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Monday, 8 February 2010

From Today's Papers - 08 Feb 10






N-capable Agni-III testfired

Bhadrak (Orissa), February 7
India today successfully tested its indigenous nuclear-capable Agni-III missile with a range of over 3,000-km, consolidating the country's position among a select group of nations that have intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM)-capability, defence sources said.

The missile, which is capable of carrying warheads weighing up to 1.5 tonnes, was tested from the Inner Wheeler Island at Dhamra, a launch site in Bhadrak district, about 200 km from Orissa capital Bhubaneswar, at 10.46 a.m.

This is the fourth test of the country's most powerful missile which has the capability to hit deep inside China, bringing cities like Shanghai and Beijing within its potent reach.

"The test was highly successful. It met all the mission objectives. All the events took place as expected" S.P. Dash, director of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) said from the site after the test.

The Agni III missile is set for induction in the armed forces. The Sunday test was its last trial, the official said.

The first test, from the same defence base on July 9, 2006, was unsuccessful. The second stage of the rocket had failed to separate from the missile quickly enough and the missile had fallen short of its target.

The DRDO-developed missile was tested again on April 12, 2007, and May 9, 2008, respectively and both the tests were successful.

Agni-III, one of the Agni series missiles, is a two-stage solid propellant missile with a length of 17 mt, diameter 2 mt and launch weight of 50 tonnes.

While Agni-I is a 750-800 km short-range missile, Agni-II has a range of more than 1,500 km. Both have already been inducted into the armed forces.

Defence Minister AK Antony termed the test of Agni-III as a remarkable achievement and congratulated DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat and other scientists for making it a success.

More than a hundred defence scientists witnessed the Sunday. They included V.K. Saraswat, director general of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister and Avinash Chandra, director of the Agni-III programme. — IANS






Army to replace vintage air-defence guns
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 7
Vintage anti-aircraft guns that form the mainstay of the Army’s air defence network are to be replaced. The Army has issued a request for information seeking successors to the L-70 and ZU-23 guns.

The Army has fixed February 15 as the last date for bids for the L-70 guns, which form the backbone of its air defence capability. The 40-mm single-barrel weapon, the original version of which dates back to the World War-II has been in service with the Indian Army for about 45 years.

Similarly, the Soviet origin ZU-23 has been in service for over 30 years. Though primarily an air defence weapon, these twin-barrel rapid firing guns were used with great effect in an unusual role against enemy ground fortifications across the Line of Control and in Siachen.

Last year, the Directorate-General of Air Defence had reportedly told the defence ministry that about 95 per cent of its inventory was outdated or nearing obsolescence. This has raised the issue of the effectiveness of air defence cover to mechanised formations and vital static installations.

Besides the L-70 and ZU-23, other anti-aircraft systems like the OSA-AK, SA-9, ZSU-23-4 Schilka have been around for about 30 years or so. Some modifications to these systems have been undertaken, but these were no where close to give their capability a significant shot in the arm.

The Army wants its new guns to have an effective range of at least 3,500 m with the ability to engage targets flying at speeds more than 300 m per second. The guns should have the capability to engage targets with or without a fire-control radar.

The Army is also on the lookout for man-portable very short-range anti-aircraft missiles, which can be effectively used in high-altitude areas, plains, deserts or in maritime conditions at ranges of 3,500 m or more.

At present, the Army is using the Russian SA-7 shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile to engage low flying hostile aircraft at close ranges. This system also dates back to seventies.







India will depend on US for military hardware

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

Rahul Bedi, who has been writing relentlessly on India's strategic and defence related issues, thinks this year will cement India-United States defence ties like never before. New Delhi-based Bedi is a correspondent for the prestigious Jane's Defence Weekly spoke to's Sheela Bhatt.


Defence Secretary Robert Gates's visit has underlined India need for weapons, jet fighters fitted with high-technology and a lot more. But, to get that, India will have to sign certain agreements that could be intrusive, Bedi says. Domestic failure to develop sophisticated and wide range of military equipment is compelling India to sign defence agreements which will bind New Delhi with the US for a long time to come. To strengthen Indian borders, its security and its position in the Indian Ocean, India does not have any option but to go for high-technology provided by the US and other Western countries which will come with a price tag.


What is the status of US-India defence ties?


In the last few years, the prospects of US supplies of military hardware to India have increased. We have seen recently that the Indian Air Force is placing an order to buy 10 Boeing C-17 advanced airlift aircraft for over $2.4 billion. It's the biggest-ever deal with the US surpassing the P-81 long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft order in 2009 for $2.1 billion.


The Indian Army is going to buy artillery as well for the first time in many years. The US is fast emerging as our favored weapons supplier. Since 2001, it has clinched deals of over $3.29 billion supplying India 12 Thales-Raytheon Systems AN/TPQ-37 (V) 3 Firefinder artillery radar, the USS Trenton--re-named INS Jalashwa--and six second-hand UH-3H Sea King helicopters. Six C 130 J Super Hercules military transporters have also been added to the list.


What are the Indian strategic needs and what does the US have to offer?


