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Saturday, 7 November 2009

From Today's Papers - 07 Nov 09

The Pioneer

Indian Express

Indian Express

Indian Express

Indian Express

Telegraph India

Asian Age

Telegraph India

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Indian Express

Kashmir Times

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Times of India

Times of India

DNA India

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NSG commandos to testify in 26/11 case

NDTV Correspondent, Friday November 6, 2009, Mumbai

Some of the National Security Guard (NSG) commandos who fought Pakistani terrorists during 26/11 will testify. The Mumbai High Court has rejected the government's request that NSG commandos should be exempt from the trial; however, it has accepted the government's guidelines for how the commandos should be questioned.

That includes: commandos will testify via videoconference, and their identities will not be revealed. They cannot be questioned on their strategy or the methods they followed to tackle the terrorists. Also, the media will not be allowed in court for these hearings.

The 26/11 case, in which Mohammad Ajmal Kasab is the main accused, is being heard by a special trial court in Mumbai. In October, this court summoned some commandos as witnesses, a move that puzzles even the state prosecution.

"We know the sensitive nature of the NSG. The court had asked for them to appear as court witnesses to understand what happened that day how the terrorists were killed. Their not appearing in court would not have impacted our case," says Ujjawal Nikam, Special Public Prosecutor, 26/11 trial.

The Union government had objected to the trial court's order, saying that it would affect the morale of the troops. Also, it pointed out, it's not possible to determine to pinpoint which commando killed a particular terrorist. It was a group operation, was the government's statement.

The government is expected to appeal against the verdict asking commandos to testify. But some former NSG commanders say there's nothing to fear. "NSG should not be queasy about testifying in a court. Even in Akshardham Operation, 2002, the NSG had deposed with the broad details of when it was deployed, what was the situation, arms recovery and terrorist killed," says A K Mitra, former NSG commander.

But others disagree. "It will compromise our future operations. The central government... should clarify that the NSG is a Federal anti-terrorist force and cannot be open to scrutiny," says Brigadier Raj Seethapathy, former Corps Commander, NSG.

Shootout at largest US army base; 13 killed

Robert D. Mc Fadden, New York Times News Service, Friday November 6, 2009, Fort Wood, Texas

A US Army psychiatrist facing deployment to one of America's war zones killed 13 people and wounded 31 others on Thursday in a shooting rampage with two handguns at the sprawling Fort Hood Army post in central Texas. It was one of the worst mass shootings ever at a military base in the United States.

The toll went up to 13 after one of the wounded died from his injuries.

The gunman, who was still alive after being shot four times, was identified by law enforcement authorities as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, who had been in the service since 1995. Hasan was about to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

Clad in a military uniform and firing an automatic pistol and another weapon, Hasan sprayed bullets inside a crowded medical processing center for soldiers returning from or about to be sent overseas.

The victims, nearly all military personnel but including two civilians, were cut down in clusters. Witnesses told military investigators that medics working at the center tore open the clothing of the dead and wounded to get at the wounds and administer first aid.

As the shooting unfolded, military police and civilian officers of the Department of the Army responded and returned the gunman's fire. Hasan was shot by a first-responder, who was herself wounded in the exchange.

In the confusion of a day of wild and misleading reports, the major and the officer who shot him were both reported killed in the gun battle, but both reports were erroneous.

Eight hours after the shootings, Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, a base spokesmen, said Hasan, whom he described as the sole gunman, had been shot four times, but was hospitalized in stable condition and was not in imminent danger of dying.

Hasan was not speaking to investigators, and much about his background - and his motives - were unknown.

Cone said that terrorism was not being ruled out, but that preliminary evidence did not suggest that the rampage had been an act of terrorism. Fox News quoted a retired Army colonel, Terry Lee, as saying that Hasan, with whom he worked, had voiced hope that President Barack Obama would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, had argued with military colleagues who supported the wars and had tried to prevent his own deployment.

As a parade of ambulances wailed to the scene of the shootings, officials said the extent of injuries to the wounded varied significantly, with some in critical condition and others slightly wounded.

The rampage recalled other mass shootings in the United States, including 13 killed at a center for immigrants in upstate New York last April, the deaths of 10 during a gunman's rampage in Alabama in March and 32 people killed at Virginia Tech in 2007, the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

As a widespread investigation by the military, the FBI, and other agencies began, much about the assault in Texas remained unclear. Department of Homeland Security officials said the Army would take the lead in the investigation.

President Barack Obama called the shootings "a horrific outburst of violence" and urged Americans to pray for those who were killed and wounded.

