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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 31 Jan 2012
14 nations to join India in naval exercise

New Delhi, January 30
Aiming to strengthen cooperation among navies in the region, Indian Navy will host 14 of its counterparts from South East Asia, Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region for eighth edition of Milan exercise in Andaman and Nicobar Islands starting Wednesday.

The five-day exercise will see participation of Seychelles and Mauritius for the first time in the event where nine countries including India will field warships. — PTI
UAV from 3 Idiots now part of defence forces
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that awed viewers in the Bollywood hit 3 Idiots has been officially inducted into the paramilitary forces. The Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are using the drone, titled ‘Netra’, in counter-insurgency

The autonomous UAV for surveillance and reconnaissance was inducted into the paramilitary forces last month while the army, navy and several state police forces have shown a keen interest in acquiring it, say its makers.

It was developed by Ideaforge Technology Pvt Ltd, a company floated by a group of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Mumbai alumni, and the Pune-based Research and Development Establishment (Engineers) laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

DRDO, after watching the film, tied up with IdeaForge to refine the Netra. It is designed specifically for anti-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations in forested areas. It can be used in hostage situations, border infiltration monitoring, local law enforcement operations, search and rescue operations, disaster management and aerial photography.

“Ten units of Netra have already been taken by the DRDO for research related works in their laboratories like Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) in Manali while less than a dozen have been provided to paramilitary forces,” IdeaForge vice-president (marketing and operations unmanned systems) Amardeep Singh said. “We have given the right of production to IdeaForge and those interested in buying it can get in touch with the company,” Alok Mukherjee, head of DRDO’s robotics division, said.

The company is now working on the next version of Netra in order to increase the flight time from the present 30 minutes per battery charge. It can fly within a radius of 1.5 km at an altitude of around 200 metres.
India ramps up ties with Myanmar, Thailand
Jyoti Malhotra / New Delhi Jan 31, 2012, 00:38 IST

The road from Moreh, a town on the Manipur-Myanmar border, to Imphal was used by the Japanese army in 1944 to come right inside the heart of British India’s north-east, even challenging the might of the empire.

For decades thereafter, the Imphal-Moreh road as well as other border roads in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland were pretty much left to their own fate, as India deliberately ignored the development of border infrastructure, fearful of easing an enemy’s passage inside the country once it had broken through the frontier.
But as India revamps its mindset on border areas and begins to look at neighbouring states — such as Myanmar and Bangladesh — as part of a contiguous hinterland that must also participate in India’s economic growth, the first glimmer of a shift in South-East Asia’s balance of power is becoming slowly apparent.

Take the stream of visitors making their way to Delhi recently, in the run-up to India’s commemoration in December 2012 of its “Look-East policy” and its 20-year-old partnership with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).

Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang’s official visit last October was quickly followed by Myanmarese president Thein Sein, also in October. Last week, just as Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 44, arrived in the capital to attend the Republic Day parade, the first woman head of government in several decades, Myanmar foreign minister Maung Lwin was departing Delhi’s shores.

Interestingly, 2010’s chief guest at the Republic Day ceremonies was South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, while last year’s chief guest was Indonesian president Susilo Yudhoyono, the latter a key member of Asean.

Yingluck, whose closeness to her brother and former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is an open secret, is a businesswoman, as well as married to one. She is expected to follow in Thaksin’s footsteps, which is to promote a CEO-like approach to governance, even though Thaksin, still a billionaire, remains in exile in London and Dubai.

That school of thought clearly struck a chord in Delhi last week, through the official dialogue as well as at her meeting with the industry associations. Annual India-Thailand trade currently touches $7.5 billion, but with Yingluck proposing greater Thai investment in India — in the hotel industry, in the food-and-vegetable cold chain — chances are that both countries will double their target by 2015.

Still, it was Yingluck’s offer to India to invest in an Italian-Thai joint venture that is seeking to build a world-class port and attendant infrastructure in the Dawei special industrial zone on Myanmar’s south-western coast, that has stirred the tea leaves in the region.

Dawei’s geographical location — on the isthmus that separates the Andaman Sea from the Gulf of Thailand — is so compelling that it has the potential to completely transform India’s relationship with Asean as well as East Asia.

Both Chennai and Kolkata are just across the Bay of Bengal, and both countries are already talking in terms of ramping up connectivity across this large lake by introducing ferries to Yangon, as well as Dawei.

As Myanmar emerges from its self-imposed isolation and reaches out to the world, and the world returns the compliment, Dawei could soon become a major stop on the maps of merchant ships.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Yangon and her announcement that the US would soon revoke sanctions on Myanmar (this is expected to happen once democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi participates in the April elections) is both a reaffirmation of the democratic spirit in Myanmar — as well as the US return to challenging China’s rising power in Asia.

In Clinton’s wake, from Pakistan to France, the world is beating a path to Myanmar’s door. Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari has been the most recent visitor, but dignitaries from France, UK and Australia have travelled both to its interior capital, Naypydaw, as well as paid obeisance to Suu Kyi in Yangon. Interestingly, Myanmar’s parliamentary speaker, Shwe Mann, told his Indian counterpart, Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar, as well as Indian officials during his visit here in December, that “India’s model of inclusiveness was a model for Myanmar.”

Myanmar’s foreign minister, Maung Lwin, reiterated the message last week, giving Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a detailed account of Myanmar’s “planned and orderly commitment to reform,” both economic and political. Agreements with several dissident ethnic groups have been reached, he said, and discussions with those holding out, such as the Kachins, remain on the cards.

India’s trade and economic figures with Myanmar, at $1.25 billion, are low, especially when compared to Myanmar’s trade relationship with China, touching $4 billion. Myanmar exports natural resources, such as timber, and agricultural products such as kidney beans or ‘rajma’, to India, while India exports machinery, industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods.

