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Thursday, 4 March 2010

From Today's Papers - 04 Mar 2010






Major Dimple Singla gets one-year RI
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 3
General court martial today sentenced Major Dimple Singla, former officer of the Judge Advocate General Department, to one year of rigorous imprisonment and cashiered her from service for professional impropriety. She is the first woman Army officer, against whom court martial proceedings were initiated. The courts verdict is subject to confirmation by the convening authority.

She was charged under Section 69 of the Army Act, read with provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act; and under the Army Act Section 63 for acts prejudicial to court order and military discipline. She had allegedly abused her position as a public servant by accepting a sum of Rs 10,000 from the Defence Counsel in a court martial in which she was the Judge Advocate in November 2004.

She was also charged with improperly and without authority to negotiate engagement of the counsel for an accused in another court martial. She is alleged to have improperly visiting a Captain, who was a defending officer in the court martial and asked him not to divulge any intervention to the media with regard to her involvement in the same.

The court, presided over by Col Sanjeev Jose, relied on the evidence provided by prosecution witnesses to establish the charges against her.

The court observed that the depositions of the defence witnesses were inconsistent and unreliable. The trial had started in April 2007 and witnessed a series of lengthy adjournments.






Hunting in the snow for dreaded militants

Zaffar Iqbal, Thursday March 4, 2010, Jammu


Surrounded by snow, they trek in single file, their eyes scanning the blinding-white landscape for the man who has forced them here.


Dreaded Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant Shahdeen Khanday is meant to be hiding in the Pir Panjal mountain peaks.


''There was a specific input about the presence of some militants in the area, and accordingly we launched the operations. These are on areas up to 10,000 feet plus. However, after the troops had been launched into the area, the weather had packed up and there was continuous snow for three to four days,'' recounts Gurjeet Singh, Brigadier General Staff, 16 Corps.


Some jawans managed to scale the peaks, but then the militants opened fire, forcing them back.


Choppers dropped off more jawans. After a seven-day search, the operation was finally called off. The militants had either escaped or died in the cold.


In the same Doda-Kishtwar belt last month, two Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leaders were killed in an underground bunker. Shockingly, it had been their hideout for six years. Shielded here, they surveyed cities and chalked out terror plans. Ground workers called in to receive their orders, and then carried out attacks.


The commanders were finally shot dead, but the Army worries that many others are still hiding in these remote mountains. And in some ways, the army says, it's easier to catch them off-guard. That means more operations through the snow.


''Irrespective of the altitude, irrespective of the weather conditions, based on inputs we have, operations are launched irrespective of how the conditions are because our endeavor is to neutralise the terrorists in this area,'' says Singh.







Plane crash at Hyderabad air show, both pilots dead

NDTV Correspondent, Wednesday March 3, 2010, Hyderabad


It was a horrific sight for Hyderabad. A Navy plane taking part in an air show freefell in seconds, nosediving from the sky straight into a three-storey building in Bowenpally, a residential area near Hyderabad's Begumpet airport. (Watch: The mangled remains of the plane)


Both pilots Commander S K Maurya and Rahul Nair were killed. Four people were injured.


"The co-pilot tried to eject but I don't know if he had enough reaction time. Or the parachute did not open because it did not have sufficient height and he died right near the crash site. The pilot's body was found on top of the building where the aircraft crashed," said A K Khan, Hyderabad police commissioner.


The aircraft that crashed was a Kiran MK-II aircraft belonging to the 'Sagar Pawan' aerobatic team of the Navy. (Read: What is Navy's Sagar Pawan?) It was performing the final loop of the 'Downward Bomb Burst' manoeuvre when it started freefalling. The air show was part of the inaugural ceremony for the India Aviation Summit.


