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Friday, 15 July 2011

From Today's Papers - 15 Jul 2011





Blasts won’t hit talks with Pak: Krishna

Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, July 14 A day after triple blasts rocked the country’s financial capital, India today said the Foreign Minister-level talks with Pakistan would take place as scheduled on July 26-27.  Allaying apprehensions that the blasts could affect the dialogue process between India and Pakistan, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna today said that there was no change in the scheduled high-profile visits of his guests from Pakistan US. There is also no change in the scheduled visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next week for the second India-US strategic dialogue, he said.  Senior Indian officials also ruled out the possibility of any ‘knee-jerk’ reaction by India on the dialogue process with Pakistan. “There are elements both in India and Pakistan that would like to derail the dialogue process… we should not allow them to succeed,’’ they said.  Krishna condemned the "dastardly and heinous attacks on Mumbai" and said that the State will do everything within its power to bring the guilty to justice at the earliest. "This is yet another grim reminder to everyone in this region and our country that terror is a continuing threat to India and it is necessary for all Indians to be ever vigilant of these terrorist attacks," he said.  India has carefully avoided pointing a finger at Pakistan or elements in the neighbouring country for the Mumbai serial blasts. However, it is now quite obvious that the focus of the talks would be on terrorism. New Delhi will press Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist machinery operating on its soil and also to bring to justice perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks.  The Foreign Minister is scheduled to review the progress in the dialogue process with his Pakistani counterpart on July 26-27. Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is scheduled to come a day before his Foreign Minister’s visit.  Indications are that Hina Rabbani Khar, currently Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in Pakistan, would be elevated to Cabinet rank before she visits India.  Meanwhile, France, Japan, Australia, Israel and several other countries have also condemned the Mumbai blasts.








Time for Pak to prosecute LeT leaders: US official

Pakistan must prosecute the LeT leaders who were involved in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, a top American expert on South Asia said today, a day after serial blasts in India's financial hub killed 21 people.  "The US officials should do everything they can to counsel calm in both Islamabad and New Delhi," said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.

"They (the US officials) should also make clear to Pakistani officials that, whether or not the attack originated in Pakistan, now would be an opportune time to move ahead with the prosecutions of the LeT members involved in the 2008 attacks to show their good faith and help keep dialogue with India on track," she said.  Noting that the strength of the links of these bombings to the LeT will determine how India responds, Curtis said if investigators determine that LeT members played a crucial role in the planning and implementation of yesterday's attacks, the Indian leadership will be compelled to again break off recently resumed talks with Islamabad.  Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet in New Delhi later this month.  "If, on the other hand, investigations show that the Indian Mujahideen carried out these bombings largely on its own, there will be less pressure on Indian leaders to immediately withdraw from the Indo–Pak dialogue," she said.  In the six months before the November 2008 attacks (which were clearly carried out by the LeT), India suffered several terrorist attacks inside the country, most of which were claimed by the Indian Mujahideen.  "This led to concern in India about the growing threat posed by homegrown Islamist extremists," she said.  Curtis said there will be speculation in India that elements within Pakistan opposed to peace talks directed the attacks in order to halt dialogue.  The attacks also occur at a time of high turmoil within the Pakistan military over the Osama bin Laden operation and deteriorating relations with the US.  "Given the current uncertainty within the Pakistan military and volatile situation inside Pakistan, Indian leaders may be loath to escalate tensions with Pakistan," she said.







