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Saturday, 8 May 2010

From Today's Papers - 08 May 2010

BRO to develop border infrastructure, says Antony
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, May 7 Defence Minister AK Antony today yet again sounded the alarms bells on the continuous supply of weapons by the US to Pakistan in the fight against the Taliban, saying that these could be diverted to the Indo-Pak border.  Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the golden jubilee of the Border Roads Organisation, Antony said India had conveyed its fears to the US, adding that “…we feel there is every possibility of diverting most of these to the Indian border. So we told the US to be careful about that”.  Antony separately ruled out the angle of “espionage” in case of the Army Major, who is posted in the Andaman Nicobar islands. “There is a clear case of breach of cyber security. That is proven beyond doubt. Investigation is on, nothing else has been found so far”.

Army officer held for child porn
Tribune News Service  Mumbai, May 7 The cybercrime cell of the Mumbai police has arrested a senior Army officer for allegedly posting explicit pictures of young children to international paedophilia websites.  The police said Lieutenant-Colonel Jagmohan Balbir Singh was arrested on Thursday after the German Federal Bureau traced some explicit pictures posted online to an Internet Protocol address at the Colaba Naval base here and alerted Interpol.  The CBI, which was informed, passed on the information to the cybercrime cell of the Mumbai police. Subsequent investigations led to a computer operated by Singh, the police said.  Singh, 42, was produced before a local court which remanded him to custody till May 12.  According to Army officials here, Singh is currently on study leave from his posting at the supply and transport wing here.

