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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 14 Dec 2011

Sukhoi-30 crashes near Pune, pilots eject safely
Pune, December 13 A Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft of the IAF today crashed soon after taking off from Lohegaon airbase near here but both the pilots managed to bail out safely.  "Both the pilots flying the aircraft ejected in time and landed safely. They have been evacuated and taken to the base for medical attention," IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Gerard Galway said. The aircraft, which was on a routine mission, had taken off from Lohegaon airbase at 1245 hours. It crashed at 1310 hours, he said.  "A Court of Inquiry (CoI) has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the crash and an IAF team has been rushed to the site of the wreckage," he said in New Delhi.  He said the aircraft lost contact with the base after apparently developing a technical problem, but the pilots managed to eject out safely in time. No casualty was reported on the ground, he said.  Pune Collector Vikas Deshmukh said the plane caught fire after crashing at an open forest department land. Fire tenders from the vicinity had been rushed to the spot, he said. This is the third crash of the Russian-origin Su-30 fighter planes since they were inducted into the IAF in 1997.  Today's crash is the eighth mishap involving IAF fighter aircraft this year. Seven MiG series aircraft had crashed earlier this year.  Before the SU-30 accident, a MiG-21 Bison had crashed in Sirsa in Haryana on December 2. During last three years, the IAF has lost 30 fighter aircraft and 10 helicopters in various crashes. As many as 26 defence personnel, including 13 pilots, have lost their lives in these crashes along with six civilians on the ground.  The first crash involving a Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft took place near Jaisalmer district in Rajasthan in 2009, 12 years after its induction in the IAF. That fighter aircraft, which was flown by Wing Commanders S V Munje and P S Narah, was returning to its base in Pune after completing a mission in Pokhran Firing Range near Jaisalmer.  While bailing out of the crashing aircraft, the parachute of Munje functioned properly but that of Narah failed to open, killing him on the spot.  The second accident involving air-superiority SU-30 fighter aircraft took place in December 2009 near Indian Army's Chandan firing range in Jaisalmer district, south-west of the Pokhran range.  The plane was on a routine training sortie when it lost contact with the base. No one was hurt in this accident as both the pilots managed to eject safely. — PTI  Third Crash  This is the third crash of the Russian-origin Su-30 fighter plane since it was inducted into the IAF in 1997. This crash is the eighth mishap involving IAF fighter aircraft this year.  13 pilots killed  As many as 26 defence personnel, including 13 pilots, have lost their lives in these crashes along with six civilians on the ground.
China denies base plan
Says other nations must not worry about its ships using Seychelles port Seychelles welcomed the Chinese escort mission and invited Chinese vessels to stop at the port of Seychelles for supply. It’s a normal international practice and based on our demand and needs in our escort mission's China will consider stopping over at ports of other countries for supply.  — Liu Weimin, Chinese spokesman  Beijing, December 13 Seeking to allay fears about its first overseas facility in Seychelles, China today said "other countries" should not worry about its naval ships frequenting a port in the strategically-located Indian Ocean island nation for "supply and stopover".  "Seychelles welcomed the Chinese escort mission and invited Chinese vessels to stop at the port of Seychelles for supply and stopover during Chinese ship's Escort Mission," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Weimin told a media briefing here today.  Chinese vessels have stopped over at the Djibouti, Oman and other countries for supply which, he said, is "normal international practice and based on our demand and needs in our escort mission's China will consider stopping over at ports of other countries for supply".  "Such acts are completely transparent and should not worry other countries," he said. Asked whether the facilities included troops and planes on the ground, he said "I have not heard of this issue". "On this issue, China's position is clear. China has never set up military bases in other countries," he said, reiterating Beijing's long-standing policy of not establishing permanent military bases abroad.  With regard to China's actions in Darfur, Liberia and other conflict ridden areas, its missions are under the mandate of UN and these actions have also been well received by other countries, he said.  Meanwhile, Chinese military analysts told the media China's plan to establish "supply and recuperation" facilities in Seychelles do not amount to setting up a military base.  "The navy is considering taking on supplies in the Seychelles while conducting escort missions to tackle piracy. Military experts stressed that the move did not equate to establishing military base," state-run China Daily said.  The Chinese Defence Ministry said yesterday that that its naval fleet may seek supplies or recuperate at appropriate harbours in Seychelles or other countries as needed during escort missions.  Speculation of a military base was rife following comments by Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam that his country has invited China to set up a military presence in his country.  "We have invited the Chinese government to set up a military presence on Mahe to fight the pirate attacks that the Seychelles face on a regular basis. For the time being China is studying this possibility because she has economic interests in the region and Beijing is also involved in the fight against piracy," Adam said during recent visit by Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie.  "As China will not send troops to protect the supply stop in the Seychelles, by no means can it be called an overseas military base," the Daily quoted Li Jie, a professor at the Naval Military Studies Research Institute as saying.  Beijing has repeatedly confirmed that its policy of not stationing troops abroad will not be altered. — PTI
