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Tuesday, 11 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 11 Nov

Army to be present during tests on Col Purohit
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, November 10
Officials of military intelligence will be present when arrested Lt Col Shrikant Purohit is subjected to scientific tests, including brain-mapping, polygraph, psychological and narco-analysis tests.

The army officer has been taken to Bangalore where the tests are to be conducted on him to determine his role in the Malegaon blasts. On a request by the Army, the anti-terrorist squad of the Maharashtra police has decided to subject the officer to the tests at the Air Force Command Hospital in Bangalore.

Lt Col Purohit was a member of the military intelligence and had been tasked to keep an eye on Islamic terrorists and jehadi outfits infiltrating the armed forces. He was also said to be learning Arabic as part of his job.

Investigators are probing whether the Colonel made use of his army contacts and resources, including funds for his activities.

Earlier, Army officials were present when the Colonel was questioned by investigators shortly before his arrest. They were also present during the narco-analysis tests conducted on Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur based on which a decision was taken to arrest the Army officer.

The investigators will also question Colonel Purohit about his possible involvement in a series of bomb blasts in Marathwada four years ago. The blasts were carried out near mosques in

Parbhani, Jalna and Purna in Marathwada.

HAL should diversify

Last week the parliamentary consultative committee for the Defence Ministry reviewed the working of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in which parliamentarians expressed their opinions on how HAL should go ahead in future. Defence Minister A K Antony asked HAL to be more competitive and modernise with the changing times.

The MPs had a whole lot of issues, which included an apprehension about the poor finishing of Dhruv — the indigenous helicopter inducted in the forces — and suggested an improvement in this.

An MP suggested HAL diversify while another spoke against the same and was of the view that HAL should provide hardware to the country's armed forces, especially the Air Force.

Contributed by R Sedhuraman, Ashok Tuteja and Ajay Banerjee

N-Sub Mishap
A longer wait for India, not a setback
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 10
Yesterday’s accident on board Russia’s brand-new nuclear-powered submarine “Nerpa” will mean India will have to wait a little longer to get it even though the accident - on preliminary reports - is not been seen as a setback that could deter India.

The vessel was to be handed over by Russia and brought to Vishakapatnam in the next few months. The finer details are awaited, said sources here. It is also too early for the Indian defence establishment to make up its mind. The statement of the Russian Navy saying that “ the ship's nuclear reactor was not affected in the accident, and the submarine returned safely to port on its own power”, is being seen as a silver lining here at the Naval headquarters.

India wanted to acquire the nuclear-powered vessel and this delay would also delay the sea-launched nuclear weapon system. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is already working on developing a sea-launched system.

India currently possesses capabilities for ground and air launched nuclear weapon systems. The sea-launched weapons were to be tested on the Russian submarine.

Two Akula-II submarines were to be obtained by India on a 10-year lease from next year. Now Russia has announced that it has taken it off the ongoing performance trials and sent it off to a shipyard for repair. The Indian navy was monitoring the trials and it was being expected that India could have made an official announcement close to the Republic Day on January 26.

The project was being kept under wraps so much so that the Russian defence minister A.E. Serdyukov, who was in India a few weeks ago on a meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation, had refused to comment on any such issue.

Indian navy officials are already there in Russia monitoring the submarine project - both during its construction phase and now during the sea trials phase.

Russia has been asked to ensure proper safety measures on the ship before it is again sent for sea trials. In fact, India is insisting on the safety measures, as it does not possess an underwater-rescue vessel even though it has an agreement with a leading foreign navy that it will provide immediate help in case of an accident.

The 12,000-tonne submarine is touted to be Russia’s most-advanced. It is deadly, quick and the quietest (enhancing stealth ability) in the world. India wants to train its personnel on operating a nuclear-powered submarine. It has been re-christened INS Chakra. It is expected to provide necessary expertise to operate its indigenous under-development nuclear submarine. It is expected that India’s own developed vessel is likely to join the naval service in about five years.

