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Sunday, 26 July 2009

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Deep impact

Sandeep Unnithan

Nothing to do with Baloch: Chidambaram

New Delhi, July 25
Aiming to stem the controversy over the inclusion of Balochistan in the India-Pakistan joint statement, Home Minister P Chidambaram has asserted that New Delhi has “nothing to do with Pakistan’s internal affairs.” “We have nothing to do with Pakistan's internal problems, why should we get involved?” Chidamabaram told CNN-IBN in an interview.

The Union Home Minister was replying to a question on the contentious move by India to allow a mention of “threats to Balochistan” in the joint statement which was issued after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt July 16.

Although Pakistan has been accusing India of fomenting trouble in its resource-rich southwest province for decades, this is the first time Balochistan has found mention in a joint statement between the two countries.

The Opposition BJP and some experts have slammed the government for “conceding” to Pakistan on the Balochistan issue. — IANS

US aid to Pak comes with rider

Washington, July 25
The US Senate has approved the country’s defence budget with an amendment aimed at ensuring that military assistance for Pakistan is actually being used only to fight the Taliban and Al-Qaida.

The bipartisan amendment moved by Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Bob Corker would mandate a certification by the secretaries of state and defence, before Pakistan is reimbursed with Coalition Support Funds, that the payment is both in the national security interests of the US, and will not affect the balance of power in the region.

“To this point, almost eight years and more than seven billion in American taxpayer dollars for Pakistan’s military have not prevented the Taliban and Al-Qaida from regrouping along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border,” said Menendez.

“We owe it to our service members and the American taxpayer to ensure that the funds provided to Pakistan are in fact being directed toward those efforts and not misdirected,” said Corker. — IANS

Mush’s claims on Kargil false: Malik

Drass (J&K), July 25
Accusing former Pakistan military ruler Pervez Musharraf of “telling lies”, the retired Indian Army chief VP Malik today said the Pakistani General seemed to change his perceptions and actions on the Kargil war before different audiences.

“He (Musharraf) keeps changing his statements. There was a time, he was not owning up his role in the conflict. First he said it was only irregular militants fighting, but later changed his views and owned up that regular Pakistani army troops were involved in the intrusion,” Malik said at a ceremony to mark 10 years of the conflict, which saw extraordinary feats of bravery by Indian army men and just commissioned young officers.

Commenting on claims made by Musharraf that through the Kargil, he had brought Kashmir issue back on the international agenda in a big way, Malik who led the Indian army during the conflict period, said events were to the contrary, as it was a proud and brave Indian army, which evicted the Pakistanis from the heights occupied illegally by them. Taking on the former Pakistani President, Malik said, Musharraf was an army chief, who did not dare to own up Pakistani army casualties and refused to take their dead bodies, which had to be buried with honour by Indian forces.

Malik also said that Pakistani rulers, including their military brass could not be trusted and New Delhi would have to step up preparedness, as any new war could be foisted on the country anytime. — PTI

A first: Women all set to guard borders
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Kharkan (Hoshiarpur), July 25
History was created when the Border Security Force (BSF) inducted the first batch of women constables, who will be deployed in a combat role on the international border.

This is the first time in India that women are being deployed in such a role in parity with their male comrades after undergoing 36-week rigorous training. As many as 178 constables presented a perfect march past in front of Home Minister P Chidambaram at the BSF training camp here today.

The relatives, too, could be seen hugging each other, as the girls took the last step towards achieving their long-cherished goal. In a country where society still frowns and discourages girls from embracing a hard life, the large turnout of family members and friends took even the organisers by surprise.

BSF officers said the constables had been trained in weaponry and all other duties that a general duty male constable did and their resilience during the long and arduous course was commendable.

They would be deployed along the 553-km-long Punjab border with Pakistan. Their primary role would be to search and frisk womenfolk going across the fencing to work with their male members in tilling their lands.

By inducting women constables, a long-pending demand of people of the border areas has been met since they resented the frisking of their womenfolk by male border guards.

If need be, the services of these constables will also be used on internal security duties and counter-insurgency roles being performed by the BSF, the officials added.

Jai Jawan with Abhishek Bacchan

Are we battle ready?

Indian Navy's submarine fleet in poor health: CAG


NOT PREPARED: CAG report says just 48 per cent of the submarine fleet is available for waging war.

