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Monday, 2 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 02 Jan 2012

Age row: Army chief seeks legal aid, say sources

New Delhi:  Two days after the Defence Ministry formally rejected his statutory application seeking correction in his date of birth, Army Chief General VK Singh is working out his future response.
He feels the government has given him a raw deal and therefore he has no option but to fight for his honour.
General Singh is consulting legal experts, including three former Chief Justices of India, and they have strongly supported him. Sources say the Army chief has two options: Either to go to the Armed Forces Tribunal, or move to Supreme Court directly. The Supreme Court is already hearing a Public Interest Litigation over the issue.
Sources also say that General Singh has also not ruled out resigning ahead of his tenure ending on May 31, 2012 - the date which the government has now decided.
Rejecting his statutory plea, the Defence Ministry cited Attorney General's opinion as the reason. On Dec 16, NDTV had reported that the Attorney General is of the opinion that the Army Chief date of birth has to be May 10, 1950.
Different records within the Army show May 10, 1950 and May 10, 1951 as the General's date of birth. General Singh has consistently claimed that he was born in 1951 and not 1950 as maintained by the Ministry of Defence.
In his statutory complaint, he had said that he was seeking to clear the perception that he was lying about his age and not fighting for his tenure, which he maintained, was the government's prerogative.
After the controversy over his age, the Army chief had argued that that the confusion arose from a form which he had filled at the age of 15. The clerk handling his papers for the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) exams listed his age as 16 instead of 15. This was the application form for the National Defence Academy (NDA), which documents the General joining the Army.
All his promotions were, however, decided on the basis of him being born, as he said, in 1951.
In an interesting move, after receiving the formal communication from the Defence Ministry, General Singh went and met Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. What transpired at the meeting is, however, unknown.

Army ration supply practices rotten: Public Accounts Committee

In certain cases troops consumed dry rations 6-28 months after expiry
Pointing out that the Army marches on its stomach, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has taken exception to its ration supply chain practices and cited several “glaring deficiencies and inadequacies.”
Observing that in certain cases dry rations were consumed by troops even 6-28 months after the expiry of their normal Estimated Storage Life (ESL), the PAC in its report, tabled last week, recommended that the authorities revisit/amend the existing provision of the Army Service Corps technical instructions to ensure that food items were issued in accordance with their ESL.
As for fresh vegetables and fruits, 74 per cent of these items issued to the units by the supply depots were not in accordance with the prescribed norms.
Citing “serious anomalies in receipt and supply of vegetables in one station alone,” the PAC said the Northern Command rations worth Rs. 1.92 crore remained untraceable as on March, 31, 2008. A test check reflected “deep-rooted and widespread malpractices in the supply chain management of the Army.”
Observing “shortcomings” in the procurement procedures of the Army Service Corps, it noted highly non-competitive procurement of fresh rations and deviation from the laid down guidelines.
Deploring the mismatch between the issue and receipt of rations, the PAC said it was inconceivable that such things could happen “without the complicity of officers” concerned.
In another report on the Canteen Stores Department (CSD), the PAC took a serious view of the Army Headquarters denying auditors access to the accounts of the Unit Run Canteens (URCs), which recorded an annual turnover of Rs.8,500 crore during 2008-09.
Noting that the Comptroller and Auditor-General was unable to audit the 3,600 URCs, the report said this restricted parliamentary oversight to the CSD.
The CAG has been seeking to audit the URCs' accounts on the ground that the CSD transfers money from the Consolidated Fund of India in the form of qualitative discounts. But the armed forces are opposed to the move, claiming that the URCs are run with a 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…What is more intriguing is the fact that such denial was made despite the directions of the Defence Ministry to make records of the URCs available for audit.”

