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Thursday, 26 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 26 May 2011

The IAF dilemma: To upgrade its Mirage fleet or buy new jets
Man Mohan Our Roving Editor  Force in a Fix  The big question  Should the IAF upgrade all its 51 French Dassault M2000 jets for Rs 14,400 cr or purchase new fighters?  What the IAF wants  The IAF expects the aircraft to have beyond visual range capabilities, lookdown and shoot-down capabilities, advanced electronic counter measures, and multi-target, multi-shoot capabilities  The stumbling block  The proposal does not fulfill requirements. Plus, the upgrade does not include the cost of procuring new weaponry worth Rs 80 cr. Is it cheaper to buy a new fleet?  New Delhi, May 25 The Indian Air Force has a dilemma: should it go ahead and upgrade it’s 51-strong Mirage fleet or purchase new fighters for Mirages’ specific role? Talks between the Ministry of Defence and Mirage’s French manufacturer Dassault are in the final stage and a decision is expected soon.  Upgrade of the French Dassault M2000 fighter aircraft would cost a whopping Rs 14,400 crore but it does not include the cost of procuring new weaponry worth Rs 80 crore.  If the Defence Ministry and the manufacturer sign the agreement, Dassault will supply four upgraded aircraft and kits to upgrade the remaining 47 aircraft to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Roughly Rs 4,500 crore is to be spent by HAL on the upgrade. It will also charge nearly Rs 900 crore for the furnished items.  A section of the IAF top brass feels that the upgrade cost is too high as the officers say that buying a new fighter would work out cheaper.  “Avionics and weaponry are complementary but their capabilities don’t always match. The upgrade process is very complicated and thorough and has to be very convincing for it to be approved,” said Air Marshal (retired) D. Keeler - hero of the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. Mirage fighters were inducted in the IAF during Keeler’s tenure in the mid-eighties. “Upgradation is always planned on the future lifespan of the airframe and engines,” he added.  New weapons required to be fitted in the proposed upgraded aircraft include BVR (RF) MICA missiles, IR MICA missiles, conventional weapons and smart guided weapons with standoff capabilities, and air-to-surface weapons.  Incidentally, Dassault fighter Rafale has been shortlisted along with Eurofighter Typhoon in the over $10.5 billion deal for 126 Medium Multi Role-Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). Two American, one Swedish and one Russian rival firm are out of the race.  The Eurofighter is said to having an edge over Rafale. Dassault sees this as a ‘win-win situation’: If it fails to get the MMRCA deal, it is confident of clinching the Mirage upgrade deal. Purchasing new Mirages is not an option now as France has closed the production line, presumably to avoid competition between Mirage 2000 and the Rafale. When last produced in 2007, the estimated price of a Mirage 2000-09 was Rs 30-35 million.  The first batch of 40 Mirage aircraft was delivered during 1986-87, the second batch of nine during 1988-89 and the third batch of 10 aircraft during 2003-04. Of these 59 aircraft, only 51 are now in the fleet. The rest have been lost.  The proposal is to upgrade all 51 aircraft to extend their operational life and update their capability. The ‘cardinal points’ of the proposal include: no airframe modifications, no changes to major aircraft systems, no modification to equipment bays, limited cockpit modifications, minimum retrofit line modification facilities/activities, and, most significantly, it does not cover the cost of supply of weapons.  As the purpose of the upgrade is to bring the IAF’s Mirage 2000 fleet up to the standard of the Mirage 2000-5 Mk2, which is used by the French and sold as the Mirage 2000-09, would it not be a better option to ascertain whether any country wants to sell some or all of its inventory at a more competitive cost than that represented by the upgrade, questions the anti-upgrade lobby within the IAF.  India had reportedly talked to Qatar, which was looking to sell its Mirage 2000-09 fleet of 12 aircraft. The talks failed as Qatar’s price expectations could not be met. Some senior officers are of the view that this setback does not preclude the attempt to identify another source, provided that the price is reasonable and that there is sufficient service life remaining to justify the acquisition.  India must negotiate and conclude contracts for the upgrade of Mirage fighters and procurement of weapons simultaneously, advise senior IAF officers. Otherwise, they warn, weapon manufacturers will dictate their ‘expensive terms’ later.

