioned strength of 1,800," Randhawa had said at the passing out parade of NDA's 114th course on May 31.

The orientation programme for the new joinees has already commenced at NDA. "The eight-week orientation programme has begun. We are introducing them to physical activities and taking them around NDA to acquaint them with the academy," the NDA official said. The defence forces annually need 2,100 officers. The Indian Army, with a sanctioned strength of 46,615 officers, faces a shortage of 11,238 officers. The problem has been further aggravated with as many as 3,000 officers seeking early retirement from the army in the last three years, with most of them moving to the corporate sector. The Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force too face shortages of 1,000 officers each.

Fighting a battle for pension

Special Correspondent

85-year-old Nagaratna-mma, wife of a World War II veteran, has not been receiving pension for two years

MYSORE: The wife of a World War II veteran who fought against the Axis forces in Burma and was imprisoned by the Japanese, is running from pillar to post for her pension. Nagaratnamma (85), wife of Major Koneri Gowda who retired from the Indian Army (Mysore Infantry Training centre), is worried that her pension was rescinded by the office of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pension), Allahabad, saying that it was “not in order”.Ms. Nagaratnamma has not been receiving pension for the past two years. But it has been ascertained that the pension that was fixed for her was the minimum rate of Rs. 1,275 a month, which is applicable to the lowest cadre in the armed forces. She is entitled to a pension rate of Rs. 3,840 a month, which is applicable to a Major.

Koneri Gowda was born at Nagatahalli in Mandya district and joined the Mysore State forces as a Junior Commissioned Office in August 1931, and he was based at Mysore/ Srirangapatna. In July 1939, he was commissioned in the British Indian Army and was sent to Rangoon in Burma following the outbreak of Second World War. He was taken as Prisoner of War by the Japanese, kept at Malaya for well over two-and-a-half years and released.

After the Second World War, Koneri Gowda served in the Indian Army and took voluntary retirement on December 31, 1951. He died on September 9, 1997.

Though Ms. Nagarathnamma was sanctioned pension, it was a procedural lapse committed by the State Bank of Mysore, local pension disbursement authority. Instead of forwarding the pension papers to the office of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA) in Allahabad, it inadvertently sanctioned the amount. It was far below the rate fixed for a Major, which came into effect from September 15, 1997.

The issue came to light in December 2006 when ex-sergeant Subramani, president of the VeKare Ex-Servicemen Trust (VKET), Mysore, during an interaction with Ms. Nagaratnamma, came to know about her pension rate. The organisation took up the issue with the bank’s main branch, which in turn forwarded the details to the PCDA after calculating the pension arrears that were due to Ms. Nagaratnamma.

The office of the PCDA woke up to the mistake committed by the bank after nearly 10 years, and said that the family pension paid to Ms. Nagaratnamma since September 1997 was not in order and was highly objectionable from the audit point of view. It also advised the bank’s pension department to recover the amount from her, and stop payments.It also said that the Army Headquarters was the nodal agency for initiating family pension claims and not the bank. Following this, Ms. Nagaratnamma has been denied pension for the past two years. Also, there is a threat of the pension paid to her being recovered.For Ms. Nagaratna-mma, the amount is not consequential. “I am taking up this case as a matter of principle,” she said.

HAL's ambitions acquire wings

At long last, India's state-owned aerospace venture Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has received a shot in the arm for its ambitious plan of emerging as a globally competitive supplier of high quality products. The Air Force of Ecuador has decided to order seven multi-role Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, considered a vibrant symbol of India's aeronautical prowess. The US$500-million contract is likely to be signed within a few weeks, even as HAL is gearing to supply the first helicopter of the order in the next six months. The entire lot is expected to be supplied to this Latin American country within a two-year timeframe.

Significantly, HAL bagged the order from Ecuador in the face of stiff competition from as many as seven helicopter manufacturers, including Eurocopter and Kazan. Clearly, the choice of Dhruv by Ecuador marks HAL's first major triumph in the "stiffly contested" global market for aeronautical products. For the past five years or so, HAL has been seen vigorously promoting Dhruv as a cost-effective rotary wing aircraft, suited for wide-ranging defence and civilian applications.

However, it could manage to sell only two units to the aviation unit of the Nepalese army and lease out one unit to the Defence Ministry of Israel for ferrying VIPs and defence officials. Of course, in the domestic market around 80 ALH Dhruvs are in operation with all three wings of the services and the Coast Guard accounting for a lion's share of the Dhruvs sold so far. As it is, HAL expects to produce around 40 Dhruvs a year for the use of the services.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports have that another Latin American country, Peru is also edging closer to buying two air ambulance version of Dhruv. If the Peruvian order comes through, it cannot but be a win-win situation for HAL, which could spur this aeronautical giant to forge ahead in the global market with its multi-use products. Till now, HAL had to manage with an image of being a defence outfit dedicated to meet the needs of the Indian armed forces, with little to show by way of the products that have civilian or non defence uses.