&K 2008
An ex-militant shows how things change
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, November 10
In the Valley, they say, the only thing stationery is change. And even when everything appears still on the surface, underneath a lot has gone around. One man in Bandipora, the newly-carved out district of Kashmir, which goes to polls in the first phase this November 17, knows exactly what this kind of a change really means.

He is Usman Majid, the winner of Bandipora seat in the 2002 assembly elections, and the last surviving link to the Valley’s infamous Ikhwani (surrendered militant) movement. Where in the last elections, as many as 15 candidates contesting from Bandipora (then a part of Baramulla district) had roots in militancy, this time Majid is practically the only one in that league.

Seeking reelection from the same segment, Majid remains the last flag-bearer of a wave which Kuka Parray, a former militant-turned-Ikhwani-turned politician started in the valley by engineering mass surrender of former militants who helped the Indian Army nab active terrorists. Having done that, Parray founded the Awami League party, on whose ticket Majid won the last assembly elections from Bandipora.

Today, Parray is no more (he was gunned down by militants in September 2003), nor is his Awami League. But Majid carries on the legacy of hope under the newly-formed political outfit called the People’s National Front (PNF). Interestingly, Parray’s 26-year-old son Imtiaz is now contesting from his father’s constituency Sumbal Sonawari (from Bandipora) on the PNF ticket.

In this first battle of nerves which has him pitted against National Conference heavyweight and deputy speaker in the last assembly Akbar Lone, Imtiaz has the support of Majid, who is selling development as the PNF’s hallmark.

In his own constituency, Majid has tried to make some difference. But the going has not been easy given his history. “We have been the victims, the tools in the fight for freedom and now the media for change. We have seen it all, done it all,” says Majid, referring to his past as a surrendered militant – a term he recalls with a certain sense of dislike. He is however happy to be among the few in his league to have not just survived but also challenged political titans, including those he is fighting this time.

Although there are 19 candidates in the fray from Bandipora, the contest really is between four including Majid of the PNF. He is pitted against PDP’s Nizamuddin Bhat, a member of the legislative council; NC’s Ghulam Rasul Naz, a two-time MLA from the segment and Congress’ Habibullah Bhat, a former member of the legislative council.

The scenario in the segment stands in stark contrast to that in 2002, when five former militants (out of the total of six) including Majid were slogging it out in the poll arena. A former leader of the Students Liberation Front, Majid had then defeated his nearest rival Habibullah Bhatt of the Congress by a margin of 253 votes. But Majid remembers having defeated NC’s Javed Hussain Shah better. Shah was a former leader of Al Jehad in Bandipora. He was killed by militants just 17 days before Kuka Parray was gunned down on September 13, 2003.

“Things change, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. We are all aspiring for better change,” Majid says as he campaigns to retain his political edge in Bandipora, a segment that saw the highest number of ex-militants fielded in the 2002 assembly polls. The situation no longer remains the same.

US Covert Military Raids
Authorized in Several Countries: Report


Washington
A secret order since 2004 has allowed several covert raids against Al Qaeda targets by US special forces into countries including Syria and Pakistan, The New York Times reported Monday on its website.

Previous orders had authorized intelligence agencies, including the Central Investigation Agency (CIA), to act against Al Qaeda and other suspected terrorist groups since the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

The 2004 order, signed by the then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and authorized by US President George W. Bush, has been used in several attacks including a widely reported strike on a Syrian village last month, according to the Times report, which cited several unnamed defence and intelligence officials.

In another case, US elite troops attacked a site in 2006 in Pakistan's Bajaur region.

The secret order has allowed cooperation in several attacks between military and CIA forces, which usually do not operate together directly.

In all, the order authorizes military actions in at least 15 countries including Somalia, Yemen and several Gulf states including Saudi Arabia.

The Times sources said that nearly a dozen actions had been taken under the order, though it was not clear which countries were involved beyond Syria and Pakistan.

The newspaper report said several additional attacks were planned but were called off due to concerns over potential diplomatic or operational complications.