The building that was hit went up in flames but did not collapse. Eyewitnesses say that because the aircraft crashed into a water tank on top of the building, the fire was controlled. "There was a big sound and we came. There was a mother and son. They jumped from the window and her leg was fractured. We moved her to safety," says an onlooker. (Watch: Eyewitnesses describe the crash)


Seconds after the plane hit the building in the heart of the city, a loud explosion was heard, and a cloud of smoke surrounded the area. Two fire engines and thirty fire-fighters were rushed to the location. But the narrow streets and the crowd of onlookers made rescue operations tough.






Navy plane crash: Rahul brightest pilot, says friend

Press Trust of India / New Delhi March 3, 2010, 22:11 IST


About an year ago, Lt Commander Rahul Nair paid a glowing tribute to a close friend who died in a plane crash but he would never have thought that he would meet the same fate one day.


Rahul, whom a former Naval officer and family friend described as one of "brightest of the brightest pilots", perished along with Commander S K Maurya when a Navy plane performing aerobatics crashed into a building in Hyderabad today.


Former Naval officer and a close family friend, Lokesh Batra remembers Rahul as a homely boy, whom he had seen grow up. "Around one pm, we got the news about his death. It is shocking," he said.


Batra, who had worked with Rahul's father in the Navy, said, incidentally, Rahul's friend had died nearly a year ago in a plane crash and his tribute was "was very touching".


Rahul is survived by his father N R Nair, mother Saraswati, sister (who live in Delhi), wife and a three-year-old son (who live in Bangalore) and two brothers who live abroad.






Naxal ops: Serving Army officers to train cops

Maneesh Chhibber Posted online: Thursday , Mar 04, 2010 at 0042 hrs

New Delhi : Worried that the recent Maoist attack on a security force camp at Silda in West Bengal,in which 24 Eastern Frontier Rifles men were killed, could turn into a regular feature as the state police are yet to gear up to meet the challenge posed by Naxals, the Centre is all set to finalise a new strategy to ensure better training for the police.


At a crucial meeting being held Thursday, the Union Home Ministry will greenlight the move to involve serving Army counter-terrorism experts in the training of police personnel in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Assam.


Sources told The Indian Express that MHA had already discussed the matter with the Defence Ministry as well as the Army and that they have agreed to spare officers for periods between six months to a year for this purpose. “We have requested the Army to place the trainers on deputation with MHA or the respective state governments for the duration of the training,” said a senior MHA officer.


Training will take place at the Counter-Insurgency and Anti-Terrorism Schools,established in these states last year. As of now, only retired Army officers and jawans are involved in the training of state and central police forces.


“Basically, the purpose is to ensure that our police forces in Naxal and terrorism-infested states,which lack required skills to take on Naxalites and terrorists in jungle and guerilla warfare, are provided the best-possible training. Since it got involved in counter-terrorism operations in J&K and North-East, the Army has revised its training programme in view of the changed scenario. This is why we are keen to involve serving officers in training our police force,” the officer said.


It is learnt that some states like Chattisgarh and Maharashtra have already asked the Centre to depute serving Army officers to train their police personnel involved in anti-Naxal operations.


Most states in the Red Corridor, where Naxal presence is maximum, have time and again argued that their forces were ill-equipped and ill-trained to take on Maoists.


At Thursday’s meeting, which will be attended by senior police and Home Department officers from Naxal-infested states,MHA will finalise the blueprint for coordinated anti-Naxal operations involving the Special Operations Groups (SOG) of state police forces and the CRPF, sources said.







Budgeting for India’s Defence: An Analysis of Defence Budget 2010-11 and the Likely Impact of the 13th Finance Commission on Future Defence Spending

Laxman K Behera


March 3, 2010


The Union Budget 2010-11 has raised the defence outlays to Rs. 1,47,344 crore (US $31.9 billion). This represents a growth rate of a mere 3.98 per cent, in nominal terms (or 0.3 per cent in real terms) over the previous years’ allocation of Rs. 1,41,703 crore, and far below the 34 per cent nominal increase witnessed in the budget for 2009-10. The sudden dip in the defence budget’s growth rate follows two related steps taken by the government. While the first one is related to the government’s resolve about fiscal consolidation, the second is on account of the acceptance by the government of the recommendation of the Thirteenth Finance Commission (TFC). This commentary analyses the latest defence budget as well as the likely impact of TFC’s recommendation on India’s future defence spending.

