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Thursday, 7 July 2011

From Today's Papers - 07 Jul 2011





NHRC notice to Defence Secy, police chief

New Delhi, July 6 The NHRC today issued notice to the Defence Secretary and the Chennai Police Commissioner seeking their reports on the killing of a teenaged boy in defence area in Chennai. The National Human Rights Commission has asked both the Defence Secretary and the police chief to submit detailed reports in the matter within four weeks, a spokesperson said.  The issuance of the notice came after the NHRC received a complaint based on one of the media reports that 13-year-old Dilshan was shot dead allegedly by an army personnel as he tried to trespass into the defence area.  The incident occurred on July 3 at the Island Grounds area that houses Army residential quarters, where Dilshan had allegedly gone to pick some fruits.  Meanwhile, Army Chief General VK Singh promised strong action against anybody found guilty, but said the entire force should not be defamed if any individual was suspected.  “Whoever has committed any mistake in the incident, be it an officer or a jawan, strong action will be taken against him,” Singh said.  A Lt Colonel and a jawan have been questioned by the crime branch-CID in connection with the incident. — PTI

Combating Maoism  SC rules against vigilante groups

Recruiting barely literate tribal youth , arming and deploying them as ‘cannon fodder’ in counter-insurgency operations was rightly declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India this week. “ Tax breaks for the rich and guns for the youngsters among the poor so that they keep fighting among themselves seems to be the new mantra from the mandarins of security,” observed the apex court while noting that the state seemed to have abdicated its own responsibility by raising armed vigilante groups. The case revealed that the Union of India has allowed as many as 70,000 such youth to be recruited as ‘Special Police Officers’ in 83 districts spread across nine states affected by Maoist violence. These armed youth are being paid a token honorarium ranging from Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 per month. The Chhattisgarh government acknowledged before the court that while preference was given to those who had passed class V, many of the SPOs had not studied even up to class V.  Both the central and state governments sought to justify the practice by claiming that since Maoists have raised local militias familiar with local terrain, language and the people, it was imperative for the state also to recruit local tribal youth to combat them. The SPOs, they claimed, were used for collecting intelligence and as guides and spotters. But they had no answer when the court asked them to explain the death of 171 SPOs in Chhattisgarh alone, indicating that they took part in combat and were vulnerable to Maoist attacks. Nor could the governments satisfactorily explain why the SPOs were not receiving equal training, pay and perks if they were so integral and important to the regular police force. The court also took a dim view of the claim that these barely literate youth were being trained to study the laws, human rights and forensic sciences. Above all, the two governments failed to convince the court that the lives of the SPOs were as well protected as those of regular policemen.  It is clear that the two governments erred in creating a structure that is unequal, cynical, casual and illegal. Absorbing the SPOs as regular policemen, therefore, seems to be the only option open to them.

India, Bangladesh to fight terror jointly

Krishna embarks on 3-day visit   New Delhi/Dhaka, July 6 External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today embarked on an official visit to Bangladesh during which he is expected to convey India's commitment to forging an enduring relationship with the neighbouring country.  Asserting that India remains committed to a partnership in the development and prosperity of the people of Bangladesh, Krishna said that both the countries remain steadfast in their efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism.  “We are at a historic juncture. I am confident that through a forward-looking, progressive and pragmatic approach based on understanding and cooperation, we can achieve a mutually rewarding relationship that brings a brighter future, prosperity and development to the people of both countries,” said Krishna on his arrival at the Dhaka airport today.  "India remains committed to a partnership in the development and prosperity of the people of Bangladesh. Both the countries remain steadfast in their efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism,” he added  During talks with the Bangladesh leaders, Krishna will review the gamut of bilateral relations ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's September 6-7 visit. His three-day trip comes against the backdrop of Singh’s remarks last Wednesday about 25 per cent of Bangladeshis being anti-Indian which kicked up an uproar in that country.  The two sides are expected to sign several “bilateral documents” on transit, a 15-year interim accord on Teesta river water-sharing, joint ventures in power sector and development projects under the $1billion Line of Credit extended by India in January last year during Hasina’s visit to Delhi.  Krishna's visit is part of the spadework to work out the “deliverables” by India during Singh's visit to Dhaka when New Delhi is expected to come out with unilateral trade concessions, including further easing of Bangladeshi textile exports to the Indian market, and an agreement on border demarcation and adversely-held enclaves. — PTI