Army dithers over futuristic tank, DRDO pursues engine
Ajai Shukla / Cvrde/ Avadi (chennai) January 2, 2012, 2:04 IST
India’s Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), the backbone of the army’s strike power into the mid-21 st century, languishes while the army continues an extended debate over its specifications.
A year ago, on December 6 2010, Defence Minister A K Antony told the Lok Sabha that the army had formulated the FMBT’s specifications and the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) was carrying out feasibility studies. Antony, it now emerges, misled parliament. MoD sources say the army remains undecided about the basic features of the FMBT, including whether it should have three crew members or four. Consequently, the army has not finalised the FMBT’s Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR), essential for sanctioning the project and allocating funding.
The PSQR also allows engineers to begin designing the FMBT. It specifies the tank’s capabilities and components, including its weight; dimensions; mobility; weaponry; armour protection; communications; and any special capabilities that are required, e.g. the ability to drive underwater; or operate on a nuclear battlefield.
* Army has not finalised FMBT specifications
* Tank required by 2020, when T-72s start retiring
* DRDO has begun work on 1,500 HP engine
* Ricardo, AVL are potential design consultants
* Indian industry partner will manufacture engine
* Planning ahead for tandem “hybrid” engine
But the DRDO has begun work, anxious to shield the FMBT from the delays that plagued the Arjun programme. The FMBT must roll out by 2020, when the army’s oldest T-72 tanks, which entered service in 1979, complete their 32-year service lives. Business Standard was granted exclusive permission to visit the Combat Vehicles R&D Establishment (CVRDE), the DRDO facility outside Chennai where the Arjun Mark II is nearing completion and the FMBT will be developed.
P Sivakumar, CVRDE’s livewire director, revealed that work had begun on crucial FMBT systems, even without a PSQR. Based on the army’s weight limit of 50 tonnes for the FMBT, the DRDO has launched a “mission mode” project to develop an 1,800 Horse Power (Hp) indigenous engine. Sivakumar says 1500 Hp is sufficient for a 50-tonne tank, but the endemic danger of weight over-runs in a new tank makes a 300 Hp margin prudent.
The project will co-opt domestic engineering companies like Kirloskar Oil Engines, BEML, and the Mahindras; research institutions like IITs; and bodies like the Automotive Research Association of India, Pune. An Indian “prime contractor” would assemble the FMBT engines from engine components supplied by a network of sub-contractors.
“India has never designed engines; engine technology has always been imported. But we will develop the FMBT engine as a national project. Our approach is not engine-specific; we are looking at developing the complete range of technologies needed for building engines. Not only design… but also manufacturing, testing, evaluation,” says Sivakumar.
This ambitious plan is cushioned with pragmatism. The DRDO has brought in international consultants to design the engine and build Indian manufacturing capability in engine-related fields. Sivakumar says that German companies MTU and Renk, which supply engines and transmissions for the Arjun tank, refused to provide consultancy, realising that building Indian capability would end their market here. DRDO is now evaluating consultancy proposals from Ricardo of Britain and AVL of Austria.
“Simultaneously, we have floated an Expression of Interest (EoI) to identify an Indian manufacturing partner. The consultant we select will work in a consortium with the DRDO; the army; and the Indian manufacturing partner, who will be associated with the programme from the design stage itself. We have allowed the consultants to visit manufacturing companies and report on their capability to build a modern engine,” explains Sivakumar.
The CVRDE director says the consultants will finalise the engine design within 12 months, and take 18 months more to build the first prototype. “Within 30 months, or three years maximum, the first engine would be ready for testing,” he says.
“Both Ricardo and AVL have proposed that they design and build the first prototypes. But the Indian industry will work alongside the consultant. The first design is never perfect; so the consultant will make the changes needed in design, tolerances, or materials to refine the engine. Then, in the second phase, the Indian partner will produce the engine,” says Sivakumar.
Even as CVRDE develops this technological capacity, it is looking further ahead at a hybrid engine for the FMBT after 2030. Sivakumar says that a tank remains static for at least 40 per cent of the time in battle, during which time its engine idles. “This means that 40 per cent of the time, you wastefully run a 1,500 Hp engine, guzzling diesel and giving away the tank’s position, while you need very little power for running electricals like the radios and gun control equipment or for moving the tank slowly. So, we are evolving a hybrid technology concept in which the tank will have two engines: a 500 Hp engine for low power mode and another 1,000 Hp engine that kicks in when high power is required, e.g. for manoeuvring in battle,” explains the CVRDE director.