Defence Budget 2010-11: Key Statistics


Although the defence budget for 2010-11 has been increased by less than four per cent over the previous year’s allocation, it has nonetheless been increased by a modest 8.13 per cent over the revised estimate for 2009-10. In other words, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has surrendered (at the time of revised estimate) Rs. 5,439 crore from the original allocations made in 2009-10. The surrendered amount could have been more if the Revenue Expenditure - which accounts for running expenses of the defence services - had not been revised upwards by Rs 1,561 crore over the original estimates. On the other hand, the Capital Expenditure - most of which is accounted for acquisition of defence hardware - has been revised downward by Rs. 7,000 crore.


The marginal increase in the defence budget has a negative impact on almost all key components (see Table-I). On the positive side, however, the ratio between Revenue Expenditure and Capital Expenditure has been improved towards the latter. The improvement is largely due to the marginal increase in Revenue Expenditure, which itself was inflated in last year’s budget by salary increases and one-time arrears due to implementation of Sixth Central Pay Commission recommendations.

Table-I: Key Statistics of Defence Budgets, 2009-10 and 2010-11

                2009-10                2010-11

Defence Budget (Rs. in Crore)    1,41,703               1,47,344

Growth of Defence Budget (%)                 34.19     3.98

Revenue Expenditure (Rs in Crore)          86,879   87,377

Growth of Revenue Expenditure (%)      50.85     0.57

Share of Revenue Expenditure in Defence Budget (%)   61.3        59.3

Capital Expenditure (Rs. in Crore)             54,824   60,000

Growth of Capital Expenditure (%)          14.20     9.44

Share of Capital Expenditure in Defence Budget (%)        38.7        40.7

Share of Defence Budget in GDP (%)      2.30        2.12

Share of Defence Budget in Central Government Expenditure (%)           13.88     13.29


Sources: Ministry of Defence, Defence Services Estimates 2009-10 and Ministry of Finance, Union Budget 2011.


Among the defence services, the Army with a budget of approximately Rs. 74,582 crore in 2010-11 has the largest share, distantly followed by the Air Force (Rs. 40,462 crore), Navy (Rs. 21,467 crore), DRDO (Rs. 9,809 crore), and Ordnance Factories (Rs. 1,015 crore). However, in terms of Capital Expenditure, the Air Force with a budget of Rs. 25,251 crore holds the largest share (42 per cent) among the three services, followed by the Army (Rs. 17,255 crore; 29 per cent) and the Navy (Rs. 12,138; 20 per cent).


From the modernization point of view, out of Rs. 60,000 crore, nearly 78 per cent (Rs. 46,521) crore will be available to the three services for procurement of Aircraft and Aero-Engine, Heavy and Medium Vehicles, Naval Ships, and Other Equipments (Armaments, Electronics, Ammunition, Missiles, etc.) among others. Within each service’s acquisition budget, the Air Force will have Rs. 15,206 crore for procurement of Air Craft and Aero-Engine; while Rs. 10,464 crore have been provisioned for procurement of Other Equipments for the Army. The Navy will get Rs. 6,950 crore for procurement of Naval Fleet.

Figure: Shares of Defence Services in Defence Budget 2010-11


Note: Figure is based on total Capital Outlay for Defence Services (Rs. 60,000 crore) minus Rs. 7.50 crore, which is allocated under the “Others” head.

Source: Ministry of Finance, Union Budget 2010-11

Why Meagre Growth in Defence Budget?


