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Friday, 8 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 08 Apr 2011

US falters on Af-Pak policy
India needs to play a pro-active role by Harsh V. Pant  The situation in Af-Pak is getting complicated by the day and the Obama Administration is bitterly divided over its future course of action to fashion a coherent strategy towards the region. Recent events have only compounded the confusion. On March 20, Terry Jones, pastor of a tiny Florida church, declared Islam’s holy book “guilty” of “crimes against humanity” and ordered it set ablaze in a portable fire pit. Days later, after Afghan President Hamid Karzai decided to ask for Jones’ prosecution, Afghans took to the streets in protest against the burning of the Quran in Florida. An angry mob killed at least seven foreigners in northern Afghanistan and set fire to a United Nations compound in Mazar-e Sharif, a city where NATO forces have transferred power to the local Afghan forces. Another bloody day followed in Kandahar, when the police fought with protesters, leaving at least nine dead and more than 80 injured.  The ongoing tumult prompted Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, and his civilian counterpart, Ambassador Mark Sedwill, to issue a statement reiterating “our condemnation of any disrespect to the Holy Quran and the Muslim faith.”  “We condemn, in particular, the action of an individual in the United States who recently burned the Holy Quran,” the statement said. “We further hope that Afghan people understand that the actions of a small number of individuals, who have been extremely disrespectful to the Holy Quran, are not representative of any of the countries of the international community who are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people.”  When Mr Jones threatened to burn a copy of the Quran on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks last year, Mr Petraeus was among several top US officials who strongly urged against it and warned about the troubling consequences that could arise in Afghanistan. Mr Jones eventually called off the event only to announce earlier this year in January that he was going to “put the Quran on trial.” He said he didn’t hear a single complaint. The “trial” was held on March 20, and the holy text subsequently burned, leading to turmoil in Afghanistan.  Meanwhile, suicide bombers struck a Sufi shrine compound in Pakistan, killing more than 40 people. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has repeatedly aimed attacks at Sufi shrines across the country, along with government targets and security forces installations, promptly claimed responsibility for the attack. The latest attack is another attempt by militants to exacerbate the ideological divides that exist within different schools of Sunni Islam. There have been growing concerns that militants from the tribal regions of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly North-West Frontier Province, have been using Dera Ghazi Khan, where the shrine was based, as a route to enter Punjab.  This turmoil comes at a time of growing tensions within the Obama Administration over the size and pace of the planned pullout of US troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military seeking to limit a reduction in combat forces and the White House pressing for a withdrawal substantial enough to placate a war-weary electorate. At a time of economic turmoil in the US, the war’s cost estimated to reach $120 billion this year is leading to increasing public disenchantment with the war. Attention is shifting to 2012 Presidential elections and the political class, including Mr Barack Obama, will be reluctant to challenge public opinion. Nearly two-thirds of Americans, according to latest surveys, no longer find the war in Afghanistan worth fighting.  Mr Obama’s failure to take complete ownership of the war that he had once described as the necessary one is becoming a big liability. Moreover, he has failed to reconcile the differences among his advisers even as the perception is gaining ground that the war is going nowhere for the NATO forces. Though Mr Obama made it clear that the current war strategy will continue and not be altered, there is a grudging acknowledgment in the US policy-making circles that Mr Obama’s surge is not showing any signs of success so far. Although military officials contend that the surge has enabled US forces to blunt the Taliban in key areas over the past several months, White House officials remain sceptical that those gains will survive without the presence of American troops and without US financial aid.  Mr Obama had approved a 30,000-troop increase sought by the military in 2009 but at the same time he had made it clear that the surge forces would begin returning home by July 2011. The pace of that reduction, however, was ambiguous, with Defence Department officials describing the initial reductions as minor and some of Mr Obama’s other advisers, including Vice-President Joe Biden, saying the pullout would be as rapid as the deployment of the surge troops.  Meanwhile, a major Pentagon task force that has sought to help Afghanistan exploit its mineral wealth and expand private sector employment is facing a crisis with the resignation of several of its members alarming senior military officials, who view the group’s job-creation efforts as an important component of the overall US counter-insurgency  mission.  As the US struggles with its Af-Pak policy, India needs to be acutely aware of the implications of the rapidly deteriorating security environment in its neighbourhood. America’s diminishing capacity to come to terms with the challenges in Afghanistan will have long-term implications for regional security in South Asia. New Delhi will have to fashion a pro-active foreign policy response that relies less on Washington in crafting an appropriate response to the changing dynamic in Af-Pak. Whether a government mired in scandals can step up to the plate remains an open question.n  The writer teaches at King’s College, London.

