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Saturday, 31 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 31 Dec 2011
Defence Ministry rejects Army Chief’s plea on age
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, December 30 Rejecting the Army chief General VK Singh’s statutory complaint seeking an amendment to his date of birth, the Ministry of Defence has made it clear that it would not disturb the status quo at this stage. General VK Singh retires in five months from now - in May 2012. The Army Chief has the option of a legal recourse.  The opinion of the ministry has been conveyed to Defence Minister AK Antony who will then forward the same to the Army chief, sources said tonight.  In August, General VK Singh had filed a 500-page statutory complaint with the Defence Minister seeking a re-examination of his date of birth. The Army Chief in his complaint had asked the minister take a decision on his date of birth purely on the basis of merit and available evidence.  The compliant was the consequence of an order issued by the ministry on July 22. It declared that the year of General Singh’s birth was 1950 and not 1951 as he had claimed.  The ministry in its latest decision has attached the observations of Attorney General GE Vahanvati on the issue. The Attorney General had said there could be no change in Army chief’s date of birth.  He had opined that the chief’s complaint filed under the Army Act was not maintainable. The matriculation certificate could not be the sole basis changing date of birth at this stage.  The controversy on VK Singh’s age surfaced in 2008 when he was considered for appointment as the Eastern Army Commander. The Adjutant General's branch - the official record keeper for salary and pension - has been following 1951 as Singh’s DoB, while the Military Secretary branch, which looks after promotions and postings, shows it as 1950.
Was robbed during Army operation: Assam trader
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS  Guwahati, December 30 A ‘counter-insurgency’ operation by the Army at the home of a businessman in Assam’s Jorhat city has landed the force in a soup with the police registering a case of robbery.  Surajit Gogoi alias Poona Gogoi, a former ULFA militant who surrendered in 1992 and started his own business, complained that 10 to 12 persons armed with sophisticated weapons arrived in a Maruti Gypsy and a Tata Indica and barged into Surajit Gogoi’s house on December 20 midnight. They took away three mobile handsets, a licensed .32 pistol, a passport, Rs 1.5 lakh in cash and other valuables, as per the case registered in the Jorhat police station (case no. 922/2011).  Gogoi also complained that the gang tied up his wife, two teenaged sons and a daughter and locked them up in one room and forcibly took away the items in his absence.  The Army has no jurisdiction to conduct counter-insurgency operations in Jorhat, Golaghat and Guwahati metropolitan districts without informing the local police.  The Jorhat police found out that one Sandeep Thapa, a havildar in the Army’s Intelligence Surveillance Unit under the 3 Corps headquartered at Rangapahar in Dimapur (Nagaland), had called up Gogoi’s parents in Himachal Pradesh at least twice from one of the three stolen mobile phones (no. 9706060977).  After the police probe, the Army issued a statement that it had indeed carried out an “intelligence-based operation” in Jorhat on December 20-21 “based on initial information forwarded by the police”, but the same did not go “as per norms”.  The Army said it was in close contact with the Jorhat police and was extending all cooperation to the inquiry. The Army also started an internal inquiry into the incident. It allowed the Jorhat police interrogate Havildar Sandeep Thapa.  Thapa named a few more Army personnel involved in the operation at Gogoi’s residence. The police team has recovered some items taken away by Army personnel. However, gold ornaments, Rs 1.5 lakh and .32 licensed pistol taken away by the “robbers’, as per the FIR, were yet to be recovered.
All five battle sites offend Anglo-Sikh War memory
Prabhjot Singh/TNS Garbage strewn in front of one of the memorials to the Garbage strewn in front of one of the memorials to the Anglo-Sikh wars at Misriwal village in Ferozepur    Ferozepur, December 30 Surrounded by heaps of garbage, cow dung and vegetative growth stands a memorial commemorating one of the Anglo-Sikh Wars fought in this area. Located in Misriwal village, it was recently renovated under a Central government-funded scheme for restoring dignity to all Anglo-Sikh War Memorials in the state.  There are five such memorials - Ferozeshah, Mudki, Saragarhi, Sabraon, Misriwal - and none is in any better shape. Central funds, however, helped raise new boundary walls, besides some urgent renovation work. The debris from the repairs, however, has not been cleared. The recently-renovated war memorial at Mudki The recently-renovated war memorial at Mudki. Tribune photos  The Misriwal War Memorial is a classic case of neglect. There is no approach road to the site that is 20 m off the main road. Unless one knows the way, it is impossible to locate the complex, as there is no indicator on the main road. A neon-lit signboard that greets visitors is blank, awaiting a brief write-up on the history. Other memorials too do not have such information.  The 10-foot-high brick-lime structure, even after renovation, is in a shambles in the absence of any attendant. A storm water gulley lies uncovered.  Further down the road is the famous Mudki War Memorial, which again is undergoing renovation. In the absence of any literature, and the information board being blank, a visitor is at a loss here too regarding the significance of the monument.  Unlike the other memorials, the Mudki memorial has been provided with accommodation for a full-time attendant. The huge triangular minar that symbolises triumph of the British over the Sikhs in the historic Anglo-Sikh War is often ignored by the Sikhs, says the attendant, Sukhdev Singh, for “Sikhs believe it symbolises their defeat at the hands of the British.” The monument was raised in 1870, almost 25 years after the war.  He adds: “Sikhs think the memorial was in fact built by the British to remind them of their defeat. They, thus, pay tributes to the Sikh soldiers at a gurdwara in Mudki raised in their memory. Outside the gurdwara, the history of the war is written, where the treachery of some Sikh generals that led to the defeat is highlighted. The gurdwara memorial also pays tributes to the valour and courage of the Sikh army that fought gallantly despite being outnumbered.”  Sukhdev suggests the government should post the complete history even at the memorial raised by the British and organise visits for students to all war memorials.  