While presenting the Union Budget, the Finance Minister (FM) emphasised that “Secure border and security of life and prosperity fosters development.” The 3.8 per cent increase in the defence budget (in comparison to the 8.6 per cent increase in total central government expenditure) does not however seem to be fully in sync with the above emphasis. This is more so when India’s more troubling neighbours have increased their defence spending at a sharp pace. Of particular interest is China, whose double digit increase in defence spending over the past twenty years and resultant military modernisation in both qualitative and quantities terms has been taken ‘note’ of by the Ministry of Defence. (China’s 2009 official defence budget of $70.37 billion is 2.2 times that of India’s 2010 budget.) However the above ‘note’ does not seem to be backed by adequate growth in India’s defence budget. In fact, in the last 10 years, India’s defence budget has grown by 10 per cent and more only in three years.


Notwithstanding the seemingly ‘direction-less’ growth in India’s defence budget, the reasons for the small increase in the latest defence budget is not so difficult to fathom. There are in fact two clear reasons for it. The first is related to the government’s resolve to “come back to the path of fiscal consolidation at the earliest.” It is noteworthy that the central government had announced several stimulus packages to fight the economic crisis which was harsher in 2008-09. As a result the fiscal deficit had increased to an unsustainable level. Now with the crisis less severe, the government has made an attempt to bring down the fiscal deficit for 2010-11 to 5.5 per cent of GDP, as against 6 per cent in 2008-09 and 6.7 per cent in 2009-10 (revised estimate). The fiscal tightening means limited the scope for accommodating more resource demands from the MoD which accounts for over 13 per cent of total central government expenditure. The scope has been further limited by the government’s focus on ‘inclusive growth’, by way of increased agricultural, social and infrastructural spending. For instance, in the Union Budget, the Finance Minister has increased the Central Plan Outlay on Agriculture, Rural Development, Transport and Social Sector by 14 per cent to Rs. 2,97,065 crore.


If the imperatives of fiscal consolidation and ‘inclusive growth’ have limited government spending capacity, the MoD’s inability to spend the resources allocated in the previous year’s budget has also not helped its cause. As mentioned earlier, the MoD has so far surrendered. Rs. 5,439 crore from its 2009-10 budget. This inability to spend has no doubt strengthened the Finance Ministry’s justification for a smaller increase with the customary promise that “any additional requirement for the security of the nation will be provided for.” The Finance Ministry is fully aware that the MoD has difficulties in spending the allocated resources, especially the amount given in the capital account.

Impact of Thirteenth Finance Commission (TFC) Recommendations on Future Defence Spending up to 2014-15


If the Finance Ministry’s emphasis on fiscal prudence and inclusive growth has resulted in a smaller increase in the latest defence budget, the Report of the Thirteenth Finance Commission, tabled in Parliament on February 25, 2010, also does not paint a very optimistic scenario for India’s future defence spending. The Constitutional Commission, which has recommended on specific aspects of Centre-State fiscal relations, has also proposed a roadmap for defence spending for the period 2010/11-2014/15. As per the roadmap, defence spending is to grow by an annual average of 8.33 per cent during this period, with the revenue and capital components slated to increase by an annual average of seven per cent and ten per cent, respectively. As a percentage of GDP, defence spending is to be progressively decreased to 1.76 per cent in 2014-15 (see Table-II).


Table-II: Thirteenth Finance Commission’s Proposed Roadmap for Defence Spending 2010/11-2014/15

Year       Revenue

(Rs. in Crore)      Capital

(Rs. in Crore)      Total Defence Expenditure

(Rs. in Crore)      Share of Defence Expenditure in GDP (%)


(BE)        86,879   54824    1,41,703               2.42


(Re-assessed)   73,968

(-14.9)   54,824

(0.0)       1,28,792

(-9.1)     2.20

2010-11                79,146

(7.0)       60,306

(10.0)    1,39,452

(8.3)       2.12

2011-12                84,686

(7.0)       66,337

(10.0)    1,51,023

(8.3)       2.03

2012-13                90,614

(7.0)       72,971

(10.0)    1,63,585

(8.3)       1.94

2013-14                96,957

(7.0)       80,268

(10.0)    1,77,225

(8.3)       1.85

2014-15                1,03,744


(7.0)       88,295

(10.0)    1,92,039

(8.4)       1.76




   1. Figures in parentheses represent percentage growth

   2. The reassessed figures for 2009-10 is based on the figures of 2009-10 (BE) after factoring in the one-time arrears due to implementation of Sixth Central Pay Commission.


