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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 26 Apr 2011

Drones on target
Pakistan harvesting a lethal crop  It is tough to be double agent, whether as an individual or as a nation. Pakistan is in throes of such an identity crisis. On paper, it is a valued ally of the US in its war against terrorism. But in reality it has also to mentor the numerous terrorist outfits that it has started and nurtured over the decades. Initially, the Americans overlooked such activities, for two reasons. One, its support was essential for carrying out missions in Afghanistan. And, two, the unofficially sponsored militant outfits mostly targeted countries like India. But the situation underwent a sea change when American citizens and establishments also became prime targets. Ever since, the US has stopped hiding its exasperation and has responded by deadly drone attacks, in which many militants have been killed, along with some civilians. Such “collateral damage” is minor matter for the US but causes a furore in Pakistan.  Pakistani officials have been trying to reason with their American counterparts, but with limited results. What has to be remembered is that there is a fairly large section in the Army itself which chafes at any kind of arrangements with the Americans, except getting mega bucks from them. So, it is pragmatic to orchestrate protests in the country against the American “excesses”. The Tehrik-e-Insaf of Imran Khan, which is spearheading the protests, is in any case a strong critic of US action.  Naturally, the NATO supplies to troops in Afghanistan would be affected, considering that nearly 70 per cent of supply truckers and oil tankers pass through Pakistan. But the effect of arm-twisting will be less pronounced this time because the US has opened alternative routes through Russia. The dangerous part is that if at all it yields on the demand to stop backing the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Haqqani group, it might like to extract a heavy price, including a central role in Afghanistan at the cost of India and more aid.

