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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

From Today's Papers - 08 Feb 2011

Pak: NIA team can’t quiz 26/11 masterminds Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, February 7 In yet another attempt to delay the probe into the Mumbai attacks, Islamabad has refused permission to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to visit the neighbouring country to interrogate the plotters of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.  India was informed in a communiqué by Islamabad that the laws of Pakistan did not permit a probe by any foreign agency, official sources said.  Islamabad’s refusal came even as the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan were discussing in Thimphu ways to revive the stalled dialogue process.
War widow was getting Rs. 70 a month as pension  Press Trust of India, Updated: February 07, 2011 21:18 IST Ads by Google  All about Pension Plans – Get quotes from 9 insurance cos Evaluate benefits and premiums  New Delhi:  The Centre today told the Supreme Court that the monthly pension of a 90-year old war widow has been enhanced to Rs. 18,000 from a pittance Rs. 70 and a proper mechanism is being evolved to address the grievances of ex-service personnel at their "doorsteps".      The widow Pushpavanthi, through counsel Ramesh Haritas, had earlier complained that she was getting Rs. 70 as family pension on behalf of her late husband Major Dharam Chand who died in 1967 at the age of 42.      Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium told a bench of justices Markandeya Katju and B S Chauhan that the government was fully concerned with the welfare of the armed forces and greatly valued their contribution to the nation.      The counsel said the government had enhanced Pushpavanthi's pension to Rs. 18,000 after she moved the apex court.      * Share this on     * NDTVTwitter     * NDTVNDTV Social     * Share with MessengerLive Messenger     * NDTVGmail Buzz     * NDTVPrint       He told the bench that there was no need at the moment for setting up any separate commission to address the problems of ex-servicemen as the defence department has separate welfare wings at the district level to tackle the grievances.      The court had earlier mooted the idea of a separate commission to deal with the service-related problems of army personnel both serving and retired as courts were flooded with such complaints.  The Solicitor General said the government was in the process of formulating a suitable mechanism to ensure that the grievances of the ex-servicemen are addressed at their doorsteps instead of compelling them to visit the headquarters for the same.
'India cautiously optimistic on talks with Pak' Press Trust of India / Thimphu February 7, 2011, 10:56 IST  India is "cautiously optimistic" on charting a way forward in the dialogue process with Pakistan and would like to see the process to mature keeping in view ground realities, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said today.  "We had a good meeting, useful meeting. We were able to discuss a number of issues of relevance with the (Indo-Pak) relationship," Rao told reporters here, a day after meeting her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.  She said her discussions with Bashir were not dominated by any one issue.  "We talked about the (dialogue) process and charting the way forward, what the best modalities would be," she said.  "All in all it was a useful meeting," Rao said, adding that both the sides had adopted an open and "constructive attitude." "I'm satisfied."  Asked about the next step, she said, "we need to wait and see."  "We have to wait for this process to mature. We should be optimistic, cautiously optimistic because there are many issues that remain to be resolved," she said.  Pointing out that the nature of India-Pakistan relationship had been complex, Rao said, "we have to remain realistic. We should be aware of the realities."  She emphasised the need for a "vision" for the future of the relationship and noted that this was the feeling of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  Bashir, she said, had told her that his government also was committed to taking forward the dialogue process on outstanding issues in a constructive way.  Rao and Bashir had met for about 90 minutes last night and agreed that positive and cordial relations were in mutual interest of both the countries and they needed to work in this direction.  Later, a common press statement was issued by both sides which said that the two Foreign Secretaries had met in pursuance of the mandate given by their Prime Ministers following their meeting in Thimphu in April, 2010 and the meeting of the Foreign Ministers in July last year in Islamabad and carry that process forward.  The two sides had agreed on the need for a constructive dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues.
Bid to muddle gay case futile OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT Not on board  New Delhi, Feb. 7: The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a petition that requested it to hear out the defence forces before deciding on the legality of Section 377 that allows sex between consenting adults, including same-gender intercourse.  The petition, filed by astrologer Suresh Kumar Koushal, said upholding the Delhi High Court ruling on Section 377 would encourage sexual activity in the forces where the majority of soldiers are “forced to stay away from their families” and are “deprived” of sex.  “The majority of the population (in the armed forces) is permitted leave to go home only once or twice a year and while on duty it is not practically possible for them to enjoy family life. And thus they are deprived from enjoying sexual life for a considerable period of time…. If homosexuality is legalised… in the situation in which these personnel operate, widespread misuse of such sexual activities is apprehended,” the petition said.  The bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly, however, did not entertain the plea, saying it would decide on the matter later. The bench then posted another plea, filed by several anti-gay groups and individuals against the Delhi High Court order, for hearing on April 19.  The defence forces are governed by the army act, the air force act and the navy act, which has laws different from those governing civilians.  Koushal argued that under the army act and the air force act, homosexuality is a crime that invites court martial, so it would be incongruous to let the offence be a crime in the armed forces when it was legal everywhere in the country.  If the top court were to take the view that Section 377 violated the fundamental rights of a section of citizens, the defence forces could not be permitted to court martial their men on the ground that such a provision existed in their own laws, the petition added.  Koushal cited media reports in which unnamed army officers had expressed fears about the ruling’s impact on the forces. The unnamed army sources were reported to have said the law would lead to instances of sexual harassment in the army and adversely affect discipline.
