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Sunday, 19 June 2011

From Today's Papers - 19 Jun 2011






India way ahead in creating credible nuke deterrence: SFC chief

Shubhadeep Choudhury/TNS  Bangalore, June 18 Air Marshal KJ Mathews, Commander-in-Chief of the Delhi-based tri-services outfit Strategic Forces Command (SFC), said yesterday that “a lot of work is going on” to keep the country in readiness to use its nuclear arsenal in case the need arose.  Mathews, who was here as the chief guest at a function organised by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to celebrate 50 years of the first flight of the first indigenous fighter jet “Marut”, further said India was far ahead of its adversaries in terms of its nuclear firepower.  “We (SFC) are in charge of development and delivery of nuclear weapons. We used to report directly to the Prime Minister instead of the Defence Minister. That way we are fortunate to have a little more freedom”, Mathews said.  Noting the scepticism prevailing among certain sections of the people, including the defence forces, about the country’s nuclear capability, the SFC chief said: “I must assure you that a lot of work is going on as far as our credible minimum deterrence is concerned. We are way ahead and way up than our adversaries.”  Mathews told journalists that “weaponisation” of capabilities depended on the government, which acted upon the views of “a set of advisers” in such matters. He, however, refused to dwell further on the subject saying it was a “dangerous” territory.  The country tested a nuclear device in 1974 and carried out further tests in 1998. It, however, has never made any official statement about the size of its nuclear arsenal.  The Air Marshal, who has clocked 300 hours of flying on Maruts, described as “heady” the time when the Marut project was successfully executed by HAL.  He said the Marut pilots had a special relationship with the fighter because it was indigenous and it was not as good as one expected it to be.  “One had to continuously nurture it,” Mathews said, adding that the pilots grew quite attached to their Maruts because of the special attention those planes required.








Gorshkov to start sea trials by Nov Delivery of the warship as per schedule in Dec 2012

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, June 18 India and Russia ended their high-level defence cooperation meeting at Moscow late on Thursday with Russia assuring that the sea-based aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov will start sea trials off the Russian coast by November this year. Delivery of the ship to India will be as per schedule in December 2012.  The 45,000 tonne, 283-metre aircraft carrier will fly the naval version of the MiG 29 off its deck. The fighters are already in India and based at Goa. At present, the Indian Navy has one aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat and is building one of its own at Kochi that is to be named INS Vikrant. The development of an craft carrier is crucial as China is set to launch its first-ever such ship which is also a old Russian carrier being re-fitted.  Sources said the Indian Defence Ministry team led by Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar visited the ship yard at Sevmash in North-Western Russia to see the development. Gorshkov is being re-fitted as per the Indian requirements. Teams at the shipyard are working overtime and around the clock to meet the schedule. The cost escalation and delay in the ship had caused a strain on the 50-year-old Indo-Russian ties. It needed the intervention of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who himself took care that all contracts are signed.  Meanwhile, a section of the Indian delegation was also shown a test flight of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) that the two countries are co-developing. The development of design alone will cost close to $ 6 billion.











India, Pak in war of words over MV Suez

Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  Pakistan’s complaint  The Pakistan Navy complained to the Pakistan government to lodge a formal protest against the Indian Navy for carrying out ‘dangerous manoeuvres’ at high seas in the Gulf of Aden                 India’s reaction   The Indian Navy dismissed the allegation on Saturday saying the Pakistani naval warship PNS Babur violated relevant international and bilateral regulations on navigational safety  New Delhi, June 18 It would have been comic, if it had not been so serious and come days before the Foreign Secretary-level talks in Islamabad next week.  Last night it was the Pakistan Navy which complained and prompted the Pakistan government to lodge a formal protest against the Indian Navy for a ‘serious incident’ and carrying out ‘dangerous manoeuvres’ at high seas in the Gulf of Aden while on anti-piracy duties.  It was the Indian Navy’s turn to dismiss the allegation on Saturday. The Pakistani warship started it all, claimed Indian naval spokesmen. The Pakistan Naval Warship PNS Babur violated relevant international and bilateral regulations on navigational safety, the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi was told.  “PNS Babur by its risky manoeuvres jeopardised the safety of INS Godavari and its crew,’’ the External Affairs Ministry said. The Naval Adviser of the Pakistan High Commission was summoned to the Ministry of Defence and New Delhi’s serious concern on the incident was conveyed to him.  This came shortly after Pakistan protested over Indian Naval warship INS Godavari allegedly ‘brushing’ against the Pakistan Navy’s warship as it was escorting merchant vessel MV Suez on its journey towards Salalah in Oman. The MV Suez, an Egyptian ship, after its release by pirates last Monday is carrying 22 sailors including 6 Indians and 4 Pakistanis.  The Captain of INS Godavari, claimed Indian sources, had informed the Naval war room about the aggressive posture of the Pakistan warship on June 16 itself. ‘Brushing’, in naval parlance, does not mean physical contact or a collision between two ships. But if the horizontal distance between the two ships is less than 500 metres, it is classified as ‘brushing’. The seriousness of ‘brushing’ vary on the basis of speed, sea conditions and tonnage of the ships.  The two warships in this case are almost of similar size and tonnage. While INS Godavari has a 3600 tonne displacement and is 126 meters long, PNS Babur has a 3250 tonnes displacement and is 117 metres long. Both warships have a team of commandoes and choppers on board to launch them. The ships are equipped with surface-to-air-missiles and each of them carries some 275-300 crew trained to fight using weapons, missiles and guns.








