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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

From Today's Papers - 21 Jul 09

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Heartburn as Infantry, Artillery eat into AVSC pie
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 20
The recommendations for implementation of the second phase of the AV Singh Committee (AVSC) on officer cadre restructuring has been modified by Army Headquarters, with the Infantry and Artillery grabbing more vacancies at the cost of other arms and services. This has reportedly resulted in heartburn among senior Army officers as it cuts down on promotional avenues.

Sources in Army Headquarters revealed that The Armoured Corps, Mechanised Infantry, Engineers and the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers are among the hardest hit by the loss of vacancies. The recommendations, notified in December 2008, are to be implemented over a five-year period.

At the level of Colonel, AVSC had recommended 1,715 vacancies for the Infantry and 753 for the Artillery, which has subsequently been modified to 1,913 and 841, respectively. Consequently, Engineers have lost 72 vacancies, EME 49, Armoured Corps 43, Signals 40, Air Defence 28, ASC 32 and Mechanised Infantry 14 vacancies.

For Brigadiers, the number has been increased from 369 to 442 for the Infantry and from 172 to 192 for the Artillery, cutting down on the number for Engineers by 23, EME by 15, Armoured Corps by 14, Signals by 10 and Mechanised Infantry by four.

As far as Major Generals are concerned, the vacancies have been clubbed for the infantry, Mechanised Infantry and the Armoured Corps, with a combined increase by 17. While Artillery would get six more Major Generals, the number for Engineers has been reduced by eight. Other arms and services have also suffered cuts at this level.

Sources reveal that senior officers have taken up the matter with Chief of the Army Staff, who also happens to be from the Artillery, pointing out the implications and drawbacks of modifying the pro rata system. Some officers have also written to the Army Chief in this regard.

Officers have contended that the modification of AVSC recommendations points towards preferential treatment to certain arms and in a single stroke has snuffed out the aspirations of 50 per cent of the officer cadre.

Pointing out that pro-rata was a time-tested system for meeting organisational and individual aspirations, officers said that modification will have a skewed impact on age profile and lead to disparity and polarisation. The satisfaction levels in the Infantry and Artillery would jump significantly from about 30 per cent to 55 per cent, where as for the other arms it would remain at 25-30 per cent.

Official sources pointed out that the modified system would ensure batch parity is maintained while holding promotion boards with infantry and other arms enjoying a slight edge. According to a senior officer, no arm or service would be deprived of their rightful share, as after 15 years, the intake would have been so regulated that pro rata vacancies are not at great variance.

India, US strike agreement to open up defence ties

NDTV Correspondent, Monday July 20, 2009, New Delhi

AP image

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister S M Krishna on Monday at the end of which, the two countries unveiled a new strategic dialogue.

Both the countries came to an agreement, which opens up billions of dollars in defence sales to India. The end-user pact basically involves American monitoring of their military sales to ensure they are being used for the right purpose.

Sophisticated planes, radars, and other crucial military hardware will now be available to India. India also announced the two sites for American nuclear reactors.

"We have been told that sites for two nuclear parks earmarked for us," said Hillary.

Addressing a joint press conference after the meeting with Hillary, Krishna said that the talks covered bilateral ties, adding that India and the US regard each other as world powers.

He said that new forum for meaningful dialogue has been created, which would cover climate change, disarmament and non-proliferation.

Talking to mediapersons, Hillary Clinton said that the US was committed to strong partnership with India.

She said that the US has agreed on five pillars in the joint statement.

Hillary also said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been invited to Washington on November 24. Singh would be the first official guest to be invited to the US by the Obama Administration.

The US Secretary of State further said that there is no difference between India and the US over Iran issue.

Hillary and Krishna, earlier on Monday, signed an agreement on science and technology.

Army Chief in US: Af-Pak policy to top agenda

Press Trust of India, Tuesday July 21, 2009, Washington

A range of strategic issues, including America's Af-Pak policy, the regional security situation and Indo-US defence cooperation will top the agenda of Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor who arrived in Washington on Monday on a week-long visit to the United States.

During his first trip to the US as army chief, General Kapoor is expected to hold discussions with senior US military and civilian defence hierarchy.

