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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 30 Jul

Respect ceasefire, Antony tells Pakistan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 29
Defence minister A.K. Antony today sent out a strong message to Pakistan saying India was fully prepared to deal with any instance of infiltration by the Pakistani army, though adequate restraint was being maintained to prevent escalation of tension.
Jawans of the Pakistan army had intruded into Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir yesterday and opened fire at an Indian post killing Mahesh Kumar of the Rajputana Rifles. The Indian troops retaliated and reportedly shot dead four Pakistani soldiers. Mukesh hails from Rewari in Haryana. The incident occurred around 3:30 pm yesterday and intermittent firing across the line of control continued till this morning.
Antony said keeping in view the increased attempts of infiltration, the counter infiltration grid had been suitably strengthened by the Army to check such incidents.
Commenting on yesterday’s incident, Antony said: “The increase in the ceasefire violations — firing across the Line of Control (LoC) -- has been a matter of concern and is being constantly reviewed by the government from time to time”.
A total of 19 incidents had occurred since January 2008 and a large number of incidents had occurred in June and July this year. These were unusual months when maximum attempts of infiltration were made by terrorists, he added.
The defence minister said the government through the Director General Military Operations (DGMO) had told Pakistan that it must fully respect the ceasefire agreed upon between the two sides. The DGMOs of the two countries also spoke over the hotline today, officials of the ministry added.
Meanwhile, sources in the ministry said the incident occurred in Kupwara district as Pakistani soldiers crossed 300 metres inside the Indian territory and objected to the location of an observation and surveillance post. They asked for a meeting with the commanding officer, a senior defence ministry official said.
This led to an altercation and one of the Pakistani soldiers, possibly sighting an Indian patrol in the vicinity, opened fire, fatally injuring jawan Mahesh at the post and this led to opening of fire in retaliation Indian troops, officials here said.
Srinagar: While the guns fell silent after night-long firing across the LoC in Nowgam sector, India on Tuesday registered a strong protest to the Pakistan counterparts over the violation of ceasefire along the Line of Control. The firing between the two sides continued throughout the night, without causing any damage. Defence sources here did not comment on the damage caused as a result of the firing.
Defence spokesman, Lt-Col A.K. Mathur said a flag meeting was held at the level of battalion commanders in Nowgam sector on Tuesday after guns fell silent in the morning. He said “we protested the violation of ceasefire” and the crossing of LoC by the troops from the other side. He added that it was also resolved that such incidents be amicably resolved at the level of DGMO.
Meanwhile, the body of Sepoy Mahesh, who was killed in the firing, had been flown to his native place in Rewari, reports here said.

India Protests to Pakistan on LoC Firing

New Delhi/Srinagar
India Tuesday lodged a strong protest against the unprovoked firing by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, even as Defence Minister A.K. Antony urged Islamabad to respect the ceasefire that has been in place since 2003.
The protest was lodged when Lt Gen A.S. Sekhon, the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) at the Army Headquarters in New Delhi, spoke to his Pakistani counterpart, Maj Gen Nasir Janjua, on the hotline, a defence ministry official said.
The DGMOs normally speak to each other once a week on Tuesdays and their conversation acquired added importance due to the LoC firing that began Monday afternoon and continued till early Tuesday morning.
Indian and Pakistani Army commanders also held a flag meeting on the LoC Tuesday and agreed to restore normalcy in the area.
In a statement issued in New Delhi, Antony said: "Pakistan must fully respect the ceasefire agreed to between the two sides and adhere to the already existing mechanism" to deal with border violations.
An Indian soldier, identified as Sepoy Mahesh Kumar of the 22 Rajput Regiment, and four Pakistani troops were killed in the firing after a group of 10-12 soldiers intruded into Indian territory in the Nowgom area of north Kashmir.
It was the most serious truce violation in the past five years and comes in the wake of 18 other violations by Pakistani troops since January.
Antony, in his statement said: "We have urged that Pakistan must fully respect the ceasefire agreed to between the two sides and to adhere to the already existing mechanism to deal with violations through local flag meetings and DGMO-level talks in order to resolve an issue.
"Keeping in view the increased attempts to infiltrate, the counter-infiltration grid has been suitably strengthened by our troops to check such incidents," Antony said.
"The government is fully prepared to deal with any such instances firmly while maintaining adequate restraint to prevent escalation of tension," he added.
The minister also noted that the "increase in the ceasefire violations has been a matter of concern and is being constantly reviewed by the government from time to time.
"A total of 19 such incidents have occurred since January 2008 and a large number of incidents have occurred in the months of June and July. These are the usual months when maximum attempts are made by the terrorists," Antony said.
The flag meeting took place at Tithwal in the Tangdhar sector of the LoC in north Kashmir.
"The meeting started at 12 noon and ended after one hour," army sources in Kashmir's summer capital of Srinagar said, without divulging details of what happened at the meeting.
Giving details of the incident, the defence ministry official in New Delhi said: "At 15:30 in the afternoon (Monday), a Pakistani patrol of 10-12 soldiers in uniform approached our surveillance detachment approximately 300 metres on our side of the LoC, objecting to its location and asked for a meeting with the commanding officer.
"During the interaction, one of the Pakistani soldiers, possibly on sighting our patrol in the vicinity, opened fire, fatally injuring a sentry at the post," the official said.
"This led to opening of fire in retaliation. The Pakistani post in the vicinity thereafter opened unprovoked firing on our posts in the area. Interim firing between the posts continued till early morning today (Tuesday)," the official added.
The Indian Air Force (IAF), meanwhile, categorically denied reports of Indian air space being violated by a Pakistani aircraft Tuesday.
"There has been no violation today (Tuesday) or in the recent past," an IAF spokesman told IANS in New Delhi.

