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Saturday, 27 March 2010

From Today's Papers - 27 Mar 2010

  Inglorious record Arjun tank long time in the making 
or 36 years India has been struggling to develop the Arjun main battle tank. This three-and-a-half decade-long quest since 1974 is perhaps the longest in the world’s history of the development of this land-based mechanised weapon system that facilitates rapid mobility for any army. For the Indian Army in particular, which has a long, vast and vulnerable border to defend in the plains of Punjab, Rajasthan and parts of Jammu, tanks comprise a crucial fighting instrument to both mount a counter-attack or blunt an offensive in the plains.  But while the Arjun tank may be a proud symbol of technology demonstration at the Republic Day parade every year, it continues to be elusive as both an indigenous product and, more importantly, a weapon system for large-scale induction into the army. Almost 60 per cent of the tank, including its engine, tracks, transmissions and the gun sighting system — all of which are critical components – are imported. Yet, despite two decades of trials, the tank is still awaiting the army’s nod for approval. The Arjun tank presents a microcosm of the enormous difficulties India is facing in its quest for indigenisation of weapon systems and platforms. From questionable capabilities in strategic technologies, constantly changing qualitative requirements by the army that seeks the best and the latest, to extensive and extended user trials that have spanned almost two decades and, on occasions, imposition of technology denial regimes, it has been a constant struggle for India’s defence research and development organisation and its affiliated units.  There is no doubt that for India to be a credible independent military power, it is imperative to become self-reliant. Currently, India imports 70 per cent of its weapon systems, which is hardly a satisfactory situation for a country that aspires to a place as a geopolitical power and gets regularly commented on by the defence minister and in successive parliamentary standing committee reports. India needs a thorough re-examination of its military-industrial complex and greater realism about the projects it undertakes. 

