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Sunday, 29 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 29 Jan 2012

Age row: Army chief likely to withdraw plea against government, says report
General V.K. Singh will withdraw his petition against the government in the Supreme Court over his age, a report said on Saturday.

The Army chief will withdraw the petition against the government on February 3 when it comes up for hearing in the apex court, it said.

Singh had moved the SC against the government for refusing to consider his date of birth as recorded in matriculation certificate as his official date of birth.

As per the compromise formula, the government will accept Gen Singh's claim that his date of birth is May 10, 1951, the report added.

The government has been maintaining that Gen Singh's date of birth was May 10, 1950 but the army chief has been claiming that it should be May 10, 1951.

The government on January 20 had ruled out any compromise with Gen Singh over his age issue.
Indian Navy: Running silent, running deep!
Last week, the Indian Navy commissioned a nuclear powered submarine called INS Chakra. The 8,000 ton vessel built by Russia has been taken on lease for a 10 year period, at a cost of almost $1 billion. The new submarine will be added to the fleet of 14 aging Indian submarines. It will be armed with 300 km range Klub-S land attack cruise missiles and advanced torpedoes. The submarine will be based at Visakhapatnam along the Bay of Bengal.

According to the Indian Defense Ministry, INS Chakra "will be deadly hunter-killer of enemy submarines and warships." It will also provide protection to fleets at sea. The vessel is as sophisticated as the latest US submarines as regard its sound effect and capacity to stay under the sea for a very long period.

It is curious that India is arming itself with offensive naval platforms and military assets. To many, this may seem unusual for a country that is committed to world peace. But analysts say this is part of a regional effort against any other hostile mega power, especially in the Asia-Pacific.

To begin with, an alliance of countries, known as the "axis of democracies," is being formed. Here, India is being joined by the US, Japan and Australia.

Let us take a closer look at what is happening around us in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

Last May, Japan and Australia signed the Japan-Australia Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA). It calls for reciprocal provision of goods and services during joint exercises, peace keeping operations, relief activities, etc. This is the second ACSA after the one Japan signed with the USA.

But before that, in April last year, the Japanese defense minister visited India and held the second Japan-India Defense Ministerial meeting. Among other things, it was agreed that joint exercises, staff talks, exchanges in various fields and various levels would take place.

In the meantime, the US is busy putting together the bricks and mortar to form a new security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region.

The concern of the US is mainly the sea "choke points" -- the narrow channels along widely used global sea routes. They are a critical part of the global energy security due to the high volume of oil passing through the narrow straits. Two such "choke points" are the Strait of Hormuz leading out to the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Malacca linking the Indian and the Pacific oceans. On the south eastern end of the Malacca Strait it flows into the South China Sea where the resource rich Spratly islands are contested between China and several members of the Association of South East Asian nations (Asean). In Hormuz, the US directly faces Iran, which is ready to close the Strait if US pressure through economic sanction due to its nuclear programme increases.

Thus, last October, the then US Defense Secretary Gates met with the Japanese defense minister at the Asian Defense Ministers meeting in Hanoi and reiterated that their countries would jointly respond in line with a bilateral security pact towards stability in areas in the East China Sea, covering disputes between China and Japan. It may be mentioned that there is complete inter-operability between the navies of the US and Japan.

Relations between the Indian and Australian navies have grown in strength recently. Australia sees India as her "extended neighbourhood." Naval exchange ship visits and exercises are becoming frequent. Australia has agreed in principle to sell uranium to India in a major policy reversal.

The US has also tied up with India through consolidating a strategic partnership. In October 2011, the US army participated in the latest and the largest of Yudh Abhyas (training for war) games with India. The US has also been joining annual naval exercises named Malabar with India. It has now included Canada, Australia, Japan, and Singapore. In 2007, Malabar naval exercise was held in the Bay of Bengal close to the Bangladesh shores, with more than 25 warships from five nations.

So when India, with more than 700 million poor, is engaged in purchasing and leasing military hardware like the INS Chakra, eyebrows are likely to be raised. The scarce resources of the country could instead have been used to alleviate poverty. India's own society, which is threatened by Maoist insurgency, attacks by terrorists, as well as armed insurrection in the north eastern states, needs priority attention.

By participating in a big power game in the Indian Ocean, India may be putting itself at odds with other countries that do not see eye-to-eye with it on strategic matters. India, it is suggested, should first engage China and quickly demarcate their northern land borders so as to increase mutual trust and reduce the possibility of any conflict with China.

Recently, in the 15th meeting between India and China on the border issue, a "working mechanism for consultation and coordination" only was agreed upon. The process of border demarcation continues to be stalled as there is little confidence between the two. India and China are two large trading partners, but this in no way seems to overcome the distrust that exists between them. India's participation with the US, Australia and Japan to contain China through their navies may acerbate the situation.

In 2011, India had invested over $36 billion in its military. It is rapidly modernising its armed forces and building a missile defense system and nuclear triad delivery systems. The country will be investing more than $112 billion in sophisticated arms and battle platforms before 2016.

So how do India's small neighbours like Bangladesh see these developments?

