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Thursday, 2 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 02 Feb 2012
India, China join hands on the high seas to tackle pirates
Ajay Banerjee/TNS
New Delhi, February 1
Faced with persistent threats from pirates operating off the coast of Somalia, uneasy neighbours India and China have started cooperating with each other, roping in Japan to tackle piracy.

This is the first working relationship on the high seas between the Indian Navy and China’s People Liberation Army (Navy). The two armies have so far worked under an agreement to patrol land borders and also follow a protocol when faced with each other on the disputed Line of Actual Control. “The Naval arrangement started a month ago and has provided more safety and better utilisation of resources. It is a working-level meeting (on the high seas) to ensure effective communication and operations,” said Rear Admiral Monty Khanna, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (foreign cooperation and intelligence).

Warships from India, China and Japan have been deployed independently. Their role is conducting independent anti-piracy patrols in the internationally recognised transit corridor — a 480 nautical mile (approx 890 km) long area in the Gulf of Aden. The 92-km wide corridor starts at the confluence of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and extends eastwards towards the Arabian Sea.

The three have so far not been part of the Combined Task Force-151, essentially a NATO-led force for anti-piracy, and nor are they part of the Eunavfor, another grouping of European countries along similar lines. Merchant ship operators have been keen that nations like India, China and Japan that are not part of the big groupings and operate independently, should cooperate among themselves as their standalone warships would then be of greater help in tackling piracy.

India has a warship on duty in the transit corridor since October 2008. China has two warships and a fleet tanker that replenishes supplies while the Japanese also have two warships along with a maritime reconnaissance plane based in Djibouti, close to Somalia.

To facilitate sharing of information, a counter-piracy platform exists and that is named Shared Awareness and De-confliction. It meets on a quarterly basis at Bahrain and has a convoy coordination group that provides merchant ships with naval warship protection. All navies that send warships to escort merchant vessels are extended members of SHADE. Its primary aim is to ensure effective coordination and de-confliction of military resources and operations in combating piracy.
Jawans thrash cops in Pune; Army to probe
Shiv Kumar/TNS

Mumbai, February 1
An argument over riding a bike on a no-entry area resulted in a major fight between soldiers and the police in Pune on Tuesday evening which resulted in several cops and media personnel being beaten up and a police chowky ransacked.

The Pune traffic cops caught two jawans from the College of Military Engineering while they were riding a two-wheeler on the wrong side of a bridge. While the jawans were being issued challans, an argument broke out between them and the police after which the soldiers were taken to a police chowky nearby. Reports from Pune said the two soldiers who were roughed up at the chowky called up their colleagues from their mobile phones.

Soon a truckload of soldiers in civilian clothes descended on the police chowky and thrashed the cops present there. Members of the public who tried to intervene and photo-journalists who were filming the incident were also assaulted. Local journalists said cameras of a some photographers were also damaged in the incident.

In a statement, Deputy Commissioner of Police Sanjay Jadhav said cases have been filed against the jawans for abusing and assaulting police personnel.

According to agency reports, a court of inquiry has been ordered by the College of Military Engineering into the incident. The Court of Inquiry will be headed by a colonel.

The provocation

Pune traffic cops caught two jawans from the College of Military Engineering while they were riding a two-wheeler on the wrong side of a bridge, which was objected to by the cops, resulting in the clash.
Why am I 'singled out', asks Lt Gen Noble Thamburaj

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Mumbai:  Former Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Noble Thamburaj, booked by the CBI in a land dispute case along with a private builder, has questioned as to why he was being "singled out" even as the investigating agency scrutinised documents and computers seized in searches at their residences.

The searches were conducted on Tuesday after the CBI registered a case against Lt Gen Thamburaj, Pune-based builder Kalpataru and former Defence Estate Officer S R Nayyar on
charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and misconduct in the out-of-court land dispute settlement to benefit a private builder to the tune of Rs. 46 crore.

The CBI was preparing questions for the retired Vice Chief and other accused in the case on the basis of its investigation and the enquiry conducted by the Army, a copy of which along with the relevant documents had been handed over to the probe agency, official sources said.

The CBI has made a case on the documents provided by the Army, according to sources.