India’s no to Chinese General’s stopover
New Delhi, May 25 Even as the two countries were sorting out the nitty-gritty of resuming defence exchanges, India politely turned down a suggestion from Beijing to host a Chinese General who wanted to stop over in New Delhi on June 1 to meet Indian officials while on his way to Sri Lanka.  Confirming this, Defence Minister AK Antony said New Delhi had told the Chinese side that it would be too busy around that time with other engagements like the India-Pakistan defence secretary level talks and the visits of German and Afghan foreign ministers.  “So, we said our hands are already full… if he is coming, he is welcome. Our defence secretary said he would be glad to meet him and instead of a structured dialogue, we can have time for lunch and dinner,’’ the minister added, while talking to reporters after addressing the Naval Commanders’ conference.  The request for a daylong stopover had come from Chinese Army’s Deputy Chief Gen Ma Xiaotian. The two sides then agreed that the structured dialogue would be resumed when an Indian defence delegation visits China in the second half of June.  India had suspended defence exchanges with China last July after Beijing refused a visa to Lt-Gen BS Jaswal, who was commanding Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir, in what was seen by New Delhi as an attempt by China to question India’s sovereignty over the state.  However, the two countries decided to resume defence exchanges at a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao in the Chinese sea resort of Sanya on the margins of the BRICS Summit in April.  An eight-member Indian defence delegation, led by Maj-Gen Gurmeet Singh, a senior official of the Udhampur-based Northern Command, would visit China in the second half of the next month.

Maintain vigil: Antony to Navy
Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, May 25 Defence Minister AK Antony today expressed concern over frequent terror attacks on military installations in Pakistan and asked the Indian Navy to maintain constant vigil.  The Indian Navy ought to take stock of the level of its operational preparedness from time to time in view of the volatile neighbourhood and the challenges of the Indian Ocean Rim (IOR), he said, addressing the Naval Commanders here.  Later, talking to reporters, the minister said the developments in Pakistan, particularly the recent terror attack on the Mehran Naval base in Karachi, was a matter of serious concern for India. India was taking precautions.  On whether there was any specific intelligence input on terror threats to India, he said he would obviously not like to share it in public but asserted that the country’s armed forces were monitoring the situation all the time.  Replying to a question, he said attempts by terrorists to cross the border into Jammu and Kashmir were continuing. “There are many terrorists waiting across the border to infiltrate into our territory. But there is no increase in infiltration. Attempts are going on. But our armed forces are ever ready to prevent that.’’  In his address, Antony also spoke about piracy, describing it as a major concern for the government.

ISI all the way
Headley confirms its nexus with terror  What India has been saying from the housetops all this while is now being recorded under oath in a Chicago court by terror operative David Headley: that the ISI was actively involved in the Mumbai attack in 2008 which killed 170 people, including six Americans. This would have been sensational stuff even if he was an ordinary witness. But he is the American government’s own key witness, who plea bargained with the government to escape death penalty. His testimony graphically describes how he reported to a serving ISI officer named Major Iqbal among others ahead of the attack and a Pakistani navy frogman helped land terrorists for the attack. His diary, whose two pages were produced as evidence in the court, contains phone numbers of two Major-rank officers of the Pakistani army, besides some others who handled the 26/11 attackers.  Headley’s admission that he scouted Shiv Sena headquarters to assassinate its supremo Bal Thackeray is also a corollary of the shared hatred for the Shiv Sena because of its anti-Pakistan utterances. The terrorists who landed in Mumbai were only carrying out the agenda of the ISI. Bal Thackeray has chosen to make light of the threat, but the risk was real and grave. The conspiracy is a macabre reminder as to how far the ISI can go to make India bleed from a thousand cuts.  Headley is also providing elaborate details about the ISI’s nexus with Lashkar-e-Toiba and other terrorist organisations. This is the second major embarrassment for Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden right there in Abbottabad. Its attempts to discredit the Headley testimony on the ground that he was a double agent is not cutting much ice and pressure is mounting on the US to declare the ISI a terrorist outfit. Ironically, it has already branded it as such unofficially, as disclosed in secret cables. While the case for designating the ISI a terrorist entity is watertight, the US may not actually do so keeping in view the larger political and geo-strategic realities. Nevertheless, pressure is bound to mount on Pakistan to account for its blatant sponsorship of terrorism.