Each attack requires the advance authorization of either the defence secretary or the president, depending on the country were the action would take place.

Mishap on Russian Nuke Sub
Raises Questions about Quality


New Delhi
The death of 20 crew members on board a Russian-built nuclear-powered submarine, which was to be delivered to the Indian Navy on a 10-year lease for training its crew, has raised questions about Moscow's submarine building technology.

In the worst disaster involving Russia's submarine fleet since 2000, 20 people were killed and 21 injured Saturday following a gas leakage in the fore section of the Akula class attack submarine while it was undergoing trials in the Sea of Japan.

The accident, barely a week after the submarine was launched into the sea, came as the Kremlin is seeking to restore Russia's naval reach, part of a drive to show off the country's clout amid strained ties with the West.

Russian shipyards are almost always behind schedule. In the case of this submarine, the sea trials were set to begin in 2007. Some experts say the builders and inspectors may have felt the pressure to move expediently.

“The problem with Russian defence industry is that it uses Soviet technology and pieces of equipment made 20 years ago to make new weapons,” said a senior Indian Navy official requesting anonymity.

Construction of the Nerpa, an Akula II class attack submarine, started in 1991 but was suspended for years because of a shortage of funding, the official said. Testing on the submarine began last month, and it submerged for the first time last week.

Partly financed by India under a deal signed with Russia in January 2004 for $650 million, the 12,000-tonne Akula class attack submarine was being built at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur shipyard. It was to be commissioned into the Indian Navy as INS Chakra in August 2009.

The Russian Navy has claimed that the submarine itself was not damaged in Saturday's accident and returned to its base on Russia's Pacific coast under its own power Sunday. According to the Russian Navy, the accident also did not pose any radiation danger.

However, the scheduled delivery of the submarine to the Indian Navy is likely to get delayed, with a wary India asking for more stringent tests.

Submarine mishap
Review decision to induct Russian vessel

IT’S not known why an accident occurred in a Russian submarine killing 21 Russian Navy personnel. Reports suggest they died as a result of poisonous gas leaking from its fire extinguishing system. It’s possible that the submarine has not suffered any structural damage. Only a detailed inquiry will reveal whether it was a human error or structural default that resulted in the mishap. What makes the death of the Russian Navy men all the more disquieting is that the submarine – Akula II Class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine – was slated to join the Indian Navy fleet on lease for 10 years beginning August 15, 2009. In fact, a batch of Indian Navy personnel was getting ready to leave for Russia to undergo training on this very submarine.

The submarine is one of the most modern Russia has in its fleet. The accident is bound to delay its induction and India’s plans to have a strong nuclear submarine arm as a deterrent against any adventurous plans by its neighbours in India’s territorial waters. The accident should propel the experts who have chosen the submarine to go deeper into the accident to ensure that it does not suffer from structural weaknesses. The sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk in which a large number of Navy men were killed was too recent to be forgotten. The accident occurred because of an explosion in the forward weapons space – the torpedo compartment – during weapons drills. The warhead of a torpedo or missile exploded, ripping a hole in the pressure hull of the submarine.

Incidentally, in the instant case, the accident occurred when the submarine was undergoing sea trials. In other words, the vessel in question is far from tested. Unfortunately, Russia’s safety records have a lot to be desired. The Chernobyl disaster that shook the world and killed an indeterminate number of people living in the vicinity of the nuclear reactor was a chilling reminder that the authorities there had a tendency to take things for granted. The submarine will cost India nearly a billion dollars and this is all the more reason that it should be fool-proof, both structurally and operationally. After all, it is meant to train Indian Navy men on a nuclear platform and to build similar vessels indigenously.

The Truth Behind Russia’s “Ultramodern” Military

Russian defense expert Aleksandr Golts pores deeply into the latest disaster to strike the Russian Navy, an accident on board an atomic submarine which took 20 lives. Golts goes on to explore the state of the Russian armed forces as a whole, suggesting that Russia’s “ultramodern” re-equipped technologies are little more than outdated designs from the Soviet Union. The article first ran in the Yezhednevny Zhurnal online newspaper.