  Raw deal for veterans Demystifying one rank one pension
by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)  Veterans recently went to Rashtrapati Bhavan to return the sixth pack of medals to the President of India. But the President could not be there to receive the medals, so they came back disappointed. For a veteran, his medals are his most valued and cherished possession. These are heirlooms for their families.  Medals are earned under difficult conditions. Some by laying down life during war and in fighting insurgents, others for gallantry in the face of the enemy and yet some others for wounds suffered during operations. For veterans to part with their medals is an extreme step of desperation, caused by frustration and distress. Why have the veterans been driven to such a state of anguish!  Successive Central Pay Commissions (CPCs) repeatedly and viciously lowered the pay and status of defence personnel. To mention just two cases, DIG of police, whose pay and status was in between that of a Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel now stands equated with a Brigadier for pay etc. DIG rank comes after 14 years service while that of a Brigadier after 26-28 years. So absurd has been the dispensation that a Brigadier was given more pension than a Major-General. The Sixth Pay Commission introduced a dozen more anomalies.  The Fourth Pay Commission granted rank pay up to the rank of Brigadiers. Through sleight of hand, the Ministry of Defence deducted the amount of rank pay from the basic pay. Later, the Supreme Court has finally set it right. The Supreme Court had also noted, in an indirect manner, the untenability of granting different pensions to persons of the same rank, irrespective of their date of retirement.  The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) at Chandigarh has drawn the government’s attention to the Supreme Court’s point and has given the Central Government four months to resolve the issue. Left to bureaucracy, nothing much can be expected.  Therefore, the veterans decided to continue their struggle for One Rank One Pension (OROP).  Successive Presidents, Prime Ministers, Defence Ministers and the chairperson of the Congress party, at various times, accepted the grant of OROP. However, the bureaucracy has been frightening the political executive that giving OROP to the defence services will open a Pandora’s box. Every other government employee will ask for the same. This is patently false and mendacious contention.  In all, 83 per cent of defence services personnel retire between the ages of 34 and 37 years. Another 5 to 12 per cent retire at the ages between 44 and 52 years. Only 0.35 per cent retire at the age of 60. While all civil employees serve up to the age of 60 years, they step up to the top of their respective pay bands, get all the three Assured Career Progressions (ACPs) and consequently not only draw increasing pay but end up with much higher pension.  The 83 per cent of military personnel who retire at 34-37 age, that is after 17 years service, do not qualify for even the second ACP which comes into play only after 20 years service. Since some may not grasp the import of this gross injustice, more appropriately a mischief, spelling out the monetary position would be in order, but a little later.  Subsequent to the ham-handed dispensation of the Sixth Central Pay Commission which drew strong response from the defence services headquarters, the government appointed a Committee of Secretaries to go into these anomalies. In the Sixth Central Pay Commission, the villain of the piece was the IAS officer on this Commission.  Now when the Committee of Secretaries was constituted to address the anomalies, the same IAS officer also formed part of this committee. Thus, it became a case where the prosecutor also formed part of the jury! The committee endlessly dragged its feet and finally omitted OROP in its recommendations.  A comparison of the total amount drawn in terms of pay and pension by a soldier and pay by his counterpart in the civil by the time both reach the age of 60 years is Rs 33.3 lakh more for the civil servant; this figure at the age of 70 is Rs 42.670 lakh. At age 75, it is Rs 47.310 lakh. In the case of a Havaldar, his equivalent in the civil, at age 60, would get Rs 20.261 lakh more and this figure is Rs 26.639 lakh at age 70 and at 75 it is Rs 29.828 lakh. In the case of a Subedar, these figures at ages 60, 70 and 75 years are Rs 13.979 lakh, Rs 18.911 lakh and Rs 21.277 lakh respectively, more for the civil servant.    A soldier retiring at 35 years of age will live through at least four Central Pay Commissions and suffer their dispensations for retirees. Whereas his counterpart in the civil will not only continue to benefit from successive CPCs while still in service for an additional 25 years, but on retirement will be effected by just one CPC, assuming 70 years as the average age expectancy. Therefore, even if OROP is granted, defence personnel will continue to suffer these gross disadvantages.  Similar figures are available for officers. The disparities are due to early retirement, delayed and extremely limited promotions in higher ranks. All these features are service imperatives. Within the defence services, earlier retirees are further disadvantaged. A soldier who retired prior to January 1, 2006 will get far less pension than a soldier who retired after this date. For a Havaldar who retired prior to this date, his pension is less than a Sepoy who retired after this date.  The ad-hoc compensation promised to the other ranks is completely inadequate and fails to address the core issue of OROP. Similar situation prevails in the case of officers. Only one with severely impaired vision, limited intelligence and/or deep seated bias can miss the incongruity in this working.  The above disparities are independent of X factor which apply to only defence personnel. About 15 per cent of soldiers get the opportunity to live with their families for a period of one to two years in their entire service. In the case of others (including officers), only 40 to 50 per cent of their service, they live with their families. Then there are other travails of service such as harsh living conditions in uncongenial and high altitude areas which results in approximately 5000 of them being annually boarded out on medical grounds. Thousands live with ailments and continue to serve.  Then there is the curtailment on fundamental rights and harsh military law to contend with. Entry into the officer cadre has become the last career choice for the country’s youth. Consequently, huge shortages persist.  Few seem to realise the strong bonding that exists between the veterans and the serving. There is continued interaction between units and their retired personnel and that is how units sustain the regimental spirit and traditions.  During leave, the serving come in contact with the retired and the dissatisfaction of the later gets passed to the serving. Therefore, there is the danger of spill-over effect of this disenchantment and disgruntlement of the veterans passing on to the serving. It will indeed be a sad day for the country when this distress is fully transferred to the serving.  The demand for OROP is fair and just and is only a part-compensation for early retirement, extremely limited promotions and a miniscule recompense for a hard and risk filled career. The political executive ought to realise the injustice being done to the soldier and accept in good grace, what is fair and what is just.