Court martial against 10 armymen starts

NEW DELHI: The defence ministry told the Supreme Court on Thursday that it has decided to commence court-martial proceedings against 10 officers who were found involved in the sale of non-service pattern (NSP) weapons to arms dealers and others.  The change of decision on the Army headquarter's part to start major penalty proceedings against the delinquent officers came about after the apex court took serious note of the mild punishment being proposed to be awarded to the officers despite being allegedly involved in a serious crime.  The court's concern was drawn by a PIL filed by advocate Arvind Kumar Sharma, who had apprehended that these NSP weapons sold by Army officers to arms dealers and others in the border districts of Rajasthan without verification of their antecedents could result in these falling in the hands of criminals and even terrorists.  The ministry filed a fresh affidavit in the court saying in June it ordered initiation of general court-martial (GCM) against 10 officers involved in the unauthorised sale of weapons.  The ministry admitted that the officers found guilty in the Court of Inquiry initiated by the Western Command in 2008 had not been adequately dealt with and hence it reviewed the entire case.  The Army had last year submitted a status report to the court admitting that 72 officers, including a serving Colonel and three Lt Colonels, posted in sensitive border districts of Rajasthan and in the Indian Army Training Team (IMTRAT) in Bhutan were found involved in an illegal arms selling racket.  The weapons procured and sold of in breach of the Army Act and Customs Act were of both prohibited and non-prohibited bore and "a total of 72 officers and one JCO were blameworthy" in these cases, the Army had said quoting the 2008 CoI report.  It also gave the names of the Colonel and 3 Lt Cols along with the number of weapons traded by them - Col Neeraj Rana (5 weapons of army officers), Lt Col V S Rathore (17 weapons of army officers including his own weapon), Lt Col S S Rathore (5 weapons of army officers including his own) and Lt Col B S Shekhawat (11 weapons of army officers).  The army said: "Forty-five officers and one JCO had sold their NSP weapons without taking sanction of competent authority in violation of SAO 1/S/96 and the Arms Act 1959. Of these 10 officers have since retired."  "Twenty-five officers who were posted at IMTRAT, Bhutan, were found to have imported ammunition excess of their authorization," the status report had said and detailed the disciplinary action taken against them.  Shockingly, of the 35 serving officers, one JCO and 10 retired officers who were asked by the authorities to deposit back their NSPs, only four officers have been able to retrieve their weapons and deposit the same.











Indian MoD approves $2.4 billion upgrade contract for Dassault, Thales and MBDA

09:56 GMT, July 14, 2011 | With another recently approved multi-billion dollar defence contract, India is giving its armed forces modernisation efforts a significant push. According to AFP, Defence Secretary Shri Pradeep Kumar approved the offer by leading French defence companies Dassault and Thales, as well as by the European MBDA group, to upgrade India’s ageing fleet of Mirage 2000 ‘Vajra’ fighter aircraft at a cost of some $2.4 billion.  Although the contract has not been officially confirmed, the Press Trust of India news agency reported that the contract was approved on Wednesday by the Indian cabinet committee on security. In line with the Indian government’s major efforts to modernise and increase the quantity of military equipment, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) agreed to move ahead with this programme, after being delayed in 2006, in particular, due to price issues.  Operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF) since the mid-1980s, the 51 French-built fighter aircraft are a major asset for the country’s armed forces, providing important air-to-ground strike capabilities, including nuclear strikes. However, having performed well in the 1999 Kargil War and having been in service for more than 25 years, the aircraft urgently require major retrofits to effectively continue its service with the IAF.  Despite the aircraft’s age, its role was recently underlined by the former IAF Air Chief Marshal, Fali Major, who told the Hindustan Times: “The Mirage 2000 is the most important aircraft in the air force’s fleet, after the Sukhoi-30.” He further emphasised that the upgrade was “crucial” to closing the capabilities gap until the aircraft from the MMRCA programme are introduced into service.  The upgrade programme which, reportedly, will include the integration of advanced navigation systems, mission computers, electronic warfare systems and radar, is expected to add another 20 to 25 service years to the Indian Mirage 2000 fleet. According to an AFP source, “work is likely to take nine years and will see two of the Mirages being re-fitted in France,” while the remaining aircraft will be upgraded by Bangalore-headquartered Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).  INDIAN AIRCRAFT PROCUREMENT SOARING HIGH  The Indian Air Force received much international attention due to its record aircraft procurement programmes. Most prominently, this includes the so-called MMRCA competition, which is to provide the IAF with 126 latest-generation multi-role fighter aircraft for a projected $10.4 billion and in which Dassault’s Rafale and Eurofighter’s Typhoon have been shortlisted.[1]  Another major contract was recently signed by the Indian MoD and the U.S. government for the purchase of ten Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft through the US foreign military sale (FMS) programme, awarding Boeing with a $4.1 billion contract and making India the largest C-17 export customer.[2]  In addition, India ordered six Lockheed Martin C-130J-30s in 2008 for some $1.1 billion for its special operations forces, with an option for six additional aircraft, and is waiting for the delivery of 12 Boeing P-8I Poseidons for the Navy, with delivery expected to begin in 2013 at a cost of almost $3 billion.  Finally, reported in late June 2011 that India finalised a $1 billion dollar contract with Pilatus Aircraft for 75 of its PC-7 MkII trainer aircraft, representing the largest-ever contract for the Swiss company’s single-engine turboprop trainer. In addition, Pilatus could, reportedly, be granted with options for up to 200 additional aircraft for the IAF.[3]  Together with the IAF’s primary air superiority fighter, the Sukhoi Su-30MKI (a total of 272 of these Russian-built multi-role fighter aircraft have been ordered at a unit cost of $35.9 million), India has been establishing the region’s largest and most capable air force and has jumped to the top of the world’s largest importers of military equipment.  According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India has become the world’s largest arms importer, having received 9 per cent of the volume of international arms transfers between 2006 and 2010, with Russian deliveries accounting for 82 per cent of Indian arms imports.[4]











