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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

From Today's Papers - 02 Aug 2011

Ties with Pakistan top on new Foreign Secy’s agenda
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 1
Veteran diplomat Ranjan Mathai today took over as India’s new Foreign Secretary, saying he had been mandated to pursue “substantive dialogue” with Pakistan to “restore trust and confidence” in the country’s relationship with the neighbouring country.

Mathai, a 1974-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, said he considered “constructive cooperation” between India and its immediate neighbours as one of his priority tasks.

Mathai, a former Indian Ambassador to France, took over from Nirupama Rao, who has been named as the country’s envoy to the
United States.

Mathai has held several important posts during his diplomatic career, including Ambassador to Israel and Qatar and Deputy High Commissioner to Britain, besides serving at the Indian embassies in Vienna, Colombo, Washington, Tehran and Brussels. In between, he was the Joint Secretary in the MEA in charge of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Maldives.

Mathai takes charge as the country’s top diplomat at a time when India is confronted with several challenges on the foreign policy front with new equations emerging in the international pecking order.

The dialogue with Pakistan, no doubt, has made some progress since it was resumed in February this year. Mathai will have to keep the dialogue process on track and, at the same time, use all his persuasive skills to nudge Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage. It will, of course, be an uphill task.

His other major challenge would include strengthening the dialogue with China for an amicable settlement of the boundary dispute as well as other contentious issues.

The row over stapled visas to Indian residents from Jammu and Kashmir has still not be resolved despite Beijing giving assurances to New Delhi that it was taking steps to put an end to the issue.

The evolving situation in Afghanistan presents a serious challenge to India, what with attempts being made to reintegrate the Taliban into the mainstream of the Afghan society. Mathai and his team will have to ensure that the US and the Karzai regime remain committed to following the red lines drawn for the reconciliation with the Taliban.

The resolution of the political impasse in Nepal and an amicable settlement of the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka would also put Mathai’s vast experience to test.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to visit Bangladesh next month. Mathai has his task cut out to put the relationship with Dhaka on the fast track.

MEA officials recall that Mathai had played a critical role in the Indo-Bangla Ganga Water Sharing accord during Sheikh Hasina's first stint as the PM when he was the Joint Secretary at the South Block. This water accord is India's only successful such pact in South Asia to date.

The recent decision of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to deny access to enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies to countries which have not signed the NPT has caused serious concern in India. The new foreign secretary would have to ensure that the US, France and Russia, which have signed nuclear deals with India, stand by their commitment that the new guidelines of the nuclear cartel would not come in the way of their nuclear cooperation with this country.

India will have to also use the opportunity of holding the Presidency of the UN Security Council for August to bolster its campaign for a permanent seat on the high table. The top Indian diplomat will also be called upon to give a strong push to India’s campaign for a permanent seat at the UNSC during the UN General Assembly session next month. Mathai is considered a quiet diplomat who does his job without making a hue and cry. His colleague recall how he was instrumental in persuading France to become the first country to sign the nuclear deal with India within days of New Delhi getting a nuclear waiver from the NSG in September 2008.

SC questions logic behind rank pay methodology
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, August 1
The controversy over defence personnel’s rank pay, fixed on the basis of the Fourth Pay Commission recommendations, has come under Supreme Court scrutiny once again despite the fact it is a 25-year-old matter.

A Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and RM Lodha today heard an application filed by the government for more than half-an-hour and questioned the logic behind the methodology followed for fixing the pay scales on the basis of the commission’s recommendations.

Another Bench of the SC, comprising Justices Markandey Katju and RM Lodha, had passed an order on March 8, 2010, directing the government to implement the Kerala High Court verdicts of October 5, 1998, (Single Judge Bench) and July 4, 2003, (Division Bench) in favour of the defence personnel.

The government has filed an application seeking recall of the SC order on the ground that implementing the order would have a cascading effect and would involve a financial burden of Rs 1,623 crore.

Solicitor-General Rohinton Nariman said the HC had delivered the verdicts despite the fact that the defence personnel who had approached the court had not challenged either the Pay Commission report or the Army’s circular issued on June 23, 1987, explaining the methodology for fixing the pay scales.

On being asked by the Bench, the SG today presented a comparative picture of the pay scales of defence personnel and civil servants in equal positions. Stating it would like to hear the issue in detail, the Bench slated the next hearing for November 22.

