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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

From Today's Papers - 24 Aug 2011






Army branch wants MoD to clarify on Chief’s age

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, August 23 The Army’s Adjutant General (AG) branch has sought a clarification from the Ministry of Defence over its last month’s order deciding on the age of the Army Chief. The AG branch has asked for a legal explanation of the order that decided that the date of birth of the Army Chief Gen VK Singh would be considered as May 10, 1950, and not May 10, 1951.  Sources confirmed that the AG branch had written a letter to the MoD seeking clarifications. The recent letter stems from the fact that a change in the AG records of Gen VK Singh will need intervention at the highest level and cannot be altered at the level of the AG. The Military Secretary branch has recorded the DoB of the chief as May 10, 1950, while the AG branch has it as May 10, 1951.  Sources said this should not be seen as a move that the Army headquarters had turned down the orders of the Defence Minister. “It is just a clarification and no more,” said a senior functionary. The AG branch of the Army has gone by the legally tenable Supreme Court orders that considers the school-leaving certificate as a primary document for determining the age of an employee.  The age of the Army Chief can alter the line of succession in the service. If the year of birth is taken as 1951, Gen VK Singh will continue till March 2013, which is nine months more than the date on which he is now scheduled to superannuate -- May 31, 2012. The appointment of the Chief was made in March 2010 for a period of three years or till the age of 62 years.  If he retires next year, the Eastern Army commander, Lt Gen Bikram Singh, is likely to replace him. If Gen VK Singh’s tenure is extended, the Northern Army commander, Lt Gen KT Parnaik, can be his successor.  The Army’s response was prepared over the past three weeks after legal consultations were held within its Judge Advocate-General (JAG) branch. Gen VK Singh also sought the opinion of ex-solicitor-general Gopal Subramaniam and four retired SC Chief Justices GB Patnaik, VN Khare, RC Lahoti and JS Verma. All personal records of the Army Chief — his passport, voter card, PAN card — show his date of birth as May 10, 1951.   





Strains in Sino-Pak ties An opportunity for India

by Harsh V. Pant  In an unusual outburst, China has for the first time publicly blamed Pakistan for the trouble in its Xinjiang province where around 20 people were killed in a flare-up a few days back. Even as the ISI chief, Lt.-Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was visiting China, the state-run Xinhua news agency lost no time in declaring that “initial probe has shown that the heads of the group had learned skills of making explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the terrorist group East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Pakistan before entering Xinjiang to organise terrorist activities.” It was a stinging indictment of an “all-weather friend” and the world duly took note of it.  China launched a major crackdown against Uighur Muslim separatists after massive riots in Xinjiang in 2009 between Han Chinese and minority Uighurs that resulted in the killing of almost 200 people in the region’s capital, Urumqi. Xinjiang, China’s Central Asian frontier bordering Pakistan, Afghanistan and Russia, has been a hot-bed of ethnic conflict and a sometimes violent separatist movement by Uighurs, who argue that they have been marginalised in their own land with the heavy influx of Han Chinese in the region. The Uighurs remain economically disadvantaged, suffering a long systematic policy of repression at the hands of the Chinese government. The fundamental causes of Uighur disaffection remain domestic and the tag of terrorism is merely employed by the Chinese government to provide a cover for their harsh policies.  Beijing has been pressing Pakistan to get a handle on ETIM militants for some time now, but so far it had refrained from raking this issue publicly. After all, Pakistan is a close ally of China and the two share a relationship that has been described as “higher than mountains and deeper than oceans.”  