Pak stalled our bid for UNSC seat: Tharoor
Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, March 26 Without naming Pakistan, India today said a neighbouring country had strongly resisted its bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.  India also warned that ”weak or failing states” in its neighbourhood pose a threat to its security. “India feels very strongly that there is a need for an expansion of the Security Council in both categories --- permanent and non-permanent,” Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said here.  He also called for strengthening of the UN General Assembly as the primary inter-governmental legislative body. “It has become too often a rhetorical forum, or a declaratory forum rather than one which acts as a legislative body which drives the action of the UN organisation,” he said.  The minister was speaking at a seminar titled ‘India’s place in the multi-polar World’. The seminar was organised by the Alfred Herrhausen Society (International Forum for Deutche Bank), Policy Network, London, and the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA).  “UN reform is sort of like a malady where all the doctors gather around the patient, and they all agree on the diagnosis, but they can’t agree on the prescription,” he said, while calling for a fresh momentum for UN reforms.  “That is the problem we’ve been facing for the last 18 years of debate on UN reform, since the General Assembly took it on the agenda in 1992 but which we are seeking to supplant with a more serious discussion in the General Assembly plenary,” he said. “In India, we know that we have a neighbour who has strongly resisted any proposal that could see us become a permanent member, and we know that Japan has similar problems with its East Asian neighbours,” Tharoor said, alluding to regional rivalries that stalled the process of reform of the UN Security Council.  Underlining the problem of global terrorism, Tharoor said its appeal might diminish if economic opportunities for youth are increased and greater political pluralism is offered in many societies.  “But in saying this, I am conscious that India’s story could be seriously affected by the failure of other countries in our neighbourhood to do either,” he said in an obvious reference to Pakistan. “Weak or failing states are a major threat to their neighbours. India sees its own security in the promotion of the security and prosperity of our neighbours,” he said.

Major fire in army ammo depot 
Kolkata, March 26 A huge quantity of small arms and ammunition was gutted in a fire which broke out early today in one of the largest ammunition depots of Indian Army at Panagarh in West Bengal's Burdwan district but there was no loss of life.  The fire gutted the storehouse containing a large quantity of small arms and ammunition, a defence spokesman said here.  There was panic among villagers living in areas around the army establishment after they heard the deafening sounds of explosions in the storehouse and they came out in the open in the dead of night.  "The fire broke out in shed number 16 (storehouse) of the depot at 1.30 am. Within five minutes, the entire fire-fighting machinery of the army was activated to battle the blaze," Wing Commander M Upasani of Eastern Command said.  The blaze was controlled around 3.30 am but the shed was totally destroyed, he said, adding that there was no loss of life or injury.  A crisis-management team of the army, led by Colonel AD Sethi, rushed to the site and helped in controlling the fire while Maj Gen Chowdhury of the Eastern Command reached there for an immediate probe.  The cause of the fire was not known, Upasani said.  Sources said nine fire tenders from Panagarh and Durgapur were engaged in the fire-fighting exercise.  Panagarh, about 120 km from here, is also an important air force base. — PTI

Pakistan doubling nuclear-bomb capacity: Reports
NDTV Correspondent, Friday March 26, 2010, New Delhi  As the Obama Administration concluded its two-day strategic dialogue with Pakistan, a report prepared by the Washington based Institute for Science and international security says Islamabad may be operating a second nuclear reactor under the country's nuclear weapons programme.  The report cites GoogleEarth satellite images showing steam distorting the view of some cooling tower fan blades at the second plutonium production reactor at Khushab, which indicates that the reactor is in some state of initial operation such as a power start-up.  Only a few nations in the world have nuclear production capability, the start-up operation of the second Khushab reactor, leading to a possible doubling of plutonium output in Pakistan, is significant.  The report also said that Pakistan had started constructing the Khushab-II reactor back in 2002 and in 2007 construction activity for a third reactor was noticed in satellite images.  "For many years all Pakistan had was its uranium enrichment programme. Sometime in 2002, Pakistan began building a second reactor and then again sometime around 2006-07, Pakistan began building a third reactor at Khushabh. So what we are seeing here is a really massive expansion of Pakistan's plutonium production programme. And the issue here is that Pakistan does not really need a new reactor as it has a unranium enrichment programme and a plutonium production programme," said Paul Brannan, Senior Analyst, ISIS, Washington, DC.

