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Monday, 16 November 2009

From Today's Papers - 16 Nov 09

Indian Express

DNA India

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Kashmir Times

Asian Age

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Indian Express

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Asian Age

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Asian Age

Asian Age

Asian Age

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Asian Age

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DNA India

DNA India

Tackling Afghan roadside bombs a new priority for US Army

November 15, 2009 21:27 IST

With 80 percent of US casualties in Afghanistan caused by roadside bombs planted by Taliban [ Images ] and Al Qaeda [ Images ] militants, the Pentagon [ Images ] is creating a department-wide task force to find ways to counter the menace.

"I have decided I need to focus my attention on this problem," Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates said.

The challenges faced by the US troops in Afghanistan are different from those in Iraq, Gates said.

He said most of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in Iraq are based mainly on artillery shells and are triggered electronically. Those in Afghanistan are made primarily from fertilisers such as ammonium nitrate, with mines as detonators, the Washington Post quoted Gates as saying.

He also pointed out that Afghanistan's terrain is different, its road system is different -- streets running from paved to unpaved to nonexistent -- and the bomb builders' networks are structured differently than in Iraq.

Gates has recently expressed concern about whether the Pentagon groups working on the threat -- the Joint IED Defeat Organisation, the intelligence community and the commanders in the field -- are properly integrated and sufficiently flexible.

JIEDDO is the multibillion-dollar agency set up to lead and coordinate the defence department's efforts against roadside bombs.

Two weeks ago, however, the government accountability office criticised the agency for not having a database that includes both its own projects and those being carried out independently by the individual services.

To head the new task force, Gates has selected Ashton B. Carter, the undersecretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics, and Lt Gen John M. "Jay" Paxton, the Joint Staff's director of operations.

Calling this one of his top priorities for the next six months, Gates said he would meet monthly with the group, the Post said.

Referring to a recent seizure in Afghanistan of a big cache of illegal ammonium nitrate, he said that the law has not been enforced up to now and that the goal is to get such substances under control.

He added, "If we have to pay for some of it, I'm open to that."

Gates also recommended looking back to the 1980s, when some of the Afghans who are fighting today as Taliban insurgents were, with the Central Investigation Agency's assistance, using similar IEDs against the invading Soviet Union.

"So let's go back and look at the playbook that they used against the Soviets to see if there's something that we could learn in terms of adapting our tactics, techniques and procedures," he said.

At a recent House of Representatives subcommittee hearing, Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, director of JIEDDO, said, "The IED has now replaced direct-fire weapons as the enemy's weapon of choice."

Asked if Iran is supplying the Afghan insurgents, Metz said the US forces in Afghanistan have looked closely to see where such weapons have come from.

"Fortunately, we've seen only homemade platters with directional charges, none as sophisticated as ones we saw in Iraq," he said.

Terror-struck Maharashtra to recruit 15,000 policemen

November 15, 2009 20:58 IST

The Maharashtra government is embarking on a major police recruitment drive and the process to induct 15,000 personnel will soon be initiated to augment security in the state, which faces terror and Naxal threats.

"The government will recruit 15,000 police personnel soon so that the burden on the existing force reduces a bit," Home Minister R R Patil [ Images ] said on Sunday.

He was talking to reporters at the inauguration of a police gymnasium at Naigaum in central Mumbai [ Images ].

The minister said the government would offer full cooperation for the welfare to the families of the forces.

"We will undertake necessary measures for the benefit of the police force and their family members," Patil said.

Emphasising on fitness of policemen, he said, "It is important for you all to remain healthy both physically and mentally so that you can perform better and give your best. We will be opening up more such gymnasiums in the city to ensure proper fitness."

Mumbai Police Commissioner D Sivanandan said the gymnasiums would help policemen, who undergo erratic working hours and irregular diets, to maintain their standard weight.

Talking about the future plans, Sivanandan said a five-star kitchen would be set up within two months and the proper meal under the guidance of nutritionists will be supplied to the personnel on duty.

"There is a Rs 18-crore proposal for setting up schools in Mumbai, where children of the policemen can get quality education at a nominal fee," he added.

Increase in number of cadets joining forces, says NCC chief
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
There has been an increase in the number of NCC cadets from the region getting a commission in the armed forces. This year, 90 cadets, including girls from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, have joined the services.

