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Thursday, 29 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 29 Dec 2011

India to soon get Russian nuclear submarines
Moscow, December 28 Indian Navy is set to receive a major boost when the much-awaited Russian 'Nerpa' nuclear attack submarine would join its fleet "in the next few days" on a 10-year lease worth $920 million.  The Akula-II class Nerpa nuclear submarine has finished sea trials and is now ready to be leased to the Indian Navy in the next few days.  "The submarine is now fully ready to carry out its tasks," a senior executive at the Amur Shipyard, where the submarine was built, was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.  "It will be handed over before the end of the year," the unnamed official said.  The submarine, capable of remaining underwater for months, will be rechristened 'INS Chakra'. It will be for the first time in more than two decades that the Indian Navy will have a nuclear attack submarine.  When Russia makes the delivery, it will make India only the sixth operator of nuclear submarines in the world, the report said.  The 10-year lease is worth $920 million, it said.  The Nerpa, an Akula II-class attack submarine, had originally been scheduled for delivery in 2008 but an accident during sea trials on November 8 that year forced the Russian authorities to put it on hold.  Twenty people, mostly civilians, were killed when a fire-suppressant gas was released on the Nerpa during shakedown trials, in one of Russia's worst naval accidents.  The Akula-II class submarines are equipped with 28 nuclear-capable cruise missiles with a striking range of 3,000 km. The Indian version is reportedly expected to be armed with the 300-km club nuclear-capable missiles. — PTI
Japan hints at exporting arms tech to India
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, December 28 In a significant departure from its long-standing policy, Japan today said it was not insisting on India signing the CTBT as a prerequisite for nuclear cooperation between the two countries and indicated it was open to hold talks with New Delhi on exporting military technology to India.  Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda today held wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on bilateral issues as well as international developments.  The prospects of reviving civil nuclear cooperation figured prominently in talks between the two PMs, official sources said.  A joint communiqué issued at the end of talks between them said the two PMs decided to enhance the earlier bilateral currency swap arrangement from $ 3 to 15 billion. They hoped that this enhancement would further strengthen financial cooperation, contribute to ensuring financial market stability and further develop growing economic and trade ties between the two countries.  Manmohan Singh said the two countries have also begun negotiations have begun on a social security agreement, and would hold t he first ministerial level economic dialogue in 2012.  He said he had discussed with Noda the possibility of a new Chennai - Bengaluru Industrial Corridor project in south India, where many Japanese firms have invested. Japan has also offered India high speed rail technology for India’s passenger networks.  The two PMs indicated that their two countries would soon revive negotiations on the civil nuclear cooperation accord. “As part of our energy cooperation, we reviewed the ongoing discussions on furthering civil nuclear cooperation between our countries. These are moving in the right direction.” Singh said.  Addressing a lecture organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs, Noda indicated that the civil nuclear talks with India would be revived soon and hoped "mutually acceptable results" would be achieved. He, however, urged New Delhi to understand Japan's position on disarmament and maintain its moratorium on testing.  "I am paying close attention to the progress of the agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. At the working level, discussions have proceeded. I welcome this progress," the Japanese Prime Minister said.  India and Japan have already held three round of civil nuclear negotiations, but the talks stalled after the March 11 Fukushima radiation disaster, fuelling security concerns in that country.  Earlier this afternoon, a spokesman for the Japanese PM told Indian journalists that Japan was not seeking any commitment from India on signing the CTBT for resuming the talks over a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. India, he said, has already announced its commitment to moratorium on further testing at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and Tokyo was confident that New Delhi would abide by its promise. The spokesman also responded to questions on Tokyo ’s decision yesterday to lift the 40-year-old ban on the export of military technology. Asked if Tokyo could now export its sophisticated weapons technology to India too, he said, “We don’t want proliferation…under very strict guidelines, we have decided to export military technology to friendly countries.”  About the recent trilateral dialogue in Washington involving India , Japan and the US which drew sharp criticism from China , the spokesman said the meeting was not aimed against specific country but to identify areas in which the three countries could cooperate.
