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Monday, 23 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 23 Aug 2010

Navy eyes UAVs that function like choppers
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, August 22 The Navy is looking to buy a new type of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that operates and functions like a chopper. It can be operated from ship decks for real time surveillance and intelligence gathering at sea to spot militants, pirates and enemies, besides aiding in rescue operations and scanning oil rigs.  So far the armed forces have the conventional UAVs that take-off like small planes and hover over specified targets to gather information. Most of these are acquired from friendly foreign countries, while the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have also developed some of these.  However, the Navy cannot put them to much use as an open space is needed to enable a landing when a UAV returns back to base. This will not be possible at high seas, where decks are constrained for space.  The Ministry of Defence has sent out a request for information to global players asking what kind of single engine or twin engine UAV’s can be supplied. The main requirement will be for vertical take off and landing facility. It will be fitted with scanners, high-resolution cameras and infrared imagers. Besides, it will have the capability to operate all weather conditions. Most such UAV’s will be operated off naval ship decks that have helicopter landing facility.  The UAVs will be used for surveillance, targeting and intelligence gathering, using a combination infrared optical sensor and lasers. The Navy can also use this for search and rescue operations. Another use will be to carry a common data link and serve as a radio and data relay platform between ships at sea and ground stations.

 The unrest in Kashmir Blame failures at the political level
by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd )  It was the winter of 1963 when the holy relic at the Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar went missing. News spread like wildfire and a huge crowd assembled in Srinagar town. A police station, tehsil headquarters and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed’s hotel, then under construction, were set on fire. The fire-fighting vehicles that were called to the scene were also attacked. Then the military’s fire-fighting vehicles accompanied by a fully armed platoon were sent to the area. The civil administration simply panicked and handed over the city of Srinagar to the Army.  The Army moved two of its battalions from Baramullah and made them camp at the centre of the town. The 300-odd vehicles which had only recently returned from Ladakh were moved at midnight towards Baramullah and then brought back at day-break, giving the impression that the whole division had been moved to Srinagar.  While crowds continued to gather in the town for the next couple of days, no untoward incident took place. Troops with their officers were out day and night to show their presence and appeared determined to take firm action to deal with any mischief. Till then the military’s presence had a salutary effect on the mobs, which unfortunately has been eroded due to its excessive use for such tasks. Since then much water has flowed down the Jhelum; the political scene, too, has undergone a sea change; crowds have become more restive, and hardliners multiplied. Politics in the valley has become of the very base variety.  There is no apparent reason or rationale for the present turmoil in the valley. There is a functional government, as caring and efficient as any in the country. Unemployment is a permanent feature all across India, more in many other parts of the country. Employment opportunities everywhere have not been able to keep pace with population explosion. Two decades of violence is not the state’s doing but that of Pakistan and the hardliner separatists. Frustration in the ranks of the political parties now out of power and others who stoke fires of discontent at every turn of events, aided and abetted by Pakistan, is the primary cause of the ongoing trouble.  In crowd control, when all other means fail and fire has to be opened as a last resort, the governing principal is to shoot to incapacitate, not to kill. How then has the police and the CRPF been shooting to kill? This form of fire has been leading to a cascading cycle of protests and more killings. Police officers who should be there to ensure that policemen exercise restrain are not to be seen and have left the field to hawaldars and inspectors.  Intelligence agencies, whose performance has invariably been poor, failed to gather information concerning stone pelting, a new form of protest involving young men and others behind this nefarious activity. There are reports of regular payments having been made to stone-pelters. It is likely that quite a few killings are the result of fire from terrorists hiding in the surrounding buildings. Ingenious are the ways of mischief-makers.  While India has poured hundreds of millions of rupees into the state and is continuing with the practice, most of it has been finding its way into corrupt pockets and the balance mainly deployed in the valley. Thus, people below poverty line in the valley are only 4 to 5 per cent. There has been complete political freedom, and free and fair elections have been regularly held.  Yet thousands have died at the hands of terrorists. Fathers of both Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Sajjad Lone were murdered by terrorists. Mehbooba Mufti’s sister was kidnapped, and her rescue in exchange for the release of some terrorists was the starting point of the turmoil in the valley. Yet they have never uttered a word against the terrorists and insurgents. It is only the security forces who are the whipping boys for them.  Those of us who have spent many years in J and K, both at the grassroots level and among higher echelons, have maintained that there are no moderates in the valley. On August 13, after the Friday prayers, the Mirwaiz realised that it was an opportune moment to take off the moderate mask and declared that he wanted no financial package, no jobs, no autonomy and no Indian military, but only “azadi”!  Farooq Kathwari, a US-based Indian, was invited to India in 1999 to put forward his proposal for the “way forward”, thus indicating a change in the Indian strategic perspective. The Kathwari Plan pointed to a quasi-independent state, which eventually would have led to independent Greater Muslim Kashmir. The Regional Autonomy Report of the National Conference envisaged a division of the state along the same lines as General Musharraf did later on. However, such a proposal is incompatible with the secular character of India. That is why Article 370 remains a transitory provision.  Considering the stand taken by the desparate groups in the valley, no useful talks are possible. Nor can the sops being offered by the Prime Minister work. It is time New Delhi got real and dealt firmly with the situation. We have allowed this problem to simmer for too long.  The idea of open or soft borders in J and K is fraught with serious security implications, more so when the Americans pull out of Afghanistan and the Taliban regain their foothold in that country. Thereafter their focus, that of jihadi groups and the ISI will shift to J and K. Soft borders in J and K can only be considered when we have soft borders elsewhere with Pakistan. Equally, the proposal for greater autonomy or quasi-independence will have a domino effect elsewhere in India and may eventually lead to Balkanisation of the country: a long-term aim of some of our adversaries.  India has failed to draw the people of the valley into the national mainstream and this has been the principal failure at the political level. Article 370 has been the main stumbling block towards this assimilation. If hardliners and other anti-national elements do not give up their nefarious activities, then India must seriously consider abrogation of Article 370. The nation must show the resolve to bite the bullet and integrate the people of J and K into the national mainstream.  Attempts are on to water down the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The Army Chief has already expressed his views on the subject, and the others who have a long experience of counter-insurgency operations warn us that this watering down of the Act will render the military ineffective. We must keep in view the long-term implications of any step that we take.