Director General of NCC, Lt Gen RK Karwal, said this figure included 47 cadets studying in various Sainik Schools and 43 from private and public schools and colleges. A specified number of vacancies in officer training establishments are reserved for “C” Certificate holders.

The increase in the intake from NCC comes at a time when the services are facing a severe shortage of officers in the junior rung and is being viewed as a heartening trend.

There has also been an increase in the response from youth in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the North-East to join the NCC. General Karwal said at present the waiting list of students for enrolling into the NCC was about four lakh. “To cater for the growing demand, the authorised strength of the NCC is being increased from 13 lakh to 15 lakh,” he said. As far as this region is concerned, there are about 1.5 lakh NCC cadets enrolled from the aforementioned states, with another around 65,000 in Jammu and Kashmir.

The NCC is also doubling the number of cadets sent abroad on youth exchange programmes (YEP) with friendly foreign countries. United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka are among countries having youth organisations similar to the NCC.

“About 100 cadets are sent abroad on YEP each year. We are raising this to 200 and the matter has been forwarded to the Ministry of Defence,” the NCC chief said. The number of cadets being selected and trained in adventure activities is also being doubled.

General Karwal said an NCC alumni association is also being set up, which would bring ex-cadets on a common platform. A large number of cadets have been very successful in their chosen vocations, both at home and abroad. The association would enable them to meet periodically and share their experiences, vision and ideals.

Tackling future Headleys
Intelligence, policing need to be improved

India must consider itself fortunate that the arrest of US citizen David Coleman Headley and his Canadian associate Tahawwur Hussain Rana by the American FBI has unravelled the huge dimensions of the conspiracy against this country with active Pakistani involvement. That the Indian investigating agencies were until recently unaware of the possible role of these two operatives of the Lashkar-e-Toiba in plotting the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai a year ago is cause for concern. It now emerges that Headley had checked in at least twice into Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel more than a year before it was targeted by the Lashkar’s attackers and Rana, who is of Pakistani origin, had left Mumbai five days ahead of last year’s audacious strikes by the LeT. It is also clear to the investigators now that instructions to the duo were coming from Pakistan as they were making regular calls to that country.

It is shocking indeed that Headley ran a visa facilitation agency in Mumbai for three years without even a routine inquiry by a policeman. His antecedents were not verified even when he rented a place. In Delhi, Kochi, Pune, Lucknow and Ahmedabad which Headley visited, he stayed in hotels but the policemen on beat duty did not collect details from the hotels which they are supposed to do in regard to foreign nationals. The conclusion is inescapable that being a US national, he managed to indulge in sleazy activities without arousing suspicion. All this exposes the chinks in our intelligence armour and shows how gullible our sleuths have been.

There are useful leads to be followed and it is to be hoped that FBI investigators will co-operate with India in unmasking the whole gamut of the actions of Headley and Rana. Besides going deeper into the conspiracy at the Pakistani end, the Indian connection in the activities of these two LeT operatives needs to be probed thoroughly. At the same time, the intelligence-gathering mechanism should be strengthened and the mandated checks on foreign nationals must be made more thorough. There are lessons to be learnt which we can ignore only at our peril.

India denies Gen. Fonseka’s claim

India has dismissed the claim made by Sri Lanka’s Chief of Defence Staff Sarath Fonseka that Indian troops were put on alert at the insistence of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa following fears of a coup.

Strongly rejecting General Fonseka's claim, Shashi Tharoor the Minister of State for External Affairs said on Saturday there was no substance to the story.

"We should be a little wary of reading too much into these kinds of speculations," he told reporters here. The External Affairs Ministry made it very clear that the Indian Army was never placed on alert.

"There is no substance to the story. The government has officially informed the public that the Indian Army has not been placed on alert." In his resignation letter submitted to President Rajapaksa on Thursday, General Fonseka has claimed that fears of a coup being launched by him had led to President Mahinda Rajapaksa sidelining him and asking neighbouring India to put its troops on alert for a possible intervention in Sri Lanka in such an event.

Before his appointment as Chief of Defence Staff, General Fonseka was Army commander

Reality check: Army at only 50% of its capabilities

Josy Joseph / DNA

New Delhi: While Pakistan is flush with funds and weapons from the United States, and China is modernising its military on a massive scale, the Indian army has presented a bleak picture of its capabilities. The army has admitted to having achieved only 50% of the capabilities required to defend the country's borders and fight insurgency in the north-east and Jammu & Kashmir.