Sibal writes to Antony on spectrum for defence use
New Delhi:  Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal has asked the Defence Ministry to vacate spectrum as per the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two and is likely to take the matter to the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) for resolving this and all other outstanding issues.

Sibal has written a letter to Defence Minister A K Antony for early vacation of spectrum as the same is required for expansion of mobile telephony.

"Department of Telecom (DoT) has replied to Defence Ministry and we hope that the matter would be resolved as soon as possible," senior telecom ministry officials said.

A MoU between the Defence and Telecom Ministries for vacation of spectrum was signed two years ago and both the Ministries were supposed to achieve certain targets in a time-bound manner.

"They have given option to take from 1700 MhZ to 2000 MhZ of spectrum (300 Mhz of spectrum). DoT has always insisted that the matter should be taken to EGoM because they (Defence) have changed the specifications of the MoU, due to which the cost of the project to provide an alternate network for the defence has gone up from around Rs. 3,000 crore to Rs. 7,000 crore," they said.

The Defence Ministry wants to give DoT only 150 Mhz and retain the rest 150 Mhz with them, they said adding "the DoT has asked the Defence Ministry to give DoT 230 MhZ and retain 70 MhZ in the civilian areas to operate sophisticated equipment but allot all 300 Mhz in the urban areas. This spectrum can be used for 3G services, 4G services and it is a progressive band for CDMA technology as well".

As per the MoU, the Defence Ministry had agreed to vacate 25 MHz of 3G spectrum and 20 MHz of 2G in phases. In return, the DoT had committed to set up an exclusive defence band and defence interest zone for the armed forces.

The DoT was to also commission an optic fibre cable network at a cost of Rs. 10,000 crore, to be built by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, for the defence services. Also, the finance ministry was to waive the spectrum fee of around Rs. 10,000 crore payable by the Defence Ministry.

The Defence Ministry, however, vacated only 15 MHz of 3G spectrum which was auctioned last year and the government earned huge revenues. It had also vacated 15 MHz of 2G spectrum, which has been allocated to new operators.

Under the agreement, the remaining spectrum - 10 MHz spectrum in 3G (for two operators) and 5MHz in 2G - is to be vacated only after the OFC network is completed.

Recently, the Defence Ministry had refused to release more spectrum for civilian use as the finance and telecom ministries have not kept up their end of the bargain.

Army chief discusses Valley security with Omar
Army chief General V K Singh arrived in Srinagar on Monday on a two day visit to the Kashmir Valley.

General Singh was received at the airport by the corps commander Lt. Gen S A Hasnain. The army chief after his arrival in Srinagar met Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah  at his residence.

"During the meeting the army chief apprised the chief minister of the prevailing security scenario in the state.  Matters pertaining to various aspects of security were also discussed in the meeting", an official statement in Srinagar said on Monday evening.

The army chief, during his stay, will also visit the holy cave shrine of Amarnath to offer obeisance there, according to a defence spokesman.

The spokesman said the army chief will be given a detailed briefing on the security situation in the Valley by the Chinar Corps Commander Lt Gen S A Hasnain. The army chief would also be interacting with troops on the Line of Control .

Central Family Welfare Organisation President Bharti Singh will be meeting patients at the 92 Base Hospital Badami Bagh Cantonment and interact with the families of the soldiers in Badami Bagh Cantonment.

Nohwar is new IAF vice-chief
NEW DELHI: With Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne taking over as the IAF chief on Sunday, there were some top-level changes in the force on Monday. Air Marshal K K Nohwar took over as the new IAF vice-chief at the Air HQ here, while Air Marshal S Varthaman assumed the command of the Eastern Air Command (EAC) in Shillong. Air Marshal M Matheswaran will be the new second-in-command at the EAC.

Commissioned into the fighter stream of the IAF in June, 1972, Air Marshal Nohwar has 3,400 hours of flying to his credit, mainly on MiG-21s and MiG-27s. A qualified flying instructor, he is an alumnus of Indian Defence Services Staff College and the American Air War College. Air Marshal S Varthaman was commissioned as a fighter pilot in 1973 and has distinction of flying 40 types of aircraft.

He was the chief operations officer at Gwalior during the 1999 Kargil conflict and coordinated the upgrade of Mirage-2000 jets, which successfully bombed bunkers established by Pakistani intruders on the heights.

China Needs Three Aircraft Carriers, Says General
A general says China needs at least three aircraft carriers to defend its military interests.