Corruption and combat aircraft India’s security can’t be compromised
by G. Parthasarathy  At a time when the credibility of the Manmohan Singh government lies in tatters thanks to the scandal related revelations it faces on corruption, the recent announcement by the government, narrowing the list of qualified bidders, on the acquisition of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) has happily not invited any accusations for corruption, cronyism or nepotism. This is unquestionably because of the impeccable reputation for honesty and probity that Defence Minister A.K. Anthony enjoys in India and abroad. But many like former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra aver that our defence procurement procedures are “antiquated and excessively time-consuming”.  They argue that Mr Anthony’s fixation with his image of impeccable honesty (he is often jocularly referred to as Saint Anthony!) has resulted in serious delays in the procurement of vital defence equipment, ranging from Army helicopters and 155 mm Howitzers to combat aircraft and submarines. Mr Mishra warns that our defence planners have to note that since 2008 the Sino-Pakistan “all-weather friendship” has become a “military alliance directed against India,” for which “we may have to defend ourselves at the same time”.  The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 39.5 combat squadrons. Barely 29 squadrons are operational at present. Some of these are equipped with the aircraft of the 1960s and 1970s vintage. Even with scheduled acquisitions, we will reach a level of 39.5 squadrons in 2017. We will then find that given the Sino-Pakistan alliance, the IAF requires a minimum of 45 combat squadrons. Pakistan’s Air Force (PAF) presently has 22 combat squadrons. It is set to acquire 10 to 12 squadrons of JF 17 and a couple of squadrons of J10 fighters from China. The latter is an Israeli variant of the American F16. The Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) already has 350 “fourth generation” fighter aircraft and is set to have an estimated 300 frontline combat aircraft based in the Lanzhou and Chengdu Military Regions bordering India. Despite these developments, we have proceeded at a rather leisurely pace with our defence modernisation, though in its growing fleet of Russian Sukhoi 30s, the IAF has one of the finest contemporary fighters.  India has adopted a transparent process of tendering for acquiring the MMRCA. The bids came from Russia (MiG 35), Sweden (Grippen), France (Rafale), the US (F16 IN and FA 18 E/F Super Hornet) and the European Eurofighter Consortium comprising Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain for the Eurofighter “Typhoon”. Over the past two years, dozens of senior IAF officials have gone through each of these bids meticulously to see how far they fulfilled the 643 parameters the IAF had laid down. The aircraft offered have been put through rigorous flight tests in Leh (high mountainous terrain), Jaisalmer (hot desert terrain) and Bangalore, across the coastal belt. A high-level Technical Evaluation Committee laid down guidelines for offsets India expects from manufacturers, with they also required to effect substantial and substantive transfer of the aircraft’s technology, in an effort to boost India’s aerospace industry, which lags seriously behind its Chinese counterpart.  Following the earlier rejection of the Grippen and MiG-35 bids, New Delhi recently announced that both American aircraft, the F/16 IN and F/A18 E/F, also failed to meet IAF requirements. The Americans argued that their fighters alone possess the unquestionably superior AESA radar, which gives them a combat edge. More importantly, the Americans have looked at the entire MMRCA acquisition in larger strategic terms. American analyst Ashley Tellis, whose knowledge of Indian defence and nuclear policies is profound, asserted: “The winner (of the MMRCA contract) will obtain a long and lucrative association, with a rising power and secure a toehold into other parts of India’s rapidly modernising strategic industries.  The aircraft will play a vital role in India’s military modernisation as the country transforms from a regional power to a global giant”. There is “disappointment” in Washington at the rejection of American bids, more so as President Obama had personally lobbied with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on this issue. Hopefully, the Americans will understand that on issues like the acquisition of the MMRCA, India will not yield to external pressures.  Even the Americans acknowledge that both aircraft they offered are of relatively old vintage and cannot be upgraded any further. On the other hand, both the Eurofighter and the French Rafale are relatively new and can be upgraded substantially in future. With Pakistan already flying F16s for over a quarter of a century, there was little enthusiasm for the F16 IN offered, even though it is a much more advanced version of what the PAF flies. The F/A18 E/F failed in high altitude flight trials in Leh in early 2010. Its acquisition would have put the IAF at a disadvantage when facing the PLAAF. In some flight evaluations, the Grippen performed better than the F/A 18. Moreover, India has found US conditions of “end use monitoring” of the equipment the US supplies irksome, if not demeaning. Serious doubts also remain about American readiness for transfers of technology, which could substantially benefit our aerospace industry.  The US has little reason to complain when it loses out in the face of international competition. Defence contracts with India, especially during Mr Anthony’s tenure, have been substantial and included 6 C 130 J Super Hercules, 10 C 17 Globemaster Transport aircraft and 12 Poseidon Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft, apart from the troop-carrying ship “Trenton”. India is also set to purchase a substantial number of light Howitzers for its Mountain Divisions and consider an offer of 197 helicopters for the Army from the US after having scrapped a deal with Eurocopter following American protests. Equally, there is no cause for our worthy communists, who never tire of espousing the cause of the Chinese, while turning a blind eye to Sino-Pakistan nuclear and military cooperation, to celebrate Mr Anthony’s decision. Mr Anthony has handed out more high value defence contracts to the Americans than any of his predecessors.  The Ministry of Defence appears to have understandably decided that cost will not be the primary consideration in the selection of the MMRCA. The Eurofighter was sold to Saudi Arabia at a cost of $ 123 million per aircraft - more than double that of its Americana and Russian competitors. The Rafale, priced at around $ 85 million, is also substantially costlier than its American and Russian competitors. The Eurofighter deal with Saudi Arabia was clouded with serious allegations of corruption and kickbacks. This should not be repeated in its dealings in India.

