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Friday, 23 October 2009

From Today's Papers - 23 Oct 09

Indian Express

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Asian Age

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Times of India

Navy probing pay-off by US firm: Antony

Press Trust of India, Thursday October 22, 2009, New Delhi

Defence Minister A K Antony on Thursday said that the Navy has ordered a probe into bribery allegations against its officers made in a letter from Indian Ambassador to US Meera Shankar to the Prime Minister's Office.

"I can assure you the government will take it (the allegations) seriously. On the Navy's part, they have already taken it seriously and have started investigation. We will not ignore it," said Antony on the sidelines of the four-day Navy Commanders Conference that began in New Delhi.

Refusing to comment more on Shankar's letter, the Defence Minister said since it was addressed to someone else, he had not seen or read it so far.

He, however, added that the allegations were not only against the Navy officers, but also against seven other Indian agencies.

Shankar's May 12 letter to Prime Minister's Principal Secretary T K A Nair had alleged that an agent of US firm York International Corporation had paid off Rs 61 lakh as bribe to Navy officers between 2000 and 2006 for placing over 200 orders with the global heating and air conditioning firm.

The letter also talks about seven other Indian agencies such as Maharashtra Electricity Board, Indian Railway and Central Insecticides Board officials too having received kickbacks from other US firms.

Top army officer shot dead in Islamabad

Associated Press, Thursday October 22, 2009, Islamabad

A pair of gunmen on a motorbike killed a soldier and a high-ranking army officer in Islamabad on Thursday morning, officials said. The latest strike against security forces comes as the military wages a major anti-Taliban offensive in the northwest.

The assault in Islamabad was part of a wave of bloodshed that has killed more than 170 people in Pakistan over the past three weeks and pushed the military into launching a long-anticipated ground offensive in South Waziristan tribal region six days ago.

The offensive is considered a critical test of Pakistan's campaign against Islamist extremists aiming to overthrow the state and involved in attacks on Western forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

The gunmen fired on an army jeep in a residential area, police official Zaffar Abbas said. A soldier and a brigadier -- a high-ranking army officer -- died, while the soldier driving the car was wounded, said Waseem Khawja, a hospital official.

Footage on private Express TV channel showed the bulletholes splattered on the green jeep's windshield.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban, the target of the offensive, have said they were behind several recent attacks on security forces, including a siege of the army's headquarters.

The military is advancing on multiple fronts in South Waziristan, one of the places Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is rumored to use as a hideout. Over the past few days, they have been fighting for the hometown of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

The fight for Kotkai is strategically important because it lies on the way to the major militant base of Sararogha.

An army statement on Wednesday said forces were engaged in "intense encounters" in hills surrounding Kotkai and had secured an area to its east. Two intelligence officials said troops had secured parts of the town and destroyed Mehsud's house, but army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas denied that late Wednesday, saying there was no significant fighting inside the town yet.

The army believes Mehsud and his deputy Qari Hussain remain in the region directing militants' defenses.

The statement Wednesday reported three more soldiers were killed, bringing the army's death toll to 16, while 15 more militants were slain, bringing their death toll to 105.

It is nearly impossible to independently verify information coming from South Waziristan because the army has closed off all roads to the region. Analysts say both sides have exaggerated successes and played down losses in the past.

The army has deployed some 30,000 troops to South Waziristan against about 12,000 Taliban militants whose ranks include up to 1,500 foreign fighters, many of them Uzbeks.

Recent terror strikes no threat to Pak nuke arsenal: Clinton

Press Trust of India, Thursday October 22, 2009, Washington

The recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan including its army headquarters do not pose a threat to the country's nuclear arsenal, even though the United States remains watchful about it, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today.

"We don't think that those attacks pose a threat to the nuclear command and control or access," Clinton replied at the US Institute of Peace on a question about threat to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in view of the recent attacks on the its army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

"But we have certainly... made our views known and asked a lot of questions and are supporting the Pakistani government in their courageous efforts against these extremists," Clinton said.

Noting that the Obama administration is concerned about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation through the A Q Khan network, Clinton said these are part of every engagement that the US has with Pakistan.

"We have been reassured about the security of the nuclear-weapons stockpiles and facilities," she said.

"But it is obviously a matter that we are watching very closely for reasons ...first, the continuing threat of proliferation... of course, the militant attack that we saw last week and the continuing organised attacks on government targets, including the military itself and the intelligence services, by Taliban, Al-Qaeda and related extremists," Clinton said.

