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Friday, 6 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 06 Aug 2010

  Unfit for humans That is the food we feed our Army! 
Life is hard in the Army. It is even harder when serving in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region – the world’s highest battle ground. The least the soldiers serving there deserve is wholesome, nutritious food. Instead, they have been fed rations unfit for human consumption, according to the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India. There cannot be a more damning indictment of the Army. Rattled by the report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the army has ordered an inquiry. That may identify the real culprits – although even that is doubtful, given the experience in such incidents in the past — but the facts of the case are indisputable. The soldiers, part of the Northern and Western Commands, were supplied atta, rice, dal and edible oil 28 months past their expiry date.  A food item remains fit only during its estimated storage life (ESL). According to the instructions of the Director-General of Supplies and Transport, the ESL may be extended to a maximum of three months subject to clearance from the Central Food laboratory (CFL). While the CFLs in Mumbai and Delhi adhered to the DGST instructions, the CFL, Jammu, granted extensions in some cases up to 28 months.  Apparently, there is widespread corruption and existence of cartels. According to the CAG, the main villains of the piece are the Army Service Corps and the Army Purchase Organisation. Corrupt officers are making a quick buck at the cost of the health of the soldiers. After all, the Army procures dry rations worth more than Rs 1,440 crore a year. Many ASC generals have faced court martial for irregularities in the purchase of rations such as meat, eggs and cereals. Such is the lure of the lucre that the large-scale pilferage continues regardless. What a crying shame! General V. K. Singh had publicly acknowledged corruption in the Army the very day he assumed charge as Army Chief and had promised “operation cleanup”. Now is the time to use the broom ruthlessly.

Soon, just one chance to crack IAF pilot test
The unique testing method developed by DRDO will replace the existing Pilot Aptitude and Battery Test TNS and PTI  New Delhi, August 5 In three years from now, the IAF will shift to a new, advanced scientific tool to select pilots that will allow one chance in a lifetime for assessment of a candidate's physical and cognitive abilities.  The new system, called Computerised Pilot Selection System (CPSS), developed by the DRDO will replace the existing Pilot Aptitude and Battery Test (PABT) that only considered the psycho-motor (synchronisation of mind and limbs) abilities of aspiring IAF pilots.  The IAF and DRDO today signed an agreement that envisaged delivery of 80 such CPSS simulators along with 300 nodes for cognitive tests to the Staff Selection Boards (SSB) situated in Dehradun, Mysore and Allahabad at a cost of Rs 25 crore in three years’ time.  "The CPSS is a unique, path-breaking system in the world and is the best of the best system for assessing the aptitude of candidates for selection into the IAF's fighter, transport and helicopter flying streams," DRDO Chief Controller (Life Sciences) W Selvamurthy said.  Developed jointly by the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and Delhi-based Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR), the project for designing the CPSS began in 1998 and has fructified after 12 years of research by the two laboratories to prepare a foolproof test.  "The development has taken this much time because of the lengthy process involved in developing both the psycho-motor and cognitive tests. We want to be sure the test is foolproof so that once a candidate has gone through the CPSS and failed, he or she cannot crack it again," Selvamurthy explained.  The system, he said, came about through a collaboration that the DRDO labs did with IAF over these 12 years right from the time the system was conceived.  The DRDO teams also extensively studied 17 such systems in use in countries such as the US, UK, Germany, France, Israel, China and Canada to adopt the best practices from them and refined them to suit the Indian standards.  IAF's Air Officer Personnel Air Marshal K J Mathews said the CPSS would provide the best pilots and the force might be able to reduce the number of accidents, which is of major concern to it.  “People involved in warfare need to be the best. We will be delighted to have the CPSS within three years," he said.  Mathews also noted that the three SSB centres that currently carry out pilot aptitude tests were working overtime due to the huge number of candidates appearing for those tests every year. — PTI

US demands WikiLeaks return military documents 
Agence France-Presse , Updated: August 06, 2010 00:31 IST Ads by Google  Luxury Home Doors Windows – European Quality. Made for India. India's #1 Window & Door Company  Washington:  The Pentagon on Thursday demanded that the whistleblower website WikiLeaks "return immediately" leaked US military documents after the site released tens of thousands of secret files.  Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the Defense Department "demands that Wikileaks return immediately to the US government all versions of documents obtained directly or indirectly" from Pentagon databases or records.  The website's disclosure "of a large number of our documents has already threatened the safety of our troops, our allies and Afghan citizens who are working with us to help bring about peace and stability in that part of the world," he said.  "The only acceptable course is for Wikileaks to take steps immediately to return all versions of all of these documents to the US government and permanently delete them from its website, omputers and records."      WikiLeaks is believed to have released some 92,000 classified documents on Afghanistan. ( Read: WikiLeaks-Reports from the ground in Afghanistan )   Morrell said that any additional public disclosure of classified information "can only make the damage worse."  A batch of documents WikiLeaks released on July 25 contain a string of damaging claims, including allegations that Pakistani spies met directly with the Taliban and that the deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of international forces have been covered up. ( Read: WikiLeaks: We don't know source of leaked data )  The documents also included some names of Afghan informants.  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 39, an Australian former hacker and computer programmer, said he believed publication would help focus public debate on the war in Afghanistan and on possible atrocities by US-led forces. ( Watch: Assange to NDTV- ISI danger is very real )  The FBI and Pentagon are investigating the case and have been questioning a US soldier who has been charged with giving WikiLeaks classified video showing a July 2007 US Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad that killed several people.