Indian Army’s shady arms deal

Although high-ranking officers of the Indian Army like Chief of Army Staff, Gen V K Singh, Lt Gen Surendra Kumar Sahni, Lt Gen S K Dahiya, Maj Gen Anand Swaroop, Maj-Gen SP Sinha, Maj Gen Anand Kapoor, Maj Gen Gur Iqbal Singh Multani, Brig Guredeep Singh including a number of low-ranking officials were found involved in corruption of various forms such as irregularities in procuring meat and dry rations for the troops, stationed at Siachen, unauthorised construction of a golf club building at Ambala cantonment, possessing disproportionate assets, smuggling of large quantities of defence liquor etc., yet involvement of the 27 officers of the Indian Army in illegally selling of arms and weapons is most surprising.  In this regard, on July 7 this year, even Indian media disclosed this new mal-practice of Indian Army officials. Army sources of India admitted that the officers, mostly lieutenant colonels and colonels, had faced a court of inquiry following a public suit filed in the Rajasthan High Court by an advocate who said that the officers were selling their private weapons to people of dubious character. In this respect, The Economic Times revealed on July 7, 2011, “the weapons were bought by these army officers from the Central Ordnance Depot of Jabalpur and later sold to civilians in violation of the Arms Act, the petition had contended. The Supreme Court is presently hearing the case.” Sources also suggest that disciplinary action has been initiated against these army officers after the court of inquiry indicted them, and further course of action in the matter, “be it court martial or otherwise would be decided after legal vetting.” It is not the new practice of Indian Army officers’ illegal involvement in arms sale. In this connection, in 2005, an army inquiry had found misuse of the privileges, given to service personnel to purchase private weapons. Indian Army officers including a few seniors had similarly bought weapons from private suppliers, when they were on a posting in Bhutan as part of the Indian military training team there. In that case, after probe, the army court of inquiry had indicted 25 officers who were punished, but did not face a court martial.  However, despite various investigations and punishments, illegal arms trade of Indian Army officials have continued. In this context, some cases of unauthorised weapon’s sale by the army officials either remained undetected or were deliberately not disclosed by the Indian high-ranking military officers in order to save the image of the Army. Only those cases were admitted, which had already been disclosed by the media—or came to surface as some source indicated the same with solid evidence. In this context, in October, 2010, The news of Indian army scandal pointed out that 72 officers including a serving Colonel and three Lieutenant Colonels were found involved in an illegal arms selling racket on sensitive international borders.  The Indian officers serving in border districts of Rajasthan and in the Indian Army Training Team (IMTRAT) at Bhutan were found involved in an illegal arms selling racket. The 72 named officers sold both prohibited and non-prohibited bore to dealers and private persons by violating the Army Act and Customs Act. While describing as very serious matter—the involvement of Indian army officers in illegal sale of arms, The Supreme Court of India had questioned as to what the Ministry of Defence and the army commanders were avoiding to file a proper affidavit in the matter. The Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar remarked, “it is wondered whether the weapons had landed in the hands of dacoits,” adding, “the weapons could well be used in acts of terrorism.”  The Supreme Court said that the affidavit by the centre was entirety eyewash as it had not mentioned the names of any senior officers of the rank of Brigadier and Major General, who were part of the illegal arms selling racket. While raising objection in the affidavit, the bench also remarked that it was mentioned that 40 officers sold their weapons, but it was also stated that only four top-ranking officials were involved in the racket of illegal weapons’ selling. The court took serious notice, saying, as to why a junior officer of the rank of Captain submitted the affidavit, showing the non seriousness of the Indian Army in the highly sensitive case. It emphasised that there was a need to maintain some decorum and that some higher authority should have filed the affidavit.  