Source: Author’s estimation based on the Report of the Thirteenth Finance Commission


The significance of the above figures is that they are in sync with the fiscal consolidation part outlined by the Commission. More importantly, the Finance Ministry, which is in charge of implementing the Commission’s recommendations, is not only in agreement with the path but also tries to better the fiscal roadmap suggested by the Commission. This means that MoD’s future spending as outlined in the TFC could come under further stress in coming years.

The Road Ahead


While projecting the MoD’s budget through 2014-15, the TFC took into account the projections made by both the Finance Ministry and the MoD. The final projection by the TFC however turned out to be the same as made by the Finance Ministry - possibly to the dissatisfaction of the MoD, which argued for “the need to provide adequately for enhanced force multipliers.” The TFC however stuck to its guns, saying “the Finance Ministry’s projections address these needs [of the MoD]” and further added that:


    “we [the Thirteenth Finance Commission] are of the view that there exists considerable scope to improve the quality and efficiency of defence expenditure through increased private sector engagement, import substitution and indigenisation; improvements in procedures and practices and better project management, within the parameters of Government of India’s policy. Efforts in this direction will further expand the fiscal space available for defence spending.”


The above assessment made by the Finance Commission needs careful consideration, given the indication that India’s future defence budget may not grow as desired by the MoD. In this regard, the Defence Ministry needs to carve out a plan as to where it can bring efficiency in its spending.


At present, the defence budget is broadly divided into Revenue and Capital expenditures, with the former accounting for nearly 60 per cent of total budget. However, given the cost-intensive nature of capital acquisition, the MoD, as argued rightly before the Finance Commission, needs more resources for ‘enhanced force multipliers’. This makes a case for rationalisation of revenue expenditure, if the overall budget is to grow by a fixed 10 per cent annually. The MoD has therefore to revisit its spending on major revenue components such as Pay and Allowance; Stores and Equipment; and Transportation, among others. Of particular focus should be Pay and Allowances, which has increased significantly from Rs. 24,690 crore in 2007-08 (budget estimate) to approximately Rs. 46,767 crore in 2010-11.


The way defence Capital budget is spent has been major a source of major concern, expressed by various authorities, particularly the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (C&AG). Besides, the repeated surrender of capital funds and India’s heavy import dependency have probably attracted the maximum attention for remedial measures.


Although the MoD has taken a keen interest in alleviating the problems by way of revising the Defence (Capital) Procurement Procedure (DPP), some lacunae still persist. The biggest problem perhaps is the lack of an integrated acquisition structure, as brought out by the Reports of Group of Ministers (2001) and C&AG (2007). In the absence of accountability at one place, various acquisition functions, carried out by different agencies, lack a mission-oriented approach, often at the cost of optimum time-cost trade offs and indigenisation/self-reliance. This not only raises the acquisition cost but also delays or hampers defence preparedness. It is high time the MoD looks deep into this issue.

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International military music festival to promote peace begins today

Wednesday, March 3, 2010,5:10 [IST]

Musicians in all world-class armies have played a pivotal role not only in high standards of ceremonial functions, but also in adding vigour to the daily routine of regimental life of a soldier.



The itinerary includes performances by world-class musicians of The Royal EME (UK), The French Army, The Sri Lankan Army, The Bangladesh Army and The Nepalese Army apart from bands of the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy.


The performances of these elite bands will commence with concert at the Purana Quila on March 3 followed by functions at Army Parade Ground, Delhi Cantt.


There will be presentations of Kalaipayattu, Khukri Dance, Lezium, Janch pathaka, Bhangra and traditional dances from Ladakh and North East as well.


The elite 61 Cavalry, which is the only Cavalry Regiment in the world, will also carry out a cavalry display.


