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Saturday, 30 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 30 Apr 2011

Chinese influence in Nepal
A major challenge for India by S.D. Muni  For the past couple of years, India has been trying to get its grip over slippery relations with Nepal. Towards that end, former Foreign Secretary and envoy to Nepal Shyam Saran was sent to Kathmandu in August 2010. This was followed by present foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s visit to Nepal in January 2011.  Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s three-day visit to Nepal in April (19-22) should be seen in continuation of these visits. Though formally Mr. Krishna had to inaugurate a newly built check-post on the Indo-Nepal border in Birgunj, his main mission was two-fold: to express India’s growing concerns on the security of its stakes in Nepal and to assess the prospects of faltering peace process and constitution making, for which the deadline is only five weeks ahead - May 28t.  The security of India’s interests in Nepal has come under severe pressure; not only due to personal attacks (with stones and shoes) on the Indian Ambassador, but also by defacing of Indian flag, politically inspired breakdowns and disruptions of Indian business establishments, the continuing use of Nepal for the flow of fake currency and terrorists into India and the expanding space of China’s strategic presence in the sensitive neighbour. Krishna articulated these concerns strongly and frankly to his Nepali interlocutors and pressed Nepal to move forward on the India-initiated pending proposals of tying up loose ends in this regard, including the conclusion of bilateral Treaties of Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance. Maoists being the principal driving force behind the attacks on The Indian Ambassador and business establishments, Mr Krishna forcefully conveyed India’s displeasure while talking to Maoist supremo Prachanda.  Mr Prachanda reassured Mr Krishna that the Maoists valued the importance of constructive engagement with India, but without mincing matters regarding his party’s reservations on India’s interference in Nepal against the Maoists since 2008, specially during the various rounds of elections For the Prime Minister in 2010.  The prospects of the peace process and constitution making in Nepal are passing through a dismal transition. Failure to accomplish these tasks by the deadline of May 28, may create a highly unstable and chaotic situation in Nepal with unwelcome adversary implications for India. The breakdown of consensus among major political parties and internal fragmentation within these parties on account of ideological differences and competing power ambitions of the key party leaders are the reasons behind the prevailing political stalemate. While the peace process is stuck on the question of integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist armed cadres, constitution making is held up due to unresolved power-sharing among the principal stakeholders and the resulting breakdown of national consensus on critical issues of federalism, nature of the executive and the basic structure of the polity.  Days before Mr Krishna’s visit to Kathmandu, indications of a positive turn in Nepal’s political situation had emerged. Internal tussle within the Nepali Congress, between its President Sushil Koirala and former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, on the question of Working Committee nominations had been resolved amicably. Similarly, Maoist leader Prachanda had distanced himself from the party’s line of “people’s revolt” and come out with a new document for speeding up the “peace process” and “constitution making”. This was the result of his swing away from his hardline mentor and Vice- Chairman Mohan Baidya, and towards the balanced and moderate ideologue, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai.  Mr Prachanda also realises that realistically, it is fool-hardy to resort to a second “peoples war” in Nepal now.  It may be recalled that the Maoists shift from the “people’s war” to democratic mainstreaming during 2005-06 had been led by the Prachanda-Baburam duo. There have also been signs of softening between the Nepali Congress and the Maoists. While Mr Baburam has been openly asking for the Maoists and the Nepali Congress to work together, the Nepali Congress hardliners are also realising that the Maoists demand for the integration of their armed cadres need to be considered carefully.  How can the process of mainstreaming the Maoists be accomplished without proper rehabilitation of their militant cadres? Some in the Nepali Congress are willing to accommodate as much as 6000 of these cadres through the integration in security forces. There is now even a proposal formally advanced by the Nepali Army for integration of militant cadres, and the response of the Maoists to this proposal so far has not been negative.  Mr Krishna in his public pronouncements had pleaded for the completion of the peace process and constitution making. He also underlined the need and significance of political consensus among Nepal’s political parties towards that end. The extent to which his parleys with the political leaders focused on this process and will help in advancing it will be known only when political moves of these leaders unfold in Nepal in the weeks to come. Mr Krishna has been assured by the Maoists that they do not have a policy to hurt India’s interests in Nepal. There are reasons to believe that the Maoist attacks on Indian diplomats and business establishments have mostly been in reaction to their perception that India wants to keep them on the margins of power-structure in Nepal.  These perceptions were reinforced by the outcome of the visits of Mr Shyam Saran and MsNirupama Rao in the midst of prime ministerial elections.  The Maoists are the largest party in the Constituent Assembly and they think that they should legitimately be accepted to lead any coalition government. They want India to be helpful by remaining at least neutral, if not supportive, to their claims in the process of government formation in Nepal. One does not know if there has been any change in India’s stance in this respect. The Maoists should be expected to change their calibrated hostility towards the Indian establishments in Nepal if Mr Krishna has succeeded in impressing upon the Maoists that India indeed wishes them well. But has he?  There have been unmistakable signs of China expanding its presence and influence in Nepal. The latest evidence of this was provided by the visit of a powerful Chinese military delegation to Nepal in March (23-26) under the leadership of the PLA chief, General Chen Bingde. An MoU was signed during his visit offering Chinese assistance of $19.9 mn to Nepal for medical equipment and construction machinery.  Mr Krishna must have explored the extent of growing Chinese influence in Nepal, particularly during his talks with President Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Khanal and Nepal’s army chief General Chhatra Man Singh Gurung.  Indian policy makers must accept the hard reality that the assertion of influence by a rising China in Asia, including in India’s sensitive neighbourhood, is inevitable and Indian diplomacy has to equip itself strategically, politically and economically to face that reality. In a country like Nepal, it is the deficiencies and failures of Indian diplomacy that will be exploited by an assertive China to its advantage with the help of all those Nepali political forces that feel alienated from India.  The writer is Visiting Research Professor, Institute for South Asian Studies, Singapore

Antony to go on western front visit
NEW DELHI: Even as the Army has launched a major combat exercise in the Thar desert to practice "high tempo" operations, defence minister A K Antony will be visiting Rajasthan on Monday to review operational preparedness of Indian troops along the western front with Pakistan.  Accompanied by Army chief General V K Singh and defence secretary Pradeep Kumar, Antony will tour the forward areas, review the border infrastructure and interact with soldiers.  As reported by TOI earlier, the Army is conducting the "Vijayee Bhava" (Be Victorious) exercise in Suratgarh region to finetune its "pro-active" war strategy.  The main formation taking part in the simulated wargames, under "a NBC (nuclear, chemical, biological) overhang", is the armoured corps-intensive 2 Corps, considered to be the most crucial of the Army's three principal "strike" formations tasked with virtually cutting Pakistan into two during a full-fledged war.