  Dialogue with Pakistan Need to address Pak Army’s security concerns
by Lt-Gen Vijay Oberoi (retd)  While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh exhorts officials to think out of the box, when it comes to talking with Pakistan, he seems to follow the well-trodden path of his predecessors. Since Jawaharlal Nehru, every Prime Minister of India has tried talking to Pakistan, in the vain hope of peace with that country, but every such endeavour has backfired on account of the rigid stances of the Pakistani Army.  The reason: while our approach is emotional, Pakistan’s agenda is unwavering, which is to force India to give concessions after concessions while Pakistan denies of all its adverse acts.  We have had plenty of what is called Track II diplomacy besides the talks and dialogues at Track I level. I was part of one Track II level initiative, when I accompanied an all-party parliamentarian delegation that spent four days in Pakistan in 2003. My impression at that time was that while there was an attitudinal change amongst the people of the two countries, the Pakistani Army was not ready to come to terms. They wanted only their formulations to prevail.  Approximately seven years down the road, I see no change in that attitude.  Though there is an elected government in Pakistan, it will be naive to think that they are the decision-makers. This honour continues to remain with the Pakistani Army, who has the last word on decisions on security, nuclear and foreign policy affairs. This has not changed despite the recent constitutional amendment bestowing powers earlier held by the President on the elected prime minister.  Let me place the issue in the correct perspective by recapitulating the events of the last dozen years or so. Prime Minister Vajpayee’s famous bus ride to Lahore came a cropper when Kargil erupted, thanks to the Pakistani Army. Two years later, as a follow up of two unilateral ceasefires in Jammu and Kashmir in 2001, Musharraf was invited to Agra for talks, which again was a fiasco. Six months down the line saw our Parliament being attacked, followed by the full-scale mobilisation of the militaries of the two countries and a year later a pullback after achieving zilch!  Then it was the turn of Manmohan Singh, who in his first avatar as the Prime Minister, recommenced the India-Pakistan dialogue, which neither reduced infiltration of terrorists in Kashmir nor brought security elsewhere in the country. Instead, city after city was attacked by Pakistani terrorists, culminating in the Mumbai carnage of November 2008, which shook the whole country and indeed the world, except perhaps our placid leadership. The three political heads that rolled have already been reinstated after a sabbatical and it is business as usual!  In his second avatar as Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh burnt his fingers in his parleys at Shram-el-Shaikh, but after lying low for some months on account of adverse reactions, he was back again with the same linear thinking, when he re-commenced official level talks in February 2010. Pakistan promptly trumpeted it as a victory and added yet another “problem”, that of river waters, to the litany of its grievances. This confirmed once again the propensity of the Indian leadership to continue bending and giving Pakistan another opening for India-bashing.  The Prime Minister has once again accepted to resume talks both at the official and ministerial levels. Ostensibly, it is a prelude or is in effect the resumption of the formal composite dialogue. The reason stated is that the Pakistani Prime Minister has promised to take legal action against those responsible for the Mumbai massacre! Do we seriously believe such homilies from a nation that is perpetually in a denial mode? How many times have the Pakistani leadership made such promises and not delivered?  Unless Pakistan walks the talk, we will again embark on a futile exercise. Unless we factor in the stances of the Pakistani Army, which is truly the centre of gravity and has the over-arching influence and control over all security issues, no talks with Pakistan are likely to succeed.  The Pakistani Army wields power on account of only one shibboleth, which is that India is out to gobble up Pakistan and it is only the Pakistani Army that is preventing it. This is such an oft-repeated statement that most Pakistanis, if not all, believe it to be true. The day India and Pakistan succeed in bringing about a rapprochement and agreeing to live in peace as friendly neighbours, will be the start of the Pakistani Army losing its pre-eminent position in the power structure of Pakistan. Obviously, no one in the Pakistani Army would like to relinquish such a premier position, which abounds with power and pelf.  That being so, where is the question of peace between India and Pakistan? Consequently, it is not peace dialogues and formal talks but the whittling down of the Pakistani Army’s predominant position as the sole policy formulating organisation that will bring eventual peace between the two countries. Policy makers in India need to turn the thinking of the Pakistani polity, instead of engaging in futile dialogues and discussions.  Pakistan is anxious to re-start the broken peace dialogue, not for any altruistic reasons, but to soften its image of being the epicentre of terrorism. Its second aim is to keep the Kashmir pot simmering and bring it to a boil off and on, to keep India and especially the Indian Army committed in costly, time-consuming and futile counter- terrorist operations, with the twin aim of slowing down the economic growth of India and reducing the war waging capabilities of the Indian Army.  A third important aim is to get military concessions from India, which it has not been able to get militarily, i.e. Siachin. Now, Pakistan is seeking to add the issue of sharing of river waters, although the real problem is internal mismanagement of this resource within Pakistan. There are also pressures from other countries, like the US and China, who for their own national interests, are keen that a dialogue restarts.  Sadly, India has been unable to generate counter-strategies to put Pakistan on the defensive. For our strategic thinking is abysmally poor. Our undue reliance on ‘soft power’ propels us to opt for the soft options. And our political leadership has been unable to correctly gauge the true feelings of our citizens towards Pakistan.  Soft power is, no doubt, important but it is not a substitute for hard power. Both have to be wielded in tandem, varying the mix in accordance with the prevailing situation. The perceptions of the national polity are also important. The common man in India, although wedded to non-violence, strongly believes that Pakistan cannot be trusted. Till now, Pakistan has taken no concrete action to change this perception, but continues to nurture and use the Jihadi card.  Before we embark on a resumption of the composite dialogue, our leadership would do well to carry out a deeper analysis of what we would gain as no substantive changes in the policies and stances of Pakistan can be discerned.  The writer is a former Vice-Chief of the Indian Army

Lt Col arrested for child pornography
NDTV Correspondent, Friday May 7, 2010, Mumbai A serving Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jagmohan Balbir Singh, has been arrested in Mumbai for disseminating child pornography over the Internet.  Forty two-year-old Singh was arrested by the Cyber Cell in Mumbai on Thursday and will stay in police custody till May 12.  Singh allegedly posted and downloaded pornographic photos of foreign children between the ages of 3 and 10 on the internet. The German Federal Bureau spotted the photos on a child pornography site and traced the pictures to India. Interpol was alerted which then passed on the information to India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) who passed it onto the Mumbai Crime Branch.     The Mumbai police has taken two hard drives from Singh's house as evidence against him.    A spokesperson for the Army said Singh has been on study leave, and is currently not attached to any unit. He also confirmed that the Army will apply for bail so that it can deal with Singh's case.    More details are awaited.
Five militants, 2 Army jawans killed in encounter Press Trust of India, Friday May 7, 2010, Srinagar Five militants and two Army jawans were killed in a fierce gunbattle in Baramulla district of North Kashmir on Friday.  The encounter broke out in Rafiabad village, 65 kms from Srinagar, in the wee hours when militants hiding in a cluster of houses opened fire on an Army search party, Defence Spokesman Lt Col J S Brar said.  He said five militants and two Army jawans were killed in the gunbattle which was still going on when last reports came in.

