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Thursday, 11 February 2010

From Today's Papers - 11 Feb 10








Youth’s death in firing
BSF hands over jawan to police
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 10
The BSF has identified a jawan as ‘possibly involved’ in the unprovoked firing that resulted in the killing of teenager Zahid Farooq Sheikh of the Nishat area on the outskirts of Srinagar on Friday last. The killing led to protests and a complete shutdown across the valley while normal life was restored after eight days yesterday.

The BSF has suspended jawan Lakhvinder of 68 Bn and handed him over to the police, which is investigating the incident.

“An internal inquiry into the allegations of firing that led to the death of Zahid Farooq has revealed prima facie the possibility of Lakhvinder being involved in the incident,” said PPS Sidhu, Special Director General of the BSF, at a press conference here today. He said the internal inquiry on the basis of some ‘crucial information’ yesterday led to the possible involvement of the jawan in the killing of the youth.

“All things are the subject of investigation,” Sidhu said in reply to various queries related to the case. Eyewitnesses had told the police that those who fired on Zahid were travelling in a vehicle with the insignia of a hangul (red deer), which is found on BSF vehicles. “We will share details with the police,” he said and added that some others travelling in the vehicle at the time of the incident were also being questioned.

Others travelling in the BSF Gypsy vehicle did not know about the incident, he maintained. “We zeroed in on one of them yesterday,” he added. Sidhu said there was no information about the possibility of the involvement of the jawan till yesterday when “we got some crucial information”.

The police is investigating the case, while the Chief Minister has ordered an inquiry headed by the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Naseem Lankar.

JAMMU: In a press conference convened hurriedly here on Wednesday afternoon, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said a BSF jawan had been arrested for killing Zahid Farooq. “The jawan has been suspended after a swift investigation into the incident. He is in police custody now,” he added.

He did not agree to the argument that incident had any bearing on the demand to revoke the Special Powers to Armed Forces Act. Urging people to shun protests and live a normal life, the Chief Minister said, “We are making an effective strategy to prevent recurrence of such cases.”







Gulmarg tragedy: Family mourns Captain's death

NDTV Correspondent, other agencies, Wednesday February 10, 2010, Indore


The family of the Army Captain Pratik Puntmbekar, who died in the avalanche in Gulmarg heights, is still waiting for his body to be brought home. (Read: J&K: Avalanche strikes Armymen again)


Vigyan Nagar in Indore is in mourning. The brave family is proud that their son died for a cause.


"He always wanted to be in the armed forces. His wish came true at last. As it is he was not getting any job despite being a matriculate, said Chandrakant Puntmbekar, Pratik's uncle.


Pratik and 17 other Armymen died in Gulmarg when an avalanche buried their training camp.


Pratik had gone with 300 other Armymen on training to Gulmarg.


Meanwhile, bodies of the 17 army personnel were flown to their hometowns by two special flights on Wednesday.


The bodies of the personnel were brought to Srinagar on Tuesday evening, Defence Spokesman Colonel J S Bar said.


He said four of the personnel belonged to Jammu and four to Punjab. Nine bodies were flown to Delhi from where they would now be taken to Rajasthan, Manipur, Nepal, Indore and Ranchi.


A massive avalanche had slammed the popular ski resort of Gulmarg on Monday, killing 17 soldiers and injuring an equal number when the tragedy struck troops during winter warfare training on steep slopes at Khilanmarg, 70 kms from here.


The avalanche came hurtling down on the 60-strong combat team as they were scaling the icy walls of high-altitude Khilanmarg peak in near zero visibility.


The condition of 17 injured soldiers was stable, Brar said.


The high altitude areas of the valley have been lashed by heavy snowfall since February 5, while the plains including Srinagar have been lashed by incessant rains and snow.







India-Russia pact on Gorshkov soon
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 10
The Navy today said an additional agreement between Russia and India would be soon signed to finalise the price of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, during his two-day visit to India last week, had said an additional agreement between Russia and India would be signed to pave the way for handing over of the carrier to India.

