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Thursday, 22 January 2009

From Today's Papers - 22 Jan 09

Sorry for not being able to post yesteday – Had a problem with my net connection.

IAF Loses Two Aircraft in a Day, Pilot Killed

New Delhi
The Indian Air Force (IAF) lost two planes Wednesday, with a jet aircraft of the Surya Kiran aerobatic display team crashing in Karnataka, killing its pilot Wing Commander R.S. Dhaliwal, and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) going down in West Bengal, an officer said.

The Surya Kiran jet "crashed at 8.35 a.m. shortly after it took off from the Bidar Air Force Station (about 750 km from Bangalore), on a regular training sortie", IAF spokesman Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani told IANS.

"The pilot died instantaneously when the jet crashed. It caught fire soon after it got airborne from the air base," Upasani added.

The IAF has ordered a court of inquiry to find out the exact cause of the mishap.

The sub-sonic Kiran-Mk II aircraft in the Surya Kiran fleet are also used by the air force to enable its rookie pilots transit from turboprop trainers to jets.

"There are no reports of any damage to civilian life or property," Upasani added.

The drone that crashed had taken off from the Hashimara air base near West Bengal's Jalpaiguri town.

"It crashed east of Hashimara," Upasani said, adding: "There are no reports of any casualties on the ground or any loss of property."

Trooper kills six colleagues in Manipur

Imphal
An Assam Rifles trooper shot dead six of his colleagues with his service weapon and injured many including civilians in Manipur's Ukhrul district Wednesday night, officials said.

The dead include a junior commissioned officer of the 17 Assam Rifles unit that is engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the northeastern state, the officials said.

They said a Naga trooper ran amok after an altercation and went on a shooting spree killing six colleagues inside barracks in Ukhrul, some 85 km from here.

Two troopers were critically injured and an unspecified number of civilians were wounded when the accused escaped from the spot and fired indiscriminately.

The exact number of civilians injured was not known, the officials said.

The accused trooper continues to be on the run and paramilitary and police forces have launched a major manhunt to nab him, said the officials.

Pakistan to Review Options if Obama Not Positive

Washington/Islamabad
Pakistan said Wednesday it would review its options if the Barack Obama administration didn't adopt a positive policy toward the country, even as the new US president said aid to Pakistan would be linked to the war against terror.

"Pakistan hopes that Obama will be more patient while dealing with Pakistan. We will review all options, if Obama does not adopt a positive policy towards us," Pakistan's ambassador to the US Hussain Huqqani told Geo TV in Islamabad.

According to the envoy, "Bush was more inclined to Pakistan. Obama should hear us out. He must pay attention to other factors in the region."

Speaking about Pakistan's role in the war against terror, Huqqani said that Pakistan was an ally of the US and participating in the war against terror was in its own interest.

The envoy's comments came hours after Obama unveiled his policy agenda.

"President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will increase non-military aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan," the White House said in its foreign policy agenda document released soon after Obama occupied the Oval office.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military has bristled against suggestions that Islamabad needs to do more in the war against terror, terming the statements as "unhelpful" and saying they must "stop".

"Such unhelpful statements must be stopped," Gen. Tariq Majid, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), said in Islamabad.

"Pakistani efforts towards eradication of terrorism are more than that of all the others," he added, while speaking to Turkish Ambassador to Pakistan Rauf Engin Soysal.

Majid is the second most powerful man in the Pakistani armed forces after army chief Gen. Parvez Ashfaq Kayani.

According to Majid, all international players in the war against terror "must come out from the coercive mindset and instead start delivering on the promised capacity assistance to help Pakistan in dealing with the problem".

Majid also maintained that Pakistan "does not need to prove to anyone its sincerity considering the huge sacrifices it has made and is continuing to make which cannot be matched by any of those players making these demands".

Obama Links Pakistan Aid to Fight Against Terror

Washington
The new Obama administration has served notice to Pakistan that it will hold Islamabad accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan even while it increases non-military aid to its ally in the fight against terror.

Announcing its foreign policy on the White House website soon after it took over at one minute past noon Tuesday, the administration said President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden "will renew America's security and standing in the world through a new era of American leadership".

The Obama-Biden foreign policy will end the war in Iraq responsibly, finish the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, secure nuclear weapons and loose nuclear materials from terrorists, and renew American diplomacy to support strong alliances and to seek a lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it said.

"Obama and Biden will increase non-military aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan," it said.

In Afghanistan, they "will refocus American resources on the greatest threat to our security - the resurgence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan".