New Delhi: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in his latest report has painted a bleak picture of India's defence preparedness.

The report, tabled in Lok Sabha on Friday, says half of India's submarine fleet is in disrepair and a grossly inadequate, three decade-old radar network has left the country vulnerable to enemy attack.

The stinging CAG report states that no more than 48 per cent of India's submarine fleet is available for waging war, should India be attacked.

The auditors have blamed this situation on an ageing fleet, which the Defence Ministry has failed to replace.

Also, the numbers falls far short of the requirement. India's submarine fleet is only 67 per cent of the force levels approved 23 years ago.

"The Indian Navy currently hold just 67 per cent of the force level envisaged in its 1985 plan," the report says.

At present, the submarine fleet strength of the Navy includes 12 Kilo-class and four HDW. Currently, six Scorpene submarines are under construction at the Mazgaon Docks in Mumbai and the Navy has floated fresh Request for Information to acquired submarines.

"Some of the submarines have already outlived their maximum service life," it adds.

The report also castigates the performance of the newly acquired sonars costing Rs 168 crore as being unsatisfactory.

The report also sounded a grave alarm about the status of India's air defence, which are based on outdated, 32-year-old technology.

Shortage of key radars was to the tune of 76 per cent making India particularly vulnerable to air attacks.

Soldiers who died on UN duty
CAG raps defence ministry for delay in payments to kin
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 25
Pointing to a “lackadaisical” attitude of the Ministry of Defence, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has sent out a shocker. Babus in the ministry have been sitting on compensation payments to families of soldiers who died doing the UN duty. The UN had paid up but delays have been for several years at the ministry level.

Separately, the Indian Air Force was paid less for sending choppers for UN missions, said the CAG, pegging the total loss at Rs 245 crore.

The CAG in its report yesterday had also pointed to a delay in acquiring trainer jets for pilots. In its absence, the IAF lost 259 frontline fighters to crashes, as it did not have adequate numbers of training aircrafts. Of these, 101 accidents occurred due to human error. The delay in acquiring advanced jet trainers was for 22 years but the CAG studied crashed between 1992 and 2003. These cost the exchequer thousands of crores.

On the UN peacekeeping missions, the CAG says since 1950 India has lost over 100 troops in 43 UN peacekeeping missions. A sum of $50,000 as one-time lump sum compensation was received from the UN in time, however, the ministry held back the payments for no reason.

It also noted that there were 36 casualties and 17 disability cases of Indian soldiers in UN peacekeeping missions between 1990 and 2007. The payment to families of 20 soldiers, who died during 1990-95, was released by the government after the delay of 12 to 17 years, said the CAG, as it highlighted the plight of the families who have suffered.

The CAG further revealed that in six cases during 2000-01 where soldiers died, payments were released after five to seven years and when payments were made they were without interest.

The UN, the report noted, had reimbursed $1.8 million to India relating to 53 casualties among its troops between November 1995 and March 2008. Pointing to more faults, the CAG said India entered into five agreements with the UN between July 2003 and October 2005 for deploying 17 utility and eight attack helicopters for UN missions in Sudan and Congo, of which the costs of operating the respective choppers was agreed at $2,100 and $2,950, respectively, per flying hour.

The shocker was that the actual costs of operating the choppers were $2,496 and $6,132, respectively, per flying hour, the CAG report said. Thus, the reimbursement was lower by Rs 205 crore, the report said. Indian soldiers have been getting less allowance while the ministry did not factor in hidden costs relating to the training of troops for three to six months.

10 years of Vijay Divas, just one govt function
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 25
Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will pay homage to soldiers who laid down their lives during the Kargil conflict in 1999 at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate tomorrow, the government seems to have cold shouldered the nations aspirations of celebrating 10 years of the hard-earned victory in Kargil.

The PM will be laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti before he flies off to Vishakapatnam to launch the first indigenous nuclear submarine. He will be accompanied by Defence Minister AK Antony and also the chiefs of the two services --- Admiral Sureesh Mehta and Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, sources in the Defence Ministry confirmed said. This will be the only function of the government slated for the day.

July 26 is celebrated as Vijay Divas to mark the Kargil victory. The Army is conducting two-day celebrations at the war memorial at Drass where former and serving soldiers and officers have gathered.