China talks
New Delhi, May 25: India and China are set to resume a defence dialogue about a year after Beijing refused visa to an Indian army commander.  “We will have a structured dialogue very soon. The fourth round of defence dialogue at secretary level will take place,” defence minister A.K. Antony said.  The defence secretaries of India and Pakistan are also set to meet on May 30 and 31 in New Delhi. The defence secretary level talks were decided after India and Pakistan agreed at Thimphu in February to revive a “comprehensive dialogue”.  With China, New Delhi called off the defence dialogue last July after it refused to give a visa to the Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen. B.S. Jaswal, because his area of responsibility included Jammu and Kashmir (and the frontier with China).  A military delegation led by a major general from the northern command is now slated to visit China in June
Wipro allies with EADS ahead of defence bounty
With an eye on the so-called defence ‘offset’ spending running into several billion dollars, infrastructure engineering division of Wipro has entered into a component supply agreement with CESA — or Compania Espanola De Sistemas Aeronauticos SA, a subsidiary of defence manufacturer European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS).  EADS along with another European defence manufacturer Dassault are the only contenders left in fray for the $12 billion (around Rs54,000 crore) Indian contract for supplying 126 combat aircraft.  Last month, India had rejected the bid of American manufacturer Airbus on technical grounds. Last week, defence minister A K Antony said the deal may be signed before March 2012.  “Growth in this industry will be driven by offset opportunities as well as growth in the aeronautics and defence space in India and other emerging markets in the Asia Pacific region,” said Pratik Kumar, president, Wipro Infrastructure Engineering.  Indian regulations require foreign suppliers winning contracts worth over Rs300 crore to source at least 30% of the contract value from Indian firms. This is often referred to as defence offset clause.  For the combat aircraft procurement programme, India has set the offset limit at 50%, implying that the firm winning the contract must source least $6 billion worth of parts and services from Indian suppliers. It is for a pie of such spending that firms such as Wipro are vying for.  As part of ramping up its presence in this industry space, Wipro will invest about $15 million set up a manufacturing plant in the new special economic zone for aerospace being set up at Devanahalli in Karnataka by that state government. Production from the new facility will commence towards the end of 2012, firm’s management said.  “Apart from the advantage of having a strong outsourcing partner for our current programmes, EADS and CESA will also have a reliable and credible partner to meet offset obligations in India,” said Jose Leal, CESA managing director. “Further, the Wipro-CESA combine will be able to jointly explore new and emerging opportunities in the Asia Pacific and other emerging markets.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Says Defense Spending to Grow In Countries Around the World  Read more:
Adm. Mike Mullen says the United States cannot control other countries around the world around the world, and that in future stability will depend as much on a country's economy as on its military.  "We're not going to change anybody's strategic calculus," he told an audience during a lecture series at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.  The chairman of the Joint Chiefs says defense spending in many countries will likely stay static, but will grow significantly in regions such as Asia and the Middle East. Mullen pointed to China, India, Turkey and Brazil which he says will "probably emerge as leaders in their regions." He describes them as the "economic engines of our time."  Mullen also discussed the economic problems facing the United States and the need to get our fiscal house in order. Mullen stressed that the "national debt is the greatest threat to national security," a point he first made last summer which shocked many in Washington. Adm. Mullen said the U.S. defense budget will become at best "flat" over the next few years. That is a big change from the last decade when the budget nearly doubled to its current size of $530 billion as the Pentagon participated in two wars while facing a new and calculated enemy in the global War on Terror.  With all combat troops out of Iraq and numbers in Afghanistan expected to diminish greatly as soon as this summer, Mullen said the growing deficit will drive some very tough decisions as to what kind of military the U.S. wants to build in the future. He agrees with what Defense Sec. Gates' said Tuesday when describing what Congressional budget constraints would mean to the U.S. military. Gates said he'd "rather have a smaller, but superbly capable military then a larger, hollow, less capable one." Mullen says given the persistent challenges the U.S. faces, these policies and decisions have "real consequences." Not mentioning any budget cuts by name, Mullen seemed to categorize future funding decisions as "what must be done and what can afford to go undone."  