But the foreign policy document surprisingly makes no mention of India, even as it talks of ushering in a new era "of international cooperation that strengthens old partnerships and builds new ones to confront the common challenges of the 21st century - terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease".

While the Bush administration prided itself on forging a new strategic partnership with India, in Obama's scheme of things New Delhi finds no place even in the broader context of "seeking new partnerships in Asia".

"Obama and Biden will forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc arrangements, such as the six-party talks on North Korea," the website document said.

"They will maintain strong ties with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia; work to build an infrastructure with countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity; and work to ensure that China plays by international rules," it added.

Describing the threat of a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon and the spread of nuclear weapons to dangerous regimes as "the gravest danger to the American people", the agenda said the new team will contain "all loose nuclear materials in the world within four years".

While working to secure existing stockpiles of nuclear material, they will negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material, the agenda said. "This will deny terrorists the ability to steal or buy loose nuclear materials."

The new team will also crack down on nuclear proliferation by strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions.

Setting a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, the agenda said the new team "will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist. But they will take several steps down the long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons".

"They will stop the development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to take US and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; seek dramatic reductions in US and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material; and set a goal to expand the US."

Malegaon plotters' plan was to push for 'Hindu Rashtra'

Press Trust of India

Wednesday, January 21, 2009, (Mumbai)

Conspirators in the Malegaon blast had planned to set up an underground organisation to inculcate the idea of a "Hindu Rashtra" among people, and in a meeting held in 2007, they were encouraged to do so purportedly by former BJP MP and VHP leader B L Sharma.

In a transcript submitted by Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) to the Special MCOCA Court, a person, cited by the police as being the former BJP leader, is recorded telling conspirators that they need to form an underground movement to create a "Hindu Rashtra".

"We should sow the seed for revolution," Sharma said in a meeting attended by alleged conspirators such as arrested Army officer Lt Col P S Purohit and self-styled religious leader Dayanand Pandey.

The transcript is based on a video recording made by Pandey on his laptop, of a meeting held in September 2007.

"It should not be known to anybody, some certain person should be in charge and get people in the organisation," Sharma said.

It could take four to five years to get prepared and there should be funds saved to keep the persons part of the organisation out of public scrutiny, he said.

"We need to get prepared in advance. We need to name this organisation. For example, we could just put a pin code or a code as its name," he said.

Purohit told the gathering they needed to create two organisations, one a "public face" and the other a strong underground movement. "We do not accept the Constitution of this country and there is no doubt that we must fight," he said.

Tuesday's BrahMos test missile missed target

PTI | January 21, 2009 | 12:04 IST

A day after the BrahMos missile was test-fired, the Defence Research and Development Organisation on Tuesday said there were some minor hitches during the trial.

The problems occurred in the last stage of the test, which was conducted in the Pokhran ranges of Rajasthan on a new version of BrahMos missile on Tuesday, DRDO officials said.

They indicated that the missile did not hit the target and scientists are looking into it, they said.

The army on Tuesday test-fired a new version of the nuclear-capable BrahMos missile.

The missile, with a 290-km range and capable of touching a speed 2.8 times that of sound, was launched during the trial in its vertical mode, DRDO officials said.

BrahMos is a missile that India is developing in collaboration with Russia and is named after the rivers Brahmputra and Moscow.

During the visit of Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to India, an agreement was reached between the two countries for development of a hyper-sonic BrahMos missile, an improvement on the already-developed supersonic missile, termed as "the most advanced" in its category.

Will DG NSG post go to the army ?

http://www.whispersinthecorridors.com/today.html#next5

Grapevine has it that the post of DG National Security Guards (NSG) is going to the army after the retirement of J K Dutt in March. A panel of three names of the army officers to the rank of Lt Gen's has already been received by the Home Ministry. Will the IPS allow this post to go to the army ?.

Indian Army chief visits forward border areas

LAHORE: Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor on Wednesday went on an unscheduled tour of the forward areas in Rajasthan and Punjab bordering Pakistan to get ‘first-hand knowledge’ of the troops' preparedness, Zee News reported on its website. Indian Army chief's trip to the frontlines came a day after Defence Minister AK Antony dismissed reports doubting the army's readiness for an offensive in the wake of the Mumbai terror strikes. There were reports that the army chief, at a meeting of the services chiefs with top cabinet ministers, had opposed any suggestion of an offensive against elements responsible for the Mumbai carnage, pointing out some gaping holes in the troops' preparedness. However, Gen Kapoor had countered the reports, saying the army was ever ready to carry out tasks assigned to it by the government. The navy and the air force chiefs, the reports said, were in favour of a strike and had professed their readiness. daily times monitor

Congolese army blocks UN peacekeepers from combat zone

9 hours ago

MUNIGI, DR Congo (AFP) — Congolese troops shut out UN peacekeepers, aid groups and media Wednesday from witnessing a joint operation with Rwandan troops to hunt down a Rwandan Hutu militia.