The Army chief General Deepak Kapoor is slated to return from his US visit early tomorrow morning. He is expected to head straight to the war memorial. However, retired officers feel that someone from the government should be present at the Drass memorial, located at the base of the imposing Tiger Hill.

The ex-servicemen are also upset over the ‘shameless remarks’ made by Congress MP Rashid Alvi, who was quoted on a news channel saying: “Kargil isn’t a thing to be celebrated … It’s only the NDA, which may celebrate it.” A Tribune team visited the memorial late last month and found that people from far-off places like Darjeeling, Kolkatta, Ahemdabad and Hyderabad had come to pay homage to martyrs

IAF gets 4 Cheetal copters
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, July 25
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) today handed over the first batch of four Cheetal helicopters to the Indian Air Force.

A press release issued by the HAL here today said N C Agarwal, director (Design and Development) handed over the helicopters to Air Vice Marshal M. Bahadur, Assistant Chief of Air Staff, IAF.

At a function at the Helicopter Division, Barrackpore, K. Tamil Mani, CE (CEMILAC), handed over the RSD to N. Seshadri, ED (RC), after which the helicopters were handed over to Air Vice Marshal M. Bahadur.

PM launches N-sub today
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 25
The north coastal Andhra Pradesh is set to emerge as one of the strategic defence hubs in the country with the first indigenously-built nuclear submarine being launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Visakhapatnam tomorrow.

While the submarine, christened as INS Arihant, will provide strategic depth to Indian navy, the proposed unit of Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) near the coastal city will give fillip to nuclear research. The BARC facility at Achyutapuram will be the new regional centre of the country’s premier atomic research institute. It will also house the Homi Bhabha National Institute, a deemed university, offering undergraduate programmes in nuclear science.

Indian Army celebrates 268th anniversary of Colachal battle


July 25th, 2009

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM - The Indian Army Saturday celebrated the 268th anniversary of the victory of the Travancore kingdom’s forces over the Dutch in the mid-18th century.

The forces of King Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch in an amphibious battle July 31, 1741, earning Travancore the distinction of being among the few Asian forces to have defeated a leading European sea power at sea and land.

The king recorded this victory with a majestic pillar erected at Colachal beach, in what is now Tamil Nadu.

The ex-king of erstwhile Travancore state Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma was the chief guest of the function at the small picturesque costal township, 68 km south of Chennai. Maj. Gen. (retd) V.D.I. Devavaram, Pangode station commander Brig. Cherish Mathson, and Col. R.K. Chaudhary, the commanding officer of 16 Madras and other dignitaries were also present.

Floral wreaths were laid at the memorial.

The victory pillar, earlier with the customs department, was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India on the request of Varma.

Kargil brought India to table

* Ex-president says his decision to dismiss CJP was legal

* Admits an ‘understanding’ with Benazir

* Zardari’s position politically fragile

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Former president Pervez Musharraf has branded the Kargil operation of 1999 a “big success”, and said India agreed to discuss Kashmir only because of that war in 1999.

“Yes, indeed, it was a big success because it had (an) impact even on the attitudes of the Indian side. How did we start discussing the Kashmir dispute? How was it that the Indians agreed that we will discuss Kashmir and there must be a negotiated settlement? Before this, there was no such thing at all,” said Musharraf in an interview with Karan Thapar – the host of the programme ‘Devil’s Advocate’ – on the 10th anniversary of the operation.

Making a strong defence for the controversial Kargil operation, Musharraf said, “[Before that] Kashmir couldn’t be spoken [about]. Kashmir … [could] not be mentioned even in United Nations speeches by our leaders. This was the Indian side. (So) how did the Indians come to the negotiating table on Kashmir?”

Asked whether he would repeat the Kargil operation knowing that it ended up raising question marks about him personally, Musharraf said, “I don’t want to comment.”

He also accepted that forces from the Pakistan Army’s Rawalpindi Corps and Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) were involved in the Kargil operation – contradicting the country’s previous claim that the operation was conducted by alleged freedom fighters and the army was not involved.

The former president claimed that the Kargil operation ended with Pakistani forces in a “very favourable” position, and said, “Because if you are talking about India-Pakistan, Indians had moved all their forces against Kargil and there was (as a result) weakness elsewhere. So we knew what the Indian forces are capable (of) and what we are capable (of) ... the situation was very favourable in Kargil, in Kashmir and on the entire border. We were capable of responding to any Indian action,” he said.

