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Monday, 24 January 2011

From Today's Papers - 24 Jan 2011

The cancer is spreading Lt-Gen Rath pays for his impropriety 
The Indian Army deserves to be complimented for acting speedily and effectively against a serving Lt-General for an act of impropriety. A specially constituted general court martial comprising seven Lt-Generals has found Lt-General P.K. Rath guilty of intending to defraud the force by issuing a no-objection certificate ‘improperly and without authority’; of signing a memorandum with a private realtor to reserve seats in educational institutions for wards of army officers; and of not informing the higher authorities about the land transfer. For these misdemeanours, the court martial has ordered two-year seniority loss, 15 years of loss of service for pension and has handed out a severe reprimand.  The incident pertains to the time when Lt-Gen Rath, who now holds the dubious distinction of becoming the highest ranking officer in the Army’s post-Independence history to be indicted by a court martial, was commanding the Siliguri-based 33 Corps in West Bengal and was designated to take over as one of the two deputy chiefs of army staff before his chief of staff at the corps headquarters, a major general, blew the whistle on him leading to the court martial. It, however, also brings to the fore a number of issues which reflect poorly on the Army’s internal health. First, Lt-Gen Rath almost got away as the previous Chief of Army Staff had displayed considerable reluctance to take action. The court martial was eventually ordered at the behest of Defence Minister A.K. Antony. Next, the incident serves as a grim reminder to the growing incidence of corruption involving senior army officers that has regularly been making news in the past decade. Action is now expected to be taken against another Lt-General, who incidentally held the critical post of military secretary, and was entrusted with postings and transfers of the army’s officer corps.  On the positive side, the court martial reflects that the justice system within the Army is much swifter compared to the practice prevalent in the civilian domain. It also reflects positively on the professional and apolitical character of the Indian military and the fact that the armed forces remain steadfastly subservient to civilian control. 

