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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

From Today's Papers - 08 Nov 2011

DRDO developing a futuristic e-bomb  Will be capable of targeting adversary computer systems, networks
Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, November 7 With electronic warfare and network-centric operations playing an increasingly significant role in today’s battlefield, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing a weapon that renders electronic gadgets useless and effectively neutralises the adversary’s command, control and communication capability.  Commonly referred to as “e-bomb”, the weapon produces a strong electromagnetic field generating powerful electricity surges that can play havoc with electronic circuits within a specified area.  “We have developed and validated the technology and the weapon in its usable form is expected to be complete within the 12th Plan,” Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL) director Dr Manjit Singh said.  “Though this is the biggest weapon of mass destruction next to a nuclear bomb, it has a limited collateral damage as it does not target humans and is designed to hit computer systems and networks,” he said.  The e-bomb, based on Explosive Driven High Energy Pulse Power Technology, can be deployed against non-military establishments like banking and civic utility networks, communication and power generation networks.  It not only disables gadgets and networks but also destroys or damages them, which can seriously affect day-to-day functioning of the society over an extended period of time. The bomb can also be used against mobile enemy command and control centres or advancing formations to render them “blind” by disrupting communication.  The basic principle of the weapon, according to APS Sodhi, a senior scientist working on the programme, is converting the explosive’s chemical power into electrical power. “Detonation of 1 kg of the designed explosive mixture can produce about 4.5 megaJoule of electricity energy,” he said. The explosive is a mixture of RDX and TNT.  Initially, DRDO’s e-bomb is being designed for delivery by combat aircraft and later, as technology is matured and the warhead made more compact, it would be integrated with missiles.  How does it work  The e-bomb produces a strong electromagnetic field generating powerful electricity surges that can play havoc with electronic circuits in a specified area  It not only disables and damages gadgets and networks, but also destroys them  The bomb can be used against mobile enemy command and control centres to render them “blind” by disrupting communication
No military resolution to problem: Russia
Moscow, November 7 Russia's foreign minister warned on Monday that any military strike against Iran would be a grave mistake with unpredictable consequences.  Russia, the closest thing Iran has to a big power ally, is deeply opposed to any military action against the Islamic Republic, though Moscow has supported United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.  The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is expected this week to issue its most detailed report yet on research in Iran seen as geared to developing atomic bombs. But the Security Council is not expected impose stiffer sanctions as a result.  Israeli media have been rife with speculation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working to secure cabinet consensus for an attack on Iranian nuclear installations.  "This would be a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said when asked about reports that Israel planned a military strike against Iran.  Lavrov said there could be no military resolution to the Iranian nuclear problem and said the conflicts in Iran's neighbours, Iraq and Afghanistan, had led to human suffering and high numbers of casualties.  A raid on Iran's nuclear facilities would be likely to provoke Tehran into hugely disruptive retaliatory measures in the Gulf that would sever shipping routes and disrupt the flow of oil and gas to export markets, political analysts believe.  Iran is already under four rounds of United Nations sanctions due to concerns about its nuclear programme, which it says is entirely peaceful.  Washington is pushing for tighter measures after discovering what it says was an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.  Russia has tried to push Tehran to disclose more details about its nuclear work to ease international concerns.  Senior Russian security officials accept that the West has legitimate concerns about the nuclear programme though Moscow says there is no clear evidence that Iran is trying to make a nuclear bomb.  Any military strike against Iran would be likely to sour ties between the West and Russia, whose leader, Vladimir Putin, is almost certain to win a presidential election in March.  "There is no military solution to the Iranian nuclear problem as there is no military solution to any other problem in the modern world," said Lavrov.  "This is confirmed to us every day when we see how the problems of the conflicts around Iran are being resolved -- whether Iraq or Afghanistan or what is happening in other countries in the region. Military intervention only leads to many times more deaths and human suffering." — Reuters
Work on roads along Chinese frontier restarts
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, November 7 Three weeks after The Tribune highlighted the slow pace of work on roads alongside the Chinese frontier, the Ministry of Defence has intervened and asked for immediately restarting work on such road stretches falling in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand areas.  According to sources, instructions in that regard were issued to the Border Roads Organisation last week, saying “this is top priority work”. People associated with such projects have been briefed by engineers as regards the pace of work that was expected of them in the coming months. The work on the Hindustan-Tibet road, running north of Shimla towards Rekong Peo-Sumdo, is one such project.  The ministry would be monitoring the work. “Issues created” due to various procedural matters would be sorted out, sources said.  In its editions dated October 18 and October 19, The Tribune had brought out how construction of strategically vital roads in the Himalayas was tottering way behind schedule and in some cases, stopped altogether. Till the end of September, the first half of the fiscal, only 25 per cent of the road-building work that was allocated for this financial year had been completed. Only Rs 1,337 crore had been spent by the BRO out of its budget of Rs 4,962 crore for the year 2011-12.  Some of the roads are of such strategic importance that the Army is paying out of its own budget and some roads had been recommended by the all-powerful China Study Group (CSG) headed by the Cabinet Secretary.  At the start of this summer, a spate of complaints led to a court of inquiry, presided over by Lt-Gen SS Sengupta, Commandant of the Pune-based College of Military Engineering. It noted: “The existing organisation, procedures and practices followed by the BRO will not hold ground in today’s environment.” The BRO is tasked with strategic road-building in the Himalayas. The Army and states demand high-quality work and complete accountability, it said.  “There is a need to restructure the BRO with better practices and transparency,” said the court of inquiry report and recommended formation of a study group. The report was submitted last month and it dismissed most of the complaints since these could not be proved.
