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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 29 Jul

Monday, 28 July 2008

It’s War! And you can win it for the Arjun…

If so many of you are willing to argue so passionately for the Arjun (more than a hundred intensely argued posts on my article below) I’ll keep putting out the facts. And here is the first bunch of clarifications… about some of the misconceived arguments being made in some of the posts.

Falsehood No. 1: “70 Arjuns have been rolled out in 8 years!”

Wrong. These 70 tanks have taken less than two years to manufacture. The Arjun’s series production didn’t start in 2000… it only began last year. And the Arjun production line is already very close to producing its installed capacity of 50 tanks a year.

Falsehood No. 2: “Quality speaks for itself.”

Wrong. Quality speaks for itself only when the system is actually in service. But when the equipment is being evaluated, quality is entirely subjective. It is easily buried… in trial reports, which are subject to various pressures and pulls. If the Directorate General of Mechanised Forces makes it clear that the Arjun tank isn’t what they want, if the brigade, division and corps commanders of the units conducting the trials let it be known that they don't think the Arjun should look good, only the occasional stubbornly upright CO will insist that it's a quality tank. Most will make sure that the trial report buries the tank.

And the problem today is that most of those senior officers haven't seen the Arjun today; they still remember the Arjun of 10, 5, even 3 years ago. So perception and institutional memory is loaded against the Arjun.

Secondly, trials can be structured in a manner that tilts the scale dramatically against the equipment being tried out. In the case of contentious equipment like the Arjun tank, the best way to make trials somewhat objective is to hold "comparative trials"… in which two or three pieces of equipment are put through identical routines. Even that can be fiddled, but it is far more difficult to do so.

Falsehood No. 3: “T-90 production delays are due to the Ordnance Factory Board.”

Wrong. The T-90 is still not at the point of production. And that's because the Russian manufacturers haven’t transferred technology. My earlier article (see below) explains the exact position.

Falsehood No. 4: “The army is not taking over the Arjuns because they are defective.”

Wrong. The army is not taking over those tanks, period. They haven’t yet undergone a transfer inspection, so nobody on the planet knows whether they are defective or not.

That having been said… those tanks might well be of a standard below that of the "Pre-Production Series (PPS) Arjuns. That is because of the well-known difficulties in transitioning from "prototype to production”. That involves changing the mode of production from single piece production to mass production; this gives rise to quality control issues all over the world.

As an example, when the T-72 started being manufactured at HVF Avadi, the quality of those indigenous T-72s (called the Ajeya) was so bad that one of our frontline regiments --- 88 Armoured Regiment, an excellent outfit being commanded by an outstanding officer --- was officially declared “Unfit for War”. It was unprecedented! No armoured regiment had ever been declared “unfit for war” before that. And the reason was simple: productionising the T-72 threw up problems of quality control during mass production.

The Arjun could well face similar problems. But they weren’t used to cut down on the T-72 programme, and --- if they happen with the initial batch of Arjuns --- they shouldn’t be used to curtail the Arjun programme either. It’s an issue that happens, and then gets resolved with a little bit of effort.

Falsehood No. 5: Buying the Arjun is equivalent to “sending soldiers to their deaths in sub-standard equipment”.

Firstly, we haven't yet established that the Arjun is sub-standard. If the army's reluctance to hold comparative trials is any indication, it might well emerge that the T-72s and the T-90s are the substandard equipment in this ball game.

Secondly, the armoured corps is not going to war in a hurry, so we have the time to experiment and nurture an indigenous tank. The last time tankmen went to war was in 1971. If you ask any senior officer when the next time will be, they won’t have an answer. So India DOES have the time to accept the Arjun, iron out any production wrinkles (and we are only ASSUMING that there will be some) and, very importantly, to absorb the know-how for operating the Arjun.

Okay, I’m wrong in the above para. The last time tankmen were sent to their deaths was when barrels started bursting in the T-72 (and it wasn’t only “made in India” barrels), which turned out to be happening because when we started making the barrels, we weren’t tempering them to the right temperature. But that problem got resolved, it wasn’t used to scuttle the T-72 programme.

Not one Arjun barrel has given the slightest problem yet. But other tank parts might, and they must be fixed at leisure… and we have the time to do that.

Falsehood No. 6: “Offer the Arjun for exports. If it’s good, other countries will buy it.”

Wrong. Traditionally, when a new weapons system comes out, prospective buyers observe how it functions in service with its home military. If the Indian Army turns its back on the Arjun, nobody else will even look at it.

Keep the feathers flying!

Pakistan Troops Cross LOC, Five Killed in Skirmish

One Indian and four Pakistani soldiers have been killed in a major ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops in the north Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir Monday. The gunfire between the two sides continued Monday night.

Army sources here said a group of 10-12 Pakistani soldiers crossed into the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) in the Nowgam sector around 3.00 p.m. Monday.

“The group of intruding Pakistani soldiers started firing from their automatic weapons at the Indian post on our side of the LoC, resulting in the death of one soldier of the 22 Rajput Regiment," an Army source here said.