South Korean navy ship with 104 onboard sinks
Associated Press, Friday March 26, 2010, Seoul  South Korea's military scrambled naval vessels to the western waters near the disputed maritime border with rival North Korea late on Friday after an explosion ripped a hole in the bottom of a military ship, officials and news reports said.  The ship, on a routine patrolling mission with 104 crew members on board, began sinking off the coast of South Korean-controlled Baengnyeong Island close to North Korea around 9:45 p.m. (1245 GMT, 9:45 a.m. EDT), an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.  South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported an explosion in the rear of the 1,200-ton ship and said the military had not ruled out the possibility of an attack by North Korea. However, the military official said the exact cause was not immediately clear and said he could not confirm the Yonhap report.  A rescue mission was under way and the military moved to strengthen its vigilance near the maritime border, the site of three bloody naval clashes in the past between the warring Koreas. The divided peninsula remains in a state of war because the three-year Korean conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953.  Earlier on Friday, North Korea's military threatened "unpredictable strikes," including a nuclear attack, in anger over a report that South Korea and the US were preparing for possible instability in the totalitarian country.  After the ship began sinking, President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting of security-related ministers, Yonhap said, citing presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye. She said it wasn't clear yet whether North Korea was involved in the ship's demise.  Six naval ships and two coast guard vessels were rushed to the waters to save the crew, Yonhap said. Rescue helicopters and ambulances also sped to the scene, the military official said. By 12:30 a.m. Saturday (1430 GMT, 10:30 a.m. EDT Friday), with the ship nearly submerged, 58 of the soldiers had been rescued, the official said. There was no immediate confirmation of any casualties.  Yonhap reported earlier that a South Korean ship fired shots toward an unidentified target in the direction of North Korea. The military official confirmed that shots were fired but said the object detected by radar may have been a flock of birds.  Baeknyeong Island, four hours' by boat from the port of Incheon, is the westernmost point of South Korea and is a key military post for South Korea because of its proximity to the North.

Dhanush, Prithvi-2 to be testfired tomorrow
Press Trust of India / Balasore March 26, 2010, 18:40 IST  Nuclear capable Dhanush and Prithvi-2 missile tests are likely to be conducted tomorrow, defence sources said here.  "Agni-1, surface-to-surface single stage missile with 700 km range, will be taken up for test on Sunday," sources said adding that Defence Research Development Organisation and operational strategic units of army and naval forces would jointly conduct the operation.  They said nuclear capable Agni-1 would be test-fired from Wheeler Island, about 70 km across sea from Chandipur-on-sea.  Prithvi-2, a missile with maximum range of 295 km, would be tested from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, about 15 km from here.  Dhanush, the naval version of Prithvi, would be testfired from a naval ship off the Orissa coast, the sources said.  The supersonic cruise missile, Brahmos, jointly developed by India and Russia, had a successful trial on March 22, 2010 from a naval ship off the Orissa coast.

