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Friday, 16 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 16 Sep 2011






DA hiked by 7%

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, September 15 The government has raised the Dearness Allowance (DA) by 7 per cent to 58 per cent, effective July 1. Nearly five million Central government employees and four million pensioners would benefit.  “Dearness Allowance of central government employees has been raised from 51 per cent to 58 per cent. The hike is effective from July 1, 2011,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said after a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  Soni said the hike in dearness allowance would provide major relief to the employees and pensioners as prices of essential commodities have been consistently rising. “Total financial implication due to the hike will be Rs 7,228.76 crore per annum. In the current fiscal, it will be Rs 4,819.22 crore,” Soni said.  The Cabinet also approved the Approach Paper for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-13 to 2116-17), which targets 9 per cent growth.


China warns against oil exploration in Vietnam, India rejects objection

Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, September 15 As External Affairs Minister SM Krishna headed to Hanoi, India and China appeared on a collision course over Beijing’s objection to ONGC Videsh Limited’s (OVL) plans to undertake oil exploration in two Vietnamese blocks in the South China Sea.  “Our cooperation with Vietnam or any other country is always as per international laws, norms and conventions,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash told reporters here, virtually dismissing Beijing’s objection.  Earlier in the day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, at a briefing in Beijing, said China enjoyed indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea and, without directly referring to India, asked all countries to refrain from oil exploration in maritime areas offered by Vietnam.  New Delhi said the OVL had been in Vietnam for quite sometime in offshore oil and natural gas exploration field and was in the process of further expanding its operations. Essar, a subsidiary of Essar Oil Ltd, has also been awarded a gas block in Vietnam.  India said it supported freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and hoped all countries would abide by the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.  The Indian spokesman explained that cooperation in the field of energy, hydrocarbon and renewable energy was an important facet of India-Vietnam relations. Of the nearly 400 Million dollars worth of investments by India in Vietnam, the OVL alone had made investments to the tune of about 225 million dollars.  India’s stand is apparently guided by Vietnam’s claim that it had the rights over the two blocks under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas. With claims over the entire South China Sea, China is engaged in running disputes with several members of ASEAN and Japan. China and Vietnam, besides the Philippines, had a major spat over the issue recently after Chinese maritime vessels stopped exploration activities in the waters they claims as theirs.  Increasing China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea would, in fact, figure prominently during the Indian Foreign Minister’s talks with Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi tomorrow against the backdrop of the recent incident in which the Chinese Navy “harassed” an Indian naval vessel, INS Airavat, off the Vietnamese coast while it was on a goodwill visit to Vietnam from port Nha Trang to Hai Phong. The incident led India to come out with a strong defence of the freedom of navigation in international waters.  Krishna will co-chair the 14th India-Vietnam Joint Commission meeting in Hanoi tomorrow with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh, focusing on deepening economic and strategic ties between the two countries.  THE TRIGGER  ONGC Videsh Limited’s plan to undertake oil exploration in two Vietnamese blocks in the South China Sea.  CHINESE CLAIM  Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has claimed that China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea. Without directly referring to India, he asked all countries to refrain from oil exploration in maritime areas offered by Vietnam.  INDIAN ASSERTION  Dismissing Beijing’s objection, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said India’s cooperation with Vietnam or any other country was always as per international laws, norms and conventions.


Western Command marks 64th Raising Day

Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, September 15 A solemn wreath-laying ceremony marked the Western Command’s 64th Raising Day at its headquarters in Chandimandir today.  General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, Lt Gen SR Ghosh and Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, the Command’s former GOC-in-C, paid floral tributes to  martyrs at the Veer Smriti war memorial.  A ceremonial guard reversed arms as a mark of respect to the martyrs, while buglers sounded the Last Post. A two-minute silence was also observed. Senior officers were also present on the occasion. Inmates from the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre, Mohali, also attended the ceremony as the Army is observing 2011 as the ‘Year of Disabled Soldiers’.  Raised in 1947 as the Delhi and East Punjab Command, with headquarters at Delhi, it was mandated to control formations with an operational role in the territorial areas of the present Western and Northern Commands. It was redesignated as the Western Command in January 1948. In 1954, the headquarters of the command moved to Shimla. After the Indo-Pak Conflict of 1971, the Northern Command, with its Headquarters at Udhampur, was carved out of the Western Command to assume operational responsibility of Jammu and Kashmir. Later headquarters of the Western Command moved to Chandimandir in 1985.  The Western Command was instrumental in effectively blunting the Pakistani aggression in 1947, 1965 and 1971, and subsequently carrying the battle into enemy territory. Its troops, formations and units have always distinguished themselves, winning a large number of gallantry awards, including 11 Param Vir Chakras.


