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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

From Today's Papers - 15 Dec 09

Women-in-uniform will have to wait for combat duty
Defence Minister cites study to keep women out of such roles
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 14
Although there has been a marginal increase (8.5 per cent) in the recruitment of women into the armed forces over the past two years — the highest recruitment being in the Army, that too under the medical services branch — government today ruled out immediate combat assignments for women.

Combat duty for women could be possible in due course of time, Defence Minister AK Antony said during Question Hour in Lok Sabha today, responding to a query from Mithilesh Kumar and Rudra Madhab Ray on the number of women recruits in the Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force.
Between 2007 and 2008, the forces have managed to add just one women officer.(from 398 to 399). That apart, the government said it was expanding streams where women could be recruited.
Reacting to the debate that saw supplementries from both the treasury and opposition benches, the Defence Minister cited a 2006 study of the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff on all aspects of employment of women officers in the armed forces, to keep women out of combat roles.
“The study recommended exclusion of women officers from close combat roles,” he said in a written reply to the House. The minister added that at present there was no proposal to induct women into combat duties in defence forces, including that of fighter pilots in the Air Force. On a query from BJP leader Sushma Swaraj regarding whether the government was planning to raise battalions with women officers, Antony nodded in disagreement. However, he quickly added: “But that’s not final. We are committed to the cause of women and in due course of time they will be able to join combat duties. Gradually we are moving towards it.”
The number of women in the forces has gone up marginally from 398 in 2007 and 399 in 2008 to 432 this year. Maximum recruitment is in the military nursing service, which employs 189 of the 432 current women officers in the forces. The next highest women-employing category in the Armed Forces Medical Services is the Army Medical Corps.
Among the forces, Army is employing the maximum number of women (92), followed by the Air Force at 50 and the Navy at 23. Strangely, however, Army’s recruitment of women has declined from 188 in 2007 to 92 now.
Despite low recruitment, the government said it was not discriminating against women and they did meet the required eligibility criteria. When asked by Congress MP Manish Tiwari if the low recruitment of women in the forces was due to their ineligibility, Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju clarified, “Most women meet the required criteria. It is due to limited streams that the recruitment is low. We are trying to expand.”
The government further admitted that there was no specified sanctioned strength of women in the defence forces.

GCM to try woman officer reassembles after 2 yrs
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 14
After remaining adjourned for about two years on legal grounds, the first ever general court martial (GCM) convened by the Army to try a woman officer on charges of corruption reassembled here today.

The GCM is trying Major Dimple Singla of the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Branch on three charges under Sections 52 and 63 of the Army Act for wrongful gain and acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline.
She had allegedly demanded and accepted bribes from jawans facing court martial in order to influence the trial in their favour. She was released from service on completion of her stipulated period of engagement during the course of the trial.
The GCM, presided over by Col Sanjeev Jose, CO of an Air Defence Regiment, had commenced in April 2007 but was adjourned sine die a few months later after the accused had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court when the GCM had dismissed her plea without allowing the defence to lead evidence in its support or giving a reasoned order in support of its decision.
The defence had challenged the jurisdiction of the GCM to try the case on the grounds that certain mandatory provisions of law were not complied with during pre-trial proceedings.
The High Court had directed the GCM to give detailed and reasoned order in the matter and the Army thereafter decided to move the Supreme Court against HC’s directions. The apex court reportedly upheld the HC order. The defence thereafter moved the Armed Forces Tribunal challenging the reasons given by the GCM in support of its decision, but the AFT directed the GOC-in-C, Western Command, to dispose of the matter.
The defence today raised objection to the present judge advocate being part of the trial on grounds that he is posted with the same unit with which the accused had served. The defence contended that this was contrary to the provisions of Army Rules and Army Orders dealing with the subject. Further, all documents pertaining to the case were available with the said unit, which would prejudice the case against her.
The court has been adjourned for the prosecution to file its reply to the defence’s contention. 

Weapons worth Rs 8000 cr to be procured under DPP: Antony
Press Trust of India / New Delhi December 14, 2009, 16:49 IST

A K AntonyGovernment today said about ten offset contracts worth Rs 8,909 crores have been signed under Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) with weapons making companies from countries like Russia, Israel and the United States.

"About 10 offset contracts have been signed so far under the DPP. The companies with which the offset contracts have been signed include Rosoboronexport and RAC MiG from Russia, Lockheed Martin and Boeing from the US, Israel Aerospace Industries and Etta from Israel and Fincantieri from Italy," Defence Minister A K Antony said in a written reply to a Lok Sabha query.

The Minister added the estimated value of the contracts was Rs 8,909 crores.

Under the offsets clause of the DPP, foreign vendors have to invest minimum 30 per cent of all the contracts worth over Rs 300 crore into the Indian defence industry.