“In the retaliatory firing, four Pakistani soldiers have been killed. The body of one Pakistani soldier is still lying on our side of the LoC," the source added.

“Heavy automatic gunfire between the two sides is still continuing in the area,” the source said.

The defence spokesperson here confirmed the Indian casualty and incursion by the Pakistani soldiers, but remained tight-lipped about the exact number of Pakistani casualties in the skirmish.

An Indian Army officer in New Delhi said Director General of Military Operations Lt. Gen. Sekhon will talk to his Pakistani counterpart Major General Ahmed Pasha Tuesday on the hotline, following which there will be a flag meeting between the two countries to resolve the issue.

IANS | July 28, 2008

US Prevented Pakistan from Blocking India at IAEA

Thanks to the US, Pakistan's attempts to block India's efforts to secure a country-specific safeguards agreement from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have "come to a grinding halt", a widely respected commentator wrote Monday.

Soon after Pakistan wrote a letter to the IAEA board seeking a vote on the issue, "the US got moving and conveyed to Islamabad that Pakistan had already given a commitment, through a previous foreign secretary, that it will offer no opposition to the US pursuing India-specific exceptions at the IAEA and the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group)," Shireen M. Mazari wrote in The News.

As a result, the Pakistani foreign ministry "was asked to stop all activities meant to counter India-US moves on safeguards and technology exports at the IAEA and the NSG respectively.

"The net result has been that all diplomatic efforts by Pakistan have come to a grinding halt and the special envoy's mission (to follow up on the letter) had to be aborted midway," Mazari wrote in the article, headlined "Pak N-diplomacy comes to a full stop".

A former director general of think tank Institute of Strategic Studies, Mazari's views are considered to be a form of Pakistani nationalism.

According to Mazari, there were two reasons behind Pakistan letter to the IAEA.

"One, to expose those member states that have been holding forth on non-proliferation but would go along with making an exception to India; and, two, to see how many of Pakistan's Arab allies, who are presently members of the IAEA Board would vote."

The US and India are seeking an agreement by consensus without putting the issue to vote.

In addition to the letter, the foreign secretary also wanted to send a letter to the NSG members asking them to adopt a criteria-based approach for sensitive technology transfers rather than country-based exceptions, Mazari wrote.

The third leg of the foreign ministry's strategy "was to send an envoy - preferably a seasoned diplomat - to our ally China to get them to lend support to the Pakistani approach vis-à-vis the IAEA and the NSG".

The US action came even as Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir was in New Delhi last week for talks with his Indian counterpart Shivshankar Menon for launching the fifth round of their composite dialogue process.

The US action came "despite the fact that many Western IAEA and NSG members are firm adherents to the non-proliferation regime and are uncomfortable with the India-US nuclear deal - which is why the US and India do not want to put the safeguards agreement to vote in the IAEA," Mazari wrote.

"It is important to remember that Pakistan has been signing the normal non-NPT member states' safeguards agreement with the IAEA, seeking no exit clauses or other exceptions.

"Interestingly, although the US has consistently and publicly stated that it will not sign a nuclear deal with Pakistan on similar lines to the India-US nuclear deal, Pakistan's new de jure foreign minister has naively sought to declare, like his predecessors, that Pakistan will seek such a deal," Mazari added.

According to her, "some outsiders" the present government has inducted into the foreign service "have been intervening in foreign policy decisions. At international meets, they check and rewrite all speeches prepared by the ministry.

"They allegedly informed the foreign secretary that the ministry should stop focusing on China as Pakistan's major ally because now there was going to be a major reorientation towards the US and India.

"Perhaps that is why the prime minister has chosen to go to the US before visiting our ally in good times and bad, China. Could that also be the reason for negotiating with an Indian-owned (company) for the exploitation of Thar coal rather than the Chinese companies with whom Pakistan had been negotiating for the last few years?" Mazari wondered.

Terror Camps in Pakistan
Undermine War in Aghanistan: WSJ

New York
The existence of dozens of terror camps Pakistan mountains neighboring Afghanistan is a major reason why the US-led war just across the border is foundering, the Wall Street Journal has said in a report from one of the camps.

While Pakistan's military is struggling to locate the camps and eradicate them, in part because many locals are sympathetic to the jihadis, the Journal located one camp a few kilometers from Peshawar.

Timing the report with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani's visit to Washington this week, the daily has detailed the activities at the camp in a riverbed, where about two dozen young men, most in their teens, receive rigorous training for the war against the US-led coalition troops in Afghanistan.

"Their day starts at 4 a.m. with prayers, followed by a six-mile run along the riverbed, swimming where some water remains, and weapons training," the Journal's correspondent Zahid Hussain wrote. He made the 20-minute walk to the camp under armed escort from a nearby village.

"One has to go through this rigor to prepare for the tough life as a fighter," 27-year-old Omar Abdullah, a trainer, was quoted as saying. He said he fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan before returning home to Pakistan a few weeks ago to organize training for new recruits.

The camp has no permanent structure of its own, so the recruits live in a nearby village. "The villagers look after us," said the Kalashnikov-wielding Abdullah.

"America is the main enemy of Islam and it is our religious duty to fight against them," he said.

