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Monday, 29 September 2008

From Today's Papers - 29 Sep

Those who missed the show "Men in Arms Up In Arms" on NDTV last night can catch it here:-

Army chief denies differences with govt

New Delhi, September 28
Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor today denied reports that there were deep differences between the Union government and the armed forces over the ‘anomalies’ in the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. Talking to media, he said there was no truth in the talks about differences between the government and the defence forces.

He expressed hope that the three-member committee headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee would look into all-genuine and bonafide requests of the armed forces.

The committee, which also has defence minister A.K. Antony and finance minister P Chidambaram, was constituted yesterday to go into the objections raised by the armed forces over the pay panel recommendations. The committee is expected to give interim relief within a week. — PTI

Govt panel to listen to Army's pay grievances

The government has finally responded to the defence forces' continued displeasure over the pay hikes.

It has decided to form a three-member committee headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to look into the grievances of the armed forces.

The Committee also has defence minister AK Anthony and Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

Army Chief Deepak Kapoor said, "Hope govt will look at our genuine, bona fide requests."

The decision was taken after consulting the prime minister who is currently on a trip to the United States.

All pending issues on pay hikes will be resolved latest by the end of October.

But before that, the government has decided to make ad-hoc payment of arrears to the forces at the earliest.

The amount will range between 20,000 and 50,000 rupees for non-commissioned and junior commissioned officers.

Officers in the rank of lieutenant and equivalent can expect 55,000 rupees, while lieutenant generals will get 2 lakh 25,000 rupees.

Permanent commission
Armed forces open new door for women

WOMEN are making their mark in every field. They have scaled new heights in the armed forces also and as a mark of recognition, the government has allowed permanent commission for women in non-combat streams of the armed forces. For the time being, they will be given commission only in the legal and education wings of the Army, Navy and the IAF, but there is hope that soon they will be considered for commission in wings like engineering, ordnance, intelligence, signals, logistics and air traffic control etc also where they already serve as short service commission officers. Nevertheless, the long-term goal of women is to go into positions which involve command of men or battalion. That is going to take quite some time, considering that the army ethos will have to be restructured considerably for that goal to become a reality. We should not forget that century-old prejudices cannot be overcome overnight.

It must be underlined that women have been allowed only in branches and cadres which do not entail direct combat or physical contact with the enemy. Nor was there any such demand. While gender equality is a cherished dream, women cannot be put to the gruelling position where they become a tool in the hands of an inhuman enemy. International conventions are hardly respected in a war even in the case of men. Women will be at a greater disadvantage if captured by the enemy.

They have broken one glass ceiling but there are many others which are still intact. One is the aversion of the soldiers to be under the command of women officers. Before that mindset is changed, we have to put an end to the tendency of some male officers to treat women colleagues or juniors as playthings. Many such officers have been punished for misconduct. When such overtures are made even by an officer of Major-General rank, there is a lot to be set right before the armed forces become a woman-friendly job opportunity.

Indo-Russian defence panel meets today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 28
The eighth meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) to be held here tomorrow will cover a broad spectrum of issues, including supply of defence systems, equipment upgrade, product and lifecycle support for defence equipment of the Russian origin.

The meeting will also discuss licensed and joint production, joint development and production of systems and platforms, interaction between the two armed forces and military technical cooperation.

Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov is leading a high-powered military delegation to take part in the meeting. Serdyukov will co-chair the commission meeting with defence minister A.K. Antony.

Serdyukov is visiting India for the first time as the Russian defence minister. During his three-day stay in India, he would be visiting the BrahMos Aerospace Complex in the capital besides the Para Brigade of the Army in Agra.

IRIGC-MTC was established in 2000 with a view to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation. India and Russia share long standing friendly relations. Since the establishment of a strategic partnership between the two countries in 2000, the two governments have steadily developed and strengthened bilateral cooperation covering a range of areas of which defence forms a significant component.

IAF network centricity plans go awry

New Delhi, September 28
Indian Air Force’s (IAF) plans to go network-centric have gone haywire as the delivery of Israeli-airborne early warning systems has got delayed further.

The Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) will arrive only in February next year, about 15 months behind its original schedule of November 2007.

Consequently, the IAF’s efforts to establish advanced Integrated Air Command and Control Systems (IACCS) through the Air Force Net (AF Net) communication network would be hit.

“AF Net may be delayed by a month or two. We were expecting it around December. Now it is coming around February,” IAF chief Fali Homi Major said today.

“Two months is no delay as far as we are concerned,” Major added, suggesting that the IAF would strive to offset the delay from their side.

Meanwhile, IAF vice-chief Air Marshal P.V. Naik, referring to the delay in delivery schedule of AWACS till February 2009, said some technical glitches were the reasons behind it.