India wants to replace its Soviet era hardware which is in use for the last 30 year--70 percent of equipment that is in service is of Russian origin. They have reached collective obsolescence and need to be replaced.


The Indian military has embarked on a huge modernization drive. In just the next three to four years India will spend $30 billion upgrading its military hardware. By 2022, India is poised to spend another $50 billion; $80 billion is a huge amount of money. Lots of supplies will continue to be Russian because they are an old and reliable partner. For logistical reasons it's easy to replace Russian equipment with new Russian equipment. But India's advance warning capability, radar, reconnaissance and strategic capability hardware are likely be American because the US has the latest technology. Also, an implicit provision of the nuclear deal was the payback factor.


When there is a recession in US the arms industry is also affected. In view of it such Indian purchases do matter to the US. US-India military procurement ties will grow over the next 10 years. The Indian Army is quite keen to do away with the Russians because of lack of prompt after-sales service. But, due to a variety of logistic reasons, they can't. Lots of equipment in service is Russian. But India wants to diversify, and the US is a major supplier. Europe is not happy the way India is likely to court the US to get high-tech weapons. Recently, India cancelled the Spanish mid-air refuel aircraft tender.


In India we don't have enough expertise to calculate lifecycle cost. Russian equipment is cheaper to buy initially but the operating cost over the next 20 to 30 years is enormous. European and US equipment are costly when we buy, but the lifecycle cost is economical. Russian aircraft engines needs service after few hundred hours [of flight time] but many Western aircraft need service after a few thousand hours. The fact is everyone has opened the shop in India because nobody buys as India does. India is in the process of buying 197 helicopters. In 10 years time, India will need 600 helicopters. India is looking for 3,600 artillery guns worth about $12 to 14 billion.


What kind of equipment are the Indian Navy and air force likely to purchase from the US?


The navy is looking for submarines, aircraft carriers and frigates. Lots of it will come from Russia. It's competitive, it's cheap and hardy equipment suitable for Indian weather. The Indian Army uses its weapons and equipments from minus 50 to plus 50 degrees (Celsius). Soldiers are used to it. The basic platform may remain Russian for a long time. But add-ons will be Western, mainly from the US.


The radars, force multiplier, electronics equipment, and warfare for intelligence are likely to come from the US. If we agree to the end-user monitoring agreement, it will help the US to export their military hardware and software. Another agreement under debate is the Communication Inter-operability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA). Once that happens, the transfer of US technology to India will be possible.


Till these pacts are confirmed on both sides lots of these onboard equipment like maritime surveillance aircraft, Boeing P8--also the Hercules transport aircraft that we bought from Americans--will not get confirmed. Americans are keen for Proliferation Security Initiatives. It is for the navy to check the ships on the high seas to check terrorist-related activities and nuclear related materials.


Second is the logistic support agreement, which allows reciprocal usage of each other's facilities in terms of bases and refueling. India is not happy with it. Pakistan and China would not like India to sign the PSI. They won't like their ships to be checked. It will be taken as an act of aggression.


Of course, if we agree to certain agreements like the CISMOA, the order of 126 multi role combat aircraft deal could go the US way.


The demand of 126 aircraft could be increased to 200 if it suits India. The chances of the US being successful in this deal are fairly high. The Indian Air Force is buying mid air refuelers. The Russian Sukhoi fighter jet is capable of traveling about 300 km with one fuel tank. If it has a mid air refueler, it can double or triple its reach.


Also, the Indian Navy is important for America as the Indian Ocean is going to become a zone of conflict because 60 to 70 percent of world's traffic passes through here. The US has said in many research papers that the Indian Navy could be the stabilizing agent. Without the assets of the Indian Navy, security of the Indian Ocean is difficult. The Chinese navy is expanding at tremendous speed and the rest of the world is watching. The Chinese have done a lot of 'reverse engineering' and acquired new assets. They have built a nuclear submarine and it is in the South China Sea. There is a growing muscle of the Chinese navy and it worries everybody including India. The Chinese have expanded their navy and have deployed off the Somalia coast. This is the first Chinese deployment outside the South China Sea in the last several hundred years. This is to get operational experience very far from home. The Chinese are growing in not only in assets but also in terms of operation. That is worrying the Americans and worrying the Indians a lot.


So, the Indian modernization plan is to meet China. If they meet the Chinese at some level it will take care of Pakistan. The force level required by India for China is much more while for Pakistan it's much less. To become the regional power, any country needs power projection. That comes from out of area operation and platforms to extend the long reach. The Indian Navy is operating from off the Somalian coast. It has exhibited the capability to operate out of India, far from home. It is going for mid-air tankers in a big way. India has six such refuelers from Russia. The US will provide more electronic equipment, which was so far provided by Israel.


There is very little going on because of the bureaucratic freeze in decision-making. Everybody is terrified of buying because they feel that they would be taken to task if anything goes wrong. When the Congress party government came they have put 38 cases related to arms purchases and they are with the Central Bureau of Investigation. Money is being allocated but not being spent. Defence Minister A K Antony in a passionate speech last year said, 'Even though our government is earmarking huge defence budgets, it is not being fully reflected in our modernization efforts.'


