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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 03 Jan 2012

Age row: Army chief likely to sue govt after rejection of his plea

The chief of army staff, General V.K. Singh, has been contemplating dragging the government to court over the high profile age issue, sources told Headlines Today.

No serving chief of the Indian Army has ever sued his government before. But the unthinkable in the history of Indian civil-military relations seems not too far. Stung by the final rejection by the defence ministry to his statutory complaint over the age issue, Gen Singh has run out of options.

While the army chief keeps his cards close to his chest, speculation were rife about confrontations between him and the UPA government.

The debate has precipitated over a conflicting clash of birthdates. While one set of documents declares the chief's date of birth as May 10, 1950, another puts it down a year later in 1951.

The government rejection means the chief would be taken to have been born in 1950 and therefore he would retire this year. If it did not, he would have retired in 2013, giving him a full extra year in office. The conflict also affects the succession line in the army.

A legal expert said, "As things stand, the army chief will be emboldened by the fact that four former chief justices have supported his age claim... The chief is also under advisement by a legal team that if he plans to take any action, he should do it while he still serving since that would have maximum impact."

"The chief's campaign has been predicated on honour and justice... to back off without winning could affect morale and perceptions within the ranks," the expert added.

The chief has reposed faith in veteran Congressman Pranab Mukherjee, a former defence minister himself. A five-minute meeting on December 30 was dismissed as a courtesy call, but sources revealed it was to appraise the senior politician about how delicate the situation was.

The army has, however, officially said that reports on the chief's intentions were currently in the realm of speculation.

India's future main battle tank now grapples with a weight issue
Ajai Shukla / Avadi January 3, 2012, 0:55 IST
As the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) begins designing the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), the army is sending out typically mixed messages on the vital question of how big and heavy India wants its tanks. While insisting that the DRDO’s 60-tonne Arjun tank weighs too much to move around the riverine terrain of Punjab and J&K, the army has demanded features in the next Arjun model (Arjun Mark II) that will raise its weight to 65 tonnes.
Planning for the FMBT —the Gen-Next tank that will follow the Arjun Mark II by 2020 — is even more contradictory. The army wants the FMBT to weigh just 50 tonnes while bettering all the Arjun’s features. 
Officials at the Combat Vehicles R&D Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, who will develop the FMBT, say it is impossible to build the FMBT 15 tonnes lighter while also improving crew protection; fitting a more powerful gun that can slam projectiles through improved enemy tanks; and making the FMBT faster and more powerful.
1800 Horse Power
Active Protection
System (APS)
120 mm smoothbore
CVRDE director P Sivakumar told Business Standard during an exclusive briefing on the FMBT, that it would meet weight targets only if the army identified its inescapable needs rather than demanding every feature available. One example is crew protection. The FMBT will have a cutting-edge Active Protection System that detects incoming enemy projectiles (which travel faster than rifle bullets); and then fires a projectile to hit and degrade the incoming warhead. But the army also insists on the conventional armour plate that has traditionally protected tank crews.
“If you want a 50-tonne FMBT you must choose wisely. If your Active Protection System can reliably defeat enemy projectiles, why do you also want the heavy armour plating of passive systems? Whatever you use — composites, lightweight materials, etc. — the weight of the tank will rise. Similarly, how can you increase your tank gun’s ability to penetrate enemy tanks without a weight increase?” asks Sivakumar.
Difficult choices like these are delaying the finalisation of the FMBT’s Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR), the document that will specify its capabilities and major systems. With nothing settled, the DRDO is readying for a heavier-than-planned FMBT. Business Standard reported yesterday that CVRDE is developing an 1800 Horse Power engine, rather than the 1500 HP needed for a 50-tonne FMBT.
While foreign consultancy will drive the engine design, CVRDE will play the central role in building a transmission system, which transfers engine power to the FMBT’s tracks. Sivakumar, himself an accomplished transmission designer, says that the CVRDE’s home-grown design will be vetted by a consultant, who will be chosen from three candidates: Ricardo; AVL; or US-based South West Research Institute.
“CVRDE has a tradition in transmission design. We built a 1500 HP transmission for the Arjun, which was not used because the engine design was changed. We have also built the “aircraft mounted accessory gearbox” that is standard fitment in the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. It is 35 kg of magnesium alloy, spinning at 16,800 rpm. This gearbox has successfully completed some 3000 flights,” says Sivakumar.
The FMBT will be armed with India’s first smoothbore 120-millimetre tank gun. While the rest of the world has long used smoothbore guns — which fire anti-tank missiles and high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds — the DRDO alone has stuck with rifled guns. There is confidence that the changeover will be smooth: the DRDO developed a smoothbore gun for the T-90 tank after Russia illegally blocked gun technologies. The DRDO is also working with Israel Military Industries (IMI), which developed the smoothbore gun for the Merkava tank.
Cushioning the FMBT’s ride will be one of the Arjun’s unique successes, its hydro-pneumatic suspension unit (HSU), which smoothens the jerks from driving fast over uneven cross-country terrain. The Arjun’s smooth ride allows its gun to accurately hit a suitcase two kilometres away while driving at 30 kmph. The initial FMBTs will have improved Arjun HSUs, while CVRDE proposes to develop an “active suspension” by 2030. This has sensors scrutinising the terrain just ahead of the tank and making anticipatory adjustments before the tank’s tracks roll over that area.
“The future is active suspension. The FMBT will initially roll out with hydro-pneumatic suspensions but we are commencing R&D for active suspension. It takes some time to develop a reliable active suspension. No tank has managed it so far,” says Sivakumar.