Among the top Pentagon officials he will meet are Chairman of the Joint Chiefs the Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, his counterpart in the US Army General George W Casey and Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

The two sides are expected to deliberate on contemporary strategic issues, including US Af-Pak policy and regional security situation. The discussions will also delve on the Indo-US defence cooperation, including joint training and exercises, exchanges and military equipment cooperation.

General Kapoor will be visiting important training institutions and operational headquarters to get a glimpse of the organisation, doctrinal concepts and training facilities for operational deployment of US Army in a global framework.

He will be touring the CENTCOM headquarters in Florida to hold discussions with its top generals about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

HAL set to test fly upgraded Dhruv
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 20
Within days of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India having rapped Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd for slow progress on the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH), a company team has set up base in eastern Ladakh. Its mission - to test fly a new and a more powerful version of the chopper.

The multirole weapon system helicopter will be test flown by HAL pilots within this week and factors like clear skies will decide the final date of the trial. A team from the French firm Turbomeca, manufacturer of low to medium power gas turbines for helicopters, is also camping in Leh and so are HAL flight and safety department personnel, sources told The Tribune.

The chopper will be fitted with a new engine named ‘Shakti.’ The test will also establish if it can take the specified weapon load as desired by the army for the ALH’s ‘attack’ version.

The test was planned to go ahead even before the CAG report was released on July 10. A HAL team had visited the location for an initial assessment about three weeks ago.

HAL’s target is to fly the helicopter at an altitude higher than 6,500 metres (23,000 feet or more). In its report released in Parliament CAG had said: “The upgraded version of the ALH equipped with a more powerful engine is still not ready”. The existing version, a few dozen of which have been supplied to the Indian Army, cannot fly at a height of over 17,500 feet, whereas the army wants a chopper that can go up to at least 23,000 feet.

The altitude at which a chopper flies is critical for the Indian armed forces and is a key aspect for dominance in eastern Ladakh on the Sino-Indian border and the Siachen glacier besides other high Himalayan peaks in Himachal, Uttrakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. The CAG report had pointed this out, noting the army was using obsolete Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, which it said might adversely impact its operational preparedness.

HAL is confident about the success of the upcoming test, as it has been regularly flying the ALH fitted with the new Shakti engine at a height of 6,000 metres over Bangalore. However, the rarefied air at that altitude makes it difficult for landing a chopper and then taking off. More thrust is needed and the thin air adds to problems like loss of engine power while each gram of weight counts.

What Kasab confessed before the court

"We boarded Al-Husseini (the boat) from Karachi in Pakistan to come to Mumbai. Zakiur Rehman Laqvi, Abu Hamza, Abu Jindal and Abu Hamza came to see us off. We carried ration and oil (fuel). Later, we shifted to Indian fishing trawler 'Kuber' and killed its navigator Amarsing Solanki," the 21-year-old Pakistani national told a special trial court.

"Main bayan dena chahata hoon (I want to confess). Earlier Pakistan did not admit that I was its national but now that they have said it, I want to plead guilty...please accept my confession, close the case and give the sentence," Kasab told judge M L Tahaliyani on the 65th day of the trial.

Sporting a beard and clad in kurta and pyjama, Kasab said he had started as a decorator at Rawalpindi in Pakistan but did not earn enough money and therefore decided to team up with another person to become a robber and dacoit.

"As we needed weapons, we went to the LeT office where we were given money and recruited as jihadis. I and many others were trained in using arms and ammunition at jungles."

The court will give its ruling on Tuesday whether Kasab's confession was acceptable and whether it can conclude the trial and pronounce the judgment.

Kasab revealed he had attended a 21-day camp at a forest where they were trained in handling AK-47, pistol, gun, rocket launchers and hand grenades.

He was also taught how to exercise and keep himself fit.

Abu Jindal gave them training in Hindi. They were selected in pairs and ten of them were shortlisted after the training, he said.

He had also visited his home in Faridkot where he stayed with his father, two brothers, Mohammed Afzal, Mohammed Munib, sisters Rukaiya and Surraiya.

Kasab said he returned to Muzaffarabad where he met Abu Hamza.

Describing the CST attack, Kasab said while he was firing continuously, Abu Ismail was hurling hand grenades.

"Abu took such a position that no one could see him and I took a position behind him and kept firing," Kasab said.

After escaping from Cama hospital [ Images ], the duo attacked a police jeep coming towards the hospital.