India and Pakistan clash over naval ships

Ahead of their talks, India and Pakistan are locked in a nasty spat and have lodged protests against each other over their naval warships allegedly resorting to 'risky' and 'dangerous' manoeuvres after hijacked MV Suez was freed by Somali pirates.  India lodged a protest with Pakistan against the violation by Pakistan Naval Ship Babur of relevant regulations on navigational safety by its "risky" manoeuvres jeopardising the safety of INS Godavari and its crew. The protest was lodged through the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi.  The Ministry of External Affairs Ministry in a statement also said the Naval Advisor of the Pakistan High Commission was summoned by the Ministry of Defence and "our serious concern

An Indian Navy official said, "Reports of aggression by INS Godavari are incorrect and based on misinformation." Some Indian and Pakistan nationals were on board MV Suez.  The war of words erupted just days ahead of the talks between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan in Islamabad on June 24-25.  The Indian action came a day after Pakistan said a protest was lodged with the Indian high commission in Islamabad over what it alleged a dangerous manoeuvre by an Indian warship which 'brushed' its frigate escorting Eghyptian-owned vessel MV Suez. Pakistan also called the alleged incident on Thursday as serious.  The Indian protest was registered against the violation by Pakistan Naval Ship of relevant regulations on navigational safety as per the 'International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea' and Article 10 of the 'Agreement between India-Pakistan on Advance Notice on Military Exercises, Manoeuvres and Troops Movements 1991' involving INS Godavari on high seas, the MEA statement said.

"PNS Babur by its risky manoeuvres jeopardised the safety of INS Godavari and its crew," the MEA statement added.  The Ministry of External Affairs in an apparent reference to Pakistan's allegations earlier in the day said, "MV Suez that was seized in August 2010 has sailors from Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.....concerned Indian entities  have been coordinating with their interlocutors overseas, which has led to safe release of the sailors and the ship. Insinuations to the contrary by a few voices, stem from lack of appreciation of facts, and are totally baseless."  "Somalian piracy is a global challenge and menace, which requires a well coordinated response by the international community," MEA said, adding the vessel was now heading for Oman.

The Pakistan Foreign Office in it statement alleged the Indian Navy warship Godavari "not only hampered humanitarian operations being carried out by Pakistan Navy Ship Babur for (Egyptian) Merchant Vessel (MV) Suez but also undertook dangerous manoeuvres, which resulted in the brushing of the sides" of the two warships.  "This incident constitutes a serious violation of international regulations pertaining to safe conduct at high seas and of the India-Pakistan Agreement of 1991 on Advance Notice of Military Exercise Manoeuvres and Troop Movements," it claimed.  "The Indian government has been asked to ensure non-recurrence of such incidents," the statement said.  PNS Babur is escorting and assisting MV Suez, which was released by Somali pirates earlier this week after over two million dollars was paid as ransom for its 22-member crew, including four Pakistanis and six Indians.  INS Godavari had been dispatched to escort MV Suez to Salalah in Oman but was pulled out after the merchant vessel under a Pakistani national did not respond to its call.









