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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 11 Aug 2010

Bullet knows no gender
Lt Gen (Dr) S.B.S. Kochar (Retd)  Dawn of the new millennium has ushered in fresh hopes and challenges. The established order, where women took a back seat is in the process of imminent fade-out. Many exclusive male bastions and preserves are now extinct. Women have emerged as powerful portents of a new social order and are set to match men, stride for stride. Armed Forces are no exception.  No doubt the demands on national security and military cannot be swayed by attitudes and assumptions. All specialties should be open on a gender neutral standard to those who are qualified, capable and competent to undertake them. Major issues confronted by militaries the world over in so far as employment of women concerned, are social, behavioral and psychological. This is not to say that they must not be trained in the art of soldiering — they must   The strength of women officers in the army is just over a thousand (excluding medical stream) The present policy is to them grant short service commission for five years extendable to 14 years with identical benefits as available to similarly placed male officers. Permanent commission has been granted to women in Judge Advocate General’s Department and Army Education Corps. They are not assigned to the combat Arms. The strength of women officers in the air force who have served so far is 570 and in the navy, 250.   The general belief in India is that the decision to induct women officers was based on populism considerations rather than military necessities. We cannot lose sight of the fact that global, cultural and media revolution of democratic values, rights and equal opportunities for women have gained importance and influence on work environment in the developed countries in the 20th century. The top brass in the armed forces will have to view and take initiatives of expanding the role of women in the forces as an ongoing process.  Surveys have revealed problem areas of both genders, which include deviant perceptions, lower physical standards, adjustment in work culture, sex scandals, courtships, uncomfortable situation of dress, toilets, right shifts and travel, though over all women officers find the troops to be very respectful. Senior officers demonstrate a very high concern for security of women officers. Majority of the women agree that except for some teething problems of adjustment, work atmosphere in the Indian armed forces is safer and conducive for women as compared to foreign militaries and civil organisations.  It is time to graduate to the next step. Grant permanent commission in the three services through the National Defence Academy on open competition right after school. Opening doors of the NDA for women cadets for a three-year course will be a revolutionary step.  This requires attitudinal change in the predominantly male environs of the armed forces.  Emotions apart, the only real way forward is to try a given model rather than reject it on the basis of mere assumptions.  As one or two courses of girl cadets graduate from the NDA, the three service academics will get a clear idea of the best utilisation of woman power and create opportunities for their professional employment.  The last step is of course induction into combat arms.  Instead of getting involved in emotional debate over the employment of women in combat arms, it is more important to analyse the basis and reasons for the same and determine the best way forward.  The debate about assigning combat roles to women, both sides have strong arguments.  Neither can military effectiveness be compromised nor can individuals be denied opportunities on the basis of gender.  Since women themselves are divided on the issue perhaps the only option is to permit women who meet the criteria and volunteers to be assigned for combat positions on a trial basis. Remember, a bullet has no gender.  Induction of women into combat arms should be considered with diligence and the infusion of technology that can generate high-tech jobs.  We must as a nation appreciate the true ground situations, create infrastructure and chart our own policy, rather than replicating a foreign model.  Let us not overlook the fact that the response of women officers is bound to be mixed. The lower age group looks at the armed forces as an adventure. Married women feel nervous and at times bewildered at the thought of single woman amongst male soldiers. Family, husband, children remain their major concern. Problems are further complicated for married women with small children. The army therefore requires time to understand the professional skills and competence. Women want equal opportunities to prove their worth.  With induction of women in greater numbers in ranks, the situation will change. There is a need to work out a new set of directives, instructions and ground rules for women officers to pursue a creditable and honourable career in the armed forces, free from myths and fears. What appears to be a miniscule minority will be substantial numbers tomorrow.   The armed forces need to study institutional concerns of gender revolution to formulate future strategies for gender integration in the Indian social system. Awareness of change in the working environment needs a positive campaign amongst army personnel.  Military needs to accept the fact that women officers are here to stay, more will come, and gender equality will occupy the center stage in the 21st century.  The writer is a former Commandant of the National Defence Academy