Warming up to China
Unsettled border can lead to intrusions by Gen (retd) V. P. Malik  India’s security relations with China took yet another turn when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Sanya (Hainan province, China) this month. Both countries agreed to set up “a mechanism on coordination on border affairs” and resume defence and military exchanges given up nine months ago when China refused a visa to India’s Northern Army Commander. After the meeting, the Prime Minister stated that defence ties with China would be continued and indicated that the new mechanism on maintaining peace on the border is “work in progress”.  Military exchanges between India and China have been going on ever since Rajiv Gandhi visited China in 1988 to bring about a thaw after the Wangdung skirmishes in 1986-87 and highly tense relations thereafter. Besides the exchange of visits by senior military officers, the military has been part of the Joint Working Group formed over the boundary question. These exchanges have contributed to military-level confidence-building measures, reducing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and to supplement diplomatic efforts to improve the overall relations between the two countries. Recently, there has also been a joint exercise on counter terrorism.  India and China signed the “Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the LAC Agreement” in 1993. This agreement called for (a) not to pose military threats to each other but to respect and observe the LAC (b) reduce the level of military exercises near the LAC (c) reduce military forces to the minimum level and (d) implement measures given in the agreement by holding meetings and friendly consultations between border personnel and military experts.  In November 1996 India and China signed another agreement on “Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the LAC”. This agreement reaffirmed that neither side will use or threaten to use forces against the other or seek unilateral military superiority. The two sides agreed that along the LAC (a) the number of forces and heavy weapons will be reduced or limited (b) data on the reduction of military forces will be exchanged (c) Military exercise involving more than a division will not be conducted and information about lower-level exercises will be exchanged (d) combat aircraft will not fly within 10 km of the LAC without information to each other (e) troops will exercise self-restraint and avoid escalation if they come into a face-to-face situation, and (f) the regime of scheduled and flag meetings will be expanded and medium and high level contacts between the border authorities will be established step by step.  Two developments created hurdles in the implementation of the above-mentioned agreements. First, despite several meetings at the official and political levels, India and China could not clarify or exchange data on the alignment of the LAC as perceived by respective countries on the maps. As a result, many of the forward-looking steps mentioned in the 1996 agreement could not be implemented. Secondly, the PLA Divisional Commander opposite Ladakh, after accepting the invitation for a meeting with his Indian counterpart, declined to visit Leh and instead asked that the meeting be held in New Delhi. As that would not have served the desired purpose, the meeting was called off.  In the following years, despite policy level flips-flops, ever increasing ground level transgressions into areas claimed by each other and several face-to-face patrol confrontations, military personnel on both sides have exercised self-restraint and have managed to avoid escalation of the situation while guarding the disputed LAC. There have been no firing incidents. It has been possible to maintain peace, if not tranquility, along the LAC. While the credit for this goes to the military on both sides, I would give more credit to our troops who have to remain conscious of the alarming impact of a Chinese intrusion or a skirmish on Indian public opinion.  While the above state in the field can give satisfaction at the tactical level, at the strategic level, however, India is being pushed more and more into a corner. Negotiations between special representatives on the border issue have failed to achieve any breakthrough so far. China has backed out on the agreed principle not to disturb “interests of the settled populations” of the two countries in the border settlement.  In November 2006, in complete disregard of diplomatic norms, the Chinese Ambassador in India publicly voiced China’s claims to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. China has started protesting Indian leaders’ visits to Arunachal Pradesh; denying visas to officials of Arunachal and issuing stapled visas to Indian citizens from J & K. It has made considerable logistical improvements and improved its capability to rapidly induct, deploy and sustain large military forces into Tibet. The number of Chinese transgressions in the “disputed areas” has increased. With the deployment of Chinese engineers and soldiers in the Gilgit-Baltistan area, its “all-weather” relations with Pakistan, which in Hu Jintao’s words, are “higher than the mountains and deeper than oceans”, have firmly placed India in a two-front bind in the Western sector. China has also refused to discuss nuclear confidence measures and nuclear risk reduction measures with India on the ground that India is not a NPT recognised nuclear weapon state.  Strategically, China’s competitive relationship with India far outweighs the cooperative one, which allows it to wage a war of nerves from time to time. It continues to exploit our appeasement to its advantage. The Government of India has not been able to counter or reverse this trend.  With the economic interdependence of the two countries rising steadily (trade expected to touch $100 bn in 2015) and the economic agenda being of vital interest, there are many who suggest softening of security relations. But that is not possible so long as the boundary question remains unsettled. An active engagement will indeed be detrimental to both countries either now or in future. In the current geo-political environment, with nuclear symmetry in place, neither China nor India can think of a war; not even a 1962-like limited war. But the unsettled boundary issue and lack of clarity and transparency on the LAC can lead to intrusions or skirmishes in disputed areas which may escalate into a war. India’s armed forces, therefore, have to remain alert and plan for such contingencies till India and China are able to settle the border or find principled ways of living with an unsettled border.

The veteran community
by Major-Gen G.G. Dwivedi (retd)  One of the valuable members of my skeleton headquarters team when I was commanding the unit in Siachen was Naik Sheel Chand.  Always cheerful, with a reserved demeanour, he was forthright enough never to mince words.  Besides his skills as an adept infantry man, he was also a qualified paramedic.    Given that we were operating at heights ranging from 5000 to 6000 metres with mercury hovering around minus 40 degrees C, he would religiously monitor our basic parameters.  Once, in a bid to skip his rigorous regime, I happened to tell him that being fully acclimatised, I didn’t require any checkup.  He firmly reprimanded me stating that many commanding officers got into health problems not on account of lack of physical fitness but due to the commitment and concern for the thousand-odd men under their command. Thereafter, I never dared to confront him on that issue.         Years later, when I was on another operational assignment, Sheel Chand again volunteered to be part of my personal staff team.  He had not changed. He always looked forward to action.   His only request would be some leave after two to three months so that he could replenish his ghee stock to spice up his daily daal.    One day I was caught off guard when he expressed his desire to quit the service.  On enquiring, he explained to me that he has been passed over for promotion and his pride did not allow him to serve under the juniors.  I was indeed overwhelmed at this soldier’s uprighteousness and self-esteem.  He accepted his supersession with grace and chose to bow out with élan. The only assistance he sought from me was to facilitate his early exit.  With modest post-retirement plans he was hopeful to make his ends meet with dignity.  Recently, Sheel Chand paid me a surprise visit.  He looked younger, contented and prosperous. His hard work on a small piece of land combined with small-scale entrepreneur initiatives enabled him to enlarge the scope of his farming activities. His children attend a private English medium school.  He now owns a tractor and a pre-owned car (for family outings). Simultaneously, he also plays a prominent leadership role in the affairs of his village.  As an honest ex-soldier, he continues to contribute to society in humble yet meaningful ways. As I went to see off Sheel Chand, I felt honoured to be a part of the veteran community.  I also feel blessed that retired Havildar Anna Hazare has dug in his heels to wage a historic war against the ‘cancer of corruption’ that has deeply afflicted our society.  With deep sense of reverence, my hand rises to salute him as he represents millions of unknown soldiers who made supreme sacrifices without seeking any reward in a bid to make this land a better place.