US, Iran continue to spar over spy drone
Obama wants his plane back It’s our property now, declares Tehran  Washington, December 13 Acknowledging that its most modern spy plane was in Iranian hands, US President Barack Obama has asked Tehran to return the drone even as a top American official expressed doubts over Iran’s claim that it will able to reverse engineer the drone.  “We’ve asked for it (drone) back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond,” Obama said at a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.  It was the first time when Obama administration acknowledged that the bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel, a radar evading stealth drone, was in Iranian hands, which Tehran says it brought down as the plane was flying over its territory.  Meanwhile, Iran scoffed at Obama's request. The US drone captured by Iran is now the property of the Islamic republic, Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said.  "The American espionage drone is now Iran's property, and our country will decide what steps to take regarding it," Vahidi was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency. "Instead of apologising to the Iranian nation, it (the United States) is brazenly asking for the drone back," Vahidi also said, according to another news agency, Mehr.  Iran "will not back down from defending the nation or its interests," Vahidi declared.  Earlier, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said: "It seem he (Obama) has forgotten that Iran's airspace was violated, spying operations were undertaken, international laws were violated and that Iran's internal affairs were interfered with.”  The country’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by CNN as saying, “There are people here who can control this spy plane, surely we can analyse this plane too.” Obama, however, shed no further light on the plane’s mission or why it failed to return to a base in Afghanistan.  “With respect to the drone inside of Iran, I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters that are classified,” he said.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had expressed doubts over Iran complying with US demand.  “Given Iran’s behavior to date, we do not expect them to comply,” Clinton told reporters at a press conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, with whom she discussed Iran.  Defence Secretary Leon Panetta voiced skepticism that Iran would manage to gain much of a technological advantage from the aircraft.  “It’s a little difficult to know just frankly how much they’re going to be able to get from having obtained those parts,” Panetta told reporters aboard a US military aircraft.  “I don’t know the conditions of those parts. I don’t know what state they’re in.” Asked if Iran may have forced the plane down in a cyber attack, Panetta said: “I don’t know”. — PTI
‘I am yet to see an NDA cadet who has failed in any part of his life’
Lt Gen Jatinder Singh, Commandant, National Defence Academy (NDA), who visited The Indian Express office for an interaction, talks about the changes and challenges that the nation’s premier defence training institute is facing and why he believes the defence forces are still the best career option for a youngster. The Idea Exchange was moderated by Senior Correspondent Pranav Kulkarni  Pranav Kulkarni: When you were a cadet, did you ever think you would be Commandant?  No. One can never think of that. In the (armed) services, the growth pyramid is steep at the top. Of the entire batch, just one per cent rise to the highest ranks. So, one can never think like that. This is the highest rank I could have reached, with age not being on my side.  Anuradha Mascarenhas: How were your days as a cadet?  Those were the days when India was still in her formative years. Things were rudimentary and have changed a lot now. Then, computers were not even heard of. Now, the entire NDA is on campus area network. That time, we did not even know binary, the very basic of a computer. The Army training used to be on a 0.303, today you have phenomenal weapons, automatic weapons. There are a large number of changes, technological as well as infrastructural. India has grown phenomenally and so has the NDA.  Manoj More: What is the status regarding the controversy on closure of the road between Chandni Chowk and NDA?  On September 28, we gave a written statement. That covers our perspective/role in the entire episode. The matter is sub-judice. There was a PIL filed. They went to court, which has given a decision in our favour understanding the security aspect of the NDA. One must understand that the NDA is a national heritage, an iconic institute of the nation. An institute of national importance. We at NDA feel that the road is for NDA, it was given to NDA with restrictions imposed by the government that things will not come up, there will be no commercial activity in that area. But things have come up. Why? I don’t know. They have come up in the past. Beyond this, I cannot comment as the matter is sub-judice.  Ishfaq Naseem: There are a number of other defence institutions in the city, do you interact with them for training?  Our training is related to what the services requirements are. Each service has a laid down curriculum, which we follow. There is an Inter-Services Study Group (ISSG) that meets occasionally to review the training. We have an Academic Study Group to review the academics. Based on these reviews, we carry out training. We interact with other establishments for training purposes. But security is my headache. I have to maintain the security not for myself but for the country.  Sunanda Mehta: There is a distinct change happening in the composition of the NDA. There is a decrease in the number of children of Army officers while there are many cadets from rural backgrounds now. How has this affected the Academy? Have any changes been made in the training given this trend?  