Headley names Pak Army officers behind 26/11
CNN-IBN NAILING PAKISTAN'S LIE: Headley says a Pakistani Army officer directed 26/11 attackers.  Chicago: David Coleman Headley has exposed Pakistani Army's direct link to Mumbai terror attacks.  According to a report published in Outlook, the Pakistani-American terror suspect has confessed about the involvement of some serving Pakistani Army officials in the 26/11 attacks.  Headley reportedly identified the Pakistani Army officers as Major Sayeed, Major Iqbal, Major Sameer and Colonel Shah.  According to Headley it was Colonel Shah was the one who was communicating with the terrorists and directing them during the terror attacks in which at least 166 people were killed and nearly 200 others injured.  Editor-in-Chief of Outlook magazine, Vinod Mehta said that Headley's revelations have nailed Pakistan.  "One of the four named, Colonel Shah was managing 26/11 on the phone line telling the perpetrators what to do and what not to do. He was giving tactical information. Three of those named are serving officers and one is a retired officer. Headley told this to FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and FBI told this to India. There's a difference between state and non-state actors. For the first time now Headley has revealed that state actors from Pakistan were involved. We have got to see how Pakistan reacts," said Mehta.  Till now Pakistan has been claiming that the Mumbai terror attacks was masterminded and executed by 'non-state' actors.  Earlier, the four Pakistani handlers named by Headley were referred to as A, B, C and D by American investigating agencies.  Headley used to work as a double agent for the US Drug Enforcement Administration and also interacted with the Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan.  He was arrested in the US in October 2009 by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force at O'Hare International Airport before boarding a flight to Philadelphia, intending to travel on to Pakistan.  The 49-year-old is currently in custody in the US and has pleaded guilty to all the terror charges levelled against him by the FBI in a US District Court in Chicago.  He is being tried in the US for plotting terror attacks on behalf of the Lashkar-e-Toiba against India and on charges of plotting a terror attack against the facilities and employees of the Danish newspaper which had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005.

Rising Dragon, Slumbering Elephant: Chinese and Indian Defense Planning 
Laxman Kumar Behera | 26 Mar 2010  NEW DELHI -- Recently, both China and India increased their official defense budgets for fiscal year 2010, to $78 billion and $32 billion, respectively (although according to Western observers, China's actual military spending is up to three times the official figures). In doing so, Beijing raised its defense allocation by 7.5 percent, and New Delhi by just under 4 percent.  Besides the differences in absolute budget and percentage growth, the two countries also demonstrate contrasting approaches to achieving their overall military objectives. For China, defense spending is a means toward achieving long-term power ambitions and military supremacy, while India is caught in an exercise of resource allocation, devoid of long-term goals. The result, visible in the two countries' military capabilities, is distinctly favorable to China.  Before this year, China's official defense spending witnessed double-digit growth for the last 20 years. The sustained increase in spending was calibrated to support Beijing's strategy of achieving Comprehensive National Power (CNP), which includes both soft and hard power. As Beijing's biennial defense White Paper shows, spending grew at an annual average of 14.5 percent between 1988 and 1997. Allocations during this period were meant to "make up for the inadequacy of defense development" that existed in earlier years, when defense spending was subordinated to economic development. Once the initial deficiency was addressed, China then stepped up its spending by an annual average of 15.9 percent per year for the next 10 years to 2007, and by nearly 18 percent in both 2008 and 2009. Much of the post-1997 allocation was directed to achieving mastery of network-centric and precision-guided modern warfare, paying close attention to lessons learned from the overwhelming U.S. military supremacy in the first Gulf War.  Chinese defense spending is noteworthy in that investments in capabilities have gone hand in hand with organizational and doctrinal reforms in the People's Liberation Army, increased sophistication of the domestic defense industry, and special emphasis on research and development (R&D). At no point did China let money become a constraint on its modernization and reform drives. For instance, when the global financial crisis spread to the Chinese defense industry, Beijing quickly responded by infusing it with a $60 billion stimulus package.  The decades-long effort has paid rich dividends for China, in terms of enhanced military capability with a reach beyond its immediate neighborhood. As the U.S. Defense Department's 2009 annual report, "Military Power of the People's Republic of China," states, the combined investments and reforms over the years have resulted in military capabilities "that are changing regional military balances . . . with implications beyond the Asia-Pacific region." The deployment of advanced weaponry, such as indigenously designed and built nuclear-powered submarines, and the successful tests of an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon and anti-ballistic missile capability are a few telling examples of Beijing's efforts.  By contrast, there is hardly a consistent pattern in India's defense spending over the last two decades. In some years, the defense budget registered growth of as high as 34 percent, and in others, as low as half a percent. This lack of linear growth in defense expenditures is indicative of deficiencies in the existing planning process. While China produces a biennial defense white paper delineating its national security objectives, India undertakes no such exercise. In its absence, India's armed forces are left to compile their own wish-lists into short-, medium- and long-term planning documents. However, these documents are often contested due to lack of rigor, inter-service competition over priorities, or the absence of linkage to self-reliance and national security goals. As a result, they are seldom approved by higher political authorities. The annual defense budget that emerges from such a process is ultimately decided by the availability of resources, competing demands from other ministries, and broader fiscal conditions, with scant regard to the country's long-term military requirements.  The absence of a long-term vision for strategic planning is perhaps most visible in India's lack of progress in its indigenous defense industry, a key component of New Delhi's -- or, for that matter, any country's -- cherished hard power. It is noteworthy that India long ago announced a goal of progressively enhancing its self-reliance in defense production to 70 percent by 2005. But today, it still struggles to reach from 30 percent to 35 percent. As a consequence, the country is paying nearly $5 billion to $6 billion per year to foreign suppliers, who are quite happy to profit at the cost of the indigenous Indian defense industry's progress.  Both China and India exercise overwhelming state control over their defense enterprises, but here again the contrast is revealing. Beijing has tried to infuse greater competitiveness in its industry by focusing on fundamental reforms, based on the "Four Mechanisms" of competition, evaluation, supervision, and encouragement. Meanwhile, India continues to subsidize the inefficiencies of its public-sector production and R&D entities, with reform measures recommended by various committees -- most notably the Kelkar Committee of 2005 -- pursued in neither letter nor spirit. Private sector contractors, who were allowed to participate in defense production beginning in 2001, continue to be discriminated against by the Defense Ministry compared to their state-owned counterparts, under cover of secrecy and protectionism.  Given the above sorry state of affairs, it is not surprising that, despite having established its first armament factory two centuries ago, India cannot claim a single company worth mentioning among the globally ranked industry leaders. It is also not surprising that while China today boasts of flying its own fighter aircraft, New Delhi is busy test-flying planes produced by six other non-Indian companies in a desperate bid to bridge the capability gap with its northern neighbor. In light of China's fast progress in expanding its military capability, New Delhi's desperation is only likely to grow more acute if it doesn't get its act together.  Laxman Kumar Behera is an associate fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis in New Delhi, India.

