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Friday, 28 August 2009

From Today's Papers - 28 Aug 09

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Kalam defends Pokhran-II
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 27
A day after senior DRDO scientist K Santhanam created a stir by stating that India’s nuclear test in May 1998 at Pokhran was “not a total success”, his theory was debunked and discarded by defence experts, including former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who were in the know of the subject today.

R Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Union government who had led the team of scientists during the 1998 nuclear tests, today dismissed as "absurd" the suggestion that Pokhran-II explosions did not yield the desired results. “There is no controversy over the yield of Pokhran-II nuclear tests,” he said.

Chidambaram, who was the chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy in 1998, was quoted by PTI news agency as saying: “If he (Santhanam) has any new scientific information which we are not aware of, it will be nice to have that data. He is a scientist and not a politician. Let him tell exactly what made him give that comment.” The results were published in detail in international journals and also took into account studies by several global experts, he added.

Santhanam, who was the Defence Research and Development Organisation representative for Pokhran-II, had said “India should not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as the country needed to carry out more tests as the thermonuclear tests in 1998 had failed to produce the desired results”. As per him, the yield of the tests could only be classified as a “fizzle” rather than big bang. In nuclear science, a fizzle is used when the outcome fails to meet the desired yield. Today as well, Santhanam, in a TV interview, stood by his comment.

Coming in defence of the test, former President APJ Abdul Kalam said the tests were successful and had generated the desired yield. After the test, he said, there was a detailed review based on two experimental results: seismic measurement close to the site and around; radioactive measurement of the material after post shot drill in the test site.“The tests at Pokhran were completely successful,” Kalam was quoted as saying by a news channel.

Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, while addressing his last press conference before retiring, said today: “India's nuclear deterrence capabilities are proven and capable enough”

Official sources, when asked to comment on Santhanam's statement, said India's position on CTBT was well known, clear and consistent. “We will not subscribe to any treaty that is discriminatory in nature,” they said.

Former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, too, dismissed Santhanam’s statement by asserting that India had a “meaningful” number of nuclear weapons and an effective delivery system to go with it.

He told a private television channel that the five nuclear tests conducted in May 1998 were successful.

“Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, then the scientific adviser to Defence Ministry, had announced that the 1998 nuclear tests conducted in Pokhran were successful. Dr Kalam’s version was credible enough, as Santhanam was working directly under him. That should set the record straight,” Mishra said

Notably, the test, as per Indian scientists, is said to have yielded 45 kilotons (KT), a claim challenged by western experts who said it was not more than 20 KT.

Air Force jet intercepts Air France plane

NDTV Correspondent, Thursday August 27, 2009, New Delhi

An Indian Airforce fighter jet intercepted an Air France plane on Thursday over an error in the communication code.

The incident took place early in the morning at Amritsar where the IAF radars picked up signals that indicated an unknown aircraft.

A MiG-29 fighter jet was immediately sent to intercept the unknown aircraft, but it finally turned out to be an Air France flight from Paris to Bangkok which was using an incorrect communication code.

The IAF jet was then asked to break off and return to base. A report has now been sent to the Airports Authority of India.

Such incidents have been reported earlier as well. On August 27, 2009, at approximately 0610 hrs IST, one aircraft was picked up by IAF radars, southeast of Amritsar in the Northern Sector. The aircraft was flying at a height of 37,000 feet and entered Indian airspace on an established border entry point on ATS route.

The aircraft was not in communication and also the secondary radar response code (Identification Friendly or Foe) i.e. Squawk code of the aircraft, was not correct so it was identified as 'unknown'.

Immediately, an IAF MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept and investigate the identity of the 'unknown' aircraft.

It was only later that the aircraft started transmitting correct secondary radar response code and was picked up and identified by AD radar as civil airliner (A-343) of Air France (AFR-164). The flight was from Paris to Bangkok.

The MiG-29 fighter aircraft was given instructions to break off and return to base. A formal report of the incident has been forwarded to AAI.

Saraswat is new DRDO chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 27
Dr VK Saraswat has been appointed as the new director-general of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). He will also be the new Secretary, Department of Defence Research and Development, besides being the Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister AK Antony.

He will take over from the present incumbent M Natarajan from September 1. Presently he is the Chief Controller Research and Development (missiles and strategic systems). In this capacity, he spearheaded the development of country’s strategic and tactical missile systems including the Agni series.

Talks over Gorshkov's price likely to conclude: Naval chief

Press Trust of India / New Delhi August 27, 2009, 18:31 IST

Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta today said negotiations between India and Russia over price of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov could be concluded within next two days.

