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Monday, 27 July 2009

From Today's Papers - 27 Jul 09

The Pioneer

Telegraph India

The Pioneer

Asian Age

The Pioneer

Asian Age

The Pioneer

Asian Age

Asian Age

The Pioneer

Asian Age

The Pioneer

Asian Age


Times of India

Times of India

Times of India

Times of India

DNA India

DNA India

N-power for Navy
India launches INS Arihant, joins elite club of nuclear nations
Ajay Banerjee and Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Visakhapatnam/Hyderabad, July 26
Just after noon today Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, launched the first indigenously built nuclear submarine INS Arihant and sent it out to water. As the 110-metre-long submarine moved out of the docks, it caused a gentle ripple in the Bay of Bengal but it is expected to generate a “wave” of strategic signals as India entered the exclusive club of nations that have the capability to build nuclear submarines.

The 5,500 tonne vessel, with a range of 750 km, will become operational within two years after sea trials. With this, India has become the only country in the Indian Ocean region to have nuclear submarine.

Two more indigenous nuclear submarines are under construction and are slated to be inducted by 2015. The three will cost about Rs 30,000 crore. Another nuclear submarine, the Akula class ‘Nerpa’, is to arrive on 10-year lease from Russia this winter. So far, only the US, Russia, France, UK and China have nuclear-submarine capabilities. India operated a nuclear submarine on lease from Russia between 1988 and 1991.

Speaking in Hindi, Gursharan Kaur christened the submarine “Arihant” and wished luck to the crew. Before that she had broken a customary coconut on the hull of the submarine. All ships are traditionally launched by women.

It took more than 25 years for it to come into existence since the submarine was planned. In between, India faced sanctions and was even denied technology but it carried on. The actual project commenced in January 1998 when the first steel was cut at a secret ceremony. The submarine will be tested for all equipment on board before it joins the Naval fleet in about two years from now. Till today, the project was code-named the “advanced technology vessel” and the government had been denying its existence altogether. At the launch ceremony, the Prime Minister expressed pride at the progress while he articulated a “deep appreciation for the Russians for their help”. India has to operate at the cutting edge of technology, he added.

The submarine has a diameter of 11 meters and displacement of 6,000 tonnes. It has the latest sensors, anti-ship missiles besides strategic (nuclear-tipped) missiles. The K 15 nuclear missile, Shaurya, that can fire some 700 km, has been tested by the DRDO using a canister to mimic an under-sea launch. With this, India will complete its nuclear triad. India already has land- based and air-borne nuclear capabilities.

Unlike diesel-electric powered submarines that have to surface every 48 hours or so to “breathe”, a nuclear- powered submarine can remain submerged for longer periods, enabling it to hide.

The Director-General of the ATV project, Vice-Admiral DSP Verma (retd) told The Tribune that the submarine could remain submerged for prolonged periods. It would depend upon human endurance to stay under water. Each nation has its own parameters. Sources said it was up to two weeks that troops could stay under water.

At present, United States, Russia, France, Britain and China possess capabilities to develop nuclear submarine. By proving its indigenous capability to build nuclear-powered submarine, India has now completed its “nuclear triad” (land, air and sea) capability and strengthened its strategic deterrence.

The vessel is critical for India's nuclear doctrine that calls for high survivability against surprise attacks and for rapid punitive response. A nuclear submarine can be counter in case an enemy launched a crippling strike on land-based or air-based nuclear weapons.

The Defence Minister, AK Antony, elucidated its importance, saying India has no-first-strike policy hence a submarine will be even more critical to launch a second strike to safeguard national interest.

Submerged Slayer

  • India is the sixth country after the US, Russia, France, UK and China to have N-submarine capability.
  • Built at a cost of $2.9 billion, INS Arihant can fire missiles from under the sea and can lurk in ocean depths of half a km and more.
  • Is powered by an 85-MW capacity nuclear reactor and can acquire surface speeds of 22 to 28 kmph and submerged speed up to 44 kmph.
  • Will be carrying a crew of 95 and will be armed with torpedoes and missiles, including 12 ballistic missiles

Pride and tears for Kargil heroes’ kin on Vijay Diwas

Anil Bhatt

Drass, July 26

"I feel my son's absence," was all a proud mother of Param Vir Chakra awardee Captain Mohan Chandra Pandey could say in a choked voice as she was honoured for his supreme sacrifice in the Kargil war 10 years ago.

Amid the majestic flypasts, singing, dancing and the surge of patriotism associated with the euphoria of victory day celebration, it is not just Mohini Pandey, but families of hundreds of slain soldiers who helped defeat Pakistani forces that are still struggling to come to terms with their loss.