"Cama (hospital) se nikalne ke baad hum raste pe koi bhi gadi aane ki intezaar kar rahe the...Ek gadi tezi se aarahi thi magar phir dheere ho gayi...Gadi se firing hui toh Abu ne bhi firing ki. (We were waiting for a vehicle outside the Cama hospital. A vehicle was speedily approaching the hospital. There was firing from the car so Abu fired back)," Kasab said.

He said he started firing at the jeep and moved towards it when he realised that there were policemen inside.

"Humne police walon ko maar dala tha aur unko jeep se neeche utara. Ismail phir gaadi main driver ke seat par chada aur gadi chalu kiya. (We had killed the policemen and then we removed them from the jeep. Ismail got into the driver's seat and started the vehicle)," Kasab said.

The duo then drove the vehicle towards the Metro junction where they fired at mediapersons and policemen, and then reached the Vidhan Sabha where their jeep broke down.

Kasab said they got down the jeep and robbed a Skoda [ Images ] vehicle at gunpoint and drove towards Girgaum Chowpatty [ Images ].

Seeing police bandobast ahead, Abu took a U-turn but rammed the car into the divider at Girgaum Chowpatty.

"When police came towards our vehicle, we cleaned our blood-stained faces and decided to tell them that we are college students," Kasab said.

"However, Abu opened fire and the police retaliated. One of the policeman pulled me out of the car. He started hitting me with his baton. He also hit on my stomach. I could hear shots being fired," Kasab said.

70% of defence equipment being imported: Antony

Union Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday said it was "unfortunate and painful" that 70 per cent of the defence equipment was still being imported and informed the Lok Sabha that government was working towards manufacturing state-of-the-art equipment indigenously.

"It is unfortunate and painful that 70 per cent of defence equipment is still being imported," he said during the Question Hour.

Antony said till India reached a stage where it could provide state-of-the-art equipment, it would have to rely on imports.

"If Indian products are not of state-of the art quality, using them would be dangerous," he said. The defence minister said his ministry had decided to accord first priority to Indian public and private companies which are able to provide such equipment.

In reply to a question on whether there was a time-frame by when India would become self-sufficient in defence production, Antony hoped the process would be "speeded up."

He said the procurement policy would be reviewed annually. Minister of State of Defence, Vincent Pala conceded that there were deficiencies in bullet proof jackets but said these were not "sub-standard".

On the issue of delay in buying defence equipment, Antony said a committee has been constituted for the purpose and given financial powers which were till now vested with the defence minister.

"We should understand that we are a democracy and have a system and procedure (for procurement of weapons)," he said, responding to Naveen Jindal (Cong) who said the forces were still using World War II vintage weapons while Pakistan and Bangladesh had better arms.

In reply to a query by Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, Antony said there was an "inordinate delay" in starting the Ordnance Factory set up at Rajgir in Bihar during the National Democratic Alliance regime, but added that it would be expedited now.

10 years after Kargil, Bofors upgrade hangs fire

On the tenth anniversary of the Kargil [ Images ] conflict, the gun that did so much to facilitate that victory -- the 155 mm Bofors FH-77B -- could be staring at a major setback. With India's artillery modernisation programme already stalled, the plan to refurbish and upgrade India's old 155 mm FH-77B Bofors guns also seems headed for failure.

The reason: the Indian Army [ Images ], long accused of framing its equipment requirements unrealistically, apparently wants the upgraded Bofors gun to deliver better performance than new guns in the market today.

The company that made the guns -- Sweden's Bofors AB, now owned by British multinational BAE Systems -- has examined the army's technical demands and decided not to bid, since the demands are unrealistic. Industry sources close to the tender describe it as 'a high-tech wish list' that fails to recognise the limitations in upgrading a 20-year-old gun.

According to this source, "Some of the requirements in the upgrade for these 20-year-old guns are more extreme than the requirements for new builds of the FH-77B."

The tender for modernising the Bofors FH-77B, involves overhauling the gun, fitting a state-of-the-art sighting system, and upgrading the barrels from 39 calibre to 52 calibre. The barrel upgrade will allow the guns to fire heavier ammunition, inflicting heavier damage on targets.

Brigadier Khutab Hai, Chief Executive of Mahindra Defence Systems (MDS), which partners BAE Systems in India, confirms, "It is true that we didn't respond. We have given the MoD (Ministry of Defence) our reasons. I would not like to comment on why we are not participating, other than to say that some of the specifications asked for by the army cannot be met technically."