Clinton said US plans to be aggressive with the Pakistan media.

"I think we have as a government not done a very good job in responding to what you rightly call propaganda, misinformation, even in some instances disinformation about our motivations and our actions in Pakistan," Clinton said.

Clinton said that Judith McHale, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, is undertaking a very thorough analysis of what better can be done.

"We're going to be much more aggressive in interacting with the Pakistani media," Clinton said.

Noting that it is unfortunate that there is a lot of mistrust that has built up with respect to the US, Clinton said, "I think we saw that in some of the reaction on the Kerry-Lugar legislation, which we would been working on and consulting with the government of Pakistan for months.

"The passage of Kerry-Lugar bill was as a great milestone in US-Pak relationship, and Obama administration was very concerned when the reaction to it was so volatile and negative.

Pak Army releases Waziristan video

Associated Press, Thursday October 22, 2009, South Waziristan

The Pakistani military has released video of what it says are its troops fighting in South Waziristan, as the Army fought for control of the Pakistani Taliban chief's hometown on Wednesday, according to the authorities.

The video also shows weapons the Pakistani military claims were seized from militants, and a cave which it's alleged was once a militant base, now captured by the military.

The video was released as the military fought a ground and air offensive against entrenched Taliban fighters in the remote, rugged South Waziristan province along the border with Afghanistan, for a fifth day.

The military is advancing on three fronts in South Waziristan. The fight for Kotkai town is symbolically key because Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud and a top deputy, Qari Hussain, hail from there.

It also lies on the way to the major militant base of Sararogha.

An Army statement on Wednesday said that forces were engaged in "intense encounters" in heights surrounding Kotkai and had secured an area east of it.

Two intelligence officials said troops had secured parts of the town and also destroyed houses belonging to Mehsud and Hussain in controlled explosions, but an Army spokesman denied that late on Wednesday, saying most of the fighting was on hillsides and the outskirts of the town.

Security forces also cleared Khaisura, a village on another front in the offensive, according to the Army statement. Heavily fortified bunkers were found, some with two-meter thick concrete walls, the Army said.

It reported three more soldiers were killed, bringing the Army's death toll so far to 16, while 15 more militants were slain, bringing their overall death toll to 105.

It is nearly impossible to independently verify information coming from South Waziristan because the Army has closed off all roads to the region.

The analysts, however, say both sides have exaggerated successes and downplayed losses in the past.

The Pakistani military's operation is considered its most critical fight against Islamist extremists threatening its stability, and its strategy involves convincing other warlords and tribes in the region to stand aside during the fight, even if they are involved in anti-US activities in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have killed hundreds of tribal elders throughout the Afghan border region to undermine the age-old administrative system there and solidify control. Loyalties run deep among tribesmen, and codes of honour prevent them from informing on each other, even if one is suspected of anti-government activity.

Army chief releases ‘Milestones’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 22
Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor released a coffee table Book - “Milestones” here today. The book showcases a large variety of outstanding achievements related to Indian Army’s regiments, corps, formations, institutions, units and individual soldiers, covering a span of more than a century.

This is the first venture of its kind and it comprises nearly 150 assorted events since World War-I duly supported by striking visuals.

The book has been published by the Additional Directorate General, Public information of the Army.

Satellite to connect warships
Will put Indian Navy in league with big countries
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 22
A move that will place the Indian Navy in league with leading navies of the world, the government has started a project that entails inter-connection of weapons on board all its warships. In the first phase, 20 warships have been selected and work has begun.

This is aimed at achieving awareness of the maritime domain and network-centric operations. A leading public sector organisation with a good reputation in telecom solutions is carrying out the task. Sources confirmed that weapons on board 20 such warships are to be interconnected and the new aircraft carrier will also be on this list. Only the US and select NATO countries have such systems on board their ships.

The technology, called asynchronous transfer mode (ATM), allows high rate of data transfer that enables the captain of the ship to “communicate” digitally with weapon systems operators on various decks. Scientists at the Kochi-based Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL) had been aiming at having such a technology on board ships for the past few years.

Separately, the Indian Defence Ministry today announced that a Naval communication satellite would be launched next year. This is aimed at improving connectivity at sea, said Defence Minister AK Antony as he addressed senior commanders of the Navy here today at a closed-door meeting. Selective details of the meeting were released by the Defence spokesperson here today. Navy would be the first among the three services to have a satellite of its own.