Israeli general spills Kashmir beans - Barak policy-maker quotes Indian officers on use of force in the Valley to counter terrorism
 K.P.NAYAR Palestinian youths throw stones at Israeli police in Jerusalem (below); Kashmiri protesters throw stones in Srinagar. (File pictures)  Jersusalem, Aug. 5: Imagine that! Indian Army generals being lectured on human rights by their Israeli counterparts in Jammu and Kashmir!  With Kashmir on the boil once again, this may be a significant one among many keys to unravelling recent events which have brought the troubled northern state to its current pass and why the situation on the ground threatens to get worse.  According to Daniel Reisner, Indian generals have been telling the Israelis during formal exchanges that every door in Kashmir that is suspected of hiding weapons behind them ought to be kicked open and if weapons are found, those occupying the houses should be “treated” as terrorists engaged in or aiding the insurgency.  Reisner was a senior member of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s delegation to the failed Camp David talks in July 2000, brokered by President Bill Clinton on a “final status settlement” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  A reserve colonel now, he once headed the international law department of the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) Advocate General’s Corps and had key responsibilities in the investigation or prosecution of Israeli soldiers for civil and human rights violations during the Palestinian intifada in the occupied territories.  In America, Reisner is viewed as the Israeli equivalent of US federal judge Jay Bybee, who wrote the now infamous Bush administration memos arguing for the legality of torture.  This is because of Reisner’s role in rewriting the IDF’s rules of engagement of Palestinians who threw stones at Israeli soldiers or incited other forms of attack against Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza much the same way Kashmiri youths are today throwing stones and attacking security forces in Kashmir.  Israel, according to Reisner, stopped dealing with such attacks as a law and order problem and hardened its response about seven years ago after he helped rewrite the IDF’s rules of engagement.  Even so, the callous and insensitive statements he attributed to Indian generals about civilian unrest in Kashmir appear to have shocked the Israelis, who are among those most criticised in the international community for alleged human rights violations in dealing with the Palestinians in territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.  This came through during Reisner’s interaction last week with a group of Indian journalists visiting Israel.  Reisner, who continues to be a key adviser to the Israeli government on the Arab-Israeli peace process indicated that the Israelis, from their experience, told the Indian generals that their army’s policies in Kashmir will not work unless they wanted to cut off their civilian adversaries altogether as Israel has now done in the Gaza Strip following the ascent of Hamas to power.  Reisner did not identify the generals, although he made it clear that their idea of breaking down every door in Kashmir which is suspected of hiding weapons with impunity was not an isolated view and that it represented the collective approach of the Indian security forces.  India engages in intense and extensive interaction with the Israeli defence establishment. Israel is now the second biggest source of arms for India and may soon overtake Russia as its No.1 arms supplier, according to sources here.  Ironically, even as the Indian Army has been advocating unrestrained and irrational use of force in civilian unrest as their policy, according to Reisner, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has issued a spate of statements criticising Israel for the use of force against Palestinians.  In one of several such statements about the situation in the Gaza Strip which would appear to be a case of the right hand of the Indian government not knowing what its left hand is doing, MEA stated: “It is disappointing to note that the use of disproportionate force (by Israel) is resulting in a large number of civilian casualties (in Gaza) on the one hand and the escalating violence on the other.  “This continued use of indiscriminate force is unwarranted and condemnable. The government of India urges utmost restraint (by Israel) so as to give peace a chance as the peace process may well get derailed irreversibly.”  In a recent reply to the Lok Sabha, the government reported that during a 23-day period upto January 18, 2009, “over 1,200 Palestinians, including civilians and children, were reportedly killed. Thirteen Israelis are also said to have been killed”.  The Lok Sabha was also told that India had called “for an immediate end to the disproportionate and condemnable use of force (by Israel), particularly against civilians, and for the restoration of peace”.  Last week, external affairs minister S.M. Krishna drew attention of Lok Sabha members to India’s condemnation of Israel’s attack on a flotilla of ships which attempted to break Tel Aviv’s blockade of Gaza in May.  That action resulted in the loss of nine lives and injuries to several others.  Krishna quoted from India’s condemnation of the attack on the flotilla: “India deplores the tragic loss of life and the reports of killings and injuries to people on the boats carrying supplies for Gaza. There can be no justification for such indiscriminate use of force, which we condemn.”  Last year, responding to a “flash appeal” by UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees, India gave $1 million for the affected families in Gaza.  In addition, to mark UNRWA’s 60th anniversary, the UPA government enhanced its regular contribution to the agency to $1 million a year “in keeping with India’s consistent and principled support for the people of Palestine”.  Reisner’s on-the-record revelations about purportedly confidential exchanges between Indian and Israeli generals surprised Indian journalists, but they concluded it may have been a deliberate Israeli attempt to draw attention to New Delhi’s double standards on tackling civilian unrest in Palestine on the one hand, and in Kashmir on the other.  If that is so, it could not have come at a worse time for India when human rights organisations worldwide are once again waking up to the Kashmir “problem”.