The CBI has reportedly said that the Army enquiry was silent about the possible favours that Lt Gen Thamburaj and Nayyar had received from the builder and it is now trying to ascertain that. CBI officials investigating the case said all the accused seem to have covered their tracks well after the Army enquiry.

However, Lt Gen Thamburaj, who retired as Vice Chief in October 2009, said it was a collective decision by number of officers and "therefore, it surprises me why I have been singled out for the allegations."

Expressing his desire to extend full cooperation to the CBI, he said he had no connection or association, whatsoever, with the people named by the CBI.

"After 40 years of meritorious service, such allegations are greatly disappointing and I feel hurt and pained with the allegations," Thamburaj said, adding, he would continue to do everything to clear his name from charges levelled by the CBI. According to the CBI, Thamburaj, who was posted as General-Officer-in-Command of Southern Command, and Nayyar had allegedly shown undue favour to the builder for a property measuring 0.96 acres in Defence Land at Pune Cantonment.

"There was a dispute going on regarding the property in question. Thamburaj and Nayyar settled the matter out of court in spite of several court orders given in favour of the army. The duo indulged in gross misconduct," the CBI said.

The two officers ignored rules and policies, violated the terms of lease entered into by the Ministry of Defence and Kalpataru and caused the private company pecuniary gains of about Rs. 46 crore, it said.

However, the retired officer said that an army commander cannot "micro-manage" and was largely dependent on his advisors. "In this case no land was transferred to any builder
during my tenure. The building in question was also constructed before I took charge as the army commander," he said, adding, that he had raised some objections following which the builder threatened to take the army to court.

"My advisers convinced me that our case in the court was weak and it would be wiser to go in for an out of the court and that too after Principal Director of Defence estates, an authority on such matters, had concurred with the proposal," Thamburaj said.

According to CBI officials, there was a property dispute between Defence Ministry and the builder and the high court had in 2005 passed an order in favour of the MoD. Despite that, the two accused tweaked certain rules and policies and did an out of settlement with Kalpataru builders without the knowledge of higher authorities of the Defence Ministry, the CBI alleged.

Searches were being conducted at the Pune residences of Thamburaj and Nayyar and also at the office premises of Kalpataru builders at Koregaon Park in Pune.

Thamburaj, a 1969 batch officer from Bombay Sappers, was GoC-in-C of the Southern Command till December 31, 2008 before being appointed as Vice Chief of Army on January 1, 2009.

The offence is alleged to have taken place in 2008 and the CBI was also listing properties of all the accused in the case which has been registered under 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) of the IPC and section 13 (2) and 13(1)(d) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

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Army’s war within: corruption
After General VK Singh had taken over as Chief of Army Staff in 2010, a retired Lieutenant General, whose name figures in the Adarsh Society Housing scandal called on him at the office ostensibly to discuss developments in Kashmir. After the polite conversation, the retired intelligence chief asked him about the pending heavy vehicle contract and blatantly made it clear that there was Rs 50 crore for him in cold cash if the Rs 400 crore deal was awarded to an East European manufacturer instead of Indo-Russian joint venture. The retired general was immediately escorted out of the Chief’s office and was declared persona non grata. The ex-serviceman was not the first or the last of his kind as greed seems to be good for Army’s top brass.

On Tuesday, the CBI registered a case against a former Army Vice Chief Lt General Noble Thamburaj for allegedly conspiring with a builder Kalpataru over a select piece of Pune Cantonment defence land. One of the companies of the same builder is also under the CBI scanner for illegally obtaining prime defence land in Kandivili in Mumbai with the support of former minister of defence production Rao Inderjit Singh and former Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor. The CBI has already registered a preliminary inquiry into the Kandivili land deal last month and moving towards registering a proper case.

After Mumbai’s Adarsh Housing scandal, involving two former Army chiefs and one former Navy chief among others, and Sukhna land scandal, which led to court martial and dismissal of former military secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash, these two illegal land deals have taken the Army’s morale to a new low. From the unsavoury sagas of Ketchup Colonel, Booze Brigadier and Ration General, it becomes quite evident that Indian military is going through marked deterioration of human resource and character.

To top it all, there is growing politicisation of the Indian military for promotions, lucrative assignments and post-retirement jobs. The rot within the Indian defence establishment is clearly evident from the retired officers who liaison for defence contractors at golf courses and bars in Lutyen’s Delhi to ex-generals and admirals being employed by hardware dealers for lobbying in South Block.