After his remarks, Mullen answered questions from invited guests, which numbered just over 100 people. He joked with the audience to "keep asking questions" so members of the press would not be tempted to step in with questions of their own.  The wife of one retired Marine Corps colonel expressed concern about the way information from the Navy SEAL raid that killed Usama bin Laden has been released to the public, worrying about the ability of terrorist groups to understand our intelligence capability. Mullen said he had taken an oath that he would not say anything more about the raid, but he did chastise those that have been openly discussing details. He pinned those leaks on retired military, reiterating "that kind of input to the system is just not helpful."  Adm. Mullen's four-year term will expire this fall, and Fox News has learned that President Obama will name Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as his replacement.

Defence stand over Adarsh contradictory
The cross-examination of defence estate officer Gita Kashyap before the Adarsh commission on Wednesday brought out further contradictions in the ministry of defence’s (MoD) stance on owning and possessing the disputed plot in Colaba. Kashyap admitted that the 1958 letter between the joint secretary to the government of India and the secretary to the government of Bombay did not talk of creation of land in Block VI in favour of the defence ministry as mentioned by KB Nayyar, undersecretary of the MoD in his affidavit.  Nayyar in his affidavit before the high court had said, “The right to own, possess and occupy land in Block VI Colaba, when reclaimed was created in favour of the defence ministry by the government of Bombay.”  Nayyar had based this statement on the letter dated December 31, 1958.  The letter had sought the prime plot on which the Adarsh housing society stands in exchange for the plot in Santacruz that was owned by the Army and given to the state government for a project. However, the state government had refused to agree to this deal.  Kashyap admitted that the 1958 letter did not say that the right to occupy and possess the land was created in favour of the defence ministry.  She also accepted that the defence estate officer had not challenged the state government when it issued a corrigendum in 2004 deleting the words “presently in possession of the defence department” from the property card of the Adarsh plot.  Kashyap had admitted on Monday that the Adarsh plot was owned by the state government. The arguments before the commission are now focussing on whether the armed forces possessed this plot and under what circumstances was the transfer of the plot granted to the society.

‘After MMRCA, stay the course on defence ties'
The Indian government's decision to choose two non-U.S. finalists for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition was, as one U.S. official put it, “a source of puzzlement and disappointment” for the government and defence industry. After putting forward two of the most formidable fighters ever deployed — and investing millions of dollars in the competition — neither Boeing nor Lockheed Martin was able to secure a place among the finalists in the selection process. Had they been chosen, the U.S. aircraft would have also provided a ladder to ever higher levels of U.S. technology transfer.  That said, while U.S. government and industry officials are dismayed over the decision, it should not inhibit the continued deepening of defence ties between the U.S. and India. The U.S. and India have made substantial progress over the past half-decade in this regard and it should be noted that fitful transitions to new partnerships are not new for India.  Ronen Sen, India's former Ambassador to the U.S., captured the dynamic well in his April 1 speech to the Institute of Defence and Security Analysis (IDSA) when he outlined the historical phases of India's defence relations with various countries, to include the recent ties with the U.S. Sen observed: “During virtually all these transitional phases there were initial reservations and resistance to changes in significant sections of our political, bureaucratic and, to a lesser extent, military establishments. The debate on the current transitional phase in our defence cooperation is thus not unprecedented.”  Level of uneasiness  However, while the debate goes on within the Indian government, there is a similar discussion going on within U.S. government and industry circles about what the future holds for the U.S.-India relationship. Most Americans fully understand that it will take persistence and patience to build this relationship. They also understand India's desire to protect its strategic autonomy and diversify its arms supply from a variety of sources. However, what is causing a measure of uneasiness within the U.S. is a sense that India may be viewing the relationship as transactional rather than a long term strategic partnership.  After concluding the civilian nuclear agreement, removing the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from the U.S. Commerce Department's Entity List, and publicly supporting India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, there has been a sense of disappointment at the rate of progress. While defence deals for cargo and surveillance aircraft are welcome and important, there is an American desire to take the partnership to the next level where both sides can work more seamlessly on areas of common interests such as maritime security in the Indian Ocean, counter-piracy, and humanitarian disasters. Instead, Americans perceive their Indian interlocutors as largely focused on technology transfer, co-production, and building its indigenous defence production capabilities, with much less enthusiasm shown for how both sides might work together on issues of common strategic concern.  