India's defence outlay grew by nearly a third to $ 28.91 billion for the fiscal year 2009-2010, around 40 percent of which was for procurements. We are spending huge amount of money but we are not getting closer to modernization because there is no thinking taking place due to inefficiency. Lots of purchases are like a stock pipe operation. I agree with a view that we don't have scientific strategic thinking. January 17, Army Day, the Indian Army chief agreed that 80 percent of India's armored tanks are night blind. That means like the medieval times you fight morning to evening and take rest at night. Pakistan has 80 percent of tanks capable to fight at night.


Planning and strategic thinking of the Indian Army's procurement program is in complete shambles. Bureaucrats and politicians are throttling the procurement process. For the first time, a senior air force officer abused politicians publicly. The political party in opposition opposes the government's move; when they come to government their opposition parties oppose the purchases. It's a zero sum game. Political decision is lacking. Defence forces' equipment profile is poor.


The Indian weapons procurement system takes years and years. Sometime even 20 years. The advance jet trainer that India got from the United Kingdom some five years back took 20 years to acquire. At the end of it the volume that is purchased by India is lucrative for the seller, so they stick on with patience. Currently, the trials of jet aircraft are on. It will take some six months for six participants. Then, the trial report will be assessed by the technical team. Then the short-list will be made. And, then the negotiations will start. By 2012 or 2013 the deal will be signed. After that another 54 months will pass before the actual delivery will start. That is, we will take almost five years to get the aircraft. So, the last of the 126 aircraft will be inducted in 2022! By that time it will be outdated technology. This schedule is possible only if everything goes according to the plan!


There is talk of changing the procurement system. But, it remains at the talk level. Very little is implemented and even the procedure and manual maybe modern if you read them but implementation is mired in the same old bureaucracy. Nobody wants to take a decision. Because they fear if something goes wrong they would face legal suits. Because all defence contracts are looked at suspiciously, even if it's a straight contract, people fear to take decisions. The system is such that even if someone writes a letter to defence ministry, the whole thing goes into tailspin. Then, the Central Vigilance Commission, the CBI, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Public Accounts Committee and such organizations or committees can inquire into it.


The deal was almost through of 197 helicopters in December 2007. There is no expertise in India to see what kind of equipment is undergoing trial. One of the contenders had fielded civilian helicopters instead of military ones. So, the entire procedure of field inspection was gone through without detecting the difference between civilian and military helicopters. After four-and-a-half years of testing also, no deal was struck. Now, once again, trial for the same 197 helicopters is restarting in March. India is faced with an almost laughable situation which is turning tragic.


I will give you an example. The Indian Army is going to buy more than 200 pieces of artillery from Central Asian countries. In terms of technology, it belongs to era of the 1960s. We are buying because it's going cheap. There is such a huge gap of artillery requirements that we are even ready for an outdated product like M-146 130 millimeter guns.

Does the situation raise question marks over India's defence preparedness too?


As everyone knows, defence preparedness was found wanting after the 26/11Mumbai attacks. When the war council was called after the Mumbai attacks, the air force is the only wing that is supposed to have expressed its ability to bomb targets across the Line of Control in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The Indian Army was very hesitant because they said that if the Indian Air Force goes for this bombing then there will be reaction from Pakistan and the army may or may not be able to take care of that spread. There is a great level of insecurity and a great level of worry in the Indian armed forces. They worry that they may not be able to handle the situation because they are just not equipped enough.


General V P Malik, who was army chief during the Kargil war, and General S Padmanabhan, who was army chief when the Indian Parliament was attacked and Operation Parakram was launched, have indicated clearly that they are lacking in equipment, lacking in odernization. The Indian Army's equipment profile is very poor. This is something the Indian Army is forced to live with.


How does the Indian defence establishment view the American arms supply to Pakistan?


The Indian defence establishment is always worried when American supplies goes to Pakistan but these days the defence forces are more worried about Chinese supplies to Pakistan. The Chinese are supplying frigates, warships, tanks, combat aircraft, tanks, missiles and artilleries. They are supplying the entire range of military equipment. They have robust joint development programs in all the three services. The Indian vice chief of the air staff has said that Pakistan's exports of military goods are far ahead of Indian exports. India has  eight defence public sector units, 40 ordinance factories and it has the Defence Development and Research Organization which has 51 highly sophisticated laboratories and it has association with 70 academic and scientific institutions--but it has failed to produce anything of substance or comparable with US products. The Indian defence industry has failed because of inefficiency and corruption.


Is it advantageous to get closer to America when the world is shifting to a multi-polar system?


It depends on how we manage it. Some say the nuclear deal is good, some say it's a bad deal. Actually it depends on how we manage the system and work it to India's advantage.


It's nothing wrong to buy US equipment, provided India maintains its strategic neutrality and independence. India should not be drawn into US strategies in the region. If Indian leaders can do it then India should go for US equipment. The biggest roadblock is the issue of transfer of technology.