Generals face harsh criticism as NA passes defence budget

SLAMABAD: The opposition PML-N raised on Saturday sharp questions about the performance of Pakistan’s military in recent years, with one senior lawmaker calling it confidence-shaking, before the National Assembly approved the defence budget of over Rs505 billion.  It was during debates on more than 200 opposition cut motions on demands for grants for two federal ministries and two divisions that the military role came under what was probably the severest criticism during a budget discussion in the country’s parliamentary history.  This is because “Pakistan’s people are now compelled (to ask questions)”, the PML-N’s main speaker on the subject and former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, said in a pointed speech before another prominent party figure and former minister, Ahsan Iqbal, and a couple of back-benchers also came hard on the role of generals for involvement in politics since first military ruler Field Marshal Ayub Khan seized power in 1958.  “Pakistan’s defence failures for some years have shaken the people of Pakistan,” Sardar Mehtab said as he accused the General Headquarters of imposing its will on domestic and foreign policy issues. “In the past few years, particularly in the past one year, people’s confidence has been badly affected,” he added.  This was the latest of a series of attacks on the military leadership in the lower house from the country’s largest opposition party since the presentation of the budget for fiscal 2011-12 early this month.  Leader of opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s was only a subdued criticism when he opened the general debate on the budget on June 6, but two other senior PML-N members, Khwaja Mohammad Asif and Ms Tehmina Daultana, came out with strident attacks in their speeches afterwards in what seemed to be a party policy, which attracted the charge, in a statement of a June 9 corps commanders’ conference, of a showing “conceptual biases” to run down the armed forces.  Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar came out with only a brief ridicule of what he called Sardar Mehtab’s “drum-beat” and politicisation of the situation and, while declining to go into politics, said the government would make every effort to strengthen the country’s defence, before the house rejected all 34 cut motions and approved the defence ministry’s demands, including the largest of Rs495 billion for defence services.  A total of 30 demands for grants worth about Rs653.4 billion was approved — Rs505.7 for the defence ministry, Rs141.97 billion for cabinet and establishment divisions and over Rs5.7 billion for the communications ministry.  Sardar Mehtab said the security policy bequeathed by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had made the previously safe Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal region unsafe, besides plunging Balochistan into military operations and that the May 2 US commando raid that killed Osma bin Laden at his Abbottabad hideout as well as militant attacks on the GHQ in 2009 and on Mehran Naval base in Karachi last month had “shaken Pakistan’s foundations and shattered the feeling of security”.  He regretted that despite prevailing poverty in the country, the generals were said to be “owning 25 to 50 crore rupees” at retirement and demanded that salaries and perks should be not more than those of their counterparts in neighbouring India.  The PML-N member also opposed presently shelved plans to shift the GHQ from Rawalpindi to Islamabad, which he said should only be a civilian city — and was later reminded by the defence minister of a statement by Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that it would not be done for now due to lack of funds.  Mr Ahsan Iqbal, who said he would salute ordinary soldiers for their role in the defence of the country and recalled what he saw as political motives of all the four military coups since 1958, called for accountability of those who he said used security institutions for politics so nobody could dare do it in the future.  His another senior party colleague, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, called for more transparency of the defence budget, which he said would strengthen rather than weaken the defence services, while a Musharraf-era minister, Zahid Hamid, wanted the house to be told of more non-classified information about the defence budget.  One PML-N back-bencher, Ms Qudsia Arshad, in an apparent contradiction of some of her party members’ observations, regretted criticism of the military, which she said was the only institution looking after the country’s defence. And later, when asked by Speaker Fehmida Mirza that if she were of this opinion, then why she had become a party to cut motions, Ms Arshad said she was against any cut in the defence budget.  Another PML-N back-bencher, Tahira Aurangzeb, withdrew a cut motion much after moving it. More demands will be taken up when the house meets at 4pm on Monday.








Commercial bids validity expires for India’s 197 light utility helicopter tender

The validity of the bids for the Indian defence forces’ tender for 197 light utility and attack helicopters expired this week and there is no word if the two bidders, Eurocopter and Kamov will be called to extend or put in fresh bids for the long delayed contract. Earlier, AgustaWestland was disqualified from the tender on grounds that its helicopter did not meet important conditions in the RFP.        Industry sources told that the both Eurocopter AS 550 Fennec and Kamov 226 are well matched in terms of their respective helicopters meeting the conditions in the RFP. The latter was not considered a potential winner but the fact that it is still in the race proves otherwise and it could ultimately be a close contest between the high profile Eurocopter and the Kamov. While the Eurocopter is a military version of the popular civilian Fennec chopper, the KA Ka-226 is claimed to be a uniquely configured helicopter which can be adapted for several mission profiles and is particularly suited for hot weather conditions.         It is over two years when the bids were submitted and extensive trials were held in India and the home countries of the two remaining bidders, France and Russia. Typically, bids are valid for two years under the Indian procurement system and bidders are free to hike price if asked to rebid. The MoD, if it is close to selecting a winner can call in the bidders and request them to hold the price while awaiting a decision, like it did in the case of the MMRCA fighter contract.        As per the original procurement schedule, the trials were scheduled to be completed by December 2010 and the final procurement announcement was expected to happen in mid-2011. While the trials and their evaluation is completed, according to sources, the final decision is awaited.        Of the 197 helicopters, 133 are to go to the Indian Army and the remaining 64 to the Indian Air Force. The procurement has been going on for the last five years with Eurocopter having won the deal the first time around, only to be told that the procurement had been cancelled since it had brought a civilian version to the tests. Golbal bids had been called in 2008 and a new RFP floated.        The estimated $3 billion procurement has a 50% offsets clause. Some 60 helicopters are to be brought in a fly-away condition with the rest assembled in India.