Latter in the evening an official explained this saying the satellite will be geo-stationary and will keep round-the clock eye on the seas where India has interest.

At the meeting with commanders, Antony did not forget to emphasise the coastal security aspect. The Navy is working out standard operating procedures (SOPs) with other stakeholders to tackle 26/11 type terror threats from the sea.

At the meeting, Naval chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said the acquisition plans of the Navy would have to give added impetus to maintenance and upgradation of the existing assets to ensure high readiness. The Admiral also discussed some administrative points like movements of officers and men on temporary duty.

FM to intervene in DoT-Defence spat over 3G spectrum release

Press Trust of India / New Delhi October 22, 2009, 16:53 IST

In the face of allegations by Telecom Minister A Raja that the Defence Ministry was delaying auction for 3G spectrum, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today exuded confidence of resolving the issue to start the process in 2009.

The government has projected to garner up to Rs 35,000 crore from sale of radiowaves, mainly 3G spectrum, to telecom operators in the current financial year.

"I am trying ... Couple of days back, I came to know the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Ministries of Communications and Defence, there are some clarifications that are needed, that we would sort it out," Mukherjee told PTI.

Raja had sought the Finance Minister's intervention in persuading the Defence Ministry to release spectrum for 3G services so that the auction could take place on time.

In a letter to Mukherjee, he had held the Defence Ministry responsible for the slippage in the time schedule for the auction process for 3G spectrum.

Asked whether the government would be able to complete the process in 2009, Mukherjee said, "The process must start now to complete the process."

The Defence Ministry has decided to release only that 3G spectrum which is to be auctioned and that too in phases. In fact, the armed forces have not released spectrum already in use as envisaged in their agreement with DoT.

Maritime Security Adviser to be appointed soon: Antony

Press Trust of India / New Delhi October 22, 2009, 14:00 IST

Defence Minister A K Antony today indicated that the government will soon create the post of Maritime Security Advisor (MSA) and advocated strengthening of marine police wing in all coastal states to prevent Mumbai-type terror attacks.

"We are moving in the right direction. I am personally monitoring it. So are the Cabinet Secretary and Home Ministry. All of us are jointly doing it," Antony said when asked about delays in appointing a MSA.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Navy Commanders Conference that kicked off here, Antony said Marine Police was a new concept and all the Coastal States should a separate marine police wing.

"All coastal states should strengthen the marine police. The Navy and Coast Guard will provide them training. It is a new force and they need all support," he said.

He pointed out that the Navy Commanders Conference had discussed the maritime security issues and the coordination among various seafaring departments and enforcement agencies.

On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's warning of a possible terror threat, the Defence Minister said the former got information from various sources on security challenges the nation faced and that his observation was based on those intelligence inputs.

Antony said the armed forces regularly reviewed their preparedness and the government had given support to strengthening the military whenever needed.

"Our armed forces are ever ready to meet challenges to national security. With regard to the Navy, they are now in the process of equipping themselves. They are in a better position now to meet the challenges (of coastal security)," he said, assuring that the Navy had made all arrangements to meet the challenges from any quarters.

The Navy Commanders, led by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma, will over the next four days review the coastal security issues in the backdrop of the 26/11 terror attacks, its procurement process and modernisation, apart from issues relating to personnel management and welfare.

Worried Army debates officer shortage, procurement delays

October 21, 2009 20:07 IST

With over 11,500 officers' posts lying vacant and its plans to procure new weaponry getting delayed, the Indian Army's [ Images ] top commanders on Wednesday debated the two issues threadbare at their conference to evolve ways to bridge the growing gap on both man and machine fronts.

"The present shortage level of officers is about 25 percent of the sanctioned strength of over 40,000 officers. The army commanders, on the first day of the four-day conference, took it up for discussion to work out ways of reducing the shortage level," a senior army officer said after the day's deliberations ended.

"The procurement plans for the army's artillery guns of all types has been stuck for the last two decades and other plans for its air defence and aviation arms too are pending.

The conference wanted simplification of procurement procedures and curbing delays in purchase of new equipment for the Army to keep pace with its modernisation plans," he said.

The army's adjutant general branch, handling officers' management, made a presentation to the commanders on the ways to reduce the shortage of officers, as also the impact of about 1,500 applications for premature retirement received annually from officers.

It sought immediate, proactive action to see to it that the officer shortage did not reach alarming levels, the officer said.