Al Qaeda and the task before the Pakistan military

After the attack on Nagasaki on August 9 1945, the US did not possess nuclear weapons any more since it expended the only two it had built. By 1949, when the Soviets conducted their first test detonation, the US had nearly 200 nukes. The race that thus began reached its zenith in 1969, when the US, at one point, had more than 32,000 nuclear warheads. The senselessness of this process can be gauged by the fact that there were less than 200 cities in the Soviet Union with populations in excess of a hundred thousand, so where were these nuclear warheads intended to be used? Although not all the nuclear weapons built since then have been the size of Hiroshima (12 kilotons), even a 0.1 kiloton warhead used as artillery shell today can produce TNT equivalent to 200,000 pounds; a blast hundred times as powerful as one caused by a large 2,000-pound conventional bomb.  According to a recent report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, some 5,000 nuclear weapons are deployed around the world, and both India and Pakistan continue to expand their capacity to produce fissile material for military purposes. “South Asia, where relations between India and Pakistan seem perpetually tense, is the only place in the world where you have a nuclear weapons race,” the director of the institute said recently. A Washington Post op-ed in January this year claimed that “Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal now totals more than 100 deployed weapons.” It further maintained that after years of apparent parity, Pakistan now has an edge over India.  While such developments may be reassuring for nuclear chest thumping, recent events inside the country illustrate some uncomfortable truths. There is no doubt that anti-Americanism has grown as rapidly as the number of ‘militant sympathisers’ who now soak the military’s rank and file. This is substantiated by a report on the interaction between Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani and the student officers at the National Defence University in Islamabad in May. When asked which among the three, internal, India or America is the principal national security threat to Pakistan, an overwhelming majority chose the third option. The arrest of Brigadier Ali Khan and admission by senior naval officials before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence that terrorists attacking the PNS Mehran base had support from inside are only the recent acknowledgement of these realities.  The armed forces, the country’s strongest institution, are now substituting India for the US as the principal threat. The central theme of al Qaeda’s ideology of takfeer is also founded on anti-Americanism; it denounces any strategic alliance of Muslim majority states with non-Muslim states, particularly the ‘big satan’. While the Arab spring has seen a firm rejection of this ideology in the Middle East, we in Pakistan seem to be inadvertently embracing it. An overwhelming anti-American mindset and personnel with ‘extremist’ proclivity filling the military ranks of a nuclear armed Pakistan is al Qaeda’s dream come true. Are we innocently playing into the hands of al Qaeda and what does this mean for Pakistan’s future?  The moot point is that if the pre-dominant threat to Pakistan is from the US, what is the strategy to fight the enemy who recently refused to vacate the Shamsi airbase? Also, with India now ostensibly relegated low on the threat perception index, why must we continue expanding our nuclear arsenal since enough of ‘minimum credible deterrence’ already exists?  In his magnum opus Inside al Qaeda and the Taliban, the slain journalist Saleem Shahzad, said: “Al Qaeda’s first objective was to win the war against the West in Afghanistan. Its next objective was to move on to have the fighting extended all the way from Central Asia to Bangladesh to exhaust the superpower’s resources before bringing it on to the field in the Middle East for the final battles to revive the Muslim political order under the Caliphate.” It may not be farfetched to state that al Qaeda’s philosophy aimed at ensnaring all Muslim liberation movements worldwide into its fold in pursuit of its global agenda is becoming more probable in this region. The blending of the Taliban, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the militant outfits of southern Punjab and several Kashmiri resistance movements, including Ilyas Kashmiri’s 313 Brigade, with al Qaeda points in this the direction.  Some of Pakistan’s major military and strategic facilities are located in dense urban centres and for good reason these cannot be relocated. With the rise in urban terrorism and al Qaeda’s strategy to overpower Pakistan, the sole de facto nuclear state in the Muslim world, the imperative challenge for the military is to purge its ranks of the adherents of this ideology.  At a crossroads, Pakistan has to address a fundamental question, an answer to which will define the nation’s destiny. Are our armed forces for the defence of Pakistan or are they for the greater glory and protection of Islam? The Pakistan Army has long given up Zia’s gifted emblem of imaan, taqwa, jihad and fisabilillah. More importantly, it has boldly fought and reclaimed areas from militants. The Indian foreign secretary’s recent acknowledgment that “the prism through which Pakistan sees the issue of terrorism has definitely been altered” is an apt conclusion. The trend set in motion during the 80s, one that allowed a professional fighting force to morph into an Islamic army, must be reversed in earnest. Failure to do so is an open invitation to the US and the West to perform what we have long theorised as conspiracy to ‘defang’ us.