ISI calling the shots in Pakistan Maya Mirchandani
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 (New Delhi)

It was only weeks ago after the Indian embassy in Kabul was bombed that National Security Advisor M K Narayanan blamed the ISI and said it should be destroyed.The ISI's role in helping terror groups has come under deeper scrutiny internationally but the agency is clearly calling the shots in Pakistan.
What's come under close scrutiny have been the developments over the weekend when the government first announced that the ISI would be under civilian control and then backtracked within hours, a clear sign that the spy agency calls the shots.
Preventing a showdown with President Bush is what many feel was behind the Pak government's decision to issue an order putting the ISI under the interior ministry's civilian control.
As it revoked the decision under 24 hours saying there had been a misunderstanding , Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani reiterated his government's committment to fight terror from the White House lawns.
Pakistan's ruling coalition had argued in favour of the transfer of control saying it would end foreign allegations that Pakistan's intelligence services were a law unto themselves.
In an article a leading international daily had noted that the US administration was running out of patience with Pakistan's inability to end cross border terrorism on the Pak-Afghan border. The newspaper said Gilani should expect a "testy reception" in Washington.
India too has recently pointed to the ISI as being responsible for the embassy bombing in Kabul in early July, as well as for backing terrorist groups that strike cities across the country with impunity.
But curbing Pakistan's ISI that's run by army generals was seen as tantamount to taking on the Paksitan army, an unequal fight by any standards.
And the weekend twists over the fate of the agency only confirm fears that six months after the elections Pakistan's new civilian government is still unable to assert its control.

Not quite a dragon
Why China cannot be the next superpower
by John Pomfret

WASHINGTON – The People’s Republic is on the march – economically, militarily, even ideologically. Economists expect its GDP to surpass America’s by 2025; its submarine fleet is reportedly growing five times faster than Washington’s; even its capitalist authoritarianism is called a real alternative to the West’s liberal democracy. China, the drumbeat goes, is ready to dominate the 21st century the way the United States dominated the 20th.Except that it’s not. Will China really be another superpower? I doubt it.
I’m not a China-basher. I first went to China in 1980 as a student, and I’ve followed its remarkable transformation over the past 28 years. I met my wife there and call it a second home. I’m hardly expecting China to implode. But its dream of dominating the century won’t be a reality any time soon.
Too many constraints are built into the country’s social, economic and political systems. For four big reasons – dire demographics, an overrated economy, an environment under siege and an ideology that doesn’t travel well – China is more likely to remain the muscle-bound adolescent of the international system than to become the master of the world.In the West, China is known as “the factory to the world,” the land of unlimited labor where millions are eager to leave the hardscrabble countryside for a chance to tighten screws in microwaves. If the country is going to rise to superpowerdom, says conventional wisdom, it will do so on the back of its massive workforce.
But China’s demographics stink. No country is aging faster than the People’s Republic, which is on track to become the first nation in the world to get old before it gets rich. Because of the Communist Party’s notorious one-child-per-family policy, the average number of children born to a Chinese woman has dropped from 5.8 in the 1970s to 1.8 today – below the rate of 2.1 that would keep the population stable.
Meanwhile, life expectancy has shot up, from just 35 in 1949 to more than 73 today. Economists worry that as the working-age population shrinks, labor costs will rise, significantly eroding one of China’s key competitive advantages.
Worse, Chinese demographers such as Li Jianmin of Nankai University now predict a crisis with China’s elderly, a group that will balloon from 100 million people older than 60 today to 334 million by 2050, including a staggering 100 million age 80 or older.
How will China care for them? With pensions? Fewer than 30 percent of urban dwellers have them, and none of the 700 million farmers do. And China’s state-funded pension system makes Social Security look like Fort Knox. Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer and economist at the American Enterprise Institute, calls China’s demographic time bomb “a slow-motion humanitarian tragedy in the making.”
One important nuance we keep forgetting is the sheer size of China’s population: about 1.3 billion, more than four times that of the United States. China should have a big economy. But on a per capita basis, the country isn’t a dragon; it’s a medium-size lizard, sitting in 109th place on the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, between Swaziland and Morocco. China’s economy is large, but its average living standard is low and will remain so for a very long time.