President Pratibha Devisingh Patil and Defence Minister AK Antony will grace the occasion while the best of the martial musicians will create symphony to the perfection.


The function will be open to public on March 5-6 at Army Parade Ground, Delhi Cantt.


The occasion is unique as it is for the first time that such a function is being hosted in the country. (ANI)






MoD sidelines pvt sector in crucial defence project

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi March 03, 2010, 0:38 IST


Policy turnaround will give BEL Rs 10,000-cr project without tendering


The Ministry of Defence is poised to deliver a disheartening blow to India’s nascent private defence industry. After inviting private companies into the Rs 10,000-crore project for developing the Indian Army’s futuristic Tactical Communications System (TCS), the ministry is abandoning competitive bidding and handing over the project to a defence public sector undertaking, Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL). The reason cited by the ministry: Secrecy.


Left in the lurch are six private companies — Wipro, Mahindra Defence Systems, Tata Power, L&T, Rolta and HCL — which the defence ministry had vetted in detail before categorising the TCS project as “Make — High Tech”. In this category, the government funds 80 per cent of the R&D cost, while the selected vendor contributes 20 per cent. Also sidelined for the TCS are two non-defence PSUs (DPSUs), ECIL and ITI.


The TCS will be a fully mobile network, which can be transported anywhere during war, even into enemy territory, providing the military with a backbone network on which it can communicate and transfer data. The TCS operates much like a cellular phone network, but with two major differences. While cellular phone transmission towers are fixed onto buildings, the TCS’s exchanges and switches will be installed in high-mobility vehicles, allowing them to be transported and set up anywhere. Second, messages sent out over the TCS cannot be easily intercepted or jammed since they will not remain on a single frequency; instead, transmissions will hop frequencies, dozens of times every second, in a pre-programmed sequence.


It is to maintain the secrecy of this “hopping algorithm”, or the sequence in which the TCS hops frequencies, that BEL is being handed over the project. The defence ministry is citing a new cyber policy formulated by the apex National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) — a secretive body that functions under the Cabinet Secretariat, overseeing electronic intelligence. The NTRO had mandated that the “hopping algorithm” must remain the exclusive preserve of the government.


The NTRO’s interpretation has been shaped by guidelines issued by Shekhar Dutt, while he was deputy national security advisor. Now the governor of Chhattisgarh, Dutt had earlier served as defence secretary and as secretary of defence production, with close and longstanding links to BEL.


Now, based on that NTRO interpretation, a special defence ministry committee is about to recommend that the TCS procurement be categorised as, “Make — Strategic, Complex and Security Sensitive Systems”. Under the Defence Procurement Policy, this will automatically gift the TCS project to DRDO and BEL.


The six private sector rivals for the TCS project are fighting back against what they consider an unfair proposal. Last Wednesday and Thursday, they huddled with industry bodies, Ficci and CII, formulating their response to the defence ministry. Their argument: If the ministry ignores the private sector’s world-acknowledged competence in software, IT and communications, and continues sidelining them to benefit DPSUs, it will be hard to convince shareholders to continue investing into defence.


“We fully agree with the need for security,” explains a senior executive from one of the TCS contenders, “but secrecy can be fully preserved by reserving the ‘hopping algorithm’ for DRDO and BEL. To safeguard the secrecy of a Rs 20,000-microchip, which contains the ‘hopping algorithm’, the ministry is handing them an entire Rs 10,000 crore project.”


A defence ministry Feasibility Study Group for the TCS has already discussed the issue of secrecy last year. It was decided that top-secret algorithms in the TCS would be developed by the DRDO’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR), but the private sector could develop the rest of the project.


Indian private companies have played pivotal roles in some of India’s most secret defence projects. Larsen & Toubro, one of the companies being sidelined in the TCS project, built most of India’s nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, and will have a similar role in building successors to the Arihant. Another private company, Tata Power, which built crucial command systems for the Arihant, also designed the core of the top secret Samyukta Electronic Warfare system.