Self-inflicted afflictions
Mohammad Jamil  Whether it was the decision to enter into defence pacts with the West; becoming frontline state during Afghan jihad or joining the war on terror with the US, our civil and military bureaucracy and inept political eminences in the past have had the penchant for self-inflicted affliction. During 1965 and 1971 wars with India, the uselessness of the defence pacts had become obvious, yet our leaders did not abandon the policy of putting all eggs in one basket. Now they have also bought some of our anchorpersons, analysts and ‘brilliant’ panelists, who advise Pakistan to obey the super power, even if it is against our national interest. It is well thought out policy that WikiLeaks disclosures are made whenever they wish to put Pakistan on the mat. According to recent WikiLeaks’ leaks, the US authorities described Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency as a terrorist organization. The leaked documents distributed by WikiLeaks website stated that “the US saw the ISI as a threat at par with al-Qaeda and the Taliban”. Can these ‘eminences’ understand that the US after facing defeat in Afghanistan is planning to make Pakistan a whipping boy? And god forbid if anything happens to Pakistan, they all stand to lose.  On our home front, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s tirade against the ISI for intervening in politics provided further ‘ammunition’ to America’s arsenal. It is of course duty of the politicians, writers, analysts and media to criticize and even condemn when pillars of the state and/or institutions transgress their limits and encroach upon other’s domains. Some media men while flaunting their independence are carried away by the newly found freedom of speech, and wittingly or unwittingly act in a manner that brings ignominy to the country and its national institutions. We do not hold brief for the military or intelligence agencies, but to accuse the military or agencies of supporting some political parties without any evidence is downright vulgar. Anyhow, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday categorically stated that the country’s intelligence agencies were subservient to the government and act under government’s instructions and guidance. Speaking in the National Assembly, the prime minister said the country’s institutions should not be looked at with suspicion, adding, whatever the intelligence agencies including ISI do it is on the government’s instructions.  It has to be mentioned that after 2008 elections the PPP-led government had tried to bring the ISI under ministry of interior on the behest of Pentagon or US administration to make it ineffective. For some weeks now Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of PML-N has started a smearing campaign against the ISI, not realizing that the agency is trying to identify the CIA and Blackwater operatives roaming around the cities of Pakistan. Anyhow, Chaudhry Nisar is once again playing hawk; but the PML-N is likely to lose the support of the people, as it already stands isolated whereby there is hardly a political party of substance that stands with it. According to reports, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was the one who had advised Mian Nawaz Sharif to act tough with civil and military bureaucracy. Of course, Mian Nawaz Sharif got rid of a President, two army chiefs and one chief justice, but ultimately wasted 10 years of his prime life in exile. The timing of Chaudhry Nisar Ali’s tirade against the ISI is also wrong when the US has already opened the front with the ISI especially after the Raymond Davis case. Anyhow, the people of Pakistan are angry over the insults being inflicted on this nation by the Americans so blithely.  One is astonished to hear some anchor persons on Pakistani channels saying that “America has a point when it says that Pakistan is only conducting military operation on the militants that pose threat to Pakistan but turns a blind to the Haqqani network holed in North Waziristan”. Any patriotic Pakistan would argue that when America and India, who have no borders with Afghanistan, wish to protect their strategic interests in Afghanistan, what is wrong for Pakistan to desire a friendly government next door, which is logical and reasonable. Pakistan, indeed, has genuine concern, as Afghanistan was the only country that had voted against Pakistan’s membership in United Nations in 1947, and except for a brief period of Taliban era, the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan remained strained. Yet our pseudo-intellectuals smirk and insinuate Pakistan for finding strategic depth in Afghanistan, which has never been an official policy. Of course, some defence analysts have been using the term but not to convey that Pakistan should maneuver to have a govt of its choice in Afghanistan.  There are indeed patriotic elements in Pakistani print and electronic media who are aware of their national responsibility, and they do not project our enemies’ point of view. But there are others who are chivalrous and obstreperous as a result of the newfound media freedom. Pseudo-intellectuals and a few politicians also continue to spread despondency in a bid to prove that Pakistan is a failed state, at a time when India is trying to get Pakistan the stigma of a state supporting and promoting terrorism. However, it is only the urban-centric anchorpersons and their ‘brilliant’ panelists that remain preoccupied with proving each and every act of the government, military and intelligence agencies wrong. During their TV programmes, they take bleeper from Indian journalists who support their government on every count, but our ‘intelligentsia’ does not feel qualms over denigrating Pakistan. These anchorpersons and analysts often badmouth the military while discussing Martial Laws of the past, though elected governments, civilian and military dictators were responsible in equal measure for having brought the country to the present pass. There is a perception that elements at the social pyramid - the educated class, pseudo-intellectuals, or intelligentsia both Mandarins and Resistantes - have not performed their rightful duty of providing adequate leads to the overwhelming illiterate and immensely religious hoi polloi.  However, the irresponsible minority needs strong sanctions from within the media to protect the good name and integrity of those who act responsibly. Media in the past had played prodigious role during Pakistan movement in uniting the Muslims of the subcontinent. And it was because of this unity that Muslims of the undivided India were able to carve out a separate homeland under the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam. During 1965 war also, the media had made a commendable contribution towards uniting the nation and boosting the morale of the armed forces.  The result was that Pakistan could resist and repulse attack by India - much larger in size and having enormous resources. At this point in time when Pakistan is confronting challenges to its internal and external security, Pakistani media men should rise to the occasion and play their role to counter hostile Indian and western propaganda and protect national interests. It is not being suggested that they should become embedded journalists and hold brief for the government, military or intelligence agencies, but should act in a responsible manner, which is emblematic of patriotism.

India to choose fighter jets made in Europe, not US
Dubai: To the surprise of some, India has brushed aside tenders from US and Russian manufacturers to award the $12 billion (Dh44.04 billion) deal to supply 126 multi-role fighter aircraft to European firms.  In the tough bidding process for a contract that is being seen as one of the decade's biggest, New Delhi has short-listed the Rafale, made by France's Dassault Aviation, and the Eurofighter Typhoon, built by European Aeronautic Defence and Space, a consortium of Spain, Germany, Britain's BAE Systems and Italy's Finmeccanica.  Incidentally, the Rafale and the Eurofighter are seeing action over the skies of Libya as part of Nato's military campaign.  Speaking to Gulf News, Laxman Behera, Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, a New Delhi-based think-tank, said India's move was a "big blow" to the US. "When there is international bidding, involving multiple foreign companies, the stakes are very high. It is very competitive. The final decision is a big blow to the prestige of the US companies."  Surprising  According to Behera, the Indian Air Force had listed more than 600 parameters to evaluate the aircraft. But he said he found it difficult to believe a highly advanced fighter jet like Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet could not pass the test. "It took a long time, as the aircraft had to be tested in different climatic conditions. But it is a bit difficult to digest that Boeing was excluded. It is surprising."  American ambassador to India Timothy Roemer, who announced on Thursday that he was resigning for "personal reasons", said the US government was "deeply disappointed" by the decision.  But asked about the implications of the deal on New Delhi's growing strategic and economic relationship with Washington, Behera said he did not believe there would be a negative impact in the long term. "It was a big contract. And the US administration was trying hard to persuade the Indian government. There will be some short-term bitterness. But in the long-term, I don't think it will have much impact. In the past four to five years, US companies have been awarded many big defence contracts. In any case, no company has the liberty to ignore the Indian market."  Spending spree  Indeed, India has been on a spending spree, lately. The country's defence budget for the fiscal year which ended in March rose by more than 11 per cent, to $36.28 billion.  Defence experts believe India will spend between $50-80 billion on armaments in the next five years. The army is looking for artillery while the air force will be shopping mainly for attack helicopters. And a significant portion of that is likely to go to US weapons manufacturers.  India's traditional arms supplier, Russia, also lost out on the deal, when its MiG-35 was rejected. "The MiG-35 didn't stand a chance. It was least likely to be selected. It was not up to the task," said Behera.  Reputation problem  The MiGs also have a reputation problem in India, with the MiG-21s being branded "flying coffins" as a result of the deaths of numerous Indian Air Force pilots in crashes.  Sweden's Saab Gripen and Lockheed's F-16 Super Viper were also in contention.

BAE Systems cries foul, skips tender for IA's artillery programme new
New Delhi: India's notorious defence procurement system received another nasty jolt with global defence major BAE Systems today pulling out of the ministry of defence's (MoD) tender for the supply of 400 towed artillery guns to the Indian Army (IA).  Bofors FH-77B L52BAE was offering a more advanced version of the older FH-77B Bofors guns, which performed very credibly in the IA's campaign in Kargil in Kashmir, but forever retained the taint of an earlier scandal concerning their acquisition.  BAE Systems now owns Bofors.  Apparently, the decision was arrived at after the company realised that new tender specifications contained technical and performance relaxations that would allow less capable weapon systems to enter the competition and thereby reduce the competitive advantage of their FH-77B05 L52 gun.  According to BAE spokesperson, Guy Douglas, "BAE Systems has, after very careful consideration, come to the conclusion that the company will not submit a proposal. The ministry of defence has been informed," he added.  The 155mm .52 calibre towed howitzers intended to be offered by the BAE Systems is an upgraded version of the Bofors guns inducted into the army in the late 1980s. Today was the last date of submission for bids, and the company skipped the opportunity.  The tender for the towed guns is one of the most jinxed of all of MoD's acquisition programmes and has badly impaired the Indian Army's artillery modernisation programme. This is the army's fifth attempt to get an acquisition programme underway.  Douglas said the decision not to bid is a "commercial one" based on the high investment costs required to participate in a complex artillery competition of this nature, where the win probability has been reduced.  The last tender was cancelled after Singapore Technologies, one of the two participating companies in the deal, was blacklisted by the ministry of defence following corruption allegations.  Douglas however made it clear that the company's commitment to India and the development of India's domestic defence industry remained "resolute."  Indian plans to induct the Ultra-light Howitzers, manufactured by BAE Systems in America, has also run into some trouble with allegations that the gun has failed to meet the exacting requirements of the army. The procurement was supposed to be done through the Foreign Military Sales route.  Under its Rs20,000 crore artillery modernisation plan, the army is looking to induct different types of howitzers including towed and self-propelled.