The big number wheeled out to prove that China is eating our economic lunch is the U.S. trade deficit with China, which last year hit $256 billion. But nearly 60 percent of China’s total exports are churned out by companies not owned by Chinese.
When it comes to high-tech exports such as computers and electronic goods, 89 percent come from non-Chinese-owned companies. China is part of the global system, but it’s still the low-cost assembly and manufacturing part – and foreign, not Chinese, firms are reaping the lion’s share of the profits.
China’s environmental woes are no joke. This year, China will surpass the United States as the world’s No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases. China is the largest depleter of the ozone layer and the largest polluter of the Pacific Ocean. Sixteen of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China; 70 percent of its lakes and rivers are polluted and half its population lacks clean drinking water.
By 2030, the nation will face a water shortage equal to the amount it consumes today; factories in the northwest have already been forced out of business because there just isn’t any water. Even Chinese government economists estimate that environmental troubles shave 10 percent off the country’s gross domestic product annually.
And then there’s “Kung Fu Panda,” which embodies the final reason why China won’t be a superpower: Beijing’s animating ideas just aren’t that animating.
The recent Hollywood smash, about the high-kicking panda who uses ancient Chinese teachings to turn himself into a kung fu warrior, broke Chinese box-office records – and caused hand-wringing among the country’s glitterati. “The film’s protagonist is China’s national treasure, and all the elements are Chinese, but why didn’t we make such a film?” Wu Jiang, president of the China National Peking Opera Company, told the official New China News Agency.
The movie’s content may be Chinese, but its irreverence and creativity are 100 percent American. China remains an authoritarian state run by a party that limits the free flow of information, stifles ingenuity and doesn’t understand how to self-correct. Blockbusters don’t grow out of the barrel of a gun. Neither do superpowers in the age of globalisation.

The writer, a former Beijing bureau chief, is editor of The Washington Post’s Outlook section.

Beyond control
ISI will continue to call the shots in Pakistan

THE Pakistan Government did cause a bit of sensation when it issued a notification on Saturday saying the Prime Minister gave the Interior Ministry control of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Bureau. Since Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani left for the US to meet President George W. Bush the same day, it was presumed that it was a calculated move to tell the West that the civilian control was complete in Pakistan. On paper, the ISI has been, financially and administratively, under the control of the Defence Ministry but answerable to the Prime Minister. But in practice, the ISI has always been a law unto itself that answered only to military dictators like General Pervez Musharraf. Saturday’s decision, therefore, amounted to a drastic change in the character of the ISI. Most people, within and without Pakistan, thought the notification was too good to be true.

They were not wide of the mark as subsequent events proved to the hilt. The next day, the government issued another notification saying that the earlier order was misunderstood and the ISI would remain under the Prime Minister. Obviously, the ISI had struck back and was instrumental in undoing the proposal. It will continue to remain a government within the government, generally invisible and answerable to none. It was foolish on the part of Mr Gillani to have believed that he could get away with his nibbling at the ISI’s autonomy. He should have recalled that it was this outfit, which masterminded the Kargil war without the knowledge of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was supposedly controlling the agency. Umpteen have been the instances when it acted on its own, be it fuelling terrorism in India or strengthening the Taliban, first, against the erstwhile Soviet Union and, lately, against the Americans in Afghanistan.