The Kayani syndromeFear of military rule in Pakistanby NK Pant
One wonders if Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s stern warning to his nation’s powerful army establishment against hatching a conspiracy to oust the civilian government in a military coup will have any impact on the uniformed top brass. Gilani was quoted as reminding the generals that they are answerable to Parliament and hence cannot act as ‘a state within a state’.
The Prime Minister also raised a timely alarm alerting the country and the international community about covert moves that were afoot by the army to bring down his elected government. Although the following day, the Army chief came out with a statement ruling out the possibility of a coup, an air of uncertainty still hangs over the nation, especially because of the standoff over the memo scandal.
It is quite possible that such a strong cautionary statement issued by Gilani may further antagonise the army Generals against the democratically elected government.   It is well known that President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on the one hand and the army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the ISI boss, Lt Gen Shuja Pasha on the other, are pitted against each other on the issue dubbed “memogate”. There are growing concerns in political circles that Kayani, despite his ruling out the possibility of any military takeover, has been moving to further strengthen his role in the country’s governance. This has naturally led to the speculation that Zardari may be losing his grip on the presidency.
Although civilian-military tensions have existed ever since Mr. Zardari took office in September 2008, an unsigned memo reportedly drafted by Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington Hussain Haqqani and passed on to Pakistani- American businessman Mansoor Ijaz for sending to the then US chairman of THE joint chiefs of staff committee, Admiral Mike Mullen, have created havoc in the political, diplomatic and military circles. The memo conveying the message from Zardari in the wake of the US commando raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, requested top American military officials for help in preventing a military coup in Islamabad.
As expected, the first head to roll soon after the memo became public in October was that of ambassador Haqqani who was forced to quit after being recalled from his ambassadorial assignment. However, not satisfied with this, General Kayani not only demanded that the government go into the matter thoroughly but also approached the Supreme Court to investigate the controversial memo and its origins fully, reasoning that it unsuccessfully attempted to lower the morale of the Pakistan army.
But the civilian government denies having anything to do with the memo and has boldly declared that Parliament, the media, the civil society and the international community would not tolerate a military dictatorship in Pakistan.
General Kayani presides over the military establishment of a country that has often been cited as the world's most dangerous source of international terrorism. In order to justify its primacy in Pakistan’s national affairs, the nearly 700,000-strong army considers the Afghan Taliban as the necessary proxy force to create strategic space against India, especially in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.
General Kayani sought and was granted three years extension as the Chief of Army Staff along with Lt Gen Shuja Pasha in November 2010. He was given extra three years in office by the same civilian government with whom he is now at the loggerheads on the ground of successfully leading Pakistan in the war against terrorists as well as maintaining the element of continuity in the military leadership. However, the reality was that Kayani had decided to bat for another long innings and the pliable politicians, whose electoral mandate too was to last three more years, readily obliged in their own selfish interest.
The curious aspect in the wake of surfacing the memogate was the sudden departure of President Zardari for medical treatment to Dubai on the excuse of a heart ailment.  Although after due treatment and convalescing in his Dubai residence for a fortnight he returned to the port city of Karachi, rumours are still rife that he will resign and leave the country for good. Much earlier, he had been quoted as expressing his fears that the Kayani-Pasha combine would eliminate him one day.
Incidentally, this fear was later corroborated by the Prime Minister Gilani in a statement made in the Senate that his government and the President's family convinced Mr Zardari to go to Dubai for the treatment because there was a risk he would be attacked if he had treatment in a hospital in Pakistan.
After he was back from Dubai, Zardari in a telecast called upon the nation to make a pledge that it will not allow any change through “force and intimidation and respect the power of ballot as an instrument of change”. The inference was to the army chief and his corps commanders. General Kayani had earlier gone on record by expressing his views that military interventions were sometimes necessary to maintain Pakistan’s stability.  
Though this time the Generals may be a bit chary in moving into the politicians’ shoes, yet such a rhetorical statement may not prevent them from doing so. However, the memogate has definitely provided them an excuse to get a freer hand to expand their role in running Pakistan’s affairs beyond its India-specific foreign policy, national defence, internal security and control over nuclear weapons.

New Delhi, January 1
India and Pakistan today exchanged lists of their nuclear installations and facilities under a two-decade-old pact that prohibits attacks on atomic assets of each other.’