Pakistan enjoys a multifaceted and deep-rooted relationship with China underpinned by mutual trust and confidence. Islamabad has prioritised close ties with China, and Beijing has provided extensive economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan over the years. In fact, Pakistan enabled China to cultivate ties with the West, particularly the US, in the early 1970s, as Pakistan was the conduit for the then-US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger’s landmark secret visit to China in 1971 and was instrumental in bringing China closer to the larger Muslim world.  Over the years China has emerged as Pakistan’s largest defence supplier. The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. This is perhaps the only case where a nuclear weapon state has given weapons-grade fissile material — as well as a bomb design — to a non-nuclear weapon state. China was perhaps the only major power that openly voiced support for Pakistan after Osama bin Laden’s assassination in May by publicly affirming that “Pakistan has made huge sacrifices and an important contribution to the international fight against terrorism, that its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity must be respected, and that the international community should understand and support Pakistan’s efforts to maintain domestic stability and to realise economic and social development.” It is an openly stated Chinese policy that it would like to be an “all-weather strategic partner” of Pakistan.  To underscore its commitment, China has agreed, more recently, to provide Pakistan with 50 new JF-17 Thunder multi-role jets under a co-production agreement, even as negotiations continue for more fighter aircraft, including those with stealth technology. Despite this, Pakistan wanted more from China — underscored by its expressed desire to have China take over the operation of Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea, west of Karachi, in which China has invested heavily in recent years and which serves as an important role in the projection of China’s naval prowess in the region. Two weeks after the Abbotabad raid that killed Bin Laden, the Pakistani Prime Minister was in China during which Pakistan’s Defence Minister suggested that the port could be upgraded to a naval base for Chinese use. China, however, immediately rejected this offer, not wanting to antagonise the US and India with the formal establishment of a base in Pakistan.  It is in this context that China’s latest public criticism of Pakistan should be viewed. China has for long not been sympathetic to the Indian concerns about the export of terrorism and extremism from the jihadist infrastructure in Pakistan, fully aided and abetted by the Pakistani state. Beijing did all it could to prevent the United Nations Security Council from declaring the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) as terrorist organisations. It was forced to change its position only after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008.  Today, the strategic realities in Af-Pak are undergoing a rapid change. China has a huge stake in the stability of the region, not only because it would like to use the economic opportunities in Afghanistan and the larger Central Asian region but also because the dangers of emboldened radical Islamists are as severe for Beijing as they are for New Delhi. Since ethnic rioting in 2009 in Xinjiang, Beijing has been especially wary of radical Islam filtering in from the Central Asian nations and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Amid worries about the potential destabilising influence of Pakistani militants on its Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China has started taking a harder line against Pakistan.  This presents a unique opportunity to India to make a case to China that building a moderate Pakistan is as much in Chinese interest as it is in India’s. This will also test China’s true intentions towards India. Recent Chinese posturing on elections in Arunachal Pradesh and revelations that China might have been behind the biggest global cyber attacks that targeted India along with a host of other nations point to trouble ahead for Sino-Indian ties. But the deteriorating regional security environment and the rising tide of Islamist radicalism might just force Beijing to change its course towards India. There is no harm in making one last try.  The writer teaches at King’s College, London.