“I feel my son's absence. After a glimpse of his place of martyrdom, I feel proud,” Mohini said as she was honoured at a function here along with emotional family members of award winning soldiers, who laid down their lives during the war, and also the surviving awardees.

“He has made me famous by his martyrdom. I am proud of my son. He is a national hero. I miss him,” said G L Batra, Param Vir Chakra awardee Captain Vikram Batra's father.

As family members of hundreds of slain soldiers gathered here from all over the country at the invitation of the armed forces to attend the 10th anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas, many like S P Kalia are happy that the sacrfice of their loved ones is finally getting due recognition.

“After the demise of my son it is the only happy day of my life. I am thankful that my son is finally recognised and remembered,” said Kalia, father of Lt Saurabh Kalia who was among the first casualties of the Kargil conflict.

The Congress has always downplayed the events to commemorate the end of Kargil war fought under erstwhile NDA government and it is for the first time that the Prime Minister of the UPA coalition has attended the function this year in the capital. There was hardly a dry eye, as family members of the Kargil heroes walked up to the dais to receive the mementos.

Kamla Devi, Munish Devi, Soman Yangsit, Kuldeep Kour, who lost their husbands in the war, however, felt the absence of the Defence Minister A K Antony and Army Chief Deepak Kapoor. “We wanted them here with us,” they said.

“It is not only an emotional but a moment of pride for us. We are here to remember our brave soldiers who won us battle,” Lt Gen P C Bhardwaj, GOC-In-C, Northern command, said.

Accompanied by former Army chief Gen V P Malik, Adjutant General of Army, Lt Gen Mukesh Sabherwal, Gen Bhardwaj as well as families of martyrs, serving officers and awardees laid wreaths at the Vijay Dashmi memorial here amid a majestic flypast by MiG Bison aircraft and Druva choppers and showering of flower petals by Chetak helicopters.

A big hot air baloon flew high in the backdrop of the memorial, located in the base of the Tololing ridgeline in Drass, once a battlezone where 610 officers and men, including five Air Force personnel and two civilians, laid down their lives.

Col Sonam Wancchuk, who was awarded the Maha Vir Charaka (MVC), was emotional as he narrated his experience. “It was most dangerous and difficult war. But we fought and won it for the country. It was a proud moment for us”. Air Officer in Commanding (AOC), Jammu and Kashmir, Air Marshal J Chouhan said, “It was for the first time that the Indian Air Force was called upon to undertake live missions at such high altitudes. A bigger challenge was non violation of Line of Control”.

Mirage-2000 aircraft carried out precision strike missions and dropped laser-guided bombs (LGBs) utilising the laser-designated pods (LDPs).

“These missions turned the balance of power in favour of India. Offensive posturing by the IAF deterred the Pakistani Air Force from intervening in this area. The IAF displayed professionalism of very high order and by July 12 almost all posts were recaptured,” he said. — PTI

IAF copter hit by bullet

Drass, July 26
An IAF helicopter flying over Doda in Jammu and Kashmir was hit by a bullet following which high security arrangements have been made, an IAF official said today.

“High security and precautions are being taken while flying in Jammu and Kashmir,” Air Officer Commanding in Chief (AOC-In-C) Air Marshal J Chouhan said today.

Referring to the incident, Air Marshal Chouhan, however, said it has not been re-established that it was shot (by militants).

“The hole which appeared on the tail was that of a bullet. It was flying over Doda,” Air Marshal Chouhan told the visiting PTI correspondent after laying wreaths on the Kargil war memorial here today. — PTI

Soldiering on in Kargil

It was on 26 July 1999, that the last Pakistani invader was forced to leave Indian soil for good. India claimed victory at Kargil. Since then, the military situation in the area has undergone a change for the better..

CJ: Chitranjan Sawant ,

Sat, Jul 25, 2009 11:20:44 IST

BY DRIVING out the Pakistan Army soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry, from Indian territory in Kargil in the last year of the last century, the Indian Army’s officers and men won the fourth and the last of the four India-Pakistan Wars fought between the years 1947 and 1999.Every time it was Pakistan that committed an aggression and every time it was India who was beaten and turned tail. After wars, invariably negotiations for peace followed where Pakistan promised to behave, then broke its word. A silly scenario of a multi-pronged attack on India's land, sea and air was as delightful hobby horse akin to drinking single malt Scotch whiskey on the house. As is well known, a drunken general may be enchanting while spinning yarns but is always a bad strategist for a real war. Generals of the Pakistan Army have proved that statement time and again.