Indigenous? Dhruv advanced light helicopters are '90% foreign'
Rajat Pandit, TNN, Aug 6, 2010, 02.23am IST NEW DELHI: After 34 years of development, the foreign component in the "indigenous" Arjun main-battle tank still hovers around 50%. Similar is the case with the still under-development Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, which will even in the future fly on imported engines.  And now, it has come to light that another so-called major indigenous defence project, the twin-engine Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), whose design and development began way back in 1984, is still around 90% foreign.  With the defence ministry floundering to lay the foundations for a robust military-industrial base or cutting-edge defence R&D by involving the private sector in a big way, India will continue to import huge quantities of armaments and military sub-systems for a long, long time to come.  "As against the envisaged indigenisation level of 50% (by 2008), 90% of the value of material used in each ALH is still imported from foreign suppliers," says the latest CAG report, tabled in Parliament on Thursday.  "Even though ALH has been in production for 10 years, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has not been able to identify alternative indigenous suppliers," said CAG, which conducted a "performance audit" on the ALH project being run by the defence PSU.  Technical glitches and crashes have also continued to dog the ALH project, which has a sanctioned cost of Rs 2,103 crore till now, putting paid to much-touted ambitious plans to sell the 5.5-tonne helicopter to other countries.  "HAL could not penetrate the international market in the absence of international certification despite showcasing ALH in foreign airshows since 2003 (at a cost of Rs 59 crore). It could not also successfully execute the orders received from the civil market," said CAG.  Even the Indian armed forces, which have inducted around 80 ALHs till now, are not too happy. There has been a huge delay in de-induction of the old Cheetah and Chetak helicopter fleets, adversely affecting operations in high-altitude areas in forward locations.  "The technical requirements finalised in 1979 by Army and IAF have not been fully achieved. The ALH has been found unsuitable for the intended multi-role requirements due to excess weight and limited engine power," said CAG.  The 40 ALHs, inducted by Army under a Rs 1,747 crore contract in March 2006, for instance, cannot fly over 5,000-metre altitude, even though the force had wanted them to have the capability to fly over 6,500 metre. Nevertheless, another Rs 9,490 crore contract for another 105 Dhruvs was inked with HAL in December 2007.  Moreover, the development of a new higher-powered engine Shakti for ALH, in collaboration with foreign company Turbomecca, as well as the helicopter's "weapon system integration version" have both been long delayed.

Retd Lt Gen faces court martial for ration scam
CNN-IBN  New Delhi: Days after the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) reported that soldiers in Siachen were served food unfit for consumption, a retired senior Army officer has been taken into custody for his alleged involvement in the scam.  Retd Lt Gen SK Sahni is accused of involvement in meat and dry rations scam for troops in Siachen. On Thursday, he was brought to Indian Army's Western Command Headquarters. He will face a court martial starting Friday this week for his alleged role in irregularities in procuring meat and dry rations for troops in Siachen and other high altitude areas.  The CAG report which was tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday says that soldiers were supplied wheat, rice, pulses and edible oil 28 months past their expiry date. The auditor has also found a serious lack of competition in filing of tenders for the purchase of ration. In fact, it points out that a single vendor bagged contracts for more than 36 per cent of the purchases.  It also says that about-to-expire food items were bought at cheaper rates by contractors and then supplied to army units.  The Army Supply Corps (ASC) spends Rs 1,440 crore every year on rations. It is reported that rations worth Rs 1.92 crore were untraceable in Northern Command as of March 2008.  However, speaking to CNN-IBN, Lt Gen Sahni challenged the Army to prove the allegations.  "The charges against me are fake they pertain to procedural aspects and not to ration. I am ready to face any punishment if charges are proved against me. I can challenge Army's decision but I am innocent," said Sahni.  Retd Lt Gen Sahni, a former director general of the ASC, is the highest-ranking officer in the defence services till now to face a court martial for his alleged involvement in a corruption case.  He was attached to the Jalandhar-based 11 Corps for the Summary of Evidence (SoE), which was completed on July 10 and after it recommended to continue disciplinary action against him, orders for his General Court Martial (GCM) were issued by the authorities concerned, Army sources said.  A Court of Inquiry constituted in 2005 had recommended disciplinary action against him in the case. Sahni retired from the Army a year after the inquiry was instituted against him. The officer was also charged for procuring poor quality pulses for troops posted under the Northern Command in Jammu and Kashmir.  (With PTI inputs)

