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Monday, 28 February 2011

From Today's Papers - 28 Feb 2011

Defence industry remains an Achilles’ heel
Air Marshal R.S. Bedi (Retd)  India's phenomenal economic growth and rising profile has led to its enhanced strategic relevance. It is fast emerging as an important factor in the global strategic calculus. Most western economies, unlike that of Asia, have not performed well in recent years. They are thus compelled to seek and engage the fast growing Asian economies in search of better prospects. This is resulting in a gradual shift of power from the west to the east. Can India like some other emerging powers rise to the occasion in this new scenario?  Foreign aircraft on display on the tarmac at Aero India — 2011. An increasing number of western defence manufacturers are looking towards India for a slice in the huge defence and aerospace market envisioned to be generated by proposed procurements, which will also yield big opportunities to the Indian industry Foreign aircraft on display on the tarmac at Aero India — 2011. An increasing number of western defence manufacturers are looking towards India for a slice in the huge defence and aerospace market envisioned to be generated by proposed procurements, which will also yield big opportunities to the Indian industry.  We are surrounded by neighbours who are not necessarily friendly. Some are out right hostile. Historically, some of the states in the region are not only unstable but tend to remain under the control of the military that wields unprecedented power and spends millions on re-armament. The Pakistani army is always in control of national affairs, whether overtly in power or otherwise, The People's Liberation Army of China too has emerged rather hawkish in matters of territorial and maritime claims vis-à-vis its neighbours.  Government supportive, but issues remain  Opening up of the Indian economy during the early nineties heralded an era of unprecedented industrial growth in India. The growth rates seen match those of the fastest growing economies. A confident and resurgent Indian Industry is making forays into almost all the sectors of manufacturing. Lately, the huge opportunities for growth within the domestic and global defence and aerospace industries have attracted the attention of Indian industry.  The current profile of equipment held by the Indian armed forces with regards to “state-of-the-art”, “matured” and "obsolescent" is 15, 35 and 50 percent respectively. This suggests that the government will have to make serious efforts towards upgrading its defence resources either by developing or procuring defence equipment and systems. Moreover, modernisation, upgradation and maintenance of the existing equipment will also provide immense opportunities to the industry.  India is one of the largest global military spenders. The huge opportunity has attracted the attention of not only a few large players but also a sizable number of micro, small and medium sized enterprises that visualise this unprecedented opportunity as a gateway towards entering into the domain of defence production. The slowing down or saturation of markets in other sectors has also been responsible for directing their interest towards the unexplored defence sector, which promises sustained business opportunities.  The private sector is enthusiastic about its ability to play a larger role in contributing to the total defence related production, both within the country as well as for export, once sufficient experience has been gained in particular areas. The need of the hour is to combine the skills of the public and private sector, developing this into a partnership with the aim of achieving self-reliance in defence production, creating an environment where both sectors grow together and partner with each other, thereby contributing towards the national growth.  At the policy level as well, there is support for achieving the long cherished goal of self-reliance in the defence sector. The government has been receptive to suggestions and has been willing to make the required policy changes whenever required. Initially promulgated in 2002, the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) has undergone several revisions.  DPP-2011 introduces a number of measures to make the acquisition process industry friendly and to increase transparency. In some quarters, it is seen as a move towards fast tracking the existing procurement procedures, facilitating absorption of offsets and introducing industry friendly procedures, but as far as measures for indigenisation or achieving a level playing field for domestic private industry is concerned, DPP-2011 does not live up to its expectations.  —  The rate at which China is modernising its armed forces is a cause for serious concern. China has been increasing its defence budget by more than ten percent annually. Reforms introduced by China in the 1990s are now manifested by enhancing its military capabilities and also the prowess of its military-industrial complex that is producing a wide range of advance weapon systems.  The Chinese are currently in the process of launching their 12th five- year plan (2011-2015). Reforms visualised in this plan will further boost China's indigenous and the technological capabilities, besides integrating civil and defence enterprises. The pace and scope of China's modernisation are alarming indeed. This will "increase China's options for using military force to gain diplomatic advantage or resolve disputes in their favour."  This is a clear message for India and the reason why the dilly-dallying Chinese do not allow resolution of the border disputes, despite having met fourteen times at the political level. India must take note of this in dealing with China and try to resolve disputes expeditiously. Chinese proclivity of dragging its feet and raising new issues without resolving the pending ones is a part of their strategy. Dams across the Brahmaputra, military presence in POK, changing stance on Kashmir and the visa issue are all pressure tactics to keep India on tenterhooks  In contrast, India is still in the process of talking about reforms in the defence sector. The defence minister has recently unveiled future plans in regard to procurements, indigenous production and deeper and transparent involvement of the private sector in various areas of defence production. The Army Chief too has spoken about these reforms within the army itself.  On our western borders, the Pakistani army, which had lost its primacy to some extent in the 90s, has once again managed to create political space for itself. Under Gen Ashfaq Kayani, it has emerged as the dominant force in Pakistan and behind the civilian façade, exercises full control over national policies and ensures a lion's share of the national budget for itself. Last year, it increased its defence spending by as much as 17 per cent. Large chunk of US aid also continues to be siphoned off towards building the Pakistani military.  The security situation in India's near as well as distant neighbourhood has rarely been comfortable. Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and even Sri Lanka too keep India under pressure one way or the other. They tend to leverage the China card in their dealings with India. That's how China invests heavily in these countries. With an economy growing at 10 per cent, China can afford to aid these developing countries. Pakistan, in particular, occupies a special place in the Chinese calculus of arming South Asia. Politico-military succour available to Pakistan is in keeping with the Chinese strategy of tying India down perpetually in a proxy war and preventing its rise.  India has little or no military-industrial capability to invest similarly in its neighbourhood. India has to go in for comprehensive defence production capability that would not only take care of indigenous requirements but also help service the needs of South Asian neighbours. Induction of private sector will go a long way in this endeavour. The only way to dilute Chinese influence in the neighbourhood is to compete with it.  Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, have all embarked upon re-arming themselves. Obviously, the China factor is behind this. Malaysia has recently acquired new submarines worth $1 billion to safeguard its waters claimed by others. Indonesia has acquired a large number of fighter aircraft. Two blatantly hostile neighbours in the north and the west and progressively arming immediate and the distant neighbourhood does not auger well for India. India finds itself presently in an unprecedented security quagmire. Its claim to a rising power status rings hollow when viewed in terms of its indigenous capabilities.  President Obama's exaggerated rhetoric during his address to the Indian Parliament that "India is not the rising power but a risen power and an indispensable strategic partner of the US", however sweet to the Indian ears, is indeed far from reality. Similar statements made by other leaders visiting India do not make India a great power. Obama, Sarkozy, Medvedev, Cameron and Wen all came not because India was a comprehensive and a great power but because they were looking for jobs, economic and trade benefits. They were all competing with each other for the lucrative $12 billion aircraft deal that India is in the process of negotiating. According to recent reports, India will be spending around $100 billion on defence purchases over the ensuing decade.  The deteriorating security environment in and around India requires it to continuously modernise and upgrade its armed forces. Unable to meet the target indigenously, it is driven to meet the needs of the armed forces from foreign vendors. The Air Chief was blunt enough to concede openly that half of the weapon systems used by the IAF were either obsolete or obsolescent. The army too feels that it would take years to achieve full operational capability. The navy has also been harping on its progressively declining power. With the ever increasing strategic importance of the Indian Ocean, it has an added responsibility. Sixty years after Independence, we still import almost everything that our armed forces need. Studies done by numerous committees only gather dust in the archives of the bureaucracy. One such study of which this writer was a member along with the three services vice chiefs and former DRDO head, Dr Abdul Kalam as its chairman, submitted a ten-year plan for indigenisation in 1992. Nearly two decades later, we are no better.  Our indigenous component continues to be no more than 25 to 30 percent, with core components being imported. The Light Combat Aircraft's engine, fly-by-wire control system and radar are procured from abroad. The story about the army's Arjun MBT and other weapon systems is no different. India's inability to produce weapons and total dependence on foreign vendors only reflects its hollowness as a major power. The vendors can withhold spares and supplies at any time and bring the nation to a grinding halt at critical junctures. India can hardly afford to forget the way the western powers applied sanctions against it after 1998 nuclear tests. Our strategic autonomy remains at risk even today.  Really speaking, it's sound economy coupled with indigenous defence technology and production capabilities that make a power. When Pakistani terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament and later carried out attacks in Mumbai, India failed to respond. A resurgent economy notwithstanding, we did not have the requisite military prowess. These incidents were strong enough reasons for military options. No wonder, Pakistan continues with its nefarious designs with impunity against its much larger neighbour. It's because we are unable to impose any cost on our adversary. Under the circumstances, indigenous military-industrial complex is as vital a strategic imperative as the national economy.