Ten years on

Much water has flown down the Indus river and tributaries since our victory in Kargil a decade ago. It was on 26 July 2009 that Indian soil was declared clear of the invaders and intruders from across the border. The military situation in the area has undergone a change for the better. "There will NOT be a second Kargil by the Pakistan Army" - is the proud declaration of our Army strategists. We are proud of them. Let us see what changes have taken place that prompts our compatriots to make a bold declaration.

The day-to-day activity of the common citizen mirrors the state of wellness of a society. Are they going about their daily chores in a normal manner or is there a discernible tension because of enemy activity across the border. Ten years ago, every house in Kargil town had a bunker where civilians could take shelter during enemy shelling. Every outer wall of every house had shell marks as a result of enemy bombardment. Kargil became a ghost town within a few days of commencement of the war. Men, women and children had left their home and hearth for safer shelter elsewhere. Ten years on, Kargil looks different. There is the hustle and bustle of a tourist town. Several houses have a guest room where tourists are welcome for bed and breakfast. Kargil's economy is booming under the patronage of the 8th Mountain Division. General Officer Commanding of the Army formation said that they pump Rs2 crores every month into the local economy in the form of wages for labour, hire charges for ponies and purchase of knick-knacks. In a nutshell, peace appears to prevail all over, thanks to the Indian Army.

“NEVER TRUST PAKISTAN” - that is the first lesson the Indian Army has learnt. Alas, our top politicians and bureaucrats still believe in the worn-out adage: keep talking to both friend and foe until a result is achieved. There is no light at the end of the tunnel and yet some diplomats love to loiter around in that tunnel aimlessly. The combat treachery of Pakistan is etched in the heart of every jawan. How can one forget the mutilated bodies of Captain Kalia and his jawans. It was a deliberate devilish act of Pakistan that can never be condoned. In naked contrast to this, the Indian Army showed respect to the enemy war dead and buried their bodies with military honours and Islamic rites because Pakistan had refused to accept them for burial in Pakistan. Of course, the enemy made an exception in the case of their officers who belonged to influential families of Pakistan who pressurised their government to get the bodies back for burial in family burial grounds. Double speak, double standards, thy name is Pakistan.

Modernisation all over

A complete makeover of arms and equipment, clothing and boots, tactics and strategy, has been the crying need of our Armed Forces, since Independence. It is unfortunate that so little attention has been paid to these aspects of defence by the powers that be. This deficiency came to light in the First Kashmir war, Goa operations, the Chinese debacle in NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh), and the wars against Pakistan in 1965, 1971 and 1999. In the 1971 war, the situation was a wee bit better because the then Army Chief made it plain that going to war with major deficiencies in weapon and equipment would mean courting defeat and disaster. Our finance ministry mandarins loosened their purse strings for the first time. In Kargil too, jawans had sad tales to tell. However, thereafter, the Army was given wide financial powers and red tapism was done away with in the case of essential purchases for war. Now the jawans are well-clad, well-fed and well-connected with their loved ones by phone. However, the guns need replacement. The good old Bofors that won Kargil is now 22-years-old. The infantryman’s rifles need be replaced by modern assault and rapid-firing rifles. A bunker-buster weapon system is the crying need of the hour.

Unless the most modern weapon system with accurate and effective fire power is made available to the Army, our war machine cannot be expected to win laurels.

A weak weapon system continues to be the Achilles’ heel of the Indian Army. Strategically speaking, more co-ordination is needed between the government of India and the Armed Forces. India is a nuclear power. Fine. However, the service chiefs are not part of the war mechanism that controls the nuclear button. There is a need to streamline the mechanism for use of nuclear deterrents in both attack and defence.

As far as Kargil is concerned, the Army is happy with the manpower situation. Ten years ago, only 2,000 uniformed personnel were guarding the Line of Control (LOC). Now as many as 20,000 officers and soldiers are keeping a watch on enemy movement across the Line. No doubt the expenditure on their upkeep and maintenance of weapon and equipment has gone up many times. It is estimated to be in the area of Rs8 to 10 crores per day. No one should feel bad about it because the defence of the country is our supreme concern. The motto of the Indian Army is: NATION ABOVE ALL. Let us all rejoice and make merry as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of Kargil Vijay Divas.

Why a nuclear sub is so important?

Vishnu Som, Sunday July 26, 2009, New Delhi

There are stealth fighters jets like the American B-2 which are invisible to radar, but in fact the ultimate stealth weapon is the nuclear submarine.

Diving the depths of the oceans, submarines universally run on one principal -- run silent, run deep; for all practical purposes make a hole in the water and do everything very quietly to avoid sonar searches from other submarines, ships or reconnaissance aircraft.

Detecting the latest nuclear ballistic missile submarines is often next to impossible.