The Mudki memorial, however, does not have connectivity problems. It is situated on the main road and the tall monument is visible from a distance.  The Mudki gurdwara memorial had come up on a piece of land donated by a tehsildar, Bachittar Singh, in 1930. The “Nishan Sahib” that was initially 51 ft, is today 111 ft high. A mela is organised there in the Bikrami month of Poh. The gurdwara now also houses a degree college for girls and an English-medium school.  The Ferozeshah War Memorial too looks dilapidated despite the renovation. Located on a piece of land adjoining the village gurdwara, it now has a boundary wall and a gate. But in the absence of an attendant or information on the memorial, there is hardly any visitor.  The triangular memorial minar here too is as high as Mudki, but the limestone bearing the name and year of the Ferozeshah battle lies shattered.  The war memorial at Sabraon too is in similar shape.  At Saragrahi, there is only a gurdwara to commemorate the valour and sacrifice of the Sikh soldiers.  Director, Cultural Affairs, Karamjit Singh Sra said: “We are trying to work out a plan so that tourists and those interested in Sikh history could get a complete package of all war memorials and war museums in the state. Since I have also been named Director, Tourism, we will soon do something to address the problem.”
RWITC writes to Antony over Army fencing off a plot
Pune Members of Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) have written to Union Defence Minister A K Antony against the Local Military Authorities (LMA) action of fencing off a roadside open space, opposite RWITC, and causing inconvenience to its members.  A letter dated December 27, drafted by Advocate N K Bhog, RWITC member, and signed by 50 members, reads that the open space is being used by the public to park their vehicles during the day. The LMA had apparently fenced the road about eight days ago.  “The station commander has fenced off the portion with a no parking board for civilians. This is a clear abuse of authority by the Pune Cantonment Board president, who is supposed to ensure proper traffic management in the Cantonment. We emphatically state that the said portion of land is of no specific use for any Army activity,” the strongly worded letter reads.  Spread over 111 acres, the land was leased to RWITC by the defence authorities through a deed in 1907.  The serving officers of the Indian Army who get posted to Pune get service membership at the club. However there has been an ongoing dispute over the memberships given to retired officers.  “Over 300 ex-servicemen have been offered the membership of the club at Rs 10,000 against the actual membership fees of Rs 7.5 lakh. The Army is taking revenge for not increasing the number of memberships to retired officers,” said Satish Maneshinde, member, RWITC.  In an official reply, HQ, Southern Command said, “An attempt is being made by RWITC Pune to grab 65 acres of defence land, costing over Rs 1,000 crore. The Club is aided by Mr Srinivasan retired DGDE( Director General Defence Estate), who was the original architect of Adarsh building.”  “The Club has violated several Cantonment by laws. Presently, Southern Command is also in the process of auditing all its land holdings and strict action will be taken against any violations. Army has only taken control of its assets to avoid illegal claim by RWITC,” he added.
Government no to army chief plea for DoB change
India looks set to get a new army chief in the new year. The defence ministry has rejected army chief Gen VK Singh's statutory complaint to change his date of birth (DoB) from May 10, 1950 to May 10, 1951. Under the circumstances, Singh will retire in May on turning 62.  A statutory complaint is a provision extended to army personnel that requires the ministry to reply to the issues raised by them within 90 days.  The controversy - first reported by HT - arose in May 2006, when two different DoBs for Singh were detected in the records of the MS branch (1950) and those of the adjutant general (1951), the army's record-keeper. The MS branch is responsible for the promotions and postings of army personnel.
The army chief's application form for admission to country's premier defence training school the National Defence Academy has 1950 as his year of birth, but the year is 1951 in his matriculation certificate.  Four former chief justices have given opinion in support of Singh's claim. The law ministry has rejected his plea thrice.  Had it been accepted, the army chief would have got 10 more months in office. Eastern army commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh will be the top contender to replace Gen VK Singh.  A public interest litigation on the age issue is pending before the Supreme Court. Gen Singh has the option of approaching either the apex court or the Armed Forces Tribunal.
PLA delegation in India, Army team to visit China in Jan
New Delhi, Dec 28 (PTI) As part of confidence building measures (CBMs), a 29-member Chinese army delegation undertook a four-day visit of India which will reciprocate by sending an army team led by a Major General next month.  "A 29-member Chinese army delegation was on a four-day visit here as part of annual defence exchanges between the two countries," sources told PTI here today.  The Chinese delegation held talks with their Indian counterparts here and then proceeded to Agra to see the functioning of the parachute units deployed there, they said, adding the team left for Beijing today.  The two countries had decided to enhance defence exchanges as part of CBMs during their Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) held earlier this month.  The Indian team under a Maj Gen will visit military facilities in China from January 10-13 and interact with their Chinese counterparts, they said.  The decision to exchange these delegations was taken by the two countries before the ADD held on December 9.  India and China have exchanged three military delegations this year after India broke the ice by sending a delegation under a Major General in June.  During the talks, India also proposed to set up a Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) venue along Uttarakhand-Himachal Pradesh stretch of the Sino-Indian border as part of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between the two countries.  So far, the two sides hold meetings at regular intervals at three such facilities in Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.  The need for such a facility was felt as there is no such venue in the central sector of the 4,057-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries.  The proposal is being considered by the Chinese.