Name ministers who okayed chopper deal: CIC 
New Delhi, February 27 The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Defence Ministry to disclose the names of ministers and officials who had given the go-ahead for the procurement of six "phased-out" helicopters from the US, for which it had received a rap from CAG.  The Indian Navy had earlier refused to disclose any information about the deal saying disclosure would compromise national security and cited exemption under section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act to withhold the details.  RTI applicant Subhash Agrawal had sought from the Navy information about the deal, including the objections raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General, the replies given by force, and the names of ministers, defence secretaries and other officials who had cleared it.  Hearing the plea of Agrawal, Information Commissioner M L Sharma asked Navy to give reasons why the information which was already in public domain because of the CAG report was being withheld. A Navy official said they cannot tell who were the ministers who handled the file and that defence ministry would be in the best position to explain it.  Sharma then ordered the Defence Ministry to provide the names of its ministers and secretaries who had handled the file and given the go-ahead for the deal.  The Navy official also said there was a Parliament question about the deal and they had sent a "confidential" reply to the defence ministry. The official, however, said he was not sure if the reply was tabled in Parliament.  Sharma said as per the transparency law any information which can be provided to Parliament or any state Assembly cannot be withheld from RTI applicants.  The Navy had acquired six decommissioned UH3H helicopters under the Foreign Military Supply (FMS) programme of the United States in November 2006, along with training and support facilities at an approximate cost of Rs 182.14 crore.  The deal was criticised by the CAG which found that the procurement "would ultimately compromise operational effectiveness" of the force. The 35-40 years old helicopters "were on the verge of completing their air frame life and are on extended life," CAG had noted. — PTI