It's a cat and mouse game which has gone on for decades, particularly during the Cold War when the US Navy went to any lengths to track the movement of Russian nuclear submarines particularly ballistic missile submarines.

The goal for both the US and Russian forces was to stay submerged and hidden off each others coastlines while being prepared to launch a volley of nuclear missiles at each other. Fortunately, that instruction never came.

Typically, Russian nuclear submarines were thought to be more noisy than their American counterparts and often and easy picking for the electronically advanced detection systems on board American attack submarines.

But there were areas where the Russians were ahead. Though noisier, several classes of their nuclear submarines were faster than their NATO opponents and more deep diving as well.

The Russians also built what NATO calls the Typhoon class, one of the most feared Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) ever made.

This largest class of nuclear submarines ever built was armed with nuclear tipped missiles so long ranged that they could actually strike their targets on the US coast without having to leave the safety of their docks.

In fact the nuclear missile complex lies at the heart of the nuclear ballistic missile submarine and some of the deadliest nuclear weapons ever created have been Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs).

American and Royal Navy nuclear submarines are armed with the Trident II D5 missile with a range of 8,000 km. French submarines have the M45 and M51 missiles with a range of more than 8000 mms.

Russia operates variant of the missile designated by NATO as SS-N-23 Skiff. This can strike targets 8,300 km away. Russia is also testing a new missile called SSNX-30 or Bulava with a range of more than 8,000 km.

And China is now developing the JL-2 missile which can also reportedly strike targets more than 7,000 km away.

India will now join the select group of nations with its own nuclear ballistic missile submarine. But it may be decades before the Indian Navy picks up the expertise to operate these submarines -- the most sophisticated and deadly military hardware ever built.

Indian Army struggles to stay fighting fit

Anubha Bhonsle & Vishal Thapar


TAKING A BULLET FOR YOU: The Indian Army soldier urgently needs foolproof bulletproof jackets.

Young soldiers trekked up the heights of Kargil 10 years ago and won a war for India. It was a miracle-- those soldiers were ill equipped and it was their guts and grit that won the war.

Five years after the Kargil war was won the Indian Army was battling with the Government for better bulletproof jackets. CNN-IBN has copies of letters written by the Rashtriya Rifles and Headquarters Quarters 16 Corps dating as far back as 2004 for better bulletproof jackets.

Soldiers complain their bulletproof jackets are heavy, cumbersome and sag towards the front, thus leaving upper parts of the chest, shoulder and neck exposed.

Even with the protective gear the Army says it has suffered fatal casualties: 28 per cent of its men died taking shots in the chest region, 11 per cent in the head and almost 14 per cent died because their face and neck region was exposed.

Most bulletproof jackets used by the Army are more than 15 years old and weigh about 10 kg. The market has jackets that weigh just about 6 kg and give high levels of protection.

“When India can send a satellite to the moon, I see no reason why we cannot get bulletproof jackets for our soldiers,” says General (retd.) V P Malik, who was Army chief during the Kargil conflict. “There is a (bulletproof jacket) shortage of almost about 40-50 per cent in the Indian Army. This is more in account of our production agencies not being able to get right quality and right quantity to the armed forces.”

Barring a few emergency purchases, the Army has struggled to get new bulletproof jackets for more than 10 years now. In 1998, the Army first put out a requirement for bulletproof jackets to counter weapons like a 9-mm carbine.

That requirement was modified in 2001 to include protection from more sophisticated weapons--like the AK47 gun--the enemy was using. Now eight years later in the light of fresh threat perceptions, the Army is thinking afresh.

Private companies, like the Tatas, believe they have the skills and the infrastructure to make a bulletproof jacket that suits specific needs of various combat operations. Hemant Acharya, COO of Tata Advanced Materials, says his company can manufacture bulletproof jackets based on the Army’s needs.

“One has to clear about the ammunition it has to protect against (and) which part of the body. One should also be clear what one is willing to pay for it,” says Acharya.

The procedure is such that even if the Army was to make up its mind tomorrow and due processes followed, it could be years before the solider on the ground gets to wear the bulletproof jacket he needs.

Bofors shadow

Bulletproof jackets or artillery guns the Indian Army's modernization drive has been stopped dead in its tracks by the phobia created by Bofors scandal.

Bofors powered Indian victory in Kargil but not one new artillery gun has been purchased for over 20 years. In the 10 years since Kargil, four tenders for buying 860 guns and making another 1,200 in India are stuck in red tape because of the phobia created by the Bofors gun deal.

“Just because there has been a scam, people are very reluctant to touch Bofors again--even though the gun has proved itself,” says Lt General Shankar Prasad, former director general of military operations.