Friday, 30 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 30 Dec 2011
Anglo-Sikh War Memorial in a battle for survival
Ferozepur, December 29 It is not only Guru Teg Bahadur Memorial Museum in the holy city of Sri Anandpur Sahib that is in a state of neglect, the only Anglo-Sikh War Museum at Ferozeshah, 30 km from here, also seems to have been confined to history.  The iron tripod bearing plaques that announce the mute testimony to the Anglo-Sikh wars fought at Ferozeshah, Sabraon, Misriwala and Mudki has rusted beyond recognition. Written in Punjabi, Hindi and English, it is a dedication of the museum to the nation by the late Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi "in the presence of Punjab Chief Minister Giani Zail Singh" on April 11, 1976.  The state of neglect is despite the Rs 85 lakh spent last year by the Punjab Heritage Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB) on its renovation under a Centrally-funded scheme for "revitalisation" of Anglo-Sikh battle sites in the state. The work was undertaken by Lime Centre, New Delhi.  Both Guru Teg Bahadur Museum and Anglo-Sikh War Museum are under the administrative control of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Inadequacy of maintenance funds, shortage of staff, and lack of basic amenities at the sprawling complex are cited among the reasons for its neglect. This is in contrast to the SAD-BJP government having spent lavishly on raising new memorials to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, Chhotta Ghallughara and Wada Ghallughara, inviting charges of adopting a "religious agenda" on the eve of Assembly elections.  Broken glass panes have turned the artistically designed double-storey memorial into a convenient nesting site not only for birds but also nasty brown wasps. The foundation stone too tells the tale of official apathy towards the building located on the Ludhiana-Ferozepur highway.  Some rare artefacts, including weapons, were stolen from the museum a few years ago. These have not been recovered thus far, though a police case was registered.  Till last year, the museum bore the look of a haunted place, with thick vegetative growth blocking not only its entrance but nearly the entire building. Fountains on the 4.5-acre complex had become dysfunctional. Cannons on display at the entrance rested on decaying wooden mounts and broken wheels. A visit by the then Deputy Commissioner of Ferozepur had led to the repair of cannon mounts as well as the sanction of a tubewell connection.  A new kitchen and dining hall were constructed on the premises six months ago, but the facility to serve visitors has yet to be put to use. Sources said the department had not been able to decide who would run the canteen. While the new structure has been built at a huge cost, no money has still been spared for the maintenance and upkeep of the main museum.  Paintings of Maharani Jinda, Sham Singh Attariwala, Faquir Azizudin, Dewan Mool Chand, Lord Hardinge, Lord Gough and Lord Dalhousie — main characters related to the two sides of the war — besides battle scenes, adorn the walls of the museum. However, the display would hardly enthuse a visitor, for the dilapidated or broken pieces of furniture lying in the exhibition hall hit the eye the first. Almost all paintings on display have been done by Kirpal Singh and Devinder Singh. The artefacts on display, including some weapons of historical importance, too are crying for attention.  Director of Cultural Affairs and Tourism Karamjit Singh Sra says there is a need for a "composite plan" for the upkeep of museums and memorials, without which some museums, including one at Sangrur, may be headed for closure.  "But we are working out plans to attract more visitors, by ensuring they get an informative glimpse of the history and rich heritage of the state in general, and Sikhs in particular," he says. Guided tours and arranging connectivity of the museum with nearby towns is among the proposals.
US to sell $30 billion of Boeing F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia  
Honolulu:  The Obama administration has finalized the sale of $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, boosting the military strength of a key US ally in the Middle East to help counter Iran.  Under the terms of the agreement, the US will send Saudi Arabia 84 new fighter jets and upgrades for 70 more.  The White House says the fighter jets will be manufactured by Boeing, and will support more than 50,000 US jobs.  The fighter jet sale is part of a larger 10-year, $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. It also includes helicopters, a broad array of missiles, bombs and delivery systems, as well as radar warning systems and night-vision goggles.  White House officials announced the deal from Hawaii, where President Barack Obama is vacationing.