Nevertheless, Delhi remains heartened by the fact that only days before Thein Sein came to India last October — he began his visit by paying his respects to Buddha’s shrine in Bodh Gaya — the Myanmarese cancelled a $3.6-billion dam that China was building in their country.

Thailand’s proximity means it is a natural player in Myanmar. Besides the Dawei investment, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported last week quoting the New Light of Myanmar, four foreign companies were forming a joint venture with three domestic companies to run a special economic zone in Pathein, in the Ayeyawady region, also in south-western Myanmar. Two of the four foreign companies are from Thailand, one from Hong Kong and the fourth from Indonesia.

Indian officials point out that strategic interest in Myanmar, as well as in the greater Asean region, can only be complemented by “greater Indian business interest. Indian companies should take advantage of the fact that India refused to kowtow to US pressure and withdraw from Myanmar. Now as Myanmar opens up, they have to be first off the mark,” one official told Business Standard.

Essar and ONGC Videsh are making money from their 20 per cent stake in an oil block off the Rakhine coast, officials point out, while a detailed project report on building a 1,200-Mw project on the Chhindwin river is almost ready.

Officials say they hope the private sector will make use of India’s $500-million credit announced during Thein Sein’s visit to improve ties with Myanmar.

Delhi’s intention to expand its presence in the region is at last showing on the ground. Finally, 132 km of a beautiful, road from Moreh, the Manipuri border town, and across the border to Mandalay, as well as the last 165-km stretch to Mandalay has been built.

With the Thais also building their share of the stretch from Myanmar, the trilateral highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand could soon put India’s neglected north-east in the heart of Asean’s action.
Pak hardliners openly spew anti India, US, Israel venom
Islamabad, Jan 30 (ANI): Various hardliners, including the Pakistan Defence Council (PDC) have warned the government against reopening of NATO supply routes, threatening strikes and sit-ins if the rulers compromised on the issue.

They said that they strongly opposed any compromise over the blood of Pakistan Army and tribal brothers in return for dollars.

Demanding that drone attacks should be stopped immediately, PDC Chairman Maulana Samiul Haq said the government should resort to the path of jehad instead of trying to appease the US by supporting its policies.

Haq said that they wanted peace and stability in the country, but if the US, India, Israel or any other power dared aggression, they would be responded to with full force, adding that the whole nation was united for the defence of Pakistan.

He further said that India, which allegedly was responsible for the killings of tens of thousands of Muslims, should not be given the status of Most Favoured Nation (MFN).

Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Professor Hafiz Muhammad Saeed even went to the extent of saying that all religious parties would stop NATO supplies to US soldiers in Afghanistan by force if the government doesn’t announce a date for quitting the American war on terror.

Saeed further said that the US and India were highly worried because of their defeat in Afghanistan, and therefore they have launched a propaganda campaign against Pakistan.

He said that India begged Washington not leave it alone in Afghanistan but Americans assured New Delhi they would get her declared most favoured nation by Pakistan.

Saeed also said that the “Multani prime minister” is quick to accepting his mistakes like his retreat on Abbottabad operation and a statement in Supreme Court. “I advise him to confess this land was used against Afghanistan.”

“Let’s seek forgiveness from Allah. Let’s accept publicly that the strategic partnership with US was a wrong decision,” he added.

Chairman of the council and chief of JUI-S Maulana Samiul Haq administered oath to the participants, who pledged not to hesitate in sacrificing their lives for the sake of the country and for foiling American, Indian and Israeli conspiracies. (ANI)
Maiden Fauji Mela enthralls audience
GUWAHATI: The first 'Fauji Mela' exposition held by 4th Corps at the historic Darrang College ground in Tezpur on Sunday was opened with a heartrending song by Bhupen Hazarika 'Koto Juwanor Mrityu Hoi', which he wrote while sitting at the Bomdila Club after the Sino-Indian War in 1962.

Defence spokesman Lt Col S S Phogat said the event organised by the 4thCorps headed GOC Lt Gen Shakti Gurung was inaugurated by chief minister Tarun Gogoi. "The exposition was aimed to showcase the strength, organization and capabilities of the Indian army to the people of the state. The finesse of its conduct by the Gajraj Corps made it an event to cherish," the spokesman stated.

The theme of the Fauji Mela was, 'We care for our People'. The role of the army in national integration manifested itself in the event. The chief minister's wife, Dolly Gogoi, also present at the mela which was attended by several senior civil and military dignitaries, including chief secretary NK Das.

The highlight of the mela was a well choreographed display of combat power comprising of combat free fall by commandos, mock attacks, battle drills and a high energy charge by Gorkha soldiers severing the heads of the enemy with their khukris. There was also a captivating display of skills by the army dog unit and delightful trick riding on mules exemplified the cohesiveness of the army jointmanship with the Air Force.

The event was witnessed by over 10,000 spectators, the spokesman added.
More Army resistance over AFSPA than I would have liked: Omar
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has expressed surprise over “more resistance” from the Army over withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain areas of Jammu and Kashmir despite assurances that their interests would be protected.

Maintaining that discussions on partial withdrawal of AFSPA were on, Omar said the Army never had a counter-insurgency role in Srinagar district as it was always the state police and CRPF playing the role. “Unfortunately, there is more resistance than I would have liked from the Army for the reasons I don’t understand. It’s a considered decision that the areas that we are looking at for the removal of AFSPA are the areas where we don’t require the Army to operate.” He said the state was ready to take into consideration rightful concerns of the Army.

