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Thursday, 5 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 05 Jan 2012
Defence accounting automation project a non-starter
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, January 4
In spite of having spent over Rs 20 crore, an ambitious project by the Defence Accounts Department (DAD) to automate its functioning and ensure online transactions has not be able to meet its envisioned objectives.

The automation project required computerisation of over 900 offices at 200 locations besides ensuring that every DAD employee used a computer for official work.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has, in its latest report, observed that the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) could not expedite the progress of the software development resulting in non-completion of the project even after the completion schedule was revised. “In spite of incurring an expenditure of Rs 20.47 crore on hardware, software and training, the project has already been inordinately delayed.

One of the oldest government departments, the two-and-a-half centuries old DAD’s responsibilities include audit, payment and accounting of all charges pertaining to the Armed Forces and allied military establishments, including bills for supplies and services rendered and for construction/repair works, pay and allowances of personnel, pensions, and other miscellaneous expenses.

CAG’s findings assume significance in the backdrop of the department going in for web enabled pension disbursement system for quick the payments as well as redressal of grievances. Several projects have recently been initiated by the department to provide e-services to pensioners in regard to entitlements, statements and orders.

CAG has also observed that in spite of receipt of unworkable rates in three lots, the CGDA, who heads DAD, did not exercise the option of re-tendering and awarded contracts to firms that failed to produce the critical and important modules of software by taking four years time as against the stipulated three months and ultimately the contracts were terminated. Also some firms did not meet the basic criteria yet contracts were awarded to them.

The CGDA, in its reply to CAG, has admitted the failure of the vendors in designing an development of the software. The equipment procured for automation is being out to use in routine office work.
Rs 6,600-crore new missiles for Mirage fighter jets
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4
Indian Air Force will have a new set of missiles on its fleet of French-built Mirage-2000 warplanes. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) today cleared a Euro 950 million (Rs 6,600 crore) deal to procure some 490 air-to- air missiles.

These are produced by French firm MBDA for Euro 950 million (Rs 6,600 crore), sources in the ministry of defence confirmed. The missiles would be deployed on Mirage aircraft. The IAF operates some 51 Mirage aircraft which are undergoing mid-life upgrade at a French facility under a Euro 1.47 billion (Rs 10,000 crore) deal signed earlier this year.

Under the deal, MBDA will have to do offsets worth 30 per cent of the deal meaning that they will have to invest 315 million Euros back in the Indian defence sector. The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) mandates that foreign vendors bagging deals worth over Rs 300 crore have to invest back at least 30 per cent of the contract's worth into Indian defence, civil aerospace and homeland security sector.

The MBDA already has a tie-up with the Indian government-owned missile manufacturer Bharat Dynamics Limited as the offsets will most likely be executed through this venture.

Some of the Mirage aircraft would be modernised in India at Hindustan Aeronautic Limited plant.
New high in US-Iran tension
Showdown over N-issue imminent
It seems Iran is not far away from acquiring the nuclear weapons capability. That is why the US appears to be more worried now than it has ever been. The buzz is that the US wants to paralyse the Iranian economy to force Tehran to abandon its dangerous ambitions. The US has imposed fresh sanctions on the Iranian central bank and financial sector to prevent it from doing oil-related transactions. The sanctions will also be applicable in the case of the countries that refuse to snap their trade relations with Iran. Russia and China, which have close economic relations with Iran, may be among the other affected countries if no corrective measures are taken. This may complicate the situation, leading to unimaginable consequences.

Iran is showing no signs of being scared of the US action. Instead, it has warned the US to keep off the strategically significant Strait of Hormuz through which one-fifth of the world’s oil supply passes. The US navy’s biggest aircraft carrier is about to enter the Strait of Hormuz as a matter of routine. Iran claims that it has the right to block the shipping channel and it will do so as its response to the latest US action to reduce Tehran’s earnings through oil exports considerably. The showdown, which appears imminent, between the US and Iran may lead to an acute oil shortage, resulting in a fresh rise in energy prices. The situation may become more complex with the European Union also threatening to announce an embargo on importing oil from Iran.

All this is happening over six weeks after the International Atomic Energy Agency issued its latest report saying that Iran may be working secretly over a nuclear warhead design despite its denials to the contrary. Since then the US has been under tremendous pressure from its West Asian allies like Saudi Arabia to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons which will upset the power balance in the region. The Saudis may help the US scheme of things by increasing their oil production to keep its prices at the desired level. The Iranians seem to be ready for a military conflict with the US. Can the US afford it when its economy is finding it difficult to come out of the recessionary quagmire?
Govt hunts for truce in dispute with army chief over his age

Read more at:
New Delhi:  The unseemly prospect of the army chief taking the Government to court has opened the door to backroom negotiations. 