New strike corps for China border

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi August 24, 2011, 0:09 IST  In 2009, New Delhi acted decisively in sanctioning two new army divisions, about 35,000 troops, to strengthen Indian defences in Arunachal, which China claims as a part of Tibet. It can now be revealed that New Delhi has also sanctioned a new mountain strike corps,  of an additional 40,000 soldiers, to be permanently located in bases in northeast India. The new corps is to retaliate against any major Chinese ingress into India by launching an offensive into Tibet.  For decades after India’s humiliation at the hands of China in 1962, New Delhi shrank from a robust defence posture on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC), fearing  it might provoke China. In the aftermath of 1962, through the 1960s and 1970s, the Indian Army stayed away from the border, remaining behind a self-imposed ‘Limit of Patrolling (LoP)’. In the 1980s, the army returned to the LAC, but remained entirely defensive in outlook. The sanctioning of a strike corps, therefore, signals a dramatic new assertiveness in New Delhi.

Business Standard has been aware of this development since 2009, but has refrained from reporting on it after requests from top Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials. Now, with the outlines of this development emerging in the media, Business Standard no longer feels bound by confidentiality.  The new mountain strike corps will control two divisions, trained and equipped for an attack into Tibet. If China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captures any Indian territory, by quickly concentrating an attacking force over Tibet’s impressive road network, the Indian Army would not be forced into bloody, Kargil-style counterattacks to recapture that territory.  Instead, the new strike corps would launch its own riposte, advancing into Tibet and capturing a vulnerable chunk of Chinese territory, e.g. the Chumbi Valley that projects into Sikkim and Bhutan. Several such objectives would be identified in advance and detailed preparations made for the offensives. The new strike corps will have its own mountain artillery, combat engineers, anti-aircraft guns and radio equipment. It would also be supported by Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters, operating from newly renovated bases in northeastern India. On July 26, the then IAF chief confirmed that Sukhoi-30 fighters had already been posted to air bases at Tezpur and Chhabua.  On June 25, he told NDTV that Jorhat, Guwahati, Mohanbari, Bagdogra and Hashimara were also being developed as air bases. The IAF is also modernising eight ALGs (Advanced Landing Grounds), essential for quickly building up and resupplying a strike corps. These bases would also be crucial for airborne operations, especially heli-lifting forces to key objectives behind the enemy frontlines.  The proposal to raise two additional divisions for the defence of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as a strike corps, dates back to 2007. It began as a decision of the China Study Group, a secretive government body that considers all strategic issues relating to China. Thereafter, the army’s Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) prepared a cabinet note. The decision to raise the additional divisions was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on May 14, 2009.  This was the last major decision taken by the UPA government before the elections of 2009. It was rushed through because top UPA leaders felt if the UPA were not re-elected, the new government would begin the decision-making process afresh, losing another two years. To manage the expenses, it was decided the two defensive mountain divisions would first be raised during the 11th army plan (2007-2012). Next, the strike corps, including its two mountain divisions, would be raised during the 12th Defence Plan (2012-2017). The cost of raising a new Indian Army mountain division is estimated to be Rs 700 crore.  The 4,057-km LAC consists of three sectors. In the western sector in Ladakh, which India’s 14 Corps defends, the PLA already controls most of the area that China claims. The central sector, at the UP-Tibet border, which India’s 6 Mountain Division defends, is relatively insignificant. The most contentious is the eastern sector, which includes Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where China claims 90,000 sq km of territory that India occupies. It is here, driven by fear of Chinese aggression, that India is strengthening its capabilities by raising new formations.  A mountain strike corps will provide India with strategic capabilities that were badly missed when Mao Zedong marched the PLA into Tibet in 1950. While considering its responses, the Indian government asked the army chief of that time, General (later Field Marshal) K M Cariappa, what resources he had to intervene on behalf of Tibet. Cariappa could spare just one battalion (800 soldiers). And, so, New Delhi watched as Tibet was subjugated and the China border advanced all the way to the Himalayas.








Army rejects age order in polite shot across bow