Academia-Industry interaction is key to cut imports
Air Cmde J.S.Kalra (Retd)  Over 50 per cent of the annual defence budget goes towards imports. The production of defence equipment, until recently a government function, was reserved for ordnance factories and defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs), supported by research through DRDO laboratories. Production as well as research has been seriously constrained both in quality and quantity, thus keeping the import bill high. By the time a weapon system is developed, it is far behind the new technology in the contemporary world. Most weapons systems ex-Soviet block were reasonably priced, which India could afford to meet its minimum requirements. Western technology was far superior though very expensive and the country imported some percentage of its defence requirements from these countries. With the fall of the Soviet bloc, the emphasis shifted towards indigenous substitution and import from western countries. The IAF’s Russian-made SU-30 MKI frontline fighters at an air display. Even 63 years after independence, India remains dependent on foreign military suppliers for all its critical defence requirements, including weapon platforms and spares. This makes the country strategically vulnerable The IAF’s Russian-made SU-30 MKI frontline fighters at an air display. Even 63 years after independence, India remains dependent on foreign military suppliers for all its critical defence requirements, including weapon platforms and spares. This makes the country strategically vulnerable.  The hostile attitude of countries in our neighborhood has become increasingly paramount, requiring higher defence expenditure. With good performance of the national economy, investments in the defence production sector could also be increased. Since DRDO and DPSUs alone would not be able to meet the current and future requirements, the government is steadily liberalising its Defence Production and Procurement Policy to involve the private sector.  Defence Procedures and Academia-Industry Interaction  Over the years, the government has assiduously tried to increase capabilities in defence R&D, ordnance factories and DPSUs to provide armed forces with all types of equipment. Simultaneously, the better performance of the private sector has made it possible to consider off-loading defence development and production to the civilian industry. Besides, eligible corporates can also apply to be Raksha Udyog Ratnas (RURs). All viable approaches such as formation of consortia, joint ventures, and public private partnerships have been permitted. The government has decided to set up a special fund for providing necessary resources to the public and private sectors including SMEs as well as academic and scientific institutions to support research, development and production.  Defence Procurement Procedure-2011  The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) is the defining document published by the Ministry of Defence to enable decisions regarding defence capital acquisition for the Indian Armed Forces to be made in a cost effective, timely and transparent manner.  DPP-2011 aims at expanding India’s defence industrial base, encourage indigenous defence production and reduce defence imports. It aims at simplification of procedures, speeding up of procurement and enhanced benefits to the Indian defence industry. Keeping in view the strategic importance of the ship building sector, seminal policy changes have also been incorporated in the ship building procedure. It also covers the civilian aviation sector.  The thrust of the policy is to provide a level-playing field to the defense public sector undertakings, shipyards as well as the private sector. The scope of the DPP has been enlarged gradually over the years through amendments in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009. The basic thrust of the enlargement has been to promote development of indigenous military industrial complex.  The Defence Procurement Procedures laid down in 1992 have been fully revised with the issuance of Procurement Procedures--2011. The aim is to expedite decision-making, simplification of contractual and financial provisions and establishing a level playing field, for both public and private sectors. The scope of the offset policy mandating foreign suppliers for indigenous procurement with orders totaling more than Rs 300 crore has been expanded to include civilian aerospace, internal security and training.  Today higher education institutions (HEI) and the industry are keen on building strong and purposeful partnerships. The existing system through internships, student projects and representation of industrialists on academia boards has not brought about the requisite quality improvements in student’s learning. This needs greater monitoring by academic institutes and serious involvement of industries as they are fully interested in better work force. Industries also seek partnerships because of complexity of scientific and engineering knowledge, competition and the drive for innovation. Academia finds industrial collaboration important for their research initiatives and students placements.  Over the past 20 years, US major private laboratories AT&T, Bell, IBM and Xerox etc. have down-sized considerably. Today their focus is entirely products related and have shifted the other research task to universities and are funding the same. Given the current high rate of growth and dynamic investment climate in India, the demand for knowledge workers will only increase.  Execution of the Defence Production Policy  The defence ministry has done well to issue the Defence Production Policy and updated it in January 2011 as a New Year gift to the nation. It has the characteristic features and objectives to achieve self-reliance in the design, development and production systems, and create an environment for the private industry, including SMEs, to play an active role. It also encourages inv olvement of the academia, R&D institutions, etc. outside the DRDO and to synergize efforts in defence production and set up a separate fund to provide resources to all development and production stake holders.  The policy document, however, lacks the teeth for proper execution. Let us discuss some of the significant deficiencies  We have to move from state controlled defence research and production to a process of liberalisation as was done for economic liberalisation in 1990s. Moment the government shackles were withdrawn, the economy grew at a fast rate. Particular example is the IT sector where bureaucratic controls were absent by default.  Second, we have advanced the concept of RURs but have limited the scope to corporates with a minimum turnover of Rs 1,000 crore. This will have to be expanded to bring many more players to compete and unleash their talent and latent energy.  Third, the role of academia--industry interactions has been highlighted without providing methodologies for its achievement. Incentives need to be provided both to academia and industries to strengthen partnerships.  Fourth, it has been found that service headquarters, while formulating general staff requirements (air force and navy including), are unrealistic both in terms of qualitative requirements and timeliness. It has to be appreciated that development is an incremental process and one should not expect disruptive technologies to appear overnight.  Fifth, it is nice to hear that the government will setup a private fund for research and development in the private sector outside the DRDO, but no provisions appear to have been made in the 2011-12 budget.  Sixth, the DPP must carefully appreciate that DRDO has more than fifty full-fledged laboratories but has failed to compete in technology and timeliness with global standards. Delayed production of the LCA and MBT are glaring examples of time and cost over runs.  Seventh, defence services are also seen as a source for easy funds for the politicians because of kickbacks. We have to find a solution and operate in the most transparent and merit based manner.  Implementation of the Procurement Procedures  The MoD deserves compliments for issuing the procurement procedures in 2011. This document needs to be introspected. Three models for defence procurement have been introduced in the past namely “Buy”, “Buy & Make” and “Make”. The last two models require heavy investments on the part of the industry. The savior of course is the offset policy that so far has not produced the desired results. The MoD should engage organisations like the CII, FICCI, PHDCCI and ASSOCHAM for publicity and feedback. DPP--2011 has also provided relief by removing the mandated requirements for licensing as a pre-requisite for being an Indian offset partner. Banking of offset credits has also been introduced, but this area still remains murky. The government has is also interested in Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff sharing the public version of the 15 years procurement plan with the industry, but we have yet to see its execution.  The private industry has been found to be wary of the defence procurement procedures and delays in payments. I have met many top industrialists in North India whose experience with defence procurement agencies is rather bad and they are scaring off other industries also. Today, an original equipment maker runs around the entire South Block or service headquarters and gets frustrated. There must exist a single window system where all concerns are addressed.  The Department of Defence Production has made a lot of progress in formulating the policy as well as the procedures. Several issues have been highlighted to improve competition on a level playing field for the private sector (corporates and SMEs). Regular seminars should be held to ensure that we progress fast in meeting defence requirements and enhance import substitution through academia–industry interaction. The private sector has tremendous amount of energy that can be liberated for defence development and production if a conducive environment is facilitated by the MoD.  The writer has been the chairman-cum-managing director of two public sector undertakings