A possible compromise involves the Government declaring that General VK Singh did not misrepresent his age. In return, the General will agree to retire this year.

The lengthy dispute has been triggered by the fact that the General's year of birth has been documented differently within the Army records. Some say he was born in 1950, others in 1951. The latter date increases his eligibility as head of the Army by another year to 2013, when he would be 62 years old.

"Just nobody...nobody should believe that the General has not spoken the truth," said Law Minister Salman Khurshid, reflecting what many believe is the General's insistence that his personal integrity be upheld in public. On different occasions, the Attorney General of the country has advised the Defence Ministry that the documents that say the Army Chief was born in 1950 over-rule the others.

The dispute over General Singh's age began in 2006 when a bureaucrat noticed two different dates in his records when his name came up from promotion and sought clarification from the Military Secretary's branch which handles promotions. The Military Secretary's branch had the year of birth down as 1950 and thus it replied to the MoD accordingly without bothering to check with the Adjutant General's branch which is the official record keeper for the Army Officers.

Again when his name came up for promotion in 2008, the Army Headquarters asked him to accept 1950 as his official age, giving him 24 hours to do so or else face disciplinary action. The then Army Chief and the Military Secretary said that other people in the queue were also suffering due to the delay in this case. Faced with an ultimatum, the General wrote back the same day to say "Whatever decision is taken in the organisation interest is acceptable to me."

The General's matriculation certificate shows 1951 as his year of birth. The Supreme Court says this record is acceptable as proof of age.

So could this be a way out for the Government to avoid a legal battle?

The Government has insisted that 'rules are rules'. The rules say that Government Servants are allowed to make changes to their dates of birth within two years of joining the service and VK Singh did not do so.

"Nobody in the government will say that the Army chief is not anything but the most outstanding army chief that we could have had, an outstanding officer.  But there is something called rules...sometimes rules are unfair," said the Law Minister.

If the government accepts the General's argument that he was born in 1951, but cites rules to prevent an extension in his tenure, both sides may be satisfied. And the government's succession plan for the army will remain intact - General Bikram Singh is tipped to take over in May, this year.

Read more at:
Little to cheer about security in 2011
Taking stock of India’s policies, responses on various national security issues over 2011 from Raisina Hill and the situation on the ground and on the high seas, there is little to cheer about.