Antony to visit Rajasthan ahead of Army war games
NEW DELHI (PTI): Indian Defence Minister A K Antony will visit Rajasthan on Monday to review operational preparedness of the troops along the Pakistan border ahead of the Army war games to be held there.  "During the one-day visit, the Defence Minister will visit the forward locations in western desert and interact with the personnel deployed there," Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said here Friday.  At one of the forward locations along the border, the Defence Minister will be briefed about the infrastructure created and other requirements of the troops there.  The Defence Minister will also visit the Jaisalmer military station where he will be briefed by Southern Army Commander Lt Gen A K Singh about the operational preparedness and issues relating to the Pune-based Southern Command.  Indian Army Chief General V K Singh, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and various other senior military officials will accompany the Defence Minister during the visit.  Antony's visit comes a week before the Army starts its Division-level exercise codenamed 'Operation Vijayee Bhava' to validate its concepts and war-fighting doctrines.  The exercise would be held well inside the border where all fighting arms of the Indian Army including the artillery, armoured columns including tanks and mechanised vehicles will take part in it, sources said.  As part of war-fighting arrangements, the Indian Army has put its three Strike Corps, which are supposed to strike and enter enemy territories in case of war, under three different commands.  During such exercises, the formations evolve and practice battlefield tactics for different warfare scenarios for a conventional conflict with the adversaries.

Soldier kills 4 colleagues
Srinagar, April 28: An army havildar turned his service rifle on his colleagues inside their camp in a south Kashmir village today, killing a junior commissioned officer and three troopers.  Defence spokesperson Lt Colonel J.S. Brar said this was the first big incident of fratricide in two years in the Valley. In Jammu, however, a soldier was killed by a colleague last month.  Sources said havildar Abhay Kumar of the 42 Rashtriya Rifles ran amok inside his camp at Panjpora village in Anantnag early this morning. Brar said Kumar opened fire for “unexplained reasons”.  But a police officer said Kumar had an altercation with some colleagues. He identified the slain junior commissioned officer as Jaipal Singh. The three jawans, most of whom reportedly died on the spot, were not identified. Kumar was overpowered by his colleagues and arrested.  “One jawan was injured and was evacuated to the base hospital in Srinagar where he is stated to be out of danger. Havildar Abhay is in military custody,” Brar said.  The army has ordered a probe. “This incident is an aberration, the first in the past two years (in the Valley). Now that it has taken place, we will take more remedial measures when the inquiry report comes out,” Brar said.  Last month, havildar Chittar Bahadur of the 2/5 Gorkha Rifles was killed by a colleague in the Mendhar area of Jammu’s Poonch.  Generally, incidents of fratricide in the army have declined across the country, from 13 in 2006 to one in 2009, though a handful were reported last year.  Spokesperson Brar said the army had in the past few years put in place stress- management measures — such as constant counselling by superiors and religious preachers, regular rest, yoga and recreation — but conceded that counter-insurgency operations were stressful.  Other officers said the jawans had to maintain continuous vigil to tackle infiltration and militancy which, along with domestic problems, could increase stress and lead to fratricides, even suicides.  “We have been on the job to ensure a stress-free environment for the jawans. In this case, it will be ensured the truth comes to light and suitable measures instituted to prevent any recurrence of such incidents,” Brar said.  The army has also taken tough action against the soldiers involved in such incidents.  A general court martial had in 2007 sentenced sepoy K.C. Behra to death for killing an officer, Lt Colonel Saket Saxena. Life terms were given in other cases.

Centre pumps in Rs1,500 crore for advanced drones
The Centre has approved a budget of Rs1,500 crore for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop India’s latest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Rustom-H. This was disclosed by the chief controller, research and development of DRDO, W Selvamurthy, in Pune on Thursday.  He was speaking at a press meet held on the sidelines of the second national symposium on robotics and autonomous vehicles held at the Research and Development Establishment, Engineers, R&DE (E).  Selvamurthy said the Rustom-H would be India’s latest medium altitude (20 km), long range (24 hours endurance) and heavy payload (500 kg) UAV and would be developed over five years. “We are keen to develop a micro UAV the size of a cockroach,’’ he added.  Emphasising that future wars would increasingly see the use of unmanned vehicles, Selvamurthy said the US Army had projected that by 2035, one-third of their hardware would comprise only unmanned vehicles.  The Rustom-H would be developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment, a Bangalore-based DRDO laboratory. Selvamurthy said a special UAV centre would be soon developed in Chitradurga (Karnataka) to facilitate all test flights and demonstrations of Rustom-H and other UAVs of the future.  On the Agni-5 missile, Selvamurthy said it would have a range of 5,000 km and would be test-fired in March 2012. Two variants of the light combat aircraft Tejas, one a trainer and the other a naval aircraft, would also be developed. Also on the DRDO’s drawing board is an advanced medium combat aircraft.  He said DRDO, which had delivered 101 Arjun main battle tanks (MBTs) to the army, had received orders for another 124 tanks. The newer version of the Arjun MBT-II with 13 new features would be ready for formal demonstration in June 2012. The new features include better missile firing capability, better penetration of ammunition and thermal lighting for the tank commanders.

Brigadier digs out old maps of building plot
MUMBAI: In a new twist to the Adarsh case, Brigadier Deepak Saxena, General Officer Commanding (Army) on Thursday filed another affidavit before the two-member judicial commission, which is probing the Colaba housing society scam, stating that the Army has more information on the status of the Adarsh plot. The affidavit stated that the Army had accessed old maps dating back to the early 1900s from its archives, which show the land on which the controversial 31-storey residential tower stands.  But even as the affidavit was taken on record by the state-appointed judicial panel—led by retired high court judge J A Patil and former state chief secretary P Subramanyam—another lawyer stood up saying he represented the Union of India . He, too, wanted to file an affidavit for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). All parties and their lawyers were caught off guard and there was confusion about who and which departments were representing the government of India.  Meanwhile, the housing society's lawyers Manish Desai and Saket Mone questioned Saxena's authority as did the commission's lawyer Dipan Merchant . They also filed two applications requesting the Centre, state government and Geeta Kashyap who is the Defence Estate Officer, to file affidavits. The society wants to cross-examine concerned officers.  Saxena's counsel Dhiren Shah sought time to file a reply to the society's application, and the matter was moved to Monday. The commission's counsel Dipan Merchant who was all set to crossexamine Saxena on Thursday said he would like all the affidavits and documents in place before questioning the brigadier. Anil Sakhare, counsel for the state, said that even the Maharashtra government would like to file affidavits.  The commission has made it clear to both the state and Centre that no further extension will be granted beyond May 2 for filing affidavits.

GOC in Myanmar for liaison meeting
Imphal, April 28 2011: The 43rd Indo-Myanmar border liaison meeting between Indian Army officers and Myanmarese Army officers has begun from today at Myanmar.  The meeting will continue till May 2 .  According to a statement issued by PIB Defence Wing, a 12-member Indian Army delegation under the aegis of HQ 3 Corps led by Major General DS Hooda, AVSM, VSM, GOC HQ 57 Mountain Division left today for Myanmar to attend the meeting.  The Indo-Myanmar border liaison meeting is a landmark event where representatives of both the Armies interact and exchange views on matters relating to security of border areas and measures to be initiated to control insurgency in both countries.  The event also gives an opportunity to all the delegates to know each other personally and help in further strengthening the friendly bond and co-operation between the two countries, the statement added.    DS Hooda and his counter part at Myanmar, with the flags of the respective country   Meanwhile, Red Shield Division of India Army has today handed over earth moving machineries to the Myanmarese Army.  This gesture of the Indian Army to assistance Myanmar in road construction is expected to strengthen co-operation between the two neighbours for future growth and and an amiable relationship, PIB Defence Wing said in another statement.  In a simple ceremony organised at 31 Assam Rifles location at the border town of Moreh, Major Gen Hooda, AVSM, VSM, GOC of Red Shield Division handed over two Tata JCBs (Back Hoes) to Brig Gen Aung San Chit, Commander RCC, Kalay of Myanmar Army.  A number of Indian Army officers, who are part of the Indian delegation, Myanmarese Army officials and civilians of Moreh attended the function.