Asked why he left the decision to Nawaz Sharif and did not argue against a ceasefire, he said, “One, there was a ground military position, the other is that there was a lot happening internationally. Internationally, there was the US element putting a lot of pressure on the government to stop or whatever. And then there was the (domestic) political pressure. Whether the political situation was good enough to sustain that pressure. I, therefore, decided to only talk of the military (situation),” he said.

Musharraf said even though his decision to dismiss the chief justice was “absolutely constitutional and legal”, the handling of the situation was “shabby”.

About reports that he had a secret understanding with the Benazir Bhutto that facilitated her return to Pakistan in October 2007, Musharraf admitted for the first time that there was “an understanding”.

He claimed that had Benazir lived to be prime minister, he would still be president of Pakistan.

Commenting on the political situation in Pakistan, Musharraf agreed that it had become a more complicated country today. He said the President Asif Ali Zardari-led government was “much weaker”.

Musharraf also agreed with US President Barack Obama’s comment that Zardari’s government was fragile and unable to deliver services effectively to the masses. "At the moment yes. That is correct. That is happening,” he said.

Musharraf pointed out that the rivalry between Nawaz and Zardari was “destabilising” and distracting attention from what he called “the greatest danger”: the fight against terrorism and extremism.

Musharraf, for the first time, accepted that he had been – at least partly – forced out of office and his resignation in August 2008 was not entirely voluntary.

He insisted that he knew nothing of any indemnity granted to him, and said he would stand up to any court case brought against him.\07\25\story_25-7-2009_pg7_16

Report on India’s Advanced Light Helicopters Highlights Shortcomings

11:32 GMT, July 24, 2009 As India Defence Online reports, the latest report of India’s auditing agency, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) submitted to the Indian Parliament last week states that the Indian Army inducted 40 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) at a cost of about $356 million which cannot fly above 5,000 meters due to technical shortcomings. The ALH had been designed for the Army and the Indian Air Force by the state owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to fly up to 20,000 feet (over 6000 meters).

The CAG report says even the upgraded ALH which is powered by a high thrust engine has not been delivered to the Indian defence forces. The CAG report cautions that the inability to acquire suitable ALHs timely has led to considerable delay in de-induction of old fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. This can further deteriorate the operational preparedness of the Army, especially in high altitude areas in forward locations like Siachen in Kashmir. The Indian Army has to rely on the homemade ALH for movement of troops and logistics in operational areas under harsh weather conditions.

The Indian Defence Ministry cleared the purchase of 105 ALH helicopters in addition to the 40 in operation in 2007. However, the condition was that the later ALH must be upgraded with the newly developed Shakti engine which has a higher thrust.

The CAG report further quoted a HAL official who indicated that even the Shakti engine has some technical problems. It is unclear whether the 105 ALH will be without the technical flaws, says the report. The Army Aviation (Maintenance Advisory Group) at HAL Bangalore, has already stated in September 2008 that Shakti engine under development had deficiency in power and necessary improvements were underway. Therefore, it is not yet certain whether another 105 ALH ordered in December 2007 would be free of shortcomings.

State-owned HAL had projected an export order of around 120 ALHs in the next 10 years but the latest report is making that a grim possibility. Recently, Chile had turned down the Indian ALH and opted for 12 light transport helicopters from Bell Helicopter. However, India has managed to supply the ALH to Ecuador, Peru, Turkey and Nepal in small numbers.

The CAG report insinuated that the qualitative requirements (QR) of the Indian defence forces had been watered down to facilitate HAL from the beginning. The ALH project was approved in 1984 for design and development by HAL in collaboration with M/s Turbomeca, France. The project was completed in June 2001 and in September 1995, the Army projected a requirement of 99 helicopters to be inducted by 2007 which was later scaled down to 40. The ALH was not able to fly above 5000 metres, though the Army’s requirement stipulated up to 6,500 metres. The shortcomings of the ALH were due to the engines and its vibration level not being within the acceptable limits. Despite the shortcomings, four ALHs were accepted by the Army and an order for eight more was placed to sustain the production lines of HAL.

India is also on a hunt in the international market for the purchase of 197 multi utility helicopters to replace the Cheetah and Chetak.

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