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Thursday, 10 December 2009

From Today's Papers - 10 Dec 09

Land Scam
Four Generals among nine indicted
Army promotions, postings under scanner
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 9
The count is now four Generals and five other officers who have been held blameworthy for alleged collusion and lapses to lease land near Siliguri to a group of businessmen to build an educational centre adjoining a sensitive Army establishment.

Sources close to the investigation said the COI has recommended disciplinary action against at least five officers and administrative action against others.
As a fallout of this, the court of inquiry (COI) that investigated the matter has recommended that the recent promotions and postings of certain officers based at various places be investigated. The COI, headed by Lt Gen KT Parnaik, General Officer Commanding 4 Corps, Tezpur, concluded on December 3, sources said.
The senior-most officer to be blamed in this matter, Lt Gen Avdesh Prakash is the Military Secretary at Army Headquarters and responsible for the officer cadre management, including promotions and postings. Sources said the opinion was that some promotions and postings could have been manipulated to benefit certain officers for their alleged acts of omission and commission.
Besides General Prakash, the other officers held blameworthy include Lt Gen PK Rath, the commander of 33 Corps who was to move as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff at Army Headquarters before his posting was cancelled. The other two Generals include a corps commander in the western sector and a Major-General on staff appointment at Headquarters Western Command. Both had served in the northeast before their promotion.
The findings and recommendations of the COI are now before the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command, Lt Gen VK Singh for further action. The number of officers that finally face disciplinary action and administrative action would depend on a review of the COI proceedings at command headquarters and the directions of the GCO-in-C thereof.
Sources said that a separate COI has also been recommended to investigate some similar lapses pertaining to military land in the area near Gangtok in Sikkim, which also comes under the territorial jurisdiction of 33 Corps. Given its history and location, Sikkim is extremely sensitive politically, diplomatically and militarily.

Blow to Air Force, 101 pilots queue up at exit door
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9
Call it the lure of the fast-growing private aviation sector or inadequate salaries, more than 100 pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have applied for premature retirement in the past one year. This high number comes less than year after the services were locked in a very bitter public spat with the bureaucracy on wages.

The IAF has some 1,500 pilots in total and it has projected shortfall of some 300 pilots in future as it expands its squadrons of fighters and adds more choppers. The IAF has already hiked the intake of pilots in its training academies and now they take around 260 trainees in each annual course, up from 190 trainees earlier. Defence Minister AK Antony gave out the fact that 101 pilots --- most of who are highly skilled in flying fighters, choppers and transport planes --- have applied for a premature retirement. Antony told Rajya Sabha that the broad reasons furnished by the applicants for grant of premature retirement are supersession, lack of career progression, medical/compassionate grounds etc. Such applications are considered on a case-to-case basis in accordance with extant government policy and service exigencies. Antony said efforts were being made to carry out a proactive publicity campaign to reach the target group across the country. The number of retirement seekers has gone up despite the government having made claims that the sixth pay commission had addressed the needs and aspirations of defence personnel. Separately, the government today said IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal PK Barbora’s remarks that politics was impinging badly on the country’s military requirements were his “personal views”.
“The IAF Vice Chief had expressed his personal views during his talk at a seminar while referring to the delays that had occurred in the past in procurement of aircraft and systems,” Antony said in reply to a Rajya Sabha query. Meanwhile, replying to another query, the Defence Minister said the DRDO had entered into a joint venture with Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) to develop a long range and medium range surface-to-air missile systems.

India, Israel to ramp up military ties
TNN 10 December 2009, 02:26am IST
NEW DELHI: India and Israel have decided to further bolster their already expansive military ties, especially in areas like joint R&D defence projects, counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing.

This came after visiting Israeli Defence Forces chief of general staff Lt-General Gabi Ashkenazi met national security advisor M K Narayanan, Army chief General Deepak Kapoor, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik and Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma on Wednesday.