Jammu and Kashmir
The attack on the state’s law and parliamentary affairs minister Ali Mohammad Sagar by Pakistani terrorists, following earlier ones, only underscores what defence minister A. K. Antony quoted recently, said, “Even though violence levels have reduced substantially, attempts at infiltration are still persisting... We can’t ignore the threat”. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has been campaigning for demilitarisation and removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some parts of the state, which reportedly the Union home ministry supports. Mr Abdullah has also mooted the raising of 50 police battalions to replace Army and para-military forces in the Valley. While GOC 15 Corps Lt. Gen. Ata Hasnain categorically said that Pakistan will stoke more trouble in Kashmir once US-led forces exit Afghanistan, intelligence inputs received by various Army formations in J&K appear to suggest that infiltration is on the rise after the state government’s move for a partial withdrawal of AFSPA. Mr Antony stated in Parliament on December 7, 2011, that as per the assessment of the Multi Agency Centre (MAC), 68 militants attempted to infiltrate across the Line of Control (LoC) during September and October 2011, as compared to 85 such attempts during the corresponding period in 2010. Twelve terrorists were killed and one terrorist apprehended by Army in 2011, while trying to infiltrate in J&K.
During this period, five Army personnel were killed and eight were wounded during conduct of anti-infiltration operations along the LoC. He further stated that it was owing to the Army’s “robust counter-infiltration strategy” involving troop deployment and use of surveillance and monitoring devices and the LoC fence that have enhanced the ability to detect and intercept terrorists attempting to infiltrate/exfiltrate. This is just as well, because as brought out by this daily, painstaking investigation by Indian Intelligence agencies has revealed founder of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT, renamed Jamaat ud Dawa) Hafiz Saeed’s latest plans for a winter offensive not only in J&K, but also in important Indian cities during Assembly elections. Heavy snow on mountain passes during winter has been deterring infiltration attempts across the LoC by Pakistani terrorists. Saeed has been exhorting LeT operatives at Muridke, Lahore and Peshawar Cantonment to mobilise terrorists specially trained to operate in heavy snow in order to ensure their induction during winter months. In view of all these factors, New Delhi must have no doubts or contradictions on national security.
Pakistan while talks, albeit inconclusive during the recent round, will continue, despite Pakistan Army’s continued active support of groups like LeT and some others for anti-India operations, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on December 24 filed charge sheets against nine persons, including two serving Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officers— Major Iqbal and Major Samir Ali — as well as Pakistani-American LeT operative Daood Gilani, aka David Coleman Headley, and Hafiz Saeed, for the 26/11 attacks in India. This is the first time India has framed terror charges against serving officers of Pakistan’s Army for terror attacks in India. National Investigation Agency (NIA) has prepared a “Terror Funding Template” (TFT), which will help its officials and investigators of states’ anti-terror agencies to extract information on terror funding. The TFT has been circulated to all states and Union Territories for getting relevant information from terrorists and terror suspects during their interrogation and probe. Islamabad has formally conveyed to India that its nine-member judicial commission will visit here in January to interview key persons linked to the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Nothing was done about Manipur’s main highways again being blockaded for months on end this year. The Centre has been having talks with the Issac — muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland/Nagalim, (NSCN-IM) since 1997 and with United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) since this year. On NSCN talks, a leading local daily of Manipur reported: “Like in 1949 when the Congress party conspired and usurped the sovereignty of Manipur, it is now plotting to disintegrate Manipur” by agreeing to its own flag and “a supra state body ….encompass Nagas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh is tantamount to establishing a separate administration for Nagas outside the jurisprudence of these three States”. On Ulfa, the Centre has begun talks with a faction formed of terrorists handed over by Bangladesh, who Assam chief minister bailed out of jail to help him win elections for the third time and some of who are reported to be clandestinely still involved with Paresh Baruah’s anti-talks group hiding in Burma and indulging in attacks, extortion and abductions in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, where the Army busted some camps of the outfit. Meanwhile, the tie-up between Naxal-Maoists with the aforementioned terrorist groups and some more of Manipur, all involved in training and supplying them weapons from China, has been growing, with the late Kishenji having visited Assam for coordination, just before he was killed. Much more needs to be done by Assam government on both counts.
India ’s ongoing cooperation with Burma has been disproportionate, in that the latter has requested for and received many categories of military hardware and equipment, but assurance of its territory not being allowed to be used for insurgent activities against India has never been effective. Elements of United National Liberation Front, People’s Liberation Army — the armed wing of the Revolutionary People’s Front, the warring factions of the NSCN-IM and NSCN-K (Khaplang) the Ulfa have maintained tactical bases in Burma.
Following Myanmar Army’s recent operation against Indian insurgent-terrorist groups hiding in the Taga region, media cited home ministry sources saying that it was an eyewash conducted a week after it tipped-off Indian insurgent-terrorist leaders.
The press release issued following the recent 4th India-China Annual Defence Dialogue conducted on November 9, 2011 in the defence ministry, New Delhi stated: “It was conducted in an atmosphere of cordiality and both sides were frank and constructive in their approach during the deliberations…. It was noted that existing confidence building measures on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between both countries were successful in maintaining peace and tranquility on the borders. It was decided that such measures would continue to be implemented. Both sides agreed that the process of dialogue and communication should be strengthened at various levels to ensure stability in the border areas. Both sides agreed that the provisions of the 2005 protocol for implementation of CBMs on the LAC should be strictly adhered to by both sides so that peace and tranquillity is maintained in the border areas. It was also noted that the strengthening of the institutional mechanism for border discussions, which is expected to be operationalised soon through the establishment of a working level mechanism, would improve communications on important border related issues”.
Whereas, since the fierce confrontation at Nathu La in 1967, no bullets have been fired, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has kept the 4,057-km LAC live with incursions. Three sectors of the LAC are western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal), Arunachal. While incursions in Aunachal Pradesh and Sikkim were considered routine, the ones in Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) Ladakh region since 2009, particularly when seen in the light of decades old anti-India based Sino-Pak relationship and joint military exercises, like Stride 2009, conducted in China’s northwest Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, at an unprecedented level of 50,000 troops and aiming to test its long-distance mobility, is certainly a cause for concern. Chinese incursions have involved violations of air space, air dropping of expired tinned food, painting of rocks etc. Another major cause of worry is construction of airfields, roads, railway lines and strategic link up of Kashghar, in Pakistan with Havelian in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and ultimately with Tibet’s Medong region bordering Arunachal. Also worrying are China’s efforts to bolster surveillance capability by constructing border out posts (BOPs), which at places, can also be used for directing precision guided munitions (TV guided cruise missiles, terrain guided missiles eg-KH59 mk II, which has a range of over 1200 kms ) — all of which have the potential to substantially alter the strategic balance in favour of China. According to a September 29, 2011 media report, a secret note to the ministry of external affairs revealed that the PLA troops of have been violating the LAC at will, with as many as 50 incursions in three months, some as much as seven kms inside Indian territory in J&K. Some instances are: (a) On September 16, 2011, there was a face-off at the Demchok post when the Chinese came close to Indian patrol. The Indians disengaged and performed a banner drill, but the Chinese did not withdraw. (b) On September 9 about a dozen PLA soldiers reached Barahoti in the middle sector on horseback. Later a Chinese PLA vehicle came to the Tunjun La area and erected some antennas 4.5 km deep inside the Indian territory. (c) On September 2, there was face-off at the Thakung post on the Sino-Indian boundary in the western sector of J&K. (d) On August 22, four Chinese boats carrying PLA personnel entered 5.5 km deep into the Indian territory in the Pangong Tso area. (e) On August 19, an Indian patrol, had a face-off with the PLA in Pangong Tso area. (f) On August 16, 48 PLA personnel intruded seven km into the Indian territory.
For a change New Delhi is being assertive questioning its claims on the South China Sea, forging strategic ties with Vietnam, Japan and Australia and not reacting to China’s objections on the Dalai Lama’s presence at the Tibetan conclave.