US Army to have its own app store, Should Indian army follow ?
The application store will have apps that are intended to help soldiers accomplish every day army-related tasks. Should the Indian army, which is in the process of setting up its own wireless network, take similar initiative?  Soon the US Army will deploy its own mobile application store. Dubbed the Army Marketplace, it will initially feature 17 Android and 16 iPhone apps intended to help soldiers accomplish every day job-related tasks.  Apps included in the store have a wide range of utility. There's a workout guide, an app for disaster relief that lets users create, edit, and search maps using Google Earth, and another that lets soldiers connect with the Army's command post software in order to learn where firefights and bombings are occuring.  The Army Marketplace is also intended to encourage the development of new apps. In a forum within the Marketplace, Army personnel will be able to discuss potential apps. Ideally, the Army wants these apps to be developed in-house, but if not, it could contract third-party developers.  The Army Marketplace will not be open to the public. It is scheduled to be hosted on the Department of Defense's secure server and access will require a username and password.  The US Army is also developing an Android smartphone especially for its soldiers, who will be allowed to access the Army Marketplace via a native app.  The Indian Air Force is in the process of deploying its own wireless network, and the Army and Navy will join soon.  Therefore, it won't be difficult for them to have their own smartphone and application store.  This will prove to be icing on the cake as it will reduce the hassle in communication in a very cost effective way. Also, the phone is like the Swiss Army Knife of communication and computing.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 28 Apr 2011

ISI role in terror
The writing is clearly on the wall  The complicity of the Pakistan establishment in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 has come into sharp focus yet again with US federal prosecutors in a Chicago court naming four more Pakistani conspirators in the attack. Significantly, one of the conspirators named is ‘Major Iqbal’, a Pakistani army officer who worked for the ISI when the attack took place. This corroborates the Indian version in a dossier submitted to the Pakistan government last year in which he had been identified as one of the masterminds of the attack. The three others named by US investigators — Sajid Mir, Mazhar Iqbal and Abu Qahafa — have been identified as Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives. That Major Iqbal’s name cropped up in the FBI interrogation of David Coleman Headley shows that the Americans are well tuned into what were the forces at work in the ghastly Mumbai terror attacks.  The naming of four Pakistani conspirators has come close on the heels of Wikileaks disclosures that some classified US documents of 2007 had listed ISI as a ‘terrorist’ organization. Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, had said that the ISI had continued links to the powerful network of an Afghan warlord that has bases in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan. Evidently, the Americans are acutely conscious of ISI’s role in fuelling terror especially against India but choose to look the other way as part of their own self-seeking strategy.  As India moves towards a renewed composite dialogue with Pakistan, it is imperative that the Pakistan government be told that it cannot evade responsibility for the actions of its own intelligence outfit. Lip-service apart, the government in Islamabad has done nothing to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 to book. Apparently, the ISI, being an adjunct of the Pakistani army evokes awe in that country’s establishment. But that is for the Pakistan government to sort out. It is also wrong for the American administration to deal with Pakistan with kid gloves when a wing of that country’s establishment is stoking terror and insurgency in India.

MoD to tread ‘cautiously’
Asks Army to explain implications if ‘anomaly’ is corrected Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, April 27 As the controversy rages over the date of birth (DoB) of Army Chief General VK Singh, the Defence Ministry has asked the army to explain the long-term implications if the ‘anomaly’ in the DoB is corrected.  The Defence Ministry will take a final call on the issue. Before that it wants the Army to spell out the implications that will occur in the future. This will affect the line of succession and also the possibility of legal wrangles that will drag on for years, besides sullying the image of the force.  Sources said the ministry’s directive to the army came after the army sent the files to it saying there was an ‘anomaly’ in the date of birth of the Army Chief.  The controversy has erupted as two branches of the Indian Army record separate date of births of the Army Chief. The military secretary branch records the date of birth of General Singh as May 10, 1950, while the adjutant general has recorded it as May 10, 1951. At the time of his appointment as the Army Chief, General VK Singh’s date of birth of May 1950 was taken into account.  As of now, General VK Singh retires in June next. If the date of birth is changed, the Army Chief will get one more year to serve the country. The sources said the decision to give one-year extension to him will be taken by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister. All appointments, including those of Lt. Generals and Chiefs, are approved by the ACC.  As regards seeking clarification from the army to correct the ‘anomaly’, the sources said the Defence Ministry was examining all the documents related to the issue. Defence Minister A K Antony said on Monday that the government will take the final decision after due consideration. This observation by the minister was a clear indication that the ministry wanted to tread ‘cautiously’ on the issue and consider all possibilities before taking a decision.  The sources said the Army Chief had accepted 1950 as the year of birth when he was in the race for promotion as Eastern Command chief in 2008.  In case the Army Chief retires in June 2012, then the first in line for succession is Lt Gen Bikram Singh, Chief of the Eastern Command. However, in case he gets an extension, then Lt Gen KT Parnaik, the Northern Army Commander, will be the next Chief.  Earlier in the day, former DG of Assam Rifles, Lt Gen (retd) KS Yadava, said the issue was “sullying the image of the army and should be settled soon.” Commenting on the documents available with mediapersons regarding Gen V K Singh's date of birth, Gen Yadava said, “The person who leaks out confidential matters is a criminal and the person who makes use of that confidential note is equally at fault”.

AFT not a truly judicial forum, rules Delhi HC
Empowers HCs to review tribunal orders Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, April 27 In a ruling that has wide ramifications on adjudication of service disputes pertaining to the Armed Forces personnel, the Delhi High Court has ruled that the High Courts are constitutionally empowered to review decisions by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).  The Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007 had stipulated that appeals against AFT orders would lie directly with the Supreme Court. “The AFT, being manned by personnel appointed by the Executive, albeit in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, cannot be said to be truly a judicial review forum as a substitute to HCs that are constitutional courts and the power of judicial review, being a basic feature of the Constitution, under Article 226 and Article 227 of the Constitution is unaffected by the constitution of the AFT,” a division bench, comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Suresh Kait ruled yesterday.  “Further, Article 227(4) of the Constitution takes away only the administrative supervisory jurisdiction of the HCs over the AFT and does not impact their judicial supervisory jurisdiction. Thus, decisions by the AFT would be amenable to judicial review by HC under the Article 226 as also the Article 227 of the Constitution,” the bench further ruled. Tribunals can perform a “supplemental as opposed to a substitutional” role vis-a-vis the HCs, the bench held.  The AFT was set up to exercise an appellate jurisdiction with respect to orders, findings or sentences of court martial and exercises original jurisdiction with respect to service disputes. The purpose behind it was to provide a dedicated forum for quick redressal of grievances to the armed forces personnel as disposal of cases in the high court took a long time.  The bench held that the right to file an appeal before the SC created as mentioned in the Act meant that the right to appeal to the Supreme Court is not a matter of right, but a matter of discretion to be exercised by the AFT. Further, the discretion of the AFT is limited only to a point of law of general public importance and not every point of law that may have arisen during proceedings.  The HC’s order has also kicked up a debate in legal circles. Some lawyers say that it would be easier for litigants to file appeals against the AFT orders, as it was procedurally, psychologically, financially and physically easier and faster to approach a HC than the SC. Others are of the opinion that if appeals against the AFT orders lie with the HC, then the very purpose of setting up the Tribunal is negated as the HC would again be burdened with additional cases, besides further lengthening the judicial process and disposal time.

Indian military delegation to visit China
New Delhi/Beijing, April 27 (IANS) India will send a military delegation to China later this year, signalling resumption of defence exchanges between the neighbours after an eight-month hiatus due to denial of a proper visa to an army commander from Jammu and Kashmir last year, officials said Wednesday.  The five-member delegation will be headed by a general from Jammu and Kashmir at the level of a major general commanding a division-sized force.  In Beijing, Chinese defence ministry spokesperson Geng Yansheng said the delegation will include officers from several branches of India’s military.  An Indian defence ministry official said in New Delhi the delegation will have representatives from the Udhampur-based Northern Command, the Lucknow-headquartered Central Command and the Kolkata-based Eastern Command, apart from an officer from the army headquarters in New Delhi.  The dates for the visit are yet to be finalised, but it would happen this year.  ‘The dates, modalities and the names of officers to be part of the delegation are being worked out now,’ the official added.  Xinhua quoted Geng as saying that ‘new breakthroughs’ have emerged in Sino-Indian military ties.  Only by observing the guidelines of mutual respect, understanding and accommodation and seeking common ground while ‘reserving some differences’ can the two militaries enhance their strategic mutual trust, Geng said.  The Chinese side will promote exchanges and cooperation with India in various fields and at different levels, he said.  Earlier this month, India and China had agreed to resume high-level defence exchanges at a meeting April 13 between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao in the Chinese coastal resort of Sanya on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit.  India’s National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon had told reporters after the 50-minute meeting that ‘following the discussions in the last few months about these exchanges, it has been agreed that a multi-command Indian army delegation will be visiting China later this year’.  ‘And we are also discussing further exchanges and visits in this sector during the year,’ Menon had said.  India had suspended defence exchanges last August, strongly objecting to China issuing a visa on a loose sheet to Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, the then northern army commander who was based in Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir.