High time army sheds retrograde outlook
Maj Seema Dagar  Many of us are familiar with the famous adage, “Bundele Harbolon ke munh humne suni kahani thi, Khoob ladi mardani woh to Jhansi wali rani thi,” immortalising the deeds of Rani Lakshmi Bai. One of the greatest woman warriors in history, she is an icon who set a fine example for the coming generations.  And, so have the woman officers who were the pioneers of military service (other than doctors and nurses) in India. They have strengthened the defence system and come a long way from 1992 to 2010 with their courage, bravery, endurance, wisdom and dedication to the nation. Now, is the time to reward each one of them for their bravery in form of permanent commission that the army had denied flatly.  Why not a permanent commission? This is the question that arises in the mind of each woman soldier, which is very much her right at par with gentleman officers who are granted permanent commission. When Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees right to equality, then why and how this gender bias set in, that too in one of the nation’s most robust system, the Indian Army?  The history goes back just to the year 1992. Women army officers were commissioned in non-combatant role with 22 weeks of rigorous training. Since then, women officers have proved their mettle in various fields and won accolades for their diligence, entrepreneurial skills and will power. They have unveiled the barriers of ignorance and shackled the chains of male dominance.  Presently, women account for 2.44 per cent of the officer cadre in the army, three per cent in the navy and 6.7 per cent in the air force. In spite of the dedicated service to the nation, more than 60 woman officers moved the High Court against the gender bias in army for not granting them permanent commission like male officers. The services rendered for 14 years by the officers itself proves their diligence and efficiency, or else the services would have terminated only after five years and not on completion of 14 years.  It was a well thought of process by the higher defence management that the services of the woman officers in the army began with 5 years and thereafter extended to 14 years. The woman officer has not contributed only on the desk jobs but also actively participated in Operation Vijay in Kargil and Operation Parakram following the attack on Parliament.  The examples of certain brave women officers, who, with their two-month old children have also survived in the same living conditions in tents as their male counterparts, without even complaining of being called back from the maternity leave, have not been acknowledged by army. No lady in these circumstances would have done this, but the dedication of the woman officer towards the nation was more important than personnel welfare. So, on what basis the army denies the rights of permanent commission to them? The High Court order of July 12 clearly states woman officers have the right to be treated at par with male officers.  Though the IAF had complied with the order, the army resisted it, moving the Supreme Court. This can be adjudged as willful disobedience and seen as open gender bias. If women officers are allowed permanent commission in the Army Education Corps and the Judge Advocate General’s Department, then there is no reason as to why they cannot be absorbed permanently in the other non-combatant roles where they are already deployed. Today, the Army is surrounded by high technology, which has been handled by women officers and can be done so in future too. War readiness today is more of a mind game and not just field exercises. Thus, dealing with IT, training the troops or formulating policy does not require muscular strength but intelligence, and women have always proved their worth by setting personal examples. Even male officers in non-combatant roles are not fighting battles but preparing combatant troops for war.  With the expanding horizon of women participating in different walks of life and their resultant contribution to the society, bias and prejudice cannot be tolerated in the army and its is high time the army sheds its retrograde outlook towards woman officers and implement the High Court orders without any delay. That it has assured the Supreme Court last week that it would be willing to do so is a welcome development.  The writer served with the Army from 1997—2007 and is Manager, Delhi International Airport Ltd.

Hospital commandant sacked for graft
Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, August 10 A Brigadier who had commanded Military Hospital, Jalandhar, was today dismissed from service by a general court martial on charges of corruption.  The GCM, presided over by Maj Gen T.K. Das, Chief Signal Officer Western Command, held Brig Anil Kyastha guilty on four of the six charges levelled against him under Sections 52 (f) and 63 of the Army Act for intent to defraud and acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline.   The trial, ordered by the General Officer Commanding 11 Corps, Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali, began at Ferozepur on April 29 and concluded this evening. The verdict is subject to confirmation by the higher authorities.  Brigadier Kayastha was alleged to have purchased medical supplies worth more than Rs 9 crore from unregistered dealers during November 2006 and January 2008, with intent to defraud.  As per rules, medicines are to be procured through local purchase only from registered dealers selected by a board of officers. According to sources, when board proceedings containing names of 60 dealers was put up to him for approval, he allegedly asked the board’s head to include the names of 20 more dealers. He is also alleged to have cancelled, with intent to defraud, the rate inquiries prepared by the officer in charge of the hospital’s medical store to be issued to vendors for procurement.  The defence had contended that charges were fabricated and based upon anonymous complaints sent to suit the vested interests of certain individuals. Further, there were serious contradictions in the depositions of prosecution witnesses.   Following complaints received by the Army regarding the procurement of medical supplies at the hospital, a court of inquiry was convened into investigating the matter. Presided by the then General Officer Commanding 7 Infantry Division, Maj Gen T.S. Gill, the COI found large-scale irregularities in the hospital.