India’s Unseen War Histories

The compilation of war histories from the 1962, 1965 and 1971 operations by the Indian Armed Forces is undertaken by historians at the behest of the Defence Ministry’s History Division. Yet despite this fact, sections of the civilian bureaucracy continue to obstruct publication of these documents.  One reason is that the headquarters and units of the Indian Armed Forces don’t always adhere to the procedures laid down for the declassification of documents, which means they aren’t available for historical study. This problem has been further compounded by the indifference of the post-independence political leadership toward matters military.  During World War I, nearly 1.2 million Indians were recruited for service in the British Indian Army. When the war ended, about 950,000 Indian troops were serving overseas. According to some official estimates, between 62,000 and 65,000 Indian soldiers were killed in that war. In World War II, the Indian Army saw action on fronts ranging from Italy and North Africa to East Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. In Southeast Asia alone, 700,000 Indian troops joined the effort to oust Japanese armies from Burma, Malaya and Indo-China. By the time the war ended, the Indian Army numbered a massive 2.5 million men, the largest all-volunteer force the world had ever seen.  The irony today, though, is that it isn’t just foreigners who are unaware of this British-era Indian military legacy – India’s own post-colonial political class and civilian bureaucracy seem to have deliberately induced a collective national amnesia about the country’s rich pre-independence military traditions. Indeed, the Indian foreign policy establishment still largely pretends that India’s engagement with the world began on August 15, 1947.  A lack of consciousness about military history is evident from reports about the alleged ‘wilful’ destruction of documents pertaining to the 1971 operations at Headquarters Eastern Command in Kolkata. While the facts remain unclear, if my experience in the Army is any guide, it could well simply be a case of incompetence or negligence. All of us who have served in the Indian Armed Forces are aware that every five years, boards of officers are convened to review old files and documents and destroy those that are no longer relevant (it’s a practice followed due to lack of storage space, rather than anything else). Most members of such boards are aware neither of the historical value of these documents, nor of the rule that upon declassification, documents of historical value are to be transferred to the national archives. Instead, such records are being destroyed by burning. Sadly, this means historical memory, including of the sacrifices made by the country’s armed forces, goes unrecorded—destroyed by mindless adherence to bureaucratic procedure.  It could be this country’s inability to honestly record history that partly contributed to the controversy last year over the judgment by the Armed Forces Tribunal ordering a re-writing of operations of the Kargil war. While this was an embarrassment for the Army, on the positive side, it showed that corrective mechanisms are in place. It’s also important to note that the operational record isn’t the official history of the war – it’s a compilation of the events by the operational staff at Army Headquarters.  The compilation of an official history of the Kargil operation will no doubt be undertaken when the government formally commissions a historian to do so. We can only hope this is done while the participants of that campaign are still alive – this would be the best way to honour the sacrifices made by our soldiers. Still, given past experience, such a history – even if written – is unlikely to see the light of day in the near future.  The publication of war histories—a recommendation of both the Kargil Review Committee and the Group of Ministers Report – seems to have been held up due to lethargy and bureaucratic indifference. The histories of the 1962 and 1965 wars compiled by the Historical Section were referred for comments to the Military Operations Directorate when I was in that organization, initially as the Additional Director General and then as Director General. I distinctly recall that we cleared both histories for publication without any caveats whatsoever. In late 2001, I was nominated as a member of a committee set up by the Defence Ministry to examine the 1962, 1965 and 1971 war histories and make recommendations on whether these should be published.  The chairman of the committee was N.N. Vohra (presently governor of Jammu & Kashmir) and the other member was the former head of the Historical Section, namely S. N. Prasad. The committee studied the three documents in great detail, as well as comments submitted by various organs of the government, including the External Affairs Ministry, the three service headquarters and intelligence organisations, among others. In mid-2002, after concluding that there was no case for withholding the histories from the public domain, the committee recommended that they be released for publication. Yet little appears to have happened for the next couple of years, after which the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research was asked to review the histories for factual correctness and editing. This was done with the help of senior service members with established credentials and personal knowledge of the operations, and the histories were resubmitted with the recommendation that they be published.  Unfortunately, the war histories are still under wraps. It appears that the political leadership doesn’t have the time or inclination to attend to such mundane aspects as military history. And the civilian bureaucracy that has a stranglehold on administration, yet which lacks real accountability, is single-minded in its determination to deprive the Armed Forces of any credit for their contribution to national security and cohesion.  The only way this stranglehold can be broken is by civil society in general, and the strategic community in particular, raising their voices for the release into the public domain of documents covering the security of our country.  Lt Gen. Satish Nambiar is a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared here.