A senior researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences, General Luo Yuan told Beijing News that India and Japan would each have three aircraft carriers by 2014. He said the Chinese regime should also have at least three carriers as well.

Beijing News published Lou Yan’s comments on Friday, a couple of days after state media broadcast footage of a decommissioned Soviet aircraft carrier that Chinese military officials say will be used for research.

The move comes as the Chinese regime becomes increasingly assertive in territorial disputes with neighboring countries over the South China Sea.

China’s People’s Liberation Army is the world’s largest armed force. Its defense spending is second only to the United States, but with a much lower budget.

Air Marshal S. Varthaman IAF's Eastern Air Command chief
Shillong, Aug 1 (IANS) Air Marshal S. Varthaman Monday took over as chief of the Indian Air Force' Eastern Air Command Monday, a defence official here said.

Varthaman took over the command from Air Marshal Kishan Kumar Nohwar, who assumed charge as vice chief of the IAF.

Inducted as a fighter pilot in 1973, Varthaman is among the few selected pilots in service to hold the distinction of having flown 40 types of aircraft with over 4,000 flying hours to his credit, IAF spokesman Ranjeeb Sahoo said.

During the Kargil War, Varthaman was the chief operations officer at Gwalior airbase where he used his flight-test experience to coordinate the upgradation of the Mirage 2000 aircraft that proved instrumental in the success of the air campaign.

He was also in command during Operation Parakram in the western sector, besides serving as chief test pilot at the Aircraft Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) and chief flying instructor at Fighter Training Wing, Hakimpet.

As air attache in Paris and the Benelux countries, Varthaman made efforts to forge defence co-operation with European air forces.

He continued to strengthen ties with air forces of the world on his return to Delhi in his appointment as Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence).

The Indian Navy Chief’s visit and Indo-Russian defence cooperation
One of the most important features of Indo-Russian bilateral ties, which form the core of the strategic partnership between the two countries, is co-operation in the field of defence. India’s defence budget for the current year is Rs. 1.5 trillion ($32.5 billion), a 40 per cent increase over the 2009-2010 budget. It imports more than 70 per cent of its arms. The vast majority of those imports, 82 per cent, come from Russia, which has long been India’s preferred supplier. The recently concluded visit to Russia by Indian Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma is in continuation of the series of many such high-level visits of top defence personnel and leaders from both countries to foster this relationship in the face of emerging challenges.


Admiral Nirmal Verma visited the Russian Federation from 11 July to 18 July 2011, at the invitation of Admiral Vladimir Sergeivich Vysotskiy, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy. Admiral Verma’s was a return visit to that of the C-in-C of the Russian Navy to India in January 2011. It was aimed at further enhancing bilateral defence cooperation. The Chief of the Indian Navy visited Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Kaliningrad and Severodvinsk, and interacted with a large number of senior Russian dignitaries including H.E. A. Antonov, Deputy Defence Minister, as well as with his counterpart, Admiral Vysotskiy. Admiral Verma also visited various design bureaus and shipyards engaged in the construction of ships for the Indian Navy. Issues related to defence cooperation and ongoing projects were discussed in these meetings. The Admiral was very warmly received and had extremely fruitful interactions during the course of his visit.


In a press release, the Indian Navy stated that Admiral Verma “reviewed the progress of the Talwar Class follow-on warships, under construction at the Yantar shipyard … and was reassured that the first ship 'Teg' would commence trials shortly and be delivered in six to eight months.” The new frigates in this class, namely 'Teg', 'Teer' and 'Trikand' are follow-ons of the three Talwar Class warships built for India by Russia and inducted into service in the early part of the last decade. In the new ships, the Russian-origin Klub missiles would be replaced by the indigenous BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile system.


During his visit to the Sevmash Shipyard where the aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, is being retrofitted, Admiral Verma observed that "significant progress had been made on the Gorshkov project and the ship was shaping up well for the preliminary sea trials." The Navy’s press release noted in this regard that Admiral Verma “made a first hand assessment of all projects and held vital discussions with officials at the highest leadership levels of the Russian armed forces and defence industry. Reviewing ongoing projects, the Admiral observed that they were progressing satisfactorily and had reached critical stages of maturity. He also expressed satisfaction with the quality of construction and repairs.” Further, speaking to the Russian media, Admiral Verma said that the Russian Mig 29KUB fighter jet designed for India’s aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov was sound and the recent accident involving the aircraft in which both the pilots were killed would not affect India’s arms orders with Russia.