Earlier, 20-30 per cent were officers’ children, now that has come down. It is natural. Today, children as well as parents are much wiser. Earlier, there used to be limited options: Engineering, medicine, the IAS and the Army. None wanted to join engineering or medicine because it involved lot of studies. So the easiest course left was the Army. Having joined, though, one realised how much one had to study! See, the entry is not in my hand. We have 70 per cent of cadets coming from backgrounds other than military and we welcome that. What it takes to be a leader cannot be changed whether he is from rural background, services background or any other. A military leader is different from other leaders. We make military leaders in the NDA. I am yet to see a person trained in the NDA having failed in any part of his life - whether he has retired as a Major, a Lieutenant Colonel or has taken up any other option. That is the type of training we provide the cadets. Their background is immaterial because the selection process is one. The UPSC conducts the entrance exam and selects 10,000 candidates from across the country. They are then put through Services Selection Board (SSB) and only 350 who are finally selected join, out of two-four lakh applicants. So at entry level, everyone is the same. From there, we pick up and train. Training is uniform for everyone, including foreign cadets. And from this training, you will realise that the chap who was last in merit will be performing the best because there is not much difference between them.  Pranav Kulkarni: Are you happy with the quality of cadets coming to NDA?  Yes, the quality is excellent.  Anuradha Mascarenhas: What about the foreign cadets?  Their intake is not a concern of the NDA or the Government of India. It is what the country selects and sends. What we are concerned with is the education. We do not give degrees to the cadets. We are educating them to obtain a degree. Degrees have their own rules and regulations. The entry level for BA, B.Sc and B.Sc Computer Science for Jawaharlal Nehru University is 10+2 and so is it for other universities in India. That is where we have a little bit of a problem. Majority foreign cadets are not 10+ 2 or equivalent, so their take-off level is a little lower. They go through the regimen but do not qualify for a degree. They go on to become leaders but cannot appear for university exam because of the lack of initial qualification.  Chandan Haygunde: From which parts of the country do you find more cadets coming in and which are the areas from where the numbers are less?  There are very few from Gujarat, Orissa, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A majority comes from north and central India. Among states, Maharashtra is in the top five. Punjab is not there, though.  Manoj More: Do you support compulsory military training?  In my view, compulsory military training is required where there is a shortage of people volunteering to join the Army. Today, there are stampedes where recruitment is happening. Do we require compulsory military training?  Sunanda Mehta: So why is there a shortfall of officers?  That is basically because of infrastructure. If I have the infrastructure for 6,000 cadets, there won’t be a shortage. But for 6,000 more, the infrastructure required would be tremendous. The amount of money the government will require to pump in is phenomenal.  Aaditi Jathar-Lakade: Are we likely to see women candidates in NDA?  I am a proud father of three daughters. Each one of them wanted to join the Army. As they could not, the elder one married an Army officer. She is a doctor and my son-in-law is also a doctor. The second one wanted to marry an officer, but when she could not, she married the brother of an Army officer. My younger daughter is currently doing her MBA and when she comes of age, I am sure she will select a fauji. That apart, these decisions are taken at the highest level. It is not for me to decide whether girls would come to NDA. If they could, my daughters would have been the first ones to join.  Anuradha Mascarenhas: Can you comment on the recent reports about censoring the posts on social media sites?  As a policy, I would not want to comment. But as a soldier, I would like to educate people. As a Lieutenant General, I know whether I should be on Facebook or not, whether I should post my photograph in uniform on Facebook or not. For a cadet to know all this is too early. Therefore, at different levels they have to be taught different things.  Sunanda Mehta: Earlier, the NDA was like an isolated island of training. Now, the outside world has come in because of the Internet, the media exposure. Has it made the training difficult or has it helped?  Technology gives them access to the outside world. Outside world access to NDA may still be restricted. That is why the restrictions are still in place. While we have opened out - for instance I have come to you, but I will not give you anything I should not tell you. But this is my 38 years of training. This, a cadet will not know. Certain restrictions are good for the country. NDA is still an island - an island of excellence. Our time, there was no NDA Ball, now that access is permitted.  Pranav Kulkarni: With scams like Adarsh, Sukna and other land-related disputes, how do you make the cadet believe that what he has chosen is the best?  The fact that he has come to the NDA... he knows this is the best. There are so many other easier options available. They are easier but wrong options as far as he is concerned. That is why he has come to the NDA. Having said that, his perception has to be the same. Therefore, ethos, values which are the prime movers of a man, for a good leader in future, need to be inculcated. We have a laid down Honour Code to be followed by a cadet. Cadets ensure that it is followed by other cadets. In Honour Code, cadets can award legal punishments to each other if they do anything against it. These are some ways in which you train. But he (cadet) has it in him that this is the best service which has stood (by) the nation, which has not failed the nation.  