Queues throng day two of army mela in Margao
MARGAO: The second day of the three-day 'Know Your Army Mela' at Ravanfond, Margao, on Thursday enthralled locals and tourists alike, while chief minister Digambar Kamat praised the armed forces for their role in nation-building.  Organized to showcase the capabilities of the Indian Army to the people of Goa, the mela had some exciting adventure activities such as colourful motorcycle stunts, a dog & horse show, skydiving slithering, martial arts and band displays, besides a display of various weapons and equipment.  Commenting on how happy he was that the mela was being organized in Margao after so many years, Kamat said that Goa would always be grateful to the army for 'Operation Vijay' that earned the state liberation 50 years ago.  "I am happy that this event is taking place on the golden jubilee anniversary of Goa's liberation and I am sure that the public, especially youngsters, will be properly educated and become aware about the importance of the armed forces," said Kamat during his keynote address.  Before proceeding to review the weapons and equipment on display, Kamat distributed scooters to disabled soldiers and felicitated the family members of army martyrs. The highlights of the exhibition are the BMP tanks, bofors guns, radars, anti-tank missiles and grenade launchers.  Queues of people kept the mela busy throughout the day and the young and old could not hide their fascination with the impressive machinery and just "getting a feel of army life".  "The entire event was very informative but the tanks in particular were impressive," said Arkin Diniz, a tourist from Mumbai. Others, however, wanted more out of the event.  Dylan Marques from the UK said, "If the key purpose was to attract youngsters to join the army, then that was a bit lost. It could have been more engaging, more encouraging and there could have been more stalls with pictures and banners offering an insight into the everyday life of a soldier," said Marques, who is on a holiday in Goa and attended the event with his family.  The exhibition also reached out to ex-servicemen to update them on various post-retirement issues. Day three of the mela will have a display of martial arts such as Taekwando, Kalaripayattu (ancient martial art of Southern India practised in Kerala) and will close at 5pm.
We respect Kashmiris' concerns: Army
SRINAGAR: The Indian Army respects human rights and fully understands sensitivities of people in Kashmir, a top officer said on Thursday.  Lieutenant General KT Parnaik, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Indian Army's Northern Command, visited the Line of Control (LOC) Thursday to review the security arrangements.  He was accompanied by Lieutenant General SA Hasnain, GOC of the Srinagar-based Chinar corps.  Parnaik also interacted with troops deployed in the LOC in the Baramulla sector.  "The army commander complimented all troops for their outstanding vigilance and state of preparedness throughout 2011. He also conveyed his appreciation for the manner in which the troops have respected all human right norms and ensured full understanding of the sensitivities of the awam (people)," a defence ministry press release here said.
India Plans Huge Investments In Defense Modernization
By Jay Menon NEW DELHI  The Indian government has plans to make big investments in modernizing different sectors of the country's armed forces.  "Now it is time to modernize, upgrade all the defense PSUs [public sector units] and ordinance factory boards," says M.M. Pallam Raju, minister of state for defense.  Raju says the government is investing a "lot of money and effort" to promote these facilities, which the country has developed over a period of time with "great tenacity." He says the amount of investment is going up and could be more than $945 billion [50 trillion rupees] as per security needs over next five years. The defense ministry is working toward parallel encouragement of the private sector to attain the goal, he says  "Unfortunately, as far as the army is concerned, we have been suffering because of cancellation of tenders due to black-listing of companies," Raju says. "There is a quest to modernize our artillery, so we hope that in the next couple of years we will make significant progress."  The government is also taking the issue of self-reliance seriously in the context of manufacturing artillery.  Forecasts for the Indian defense market are numerous and varied, but most project massive growth, especially compared to western markets. According to one forecast for 2011-2016 by iCD Research, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for all Indian defense expenditures is expected to rise to 13.08%. And while the country is eager to build its domestic industry, India remains one the world's largest importers of military hardware, relying on imports to fulfill 70% of its defense requirements, according to the November report.
India gets indigenous bomb disposal unit
PUNE, India, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The Indian army's corps of engineers has taken delivery of the first six indigenously made, remotely operated vehicles designed for bomb disposal.  In 2009 the army ordered 20 of the ROV Daksh from the Defense Research and Development Organization, the government's main military equipment developer, a report by The Times of India said.  The Daksh has been designed and is being manufactured by a consortium of public and private sector businesses, led by the DRDO's robotics group at the Research and Development Establishment laboratories in Pune. Other companies include Tata Motors, Dynalog India, Theta Controls and Bharat Electronics.  "We will hand over the remaining 14 units of the order in a year's time," S. Sundaresh, DRDO's chief controller of armament combat engineering, said at a news conference following the handover to the army.  "The ROVs will be deployed in the northern and eastern command areas of the army and, based on the feedback, the DRDO will develop a further improvised variant called Daksh Mk-I," Sundaresh said.  Alok Mukherjee, head of robotics at Research and Development Establishment, said a basic ROV bought from the United Kingdom in 2002 cost around $335 million whereas the basic Daksh costs about $188 million. Around 90 percent of the machine is made in India.  "But the R&DE is providing added features including an X-ray investigation system and a mounted gun and the entire package costs $329 million," Mukherjee said.  Rakesh Bassi, director general of combat engineers, took delivery of the battery-powered and wheeled Daksh. He also monitored the field trials of Daksh at the military base in Nagrota in Jammu and Kashmir state in 2008.  "The army sought modifications in the ROV, like an additional camera in the rear, a cordless operating system and a carrier vehicle suitable for all-terrain operations. All these have been met by the R&DE," he said.  It was in the early 1990s when the Indian army started to think about using ROVs "following instances of indiscriminate use of (improvised explosive devises) by terrorists and anti-nationals. We had to acquire 45 such vehicles from the United Kingdom, while the DRDO was asked to develop the ROVs," he said.  The ROV includes a mounted shotgun to shoot open locks on doors and other objects. The X-ray system locates the bomb and the vehicle's gripper arm will handle the bomb to safely dispose of it. Operational distance is more than 1,500 feet in line of sight from the controller.  It also has a radio frequency shield that when turned on jams incoming remote signals sent by a terrorist operator of the bomb or from an automatic sender that would trigger the bomb.  Read more:
2011: Age controversy, court martial issues stung defence sector
New Delhi The age controversy involving Army Chief Gen V K Singh, court martial of three Lt Gen-rank officers in different scams, eviction of US companies from air force's combat aircraft deal and face-off between Indian and Pakistan navies in high seas marked the year 2011 for the Defence Ministry.  The successful launch of Agni-4 missile, dismissal of a senior navy officer in a honey-trap case and Islamabad's prompt return of an army chopper also made headlines.  The issuing of Initial Operational Clearance to the indigenous LCA Tejas in January turned out to be the biggest disappointment of the year and the IAF chief later said this was not the final clearance and the aircraft would have to undergo more tests to reach the milestone.  The raging controversy over Gen Singh's age started when the army on basis of an RTI application changed his date of birth from May 10, 1950 to May 10, 1951, which would have given him an extra 10 months in office.  Later, the Defence Ministry stepped in and on basis of two opinions from the Attorney General, on July 21 decided that May 10, 1950 will only be considered as Gen Singh's date of birth as he had agreed on it in written undertakings.  Soon after the ministry order, Gen Singh filed a statutory complaint with Defence Minister A K Antony against the government decision to treat May 10, 1950 as his date of birth, thus becoming the first chief of the 1.2 million-strong Army to do so.  A few weeks later, Antony said Singh's date of birth is May 10, 1950 and he will have to retire on May 31 next year.  The Sukna land scam continued to remain in limelight as former Military Secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash and former 33 Corps Commander Lt Gen P K Rath, indicted by a court of inquiry (CoI), were punished by respective court martials.  While Prakash was recommended to be dismissed by the Army court, Rath was given a sentence for loss of 15 years of service along with loss of two years of seniority.  The case had come to light in late 2009 after a CoI was ordered to look into the issuing of a no-objection certificate (NOC) to private builders for constructing an educational institution.  Lt Gen S K Sahni was also ordered to be cashiered from service by a court martial in Jalandhar for his role in the ration scam.  Tensions rose high when an army chopper with four crew strayed into Pakistan in November along the Ladakh region but their prompt return by Islamabad in less than eight hours turned into a CBM between the two countries.  On modernisation front, the Army despite its Chief's commitment failed to induct any artillery gun as all proposals in this regard remained stuck due to one reason or the other.  The IAF got a new head in Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne in August.  The year began on a good note for the service with the induction of its first C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the US but the last quarter saw a number of vintage MiG 21s along with other frontline aircraft crashing.  The biggest worry for the IAF came in form of crash of a Su-30MKI over Pune on December 13 after which the fleet of 130 such aircraft was temporarily-grounded.  Resuming its operations, ACM Browne undertook a one-hour sortie in the aircraft in Pune to assure the nation and the IAF about the immense capabilities of the Russian-origin air superiority aircraft.  The eviction of two US aircraft firms -- Boeing and Lockheed Martin -- from last lap of air force's multi-billion dollar combat aircraft deal also hogged headlines.  The Defence Ministry excluded them along with Russian MiG and Swedish Saab from the multi-role combat aircraft (M-MRCA) deal in April and shortlisted European EADS Cassidian and French Dassault Aviation for procuring the warplanes.  Commercial bids of the two companies were opened on November 4.  The IAF also signed a deal worth USD 2.1 billion to upgrade its fleet of 51 Mirage 2000 aircraft with French companies. First two aircraft have already reached France for the purpose.  DRDO tasted success in its efforts to develop long-range weapon systems for the Armed Forces after with the successful test-firing of nuclear-capable Agni-4 early this month.  The premier defence research agency is now working to launch the country into elite club of nations with Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and is expected to test fire the over 5,000 km-range Agni-5 early next year.  The DRDO also for the first time launched the tactical 150 km-range Prahaar missile. Several successful test-firings of the Prithvi, Agni-2 and Shourya missiles were also carried out during the year by the Service.  The navy continued to do well in the filed of anti-piracy operations through out the year and foiled several piracy attempts in both Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.  In February, the Defence Minister issued orders for the dismissal of Commodore Sukhjinder Singh, who was found guilty of having relations with a Russian woman during his posting in Moscow to look after Admiral Gorshkov programme.  On the India-Pakistan front, a face-off between warships of the two navies in high seas raised tensions followed by series of complaints by the two sides.  The videos of the face-off showing the PNS Babur brushing the Indian Naval Ship Godavari and damaging it during an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden were a hit on the Internet.  Defence ties with China saw a slight improvement with both sides exchanging high-level military delegations and the resumption of Annual Defence Dialogue this year.  The Armed Forces were busy strengthening their positions along the Chinese boundary with the deployment of aircraft such as the Su-30MKI and the reactivation of airfields in that region.