Moving forward after the MMRCA decision, both sides need to develop a pragmatic approach to defence and security relations that is rooted in practical cooperation rather than the next giant step, like the civilian nuclear agreement or the multi-billion dollar fighter competition. In the words of Under Secretary of Defence Michelle Flournoy, the U.S. and India need to move towards a relationship that is “normal, expected, and routine.” In this regard, the two countries should focus on initiatives that develop closer cooperation between the military services and foster a better understanding of how each government bureaucracy works.  Past instances of cooperation  While past instances of practical cooperation such as joint humanitarian efforts during the 2004 tsunami were notable, they are episodic and inconsistent. Both sides could start by developing procedures for cooperating on areas of mutual concern. For example, the Indian and U.S. navies, perhaps working through the U.S.-India Navy Executive Steering Group, could develop standard operating procedures for cooperating on humanitarian disasters, incidents of maritime proliferation, or counter-piracy. Developing such procedures is not dependent on signing defence agreements and would provide a practical way for both sides to deepen defence relations. Such practical cooperation would not impinge upon India's freedom of action; to the contrary, it would enhance India's ability to act as a provider of security and stability in the region and beyond.  It is also very important to remove bureaucratic bottlenecks that are impeding closer U.S.-India defence ties. As U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake recently said, the two countries need “to increase understanding of each other's processes, practices, and procedures to enable better cooperation in the future.” For U.S. government and industry, South Block can be a mystery with paperwork or actions held up for months without any indication of when decisions might be taken. Indian officials sometimes perceive the U.S. bureaucracy as a source of confusion and frustration with unclear and inconsistent rationale on why particular technologies are granted or denied. While both sides conduct a range of bilateral defence dialogues, there is still a significant lack of understanding of how the bureaucracies in New Delhi and Washington work (or don't work as the case might be!).  Finally, both sides need to refrain from trumpeting any particular defence initiative or defence deal as a litmus test or indicator for the relationship. This does not mean that there should be no ‘big ideas' of taking defence relations to the next level. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that in the case of U.S. and India, close defence relations need to emerge through routine interaction, rather than be punctuated solely by major defence deals or large exercises. Such an approach should be acceptable for India's domestic politics, mollify American demands for more practical cooperation, and keep Asia reassured about deepening defence ties between these two great democracies.  ( Karl F. Inderfurth is Senior Advisor and Wadhwani Chair for U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and served as the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Affairs from 1997-2001. S. Amer Latif is a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and served as the Director for South Asian Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2007-2011. The views reflect only those of the authors.)

India to build 34 Naval ships, submarines
NEW DELHI: Marking a modernisation spree, Indian Navy is constructing 34 ships and submarines and is in the process of acquiring aircraft, destroyers and missiles to equip it to meet all challenges.  Addressing top Naval Commanders here, Defence Minister A K Antony today said thrust was being given to indigenous capabilities while modernising the force.  "34 ships and submarines are in various stages of construction at different shipyards. A large number of contracts have been concluded for acquisition of aircraft, destroyers, fleet tankers, jet trainers, missiles, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and radars," he said.  Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma yesterday said almost all the naval ships planned to be inducted in the next 15 years would be built in India.  Besides inducting new assets, India is also focusing on revamping its indigenous ship-building capabilities.  As part of this, Antony last week commissioned the first-of-its-kind and the biggest ship-lift system at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL), which will significantly reduce the time and effort in repairing ships and constructing new ones.  With a Rs 800 crore and four-phased modernisation plan, GSL is expected to augment its capacity to fabricate and construct steel, aluminium and hull of the naval vessels to nearly three times.