"Price negotiations are on with the Russian team which is in India. The negotiations committee is discussing it with them. The time frame (for price fixation) is very short, hopefully day after," Mehta told reporters here.

The ongoing negotiations are considered to be the last leg of the talks between the two countries on the cost of Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier - repair, refit and the final price of the warship, which is expected to be somewhere between $2.2 billion and $2.9 billion

India had bought Admiral Gorshkov in 2004 for $964 million and sent it for refit to the Sevmash Shipyard in Russia. That apart, India also bought 16 MiG29Ks to operate on the warship at a cost of $650 million.

Russia has thrice revised the price of the aircraft carrier, first demanding additional $1.5 billion in 2007, then revising it to $2.2 billion in 2008 and finally asking for $2.9 billion this February.

U.S., India to hold joint war games in October

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- The United States and India will hold large joint war games in October, the web site of The Defense News reported Thursday.

A joint land exercise named Yudh-Abhyas will be staged in India's northern military base of Jhansi, while an air exercise named Cope-India will be held in the Indian air force bases in Agra and Chandigarh, according to the report, quoting U.S. and Indian military sources.

The U.S. Army will send 17 Stryker armored vehicles and about 500 soldiers to the three-week Yudh-Abhyas exercise, beginning in the second week of October.

It's going to be one of the largest deployments of such vehicles outside Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly the entire U.S. 2nd Stryker Brigade will be present.

It will also be the first time that mechanized units of the Indian Army based on Russian-made T-72 and T-90 tanks, BMP-II armored carriers and 155mm artillery guns will share expertise with a foreign army.

The Cope-India exercise will include parachuting operations with transport aircraft from both militaries.

The U.S. air force will field their C-17 Globe master III military transport aircraft and Chinook multimission helicopters in the exercise.

Corporate world needs people from armed forces

A vast majority of officers and men leave with at least two decades of productive careers still ahead of them

Cross Hairs | Raghu Raman

Last week, I read an insightful report by executive search firm Korn/Ferry on officers from the defence forces joining the corporate world. The study revealed that officers brought unique elements from the combat zone into business competition.

A vast majority of officers and men leave with at least two decades of productive careers still ahead of them. Most countries have learnt to exploit this incredible resource, and India is fast catching up. The Indian Army discharges approximately 1,500 officers every year. They range from short-service officers, with about seven years of experience, to those who have completed their pensionable service of around 20 years and are in their 40s.

Some years ago, the army ran an advertising campaign on the exciting life of a combat soldier. It showed an officer barely into his 20s, commanding a tank squadron (1,500 horsepower company car), parachuting from an aeroplane (company jet) and leading a raid into enemy territory (foreign travel). That is just the tip of the iceberg. There are few professions, which hold leaders responsible for the lives of the men under their command, or where they have to lead men into death without ESOPs (employee stock ownership plan), pay hikes or performance bonuses. Also, there is no other profession where men love (or hate) their leaders with such passionate fervour. Where one learns that there are no good units or bad units, just good or bad leaders. Where errors of judgement leave widows and orphans in their wake. This excellent grounding helps officers fit five basic role profiles.

The first is administration. During a typical career, an officer performs the role of managing resources and equipment worth several hundred crores. He is responsible for the well-being and training of his men, planning logistics, controlling deployment and coordinating exercises with other units and services. And he would be adept in process development with a keen sense of what could go wrong.

The second role flows from these experiences into HR and man management. During service, an officer is held accountable for the well-being of his men and their families. He is required to know what makes them tick, their individual strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Good units groom their officers to know each soldier by his name, learn the language of the troops he commands and motivate them in a manner that they best respond to. He literally has to get inside their heads and skins, and realize that every soldier is an individual, with individual problems and aspirations. Operations is another role where officers take like duck to water. They have spent years executing and making seemingly impossible plans happen. Their ability to multitask, high levels of energy and “can do” attitude makes them excellent operations and project managers. India’s telecom revolution owes a lot to hundreds of signals officers, who helped roll out the grid that connects our country.

Security is a natural extension, ranging from physical and electronic security to high-end specialized roles such as counter-intelligence, fraud investigation, close protection of high value assets, disaster and crisis management. Combat hones a sixth sense of perception and gives them an ability to be cool, calm and composed even in the face of extraordinary crisis.

The last role where many officers have proved their mettle is the holy grail of wealth creation. They have successfully founded and led companies in sectors ranging from consulting to retail. James McKinsey was an army officer and so was Sam Walton. Closer home, defence officers have headed business units, political ministries, and channels. They have been leading correspondents, authors, entrepreneurs, social activists, administrators and thought leaders. The largest real estate developer and the harbinger of affordable airlines in India have both been defence forces officers.

