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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

From Today's Papers - 01 Mar 2011

Indo-Pak peace process
Being too optimistic is not wise by Harsh V. Pant  India and Pakistan are all set to resume their stalled dialogue after a near-freeze of several months with External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna announcing that “a solid foundation” has been laid for a “sustained engagement.” Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao met her Pakistani counterpart in Thimpu and charted a course for the resumption of dialogue on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, with the aim of completing the talks within the next three months. The ground has been laid for the visit of the Pakistani Foreign Minister to New Delhi in July. These are clearly signs that the two South Asian neighbours are seeking ways and means to engage with each other.  The US has been pushing India to talk to Pakistan for some time now in an attempt to make Islamabad a more active partner in its Afghan war. India, too, is recognising the diminishing returns of its no-talks-till-terror-ends policy. Islamabad also feels that with a renewed peace process with India, it will be able to marginalise the extremist groups within. The issue is whether this will be enough to deliver a substantive outcome. And it is here that both sides need to recognise the real challenges that have prevented a real India-Pakistan rapprochement so far.  Like any other state in the international system, Pakistan has also tried to preserve and enhance its security vis-à-vis its much stronger regional rival, India. The two states have been in a perpetual state of security dilemma ever since their independence in 1947. Given India’s enormous economic, military and geographical advantages, Pakistan has relied on non-conventional means to limit India’s influence and power. It pursued nuclear weapons in order to prevent India from using its overwhelming conventional military superiority, thereby levelling the playing field. Under the nuclear umbrella, Pakistan has used terrorism as a major instrument of its foreign policy, especially in Jammu and Kashmir which Pakistan has coveted since 1947.  Despite recent attempts by India and Pakistan to patch up their differences, nothing much has changed insofar as the above narrative is concerned. Significant sections of Pakistani military and intelligence services continue to see themselves in a permanent state of conflict with India and have little incentive to moderate their behaviour as a continuing conflict with India is the raison d’etre of their pre-eminent position in the Pakistani society. At a time when Pakistan’s Islamic identity is under siege because of its cooperation with the US on the war on terror, the need to define itself in opposition to India remains even stronger. Militarily, Pakistan’s strategy of low-intensity conflict based on supporting terrorism can be seen as successful insofar as it has prevented India from achieving its full potential as a major military power.  The Indo-Pak peace process also hinges on the ability of Pakistan’s political establishment to control terrorist groups from wreaking havoc in India. It is doubtful how much control the civilian government in Islamabad can exert, given that various terrorist outfits have vowed to continue their jihad in Kashmir. The Frankenstein monster that the Pakistani state had created to further its strategic objectives vis-à-vis its adversaries has now turned against it and threatens to devour any future attempts at Indo-Pak reconciliation. Moreover, there is little evidence of any significant Pakistani effort to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism such as communications, launching pads and training camps on its eastern border with India.  Finally, and perhaps most important from the point of view of resolution of the Kashmir dispute, is the very different strategic goals India and Pakistan have in pursuing a peace-process. Pakistan has a revisionist agenda and would like to change the status quo in Kashmir while India would like the very opposite. India hopes that the negotiations with Pakistan would ratify the existing territorial status quo in Kashmir. At its foundation, these are irreconcilable differences and no confidence-building measures are likely to alter this situation. India’s premise largely has been that the peace process will persuade Pakistan to cease supporting and sending extremists into India and start building good neighbourly ties. Pakistan, in contrast, has viewed the process as a means to nudge India to make progress on Kashmir, a euphemism for Indian concessions. While Pakistan has a clear position on Kashmir and it shows little sign of budging from that, nobody really knows what India wants as it lacks clarity in its objectives and consistency in its plans.  It is obvious that India would not give up its control over the Kashmir Valley. However, it remains unclear as to what is it that India is bringing to the negotiating table for Pakistan to take it seriously. And just as India has had difficulty thinking of what it would offer, Pakistan also has had a hard time articulating what it would be satisfied with, short of wresting Kashmir.  And this is primarily a function of the lack of national political consensus on this issue in both states. In Pakistan, not only radical Islamic groups but also many mainstream political parties are against diluting Islamabad’s traditional hard-line on the Kashmir issue. In India, the Congress-led government will find it difficult to make any concessions as it would have to protect its flank from the right of the Indian political establishment. While there is a general political consensus in India on opening up trade routes and bus services, the threat of terrorism keeps all political parties on guard as no one would want to be held responsible for a terrorist attack that might come.  Given the current predicament, it is difficult to be optimistic that the Indo-Pak peace process is poised to move beyond initial pleasantries, at least in the near future.