Indian military team leaving for China Sunday

New Delhi, June 18 (IANS) For the first time in almost a year, an Indian military delegation headed by an army general from Jammu and Kashmir will be in China on a five-day visit beginning Sunday.  India had put such interactions on hold in August 2010 after another general from the border state was denied a proper visa to visit Beijing, citing the "disputed nature" of Jammu and Kashmir.  Rashtriya Rifles' Delta Force commander Maj. Gen. Gurmeet Singh, responsible for anti-insurgency operations in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban areas of Jammu and Kashmir, will head the eight-member delegation that will tour Beijing and Urumqi in Xinjiang province in western China, government sources said here.  The delegation will also comprise officers from the Indian Army's Lucknow-based Central Command responsible securing the India-Tibet border over Uttarakhand and Kolkata-based Eastern Command that defends the Line of Actual Control with China in Arunachal Pradesh. The team will return to India June 24.  Asked whether Singh has received a stamped visa, sources said the officer has received a "proper visa". India has refused to recognize stapled visas as valid travel documents to visit China.  The Indian decision to resume defence cooperation with China was arrived at during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Sanya this April to take part in the third BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) summit.  In July last year, China did not issue a stamped visa and instead provided a stapled visa to Indian Northern Army's then commander Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal based in Udhampur, to lead a military delegation to Beijing, resulting in New Delhi suspending all bilateral defence visits between the two nations.  However, the border personnel interactions between troops on ground along the 4,057-km-long line of actual control between the two countries continued.  The previous visit to China by an Indian military delegation took place in 2009, when present army chief General V.K. Singh was there, leading a delegation in his capacity as the Eastern Army commander.









Capt. Pratima Dharm Named First-Ever Hindu Chaplain in US Army

NEW YORK— Pratima Dharm, who holds the rank of captain in the U.S. Army, was recently named the first-ever Hindu chaplain to serve in the U.S. Department of Defense.  The 40-year-old Dharm is the first Indian American woman to be appointed to such a post.  Born in New Delhi, and coming from a diverse background, she immigrated just months before the 9/11 attacks.  “My neighbors were Muslims, my neighbors were Jews, Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, Christians,” she was quoted as saying in an interview with Stars and Stripes. “My close friends in school represented all the different faith groups, and it never occurred to me then that we were different or there was anything strange about it.”  The U.S. Army, like the United States, was founded on the idea that people can be united while worshipping differently, she said.  According to Pentagon statistics, Hinduism, with nearly a billion adherents worldwide, has fewer than 1,000 active service members and was found to be the largest of the world faiths not represented by a chaplain.  Dharm, a chaplain on the medical staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, has already begun receiving e-mails from her friends although the official announcement has yet to be made.  “I’m already on the job,” she told Stars and Stripes. “There’s this tremendous sense of hope and relief that there is someone who understands their story at a deeper level, coming from the background I do.”  Most of her time at Walter Reed was spent reaching across faiths to minister to anyone who needs it, a key responsibility of military chaplains.  “Some of them come back having lost their buddies, some of them come back having lost their limbs, and things have changed for them forever,” she said. “To be able to sit down and show compassion for soldiers I have never met before is part of the message of Christ as well as [the Hindu teachings] of Vedanta.”  Until the past year, she wore the cross of a Christian chaplain on her battle fatigues, reported the Press Trust of India. When she began active duty in 2006, she was endorsed by the Pentecostal Church of God, based in Joplin, Mo. Now she’s sponsored by Chinmaya Mission West, a Hindu religious organization that operates in the United States.  “She knows Christian theology, and she has a great grasp of Hindu theology,” a spokesman of Chinmaya Mission said. “This means she can help everyone.”  She didn’t convert from Christianity to Hinduism. “I am a Hindu,” she said. “It’s how I was raised, and in my heart of hearts, that’s who I am.”  In Hinduism, “the boundaries are not that strict,” she said. “It is to base your life on the Vedantic traditions, and you can be a Christian and follow the Vedantic traditions.”  Dharm spent a year at a forward operating base near Mosul, Iraq, in 2007 and 2008. She received a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation Medal, among other awards, but came home with a deeper understanding of what being an Army chaplain means.  “You learn to grieve with someone you don’t know on a deep level,” Dharm said. “You watch someone die in front of you and comfort the soldier left behind who had a connection to that person. Things of that nature you don’t learn in seminary.”  Anju Bhargava, a member of the President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said Dharm’s appointment it was an exciting news.  “Hindus are making history. She is not only the first Hindu chaplain in Department of Defense but a woman — Shakti in the trenches,” she told PTI.  Lt. Col. Ravi Chaudhury said the team wished Captain Dharm “our collective prayers as she takes on the challenge of supporting our brave service members, civilians, and their families who are serving all over the world.”