Pranav Kulkarni: But doesn’t this in addition to the ‘squadron tradition’ get misused?  That is why we are there. There are laid down punishments. Honour Code permits Academy appointments to award punishments that I give. Cadets sit and decide whether a cadet gone against the Honour Code, they decide the punishments. Traditions change over time. Traditions change if they are misused. Good parts remain, bad parts change.  Pranav Kulkarni: For instance, returning to the squadron front-rolling if a match is lost. Is it necessary?  It is not there now. During my time, if you spoke about traditions, you would not like to come to the Academy. Front-rolling is part of military training. If a chap can’t front-roll, he cannot pass out.  Anuradha Mascarenhas: The NDA mess has been one such tradition.  As many as 4,600 calories are given to each cadet every day, but we make sure he burns them daily too.  Sunanda Mehta: There is the issue of stipend too. Those in railways and civil services get a stipend while undergoing training unlike the NDA cadets.  We have told the government that this needs to be looked into to make it more attractive for students to join. But all other academies are finishing academies, the NDA is not that. But still, we have taken up the issue.  Chandan Haygunde: Should the Army be involved in anti-Naxal operations and is it part of NDA training?  At NDA, we study every problem, not just Naxalism. Every type of combat - whether conventional, insurgency related and so on... we cover it. It is based on the syllabus that is laid out. Today, a cadet is much more aware than anyone else.  Ishfaq Naseem: What about lifting Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)?  No decision in a democracy should be taken in isolation. One decision is where the Army is actually called in. We did not go there on our own, we were called. When we are called, we have to have powers. When you are talking of withdrawing powers, you have to consult us.  Pranav Kulkarni: The NDA is the only tri-services institution in the country. But do you see that integration taking place at the top? Is it jointmanship or ‘course-mates at work’?  I was 42nd course, Juliet Squadron. We were 28 cadets, of whom 70 per cent were from the Army and the rest from the Air Force and Navy. The squadron spirit thrives till you die. It is not only the course spirit, but squadron spirit — jointmanship is related to your upbringing in the NDA, that was the vision. You may not be working together, like for example if I am in the Army HQ, my coursemate may not be with Air HQ, but if he has a counterpart in Air HQ, it will make a difference... it will work. This is the spirit and that is the benefit we are reaping at the national level. It is the spirit of coursemates... like I said the pyramid is thin at the top, very few people reach the top. So the decision making at that level is very cordial when you are an ex-NDA.  Sunanda Mehta: There was a phase when a lot of officers were leaving the forces and taking up corporate jobs. There were bright officers. Now with the new pay commission, has this come down?  Being a democracy, people can leave for greener pastures but services requirements cannot be compromised. Because services requirements are the nation’s requirements. The nation’s defence cannot be compromised. So much money is spent on moulding a cadet into a leader, one should not leave him that easily.  Pranav Kulkarni: Is there correspondence between IMA, INA, AFA and the NDA?  As NDA Commandant, I visit all these academies. I did that when I took over as Commandant to get their opinions on the cadets. They keep telling us shortcomings and plus points. We capitalise on plus points and work hard on the negatives to make sure we send out a complete man, a complete leader. Similarly we take feedback from Young Officers’ course, Company Commander course and others.  Pranav Kulkarni: And how is the response?  Excellent... not a single ex-NDA has failed in life. All the chiefs today are from NDA. The last time they visited together, they were from the same squadron. There are large number of foreign cadets from NDA, they go up to become chiefs. After the training we impart, many countries take them as officers without sending them to finishing academies.  Sunanda Mehta: What is one change you would want to bring about in NDA?  I would not like to bring about any change. It is working beautifully. We are producing world-class leaders. Yes, I would like to bring about infrastructural changes much faster... Sanctions take a little long.  Pranav Kulkarni: Did you always want to join the forces? How’s the journey been?  It was an ambition to join NDA. One had heard of the NDA, never visited, so when one became a cadet there was no looking back. I excelled in my training, passed out as Squadron Cadet Captain of Juliet Squadron. Even after becoming a Lieutenant General, I am still in touch with the Divisional Officer and Squadron Commander I had in 1969, so you can imagine the impact they had on me. The grooming one receives at NDA is extraordinary. The capability, capacity development is such that you never felt you were an inferior human being. You took on everything with courage and determination. Every challenge was faced squarely. That is how I have risen to the highest rank. The journey has been full of challenges and sacrifices. My biodata says ‘counter insurgency expert.’ But this combat is not fought at home but on the field. Then your wife, children are not with you. These are the sacrifices one has made — one’s children, wife have made. These are the aspects the civil population cannot realise. They look at the glory, they look at the Commandant’s bungalow. But 38 years have been full of hard work and sacrifice. And no compromise.  Pranav Kulkarni: And you still feel youngsters should step forward and join the forces.  Of course. This is the best profession that anyone can aspire to take up and grooming in NDA is the best in the world.