Include chapter on service of forces in textbooks: Army to HRD
PTI Friday, March 26, 2010 AT 09:28 PM (IST) Tags: Indian Army,   MHRD  NEW DELHI: In an effort to motivate children to join the armed forces, the army today proposed to the HRD Ministry to include a chapter on its ethos, heritage and culture in school textbooks.     At an event to release a book 'Indian Army -- A Glorious Heritage', Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor proposed to HRD Minister Kapil Sibal to include a chapter on the history and service of the army in the social science textbooks of classes IX, X, XI and XII.     "Good students are not coming to defence service. Inclusion of chapter on army's contributions and services will encourage students to prefer career in the armed forces," Kapoor said at the programme. Inclusion of the chapter is expected to inculcate patriotic feelings among the students at a young age.     Kapoor said the chapter may explain the role of army in democracy. Extending support in this regard, Sibal said the NCERT would explore how the chapter on the service of army could be included in the textbooks. Sibal released the book written by Col Amitabh Negi and published by NCERT. The book contains authentic inspirational accounts from India's wars and traces the history, sacrifice and evolution of the army and provides details on the entry system in to its ranks.     Related News  Thank you. Your Comment will be published after Screening.

India probes sabotage behind huge arms depot fire
Fri Mar 26, 2010 12:30pm IST   A huge fire destroyed about 200 tonnes of arms and ammunition in one of India's biggest army depots early on Friday, triggering an investigation into possible sabotage, defence officials said.  The fire broke out at the army's Panagarh depot in West Bengal and officials said they were surprised how such a blaze could have broken out in a high security zone.  "We are exploring all possible angles," an army official said. The store has been completely gutted, Mahesh Upasani, a defence spokesman said.  India remains jittery about the threat of militant attacks. A blast in Pune killed 17 people last month, the first major militant strike since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

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