“We understand Army has certain concerns regarding their establishment whether it is Badami Bagh (Cantonment area), Sharifabad and Tattu ground (army camps). We are saying those areas... we will keep them out of ambit...,” he said.

‘India’s rights record in 2011 disappointing’
New York: Human rights record of India in 2011 got a thumbs down from a leading global rights group for its “failure” to protect vulnerable communities and rapped the government for custodial killings and police abuses. Human Rights Watch (HRW) also criticised the government for its inaction in repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and for remaining silent on the “gravest abuses” in countries like Syria.

In its World Report 2012, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries. In India’s case, HRW said it has been a “disappointing year for human rights”.
“Custodial killings, police abuses including torture, and failure to implement policies to protect vulnerable communities marred India’s record in 2011 as in the past,” HRW said in its report.

Monday, 30 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 30 Jan 2012
Army Chief's Age Row-Part 6
A matter of propriety vs integrity
By Raj Chengappa Editor-in-Chief

Gen VK SinghIf the Government believed that the issue regarding the date of birth of General Vijay Kumar Singh had been settled once he had been appointed as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on 31 March 2010 it would soon be mistaken.

Singh would bring it up again raising serious questions about propriety apart from misuse of office. There was a feeling that the General should have distanced himself from investigations into his age issue because as COAS the two crucial wings involved, the Military Secretary's (MS) Branch and the Adjutant General's (AG) Branch now reported to him. But we are getting ahead of the chronology of events.

After Singh took over as COAS, there was a six month lull on the age issue before it was reopened in the most curious fashion. In October 2010, the Army's Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) got a flurry of queries under the Right To Information (RTI) Act with regard to General V.K. Singh's date of birth.

The RTI route

On 11 October 2010, Lt Col Attar Singh living in Delhi requested information as to whether a Court of Inquiry had been conducted with regard to "the determination of the correct date of birth" of VK Singh, COAS. The MS Branch then directed the query to the AG's branch stating, "it is the official custodian in respect of the information sought." The AG's Branch replied on 29 December 2010 that, "no Court of Inquiry has been conducted" on the subject.

Meanwhile, on 14 October 2010, Attar Singh had sent another RTI query, "seeking information as to the number of instances wherein the MS Branch had effected changes in the date of birth of the serving officers and ranks after two years of their commissioning. "The MS Branch replied on 17 November 2010 that there were five such cases where dates of birth were changed after the statutory period of two years. The point being that Singh's case was not unusual.

Then on 28 October 2010, Dr Kamal Taori, a retired IAS officer, requested information regarding anomalies in Singh's age with regard to his matriculation certificate and the Army records. Taori also wanted to know the age and date of birth of five serving General Officers of the army. There was another similar query by Ravikesh K Sinha, said to be a lawyer, on 12 January 2011.

In the interim, there occurs an apparently unrelated exchange of letters starting 25 November 2010 between the Indian Military Academy (IMA) and the National Defence Academy (NDA) from the Adjutant General's (AG) Branch AAG Manpower Planning, MP, 6 (A) with regard to verification of the documents of Gentleman Cadet's prior to being commissioned to the Army. General Singh cited these documents to bolster his arguments in his subsequent petitions to the Government on the age issue.

On 14 February 2011 in response to Taori's RTI query, Major General Satish Nair, ADG MP, put out an unusually detailed letter to Inder Kumar, Legal Advice (Defence), LA (Def) Ministry of Law and Justice, that concluded, "The documents held with the AG's Branch would lead only to one conclusion that the date of birth in respect of the officer is… 10 May 1951."

Nair then stated, "Before reply to the RTI query to the applicant is given, advice of the LA (Defence) is requested on the above facts and circumstances on the issue whether the date of birth may be informed to the said application as 10 May 1951."

Startlingly, on such a significant matter, Inder Kumar, replies to Nair's letter on the same day i.e. 14 February 2011. It is an extremely detailed reply containing even Supreme Court judgments on the matter. Kumar's opinion concluded: "We are of the view that the DOB recorded in the High School Certificate is having a greater evidentiary value. The PIO may accordingly give a reply to the applicant holding the DOB (Date of Birth) as 10 May 1951."

On 23 February, 2011 an innocuous reply is sent to Taori by Brigadier A.K. Tyagi of the RTI Section giving an annexure that shows that the date of birth of General Singh as per AG records is 10 May 1951 and that of his High School Certificate is also 10 May 1951. Similar information is provided for five other general officers that the RTI petitioner had asked for.

On 25 February 2011, Nair, the ADG, MP, then wrote to Deputy MS (X) ordering that, " The following amendment be made in the records of the COAS by the MS branch with info to all concerned that, "For: 10 May 1950; Read: 10 May 1951. The above amendment is in accordance with advice of LA (Def) and accepted on file by the Ministry of Law."

MS doesn't play ball

There is no immediate reply from the MS Branch. Meanwhile, Brigadier Tyagi writes another letter to Taori, the RTI applicant, on 8 March 2011 offering "additional information" and stating, "In this connection the Date of Birth as record in the HSC (Rajasthan Board) as well other documents of IC 24173 Gen VK Singh COAS is 10 May 1951. There are no averments in this regard. However, there was an omission in one Branch and as advised by LA (Def), Ministry of Law and Justice, necessary correction is being made to correct the omission."

MoD called in

The MS Branch though does not cooperate with the AG Branch and wanted MoD clearance to be obtained on such a significant issue. R. Chandrashekaran, the Deputy MS, in his letter of 16 March 2011 to Nair, the ADG MP, stated, "As per policy…changes in the date of birth in respect of Commissioned Officers are required to be accepted by the Competent Authority in the MoD. It is requested that requisite approval of the Competent Authority to the acceptance of the change in the instant case be obtained and intimated to this Branch to enable relevant records being amended accordingly."