PAC smells scam in army canteens after audit denial   Read more at:
A parliamentary panel has come down heavily on the army for not allowing audit of the unit-run canteens (URCs) while taking serious note of malpractices in ration supply for the troops.  The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which had gone into the findings of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) highlighting that the jawans were being fed food items past the expiry date, has given wide-ranging recommendations to streamline the supply chain management of rations in the Indian Army.  But the decision to not allow the URC audit was fiercely defended by army chief General V.K. Singh when he, along with senior defence ministry officials, appeared before the committee. There are 3,600 URCs in the country with a turnover of over Rs.8,500 crore.  The committee said it was "dismayed" to note that the audit was denied access to the URC records by the army headquarters in spite of repeated requests on the ground that the canteens were being run from a nonpublic fund.  The panel stated that the army resisted attempts to get the URCs audited overlooking the defence ministry's directions. "We fail to understand how the URC audit will be so intrusive as to have an adverse impact on troop morale," it added. PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi said these facilities, running on government land and by government employees, should be audited. All the three services had opposed the move.  The PAC also claimed that the ration supply chain was in a mess after the CAG highlighted several discrepancies in the system and cartelisation of suppliers. The committee backed the CAG findings, saying 74 per cent of fresh vegetables and fruits issued were not in accordance with the prescribed norms. The troops were being supplied food items even after their expiry date.  The panel expressed surprise that these dry rations were consumed by troops even six to 28 months after the expiry date.   Read more at:
Research on to develop lighter battle tanks
CHENNAI: Research is underway at the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop light weight tanks for the Indian Army, said S D Dimri, Director General, Ordnance Factories, here on Wednesday.  He was speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory (AHVF).  Addressing mediapersons on the upcoming developments, he said the technology to destroy anti-tank missiles had been bought from Russia and the same, to be introduced soon, would be upgraded to suit the needs of the Indian tanks.� "The present tanks weigh around 45-60 tonnes. Technological superiority is increasingly going to be the decisive factor in future battles. The prediction is that future tanks would weigh less than 30 tonnes, mak- ing them light enough to� fly in fleets of C-130 transports, land on dirt strips,� and roll off ready to fight," Dimri said.  "The production of equipment at the Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory works out to 25 per cent and this translates to production of� ` 2,600-crore worth equipment per year, whereas the total amount of equipment produced through all ordnance factories is `12,000 crore. Two more ordnance factories will come up in Nalanda (Bihar) and in Korba (Chattisgarh)," he added.  MC Bansal, Additional Director General, Indian Ordnance Factories, and MSN Rao, General Manager, AHVF, were also present.
MoD asks chief secy to put to rest Annandale transfer campaign
Upset over a signature campaign by some citizens and voluntary groups owing allegiance to Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) for transferring the historic Annandale ground to the state government, the Ministry of Defence has written to the state's chief secretary to put the ongoing "propaganda" to rest. Currently, the ground is in possession of the Army though the lease expired in 1992.  Highly placed sources told The Indian Express that the ministry in its letter dated December 3, 2011, told Chief Secretary Rajwant Sandhu to take steps before the campaign blows out of proportion.  The transfer of Annandale ground has been a bone of contention between the Army and the state government for several years with Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal taking it up with the then defence minister George Fernandes in 1998-99.  But the Army has maintained that it needs to retain the ground for strategic needs.
Two months ago, BJP MP and HPCA chief Anurag Thakur had sought people's support for transfer of the ground to the state government to build a stadium of international standards. This had triggered a public campaign with the Shimla district unit of HPCA starting a signature campaign by visiting schools and other public institutions.  "We have already collected 96,000 signatures. The target is to get 1 lakh signatures and submit a memorandum to the governor for taking up the issue with Union defence minister," said HPCA spokesman Mohit Sood.  But the signature campaign has not gone down well with the Ministry of Defence. In its letter bearing Do-No 22(5)/2011/D-GS-III dt 03,12,2011, the ministry claimed that the ground was of high importance for national security and it's use for the purpose of operations can't be undermined.  "Any change in the status of the ground will create serious impediments for Army helicopter operations, especially medium and heavy, flying from here. There will also be security implications for continued presence of civil and defence precincts, which is not desirable," wrote Additional Secretary (Defence) A K Bishnoi.  Sources in the government confirmed they have received the letter. "Even earlier, we have received some letters from the Central government rejecting the state's demand for transfer of Annandale ground," an official said. But the defence ministry feels its significance has been undermined. "It is used to conduct military maneouvers and mock exercises. But the biggest significance is that it is close to the international borders with China," said a defence ministry personnel.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 29 Dec 2011

India to soon get Russian nuclear submarines
Moscow, December 28 Indian Navy is set to receive a major boost when the much-awaited Russian 'Nerpa' nuclear attack submarine would join its fleet "in the next few days" on a 10-year lease worth $920 million.  The Akula-II class Nerpa nuclear submarine has finished sea trials and is now ready to be leased to the Indian Navy in the next few days.  "The submarine is now fully ready to carry out its tasks," a senior executive at the Amur Shipyard, where the submarine was built, was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.  "It will be handed over before the end of the year," the unnamed official said.  The submarine, capable of remaining underwater for months, will be rechristened 'INS Chakra'. It will be for the first time in more than two decades that the Indian Navy will have a nuclear attack submarine.  When Russia makes the delivery, it will make India only the sixth operator of nuclear submarines in the world, the report said.  The 10-year lease is worth $920 million, it said.  The Nerpa, an Akula II-class attack submarine, had originally been scheduled for delivery in 2008 but an accident during sea trials on November 8 that year forced the Russian authorities to put it on hold.  Twenty people, mostly civilians, were killed when a fire-suppressant gas was released on the Nerpa during shakedown trials, in one of Russia's worst naval accidents.  The Akula-II class submarines are equipped with 28 nuclear-capable cruise missiles with a striking range of 3,000 km. The Indian version is reportedly expected to be armed with the 300-km club nuclear-capable missiles. — PTI