For sometime now, HAL has been busy focusing on Latin American countries for marketing Dhruv. In fact, it had demonstrated the prowess of the ALH to the Chilean Air Force and was hopeful of bagging its order for 12 Dhruvs. But it lost out in the race to Bell-412. "Political pressure and lobbying," are being blamed for Dhruv yielding ground to Bell 412. Even so, HAL is eagerly looking forward to selling quite a few of Dhruv units to Bolivia and Venezuela. Among the Asian countries that have evinced interest in Dhruv are: Dubai, Turkey, Malayasia and Indonesia. In addition, with medical tourism booming in the SE Asian region, HAL is also looking at Thailand and Singapore as potential markets for an air ambulance version of the helicopter.

With an eye on attracting more customers, HAL has been deploying the Dhruv helicopter in many of the leading air shows, including the recently-concluded Berlin Air Show. Significantly, the Sarang team of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which used Dhruv helicopters for performing an awe-inspiring aerobatic display, bagged the best performance award at Show. In view of Dhruv's versatility and wide spectrum of operational capability, HAL's major thrust is on marketing it. "HAL is pursuing various prospective foreign customers for the supply of Dhruv," admits its Chairman, Ashok Baweja.

He revealed that HAL is also into the development of Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), in addition to developing a weaponised version of Dhruv, which is now undergoing field trials before induction into the Services. This new version is powered with Shakti (Ardiden) engine which develops 30 per cent more thrust than TM-333-3B2 engine, used in the non-weaponised version of the helicopter and is being planned to be deployed in high altitude regions along the border with Pakistan.

Incidentally, 5.5-tonne class Dhruv, India's first-ever home grown product has helped HAL live down its image of being an enterprise focused on licensed production. Being under the shadow of India's defence establishment, whose "narrow and insular outlook" proved to be a big stumbling block in its way of emerging as a dynamic and forward looking corporate enterprise, HAL could hardly think of entering the "fiery competitive" global market.

In this fast shifting ground reality, HAL is aiming to become one of the leading 20 defence outfits in the world. But then it would need to shed its "bureaucratic image", a legacy of being a defence public sector unit. It must put its act together to strengthen its marketing strategy and after sales' service network with a focus on timely supply of quality spares. The sheer lack of the above has proved to be the Achilles heel of India's defence contracts with Russia.

HAL, which has been accorded the prestigious "Navaratna" (nine gems) status by the Government would need a greater degree of autonomy and a higher level of freedom to attain a global status. However, privatization and corporatization with a massive up-gradation of its technological base and production facilities, could alone help HAL go global in the real sense of the term. Though there have been talks of privatizing HAL, the Manmohan Singh led-Government, till recently dependent on the Left for its survival lacked the political will to turn the PSU into a private enterprise capable of raising funds from the market.

Presently, the biggest problem facing HAL has been whether it could remain an economically viable venture without orders from the defence forces. The moral of the story being that it would need to widen its customer base by going in for a wider range of multi-use products to grow into an aeronautical entity of global standing.

There is no denying that HAL would stand to gain immensely in terms of revenue, exposure to new technologies and acquisition of skills from the offset clause forming part of the Defence Ministry's contracts for aircraft, helicopters and hardware. On another front, HAL's plan to invest Rs 1 billion in an engine component production joint enterprise with Rolls Royce is expected to sharpen its skills in this critical area. It has also on its hand a contract to supply doors to the European aircraft major Airbus. It has signed a deal with Boeing in which it is planned to bring in manufacturing works worth US$1-billion to India over the next decade.

HAL also stands to gain by its participation in the Indo-Russian fifth generation aircraft project, signed in 2001. This advanced aircraft with stealth features and advanced avionics will be among the most sought after contemporary fighter planes in the world. However, HAL is now scouting for a partner to push ahead with the Indo-Russian joint plan for developing a military transport aircraft meant to replace the AN-32 aircraft in service with the IAF, following Moscow backing out on financial grounds.

In the meantime, HAL is busy with two of its projects--the production of the fourth generation tactical LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Tejas, which is expecting operational clearance by 2010 and the Intermediate jet trainer HJT-36 Sitara. It now would need to focus on emerging and new technologies assimilated over the year and best practices for future projects. For HAL the best is yet to come.

Radhakrishna Rao, -INFA

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