New Delhi, Aug. 22: The army has rejected the defence ministry’s order on the age of the chief, Gen. V.K. Singh, and asked the government for a legal explanation of its directive.  The army’s reaction to the government order could easily be interpreted as defiance. But the adjutant-general’s (AG) branch of Army Headquarters — the custodian of personnel records — has requested the ministry for an explanation based on legal documents that the government can cite to justify its order that Gen. Singh’s date of birth should be taken as May 10, 1950, and not a year later as May 10, 1951.  The army and its chief decided that it was wiser to seek a legal explanation of the order from the government rather than approach courts in a move that might have been seen as being not only “confrontationist” but also as one intended to embarrass the Centre.  “We are more concerned with the morality of the issue than with its legality because we know there is a strong legal basis,” a source told The Telegraph.  While there is an intent to avoid being seen as “confrontationist”, this is also only the second known instance of a service headquarters not implementing a government order immediately. The last time it happened, Adm. Vishnu Bhagwat was sacked on December 30, 1998, after he refused to implement orders given by then defence minister George Fernandes on promotions that he did not agree with.  The age of the army chief can impact the line of succession in the service. If the year of birth is taken as 1951, he may be entitled to serve for nine months more than the date on which he is now scheduled to superannuate — May 31, 2012.  If he retires next year, the Eastern Army commander, Lt Gen. Bikram Singh, is likely to replace him. If Gen. Singh’s tenure is extended, the Northern Army commander, Lt Gen. K.T. Parnaik, may get a look-in.  The army’s response to the defence ministry’s seven-page order (No. 23(10)/2011-D(MS) dated July 22) is essentially a rejection of a rejection.  In its order, the defence ministry had rejected Gen. Singh’s petition of May 25, 2011, explaining why his date of birth should be officially acknowledged as May 10, 1951, and not May 10, 1950.  The army’s response was prepared over the past three weeks after legal consultations within its own Judge Advocate-General’s (JAG) branch. Gen. Singh also sought the opinion of a fifth legal expert — former solicitor-general Gopal Subramaniam — after taking the counsel of four retired Supreme Court Chief Justices (G.B. Patnaik, V.N. Khare, R.C. Lahoti and J.S. Verma).  The adjutant-general’s branch has taken the position that the government order, signed by joint secretary Subhash Chandra, is not legally tenable. It asserted that the AG’s branch maintains the records of all service personnel and the records show that Gen. Singh was born on May 10, 1951.  The dispute arose from the record kept in the branch of the military secretary (who is responsible for postings and promotions) that showed Gen. Singh’s date of birth as May 10, 1950. This date crept into the records because of a chain reaction triggered by an apparently erroneous entry made by a teacher who filled a form for Gen. Singh, then a teenager.  The AG and JAG branches of the army also concluded that their position was legally justified because of Supreme Court orders that the school-leaving certificate should be taken as the primary document for determining the age of a citizen.  All personal records of the army chief — his passport and his voter card and PAN card — show his date of birth as May 10, 1951. If the government order were to be implemented, all these documents would have to be changed.  The defence ministry order cites the records kept in the MS branch to justify the government’s conclusion. It also cites a letter written by Singh, as lieutenant general when he was the Eastern Army commander immediately before taking over as the chief, to former army chief Gen. (retired) Deepak Kapoor, in which he agreed to accept the 1950 date “in the interests of the organisation”.  Despite that letter to his predecessor, Gen. Singh has maintained in his correspondence that all his records, including his annual confidential reports for 38 years from 1970 to 2008, mention his date of birth as May 10, 1951.  This was also noted by Subramaniam, the former solicitor-general, to whom Gen. Singh had sent queries on ways to define his date of birth.  In his opinion dated August 4, Subramaniam wrote: “There is room to believe that if a claim were to arise, a plea of estoppel could in fact be urged against the querist”. A “plea of estoppel” is a rule of law by which a person may be stopped from reneging on commitments made earlier and altering his position on a dispute.  Subramaniam wrote in his opinion, after examining the documents he was given (that did not include the government order): “Under the circumstances, the querist (Gen. Singh) was justified in insisting that his date of birth should be correctly recorded as May 10, 1951.”  Subramaniam also notes that the army chief did indeed write saying that his year of birth be taken as 1950 as he did not want to be identified as a dissident because “being a disciplined member of the armed forces, (Gen. Singh) didn’t desire to be seen as stepping out of line…”.  Subramaniam notes that there is pressure on armed forces officers “in maintaining their career profile” and in trying to do so, there might be admissions and submissions made that they do not truly believe in.