Japan hints at exporting arms tech to India
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, December 28 In a significant departure from its long-standing policy, Japan today said it was not insisting on India signing the CTBT as a prerequisite for nuclear cooperation between the two countries and indicated it was open to hold talks with New Delhi on exporting military technology to India.  Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda today held wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on bilateral issues as well as international developments.  The prospects of reviving civil nuclear cooperation figured prominently in talks between the two PMs, official sources said.  A joint communiqué issued at the end of talks between them said the two PMs decided to enhance the earlier bilateral currency swap arrangement from $ 3 to 15 billion. They hoped that this enhancement would further strengthen financial cooperation, contribute to ensuring financial market stability and further develop growing economic and trade ties between the two countries.  Manmohan Singh said the two countries have also begun negotiations have begun on a social security agreement, and would hold t he first ministerial level economic dialogue in 2012.  He said he had discussed with Noda the possibility of a new Chennai - Bengaluru Industrial Corridor project in south India, where many Japanese firms have invested. Japan has also offered India high speed rail technology for India’s passenger networks.  The two PMs indicated that their two countries would soon revive negotiations on the civil nuclear cooperation accord. “As part of our energy cooperation, we reviewed the ongoing discussions on furthering civil nuclear cooperation between our countries. These are moving in the right direction.” Singh said.  Addressing a lecture organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs, Noda indicated that the civil nuclear talks with India would be revived soon and hoped "mutually acceptable results" would be achieved. He, however, urged New Delhi to understand Japan's position on disarmament and maintain its moratorium on testing.  "I am paying close attention to the progress of the agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. At the working level, discussions have proceeded. I welcome this progress," the Japanese Prime Minister said.  India and Japan have already held three round of civil nuclear negotiations, but the talks stalled after the March 11 Fukushima radiation disaster, fuelling security concerns in that country.  Earlier this afternoon, a spokesman for the Japanese PM told Indian journalists that Japan was not seeking any commitment from India on signing the CTBT for resuming the talks over a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. India, he said, has already announced its commitment to moratorium on further testing at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and Tokyo was confident that New Delhi would abide by its promise. The spokesman also responded to questions on Tokyo ’s decision yesterday to lift the 40-year-old ban on the export of military technology. Asked if Tokyo could now export its sophisticated weapons technology to India too, he said, “We don’t want proliferation…under very strict guidelines, we have decided to export military technology to friendly countries.”  About the recent trilateral dialogue in Washington involving India , Japan and the US which drew sharp criticism from China , the spokesman said the meeting was not aimed against specific country but to identify areas in which the three countries could cooperate.
Lokpal bill okayed, CBI can’t grill Indian Army
WorldNewsCorner: In a major development, Indian Parliament has approved Lokpal bill.  Only two MPs didn’t attend the session, according to an Indian TV.  Under the approved bill, the armed forces of India cannot be held accountable by government-controlled Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).  Opposition parties boycotted the vosting session, while there were 247 votes for and 178 against the bill.  India s prime minister earlier warned opponents of the key anti-graft bill that they risked unleashing “chaos and anarchy” as he sought to push the divisive legislation through parliament on Tuesday.  Premier Manmohan Singh spoke during a heated debate on the draft law, which was branded too weak by opposition parties and veteran activist Anna Hazare who launched a hunger strike Tuesday to demand the bill be redrafted.  Parliament was convened for a special three-day session devoted to the new legislation which would create an independent “Lokpal” or ombudsman to probe corruption among senior politicians and civil servants.  The main points of contention focus on the ambit of the ombudsman s office and its powers of investigation.  The government bill offers only limited jurisdiction over the prime minister and requires the ombudsman to put any criminal probes in the hands of the government-controlled Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).  Hazare and a number of opposition parties want the ombudsman s office to have its own, independent investigative team.  But Singh insisted that such a move would be tantamount to creating a separate, unelected executive that was unaccountable to parliament or the Indian people. –Agencies
Drunk ex-army man shoots at driver
In an apparent case of road rage, a 42-year-old retired Naik Subedar from the Indian Army fired at a truck driver for not giving way near ESI Hospital in Rajouri Garden around 9.45pm on Tuesday. Police said the bullet, however, did not hit the driver. The accused has been arrested.  The ex-army man, identified as Ranvir Singh Malik, was allegedly under the influence of liquor when he fired at the truck driver. Malik was returning home in the Delhi Cantonment area after attending a party in Punjabi Bagh, police said.  V Renganathan, additional commissioner of police (west), said they were alerted by a PCR call. Malik was overpowered by two traffic police personnel deployed near the Raja Garden Marble market.  "The truck driver, Khalid, had approached the traffic police personnel to tell them that a man in an Alto car had fired at him. In the meantime, the said driver also arrived there and stepped out of his vehicle with a pistol in his hand. He was immediately overpowered by the policemen," said Renganathan.  The police recovered a licensed pistol with a bullet inside from the car of the accused. On asking, the man identified himself as Ranvir Singh Malik, an ex-serviceman. Meanwhile, truck driver Khalid told the police that he was driving towards Mewat in Haryana, a senior police officer said.  Renganathan said, “Near ESI hospital in Rajouri Garden, the accused ex-armyman signalled Khalid to stop his truck but the latter did not. A few metres ahead, Malik forced the truck to stop by stopping his car in front of the truck. He then came out of his car and fired a bullet on Khalid. Luckily, the bullet did not hit him."  Police said when questioned Malik told the police officers that he got enraged when Khalid did not give him way on the road.