Amidst age row, Indian Army chief meets key aides

New Delhi: Amidst a raging row over his request for reconciling the official records to show his year of birth as 1951 instead of 1950, army chief General V.K. Singh has met his principal staff officers, particularly the record keepers in the army headquarters here, sources said Monday.
Though no official information on what transpired in the meetings held Friday and again Monday, sources said the defence ministry’s communication Friday that the attorney general’s opinion which was against acceding to his request did come up for discussion.
The meeting with his principal staff officers, held twice within a matter of four days, was attended among others by the adjutant general, who is responsible for record keeping and pay and in the army headquarters.
The records with the adjutant general branch, including General Singh’s school leaving certificate, indicated that he was born May 10, 1951. However, records with the military secretary, responsible for postings and promotions, showed it as May 10, 1950.
With the defence ministry rejecting his statutory complaint lodged four months ago with Defence Minister A.K. Antony, the army chief has the option of going to the courts, either the armed forces tribunal or the Supreme Court, to get his grievance addressed.
Another drastic move that the army chief could take was to resign ahead of his tenure coming to an end May 31, 2012, which would put the succession line in the 1.13-million-strong army out of gear, sources said.
On Friday, after General Singh was communicated the government’s decision on his date of birth, he met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was the defence minister when the controversy broke out.
The army chief’s age controversy first cropped up in 2006 when his name came up before the government for appointment as a corps commander.
Antony told parliament, in reply to questions, in September last year that “the date of birth of General Singh has been maintained as May 10, 1950, at the time of his selection as corps commander in 2006 as well his subsequent promotions as army commander in 2008 and the chief of army staff in 2010.”
In the age controversy, the army chief had filed a petition May 25, 2011 before the defence ministry asking it to treat May 10, 1951, as his date of birth. But July 21, 2011 this plea was rejected by the ministry.
The statutory complaint was filed by General Singh in response to the July 21 rejection of his earlier petition.
If the ministry had granted General Singh his request, it would have provided him another 10 months in office and he would have retired in April 2013.
That would have also resulted in Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, who is the present Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander, being denied the chance to become the next chief in May 2012 and his junior Lt. Gen K.T. Parnaik, present Udhampur-based Northern Army Commander, would have become the next chief in April 2013. (IANS)

US aid slashedPakistan comes in for punishment
BY suspending a major chunk of the annual $1.1 billion military aid to Pakistan, President Barack Obama has provided proof, if it was needed, that the US is no longer interested in treating Islamabad as a “key ally” in the war against global terror. The aid suspension has come as a result of a $662 billion defence spending Bill becoming a law after Mr Obama had put his signature on it. Recently the US Congress had voted to freeze $700 million of the massive military aid to Pakistan unless Islamabad stopped the smuggling into Afghanistan of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) clandestinely manufactured in Pakistan. These IEDs have been used by Afghan insurgents to kill or maim US soldiers engaged in the war against terror along with troops from other NATO member-countries.
The US, apparently, has taken the major step in accordance with its new policy on the Af-Pak area. Washington DC is no longer interested in maintaining the kind of relationship with Pakistan that has existed so far. It has come to realise that it cannot depend on Pakistan for protecting its interests in Afghanistan as Islamabad is not willing to play its cards the way the US wants it to. Islamabad has also stopped cooperating with the US in carrying out drone strikes against the Taliban bases in Pakistan. Perhaps, the US also wants to send to Islamabad a clear message that if Pakistan can harden its stand vis-à-vis the US after the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a US military attack last November under controversial circumstances, Washington DC too can tighten its screws on Pakistan.
The truth is that the US aid to Pakistan on the pretext of helping its military to effectively fight terror had no justification since the very beginning. It was never used for the intended purpose. The US funds were used by Pakistan to buy military hardware to improve its strike capabilities against India. This money also helped Islamabad in funding anti-India operations of certain terrorist outfits based in Pakistan. The US has, in fact, suspended its military aid to Pakistan too late in the day. But it is better late than never.