Replying to another query, the Defence Minister said DRDO has tied up with the IAI for developing Long-Range and Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile systems.

"The cost of project for LR-SAM is Rs 2,606.02 crore and MR-SAM project is Rs 10,075 crore," Antony said.

Answering another query, he said the DRDO was developing a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for the three services and the project was expected to be completed in 78 months after the project approval.

India to test fly light combat helicopters by month-end
Ramnath Shenoy/ PTI / Bangalore December 14, 2009, 11:21 IST

India will shortly test fly the indigenously designed and built Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), which will augment the IAF's fleet of small and highly manoeuvrable rotary flying machines.

A 'baby' of the Bangalore-headquartered defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the first prototype of LCH is expected to take to the skies between December 26 and December 29, a senior HAL official told PTI here today.

HAL has already bagged a firm order to deliver 65 LCH to the IAF and 114 to the Army, company sources said.

Unlike HAL’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) "Dhruv" which has been described as broad and bloated, the LCH is very, very sleek. The new light chopper is currently undergoing functional tests, and is expected to be ready for ground run by December 24.

"It (LCH) is quite different from ALH in terms of configuration and structure," the official closely associated with the project, said on condition of anonymity.

HAL hopes to obtain certification for LCH in 2012-13, and the delivery of the machines is  expected from 2014-15.

LCH would also have a weaponised version, similar to ALH.

"There will be rocket pods, a machine gun as also an air-to-air missiles in the combat version of LCH. But in the first prototype all these features will not be there," the official said.

HAL has also started design of a light observation helicopter (LOH) which would eventually replace the ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters which have been in service since 1978. "We have got about 600 of them (Cheetah and Chetak) in service now. They are reaching  the end of their technical life as they have flown 60,000 hours or more," he said.

India plans to buy 197 LOH helicopters, for which it has short-listed Eurocopter, Augusta Westland and Rosoboronexport. Sources said India is expected to place the order after finalising one of them by next year-end.

HAL has already secured an order to supply 187 LOH. "So, while India will buy 197, HAL will also make 187," officials said.

Meanwhile, HAL officials said platforms offered by major global manufacturers in response to the company’s request for proposals on finding a foreign partner for its proposed medium lift helicopter project were found to be “not exactly meeting our requirements’.

"We are choosing a platform which will be modified to suit our requirement. All the platforms are not exactly meeting our requirement. So, we will have to call them for discussions, freeze the specifications and then tender it out formally," they said.

LCH’s maiden flight comes at a time when helicopter business is booming for HAL, which has already sold 100 numbers of Dhruv, mostly for armed forces, with further order to deliver another 159, worth Rs 15,000 crore.

HAL is mulling to set up more helicopter divisions. "We will have to create infrastructure for making new helicopters.The present infrastructure is full, to the brim. We may not be able to do more there. We will have to put up new facilities for helicopter manufacturing".

Army signal to Nepal Maoists

New Delhi, Dec. 14: The chief of Nepal’s army, General Chhatra Man Singh Gurung, was today made an honorary general of the Indian Army by President Pratibha Patil, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

The honour to Gurung, part of a tradition between the militaries of India and Nepal that was sundered after King Gyanendra’s takeover in 2005 but was restored last year, emphasises Delhi’s deep interest in encouraging a regular army in Nepal that will remain professional and apolitical, defence ministry sources said.

Such a description is in itself a political move.

One of the sticking points in the peace accord between Kathmandu and the increasingly belligerent Maoists in Nepal is the demand that the rebel militia — which calls itself the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) — should be integrated into the regular army.

Senior generals in the Nepal army, including its director-general of military intelligence, have spoken out against integrating politically indoctrinated soldiers among the regular ranks.

General Chhatra Man Singh Gurung, in a presentation to the Indian Army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, and senior officials was understood to have touched upon the subject shortly before his investiture ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan today.

The Indian Army also gave a presentation on Indian security perspectives.

But an army spokesperson, Colonel Om Singh, asked about the views exchanged on the integration of the rebels into the regular Nepal army, said he would not comment on political developments.

The spokesperson said Nepal’s army was largely trained by the Indian Army and was also dependent on it for supplies.

Also, a large number of Nepali Gorkhas were among the ranks of the Indian Army.

General Gurung’s visit, he said, “assumes special significance in the light of enhanced bilateral co-operation between the two countries”.

He said “sustained cooperation between the two armies is ongoing in the fields of training, visits, equipment co-operation and miscellaneous mutually beneficial activities”.

* Nepal Army chief is honorary General of Indian Army


New Delhi, Dec 14 (PTI) Nepalese Army Chief General Chhatra Man Singh Gurung, an alumnus of the Indian Military Academy (IMA), was today conferred the honorary rank of General of the Indian Army.