In India, foreign direct investment of up to 26 percent equity is allowed in defence production. The Indian partner will have to invest 74 percent. That means Europeans or Americans would not want to transfer their technologies in such joint ventures. Why would they lose the monopoly over technology cheap? That's why one joint venture has come up in the last six years in defence production between Mahindras and Britain's BAE Systems. Because of slow bureaucracy, Indian laws and the judicial system of India, nobody wants to have JVs. The Bofors case is going on since 1987. Slow Indian systems are a huge problem.






Trouble in the Valley
Tactful handling is the need of the hour

Violence that broke out in several towns of Jammu and Kashmir after the death of a teenager hit by a teargas shell in Srinagar on January 31 refuses to abate. There have been clashes between the police and the protesters in Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian ever since. It is an acid test for the Omar Abdullah government to douse the fire with tact and effectively. That the protests are being fanned by elements in Pakistan is not in doubt. Also, there are separatists within the state who are hell bent on taking advantage of the volatile situation. Still, it is the duty of the government to cool down frayed tempers with extreme sensitivity. The problem in Kashmir is that every instance of police “excesses” is blown out of proportions, while the provocation caused by mischievous rampaging mobs is not taken into account.

What must not be forgotten is that a large number of policemen and personnel of paramilitary forces have also been injured in the violent attacks by stone-pelting youth. Yet, it is of utmost importance that the security personnel exercise maximum restraint while controlling such protesters. For instance, 14-year-old Wamiq Farooq Wani would not have died in Srinagar the previous Sunday if a police officer had taken care not to throw the teargas shell directly on a group of youngsters who were pelting stones on a police party. That incident triggered violent reaction at a large number of places. The police suspended the ASI for negligence but the damage was done.

Elements across the border can be depended on to foment trouble. In fact, there are reasons to apprehend that with the melting of snow, there would be an attempt to push in more militants. But at least politicians should refrain from scoring brownie points by instigating the public. Parents too should not allow their children to fall a prey to anti-social elements. Peace is not something which only the government requires. It is equally necessary for the common man wanting to earn his daily bread in the Valley.







Exercises off the Andamans
India working to guard its maritime interests

The five-day 13-nation naval exercise off the Andaman archipelago kicked off by India on Friday is an important initiative and an index of India’s growing self-confidence. The move is a subtle signal that the time for China wanting to exercise controlling vital sea-lanes unchallenged is over. Considering that at least three of the participating nations in the naval exercises —Vietnam, Malaysia and the Phillipines — have maritime disputes with China, Beijing is viewing India’s role as the coordinator of the naval exercise with suspicion. The recent US portrayal of India as a possible “net provider of security in the Indian Ocean” has increased Chinese apprehensions. In that context, India’s clarification that it has no intention to play ‘headmaster’ of the Indian Ocean is timely and well-meant.

The Chinese, on their part, have been playing for stakes for long, selling military hardware at ‘friendly’ prices to Indian Ocean littorals, helping develop maritime infrastructure in Pakistan (Gwadar), Sri Lanka (Hambantota), and Bangladesh (Chittagong), and setting up road/energy pipeline networks and electronic surveillance installations in Myanmar (Burma). Naval diplomacy involving maritime multilateralism with Indian Ocean littorals has also been part of China’s strategy. But unaccustomed as they are to India exercising influence among littoral states, the Chinese are taking time to adjust to the new geopolitical realities.

Apart from tackling China, there indeed are many motivations for the 13-nation exercises. India cannot overlook the fact that the terrorists who wrought havoc in Mumbai on 26/11 of 2008 came via the sea route. Piracy on the high seas has also become an issue of concern which affects Indian vessels. India’s naval chief, Admiral Nirmal Verma, has described the exercises as a way to improve disaster management and not an attempt to form a security bloc. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, India’s navy played an international role, deploying its ships to help devastated Sri Lanka and Indonesia in what analysts said was a bid to project itself as a regional power with offshore military strength. Clearly, India’s new-found status as a regional maritime power is being increasingly respected. There should be no back-pedalling on the course that India has taken.







Pakistan: vindication on Afghanistan, assertive with India

Nirupama Subramanian

There is confidence in Islamabad that its new importance to international interests in the region can be leveraged to secure its own interests vis-a-vis India.


As New Delhi prepares to put the Mumbai attacks behind for a re-engagement with Pakistan, there is confidence in Islamabad that its new importance to international interests in the region can be leveraged to secure its own interests vis-a-vis India.


After years of being seen as part of the problem in Afghanistan, Pakistan is savouring what it calls a vindication of its position on how to end the conflict in that country, and is confident it holds the key to the proposed new plan of “reconciliation” with the Taliban.


As evident from two sets of remarks by the Pakistan Army chief last week about what it seeks in Afghanistan and how its perceives India, New Delhi will need to factor in a resurgent Pakistani military, assertive about its concerns and self-assured of the resonance these carry in the halls of power in the U.S. and Europe.