Additional Solicitor General, Vivek Tankha also explained the issue as very serious one, and his remarks lodged a strong protest from a high official who was compelled to say that he had raised the question of national security, while the government filed an affidavit through a junior army officer. At this point, the bench questioned as to how an army officer can file an affidavit on behalf of the Ministry of Defence? We cannot go by this affidavit. Various sources suggested that the affidavit filed by the Indian Defence Ministry had stated that four top-ranking officers of the Indian army obtained weapons, supplied to their colleagues, but illegally sold to gun houses, arms dealers and even to civilians. And 40 other officers sold their own weapons and 25 others were found in possession of ammunition in excess to their privilege.  On December, 2010, a case of 41 officers, one JCO and 4 retired officers of the Indian Army relating to sale of Non Standard Pattern (NSP) weapons came to surface. They were found to have sold the NSP weapons without taking sanction of the competent authority. In that respect, court of inquiry investigated into the case and identified six arms dealers who bought the illegal arms from the army personnel. Besides, some other developments also show that despite tight security and preventive measures, it is very easy for the Indian Army officers to steal arms and ammunition from Indian depot. For example, on April 6, 2008 in the house of Bajrang Dal fundamentalists in Nanded, a bomb went off. The investigations proved that the militants belonging to the Bajrang Dal were found in the bomb-making and attack on a mosque in Parbhani in 2003. Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra arrested a serving Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit along with other army officials, indicating that they were helping in training the Hindu terrorists, providing them with the military-grade explosive RDX, used in the Malegaon bombings and terrorist attacks in other Indian cities. ATS further disclosed that Lt. Col. Purohit confessed that in 2007, he was involved in bombing of Samjhota express, which brunt alive 69 Pakistanis.  India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) is now convinced that besides Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit, other Indian army officials and a Hindu right-wing leader Swami Aseemanand were directly involved in the Samjhota Express blast. In this regard, a court in Panchkula, Haryana has recorded Aseemanand’s statement in the blast case before a magistrate. His earlier confession was recorded in the Mecca Masjid case, which is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It is interestingly notable that Dr. J C Batra, who is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, was asked to give opinion on Aseemanand’s confession. He appeared very defensive and stated that Swami’s statement does not have much legal value as circumstantial evidence is also needed, while adding that RSS is being wrongly implicated. And without naming Indian Army officers, he also stated that there could be others involved who are not being exposed. In this context, a Pakistani parliamentarian, Mian Abdul Sattar, parliamentary secretary for planning and development, who was accompanying him, later said that he was told by JC Batra that the Indian Army was involved in this case and there “are efforts to shield it from getting exposed”. Nevertheless, Leaders of the Indian extremist parties, Shiv Sena, BJP, VHP and RSS are now pressurising the Congress regime to release the culprits.  Nonetheless, mostly, we see some odd cases of corruption in the Indian armed forces which include lower-ranking officials, but involvement of the senior ranked army officers in various mal-practices is a matter of concern for the whole Army. It is due to this fact that over the years, the confidence of the soldiers over their military leadership has been dwindling. But, in the present case, 27 officers have been facing charges for illegal sale of weapons procured from Indian ordnance factories. On the whole, one can conclude that it proves illegal arms trade of the Indian Army.