Indian Navy to work under unmandated groupings against piracy: Antony
New Delhi, May 25: Describing piracy as a continuing cause of major concern, Defence Minister AK Antony today said that the menace needs a concerted effort and a collective response from the international community.   Addressing the Naval Commanders here this morning, Antony said "recent incidents in our neighbourhood" have strongly underlined the need to maintain constant vigil.  "The Challenges of the Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) and the volatile neighbourhood we live in, make it imperative for us to maintain operational readiness at all times. The Navy needs to take stock of the level of operational preparedness from time to time," Antony said.  While assuring that the Indian Navy would continue to work with all navies operating in the Gulf of Aden, he ruled out India becoming a member of any multilateral groupings unless these are under a UN mandate.  Commenting on coastal security, Antony said the government has made considerable progress in plugging the gaps but a lot more still needs to be done.  He said various agencies need to adopt a far more collaborative and cooperative approach.  Antony further said that strengthening our coastal security is inextricably linked to the security of island territories, and called for drawing up a long term strategic plan to enhance the security of Andaman andNicobar, Lakshadweep andMinicoy islands.  Referring to the modernization of the Navy, Antony said the government is fully committed to achieve this goal.  He said 34 ships and submarines are in various stages of construction at different indigenous shipyards. He also said that a large number of contracts have been concluded for acquisition of aircraft, destroyers, fleet tanker, jet trainers, missiles, UAVs, radars etc.

National Defence College on terrorist hit list: Headley
CHICAGO: The National Defence College (NDC) in New Delhi, India's premier defence studies institution, is on the terrorist hit-list as 26/11 mastermind Illiyas Kashmiri believes this can eliminate more of the country's military top brass, a key plotter of the Mumbai terror attack has testified.  On the second day of his testimony before a Chicago court Tuesday, Pakistani American David Coleman Headley testified that within a few months of the Mumbai attack, Kashmiri asked him to go to India again to do surveillance of the NDC.  Kashmiri told him that NDC was a prestigious Indian institution that teaches senior level military offices.  His handler "Pasha" told him that if "we were able to conduct" an attack on the NDC, then "we will be able to kill more brigadiers than Pakistan has done in the four wars" with India.  Kashmiri also wanted him to do surveillance of Chhabad House Jewish community centres all over India as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leadership wanted retaliation for Israeli attacks on the Gaza strip.  When accompanied by Pasha, he went to see Kashmiri in Waziristan in February 2009, he had emerged as a "surveillance expert" among LeT circles and "thus a key element of the planning of the terrorist attack," Headley said.  "Kashmiri asked me to return to India. He said that his leadership was very upset about the recent Israeli strike on the Gaza strip and (thus) wanted retaliation," Headley said in response to a question.  On the way back he was given a list of Chhabad houses in India by Pasha.

Top naval commanders review coastal security, anti-piracy operations
New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) Top naval commanders Tuesday began a four-day conference here to review the security situation in the region in the backdrop of terror strikes in the South Asian neighbourhood, apart from threats posed by Somali pirates closer to Indian shores.  In the four-day biannual meet to be addressed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony Wednesday, the commanders of important operational formations, led by Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, will also assess the preparedness of naval combatants, in particular the organisational ability to deploy warships, submarines and aviation assets at short notice, both for conventional and peacetime missions.  ‘The naval commanders conference for 2011 started at New Delhi today (Tuesday). Over the next four days, the commanders of the Indian Navy will discuss issues of operational relevance and future plans,’ a navy spokesperson said here in a press release.  ‘This biannual forum also provides an opportunity for the Chief of the Naval Staff to examine the operational readiness of the Indian Navy; assess the progress made in key projects; and initiate functional, organisational and administrative steps necessary to further enhance the Indian Navy’s readiness for current and emerging challenges,’ he said.  Addressing the naval commanders on the subject of operational readiness, Admiral Verma pointed out that ‘with the security situation being fluid, we need to maintain the organisational ability to deploy ships, submarines and aircraft at immediate notice’.  Drawing the commanders’ attention to ‘large number of peacetime commitments at hand’, he also noted that ‘maintenance of war-fighting abilities remained the top-most priority’.  Following the November 2008 Mumbai terror strikes, the navy has been given overall responsibility of securing the 7,500-km-long Indian coastline and vital installations from non-conventional threats such as terrorist attacks.  The navy has effectively put in place a mechanism for coordination among all Indian maritime agencies such as the Coast Guard, customs, marine police, shipping, ports and fisheries. It has also set up joint operations centres on both the eastern and western fronts for coordinated intelligence gathering, sharing and analysis, apart from carrying out combined operations on those inputs.  It has also raised a 1,000-man strong Sagar Prahari Bal, a specialist force for providing security to vital military and strategic installations along the coast.  Regarding the threat from pirates in the Arabian Sea, Verma said the ongoing thrust on anti-piracy operations should be sustained. Apart from destroying about half a dozen motherships of the pirates, the navy has in recent months nabbed about 120 sea brigands and sent them to jail in Mumbai.  Verma highlighted the criticality of ‘maritime domain awareness’ to all aspects of naval operations and recalled the ‘the vision and contribution’ of the Indian Navy in the National Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence Network (NC3I).  The conference will review all aspects of operational, material and logistics preparedness of the navy, apart from discussing the force-level accretion in accordance with the navy’s long term perspective plans and how best to leverage the new defence procurement procedure to build ships within India over the next 15 years at a faster pace with international benchmarks of costs and quality.  The meeting would also discuss the plans for induction of its main combatants such as the Gorshkov aircraft carrier by December 2012, integration of MiG-29K fighter jets on board the carrier, P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft, indigenous aircraft carriers, and Scorpene submarines and its follow-on orders.