In public perception the image of an Army officer is hardly different from that of an untrustworthy police officer. It is evident from these scandals that significant section within Army is out to make a quick buck and would do anything for few pieces of silver. This mindset goes right to the top, as otherwise, how one justifies that no less than five top generals including Kapoor and Thamburaj were declared low medical category for disability pension and IT rebates. Before the health of Indian Army deteriorates further without the help of Pakistani ISI or Chinese MSS, it is time that the UPA government intervened to stem the rot.

Fortunately, South Block has defence minister AK Antony and Army Chief Gen V K Singh at the helm of affairs at this crucial juncture. Both are above board integrity wise and cannot stand corruption. While swift action and stringent punishment act as a strong deterrent, it is time that the military mounted strong vigilance on its men and started the weeding out process at an early stage.

The promotions and postings process must be made totally transparent through technology with any interference from ruling party politicians or influential arms dealers. Promotion should be based on merit and not seniority as is the case now. Postings to big cities should be rotated fast so that an officer does not develop vested interest. There should be consolidation of defence lands sprawling all over the country with land records updated so that unscrupulous Army officers cannot illegally pass it on to builders.

While it is impossible to isolate or insulate military personnel from increasingly money oriented Indian society, it is important that military ethos is maintained or professionalism will be hit hard in the services. It is important to drive home the fact that the government takes special care of the armed forces through dedicated hospitals, housing, primary and secondary education and recreation facilities.

The average facilities provided to an Army Colonel, equivalent to a director level officer of central government, are far above as compared to his or her government counterparts. Same holds true for higher ranks. Yet there is increasing tendency within the armed forces to get attracted to money through illegal means or hardware deal making. The prevention exercise has to start from the top as the trooper on the border or the Line of Control looks towards the top brass as idols. Otherwise, all the respect won by those armed forces personnel who gave up their lives will be lost and Indian borders will be at peril.
India police and army in Pune traffic clash
The Indian army and police force have become involved in a heated exchange over a traffic incident in the western city of Pune.

Pune police registered a complaint against dozens of military personnel for allegedly assaulting constables after two army officers were stopped for driving into a no-entry zone.

The army said a constable had manhandled one of the officers.

It said the two army officers involved had been confined to barracks.

It named the officers, from the College of Military Engineering, as Capt V Advait and Lt AB Pandit.
'Verbally abused'

An army statement said: "The College of Military Engineering has ordered a Court of Inquiry headed by a colonel. After investigation, appropriate action will be taken."

Describing Tuesday's incident as "unfortunate", the army said the officers were on a motorbike and had crossed a bridge prohibited to two-wheel vehicles.

A woman constable stopped them and asked them to pay a fine. The army said a male constable then began "abusing Capt Advait, roughing and manhandling him by stating that since he was once roughed up for travelling without a helmet in an army area, he would do the same".

The police corroborated the initial traffic violation.

However, deputy commissioner of police Dnyneshwar Fadtare told the IANS agency the army officers had "verbally abused" police constables.

The police said the officers then returned with dozens of friends to assault the policemen.

The army's Southern Command told the Press Trust of India that "no case of indiscipline will be tolerated and strict action will be taken against those involved".
Trashing India's honour  »  News » Trashing India's honour
Trashing India's honour
Last updated on: February 1, 2012 19:52 IST
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Army chief General V K Singh at an Indian Peace Keeping memorial in Colombo, Sri Lanka

What kind of a nation have we become where the commanders of the country's armed forces and satellite mission are trashed without a whimper, asks Tarun Vijay.

Like Draupadi disrobed and appealing to the mighty warriors sitting silently in the Kaurav Durbar, veteran space scientist G Madhavan Nair issued a letter to the prime minister of an ancient civilisation, saying -- 'Please restore my honour.'

The chief of the army staff of this billion plus-strong nation, publicly asks -- 'Why is the government doing this to me? As if I am a Pakistani?'

What kind of a nation have we become where opposing an anti-national movie by a director who falsifies history, fuelling mistrust in the already divided Kashmir valley becomes a sacrilegious act; while the commanders of the nation's armed forces and satellite mission are trashed without a whimper?