Up to 4,000 Rwandan soldiers have entered eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since early Tuesday, the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUC) said.

"By our observations, between 3,500 and 4,000 Rwandan soldiers are currently in Nord-Kivu" province, MONUC spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich told AFP.

Around half the Rwandan force had headed west to the Masisi and Mushaki strongholds of the Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of regional capital Goma.

In Kigali, a Rwandan military spokesman said the operation was being directed by the Congolese high command.

"Rwanda has intervened to lend a hand to the Congolese army in this operation," Major Jill Rutaremara told AFP. He declined to say how many Rwandan troops are involved.

No clashes have been reported since the operation began. The Congolese army on Wednesday urged the FDLR and other armed groups in eastern Congo to surrender.

The head of the FDLR, Ignace Murwanashyaka, warned the rebels would "defend ourselves if attacked."

"We have not been attacked, but that can change at any moment," he told AFP. "Those thousands of Rwandan army soldiers did not come for a stroll. They came for war."

The operation, announced by both governments on Tuesday, sparked anger and apprehension from elected representatives and the general public, who blame Rwandan forces for atrocities committed during incursions in the 1990s.

The government of President Joseph Kabila has come under fire for not informing parliament about the invitation to Rwandan troops.

"If what I'm told is true, it's quite simply grave. It raises lots of questions," parliament speaker Vital Kamerhe told the UN-run Radio Okapi.

The UN and aid agencies raised concerns about the threat posed to civilians in Nord-Kivu, where the Hutu rebels have been the centre of more than a decade of instability.

A convoy carrying Indian UN peacekeepers was turned away at a roadblock near Kibumba, at the southern edge of the zone, and headed back to their base in Goma, an AFP correspondent reported.

A Red Cross vehicle was also prevented from reaching the area.

The move drew protests from MONUC, which said lack of access would hamper its mandate to protect civilians in the joint-operation zone.

UN military chief General Babacar Gaye was in Goma for talks Wednesday with Congolese army heads. He warned that UN troops had authority to open fire if civilians were threatened in areas where they were deployed.

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, warned the operation could lead to a "massive population displacement" of up to 350,000 people in Nord-Kivu in the first phase of the operation.

It said humanitarian aid to approximately one million people "will be suspended or hampered by the lack of access".

UNICEF also cautioned that the FDLR's reaction "might entail exactions on the populations and social structures and looting."

"The coalition is unlikely to respect the distinction between combatants and non-combatants," it added.

Oxfam said the civilian population in Nord-Kivu was once again in peril as fresh fighting loomed.

"The impact the fighting may have on the estimated 600,000 people living in rebel-controlled areas is deeply concerning," said Juliette Prodhan, head of Oxfam in the country, where 250,000 people fled their homes in fighting three months ago, amid killing and raping of civilians, and looting.

Kinshasa and Kigali announced on December 5 that they were ready to join forces to flush out the FDLR's estimated 6,000 fighters in eastern Congo.

The FDLR took refuge there after Rwanda's 1994 genocide, where its leaders participated in the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Tutsi National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels who control much of Nord-Kivu province have allowed Congolese forces through their lines to pursue the FDLR as part of the joint operation.

Congolese army T-55 tanks were already in Rutshuru, headquarters of nominal CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda, western military sources told AFP.

India admits failed cruise missile test

NEW DELHI (AFP) — A supersonic cruise missile jointly developed by Russia and India failed to hit its target in a test previously reported as successful, Indian military scientists said Wednesday.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation, which Tuesday claimed the test of the BrahMos missile had been a "total success," said the missile had flown only in the general direction of its target.

"The missile performance was absolutely normal till the last phase, but it missed the target, though it maintained the direction," BrahMos project chief Sivathanu Pillai told the Press Trust of India.

The eight-metre (26-foot) missile weighs about three metric tonnes and can be launched from land, ships, submarines or aircraft, travelling at a speed of up to Mach 2.8. It has a range of 290 kilometres (180 miles) and is designed to carry a conventional warhead.