If today the world sees Pakistan as the source of terrorism, it is the ISI that is to blame. Small wonder that even many people in Pakistan and its neighbouring countries would like the ISI to be disbanded. Banish such hopes. The latest flip-flop by the Pakistan government shows that the ISI will continue to call the shots, irrespective of who adorns the office of Prime Minister. This is the price Pakistan has to pay for creating a Frankenstein. Even if the government wants to, it cannot get rid of the monster.

Eurasia Insight:
Richard Weitz: 7/29/08

President George W. Bush is talking to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, but the US presidential administration continues to exhibit a stubborn preference for maintaining close ties with the Pakistani military, an institution that is widely discredited inside the South Asian state.

Bush welcomed Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to the White House on July 28 for talks that focused on the deteriorating security situation along the Pakistani-Afghan border. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Gilani said the Pakistani government is determined to contain Islamic militants. Bush told journalists that the Pakistani leader had “made a very strong commitment” to restoring Islamabad’s control over the tribal areas. Questions remain, however, over whether the Pakistani government, even if it has the will to take action, possesses the means to break up the militants’ safe havens.

Amid the speculation, the Bush administration has clung doggedly to policies that have proven ineffective in curbing the militant threat. The US strategy to date has centered on the personality of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the leader of the country’s military establishment, and a man who, from the popular viewpoint, is easily the most reviled figure in Pakistani politics today. Indeed, Gilani’s rise to power was the direct result of parliamentary elections that were widely interpreted as a repudiation of Musharraf’s policies, as well as the military’s control of the political process. Over 80 percent of the Pakistani people want Musharraf to go, according to a recent poll conducted by the International Republican Institute.

The parliamentary elections presented US officials with an opportunity to reevaluate Washington’s policy dependence on the Pakistani military, but, to date, the United States has not followed up on that opening. The bulk of US assistance to Islamabad continues to be funneled through the military establishment. Administration critics argue that diverting assistance toward civil society and economic development initiatives would be more effective in winning the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people, and in making the country’s tribal areas more secure.

Despite fresh strains in Pakistani-American military ties, the Pentagon remains committed to continuing close military cooperation with Pakistan, according to David Smith, senior country director for Pakistan at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy). Smith, a retired US army officer whose last military assignment was a three-year tour military attach√© in the US Embassy in Islamabad, spoke July 22 at a Heritage Foundation panel, titled “The Future of US-Pakistan Military Ties: Weathering the Strains of Regional Terrorism.”

Smith denied that the US approach to Pakistan was unduly militarized, claiming that the Bush administration was taking a broad view of the security challenge. “Even though Pakistan is an indispensable ally in the War on Terror, our desire for a long-term relationship is not confined to this military aspect alone,” Smith said. “We are working very hard to find ways to increase our economic and social development programs in Pakistan and to find ways to demonstrate to the people of Pakistan the value of the strategic relationship with the United States. We certainly applaud Pakistan’s return to democracy and plan to dramatically increase the non-military component of our bilateral relationship in the coming years.”

Overall, the United States has delivered about $11 billion in economic and military assistance to Pakistan since 2002. According to Smith’s calculations, “Since 9/11, we have extended to Pakistan approximately $5.2 billion in economic and military assistance,” with the latter amounting to only $2.1 billion. Smith argued that an additional $5.9 billion military aid, provided under the auspices of “coalition support funds (CSF),” should be considered separately, since these funds supposedly reimbursed the Pakistani military for its contributions to anti-terrorist operations.

Independent surveys have found that the Pakistani military has used US coalition support funds to purchase high-tech weapons, such as anti-missile systems, that have no practical application in combating low-tech Islamic militants, but do enhance Pakistan’s security vis-√†-vis its long-standing hostile neighbor, India. A report issued by the US Government Accountability Office in June found that the Pentagon, in making assistance available to Pakistan, “did not consistently apply its existing CSF oversight guidance, and that certain deficiencies existed in [the Pentagon’s] oversight procedures.”

Smith characterized the US-Pakistani military relationship as “a rollercoaster with dizzying highs and equally dizzying lows.” Despite the currently close ties, Smith acknowledged that, “there are several significant challenges that must be overcome in order to sustain and maintain a relationship at its current level.” First, Smith pointed to a considerable “trust deficit” among officials on both sides, adding that “many Pakistanis doubt both our sincerity in the present relationship and our staying power in the region, fearing that we will once again abandon Pakistan, as they believe we have done so many times in the past, once our current objectives are met.”

“It’s incumbent that we demonstrate, or find a way to demonstrate, to Pakistan first of all that we are in Afghanistan to finish the job, and then, secondly, that we are a reliable security partner, now and well into the future,” Smith continued.