Officers suffer in Army-MoD promotion tussle
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, April 25 As the Army and the Ministry of Defence continue to nitpick over the proposed changes in the promotion policy for Army officers of the Brigadier rank and above, five senior Major-Generals have retired in the past few months and many are on their way out of the force after a frustrating wait to be considered for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant-General.  That’s not all. Two Major-Generals are set to relinquish office at the end of this month. By May-end, another four Major-Generals are slated to retire while three more will follow suit by July end. All this because the Army did not hold promotion boards on time.  As per rules, these retired officers were to be considered for promotion in July 2010. The selection board was delayed till January 2011 and the results of the same are still not out. All thanks to the confusion created by a new policy proposed for promotion, which aims to amend the one introduced just two years ago, in 2009. The MoD is not agreeing to it and has referred the matter to the Law Ministry for opinion, as it is not convinced about such rapid changes.  Once promoted as a Lieutenant-General, an officer goes on to head a corps or one of the seven Army commands, besides getting additional two years of service, till the age of 60.  According to the Army’s promotion policy, a meeting of the promotion board needs to be held at least six months prior to the date of creation of the first vacancy in the next rank. There were 3-4 vacancies of Lieutenant-Generals as on January 1 this year and, logically, the promotion board of Major-Generals should have been held in July 2010. However, the board was held only on January 7, 2011 and the minutes were sent for the MoD’s approval in February. The MoD said the promotion board was conducted as per the promotion policy that was still not approved.  Decision on Army Chief’s age soon: Antony  Defence Minister AK Antony on Monday said the government would soon take a decision on the issue of the age of present Army Chief Gen VK Singh but refused to set a deadline. “We have to examine the whole thing and ultimately take a decision,” he said.

Antony warns Defence top brass against corruption
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, April 25 Defence Minister AK Antony today called upon the Army and Air Force top brass not to succumb to corrupt practices indulged in by vested interests in the garb of “aggressive marketing”.  Addressing the commanders of the two forces here separately, Antony asked them to strive for probity and fair play in their day-to-day dealings.  “The government remains fully committed to the modernisation of the Armed Forces and upgrading infrastructure, as he steered towards his pet subject of indigenisation,” he said. He said, for far too long, we have remained over dependent on foreign equipment. Saying “no nation will ever part with its first generation equipment”, modernisation and indigenisation must proceed.  Speaking to the Air Force Commanders earlier in the morning, Antony said, “At times, vested interests bring about unnecessary pressure and resort to corrupt practices that can wreak serious havoc upon our security in more ways than one.” Antony complimented the Air Force for its commendable work in providing humanitarian assistance both home and abroad. He recalled the service rendered by the IAF in the aftermath of the flash floods in Leh last August.  Meanwhile, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal PV Naik reiterated that primacy of operations in view of the prevailing security situation. Naik brought out the need for consolidating the operational availability of weapon systems and sensors and declared the period ahead as “year of consolidation”.