Armed Forces Tribunal to be armed with contempt powers

Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, September 15 The Armed Forces Tribunal will get more teeth as it is expected to be armed with powers of contempt. This would give the Tribunal the much-needed authority to get its judgments and orders implemented by the executing agencies.  At present, the tribunal does not have the powers of civil contempt, under which it can initiate action like the High Court against erring parties if its directives are not implemented. This was perceived as a serious handicap in its functioning. Tribunal’s chairman Justice AK Mathur had, during a visit to Chandigarh some time ago, termed the tribunal as a “toothless” body as a large number of its orders were not being implemented by the defence establishments. Similar views were also expressed recently by Justice Ghanshyam Prashad, a senior judicial member of the Chandigarh Bench.  Sources revealed that the proposal to empower the tribunal with contempt powers has already been approved by the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Ministry of Law has given its opinion and recommendations on it. The file is now reportedly back with the Ministry of Defence and would be sent to the Cabinet after being cleared by the Defence Minister.  While the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 conferred powers of criminal contempt, where action can be initiated against anyone for misconduct, obstructing the functioning of the tribunal or showing disrespect to the bench, the provisions relating to civil contempt are ambiguous.  Earlier this year, a judgment of the Kerala High Court, while interpreting the provisions of the Act, brought out that the tribunal has full powers to initiate contempt proceedings if its orders are not implemented. Sources said there is also a proposal to increase the upper age limit for the tribunal’s judicial members.  The tribunal’s bench comprises a judicial member, who should have been a judge of the High Court, and an administrative member, who should have served in the rank of Major General and equivalent for at least three years.

More voices join anti-AFSPA protests

Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS  Guwahati, September 15 Manab Adhikar Sangram Samity (MASS), a human rights body in Assam, has joined region-wide protests against continuation of the ‘draconian’ Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958, that provides sweeping powers to security forces in the name of tackling insurgency.  MASS secretary Aditya Lahkar said AFSPA had caused immense misery to the innocent civilian population in Assam and other parts of the North-east, and demanded repeal of the same.  The AFSPA empowers security forces operating in the insurgency-hit North-east to detain people without trial and provides immunity from prosecution after killing of people on suspicion of them being militants.  The MASS also demanded withdrawal of Assam Disturbed Area Act, which is said to be as ‘draconian’ as the AFSPA 1958.

SAAB offers air defence system to Indian Army

Swedish defence major Saab on Thursday said it is offering its RBS 70NG man-portable air defence system to the Indian Army for its requirements for shoulder fired missiles. "The RBS 70 NG is a contender for procurement of Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) manportable air defence (MANPAD) missile for Indian Army," Saab said in a release in New Delhi.  The Indian Army at present uses the Russian origin Igla missile systems and is looking for its replacements. It had recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) in this regard and is expected to issue a formal tender very soon.  "We believe the RBS 70NG meets requirements of Indian Army for a system that has multiple target seeking and tracking capabilities, multi-launcher capability, ability to deploy from high mobility vehicles and ship and submarine naval vessels and aerial target detection capability", Saab India head Inderjit Sial said.  Saab said the RBS 70NG has been equipped with "a new sighting system, improved precision and increased all-target capability." The company claims the RBS 70NG has an effective intercept range of 8 km, with altitude coverage in excess of 5 km.

LAC issue: Army for resolution at earliest

The Indian Army has asked the ministry of defence to convey to the ministry of external affairs that the latter should take up the boundary issue with China immediately. Sources say this communication has come in the wake of the reported intrusion of two Chinese choppers into the Chumur