Eurofighter versus Rafale in India's $10.4-billion combat jet tender
New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) It is now virtually an all-European battle for India's $10.4-billion order for 126 combat jets with the US and Russia almost out of the race after the defence ministry Wednesday asked EADS and Dassault to extend the validity of their commercial bids.  With this indirect down select, it is almost clear that American majors Boeing and Lockheed Martin have not made the cut and neither have Sweden's SAAB and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) in the tender for the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF), described as the "mother of all defence deals".  An official announcement in this regard is expected Thursday from the defence ministry, an official told IANS.  EADS has offered its Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault the Rafale for the tender issued in August 2007. Boeing had pitted the F/A-18, Lockheed Martin the F-16, UAC the MiG-35 and SAAB the Gripen against the two fighter jets that are now deemed to have cleared the technical evaluation completed by the IAF last March.  The commercial bids for the contract were to expire Thursday and had to be extended by the competing vendors on a request from the defence ministry.  "It (the down select) is not official yet. An announcement is likely to be made Thursday," the official said, when asked if EADS and Dassault are the only two firms to have been asked to extend the validity of their commercial bids.  The four-year contest for the Indian contract was hard fought by all the six vendors with "aggressive marketing" by them.  Except for EADS and UAC, all the other firms had offered and allowed joy rides by Indian politicians, movie stars and journalists during the biennial AeroIndia show held in February at Yelahanka air base in Bangalore in 2009 and 2011.  The tendering process itself was threatened earlier this year after the offset plans of the six firms went missing after a bureaucrat in the defence ministry lost the file while carrying it home and was later found on the roadside in south Delhi within a few hours.  A probe held by the defence ministry indicted the bureaucrat, but concluded that tender was not compromised by the official's lapse and decided to complete the process.  The deal, to be finalised this fiscal, will fetch India $5 billion investment in the form of 50 percent offsets, a clause that mandates the winning firm to plough back half the deal's worth to energise the Indian defence industry.  While the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, had pressed for the deal to be finalised by July this year, when his tenure ends, Defence Minister A.K. Antony had said during the AeroIndia show in February that the contract would be awarded before March 2012.  On Monday, Antony had also warned the army and air force top brass in their conferences being held here to be wary of "corrupt practices by vested interests in the garb of aggressive marketing" in some of the major defence deals that India was to sign this year, including the combat jet contract.  India has earmarked Rs.69,199 crore ($15 billion) for capital expenditure in the defence budget for 2011-12 in view of the major defence deals to be clinched this fiscal.

India likely to acquire arms, ammunition worth $1 bn
India is likely to acquire 44,618 close-quarter battle (CQB) carbines and 33.6 million rounds of ammunition, in a transaction that may be valued at close to $1 billion (Rs.4,440 crore).  The submission of commercial bids for the contract closes on 16 May, while the last date for submitting offset proposals is 16 August, according to a defence industry official with direct knowledge of the matter.  India imposes counter-trade obligations on original equipment manufacturers that are awarded defence contracts worth more than Rs.300 crore by way of production of components in India.  To meet this obligation, foreign vendors partner with Indian firms. At present, the offset obligation varies between 30-50% of the value of the contract.  While the original tender notification, or request for information, first issued in 2008, was for 43,318 carbines, a revised tender issued in 2010 was for 44,618 units. A request for technical and commercial proposal (RFP) for the deal was subsequently issued on 24 December.  Mint has also reviewed a copy of the RFP, which was sent to global vendors including FN Herstal, Beretta, Heckler and Koch, Israel Weapon Industries Ltd (IWI), Colt Defense Llc, Bushmaster Firearms International Llc and Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd, among others.  In 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation had asked the ministry of defence to blacklist Singapore Technologies, over alleged irregularities in relation to purchases by the Ordnance Factory Board.  According to the RFP, along with the carbines, the defence ministry is also shopping for ammunition, magazines, bayonets, slings, reflex sights and visible and invisible laser spot designators.  The industry official cited above also said that the carbines are likely to be manufactured under licence by the new ordnance unit at Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.  The army is looking at a 5.56 mm calibre system with a rate of fire of 660 rounds a minute, according to the RFP.  This order is in addition to the government’s plan to indigenously manufacture another 116,764 carbines and 2,18,320 advanced carbines for an estimated $500 million. The tenders for these were floated in 2008.  As many as 10,730 light-weight assault rifles for para-special forces may also be purchased.  On 16 March, Mint had reported that the government and industry had been discussing ways of opening up the small arms market to the private industry.  Weapons such as pistols, assault rifles, carbines and machine guns that are carried by infantry soldiers are called small arms.  Currently, only the government-owned Ordnance Factory Board’s units in Ichhapore and Kanpur manufacture small arms for local use and exports.  The “government of India has in the past demonstrated some openness to private sector participation in arms manufacture. Since 2001, four firms in the private sector, namely Max Aerospace and Aviation Ltd, Bharat Forge Ltd, Larsen and Toubro Ltd, and Punj Lloyd Ltd were issued licences to manufacture arms and ammunition. Most of these licences have since lapsed as of date”, the report cited above said.  “A CQB carbine typically should be low trajectory, rapid fire and a short range weapon with a low recoil. Currently, India’s attempts at indigenously developing such a weapon have failed,” said retired brigadier and defence analyst Rumel Dahiya of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. “It therefore becomes imperative to procure these weapons from foreign vendors.”  Rajiv Chib, defence analyst at PriceWaterhouseCoopers India, pointed out that a previous tender was cancelled, re-issued and then retracted again.  “There is no reason to believe this will not happen again,” he said.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 27 Apr 2011

'Major Iqbal' among four charged in 26/11 Mumbai attacks
Indo-Asian News Service, Updated: April 26, 2011 18:35 IST  Chicago:  US federal prosecutors have added four top Pakistani terrorists linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfit as accused for helping Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana to plot the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack.  The four identified as Sajid Mir, Abu Qahafa, Mazhar Iqbal and "Major Iqbal" were charged on Monday in US district court in Chicago, though none of them is in US custody.  All four are charged with one count of conspiracy to murder and maim in India, while Mir, Abu Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal have been additionally charged with conspiracy to bomb public places in India.  They also face six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India, which carry maximum sentences of death or life imprisonment.  
The revised indictment comes three weeks before the scheduled May 16 trial of Rana, a Canadian citizen who is accused of using his First World Immigration Services business to provide cover to Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, to scout targets for the Mumbai attack.  Headley, the son of an American mother and Pakistani father, pleaded guilty in March 2010 to 12 criminal counts, including aiding and abetting the murder of Americans in Mumbai, and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in a plea deal to escape the death penalty.  Mir, also known as "Wasi", aka "Ibrahim" and "Sajid Majeed", who reportedly joined the Pakistan based terror outfit LeT at age 16, allegedly worked as Headley's handler for two years.  Ten terrorists sneaked into Mumbai Nov 26, 2008, and went on a three-day killing spree, leaving 166 people dead. One of the terrorists, Ajmal Amir Kasab, was caught alive and arrested. The terror strike strained India-Pakistan relations.  The new indictment says that "during the course of attacks in Mumbai, the attackers were in telephonic contact with defendants Sajid Mir, Abu Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal, all of whom were then located in Pakistan".  "More specifically, during the course of the attacks, the attackers were advised to, among other actions, kill hostages, set fires and throw grenades," the indictment said.  "Sajid Mir also sought to arrange the release of a hostage in exchange for the release of a captured attacker."  The US prosecutors also accused Mir of working with Headley to plan a terrorist attack on a Danish newspaper, which in 2005 published cartoons on Prophet Mohammed.  There is also a warrant for Mir's arrest in India. During the Mumbai attack, Indian police intercepted phone calls between Mir and his terror teams in Mumbai.  Terrorist group Harkat ul Jihad al Islami leader Ilyas Kashmiri and retired Pakistani military man Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed also were charged in a previous indictment but their whereabouts are unknown.  Rana faces life imprisonment if convicted on the charges he provided material support to the Mumbai attackers

Pakistan troops violate LoC ceasefire
Jammu, April 26 (IANS) In another ceasefire violation, Pakistani troops opened heavy gunfire on Indian posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir late Tuesday evening, defence sources said.  The Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing on the Indian posts in Poonch sector, about 240 km north of Jammu, at around 7.30 p.m., the sources said.  The Indian troops retaliated and the exchange of fire continued almost for 90 minutes.  The Indian Army will take up the matter with the Pakistani Army Wednesday, the sources said.