Indian army raid on Hurriyet leaders’ houses condemned
SRINAGAR, (SANA): Chairman Hurriyet Conference-Geelani, Syed Ali Gilani, has strongly condemned the raid by Indian troops on the house of Jammu and Kashmir Muslim League District Kupwara President, Muhammad Akran Najjar, and harassment of his family.  A statement issued by the forum’s spokesman in Srinagar said that the troops had left a message for Akram directing him to immediately approach the Indian army camp or else be ready to face dire consequences.  Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in a statement in Srinagar denounced the Indian army raid on the house of the party’s District Srinagar President, Muhammad Aslam. The statement said that the troops cordoned off the area before raid and harassed the family of the JKLF leader.
Defence spend in 5 years to cross Rs 5,20,000 crore
NEW DELHI: Defending long unresolved borders against two potentially hostile nuclear-armed neighbours does not come cheap. Besides, acquiring a wide array of weapon systems for billions of dollars, India will spend upwards of Rs 60,000 crore over the next five years on developing military infrastructure and capabilities for the western and eastern fronts.  If the cost of raising the already-sanctioned new mountain strike corps in the north-east is pegged at another Rs 60,000 crore and a conservative estimate of defence capital outlay in the 2012-2017 timeframe crossing Rs 4,00,000 crore are taken into account, it adds up to a staggering Rs 5,20,000 crore. This does not include the huge day-to-day cost of maintaining a 13-lakh armed forces.  Defence minister A K Antony on Monday gave figures for the planned development of military infrastructure, with new fighter bases, helipads, bunkers, forward ammunition dumps and the like, to strategically counter China and Pakistan.  Responding to queries on major projects of Military Engineer Services (MES) in Lok Sabha, Antony pegged the planned ``development'' of Army infrastructure and ``improvement'' of IAF infrastructure in the north-east at Rs 7,374 crore and Rs 1,753 crore, respectively.  Similarly, capability development along the northern borders will cost Rs 24,312 crore, while upgrade of storage facility for ammunition will come for Rs 18,450 crore.  Construction of suitable habitat for soldiers deployed in high-altitude areas like Kargil, Siachen-Saltoro Ridge and Ladakh, which includes insulation, dome and fibre-glass based shelters, will cost another Rs 6,000 crore.  Sources say the infrastructure coming up in the Eastern Army Command includes 5,572 ``permanent defences and bunkers'' along the Line of Actual Control with China as well as helicopter and drone bases at Missamari, Kumbhigram and Lilabari in Assam.  This is in addition to IAF deploying Sukhoi-30MKI fighters in Tezpur and Chabua as well as progressively upgrading ALGs (advanced landing grounds) in Arunachal and eastern Ladakh.  The Army's offensive punch will, however, come when the new mountain strike corps, with headquarters in Panagarh (West Bengal), takes concrete shape in the 12th Plan, with two new specially trained and equipped divisions under it.  Two divisions, with 1,260 officers and 35,011 soldiers, with their HQs in Zakama (56 Div) in Nagaland and Missamari (71 Div) in Assam, have been raised over the last couple of years.  Together, the four new divisions add up to around 75,000 troops. ``For decades, our posture against China in North-East has been defensive. This is the first time we will have offensive capabilities in the mountains if they are needed,'' said a source.  They are needed, even if for deterrence. With five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), China is capable of rushing over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) at their ``launch pads'' on LAC in double-quick time, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 in the region.

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