Eurocopter bets on India Shilpa Phadnis, TNN, Feb 8, 2011, 01.59am IST BANGALORE: Eurocopter, a division of aerospace and defence company EADS, is betting big on the civil helicopter market in Asia, especially India, as two of its key markets-North America and Europe-are yet to fly out of turbulence.  The company estimates that the demand for helicopters in India will double to 500 in the next 5 years, led by India's burgeoning offshore oil and gas exploration market, corporate and utility segments. The helicopter maker has sold 34 Dauphins in India and a majority of these 12-seater choppers operate in the oil and gas sector. It also plans to introduce EC145 that is configured for offshore transportation.  "We are looking at entering new segments like helicopter emergency medical services, disaster management and law enforcement. We have an ambitious plan to sell 150 helicopters in Asia this year," said Eurocopter India CEO Marie-Agnes Veve. Chopper companies like Sikorsky and Avicopter are also looking at Asia to lift their sales. A Honeywell survey predicts a 26% decline in five-year helicopter purchase plan in North America and 40% decline in Europe. Though the Indian helicopter market is growing at 20% annually, infrastructure is posing a challenge. "Our operators and clients need more helipads," Veve said.  On the military side, Eurocopter is fielding its Fennec helicopter for a bid called by the army and Indian Air Force. The government plans to induct 197 light utility helicopters into the air force fleet.  The helicopter maker is also looking at setting up an engineering centre in Bangalore and planning to sign contracts with various companies for manufacturing helicopter components. The company is also installing a flight simulator in India as a part of its strategy to provide technical assistance and training.
SC dismisses plea to implead armed forces on homosexuality  The Supreme Court on Monday refused to implead the armed forces in the case on the contentious issue of decriminalisation of homosexual acts between two consenting adults in private.  A bench of justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly dismissed the plea by one Suresh Kumar Koushal, a city astrologer, who submitted that the defence forces should be made a party to the matter in view of the fact that they have always opposed decriminalisation of homosexual behaviour.  The petitioner submitted that it is imperative to hear the stand of the Defence Forces as the Army chief had openly expressed his opinion against homosexual behaviour and had said that such behaviour would not be allowed in the forces.  He contended the armed forces be impleaded in the case as their stand is contrary to the judgement of the  Delhi High Court, which had legalised gay sex among consenting adults.  "The Army Chief in 2009 has stated that in the forces homosexuality is deemed indecent and unnatural behaviour and can lead to court martial," the petition said.  It said the Army chief had gone to the extent of saying that "no armed forces in the world has legalised homosexuality as in an institution like this it can have adverse consequences".  "Though the armed forces laws does not mention homosexuality but it is illegal under the Army Act and the Air Force Act which deal with disgraceful and indecent conduct," the petitioner said while pleading that Defence Forces be asked to file their response as their stand is contradictory to the Delhi High Court's verdict which had decriminalised gay sex.  The apex court, however, was not convinced and dismissed his application.  The court said it would allow all parties who have approached the court to present their case as the issue is important and fixed the matter for further hearing to April 19.  The Delhi High Court had on July 2, 2009, declared the penal provision, Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, as unconstitutional in case of gay sex among consenting adults in private. As per the Section 377 of the IPC, gay sex is a criminal offence punishable with up to life imprisonment.  Around 15 individuals and organisations from different fields have approached the apex court supporting or opposing the path-breaking verdict which had sparked off a controversy.  Several political, social and religious organisations have asked the Supreme Court to give the final verdict on the issue.  Senior BJP leader B P Singhal, who had opposed the high court's verdict legalising the consensual gay sex in private, has challenged the verdict in the apex court saying such acts are illegal, immoral and against the ethos of Indian culture.  Religious organisations like All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Utkal Christian Council and Apostolic Churches Alliance have also opposed the High Court's verdict.  Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Right, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munn Kazhgam, astrologer Suresh Kumar Kaushal and yoga guru Ramdev have also opposed the verdict in the high court.  The parties opposing the high court verdict contended that homosexual acts, by all standards, were "unnatural" and could not be permitted.  The apex court had declined to stay the verdict and had said "any interim order against the high court verdict, if necessary, will be considered only after hearing the parties concerned".