Lt-Gen Ashkenazi is also slated to visit the Jaipur-based South-Western Army Command, one of the six operational commands of the 1.13-million strong Indian Army.

Indian armed forces have inducted a wide array of Israeli military hardware and software, ranging from UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), electronic warfare suites and night-vision devices to missiles, anti-missile defence systems and sophisticated radars, after the 1999 Kargil conflict. Israel since then has rapidly emerged as India's second largest defence supplier, notching up business worth a staggering $9 billion.

The focus now is on having joint R&D projects in fields like high-endurance and rotary UAVs, submarine-launched cruise missiles, anti-ballistic missile systems, network-centric operations, micro-satellite surveillance systems, advanced precision-guided munitions (PGMs) and third-generation night-vision devices.

The special status accorded to Israel can be gauged from the fact that the UPA government has not blacklisted Israeli armament companies despite allegations of kickbacks.

Chinese army officers on India visit
New Delhi December 9, 2009

In the last fortnight, the Indian Army's brass has hosted a series of international military delegations. And the Chinese People's Liberation Army ( PLA) has had a strong presence in those numbers.

If last week the deputy chief of general staff, Lt- Gen. Chen Bingde, was in town for a ' goodwill visit', this week it is the turn of Lt- Gen. Shu Yutai, commander of the Tibet Military Region.

The latter is currently visiting Bagdogra and being hosted by the general officer commanding- in- chief, Eastern Command, Lt- Gen. V. K. Singh.

Army sources in South Block say Lt- Gen. Yutai is reciprocating a visit by Lt- Gen. Singh, who had visited China in August this year, the time when media reports about Chinese intrusions made headlines.

While Lt- Gen. Yutai is expected in New Delhi in the next few days, a delegation of Chinese army officials enrolled with the Chinese National Defence University are already in town, being hosted by the National Defence College on a curricular exchange programme.

When asked whether these visits were a part of any elaborate confidence- building measure programme, army officials refused to confirm.

India flexes Moscow muscle, snubs US N-suppliers
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, December 9
After inking a path-breaking civilian nuclear pact with Russia, New Delhi has shown the proverbial cold shoulder to a visiting US nuclear mission of 50 companies eager to do business in India.

Officials and ministers in the Prime Minister’s Office, it is learnt, were discreetly advised not to meet the delegation ostensibly on the plea that it comprised junior-level officers.
However, the real reason is that New Delhi wants to leverage its deal with Russia to push American companies into pressurising the US establishment to expedite the ongoing negotiations on enrichment and reprocessing agreement to facilitate the full implementation of the Indo-US nuclear pact.
These negotiations were slated for completion before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s November visit to Washington but the two sides were unable to arrive at a mutually acceptable text for setting up of a dedicated reprocessing facility in India. This a key requirement under IAEA safeguards for the implementation of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal signed last year. American companies cannot do nuclear trade in India unless all these procedural wrangles are out of the way.
Highly placed UPA sources admitted that since America was dragging its feet on this issue, New Delhi had not just inked a civil nuclear deal with Russia but made it a point to tout it as a “major improvement over the 123 agreement” signed with the US. This pact will give Russian companies a clear head start in India.
While Russia is setting up four additional reactors in Kudankulum and has been allotted a site in Haripur in West Bengal, two sites have been earmarked for the US in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
“We had deliberately delayed an announcement of the two sites chosen for the US reactors. Now that the reprocessing agreement is still to be finalised, it was decided to keep the American companies on tenterhooks,” a senior UPA minister disclosed.
India believes that American companies eager to do business here will exert necessary pressure on the US establishment to wrap up all paperwork expeditiously so that they do not lag behind their Russian and French rivals.
The civil nuclear agreement finalised during PM Singh’s visit to Moscow allows for uninterrupted uranium fuel supply from Russia and ensures that no ongoing nuclear power project is affected even if the bilateral cooperation between the two countries is terminated.
The Indo-French nuclear cooperation agreement also contains a similar clause. On the other hand, the 123 agreement signed with the US lays down that India would have to return the fuel and equipment in case their bilateral agreement is terminated.
National Security Advisor (NSA) M.K. Narayanan had told mediapersons on return from the US that negotiations on a reprocessing agreement were in the final stages and would be completed within ten to 12 days. “We have arrived at the last stage of negotiations...only one issue remains, that of finalising the legal text,” he had said.
The two sides had resolved two key issues on whether one or more dedicated facility should be set up and the level of security at these reprocessing unit installations.
India wants the US to set up more than one facility on the ground that it would benefit the US once it sets up nuclear plants in India. It was agreed that one dedicated facility would be set up initially but a provision would be made for more as and when required.
As for security, it was agreed that the facilities will be protected on the same lines as the US, the sources said. The third sticking point was whether reprocessing should be suspended and under what circumstances and conditions. 