US authorities describe Pakistan's ISI as terror group
London:  US authorities have, in secret files to interrogators at Guantánamo Bay, described Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as a terrorist organisation, a media report said on Monday.  Recommendations to interrogators at Guantánamo Bay rank the ISI directorate alongside Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah groups in Lebanon as threats, the Guardian reported.  Being linked to any of these groups is an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity, the documents say.  "Through associations with these organisations, a detainee may have provided support to Al Qaeda or the Taliban, or engaged in hostilities against US or coalition forces (in Afghanistan)," the Guardian quoted the document called the "Joint Task Force Guantánamo Matrix of Threat Indicators for Enemy Combatants", dated September 2007

The Threat Indicator Matrix is used to decide who among the hundreds of Guantánamo detainees can be released. The ISI is listed among 36 groups, including Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led by Al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs, the Iranian intelligence services, and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Though the document dates from 2007, it is unlikely the ISI has been removed from the current Threat Indicator Matrix, the newspaper said.  The revelation will cause fury in Pakistan and will further damage the already poor relationship between US intelligence services and their Pakistani counterparts, supposedly key allies in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other Islamist militants in south Asia, it said.  Relations between America and Pakistan have been tense for years. A series of high-level attempts have been made in recent weeks to improve ties after American CIA contractor Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January.  In November, the Guardian published evidence that US intelligence services had been receiving reports of ISI support for the Taliban in Afghanistan for many years. The reports were frequent and detailed, if unconfirmed and sometimes speculative.  In classified memos outlining the background of 700 prisoners at Guantánamo, there are scores of references, apparently based on intelligence reporting, to the ISI supporting, co-ordinating and protecting insurgents fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan, or even assisting Al Qaeda. Pakistani authorities have consistently denied any links with insurgents in Afghanistan or Al Qaeda.  The documents detail extensive collaboration between the ISI and US intelligence services. Many of those transferred to Guantánamo Bay, including senior Al Qaeda figures such as Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the 9/11 attacks, and Abu Farraj al-Libbi, one of the group's most capable operators, were arrested with Pakistani help or turned over to American authorities by Pakistani intelligence services, the newspaper said.  The details of the alleged ISI support for insurgents at the very least give an important insight into the thinking of American strategists and senior decision-makers who would have been made aware of the intelligence as it was gathered.  Many documents refer to alleged ISI activities in 2002 or 2003, long before the policy shift in 2007 that saw the Bush administration become much more critical of the Pakistani security establishment and distance itself from Pervez Musharraf, who was president, the Guardian said.

US firm signs up DRDO for explosives detection kit technology
New Delhi, April 25 (IANS) Indian defence research agency Monday got a shot in the arm for its efforts to market its world-class products globally with an American firm signing it up for technology transfer of an explosive detection kit (EDK).  US firm Crowe and Company signed a memoradum of understanding with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for obtaining licence for the technology of EDK.  The kit, developed by the Pune-based High Energy Material Research Lab (HEMRL), a DRDO lab, is already in use with the Indian armed forces.  HEMRL director Subhananda Rao signed the agreement with Crowe and Company president Faye Crowe here in the presence of DRDO Chief Controller Research and Development (Aeronautics and Services Interaction) Prahlada.  HEMRL has developed the kit for quick detection and identification of explosives based on any combination of nitro esters, nitramines, trinitrotoluene (TNT), dynamite or black powder.  The testing requires only three to five miligram of suspected sample and only three or four drops of reagents. The EDK comes packed in a vanity case-sized box and in miniature vials.  It contains reagents capable of detecting explosives, even in extremely small, trace quantities.  Crowe and Company had approached the Federation of Indian Chambers of commerce and Industry (FICCI) to enter into a MoU for licensing agreement with the DRDO for the EDK technology.  In the past, FICCI has also facilitated a similar kind of licensing agreement for explosive detection kit between DRDO and an Indian company Vantage Integrated Security Solutions.  The DRDO-FICCI accelerated technology assessment and commercialisation (ATAC) programme is a unique initiative that aims at commercialising cutting edge technologies developed by various labs of DRDO for civilian applications.  Speaking at the memorandum of understanding signing event, Prahlada, the architect of DRDO-FICCI ATAC initiative, said: ‘the ATAC programme has achieved a major milestone with the US Company taking DRDO technology for use by US homeland security and for international markets.’  He said the present technology can also be helpful to control illegal trafficking of explosive materials, as it can equally detect and identify explosive materials in the pre- and post-blast scenarios.  S. Sundaresh, DRDO chief controller of research and development for armaments and combat engineering, said the technology was ‘very effective’.  At present, it is being widely used by the bomb detection squads of the Indian Army, paramilitary and police in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.  Faye Crowe said after getting the necessary approvals from the US regulatory institutions, her company was planning to introduce the EDK to the US Army and US homeland security forces and in other international markets.