India's artillery modernization programme is paralysed because of the scam-tainted $1.4-billion deal for 410 Bofors guns in 1986. Bofors keeps outperforming rivals in trials for new guns and emerged a clear winner after four tough trial rounds. The gun’s essential features--its range, accuracy and rate of fire--exceeded the Army's requirements but that fact was overshadowed.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government rejected the gun in 2007 on the flimsy ground that its auxiliary power system didn’t perform all.


The Army’s stalled artillery programme includes procurement of 400 towed guns with an option to make 1,200 more in India, 180 wheeled self-propelled howitzers, 100 tracked self-propelled guns, 180 ultra-light howitzers for mountain warfare and upgrade of 410 Bofors guns.

Pakistan has made it clear that its nuclear threshold is low. Hence, deep thrusts by Indian troops into Pakistan territory will be very risky. Under such constraints, longer-range firepower will be critical to victory in any future war. But the result of the Bofors phobia is that India does not have this edge.

The Defence Ministry continues to issues tenders after tenders, as it can neither ignore Bofors and nor be seen cutting another deal with it.

Vintage air defence

The Army manages to make ends meet though it has an artillery gun shortage but it air defence set-up is in a scandalous state. The Directorate General of Air Defence has told the top brass that 97 per cent of its equipment, which is used to protect the Army’s field formations and vital installations from air attack, is approaching obsolescence.

The KVADRAT has been service for 30 years and is now at least two years over its full life. The L 70 air defence gun, which forms the backbone of the air defence system, has now been in use for nearly 44 years.

The SCHILKA, a self-propelled weapon system, has been in service for 34 years and the twin barrel gun for 31 years.

“Some of the equipment that we are using is almost Second World War's time, like L-70 guns which we got in sixties,” says General Malik.

Some of the air defence systems have been modified cosmetically, but such is the combat inventory that the Army says that some of its Strike Corps could hold nothing by 2010. The blame has been partly laid on the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The Army believes it has reached this critical situation because projects like the Trishul and the Aakash either failed or simply did not meet the deadline.

“The unfortunate part is that the DRDO always puts a spoke to any thing that the armed forces wish to acquire,” says General Prasad.

“They take a huge time--I can give the example of the Arjun tank. It should have been introduced into service nearly 10 years ago and it is still nowhere in the acceptable stage to for the Indian Army. I can give you the example of a simple sten machine carbine. It is 10 years plus that the DRDO has been trying to develop this weapon for the Army and the Army is not able to accept it. Not because the Army doesn’t want to accept it but because it doesn’t meet suit them,” says Prasad.

CAG criticises Scorpene deal for delay, benefit given to firm

Bogged down by kickback charges, the Scorpene submarine deal has now come under criticism from the Comptroller and Auditor General for the delay involved and financial "advantage" given to the French company. In its latest audit report tabled in Parliament on Saturday, the Comptroller and Auditor General came down heavily on the Defence Ministry for the nine-year delay in concluding the contract and for showing "undue financial advantage" to the company, which hiked the price by Rs 2,838 crore despite the vessel's designbeing unproven.

The auditors' indictment comes a week after Defence Minister A K Antony told the House that the delay in delivery of Scorpene would impact Navy's underwater capabilities. The CAG report for 2008 said Indian Navy's projected requirement for a submarine fleet was approved in 1997, but the contract with Armaris, a joint venture of DCN and Thales, was done only in October 2005. This despite the fact that the Navy's force level was depleting fast and of the present 16 diesel-electric submarines in its fleet, it would be left with only nine by2012. "It took almost a decade to finalise the contract for construction of 25 per cent of the envisaged force level (24). Resultantly, the first submarine is likely to be inducted by 2012 only, by which time the inventory of the operational submarines available for the Navy would be at its lowest ebb. This would lead to serious operational ramifications," the report said.

The CAG noted that the Rs 18,798-crore project to construct six Scorpenes at Mazagon Dockyards Limited (MDL) had

already slipped two years behind schedule, though the delivery of the submarines was fixed between 2012 and 2017."The submarine design selected has also not proven its efficacy in any other navy," the CAG report said, adding that the project cost had increased from Rs 12,609 crore in October 2002 to Rs 15,447 crore by October 2005 when the contract was signed. Moreover, the report added that "the contractual provisions resulted in undue financial advantage to the vendor

of a minimum of Rs 349 crore, besides other unquantifiable benefits," it added.

In October 2005, India had also signed another Rs 1,062-crore with MBDA for supply of sea-skimming Exocet missiles.

The missiles, the CAG said, would be fitted on the submarine only after its construction is over. But even before the missiles becomes operational on the submarine, the warranty period of first two batches of the missiles supplied by the company would have expired, it added. India also extended to the vendor "Wide ranging concessions" on warranty, performance bank guarantee, escalation formula, arbitration clause, liquidated damages, agency commission and performance parameters, it added.