The French Rafale Fighter Jet That Nobody Wants
The Rafale has cost $53 billion and is the key to France's defense economy, but it's not selling abroad.  The Rafale fighter, made by France's Dassault Aviation, is loaded with high-tech avionics, radar, and targeting systems. Now all it needs are customers. France has been peddling the supersonic jet since 2000 and hasn't sold a single one. In the latest setback, Brazil said on Jan. 17 that it would reopen bidding for a fighter contract worth up to $7 billion—a deal France had thought it was close to sealing last year. Neither Dassault nor the French Defense Ministry would comment on Brazil's decision.  The Rafale's plight signals the end of an era for France. With their Mirage fighter program, developed in the 1950s, the French were able to bolster their national defense, promote new technologies, and provide well-paying jobs—while recouping much of the cost by exporting hundreds of jets worldwide. Hoping to duplicate that model, the French government has spent some $53 billion on the Rafale, more than the country's $40 billion annual defense budget. But deal after deal has fallen through, with prospective buyers South Korea, Singapore, and Morocco choosing Boeing's (BA) F-15 and Lockheed Martin's (LMT) F-16 over the Rafale.  Midsize suppliers such as France are being outgunned by bigger competitors. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, for example, is being developed by a U.S.-led consortium of nine countries that plan to buy more than 2,500 of the planes. That will ensure plenty of revenue from production and upgrades. Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain have similarly joined forces to produce the new Eurofighter jet. "Nationally driven, nationally financed and controlled production of the most advanced weapons systems is now the exclusive purview of the U.S. and Russia, and in the future, China as well," says Mark Bromley, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a Swedish think tank.  Changing global politics has worked against France, too. During the Cold War, France successfully marketed the Mirage as an alternative to U.S. and Soviet planes. Other customers, such as the United Arab Emirates, bought French planes after the U.S. balked at providing high-tech weaponry. Now, though, the U.S. is eagerly seeking sales in the Gulf states. Many foreign governments, in turn, see arms deals as a way to forge closer defense ties with the U.S., says Loïc Tribot La Spière, an analyst at the Center for Studies and Prospective Strategy, a Paris think tank. "The sentiment is, 'We buy American because it assures security,' " he says.  The 93 Rafales produced by Dassault so far have gone to the French armed forces. To sustain production, the government has agreed to spend $1.1 billion on more Rafales over three years, even as it tries to pare budget deficits.  Finding customers will only get harder. As the Joint Strike Fighter enters service, U.S. manufacturers are set to increase their share of the $16 billion-a-year fighter aircraft market over the next decade from nearly 58 percent to more than 67 percent, according to forecasts by the Virginia-based Teal Group aerospace consultancy. Eurofighter and Russian manufacturers will get most of the rest, Teal predicts.  The longer the Rafale order book stays empty, the harder it will be to sell the plane, Teal analyst Richard Aboulafia says. "Customers like to see a home government that is determined to keep spending on buying and upgrading the aircraft" with the latest technology. Instead, he says, the Rafale is on budgetary life support. "That's the last thing you want customers to see." France's decision to go it alone on its fighter program has cost the country $53 billion, with no export sales to offset the price.

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