The trust level between the two sides was unlikely to receive a boost from a July 28 missile attack in the Pakistani region of South Waziristan, near the Afghan border. The missile killed six people, including a suspect Al Qaeda operative. The United States is widely viewed as being behind the attack, but Bush made no mention of it during his public appearance with Gilani.

Beyond the trust issue, a host of other problems has hampered the development of US-Pakistani security ties. For example, a perception gap divides Washington and Islamabad concerning Islamic militant safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). “Many in Pakistan believe that we’ve failed to appreciate their sacrifices that have been made” in combating militants in the Northwest Frontier province and the FATA, Smith said. “But, as our leaders have told Pakistan fairly recently, Pakistan can and must do more. We simply cannot allow Al Qaeda and other militant groups that are in the FATA time to plan and execute another 9/11.”

Washington also takes a dim view of the Pakistani military’s tactic of negotiating peace deals with tribal leaders and local militants in the FATA. Smith said that deals sealed in 2005-06 have ended in failure, adding that cross-boarder militant attacks have increased sharply this year over the previous year. “Now we are not opposed in principle to negotiating agreements, but if they are to be negotiated, we have made it clear to the government of Pakistan that certain conditions need to be met,” Smith said. “The agreements need to be enforceable, they need to call for the elimination of foreign elements and extremists in the FATA, they should not require the withdrawal of the Pakistan army or other security forces from the area, and they must have provisions that prevent cross-border attacks being mounted on coalition forces in Afghanistan and other targets in Pakistan.”

On a practical level, US and Pakistani officials, along with authorities in Afghanistan, are striving to improve coordination along the Pakistani-Afghan border. More open channels of communications might have prevented an incident in June, when American forces inadvertently killed several Pakistani troops amid an assault on Taliban militants who were in the process of fleeing across the border into Pakistan

Another question hovering over relations concerns India. Smith acknowledged the long history of antagonism between Islamabad and New Delhi. He added, however, that Pakistani leaders had to understand that developing relationships involving the United States, Afghanistan and India should not be seen as “a series of zero-sum games, in which one gains and one loses at the other’s expense.”

Smith strongly opposed the idea of making US military assistance to Pakistan conditional upon Islamabad’s making verifiable progress in the areas of democratization or security. He also expressed the belief that Washington had no choice but to maintain the “business-as-usual” relationship with the Pakistani military. “I have a great deal of difficulty in imagining any scenario for military success in Afghanistan that does not depend on close cooperation with Pakistan and its armed forces,” he said.

Editor’s Note: Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.

Bullet marks on ceasefire sanctity

- 16-hour overnight firing on Pak border SUJAN DUTTA

New Delhi, July 29: A nearly five-year-long ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir was teetering today after the Pakistani and Indian armies traded fire for over 16 hours overnight and India’s defence minister alleged that Pakistan had violated the truce of November 2003 19 times in seven months since January this year.

The firing stopped early this morning. For the record, both India and Pakistan have said they remain committed to maintaining the ceasefire but Monday’s firefight across the LoC and the series of shootouts across the contested border in the last two months are evidence of how taut the truce is.

Most important, the Indian and Pakistani armies have traded charges on misuse of a symbol of peace — the white flag — that rival militaries in battlefields rely on to signal a temporary truce to recover the dead and the injured. This action and the suspicion of intentions mean that the sanctity of the ceasefire on the LoC is already in tatters.

Armed disputes along the LoC that could be settled locally now have the potential of flaring into larger conflicts between the two countries. India and Pakistan now risk turning the clock back five years in Kashmir and getting into a situation in which the trading of fire from small weapons, and even heavier guns, could become routine.

The Indian and Pakistani sector commanders of the two armies held a flag meeting in the Nowgam area this morning after which the Indian army retrieved the body of one of its soldiers. Sepoy Mahesh was killed after Pakistani soldiers came into Indian territory and shot him during an altercation, according to an account available in Indian army headquarters.

The flag meeting was decided at a talk this morning on the telephone hotline between the Indian director-general of military operations, Lt Gen A.S. Sekhon, and his Pakistani counterpart. The DGMOs usually speak every Tuesday and are also supposed to be in contact “whenever the need arises”, an Indian defence ministry official explained.

Defence minister A.K. Antony said India was “exercising maximum restraint” — a phrase that means it retains the option of unleashing its firepower — and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Tehran that the cease-fire violations were worrying. In the last three years, comments on alleged or perceived cease-fire violations have rarely been made by such senior government figures.

