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Monday, 9 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 09 Aug 2010

India: We’ll only talk to civilian govt in Pak
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, August 8 India has ruled out any possibility of opening a dialogue with the Pakistan Army despite the growing impression worldwide that it is the army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani who calls the shots in Pakistan.  “We will deal only with the civilian government and civilian officials in Pakistan…there is no question of talking to the men in uniform,’’ official sources said.  This came amid the talk in political and diplomatic circles that India should open the channels of communication with the military leadership, given the fragile nature of the civilian government in Islamabad and its inability to take any decision on its own in ties with New Delhi.  “They (Pakistanis) say they have a democratic government running the country…we believe them. How can we deal with the Generals when a civilian government exists,’’ the sources added.  In fact, India has been attempting to strengthen the hands of the civilian leadership in Pakistan despite being well aware of the power equations in the country.  Gen Kayani, who is widely believed to have sabotaged the July 15 talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, has emerged as the most powerful man in the country after he was given an extension in his post by another three years.  Kayani is also seen as the man central to American scheme of things in Afghanistan. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Pakistan last month, she had a crucial meeting with Kayani. It was just a few days after this meeting that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani extended Kayani’s term in office.  Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao also stated in a TV interview that India would continue to have a dialogue with Pakistan's civilian government and had no intention to establish any direct contact with its military.  Regarding Afghanistan, she said the war-ravaged nation was too independent to allow Pakistan to erode its sovereignty and the gradual progress it has made.

CAG raps MoD for reckless spending
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, August 8 The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has ripped apart the Ministry of Defence for recklessly spending crores of rupees and impacting operational preparedness of the forces.  The CAG report on Army, Ordnance factories and DRDO tabled in Parliament yesterday said that the MoD purchased vintage, non-working missiles, allowed setting up of a gun-making unit that does not manufacture guns and even “maintained” products that do not exist in the inventory.  “…the Ministry does not appear to be serious about implications… of defective equipment,” the CAG report said. Pointing out the lackadaisical attitude of the Defence Public Sector Undertakings established to provide the Armed Forces with state-of-the-art equipment, the CAG says there has been a “role reversal”.  The Ministry procured outdated missiles of 1970s worth Rs 587 crore in 2008 merely to favour Bharat Dynamics Limited. “…The missiles procured were not only of lower capabilities in terms of range, but also did not meet the Army’s long-term objective of acquiring third generation missiles which were available in the market,” the Comptroller and Auditor General said.  The CAG also commented on procurement of the Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher System (SMERCH), often proudly displayed at the Republic Day parade. The Rs 2633 crore system has critical defects. Similarly, the Ordnance Factory at Korwa in Amethi was sanctioned Rs 408 crore to produce new generation carbines -- guns with rapid firing capability -- for the Army. However, the type of carbine to be produced is yet to be decided.  Unexplainably, the Army paid for the maintenance of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that which were not even held by it. In another case, it procured spares for a particular gun and later found those to be non-compatible and hence could not be fitted in the gun.  The CAG also pointed out at defective ammunition worth Rs 245 crore lying unused for six years. Another typical case of defective purchase was procurement of oxygen mask-embedded helmets used by chopper pilots operating at altitudes of beyond 14,000 feet. The oxygen masks had to be withdrawn as pilots experienced serious defects like insufficient supply of oxygen. The masks were purchased with an evaluation.  Appallingly, assault boats required urgently by the Army could not be procured for over six years despite a budget and adequate number of vendors.

IAF airlifts BSNL equipment to Leh
Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, August 8 Communication link to Leh is expected to be restored soon with the IAF airlifting vital telecommunication equipment to the devastated town on Sunday.Telephone and mobile link of the town with rest of the country was snapped following the cloudburst that hit the area on August 6.  The major portion of the required BSNL equipment was airlifted by a Chandigarh based IL-76 from Delhi. Two AN-32s from the Chandigarh-base carried additional equipment. Another IL-76 airlifted heavyduty bulldozer and debris-clearing machines from Chandigarh to Leh.  Based upon the requirements projected by the Jammu and Kashmir Government, medical items provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, relief material and 5,000 blankets were airlifted from Delhi by the IAF.