"It is difficult enough when we lose these men and women in battles overseas," Obama said. "It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil."

The president pledged "to get answers to every single question about this horrible incident."

Military records indicated that Hasan was unmarried, had been born in Virginia, had never served abroad and listed "no religious preference" on his personnel records. He opened fire on soldiers obtaining medical clearance before and after their deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Three other soldiers, their roles unclear, were taken into custody in connection with the shootings. The office of Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, said they were later released, but a Fort Hood spokesman could not confirm that.

Fort Hood, near Killeen and 100 miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the largest active duty military post in the United States, 340 square miles of training and support facilities and homes, a virtual city for more than 50,000 military personnel and some 150,000 family members and civilian support personnel. It has been a major center for troops being deployed to or returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The base went into lockdown shortly after the shootings. Gates were closed and barriers put up at all entrance and exit checkpoints, and the military police turned away all but essential personnel. Schools on the base were closed, playgrounds were deserted and sidewalks were empty. Sirens wailed across the base through the afternoon, a warning to military personnel and their families to remain indoors.

Military commanders were instructed to account for all personnel on the base.

"The immediate concern is to make sure that all of our soldiers and family members are safe, and that's what commanders have been instructed to do," said Jay Adams of the 1st Army, Division West, at Ford Hood.

Cone said the shooting took place about 1:30 p.m., inside what he called a Soldier Readiness Processing Center. The type of weapons Hasan used was unclear, and it was not known whether he had reloaded, although it seemed likely, given that 43 people were shot, perhaps more than once.

All the victims were gunned down "in the same area," Cone said.

As the shootings ended, scores of emergency vehicles rushed to the scene, which is in the center of the fort, and dozens of ambulances carried the shooting victims to hospitals in the region.

Both of the handguns used by Hasan were recovered at the scene. Investigators said the major's computers, cell phones and papers would be examined, his past investigated and his friends, relatives and military acquaintances would be interviewed in an effort to develop a profile of him and try to learn what had motivated his deadly outburst.

The weapons he used were described as "civilian" handguns. Security experts said the fact that two handguns were used suggested premeditation, as opposed to a spontaneous act.

Rifles and assault weapons are conspicuous and not ordinarily seen on the streets of a military post, and medical personnel would have no reason to carry any weapon, they said. Moreover, security experts noted, it took a lot of ammunition to shoot 43 people, another indication of premeditation.

It appeared certain that the shootings would generate a whole new look at questions of security on military posts of all the armed forces in the United States. Expressions of dismay were voiced by public officials across the country.

Hutchison was one of them. "Our hearts go out," she said. "These are soldiers who are ready to go out to Iraq or Afghanistan and their families were under stress already. This was just a terrible tragedy, and we don't even know the extent of it yet."

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, speaking for much of the Muslim community in the United States, condemned the shootings as a "heinous incident" and said, "We share the sentiment of our president."

The council added, "Our entire organization extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed as well as those wounded and their loved ones."

Cone said Fort Hood was "absolutely devastated."

News of the shooting set off panic among families and friends of the base personnel. Alyssa Marie Seace's husband, Pfc. Ray Seace Jr., sent her a text message just before 2 p.m. saying that someone had "shot up the SRP building," referring to the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. He told her he was "hiding."

Alyssa Seace, 18, who lives about five minutes from the base and had not been watching the news, reacted with alarm. She texted him back but got no response. She called her father in Connecticut, who told her not to call him because it might reveal his hiding place.

Finally, her husband, a mechanic who is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in February, texted back about 45 minutes later to say that three people from his unit had been hit and a dozen people in all were dead.

By late afternoon, the sirens at Fort Hood had fallen silent. In Killeen, state troopers were parked on ridges overlooking the two main highways through town. In residential areas, the only signs of life were cars moving through the streets. In the business districts, where signs on nearly every fast-food restaurant welcome the troops home, people went about their business.

In 1991, Killeen was the scene of one of the worst mass killings in American history. It took place as a crazed gunman drove his pickup truck through the window of a cafeteria, fatally shot 22 people with a handgun, then killed himself.

Fort Hood, opened in September 1942 as America geared up for World War II, was named for Gen. John Bell Hood of the Confederacy. It has been used continuously for armor training and is charged with maintaining readiness for combat missions.