Fighting rodents in Ladakh, Army hunts for a Pied Piper 
New Delhi, February 27 The Army is searching for a Pied Piper in Ladakh where rats are gobbling up its ration, which reaches there through a long and arduous supply route.  The Army stocks supplies for winter in the summer itself as the road-links to higher altitudes remain cut off from the rest of the country in winter due to heavy snowfall for around six months. As the roads are too narrow, they take the help of mules to carry these rations and other essential supplies to an altitude of over 15,000 feet.  Since there is significant rodent infestation in the Army settlements in higher altitudes, the medical research wing of the Armed Forces Medical Services is going to undertake a study to find out the extent of the problem of rodent nuisance in eastern and western Ladakh armed forces settings.  “Rats cause a great deal of nuisance everywhere. They spoil precious stocks, lead to nuisance and also spread diseases. Army settlements in higher altitudes are not spared from this as these rats are spoiling the winter stocks. “All conventional methods of controlling them are not as effective as they are in the plains,” said Lieutenant General Naresh Kumar, Commandant, Army Hospital Research and Referral.  Conventional methods to control rodent nuisance like rat traps, rodenticides and repellents have failed in Ladakh. “None of these conventional methods are of help to us.” — PTI

ATF slaps Rs 1 lakh fine on pension officer
Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, February 27 Taking the pension disbursing authorities to task for virtually forcing a 100 per cent disabled soldier into litigation to get his due pensionary benefits, the Armed Forces Tribunal has imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the Defence Pension Disbursing Officer (DPDO), Pathankot.  The tribunal’s bench, comprising Justice NP Gupta and Lt Gen NS Brar, also granted liberty to the government to recover the said amount from the salary of the officer concerned.  The case related to a 100 per cent disabled soldier, Havildar Hari Singh of Manwal Upperala village near Pathankot, who was granted a constant attendance allowance (CAA) by the government on being medically boarded out. Vide orders issued in May 2009, the allowance was revised to Rs 3,000 per month after the 6th Pay Commission with retrospective effect from January 1, 2006.  However, the DPDO, Pathankot, instead of releasing the amount to the soldier from January 2006, paid it only from July 2009 onwards. Constant requests of the soldier as well as the Army to the DPDO fell on deaf ears. Thereafter the veteran was forced to knock the doors of the tribunal. On filing of the case, the DPDO immediately released the balance amount of about Rs 1 lakh.  The bench, however, took strong exception to the fact that economically weak, disabled veterans were being forced into litigation even on issues which did not require any interpretation or clarification by the authorities concerned. In the instant issue, the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions) as well as the Army had issued clear directions to the DPDO for grant of arrears with effect from January 2006, but despite the orders issued in May 2009 the veteran was paid his dues in January 2011 and that too after he filed a petition before the tribunal.