Pak Taliban has trans-national ambitions now: Petraeus
May 08, 2010 02:31 IST The botched car bomb incident at Times Square in New York City indicates the Pakistan Taliban's [ Images ] ambitions are far expanding, says General David H Petraeus, head of United States Central Command, who recently toured Pakistan.  In a comprehensive interview to Council on Foreign Relations, Petraeus says there is clearly a symbiotic relationship between all different terror outfits such as Al Qaeda [ Images ], the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban.  Asked if the attack could jeopardize the increasing military ties with Pakistan, he said, "The attempted Times Square attack, if anything, may strengthen the relationship. In fact, the Pakistani intelligence services quite quickly carried out some operations related to this. It just points out again the threat that potentially may exist between some of these organizations and transnational extremism at large. Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and others are very much transnational organisations. The Pakistani Taliban has been much more focused internally, by and large."  The attack, the head of United States Central Command says, is a worrisome indicator as it shows how ambitious the mostly tribal groups in Pakistan- Afghanistan have become.  Stressing that tribal outfits have trans-national ambitions, Petraeus says it has always been about developing an Islamic caliphate for most of such organizations.  "That was certainly one of the motivating factors behind Al Qaeda in Iraq, which of course has suffered some very significant losses in recent months. I don't think it's a surprise that there would be ambitions by these individuals. This is also how they garner resources, and now cyberspace is an area in which they can operate, they can communicate; they can solicit donations and recruits and share tactics, techniques, and procedures; coordinate operations and all the rest of that," he said.  Does that mean they pose greater terror threat than Al Qaeda itself? There are a lot of outfits, he says, out there that again are wannabe international terrorist organisations, because that's how you garner resources.    Petraeus says despite all the internal struggles, India [ Images ] is still seen as a major threat in Pakistan.  "In fact they've just complete an exercise, some 50,000 Pakistani military forces, similar to the old NATO exercises that we used to run in the days of the Cold War. So there's no question about the image still in their mind of the threat that is posed by India to their security," he told the Council on Foreign Relations website.  Petraeus, however, said Pakistan – the leaders, clerics, people – know the gravity of the threat to the country from outfits like Pakistan Taliban, the Tehrik-i-Taliban and some of its allies.

Major had 'classified' info on computer
TNN, May 8, 2010, 03.43am IST NEW DELHI: With nearly 3-4 million files being taken away by Chinese hackers every day from computers across the globe, Indian investigators — probing transfer of data from an Andaman and Nicobar-based Army major's personal computer — are also trying to find out whether information, comprising plan of deployment in Rajasthan and elsewhere, was fished out by foreign hackers, leading its way to the ISI network.  Though the probe has not hinted at ‘deliberate' transfer of data by the major, sleuths are looking deep to find out how he had certain information which he should not have had in normal circumstances. "Information relating to deployment of force in areas other than A&N Islands and other data in the major's computer raised strong suspicion," said a senior home ministry official, adding the ongoing probe would reveal the actual motive.  Authorities were alerted about the episode by the US after some intercepts showed the picture of a brigadier, on a training course in the US, being dispatched to Pakistan from the computer of a user based in A&N Islands. As reported by TOI earlier, investigations till now have shown that there was a definite ‘‘security breach'', with the classified documents stored by the major on his internet-linked personal computer being ‘‘accessed'' by an ‘‘external agency''. Asked about this, defence minister A K Antony on Friday said, ‘‘This is a case of alleged misuse of computers by an Army officer. The officer was questioned not only by Army but other security agencies as well. One thing is established beyond doubt that this is a clear case of breach of cyber security. Nothing else has been found so far... we could not get any proof about the espionage aspect so far.''  Terming hacking ‘‘a serious problem'', Antony said the government was taking ‘‘sufficient precautionary steps'' after receiving ‘‘many complaints from various sources of hacking of computers containing very sensitive and important information'' in various organisations.  In a bid to thwart hacking, the government has started keeping secret files on standalone computers devoid of any external links and storage devices. "Secret files are now kept in computers which have no external links. Besides, no pen drive is allowed to be installed in such standalone computers," said an official.