Defence Budget sees 11.6% increase
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Feb 28, 2011, 19:12  With some major deals expected to be clinched this year, Government today substantially raised its defence Budget by 11.6 % to Rs 1,64,415 crore for 2011-12 from last year's Rs 1,47,344 crore.  Of the total outlay, Rs 69,199 crore has been allocated for the acquisition of modern and new weapon systems, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, presenting the Budget in Lok Sabha.  However, the hike is 8.47 % on the basis of revised estimates of Rs 1,51,582 crore for the same year.  With several big ticket deals to likely to be finalised this year, the capital expenditure for defence forces has been hiked by Rs 8,366 crore from Rs 60,833 to Rs 69,199 crore.  Defence Ministry sources said the 13.75 % hike in capital expenditure has been made keeping in mind the big ticket deals to procure 126 multi-role combat aircraft, 197 light helicopters, 145 Ultra-light Howitzers and C-17 heavy-lift aircraft.  These deals are likely to be signed this year.  From the Rs 69,199 crore capital outlay, the Army got around Rs 18,988 crore, Navy Rs 5,688 crore, Naval Fleet Rs 7,320 crore and Air Force Rs 29,722 crore.  The largest share of the increased capital expenditure would go to the IAF, which will spend Rs 22,055 crore for procuring fighter and transport aircraft and helicopters of different types and origin in this decade.  India has plans of spending over USD 100 billion on defence acquisitions in the next five to 10 years.  The Finance Minister also said the Government is ready to provide any additional support saying, "Needless to say, any further requirement for the country's defence would be met."  Of the total revenue expenditure of Rs 95,216 crore allocation for the next fiscal, the Army has been granted Rs 64,251 crore, Navy Rs 10,589 crore, Air Force Rs 15,928 crore and DRDO Rs 5,624 crore.  Sources said the defence Budget accounts for the 13.07 % of the total expenditure to be made by the Central government in the next fiscal.  Terming the hike in allocation for his Ministry as "good and positive", Defence Minister A K Antony said, "we welcome it as our concerns have been by and large addressed and Finance Minister has stated that if we have any fresh requirements, it would be made up without any difficulty."  Despite the hike of Rs 17,071 crore, the defence expenditure continues to hover around the 2.5 % mark of country's GDP and remains much less than the percentage of it spent by adversaries China and Pakistan.

Army cash to raise air force
SUJAN DUTTA AK Antony  New Delhi, Feb. 28: The army has been given funds to raise a mini air force and the air force has been given cash for at least two multi-billion-dollar contracts in the defence allocation that finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has hiked by 11 per cent over last year’s budgetary estimates.  The total allocation for defence, at Rs 1,64,415 crore is more than twice the allocation for education and health put together.  Mukherjee rewarded the defence ministry for the first time in five years for better housekeeping after it exhausted the capital expenditure allocated for new acquisitions. He has hiked the capital allocation by nearly Rs 9,200 crore for 2011-2012 to Rs 69,199 crore.  “We welcome the budget. Our concerns have by and large been addressed. The finance minister has said that should there be any fresh requests, it would be met without any difficulties,” defence minister A.K. Antony said, raising the possibility that there could be a supplementary demand for grants.  A stand-out figure in the budget for the armed forces is in the allocation under the head “aircraft and aero-engines” for the army. The allocation has been hiked by more than three times over the budget estimates — from Rs 636.80 crore to Rs 2,291.60 crore.  This could lead to inter-service rivalry between the army and the air force. The army argues that it is building an air component that is integral to its operational plans. The air force argues that it already has dedicated aircraft for the army’s battle plans.  “I don’t quite understand why the army should get a full-spectrum air force,” says Air Commodore (retired) Jagjit Singh, who heads the think-tank Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS).  Defence analyst Commodore Uday Bhaskar says that these funds could scarcely be used to build a mini-air force, that would involve the acquisition of fixed-wing aircraft.  The army is in the process of acquiring attack and utility helicopters. The US-made Apache Longbow and the Russian-origin Mil are competing to sell attack helicopters to the army that is also preparing to expand its airlift capability. Part of the reason for this is the requirement projected for internal security duties.  The air force’s allocation under the same head has been hiked by about Rs 7,000 crore to Rs 22,055.61 crore. This is estimated to be providing for the initial payments for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, the order for which could top $12 billion, and 10 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that could cost $ 4.1 billion.  “This is not really a big deal,” says Air Commodore Singh. “If you account for the fact that a single fighter aircraft today can cost more than Rs 350 crore, this really isn’t enough for a modern air force. But it is still better that what it used to be.”  A slightly more cynical view came from another air force officer who said the army was being too acquisitive. “If you have too many generals, you will want to buy more helicopters, since generals like to fly,” he commented wryly.  Bhaskar said the good-housekeeping of 2010-2011, that has resulted in the defence ministry overshooting the capital allocations, should mark the beginning of a sustained process. “We are dealing with block obsolescence of a decade-plus, right from the time of the NDA government through to UPA I and UPA II.” He reckons that in the past decade the defence ministry has returned unspent funds of over Rs 25,000 crore.  He says that the defence allocations have to be developed to enhance cross-border military capabilities because there is a potential for an adversarial relationship with Pakistan and China.  “It is only when we have a positive TBMI (Trans-border Military Index) that an independent foreign policy can be pursued,” Bhaskar says.  Of the total Rs 1.64,415 crore for defence, Rs 95,216 crore is meant for revenue expenditure — salaries, pensions and maintenance.