Akshardham Temple gets army cover

Ahmedabad: The Indian Army is busy making the blueprints of Akshardham Temple to counter any further terror attacks. They are concentrating on the entry and exit points of the temple. The move followed intelligence input from the centre that warned of a possible terror attack on some important buildings of the state. The Akshardham Temple was apparently on the list.

Sources in the Indian army told DNA that a specific unit of the army -- 10 Para group is busy making the blueprint of the temple."It is also looking at some other nine vulnerable buildings of the state and will soon have a blueprint of these buildings as well," the source said. The team visited Ahmedabad & Gandhinagar some days ago for the purpose.

"The team is thinking the way a terrorist would do and have thought of all the possible ways in which a terror attack can take place on the temple," the defence source told DNA.

The source further said that once the blueprint of Akshardham Temple is completed, the same will be done for other vulnerable buildings.

The source, however, refused to name the other buildings that figure in the list as possible terror targets."The entire premises have been scanned by the group several times. The group has studied the major escape routes, security points, public entries and exits and secret doors in the temple," the source said. The defence source said that the team had also studied the attack that took place on the temple on September 25-2002.

The group studied the modus operandi the attackers used to

enter the temple and kill innocents. The 10 Para group of the army recently received the Ashok Chakra for its role in counter terrorism in Kashmir as well as for its role following the Mumbai terror attacks.

Cops ask citizens to register tenants

On the basis of intelligence reports of a possible terror attack in the city, the police commissionerate has issued a notification urging people not to give their houses, offices, godowns or cold storages on rent without informing the nearby police station about the details of the tenants. Those who violate the notification will be booked under section 188 of the IPC.

The vigilant eye
CAG questions Gorshkov, Scorpene deals

THE nation has been suffering huge losses owing to delays in defence purchases, but babus in the Defence Ministry seem to be the least bothered about these. The Comptroller and Auditor-General’s latest report has slammed the defence establishment for the way it has been handling many big acquisitions, particularly of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and six French Scorpene submarines for the Navy. India entered into a contract to acquire Gorshkov in 2000, a second-hand refitted war ship, at $875 million but ultimately it may have to shell out as much as $1.82 billion with the delivery time extended from 2008 to 2012. Why should India suffer when the Russians cannot fulfil their promise in accordance with the contract?

The CAG has expressed surprise why India should go in for Gorshkov when it could have bought a similar new aircraft carrier at a price 60 per cent less than Gorshkov. A new ship could have served the Navy for at least 40 years whereas Gorshkov may be useful for a much shorter period.

The story of the purchase of six Scorpene submarines is also shocking. As the CAG report points out, the French firm was favoured with “large concessions” and that too when the “submarine design selected has not proved its efficacy in any other navy”. This is not the way to go in for defence-related purchases. The CAG has come down heavily on those involved in defence acquisitions in the past also like in the case of the purchase of HDW submarines from Germany. Yet the babus in the defence establishment continue to function in the way it suits them. It is time Defence Minister A. K. Antony looks into the CAG report closely and holds an enquiry to find out what has gone wrong in the acquisitions of costly defence wherewithal from other countries. The CAG report has increased his workload.

Unending Maoist menace
Fight it with a well-coordinated drive
by Maj-Gen Ashok K. Mehta (retd)

MORE than a decade after the Naxals took to the jungles and continue ravaging Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, among other states, the government has finally admitted that it does not have a strategy and has underestimated the strength of the Naxals. It is an SOS and a surge to stem the rampage that will follow.

“Dilli Gheri Lebo” is the war cry of the Naxals or the Maoists as they are now called after the merger of Left wing extremist groups in 2004. Last month they momentarily captured Lalgarh police station in West Bengal. Dehyphenated, Lalgarh means Red Citadel. The Maoist aim is to capture Lal Qila — Red Fort — in Delhi, that is political power through armed struggle.

Neither Lalgarh nor Lal Qila can be held by them, yet Maoists, not jihadis, interfered with the parliamentary elections striking at will in their strongholds — in short, expanding the people’s war and the feared red corridor. For Maoists, Lalgarh was more a political theatre about discrediting the Left Front government in Kolkata than any intent to establish a liberated zone.

Recovering from the aftershocks of Mumbai, the Centre asked the state government to flush out the Maoists, making Operation Lalgarh the first major Centre-state anti-Naxal offensive. Nearly 5000 men of the state police, the East Frontier Rifles, the CRPF, the BSF, the IRB and the Cobra Force were deployed against 100 to 150 armed Maoists, who used their favoured indirect weapons, mines and IEDs, against which the police has no antidote or SOP. After two weeks of shadow-boxing, the Maoists melted away in thin air.