BSNL lowers bar for Defence cable project
 New tender allows unlisted firms also to bid for Rs 10,000-cr deal.   Thomas K. Thomas  New Delhi, May 7  Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd has diluted the eligibility conditions for supplying optical fibre cables for the Rs 10,000-crore Defence network project.  The PSU has floated a new tender which allows even unlisted cable suppliers to bid for the contract. In the earlier tender, BSNL had made it mandatory for the bidders to be listed entities, which disqualified most of the cable suppliers in the country.  BSNL has also stipulated that companies which have rolled out 15,000 km to telecom operators in the last two fiscal years will be eligible. It was 20,000 km in the earlier tender.  The move comes after some companies termed the conditions stipulated in the earlier tender as ‘tough'. Optical fibre cable suppliers, including Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd and Paramount Cables, had written to BSNL seeking a review of the eligibility conditions set by the PSU. The companies had told BSNL that the tender conditions are in favour of a few manufacturers and that could lead to a cartel formation.  BSNL rider  There are 14-15 optical fibre cable manufacturers in India and only two-three vendors would have been eligible according to the earlier conditions which restricted competition. The rest of the companies that have been regularly participating and supplying OFC to BSNL and other operators would have been ineligible to bid.  For example, BSNL had insisted that only listed companies having their own manufacturing facility in the country can bid for the project. This practically left out all the international vendors such as Corning and DuPont from the bidding process. Even among the Indian cable companies, there are only three-four which are listed, including Sterlite.  Spectrum release  The OFC network is being laid by BSNL on behalf of the defence forces as part of the agreement between the Department of Telecom and the Ministry of Defence. The network is being rolled out so that the Defence forces can vacate the spectrum for use by mobile operators.  The Defence Ministry had agreed to release spectrum as and when certain milestones were achieved in rolling out the OFC network. Completing the tendering process by BSNL is one of the milestones set under the agreement.  The tender for procuring the OFC is, therefore, very crucial because any controversy could also delay vacation of spectrum.  BSNL will open the bids on May 21, which is also the last day for submitting applications.