Ajai Shukla: MoD's offset farce - notes for the CAG Ajai Shukla / New Delhi February 8, 2011, 0:30 IST  Defence Minister A K Antony’s apparent probity is set to naught by his dismal lack of judgement. In a heated internal debate on offsets that has polarised his ministry, Antony has backed a group of bureaucrats who argue exactly what foreign arms vendors have lobbied for since offsets were instituted in 2005. They agree that India’s nascent defence industry is incapable of executing the offset projects that would arise from our weapons purchases. Consequently, the 30 per cent plough back that foreign vendors were required to make into the Indian defence industry, on all contracts above Rs 300 crore, has now been permitted in civil aviation, internal security and aviation.  The foreign investment that offsets were to direct into the indigenous development and fabrication of high-tech radars, night-vision devices and missile seekers now seems headed for airliner seat upholstery and carpets; rubber panels for baggage claim conveyer belts; cabin crew training; and passenger management systems. All these are permissible under the MoD’s “liberalised” offset policy, promulgated last month.  Murdering the offset policy has not satisfied global arms vendors; they want it killed with retrospective effect. Currently, offsets relating to tenders that predate the neutered offset policy of 2011 must still be discharged within the defence industry. These include the multi-billion offset liabilities connected with the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA); the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft; and the P8I Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft (MMA). Now this coterie of MoD officials is pushing for the new policy to be applied with retrospective effect.  Also on their tables is another proposal that will delight foreign vendors: permitting transfer of technology (ToT) as an offset. This would be a true freebie, since India’s leverage as a massive arms buyer can ensure that ToT forms part of any deal. Besides, as the MoD knows well, an arbitrary price can be placed on most technologies.  The blinding illogic of these MoD decisions will surely be investigated someday, with questions raised over motivations, just as the 2G telecom scam is being probed today. So let us document how the MoD votes on the dilution of offsets. Supporting foreign vendors, and pooh-poohing CII’s and Ficci’s documented insistence that Indian Defence Inc can absorb offsets in full, are the officials who spend the defence capital budget on overseas procurements: the defence secretary and his acquisitions chief. Backing them firmly is the Indian Air Force — the biggest buyer of foreign weaponry. This group regards offsets as an inconvenient obstacle to overseas procurement, a perspective shared and warmly encouraged by global arms vendors.  Opposing this coterie, and urging that offsets be implemented within the defence industry, is a group with professional stakes in building up the Indian defence industry. This includes the department of defence production, backed by the indigenisation-conscious Indian Navy that has traditionally built its ships in India. The army watches and waits, realising the benefits of indigenous industry.  Highlighting the impatience of the IAF and the acquisitions wing with offsets is the indefensible clearance, in violation of multiple MoD rules, of Lockheed Martin’s $275 million offset proposal relating to its billion-dollar sale of C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. In what most investigators would consider a conspiracy, the IAF left out a C-130J training simulator from their list of requirements; well knowing that this would be required for mission training. Smartly exploiting that gap, Lockheed Martin offered, as an offset, a simulator at an exorbitantly inflated price. The acquisitions wing illegally granted them offset credit for doing so.  French company Thales is getting away with an equally farcical offset proposal relating to its supply of radars to the IAF. While sourcing the radar equipment from France, Thales is discharging its offset obligations by buying accommodation tents (including toilets, kitchens, air-conditioners and microwaves) from a Gurgaon-based company; and by purchasing motorcycles and vehicles for the radar crews. This is a travesty of what offsets were intended to be: a stimulant for domestic defence industry.  This is happening because Antony — normally an astute guardian of his reputation, but severely endangering it here — has failed to create within his ministry an organisation to evaluate and manage offsets. In the resulting vacuum, the acquisitions wing and the department of defence production have each tried to palm off to the other the responsibility for handling offsets. To bypass this passing-the-parcel within the ministry, Antony has been persuaded to pass on the parcel to civil aviation.  The logic at the heart of defence offsets is the use of buyers’ leverage to arm-twist vendors into building up what they rightly see as potential competition. But despite their protests, commercial logic would bring the vendors in line. This newspaper has reported in detail how global arms vendors have, over years, systematically protested India’s offset policy even while tying up local partnerships for implementing it. The MoD’s offset dilution of 2011 is an appalling example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Was this mere incompetence or a rigged game? Some day, not far away, an investigation will decide.