From Pakistan’s point of view, the flurry of recent diplomatic moves on the Afghan conflict, culminating in the London Conference, was definitely the game-changer. Certainly, the new international mood seems to have played some role in drawing India back to the negotiating table.


London Conference


The details of the new approach in Afghanistan formalised at the 60-nation conference are still hazy. A cash-for-peace plan aimed at weaning away non-ideological and “moderate” Taliban fighters is one part of it, but the broad consensus emerging from the conference was that there is no way forward in Afghanistan without engaging the Taliban in dialogue, perhaps towards its eventual participation in the governance of that country.


“The outcome of the London Conference has been overall positive. It is a vindication of Pakistan’s position that we need to focus on all aspects of the strategy of the three D’s [dialogue, development and deterrence],” Abdul Basit, spokesman of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Hindu. “The international community now realises that without moving forward on the reconciliation aspect, it is not possible to achieve peace in Afghanistan.”


The decisions at the London Conference were not a total surprise. There were plenty of signals that the U.S. and its NATO allies in Europe no longer believed in the possibility a military victory over the Taliban, and were looking for a dignified exit. Except that the military operations in Afghanistan will now be aimed at persuading the Taliban to negotiation, the next steps in the new roadmap for “reconciliation” and “reintegration” of the Taliban are still hazy. The main actors themselves seem unclear about many things.


Is dialogue to take place with only “moderate” sections of the Taliban? How far have talks, already reported to have begun, progressed? What will be offered to the Taliban? Will there be other parties on the table?


The U.S. remains apprehensive about the idea of talking to the top Taliban leadership. In any case, the big question for any such effort is whether the Taliban can cut off their links with Al Qaeda, give up their extremist views and reconcile with the political and social values of a democratic set-up.


Still, it is hoped that by mid-2011, when U.S. troops will begin withdrawing, enough reconciliation would have taken place for Afghans to run their country themselves.


Two countries are thought to have sufficient influence on the Taliban to be able to deliver on the London Conference decisions. Saudi Arabia, one of only three countries that recognised the Taliban-run Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from 1996 until 9/11 — the other two were Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates — has already been asked by President Karzai to act as a mediator. The kingdom, which has no love lost for Osama bin Laden, has set the pre-condition that the Taliban must renounce Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda.


Pakistan still carries considerable clout with sections of the Afghan Taliban, some of whom were given safe haven on Pakistani soil when the U.S. started the war in Afghanistan after 9/11, and continue to remain in sanctuaries in the north-western frontier regions.


“Gatekeepers” to the Taliban


Described as the “gatekeepers” to the Taliban, Pakistan would have a crucial role in delivering the Taliban to the table, either through coercion or persuasion. But it is being careful not to be seen as muscling in to impose its own agenda in Afghanistan. The mantra in Islamabad is that the process should be “Afghan-led”.


“Pakistan is perhaps better placed than any other country in the world to support Afghan reintegration and reconciliation. Why? We speak the same language, we have common tribes, a common religion, we have a commonality of history, culture and tradition” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the Guardian. “But it [Pakistani mediation] depends on whether we are asked to do so. If asked, the government of Pakistan would be happy to facilitate.”


But suspicious of its intentions, President Karzai has not been keen to involve Pakistan as a mediator, while the rest of the international community too is aware that while Islamabad could play a positive role, it could also use its influence over the Taliban to play “spoiler.” But, most observers say, no country except Pakistan can guarantee an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.


“If any country other than Afghanistan has any role, it is Pakistan. It may not be explicit right now, but it is implicit and goes without stating. Whether it is maintaining peace, security and stability of Afghanistan,” said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, secretary-general of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q), “or providing a face-saving exit for American forces, it has to be Pakistan.”


A constructive role by Pakistan is likely to come attached with the demand that the international community address its “legitimate” concerns and issues in the region.


Some of those concerns were articulated by the Pakistan Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani when, in two meetings with journalists this week, he said India remains the primary threat to Pakistan and the focus of the Pakistani military. He spoke of the peace, security and stability of Afghanistan as the main element of Pakistan’s “strategic depth”, and said Pakistan had a more “legitimate” expectation in the matter of training the Afghan security forces than India.


A Foreign Ministry official, who wished not to be identified, was blunter: “We do not really see India playing any role in Afghanistan. Any role for India in Afghanistan can only be problematic”. On the other hand, he said, Pakistan could not be wished away from Afghanistan, and had “a more natural role” in Afghanistan, given the shared border and other links.


Also, U.S. demands to “do more” against the Afghan Taliban holed up in Pakistani territory no more hold any logic, said Imitiaz Gul, author of a book on Al Qaeda and head of the Islamabad-based Centre for Research: “These demands have to a back seat. If we have to talk to them, why antagonise them?”


The Pakistan military said last month it would not launch new offensives against militants for six months to a year as it was overstretched. The declaration was evidently meant to pre-empt any demand during the recent visit by the U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates for military operations in North Waziristan. Now, said Mr. Gul, the Pakistan Army would want to wait to see how the situation unfolds in Afghanistan.