Army gets the flood call but no maps!
Megha Mann Tribune News Service  Anandpur Sahib, August 22 In a smart move the administration on Sunday called in the Army to stand by, in case people are to be evacuated from areas, which it is feared, will be flooded by water released from the Bhakra-Nangal reservoir.  The 6, Sikh Regiment stationed at Chandimandir conducted a survey of the villages along the banks of the Satluj River in Anandpur Sahib today. But the team headed by Col HS Brar was handicapped by the absence of topographical maps and details of the river-bed. They did the next best thing and took extensive photographs of the river and adjoining areas so as to be able to study the topography in advance.  The team also assessed the requirement of boats and concluded that the countrymade, local boats made available by the administration may not be suitable for rescue operations. The Army, officials confirmed, would be using its own boats as and when they move in.  Meanwhile, the river water today spilled over to a few villages like Burj, Lodhipur, Chandpur Bela, Hariwal and Mehndi Kalan. By 1.30 pm on Sunday, the BBMP had released 61,000 cusecs of water, more than what was anticipated yesterday.  Water mainly skirted around the periphery of the villages but flowed into houses at Burj and Gajpur. At several other places the Satluj appeared to be eroding its banks.  Discarded and spare tyre and tubes are in great demand in the affected villages with villagers getting ready for the worst. The tyres would at least keep them afloat if the villages are flooded suddenly. While the administration has been making public announcements, asking people living on the river-bank to vacate their villages, most villagers have opted to stay back. Harbhajan Singh from Lodhipur articulated the sentiment. “How do I pick up all my belongings, the computer and almirahs etc. and move out ? Where do we go?”  Villagers blamed the administration for not doing enough to dredge the river-bed. Silt has made the river shallower than before, they alleged, creating flood-like situations.  At Nangal also, the river water on Sunday flooded around ten houses in Harsa Bela but the families preferred to remain in their flooded homes, rather than leave everything behind. They defied pleas made by the SDM, Lakhmir Singh, and the village sarpanch, who have been pleading with them to move out.  But though boats were sent for their evacuation, they refused to budge. Eventually a tehsildar managed to persuade villagers to allow the women, the children and the elderly to be evacuated. “Men stayed behind to look after the cattle,” the tehsildar told The Tribune.