Firstly, the United Progressive Alliance government compelled a highly decorated serving army chief to go to court to seek redress on a routine issue. This has happened despite his continuous pleas for the last two decades to correct his date of birth on the basis of impeccable proof.

Earlier, the government dropped an Indian Air Force officer from a China-bound delegation to accommodate Beijing's obstinate stand on Arunachal Pradesh.

Thus, the Raksha Mantralaya has failed in defending those who defend us all.

When Vijay Kumar Singh was admitted to the National Defence Academy, his father Major Jagat Singh had sent the correct birth date, as mentioned on his Class XI mark sheet.

In all military records, formally maintained by the Indian Army's official record keeper, the Adjutant General's Branch, General V K Singh's date of birth is recorded as May 10, 1951.

His decorations, citations, promotion letters and autobiography, as is officially required by the army, all bear May 10, 1951 as his birth date.

Still, for years the correction that was required was not done due to the government's apathy and negligence. I have seen the papers and also the expert opinion of former Chief Justice of India R C Lahoti favouring General V K Singh.

Former army chief General Shankar Roychowdury has also supported General Singh. Yet the army chief is publicly admonished by the government through the charade of ordering the Adjutant General's office to have the date of birth 'tampered' with and record the wrong one in its place.

Is this the way a government should treat a highly decorated army chief? Is there a mysterious reason behind this episode? To accommodate a favourite, perhaps?

Or is there some manipulation by an arms dealers' cartel? The government is tying itself up in knots and more questions are being generated.

Another unsavoury controversy involves senior scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation, seriously damaging the reputation of one of the country's best and highly respected institutions.

While the humiliation of the army chief and the senior air force officer has dented the image of the armed forces and has lowered the morale of our soldiers, the ISRO controversy, blacklisting top scientists who have given their best in scientific achievements, is a clear signal that this government has lost all sense of balance and grace to govern.

It has failed to uphold the Constitutional principles of law, justice and fairness and has systematically ruined the institutions that have held aloft these basic foundations.

The nature of the agreement between Antrix, ISRO's commercial arm, and Devas Multimedia on S-band allocation remains shrouded in mystery. There is a strong speculation that the government is trying to hush up the matter by inventing some scapegoats and then carpeting it in the name of secrecy.

Nobody knows how the deal was arrived at, how was the valuation done. Almost exactly a year ago, on February 17, 2011, in a hurriedly called press conference Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily had announced the Cabinet Committee on Security's decision to annul the controversial deal between the Indian Space Research Organisation's commercial arm Antrix Corporation and Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia.

No reasons were given except that the government would not be able to provide the orbit slot in S-Band to Antrix for commercial purposes, including for its existing contractual obligations, in view of strategic requirements.  »  News » Trashing India's honour
If the agreement was right, why was it hurriedly annulled?
Last updated on: February 1, 2012 19:52 IST
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India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-12 blasts off from Sriharikota near Chennai in 2009.

As media reports revealed, under the deal Antrix was to provide 70 MHz of the scarce S-band space segment to Devas for its digital multimedia services.

This was to be done by leasing 90 per cent of the transponders in the satellites GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A that are proposed to be launched by ISRO.

Devas, in turn, was to pay Antrix a total of $300 million over 12 years. The agreement was signed on January 28, 2005. Consequently, the Department of Space got Cabinet approval for the building of GSAT-6 at a cost of Rs 269 crore (Rs 2.69 billion) and GSAT-6A at a cost of Rs 147 crore (Rs 1.47 billion) under the commission's delegated powers.

There were complaints about the manner in which the deal was entered into, and the way in which it was being operationalised. It was found that the Department of Space got the approvals for building the satellites without making any reference to the fact that they were to be utilised primarily for Devas' benefit.

If the agreement was right, why was it hurriedly annulled after the media and Opposition outcry?

If something went wrong, why were the details not revealed in spite of having formed several committees to probe the 'scam'?

In the Rajya Sabha, I asked the prime minister pointed questions regarding the deal and the answer given on August 4, 2011 by Minister of State, PMO, V Narayansamy on behalf of the PM, skirted the whole issue.

My question was:

There was a Parliament's Committee on Estimates to study Antrix-Devas deal chaired by Congress MP Francisco Sardinha.

What happened to it?

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