US says it’s monitoring military aid to Pak
Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, August 10 The United States today reassured New Delhi that it was strictly monitoring the use of military aid being given to Pakistan to combat terror as it reaffirmed its commitment to destroy Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Al-Qaeda.  “We have heard the concerns of our Indian friends and we are mindful of those concerns as we decide, as we take steps to support the equipping of Pakistan for the current counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism purposes,” US Under-Secretary Michele Flournoy told reporters when pointed out that Pakistan has invariably misused the military hardware procured from the West in the name of fighting insurgency against India.  The US official was winding up a two-day trip to New Delhi during which she met Defence Minister A.K. Antony, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar.  Admitting that the issue of arms supplies to Pakistan had figured during her meetings with her Indian interlocutors, she said Washington had always held frank discussions with Pakistan about the purposes and application of the military equipment supplied to Islamabad. “We are clearly observing how the equipment is actually used. We have choices in what we choose to provide, and not provide as well,” she said.  Flournoy is the fourth top US dignitary to visit New Delhi in recent days as the two countries finalise arrangements for the high-profile visit by President Obama to add a new dimension to the growing ties between the two nations. US Special Envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, National Security Advisor James Jones and the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, had visited India just last month. Defence Minister AK Antony is scheduled to visit Washington next month.

AFT to set up circuit benches for servicemen 
New Delhi, August 10 Completing its first year, the Armed Forces Tribunal is now planning for setting up'circuit benches' to expand its reach and provide justice to service personnel and their families in states where it does not have a presence at the moment. The Tribunal has nine benches including the Principal Bench in the capital and eight Regional Benches in Jaipur, Guwahati, Chandigarh, Kochi, Chennai, Mumbai, Lucknow and Kolkata. After it was launched on August 8 last year, cases pertaining to military personnel are being transferred from the respective High Courts to the Tribunals. — PTI

Defense Secretary Announces Job Cuts at Pentagon
On Monday, Defense Secretary also said information technology infrastructure facilities of Defense Department will be consolidated and 65 boards and commissions will be considered for elimination. CJ: thomosp   Wed, Aug 11, 2010 01:06:55 IST Views:         9    Comments: 0 Rate:  1 out of 5 2 out of 5 3 out of 5 4 out of 5 5 out of 5 0.0 / 0 votes               UNITED STATES Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a news conference that the Pentagon is planning to cut thousands of jobs. The job cuts in Pentagon are part of the initiative to find $100 billion in overhead savings over the next five years. The Pentagon spends about $700 billion a year.  However, Defense Secretary Gates said the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not present a budget problem.  Robert Gates said that the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) will be closed, over two years, 10 percent reduction in the amount spent on private contractors and staff reductions for his office, defense agencies and the Combatant Command staff. The Pentagon employs about 5,800 people, including 3,000 contractors.  On Monday, Defense Secretary also said information technology infrastructure facilities of Defense Department will be consolidated and 65 boards and commissions will be considered for elimination.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates further added that the spending cuts will eliminate at least 50 generals and admirals and 150 top civilians over the next two years. He also plans to close the business transformation agency, which you've probably never heard of, but which spends $340 million a year.  President Barack Obama praised U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ initiative and said “The funds saved will help us sustain the current force structure and make needed investments in modernization in a fiscally responsible way.”