August 25. The army wants such incursions into Indian territory to stop immediately.  The army has pressed for a possible demarcation of the boundary with China in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir and other states.  Although it denied any such incident, sources said the army too had instituted its own inquiry into the matter.  The boundary dispute between India and China was responsible for the India-China war of 1962. A large chunk of Indian territory including about 38,000 square km in the Ladakh region alone is under the occupation of China.  Varying perceptions of the borderline persist despite the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the India-China Border Areas of September 7, 1993, and the November 1996 Agreement of Confidence Building Measures in the military field along the LAC.  The problem of intrusion has been festering for the past two-three years.  The J&K government in 2010 stopped constructing a passenger shed near the border after protests from infiltrating Chinese troops in October 2009. Chinese troops had stepped into Indian territory in the Demchok area of Ladakh along the border to register their protest.  Construction was stopped on the directions of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the army.  IB chief raises red flag over China  IB chief Nehchal Sandhu on Thursday raised a red flag at Beijing’s ‘intrusive’ interest in northeastern insurgent groups, many of them known to procure weapons through suppliers based in China.  Sandhu's remarks at the conference of police chiefs from across the country are unusual, particularly since the security establishment has been coy about any negative references to the economic powerhouse in public.  Sandhu’s comments came at the conference where he was outlining the security challenges facing the country.

Antony faces trouble for statement on army chief's age

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi September 16, 2011, 0:32 IST  Defence Minister A K Antony faces a possible breach of privilege motion for misleading the Rajya Sabha in the increasingly bitter battle between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the army chief, General V K Singh over the latter’s date of birth, which will determine when he hangs up his uniform.

The controversy stems from the army’s four-decade error in maintaining two conflicting dates of birth for Gen Singh in two separate record-holding branches: May 10, 1950 and May 10, 1951. The MoD has ruled that the general was born in 1950; hence he will retire on May 31, 2012, after reaching the age of 62 that month. The army chief, asserting a point of honour, has officially petitioned Antony that his birth year be considered 1951 on the basis of multiple documents that he submitted four decades ago (including his matriculation and birth certificates). That would make Gen Singh eligible to serve till May 31, 2013.

Now Antony faces potential trouble in Parliament. Samajwadi Party MP Mohan Singh has demanded a clarification on Antony’s apparently false reply to a parliamentary question that the MP raised on the army chief’s date of birth. In his written reply to the Rajya Sabha on September 7, Antony declared, “The date of birth of General V K Singh, Chief of Army Staff, has been maintained as May 10,1950 at the time of his selection as Corps Commander in 2006, as well as his subsequent promotions as Army Commander in 2008 and Chief of the Army Staff in 2010.”  This, it is learnt, is untrue. The army’s Military Secretary’s Branch (MS Branch), which directly handles promotions, clearly informed the defence secretary in writing, on July 1 that all senior-level promotions of the army chief had been approved with his birth date reflected as May 10, 1951.  Business Standard has viewed MS Branch letter No A/4501/01/GEN/MS(X), signed by the Military Secretary, Lieutenant General G M Nair. This letter informs the defence secretary that Gen V K Singh’s promotion to brigadier in 1996; to major general in 2003; and to lieutenant general in 2005; all had May 10, 1951 as the date of birth.  The MS Branch is the department that has maintained all along that Gen Singh was born in 1950. The Adjutant General’s Branch (AG’s Branch), which is the ultimate authority for personnel records, has the army chief’s birth year as 1951 since he was commissioned as an officer in 1970.  “The MoD has hidden material facts in their reply. I have now asked for details… and I expect the defence minister to reply within 10-15 days. If the defence minister does not provide full details this time, I will be well within my rights to move a breach of privilege motion,” Mohan Singh asserted.  In response to a query from this newspaper, the MoD said, “We have received the MP’s letter and the honourable Raksha Mantri (defence minister) has asked the ministry to examine the issue raised by the honourable MP.”  It is learnt that a band of committed supporters, many of them dating back to the army chief’s childhood, have joined hands behind him. They appear driven by a powerful sense of grievance, Anna Hazare-style, centred on the belief that a crooked system is trying to prematurely rid itself of an inconveniently honest army chief.  This sense of victimisation is reinforced by what they see as a media campaign to malign the army chief. They cite as an example, a news report, ‘Lies of the General’ in the latest issue of India Today, in which Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati is quoted as saying police verification at the time Gen Singh joined the army showed his year of birth as 1950. To refute that, Business Standard was shown copies of the police verification (from DIG CID (IB), Rajasthan and DIG CID, Punjab; Haryana, the army chief’s home state, did not exist at that time) indicating his birth year as 1951.  At the heart of the dispute is the MoD’s contention that any amendment to a date of birth must take place within two years of an officer’s commissioning. Gen Singh argues in his petition that he is not asking for an amendment. His demand is that the MS Branch reconcile its flawed records with the correct record that has always been available with the army’s authentic authority, the AG’s Branch.