India set to decide major military aircraft deals

NEW DELHI: India is set to decide on possibly the world’s biggest combat aircraft deal of this decade as well as those for new combat, utility and heavy-lift helicopters within the next few weeks or months, but all within 2011.  The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, told India Strategic defence magazine ( that the commercial bids of the two finalists in the race for 126-plus Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) would be opened this month, and those for the combat, heavy-lift and utility helicopters and the basic trainer aircraft "any time between the next few days to few weeks".  The air chief did not give any figures, but a rough calculation shows that IAF could be announcing deals worth $30 billion, or more, by the end of 2011.  A $4.1 billion deal for 10 C-17 Globemaster III heavy airlifters was signed Tuesday and there is a possibility of more such aircraft being acquired. This apart, the MMRCA deal, for which only the Eurofighter and Rafale remain in the fray, could touch or exceed $15 billion if the option for an additional 63 aircraft is exercised in addition to the 126 units given in the tender. The three helicopter variants and the trainer aircraft, along with support and training packages, could cost another $5 billion.  In an interview for India Strategic’s Paris Air Show edition, the air chief said the IAF had already finalized its choice for the combat helicopter while that of the utility helicopter had also been through with the Indian Army, which is the lead buyer in this case. The IAF will buy the same helicopter.  As for the heavy-lift helicopter, "the final report can be expected within the next few days," he said.  All the required reports were either already with the defence ministry or just about to be submitted, Naik said, pointing out the IAF was well on its way towards transformation by 2022 or 2025.  Boeing’s Apache AH 64D and the Russian Mi 28NE are the two contenders in the race for combat helicopters while Boeing’s Chinook - the only helicopter which can float on water - and Russian Rosoboronexport’s Mi-26 are in the fray for the heavy-lift role. The utility helicopter race for the Indian Army and the IAF has the EADS Eurocopter and the Russian Kamov in the race.  In the basic trainer role, the Swiss Pilatus 7, Korean KT 1 and US Beechcraft T-6 have been short-listed by the IAF, and the finalist is also due to be announced.  The IAF has already selected 12 VVIP helicopters from Agusta Westland and 80 multi-role Mi-17-1Vs from Russia. A project to build some 200 Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has already been signed with Russia.  The acquisitions apart, the IAF has already inducted two of the six special operations C-130J Super Hercules aircraft ordered from US Lockheed Martin, and by Feb 2012 the remaining would be in the IAF inventory.  The support infrastructure for the aircraft is in place, on time, the air chief said, adding: "There are plans to acquire an additional six C-130Js through the same Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route from the US government.  Speaking about the milestones in the MMRCA race, the air chief said that even after the commercial bids are opened, the final decision would still take a couple of months as it wasn’t just the price but the package in terms of direct costs, support programmes, training, offsets and lifecycle costs which would determine the winner. The race though is expected to be close.  Asked if the Eurofighter and Rafale were superior in technologies to the other four contenders - the Boeing F/A 18IN Super Hornet, the Lockheed Martin F-16IN, the Swedish Gripen and Russian MiG-29, the air chief said: "In all fairness, all the six aircraft in the competition were good, and more or less close to one another in performance. But some of them had to be out, and some had to be in, and that’s it. Let’s say that the two European finalists were the most-compliant in the 600-plus parameters that the IAF selection team had set."









Thermally regulated shelters for soldiers

Indian Army at high altitude will now have integrated thermally regulated shelters for protection from severe cold and extreme climactic conditions. The indigenous shelters made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), were handed over to the Indian Army on Thursday at the Leh-based 14 Corps headquarters.  The DRDO laboratory DIHAR has designed and developed these shelters, which are equipped with integrated temperature regulators, bio-digesters and air monitoring systems.  DRDO has come up with a new treatment modality for protection of soldiers against cold injuries which otherwise may lead to amputation of the affected parts, as soldiers on the glacier face extremes of weather, a very high wind chill factor, freezing temperature up to minus 50 degrees, low oxygen, and other hazards.




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