Too close for comfort
Two years ago, a ministry of defence (MoD) report had stated that “the possibility of China and Pakistan joining forces in India’s farthest frontiers, illegally occupied by the two neighbours, would have direct military implications for India”. This possibility became real when last week, the Norther n Army Commander confirmed that Chinese troops are present on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC).  The Chinese troops aren’t pointing guns towards our posts on the LoC, but the fact that they are located and working alongside Pakistani troops reflects ‘joint’ interest and enhancement of strategic and operational preparedness.  What the Northern Army Commander has stated is not new. The Chinese military presence in Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), purportedly to repair, upgrade and re-commission the Karakoram Highway and to improve infrastructure in the area became visible last year. His statement and concern supplement prior information.  It’s also known that China plans to construct railway tracks and oil pipelines from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar port in Pakistan.  When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao addressed both houses of Pakistan Parliament in December 2010, he said, “To cement and advance the all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation between China and Pakistan is our common strategic choice…” Talking to the media after Wen’s address, Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik had described it as a strong message to the “enemies of Pakistan”.  According to the Indian defence ministry, the length of the India-China border is 4,056 km. This includes the whole of the western sector including Aksai Chin, POK and the Shaksgam valley (ceded by Pakistan to China in an India-disputed agreement in March 1963). For reasons still not clear, in a statement in the Chinese daily Global Times on December 14, 2010, the Indian ambassador to China put the border length to be 3,488 km.  While publishing the interview, the publication added its own comment: “There is no settled length of the common border. The Chinese government often refers to the border length as being about 2,000 km.” By reducing the length in its definition of the border, China has questioned Indian sovereignty over J&K.  Without going into details of other security and sovereignty related issues between India and China in Tibet and the Indian Ocean, it is obvious that as China develops greater national power, geo-politically and strategically it will become more aggressive and create new pressures on the border issue.  China is known to be assertive in its diplomacy over security and military issues. It will attempt to exploit our diplomatic appeasement postures and defence weaknesses on the ground to its advantage.  India-China economic and security relations are moving in opposite trajectories. The competitive relationship over our long-term security interests outweighs the cooperative one in trade, commerce and culture. India can’t afford to let the latest developments go uncontested diplomatically. In the interest of its own security and Asian stability, it must build a sympathetic international lobby.  In the coming financial year, China plans to spend $91.6 billion on defence. This does not include its budget for internal security. India’s approved defence budget this year is $34 billion. India must pay greater attention to its defence preparedness, particularly on the north-western borders. There is an urgent need to build defence infrastructure along the northern border.  According to media reports, our border road building programmes in the north are running three years behind schedule. Along with making up for shortages and replacing obsolescent weapon systems at the earliest, we must build rapid reaction military capability for all underdeveloped areas in the Himalayas. India must not become complacent as we did before 1962.