The Russian official, however, refrained from mentioning the issue of price, which would be the central focus of the new agreement.

He simply said the agreement was about modernisation of the ship.

Talking to the TNS today on the sidelines of the International Conference on Electronic Warfare (EWCI) underway here, Vice-Admiral RK Dhowan, deputy chief of the Naval Staff, said the additional agreement would cover “all outstanding issues between India and Russia with regard to the aircraft carrier”.

Asked what he meant by “outstanding issues”, Dhowan said the new agreement would be primarily pertaining to the “cost of the carrier”.

The ship, rechristened INS Vikramaditya, was bought for $974 million but the Russian shipyard Sevmash hiked its costs for the repair and refit work to an additional $2.9 billion in 2007.

The Defence Ministry had earlier indicated it was willing to pay $2.2 billion amid objections from the official auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The discussions between the two sides apparently concluded during November last year when a “mutually agreed” final price for the carrier was worked out.

The Navy’s admission today of signing a new agreement with Russia for acquiring the aircraft carrier is also an indication that the government has made up its mind to pay an enhanced price for the Soviet era aircraft carrier which was originally named Baku.

The ship has displacement capacity of 45,000 tons. It has maximum speed of 32 knots and an endurance of 13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km) at a cruising speed of 18 knots.

Back in 2004, Russia decided to sell the ship to India but th wrangling over its cost had delayed its transfer to the Indian Navy.

On the progress on the front of the indigenous aircraft carrier being manufactured at the Kochi shipyard, Dhowan said work was going on satisfactorily and the ship was expected to be rolled out in 2014.







Agni-V to be ready by next year
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 10
Clearly aimed at countering imbalance with China on long-range missile front, the Defence Research And Development Organisation today announced that the Agni-V would be tested within one year from now. It all announced that the Agni-III, a 3,500 km range nuclear- tipped missile, was now ready for induction and use by the Indian Armed Forces.

This means India would induct a long-range nuclear warhead into its arsenal and gives itself the long-overdue “second strike” defence capability. India is pledged not to undertake any first nuclear strike.

The upcoming Agni-V would have a range of about 5,500 km and simultaneously, systems are being developed to make the missile “mobile”. Meaning it would be capable of being fired from a truck-mounted launcher or rail wagon-mounted launcher. The Agni-V would not be Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), that has range of 7,000 km or above, in the classic sense, but would be close enough.






MoD scraps plans for Raksha Udyog Ratnas

February 11, 2010 03:08 IST

The Ministry of Defence has decided to retain decades-old barriers against allowing India's [ Images ] private sector a meaningful role in defence production. Minister of State for Defence Production MM Pallam Raju has revealed that the MoD had scrapped its plan to nominate leading defence players from the private sector as Raksha Udyog Ratnas (RuRs), or Champions of Defence Industry, thus granting them the same status as Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and Ordnance Factories (OFs).


The highly-regarded Vijay Kelkar Committee on Private Sector Participation in Defence Sector had recommended in 2005 that selected private sector companies should be permitted to build major defence platforms like tanks, aircraft and ships, effectively allowing them into an inner circle that had been reserved since independence for DPSUs and OFs. In June 2007, the MoD-appointed Prabir Sengupta Committee finished examining more than 40 private sector applicants and recommended about 15 of them for RuR status.


Nothing has been heard of that report since then, and Business Standard can now confirm the burial of that proposal. Pallam Raju has told Business Standard that small private sector companies, which would have been ineligible for RuR status, opposed this initiative.


The MoS said, "I don't want to give any details, since my minister has not spoken on this issue yet. But this idea was opposed by small companies who don't have deep pockets, but have vertical capabilities. They protested and said why should we be discriminated against when we have better capabilities? Taking their views into consideration, better wisdom prevailed. We (the MoD) said, why should we discriminate? We should let everybody have an equal opportunity; why should we give preferential treatment to the big players?"


MoD sources, however, suggest that this decision was prompted less by opposition from private sector companies and more by pressure from the DPSU trade unions, which feared job losses from business flowing to private sector companies. So far, Defence Minister Antony had promised to reassure the DPSU trade unions that there was business enough for everybody.