It is a place that feels, on ordinary days, like one of the safest in the world, surrounded by those who protect the nation with their lives. It is home to nine schools - seven elementary schools and two middle schools, for the children of personnel. But on Thursday, the streets were lined with emergency vehicles, their lights flashing and sirens piercing the air as Texas Rangers and state troopers took up posts at the gates to seal the base.

Shortly after 7 p.m., the sirens sounded again and over the loudspeakers a woman's voice that could be heard all over the base announced in a clipped military fashion: "Declared emergency no longer exists."

The gates reopened, and a stream of cars and trucks that had been bottled up for hours began to move out.

Kargil scam: CBI files fresh status report in SC

Press Trust of India / New Delhi November 06, 2009, 21:32 IST

CBI has filed a fresh status report before the Supreme Court into alleged irregularities in defence deals, which caused a loss of around Rs 2,000 crore to the state exchequer, entered into in the wake of the 1999 Kargil conflict.

The consolidated status report was placed in a sealed cover before the apex court.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan allowed senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter, to respond to the report in two weeks.

Dwivedi said a copy of the report was received by him yesterday and he would need time to go through it to respond.

The court adjourned the matter for four weeks.

CBI was asked by the court on August 24 file a consolidated report about the investigations into the various cases.

Dwivedi said the Centre, which was also asked to give details about the departmental action taken by the Ministry of Defence against officials involved in alleged irregularities in the deals, have not complied with the order.

The Ministry of Defence was asked to file an affidavit giving details about the appropriate action likely to be taken in 33 cases which were referred to it.

Dwivedi, who during the hearing in January this year accused the Centre of trying to cover up the issue, had said government has to tell about the outcome of the departmental inquiry.

Army warms up to Akash missile

November 07, 2009 03:22 IST

India's long-criticised Akash anti-aircraft missile is now blazing towards success. Its counterparts in the Defence Research and Development Organisation's Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, the Prithvi and Agni ballistic missiles, were on target from the start; the anti-tank Nag missile will also enter service shortly; the Trishul short-range anti-aircraft missile was abandoned unceremoniously. Now, after years of rejection from the military, the Akash is being accepted as a world-class missile.

The IAF's order last year for two Akash squadrons--dismissed by sceptics as a face-saving burial for the Akash programme--has just been doubled with a fresh IAF order for 16 more launchers that will be stationed in northeast India. And now, Business Standard has accessed even better news for the Akash programme: the Indian Army [ Images ] is considering ordering several Akash squadrons for its ground forces.

The DRDO's Chief Controller for R&D, Prahlada, has confirmed that the army is displaying fresh interest in the Akash. Asked for details, Prahlada told Business Standard, "I cannot say whether the army is interested in the Akash for its strike corps, or for another role. In any case, the Akash is a mobile system that is suitable for various roles."

But protecting fast-moving tank columns from enemy fighters is what the Akash does best. For years the DRDO laboured to fit the entire Akash system--including radars, missile launchers and command centres--into T-72 tanks. This provided the Akash with the cross-country mobility to advance deep into enemy territory along with Indian Army strike corps, shooting down enemy fighters at ranges as far out as 25 kilometres.

Planned as a replacement for the army's obsolescent Russian SAM-6 Kvadrat, the heart of an Akash missile battery is the Hyderabad-developed Rajendra phased-array radar that tracks up to 64 enemy fighter aircraft simultaneously, in a radius of 60 kilometres. The mobile command centre selects up to four of the most threatening air targets, and two Akash missiles are fired at each from the T-72 based Akash launchers, which move alongside. The Rajendra radar continuously guides the missiles, eventually "flying" them smack into the enemy fighters.

Theoretically, a "ripple" of two Akash missiles has a 99 per cent chance of shooting down a modern fighter aircraft. Practically, however, in 9 live Akash trials so far, all 9 missiles that were fired hit their targets. Videos of the firing trials, witnessed by Business Standard, show the Akash missiles smashing their targets into tiny fragments at ranges beyond 20 kilometres.

The DRDO has taken 20 years to develop the cross-country mobile, tank-mounted version of the Akash missile system that the army is now interested in. Criticism of this delay has been vocal, but the DRDO counters by pointing to the quality of its product: the Akash, says the DRDO, is the only system of its kind available globally.

A top DRDO scientist at the missile complex in Hyderabad points out, "Western countries like France [ Images ], which make missiles in the technological league of the Akash, don't mount the entire system on a tank, something that the Indian Army insists on. Only the Russians build tank-mounted missile systems, but their missile technology is far inferior to that of the Akash. All that the Russians can offer today is the next generation of the Kvadrat."