In search for way-out of Afghanistan
 Friday, August 06, 2010 By By Alam Rind The recent outburst against Pakistan maligning her intelligence agencies and armed forces of connivance with Taliban and possibly operating against the US and Nato forces is sham propaganda and an effort to find excuse for their failure in Afghanistan. Sole super power of the world and her allies are in search of an excuse that could subdue public concerns and provide a sort of a face saving to their armed forces.  The hype that was created by “do more” rhetoric’s and assertions that Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omer are in Pakistan specially by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Wikileaks, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks that, “Pakistan is exporting terror” and President Hamid Karzai’s exclamation that why allies of Afghanistan are not attacking safe sanctuaries of Taliban in Pakistan has been joined in by Chris Alexander who was Canada’s ambassador in Kabul from 2003 to 2005 and later deputy of the UN mission until 2009. In his article publish in the Globe and Mail under caption ‘The huge scale of Pakistan’s complicity,’ implicating Pakistan army under Gen. Kayani of sponsoring large-scale covert guerrilla war in Afghanistan.  This surge in malicious and unfounded propaganda against Pakistan and her armed forces is not without reasons. It certainly reflects a mind set and a policy approach adopted by the westerners towards the situation prevalent in the region. The factors that could contribute towards adoption of such approach can range from appeasement of India to ditching of Pakistan. India with its GDP over $1 trillion and economic growth at 7.4% presents a lucrative market to the developed world.  With the conclusion of US-India nuclear deal a gateway for transfer of nuclear technology to India has been opened. India plans to enhance her installed capacity to 35,000 MWe by 2022 and to 60,000 MWe by 2032. That presents huge business opportunities to the developed world. India has signed bilateral nuclear pacts with nine countries including US, Russia, France and Canada.  US companies have been allocated sites in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, Russian at Kudamkulam in Tamil Nadu and Haripur in West Bengal and France at Jaitapur in Maharashtra for setting up of nuclear plants for power generation.  British prime minister’s visit to India was aimed at seeking business for their companies. The 60 business leaders were accompanying the PM and they hoped that British companies would be able to strike deals worth billions of pounds. The British government has also shown willingness to enter into a civil nuclear cooperation with India. Once viewed against such huge economic gains a statement against Pakistan that could please Indians was too trivial an issue to be given serious thought.  Besides economic considerations, Nato countries have to justify failure of their troops in Afghanistan to their public. It certainly would be too embarrassing to confess that it was an uncalled for war with unclear objectives that was initiated without learning any lessons from Russian campaign in Afghanistan.  The strategy adopted was inherently flawed as you can’t subjugate Afghans by force. The developmental works and nation building objectives initially set, never materialised. Coin strategy was never implemented in truth; in fact General McChrystal had to loose his job for obsession with the strategy that would aim at winning hearts and minds of the people. Under the circumstances Pakistan, that has suffered economic loss of about $43 billion and thousands of civil and military casualties, has been chosen as an escape goat for their failing.  The worst scenario would be what President Ahmadinejad has predicted in an interview that the USA and Israel have decided, “To attack two countries in the region in the next three months.” If one is Iran the second country could be anybody’s guess. US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates while on ABC’s “This Week” program said that, “Washington has decided to undertake massive troops build up in eastern Afghanistan, a stronghold of the Haqqani network, adding that the operations could be on the both sides of the border.” That will be a very dangerous development, which may trigger a totally unexpected reaction from the people of Pakistan.  American image in Pakistan that had improved for the better will immediately sink. Public perception that is against Taliban and fundamentalism will immediately turn in their favour. Another front will be opened that probably will be even more difficult to handle, than Afghanistan itself. The outrage may not be limited to Pak-Afghan border, it may spill over to held Kashmir and engulf the whole region pitching nuclear armed rivals against each other leading to catastrophe that world might not have imagined. It certainly is a worst case scenario and must be avoided at all cost. Zealots must refrain from giving hype to misplaced propaganda that could lead to erroneous undertakings only to be repented later.

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