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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 17 Mar 09

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BJP announces support for “One Rank One Pension”

Submitted by editor on March 16, 2009 - 21:56

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Shri L.K. Advani today appealed to the voters to elect a strong government at the Centre so that the government and the people can together save the nation from the scourge of terrorism, votebank politics and corruption.

Shri Advani was speaking at a function in New Delhi today to release the memoirs, titled ‘Guarding India’s Integrity’, by Lt Gen (Retd) S.K. Sinha, PVSM, former Governor of Assam and Jammu & Kashmir. “When I look at what is happening in Pakistan these days, I can understand why people like Lt. Gen. Sinha shudder at the thought of another weak government coming into being in New Delhi,” he said. “India’s very existence would be in peril if we have another government like the UPA which is neither capable of taking a strong and self-reliant foreign policy approach to Pakistan nor following a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism within the country – all for petty votebank considerations.”

Shri Advani paid glowing tributes to Lt. Gen. Sinha, calling him a soldier that India is proud of. “We have in our midst a person who, as a young newly commissioned Army officer, fought for the honour of the Tricolour in Kashmir when Pakistan waged its first war on India in 1947-48? Even in the post-retirement phase of his life, Lt. Gen. Sinha has continued to serve the Nation as a soldier for the defence of democracy; in the crusade against corruption; for safeguarding India’s vital interests in Assam; and for defending national unity in Jammu & Kashmir.”

Shri Advani used to occasion to lend his support to the ex-servicemen community’s long-pending demand for ‘One Rank One Pension’. He agreed with the remarks of Lt. Gen. Sinha, who worked on personnel matters in the Indian Army, that there is a need to provide a long career for both officers and personnel below officer rank in the Army. “A soldier in the Army retires at a young age, in the prime of his life, and most of the officers retire many years earlier than their civilian counterparts. This has created serious anomalies in pension benefits to ex-servicemen. The issue of ‘One Rank One Pension’ has been agitating them for quite some time. I was pained to see that many ex-servicemen recently gave up their bravery medals in protest against the non-fulfillment of this demand. My party has considered this matter in its totality. Many delegations of ex-servicemen have called on me in recent months. I am convinced of the justness of this demand. We are fully committed to implementing the ‘One Rank One Pension’ policy if we win the people’s mandate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.”

Shri Advani promised to take effective steps to stop infiltration of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, a problem which the Supreme Court has described as “external aggression”. He charged the Congress party and the UPA Government “with having colluded in this external aggression by not following the Supreme Court’s directive of taking “effective action” to check the influx from Bangladesh.”

Shri Advani lauded Lt. Gen Sinha’s principled stand on last year’s Amarnath controversy and criticized the UPA government for having shown “disrespect for the majority community’s sentiments”. Saying that the separatist campaign in Kashmir and the Amarnath controversy are two sides of the same coin, he remarked, “I wonder if the Congress party would have conducted itself in a similar manner if the issue concerned allotment of land to a minority community.”

Quoting from the book, Shri Advani listed several instances of how several leading members of the UPA government and the Congress party “stooped to shocking levels to appease anti-national forces on the issue of terrorism”:

• “Two Cabinet ministers opposed the banning of SIMI, a well-known outfit sponsoring terrorism. The Supreme Court had to do the needful.

• One Cabinet minister demanded that all illegal Bangladeshi immigrants be given Indian citizenship.

• One minister justified the use of government funds allocated to a university to defend students in court, who are being prosecuted for involvement in the terrorist incident in Batla House in Delhi.

• Another minister advocated an inquiry into this incident to determine if the whole thing had been faked by the police.

• A minister went to the UN to represent India and forgot to mention that among the killed in Mumbai carnage were Jews and 20 percent of the victims were Muslims.

• Yet, another minister issued a statement insinuating that Hemant Karkare, the ATS chief in Mumbai, was killed on 26/11 as a result of conspiracy by Hindus and not by a Pakistani terrorist. The Prime Minister condoned this, saying that to err is human.

• And in this Theatre of the Absurd, a senior Congress general secretary allowed his imagination to run wild. He claimed that the UPA Government did not yield to terrorist demands in Mumbai to release Afzal Guru. This was despite the fact that no communication had ever taken place with the terrorists in Mumbai.”

Shri Advani said that he endorsed every word contained in the last paragraph of Lt. Gen Sinha’s book and “take it as a guiding principle for a future NDA Government, if it is elected to office”.