The camp is under the control of Haji Namdar, a top Taliban commander based in the Khyber Agency, one of seven tribal regions known as the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies, the Journal's report said.

It cited western diplomats and Pakistani security officials to say that the hundreds of Pakistani Islamist volunteers trained in such camps are now involved in fighting in Afghanistan.

The number of such camps has increased in the past year as Pakistan's government has taken a more conciliatory approach to the militants in the hopes of securing peace, the report added.

"It not possible to seal the entire 1,500-mile-long border running along treacherous mountainous terrain," the Journal quoted a senior Pakistani military officer as saying.

Many of the trainees in the camp came from madrassas in the region. One young man said he was a student at a business school in Peshawar and recently completed his 40 days of fighter training. The volunteers go through intense scrutiny before they are enlisted and usually arrive with recommendations from clerics, the Journal reported.

Recruits also come from across Pakistan, some of whom had been fighting in Kashmir. "Jihad against American forces in Afghanistan is more important to us at this point," said Abdullah.

The Islamist militants in Pakistan's tribal belt are organized under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an organization whose diktat runs in the area. It is led by Baitullah Mehsud, who is accused by Pakistani authorities of masterminding suicide attacks including the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December last, the Journal said.

Another BSF jawan killed by BDR

Another Border Security Force jawan was killed when the Bangladesh Rifles personnel resorted to firing on Sunday night. This is the second killing of a BSF jawan in five days on the Indo-Bangla border. The firing was said to be unprovoked..

IN AN alarming trend yet another Border Security Force (BSF) jawan, Yadur Appa (25) was shot dead by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel in Daulatpur, a village in West Bengal's Malda district on Sunday night. The firing was said to be unprovoked.

This is the second time that the BDR has killed a BSF jawan in the last five days. On Wednesday (July 23), a BSF jawan was killed and a villager injured in firing by BDR forces in the same district on the Indo-Bangla border. The incident came days after two BDR personnel were killed in an exchange of fire with the BSF in contiguous Murshidabad district.

Sudarshan (40) the jawan of the BSF's 123 Battalion died of injuries sustained on the way to the Malda Sadar Hospital on July 23. The BDR shooting also injured a farmer in Mirsultanpur village in Malda who was tending to his farm. He took the bullets on his leg and had to be hospitalised.

Soon after the BSF jawan was shot at, there was an exchange of fire between the border personnel on both sides.

The week before, two BDR personnel were killed in an exchange of fire with the BSF in Murshidabad. The incident occurred when a BSF jawan Ram Kishan Pandey of the108 Battalion who was patrolling in a speed boat spotted rustlers herding 300 heads of cattle along the Ganga towards Bangladesh. He gave chase but was spotted by BDR personnel also on boats. The BDR was said to have resorted to indiscriminate firing injuring the jawan who swam ashore under covering fire from his colleagues from the bank of the river.

The BSF jawans fired 19 rounds in half an hour in self-defence, whereas the BDR fired about 100 rounds. Even after the BSF jawans stopped firing, having rescued Pandey, the BDR kept up the firing.

The BSF jawans managed to retrieve 250 heads of cattle valued at Rs 70 lakh while the smugglers managed to take away 50.

Later, the BSF and BDR officials held a flag meeting at the Sovapur outpost. The two sides decided not to allow such incidents to recur. The two sides also decided that if a soldier on either side strays across the border, personnel on the other side would not open fire. But today's firing indicates that the decisions taken at the flag meeting has not been taken seriously by the BDR.

Cattle smuggling to Bangladesh is a regular phenomenon given the huge demand for Indian cattle in Bangladesh. The BDR is alleged to encourage cattle being smuggled to Bangladesh from West Bengal border districts.

India's BEL Seeks Restructuring Advice

By vivek raghuvanshi, NEW DELHI, India
India's largest defense electronics company, state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL), has asked global management consulting firm KPMG for advice on major restructuring plans.

KPMG has been asked to draw up a restructuring plan for BEL to enable the company to concentrate on core defense sector areas and compete in the emerging competitive environment.

BEL, with yearly sales of more than $1 billion, has seven plants throughout India and is the largest producer of defense electronics equipment - including radar, C4I, electronic warfare, ballistic missile computers and military communication systems - in India.

BEL has signed agreements with aerospace majors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, EADS and Northrop Grumman to tap the emerging defense offset market here and also compete for tenders from the Indian armed forces.

BEL also is setting up a joint venture company with Elbit Systems Electro Optics ELOP, Israel, that will develop, produce and market thermal imaging cameras and forward-looking infrared systems for the Indian and global markets. BEL has also forged ties with Thales of France for joint development of Indian Army-specific software-defined radio sets.

However, several defense overseas majors are establishing joint ventures with Indian private-sector companies, which could bring stiff competition for BEL, so the company has to reposition itself.

The BEL executive said that KPMG would advise BEL on opening new businesses, technology matches and manpower, as well as identifying potential partners for future collaborations. KPMG's recommendations are expected in the next four months, and BEL's plans would be in place in the next six months, the BEL executive said.

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