Fund crunch over; CSD car sales to normalise
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, January 2
After waiting for months, armed forces personnel may finally be able to purchase cars through the Canteen Stores Department (CSD).
The sale of cars and some hi-end consumer items had been suspended last year because of a shortage of funds with the CSD that had resulted in a “large” backlog of payments to dealers and vendors supplying goods to CSD outlets.
Sources said that additional funds have been made available by the Central government and the situation was likely to ease, following which the sale of cars through the CSD was expected to resume.
At present, only a very limited number of cars are being released through the CSD, depending upon the criticality of the requirement on the buyers’ part. A special committee for the purpose was set up at the Army headquarters to scrutinise applications from personnel wanting to buy cars.
Before the fund crisis, about 3,000 cars were being bought through the CSD across the country each month. At present, this has been reduced to about a 100.
Informed sources said that the committee was receiving about 200 applications each month and sale was being sanctioned on the basis of certain parameters like disability, medical grounds etc.
A letter from the Quartermaster General’s Branch at Army headquarters had earlier stated that due to inadequate budget for financial year 2010-11, a large amount of payment was outstanding and unless sufficient funds were made available early by the government in 2011-12, payments would be further held up.
The letter added that due to delayed or pending payments, dealers in turn refuse or delay delivery of consignments. According to the existing terms of trade, dealers are to be paid within seven days of the delivery of goods.
Payments received in advance from customers for purchase of cars and hi-end goods, referred to as AFD-1 items, have to be deposited with the Consolidated Fund of India. For its expenses and for making payments to dealers, separate funds are received by the CSD from the government under the head “supplies and material (S&M) budget allocation”.
The amount received by CSD as advance cannot be utilised for making payments to dealers.
Payments towards AFD-1 items like cars, two-wheelers, air conditioners, electronic items, washing machines and refrigerators now account for over 20 per cent of the S&M budget. The problem with funds, according to sources, arose due to factors like inflation, price rise and increasing demand not being factored carefully while making budgetary allocations.
The CSD has an inventory of about 3,000 items ranging from groceries and items of daily use to consumer goods, liquor and edibles. With outlets established down to the unit level across the country, it has an annual turnover of over Rs 7,000 crore.

Protester killed in CISF firing in ValleyEhsan Fazili/TNS
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, January 2
A student was killed and two others injured when jawans of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) opened fire to disperse a mob protesting against power shortage outside the NHPC-run Uri power project at Boniyar in Baramulla district today.

In a prompt action, five CISF jawans were arrested and an FIR was lodged in the incident. The state government has taken up the matter with the Union Home Ministry and lodged a protest. It has demanded stern action against delinquent CISF personnel.
Eyewitnesses said over 500 people were protesting against power shortage in the area this afternoon. “The protesters were agitating against power shortage in the area, which is close to the Uri power project,” an eyewitness said. He said sensing trouble the CISF jawans came out of the main entrance to the NHPC power project and opened fire at the protesters without any provocation. While Altaf Ahmad Sood was killed, Abdul Majid Khan and Parvez Ahmad Khan were injured.
“The people were holding a demonstration against power shortage and the firing was unprovoked,” another eyewitness said. Soon after the incident, Minister for Public Health and Engineering came out of the main entrance to NHPC power project and opened fire at protesters without any provocation. While Altaf Ahmad Sood was killed, Abdul Majid Khan and Parvez Ahmad Khan were injured.
“The people were holding a demonstration against power shortage and the firing was unprovoked,” another eyewitness said. Soon after the incident, Minister for Public Health and EngineeringTaj Mohiuddin, who represents the Uri constituency, Minister of State for Home Nasir Aslam Wani and DGP Kuldeep Khoda reached the spot. The situation was under control when the reports last came in.
A government spokesman regretted the incident in Baramulla. He said state government had taken a serious view of the incident and asked police to take steps to punish the guilty. He clarified that CISF, troops of which opened fire at the protesters, was not part of the Counter Insurgency Grid operating in the state. The NHPC had hired services of the force exclusively for security of its installations across the state and it (CISF) was not under operational command of either the Unified Headquarters or state government.

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