As Pakistani observers see it, their country has never been better positioned in recent times. At a recent seminar in Lahore’s Punjab University, Mr. Sayed spoke of how the Obama Administration is dependent on Pakistan for its Afghanistan strategy, and on China, a close ally of Pakistan, to maintain regional stability, while India has been downgraded a couple of notches by the Obama Administration from its status during the Bush years..


“The regional situation is moving towards Pakistan’s advantage. We have a strategic opening and we should use it to our advantage,” Mr. Sayed told The Hindu. This, he said, should include reining in India from using Afghanistan for what he alleged were its covert activities in Pakistan, and pushing for a solution on the Kashmir issue.


So is Afghanistan going to turn into a battleground for the competing interests of India and Pakistan? Not necessarily, said Mr. Sayed.


“In my view, Pakistan and India do not have to compete in Afghanistan,” he said, suggesting that the two countries hold bilateral talks on Afghanistan, and “see how we can co-operate instead of compete” in that country.


At the moment, as India and Pakistan do a tug-of-war over what their renewed engagement should be called, that seems easier said than done.







Indian Army ready to induct long range missile Agni-3

Sunday, February 7, 2010,11:30 [IST]

New Delhi, Feb.7 (ANI): The Indian Army, it seems, is ready to induct the long-range Agni-3 missile into its defence apparatus, after it was successfully test-fired on Sunday morning from the Wheeler Island in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Orissa.


The missile has a range capability of 3500 kilometers. It was test-fired by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Bharat Dynamic Limited.



The launch is part of the pre-induction trial for the Indian Army, which has carried out the total launch operations guided by the DRDO scientists.


The fourth flight of the long range missile tested its full range, hit the target with pin-point accuracy and met all the mission objectives. Two down range ships located near the target tracked and witnessed the missile reaching the target accurately.


The marker pen like AGNI-3 Missile is 17 meters long and two metres in diameter. The missile is a two stage solid propellant system with a pay load capability of 1.5 tons.


During the course of flight the missile reached a peak height of 350 kms and re-entered into the atmosphere successfully tolerating the skin temperatures of nearly 3000 degree Celsius.


The missile is equipped with a state of the art computer system, navigated with a most advanced Navigation system and guided with an innovative guidance scheme.


The navigation system used for guidance is first of its kind. A number of radars and electro optical tracking systems along the coast of Orissa have monitored the path of the Missile and evaluated all the parameters in real time. (ANI)






Single HQ needed to handle disasters: Thamburaj

TNN, 7 February 2010, 06:58am IST

PUNE: Former vice-chief of Indian Army Lt Gen N Thamburaj (retd) said here on Saturday that a single headquarters (HQ) was needed for disaster management agencies and defence forces to counter natural or man-made disasters. He said that the absence of such an authority was felt during the 26/11 attack in Mumbai.


Thamburaj was speaking at a seminar on ‘Chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear (CBRN) disaster management’, organised by the College of Military Engineering (CME) with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The two-day seminar, which concluded at the CME on Saturday, also hosted an exhibition to showcase the latest trends in disaster management equipment.


"A single HQ is a must to co-ordinate activities of all agencies involved in disaster management. The absence of such an authority was felt during the 26/11 terror attack, where flow of information was impeded," said Thamburaj, who was involved in the 26/11 counter-attack as the general officer commanding in chief, GOC-in-C, Southern Command. "Steps should be taken to develop such a contact point, which will help in planning, as well as tasking and sub-tasking." He said there should be increased involvement of armed forces in agencies like the NDMA.


Disaster management authorities should also be established at regional-levels in South Asia, he added. This would expedite the sending of aid to disaster-affected areas in the region, which is time consuming when the aid comes from US and UK.


Thamburaj’s address was followed by a session on ‘Media and non-governmental organisations as force multipliers in CBRN disaster preparedness and mitigation’ chaired by Maj Gen S C N Jatar (retd). During this session, senior journalists emphasised that there should be a standard operating process governing the media coverage of disasters and that training should be imparted for the same. The role of media during biological disasters, such as the Swine Flu, was also discussed. Media representatives said the defence department should avoid using technical terms and disburse information in a laymen-friendly language.


"Communication between defence authorities and the media needs to increase. Defence authorities should understand the need of the new-age media. People in the defence forces need to be trained to co-ordinate with the media," Jatar said.


Later, Lt Gen A K Nanda, engineer-in-chief, addressed the gathering and released the compendium. The second day included sessions on ‘Corporate sector and its efforts towards indigenisation of CBRN equipment and training’ and ‘Nuclear disaster management and nuclear terrorism’.,prtpage-1.cms






Rot in the armed forces: Charge of the blight brigade

RAJAT PANDIT DEFENCE EDITOR , TOI Crest, 6 February 2010, 11:30am IST

"The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time."


When you now look at these 37 words, etched on the walls of the famous Chetwode Hall at Dehradun's Indian Military Academy - the cradle of officers heading for the Indian army - they have a distinct ring of irony. The stirring credo of military selflessness today stands inverted. Far from breeding a band of fearless and honourable soldiers, the Indian Army seems to be spawning a crooked cocktail of "ketchup" colonels, "booze" brigadiers and land-scamming generals - all of whom seem to have made their own ease and comfort, not to speak of fat bank balances, their primary motto.