Tribune Exclusive
China makes economic inroads into Sri Lanka
Swati Chaturvedi
New Delhi, December 9
It is clearly not a case of Chinese Whisper anymore. The Finance Ministry has raised a red flag over “overwhelming” economic control China now exercises over Sri Lanka.

In a report to the mandarins of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Reserve Bank Of India (RBI) sent recently, the Finance Ministry has “warned that if timely steps were not taken, it would create an untenable situation for the country.”
The report - contents of which have been accessed by The Tribune - states that the Chinese have upped their presence in all vital Sri Lankan financial institutions - including the stock market - by almost 40 per cent in the past two years.
The Sri Lanka Government is more than happy to play ball with the Chinese as these economic incursions come with the attached sop of cheap arms, says a senior Finance Ministry official. “The Chinese are not exactly overcome by scruples when it comes to even kickbacks and payouts, especially when it comes to winning friends and influencing India’s other neighbours,” he says.
Unlike the United States that holds companies paying bribes overseas to get business liable to be punished, the Chinese have no such constraints to hold them back.
For the past two years, the Chinese have taken a quantum jump in increasing their presence in Sri Lanka. From investments in private companies to takeovers of financial institutions, strategic aid and investment, it has been a calculated project to put itself at the heart of the Sri Lankan economy.
The Chinese presence has caused “deep consternation” in the highest echelons as
it comes amidst a deliberately ratcheted up design to rattle India.

This seems to involve using all instruments available to the state, such as protesting a World Bank loan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang Monastery, stamping Kashmiris’ visas passport on a loose sheet and stopping road construction in Jammu and Kashmir.
Says former national security advisor Brijesh Mishra, “The Chinese don’t do anything by accident. There is a deliberate plan to get together with Pakistan and encircle India. We have faced them separately alone but now they are working in sync. I hope we do have the strategic depth to take them on because this is vital in the national interest.’’

'Indo-Pak security relationship has consequences in Afghan'
Press Trust of India / Washington December 9, 2009, 9:32 IST

America's top diplomat in Kabul has told US lawmakers that security relationship between India and Pakistan has its own consequences in Afghanistan.

"The security relationship between India and Pakistan has consequences for Afghanistan," US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry said yesterday to a question from Senator Kay Hagan before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Hagan said ever since the partition of India, Islamabad has attempted to utilise its proxies, to install a friendly Pashtun government in Afghanistan that would preserve the de facto border and prevent Pashtun aspirations of a homeland and prevent Indian involvement in Afghanistan.

Hagan alleged that Pakistan continues to pursue a dual track policy of disrupting the Pakistani Taliban in its tribal areas, most notably in South Waziristan, while elements of its military support the Afghan Taliban networks, most notably in North Waziristan; and the Afghan Taliban high command in its Baluchistan province.

"The key question is if elements of Pakistan's military can be persuaded to change this dual-track policy. In order to do that, we've got to address Pakistan's regional concerns, taking into account its relationships with Afghanistan and India," the Senator from North Carolina noted.

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