IAF plans consortium of domestic companies for Rs.10,000 cr contract

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is trying to bring together a consortium of domestic firms to compete for a Rs.10,000 crore contract to manufacture 45 medium transport aircraft (MTAs).  If the consortium is formed, it will be the first example of Indian companies partnering to bid for a defence aviation contract, a domain in which they do not have proven capability.  MTAs are used to carry personnel and equipment.  On 1 July, IAF officials met the industry bodies Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India to discuss the proposal, said a person who attended the meeting, asking not to be named.  A follow-up meeting is scheduled for 7 July, said an IAF official, requesting anonymity.  “This is a preliminary step,” said a CII executive, who also did not want to be identified. “We are just exploring the possibility of coming together, but it is still some way off.”  Tata Advanced Systems Ltd and Larsen and Toubro Ltd are among the companies that can participate in such a consortium. Their executives confirmed the meeting between industry bodies and IAF, but declined to comment further.  IAF publicized its requirement for MTAs in January 2010. It needs the aircraft to replace an ageing fleet of Hawker Siddeley HS 748s. The force is already upgrading Russian-origin Antonov An-32 transport aircraft.  IAF’s effort to form the consortium follows the publication of India’s defence production policy in January this year, which obliges the defence ministry to exhaust all possibility of indigenous manufacturing before turning to overseas vendors.  The contract is still likely to go through open bidding in which foreign defence firms may participate, said another person aware of the development, who also did not want to be named.  Industry executives and analysts are not upbeat about the prospects of an Indian consortium meeting IAF’s requirement.  “Indian industry does not have the expertise to build such a complex machine,” said an industry executive, requesting anonymity. “This might as well turn out to be a futile exercise. So, in all likelihood, the contract would still go to a foreign bidder.”  Retired colonel Rajiv Chib, who works as defence analyst with the audit and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers India, said the invitation to Indian industry to participate in the project is a positive step.  “But the government should first explore possibilities in the civil aerospace sector, as there are no foreign direct investment caps there,” he said. “Once sufficient capacities are developed in civil aerospace, Indian companies can seriously consider making aircraft for defence use.”  Separately, India is planning to develop a multi-role transport aircraft with Russia.  In September, the two nations announced plans to design and develop the aircraft through a joint venture between Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. and Rosoboronexport. Both countries have earmarked a combined $600 million (Rs.2,664 crore) for the project.

Army set to place order for 248 more Arjun main battle tanks

BANGALORE: The much-maligned Arjun Main Battle Tank is poised to get a fresh lease of life, with the Indian Army set to order 248 more of India's first indigenously-built tanks, a decision that will also give a much-needed shot in the arm to the country's beleaguered tank fleet. "We are definitely expecting more orders, at least a minimum of 248 tanks of the Mark-II version.  The Ordnance Factory Board has been instructed by the ministry of defence to initiate action for the procurement of the Mark-II version," P. Sivakumar , director, Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, told the Economic Times. The order, which could be placed in late-2011 itself, will come as a huge boost to the Arjun production line at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadhi, on the outskirts of Chennai, as the same was expected to be terminated due to a lack of interest shown by the Indian Army. So far, the Army has placed an order for 248 tanks of the Mark-I and Mark-II versions.  The Mark-II version of the Arjun MBT is currently undergoing its critical summer trials in Pokhran, Rajasthan , conducted by the country's nodal defence lab, DRDO, while the winter trials are expected to take place later in the year. The defence research establishment expects to get the new orders from the end user - the Army - once the current trials conclude. "If the trials go well, particularly relating to missile firing , there is no doubt that further orders will be placed. There is a commitment given by the deputy chief of Army staff, if the new improvements are incorporated successfully" Sivakumar said.  The June trials have already seen the Arjun MBT Mark-II tested with a number of technical improvements, including command panoramic sight and uncooled thermal image. According to Sivakumar, a further 40 technological improvements are to be tested, including a new transmission control system and new fuel tanks. 'We are planning the first phase of the end user trials by October or November for the missile and other design improvements," he said. The Army's decision to induct greater numbers of the Arjun MBT is a significant turnaround from its earlier reluctance to do so.  However, with the military's 4,000-strong tank arsenal consisting largely of more than 2,400 obsolete T-72 tanks and transfer of technology issues with Russia relating to the T-90 , has forced it to take a re-look at the Arjun. The tank has had its fair share of detractors within the country's military establishment . After being in development hell for more than 30 years and at a substantial cost of Rs 300-crore , the Arjun MBT programme had come under severe flak for cost overruns and its failure to meet the Indian Army's combat requirements , leading to speculation that it could never be the mainstay of the Indian Army's Armoured Corps.  But ever since comprehensively outgunning and outrunning the T-90 , India's current flagship battle tank in 2010, the DRDO has been positioning the Arjun MBT as the backbone of the country's armoured fighting units. Defended the programme, the defence establishment also laid part of the blame for the project delays on the Indian military, stating that they had to be "realistic" in their demands.  "'But while we welcome all inputs and guidelines, we also feel the need for the Services to firm up realistic requirements at the earliest, so we may properly plan our project requirements," Dr VK Saraswat, scientific advisor to the defence minister said last month.



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