The missile was fired from the Pokhran range in the western desert state of Rajasthan, bordering Pakistan, that was also the site of India's nuclear tests in 1998.

The Times of India newspaper Wednesday suggested the failure was a result of an attempt to configure the missile to carry a nuclear warhead.

Pillai did not comment on the newspaper's report but said his scientists were trying to debug the guidance system of a missile that had been tested 20 times in the past eight years.

"A new software used for this mission will be revalidated through extensive simulations and a flight trial will be carried out in a month's time to prove the augmented capabilities of the missile," he said.

India and Russia -- its largest military supplier -- hope to mass produce the BrahMos for export.

Nuclear-armed India, the largest arms buyer among emerging countries, has already begun arming its navy and army with the BrahMos as a tactical battlefield weapons system.

The missile is named after India's Brahmaputra River and Russia's Moskva River.

Dismissing the batman

Air Marshal Ayaz A Khan (R)

Going through my articles on www.google.com, I came across the article titled “Dismissing the Batman” by Atul Sethi (dated 9 Nov 2008) a not so well known Indian writer. His comments should be of very great interest to the rank and file of Pakistan Army. “ Orderlies” in the homes of married officers and JCO’s, was an accepted norm in Pakistan Army, which no one, including the federal government dared challenge. The “Orderly” was a hundred fifty years old institution, and continues in the Indian Army even today. A uniformed fully trained soldier, doing domestic chores in officers and JCO’s houses was not only gross waste of trained combatants, it was demeaning as well. No doubt the other ranks in the Pakistan Army and the Indian Army have been so well groomed and in fact brainwashed, that being an “Orderly” or a batman is a matter of pride and not of humiliation to them. Serving a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in his office or home is an honor. However the commentary by Atul Sethi reproduced below, does evoke sympathy for the Indian Army Jawan for the reasons narrated by the Indian author.

“Lance Naik Om Prakash is a soldier in the Indian Army. His profile is that of a combatant, but he performs many other duties in his role as sahayak (batman) to the officer he’s assigned. In addition to assisting his officer, maintaining his uniform and military kit and acting as his “buddy” in times of combat, Om Prakash says he also does domestic chores such as chopping vegetables, cooking, dusting, walking the dog and taking the children to school. This might end soon if the defence ministry accepts recommendations from the standing parliamentary committee on defence. Last week, the committee suggested the Indian Army abolish the sahayak system. In the report it tabled in Parliament, it pointed out that “jawans are recruited for serving the nation and not to serve the family members of officers in household work, which is demeaning and humiliating.”

Veteran MP Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, who headed the committee, says the misuse of the sahayak system by some officers has resulted in low morale in Army ranks. “We have recommended that this practice be stopped with immediate effect, as its misuse is contributing to emotional distress among the jawans,” he says. In fact, calls for the 1.1-million strong Indian Army to end the Sahayak system are not new. A few months ago, defence minister A K Antony, asked senior officers to take a call on the issue. Since then, there has been a clamor to end a system that has been referred to as “an anachronism” and “a feudal practice”, which has no place in a modern army. Incidentally, most armies around the world have done away with the practice. The British Army, for instance, phased out the batman after WWII. And so has the Pakistani Army, recently. Defence analyst and retired Major General Dipankar Banerjee agrees there is a case for the practice to be abolished, but says it should be applied to all government services. “Why single out the Army? A similar number of operatives function as domestic servants in paramilitary forces, as well as civil services. It should be stopped there too.”

Many Army officers agree. “Misuse of manpower should be addressed across the board in every government service and not just in the Army,” says a senior infantry officer. He recalls being the guest of a Superintendent of Police, whose home was fully staffed with policemen. “I was amazed to see that everybody in his house, right from the gardener to the cook to the person who was serving us, was a policeman. Needless to say, when the SP’s wife went shopping, there was another posse of policemen accompanying her, and making other shoppers’ lives miserable by pointing their guns at them so that memsahib could shop in peace.”

Adds another serving Army officer, “In our country, unfortunately, we have a tendency to misuse any facility that’s provided by the government. However, because of a few black sheep, we should not question the efficacy of the Sahayak system itself. The bond between an officer and his Sahayak is a unique one. There is friendship, camaraderie, respect and even an emotional connect. Almost 99% of officers genuinely care for their Sahayaks,” he adds. So, is there a case for the Sahayak to stay on? “There is justification in continuing it as long as it provides support to officers in the field, where Sahayaks have operational responsibility. However, there’s no justification for continuing it in peace stations,” says Banerjee.