AWACS, a major force multiplier for the IAF, is a vital link in the AF Net, a communication network that is the key to IAF’s dreams of emerging as a network-centric force.

The $1.1 billion deal was signed by India in March 2004 for three AWACS from Israeli Aerospace Industries for mounting the systems on three Russian-made IL-76 heavy-lift transport aircraft.

IAF’s Agra air base is preparing itself to receive the AWACS by improving its infrastructure, including extending the runway, establishing an avionics lab and integrating ground systems for future operations of the radar-mounted IL-76s aircraft. — PTI

India to buy aircraft for much-delayed Gorshkov
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, September 28
In what is being seen as a political deal between India and Russia, the Indian government has decided to increase its order for the MiG-29K (Fulcrum-D) and MiG-29 KUB fighters that are to be deployed aboard aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov renamed INS Vikramaditya.

The two governments have decided to sign a deal to buy 30 more of these aircraft even though there is no clarity as to when the aircraft carrier would be delivered.

India is banking on the changing geo-political scenario between Russia and America to help quicken work on Admiral Gorshkov. India is likely to pay a higher price to the Russians for the upgradation work currently undergone by the aircraft carrier. India expects the ship to be received by 2012 though reports from Russia say delivery may be delayed further.

The Russians are said to be demanding a price escalation of $2 billion, nearly double the original cost of $2.5 billion.

Under the 2004 contract for the acquisition of Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, India is to receive 12 single-seater MiG-29K and four two-seater MiG-29KUB by next year. The contract had an option of ordering additional 30 fighters by 2015 and the Russians are said to be pressuring India into ordering the additional aircraft.

According to sources, the Indian Navy may be forced to utilise the aircraft for the purpose of training crew.

The Russians have also pitched the idea of the aircraft being deployed aboard the indigenous aircraft carrier being developed by India.

As of now, the MiG 29K aircraft are as good as useless if, for any reason, India decides not to take delivery of Gorshkov. Sources say, training facilities for the MiG 29 aircraft are being built at the Vasco da Gama naval base in Goa.

The MiG-29K and the MiG-29KUB, to be delivered to India, are made by the MiG Corporation at its Lukhovitsky plant, near Moscow. Naval crews, who would operate the aircraft, are also being trained in Russia.

Every Passing Train a Security Threat to Agra Air Base
By Ritu Sharma

A railway line uncomfortably close to the runway of the Agra air force base, one of the largest in India, sends the authorities into a tizzy every time a train passes by.

“Anybody can attack the air base from the train with the help of a shoulder mounted weapon. Even though the attack will not cause much damage it will send all the wrong signals,” a senior Indian Air Force (IAF) official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Even though the assets of the air force base, covering an area of 3,400 acres, are away from the line of fire, the authorities feel that the terror threat is “real”.

The Agra air base, which celebrated its diamond jubilee last year, is instrumental in providing transport support, bombing and airborne assault support, paratrooper training and photo-reconnaissance support. Being of both strategic and tactical importance for the IAF, the base was twice attacked during the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971.

The authorities have urged the realignment of the railway track, which is just 400 metres away from the runway, but this is not likely to happen anytime soon. The Air Officer Commanding of the base, Air Commodore Shouvik Roy, confirmed to IANS that a request has been sent to the concerned authorities to take action.

“We have initiated a process to shift the track since it is a security threat. The railway authorities may take time to realign it,” Roy said.

“Till then, we will have to be vigilant,” he added.

A squadron of IL-78 midair refueller aircraft, which has provided the IAF with a global reach, is stationed at the air base besides IL-76, AN-32 and Avro transport aircraft, a squadron of surface-to-air missiles, a radar squadron and a signals unit.

The air base is now set to receive the first of three Phalcon airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) that are currently being mounted in Israel on IL-78 platforms.

India, Russia to iron out defence problems
29 Sep 2008, 0343 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit,TNN

NEW DELHI: Even as India and US get into a tight strategic clinch, both New Delhi and Moscow are keen to bring the heady romance of yesteryears back into their lives, especially in the military arena.

Defence minister A K Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov will hold high-level delegation meetings on Monday in a bid to resolve problems dogging ongoing mega military projects for Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, T-90S main-battle tanks, stealth frigates and missile destroyers. The eighth meeting of the Indo-Russian inter-governmental commission on military-technical cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) will also try to iron out differences on joint futuristic projects for the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and multi-role transport aircraft (MRTA).