PLA delegation in India, Army team to visit China in Jan
New Delhi, Dec 28 (PTI) As part of confidence building measures (CBMs), a 29-member Chinese army delegation undertook a four-day visit of India which will reciprocate by sending an army team led by a Major General next month. "A 29-member Chinese army delegation was on a four-day visit here as part of annual defence exchanges between the two countries," sources told PTI here today. The Chinese delegation held talks with their Indian counterparts here and then proceeded to Agra to see the functioning of the parachute units deployed there, they said, adding the team left for Beijing today. The two countries had decided to enhance defence exchanges as part of CBMs during their Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) held earlier this month. The Indian team under a Maj Gen will visit military facilities in China from January 10-13 and interact with their Chinese counterparts, they said. The decision to exchange these delegations was taken by the two countries before the ADD held on December 9. India and China have exchanged three military delegations this year after India broke the ice by sending a delegation under a Major General in June. During the talks, India also proposed to set up a Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) venue along Uttarakhand-Himachal Pradesh stretch of the Sino-Indian border as part of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between the two countries. So far, the two sides hold meetings at regular intervals at three such facilities in Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. The need for such a facility was felt as there is no such venue in the central sector of the 4,057-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries. The proposal is being considered by the Chinese.
Chinese army continues foreign exchanges
BEIJING - The Chinese defense department and army will actively carry out exchanges and communication with foreign countries next year, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said here Wednesday.  This year's military exchanges and cooperation with foreign countries were conducted in a comprehensive, multi-faceted and multi-level way, and positively contributed to China's diplomacy and the modernization of its armed forces, Yang said at a press conference.  He said China's military diplomacy enjoys an active, pragmatic and efficient momentum and sees frequent high-level contacts with foreign countries.  According to Yang, China in 2011 received more than 50 major foreign military delegations.  China also held defense consultations and security talks with eleven countries this year, including Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Germany, the United States and India.  In 2011, China's armed forces conducted eight joint drills or training with the army from countries such as Indonesia, Belarus and Venezuela, and carried out emergency rescue and relief work in seven countries, including Japan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Thailand, he said.  Yang said this year the Chinese army actively took part in dialogue within multi-lateral frameworks, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization  The Chinese army also participated in a UN peacekeeping operation, escort mission in the Gulf of Aden, and sent a naval hospital ship for a four-country Latin American visit, he added.
PAC Slams Army for Denying CAG Access to URCs' A/Cs
A Parliamentary committee today slammed the Army for "denying access" to auditors to look into the accounts of the Unit Run Canteens (URCs) having an annual turnover of over Rs.8,500 crore even ignoring Defence Ministry's directions in this regard.  There are 3,600 URCs in the country which are the retail sellers of consumer goods provided to them by the Canteen Stores Department (CSD).  The Comptroller and Auditor General has been seeking to audit accounts of the URCs on grounds that the CSD transfers money from the consolidated fund of India in the form of qualitative discounts.  This has been opposed by the armed forces claiming that URCs are run by non-public fund.  "The Committee is dismayed to note that Audit was denied access to records of the URCs by the Army Headquarters in spite of repeated requests on ground that URCs are regimental units and are being run from non-public fund.  "What is more intriguing is the fact that such denial was made despite directions of the Defence Ministry to make records of the URCs available for audit," the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said in its report tabled today.  On the argument of armed forces that audit of URCs will have an impact on morale of troops, the PAC said, "We fail to understand how auditing of URCs would be so intrusive as to have an adverse impact on the morale of troops."  Addressing a press conference, PAC Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi said CSD and URCs have reached a turnover of Rs 8,500 crore in 2008-09 and "these funds have to be audited" as these facilities are built on Government land and employ government officials.  He said appearing before the PAC, the three Services had opposed and expressed reservations about the audit of URC accounts but have now agreed to it.  The three Services Chiefs had reservations over appearing before PAC but they were directed by the Defence Ministry to do so, he said.  Noting an "apparent and inherent contradiction" in the statement made by the three Services that they provide welfare measures for the troops with the money they get from the URCs, the Committee said it was "burdening troops to self-contribute for their own welfare."  "The Committee fails to understand what restraints the Services have to come before Parliament to get requisite funds for welfare of jawans," Joshi said.  "The Committee is confident that no organ of the state would have objection if necessary and adequate funds for welfare of our gallant soldiers are sanctioned," the report said.  The PAC noted that finances of the CSD were brought under ambit of audit from April 1, 1977 but "surprisingly and for no cogent reasons, the URCs continued to be treated as private regimental institutions outside parliamentary control".  The PAC said, to depict the entire organisation operation of the CSD, "it is imperative that the URCs follow uniform accounting principles and their operational results are disclosed in proforma accounts of the CSD".  "The Committee is of the considered view that an assessment of the overall functioning of URCs by the CAG is of paramount importance and therefore must be subject to statutory audit," it noted.


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