Nair of AG's Branch is back with a detailed reply on 21 March 2011, clarifying that, "the subject case does not pertain to request for change in the date of birth of the said officer but only a correct after a mistake has come to light." He claimed that the "MoD had been informed about the same" and " in light of the facts stated above you may initiate necessary action at your end to correct the anomaly of incorrect entry of the date of birth of the said officer in your records."

Adding to the pressure on the MS Branch is a reply sent by M.D. Paliath, Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Officers), CDA, to the AG's Branch on 30 March 2011 referring to the RTI query and stating that its records from the time of VK Singh's commissioning show the date of birth as 10 May 1951.

MoD gets tough

The MoD was alerted of the matter when the AG's branch sent a communication to its Establishment Branch and clearly looked upon it as transgression of accepted procedure. Subhash Chandra, Joint Secretary (G and Air), in his letter of 29 March 2011 to the Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, stated, "It must be pointed out that the RTI applicant has sought information. The AG has clearly gone beyond the furnishing of information to getting an issue investigated by the LA( Def), Ministry of Law and proceeding to rectify an omission by another branch. This is most irregular as it involves the date of birth of the COAS and has implication for his tenure."

In the letter Chandra pointed out that Singh at the time of the selection of COAS had accepted his date of birth as 10 May 1950. He stated: "Thus Gen VK Singh's date of birth is a settled matter as far as the Government is concerned. It is surprising that the AG Branch has not taken note of these developments which are in its knowledge… Instead of furnishing facts to the applicant, the AG Branch has empowered itself to change the official date of birth of the COAS as 10 May 1951 on the basis of an RTI application."

On 4 April 2011, the MoD formally sought clarifications from the Army HQ, asking it four telling questions: 1) what is the policy for effecting such corrections and who is the Competent Authority 2). Who approved the correction of dates 3). What was the legal issue referred to the Ministry of Law and Justice? A copy of the reference made to the LA (Def) may be furnished 4). Why was the issue not routed through the Ministry of Defence as per norms?

AG dodges query

To which the AG Branch in its reply of 18 April 2011, claimed that as "it is the custodian of all such records of date of birth, the said Branch is competent to convey to any other Branch in case any correction in error is required." But on the question as to why it bypassed the MoD it blandly stated, "It is our understanding that the office of LA (Def) is an integral part of the MoD and hence clarifications, owing to a legal nature, was referred to it; this is a normal practice in all legal matters related to other cases also. If, however, there are instructions to the contrary the same may please be intimated for our information and necessary action."

Meanwhile, Singh was apparently drumming up support for his case even approaching the Prime Minister's Office. On 21 April 2011, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar received an unsigned petition from VK Singh that had been submitted to TKA Nair, the then Principal Secretary to the PM, enclosing all the documents of his case including the LA (Def) advice on the matter.

As the matter had turned extremely serious, Chandra in his letter to Pradeep Kumar, Defence Secretary on May 6, 2011, pointed out, "The amendment of the date as a 'technical' correction of an error at this stage by the AG Branch of AHQ on the basis of an RTI application in direct consultation with the Law Ministry without bringing the entire facts to the latter's notice has given rise to a situation where the date of birth is effectively getting changed to 10 May 1951 without the officer himself applying for a change. This issue has implications on the tenure of the officer concerned and the organisation. It also has implications of setting a precedent that may override extant procedures."

Antony acts

Chandra recommended getting the opinion of the Attorney General of India Goolam Vahanvati on the issue. Kumar agreed with Chandra and in his note of 7 May 2011 to Defence Minister AK Antony on the file stated "A decision regarding amendment in the date of birth of the COAS will have implications on the succession plan on the Army. The possibility of those affected by the decision seeking redressal in the court of law cannot be ruled out. Therefore, it is essential that whatever decision the Government takes in this sensitive matter should be defendable in a court of law." Antony gave his approval on 9 May 2011 and the matter was referred to Vahanvati.

On 16 May 2011, Vahanvati in his 22 page reply to the MoD got into great detail with case studies that have been brought out in the previous parts of the series by The Tribune. He takes a serious view of the transgressions by the AG's Branch using an RTI query to change Singh's date of birth and states, "I find the procedure which was adopted completely untenable in law and to put it mildly, strange. Both on facts and in substance the reply to the queries on the RTI application make disturbing reading."

Vahanvati then came down strongly on Army HQ stating: "In my opinion… there is a clear case of estoppels and waiver and this position in law is well settled." The charge of estoppels is serious as, by dictionary definition it is 'a legal principle that bars a party from denying or alleging a certain fact owing to the party's previous conduct, allegation or denial.' Vahanvati concludes, "My answer to the query is that the amendment of the date of birth is not legally tenable and the issue cannot be reopened at this stage on any basis whatsoever."

Raising doubts

Singh though is not waiting for Vahanvati's verdict. On 12 May 2011, he gives a detailed petition to Defence Minister Antony, "seeking justice from the Hon'ble Raksha Mantri based on facts and records," as he is known for his "judicious, dispassionate, unbiased and kind nature." He charges the MoD of trying to "confuse the entire issue" as a "change in his date of birth" when it was one of "reconciliation of wrong records."

Raising doubts over the decision of the MoD to refer it to Attonery General Vahanvati, Singh stated that the " whole process smacks of prejudice and malice as a mere legal advice unilaterally obtained cannot be enough to change the date of birth followed for 41 years." Apart from charging the MoD of sending "tailor-made" queries to ensure his plea is rejected he startles the MoD by stating that he is attaching "advice obtained by my well wishers from two former Chief Justices of India for your perusal."