If it were up to me, I would strictly forbid Russian commanders from making statements about the constantly growing might of our armed forces. Remember, all it took was for Vladimir Putin to call a Security Council and declare the coming ascent of our defense capabilities, when the Kursk submarine sank. Afterwards, speaking with his subordinate public in 2006, Putin boasted that a new class of missile carrying submarines would be introduced in the near future. Then it became clear that there were no missiles for them. Yet another test of the Bulava rocket ended in failure. And now it appears that that this increased “foresight” gets passed on with the Kremlin Cabinet.

Already we see Dmitri Medvedev declaring in his Address to the Federal Assembly: “Regarding the re-equipment of the army and navy with new, modern equipment, I have already taken the relevant decisions.” And two days later, [Russia's] “newest” atomic submarine, the Nerpa [(Russian for seal)], has an accident during its sea trials resulting in the deaths of twenty people. To all appearances, the fire-extinguishing system turned on my mistake. In this case, all compartments are closed off, and all the space is filled with inert gas. Those located in the compartments were doomed to death.

Representatives of the naval forces rushed to assert that the boat had not been handed over to the navy, and that its crew was from the factory. The subtext is very simple – nothing can be blamed on the Admirals, all the more so since most of those killed were civilians. However, the fact that the military officers dodged the bullet extremely dexterously (they have a wealth of experience –they explained that the Kursk was sunk by the Americans, and that the Bulava had an “electrical discharge”) does not provide an explanation for the accident.

In truth, the tragedy illuminates all the problems of re-equipping our armed forces. It just so happens that I saw this atomic submarine eight years ago, in October 2000. Though truth be told, it was named the Bars [(Russian for leopard)] then. And it was the most dangerous unfinished construction project in the Russian Federation. Fifteen submarines of this class were built in the USSR. The Bars was pledged either in 1991 or 1993 at the Amur shipbuilding facility. And construction middled along until the mid-90s, as long as stockpiles of components built during Soviet times still remained (it was assumed that armaments must be built even during atomic warfare). Afterwards, both money and components dried up.

I caught the factory’s management at a practically catch-22 situation. The ship was built to 85 percent –but nobody wanted it. Moreover, the submarine was already equipped with an atomic reactor. As result, the small amount of money sent to the plant from the [federal] budget was spent on maintaining the necessary temperature in the docks. And since it had become dangerous, getting rid of it was anything but simple. “Salvaging it is more expensive than finishing it,” the factory’s general director, Nikolai Povzyk, had asserted then. “To cut out the reactor, the ship must be hauled by sea to Bolshoi Kamen, to the plant where Pacific fleet submarines are reclaimed. And that’s more than a hundred kilometers. Besides, then the ship would need to be hauled back. Their plant isn’t designed to take apart such gigantic ships.”

The whole city was full of rumors that the ship would be sold at any moment, or would be leased to India. Ten years later, the rumors started to match with reality. Stories appeared in both Russian and Indian newspapers that the sub had been leased to India.

But by all accounts, the ship was not completed with Indian money. Some good fortune happened. Not with the Amur shipbuilding facility. With the whole country. Oil prices rose. The government had enough money to complete the Bars, now renamed the Nerpa. Roughly the same thing happened with all the other weapons systems, which have now been declared “ultramodern.” [The authorities] decided to produce them. However, the Topol-M rocket, the Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft, the tanks and mechanized infantry vehicles were all developed in the 80s. That is to say 20 years ago. This military hardware can only be called modern because up until now, no one manufactured it. There is even less basis to consider military hardware like the Nerpa, which was built painfully and at great lengths over 15 years, to be up-to-date. Only God knows what happened to the submarine’s equipment, as it sat in the slip dock for several years. Even more questions come up regarding who worked on completing it and how they did it. The Nerpa is the only submarine from the Amur factory to be launched in fifteen years. During this time, the work crews changed more than once. Those who built atomic submarines one after another in the 70s and 80s have either quit or gone into retirement. The average age of workers in Russia’s defense establishment is nearing 60. And that’s on average, in all branches, including those with reasonably good wages. What can one say about those working at the factory, who scraped by on bread and water for more than ten years.