China factor in East Asia India being sought as a balancer
by Harsh V. Pant  In a sign of new significance that India is attaching to its ties with Southeast Asia, it will be hosting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyona at its Republic Day celebrations. It was 60 years back that then Indonesian President Sukarno was the chief guest at India’s first Republic Day function in 1950. This visit is intended to give a boost to India’s “Look East” policy, underscoring the need for greater integration and deeper engagement between India and East Asia in trade and other strategic sectors. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who had travelled to Japan and Malaysia for bilateral visits and to Vietnam for the 8th ASEAN-India Summit last November, has made it clear that his government’s foreign policy priority will be East and Southeast Asia, which are poised for sustained growth in the 21st century.  This is a time of great turmoil in the Asian strategic landscape and India is trying to make itself relevant to the countries in the region. A two-week standoff between Japan and China over a boat collision shows the communist state is adopting a more aggressive stance against rivals and US allies in Asia, and there may be more tension to come. With its political and economic rise, Beijing has started dictating the boundaries of acceptable behaviour to its neighbours, thereby laying bare the costs of great power politics. The US and its allies have already started re-assessing their regional strategies and a loose anti-China balancing coalition has started emerging.  Both Tokyo and New Delhi have made an effort in recent years to put Indo-Japanese ties in high gear. The rise of China in the Asia-Pacific and beyond has fundamentally altered the strategic calculus of India and Japan, forcing them to rethink their attitudes towards each other. India’s booming economy is making it an attractive trading and business partner for Japan as the latter tries to get itself out of its long years of economic stagnation. Japan is also re-assessing its role as a security provider in the region and beyond, and of all its neighbours, India seems most willing to acknowledge Japan’s centrality in shaping the evolving Asia-Pacific security architecture. Moreover, a new generation of political leaders in India and Japan are viewing each other differently, breaking from past policies, thereby changing the trajectory of India-Japan relations.  New Delhi’s relations with Tokyo have come a long way since May 1998 when a chill had set in after India’s nuclear tests with Japan imposing sanctions and suspending its Overseas Development Assistance. Since then, however, the changing strategic milieu in the Asia-Pacific has brought the two countries together so much so that the last visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Japan resulted in the unfolding of a roadmap to transform a low-key relationship into a major strategic partnership. The rise of China is a major factor in the evolution of Indo-Japanese ties as is the US attempt to build India into a major balancer in the region. Both India and Japan are well aware of China’s not-so-subtle attempts at preventing their rise. An India-Japan civil nuclear pact would be critical in signalling that they would like to build a partnership to bring stability to the region at a time when China is going all out to reward Pakistan with civilian nuclear reactors, putting the entire non-proliferation regime in jeopardy.  The talks on the civilian nuclear pact, however, seem to be going nowhere at the moment with the two sides merely agreeing to speed up talks. Japan continues to insist that India must sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) whereas India has no intention of doing so given its long-standing concerns regarding the discriminatory nature of these treaties. Meanwhile, the new liability law in India could make greater civilian nuclear cooperation between Japan and India more difficult to accomplish.  Trade was also the focus of the Prime Minister’s visit to Malaysia. Making a strong pitch for greater Malaysian investment in India, Dr Manmohan Singh and his Malaysian counterpart signed an array of agreements aimed at galvanising bilateral economic cooperation and liberalising their respective investment regimes to facilitate greater foreign direct investment into each other’s territory. Security partnership between the two is also being strengthened with the decision to explore the possibilities of collaborative projects in the defence sector and enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism through information sharing and the establishment of a Joint Working Group.  In Hanoi, India made a strong case for its growing relevance in the East Asian regional security and economic architecture at the 8th ASEAN-India Summit where the focus was on enhancing the integration of the East Asian region with India. India’s Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN signed last year committed New Delhi to bringing down import tariffs on 80 per cent of the commodities it traded with ASEAN. This allows India to challenge China’s growing penetration of East Asia and prevent India’s growing marginalisation in the world’s most economically dynamic region.  After signing a free trade pact in goods, India and ASEAN are now engaged in talks to widen the agreement to include services and investments. India hopes to increase its $44-billion trade with ASEAN to $50 billion by next year. Indonesia remains a key factor in India’s Look-East policy and it has played a major role in enhancing India’s ties with ASEAN. By giving the Indonesian President the honour of being the chief guest at the Republic Day function, India is underlining the need for greater India-Indonesia cooperation in the years to come.  India is pursuing an ambitious policy in East Asia aimed at increasing its regional profile more significantly than before. China’s presence is already changing the regional landscape and smaller states in the region are now looking to India to act as a balancer in view of China’s growing prowess and America’s likely retrenchment from the region in the near future. It remains to be seen if India can indeed live up to the full potential of its own possibilities in the region.n

UAVs, snipers secure Delhi for R-Day 
New Delhi, January 23 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) scanning through the capital, snipers on rooftops and armed personnel at “every inch” form the ground-to-air security apparatus for the Republic Day celebrations here on Wednesday.  Already under a hawk-eye vigil for the event to be attended by the top political and military leadership of the country, the security establishment has fine-tuned its mechanism to ensure that the function goes without any untoward incident. Around 35,000 police personnel, including 15,000 from paramilitary forces and elite National Security Guards (NSG) will fan across the city in the run-up to the celebrations, which will also be attended by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.  A senior security official said UAVs of the Air Force would be deployed for surveillance besides the usual deployment of helicopters. “The UAVs will not only keep an eye on the parade route but entire Delhi,” the official said.  The airspace over the capital will remain closed for an hour tomorrow and Wednesday from 11.15 am to 12.15 pm for fly-past. The airspace remains closed for all flight operations between 11.15 am and 12.15 pm every year on January 23, 24 and January 26 for Republic Day celebrations.  Mobile hit teams, anti-aircraft guns and sharpshooters of the NSG will be deployed at various places while paramilitary and Delhi Police commandos will keep a close watch along the route of the eight-kilometre long Republic Day parade from Raisana Hills to Red Fort.  Snipers will be deployed at high-rise buildings while around 100 CCTVs will keep a tight vigil on people’s movement between Rajpath and Red Fort, the route of the parade which showcases India's military might and cultural diversity. A multi-layer security ring has already been put in place at Rajpath, where President Pratibha Patil will unfurl the Tricolour and take the salute of marching contingents.  “A special emphasis is being laid on anti-sabotage checks, access control measures and intelligence coordination. The entire route of the parade will be covered by special security and anti-terror arrangements. Elaborate air defence measures, including deployment of anti-aircraft guns, have also been taken to check intrusion of air space,” a senior police official said. Besides the air defence measures, helicopters of the Indian Air Force will hover around Rajpath and all along the route of the parade.  Patrolling in crowded market areas has been intensified and checking and frisking in Metro, railway stations and bus terminals tightened. Security at the IGI Airport was also strengthened in coordination with the CISF.  Checking and frisking have also been intensified at all entry points with police setting up barricades to keep a vigil on all those entering the capital. All property dealers and second-hand car dealers have been asked to furnish details about their recent deals and pass on information especially about customers from outside the state. Cyber cafe owners have been directed to maintain the records of all e-mail users.  No vehicles will be allowed to ply on the Rajpath from 6 pm on January 25 while vehicular movement will be affected on Tilak Marg, Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, Netaji Subhash Marg upto Red Fort from 4 am the next day. — PTI