Engaging the Generals    
Resumption of diplomatic engagements between India and Pakistan may not be helpful unless, experts say, India talks directly to the Pakistan military. Iftikhar Gilani reports.  As India and Pakistan restart diplomatic engagements, with both countries agreeing to discuss all issues of concern including terrorism and Jammu & Kashmir, experts are keeping fingers crossed and even advising the government to engage Pakistan army directly for the sake of success of these engagements. They believe that India’s policy of developing people-to-people contacts and reposing too much faith in the civilian government has failed.  It is believed that Pakistan army itself had made overtures to deal directly with Indian establishment. Unconfirmed reports from Islamabad said that Indian high commissioner in Islamabad Sharat Sabarwal had met the Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani ahead of foreign secretaries of both countries agreed on resumption of talks in the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu.  The ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha has also met the Indian armed forces’ representatives posted in the High Commission in Islamabad and is believed to have conveyed to them that India needs to talk directly with the Pakistan army.  Pasha had earlier for the first time attended an Iftar party thrown by the Indian High Commissioner. The ISI had also hosted farewell parties for some Indian defence advisors who were returning to India after completing their tenures in Islamabad. Over past few months, the Indian defence advisors were also invited to attend the passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul. For its part, the Indian establishment has been reciprocating the gestures from the Pakistan military establishment and has invited the head of the National Defence University in Islamabad, a serving Lt. Gen., to India. Reciprocating, India had also invited Pakistan High Commissioner in India to address its military officers at the National Defence College.  Sushant Sareen, a key Pakistan expert at India’s premier strategic think-tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) believes that a credible engagement with Pakistan’s power, military, will only bring peace in the region. He even ridicules dependence on the so-called civil society of Pakistan for raising a constituency of peace. For one, what goes as civil society in Pakistan is really a fringe group and constitutes around 1000 people, and if you want to be very charitable then the number can be raised to 5000, says Sareen. This is not to belittle the commitment, conviction and courage of some of the members of civil society in promoting and propagating the cause of normalisation of relations with India.  “The manner in which the progress made on the people-to-people front between 2004 and 2008 was practically overnight reduced to nothing after the 26/11 terrorist strike in Mumbai should be proof enough that when it comes to India-Pakistan relations, the people tend to follow the line set by their establishments. In other words, people-to-people relations flower when the establishment allows them, and they wither away when the establishment shuts the door on them,” says Sareen.  To instutionalise an engagement with Pakistan army, Sareen suggests a multi-track mechanism as Indian army was not in the same position in the power structure. “One way out of this is to adopt a multi-track approach, a sort of ‘composite back-channel’ in which the intelligence agencies comprise one track, the military leaders another track in which they discuss military and security related matters, while a third track can discuss larger strategic perceptions, outlooks and assessments. All these various tracks can then provide inputs to the political back-channel. To start with, the discussions in these various tracks can be unstructured and, if necessary, can be held in some third country,” he maintains.  Meanwhile, a top US strategist who has championed nuclear risk-reduction measures has cautioned that mere military steps would never reduce nuclear dangers in the region. Micheal Krepon, co-founder of Stimson Centre advocates a robust trade between India and Pakistan to maintain nuclear stability. Explaining his theory, he said a robust trade has helped to stabilise relations between India and China despite frequent tensions.  Addressing Indian strategic community at New Delhi, he believed that game changer between the two countries could be a robust trade only. “What could be a game changer is vast level of trade between the two countries. Pakistan is in dire economic straits. It (the trade) is worth trying,” he said, Blaming Indian bureaucracy for the failure of bilateral trade, Krepon called for robust steps to boost trade. “Incremental steps on issues like trade and economics does not hold good. It needs robust and vigorous steps and leave onus on entrepreneurs and that will also give credibility to India’s claim that it was ready to move more than half-way to give Pakistan a decent life,” he added.  The American strategist also disapproved Indian statements that if Pakistan exercises its first use option, India will respond by wiping out it (Pakistan) as functional state. “There will be no winners in nuclear war. They will seek to destroy you as much to wipe you out as functional state,” said Krepon, whose centre is constantly in touch with Pakistan’s Strategic Policy Division (SPD) manning country’s nuclear assets.  Allaying fears, that Pakistan nuclear assets may fall in the hands of non-state actors or terrorists, he said that 10,000 selected guards were looking after nuclear infrastructure and they are knowledgeable, balanced and serious bunch of individuals. “It seems SPD in Pakistan is capable and includes high quality officers,” he said, adding that there has been significant improvement since the days of defamed nuclear scientist A Q Khan. He, however, warned that in the event of severe crisis, there is unlikely to be a secure and reliable line of command and control in Pakistan, if current trend of political instability continues.  He said the US has confined its role to prevent any escalation in the region, but suspected, if it will work again in the event of another Mumbai like incident in India. He cautioned that in the event of an India-Pakistan clash, American interests in Afghanistan will be severely affected and shall have repercussions as well.  Arguing Pakistan has kept the military balance vis-à-vis India by acquiring nuclear weapons and indulging in sub-conventional warfare, the expert said they (Pakistanis) felt they could not compete with India at conventional level. Further, the more and more multi-billion dollar acquisitions by India were also helping Pakistan’s idea of increasing its deterrence capability. He maintained that US offer of a missile defence to India would also make things much worse, as Pakistan will opt to go for extra-capability.