Does this mean that any attempt to re-equip the Russian army is doomed to failure? Not in the least. We simply need to cease competing with the US, define the priorities of military construction and concentrate on them. Then, we will have the means to resolve and debug any element of military hardware in a quality way before we start using it.

translation by theotherrussia.org

Now, Purohit linked to Thane blast accused

11 Nov 2008, 0207 hrs IST, TNN

MUMBAI: The ATS on Monday established a link between arrested Lt-Col Srikant Prasad Purohit and Thane theatre blast accused Dr Hemant


Chalke.

A homeopath by profession, Chalke was a sympathiser of Sanatan Sanstha and was arrested in June for doing the recce of Vashi’s Bhave theatre where a bomb was found on May 31 this year.

According to ATS sources, they got the link while making inquiries about the Sanatan Sanstha, a revivalist group run by Hindu Janjagruti Samiti.

Purohit is believed to have told cops that he knew Chalke and was in touch with him before the September 29 Malegaon blast.

The ATS may seek Chalke’s custody to question him in the Malegaon blast case. He is currently in Arthur Road jail. Purohit is accused of masterminding the blast and procuring arms and ammunition to fund his terror activities.

Purohit is also suspected to have imparted terror training to over youth in and around Maharashtra. Chalke and five others were arrested by the ATS for planting bombs in Thane’s Gadkari theatre, a vashi theatre and a cinema hall in Panvel.

They were protesting against the release of a Marathi play and alleged that Hindu God and Goddesses were shown in poor light. Chalke was accused of doing a recce to check at Vashi theatre and had even gone to purchase timers for the bomb. His two other accomplices were also involved in a bomb blast in Ratnagiri in 2006.

No other officer under ATS scanner: Army
10 Nov 2008, 1932 hrs IST,Times Now


NEW DELHI: Army on Monday denied reports of growing number of its men in the terror nexus, according to Times Now . ( Watch )

The report said the Army clarified that no additional information has been sought by the Anti Terror Squad on any officer other than Lieutenant Colonel Purohit.

Caught on the backfoot after the arrest of Lieutenant Colonel Purohit, the Army has now claimed that the ATS had sought information about only one Armyman and that so far, no other request for details of any more officers or ex-servicemen have been received by the Army, Times Now said.

Army sources confirmed to Times Now that, it's in the Army's interest to give out all the details requested by the ATS. The Army does not want any rogue elements in its ranks. The Army has further corroborated, the ATS has only inquired about the antecedents of one officer that is Lieutenant Colonel Purohit, and all information about the Colonel has been furnished to the ATS.

The Army has reportedly mentioned, "We will certainly give out information if there are any requests about other officers."

Meanwhile, Purohit arrested in connection with the Malegaon blasts underwent a narco-analysis test on Monday in Bangalore. Times Now sources said that the Maharashtra ATS flew Purohit early on Monday morning to Bangalore for the narco- analysis. This comes days after a Nashik court allowed the ATS to conduct forensic tests on Purohit.

The first serving officer arrested in connection with the Malegaon blast has already confessed his role in the September 29 blast that killed six people. There are also reports that retired army officer Major Ramesh Upadhyay is also being put through narco tests shortly. In the meantime, in Mumbai, another person Sudhkar Chaturvedi is being interrogated for links with right wing group Abhinav Bharat, reports said.

Six persons were killed when a motorcycle bomb exploded in Malegaon on September 29. Nine persons, including a sadhvi and former army official, have been arrested so far for their involvement in the case. The role of Purohit, who was in the Military Intelligence, in the Nanded blast is still being probed with one of the prime accused still at large.

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