Food for Thought: Optimising Defence Spending
Ramesh Phadke  May 7, 2010  The 2008-09 economic downturn has certainly affected the defence plans of many countries. It seems the whole world is trying to somehow get more out of the money they spend on defence. Some interesting reports about cost cutting measures undertaken by leading Western and other countries deserve a deeper look.  The UK Defence Green Review is said to have highlighted the cash crunch and uneconomical and delayed acquisition programmes of the UK Ministry of Defence.  The US Air Force is now looking for a multi-year contract to buy the Boeing FA-18 E/F Super Hornet to bridge the fighter gap that is looming large due to major cost overruns and the delayed induction of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The Boeing Super Hornet line was scheduled to be closed in 2014 and if current plans fructify it would remain open for another year until 2015.1  Chile, which already operates 10 new F-16C/D Block 50 and 18 second-hand F-16A/B MLU, is purchasing an additional batch of 18 second hand F-16 Mid-life Update (MLU) fighters from the Netherlands. This US $270 million deal is said to include substantial stocks of weapons and spares.  Israel is also revising its plans for the purchase of 25 F-35 Lightning II JSF fighters due to the likely delays in their delivery schedule.2 It may instead purchase a squadron of F-15 or F-16 fighters3  The future of the European EADS A-400M transport is again uncertain due to cost escalation. There have been some reports about Boeing offering an option of a shared pool of C-17A Globemaster III to some Latin American countries, obviously due to its high costs that forbid any one country to maintain a fleet of this heavy lift aircraft. During the recent earthquakes in Chile and Haiti the heavy transport is reported to have performed admirably. Ten NATO member countries plus Finland and Sweden have already formed a Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) under which three C-17 Globemaster III aircraft are operated from a Hungarian airbase and the cost of acquisition and maintenance shared by all members of the group.4  There are also reports of Western countries looking at light turbo-prop trainers such as the Super Tucano, T-6 Texan II and Beechcraft for Counter Insurgency Operations (COIN) to reduce costs and to avoid exposing expensive high speed fighter jets to small arms and MANPAD fire from insurgents in Afghanistan and other future battlefields.5  Yet another report says that both Bulgaria and Romania are in the process of purchasing some two dozen F-16 C/D fighters each, since the cost of new fighters is prohibitively high.  More interestingly, SAAB has offered Bulgaria a ‘reduced cost’ version of the JAS-39 C/D Gripen. Some 24 of these are said to cost only US $1.3 billion and the deal includes training, support and logistics.  Pakistan has already inducted a full squadron of JF-17 Thunder fighter from China and it reportedly took part in the ongoing Pakistan Army/Air Force Exercise Azm-i-Nau or New Resolve-3. The PAF gets these at a fraction of the cost that Indians will eventually pay for the MMRCA fighter. Egypt is also seeking a deal to purchase and if possible manufacture some 48 JF-17s on its soil but has ordered the F-16 to meet present requirements. This would be the first export order for the Sino-Pak jointly produced fighter.  Raytheon is planning to produce the Talon, a laser guided rocket, for use by the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This would in all probability reduce the unit cost of this missile. As is well known, the UAE Armed Forces have a large contingent of Pakistani military personnel running the show.  The Saudi Arabian Air Force is purchasing some 80 Eurofighter Typhoons from the United Kingdom, with the Royal Air Force (RAF) showing great enthusiasm to transfer the fighters that were actually manufactured for it in order to save some funds.  Finally, the RAF Long Range Maritime Patrol (LRMP) aircraft, the Nimrod MR.2 that has been in service since the 1970s, is due to retire soon. Its replacement, the new Nimrod MRA.4, would achieve Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) only in 2012. This means that the UK military would be without this vital component of its anti-submarine warfare capability for at least eighteen months.6  In contrast, India is set to purchase a whole host of ammunition, guns, assault rifles, Night Vision Devices (NVD), bullet-proof jackets, and many other low-tech defence equipment in addition to big ticket items such as aircraft, ships, submarines, tanks and artillery guns.  While such reports are not necessarily wholly authentic, the Indian Army’s equipment shortfall includes some 200,000 close-quarter battle carbines to replace the outdated 9 mm carbines currently in use, 15,000 general-purpose machine guns, 1,100 lightweight anti-material rifles, 225 mine-protected vehicles, and 64 snow scooters for use at high altitudes. There is also reportedly a paucity of around 390,000 ballistic helmets, more than 30,000 third-generation Night Vision devices, 180,000 light-weight bullet-proof jackets, new-generation grenades and around 50,000 rounds of 84 mm rocket launcher ammunition.7 It is indeed surprising that even these relatively low tech defence items have to be purchased from abroad.  As an example of its continued prowess in defence it is noteworthy that China’s AVIC Helicopter Co (Avicopter) is breaking away from Eurocopter, its partner, in the joint EC175/Z-15 medium helicopter programme, following a decision to re-engine the Chinese Z-15 variant with an indigenous power plant.8 The contrast with India is stark. The Indian Air Force does not have a basic trainer and has been forced to rely on the very few old Kiran Mk 1 jet trainers to train its pilot trainees with no signs of any improvement in the near future. The new AJT Hawk fleet is plagued with slow delivery and spares problems. HAL is reportedly suing BAE, its manufacturer, for these delays.  In light of these developments, it is perhaps time India reviewed its major acquisition plans to bring them in line with the current economic realities. While the latest defence budget has no doubt catered for a sizeable capital component, it may be prudent to reduce costs by switching to more affordable programmes. If, for example, SAAB can offer a ‘cheap’ JAS-39 Gripen to Bulgaria then it can do so to India as well.  Similarly, if second-hand F-16s are going abegging in Europe and if Pakistan can get these at reduced costs because it is a Non-NATO Ally entitled to their purchase under the Excess Defence Article (EDA) scheme from the United States, why should India even consider these as possible candidates in the MMRCA competition. It is also worth noting that Boeing is closing the FA-18 E/F Super Hornet production line by 2014 which means that only an Indian order for 126 fighters would keep it open. In such circumstances, India’s bargaining power should automatically improve and it may become possible to prevail upon the prospective supplier to open manufacturing facilities in India rather that simply insisting on the offset provisions.  It is evident that the costs of modern defence equipment of Western origin are skyrocketing. Unless India can quickly build and expand its defence manufacturing base it cannot hope to meet the future needs of its defence forces even with a sizeable annual increase in the defence budget. This would in turn depend upon the continued steady growth of the Indian economy.

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