Need to Uphold High Image of Army: Gen Singh
Army Chief V K Singh today flagged the attempts at acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by non-state actors as a major concern as top commanders of Indian Army began deliberations on strategies to deal with traditional and asymmetric threats.  Addressing the five-day commanders' conference, General Singh stressed upon the 'thrust areas' of maintaining the highest standards of commitment and the need to focus on the operational preparedness, training and habitat for the men.  He said that a major concern is the attempt of acquisition of weapon of mass destruction by non-state actors.  "The conference would address the prevailing security environment through updates and discussions to include traditional and asymmetric threats at strategic level and also review existing strategies," army spokesperson said here today.  Besides reviewing the security situation, the bi-yearly conference would dwell upon issues related to modernization and management within the organization.  "Issues like infrastructure development in North East, management of annual budget, development of border roads and land management would be discussed during the Commanders' Conference. It would further review the Medical Support System and the existing structure of Corps of Military Police," army spokesperson said here.  "The Army Chief emphasized on need to uphold high image of Army as citizens of our country have great faith in it. He stressed the ethos of army must be ensured to make it more effective," the spokesperson said.  Singh also stressed on discipline within the organization.  Attended by Chief of Army Staff, Vice-Chief, army commanders, Principal Staff Officers (PSOs), Director Generals and heads of arms and services in the Army, the conference would dwell upon issues of security challenges, operational preparedness, transformation, logistics and administrative aspects.  With respect to budget management, the conference will look into improvement towards efficient and timely utilization of defence budget. It will also form part of a study initiated by Army to fine tune its financial management.  Complimenting the commanders over the work done during last year, Singh stressed upon surpassing the laid down targets this year to make Army more efficient and effective.  He also spoke on transformation within the organization and said that while some studies are in progress, others are on test bed and are progressing well as per schedule.  On training, he emphasized on enforcement of two-year training cycle for the soldiers.

Decision on Army chief's age soon: Antony
New Delhi: With a controversy raging over Indian Army chief General VK Singh's age, Defence Minister AK Antony on Monday said the government will soon take a decision on the issue, but refused to set a deadline.  "Why set a deadline? Before that, we have to examine the whole thing and ultimately the government will take a decision," Antony said responding to reporters' queries on the issue on the sidelines of a defence event in New Delhi.  The controversy relating to Singh's age reared its head following a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking his correct date of birth. But two branches in the army headquarters had different dates in their records, forcing the army to send the matter to the legal adviser in the defence ministry.  Decision on Army chief's age soon: Antony  The Military Secretary's branch, which decides on appointments and promotions, has May 10, 1950 as Singh's date of birth in its records on the basis of his Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) application for joining the National Defence Academy.  On the other hand, the Adjutant General's branch, which handles pay, pensions and welfare, has May 10, 1951, as his date of birth.  Unable to decide on Singh's correct date of birth, the defence ministry sent the matter to the law ministry, which advised that his school leaving certificate should be the document on the basis of which date of birth should be decided.  Following the law ministry's advice, the defence ministry asked the army headquarters to submit all relevant documents relating to Singh's date of birth to it for arriving at a decision on the issue.  The matter will now go to the appointments committee of cabinet for a final decision.  Meanwhile, senior officers a the army headquarters said the file for Singh's appointment as army chief had clearly mentioned May 10, 1950 as his date of birth. Considering his appointment order, the army chief will have to retire on May 31, 2012.  The tenure of an army chief is for three years or till he turns 62, whichever is earlier.  However, if the government decides to review his date of birth, Singh may get an extended tenure for about a year more.  The issue has the potential of upsetting the succession plan in the 1.13 million-strong Indian Army, splitting its top brass and throwing up two possible successors.  If VK Singh retires on May 31, 2012, the present eastern army commander, Lt General Bikram Singh, is likely succeed him as chief. If the former's tenure extends by another year, then the present northern army commander, Lt General KT Parnaik, will probably be the next chief.