“Parliamentary elections are round the corner. I hope that the Indian electorate will be mature enough to elect a government, which can effectively meet the grave national security challenges we face today. India is emerging as a great power and our human resource material has shown its high caliber in our outstanding achievements in various fields. All those gains can be lost if we do not successfully overcome the national security challenges, underscored so dramatically by the tragedy of 26/11 in Mumbai. Irrespective of which party wins the 2009 elections, we need to have a strong government at the Centre…We need a government capable of taking hard decisions and not pursuing votebank politics at the cost of national security. Neither the policy of appeasement nor a communal agenda should mar the image of the new government that gets elected in 2009. The new government must go all out to lift the government and society from the quagmire of corruption and feudal democracy enshrined in dynasticism and courtier culture. In the evening of my life, after having rendered service to the Nation for over sixty years, that is the wish I ardently nurture for my country. I conclude my memoirs with that earnest hope and with Jai Hind on my lips.”

Phasing out of MiG 29 by Russia worries India
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 16
Russia’s grounding of some of its MiG 29 fleet, has Indian defence authorities caught between the proverbial devil and the deep sea. Even as questions are being raised about the future of the naval variant of the aircraft - MiG 29-K - India can only wait and watch while opting for another aircraft at this stage is ruled out.

In case of the IAF, operational reasons along the Indo-Pak border and also the fact that the MiG 29 is already in service for more than two decades, a decision has been taken not to ground them. However, in case of the Navy, India does not have an option at this stage when everything is finalised and the process of purchase is underway.

The first 16 of the lot were to be supplied before the end of this year. This seems improbable now, officials said here and added that there was an entire check list for the new aircraft and reiterated that it seemed to be a problem with metallurgy rather than the engines or the design.

India has approved of a sum of Rs 5,380 crore to buy the naval variant for its naval aircraft carriers for increasing the air-strike power at sea and making changes now can jeopardise future naval plans. Indian naval warships are designed to primarily fly the Russian aircraft.

Some British built sea harriers are operated but the aircraft carriers will need changes that will be impossible to incorporate at this stage to accommodate, fighter aircraft made elsewhere, said officials. India has one aircraft carrier INS Viraat that is under going a refit at the Kochi shipyard. Two others - INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) and the indigenous aircraft carrier - are under construction. In case of Gorshkov it is being made in Russia and the purchase price - that is under re-negotiation -comes with a package of on board fleet of 16 MiG-29Ks. Indian naval pilots have already under gone training and the delivery is originally scheduled to start at the end of next month.

The indigenous aircraft carrier, a 38,000 tonne displacement ship, is also designed to fly the MiG-29 K and also the naval version of the light combat aircraft. Though the air force version of the LCA is being inducted, the landing gear of the naval version is yet to be perfected and could take years. The take off thrust and landing styles of naval fighters are different from the Air Force version. At sea, the space to land or take off is limited.

Source in the IAF said technical checks were a regular feature in India while the Russian metallurgy was susceptible to salinity and needed care.

Hi-tech training to officers ‘inadequate’
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The number of serving officers and other ranks being sent for hi-tech training is “abysmally low”. Ministry of Defence statistics reveal that the percentage of officers sent for training as against the available strength was 24 per cent in the Army, followed by five per cent in the Navy and just three per cent in the Air Force.

The picture is quite dismissal in the rank and file, with the figures being six per cent in the Air Force, 4.8 per cent in the Navy and just 1.7 per cent in the Army.

Parliament’s standing committee on defence, in its latest report, has observed that despite depleted strength, the services were not able to impart requisite training to the majority of troops on the latest technological changes and state-of-the-art equipment inducted from time to time.

“Undoubtedly, inadequate infrastructure and facilities in training institutions is adversely affecting the modernisation of the armed forces,” the committee observed. The committee’s comments come in the backdrop of the advent of technological development and fast changing nature of warfare, where the need for hi-tech training has become imperative.

The committee also found that the number of officers being sent abroad for training is minuscule. It was of the opinion that training abroad provides an opportunity to armed forces officers to upgrade their knowledge in a different environment and the skills so acquired can be shared and gainfully utilised.

Recommending a positive review in the policy for sending officers abroad, the committee has suggested that emphasis should be laid on identifying specialised areas where inadequate facilities exist within the country.

