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Monday, 5 April 2010

From Today's Papers - 05 Apr 2010

World’s smallest and lightest UAV developed 
Kolkata, April 4 Claimed to be the world's smallest and lightest, Carbon, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by a private firm can be used for anti-terrorist and counter insurgency operations besides disaster management and aerial photography.  It flies using four high-speed propellers (quadrotor) that allow vertical take-off and landing and built-in intelligence in the controller system makes the UAV to return to the starting point on its own. "The quadrotor is a highly complex system compared to fixed wing, and it is one of the best in the world," says Hemendra Arya, Associate Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering, IIT Bombay.  "The device has been manufactured using carbon fiber composites, and hence the name. Carbon's intuitive point and click graphical user interface requires minimal user assistance," said 26-year-old Ashish Bhat, one of the founders of Mumbai-based ideaForge Technology, which developed it. The Carbon weighs just 1.5 kg and has a range of 1 km. With externally swappable Li- Pc batteries, it can fly up to 30 minutes per battery charge.  On-board stabilisation is achieved by a smart intelligent auto-pilot controller receiving inputs from a GPS, gyro, magnetometers, accelerometers and altitude sensors, he said. Bhat's UAV has won a prize for the Best Autonomous Hovering Vehicle from among 16 international teams in the first US-Asian Demonstration and Assessment of Micro Aerial and Unmanned Ground Vehicle Technology. — PTI

US meddling in Afghan affairs, says Karzai 
Washington, April 4 Hitting out at his western backers for the second time in three days, President Hamid Karzai has accused the US of interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and said the Taliban insurgency would become a legitimate resistance movement if the meddling doesn’t stop.  During a private meeting with about 60 or 70 Afghan lawmakers, Karzai suggested that “he himself would be compelled to join the Taliban” if Parliament didn’t back his controversial attempt to take control of the country’s electoral watchdog from the United Nations”, according to two of those who attended the meeting, The Wall Street Journal reported.  Karzai's latest remarks came less than 24 hours after he assured Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that he was committed to working with the US.  That phone call followed a similar, but less vitriolic, anti-Western diatribe that the Afghan president delivered earlier in the week, the paper said.  After Friday’s call, US and Afghan officials said they were putting the incident behind them and moving on.  Karzai's fresh round of accusations against the US and its allies laid bare his deep distrust of the West and was likely to further damage an already bruised relationship, it reported.  Five of the lawmakers who attended the two-and-a- half-hour meeting said it largely consisted of the President lambasting them for rejecting a few days earlier his attempt to take control of the country’s Electoral Complaints Commission.  “They quoted Karzai as saying that the lawmakers were being used by Western officials who want to install a puppet government in Afghanistan,” the Journal said.  Waheed Omar, a spokesman for Karzai, denied that the President said he would join the Taliban or accused the West of trying to control Afghanistan.  “He talked about the new electoral law and asked the members of Parliament to reconsider their decision,” Omar said.  The lower house of Afghanistan’s Parliament rejected almost unanimously a decree issued in February by Karzai that gave him the power to appoint all five members of the electoral commission. The upper house is yet to vote on the decree. — PTI

India, US plan record 9 army drills
SUJAN DUTTA The US Stryker vehicle that was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan  New Delhi, April 4: The Indian and US armies will have nine joint drills this year, a record of sorts even at a time both countries have been increasing the complexity and frequency of military exchanges.  Some of the drills planned for this year will be war games built around battle scenarios and the others briefing sessions on battlefield tactics.  A separate programme of exchanges for the air forces and the navies of the two countries is being discussed. With no other single country does the Indian military have as many exchanges as it does with the US.  “We have reached a historic threshold with our relationship between the two countries,” the commanding general of the US Army Pacific, Lt General Benjamin R. Mixon, said. “The operations we do together are reaching a complexity of the highest level.”  The top brass of the Indian Army and the US Army Pacific, Marine Forces Pacific and the Special Operations Command decided on the programme of the exercises for 2010-2011 at meetings of the executive steering group (ESG) of the two sides in the Indian Army’s western command headquarters in Chandimandir, near Chandigarh, last month.  Mixon led the US delegation. The Indian team was led by the director-general of military operations (DGMO), Lt General A.S. Sekhon.  Some of the drills will involve amphibious operations, meaning the US Marines, the Indian Navy and a brigade of the Indian Army will take part in landing operations from the sea.  The India-US ESG was set up in 1995 but meetings were suspended after the Indian nuclear tests in 1998. The relations were revived in 2002.  The ESG is one of the committees under the overarching India-US defence policy group (DPG).  “This forum provides senior leaders the opportunity to come together to chart out a programme of exchanges for the US and Indian armies,” a US Army Pacific statement quoting the commanding Mixon said.  In the Chandigarh conference, representatives of the two sides exchanged notes from their operations on the ground.  “It was good to glean information from the Indian Army officers about their immense experience with IED (improvised explosive devices) threats,” a statement quoting Colonel Ed Toy, director, IED Fusion Center, said.  Most US casualties in Iraq have been caused by IEDs. In Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army has been dealing with IEDs used by militants for more than 20 years now.  In the nine drills that have been planned, the types of forces to be involved will cover the mechanised infantry, IED detection and disposal squads, artillery, aviation and psychological operations.  Last year, the two armies held their largest joint exercise ever in Yudh Abhyas for which the US carried out the largest deployment of Stryker vehicles outside Iraq and Afghanistan.  The multi-role ground operations vehicles were shipped and flown to Babina, the Indian Army’s armoured corps range.