Nothing wrong in Manmohan Singh seeking talks with Gen Kayani
The prime minister's office has denied a report in The Times, London, that prime minister Manmohan Singh had appointed an "unofficial envoy" for "secret talks" with Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. But there's more to this than meets the eye.  As pointed out by the media, there is glaring contradiction in the The Times' news item - Cricket-inspired thaw pushes rivals into secret talks. It was not possible for Manmohan Singh to have conceived the idea of inviting the Pakistani prime minister for talks during World Cup semifinal almost a year in advance. Yet, some sort of an effort being made by the Indian PM to reach out to General Kayani for the revival of peace process is highly likely. There are many power centres in Pakistan but on its relationship with India, the Pakistan army is the final arbitrator.  In 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with the high hopes of brokering peace between the warring neighbours, rode a bus to Lahore. Vajpayee and Nawaz Shrarif had even reached to an agreement, namely the 'Lahore Declaration'. Barely a month later, the peace bus was found stranded on the Kargil heights; the two neighbours got engaged in a limited war.  President Zardari can never attain a statesman-like status but his natural instinct is to have peace with India. Within days of his taking over as president of Pakistan, he announced possibility of "good news within a month" on Kashmir. He even tried to change the basic premise of Pakistan's national security doctrine by declaring that Pakistan had adopted a "no first strike" nuclear war policy. His statement created a furore in Pakistan and the Pakistani defence establishment soon came out with a strong rebuttal that their own president is "not fully informed or completely aware of" the national security doctrine. Zardari had also categorised militants active in Kashmir as "terrorists".  It's widely believed that after the exit of General Musharraf, New Delhi was able to revive the peace process with the newly elected government in Pakistan headed by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) but that General Kayani proved to be a real hurdle. A diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks confirms the real impediment. Former British foreign secretary David Miliband, after his visit to Pakistan on November 25, 2008, had assessed: "There was a 'deal on paper' and both prime minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari were 'ready' to sign it." Miliband had thought the remaining obstacle was Pakistani military chief staff general Kayani: "He remained 'reluctant' and needed to be persuaded." Miliband has visited Pakistan just a day before 26/11 and that there was a "deal on paper" as late as November 2008 is quite significant. Despite America midwifing a 'peace deal' and a democratically elected government in Pakistan reasonably keen to have a normal relationship with India, that the Pakistan military is able to torpedo the entire peace process sufficiently indicates the real power centre in Pakistan.  The military holding the fulcrum of power in Pakistan is a hard reality. New Delhi has all along conducted business with military dictators and military backed civilian governments in Pakistan.  Therefore, Manmohan Singh trying to open channels of communication with the all-powerful military chief should not come as a surprise. It is quite possible that Manmohan Singh is eager to pick the threads from where Musharraf had left and may have sent feelers to General Kayani. Ironically, the architect of Kargil eventually proved to be a potential peacemaker.  The progress made from 2004-07 in the 'backchannel' is the bedrock of what is being described as "deal on paper".It's the most favourable bargain wherein India could have clinched the deal without losing an inch of territory under its control in Kashmir.  It is true that only a military dictator in Pakistan can make amends to its deeply entrenched Kashmir policy and anti-India outlook. In this regard, Musharraf proved to be more than handy. But there are other critical factors also that prompted Musharraf to think of normalising its relations with India. The fall of the Taliban after 9/11 deprived Pakistan of its so-called strategic depth. On the contrary, it was facing the prospect of getting squeezed between a hostile Afghanistan and an antagonised India.  The Taliban forcing a stalemate and the forthcoming American withdrawal from Afghanistan has dramatically altered the geopolitics of the region. Despite the risk of a failing state still looming large, Pakistan, in comparison to 2001, is presently better placed. That's the reason why it wants to start a fresh and is not inclined to pick the threads from where they were left in 2007.  India seems to have missed a rare opportunity.

India's explosive detection technology may be used by U.S. soon
The U.S.' Homeland Security department may soon be using a technology developed by Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to detect explosives, after it proved a success in insurgency and militancy affected areas in India.  The DRDO today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with US-based firm Crowe and Company LLC to further develop the Explosive Detection Kit (EDK) to meet the standards set by regulatory institutions in America, before introducing it in U.S. Army and Homeland Security forces.  Faye Crowe, President of the Company, after signing the MoU said, "After getting necessary approvals from the US regulatory institutions, we are planning to introduce the EDK to the US army and US homeland security forces and in other international markets."  Developed by DRDO's Pune-based High Energy Material Research Lab (HEMRL), EDK can detect explosives of any combination based on TNT, dynamite or black powder.  "The testing requires only 3 to 5 mg of suspected sample. It comes packed in a box the size of a vanity case and in miniature vials that can be kept in shirt pockets. It contains reagents capable of detecting explosives, even in extremely small quantities," a DRDO spokesperson said here.  S Sundaresh, Chief Controller R&D, Armaments & Combat Engineering, stated that the technology is very effective and is in use by Indian security forces and would now help the international community also.  The technology is being widely used by the Bomb Detection Squads (BDS) of the Indian Army, paramilitary and police in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Back Channel with Pakistan Army: A Gambit Worth Trying
Sushant Sareen  April 26, 2011  The denial by both the Prime Minister's Office in India and by the military spokesman in Pakistan of the story in The Times of an 'unofficial back channel' that had opened with the de facto ruler of Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kayani, isn't entirely unexpected. If indeed there was such a back channel then it is best kept under the wraps, not so much because it would make public what was being discussed or even negotiated � the details of the 'official' back channel negotiations during the Musharraf era are still secret even though the main protagonists claim to have nearly reached a deal � but more because it would be premature to admit the existence of such a back-channel until it had become a regular feature instead of a one-off contact. On the other hand, if there was no such back-channel contact, then the denials are perfectly in order and would end needless speculation on the nature of contact established between the Indian and Pakistani establishments.  Quite aside the fact that the denials would have come as a dampener for those who believe that there is a dire need for putting in place a channel of communication and dialogue between the establishments of the two countries, the very nature of the contact claimed by The Times � 'unofficial' � raises serious doubts about the efficacy of the so-called back-channel. Even so, there is still a strong case for some sort of contact � in the preliminary stage, perhaps only a military-to-military exchange between the National Defence College in India and National Defence University in Pakistan � being made with Pakistan's military establishment and exploring this track to see if a more sustained engagement is possible with the real rulers of Pakistan as opposed to the civilian show-boys that India has been so comfortable in dealing with.  The aversion in India to dealing directly with Pakistan's military establishment is entirely understandable, but is also unreal given the power dynamics of Pakistani politics. Pakistan is, in a sense, a schizophrenic society. At one level, there is deep distrust and suspicion of the establishment and a tendency to attribute not only the most bizarre conspiracy theories to it but also hold it capable of, if not responsible for, the most horrible crimes. But, at another level, there is an innate, almost blind, trust and faith in the ability and capacity of the military establishment to protect the country and put things right. Most Pakistanis are quick to follow the lead of the army on issues of national security, especially when it comes to relations with India. As a result, when the army allows it, people gladly reach out to India (the 2004-2008 period bears witness to this), and when the army shuns it, the very same people pull back on all contact with India.  This remarkable ability and agility of the Pakistani military establishment to manipulate public opinion must be taken into account by the Indian establishment before it takes any initiative on mending ties with Pakistan. The bottom line is that while India can have as many 'uninterrupted and uninterruptible' dialogues with the civilians in Pakistan as it wants, unless it manages at least a modus vivendi with the all-powerful Pakistan army, none of these dialogues will lead to anything at all. Without getting the Pakistan army on board, any dialogue with Pakistan will either be a dialogue of the deaf or one with the meek and powerless, who, one daresay, are unlikely to inherit Pakistan.  There are essentially two ways that India can approach Pakistan. The first is to engage Pakistani politicians and civil society, promote people-to-people exchanges, trade and what have you, in the hope of creating a constituency of peace that will force the hand of the military establishment to normalise relations with India. But quite frankly, for this strategy to work, India will have to wait till the cows come home. An alternative strategy is to continue with the above strategy, but simultaneously open a sustained channel of communication and engagement � to start with, an 'official and empowered' back-channel � with Pakistan's military establishment.  Needless to say, given the power structure realities of the establishments of the two countries, the back channel contact will have to be handled with great care. In a democratic country like India, a back channel naturally tends to evoke suspicion. One way to counter this is to set up a multi-track back-channel � between intelligence agencies to discuss issues like terrorism etc., between the militaries to discuss purely military matters, and a track in which both top civilian and military officials discuss security and doctrinal issues.  If this 'composite' (given the diplomatic and political sensitivities of the Indian government, perhaps the word 'comprehensive' is more appropriate) back-channel shows promise, and in the course of discussing professional matters, creates an opening for discussing the strategic dimensions of the bilateral relationship, the two sides could consider bringing it on the front channel. In other words, they could make the transition to a 'strategic dialogue' in which a working group comprising designated civilian and military officials led by either the National Security Advisor or the External Affairs Minister discuss matters of higher state policy and the future trajectory of bilateral relations.  But even if the back-channel contact remains a desultory track, there is still something to be said for continuing to engage an adversary but without the hype that normally accompanies any India-Pakistan engagement. If anything, the one thing that the two countries need to avoid is hyping up the expectations of a breakthrough by indulging in high profile jamborees � Mohali comes to mind. Quiet, serious and sustained diplomacy is perhaps the only way forward, even if this takes a long time and denies the politicians the legacy that they so desperately crave to leave behind.