Odd actions

The MoD waits for Vahanvati to give his opinion before taking up VK Singh's petition to Antony. It is clearly upset with Singh asking for opinion from two former Chief Justices of India without consulting it. Joint Secretary Chandra in his note of 1 June 2011 to the Defence Secretary Kumar pointed out, "It is odd that the Gen Singh and the then DG MP&PS Lt Gen VK Chaturvedi have in a personal matter of the COAS chosen to make a reference to two former Chief Justices of India. Justice G.B. Patnaik has commented that he is unable to comment on the Attorney General's opinion as he has not seen it whereas Justice J.S. Verma had remarked that while he has perused the opinion furnished by the LA (Def) to the AG's Branch, it is true that the Attorney General has taken a different view, it is likely the query for his opinion may not be framed correctly."

Chandra recommended that since two former CJI's have given their opinion they should get another opinion from Vahanvati. Kumar concurred with Chandra and in a note on 7 June 2011 requested Antony to clear the proposal to get a second opinion from Vahanvati which he does on 8 June 2011.

Out of the loop

Vahanvati in his second opinion dated 21 June 2011 pointed out, "The reference by the AG Branch to Justice Verma directly is highly unusual since the proper and well laid down procedures have not been followed. The Ministry of Defence as well as the Law Ministry was kept out of the loop and excluded completely."

He then takes on the query raised to Justice Patnaik by Singh's "well-wishers" that whether "the Central Government could rely on an opinion of the Attorney General of India which was based on tailor made queries." To make his point Vahanvati quoted from the Union Law Secretary's note dated 9 June 2011 in which he stated, " The opinion given by the LA (Def) which has been countersigned by the Additional Secretary cannot be treated as a legal opinion for the purpose of change of date of birth."

The Law Secretary's note also stated that the reference made by the AG's branch to the LA (Def) " did not have any comments or views of the MoD who are the concerned authority for ordering any change in the date of birth of the concerned officer." The note further observed, "Moreover such matters should have been placed for consideration at the highest level in this Ministry. I may point out that it is the consistent practice in this Department that all important matters especially in relation to very senior officers are invariably shown to the Law Secretary and Law Minister. The reply of the Legal Adviser (Defence) may be abrogated for these reasons."

Vahanvati dismisses VK Singh's suggestions that the queries to him by the MoD were "tailor-made" stating, "to impute motives to the MoD is not only unwarranted but in bad taste." He ended by stating that, "taking all aspects into consideration I see no reason to revise my opinion."

A month later, based on Vahanvati's advice and having sought the concurrence of the Defence Minister, Joint Secretary Chandra sends an office memorandum on 21 July 2011 to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) VK Singh, the Adjutant General (AG) and the Military Secretary (MS) that declares the AG's note of February 25, 2011 as, "unauthorised and illegal."

Null and void

Chandra's memo then stated, "The Central Government therefore declares order No 12918/RTI/MP-6(a) dated February 25, 2011 directing to amend the date of birth of Gen VK Singh (IC-24173), COAS to read as 10 May 1951 instead of 10 May 1950 as recorded, as null and void and non est. The officer's official date will continue to be maintained as 10 May 1950 (Tenth May, Nineteen Hundred and Fifty)." This was then issued as a formal Government Order on 22 July 2011.

On 26 August 2011, General Vijay Kumar Singh became the first Chief of Army Staff, to file a statutory complaint with the Union Defence Minister AK Antony seeking redressal of his age issue. On 30 December 2011, the MoD rejected his statutory complaint "by order and in the name of the President," for reasons discussed in The Tribune series. The order stated, "His officially recognised date of birth will continue to remain 10 May 1950. Accordingly there are no grounds for interfering with the impugned Official Memorandum dated July 21, 2011 and the Government order dated July 22, 2011."

Over to Supreme Court

When the Government had admitted Singh's statutory complaint it had held in abeyance its July 22, 2011 Order that his date of birth remain as 10 May 1950 and all the Army branches to conform its records with it. But with its 30 December 2011 order, the hold was lifted. On 23 January 2012, the MoD sent a note to the AG ordering it to reconcile its records. (see front page report)

Meanwhile, on 16 January 2012, in another unprecedented step by a Chief of Army Staff, Singh filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Government's order. The first hearing is fixed for February 3, 2012. The highest court of the land will now give its verdict on one of the most contentious and messiest issues concerning the Army Chief that India has seen since Independence.
Ministry takes on Army Chief on age controversy
Orders AG to correct DoB in records
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 29
With less than five days to go for the Supreme Court to hear a petition filed by Army Chief General VK Singh seeking reconciliation of his date of birth, it has now emerged that the Ministry of Defence, last week, directed the Adjutant-General branch, the record-keeper of the Army, to maintain the General's date of birth (DoB) as May 10, 1950. It says the DoB of May 10, 1951, recorded by the AG branch and claimed by the Army Chief, was "not correct".

The latest order is a follow-up to the rejection of the statutory complaint filed by General VK Singh on the matter. The statutory complaint was rejected by Defence Minister AK Antony on December 30, 2011. The General filed his petition in the Supreme Court on January 18 and it is listed for hearing on February 3.

Sources said the MoD in its latest order of January 23, 2012, has asked the AG to "strictly" comply with its order dated July 21, 2011, and also sought a compliance report, at the earliest. The letter, accessed by The Tribune, says, "Now that the statutory complaint stands disposed and the redressal sought by General VK Singh has not been granted…. Gen VK Singh's officially recognised date of birth will continue to remain May 10, 1950, and that there are no grounds for interfering with the impugned order dated July 21, 2011."