Bangladesh has since 2009 been undertaking joint military exercises with India to combat terrorism. It has also being testing combat zone tactics together. India is also now thinking of supplying Bangladesh with military equipment. This is in addition to what Bangladesh buys from China, which, ironically is seen as militarily hostile to India.

In spite of all this, Bangladesh as well as other small nations along the Indian littoral, who use the sea lanes for trade and energy supplies, will remain uncomfortable with the Indian navy patrolling the deep seas ever so quietly and inconspicuously. They would also be worried to see a Nato-like force emerge in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, comprising of the US, Japan, India and Australia, to jointly confront China or other powers.

The acquisition of INS Chakra points towards such a possible development in the future.
Imran counts the days of Pakistan's army while marching towards a better future with India

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Pakistan's PM-aspirant Imran Khan, who is drawing massive crowds in his country, has declared that the army's days are over in Pakistan and vowed to have best relations with India.

'The army's days are over. You will soon see a true democracy in Pakistan,'the cricketer-turned-politician said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Davos on Saturday.

'Let me assure you that democracy is set to take off in Pakistan. You just wait till the elections. The time has come for a true democracy,' Khan, who also attended the India reception party in Davos on Friday night, said.
Crowd pleaser: Imran Khan has been drawing massive crowds at his political rallies in Pakistan

Crowd pleaser: Imran Khan has been drawing massive crowds at his political rallies in Pakistan

Khan saw nothing wrong in taking groups like the outlawed Jamat-ud- Dawah (JuD) along in his political journey.

Asked about his association with such extremist group, which has acted as a front of the Lashkar-e- Tayyeba (LeT) that carried out the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Khan drew attention to the US support to the Taliban during the era of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

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Is taking along different groups of people with an aim to bring them to the mainstream wrong? What you should understand is that you have to talk to various kinds of people in politics. If I try to bring them (extremists) back to the mainstream, there is nothing wrong in it,' he said.

Continuing with his argument, Khan asked: 'And if you talk about support to the extremists, did America not support the Taliban?'

'Politics requires you to talk to various groups of people and there is certainly nothing wrong if I want to bring them back to the main fold and change their mindset. For that, I would have to talk to them. I can assure you best of the relations with India and these things would never come in the way,' he added.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaaf party chief's presence in Davos was significant because the summit allowed him a platform to promote his political ambitions.

'The people of Pakistan are waiting for change. They want a democracy of their choice. The democracy is bound to come. There are lots of expectations. They have had it enough and now they desperately want their voice to be heard,' he said.

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Army not a threat to democracy: Gilani

* PM says no state institution, military or people of Pakistan want coup

* ‘Trust deficit’ exists between Pakistan and US

DAVOS: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Saturday said that there was no chance of any military coup in Pakistan, as the army desired democracy and stability in the country.
In an interaction with the media on the fringes of the ongoing annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Gilani said, “I don’t think there will be a coup in Pakistan ever. There is no threat to democracy.”
Gilani said no state institution, military or the people of Pakistan want a coup and all are in favour of democracy.
The international media was particularly interested in the change in the Pakistan-United States ties following the NATO attack on a border post that killed 24 soldiers.
Gilani said the incident was a “turning point” and that it created a bad taste. He said prior to the attack there had been a number of other incidents that had already strained ties between the two countries to a large extent.
He said the Defence Committee of the Cabinet decided to define new terms of engagements and it was decided to cut off NATO supply lines, get the Shamsi airbase vacated and boycott the Bonn Conference.
The prime minister said that there was “a trust deficit” between Islamabad and Washington as he criticised the resumption of US drone strikes in the tribal areas.
Pakistan is against the “illegal and counter productive” drone strikes along the areas bordering Afghanistan and had conveyed its concerns to the United States in this regard and wished to settle all issues, as a responsible country, and discuss everything diplomatically, he said.
He said parliament would be defining new terms of engagement and hoped the new terms would be more productive and lasting.
When asked about the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, he said, “It was the failure of the intelligence agencies of the whole world.”
Gilani termed Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh a “genuine person” and said he too was desirous of resolving all issues with Pakistan, including the core issue of Kashmir. “We are in the process of normalising trade relations with India which will benefit the people of both the countries,” he said. app
NDA chief honoured with AVSM for second time
Commandant of the National Defence Academy, Lt Gen Jatinder Singh, has been awarded Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) in recognition of his devotion to duty and distinguished service. The Bar to AVSM means the general officer has bagged the AVSM for the second time.

Singh is a specialist in mechanised and counter insurgency operations and took over as the NDA chief on January 1, 2011. He is an alumnus of the Sainik School, Kazhakootam, and the NDA's 42nd Course and was commissioned in the prestigious 1 Guards (2 Punjab) regiment of the Indian Army on June 13, 1973.

A graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, and Higher Command Course (Air), College of Air Warfare, Secunderabad, Singh was awarded the AVSM for the first time in 2008.