This might make sense, but it could be counter-productive. Explains an officer’s wife, “Many Sahayaks have a strong personal relationship with their officer’s families and are often quite attached to his children. They look upon his family as their own extended family and share their problems, which they couldn’t have otherwise, given the strong hierarchical structure in the Army. In fact, for many soldiers, it’s a coveted posting, since it gives them a chance to stay with their own families, which they can’t do in a field station.” Some experts believe that the solution to the problem may lie somewhere in the middle. This could include engaging civilians to help officers or making it optional for soldiers to serve as Sahayaks. Whatever it is, it has to be done fast because the Army is already facing a manpower shortage and morale is down, especially after the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. Spiralling numbers of suicide and fratricide by soldiers also point to a growing sense of frustration. In this context, solving the Sahayak issue in a way that boosts the morale of officers and soldiers, is a challenge the Army will have to combat soon.

India rules out extradition of Samjhota suspect

* Indian defence minister says New Delhi will not entertain any kind of interference regarding Kashmir

By Iftikhar Gilani


NEW DELHI: India has rejected Pakistan’s suggestion for the extradition of Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Purohit, an accused in the Samjhota Express train bombing in February 2007.
The police on Tuesday filed a charge sheet against Purohit and 10 other members of a Hindu right-wing group in connection with the Malegaon bomb blasts.
Indian Defence Minister AK Antony said the cases against Purohit were India’s internal matter and were under various stages of investigation.
“It is our internal matter. We are investigating it. How can Pakistan be concerned with that?” Antony told reporters.
“Our agencies are inquiring into it. Let us wait for the final results. It (investigation) is our responsibility and we are doing it,” Antony said in reply to queries regarding Pakistan’s suggestion that it may demand Purohit’s extradition in connection with the Samjhota blasts.
He said reports regarding the Indian armed forces’ unpreparedness were ‘baseless’. “Our armed forces are in a state of preparedness. They are prepared for meeting any challenge, any eventuality, and any threat from any quarter,” Antony said.
He said there were reports of Pakistani military build-up across the border, but this is not something that could cause ‘panic’. “At the moment, the government (of India) is concentrating on diplomatic efforts. There is no question of our armed forces lowering their guard,” he said.
Kashmir: About Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s to offer put an end to violence against India if the world moved to resolve the Kashmir dispute, Antony said, “This (terrorism) has nothing to do with Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. We will not entertain any kind of interference from any source and any quarter regarding Kashmir.”
When asked if the US operation against Taliban in Afghanistan had forced New Delhi to give up its military operation against Pakistan, the defence minister said India’s decisions were not influenced by any other nation’s advice, even if it were friendly.
“India takes its own decisions after carefully assessing the situation. We are friendly with all countries, but our decisions cannot be influenced by anybody,” he said.
Rejecting suggestions of sending the Indian armed forces to Afghanistan to pressurise Pakistan from all sides, Antony said, “There is no question of sending the military to Afghanistan. Our assistance to Afghanistan is in the form of humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and reconstruction.”

BrahMos Overshoot
Glitch identified, retest within month
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 21
A day after it’s already-successful cruise missile, BrahMos, missed a target in the deserts of Rajasthan, the BrahMos Aerospace today said the glitch in the new software used yesterday has been identified and it would retest the missile again in a month’s time.

The software that was to guide the missile did not function as per the requirement, as a result it overshot the target though it maintained direction. “It did not dip in to hit the target,” a senior scientist explained. So far the missile, a 290-kg weapon, having a speed of 2.8 times of sound, has been inducted into the Navy and the Army. Since the weapon has already been inducted, the test yesterday was to fine-tune the nuclear capable missile to hit specific, defined targets.

“This was an upgrade for enhancing the capabilities in land attack configuration. The main objective was to evaluate new homing scheme. Normally, a missile picks out the biggest possible target among a cluster of targets, for example a biggest building in the target zone. The test was being carried out to enable the missile to home in targets that may not be the biggest among the cluster but are otherwise important,” added the scientist.

This would be of great help in multi-target environment and when the specific target is identified before the launch. “ This complicated mission called for an advanced algorithm and intelligence embedded in the missile. The cause of the malfunction has been analysed by a group of specialists. The new software used for this mission will be revalidated through extensive simulations and a flight trial will be carried out in a month’s time to prove the augmented capabilities of the missile,” the DRDO said.