It's not that corruption - or "moral turpitude" as it's delicately referred to by the brass - was unknown in the army. It was small, though, even petty. Oldtimers say it was largely in the service arm of the army, the ASC (Army Service Corps), which they recall was referred to as "Atta Sugar Chor" . The disease has now hit the top guys: colonels, brigadiers and even generals. In fact, the army chief might not have been implicated in the latest Sukna land scam, but he has certainly come under a cloud for trying to protect his top aide, Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash, who seems neck deep in it. Clearly, the army's moral fibre is fraying and has weakened like never before.


But it's the rot at the top that is a big worry. At least 10 generals - of two- and three-star rank, which means major-generals and lieutenant-generals - have come under the scanner for corruption and financial misappropriation in a series of meat, ration, fuel and liquor scandals over the last few years. And it's not just lucre that's corrupting the top brass - a major-general was court-martialled in 2007-2008 for sexually harassing a woman officer under his command at Leh.


Corruption seems to have seeped through the army in the last decade or so, corroding the backbone of the force. Its combat sabre-arm , like infantry, armoured corps and artillery, has been infected and, unless arrested, the very character of the Indian army could get deeply scarred. The by now infamous Sukna land scam case, in which four generals have been indicted, is just the latest manifestation of the malaise afflicting the force, which for long was seen as the last surviving bastion of discipline and probity in the country.


Says former army chief Gen V P Malik: "The entire Sukna episode shows the weakness in the leadership's moral fibre. There is no doubt that we need to strengthen the ethos and ethics of the armed forces. Senior officers need to stand up to pressure, whether it's from politicians, power-brokers , contractors or even the society at large. They need to ensure that young officers and jawans look up to them since in the armed forces, which are different from other government services, you actually order them to go to their deaths."


While the Indian Army may not be anywhere close to becoming a rotting institution - upright veterans swear it's still much cleaner than many civilian institutions - but there are obviously enough disturbing signs for worry. Why are so many senior officers getting caught with their hands in the till? Does it indicate that corruption is rampant in the army? Or does it show that the crooks in uniform haven't yet learnt the art of covering their tracks, as has been mastered by their civilian counterparts?


TOI-Crest put this question to several honest soldiers - both serving and retired. The general opinion was that it's impossible to insulate the armed forces from the "general social degradation" and "corrosion of the moral fibre" as it is the larger society from which the military rank and file is drawn. Probed further, an interesting analysis emerged. While relative poverty in India guarantees a steady supply of manpower at the level of jawans, the army is finding it extremely difficult to attract enough bright youngsters - especially, those with the requisite OLQs (officer-like qualities). The Indian Army, where life is tough, where you get shifted around every two-three years from one remote posting to another, and where the salaries are relatively modest , is just not an attractive option for most of the brighter lot. Often, those who fail to secure a class-I government job turn to the olive-green uniform. "It's the last resort," said an officer. A young third-generation officer says he was surprised at some of the reasons his batch mates at IMA gave for joining the army. "Once it was a passion and adventure, now it's just any other job,'' he says. "I was shocked when one of my course-mates said he had joined the army to get subsidised booze, big houses in cantonments and good medical facilities. Many of the top IMA graduates, in fact, opt for ASC or other service arms to lead easier lives, and (to be) where there's opportunity to make the extra buck." In short, the army is often left with no option but to take in second-rate people with third-rate morals. Some officers claim the army's "extensive and committed training processes" , at both the physical and psychological levels, as well as "strong institutional mechanisms" are still able to mould these young recruits into "motivated, disciplined, law-abiding officers and men." Says a brigadier: "There is poor quality of intake. But if we induct 10 donkeys, at least seven are transformed into horses." Whether this is an accurate conversion rate or just a fond hope is anybody's guess. This, however, is at the induction level. How are so many soldiers of easy virtue managing to reach the top, as action against 10 lieutenants and major-generals in the recent past would indicate? Why are the wrong officers not being weeded out? "There is too much of a 'Yes, Sir' culture. If you question a senior, you are unlikely to make it to the next rank in the pyramidal army structure," says a serving Lt General. The general added that the army was no longer insulated from the civilian way of life, as it once was, and that was often bringing wrong values into the armed forces. "That, coupled with prolonged deployment in internal security duties, is steadily chipping away at the army's fundamental values," he says. Not all is lost, though. The military wood is seasoned and the axe of corruption will find it difficult to chop through it. On top of that, punitive action is stringent and swift. The army alone conducts almost 1,000 court-martials on an average every year, a major chunk of them being summary ones wherein the unit or battalion commander or commandant acts as the investigator, prosecutor and judge, all rolled into one.


The colonial practice of summary court-martials is prone to a lot of abuse, but the army insists it is needed to maintain discipline in the ranks. But punishing errant jawans is one thing, acting against senior officers altogether different. Many senior officers are known to brazenly abuse their perks and privileges, and line their pockets. Some officers have gone to the extent of faking killings to improve their standing in the hotly-contested race to bag gallantry medals, unit citations or commendation cards among battalions.