Antony warns defence firms against corruption

With India expected spend nearly $100 billion over the next decade on modern equipment for its armed forces, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Tuesday cautioned against corruption in defence deals, particularly warning military vendors of "extreme steps" if any underhand deals were struck by them.  Inaugurating an international defence acquisition seminar at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) here, Antony also assured the defence companies that they will get "a level playing field" and "fair play" in the acquisition process in India.  However, he asked them "not to try to corrupt our people" while dealing with them during the acquisition process.  Going a step further, he said: "I do not want to be a party to any corrupt practice and will not allow even a rupee of Indian taxpayer's money to be spent on graft."  His assertions come at a juncture when Indian defence ministry is in the final stages of deciding the winner of its $10.4-billion tender for 126 combat planes for the Indian Air Force (IAF), apart from the contracts for 22 attack helicopters and 15 heavy-lift helicopters.  Plans for acquiring six new diesel-electric submarines, five different types of artillery guns and additional C-17 heavy-lift transport planes are in various stages of being implemented.  Trying to dispel suspicion among some smaller countries with a good defence industrial base that more powerful nations may sway India's heavy-duty defence deals in their favour, Antony said the defence acquisition in the country "will not be propelled" by political considerations.  "Up to the trial stage, the technical soundness of a product will determine whether it will remain in the race, and after that it is the price of the equipment which will determine its ultimate selection for procurement," he said.  India's April 2011 decision to down-select European firms EADS and Dassault as the two vendors remaining in the fray for the 126 combat jet tender was seen by many in the defence business fraternity as "going by the rule book" and without any "political and strategic" considerations in mind.  Sketching out the changes in the nature of warfare in the recent times, Antony said there was a shift and today the challenges range from asymmetric threats, terrorism, internal disturbances as well as conventional warfare in a nuclear backdrop.  "On our part we need to develop the latest strategic and conventional capabilities. However, in our enthusiasm to modernise and upgrade our security infrastructure, we must not allow our defence acquisition procedures to be manipulated or corrupted," he said.  The defence minister said the latest production policy of his ministry was aimed at strengthening the military industrial base in the country, both private and public sector, with the offsets (the mandatory defence acquisition clause of a successful foreign vendor ploughing 30 percent of the deal back in India's defence, civil aviation and internal security industry) showing potential.









Respite for 1st woman Army officer to face court martial

CHANDIGARH: Major Dimple Singla, the first woman officer of the Indian Army to face court martial has been given a reprieve. The Chandigarh bench of the military tribunal on Wednesday commuted her one-year sentence awarded by the general court martial (GCM), in to dismissal from service.  The orders were passed by a division bench of the tribunal comprising judicial member Ghanshyam Prasad and administrative member, Lt Gen HS Panag while hearing an appeal filed by Major Singla against the orders of GCM passed in March last year.  In its orders, the bench upheld her conviction under section 63 (violation of good order & discipline) of the army act but acquitted her from the charges of section 69 read with prevention of corruption act. While commuting her one year rigorous imprisonment (RI), the tribunal held that the sentence was too harsh and not commensurate with the charges.  With these orders, she would be deemed to be dismissed from the service from the day she was discharged from army.  Dimple, who had retired from army in 2007 after completing ten years short service, was found guilty by the GCM on March 3 last year under section 63 and 69 of the army act. She had allegedly accepted a bribe of Rs 10000 for favouring an accused during a GCM.  She was sentenced to one-year RI and cashiered from the service by the GCM that was concluded at 'K' area of the Western Command Chandimandir on March 3, 2010.  The GCM proceedings, which continued for around 2 years and 11 months, had relied upon the evidence provided by the prosecution witnesses. The court also observed that the deposition of the defence witnesses were inconsistent and unreliable. She was immediately arrested by the military police but later on March 11 last year she was granted bail by the military tribunal. Since then her appeal against the sentence was pending with the tribunal.  Time line:  1997: Major Singla joined legal branch of Army  2006: She allegedly taken pecuniary advantage from a soldier  Feb 2007: She was charge sheeted for holding the GCM  March 2007: She completed her tenure in the Army  April 2007: GCM against Singla begins  Dec 14, 2009: Court martial resumed after a gap of 2 years  Feb 1, 2010: Arrested by army for evading appearance during GCM  March 3, 2010: Major Singla held guilty  March 11, 2010: Major Singla released on bail  July 13, 2011: One year sentence commuted to dismissal from service.




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