The supersonic anti-ship versions have already been inducted into the Indian Navy. An air-launched version is being developed and would be fitted onto the Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi-30MKI fighters. Two such aircraft have been dispatched to Russia to be made ready for the test of missile’s air-launched version. BrahMos Aerospace is already developing a hypersonic version of the missile. BrahMos is a missile that India is developing in collaboration with Russia. During the visit of Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to India late last year, an agreement was reached between the two countries for development of the hypersonic version.

Three ultras killed as Army busts militant camp
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, January 21
The Army today gunned down three militants belonging to the tribal militant outfit, Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), besides busting a camp of ultras in Karbi Anglong hill district even as the proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has called for boycott of Republic Day celebrations and a general strike on the day.

Army spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia informed that two KLNLF militants were killed when the Army busted a camp of the outfit deep inside the forest areas at Laklangshu in Karbi Anglong hill district this morning. The Army recovered two 9 mm pistols, one grenade, assorted ammunition, 400 kg of rice, 200 kg of pulses, 50 kg of meat, 20 blankets from the camp.

In another incident Army shot dead a self-styled corporal of the KLNLF, Ritik Hanse following a brief encounter at Donkeklangshu near Bokolia in Karbi Anglong district and recovered one 9 mm pistol, one magazine and few rounds of ammunition from the slain ultra. The Army has launched a widespread offensive against the KLNLF outfit accused of training its gun against Hindi-speaking populace in the hill district.

Army chief on unscheduled tour of forward areas

New Delhi, January 21
Army chief General Deepak Kapoor today went on an unscheduled tour of the forward areas in Rajasthan and Punjab bordering Pakistan to get "first-hand knowledge" of the troops' preparedness.

His trip to the frontline comes a day after Defence Minister AK Antony dismissed reports doubting the Army's readiness for an offensive in the wake of the Mumbai terror strikes.

Army headquarters sources told here that Gen Kapoor, who was in the Pokhran test range in Rajasthan yesterday to witness the BrahMos missile test, took the opportunity to go on an unscheduled visit to the forward areas in Bikaner and Bhatinda regions of the two border states.

He would be reviewing the "operational preparedness" of the Army's formations in the region, particularly the Pivot Corps that is located close to the borders to deal with any enemy aggression.

There were media reports that the Army chief had, at a meeting of the Services chiefs with top Cabinet ministers, opposed any suggestion of going on an offensive against terror infrastructure responsible for the Mumbai carnage.

The Navy and the Air Force chiefs, the reports had said, were in favour of a strike and had professed their readiness.

The Army chief had pointed out to some gaping holes in the troops' preparedness and rejected the idea of a strike, the reports added. — PTI

First chopper base for Navy
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 21
The Indian Navy will formally commission its first helicopter base “INS Shikra” here on Thursday. According to the Navy officials, the base had been in operation for some time and helicopters from here were deployed in anti-terror operations during the terrorist attack on the financial capital last year.

Apart from ferrying the naval commandos to the Taj and Oberoi hotels, the choppers here were also used to locate the fishing trawler Kuber which was hijacked by the terrorists. Capt Philipose G Pynamootil will be the first commanding officer of the heli-base. The INS Shikra will be formally declared open at a ceremony by naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta.

INS Shikra was initially an air station which was set up in 1964. It was used to maintain the helicopter fleet of the Navy. Now, the copter base will be able to provide security services to important defence and civilian installations on the Western Coast.

Pakistan need not be concerned about Purohit: Antony

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Tuesday wondered how Pakistan could be concerned with Malegaon blast accused Lt. Col. Shrikant Purohit by seeking his extradition in the Samjhauta Express blast case.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad was conducting investigations. “It is our internal matter, we are investigating it. How can Pakistan be concerned with that,” Mr. Antony told journalists on the sidelines of a National Cadet Corps function here.

The Minister described as “baseless” reports that the Army was not being prepared for a war following the Mumbai terror attacks. The armed forces were ready to meet any challenge from any quarter.

Referring to reports of military build-up by Pakistan on the border, Mr. Antony said that while the government of India was making all efforts on the diplomatic front, there was no question of the armed forces lowering their guard. However, the troops movement was not something which could create panic.

On Pakistan-based terror groups seeking resolution of the Kashmir issue for them to stop violence against India, the Minster said terror acts against India had nothing to do with the Kashmir issue. “Kashmir is an integral part of India and we will not entertain any kind of interference from any source and any quarter.”

As for the anomalies in the pay of the armed forces, Mr. Antony said the government was making a sincere effort to remove it. A decision would be taken soon on pending issues relating to the Sixth Pay Commission.