Politics mixed with military matters makes a heady cocktail
One of the biggest mistakes made by the Obama Administration was to announce date of withdrawal of US troops from Pakistan. It emboldened the enemy and demoralised the NATO forces. CJ: Chitranjan Sawant        PRESIDENT BARACK Obama is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States of America. While addressing the servicemen he mentions this fact with great aplomb. He is holding this high military post ex-officio. It means the control of the civil administration on the military. It, however, does not mean that he is a military strategist or a knowall in matters military. Of course, he has many advisors, who are military generals and they advise him on defence matters before he makes a decision.   DEFENCE DECISIONS MADE UNWISELY     Of late some defence decisions made by President Obama did not go well with the rank and file of the military. His sacking of General McChrystal, the commanding general in Afghanistan, was rather childish. It came in the wake of some off the cuff comments made by General's aides sitting on the bar stool after a few drinks. Perhaps the remarks were purported to be from the general himself. Since they found a place in print and the whole world came to know that the President had a clown as an advisor, the President fired the General to assert his superiority. Perhaps, a dressing down in the Oval office of the White House would have met the ends of justice. Legally speaking, a Reprimand would have sufficed. Anyway, the whole episode did not paint the President in good light.     Now we proceed to Afghanistan. The top ranking officers and troops needed an additional force to overcome the challenge thrown by Taliban. President Obama took hell of a long time in making a decision. Eventually, when he made the decision, it was like giving with one hand and taking away with the other.   Although Obama does not go to a particular church in Washington DC to pray every Sunday, but he may be familiar with a sentence. "The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away". So obama ordered a surge in troops to the tune of 30,000 and simultaneously announced a schedule of withdrawal from Afghanistan beginning July 2011. The surge has not yet been fully implemented on ground. It has been done partially and that too in a shilly-shally way.     ENEMY EMBOLDENED     The moment President of the United States of America announced a schedule of withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban knew that the Supreme Commander had lost the war on Terror in his mind. His generals losing it on the ground was just a question of time. The President's unmilitary-like decision demoralised the rank and file of the NATO forces. They were now not mentally prepared to take a risk in battle that would cost life. Why lose life when the war is lost and the withdrawal has been ordered by the Commander-in-Chief himself. President Obama indeed committed a Himalayan blunder by making a public announcement of withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.     Whenever the military history of the American=Taliban War in Afghanistan will be written, objective historians would blame Obama for losing the war when there was a chance to win. The Man in the White House suffers from inferiority complex and is unable to remain focussed on the issue at hand. No less a person than General McChrystal himself found the President lacking the singleness of purpose while discussing the Afghan war. One wonders whether his Islamic background has something to do with his attitude to the Afghan war on the Taliban.     It is President Obama, who sanctioned a fabulous military and financial aid package to Pakistan. The whole world knows that Pakistan is a part of the problem and can never be a part of the solution. The US aid given to Pakistan has all along been used against India. Pakistan had nourished, nurtured, trained, armed and equipped the Islamist terrorists called the Taliban on its own soil. How can the same Pakistan with the same Islamic-terror mindset exterminate the Taliban? Whatever little they did to fight against the Islamist terror was an eyewash.   Their claim of pursuing the terrorists is a hogwash. Pakistan's top administrative and military echelon knows where the top terrorist Osama bin-Laden is hiding but they are reluctant to share this information with the United States, leave alone handing the fugitive from law to face justice and finally his nemesis.   As I have pointed out earlier in my different articles and I reiterate that the Pakistan Army, including the Chief General kayani, treat the Taliban as Brothers with a capital B. The Pakistan Army expects the Taliban to protect its flanks when it goes to war with India.     Indeed, it is a silly decision of the Obama Administration to give massive aid to Pakistan. David Cameron, Prime Minister of Uk has called a spade a spade by saying that Pakistan must stop training terrorists on its soil and exporting terror to other countries What Cameron said was the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. May God help the Obama Administration to see the writing on the wall and read it. It is hoped that it will make a wise decision to pursue the war and revise its time table of withdrawal of troops.

Indian industry at landmark defence tender
Ajai Shukla  | 2010-08-09 01:20:00    India’s defence industry is poised at a landmark. On August 25, four Indian companies — three private and one public — will submit bids in the defence ministry’s first-ever ‘Indian industry only’ competition to develop a high-tech weapon system for the defence forces.  The four companies — Tata Motors; the Mahindra Group, L&T and the Ministry of Defence (MoD)-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) — are competing to design and build 2,600 new-generation Future Infantry Combat Vehicles (FICVs) to replace the Indian Army’s aging fleet of Russian-designed BMP-IIs. In an American-style showdown, two of these vendors will be nominated to develop a prototype each and the winning design selected for the FICV.  While the cost of developing and manufacturing 2,600 FICVs can only be roughly estimated, senior executives from two of the competing companies say that the bill could add up to Rs 50,000 crore. This will make it India’s most expensive defence contract so far.  Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) are lightly armoured, highly mobile, tracked vehicles that look like small tanks. Travelling deep into enemy territory alongside tank columns, each ICV carries 7-8 infantry soldiers. These jawans, once dismounted, physically occupy and defend captured territory until the slower-moving infantry divisions can catch up with the strike formations.  MoD will fund 80 per cent of the cost of developing the FICV, while the selected contractor will pay the rest 20 per cent. It has been mandated that the FICV must have an indigenous content of at least 50 per cent. With a development time of 7-8 years, the FICV should be ready by 2018.  This indigenous development of an FICV has been enabled by the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008 (DPP-2008), which lays down a "Make" procedure for developing "high-tech, complex systems" through Indian industry. Following this procedure, MoD surveyed private and public industry to zero in on potential contractors. The four companies identified were then issued with an Expression of Interest (EoI), which listed out the capabilities that the army expected from the FICV. Sources familiar with the EoI say that the FICV will be operated by three crewmembers, and carry seven additional soldiers with combat loads; it must provide protection from bullets fired by 14.5-millimetre calibre weapons; it must be amphibious, i.e. capable of floating in water; it must be air-transportable, which would imply a maximum weight of 18-20 tonnes; and it must have a cannon and be capable of firing anti-tank missiles.  In their responses to the EoI on August 25, each of the four competitors will detail their proposal for developing the FICV, the key project milestones, the estimated capital expenditure, the technology they will include and how that will be developed or purchased, and the minimum order that they would need to set up a financially viable production line.  Those responses will be evaluated by the MoD’s Integrated Project Management Team, which will select two contractors. Over a fixed number of years, the two contractors will develop their respective FICV prototypes. The Indian Army will select the better of the two by carrying out field trials.  But this is not a winner-takes-all competition. Since the MoD wants to retain two production lines, the winner will be given 65-70 per cent of the order, the runner-up will build 30-35 per cent of the army’s requirement of FICVs, provided that the company agrees to build the winning design at the same cost as the winner.  With two assembly lines operating, India’s private defence players expect that the FICV contract will create an ecosystem of suppliers extending far beyond the winner of the contract. Brig Khutab Hai, who heads the Mahindra Group’s defence business, says: "The FICV project will be a huge boost to the Indian defence industry in R&D, manufacture, and in developing Tier-1 and Tier-2 suppliers from the small and medium sector industries."  This attempt by the MoD to harness private contractors is backstopped by the public sector: The Defence R&D Organisation believes that it will be approached for key technologies; and the Ordnance Factory Board, which manufactures the BMP-II at Medak, in Andhra Pradesh, for production assistance.  At least two of the private contractors believe that it would be wasteful to set up a new production line. Says a senior executive in one of the contending companies: "Ordnance Factory, Medak, is a national asset and it would be lying idle at that time. We could build the FICV at Medak — on a government-owned-company-operated basis — instead of setting up a brand new facility."