A key benefit to RuRs would have been the reimbursement by the MoD for 80 per cent of the R&D expenses they incurred on nominated weapons systems. Pallam Raju points out, "Now that's open to everybody… not just RuRs. That offer is open whether it is a small company or a large company. We are just waiting for people to come forward. We will fund 80 per cent of the development cost, [provided] we believe that there is a future in the proposal that they are bringing to the table."


The MoD also argues that the recent amendment to the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008 (DPP-2008), which has created a new procurement category of "Buy and Make (Indian)", has obviated the need for RuRs. This category allows a private company to lead the development of a weapons platform, by integrating its various components, including a high percentage procured from abroad.


But the private sector is closing ranks against the scrapping of RuRs, which many private companies have become aware of in their conversations with the MoD. Business Standard has learned that all three industry bodies, CII, FICCI and Assocham, are approaching the MoD to point out that the tax and excise benefits that DPSUs and OFs enjoy, continue to make it an uphill playing field for the private sector. Nominating selected RuRs would entitle them to those benefits.


DPSUs, OFBs and other MoD entities like the DRDO have been granted total exemption from excise and enjoy favourable treatment in the payment of customs duty for materials, sub-systems and systems that they import. Private companies do not benefit from these exemptions.






Missile India: Mine is better than China’s



New Delhi, Feb. 10: India today claimed that its China-specific deterrent, the Agni III missile capable of carrying a 1,500kg nuclear warhead, was ready for use by the armed forces whenever and wherever required.


The missile was test-fired by the army wing of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) from Wheeler’s Island off the Orissa coast on Sunday after the technology was developed by India’s military scientific establishment, the scientific adviser to the defence minister, V.K. Saraswat, and the Agni III programme director, Avinash Chander, said here today.


“Yes,” replied Saraswat, when asked if the claim that the missile was “ready for induction” meant the armed forces could deploy the weapon in operations.


Saraswat and Chander were briefing media today on their findings and conclusions after the test-firing on Sunday.


Saraswat, the head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, would not be drawn into answering questions on what kind of a stockpile was desirable, but said: “We have also established production capability. In today’s world, there is no need to build and store missiles. Since there is no transfer of technology involved, the switchover from development of product to production is almost instantaneous.”


The Agni III is assembled by the defence public sector, Hyderabad-headquartered Bharat Dynamics Limited.


Saraswat also claimed: “We feel our accuracies are better than China’s DF 21.” But he refused to answer a question on the Agni III’s circular error of probability (CEP). The CEP is the radius from a target within which a missile is certain to hit.


The scientists said the technology of the Agni III could also be used to develop an anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile. In its flight test on Sunday, the Agni III, fired from a rail-mobile launcher, reached an apogee (the highest point in its trajectory) of 348km above sea-level to reach its target beyond the equator.


With shorter ranges, the height the missile could be manipulated can reach upto a height of 1,000km. China successfully tested it’s A-SAT in 2007, shooting a “dead” satellite in space.


Agni III mission director Chander said: “The design for the missile is frozen; the configuration is frozen. There is no further development effort on the Agni III that is required.” The missile has been test-fired four times and had failed to meet its objectives the first time.


“The three successful tests have fully validated the design concepts. The user (Strategic Forces Command, the custodian of India’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems) may opt for some more trials,” Chander said.


Both Saraswat and Chander justified the deployability of the missile despite only three successful tests by explaining that “only in an earlier era 15 to 20 tests were required; now it is possible to simulate tests”.


The missile scientists said India had also moved its next long-range strategic missile, the Agni V “from the drawing board to the evaluation of sub-systems”. The Agni V is designed for a range of more than 5,500 km.


More than 80 public and private companies have built components that have gone into the Agni III. The missile is finally made at the defence Bharat Dynamics Limited unit in Hyderabad. Saraswat said “99 per cent of the building blocks” of the Agni III and the Agni V were the same.







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