Worse, it will take another 20 years to achieve 100% capability to repel any act of aggression, the army has revealed in an internal assessment report submitted before members of the standing committee on defence.

According to the army's 'state of capability development' assessment, most of its arms, including the infantry, artillery and armoured, would achieve 100% capability only by around 2027.

Beijing has for long been flaunting its capabilities along the border, where it has built up all-weather infrastructure up to the last posts which are equipped with modern amenities.

The shortfall in Indian capability is attributed to the delay in the acquisition of modern systems. The report says the infantry, artillery and mechanised forces have achieved about 60% of the capability required.

The projection is worst in case of combat helicopters, where the army has achieved just 17% capability. The army believes it would achieve 100% combat chopper capability only by the end of the 14th five-year plan in 2027.

The army's efforts at emerging as a modern military with full network-centric capability would also be achieved by 2027 -- currently, the capability stands at 24%. The concept refers to integration of the army into a force sharing real-time information using several networks, improving situation awareness and fighting capabilities.

Equally worrisome is the capability of the key fighting arms of the army.

The artillery has just 52% of the total capability required to defend the country. The figure would touch 97% only by the end of 2027, the report said.

The situation is the result of a lack of any major acquisitions in artillery since the Bofors scandal in the late 1980s. Subsequent scandals involving companies such as Denel and Singapore Technologies, both of which have been blacklisted, further crippled modernisation of the artillery.

The infantry, the army admits in the report, has only achieved 65% of its capability. It will reach the 100% mark only by 2027. The infantry wants to replace its indigenous INSAS rifles, acquire night fighting capabilities, new generation anti-tank missiles and rockets, and better protection for its soldiers.

The armoured regiments have reached 71% of the capability development, the best compared to other arms. The army is producing T-90 tanks indigenously, besides inducting 126 indigenous Arjun tanks. It is also looking at night fighting capability, NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) protection, and enhanced air manoeuvre capability.

The mechanised units of the army have achieved 62% of the required capabilities, while the engineers have achieved 60%. Special forces and para units have achieved 69% of the capabilities required.

Overall, if one were to take the average of individual arms' then the army's "state of capability development" is just over 51%, the report says.

Tanks and carriers on army shopping list


A Bradley tank in Iraq

New Delhi, Nov. 15: The Indian Army is in the market to buy hundreds of new troops carriers and tanks to reshape and re-inforce its mechanised forces, partly for deployment in high-altitude border zones and partly for counter-insurgency operations.

On the army’s shopping list are infantry combat vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and light tanks.

It has issued requests for information to buy 300 light tanks and 100 armoured personnel carriers (APCs). It expects to increase the total number of new APCs to 500 in five years.

The army is also looking to buy an unspecified number of Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) to replace the Soviet-origin BMP-I and BMP-II machines. There are more than a 1,000 BMPs in service with the army’s mechanised forces.

Infantry Combat Vehicles and APCs are comparable — each is capable of carrying nine to 11 troops with equipment into an offensive. But ICVs have greater firepower.

The Indian Army wants an ICV that can be mounted with a cannon, a machine gun and anti-tank guided missiles.

The Strykers, deployed by the US in a joint exercise (Yudh Abhyas 09) with the Indian Army in Babina last month, are also in the sameleague. The US used Bradley fighting vehicles, now being replaced by the Strykers, in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

An army source said the light tanks were to be deployed in high-altitude areas, particularly along the border with China.

The army maintains a small unit of heavy T-55 and T-90 tanks in North Sikkim, near the China border.

But the heavy T-90 — the army’s main battle tank — is incapable of negotiating the hairpin bends in the mountains. Light tanks are expected to be able to perform the task better.

The army wants the light tanks for all-terrain use. It is looking to buy 200 wheeled and 100 tracked light tanks. The source said the number of tanks to be procured was likely to be increased from 300.

For all the platforms — ICVs, APCs and light tanks — the defence ministry will want to buy a small number off the shelf and insist on a transfer of technology agreement with the vendor.

The Indian Army is in the process of raising two new mountain divisions. Each division will have about 17,000 troops. The first is likely to start deployment in the Northeast, including the Arunachal border, by the end of the year.

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