Air Chief for primacy to operations given prevailing security situation
New Delhi, Apr 25: Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, today reiterated that primacy of operations in view of the prevailing security situation.   Addressing the first bi-annual Air Force Commanders' Conference for 2011 here, Air Chief Marshal Naik brought out the need for consolidating the operational availability of weapon systems and sensors due to 'Times of Transformation' and declared the period ahead as 'Year of Consolidation'.  He further emphasized institutionalization of core Air Warriors values which have been elucidated as 'Mission, Integrity and Excellence'.  He also thanked Defence Minister A K Antony for his continued support and involvement in IAF's modernization process.  Antony, however, apprised commanders of the security situation in the region and lauded the role of the armed forces towards nation building.  He lauded the role of the IAF in humanitarian assistance during the Leh floods and for evacuating Indian citizens from Egypt and Libya.  Antony specifically commended the IAF for conceptualization and perationalisation of various assets and force-multiplies.  The inaugural day of the conference had reviews on matters of operations, acquisitions, aerospace safety, maintenance, administration and personnel matters concerning IAF's human resources.  During the four-day, presentations will also be made by AOC-in-C of each of the seven IAF commands during the conference.  In addition, a separate presentation on a topic relevant to the individual Command's core operational role, in the present and futuristic context, will also be made and discussed by the commanders.  Chiefs of the Army and Navy will also interact with the IAF commanders during the conference.

Pakistani, Indian agencies looking for contacts
ISLAMABAD: There are good reasons to believe the contradictions issued by Indian Prime Minister’s Office and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations about the reported contact between Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Gen Kayani through a secret envoy. However, there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that both India and Pakistan had been broaching the idea of a dialogue between the militaries and intelligence agencies for some time now — the desire being more intense in Delhi.  Supplementing an earlier denial by Dr Singh’s office of the communication with Gen Kayani, ISPR on Monday strongly rejected ‘The Times’ newspaper report saying it was “unfounded and totally baseless”.  But, the story of India talking directly to Pakistan army, whom the Indian leadership believes to be in-charge of Pakistan’s India policy, does not end here. Analysts and diplomatic observers say they noted a hankering among Indian civilian and military leadership for establishing a back-channel with Pakistan Army and ISI with the objective of developing a better understanding of each other’s apprehensions and probably, by doing so, lending sustainability to the accident prone front-channel being pursued by the diplomatic services of the two arch-rivals.  Those privy to this thinking, however, suggest that Delhi’s power echelons are still engaged in intense debate over whether or not to talk directly to Pakistan military and ISI and everyone is shying away from crossing the proverbial Rubicon. If this channel was to materialise it would be in addition to contacts between the directors general of military operations (DGMOs) and the exchanges between Rangers.  Pakistan and India have a history of aborted diplomatic initiatives for overcoming the mutual mistrust that kept both deeply divided and the estranged neighbours recently embarked on a fresh initiative for mending ties.  The detractors of the concept of engagement with Pakistan army base their arguments on following the ethical practice of talking only to the civilian government of the day, whereas the proponents insist on recognising the ground realities.  Indian defence advisers at the High Commission in Islamabad are at the forefront of efforts for establishing this contact. One of them was at the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul last week for witnessing the passing out parade of cadets. Some see the presence as a routine matter, but the presence there of Indians, who are sometimes kept out of even regular Foreign Office briefings for diplomats, is an important signal.  The Indian defence advisers have, in the past, met ISI chief Gen Pasha. And no-one can particularly forget Gen Pasha unprecedentedly turning up at Indian High Commissioner’s Iftar reception.