The Kelkar Committee had recommended that such companies, with a track record and potential in defence production, should be designated Raksha Udyog Ratnas (RURs) and treated at par with DPSUs in the award of projects like the TCS. But, in an inexplicable volte-face after preparing a short list of candidate companies, the defence ministry decided against nominating RURs.


If BEL is awarded the TCS project, that windfall will lead to many more. Applying the NTRO’s logic to other command and control projects in the pipeline — such as the Battlefield Management System (BMS); the Operational Data Link (ODL); and the Net-Centric Operations (NCO) system — BEL seems likely to be awarded all of these on a single-vendor basis.


The Ministry of Defence has not responded to an emailed questionnaire from Business Standard on the TCS.


“It is particularly ironic that BEL is expected to safeguard security, when it is well known that BEL systems are built mainly from foreign components,” points out an official from a private company that is bidding for the TCS. “BEL’s Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS), a system similar to the TCS, has computers and software from Israeli company, Elbit. Whether these have come with malware or switches to render the entire system inoperable will only be known in the future.”


Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence, too, has raised concerns about such “false indigenization”, where DPSUs have allegedly fronted for foreign companies. The Standing Committee’s report of December 2009 notes that, “a sizeable proportion of procurement takes place through the ordnance factories and DPSUs, which are indigenous sources, but have to depend on imports for manufacturing the finished product.”






Eurocopter to float subsidiary for India operations


Eurocopter CEO India, Marie Agnes Veve, addressing a press conference ahead of the commencement of India Aviation 2010 in Hyderabad. Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

The Hindu Eurocopter CEO India, Marie Agnes Veve, addressing a press conference ahead of the commencement of India Aviation 2010 in Hyderabad. Photo: K. Ramesh Babu


Eurocopter, the global leader in helicopter manufacturing, is to float an Indian subsidiary and is also looking at the possibility of setting up an assembly unit in this country.


Company officials told reporters Tuesday that it would set also set up an engineering centre and sign contracts with various Indian companies for manufacturing helicopter components.


Eurocopter, which is participating in Indian Aviation 2010 beginning here Wednesday, also announced that it would establish an MRO (maintenance, repair, overhaul) facility in Delhi or Mumbai under a joint venture with Pawan Hans Helicopter Limited.


Under a second joint venture, Eurocopter will start a pilot training facility with a full-flight simulator.


Both the 50:50 JVs, to be signed at Indian Aviation, will be fully created by the end of 2010.


“The MRO facility will serve the huge Dauphin fleet being operated in India as well as in other South Asian countries,” said Marie-Agnes Veve, Eurocopter’s vice president and head of India operations.


South Asia has a fleet of 60 Dauphins, including 34 in India. The majority of these 12-seater choppers operate in the oil and gas sectors.


Eyeing the growing Indian market, the company is planning to set up a dedicated organisation like a subsidiary to look after its India operations. “The announcement will be made in couple of months,” Ms. Veve said.


The firm is keen to focus on industrial activity like sourcing and manufacturing of components and equipment and engineering services. It plans to sign 40 to 50 MoUs with various Indian companies including Tata, Mahindra and L&T for this purpose.


“We will be focussing on aero structures, IT, engineering and components. There is also a possibility of assembling the copters in India,” said, Rainer Farid, Eurocopter’s vice president for customer support (Asia-Pacific).


Eurocopter plans to establish an engineering centre on the lines of the one launched by its sister company Airbus in Bangalore. “Most probably our engineering centre will come up in Bangalore,” he added.


He said the firm was also looking at the huge opportunities in India’s defence sector.


“The helicopter fleet of the Indian Air Force, the Indian Army and the Indian Navy need to be replaced as it has become obsolete and this provides opportunities for us,” he said.


The company has also sought time for fielding choppers for defence trials as its Tiger Attack helicopter is undergoing upgradation tests which will be completed by the end of this year.


Eurocopter currently has a fleet of 76 civil helicopters flying in India. It covers about 50 percent of the oil and gas segment, with a majority of its aircraft being in service with Pawan Hans and Indocopters.