An internal study by the army last year indicated that it would take 20 years to bridge the shortage in officer strength, even if corrective steps were taken now.

New satellite for Indian Navy

- ISRO to launch facility to boost naval links next year


Progress path

New Delhi, Oct. 22: The Indian Navy is set to get its own satellite with a footprint across the Indian Ocean region. The satellite will be launched next year.

The Naval Communications Satellite figured in discussions of the Indian Navy senior officers’ conference here today when defence minister A.K. Antony said “it will significantly improve connectivity”.

Dedicated satellites for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army are to follow.

The military satellite programme was first mentioned by the then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee in Parliament in 2005 when he said in reply to a question that the programme was in “advanced stages of development” and would get operational by 2007.

An Indian Navy officer said the service was looking at it “not as a military satellite but as a communications satellite”. India uses a1-meter resolution Technology Experiment Satellite (TES) launched in 2001 for military purposes and has also bought time and images from American and French polar orbiting satellites.

The officer said all Indian naval platforms — ships, aircraft and shore establishments — would be data-linked through the satellite.

The satellite will be launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma told his senior commanders today that “network-centric operations”, induction of new technologies “to tighten the loop between training, technology and operational deployment” would be his priority areas.

The geo-stationary satellite will have a footprint between 600 nautical miles (1,110km approx.) and 1,000 nautical miles (1850km approx.).

In the commanders' conference it was noted that traffic in the Indian Ocean had increased markedly over the past year.

In the conference, defence minister A.K. Antony said the process of creating the post of maritime security advisor — a decision taken since the November 26 terrorist attack in Mumbai — was on.

Defence Supplies, Joint Development High on Pallam Raju’s 3-Day Visit to Belarus

19:34 IST

Supplies of defence equipment and spares, refurbishment of missile systems and joint development of military hardware including opto-electronics and gunpowder are high on the agenda of the Minister of State for Defence Shri MM Pallam Raju when he leaves New Delhi on an official visit to Belarus tomorrow. He will hold detailed discussions with the Belarus Defence Minister Colonel-General Leonid Semenovich Maltsev at the delegation-level talks in capital Minsk during the October 24-28 visit.

India has sought from the erstwhile Soviet Republic supplies of opto-electronics for armament systems for tanks and combat vehicles, upgradation of BMP-2, T-72 and T-90 tanks including Fire Control Systems, Commander Panoramic Sights, Digital Ballistic Computer and missile firing capability. The Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) is holding talks with M/s Teatradr for technology, equipment and spares for refurbishing the OSA-AK missiles for the IAF.

The DRDO signed a memorandum with the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in December last year to set up a Joint R&D Centre at Minsk. While Belarus will provide land for the Centre at the Powder Metallurgy Institute campus, India will bear the construction costs. The detailed project report by DRDO has already been submitted to Belarus and the first joint discussion is due early next year. DRDO has also signed contracts worth $2.6 million with various institutes under the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus for joint R&D of technologies in Laser and Powder Metallurgy. Shri Pallam Raju will visit ‘Agat’, the state scientific research enterprise, on Monday, October 26, which has been collaborating with the DRDO for over 15 years and the two institutions are likely to enter into a long-term agreement soon. Twelve personnel from Belarus have undergone joint training in defence related programmes in India under the ITEC programme since last year.

India and Belarus have consolidated their defence ties with the holding of Joint Commission meetings on Military Technical Cooperation (MTC), on the pattern of a similar arrangement with Russia. The first meeting was held in Minsk in May, 2008, followed by the second in New Delhi in May this year. The two countries have had close defence ties since the signing of an MoU on Defence Cooperation in 1993.

Shri Pallam Raju, leading a four-member delegation, will also call on the Belarus President Mr. Alexander G. Lukashenko on Monday. Shri Pallam Raju is accompanied by Lt. General D. Bharadwaj, Director-General Mechanized Forces, Shri V. Somasundram, Joint Secretary (Ordnance Factories) and Major General (Retired) Ravi Khetrapal, Chairman-and-Managing Director, BDL.

High level contacts have picked up between India and Belarus in the last few years. Only last month Shri SM Krishna became India’s first External Affairs Minister to visit Belarus. The Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor visited Minsk in March last year. Belarus Defence Minister Colonel-General Maltsev was in New Delhi in February last year for the DefExpo and earlier visited India in March, 2001.

Bilateral trade between the two countries has grown to over $432 million last year, with exports from India amounting to over $315 million and imports standing at about $117 million.

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