Army chief's age row pits General vs General
New Delhi: There are two different dates of birth for Army Chief General VK Singh in official records, one with the Adjutant General's branch in Army Headquarters that lists May 10, 1951 and the other at the Military Secretary's branch that shows the date as May 10, 1950.  As the Defence Ministry takes its time to examine what date it should agree on and with that the future of who the next Chief of Indian Army will be, correspondences between top brass of the Army on this one issue show a bitter battle, that has pitted generals against generals since 2008.  The names are all too familiar, former Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, his Military Secretary, now retired and the man facing charges in the Sukhna scam, Lt General Avadesh Prakash and the current Chief General VK Singh.  [Army chief's age row pits General vs General</p><p class=] " alt="Army chief's age row pits General vs General  " />  Consider this:  (A) 1 July 2008: Letter from General VK Singh to General Deepak Kapoor, Chief of Army Staff "Since my last discussion on the subject in your office, I have mulled over the entire handling of the issue in great detail. I must also confess that I have been greatly hurt by the aspersions cast on my integrity and military reputation.At the same time I must also emphasise that I have the greatest regard and faith in you, not only as Chief but also as an elder role model. Thus I had no qualms in giving in writing whatever I was asked for, despite my reservations."  This one letter is now being seen as a commitment by General VK Singh to stand by his date of birth as 1950. Many believe the case had been shut with this one commitment. But a closer scrutiny of the same letter and future correspondences point to the contrary, that the case was far from over, in fact had the makings of a messy tangle.  General VK Singh, in the same letter dated July 1, 2008 goes on to say, "I would want to know what are the constraints mentioned by the MS branch which compel them to maintain 10 May 1950 despite the SSC certificate and despite me mentioning 10 May 1951 in all my CRs (confidential reports). How is that CRs which are assiduously checked never rang any bell on this issue in MS Branch till I was to move on promotion as Lt Gen, Is it not an oddity sir ?"  He further questions, "how the MS banch carries out the verification of age since on the basis of the SCC certificate the AGs branch maintained records that showed 1951 as the year of birth."  General VK Singh (then Lieutenant General) also points out that the entire issue be looked at dispassionately and if there were vested and parochial interests, which have clouded the issue, then they must be negated.  (B) The tone and tenor become stronger in a letter dated February 2009 from VK Singh to Lieutenant General Avadhesh Prakash, then Military Secretary once again reiterating that the SSC/10th board certificate, in effect is the authority for all purposes in matters related to age.  That the UPSC (in which the Date of Birth is noted as 1950) does not verify Date of Birth, it only scrutinises the application form for correctness and forwards it.  (c) It's still not the end of the issue and three months later in an even more strongly worded , dated May 6, 2009, once again to the Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash, General VK Singh writes:  "Your letter clearly points out that your branch has no system for verification of date of birth. It is also clear that your predecessor has deliberately not given out the correct fact to the Chief that the MS branch does not carry out any Verification of the Date of the Birth."  "Let me also point out that the acceptance has been given in good faith because the Chief asked me to do so and not because of what your Branch was saying. Hence this argument cannot be used to hide facts and not provide details asked for."  So even as the force and the Defence Ministry grapples with another controversy regarding its top officer, it is important to note that these flurry of letters were running parallel to investigations in the Sukhna land scam, where then Eastern Army Commander, Lieutenant General VK Singh had ordered a Court of Inquiry that was to later reach the top, to the Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash and the Chief, General Deepak Kapoor.

Nag Missile Induction delayed as Indian Army Seeks Changes In Nag Carrier
The induction of the indigenous 'Nag' anti-tank missile has hit another stumbling block as the Indian Army has expressed its discontent over the the missile carrier NAMICA (Nag missile tracked carriers). The Indian Army has now sought re-designing of the NAMICA for optimum performance. It has been established that the NAMICA must have enhanced features that will ensure that the NAMICA complements the third generation Nag ATGM.  The Indian Army's bone of contention is with the NAMICA's limited capabilities. The Indian Army has sought additional features such as a panoramic sight for two commanders, against the present system of having only one such facility for the gunner. Hence, an overhaul in the designing of the NAMICA is being suggested by the Indian Army. Also, an innovation in the chassis system and alteration in the pneumatic suspension can increase the mobility of the NAMICA.  As of now, two systems would be made, one by the state-run Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and the other by the private giant Larsen & Toubro. A comparative trial of these two carriers will occur next year and the configuration of the production version would be selected from the two.  The NAMICA is a tracked infantry combat vehicle (ICV) built for the Indian Army. It is equipped with a thermal imager for target acquisition. NAMICA is a modified BMP-2 ICV produced as "Sarath" in India. The carrier weighs 14.5 tonnes in full combat load and is capable of moving 7 kilometres per hour in water. The NAMICA carrier was put through transportation trials covering 155 km during summer trials. Namica has already undergone floatation trial and it has proved its channel-crossing ability and its capability to perform other manoeuvres. Each NAMICA can carry 12 missiles with eight of them in ready-to-fire mode. Other salient features include advance sighting systems, high pointing accuracy and ergonomic man-machine interface.  According to analysts, this last moment decision to redesign the NAMICA is a case of lack of foresight and planning by India. The NAMICA has been in existence for at least a decade. Although the Nag ATGM was not ready for this entire period, it reflects a lack of foresight to evaluate the NAMICA this late and go for redesigning at this stage. The evaluation of the NAMICA's mobility and sensors could have been performed earlier, as the missile was being readied.  Nag is a fire-and-forget anti-tank missile with a short range. It is developed by Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme of the DRDO. It is a third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) with a 4 kilometre strike range. The Nag ATGM is equipped with the highly potent HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) warhead. Nag ATGM cleared its final validation trials Air Force ranges in Rajasthan in July last year and was expected to be ready for induction this year. In its trials, the missile proved its capability against both moving and stationary targets, covering varying ranges of 500 meters to 2,600 metres. Nag ATGM has already seen two decades of development. The Indian Army has already placed an initial order for 443 missiles and 13 Namicas

Indian Defense Ministry intends to set up logistical headquarters of the leadership of the various military services fight
United States, "Defense News" magazine website reported April 25】 question: the struggle between the various military services in India hampered the formation of Logistics Command
Indian defense officials have said that while India wants to set up a dedicated Logistics Command, but this is because the struggle between the various military services can not progress.  India and Pakistan in Kargil in 1999 the outbreak of the war, India's defense policy-makers to establish such a command, because the battle highlights the Indian Army in the mountains and high altitude combat logistical problems exist. But this idea is still stuck in the present paper. Defense Department officials have said the current situation caused a significant reason is that India's military services led by the Logistics Command which issues undecided.  with Army officials said: "Indian Army's logistics support and the evident lack of coordination between combat the problem." He said, the Indian Army and even the lack of sufficient supplies and ammunition inventory.  a defense analyst agreed, strongly support the formation of Logistics Command.  retired Army Brigadier General, Indian Land Research Center, 古尔米特坎 Val war, said: "India's logistics facilities are sufficient to cope with a defensive posture, but to play a war deterrent, India has a need to move to war the enemy's territory. is outside the region across the Indian border, and the ability to provide logistical support operations should be greatly improved. "  Kanwar said the Army needs a unified and coordinated logistics force to the work of various departments.  he said: "The logistics is the next step in the gradual transition to the unified armed forces of the Logistics Command."  with Army officials said that considering the vast territory of India, changing topography as well as with China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh the long boundary line, set up logistical headquarters will not be easy.  policy research center in India Bharat Carl Leonard security expert, said: "good idea, but in view of the friction between the various military services, this is not feasible unless the defense staff long to come forward. "  a defense analysts believe that logistics is the decisive factor in modern warfare, field commander of the combat capability than the more important.  retired Army Major General Raymond Slavin defense analyst Rahul said: "India will be back to promote the war. In 1971 the eastern front, the war situation that is planned by the joint logistics planning and operational decisions . taking into account the difficult terrain conditions, the Indian Army's dependence on logistics will be more than other countries. "  Indian Army logistics system is basically a computer using a network of armed forces of the material to be administered separately. Air Force logistics system currently in use is called "online materials management system", able to carry out the Air Force inventory and supplies a comprehensive electronic management. Air Force officials have said the network management system for all operations center provides a transparent, real-time logistics information.  exist between the various military services, however a large number of past reserves and ammunition. Although it should be destroyed, but the lack of centralized logistics system, it is not possible to track, register and ordered destroyed.  a Defense Ministry source said that although the Air Force's Material Management System is a step in the digital-line logistics support an important step, but the Indian armed forces still need to cover all the stock of a comprehensive system to help Indian At the same time against China and Pakistan.