BAE Systems India declined to comment.

Undeterred by Bofors' withdrawal, the MoD-owned Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) and the Tata group have stepped forward and bid for the Bofors upgrade programme. Neither has ever developed an artillery gun earlier. The OFB, however, has the technical drawings of the Bofors FH-77B gun, which were handed over by Bofors when India signed the contract in the mid-1980s.

In an interview in September 2007, then OFB Chairman Sudipta Ghosh -- currently in CBI custody in a corruption investigation -- had told this correspondent, "The Bofors gun has not been productionised (sic) here, but [Gun Carriage Factory, Jabalpur] has all the drawings…. and based on those, we have indigenised [some parts of the Bofors gun].

Allegations of kickbacks in the 1986 Bofors deal had made it politically difficult to manufacture the guns in India. Eventually, the US $1.4 billion contract ended with the purchase of 410 "made-in-Sweden" guns. The part that was really advantageous for India — the indigenous manufacture of another 1170 guns under transfer of technology (ToT) -- never took place.

Attempts to fill the resulting shortfall of artillery guns have been stymied over the last decade by erratic procurement practices and unrealistic technical demands. Since 2003, through several rounds of trials, the guns offered by three of the world's leading artillery manufacturers -- Bofors of Sweden, Denel of South Africa [ Images ] and Soltam Systems of Israel -- have repeatedly failed to meet Indian Army expectations.

For BAE Systems, the decision not to bid was a difficult one. It had set up a JV with MDS --with BAE Systems holding a 26% stake, the maximum permissible -- primarily to build artillery systems in India. Last year the JV had written to the MoD offering a sweetener: if it won artillery deals like the Bofors upgrade, it would give the Indian defence production establishment a share of the work.

The OFB would be given the work of manufacturing the gun barrels; public sector Bharat Electronics [ Get Quote ] Limited (BEL) could make the sighting systems; while the gun trails and gun carriages (on which the guns rest, fire and move) would be built in the new BAE-MDS factory in Faridabad.

Despite all this, BAE Systems has not bid. Industry sources say BAE is confident that the OFB and the Tatas will prove technically unable to upgrade the Bofors guns. Their bids have been resting in the MoD since early 2009.

Slain youth's father lodges FIR against top Army officials

TNN 20 July 2009, 09:49pm IST

VARANASI: While the Army on Monday admitted that its jawans had opened fire in self defence during the recruitment rally at Chandauli polytechnic

on Sunday, the postmortem report of Arwind Pal also confirmed that he died due to bullet injury.

Following the postmortem of Pal his father, Shamsher Bahadur Pal lodged a murder case against Brig SK Thapa, Col Sunil Wasan, Subedar Major Jagdish and others. On the other hand the Army and Chandauli police also lodged FIRs against unidentified youths for damaging government property.

A day after the violent incident, Chandauli district was calm on Monday but rumours continued dominating the air. The cops and media persons had to run several places due to the rumours. During these engagements many developments took place. With the arrival of postmortem report of Pal, who was killed in Army firing, his father lodged a murder case against the Army officials. The body of Pal was handed over to his family for cremation. District magistrate, Dilip Sahay said, "Recommendation has been made to the state government for providing compensation to the bereaved family of Pal."

The Army officials, who had to leave Chandauli on Sunday night as the local administration had asked them to do so to avoid recurrence of any untoward incident, also lodged an FIR against the unidentified youths for damaging government property. Brig Thapa also convened a press conference at Army Recruitment Center, 39 GTC here on Monday to give clarification. He said that as he was not present at the polytechnic when the violent incident started he was unaware about the action initiated by his jawans. During initial investigation it became clear that Army personnel had to open fire in self defence and also to protect their camp as well as arms, admitted Thapa.

IG Range, Gurdarshan Singh and divisional commissioner Suresh Chandra also visited Chandauli on Monday morning. Singh visited the incident site. A delegation of local politicians met the commissioner with their demands including providing compensation to the family of Pal. The IG said that he had directed the SP Chandauli to constitute separate teams to catch the anti-social elements who caused loss to government offices and property.