Lokpal bill okayed, CBI can’t grill Indian Army
WorldNewsCorner: In a major development, Indian Parliament has approved Lokpal bill.  Only two MPs didn’t attend the session, according to an Indian TV.  Under the approved bill, the armed forces of India cannot be held accountable by government-controlled Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).  Opposition parties boycotted the vosting session, while there were 247 votes for and 178 against the bill.  India s prime minister earlier warned opponents of the key anti-graft bill that they risked unleashing “chaos and anarchy” as he sought to push the divisive legislation through parliament on Tuesday.  Premier Manmohan Singh spoke during a heated debate on the draft law, which was branded too weak by opposition parties and veteran activist Anna Hazare who launched a hunger strike Tuesday to demand the bill be redrafted.  Parliament was convened for a special three-day session devoted to the new legislation which would create an independent “Lokpal” or ombudsman to probe corruption among senior politicians and civil servants.  The main points of contention focus on the ambit of the ombudsman s office and its powers of investigation.  The government bill offers only limited jurisdiction over the prime minister and requires the ombudsman to put any criminal probes in the hands of the government-controlled Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).  Hazare and a number of opposition parties want the ombudsman s office to have its own, independent investigative team.  But Singh insisted that such a move would be tantamount to creating a separate, unelected executive that was unaccountable to parliament or the Indian people. –Agencies
Drunk ex-army man shoots at driver
In an apparent case of road rage, a 42-year-old retired Naik Subedar from the Indian Army fired at a truck driver for not giving way near ESI Hospital in Rajouri Garden around 9.45pm on Tuesday. Police said the bullet, however, did not hit the driver. The accused has been arrested.  The ex-army man, identified as Ranvir Singh Malik, was allegedly under the influence of liquor when he fired at the truck driver. Malik was returning home in the Delhi Cantonment area after attending a party in Punjabi Bagh, police said.  V Renganathan, additional commissioner of police (west), said they were alerted by a PCR call. Malik was overpowered by two traffic police personnel deployed near the Raja Garden Marble market.  "The truck driver, Khalid, had approached the traffic police personnel to tell them that a man in an Alto car had fired at him. In the meantime, the said driver also arrived there and stepped out of his vehicle with a pistol in his hand. He was immediately overpowered by the policemen," said Renganathan.  The police recovered a licensed pistol with a bullet inside from the car of the accused. On asking, the man identified himself as Ranvir Singh Malik, an ex-serviceman. Meanwhile, truck driver Khalid told the police that he was driving towards Mewat in Haryana, a senior police officer said.  Renganathan said, “Near ESI hospital in Rajouri Garden, the accused ex-armyman signalled Khalid to stop his truck but the latter did not. A few metres ahead, Malik forced the truck to stop by stopping his car in front of the truck. He then came out of his car and fired a bullet on Khalid. Luckily, the bullet did not hit him."  Police said when questioned Malik told the police officers that he got enraged when Khalid did not give him way on the road.
PLA delegation in India, Army team to visit China in Jan
New Delhi, Dec 28 (PTI) As part of confidence building measures (CBMs), a 29-member Chinese army delegation undertook a four-day visit of India which will reciprocate by sending an army team led by a Major General next month. "A 29-member Chinese army delegation was on a four-day visit here as part of annual defence exchanges between the two countries," sources told PTI here today. The Chinese delegation held talks with their Indian counterparts here and then proceeded to Agra to see the functioning of the parachute units deployed there, they said, adding the team left for Beijing today. The two countries had decided to enhance defence exchanges as part of CBMs during their Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) held earlier this month. The Indian team under a Maj Gen will visit military facilities in China from January 10-13 and interact with their Chinese counterparts, they said. The decision to exchange these delegations was taken by the two countries before the ADD held on December 9. India and China have exchanged three military delegations this year after India broke the ice by sending a delegation under a Major General in June. During the talks, India also proposed to set up a Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) venue along Uttarakhand-Himachal Pradesh stretch of the Sino-Indian border as part of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between the two countries. So far, the two sides hold meetings at regular intervals at three such facilities in Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. The need for such a facility was felt as there is no such venue in the central sector of the 4,057-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries. The proposal is being considered by the Chinese.