Consider retired Lt Gen for elevation as medical chief, says AFT
Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, January 23 In an unprecedented order, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has directed the Central Government to consider a retired Lieutenant-General for elevation to the rank of the Director-General Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS). The tribunal has also quashed the appointment orders of the present incumbent.  Lieut-Gen Pradeep Bhargava had challenged the expunging of remarks in the annual confidential report of another officer, Lieut-Gen Naresh Kumar, that led to the latter stealing a march over his seniority. Terming the manner in which the remarks were expunged as “unfair” and “malafide”, General Bhargava had contended that the remarks pertained to the period when General Naresh was a Brigadier and he got them expunged at a belated stage. Till the time they were not expunged, Bhargava was the senior-most medical officer.  “The selection criterion is seniority-cum-fitness,” his counsel, Jyoti Singh said. “With the redressal granted by the tribunal, Gen Bhargava becomes the senior-most officer and if the selection board finds no adverse reports against him, he would, in all likelihood, become the DGAFMS,” she claimed.  A few months ago, the tribunal had directed the government to consider a retired major general for promotion after allowing his petition. “The Defence Ministry is directed to consider the case of Lieut-Gen Bhargava along with other eligible candidates in accordance with law without expunging of remarks of Lieut-Gen Kumar in the rank of Brigadier in 2005,” the tribunal’s Bench comprising Justice AK Mathur and Lieut-Gen ML Naidu ordered.

Major suspected of spying, Army probes
Bhartesh Singh Thakur Posted online: Mon Jan 24 2011, 01:32 hrs Chandigarh : A court of Inquiry has been ordered against an Indian Army Major by the Western Command Headquarters, on the suspicion that he may be involved in espionage.  An officer in the armoured regiment, which is currently based in Roorkee (Uttar Pradesh), he has allegedly been seen in the company of foreign women in various cantonment areas.  2 Corps, Ambala, will conduct the CoI against the Major. The Western Command has sent a team to Roorkee, and his computer and mobile phone have been seized.  When contacted, Defence Public Relations Officer refused to comment.  Sources said the Army has photographs and video recordings which show the officer taking a tour of the Chandimandir Military Cantonment, Subathu Cantonment and Ambala Cantonment with nationals of countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.  He allegedly kept in regular touch with his foreign associates and used multiple phone numbers, which were not subscribed under his name and were issued from Maharashtra. His phone details reportedly reveal that he used to call up foreign countries very frequently and sent messages.  For a few days in August, his phone was allegedly found to be diverted to a Nepal number. Later, the Western Command had reportedly traced some SMSes sent from his mobile to a woman in Nepal.  Currently posted in Roorkee, the Major has served in Ladakh and Mau.  Army personnel are not allowed to have contact with foreign nationals (unless they are relatives) or visit aboard without prior permission.