Another corrupt Indian General bites the dust 
CHRISTINA Palmer, The Daily Mail’s New Delhi correspondent and the daily’s ace investigative reporter has unearthed details of another serving Indian Army’s three star General, facing the music on charges of corruption. The Daily Mail’s brilliant sleuth, who in the past has been hounded by authorities in the Indian capital for her snooping, and has an outstanding record of bringing to light revealing expos√©s of sterling importance has brought out that for the first time in the history of Indian armed forces, a serving Lieutenant General faces a court martial for his proved involvement in financial irregularities. Readers may recall Ms. Palmer’s earlier scoop in which she had revealed how a reluctant outgoing Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor was forced to act on the “advice” of Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony and order the court martial of his chief aide Lieutenant General Avadhesh Prakash for his involvement in a land scam in West Bengal’s Sukna cantonment. The outgoing Indian Army Chief had tried to brush the scandal under the carpet by ordering only disciplinary action. However the Defence Minister overturned General Deepak Kapoor’s ruling to take only administrative action. Lieutenant General Prakash was involved in the scam along with two other lieutenant generals and a major general. He was due to retire on January 31 and was the senior most of the four generals indicted in the multi-crore scam. Then Eastern Army Commander Lieutenant General V K Singh, the army chief designate, had recommended tough action against Lieutenant General Prakash and other accused officials on the basis of a Court of Inquiry which indicted them for issuing a no-objection certificate (NOC) for sale of the 71-acre land adjacent to Sukna military station in West Bengal’s Darjeeling. The other three generals indicted by the court of inquiry into the Sukna case, Lieutenant General P K Rath, Lieutenant General Ramesh Halgali and Major General P C Sen, were set to face `administrative action’, which can range from merely a censure to dismissal from service.  General V.K. Singh, the current Indian Army Chief, who as the Eastern Army Commander, had convened the Court of Inquiry on September 30, 2009, which finally came up with the conclusion that the generals involved in the Sukna case were proved guilty and recommended disciplinary action against them, was not satisfied with the climax of the case and thus has ordered the Court Martial. The former Commander of 33rd Corps of the Indian army, Lieutenant General P K Rath will now face a court martial starting August 30 for his role in issuing a no-objection, certificate to a private realtor for building an educational institution on a 70-acre piece of land adjacent to the Sukna military station in West Bengal. Indian Defence Ministry now has no option but move against its corrupt senior officers, whose sleaze and greed for pelf and self aggrandizement has caused severe damage to its reputation. India’s 1.13-million strong force has become rotten to the core with scandals of corruption, fraud and perfidy permeating through its pores. Numerous cases of fraudulently staging fake encounters to establish their false “gallantry” and earn promotions and medals, selling illegal liquor, land scams, and even prostitution has marred the fighting force. The rot that has set in is causing so much damage that the Indian Army now suffers from the highest rate of suicides and murder of senior officers by their subordinates. Serving Indian Army officers have been involved with extremist Hindu groups, sworn to carry out terror attacks, mass murder of Indian minorities like Muslims and Christians and create mayhem. Numerous case studies have been examined by psychological experts to stem the rot. However, the indiscipline, corruption and abuse of authority has reached such an abysmal state that the proponents of “mighty India” are seeing their dreams of becoming a major world power shattered by the very custodians of their power the Army because of its greed and voracious appetite for moral depravation.

