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Sunday, 2 August 2009

From Today's Papers - 02 Aug 09

Sorry for the truncated and delayed update – am having serious net problems.

Outrage over jawan's behaviour in Assam

Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Friday July 31, 2009, Halflong

A girl in Assam who fought alleged sexual harassment by a member of the armed forces now finds a large fan following among NDTV viewers.

The dramatic footage, recorded by a journalist in Halflong, showed a tribal girl in Assam, Rali Faihrem thrashing Lancenaik Gurvinder Singh from the 8th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment for alleged molesting her. She later filed an FIR against the jawan.

NDTV met Rali Faihrem who is now back at work at her garment store in Halflong where the army personnel had allegedly molested her.

"We respect the army but he came and touched me after asking me to show some innerwear. I just lost my temper and hit him. I was scared. I filed an FIR because I don't want any other woman to be subjected to this kind of harassment."

The incident has been noticed internationally with students at Berkeley University in the US backing the woman for her action. Viewers from across the world are also rooting for Rali on various social networking sites.

The Army, on its part, says this was a disagreement which went out of control and an enquiry has been ordered.

Soviet warship turns into India's white elephant

By Pratap Chakravarty (AFP) – 1 day ago

NEW DELHI — When Russia gave India a retired Soviet aircraft carrier five years ago, New Delhi was delighted -- little realising the vessel would turn into a costly white elephant.

Russia, India's longtime weapons supplier, said in 2004 it would give the country the 44,570-tonne "Admiral Gorshkov" as a gift, provided Delhi paid a Russian shipyard 974 million dollars to refurbish the carrier.

Since then, the price has skyrocketed for fixing up the 27-year-old ship, which was decommissioned after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 2007, Russia demanded 850 million dollars more, citing cost escalations. Then, six months ago, Russia startled India with another demand -- this time for 2.9 billion dollars.

It also pushed back the ship's delivery by four years to 2012 -- a year after India must mothball its last remaining aircraft carrier, the British-origin INS Viraat.

Now India's national auditor has waded into the row, saying the navy could have paid less for a new carrier.

"At best, the Indian navy would be acquiring, belatedly, a second-hand ship with a limited lifespan by paying significantly more than what it would have paid for a new ship," it said in its military spending report.

The Russian price hikes have sparked outrage, forcing India's Defence Minister A.K. Antony to assure parliament this week that fresh negotiations were once again under way.

"At present, the price escalation is in the negotiation stage and nothing has been finalised," Antony said, but he conceded India was paying "a substantially huge price" for the Admiral's refit.

New Delhi has already paid hundreds of millions of dollars in advance to Russia's state-run Sevmash shipyard.

"It's no doubt giving India a severe headache but we're stuck with it because if we pull out now, we don't get back a penny," said retired general V. N. Sharma, a former chief of India's million-plus army.

India must also dig deeper into its pocket for tens of millions of dollars extra to equip the docked Admiral Gorshkov with Sukhoi-30 warjets and Russian missiles, officials say.

Russia's state-run defence export agency Rosoboronexport, which is handling the deal, has rejected suggestions that it is short-changing India.

"Every step in the process of the refit of the aircraft carrier is monitored by the Indian navy's technical team and they have never raised objections," spokesman Vyacheslav Davidenko was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

The shipyard refitting the vessel has insisted that the cost escalations are due to Indian demands for features not included in the original contract.

Minister Antony says New Delhi, which is trying to build an aircraft carrier of its own, was forced to turn to Russia as no other country would give India a tactical vessel of such a size.

Russia, which accounts for 70 percent of India's military hardware, has up to nine billion dollars worth of defence orders from New Delhi in the pipeline.

General Sharma said he believes the Russians "grossly miscalculated when writing up this contract in 2004".

But retired rear admiral Raja Menon, who was associated with the project, said he believes Russia is seeking to get as much out of India as it can.

He said Moscow is in the habit of arm-twisting its traditional weapons buyers.

"Russia's track record is very poor in this regard and this time the nation has to take a call on this," he said.

"In other contracts too they had escalated costs and thought they could get away with it again," Menon said.

US, Britain testing new ways to coordinate battlefield communications and track combat troops

John Milburn

July 31st, 2009

US, Britain test new ways to track combat troops

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — British military officials are testing new technologies that they say will make operations with the United States and other coalition partners more efficient and responsive to threats.

More important, British officials say, they will be able to give a better accounting of troop locations on the battlefield, making for quicker action and avoiding friendly-fire incidents.