Joining the army less strenuous than taking up forest job

NAGPUR: A soldier's life may be much tougher than that of a forest guard, but joining the army may be easier than getting a job in the forest department.  As against the 25-km walking test in 5 hours conducted by the forest department which claimed a candidate's life in Yavatmal and left many breathless all over the state, for those turning up for army recruitment it is just a 1.6km run which has to be completed within six minutes and 20 seconds.  Lesser the time taken better are the marks. A similar test is conducted for recruitment to the paramilitary forces too, so do many foreign forces like the British Army which has a 1.5 mile run to be completed in 10 minutes.  The running test during army recruitment is just a means to know if the candidate is physically fit to undergo the rigours of military training, say officials involved army recruitment process, adding that a 25-km walk is stretching it too far.  The officials say that all they need to know is the candidate's capacity to go through a tough training regime for which a 1.6km run is enough, and one need not perform any feat like a 25-km walk. Any person with an able body can undergo the test without any major threat to life.  Youngsters with basic running practice can pass the test easily. "In any such test, almost 30,000 to 35,000 candidates turn up and 10,000 clear the physical test, qualifying for the written examination," said the sources.  Even though walking 25km in five hours should not be a difficult thing, it certainly needs practice for a layman and may not be required when only judging the basic fitness is needed. Although a forest guard may have to walk long distance in his career, the capacity to do so can be achieved by training. As it happens in the army, the battle physical efficiency tests include running over 20-25kms carrying weights. "But that happens during training," said a source in the army.  The physical tests for recruiting officers in the army are much easier than that of a soldier. It includes covering 10 obstacles within 3 minutes, which many candidates easily do. However, even the Indian Forest Officers (IFS) have to undergo the 25km walking test. "It is not mere physical ability but the courage to face dangers is judged in the candidate applying for an army officer's job," the source added.  The Maharashtra police has now made the fitness test tougher. Earlier the candidate had to run 800 meters within 3 minutes which has now been increased to 5 kms in 20 minutes. There is a concern that not many may be able to make it now.

The Indian Armoured Vehicles Market: the Largest Tank Force in Eurasia?

Just a brief scan of recent headlines demonstrates the dramatic growth and investment in the Indian armoured vehicles market. As the Indian Department of Defence increases its defence budget by 12% for 2011, totalling up to $34 billion to be spent this year, it’s clear that armoured vehicles are one of the Indian Army’s top priorities.  Arjun MBT undergoing trials in India  $12-Billion Armoured Vehicles Contracts for Indian Industry  In order to stimulate local industry, the Indian Army is investing $12-billion on procuring 2,600 military vehicles as part of their future infantry combat vehicles programme (FICV) from regional companies. Tata Group, the Mahindra Group, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) all submitted bids for the contracts at the end of August. Two of the shortlisted companies will go on to manufacture 65-70 per cent and 30-35 per cent of the order. It’s a pretty heated competition and we will update you the moment the winner has been announced.  India: the Most Powerful Tank Force in Eurasia?  According to, by 2020, the Indian Army will have the “most powerful armored force in Eurasia” (unless pipped at the post by China). Even though India is forging ahead with the locally-made and designed Arjun Mark II by ordering 248 more Arjun tanks, the Indian Army is continuing to upgrade and add to its fleet of Russian-designed and Indian-made T-90 and T-72 tanks. In addition to the 700 Russian-made T-90s bought by the Indian Army, the first ten out of a thousand Indian-made T-90s were delivered to the Indian Army two years ago and by the end of 2020, the Indian Army will have 2,000 newly upgraded T-72 tanks. Those are some serious numbers if you tot them all up.  The Tests and Trials of the Arjun Mark-II  Earlier in June, the highly anticipated Indian-made Arjun Mark II finally hit the Pokhran ranges in Rajasthan for operational trials. This is pretty exciting stuff: the Arjun Mark I took thirty years to complete – from concept to finish – and the Arjun Mark II is expected to be delivered and deployed by 2015. The Arjun Mark II is also allegedly the most expensive tank in the world, costing $8 million each. My colleague, Simon Wigfield, raised several great questions about the Arjun Tank’s future here.  As the Indian Army’s investment in the armoured vehicles market continues to grow, it is clear that this is a very exciting and crucial time to get involved.


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