Pragmatic on Defence
R. Sundaram Share  , this favourable financial backing will be matched by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) which in the past has blotted its record by surrendering funds due to its inability to take timely decisions.  Budgeting generously for the Defence is not the flavour of the year across the world, so it seems. The UK is imposing a cut of 8 per cent, the US is cutting $78 billion over five years and even Russia, although suffering from an obsolete fighting machinery, has chalked out a slow-paced long haul plan extending till 2020 for rejuvenation of its conventional arms. Defence expenditure  Therefore amidst such gloom and doom for Defence, it is a small consolation that India's Finance Minister has not been as tight-fisted as anticipated and has increased the Defence Budget to Rs 1,64,400 crore for FY 2011-12, an increase of 11.5 per cent compared to 2010-11 which was Rs 1,47,344 crore (merely 3.9 per cent over the previous year 2009-10). Neither the projection of growth of Defence expenditure — only at 8.3 per cent by the Thirteenth Finance Commission — nor his strenuous efforts in the pursuit of fiscal consolidation seems to have deterred him from being a pragmatist as far as Defence is concerned.  The money provided under capital at Rs 69,198 crore has been increased by a reasonable 15 per cent over the previous year. Logic behind increase  It appears that the budgeting exercise this time around is not merely a running account of the arithmetic of carrying forward the committed liabilities but a more realistic assessment of the needs, bearing in mind the major acquisitions in the pipeline [such as 126 Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (Rs 45,000 crore), C-17 Globemasters and Reconnaissance Surveillance Helicopters].  Hopefully, this favourable financial backing will be matched by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) which in the past has blotted its record by surrendering funds due to its inability to take timely decisions.  Reckoned as a percentage of total Government expenditure, the Defence expenditure appears to be falling from 13.88 per cent in 2009-10 to 13.11 per cent but as a percentage of GDP it is mildly recovering from the drop at 2.12 per cent in 2010-11 to 2.18 per cent, despite the economy growing at close to 9 per cent. Contributors  From the figures provided under the Revenue head, the performance of India's premier Defence equipment manufacturer — Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) — appears noteworthy. Unlike last year, when a budgetary support of Rs 246 crore was provided to the OFB, this year the allocation to OFB is Rs 1,176 crore. But an increase of merely 7.5 per cent for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at Rs 5,624 crore does not match the rhetoric of indigenous development in Defence Production Policy that was announced in January 2011. The increased allocation at Rs 64,251 crore for the Army and Rs 10,584 crore for the Navy (from Rs 57,326 crore and Rs 9,329 crore respectively in the previous year) appear generous compared to the Rs15,927 crore granted to the Air Force (Rs 15,210 crore last year).  Tailpiece. Curiously the receipts from Canteen Stores Department over two years shows a decline when the headline inflation is in double digits.