Even after the implementation of the pay panel report, the government was addressing the “genuine grievances” of the armed forces. It should be clear to everyone that the government was sincere in resolving the pay issues. The government was clear that the forces should get the best available equipment and it was willing to consider their genuine demands regarding pay and welfare. Addressing the cadets, Mr. Antony said the government had decided to increase the NCC cadre intake strength from 13 lakh to 15 lakh. A proposal to induct more cadets from the NCC pool to the officers’ cadet was under consideration.

Eurocopter Seeks U.S. Partners for Projects

By pierre tran

Published: 20 Jan 13:11 EST (18:11 GMT)

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Paris - Eurocopter is looking for American partners on a proposed European heavy-lift helicopter and its bid for the U.S. Army's Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH), CEO Lutz Bertling said Jan. 20.

The European helicopter maker, an EADS subsidiary, is in early talks with Boeing and Sikorsky as potential partners for a Future Transport Helicopter, he told a New Year's press conference here.

France and Germany support the large helicopter project, which is one of the top priorities of the European Defence Agency's head, Alexander Weis, Bertling said.

"There is some trans-Atlantic work to be done," he said, with the possibility of common standardization between American and European programs. Eurocopter is in contact with American original equipment manufacturers, excluding Bell, to explore the potential for a "joint business opportunity," he said.

The talks were at a preliminary stage, consisting of design discussions, and were being held with Boeing and Sikorsky, said Philippe Harache, Eurocopter executive vice president for customer relations.

Eurocopter also is looking for an American partner to supply military mission systems for the new tender for the ARH program, Bertling said. Eurocopter would supply the airframe to EADS North America, which would act as the prime contractor.

Eurocopter has responded to the U.S. government's request for industry views with the single-engine EC145 and a double-engined aircraft for the ARH competition. A twin-engined product better matched the requirement, Bertling said. There were, however, logistical benefits of choosing the EC145,which has been delivered to the U.S. Army under the LUH 72 program and is under evaluation by the U.S. Navy, he said.

In India, Eurocopter is bidding for a requirement for 197 Army attack helicopters and a reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft. Eurocopter won the tender for 197 units in 2007, but the government reset the competition after an appeal from Bell. The European company also hopes to sell its NH90 to meet the Indian Navy's need for shipborne helicopters.

In Japan, Eurocopter is campaigning to sell about 100 NH90s to the Army, Navy and Air Force, Harache said. A recent order of EC135s by the Navy marked the first buy of non-American helicopters by the Japanese armed forces, he said.

The NH90 program is "margin- and cash-positive," Bertling said. The program is on a fixed and firm contract, and the first deliveries must absorb cost overruns incurred by the lateness of the aircraft, he said. That meant profitability on the NH90 was lower than predicted, he said. No extra provisions were taken on the NH90 in 2008.

Eurocopter flew an unpiloted, fully autonomous EC155 last year as part of a classified UAV project for the French Ministry of Defense, Bertling said.

The company is preparing to support the French Army's deployment of the Tiger combat helicopter in Afghanistan in the second quarter of the year, Bertling said.

Eurocopter increased its 2008 operating profit over the previous year's 211 million euros ($279.8 million). Bertling declined to give the amount but said he was "satisfied" by the increase.

Annual sales rose 7.5 percent to 4.5 billion euros from 4.17 billion in 2007, and deliveries rose 20 percent to 588 units from 488. New orders fell to 4.9 billion euros after the record 6.6 billion booked in the previous year. The order backlog was worth 14 billion euros, or 1,550 units, with 71 percent signed with military or government clients, reducing the risk of cancellations, he said.

Some 18 percent of the backlog, however, faces cancellations in view of the economic crisis. Among the leading indicators the company tracks is the second-hand luxury yacht market for market intelligence on sales of VIP helicopters. Sales of VIP aircraft make up about 20 percent to 25 percent of orders, Harache said.

Eurocopter expects to sell about 450 helicopters this year. That figure includes the 22 and 50 NH90s ordered in December, respectively, by France and Brazil, worth 380 million and 1.8 billion euros, Bertling said.

The company will manage cash carefully, with a view to selectively helping customers finance their purchases. Eurocopter will boost research and development spending by 20 percent this year, despite the economic climate, Bertling said.

Indian army 'backed out' of Pakistan attack

By Siddharth Srivastava

NEW DELHI - Reluctance for battle by an ill-prepared army could have resulted in India not launching an attack on Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pakistan-linked terror attack in the Indian city of Mumbai on November 26 in which nearly 200 people died.