Chinese army continues foreign exchanges
BEIJING - The Chinese defense department and army will actively carry out exchanges and communication with foreign countries next year, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said here Wednesday.  This year's military exchanges and cooperation with foreign countries were conducted in a comprehensive, multi-faceted and multi-level way, and positively contributed to China's diplomacy and the modernization of its armed forces, Yang said at a press conference.  He said China's military diplomacy enjoys an active, pragmatic and efficient momentum and sees frequent high-level contacts with foreign countries.  According to Yang, China in 2011 received more than 50 major foreign military delegations.  China also held defense consultations and security talks with eleven countries this year, including Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Germany, the United States and India.  In 2011, China's armed forces conducted eight joint drills or training with the army from countries such as Indonesia, Belarus and Venezuela, and carried out emergency rescue and relief work in seven countries, including Japan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Thailand, he said.  Yang said this year the Chinese army actively took part in dialogue within multi-lateral frameworks, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization  The Chinese army also participated in a UN peacekeeping operation, escort mission in the Gulf of Aden, and sent a naval hospital ship for a four-country Latin American visit, he added.
PAC Slams Army for Denying CAG Access to URCs' A/Cs
A Parliamentary committee today slammed the Army for "denying access" to auditors to look into the accounts of the Unit Run Canteens (URCs) having an annual turnover of over Rs.8,500 crore even ignoring Defence Ministry's directions in this regard.  There are 3,600 URCs in the country which are the retail sellers of consumer goods provided to them by the Canteen Stores Department (CSD).  The Comptroller and Auditor General has been seeking to audit accounts of the URCs on grounds that the CSD transfers money from the consolidated fund of India in the form of qualitative discounts.  This has been opposed by the armed forces claiming that URCs are run by non-public fund.  "The Committee is dismayed to note that Audit was denied access to records of the URCs by the Army Headquarters in spite of repeated requests on ground that URCs are regimental units and are being run from non-public fund.  "What is more intriguing is the fact that such denial was made despite directions of the Defence Ministry to make records of the URCs available for audit," the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said in its report tabled today.  On the argument of armed forces that audit of URCs will have an impact on morale of troops, the PAC said, "We fail to understand how auditing of URCs would be so intrusive as to have an adverse impact on the morale of troops."  Addressing a press conference, PAC Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi said CSD and URCs have reached a turnover of Rs 8,500 crore in 2008-09 and "these funds have to be audited" as these facilities are built on Government land and employ government officials.  He said appearing before the PAC, the three Services had opposed and expressed reservations about the audit of URC accounts but have now agreed to it.  The three Services Chiefs had reservations over appearing before PAC but they were directed by the Defence Ministry to do so, he said.  Noting an "apparent and inherent contradiction" in the statement made by the three Services that they provide welfare measures for the troops with the money they get from the URCs, the Committee said it was "burdening troops to self-contribute for their own welfare."  "The Committee fails to understand what restraints the Services have to come before Parliament to get requisite funds for welfare of jawans," Joshi said.  "The Committee is confident that no organ of the state would have objection if necessary and adequate funds for welfare of our gallant soldiers are sanctioned," the report said.  The PAC noted that finances of the CSD were brought under ambit of audit from April 1, 1977 but "surprisingly and for no cogent reasons, the URCs continued to be treated as private regimental institutions outside parliamentary control".  The PAC said, to depict the entire organisation operation of the CSD, "it is imperative that the URCs follow uniform accounting principles and their operational results are disclosed in proforma accounts of the CSD".  "The Committee is of the considered view that an assessment of the overall functioning of URCs by the CAG is of paramount importance and therefore must be subject to statutory audit," it noted.

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