President Pratibha Patil conferred the rank to Gen Gurung at a ceremony here by presenting a sword and a peak cap along with a conferment order.

Defence Minister A K Antony, Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik and Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar were present during the 15-minute ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

It is a tradition between the Indian and the Nepalese Army for the respective chiefs to be conferred honorary General rank of each other's Army too.

No vacancy for women officers in army, air force: government
New Delhi, Dec 14

The central government Monday told the Delhi High Court that there is no scope to grant women officers permanent commissions in the army and air force, as there are no vacancies for them.

Appearing on behalf of the government, Additional Solicitor General A.S.Chandhiok said: "Army and Air Force officers are in surplus numbers. If we grant permanent commission (PC) to the Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers, then where will we accommodate them?"

The court was hearing the case filed by over twenty women officers of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force as to why they cannot be granted permanent commissions like their male counterparts, as both undergo the same training.

"The A.V. Singh Committee recommended that we should have more young officers on ground duty. So following on that report, we are not in a position to accommodate women in the armed forces,” the ASG submitted.

However, a division bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M.C. Garg did not agree with the submission. "When everywhere women are being given a fixed quota and government every now and then talks about women empowerment, then why is there such discrimination in the army?"

Chandhiok also argued that in most of the cases, women officers want their choice of postings as compared to male counterparts who did not press for such requests.

"If we taken women to forward areas, then there is an inherent danger," he submitted.

Refuting the submission, the bench said: "You don't go by sentiments. These issues are debatable and who is asking you (government) to post these women officers in the forward areas? There are other avenues for them as well."

Rekha Palli, counsel for the women officers, cited how British Army has vacancies of over 71 percent women officers and said: "This discrimination has to stop. When their training is same, then why this?"

The court reserved its order after hearing both sides.

The court was hearing the plea of the women officers who have filed a public interest petition challenging the government's proposal of Sep 29, 2008, to bypass them for future grant of permanent commission.

Currently, women are inducted into the army as officers under the SSC route for a maximum service period of 14 years. However, their male colleagues are eligible to receive permanent commission after five years.

INDIA: Army and IAF face off over new war plan

Pinaki Bhattacharya
New Delhi, December 14, 2009

The army and air force are battling it out over how to beat Pakistan in a flash war if and when that happens.

The Indian Air Force is not convinced about its role in the army's "cold start doctrine" for a future Indo-Pak war.

The strategy envisages the air force providing "close air support", which calls for aerial bombing of ground targets to augment the fire power of the advancing troops.

The growing tension between the two services is evident in a statement of air vice-marshal (retd) Kapil Kak, deputy director of the air force's own Centre for Air Power Studies.

"There is no question of the air force fitting itself into a doctrine propounded by the army. That is a concept dead at inception," Kak said.

A senior army officer disputes the notion of a conceptual difference between the two services. "The air force is supposed to launch an offensive under the doctrine by hitting targets deep inside enemy territory," he said. But he admitted the air force was hesitant about 'close air support'. 'Cold Start' is a post-nuclearised doctrine that envisages a "limited war" in which the army intends to inflict substantial damage on Pakistan's armed forces without letting it cross the threshold where it could think of pressing the nuclear button.

The doctrine intends to accomplish the task before the international community led by the US and China could intercede to end hostilities. Kak said, "The air force has the primary task of achieving 'air dominance' by which Pakistan's air force is put out of action allowing the army to act at will."

But he sees little necessity for the air force to divert frontline fighter aircraft for augmenting the army's fire power, a task that, in his opinion, can be achieved by the army's own attack helicopters and multiple rocket launchers that now have a 100-km range.

But he agrees the two services should work according to a joint plan. It means the air force would launch 'battlefield air strikes' to neutralise threats on the ground based on an existing plan. But that would be different from an army commander calling for air support on the basis of a developing war scenario.

That is not the only problem facing the doctrine. In the past few weeks, many have expressed doubts about the army's ability to launch operations on the basis of the new doctrine.

There are also apprehensions about the army's incomplete deployment of forces, lack of mobility and unattended infrastructure development.

But senior officers say the army has identified the units, which would constitute the eight division-strong independent battle groups out of its three strike corps. These battle groups would comprise mechanised infantry, artillery and armour.

"The forces have exercised as constituted battle groups at least six times since 2004. Each of the identified unit knows where they will be deployed," a senior General said.

According to him, the time for deployment has been cut down to "days". "No longer will the movement of troops require three months like it did when Operation Parakram was launched after the attack on Parliament in 2001," he said.

The army also debunks the idea that the troops lack mobility. Some armed forces observers have said only 35 per cent of the army is mobile inside the country.

They have, thus, concluded that even less numbers would be mobile inside the enemy territory.

The army officials, however, pooh pooh the criticism claiming 100 per cent of the Indian troops are mobile.

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