High-level government sources have told Asia Times Online that army commanders impressed on the political leadership in New Delhi that an inadequate and obsolete arsenal at their disposal mitigated against an all-out war.

The navy and air force, however, had given the government the go-ahead about their preparedness to carry out an attack and repulse any retaliation from Pakistan.

Over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly apparent from top officials in the know that the closed-door meetings of top military commanders and political leaders discussed the poor state of the armory (both ammunition and artillery), and that this tilted the balance in favor of not striking at Pakistan.

According to senior officials, following the attack on Mumbai by 10 militants linked to Pakistan, India's top leadership looked at two options closely - war and hot pursuit.

Largely for the reasons cited above, the notion of an all-out war was rejected. Hot pursuit, however, remains very much on the table.

The government sources say that a framework for covert operations is being put in place, although India will continue to deny such actions. Crack naval, air and army forces backed by federal intelligence agencies will be involved. The target areas will be Pakistan-administered Kashmir and areas along the Punjab, such as Multan, where some of the Mumbai attackers are believed to have been recruited.

The coastal belt from the southern port city of Karachi to Gwadar in Balochistan province will also be under active Indian surveillance.

Thumbs down to war

Following the Mumbai attack, New Delhi's inclination was to launch a quick strike against Pakistan to impress domestic opinion, and then be prepared for a short war, given the pressures that would be exercised by international powers for a ceasefire to prevent nuclear war breaking out.

The expectation of New Delhi was that the war would go beyond the traditional skirmishes involving artillery fire that take place at the Kashmir border, essentially to check infiltration by militants, or the brief but bloody exchanges at Kargil in 1999.

It was in this context that the army made it apparent that it was not equipped to fight such a war, given the military's presence along the eastern Chinese borders, and that India was at risk of ceding territory should an instant ceasefire be brokered with Pakistan.

This would have been highly embarrassing, not to mention political suicide for the Congress-led government in an election year. So instead, New Delhi restricted itself to a strident diplomatic offensive that continues to date, and the option of hot pursuit.

The air force, on the other hand, was confident that it was prepared to take on the first retaliatory action by Pakistan, expected at forward air force bases along India's borders in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Indian-administered Kashmir. The role of the navy in the operations was not clearly defined, but it was to cover from the Arabian Sea.

Not ready to fight

Various experts, former generals and independent reports have voiced concern over the past few years about the state of preparedness of the Indian army.

For example, the Bofors gun scandal of the 1980s stymied the army's artillery modernization plan, with no induction of powerful guns since the 1986 purchase of 410 Bofors 155mm/39-caliber howitzers. The army has been trying to introduce 400 such guns from abroad and another 1,100 manufactured domestically, without success.

The latest report by the independent Comptroller and Auditor General said the state's production of 23mm ammunition for Shilka anti-aircraft cannons and 30mm guns mounted on infantry combat vehicles lacked quality. Further, supply was nearly 35% short of requirements.

India's huge tank fleet is in bad shape due to a shortage of Russian spare parts, while indigenous efforts, such as the main battle tank Arjun, have failed.

Signs of trouble emerged during the Kargil war when it was revealed that India's defense forces were dealing with acute shortages in every sphere.

In remarks that underscored the problems, the then-army chief, V P Malik, said his forces would make do with whatever was in hand, given the fears of a full-scale war that was eventually avoided due to pressure by America, then under president Bill Clinton.

The Kargil review committee report noted, "The heavy involvement of the army in counter-insurgency operations cannot but affect its preparedness for its primary role, which is to defend the country against external aggression."

Although there have been attempts to hasten India's overall defense modernization program, estimated at over US$50 billion over the next five years, gaping holes need to be plugged, including corruption and massive delays in the defense procurement processes.

India's defense expenditure has dipped below 2% of gross domestic product for the first time in decades, despite experts pegging 3% as adequate.

Other defense arms are in dire need of enhancement. Fighter jet squadrons are much below required strength, while the bidding process for medium fighter planes has only just begun and may take a few years to complete.

Meanwhile, the prospects of an India-Pakistan conflict are not over. India's army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, said last week that Pakistan had redeployed troops from its Afghan border to the western frontier with India. "The Indian army has factored this in its planning," Kapoor said.

Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist. He can be reached at sidsri@yahoo.com.

1 comment:

  1. Apparantly the Army commanders had also taken into account the demoralisation(due 6CPCR) & cosequent low morale in the forces while rejecting war with Pak.

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