The two sides also discussed increasing cooperation in anti-piracy operations. During discussions on operational exchanges between the two navies, the two sides agreed that the INDRA series of exercises form an important aspect of the bilateral relationship and therefore they must be continued and extended in scope and participation. It is significant to note here that on the visit, the Russian Navy Chief had confirmed that the Akula-II class nuclear submarine K-152 Nerpa, to be rechristened INS Chakra, will be handed over to the Indian Navy by November-December 2011.


The Navy Chief’s visit assumed significance, since it came in the backdrop of the Russian Navy backing out of a joint exercise (INDRA) with the Indian Navy at the last minute. It has been speculated that this was done to express displeasure at India ruling out the MiG-35 in the race for the multi-billion dollar medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract. Here it is pertinent to point out that Russia must understand India’s defence acquisition policy, which is guided by professional and not political considerations. This was firmly stated by Defence Minister A.K. Antony while addressing an International Seminar on Defence Acquisition organized by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. On this occasion, Mr. Antony said that India’s defence purchases are not propelled by political considerations and assured the vendors that they will get a level playing field. He also said that up to the trial stage, technical soundness of a product will determine whether it will remain in the race, after which the issue of price will determine the ultimate selection. Thus, it is unfair to attribute political motives for the exclusion of the Russian MiG-35 from the MMRCA deal, especially since India greatly values the defence partnership with Russia. Both countries moreover place a high premium on this partnership, which they have developed through a sustained and committed effort over several decades. During the visit of President Dmitri Medvedev to India in December 2010, it was decided to elevate the relationship to the level of a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership”.


While it is true that the India-Russia relationship has witnessed significant changes since the end of the Cold War, the one area in which ties have been nearly unbroken is defence cooperation. And this, in spite of the difficulties that India had faced in obtaining spare parts and equipment in the aftermath of the erstwhile USSR’s collapse. The defence deals with Russia (see Table) are built on the strong edifice of the Indian military’s familiarity with Russian equipment, the availability of cutting-edge technology, price competitiveness, and above all the regularity of supply. This is what mainly led to India financing the production of weapons in Russia at a time when the Russian arms industry had suffered in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.


India’s Imports from Russia, 2005 - 2010
Weapon designation Weapon description Number
Mi-8/Mi-17/Hip-H Helicopter
TV-3 Turboshaf
Su-24MK/Fencer-D Bomber aircraft
9M133 Kornet/AT-14 Anti-tank missile
53-65 AS torpedo
Kh-31M/AS-17 Mod-2 Anti-ship missile
Su-30MK/Flanker FGA aircraft
T-90S Tank
Type-636E/Kilo Submarine
Yak-130 Trainer/combat ac Delivery in 2011
T-72M1 Tank
9M114/AT-6 Spiral Anti-tank missile
Mi-24VM/Hind-E Combat helicopter
3M-54 Klub/SS-N-27 Anti-ship missile
Sovremenny Destroyer
Il-38/May ASW aircraft
MiG-29SMT/Fulcrum FGA aircraft
PJ-10 BrahMos Anti-ship missile
BRDM-2 Reconnaissance AV
T-80U Tank
Gepard-3 Frigate

Source: Sipri Yearbook 2011


However, there are issues that continue to affect this relationship. There have been repeated delays in Russia implementing major weapon orders, including for the aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov. Russia has also tended to raise costs mid-way through the execution of agreed upon commitments. Roadblocks have also emerged for the transfer of technology and the uninterrupted supply of defence spares. In addition, joint exercises that have been agreed upon have also been delayed or postponed for various reasons including India’s attempts at diversifying its sources of defence acquisition. These issues are indeed being addressed during the course of regular visits by officials of both countries, including during Admiral Verma’s recent visit. India’s Defence Minister A.K. Antony will also raise some of these issues with his Russian counterpart when he visits Moscow in October 2011 for the eleventh meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on military technical cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) – the main institutional mechanism for defence cooperation.


Given the legacy of defence cooperation and ongoing projects, Russia will remain for the foreseeable future India’s major defence partner. However, in view of the increased competition for the Indian defence market and the technological demands of India’s defence sector, joint development and production of new weapon systems is likely to become a crucial factor in sustaining Indo-Russian co-operation in the coming years.

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