The company, which has a 30 percent share in the Indian helicopter market, delivered seven choppers out of the 10 booked in 2009 and expects 11 to 15 bookings and 10 deliveries this year.





India Prepares for a Two-Front War

There is one country responding to China's military build-up and aggressiveness with some muscle of its own. No, it is not the United States, the superpower ostensibly responsible for maintaining peace and security in Asia. Rather, it is India, whose military is currently refining a "two-front war" doctrine to fend off Pakistan and China simultaneously.


Defending against Pakistan isn't anything new, and Delhi has long viewed China with suspicion. But in recent years India has been forced to think more seriously about an actual armed conflict with its northern neighbor. Last year Beijing started a rhetorical clash over the Dalai Lama's and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visits to Arunachal Pradesh state, which China claims as its own. In the two years before that, Chinese border incursions into India almost doubled. Not to mention China's massive military buildup and concerted push for a blue-water navy.


In response, the Indian military is rewriting its so-called "Cold Start" doctrine. Cold Start's initial intent was to provide the armed forces with more rapid and flexible response options to Pakistani aggression. The Indian military believed that its ground forces' slow and lumbering mobilization after the 2001 terrorist attacks on its parliament played to Pakistan's advantage: International opinion turned against decisive Indian military action. Delhi also worried that its plan to send in heavy forces to weaken Pakistan was unrealistic and might well trigger a nuclear response.


So Indian strategists searched for military solutions that would avoid a nuclear response but still provide a rapid retaliatory punch into Pakistan. The resulting doctrine was built around eight division-sized "integrated battle groups"—a combination of mobile ground forces backed by air power and tied together through an advanced system of sensors and reconnaissance capabilities. The Indian Army would advance into Pakistan and hold territory to use as leverage to end terrorist attacks launched from Pakistani soil.


But as China has grown more aggressive, Delhi has begun planning to fight a "two-front war" in case China and Pakistan ally against India. Army Chief of Staff General Deepak Kapoor recently outlined the strategy: Both "fronts"—the northeastern one with China and northwestern one with Pakistan—would receive equal attention. If attacked by Pakistan and China, India will use its new integrated battle groups to deal quick decisive blows against both simultaneously.


The two-front strategy's ambitions go even further: In the long term China is the real focus for Indian strategists. According to local newspapers, Gen. Kapoor told a defense seminar late last year that India's forces will "have to substantially enhance their strategic reach and out-of-area capabilities to protect India's geopolitical interests stretching from the [Persian] Gulf to Malacca Strait" and "to protect our island territories" and assist "the littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region."


Of course the existence of a new doctrine does not make it an operational reality. But a cursory glance at India's acquisition patterns and strategic moves gives every indication that India is well on its way to implementation. Delhi is buying and deploying sophisticated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance networks; supersonic cruise missiles; lightweight towed artillery pieces; and new fighter aircraft with supporting electronic warfare and refueling platforms. India has already bought C-130J aircraft from the U.S. for rapid force deployment. The navy is planning to expand its submarine fleet, to acquire three aircraft carriers, and to deploy them with modernized carrier-based fighter aircraft. In addition India plans to deploy fighters and unmanned aerial vehicles at upgraded bases on the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the eastern Indian Ocean.


India is not looking for a fight with China: It simply understands it is prudent to develop a military that can deter Beijing. President Obama's accommodating stance toward China and his apparent lack of interest in cementing partnership with Delhi have focused Indian minds, as have his failure to invest in resources his Pacific commanders need.


While America has a strong interest in sharing the burdens of checking China's expansionism, it should be concerned when its friends react in part to a perception of American weakness and Chinese strength. Ultimately, the U.S. is the only country with the power and resources to reassure its allies they need not engage in costly arms races with China. But first the U.S. must identify Chinese military power for what Asian allies know it to be: a threat to peace in Asia.


Mr. Blumenthal is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.









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