Six bidders in fray for Defence cable network
  Tender process delay may hit 3G roll-out.  Rs 9,000-cr network  Once this contract is awarded, Defence will release 3G spectrum  Govt has promised operators to give spectrum by September  Purchase order for the OFC should have been issued on Aug 10  Bids for the OFC network will likely open by next week  Delay in project could push back 3G spectrum allocation  Thomas K Thomas  New Delhi, Aug. 10  Six bidders, including Sterlite, Aksh Optic Fibre, Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) and Teracom, have bid for the Rs 9,000-crore optical fibre cable network being rolled out for the Defence forces.  The network is being rolled out by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. The Defence forces will release spectrum for 3G services only when BSNL awards the contract for the network roll-out.  As per the earlier schedule the purchase order should have been awarded on Tuesday. But issues relating to tender conditions forced BSNL to withdraw the earlier Request for Proposal and float a new one after diluting the requirements for the bidder. The delay could have an impact on the release of spectrum for 3G services although the Department of Telecom maintains that the process is on schedule.  Optical fibre cable manufacturers have partnered with engineering firms including Punj Loyd, L&T and Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd (TCIL) for the bids. The six bidders are Teracom-PunjLoyd, Aster-VTL, KEC-Finolex, ITI-Aksh, L&T-Sterlite and TCIL-VTL. The bids are expected to be opened next week and three bidders will be picked for different zones.  The network is being rolled out to connect key installations of the Army and Navy across the country in exchange for the spectrum. The Defence had agreed to release 25 Mhz of 3G spectrum and another 15 Mhz of 2G air waves based on the roll-out of this network. Of these, 10 Mhz of 3G and 5 Mhz of 2G were released when this agreement was signed.  The next tranche of 5 Mhz of 3G will be released after the contract for the supply of equipment is awarded. The Government has promised to allow operators to start using 3G spectrum by September. The project is being monitored by a special committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary.

Indian MoD comments various defence and security issues
   15:29 GMT, August 10, 2010 According to the Indian Press Information Bureau, the following information was recently given by Indian Defence Minister, Shri AK Antony in written replies to members of the Parliament of India:   Submarines in Naval Fleet  Indian Navy proposes to add more submarines to its existing fleet. A programme for construction of six submarines is currently underway at M/s. Mazagon Docks Limited. Further, Acceptance of Necessity for the construction of additional submarines under Project-75 (India) has been accorded.   Coastal Security  Government has accorded top priority to coastal security for the entire country, including that of the State of Karnataka, by way of increased coastal surveillance and deployment of assets of both Navy and Coast Guard. The intelligence-sharing mechanism has been streamlined through the creation of Joint operation centres and multi-agency coordination mechanism. Joint and operational exercises are taking place on regular basis among the Navy, the Coast Guard, Coastal state Police and customs in order to check the effectiveness of the integrated approach adopted for ensuring coastal security. Further, strengthening of the Indian Coast Guard, both in terms of assets and manpower, is an important ongoing process.   Export Market of Brahmos Missile  The Inter-Governmental Agreement signed by Governments of India and Russia, while forming the Joint Venture (JV) for developing supersonic cruise missile, stipulates that the missile will be inducted in the Armed Forces of India and Russia and also will be exported to friendly countries. Therefore, the Government of India in consultation with Government of Russia will export Brahmos cruise missile to friendly countries taking into account the security needs of the both countries.  The Brahmos joint venture has participated in many International Exhibitions and some countries have shown interest to buy. But, no decision has been taken by the Government regarding the countries to whom the missile can be sold.  Presently, the Brahmos missiles are being produced for meeting the requirements for Indian Army, Navy and Air Force on priority. Export will start only after meeting minimum requirements of India.  There is an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed between India and Russia on export of Brahmos missile. This also has approval of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission for Military Technical Cooperation for export.   Ship Building Strategy for Shipyards  The Indian Navy has recommended introduction of modern and emerging techniques in shipbuilding in the country in order to reduce the built periods.  Keeping in line with policy of Ministry of Defence, the Chief of Naval Staff has been encouraging the participation of capable private shipyards to augment shipbuilding capacity in the country.  The Mazgaon Dock Limited, Mumbai, Goa Shipyard Limited Vasco-da-Gama and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited, Kolkata are being modernised to augment and improve their production capacities to keep pace with the Naval requirements. Hindustan Shipyards Limited, Visakhapatnam has also been added to Defence Shipyards also to address the concerns of the Navy.   Indigenous Defence Production  Procurement of various kinds of defence equipment/platforms including arms is made by the Government from various indigenous as foreign sources to meet the requirements of Armed Forces. This is a continuous process based on the technological changes, threat perception and available resources and is undertaken in accordance with the defence procurement procedures. The import option is exercised when it is necessary to procure the items within a definite timeframe on operational grounds to bridge the capability gaps and normally when such equipment cannot be sourced indigenously within a specified timeframe. Government has taken various policy initiatives to promote indigenization of defence production with the ultimate goal of self-reliance in the defence sector. The Defence Procurement Procedure provides for “Make” category for Indigenous Research, Design, Development and Production of systems. These include high technology complex systems. Further, a new category ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ has been included as an amendment to Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2008 with effect from November 01, 2009 in order to encourage participation by Indian Industry.   Missile Development Programmes  Status of missile development programmes, currently being run in the country, are given below:  (i) Nag - It is a 3rd Generation Anti-Tank Missile having ‘top attack’ and ‘fire and forget’ capability with a range of 4 km. Its validation trial based on User Trial feedback has been completed successfully. Missile system is ready to enter production /induction phase. (ii) HELINA - It is the Helicopter Version of 3rd Generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile with a range of more than 7 km. Launchers have been cleared for captive carriage trials and handed over to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for carriage trials. (iii) Astra – It is Air-to-Air Missile system for beyond visual range, designated to be a missile for Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). Its two guided flight trials from ground launcher have been undertaken during July 2010. (iv) LR-SAM – It is a Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM) jointly developed / produced by DRDO and IAI, Israel. Its Ballistic flight trials was undertaken in May 2010. (v) MR-SAM – It is a Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MR-SAM) jointly developed/produced by DRDO and IAI, Israel. Its preliminary design has been carried out. Pre-tender briefing to all prospective vendors has also been carried out. (vi) Agni Series of Surface-to-Surface Missiles: Agni-I with a range of 700 km and Agni-II with a range of more than 2000 km have been developed and inducted into Services. Agni-III with a range of 3000 km is ready for induction into Services. (vii) BrahMos – it is a Supersonic Cruise Missile. It has twin roles against sea and land based targets and can be fitted on multiple platforms including ships, submarines, aircraft and mobile ground platforms. The missile has range of 290 km with 200 kg warhead and a speed of more than 2.8 mach number. BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile development programme started as a joint venture between India and Russia through an Inter Government Agreement in February 1998. It has already been inducted in Indian Navy and Indian Army. The Air Version of the missile is under development.  Except BrahMos, no offer has been received from any country for joint venture in missile development programmes. There is no plan to accept the conditions of Missile Technology Control Regime.   Arjun Tanks  The Indian Army is placing an order for 124 Arjun Tanks Mark – II in addition to the equal number of Mark – I ordered earlier. Tank T-90, Tank T-72, and Arjun tanks are all main battle tanks of the Indian Army.