Pakistan Political Crisis Leaves Kashmiris Worried

As Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and his rival Nawaz Sharif head for a showdown amid an intensifying political crisis, Kashmiris are worried that the unrest in the neighboring country could affect their hopes for peace.

Many Kashmiris, including young and old, men and women, remained glued to their TV sets, watching the opposition 'Long March' to Islamabad with deep concern and some even terming the political battle in Pakistan as "unfortunate".

"It is unfortunate. The whole country appears to be heading for another long spell of uncertainty. We cannot remain unconcerned about what happens in Pakistan," said Muzaffar Ahmed, 48, a college teacher.

"If the country heads for some sort of anarchy, it would have a serious fallout in Kashmir and our hopes for peace," Ahmed said.

Even fruit sellers, street vendors and small shopkeepers were worried about the political brinkmanship the two Pakistan leaders are indulging in.

"They had first said they would work for consolidating democracy in Pakistan. Now the only course they are headed towards is chaos and confusion. Politicians are all like that," said Mehraj-ud-Din, 31, a fruit seller in Residency Road area of Srinagar.

Mohammed Hanief, 32, a government official, said the Pakistani leaders have made of mockery of democracy.

"They have made a joke of democracy. First, the restoration of the judges, and now the restoration of the Nawaz brothers. Agreed, Zardari might be acting in a very selfish manner, but who among these leaders seems to be really bothered about what happens to Pakistan?" Hanief said.

Anxiety gripped Pakistan, as former prime minister Sharif Sunday defied government attempts to place him under "house arrest", vowing that protests against the Zardari rule would go on.

Sharif has thrown his support behind a protest campaign by anti-government lawyers that threatens to bring a political crisis to Pakistan, a year after civilian rule returned to the country.

As news channels devoted maximum time to the latest news from Pakistan, the most deprived here are the children who haven't been able to watch a movie or a cartoon for the last two days.

"Papa keeps on changing one news channel after the other. Something serious is happening in Pakistan," wondered Danish, 14, of Abiguzar area of the city.

Indian army prepares for a digitised battlefield

By Harsha Pramod @ Monday, March 16, 2009 12:47 PM

Computers and communications are crucial for the army in the information age, playing an important role in weapon control and management systems.

The army has three technical corps - engineers, signals and electrical and mechanical engineers. Operating and maintaining complex equipment requires high levels of technical expertise and on-job application. Army officers, junior commissioned officers, jawans, and defence civilians all need appropriate training, and this has acquired a different dimension with the introduction of simulation tools.

Simulated training is the most cost effective methodology for training, states the army. According to the army, 'This creates a realistic environment to generate near real responses to various contingences as well as handling of complex weapon systems, without the need to go outdoors and use operational equipment. It also saves transportation costs and ammunition.'

The army’s approach is to develop such systems indigenously, where a large number of simulations is required and the main weapon of equipment would remain in service for about 20 years. The army simultaneously develop sand introduces simulators along with the weapon or equipment itself. The Military College of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE) in Madhya Pradesh, and the Indian Institute for Information Technology Allahabad (IIIT-A) are jointly developing simulator tools.

Another method of training adopted by the army is computerised war gaming. The Army Training Command (ARTRAC) aims to apply computerised war gaming in the Indian army, for training as well as indigenous development of war game models. War gaming helps in training commanders and staff in a simulated battlefield environment. It also helps in 'practising various tactical contingencies and arriving at realistic results' and in 'validating operational plans as well as performance evaluation and analysis', according to the army.

According to analysis from Frost & Sullivan, the Indian land-based training and simulation market is set to grow, thanks to the Indian army’s plans for modernisation. Frost & Sullivan projects the market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 36 per cent from 2007 to 2017. Indian software companies would benefit, as they could collaborate with simulator developers to design and supply software for simulators. The army could save on wear and tear of original equipment, fuel, and man-hours. Soldier safety during training could also be addressed.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the Indian army's low budgets reduce the possibility of conducting trials on full-fledged simulators for technical evaluation. Budgetary constraints also compel the army to choose products in the lowest price range, forcing the manufacturers to offer low-cost, at the same time technologically advanced simulators. This situation is expected to improve with a significant hike in the defence budget.

The Corps of Signals aims to make the Indian army a network-enabled force by 2012 and network centric force by 2017. The vision of the Corps is 'to achieve electronic and information superiority for effective functioning of the Indian Army'. The responsibilities include setting up a converged, robust, broadband and secure IT infrastructure, both at peace and operational locations of the Indian Army.