Naval engg cadets' triathlon held: The cadets of naval engineering course at INS Shivaji, Lonavla, participated in a triathlon across the ghats of the Sahyadri ranges and the Arabian Sea, to commemorate the 63rd Republic Day and completion of '25 years of excellence in cadets training by INS Shivaji'. The cadets covered a total of 300 km by running, cycling and sailing from January 25 to 26.

Four officers and 72 cadets participated in the triathlon. Of these, 54 cadets and one officer ran a distance of 115 km from INS Shivaji to Mandwa jetty, where they passed the baton to eight cadets and two officers, who had sailed from Mumbai. The last leg of this event was expedition cycling from Mumbai to Lonavla across the Western ghats.
Two naval officers may be sacked for data leak
NEW DELHI: Two of the four naval officers in the dock for allegedly divulging classified information and data on social networking and other websites are likely to be sacked from service.

The Navy HQ here is now examining the report of the Board of Inquiry (BoI), conducted at the Western Naval Command at Mumbai, against the four commander-rank officers (equivalent to Lt-Colonels in Army) from the naval technical branch.

The BoI has recommended stringent action against the four officers, including dismissal from service of two, for posting confidential information and data, including location of warships and their patrolling patterns, on sites like Facebook, as reported by TOI earlier.

"One of the officers, for instance, posted extensive details of his warship while still at sea. But, as yet, no espionage angle has come to light in the case," a source said. The "punishments" recommended by the BoI against the four officers have to be "approved" by higher authorities. Dismissal from service, for instance, has to be approved at the level of the defence ministry.

The armed forces have been regularly issuing directives to their personnel to strictly refrain from putting sensitive information and service-related matters, like location of units or deployment patterns, on social networking sites.

The Army, for instance, in October last year had directed all its officers and personnel to even remove their pictures and information showing their affiliation to the service from their personal profiles on social networking sites.

Instructions are also in place to be extremely careful in the use of computer and digital storage devices after intelligence alerts pointed to an increase in leakage of classified data from defence establishments through the use of pen drives, removable hard disks, CDs, VCDs and the like.

Chinese and Pakistani online espionage agents have also being hacking into Indian computer systems over the last several years. For instance, an Army major's personal computer, on which he had stored around 2,000 classified and sensitive documents, was hacked from Pakistan just last year.
Army partners with industry to churn out skilled ex-servicemen
Sudam Sarode is a retired jawan who took active part in the Indo-Pak war in the 1960s. Today, he lives in Khubgaon village in Wardha, Maharashtra. He is a ‘kisan’ who tills his fields and doubles up as an activist of the Shetkari Sanghatana of Vidarbha. Others who retired more recently in the village are either doing cultivation like him or joining private sector firms as peons, drivers or security guards. The only support from the Army comes in the form of a pension of Rs 8,000 every month, says Sarode.

However, things may be different for jawans retiring a few years from now.
The Army is turning a new leaf on the post-retirement life of its jawans. Since 2009, it has begun enrolling all its jawans in graduation courses through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). This will ensure that when soldiers retire at the age of 35, they are equipped with a degree. About 420,000 jawans have enrolled for a degree under this project called Gyandeep.

The Army has also signed an MoU with Microsoft to equip the jawans with information technology (IT) and English-speaking skills.

Last week at the Army cantonment in Delhi, 22 jawans from across the country received certificates after completion of their month-long course in computers. An excited jawan said he could now talk to his children about emails and internet. Another wanted a computer for practice.

The Army intends to deploy these trained jawans in jobs that require IT skills, said an official.

Microsoft began by training 2,000 master trainers. These in turn run courses round the year at 48 centres of the Army. Microsoft also has its tutors running more advanced courses at ten of these centres, renamed as IT Akademies. And, in the last two years, 17,000 jawans have been certified by Microsoft.

Says a senior official of Microsoft, “IT skills are not merely for post-retirement jobs. IT skills are part of the armoury of the modern soldier.”

This is not the only partnership the Army has forged with the private sector for imparting skills to jawans to prepare them for retirement.

The Army is currently talking to the National Skill Development Corporation as well as industry bodies, Confederation of Indian Industries and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, for similar MoUs with various skilling partners from the industry to provide multiple skills and options to jawans. Vocational training centres are on the anvil for jawans to prepare them for post-retirement jobs.

Not all jawans who got certificates last week were on the verge of retirement. Some had just joined, while others were a few years into their service.

For Microsoft, the project called Kshamata (meaning ability) is only a Corporate Social Responsibility and not a parallel business move, its officials say.

While 50,000 jawans retire each year, Kshamata would take a two or three years at the present rate to train that many soldiers with IT skills.

Says a senior Army official, “Our jawans learn various skills while in service, but these are not converted to civil degrees and, hence, of no use once they retire. So, our package with IGNOU and future agreements are intended to do precisely this — to convert their skills and give additional skills with a view to future relevance, as well.

The Army is also looking for “assured absorption” of the skilled personnel once they retire, and this element is being worked into the MoUs that are being considered with the industry, officials say.

The move would help not just the jawans but the industry too, which is currently facing a crisis of skilled labour. While about three million people are skilled annually, the requirement is estimated to be around 30 million a year, and 300 million in ten years. This also forms the basis for the national skill development policy.

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