Modest hike in defence spending  
India will spend 1.8 % of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence this fiscal, the Union Budget for 2011-12 revealed on Monday. Experts, however, said defence spending ought to have been around 3% of the GDP, seen in the backdrop of China’s rising military might.  Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee allocated a budget of Rs 1,64,415 crore (US$ 36.5 billion) to the armed forces, out of which Rs 69,199 crore has been set aside for buying new weapon systems and platforms.  The 11.5 % hike in defence spending over last year’s outlay of Rs 1,47,344 crore has been dubbed marginal by experts. The allocation includes a revenue expenditure of Rs 95,216 crore for meeting day to day expenses of the military.  China’s official defence budget for 2010 stands at $78 billion, but the Pentagon estimates its actual military spending to be upwards of $150 billion. The Communist neighbour is investing heavily in a range of capabilities including, strategic missiles, space based assets, anti ship ballistic missiles, fighter jets, aircraft carriers and submarines.  Strategic affairs expert Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak (retd) said, “The hike is hardly adequate to meet the military’s rising responsibilities in view of the feverish pace of China’s military modernisation. India’s defence modernisation gathered steam only during the last three to four years. Much needs to be done to build offensive capabilities in the long term.”  Kak said the Central Finance Commission had recommended in 1999 that 4% of the GDP should be earmarked for defence. Several committees on defence have proposed that military spending should ideally be 3% of the GDP.  India’s defence spending averaged 1.59 % of the GDP from 1947 to 1962, when our army suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese.  India sustained a defence spending of 3.1 % of the GDP between 1963 and 1988.  Military expenditure has been oscillating around the 2% mark in recent years.  It had hit a low of 1.9 % in 2008-09. In a departure from past tradition, the defence ministry did not surrender modernisation funds made available to it last year. In fact, revised estimates show that the ministry sought an additional Rs 833 crore for buying weapon systems, over and above, the Rs 60,000 crore earmarked as capital expenditure last year.

Lt Gen Khanna to relinquish command today
Express News Service Posted online: Mon Feb 28 2011, 01:51 hrs pune : Lt Gen Pradeep Khanna, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command, will relinquish command on Monday. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Lt Gen Khanna was commissioned into the Indian Army on December 20, 1970 in 20 Lancers (Armoured Corps).  He has also seen operational service at the western frontier during the 1971' war and has served in various key staff appointments, apart from having commanded 20 Lancers, said a statement from the Southern Command.  His military career, spread over 40 years includes Colonel General Staff of an Armoured Division and later, director, Complaint Advisory Board at Chief of Army Staff Secretariat, where he was awarded Chief of the Army Staff Commendation Card for Distinguished Service. After the command of an Independent Armoured Brigade, he was nominated to attend the Royal College of Defence Studies Course (UK) in 2001. He was subsequently posted as director, Faculty of Studies at Army War College.  Lt Gen Khanna commanded Armoured Division before being selected for the appointment of Additional Director-General (administration and coordination) at the Army Headquarters where he was decorated with the Vishisht Seva Medal. Further, he assumed command of the 21 Corps, where he was instrumental in organising the World Military Games at Secunderabad.  Also having served as the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Northern Command, the officer was appointed as Honorary Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to the President of India in 2008 and conferred with the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in 2009. He took over as GOC-in-C, Southern Command , the same year and was recently decorated with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal.

Indian Army excercise “Vajra Prahar” to trim mobilisation time to 48 hours
By Frontier India | February 28th, 2011 | Category: Indian Army News | No Comments »  Indian Army is set to conduct Excercise Vajra Prahar in May to test its new mobilization concept. Indian Army wants to cut its mobilization time to 48 hours involving small battle groups. The problem of mobilization surfaced back on 2001 suring “Operation parakram,” when Army took 27 days to bring togther its men and machinery on the Western Border. Subsequently, the Army has been re-working its strategies including evolving a new doctrine dubbed “Cold Start” in 2004.  Nearly 10.000 troops from Ambala based 2 Strike Corps, Patiala based 1 Armoured Division, Meerut Based 22 Division and Rapids (Dehra Dun based 14 Division) are set to test the new concepts in the two week long excercise. The concept will involve small groups carrying out assaults, before the next wave of deployment comes online. The small groups will be enabled with command and control systems, procedures and abilities. The war game will be conducted on the Punjab – Rajasthan border.  The improvements include man management, logistics, road and rail management.  Indian Army faces longer mobilization periods, as its units are located at longer distances compared to Pakistan in the western border. Pakistani Army had conducted excercise last year and displayed the capability of mobilizing 50,000 tropps in three days.  Excercise Vajra Shakti is an annual event and previous year, the 21 Corps had carried out a NBC warfare drill.

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