Self-reliance, on the wings of Tejas
The Tejas, like the Godavari class of ships and Arjun tanks, is also an ideal platform to effectively engage the more efficient private sector Borderline | W Pal Sidhu In the story of India’s indigenous defence capability, there has been a perennial debate between the self-sufficient swadeshis and the self-reliant pragmatists. The former argue that to fly the national flag, every nut and bolt of a weapon system should be made in India. The latter assert that it is more important for the aircraft to fly, the ship to sail and the tank to move even if it uses some foreign components. The pragmatist’s assertion took flight and was strongly endorsed when India’s light combat aircraft, Tejas, attained its initial operational clearance last fortnight. Though the world’s smallest multi-role aircraft has an American engine, carries Russian and Israeli missiles, is fitted with a British ejection seat and several other foreign subsystems, there is no contest that it is an Indian-designed and fabricated weapon system. It follows in the tradition of the navy’s highly successful Godavari class frigates and the army’s more troublesome Arjun main battle tank. The progress of these weapon systems will also determine the future prospects of India’s indigenous defence capabilities. Though the Tejas is still a long way from attaining full operational status and being inducted into active duty with the air force, it already has great potential to benefit India’s security, economy and even foreign policy. In the area of security and defence, Tejas has gone a long way in building India’s self-reliance momentum, particularly in the field of aviation, which was lost in the long hiatus following the first indigenous fighter aircraft, the HF-24 Marut, built in the 1960s. The experience with Tejas is critical for absorbing the technology likely to come with the impending purchase of advanced foreign fighter aircraft, and might also pave the way for indigenous design and development of the next generation of fighters. It is not inconceivable that when the air force goes shopping for a stealth aircraft, an Indian designed and built aircraft might be among the contenders. On the economic front, the Tejas experience has the potential to provide defence production a much-needed fillip. Though much has been made of the huge investment of around $3 billion and the 25-year time frame to develop the Tejas, it is comparable to the $2 billion price tag for the development of the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen (the closest rival to the Tejas), which took about 15 years to enter service. This was despite Sweden having consistently designed and built jet aircraft since at least the 1950s. The Tejas, like the Godavari class of ships and Arjun tanks, is also an ideal platform to effectively engage the more efficient private sector and to enhance the limited design, development and production capacity of public sector undertakings. Perhaps the biggest economic potential of the indigenous weapon systems is their unutilized export prospects. Given the economies of scale, such exports, especially to countries willing to pay for a lucrative production and service package that India might be able to offer, have two advantages. They can subsidize the cost of development for India’s Armed Forces, and also generate investment for design and development of future systems. Here, too, the engagement and expertise of the private sector would be an advantage. This is evident in the way foreign aircraft manufacturers are aggressively pushing even their outdated technology to bid for the huge Indian order of 126 combat aircraft. Indigenous weapon systems such as the Tejas could also become an important foreign policy tool were they to be used to build the capacity of friendly states and to tie these states closer to India. For instance, India (perhaps in partnership with the US) might consider equipping Afghanistan with the Tejas class of aircraft in the future. Clearly, Tejas has flown the Indian flag; now it should be kept unfurled. W Pal Sidhu is senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation, New York University. He writes on strategic affairs every fortnight.

Four soldiers injured in Punjab explosion
2011-01-23 19:00:00 Vista Ludhiana, Jan 23 (IANS) Four Indian Army soldiers were injured when an explosive they were carrying to a dump to defuse exploded Sunday morning, officials said.  According to defence officials, the injured soldiers were immediately moved to a nearby hospital for treatment. Three were discharged after first aid but one soldier was referred to a hospital in Jalandhar city.  'Four of our jawans were injured in the explosion. Three were discharged from the hospital after first aid whereas Sepoy F.D. Khan was referred to a hospital in Jalandhar for better treatment. Khan sustained injuries on his jaw and he was facing difficulty in speaking,' Lt. Col. Vinod Bhat, officer commanding 202 (bomb disposal unit), who was leading this operation, told reporters here.  The operation to defuse munitions, called 'Operation Saiyam' (patience), was started by the army Nov 10 last year to destroy around 17,000 munitions of unknown origin.  The blast took place when one of the soldiers was carrying an explosive towards the dumping area where it was to be demolished with other munitions.  'The blast took place while he was carrying it in his hand. The jawans are being treated,' an army source said.  Authorities had discovered the dangerous scrap at the dry port in Punjab's industrial hub Ludhiana, 110 km from Chandigarh, in 2004 but it took them nearly six years to start the process of destroying it.  The demolition operation, the biggest one of its kind undertaken by the army, was to be completed in three months.

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