Defence outlay may retain trend of steady rise 
Special Correspondent  NEW DELHI: The trend of steady rise in outlay for Defence in the Union Budget is expected to continue as the Ministry exudes confidence of utilising the allocation, especially toward Capital expenditure completely.  Modernisation of armed forces has been the emphasis of Defence Minister A.K. Antony, which over the past few years has seen steady induction of modern military equipment - especially for Navy and the Air Force. The Indian Army too hopes to benefit from this focussed approach, with a distinct possibility of a decision, to acquire artillery guns being taken in the coming financial year.  Last year, the Ministry got an outlay of Rs. 1,47, 344 crore of which Rs. 60,000 crore was earmarked as capital funds and the rest towards revenue expenditure. The 10 {+t} {+h} Finance Commission had recommended an increase of over eight per cent annually till 2014-15, with capital expenditure growing by around 10 expenditure. While last year the hike was about 4 per cent more than the previous financial year, the Ministry is hoping to get more hike.  In the previous years, the Ministry had attracted criticism for its inability to utilise the capital expenditure.However, this time the government is confident that it will not have to surrender any amount under this head.  Last week, Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju said in the Rajya Sabha that the Ministry would be able to spend the amount allocated in the budget. He intervened to counter the criticism by the Opposition leader Arun Jaitley in this regard.  Even the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has been critical of the Ministry. In its last report on Demands for Grants for 2010-11, it did not appreciate that substantial portion of allocation was being spent in the last quarter.  One of the factors for an increased outlay is that the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal is expected to be finalised during 2011-12. The Indian Air Force, which plans to acquire 126 aircraft initially, has completed its assessment, while the Ministry has done the evaluations on offset obligation; it is for the government to take a decision.

More women will be taken in armed forces: Antony
 G. Anand The percentage of women in the armed forces will be increased in phases, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said on Sunday.  Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Sainik School at Kazhakuttom, he said the Armed forces would employ women only in non-combat jobs. They would have equal opportunity as men for employment in such disciplines. (The Indian Air Force has the highest percentage of women on its rolls, followed by the Navy and the Army.)  Mr. Antony said his Ministry was processing requests from the State governments for more Sainik Schools. It was obligatory for the States to provide land and infrastructure for setting up the schools. They also needed to bear a part of the cost of providing top-class military-oriented residential education to the cadets.  The Centre, he said, provided Rs.44 crore in budgetary support to all 24 Sainik Schools this year. It would seriously consider whether the allocation needed to be increased.  He said Upamanyu Chatterjee, Joint Secretary, Training, had been asked to look into the requests of parents to further undercut the cost of education of cadets.  Mr. Antony inaugurated the Golden Jubilee gate and the new Olympic standard swimming pool. He laid a wreath at the war memorial and received a guard of honour by cadets.  Shashi Tharoor, MP; M.A. Vahid, MLA; Indian Air Force Southern Air Command Chief, Air Marshal S. Mukerji; and Old Boys Association president Ajith Kumar were present.

BAE sights £372m order from India
By Tom McGhie 27 February 2011, 10:12am  India is ready to place a £372m order for 145 field guns from BAE Systems.  The M777 howitzer, designed in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, has become one of Britain's most successful defence exports.  Development started in 1999 and has been worth more than £1bn to the UK economy, with orders from America, Canada and Australia.  The Indian army has been testing two M777s and Financial Mail understands it has expressed an interest in buying 145 plus a support package.  News of the potential order came as the Pentagon took delivery of 46, taking the total number to 1,001.  The M777 is so accurate it can drop a shell within a six-yard radius from 25 miles.  The 9,700lb gun can be carried by helicopter and has been used in Afghanistan since 2008.

Army Chief to visit US Centcom HQ
Express News Service Posted online: Sun Feb 27 2011, 01:01 hrs New Delhi : The India-US military relationship is set for a qualitative leap with the first ever visit of an Indian Army Chief to the headquarters of the US Central Command (Centcom), which has charge of Af-Pak, the Middle East and Iraq.  Gen. V K Singh will visit the Tampa, Florida-based Command in his 10-day trip to the US between March 6 and 15 with an aim to set up a Brigadier-level direct liaison with the Indian Army. India liaises only with the US Pacific Command, and having a liaison officer in Tampa will signal a recognition of Indian interests in the arc from the Gulf of Aden to the Straits of Malacca, government sources said.  The Centcom liaison and acquisition of M777 ultralight howitzers will figure in the bilateral Defence Policy Group meeting, for which a high-level delegation led by Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar is going to Washington on March 1. Sources said Gen. Singh will meet Centcom Commander Gen. James Mattis on March 8 to discuss the situation in Af-Pak, the Arab world and Iraq. Gen. Singh will also hold talks with his US counterpart Gen. George W Casey Jr.

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