A grand chessboard Role of regional powers in Afghanistan
by Harsh V. Pant  AS the NATO-led Western military forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, all major regional players and global powers are struggling to come to terms with the aftermath. Istanbul (Turkey) was the latest venue where 12 regional states and the Afghan government came together last week to make another effort at trying to bring some semblance of security and stability to Afghanistan and its surrounding region. A broader international gathering on Afghanistan will be held in Bonn next month, followed by a NATO summit in May in Chicago to assess the ground realities and political progress in Afghanistan.  Regional cooperation was declared at the Istanbul conference as the only viable alternative to the festering tensions that have plagued Afghanistan for decades. Various South and Central Asian governments suggested that they recognised that Afghanistan’s problems of terrorism, narcotics trafficking and corruption affected them all and had to be addressed through cooperative efforts. They adopted the Istanbul Protocol that commits countries as diverse as China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Russia to cooperate in countering terrorism, drug trafficking and insurgency in Afghanistan and in the neighbouring areas. In this context, Afghanistan’s traditionally divisive neighbours have pledged to support its efforts to reconcile with insurgent groups and to work together on joint security and economic initiatives to build long-term Afghan stability.  The Istanbul effort has been touted as a regional endeavour to solve a major regional issue and the very fact that many regional states came together to at least articulate a policy response is indeed a step in the right direction. But as the vision has been laid out in Istanbul, the practical difficulties in implementing the goals outlined remain as stark as ever. The differences among the participating states are strong enough to derail the rhetoric that emerged out of the conference.  The role of the US looms particularly large over the future of Afghanistan. Though the US was not mentioned in the declaration, it did attend the conference as a supporter, not as a primary participant. The presence of the US was necessary. After all, this is the country that spends more than $10 billion a month in Afghanistan and has nearly 100,000 troops there. Given its reluctance to maintain its military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, the Obama administration has already heavily promoted the meeting as part of a process that it anticipates will set conditions allowing all US and NATO combat troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The US has reached out to regional powers to bring them into Afghanistan more substantively. Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, was recently in India and China, and held talks with their governments to assess the role these countries can play in bringing about long-term peace to the strife-torn nation.  Meanwhile, a regional power struggle continues. Turkey made a public effort to try to mediate to end the differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan. As a result of this, Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari agreed to a joint inquiry into the assassination last month of Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was in charge of negotiations with the Taliban as head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. Rabbani’s slaying was part of a series of high-profile attacks in recent months that Afghanistan and the United States charge have been carried out by Pakistan-based Afghan insurgents. It remains to be seen if this would lead to normalisation of relations between Islamabad and Kabul.  India’s participation this year was significant as it was kept out at the behest of Pakistan from the Istanbul conference last year. India has growing stakes in peace and stability in Afghanistan, and the recent India-Afghanistan strategic partnership agreement underlines India’s commitment to ensure that a positive momentum in Delhi-Kabul ties is maintained. Reports that the Obama administration is relying on the ISI to help organise and kick-start reconciliation talks, aimed at ending the insurgency in Afghanistan despite accusing the disgraced spy agency of secretly supporting the Haqqani terrorist network, which has mounted sustained attacks on Western and Indian targets, should be worrying. The ISI has little interest in bringing the Haqqanis to the negotiating table as they continue to view the insurgents as their best bet for maintaining influence in Afghanistan as the United States reduces its presence there.  Other regional players have their own interests in the future of Afghanistan. Iran opposes any long-term American presence in Afghanistan under a security agreement being negotiated between Washington and Kabul that would follow the 2014 combat withdrawal. Russia wants to ensure that Afghanistan doesn’t become the source of Islamist instability that can be transported to its territories via other Central Asian states. China wants to preserve its growing economic profile in Afghanistan but is not interested in making significant political investment at the moment. It can also rely on its “all weather” friend in Pakistan to safeguard its interests in the Af-Pak region.  Conflicting interests over Afghanistan have tended to play a pivotal role in the formation of foreign policies of regional powers vis-à-vis each other and that continues to be the case even today. Afghanistan’s predicament is a difficult one. It would like to enhance its links with its neighbouring states so as to gain economic advantages and tackle common threats to regional security.  Yet, such interactions also leave it open to becoming a theatre for the neighbouring states where they can play out their regional rivalries. Peace and stability will continue to elude Afghanistan so long as its neighbours view it through the lens of their regional rivalries and as a chessboard for enhancing their power and influence. And these regional rivalries will only intensify if the perception gains ground that the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. India will have to ensure that it does not lose out as in the past as new realities emerge in the region.