BrahMos sets the ‘gold standard’ for Russian-Indian defence projects

There has been a lot of talk recently about growing competition on India’s arms market, which is crucial for Russia. In Soviet times, Russia supplied some 75-80 per cent of the weapons for India’s Army, Air Force and Navy but now, as India matures financially, it is opting increasingly for more expensive western armaments. Back in the 1980s, German and French supplies brought India submarines and Mirage 2000 fighters and, in 1990, Israel broke in, making India one of its biggest sales markets, along with the US. Finally, the last ten years have seen a significant boost to Indian-US military and technical ties, with US’s sales of military transport and antisubmarine aircraft nearing $10 billion.       In this situation, the best way for Russia to retain its position in India is to revise the trade paradigm of military and technical cooperation, shifting the focus to joint projects based on risk-sharing partnership, whereby the parties invest jointly in creation, production and promotion of products. Today, Russia and India have two joint defence projects, including the BrahMos programme for designing, producing and marketing supersonic stealth cruise missiles, and a project for building the MTA multirole medium transport aircraft. During Russian President Medvedev’s visit to India in December 2010, a contract was also signed to design India’s version of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which potentially means yet another joint undertaking.      While the МТА programme has not yet shown any impressive progress, the BrahMos project can be seen as the ‘gold standard’ for joint military manufacturing programmes, effectively combining such factors as commercial profit for Russian and Indian partners, a tangible improvement in the combat ability of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, and development of new technologies, which is particularly important for India. Perhaps the project’s most valuable result is the accumulated experience of resolving difficult legislative, organisational and financial problems. In the future, this experience will be used for new joint programmes, including for the FGFA project.     What makes this programme so unique is that India is, in fact, buying one of its first standardised weapons systems that can be deployed by all three armed services - the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.      The Indian Navy was the first customer for the BrahMos missile, which can be carried by a wide range of naval platforms, including most existing and future surface ships. The first ships to be equipped with BrahMos were Project 61ME (Kashin-Mod class) destroyers. Two of them, the Ranvir and the Ranvijay, will also be fitted with 8-missile vertical launch systems. Other ships that will carry BrahMos include three Project 15A (Kolkata class) destroyers, which are currently under construction in India, the future Project 15B destroyers, future Project 17A frigates, and three Project 11356M (Talwar class Batch 2) frigates now being built for India at the Yantar Shipyards in Kaliningrad. The future Talwar class Batch 3 frigates will also be equipped with the new missile, irrespective of where they are built, be it Russia or India.  In addition to surface ships, the Indian Navy plans to deploy BrahMos on submarines and, possibly, on land-based patrol aircraft. The suitable airborne carriers include the Russian Il-38SD ASW aircraft and, in a few years' time, the Boeing P-8I Poseidon ASW, which India has already ordered from the United States. It seems that the Indian Navy wants to make BrahMos its core weapon. The new missile’s long range (up to 280 km), high speed and powerful warhead will give Indian fighters not just a military advantage but absolute dominance over Pakistan’s ship groups, also creating a significant deterrent to China’s fast-growing navy.       Another major customer is India’s land forces, which are buying BrahMos missiles in the mobile land-based configuration. These will be used not only against ships but also as high-precision weapons against land targets, such as command posts and key military, public and economic infrastructure facilities (the Block II LACM version). The Indian Army ordered 134 mobile anti-ship land-based BrahMos Block I missiles in 2006-2009 and another 240 land-attack BrahMos Block II in 2010, to a total of about 3 billion US dollars.      Finally, the Indian Air Force is awaiting completion of research and development for an air-launched version of BrahMos, to be deployed primarily on Su-30 MKI fighters, with first deliveries expected in 2012. The Indian Air Force also plans to buy the BrahMos Block II version, which is designed to engage land targets. Currently, the Sukhoi Design Bureau is carrying out research and development to deploy the air-launched version of the missile on the Su-30 MKI. This will apparently become the focus for modernising the Su-30 MKI under the Super 30 programme. Indeed, the aircraft was designed in the early 1990s and is not due for an upgrade: an active phased array radar will be installed, along with BrahMos missiles.     All this is also of interest to Russian customers. Currently, BrahMos missiles and their Russian analogue, the Yakhont, are arguably the most powerful non-nuclear anti-ship weapons deployed in Russia and India and the Su-30 MKI is the only suitable carrier. The Russian Air Force plans, therefore, to order 28 Su-30 SM fighters, which will be technically similar to the Indian version, the only difference being that the Israeli and some French systems will be replaced by Russian ones. Russia’s Navy is also considering the possibility of buying 12 such aircraft for its own purposes.     In this respect, acquisition of BrahMos missiles would come in very handy. And it is not about Russian-made Yakhont missiles, but about BrahMos. From a military and technical perspective, this would mean acquisition by the Russian armed forces of the hugely effective Su-30 SM-BrahMos system, which would revolutionise the alliance of forces, for example, in the Black Sea region. And politically, it would underline the joint nature of the project. The Indians are extremely concerned about any symbols of their industrial and technological progress and acquisition by Russia of Indian products would be very much appreciated in a country that pays billions of dollars for Russian weapons every year.      Strange as it might seem, the success of the BrahMos programme has boosted Russia’s chances of promoting its air and naval platforms on the Indian market. Normally, is the opposite would be the case: export of platforms opens up opportunities for missile supplies to be deployed on these platforms. But with BrahMos, it is the missiles that have become the driving force. So the Rubin Design Bureau is creating a special version of Russia’s new Project 677 (Аmur class) submarine to carry BrahMos anti-ship missiles as its main weapon system. This raises the submarine’s chance of winning India’s tender for six submarines worth up to $10 billion.     And last but not least, the BrahMos Aerospace joint venture has become a vehicle for further Russian-Indian projects, on an even larger scale and with greater Indian participation. The company is known to be already working on a new hypersonic missile. The unique experience accumulated since 1998 as part of the BrahMos project has paved the way for even more ambitious goals, including new strategic ballistic and cruise missiles.







Indian Army foils infiltration bid in Kashmir

The Indian Army Tuesday foiled an infiltration bid in Jammu and Kashmir after Pakistani troops opened fire in the Mankote area of Mendhar in Poonch district, violating the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the state between the two countries, army sources said.  According to the sources, the Pakistani troops fired at the Indian posts early Tuesday morning in a bid to give cover to infiltrators. The Indian Army retaliated and forced the infiltrators to retreat, the sources added.  The exchange of fire between the two sides lasted for a little over half-an-hour.



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