Information gleaned from army sources in Kashmir suggests that the Pakistanis had yesterday objected to the reconstruction of a bunker, a forward observation post, in a hotly contested valley in Kupwara, known as Kayan Bowl, where the demarcation of the LoC is ambiguous.

The fence along the LoC that India has erected runs behind the post and the bunker faces Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

However, the Pakistani army argued that the post was being rebuilt in what it considered was its territory. Among the agreed rules for the November 2003 cease-fire -- the biggest confidence-building measure between India and Pakistan since the two militaries faced off in 2001-2002 -- was a commitment by each side to refrain from construction of fortifications on the LoC. Sources in the Indian army argue that Pakistan had violated the rule by rebuilding its defences along the LoC in Jammu.

The Pakistani military spokesperson, Major General Athar Abbas, denied the Indian claim that four Pakistani soldiers were killed in Indian shooting, but the Indian army said its soldiers of the 22 Rajpur unit had killed them after losing one of their own.

Antony also linked the increase in cease-fire violations to increasing infiltration by militants across the LoC in Kashmir.

“The increase in cease-fire violations and firings across the LoC are a matter of concern to India,” he said. “Keeping in view the increased attempts to infiltrate, the counter-infiltration grid in the state has been suitably strengthened by our troops to check such incidents.”

The 19 cease-fire violations that Antony referred to included at least three violations of Indian airspace by Pakistani military aircraft in May and June.

The argument that cease-fire violations by Pakistan are designed to push and abet militants in Kashmir strengthens the belief of the security establishment that terrorists get into India with active encouragement from Pakistan, or from a section of its establishment, and they then encourage attacks on Indian soft targets such as the citizens of Bangalore and Ahmedabad.

Indian Navy to Acquire 26 Sea King, 11 Kamov-28 Helicopters

The Indian Navy is all set to strengthen its air fleet by acquiring 26 Sea King anti-submarine and troop carrying helicopters and 11 Kamov-28 choppers. The Defence Ministry will soon issue the request for proposal (RFP) to procure these 37 anti-submarine helicopters. The contract for choppers is worth Rs.14, 500 million

The ministry has finalized global tenders to acquire troop carrying and anti-submarine helicopters as well as to upgrade its fleet of Sea King and Kamov-28 helicopters, a senior naval officer said. He also said that the delivery of 12 single-seat MiG-29K and 4 two-seat MiG-29KUB would start by the year-end. They will be later deployed on the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier being refitted in Russia.

The first batch of four aircraft for the Navy is likely to fly into the naval air station at Goa. The officer also said that the Navy is also looking for its own Airborne Early Warning Aircraft. The navy operates 14 Sea King and 12 Kamov anti-submarine helicopters. In addition, the Sea Kings are also used for reconnaissance, search and rescue operations, and for ferrying personnel and supplies.

Meanwhile, in a major drive to modernize the armed forces and expand aviation wings of the Services, the Defence Ministry today issued a RFP to procure 197 helicopters. The proposed procurement is worth Rs.30, 000 million. The armed forces will modernize their helicopter fleet by 2010 by replacing the age-old Cheetah and Chetak, which have been in service for last 40 years.

The Mahabharata over Arjun

Noted defence journalist and a former tankman, Ajai Shukla has been a staunch supporter and proponent of inducting the Arjun tanks developed indigenously by DRDO, over the T-90 tanks imported from Russia. After the Indian army refused to induct any more tanks other than the first batch of 124 Arjuns, sounding a virtual deathknell for the project, the pitch of the debate has been raised to a new level. It is a very interesting debate and promises to get even better.

Ajai initiated the latest round of debate with this column, where he explained why Arjun should be the preferred choice of the Indian Army over the T-90s. His next salvo was to clarify the truth behind the many falsehoods surrounding the Arjuns. The number of comments at these posts indicate the high level of interest in the subject.

Meanwhile, Shiv Aroor has posted two blogposts at his site to support Ajai’s contentions. The first is the statement prepared by the DRDO for the defence ministry and the Parliamentary defence committee, while the second one is an evolutionary analysis of India’s MBT by noted defence hardware expert, Prasun Sengupta.

The studied silence by the Indian army and their co-opted thinktanks has left most observers ignorant of the version from the other side. The “valid — indeed, the vital — question” that Ajai promises to answer next is the one this blogger is eagerly looking forward to –

“Why is the Indian Army resisting the Arjun?”

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