On July 21, 2011, the MoD had decided the issue and fixed May 10, 1950, as the Army Chief's DoB. This order had said that an earlier order dated February 25, 2011, (in which the ADG MP of the AG branch had directed to amend the date of birth of Gen VK Singh, to read as May 10, 1951, instead of May 10, 1950, as recorded) was declared to be null and void and non est.

"In other words, May 10, 1951, maintained as the date of birth of Gen VK Singh by the AG Branch is not correct," The MoD's latest order says and goes on to add that its July 21, 2011, order was "not legally infirm and any apprehension expressed in this behalf has no basis".

In his statutory complaint dated August 26, 2011, General VK Singh had requested the MoD (in para 94 of his complaint) to "reconsider and withdraw" its order dated July 21, 2011, and "decide whether the AG Branch, the official record-keeper of the date of birth, is correctly maintaining his date of birth as May 10, 1951".

The MoD, in its explanation for acting now, says, since the DoB issue was part of the statutory complaint hence it was decided to wait for its disposal.

The MoD has also clarified the contention that no inquiry had been conducted by the Army headquarters nor had the AG's branch been co-opted or kept informed about the same. It cites a January 30, 2008, letter by the then Military Secretary (Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash) which said with the approval of the then Chief (Gen Deepak Kapoor), "a detailed examination in consultation with the AG's branch with regard to verification of date of birth in respect of Lt Gen VK Singh, has been carried out...the date of birth in respect to the officer continues to be maintained as May 10, 1950".

Compliance sought

n The latest order is a follow-up to the rejection of the statutory complaint filed by General VK Singh on the matter. The statutory complaint was rejected by Defence Minister AK Antony on December 30, 2011

n The General filed his petition in the Supreme Court on January 18 and it is listed for hearing on February 3

n The MoD in its latest order of January 23, 2012, has asked the AG to "strictly" comply with its order dated July 21, 2011 and also sought a compliance report at the earliest.
12 yrs on, fighter deal ready to be sealed
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, January 29
India's much-delayed effort to upgrade the fighter aircraft fleet of the Indian Air Force is set to fructify soon. At present, a specially-picked team of the Ministry of Defence and the IAF is making final calculations to decide the winner of the $10.4 billion (Rs 54,000 crore) deal - the biggest single defence purchase by New Delhi.

Sources pointed out that it could just be a matter of days before the winner is announced. "It could be in the next 10 days," said an official indicating that the process which began in 2000 is being finalised.

According to the Defence Procurement Procedure, the lowest bidder will be chosen to supply 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). However, a complex set of calculations is being done to arrive at the lowest bidder. This is to factor in the cost of the life cycle of the plane, maintenance, spares and minute details like operational cost.

Two European fighters - Eurofighter Typhoon and Dasault Rafale - are in the race. The Eurofighter is owned by four partner nations Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom while the Dasault Rafale is a French company.

The announcement will signify an important shift in India's long-term strategy. The winner of the deal will develop fighter aircraft manufacturing capabilities in India. Presently, some Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKI are assembled here while light combat aircraft Tejas is manufactured in India.

Once the MMRCA deal is through, 18 aircraft will be delivered in fly-away condition while the rest will be made at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The size of the contract could eventually go up to 200 aircraft as there is a provision to increase the order by 50 per cent without any price hike.

In April 2011, the IAF, after testing the original six international bidders on 643 parameters across varied flying conditions like the summer heat of the deserts and extreme cold of Leh in Jammu and Kashmir, down selected four of them.

Among those who lost out in the first round were F-18-A of Boeing, F-16 produced by Lockheed Martin, MiG 35 made by Russia's United Aircraft Corporation and Gripen manufactured by Sweden's SAAB.

Earlier this month, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne told reporters that he was hopeful that in another two-weeks time, one of the two bidders would be chosen.

New Delhi had floated the tender for 126 MMRCAs at an estimated cost of $10.4 billion in August 2007. The IAF had first suggested the need for newer planes in 2000 after the MiG 21s started crashing on a regular basis.

India ordered a new lot of Sukhoi-30 MKI, has upgraded the MiG 29 and now, signed a deal for the upgrade of the French-built Mirage.

biggest single defence purchase

    A Rs 54,000-crore deal
    Two European fighters out of six left in fray
    Winner to supply 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft
    18 aircraft to be delivered in fly-away condition; rest to be made at HAL; number can eventually go up to 200
Local innovation repairs T-90's night blindness
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, January 29
A small innovation will go a long way in giving the Army's T-90 main battle tanks the ability to hunt and kill in the dark - and at a fraction of the cost of imported equipment. Army engineers have integrated locally made LCD monitors to replace malfunctioning imported gadgets.

A major problem with the T-90's imported night sight was that its visual video display (VVD) unit was not ruggedised and, hence, defect prone. This resulted in the tank becoming night-blind. This was particularly the case in the hot and dusty environs of the desert.

LCD display units of the requisite size available off-the-shelf commercially have been used to replace the VVDs. According to available information, the TFT screens are available for just about Rs 3,500 as compared to a staggering Rs 25 lakh for the imported units.

The biggest challenge for Army engineers undertaking the project, according to armoured corps officers, was integrating the LCD screens with the sight's sensors and electrical systems as well as physical dimensions.

The T-90 tanks are the Army's latest acquisition and have been inducted into frontline formations. In today's battlefield, the ability to fight at night is crucial and most of the earlier generation tanks with the Army, including the T-72, lacked this capability.

The Army had bought 310 T-90 tanks, some of which were assembled locally at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi. This was followed by two more contracts in 2006 and 2007 for assembly and licenced manufacture of 330 and 347 upgraded versions of the tank, respectively. The Army has planned to equip 21 regiments with the T-90.