U.S. Aims to Ease India-Pakistan Tension
Progress in Afghanistan Hinges on Improved Relations Between New Delhi and Islamabad, Obama Administration Directive Says      By PETER SPIEGEL in Washington and MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Kabul  President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without d├ętente between the two rivals, the administration's efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer.  The directive concluded that India must make resolving its tensions with Pakistan a priority for progress to be made on U.S. goals in the region, according to people familiar with its contents.  The U.S. has invested heavily in its own relations with Pakistan in recent months, agreeing to a $7.5 billion aid package and sending top military and diplomatic officials to Islamabad on repeated visits. The public embrace, which reached a high point last month in high-profile talks in Washington, reflects the Obama administration's belief that Pakistan must be convinced to change its strategic calculus and take a more assertive stance against militants based in its western tribal regions over the course of the next year in order to turn the tide in Afghanistan.  A debate continues within the administration over how hard to push India, which has long resisted outside intervention in the conflict with its neighbor. The Pentagon, in particular, has sought more pressure on New Delhi, according to U.S. and Indian officials. Current and former U.S. officials said the discussion in Washington over how to approach India has intensified as Pakistan ratchets up requests that the U.S. intercede in a series of continuing disputes.  Pakistan has long regarded Afghanistan as providing "strategic depth"—essentially, a buffer zone—in a potential conflict with India. Some U.S. officials believe Islamabad will remain reluctant to wholeheartedly fight the Islamic militants based on its Afghan border unless the sense of threat from India is reduced.  Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already taken the political risk of pursuing peace talks with Pakistan, but faces significant domestic opposition to any additional outreach without Pakistani moves to further clamp down on Islamic militants who have targeted India.  U.S. and Indian officials say the Obama administration has so far made few concrete demands of New Delhi. According to U.S. officials, the only specific request has been to discourage India from getting more involved in training the Afghan military, to ease Pakistani concerns about getting squeezed by India on two borders.  "This is an administration that's deeply divided about the wisdom of leaning on India to solve U.S. problems with Pakistan," said Ashley Tellis, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has discussed the issue with senior officials in the U.S. and India. "There are still important constituencies within the administration that have not given up hope that India represents the answer."  India has long resisted outside involvement in its differences with Pakistan, particularly over the disputed region of Kashmir. But, according to a U.S. government official, a 56-page dossier presented by the Pakistani government to the Obama administration ahead of high-level talks in Washington last month contained a litany of accusations against the Indian government, and suggestions the U.S. intercede on Pakistan's behalf.  The official said the document alleges that India has never accepted Pakistan's sovereignty as an independent state, and accuses India of diverting water from the Indus River and fomenting separatism in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signaled that Washington isn't interested in mediating on water issues, which are covered by a bilateral treaty.  The White House declined to comment on Mr. Obama's directive or on the debate within the administration over India policy. The directive to top foreign-policy and national-security officials was summarized in a memo written by National Security Adviser James Jones at the end of the White House's three-month review of Afghan war policy in December.  An Indian government official said the U.S.'s increasing attention to Pakistani concerns hasn't hurt bilateral relations overall. "Our relationship is mature—of course we have disagreements, but we're trying not to have knee-jerk reactions," the Indian official said.  According to U.S. and Indian officials, the Pentagon has emerged in internal Obama administration debates as an active lobbyist for more pressure on India, with some officials already informally pressing Indian officials to take Pakistan's concerns more seriously. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. government's prime interlocutor with the powerful head of the Pakistani army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has been among the more vocal advocates of a greater Indian role, according to a U.S. military official, encouraging New Delhi to be more "transparent" about its activities along the countries' shared border and to cooperate more with Pakistan.  In interviews, U.S. military officials were circumspect about what specific moves they would like to see from New Delhi. But according to people who have discussed India policy with Pentagon officials, the ideas discussed in internal debates include reducing the number of Indian troops in Kashmir or pulling back forces along the border.  "They say, 'The Pakistanis have this perception and you have to deal with the perception'," said one foreign diplomat who has discussed India's role with Pentagon officials.  An Indian defense ministry spokesman said his country's army has already moved about 30,000 troops out of Kashmir in recent years.  The State Department has resisted such moves to pressure India, according to current and former U.S. officials, insisting they could backfire. These officials have argued that the most recent promising peace effort—secret reconciliation talks several years ago between Indian Prime Minster Singh and then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf—occurred without U.S. involvement.  A senior State Department official involved in Indo-Pakistani issues said Mr. Singh, in particular, has risked his political standing domestically by suggesting India would decouple talks on issues such as trade and travel from Indian demands that Pakistan act more aggressively against terrorist groups, particularly Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamist movement believed to have masterminded the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.  "Our principal interest has always been to encourage the talks to resume, but we also understand where the Indians are coming from, which is that there has to be some progress on these bilateral counterterrorism" issues, said the official.  The official noted that recent arrests by Pakistani authorities of top members of the Afghan Taliban have come without any major progress on Indo-Pakistani talks, raising questions about the link between the two.  Separately, Pakistan has been more forcefully raising concerns about Indian activities in Afghanistan with the U.S. Senior Pakistani officials allege India is using its Afghan aid missions as a cover to support separatists in Baluchistan and the Pakistani Taliban, and say they have presented evidence of that to U.S. officials. Indian officials deny the accusations.  A Pakistani security official said his government also has pressed the U.S. about India's ties to the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Security Directorate, and argued that Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar are outposts for India's spy agency.  "Something has to be done to stop Afghanistan from being a jumping-off point for Indian intelligence," said the security official.  Indian officials said they have received no requests from the U.S. to scale back India's rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, and don't plan to change those initiatives."We're in Afghanistan to help the government; we don't do anything they aren't asking us to do," said an Indian official. India's engagement with Kabul is broad and deep, giving Afghan President Hamid Karzai an important diplomatic ally in the region. It has given Afghanistan more than $1.5 billion in aid, building roads and laying power lines, among other projects. India, with its own well-developed bureaucracy, trains about 700 Afghan civil servants a year in India.  The senior State Department official said the U.S. remains skeptical of Pakistani accusations about India in Afghanistan. —Amol Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this article.