India To Develop New Generation Main Battle Tank
  MUMBAI, Aug 10 (Bernama) -- India will develop its next generation main battle tank in the coming years to strengthen the Army's armor operational capability, Xinhua news agency reported, citing an Indian newspaper report Tuesday.  The new type of main battle tank, currently termed as the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), will be developed by the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), and is expected to cost about Rs 50 billion (about US$1 billion) for its development, Indian newspaper the Business Standard quoted V.K. Saraswat, the DRDO chief and Scientific Advisor to the Indian Defence Minister A.K.Antony, as saying.  Saraswat said the FMBT will have a strong fire power by operating a newly-designed heavy 120mm main gun, which could have the double purposes of firing both shells and missiles. Among them, the missiles could be used to strike the low level flying aircraft, such as armed helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.  The FMBT's crew will get the real-time information about the battlefields including the friendly and hostile actions, and can take the simultaneous steps of the attack or defense, according to the chief.  Different from the newly-deployed indigenous main battle tank Arjun with a total weight of 60 tonnes, the next generation main battle tank will be more flexible with a total weight of 50 tonnes.  The new active armour protection system will be fitted with the FMBT to neutralise the incoming anti-tank shells or missiles for greatly improving its survivability, said Saraswat.  The chief said it may need seven to eight years for the DRDO to develop the next generation main battle tank as the project is formally approved.  In March this year, the first Indian home-made main tank Arjun, which was developed by the DRDO and received the first order of 124 from the Army in 2000, outperformed the newly-inducted Russia- made T-90 in the comparative desert trials of the western state of Rajasthan. Following this, the Indian Army ordered 124 more Arjuns.  The Indian Army is a large ground force with a million soldiers in active service. It operates several thousand main battle tanks, including T-72s, T-90s and Arjuns. However, some 2,400 T-72s are old. The Indian Army's former chief of staff Deepak Kapoor once said about 80 percent of the Indian Army's tank fleet were unfit to fight at night.  The Indian Army says the FMBT is crucial for India's future battle readiness. Over the next decade, the Indian Army's 4,000 main battle tanks need to be replaced, and will cost about Rs1,000 billion, said Saraswat.

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