That the long-standing Indo-Russian defence partnership, which saw India's military imports and tie-ups with Russia exceeding $35 billion since the 1960s, has run into rough weather is no longer a secret. India is now increasingly looking at US — apart from Israel and France — to procure high-tech weapons and platforms. But the fact also remains that Russia will continue to remain India's largest defence supplier for several years to come, with ongoing contracts and projects in the pipeline worth well over $15 billion.

"Russia is the only country with which we have such a commission (IRIGC-MTC)," said Antony, affirming that the Indo-Russian strategic partnership will continue to head north. The meeting will also pave the way for the eventual inking of the new pact for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov's refit, which has caused bitter wrangling between the two sides.

As earlier reported by TOI, India may now have to pay as much as $2 billion more to get the 44,570-tonne carrier by end-2012, over and above the original $1.5 billion package deal of January 2004 for a fully-refurbished Gorshkov and 16 MiG-29Ks. Moreover, the defence ministry recently approved the Navy's case for acquisition of 29 more MiG-29Ks for Rs 5,380 crore.

India, of course, is upset with Russia for not sticking to delivery schedules, creating roadblocks in transfer of technology (ToT), jacking up costs midway through execution of agreements and failing to provide uninterrupted supply of spares. ToT problems, for instance, have dogged the indigenous manufacture of both the T-90S and the Sukhoi-30MKI projects despite Russia earning big bucks in the huge contracts.

Russia's delay in giving "full ToT" for India's plan to manufacture 1,000 T-90S tanks has taken place even after New Delhi first imported 310 of these tanks for over Rs 3,625 crore under a February 2001 contract, and then signed another Rs 4,900 crore contract in November 2007 to import 347 more tanks. The story of ToT delays and cost escalations is the same in the contracts for 230 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, overall worth around $8.5 billion.

Russian defence minister cuts short his visit

New Delhi, Sept 28 (PTI) Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who arrived here this evening on a three-day visit, will be in India only for 24 hours, cutting short his stay by a day.
"The Russian Defence Minister has decided to return to Moscow on Monday evening itself and has cancelled his entire programme on Tuesday, when he had planned to visit Agra," Defence Ministry sources told PTI.

By doing so, Sedyukov will miss his date with the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, and a visit to the Para Brigade of the Indian Army in Agra on Tuesday.

He will meet his Indian counterpart A K Antony and co-chair the Inter-Governmental Commission for Military and Technical Cooperation tomorrow.

He would also visit the Indo-Russian BrahMos Aerospace Complex in Delhi Cantonment tomorrow afternoon and complete protocol by attending the official dinner to be hosted by Antony in the evening.

Soon after that he will board a special flight back to Moscow, sources added.

Defence Ministry officials, however, did not specify any reason for Serdyukov's sudden change of plans. PTI

FIPB to decide on FDI cap in defence tomorrow
Bs Reporter / New Delhi September 29, 2008, 0:41 IST

The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) will decide on September 30 whether foreign direct investment (FDI) caps to the tune of 49 per cent should be permitted in defence in some cases. At present, FDI in defence is capped at 26 per cent.

An application from Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) for a joint venture with British Aerospace Systems for land systems will be heard on Tuesday by the FIPB. BaE Systems is looking at picking up 49 per cent equity in a joint venture with M&M for an anti-landmine vehicle. What has given additional traction to the proposal is Defence Minister AK Antony’s statement that FDI caps in defence could be raised on a case-to-case basis.

BaE Systems and M&M had signed a memorandum of understanding to manufacture the RG-31 landmine-protected vehicle in February following a discussion on its possible production. As many as 600 of these vehicles are in use with the United States, Canada and the United Nations.

The British defence group has been supplying 165 armoured vehicles, known as Casspir, to the Indian Army since 1999.

“Mahindra is an enormously capable world-class company with the skills to become a strong partner for BAE Systems on the development of a mine-protected vehicles for India,” said Julian Scopes, president (India operations), BAE Systems.

Explain infiltration of civilians: Home Ministry to Army
28 Sep 2008, 2004 hrs IST,PTI

NEW DELHI: The Home Ministry has sought an explanation from the Army about the recent 'infiltration' of civilians through the barbed fence along the Line of Control (LoC) in North Kashmir going unnoticed.

Sources in the Ministry said the Army authorities have been given details about the incident when three families went 10 km inside the Indian side from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and reported to the police post.

The Ministry questioned the vigilance at the borders and the safety about the efficacy of barbed wire fencing along the LoC as kids and old age people could cross unnoticed.

The note to the Army was sent through the Defence Ministry, the sources said.

No one from the army was available for comments. The Jammu and Kashmir Home Department had apprised the Union Home Ministry about the incident when 12 people, including five children and an aged lady, crossed over the LoC in the wee hours of September 26 in Tanghdar area in Karnah sector of North Kashmir.

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