Brig. David Cullen, commander of the British 12th Mechanized Regiment, said this week that closing gaps between British and American systems is critical, especially given the complex operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Combat units need to exchange critical information, such as the location of improvised explosive devices, those roadside bombs that have become the insurgent’s weapon of choice.

He said troops must be positioned to “move faster in purpose and deed.”

“We’re up against some very smart people out there,” Cullen said.

British soldiers were in Kansas for several weeks testing the system as part of the Omni Fusion multinational exercise at Fort Leavenworth, which also included contingents from Canada and Australia. The exercise, which began July 14, is a five-year experiment to test battlefield concepts for current and future military operations.

Brian Hodges, a senior operations research analyst at Fort Leavenworth, said the British used their current military applications but integrated them in a new way to enhance coalition operations.

“We are emphasizing operational interoperability over technical interoperability,” Hodges said. “The technicians can make the boxes talk to each other. Our interest is whether or not what the boxes are saying is useful to the warfighters.”

One hurdle is granting security clearance to networks. Officials say that despite fighting as allies as far back as World War I, security issues prevent the British from simply plugging into U.S. systems.

“The national security piece is not a trivial bit,” said Paul Martin, a former Royal Marine and program manager for Niteworks, a technology firm developing the systems. “We have to have a much clearer picture of how to network.”

In Afghanistan, Cullen said U.S. commanders can see their troops, and the British theirs. However, communicating each other’s troop positions frequently requires voice confirmation, which takes time.

Hodges said it’s not acceptable to have the Army fighting alongside the British or other nation and not fully integrate them in missions.

“You can no longer just put them on the flanks so we don’t shoot them,” he said.

The system will also enable units thousands of miles apart to train and collaborate before they deploy. Next year, U.S. and British forces will conduct Talon Strike, an exercise spanning the Atlantic Ocean. British troops will remain at home and be linked with Army units, including the 1st Infantry and 101st Airborne divisions.

Lt. Col. Julian Moir of the United Kingdom’s Land Warfare Center in Warminster said such training will help units establish relationships before going into combat. Those efforts will save time and money in an age when defense budgets are tight.

But, he said, the experiments and development can’t be focused only on the future.

“You have to focus on the here and now or it’s not going to survive scrutiny,” Moir said.

Despite abuses, Indian army ‘batmen’ to soldier on

NEW DELHI, Aug 1 – Indian army officers are to continue to enjoy the services of “batmen”, despite a parliamentary panel saying they are being used as domestic servants in a way that is a shameful relic of colonial times.

The government has rejected the panel’s recommendation to do away with the practice of assigning officers batmen. Also known as orderlies, batmen are soldiers attached to officers ostensibly to look after their service weapons and uniforms.

The parliamentary standing committee on defence said in its report that the orderlies were grossly misused by officers, who used them as servants, making them walk their dogs, take their children to school and wash their families’ clothes.

Terming it a shameful practice, which should have no place in independent India, the panel pointedly said that soldiers are recruited to serve the nation and “not for serving the family members of officers in household work, which is humiliating”.

When the committee submitted its report to the government last year, veteran MP Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, who headed it, also said the misuse of the system by some officers has resulted in low morale within the army.

But in rejecting the recommendation on Monday, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told Parliament that exhaustive instructions about appropriate employment of batmen had been repeatedly issued by the army.

“Any practice that lowers a soldier’s self-esteem is to be abhorred,” he said, adding that all army formations had been told to ensure that the orderlies are not employed for “menial household work”.

Despite the strong words, however, it appears that misuse of orderlies continues to be widespread.

One soldier given the task was quoted by a news agency IANS as saying: “We put in long hours, but still there is no dignity for us. The officers abuse us at times by asking us to do household work.”

Another soldier quoted by the same agency said: “As long as the officer is a bachelor, the problems are not that serious. But once he marries and has a family, our problems multiply. We are also asked to polish children’s shoes and do other household work.”

But there is a different view from the other end of the military hierarchy, with retired Lieutenant-Colonel Anil Bhat saying that such cases are “aberrations” and that orderlies are by and large treated with dignity and respect by the officers.

The system was introduced during British colonial days, but most armies – including Britain’s – have largely done away with the practice. Even Pakistan, which has a strong army tradition, did away with orderlies in 2000. Instead, its officers now get an allowance to engage private help.

Some say the Indian army should follow its arch rivals. But others, while agreeing that there is a case for the practice to be abolished, say the misuse of personnel for private domestic work is equally common in the civil services and the paramilitary force. – ST

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