Lunch with BS: Khutub Hai
Arms and the man Kanika Datta / New Delhi November 8, 2011, 0:07 IST  India’s private sector could create a world-beating defence industry, if only the government would encourage it, says the head of this emerging manufacturer.  Khutub HaiLunch, Khutub Hai says, is a non-event for him, so could we eat whatever comes from home instead of visiting a restaurant? Have a good breakfast, he joked. It really is a joke. We are in Hai’s Mahindra Towers office but judging from the quality of fare in front of us we could as well have been in, say, Big Chill, writes Kanika Datta. The ghar ka khana in this instance is mushroom soup with crisp toast followed by penne in tomato puree and herbs, an exquisite quiche, garlic bread and a large bowl of salad with a piquant dressing.
As chief executive of the 11-year-old Mahindra Defence Systems (MDS), Brigadier Hai, who retired from the army in 1998, has been on the frontline, so to speak, ever since defence production was opened to private sector participation, becoming an articulate votary of the emerging domestic industry. He has much to say about the prospects (exciting) and problems (many) of this business and ends up eating so sparingly that I am almost ashamed of my substantial repast.  Hai’s initiation to the business was not entirely planned. He had had, he says, a good innings in his 32 years as an officer in the 3rd Cavalry. He had fought “a war-and-a-half” — in Bangladesh and the north-east, where he was commanding officer before his retirement. And “someone actually paid me to live in Prague for three years” as military attaché. That remit, which covered Bulgaria and Hungary, coincided with the period just before, during and after the fall of communism, an experience he describes as “great fun”.  Persuaded by family friend Anand Mahindra to oversee the group’s automotive business in Delhi, his initial work involved just that. Any defence business at the time was connected to Mahindra’s work-horse, the jeep. In those days, Hai recalls, “You sat in your office, they called you, you went there and signed a contract and came back. No marketing was needed.”  When defence was opened to private participation, “Anand said, let’s form a focus on defence and see what we need to do to organise ourselves for future opportunities”. So MDS was formed as a profit centre within flagship Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), a structure that Hai says may change soon. In the early days, the aim was to have a single point of contact for the group for defence opportunities and to look beyond the jeep. Then it started exploring the market with a view to developing its own R&D and manufacturing.  For instance, an internal memo that Mahindra was looking to get rid of some chemical product capacity coincided with a CII seminar in which the Navy said it was looking for sea-mines. “We suddenly saw that our filament mining capability could be used to make these mines, so let’s give this a shot,” Hai recalls.  That was the kernel of a naval systems division, which focuses on underwater weapons systems and started making cases for mining, decoy and torpedo launchers. Hai says MDS has had several overtures from foreign companies. “This is a huge difference. In the early days when I went to the US nobody would talk to me. Today, half the US companies are here — in fact some of them have just left my office!” When I ask for names, he grins and gets busy with the soup, admitting only that a deal was “90 per cent through with a leading company”.  Foreign partnerships was the lynchpin of MDS’ strategy because, Hai points out, “there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.” Plus, foreign companies needed access to one of the world’s fastest growing markets. The search began for a long-term relationship with a company that was looking to make India a manufacturing hub for its worldwide products and eventually zeroed in on the UK’s BAE Systems.  That joint venture, called Defence Land Systems India, which Hai also heads, makes a mine protected vehicle (MPV) at a 20,000 square foot facility in Faridabad that MDS set up four years ago.  One project that’s keeping him in a state of animated anticipation is the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV), which the army is looking to bring into service in 2017. Hai says the $12 billion FICV project is “potentially bigger than MMRCA,” the medium multi-role combat aircraft for which financial bids were recently opened.  