A 'Network for Spectrum' project is being implemented by the department of telecommunication (DoT) in exchange for spectrum being released from defence quota. According to the army, the network will provide additional overlay and strengthen the army’s communication infrastructure. The Indian army is also planning to upgrade the cyber security of its networks.

Modernisation of the armed forces is one of the top priorities of the Indian government, says defence minister AK Antony. The defence budget was increased from $18.7 billion (Rs 96,000 crore) to Rs $20.5 billion (1,05,600 crore) for 2008-09.

Antony said, 'Armed forces all over the world are modernising and becoming technology intensive… the art of warfare is moving into new dimensions with the era of the foot soldier being rapidly replaced by technology and knowledge intensive machines, which call for an entirely new order of expertise. Since such technologies are crucial to the maintenance of a country's edge over the others, there is little prospect of critical technologies being shared with us,' he added.

Antony said that it was also possible that such technologies may be available only on unacceptable terms and conditions. He said that this background increased the significance of the responsibility of the Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO).

A Defence Information Technology Consultative Committee (DITCC) comprising eminent personalities from the ministry of defence (MoD), the three services, ministry of communication and IT, academia and the industry was established. 'DITCC has evolved a road map and a common approach for the integration of information technology in our Armed Forces,' the defence minister said.

Mahindra Defence to up clientele by widening product range

Last week, there was a flurry in many auto stocks on reports that there could be a fairly significant chunk of order from the Indian defence to auto companies, tailored in order to get them out of a rough spot.

The Indian defence forces are planning to place immediate orders to buy

vehicles to meet requirements for the next two years. If the plan is approved, the auto sector is likely to get orders worth Rs 3000-4000 crore.

Speaking on this development, Brigadier Khutub Hai of Mahindra Defence Systems said order flow will give significant boost to commercial sales. Margins, he added, are quite restricted since volumes are not that large.

The company, Hai said, has an enlarged product range by getting into specialist vehicles. "The plan is to increase range of products and thus increase clientele."

Also see: Mahindra Defence JV eyes Rs 2000cr rev by 2016

Here is a verbatim transcript of the exclusive interview with Khutub Hai on CNBC-TV18. Also see the accompanying video.

Q: How substantial could this upside be for M&M, if indeed such clubbing of defence orders were to happen? Is it your belief that such big orders are on its way in the next one month?

A: We have read the news reports to say that about Rs 2,000-3,000 crore worth of defence purchases could be there for in the vehicle segment. I hope it is true because then I am sure it will give a significant boost to commercial vehicle (CV) and jeep sales as far as Mahindra is concerned in Q1 of next year, because whichever orders come in now will only be reflected in Q1 and Q2 of next fiscal. We hope that this is true and it will give a considerable fillip to the commercial vehicle and jeep segment.

Q: Which specific category in defence do you cater to in terms of vehicles and what kind of margins do you work with for those?

A: Margins for defence work are quite restrictive because the volumes are not that large. When you talk of M&M, our main vehicle for the Indian army is the jeep. We at an average give about 1,500 jeeps per year which is procured by defence forces. So, if there is going to be pent up demand from the defence forces for 3,000-4,000 jeeps it will no doubt give us a good fillip going into Q1 of next year. Margins for defence vehicles are not necessarily high because volumes are low and there are a lot of procedures that you have to go through with regards to inspection etc, so more than that it is the volumes that we are really interested in.

Q: What is the current contribution of defence as a category to the order book of M&M?

A: At present, defence is mainly coming out for vehicles and at the moment we are at about Rs 100 crore, which is a very insignificant amount as far as M&M is concerned. But more than normal vehicles that come out of our automotive sector, what we are doing is we have enlarged the product range going into specialist vehicles like armoured vehicles and vehicles for special purposes, for which we have set up a separate factory.

We hope that by doing this we will increase the range of our products and thereby also increase the number of our customers, particularly in these days there is a considerable importance being given to security and people would like to move in relative security to the areas where they want to operate in.

So, there is a demand for protective vehicles and we have taken that space in a major way. We have 100% of market share as far as Defence Ministry is concerned for protective vehicles and about 87% market share as far as Ministry of Home Affairs i.e. police and paramilitary forces are concerned. We hope to enlarge on this and continue to provide protective vehicles for the use of our police and security forces and the defence forces.

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