But Lalgarh has been pushed into the background by the stunning multiple ambushes involving IEDs employed by the Maoists in Chhattisgarh after Andhra Pradesh, the only other state to have done the most to combat Naxalism but with limited success. Coupled with other attacks in Orissa and Jharkhand recently and the revelations that a Delhi businessman has been supplying electronic equipment to Naxals in Jharkhand, notorious for the diversion of counter-Naxal funds, it is obvious that the menace is beyond state capability and is a national problem.

For some years now, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been describing the Maoists as the most serious internal threat facing the country. Home Minister P. Chidambaram informed Parliament recently that “we did not assess the challenge correctly, we underestimated the challenge and LWE (Left-wing extremism) has extended its influence”. He also stated that clearing out Maoist-held areas is a precondition to development work. This is for the first time that there is an admission of the lost time and no strategy to reconcile defence and development.

In the last five years, rather than being contained, the Maoists have expanded their sway to 16 states, with six seriously affected ones. The Indian Maoists have ideological links with their counterparts in Nepal though operational connections had been severed after the latter joined multi-party democracy. In June, a truck from Jharkhand laden with explosives destined for Nepal was intercepted by the Bihar police. The Maoists had called an all-India bandh last month to condemn the killing of Prabhakaran in Mullaithivu and Sudhakar Reddy in Warangal, declaring the two as true revolutionaries. They are also known to have links with jihadi groups in Pakistan, notably the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

The Maoists run an all-India unified command, sharing intelligence, pooling resources and coordinating their activities across the Naxal operational grid. Their latest directive commands state units to expand the People’s War and learn from the mistakes of the Nepali Maoists and the LTTE. Since government response to the threat posed by them is disjointed and not at the national level, Maoism is spreading despite numerous socio-economic schemes under NREGA and the Backward Areas Development Programme. The delivery mechanism to bring relief to the tribals in inaccessible areas, with ineffective administrative structures, is the biggest failure of the Indian state.

Differing perceptions between the states and the Centre, law and order being a state subject, is yet another problem. State and Central governments belonging to different parties have not achieved the political consensus necessary to confront the Maoists. The piecemeal state-by-state approach of combating Maoists is unlikely to work. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya lamented the non-cooperation by Jharkhand during Lalgarh operations where Lalgarh Maoists escaped.

In Chhattisgarh, it is the fifth year of the Salwa Judum, depicted as people’s uprising and a foil to the Maoists. With mixed results, its mentor and senior Congress leader, Mr Mahendra Karma, has refined the strategy from one of direct confrontation to isolating the Maoists with the help of the people. Jharkhand has come up with an attractive surrender and rehabilitation plan with cash incentives for firearms. Orissa, where nearly half of the 30 districts are hit by Maoist depredation, has its own plan. While a template to fix the Maoists is not sought, a common approach will optimise the response mechanism. A collective threat calls for a national strategy.

In the last five years, violence in the seven worst affected states has claimed 3500 lives in 7800 incidents. Till July 1 this year, 460 persons, including 160 security forces, had been killed in Left-wing extremist violence. This marks an 18 per cent increase in violence and 37 per cent rise in police fatalities over last year and reflects how the nation is suffering more casualties from Naxal violence than in J&K. Next month is the meeting of Chief Ministers where Home Minister Chidambaram is to unfold a new counter-Naxal strategy involving Central and state resources.

The Army is monitoring the Maoist map closely as it does not wish to get sucked in. It has attached a Brigadier to the anti-Naxal cell in the Ministry of Home Affairs and is helping in producing the new counter-Naxal concept paper. Army training of anti-Naxal police forces started in 2006 at the CIJW, Wairangte, the Infantry Regimental Centres and 4 Corps Counterinsurgency and Anti-Terrorism School. Fighting a Naxal like a Naxal focuses on skills in countering IEDs, mine warfare, jungle survival and winning hearts and minds of tribals. Other measures being considered include setting up of Army cantonments and training centres in Maoist-dominated areas as well as the use of armed helicopters.

At least 20 CRPF battalions, the lead force for anti-Naxal operations and 20 counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism schools, are to be established shortly in the worst affected states. Sadly, the police units which come for training are unaccompanied by officers and are not a cohesive lot. Without implementing the full scale of police reforms ordered by the Supreme Court and injecting modernisation and motivation, the state and central police will not be optimally operational.