The FICV project comes under the “make” procedure in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) rules, which means Indian companies execute the work and choose their technology partners. But the intellectual property will be Indian and the government will fund the technology up to 80 per cent.  MDS is one of three companies (the Tatas and L&T being the others) that have been evaluated and Hai is confident of making the shortlist due to be announced in December. “Our joint venture with BAE means we have the best technology available.” For the elements that BAE does not have, MDS has formed a joint venture with Israel’s Rafael.  Hai sees this as a great leap forward in developing indigenous capabilities since Defence Land Systems will be the final systems integrator. “We have some 25 engineers working for the past 18 months, continuously attending workshops in Sweden and Israel.”  So, although MDS still sells jeeps, Hai says it’s becoming a smaller part of the business. “Our current range — armoured vehicles, high mobility vehicles, MPVs, going into artillery systems going into infantry combat vehicles…and it’s kept us quite busy.”  To give him a chance to taste the excellent pasta, I say as a latecomer, MDS is up against fierce indigenous competition from Tata and L&T that already have the capabilities his company is building. He insists that the way MDS has gone about the business makes it a first mover. “We are the only company that has a dedicated factory for defence vehicles in India — we’re not the last shed in the assembly line making defence products.”  Was that not expensive? “No, after all, company that wants to sell 200,000 vehicles a year cannot afford to spend too much time to selling 1,000 vehicles a year. We learnt this early. When I set up the second shed to make MPVs, everyone said, why are you setting up a second shed when you have no orders.” I point out that this was the other observation about MDS — there were no buyers for its products. “Factually,” he counters, “we have 87 per cent of the armoured vehicle market. No one else sells 300 vehicles a year.”  As we help ourselves to a largish slice of quiche each, he launches himself on one of his (and the industry’s) pet peeves: government decision-making that crimps the development of the private domestic industry. India is going to be buying almost $80-100 billion worth of capital equipment in the next seven to eight years (excluding offsets). Some 80 per cent will be imported. Who’s benefiting? Only the foreign partner. “Unless some drastic action is taken quickly and the private sector is incentivised to come into defence production the situation is not going to work,” he says. For instance, we intend to target a business opportunity of $18 billion and hope to achieve 60 per cent of that. But even now, no major projects are coming out.”  Why is the government so intransigent? Hai takes a long pause before answering carefully. “For better or for worse, they wanted a public sector monopoly. It hasn’t worked but the government has decided it’s an implementation problem. Now, a company like Bharat Electronics has a turnover of Rs 5,000 crore. It should be Rs 50,000 crore. HAL [Hindustan Aeronautics Limited] has a turnover of Rs 11,000 crore. What are they talking about? Had it been us or Tatas or Leyland, we would have been different.”  Two or three things explain why India lags in defence technology. One, the government makes changes to the DPP every year. “They’re largely cosmetic and, as a result, the procedures have become a means to an end.”  “Tell me,” he warms to the subject, “which other country would not take an artillery gun just because one vendor dropped out, another got blacklisted, you found one company left, so you say single vendor, re-tender! In view of our national security, it’s a horrendous risk. Are we buying for process or for national security?”  Unless acquisition and production form pillars of national security, things are not going to change, Hai predicts. I suggest the DPP has been a casualty of Defence Ministry A K Antony’s legendary honesty. “What does corruption have to do with it? You don’t need the enemy for this!” he counters.  There is much more forthright comment after he requests I switch off the tape but time is running out and, coffee over, I regretfully end a most instructive conversation on the ways of Raksha Bhawan and the global arms business.