 Indian army afflicted by mad-soldier disease 
THE Indian Army, which has been hit by one scandal after the other, in the form of corruption in the arms procurement, fake encounters, psychological disorders leading to an extremely high and unprecedented rate of suicides, fragging (slaying one’s own officers) is now tainted by a major scam, in the quality of rations provided to its soldiers. Indian soldiers, who are supposed to be fit are being given food supplies that are well past their expiry date, to the extent of two years. Contracts are given to favoured companies without a thought to the quality and quantity of the product. The Indian Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) tabled a sizzling report in Parliament last week painting a dismal picture of the Army’s procurement and supply of dry rations (rice, wheat, dal, sugar, tea, oil, tinned items) and fresh rations (vegetables, fruit, meat, milk), undertaken at an annual cost of Rs 1,440 crore.  It is a fairly high-level scam obviously and the person suffering is the Indian soldier on the front. Indian Army, already hit by acute manpower shortages has been on a recruitment overdrive. Advertisements lure young people to enlist in the army and do something for the country. Many join because of employment needs and not because they have this great desire to serve the nation but end up getting a raw deal. Earlier, Indian Army officers were caught red-handed in a major scam, selling illicit liquor in the market. Now Indian soldiers are being expected to be fit and ready to fight even if they are being fed with food that could turn out to be outright spoiled all because some officer has got kickbacks on atta, dal, eggs and chicken. Director General of Army Services Corps (ASC) Lt Gen S K Sahni faces the Court Martial, becoming the highest Ranking Indian Army officer to be Court Marshaled, reveal the investigations of The Daily Mail. These investigations further indicate that the Army is already reeling under a series of meat, egg, flour, pulses and other ration scams in recent years. Now, the CAG has punched several holes in the Army’s entire “supply chain management of rations”, hinting at widespread corruption and existence of cartels. Noting that the satisfaction levels of troops about quantity, quality and taste of rations was “very low”, CAG has called for a complete overhaul of the existing system, ranging from computerization and better procurement procedures to expansion in the vendor base and blacklisting of defaulting parties. As per CAG, the main villains of the piece are Army Service Corps (ASC) and Army Purchase Organization, all under the benign gaze of Army HQs and the Defence Ministry. The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that around three hundred thousand soldiers under the Northern Command in Occupied J&K, for instance, were issued rations by Army supply depots even after the expiry of their original estimated storage life (ESL), based on “repeated extensions” given by Central Food Laboratory at Jammu. The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that the existence of cartels, a “risk too serious to be ignored”, is also affecting the quantity and quality of rations. “Serious absence of competition was noticed in procurement of fresh rations...82% of procurement was based on less than three quotations, 36% based on single quotations.” The Daily Mail’s findings reveal that the supply of food items unfit for human consumption to the Indian Army has led to a major affliction similar to the “Mad Cow Disease”, which is an incurable, fatal brain disease that affects the nervous system of cattle and possibly some other animals, such as goats and sheep, causing them to act strangely and lose control of their mental faculty. This affliction, for want of a better medical term, since the Indian Medical Board is still studying the after-effects on the Indian soldier, has been termed as the “mad soldier disease”. This explains the totally irrational and insane behaviour of the Indian Army, especially in Occupied Kashmir. What was being attributed earlier to stress factor, is now found to be caused by substandard food rations. The Indian Army needs quick fixes before the “mad soldier disease” causes greater devastation.  

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