While the T-90 tanks have been in service for about a decade, there have been some reports of malfunctioning or non-availability of certain electronic equipment, including those required for night or adverse weather operations. The non-availability of ammunition for its 125 mm main gun was also an issue some time ago.
IAF, BSF are best marching contingents on Republic Day

New Delhi, January 29
The Ministry of Defence today announced that the marching contingents of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) have been adjudged the best in their respective categories.

Three panels of judges were appointed for assessing the performance of various categories. The IAF has been chosen as the best marching contingent among the three armed forces. Flight Lieutenant Sneha Shekhawat created history as the first women to lead an IAF contingent. BSF has been adjudged the best contingent among all para-military forces. Of the 23 tableaux of states and various Union Ministries, tableau of Ministry of Human Resources Development has been adjudged the best, followed by presentations by Goa and Karnataka.

Among cultural presentations, the best presentation award goes to Government Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Hastal, New Delhi, followed by the presentation by the North Central Zone Cultural Centre, Allahabad. Kendriya Vidyalaya, RK Puram, has been given consolation prize, while Central Public Works Department has been selected for special prize. — TNS
Indian Army to hold war games with US, Russia

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New Delhi:  Top global powers, including US, Russia, France and some of the friendly neighbourhood countries such as Bangladesh, will engage in war games with the Indian Army to learn from India its experience of counter terrorism and urban warfare operations.

Indian Army will hold around 15 exercises this year with friendly foreign countries including the who's who in the global arena, army officials said.

In its immediate neighbourhood, Indian Army will conduct these joint training exercises with Bangladesh and Singapore.

'Bold Kurukshetra' with Singapore army will kick-off the war games in Babina near Jhansi in March. The two sides will field their mechanised forces in the training engagement.

The schedule and nature of exercises with other countries are yet to be decided, but anti-terrorism drills and urban warfare is going to be an important part of all of these war games, officials said.

The army troopers will also engage the American mechanised forces in the deserts of Rajasthan in the exercise 'Yudh Abhyas' which will see the US fielding its tanks there.

The US had participated in exercise 'Yudh Abhyas-2009' with the Indian Army, when it had taken its Stryker infantry armoured vehicles outside of its operational area to a foreign land.

Indian Army had participated in the exercise with its mechanized infantry battalions. Similar exercises have also been planned with the armies of France and Russia.

Last year in October, troops of Indian and French armies had conducted a joint exercise-'Shakti-2000' in the hills of Ranikhet in Uttarakhand.

The fourth round of 'INDRA' series of joint exercise between Indian and Russian armies was also conducted in 2010 in Uttarakhand.

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Army chief's age row: Govt stands firm, wants records reconciled

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New Delhi:  With less than a week to go before a Supreme Court hearing on Army chief General VK Singh's petition against the government's refusal to change his year of birth in its records, there is a fresh setback for him.

The Ministry of Defence has written to the Army's official record keeper, the Adjutant General's branch, asking it to reconcile its records. According to the Army's records, General Singh's year of birth is 1951.

General VK Singh's petition on the age issue is before the Supreme Court and is likely to come up for hearing on February 3. General Singh had taken the matter to the Supreme Court on January 16 - becoming the first serving military chief to drag the government to court - in the hope of establishing that he is correct in claiming that he was born in 1951, not 1950. Documents with the Army reflect both dates.

The government's letter to Army Headquarters says that the May 10, 1951 date recorded as General VK Singh's date of birth by the Adjutant General branch has been found to be incorrect and that his date of birth continues to be May 10, 1950. The letter also says that the Adjutant General's branch must comply with the order without any delay.

The Defence Ministry, it is learnt, is likely to tell the Supreme Court that the records have been corrected and the dispute over the year of birth doesn't exist anymore, therefore the General's plea shouldn't be entertained at all.

The case has reached the Supreme Court and for all purposes, the window for comprise is now closed. The Ministry of Defence will oppose the Army chief's plea tooth and nail in the court, but one thing is clear: Whoever wins this battle, the ultimate loser will be institution of the Chief of Army Staff and long term civil-military relations.

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Govt warned against reopening of NATO supply routes

MULTAN: Leaders of the Pakistan Defence Council (PDC) on Sunday warned the government against reopening of the NATO supply routes, threatening strikes and sit-ins if the rulers compromised on the issue.

Addressing a public meeting at Multan Sports Ground, the leaders said that they strongly opposed any compromise over the blood of Pakistan Army and tribal brothers in return for dollars. They warned that if NATO supply lines were restored, people from Karachi to Khyber would take to roads and stop the containers forcibly.

PDC Chairman Maulana Samiul Haq in his address demanded that drone attacks should be stopped immediately and policies of former president Pervez Musharraf should be done away with. He said that instead of supporting Americans, they would resort to the path of jehad. Samiul Haq said that they wanted peace and stability in the country but if US, India, Israel or any other power dared aggression, they would be responded to with full force, adding that the whole nation was united for the defence of Pakistan. He said that India, which was responsible for the killings of tens of thousands of Muslims, could not be given the status of Most Favoured Nation.

Jamaatud Dawa chief Professor Hafiz Muhammad Saeed warned against opening of NATO supply lines and said that people present in the meeting with sticks and flags would come out on roads and stop all the containers. He urged that Pakistan must get out of the US-led war and should fight a war to secure freedom of Kashmir.

Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat Pakistan President Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi said that no conspiracy would be allowed against the security of Pakistan. He said that people of Pakistan would fully back the PDC leaders to prevent acts of rulers against the interests of the country. Former ISI DG General (r) Hameed Gul said the common target of US, India and Israel was Pakistan. He regretted that Musharraf and his successors arrested their Muslim brothers and handed them over to Americans. Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan said the rulers were not following their oath and had allowed Americans to strengthen their hold in Pakistan. He said the attack on the GHQ was the handiwork of American and Indian agencies and not of any religious party.

Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad of the Awami Muslim League said that if people would vote for thieves and plunderers, the result would be disasterous. He said the rulers had destroyed Railways, PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills and borrowed much more than the last 60-year borrowings. inp
Indian Army to hold 20 war games with friendly nations
New Delhi, (IANS) In its bid to have greater engagement with foreign militaries, Indian Army will this year hold between 15 to 20 bilateral war games with friendly nations like the US, Russia, France and Britain, apart from neighbours Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal, officers said Sunday.

The exercises, mostly focusing on counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism manoeuvres, will help in honing the skills of Indian and other friendly troops in different scenarios, and improve their interoperability, as required under United Nation's multinational joint military efforts for world peace.

Among the first exercises this year will be with Singapore at Babina in Uttar Pradesh, close to Jhansi, this March, officers said.

During the India-Singapore exercise, both sides will pit their mechanised forces and tanks in battle with terrorists in an urban scenario. The exercise is likely to be called "Bold Kurukshetra", officers said.

"Indian Army's counter-insurgency skills are much sought after by global powers due to the five-decade experience that we have gained in the northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir," the officers said.

With the US, the Indian Army's mechanised infantry forces will hold an exercise, "Yudh Abhyas", in Rajasthan this year, when they will both field their tanks and armoured personnel carrier.

Most other exercises are still in the works and the venues and dates will be finalised soon, officers said. The other nations to join the exercises this year will be Mongolia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Australia, and Central Asian nations.

In 2011 too, India had held 16 military exercises with other friendly nations such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Mongolia.

In October 2011, India held its first ever army exercise with French Army called "Shakti-2011″ at Chaubatia in Uttarakhand.
8 firms want to join bidding for P174-million Army body armor
Army's Mission Olympic: Winning a medal a distant dream?
New Delhi: Winning a Gold medal at London Olympics seems to be a distant dream. Thanks to the Indian Army's ambitious sports initiative 'Mission Olympics- Catch them young', that it has so far managed to prepare the aspirants for qualifying marks.  The mission was launched in 2001 to groom youngsters into potential Olympic medal winners. More than a decade later, the army's training centre lacks resources and facilities to train the sportspersons. Dailybhaskar takes a look at the status of army's five training centres.


Chances are bleak for the 30 riders practicing day night to qualify for the London Olympics. The Army Equestrian Centre at Meerut sans trained horses. The proposal for importing two European warm-blood horses has been pending at the Defence Ministry for years.

Spread at the sprawling campus of 260 acres, Army Equestrian Centre is the only training centre of the world which has the facility for horse racing. However, the international coach visit only thrice a year to give training. According to Col Ahalawat, 60 per cent of winning chances depends upon the horses. "It is a game of techniq and not power. It is the only game where boys and girls can participate together. Unfortunately, India does not have women horse riders," he says.


With a target to hit the winning Olympic medal, practice session for shooters is at its peak at the Army Marksmen Unit. With 6 months to go for London Olympics, the hunt for the archery coach is still on. In 2011, the advertisement for posts of shooting coach, physiotherapy, yoga instructor and mental trainer was given, interviews for which will begin in February. Colonel Varuni says, "Searching an international coach is difficult. According to the international standards of shooting, each shooter of every discipline should have a coach. However, AMU only has two coach for the discipline. That accounts to 3 international coaches, 4 Officer Incharge Coach and 6 JCOs giving training to over 170 shooters."


Trainer at the Army Yachting Node (AYN) Lt Col Khare has been giving sailing lessons to the participants who would be struggling to win the medal. Chief Coach Col Notiyal is confident that India will be able to qualify into sailing during London Olympics. However, he feels that in the absence of competition, participants can get the medal-winning training. More so, the boats used for training the sailors cannot be taken to abroad for the event as the government hesitates in bearing the transportation expense. "The participants are not accustomed with the boats provided by the organisers during the foreign events. And so they face difficulty in performing to their capabilities," said Col Notiyal.


10-year-old Deepak tags himself as a weight lifter. A few years of training and Deepak will be able to qualify for a national/international level competition. As far as training skills are considered, Deepak is confident about his coach Major Srinivas. However, after qualifying into any major qualification, the sportspersons will be shifted to National camp for further training. Such regulations of the sports institute are proving to be setback for the sportspersons. Changing coach before any important event is one the major problems faced by the talented candidates.

Commandant of the Institute Colonel Bishnoi too belives that a changing the coach affects the performance of the sportsperson. The army's 'Mission Olympics - Catch them young' initiative was launched in 2001. The facilities include the Army Sports Institute at Pune, where personnel are trained for athletics, archery, boxing, diving, weightlifting, wrestling and fencing.
India ready for any challenge: AK Singh
MADIKERI: India is ready to face any challenge, said southern commander in chief of army Ajay Kumar Singh here. He was addressing the gathering at late Field Marshal Cariappa's 113th birthday celebrations here on Saturday.

Singh asked citizens to be alert of security threats to the country. Singh said that Kodavas are synonymous with the Indian Army. A K Singh also announced the establishment of a new ex-servicemen contributory health scheme to South Kodagu in addition to the running centre in Madikeri; ugradation schemes for army canteen and Rs 45 lakh as initial amount for this. He contributed Rs one lakh to Madikeri ECHS and Rs 2 lakh to the Cariappa forum.

Cariappa's son Nanda Cariappa said that his father is honoured not just by the by the Kodavas, but by the entire country.

B A Cariappa, former servicemen society president presented a traditional " Odikathi" to A K Singh. An Army helicopter showered flowers on the statue of Cariappa at Sudarshan Circle.


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