The defence PSU, Bharat Electronics [ Get Quote ] Limited, is the nodal production agency for the Akash missile system, supported by a broad consortium of Indian public and private sector manufacturers who contribute components and sub-systems. Bharat Dynamics Limited manufactures the solid-fuel, two-stage, ramjet Akash missile itself.

Terror infrastructure in Pak still intact: Antony

TNN 7 November 2009, 02:40am IST

NEW DELHI: With over 42 terrorist-training camps still operational in Pakistan and PoK, New Delhi on Friday said there was very little possibility of relations with Islamabad improving till it dismantled the terror infrastructure operating on its soil.

"There are various terror groups operating from there (Pakistan) against India. Despite all our requests and reminders, almost all the terrorist outfits and infrastructure are still intact," said defence minister A K Antony on Friday, on the sidelines of an awards function for defence PSUs and ordnance factories.

This came even as visiting US deputy secretary of defence William J Lynn said India and Pakistan needed to take confidence-building measures "to avoid any conflict".

The US thinks it's "critical" to maintain peace in south Asia, especially since the Pakistan army is now making "greater efforts" to help the US campaign against Taliban and Al Qaida in the Af-Pak region, added Lynn.

But India remains unconvinced about Pakistan's resolve to take action against anti-India terrorist outfits. Unless Islamabad takes "sincere and convincing action" against terrorist groups, it would be "very difficult" for India to "improve relations" with it, said Antony.

Alluding to the active collusion between anti-India militant outfits and the Pakistan army, Antony said many terror-training camps across the border were in the vicinity of Pakistan army bases.

Pakistan army for long has also resorted to the strategy of giving covering fire to militants crossing over into J&K to divert the attention of Indian soldiers manning the Line of Control.

Such cross-border firings did come down for some time after the two countries agreed to a ceasefire along the 198-km International Border in J&K, the 778-km LoC and the 150-km Actual Ground Position Line in Siachen on November 26, 2003.

But Pakistan army is now back to its old strategy of actively aiding and abetting infiltration, and the ceasefire is increasingly turning fragile. Army chief General Deepak Kapoor, in fact, recently said Pakistan army was trying to push in as many militants as possible before the mountain passes get snowed under.

Indian Army gets a web portal news

06 November 2009

The Indian Army took another leap in technology empowerment with the launch of Indian Army web portal on internet on Thursday. The web portal is hosted on NIC server at domain

The newly launched web portal has been developed on the state of the art technology available. It is built on a strong platform to thwart any hacking/defacing attempts, a government release said.

The design also features a fresh look and offers various options like search, user interactivity, latest events, feedback, secured login, decentralised data update, space for all the arms/services of the Indian Army etc.

Meanwhile, defence minister AK Antony presented Raksha Mantri's Awards for excellence to defence PSUs and ordnance factories for research and development.

He exhorted public sector enterprises to continue their adjustment process and improve their competitive edge to survive.

He said the armed forces will have to reduce dependence on imported arms and for this Indian ordnance factories should take effective steps to achieve self-reliance. For this, he said the defence PSUs, ordnance factories, DRDO and the armed forces must follow an integrated approach towards indigenisation efforts.

The institutional recipients of the defence minister's awards for excellence for the year 2007-08 included: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (excellence in performance - trophy); BEML Ltd (best performance in exports - trophy); Bharat Electronics Ltd, Hyderabad (best performing division among DPSUs - trophy); Ammunition Factory, Khadki, Pune (best performing factory of OFB - trophy); Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai (best performing shipyard - trophy).

Vietnam, India boost cooperation in national defense

A high-ranking Vietnamese military delegation led by Minister of Defense General Phung Quang Thanh on November 5 began an official visit to India at the invitation of Indian Defence Minister A.K Antony.

The four-day visit is aimed at promoting cooperation within the framework of the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by India and Vietnam in 2007.

At the reception, Mr. Antony praised the close relationship established by Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He also expressed satisfaction with the growth of cooperation in national defense and pledged India’s effort to increase it.

General Thanh expressed his thanks for Indian army support to Vietnam and his hope that cooperative relations will continue to develop. He hoped to have India’s assistance in training military officers.

After the meeting, the two ministers signed a memorandum of understanding for defense cooperation.

On the same day, General Thanh met with India’s Minister of External Affairs S.M Krishna, discussed cooperation efforts with three Indian commanders, laid a wreath to honour anonymous martyrs at the India Gate, visited spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi at the Raj Ghat memorial, and visited the Vietnamese Embassy in India.

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