Antony gags Army from commenting on Hazare
New Delhi, Apr 7: Defence Minister A K Antony has reportedly ordered top army officials not to comment on veteran social activist Anna Hazare's fast-unto-death on the Lokpal issue.   Top Army officers have been asked to convey this to the rank and file.  Anna Hazare was a driver in the Indian Army and spent his spare time reading the books of Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave. This inspired him to become a social worker and activist.  Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare, popularly known as Anna Hazare, later took voluntary retirement from the Army and came to Ralegan Siddhi village in 1975.  Initially, he led a movement to eradicate alcoholism from the village. Next, he motivated the residents of the village into shramdan (voluntary labour) to build canals, small-scale check-dams and percolation tanks in the nearby hills for watershed development; efforts that solved the problem of water scarcity and made irrigation possible.  Hazare has helped farmers of over 70 villages in drought-hit Maharashtra since 1975. He also motivated villagers to build a secondary school through voluntary labour.  A gag order (also known as a gagging order or suppression order) is an order, sometimes a legal order by a court or government, other times a private order by an employer or other institution, restricting information or comment from being made public.

MEA seeks report on China's LoC presence
The external affairs ministry on Wednesday sought a detailed report from the defence ministry on Chinese presence along the line of control (LoC) between India and Pakistan. This comes on the heels of concerns flagged by a top army official over Chinese troops being “actually stationed and present on the LoC”.  Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said she had asked for a ‘more detailed report’ from the defence ministry on the issue. She, however, added that incidents of ‘transgressions’ were not a new phenomenon.  “The correct term is transgression and not incursion. There are transgressions from time to time when Chinese troops come over to our side of the line of actual control and occasionally we are told that we cross into their side,” Rao said. She said such issues had to be discussed rationally. “There is no point in trying to raise the temperature and to accentuate tension.”  Lt Gen KT Parnaik, who heads the operationally critical Northern Command, had warned last month that China’s military presence in PoK was too close for India’s comfort. He had said China’s links with Pakistan through PoK facilitated quicker deployment of Pakistani forces to complement its Communist neighbour’s military operations, outflanking India and jeopardising its security.  Foreign minister SM Krishna told reporters, “We have seen media reports on the subject. The government closely and regularly monitors all developments along our borders.”  The possibility of China and Pakistan joining forces in India’s farthest frontiers, would have “direct military implications” for New Delhi, a defence ministry report had warned two years back.

Dhoni accepts offer to join Indian Army
New Delhi - Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni after excelling in cricket field is also ready to prove his mark in the battle field and serve the nation, as he has accepted the offer to join the Army.  Dhoni accompanied by team member Suresh Raina met the Chief of Army Staff, General V K Singh, at his residence here this evening.  General Singh felicitated the two cricketers for their achievement and doing the nation proud.  "The Chief of Army Staff exchanged pleasantries with Dhoni and offered an honorary commission to the Indian skipper in the Territorial Army, which he readily accepted. The case for granting him honorary commission will now be processed as per procedure," said a top Army official.  The Indian skipper also expressed that he has always been keen about joining the Indian Army, and added that he has had many interaction with the 'fauj', as he has a number of friends in the army.  General Singh commended Dhoni for his excellent leadership qualities and added that he will make the nation proud in many more ways.  Earlier in September last year, master blaster Sachin Tendulkar joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) with the rank of Honorary Group Captain.  Earlier in 2009, former Indian cricket captain and all-rounder Kapil Dev was commissioned into the Territorial Army (TA) as an honorary lieutenant colonel.  Dhoni was felicitated by the Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal PV Naik earlier on Monday.  Read more:

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