Oman places order for weapons from India
Huma Siddiqui Posted online: Apr 05, 2010 at 2325 hrs  New DelhiOman has become the first country in West Asia to place an order for guns from India.  According to senior officials, INSAS gun from the ordnance factor board is currently undergoing trials for the Oman army. This is not the first time that Oman is planning to procure defence equipment from India. Infact, the state-owned Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) is set to foray into global market with special focus on the Gulf region.  The GSL has been working on various projects to provide offshore patrol vessels to the Indian Navy and Coast Guard and is also looking forward to provide fast interceptor boats to the ministry of home affair.  Sources in the government indicated that GSL has delivered three tugboats to Oman. "The Sultanate of Oman has expressed its keenness to buy more boats from GSL, however, due to overflow of orders that has been put on hold for the time being."  The GSL had participated in the Doha exhibition last year and it received positive response especially from countries like Bahrain and the UAE. "The officials of the Oman had visited the Indian shipyard and were impressed by the level of expertise and suggested improvements to the ship designs which were easy to incorporate," said officials. The GSL will be undergoing modernisation to give a boost to their ship construction capability. The GSL has been contracted for supplying 116 fast interceptor craft to the Marine Police that has been constituted by the home ministry post 26/11 Mumbai attacks.  In the last eight months, the shipyard has submitted 46 vessels. The cost of the vessel is around Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 2.3 crore depending on the size.  The shipyard is currently building three offshore patrol vessels for the Indian Coast Guard, which can touch the maximum speed of 26 knots. The OPV is 90 metres in length is an in-house design product of GSL and is capable of carrying out a wide range of operations including patrolling and policing operations, search and rescue operations. The GSL is also contracted to construct four naval offshore patrol vessel to the Indian Navy. The 105 metre long vessel is capable of fleet support operations, coastal and offshore patrolling, ocean surveillance and monitoring of sea lines of communications, defence of offshore installations, escorting high value ships and operation of ALH helicopter.  The shipyard is also looking forward to construct mine counter measure Vessel (MCMV) for the Indian Navy. Infact, the Indian Navy is expected to procure 8 MCMV. While two will be from a foreign vendor, the rest six will be constructed at the GSL.

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