Naxal-Maoist terrorism
there is some progress but much more needs to be done by all the affected states in coordination with the Centre. Long pending police reforms urgently need to be implemented with special stress on recruitment to greatly increase policeman to population ratio and proper counter-terrorism training.
Coastal security
While Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard have been working closely with various government agencies of coastal states for establishing a synergised mechanism in accordance with the Cabinet Committee on Security’s directives issued in February 2009, only some progress has been made and interim Standard Operating Procedures promulgated for joint patrolling in territorial waters and revalidated regularly through conduct of security exercises like Sagar Kavach.
The disconnect between ministries of defence and home and external affairs must be rectified. Some other ministries must also be included effectively. Military and internal security acquisitions need to be expedited.
Turf club fights battle with army
Alleging usurping of club land, around 3,000 members of Royal Western India Turf Club send letter to Defence Minister Antony

An ongoing dispute between the army authorities and the members of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) escalated to new heights with about 3,000 members of the club sending a letter to Defence Minister A K Antony against alleged harassment by the army authorities.
The members have been accusing the army of usurping the plot and dispensing it as part of superannuation benefits to retired defence officers. They claimed that the army under the command of Lt Gen AK Singh and Major Gen Anirudha C is resorting to illegal tactics as they have fenced off the open space at the club and put up a board prohibiting members to park their vehicles.

"The said portion of land is of no specific use for any army activity and this conduct of the army is anti-public. There's only one entrance for the civilians to enter the club of 100 yards where they have been prohibited to park. The army just wants to grab the land and stop horse racing which is going on for the past 100 years," said a member and lawyer, Prakash Bhoge.

The government had executed a lease deed in 1907 in favour of the club, granting certain rights to it for conducting horse races and other activities on the area, which is about 111 acres. The club falls within the jurisdiction of the Pune Cantonment Board.

Later, out of total area, about 65.5 acre was given on lease to the army. The club members, who claim to have documents to prove their possession, allege that the army authority wants to usurp the race course for their own benefits and stop racing activities.

The army authorities refuted the allegations in a release. They said that the army had taken control of its assets to avoid the claims made by the club members who want to take possession of 65 acre of defence land. It has also accused the club of violating several cantonment laws.
Army chief row: Cong keeps distance, Sachar backs him
The Congress on Tuesday sought to depoliticise the age controversy involving Army Chief General V K Singh even as he got support from several quarters including retired Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajindar Sachar who criticised the government for handling the matter in an “ungainly way”.

Reacting to the letter from Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh to Defence Minister A K Antony in support of Singh on the age issue, the Congress said the communication was sent in a personal capacity and politicians should not comment on the internal affairs of the armed forces.

“(Amarinder Singh) is a former officer of the Army who has his views on strategic and military affairs... after he has clarified that he has written the letter in a personal capacity, we should leave it at that,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari on Tuesday.

AICC ex-servicemen department secretary Praveen Davar said the issue is between the “government and the chief” and should not be politicised.
Meanwhile, others, including Justice Sachar and retired armed forces officers, have come out in Singh’s support. In a statement, Justice Sachar took on the government for dealing with the matter in a “very casual manner” and belittling the Army chief.

“It is a matter of regret that the government should deal with such a matter as if it was dealing with a matter of head clerk’s age. Civilian control of Army does not permit playing with the dignity of armed forces,” Sachar said.

Retired officers, including recent Army Commanders, also supported Singh. “If the government feels very strongly about the matter it can find a way of agreeing with the chief on the date of birth issue
and at the same time telling him to retire (this year) in organisational interest,” said Lt Gen (retd) Aditya Singh.

Lt Gen (retd) Raj Kadyan, who heads the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), said Singh has a strong legal case but the image of the Army should not be dented because of the controversy.

Special Forces officer Lt Gen P C Katoch, who retired recently as the Director General Information Systems, said nobody in the military disputes supremacy of the civilian government but in this case, the bureaucracy has taken a hard line.

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