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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.


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