Indian Army has two new mountain divisions in northeast 2011-02-07 14:20:00 Last Updated: 2011-02-07 15:16:55 MIL-STD-Aerospace EMC Ads by Google The only NATA accredited Lab. MIL-STD461 & Consulting  New Delhi: With an eye on China's growing military strength in Tibet, India has 'fully raised' two new mountain divisions with 30,000 troops in the northeast as a counter-measure and to shore up its mountain warfare capabilities.  'We have now fully raised the two new mountain divisions in the northeast. They are fully functional. Only some support elements may join them soon,' a senior officer at the Army Headquarters here said.  The two new mountain divisions, raised at a cost of Rs 700 crore/ Rs 7 billion each, will be under the command of the Rangapahar-based 3 Corps in Nagaland and the Tezpur-based 4 Corps in Assam of the army's Kolkata-based Eastern Command.  The two divisions with 15,000 personnel each will further enhance the tactical strength of the Indian Army in the strategically important areas along the borders facing its traditional rival China, which claims the whole of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.  The new mountain divisions have come up at a time when India's security top brass is warily watching the massive upgrade of Chinese military infrastructure along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) - the ceasefire line as there is no demaracated border - in all the three sectors - western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal).  Indian Army refloats tenders for heavy guns  The other China-specific plans include the raising of the 'Arunachal Scouts' and 'Sikkim Scouts' that was given the nod last year.  India has also deployed a Sukhoi SU-30 air superiority fighter jet squadron in Tezpur as one of the aerial offensive measures apart from upgrading airfields and helipads in the northeast.The Cabinet Committee on Security had approved the raising of the two new divisions in early 2008 and preparations for raising the offensive infantry formations began the same year.  The army, out of its 35 divisions, already has 10 divisions dedicated to mountain warfare and another infantry division earmarked for high altitude operations.  Though the plan for raising the two new formations was to be in two phases over five years, the army has compressed timelines to have them in place within three years, primarily in view of the defence ministry's focus on building military strength in the northeast, the officer, who did not wish to be named, said.  Under the first phase, the two new divisions' headquarters, along with a brigade each, have come up, including the headquarters' support elements such as signals, provost, and intelligence units. Implementation of the second phase will be completed in the first half of this year to make them operationally ready.  The divisions have been armed with state-of-the-art technology such as heavy-lift helicopters capable of carrying 50 troops each; ultralight howitzers that can be slung under the helicopters for transportation; missile and cannon-armed helicopter gunships; utility helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  India is already in the process of purchasing 140 M777 ultralight howitzers worth $647 million through the foreign military sales route from the US under its Rs 12,000-crore ($2.7-billion) artillery modernisation plan.  The air assets, such as the helicopter gunships and attack helicopters, will provide the two divisions capabilities to carry out manoeuvres for countering the terrain impediments.  'The gunships and attack choppers will be necessary for providing the two formations firepower in a mountain terrain, as the army will not be in a position to deploy tanks and armoured vehicles,' the officer pointed out.  The firepower in the third dimension (air) was required due to difficulties the army would face in using artillery guns in an operation over a mountainous terrain.
Russian defence firm sees India as long-term strategic partner PTI, Feb 7, 2011, 05.59am IST MOSCOW: Russian defence firm Oboronprom has identified India as its strategic partner and is ready to forge a long-term partnership with the country, according to a top company official.  "Russian Helicopters Holding combining all the helicopter plants under the Oboronprom roof is to display its latest models at the Aero India 2011 show in Bangalore beginning on February 9," Andrei Reus, CEO of Oboronprom Corporation, which specialises in the manufacture of helicopters and aircraft engines, told PTI.  He said India has a huge potential for the civilian and military rotor aircraft and Russia is going to display its multi-role light helicopter Kamov Ka-226T, medium haul Mi-17 class, all weather Kamov Ka -32A11BC and heavy lift Mi-26T2 civilian helicopters at the Bangalore air show.  The Night Hunter Mil M-28NE helicopter gunship is expected to attract interest at the air show as it has been already inducted by the Russian Army.  Reus, an economics graduate from the Moscow State University, has held several key posts in the past including the deputy minister for Industry and Energy.  He believes that Russian helicopters and the United (aircraft) Engines have a great market potential in India, including in the joint production and export of cutting edge technology to other countries.  Reus said business growth in India is impossible without removing the hurdle of after sales service and Oboronprom has thus set up a service centre for Russian organ helicopters in Greater Noida, near New Delhi.  Besides Russian Helicopters, Oboronprom also combines the United Engines Corporation incorporating all the aircraft engine plants of Russia, including the Ufa engine plant, which has transferred sensitive technology for the production of engines for the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighters under the Tot deal.  Reus said Oboronprom has managed to overcome the trauma of the Soviet collapse and is ready to compete with its western partners at par.  "Currently we are developing the engine for the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) to be jointly produced by India and Russia, we have also at advanced stages in the development of a new engine for the Indo-Russian muli-role transport aircraft (MTA) and Russia's MS-21 airliner," he said.

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