Under the terms of the "Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities" that was signed in December 1988, the two countries are required to exchange lists of their nuclear installations and facilities on January 1 every year.
This was the 21st consecutive year that the lists of nuclear facilities were exchanged since January 1 1992. The exchange was conducted even during a freeze in bilateral ties after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The Indian side handed over its list to the Pakistan High Commission official at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi and simultaneously Pakistan handed a list of requisite facilities in its country to an Indian High Commission official at Islamabad.

Allotment of Army Flats in PanchkulaConsumer panel sees Adarsh-like scamVijay Mohan/TNS
Chandigarh, January 1
Holding that the allotment of some dwelling units made by the Army Welfare Housing Organisation (AWHO) in its project at Sector 20, Panchkula, was in violation of rules, the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has observed that the exercise was done “presumably with a view to accommodate favourites and everything does not appear to have been done in a transparent manner.”

Ruling that the system adopted to fix the seniority of applicants was arbitrary, the Commission held that if enquired into deeply “this may again turn out to be another scam like Adarsh Society at Mumbai.”
AWHO, the Commission observed, is an organisation created for the welfare of serving and retired defence personnel and expected to act in a transparent manner.
A resident of Sector 2, Panchkula, RK Dhingra had earlier moved the District Consumer Forum against the non-allotment of a flat in AWHO’s colony or failing which, in another similar project in Panchkula or Mohali. The forum had granted him relief following which the AWHO authorities appealed against the order before the commission, which dismissed the appeal.Dhingra’s prime grievance was that some senior officers who were much junior registrants in the scheme by virtue of their date of registration, were later placed higher in the waiting list. Dhingra, with registration number 98,248 was placed at serial number 15 in the waiting list, where as a Brigadier with registration number 1,04,727 was placed on top of the list.
The seniority in the list was to be determined on the basis of the date on the bank draft and allotment thereafter on the basis of a draw of lots.
The complainant, however, had been told by the AWHO authorities that he was the senior-most applicant on the waiting list. When he came to know that some allotments were made “illegally”, he approached the authorities and was told that his present position in the list was No. 1. He could either seek transfer or withdraw his registration as all dwelling units stood allotted and had been handed over.
On pointing out discrepancies, he was told that all but one unit had been handed over and formalities and paperwork were in process for the lone remaining unit.

US signals major cut in military aid to Pakistan 
Obama signs defence Bill that may see 60% reduction in $1.1bn grant to Islamabad
Washington, January 1
US President Barack Obama has signed into law a massive $662-billion defence spending Bill that also seeks to suspend a big chunk of $1.1 billion military aid to Pakistan, despite his “serious reservations” about provisions regulating detention and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

“I have signed this Bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists,” Obama said in a statement last evening after signing the bill in Hawaii, where Obamas are currently on the year-end vacation.
The $662-billion Defence Authorisation Bill for 2012, among other things, seeks to suspend 60 per cent of $1.1 billion military aid to Pakistan, under the category Pakistan Counter-insurgency Fund, till Secretaries of State and Defence report to the Congress that Islamabad is making progress in the war on terror, particularly progress in strategies to counter manufacturing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
However, Obama in his signing statement made no reference to this provision of the Bill, which had drawn widespread condemnation in Pakistan and put another strain in US-Pakistan relationship.
The Obama administration has maintained that the Bill under no circumstances results in suspension of US military aid to Pakistan; as being interpreted by the Pakistani media.
US officials insist that the Department of Defence and the State Department would work with the government of Pakistan to meet the requirements of the Bill.
They say there are no conditions on Pakistan under the Bill, even as there are requirements that the Obama administration needs to meet, before the 60 per cent of the $1.1 billion military aid to Pakistan could be disbursed.
Under the provision of the Bill, the Defence Secretary is also required to submit a report to the Congress on a discussion of US strategic objectives in Pakistan; a listing of the terrorist or extremist groups in Pakistan opposing US goals in the region and against which the US encourages Pakistan to take action; and a discussion of the gaps in capabilities of Pakistani security units that hamper ability of Islamabad to take action against these organisations.
Under the Bill, signed by Obama into law, the Defence Secretary’s report to the Congress also needs to include the “metrics” that will be used to track progress in achieving the US strategic objectives in Pakistan, to track progress of Pakistan in combating the terrorists organisations. — PTI

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