Centre steps up Army deployment along China border
R Dutta Choudhury  GUWAHATI, Aug 22 – Following persistent demands from the Government of Arunachal Pradesh, the Centre has finally initiated steps for augmenting security measures along the international border with China and additional troops are being moved into the bordering areas, while, a battalion of the Arunachal Scouts has also been sanctioned.  Talking to The Assam Tribune, Member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh, Sanjoy Takam said that he, along with Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu met Prime Minister and the Defence Minister recently and discussed the situation on the ground. He said that the Government of India has sanctioned two additional divisions of the Army to be deployed in Arunachal Pradesh for improving vigil along the international border with China. One division of the Army consists of around 10,000 to 12,000 personnel.  The Government of Arunachal Pradesh has already finalized the plot of land for the Army to set up the new divisional bases and the land would be handed over soon. At present, one division of the Army with its headquarter in Tenga valley is looking after the international border, while, parts of the division based in Dinjan are also deployed in Arunachal Pradesh. The creation of the new divisions will more than double the strength of the Army along the Arunachal Pradesh-China border.  Sanjoy said that for years, the Government of Arunachal Pradesh has been demanding creation of Arunachal Scouts in lines of the Ladakh Scouts to improve vigil along the international border and the Government of India has sanctioned one battalion recently. He said that the recruitment rallies of the battalion of the Arunachal Scouts have started and 50 per cent of the posts of the battalion would be filled up with local youths and the remaining youths would be recruited from the rest of the country. The Government of Arunachal Pradesh has demanded that the youths of the North East should get preference in recruitments to be made from the rest of the country.  The personnel of the Arunachal Scouts would work along with the Army under the Ministry of Defence. The local youths are well aware of the ground situation and they are also well acclimatized with the adverse terrain to play their part in assisting the Army in manning the international border, Sanjoy pointed out and said that over the years, the personnel of the Ladakh Scouts did a commendable job in guarding the international border. He said that the Government of India also agreed to sanction a second battalion of the Arunachal Scouts comprising 70 per cent of locals immediately after the recruitment and training of the first battalion is completed.  In addition to that, the Centre has also accepted the demand for building of airstrips in forward positions and seven such airstrips are being constructed in strategic locations.  The Government of Arunachal Pradesh has also demanded that the Government should construct a road all along the McMahon Line to improve vigil and to facilitate movement of troops all along the international border, but the Government of India is yet to act on that.  The Government of India has sanctioned a Rs 24,000 crore trans Arunachal highway but the construction of the same is yet to start, said Sanjoy.  Hydropower projects: Commenting on the recent controversy over the decision of the Government of Arunachal Pradesh for construction of a number of hydropower projects, Sanjoy said that the issues like seismic vulnerability, environmental issues etc would be taken care of while constructing the hydro power projects. He claimed that majority of the projects would be run of the river ones and mega dams would not be constructed. The people of Assam should not be apprehensive of the projects and in fact the projects would benefit Assam, he claimed.  The Member of Parliament said that parts of Arunachal Pradesh were facing food scarcity because of the failure of the Food Corporation of India to clear the dues of the contractors and there have been instances when the State Government was forced to airlift essential items. He said that the matter has already been taken up with the Prime Minister and following his directive, the Centre has convened a high level meeting on August 26 to resolve the issue.

'An Indian gun will bypass difficult trials'
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi August 23, 2010, 0:43 IST  With the Indian Army’s procurement of 155-millimetre towed artillery guns stymied again by CBI strictures against five international artillery vendors, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has pointed out that developing an Indian gun will bypass the problematic selection of a gun from the global arms market.  Business Standard has reported (July 29, “155 mm gun purchase: DRDO enters the fray”) that DRDO is joining hands with a private sector company to develop and manufacture an Indian gun. Now, DRDO Director General V K Saraswat has explained the rationale for the DRDO decision. He says that, amongst the foreign guns on offer, there is no clear winner. And given the cutthroat nature of competition for this Rs 8,000-crore contract for 1,580 guns, a drumbeat of corruption allegations will keep derailing any decision.  Saraswat told Business Standard, “The differences (between competing guns) are minuscule and people would like to exploit those minuscule differences… and (the defence ministry’s) life becomes more difficult. The (acquisition) process is today back to zero. This is not the first time it has come to zero; this has happened before… So, it is better to develop your own system.”  The purchase of artillery guns, the Indian Army’s most crucial component of combat power, was stalled for 16 years by the Bofors scandal of 1987. Restarted in 2003, the procurement process has remained dogged by scandals. Over the years, the CBI has asked the defence ministry to blacklist five of the vendors whose guns India was evaluating for purchase: Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK); German giant, Rheinmetall; Israel Military Industries (IMI); another Israeli gun-maker, Soltam; and South African major, Denel. BAE Systems, a front-runner in this race, is offering the FH-77B-05 howitzer, a modernised version of the controversial Bofors gun.  “The armed forces felt that this gun system can always be acquired abroad, so why should DRDO spend time and effort (on developing the gun)?” asks Saraswat. “We too thought it better to focus our efforts on (technologies that could be denied to us). But now, Indian industry and DRDO, along with the Army, should make a concentrated effort to cut this Gordian knot.”  Business Standard has learned that the DRDO laboratory that will spearhead the development of an Indian 155 mm gun — the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune — is finalising its development partners for this project.  This will not be the first time that an Indian consortium will have come together to develop an artillery gun. In the 1950s, the so-called Gun Development Team was constituted by the defence ministry. Functioning from the Ordnance Factory at Khamaria, the Gun Development team oversaw the “Indianisation” of two of the Indian Army’s most successful artillery guns: the 75/24 howitzer; and the 105-mm Indian Field Gun. Inexplicably, this successful experiment was wound up around the time that the Bofors FH-77B gun was imported.  Since those early days, says the DRDO chief, the Indian private sector has dramatically honed its manufacturing skills.

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