Guard against corrupt practices, Antony tells Army, Air Force
With the country embarking on a massive modernisation drive of its armed forces, Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Monday asked top Army and Air Force Commanders to be on guard against “corrupt practices” and not succumb to those under the guise of “aggressive marketing.”  Mr. Antony's note of caution to the top brass of the two services was delivered separately while inaugurating the biannual meetings of Army and Indian Air Force Commanders here, Ministry chief spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.  “Time and cost overruns apart, there is always the danger of falling prey to corrupt practices perpetrated by vested interests in the garb of aggressive marketing. I strongly urge you all to stand guard with resolve against any such overtures…,” Mr. Antony told the Army Commanders, whose conference concludes on Saturday.  At the Air Force Commanders meeting, he said: “At times, vested interests bring about unnecessary pressure and resort to corrupt practices that can wreck serious havoc upon our security in more ways than one. We must resist such efforts collectively and resolutely in national interest.”  Expressing complete faith in the capacity and ability of the top brass to uphold national security interests, Mr. Antony urged the Air Force Commanders to remain “vigilant, cautious and alert to any wrongdoings at all times,” and the Army Commanders to strive to uphold “sincerity, probity and fair play, even in their day-to-day administrative work.”  Modernisation  Over the past few years, India has earmarked massive budgets to modernise the tri-services, and a number of ‘big-ticket' defence procurement items are in the pipeline, including the Rs.45,000-crore 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft for the Air Force, ultra-light howitzers for the Army, and light-utility helicopters for both services, among a long list of equipment.  The Minister's message also comes amid a slew of reports alleging wrongdoings by persons in the top echelons of the defence services, including the Adarsh Housing Society scandal, the Sukna Land allotment issue, and a case of alleged bribe by an international exhibitor to an Air Force officer ahead of Aero India 2011.  On modernisation, Mr. Antony stressed that it had to move ahead simultaneously with the process of indigenisation since no nation would ever part with its first generation equipment. For this to happen, he said end users, scientists and the defence industry must consult each other regularly at every stage of designing, manufacturing and producing equipment to minimise procedural delays and understand each other's requirements.

IAF chief stresses on consolidation
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, on Monday said the Indian Air Force which is in the process of modernisation would observe the period as “Year of Consolidation.”  Over the past few years, the IAF has added different platforms, radars and weapon systems in its quest to “look first and look farthest” and the Air Chief emphasised the need to consolidate the operational availability of weapon systems and sensors on account of times of transformation.  The Air Chief said this in his address at the Air Force Commanders Conference here and thanked the Defence Minister for his support to IAF modernisation plan.  Earlier this year, the IAF inducted the first of the six C 130J Super Hercules transport aircraft. It has completed the evaluation and report to procure 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft, and a decision as to which of the six competitors would get the deal is expected to be taken by the government during the current financial year.  In addition, the IAF has ordered for two squadrons of indigenous Akash surface-to-air missiles besides other equipment.  Besides reviewing matters of operations, the inaugural day also looked at acquisitions, aerospace safety, maintenance, administration and personnel matters, IAF spokesman Wing Commander Tarun Singha said.  He said that during the week-long conference, the top commanders would give presentation of their respective Commands while also giving a presentation on a top relevant to the individual Command's core operational role, both in the present and futuristic context.  At a separate Army Commanders' Conference, the Chief of Army Staff, General V.K. Singh, underlined the global and regional trend and said the “strategic shift” was more in favour of “balance of interests” than “balance of power.” Gen. Singh said one of the major concerns was the attempt by non-state actors to acquire weapons of mass destruction.  Talking about the thrust area of the Army, he said there was a need to focus on operational preparedness, training and habitat for its men and suggested carrying out training audit and enforcement of a two-year training cycle to prevent overcrowding in a calendar year.

Antony, forces stress on unconventional threats rather than China, Pakistan
NEW DELHI: Rather than full-blown conventional wars with Pakistan or China, India at this point in time is faced more with unconventional threats like 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 help.  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.  Gen Singh, on his part, said though conventional conflicts were not on the horizon, the armed forces had to be ready to tackle "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.  "Besides conventional threats, our armed forces have to reckon with non-conventional threats, 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.  The Navy, for instance, has in the past warned that terrorist outfits can exploit lax container security at Indian ports to smuggle in 'dirty' nuclear bombs or other WMDs.  "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.

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