A twin-pronged inclusive development and security strategy, integral to a national plan, and a refurbished delivery mechanism are required to counter the march of the Maoists. It is not as if the Maoists are invincible. Rather the response has been too little, too late. To be successful, operations have to be coordinated with neighbouring states/districts and the Centre. Without a common minimum political consensus and upgrading the Maoist threat beyond the law and order category, the Maoist chant of Delhi Gheri Lebo will come closer to the national Capital.

Shortage of warships
by Premvir Das

RECENT reports indicate that the government has approved the acquisition of six new frigates for the Navy, all to be built locally, three at the Mazagon Docks (MDL) at Mumbai and the remaining three at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) at Kolkata. The decision to acquire these ships, when the force levels are dwindling, is something to feel satisfied about; what is not so reassuring is the manner in which this decision is sought to be executed.

Look at the record of MDL. Its first frigate came out in 1972, the twelfth, in 2002. In short, the shipyard took 30 years to build a dozen ships. Since 2000, it has had six destroyers/frigates on order, the first of these may join the Navy in 2011 and the last, even with some miraculous increase in productivity, by 2020.

In this background, the decision to ask this yard to produce three more frigates within the same time frame is seriously flawed and totally out of touch with reality. It can hardly begin work on these, leave aside exaggerated claims, until those already in its order book are got ready and delivered. So, what is being said, in effect, is that the new frigates would come to the Navy from MDL only after 2020.

The picture at GRSE is worse. This yard was asked to build three frigates in 1986, to be delivered by 1994; they were actually delivered by 2002, double the earlier time frame offered by GRSE. No more orders were given taking into account this unsatisfactory performance.

The decision to now ask this yard to produce three frigates for delivery by 2020 i.e. in eleven years, when a suitable collaborator is still to be selected, is clearly something surreal; it is just not going to happen. Expertise in building complex warships is not something that comes up overnight built on pious hopes.

There have been claims that technology transfer arrangements for the new ships with the chosen collaborator will involve modular construction techniques which will permit work to be progressed faster than has been possible hitherto.

This is debatable. Not only does this involve the availability of very heavy duty cranes (which can be got) but availability of space where huge sections can be put together before being taken for assembly.

These additional areas are just not there at MDL which is already loaded with the orders mentioned above, not to speak of the six Scorpene class submarines whose construction in that yard is also running behind time by two to three years, mainly because neither the required facilities nor expertise has been built up as originally claimed.

As for the GRSE, there is some cushion in terms of space but manpower skills are way behind that of MDL. So, any expectations that results will quickly move from dismal to brilliant are misplaced, to say the least.

The story at MDL is not much different. But in these 30-odd years, gaps have been successively filled by purchases from abroad, five destroyers from the erstwhile USSR in the 1980s, three frigates from Russia in the 2000s followed by orders for another three of that class, to be delivered in the next three to four years.

This has been a wise approach, which has enabled the Navy to remain afloat when dependence on indigenous sources only would have surely been suicidal. There is need for judicious balancing of the two avenues, local construction and import.

In earlier imports of frigates and destroyers, there was no real transfer of technology. So our shipyards did not benefit too much. We should learn from those experiences as we select our options for the future.

The acquisition of six new frigates offers exactly that opportunity, to the advantage of the yards as well as the Navy. The first two ships should be bought from the chosen foreign yard and while those vessels are under construction, personnel from MDL and GRSE should be deputed to gain familiarity with the methods and technologies being used as both will be new.

This association will also enable our workers to differentiate between those areas which require critical attention and those which are familiar. They will then be better able to handle indigenous construction.

This process was followed very advantageously when four submarines were acquired from Germany in the 1980s and early 1990s. The first two were bought outright from HDW, the German shipyard, and workers from MDL attended their construction.

Consequently, time and cost overruns with the two built locally thereafter were minimal. If this same route is followed for the frigates, the first two could be delivered within five to six years, with the remaining four coming later. This would plug the gaps in the Navy’s force levels quicker while making the indigenous process more confident and capable.

In short, the decision to build all six ships locally is not consistent with the need to supplement force levels quickly while developing indigenous capabilities. It should be reviewed. Exaggerated and optimistic claims by the local shipyards are not new and have been made repeatedly over the decades.

That mistaken assessment of capability is natural, even understandable, but it should not cloud decision-making, which should be based on awareness of ground realities and a pragmatic view of what is probable. Hoping against hope is not the way to go.

The writer is a former Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command.

1 comment:

  1. It is certainly a breakthrough to the Indian Navy. India is now proud of joining the elite club of countries that have such sophisticated nuclear capable vessels. But with U.S already having 74 such fully operational vessels, China having 10 and India needing another two years to have Arihant fully operational, Is India still lagging? These weapons of mass destruction" inspire awe and fear, and some believe will eventually result in Armageddon. How much of it true?



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