'Dirty bomb' bigger threat than war: Army
NEW DELHI: More than full-blown conventional wars with Pakistan or China, India at this point in time is faced more with unconventional threats emanating from jihadi outfits getting hold of "dirty" nuclear bombs, crippling cyber-attacks and "hybrid forms of warfare".  This was the hard-nosed assessment of the Indian defence establishment after defence minister A K Antony inaugurated the Army and IAF commanders' conferences here on Monday.  Army chief General V K Singh, in fact, was quite categorical that "the major concern" at the moment was the ongoing "attempts" by"non-state actors" to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).  This comes in the backdrop of continuing fears that the threat of jihadi outfits gaining access to enriched uranium, nuclear components or technical know-how to make "dirty" bombs -- radiological dispersal devices combining radioactive material with suitable explosives � remains a clear and present danger in Pakistan, with or without official connivance.  There have been instances to underline this fear in the past. In August 2001, for instance, two senior scientists of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme were spotted hobnobbing with Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan. Even thereafter, there have been consistent reports about al-Qaida seeking help of the infamous A Q Khan network to get hold of some sort of a "dirty'' bomb.  Gen Singh, on his part, said while conventional conflicts were not immediately on the horizon, the armed forces could not let their guard down against "hybrids forms of warfare", which basically entails state and non-state actors joining hands to fight a common foe. This, of course, is also nothing new for India, targeted as it has been for long by the ISI-Lashkar-e-Taiba combine.  Echoing similar views, Antony said terrorism emanating from across the border remained India's primary concern. "We are taking adequate steps to ensure any spill-over effect from any adverse development in Pakistan is successfully countered by our armed forces," he said.  The armed forces have to remain vigilant to deal with non-conventional threats, terrorism, cyber and information warfare. "Though a conventional war is unlikely, there is need to maintain maximum level of operational preparedness to deal with such challenges," he added.  Terrorist outfits, for instance, can exploit lax container security at Indian ports to smuggle in `dirty' nuclear bombs or other WMDs, like the Navy has warned in the past.  "Security concerns of the future will increasingly be dictated by economic, geopolitical, environmental, social and demographic considerations. Terrorism, cyber-attacks and sea piracy are some of the major challenges facing the nation," said Antony.  Even as the Af-Pak region remains enmeshed in turmoil, political disturbances in West Asia and North Africa have forced fresh challenges for global security. "We have to be ready with a set of appropriate responses to counterbalance our interests," he said.

Indian Army Chief Age Row: Why Are Right Questions Not Being Asked?
NEW DELHI: The UPA government and the chief of 1.13 million-strong Indian Army are being looked at with suspicion because of latter's actual date of birth: May 10, 1950 or May 10, 1951. The controversy over Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh's age has reached Indian Defence Minister's office, as the issue is likely to affect the line of succession in the Indian Army.  A lot has been written on the issue, but a close scrutiny of the "murky matter" portends that the right questions are not being asked to settle the case. And, in fact, efforts are on to make the nation believe that Indian Army Chief was born on May 10, 1951; that too without giving cemented proof.  The controversy relating to Gen Singh's age reared its head following a Right to Information (RTI) query seeking his correct date of birth. But, the two braches in the army headquarters had different dates in their records.  The Indian Military Secretary's branch, which decides on appointments and promotions, has May 31, 1950 as Singh's date of birth in its records on the basis of his Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) application for joining India's National Defence Academy (NDA).  On the other hand, the Adjutant General's branch, which deals with pay, pensions and welfare, has May 31, 1951 as Singh's date of birth in its records.  It is notable that the rules are clear in India that an Army Chief can serve for three years or up to the age of 62, whichever is earlier. And that is where the determination of Singh's date of birth becomes vital.  If it is found true that Gen Singh was born on May 10, 1951 then he will become eligible for heading Indian army till May 31, 2013. And, if it is established that incumbent army chief was born on May 10, 1950 then he will have to retire on May 31, 2012.  When the matter cropped up, the confused Indian Defence Ministry sent the issue to the Indian Law Ministry for the legal opinion. The law ministry opined that Singh's school leaving certificate should be the document on the basis of which date of birth should be decided. There is no information in public domain what Singh's school leaving certificate says. However, the AG branch points out that Gen. Singh's matriculation certificate puts his date of birth as May 10, 1951.  Now the ball is in the Indian defence ministry's court. The DOB issue of Gen Singh will now go the appointments committee of cabinet for a final decision.    But, let us look at some of the vital points in Gen Singh's date of birth row.  Gen. Singh's undertaking, at the time of being appointed Army Commander and later as Chief, that he would act in "organisational interest", was interpreted as him having accepted 1950 as his year of birth.  But, the highly placed sources in the Indian Army say that in an infantile move, Gen Singh got some well wisher of his to submit a Right to Information query with the Ministry of Defence to open up an old case for changing his date of birth from of May 10, 1950 to May 10, 1951.  If the sources are to be believed then Gen Singh has played his cards perfectly. But, there is one problem: the Indian media and some 'right thinking' gentlemen in uniform are not ready to digest that Gen Singh didn't know that two dates of birth are recorded in the Indian Army records.  They assert that General V. K. Singh must have known all along his true date when he was born, yet this issue was never made public nor put up for debate, then why at the fag end of his career when he should be put into pasture.  They have another uncomfortable question which must be answered.  Didn't NDA do its job well? Established admission procedures in any educational requires that the first verification of applicant is for correctness of name spelling and date of birth followed by mark sheets etc. Does that mean that NDA does not check correctness of entries in application form with documents? What was the age required at that time for appearing in NDA? By filling in the form as 1950, was age advantage obtained for exam appearance? If false info was given for appearing in NDA then one must pay the price with penalty for it.  There are other motley of questions which can't be overlooked, but are not being asked.  What for instance is the right age of the officer and why it has been hidden and continues to be hidden from the public domain? Why is the actual date of birth that is recorded at the time of birth not being disclosed, surely it will be available in the hospital where he was born and in the cantonment board or municipality where his birth was registered, why is the whole thing shrouded in mystery?  Why was the matter not resolved when it became apparent that he was in line for the highest appointments of the Army?  Had this been done the embarrassment that the country is facing now would have been avoided.  But the core question is: did government overlook (intentionally or unintentionally) Singh's date of birth anomaly while giving him the top post?  Whatever may be the answer of this core question, but it is crystal clear that government committed an error while appointing Gen Singh as army chief.  With the Army facing a barrage of illegitimate dealings in land grabbing scandals, perhaps the government, in order to cover up its "own failures" and tide over the crisis of cleaning up the Army's battered reputation, wants Gen Singh's services for another year.  Even a layman would say that in case there was some confusion about Gen Singh's date of birth then surely it should have been resolved through the Law Ministry or the Court before he was considered for the next rank.  Gen Singh's file must have been put up with all details to a high level appointments committee, should one consider that the information that was given on file to the appointments committee was false and misleading. If such is the case then does not the appointment in itself become wrong and fraudulent and should it not be scrapped altogether? Secondly, once an appointment has been made on the basis of certain inputs then how can the inputs be changed midway during the period of the contract?  Anyways, the need of hour is that in the larger and national interests, the matter should be put before public for a healthy debate and the guilty should face the law of the land.


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