With a decade in the army and the corporate world, I identify with much of this. But the hypothesis remains incomplete without highlighting where defence officers struggle in making the switch—from a cocooned life in the services to the competitiveness of the corporate environment.

First, is finance. In the services, officers learn to optimize the resources for output—but seldom visit the basic rules of finance and worry about rates of return on investment, a skill that is essential to handling P&L (profit and loss account) responsibilities. Next, overbearing hierarchy is an operational requirement in the forces. In the corporate world, this can lead to a group of “yes men”—convenient but not optimal. In his able lieutenants, every senior corporate leader looks for courage that will allow them to speak their mind. Much of the effort has to be put in by reporting seniors—who will let the career service officer realize that challenging a superior is not tantamount to indiscipline.

Marketing and business development also strike me as gaps. But these have less critical implications for most businesses. The defence ministry and several business schools are working to overcome these skill gaps through programmes for officers.

All said and done, it is hard to replace men who have mettle and a winning attitude. I am reminded of an army officer, who was asked one of those favourite interview questions by a business tycoon, “So, what has been the greatest challenge of your life?” The officer reflected for a few moments and said matter-of-factly, “Well, people had been trying to kill me and my men, you know. I guess just surviving with my men, alive, was a challenge alright.” Here’s to old soldiers, who never die!

Raghu Raman is chief executive of corporate risk consulting firm Mahindra Special Services Group that advises companies and organizations on threat assessments and risk mitigation strategies. Respond to this fortnightly column at

Army report: Gaps in training for recovery unit

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Soldiers recovering in special Army medical units have faced inconsistent discipline because the military hasn’t adopted standards for how they and their commanders should act, according to a military review.

The report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press said the units’ leaders need better training and should do a better job of communicating with the almost 9,000 wounded and ill soldiers in the Warrior Transition system.

The general who ordered the report said Wednesday that the review will only improve the units.

“The Army has a tremendous program for taking care of our wounded, ill and injured soldiers, but it is not a prefect program,” said Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commander of the Warrior Transition Command. “We have to do our best for each and every one of them.”

The review was ordered in March after The AP reported on soldier complaints that officers were indifferent to their medical needs and punished them for the very injuries that landed them in the unit.

“The lack of policy specifically stipulating Army expectations of Warriors in Transition contributes to misperceptions among soldiers and leaders and leads to inconsistent application of Army regulations and discipline,” reads an executive summary of the report by the Army Surgeon General, which reviewed all discipline taken against soldiers in Warrior Transition units.

The 34 Warrior Transition units were set up two years ago to help soldiers navigate the medical system and monitor their progress and treatment following the scandal over shoddy conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Army officials said Wednesday they’ve clarified expectations since the review was completed in May, but stressed that a new standard was not created.

“This policy is basically a re-communication of things that apply to all soldiers with the added uniqueness of the WTU’s situation,” said Robert Moore, spokesman for the Warrior Transition Command.

The May report by the Army Surgeon General said that overall it appeared injuries weren’t being overlooked in disciplinary matters at the units.

Soldiers in the Fort Bragg unit told the Secretary of the Army earlier this year that they feel forgotten by the military and that combat duty would be better than the treatment they get now, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press.

The Surgeon General’s report suggested ways to improve communication between commanders and soldiers.

“Commanders at all levels must establish routine interaction and personal meetings with either individual soldiers, or small groups of soldiers to establish confidence that the chain of command is accessible, responsive and compassionate,” the report concluded.

Most of the units are spread out in different buildings. The Army is spending close to a billion dollars to build wounded warrior complexes at 20 posts, including Fort Bragg, to help centralize things and improve communication, Cheek said.

“It reenforced for me how critical it is that we build those complexes if we really want to do this mission correctly,” the general said.

The review also recommended an additional training program for company commanders and First Sergeants to better prepare them for command. Cheek said company commanders are now required to meet with their troops, one-on-one, to build a relationship.

“The chain of command has got to be accessible, responsive, and compassionate,” Cheek said.

Some improvements are already underway. Lt. Col. Terry McDowell, who took command in April of Fort Bragg’s Warrior Transition Battalion, said incoming soldiers now have a timeline and a set of goals. It keeps the wounded soldiers motivated and allows doctors to set a target date to move them out of the unit.

Squad leaders, case managers and staff also now complete a two-week course that teaches them how to deal with medical issues like traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder. It also explains the mission of the warrior transition unit and how it operates.

“When dealing with WT issues, you need to have multiple leadership tools in your bag to know when to put your arm around the soldier and prop them up or when to tell them to drive on with their mission,” said McDowell, 42, from Bonaire, Ga. said in a June interview.

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