In 2003-2004 , for instance, there were the notorious "ketchup killings" and "Siachen killings" episodes. While tomato sauce was used to fake photographs of "slain militants" in Assam's Cachar district in the first case, the latter saw video-tapes being made of the fictitious killings of "enemy soldiers" on the world's highest battlefield at Siachen. And to the Army's credit, all these cases were dealt with swiftly and harshly.


"Three major-generals , a brigadier and a colonel named in the Tehelka expose of 2001, for instance, were punished. Conversely, politicians and bureaucrats involved in the scandal simply got away,'' says a senior officer. Most soldiers still spring to the army's defence. Lt Gen R K Gaur (retd) says, "When Kargil happened in 1999, the belief that young officers and soldiers lack the dedication was thoroughly disproved. Despite the worst kind of odds, they went up the hills in the line of fire to evict Pakistanis from their positions."


The refusal to see no wrong in the army could be interpreted either as denial of a spreading disease or an innate sense of pride among soldiers who insist corruption cases are "an aberration" and that the army still remains one of the cleanest institutions in the country. There is deep hope hidden in this optimism, and it is that as long as there is pride in an institution, it cannot go under.,prtpage-1.cms






The Arjun tank faces it biggest trial

Published: Feb. 5, 2010 at 11:18 AM

NEW DELHI, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- India's Arjun tank will battle for its life against a squadron of Russian T-90s in trials likely to determine the controversial vehicle's future.


The long-awaited trials, which start in March, will pit the 14 indigenous Arjuns against the 14 T-90s, day and night for a month, according to the national Business Standard newspaper.


The 24th Infantry Division stationed in Bikaner will conduct the trials in the rugged deserts of the northern state of Rajasthan, around the cities of Bikaner, Suratgarh and also Pokhran, the site of India's first nuclear bomb test in May 1974.


The performance of tanks and their crews will be monitored. Vehicle speed, accuracy in firing while on the move, ability to operate over long distances and fatigue on crews will be observed, the Business Standard article said.


Media reports last fall said the army had purchased an initial 124 Arjuns and was considering it as a replacement for "hundreds" of its T-90s. More than 390 T-90s were ordered in 2001 as a stopgap until the Arjun was made ready. But continued performance and manufacturing problems with the Arjun prompted the army to order another 347 T-90s last November as part of the country's fleet of about 4,000 tanks.


However, the Business Standard article said the army is not now looking to replace its T-90s with the Arjun and so is not calling the trials "comparative." The T-90 is expected to be in service for around 30 years. Instead, the Arjun is a potential successor to the army's aging Russian T-72, of which it has around 2,400.


The T-90 is not on trial, the army said. Performance of the Arjun is.


The strengths and weaknesses of the Arjun are under evaluation "to help the army decide what operational role the Arjun could play and which sector of the border it could effectively operate in," the Standard article said.


"The outcome could decide whether the Indian army will ride Indian tanks into future battles or continue its reliance upon a heavily criticized fleet of Russian T-72 tanks, which even the army chief admits is 80 percent blind at night, when most tank battles occur."


Hope for the Arjun tank's future were raised last October when the army confirmed its order for 124 from the manufacturer Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi and the Defense R&D Organization, which developed the Arjun tank at the Central Vehicles R&D Establishment at Chennai.


A report in The Hindustan Times at the time said that the Arjun -- 35 years in the making -- had been plagued with a number of major problems concerning its fire control system, suspension and poor mobility due to its excessive weight, coming in at just under 60 tons. The T-90s weigh in at around 45 tons.


While the news of the trials is welcomed by the DRDO, there is also some frustration. "The army knows that the T-72 would have performed very poorly in trials against the Arjun," a senior DRDO officer is quoted by the Standard as saying.


"Despite that, the army continues to sink money into its 2,400 outdated T-72s. Any comparative trial with the T-72 would make it clear that the Arjun should replace the T-72."


Doubts about the usefulness of the trials were noted by retired Maj. Gen. H.M. Singh, the "father of the Arjun," according to the Standard article. It will be impossible to measure the tactical performance of 14 Arjun tanks.


"There are too many variables, including the skill of the tank crews and colored perceptions of the judges," said Singh. "A comparative trial should be a scientific comparison of each tank's physical performance in identical situations."


The Arjun measures just under 33 feet long and 12 feet wide. Armor is a Kanchan steel-composite sandwich development. A 1,400 horsepower diesel engine gives it an operational range of 280 miles with a speed of 45 mph on roads and 25 mph cross-country.


The 120mm rifled main turret gun can fire the LAHAT anti-tank missile. Secondary armaments are a MAG 7.62mm Tk715 coaxial machine gun and an HCB 12.7mm AA machine gun.


The Arjun is named after one of the main characters of the Indian epic poem the Mahabharata. The discussion of life and karma is the longest epic poem in the world, being roughly 10 times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined.









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