TBRL to manufacture 10 lakh multi mode grenades for Indian Army
Chandigarh: Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL), which is located in the city, announced on Sunday that it would manufacture 10 lakh multi mode grenades (MMG) for the Indian Army.  The Chandigarh-Delhi chapter of High Energy Material Society of India (HEMSI) will hold a conference to commemorate the golden jubilee of TBRL.  '8th International High Energy Material Conference and Exhibit-2011' will be organised at Ramgarh range TBRL. This will upgrade our information and awareness regarding country's defence, internal and external security systems, Dr Manjeet Singh, Director, TBRL.  Dr Manjeet also said that TBRL was envisaged in 1961 as a modern armament research laboratory. "TBRL has been contributing in the country's defence with its researches and products."  "TBRL provide facilities for applied research and technology development in the fields of high explosive processing, detonics and warheads and other armament systems," he added.  There will be 24 technical sessions that will include 26 talks, 125 presentations, said Associate Director of TBRL Dr RP Singh. Also, 220 technical posters on explosives application, security management, and firecrackers manufacturing would be displayed, he said.  We will have experts from the US, Israel, UK, Russia, Germany, Ukraine and Czech who will discuss sensitive issues and throw light on some modern defence techniques, he added.  The MMD will replace the current 36m grenade that has been used by the Army for past many years. Ordinance factory at Khamaria has ordered 10 lakh MMD, said a TBRL official.
China creeping up in Ladakh
The dragon is breathing down the neck where India is most vulnerable — part of the ancient silk route that connects the Ladakh region in the northern most part of Jammu and Kashmir to the bordering Xinjiang region in China.  The Indian defence establishment recently began counter-measures after coming across intelligence that China had set up at least two missile storage facilities just across the line of actual control (LAC) in that area.  While New Delhi began building infrastructure in northern Ladakh, particularly at Daulat Beg Oldi on the old silk route, the intelligence on the missile site at Xaidulla came as a big surprise just three months ago.  The Indian Army has proposed deployment of short-range missiles, such as the BrahMos, along the LAC with the option of using the long-range ones also to act as a deterrent.  Satellite images showed 13 tunnels had been built at Xiadulla, an old base of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army of China, just 98 km from the Karakoram mountain pass between Ladakh and the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region.  Another missile facility has been located at Qizil Jilga, 40 km off the LAC in eastern Ladakh near the Western Tibet highway.  The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) beefed up its overall capability along the line of actual control (LAC) in Aksai Chin with new observation towers coming up across Indian positions.  Beijing is also working on a new road to link Kashgar in the Uyghur region to the Khunjerab pass in the Karakoram to connect Gilgit-Baltistan and the Xinjiang region and bypass the landslide-prone highway to Pakistan.  Even though Beijing has vastly improved its military capabilities in Ladakh, the PLA is not showing any aggression on that front. But the Indian Army believes that China has planned new activities and installations in the region to get an upper-hand in the political brinkmanship game.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni perfects his salute
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's dream of getting into the Army has finally been fulfilled - well, almost. Recently, the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Territorial Army was conferred upon him, so now, Dhoni will be representing the Parachute Regiment of the Indian Army.  He was thrilled during the ceremony, which was held in the capital recently. "Dhoni always dreamt of getting into the Army, and finally his dreams have been fulfiled. He looked so confident and smart in his uniform. And his salute was perfect!" said Col Ajay Ahlavat, a close friend of Dhoni, who attended the ceremony.  Col Ahlavat also told us how Mahi'd been practising the perfect salute before the ceremony! "For the past few months, Dhoni has been very busy with tournaments, and has had hardly any time to rest or be with his family. He arrived in Delhi a few days before the ceremony, and was staying with his wife Sakshi at the Rissala Polo resort. Meanwhile, he also took out some time to learn how to do a salute in the typical Army style, and he even rehearsed before going to the event. With the honorary title, Dhoni's main aim is to encourage more youth to join the Army, and he promises to visit the officers in the Territorial Army," he said.
Indian Army awarded best patrolling force in the world
The Indian Army has emerged the best patrolling force in the world with a team from the Gorkha Rifles regiment winning an international competition also called the Olympics of Patrolling. The gold medal is the first won by an Indian contingent.  The 4th Battalion of the 9 Gorkha Rifles regiment from the Bhopal-based 21 'Sudharshan Chakra' Corps participated in the annual Cambrian Patrol Competition at Wales in England last month.  It emerged the gold medal winner beating 100 teams, including 14 teams from national armies of foreign countries.  The Southern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. A.K. Singh, felicitated the team during his visit to the Rajasthan desert where the battalion has its headquarters, an army officer said here.  The Cambrian Patrol Competition is a widely-renowned military event conducted by the British Army and is held under adverse battle conditions in arduous jungle and mountain terrain.  "The aim of the Cambrian Patrol is to provide a challenging patrol exercise in order to develop operational capability as a mission oriented tactical team," the officer said.  The performance of the team hinges around leadership, team work, physical fitness, mental robustness and above all, tactical skills involving reconnaissance techniques, navigation, first aid and casualty evacuation.  The British Army has conducted Cambrian Patrol Competition for the last 40 years, where participants include teams from foreign armies.

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