Army Chief in US, defence cooperation, Af-Pak to top agenda

Washington (PTI): A range of strategic issues, including America's Af-Pak policy, the regional security situation and Indo-US defence cooperation will top the agenda of Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor who arrived here on Monday on a week-long visit to the United States.

During his first trip to the US as army chief, Gen Kapoor is expected to hold discussions with senior US military and civilian defence hierarchy.

Among the top Pentagon officials he will meet are Chairman of the Joint Chiefs the Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, his counterpart in the US Army Gen George W Casey and Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

The two sides are expected to deliberate on contemporary strategic issues, including US Af-Pak policy and regional security situation. The discussions will also delve on the Indo-US defence cooperation, including joint training and exercises, exchanges and military equipment cooperation.

Gen Kapoor will be visiting important training institutions and operational headquarters to get a glimpse of the organisation, doctrinal concepts and training facilities for operational deployment of US Army in a global framework.

He will be touring the CENTCOM headquarters in Florida to hold discussions with its top generals about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Indian Army Chief is scheduled to visit Fort Bragg in North Carolina -- America's most combat ready and active military installations. It is home to the 82nd Airborne Division and the US Army Special Operations Command.

Besides visiting Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, known as the intellectual centre of the US Army, he will also take a tour of the National Training Center of the US Army in Fort Irwin in California.

The visit comes at a time when Indo-US bilateral relations are on an upswing and there is a consensus from both sides to take the strategic partnership to a higher level for synergised efforts to combat global terrorism and to bring peace and stability in the region, Indian officials said.

The Indian army chief's tour coincides with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's five-day visit to India.

Johnny Gurkha gets too expensive for the Royal Army news

20 July 2009

Up to 800 Gurkha troops, an entire battalion, could be phased out of the Royal Army as part of a series of defence cuts being applied across the board. Strangely, the reason for the depletion of force levels may be the result of a hard won victory for the Gurkhas for better pay and pensions.

A dramatic improvement in pay and pension rights for these hill warriors from the Himalayan republic of Nepal over the past two years has now made the ''Johnny Gurkha'' too expensive to maintain at their existing force level of two infantry battalions.

The Gurkhas have a unique record of serving the armed services of three countries simultaneously – their own country, Nepal, the Indian Army and the United Kingdom's Royal Army. While in India and Nepal the Gurkha is universally known by the appellation or honorific, 'Bahadur' or 'brave,' the Royal Army addresses them differently as ''Johnny.'

Royal Army sources told media that the regiment survived cuts five years ago only because their poor pay and pensions made them an attractive proposition. New court rulings, providing them better pay and pension, now makes them more vulnerable in a wide-ranging defence review that seeks to slash defence spending by 10 per cent.

Early this year, the High Court gave Gurkhas the right to remain in Britain after serving - and also brought their pay up to the same level as the regular Army. The campaign, led by actress Joanna Lumley, forced Gordon Brown's government into performing a humiliating U-turn.

The ruling left the Government with a huge bill for providing for pensions for those settling in Britain. Military sources now say that the Gurkhas will be No.1 on the list when it comes to cutting infantry battalions.

New Army cantts in Naxal-hit areas being considered

Shishir Gupta Posted online: Monday , Jul 20, 2009 at 0428 hrs

New Delhi : Determined to take the Naxal menace head-on, the Government is actively considering setting up brigade headquarters or Army cantonments in interior areas of Naxal-affected states.

Government sources told The Indian Express that the new military cantonments would act as a deterrent and there are plans that these brigade-size formations would also train paramilitary forces before their induction in anti-Naxal operations. Situated inside Naxal-dominated areas, these cantonments would have an advance landing ground that could be used for troop deployment by air in the event of operations.

The Home Ministry has already discussed these plans with the Defence Ministry and the two are at present working on locations of new cantonments to be set up in Naxal-hit states. While Ranchi already has an Army division headquarters, there are plans to have brigade-level headquarters in Koraput (Orissa) and Jagdalpur (Chhattisgarh).

While Defence Minister A K Antony is not in favour of armed forces getting involved in the Naxal fight, the Government is backing Home Minister P Chidambaram’s assessment that the Naxalite military strength had been underestimated by the Centre.

The idea behind new Army cantonments is to build future capacities and instil confidence among the local population. Following the Chhattisgarh ambush in which an SP was among 37 police personnel killed, the highest levels of the government even debated the use of armed helicopters and dropping special troops behind Naxal lines.

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