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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 15 Feb 2012
No evidence yet of Iran hand in Delhi car blast: India
Chidambaram says the strike handiwork of ‘well-trained’ person
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, February 14
India has so far not agreed with Israel and the United States that Iran was behind yesterday's car blast in New Delhi in which an Israeli woman diplomat, Tal Yehoshua Koren, was seriously injured.

New Delhi will also not allow any Israeli security agency, like its spy network Mossad, to carry out an independent probe at the blast site.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and the Home Secretary RK Singh, in separate statements, have made it clear that it would be premature to apportion blame on any country at this stage.

Chidambaram, speaking to reporters outside his North Block office, termed it as a "terror attack," but did not name Iran or any other country or group as the responsible party. "At the moment, I am not pointing a finger at any particular group or any particular organization", he said while adding that the attack was carried out by a "very well-trained person".

"Investigators would not stop until they find those responsible for the attack. They are continuing to investigate the incident and find additional details about the motorcyclist who attached the bomb to the car," he said.

The Home Secretary rebuffed the conviction with which Israel and US have blamed Iran. "We have no evidence to name any country. It's premature to take any country's name," he told reporters when asked whether there was Iranian hand in yesterday's terror attack which left four persons injured.

"We don't have any idea who planted the bomb. There is no material to show involvement of any country," Singh said as pressure built up after Israel made public statements blaming Iran. "We are going by evidence and not theory", the Home Secretary asserted.

Sources said it could not be said if the Woman's husband, Col Yossi Refaelov, the Israeli Defence attaché to India, was the target. Official sources ruled out the possibility of Israel's agencies investigating the blast. "There is no question of anybody doing a probe on the India soil", a source said. There have been reports that Mossad had sent a team. Indian officials said Israel could give its opinions to the Indian investigations.

The Home Ministry has issued an advisory to all states to beef up security in Jewish establishments and for Israeli tourists visiting India.

The Centre also told the states hosting diplomatic missions of Israel, the US and other Western countries, to beef up security. The Home Ministry also advised the states not to allow parking near any foreign missions.
India in catch-22 situation
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, February 14
Even as international ramifications unfold after yesterday's blast in New Delhi, India is uneasy at being caught between two nations with whom it enjoys strong relations. It will be nearly impossible to placate only one of the two and annoy the other.

Within hours of yesterday's blast, Israel blamed Iran for the attack and New Delhi found itself caught in an ugly war-of-words between two sworn enemies.

The Indian establishment opted to tread cautiously as it saw a potential minefield in every word. National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon intervened while diplomats have been working behind the scene to calm down tempers even as the US upped the ante against Iran.

New Delhi has good relations with both countries. So much so, that it is at present defying global sanctions imposed on Iran and continues to ship oil from Tehran.

India has been urged by global powers to use its good offices and bring Iran to the negotiating table. Yesterday US-based Jews - the majority community of Israel - asked India to follow the sanctions. India can ill-afford to do that, said a functionary. Some 16 per cent of its growing crude oil needs are sourced from Tehran and there is no alternative to it.

On the other hand, Tel Aviv is a major partner is India's Defence modernisation projects of missiles, radars and weapons, among other items. These transactions run into billions of dollars. Some of its cutting-edge technologies are deployed in India. The IAF's eyes-in-the-sky, the air-borne early warning system (AWACS) that provides real-time images to controllers on the ground, operates on an Israeli radar.

Sources in the establishment said they were shocked at the manner in which Israel launched a tirade against Iran without waiting for the probe to even start. Tel Aviv pinned the blame on Tehran or its backed Hezbollah even as the Indian investigators were picking up the evidence of the blast from the spot in Central Delhi.

By yesterday night, Israel Ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz said, "This is Iran-sponsored terror. Iran does whatever it can to kill our civilians." Iran has denied any hand in the incident.
GCM of Maj-Gen Sarup adjourned till March 14
Kusum Arora/TNS

Jalandhar, February 14
The General Court Martial (GCM) of Maj-Gen Anil Sarup (retd), which was to proceed today at the headquarters of 11 Corps, has been adjourned till March 14.

While the court was to assemble today, sources said the board of officers had decided yesterday evening that the court would not be convened today.

Earlier, the GCM proceedings were scheduled to begin on February 7 but the court was adjourned on the same day till February 14. “They adjourned the court without citing any valid reason”, the sources added. General Sarup is facing five charges of alleged irregularities in the purchase of store items.
Joint team to prepare road map for Saudi-India defense cooperation
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and India agreed on Tuesday to set up a joint panel that will be entrusted with the task of preparing a road map for defense cooperation and to work out details of a proposed defense pact to be signed later in Riyadh.

This joint committee will also prepare a draft agreement to be endorsed by Riyadh and New Delhi in the field of hydrography, said A.K. Antony, Indian defense minister, after holding wide-ranging talks with Minister of Defense Prince Salman.

Antony said: "Prince Salman and myself agreed to establish a joint committee to work out the details of our future defense cooperation, including the details of an agreement in the defense sector."

He added the two sides were planning to conduct joint exercises involving Saudi and Indian armed forces, ship visits from both sides and to work closely to combat sea piracy. "There will also be high-level visits from both sides," he added.

"I had one-to-one talks with Prince Salman first and then we had a detailed delegation-level meeting," said Antony, adding Prince Salman has agreed to visit New Delhi later this year.

The Indian defense minister said an agreement on all issues will be "reached during the visit of Prince Salman to India and I am also hopeful that the agreement on defense cooperation will also be signed at that time."

He, however, said the specific details of the two agreements would be worked out at diplomatic levels.

The talks were also attended by top Saudi officials, including Prince Khaled bin Sultan, deputy minister of defense.

Indian Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao, Defence Secretary Shashi K. Sharma, Vice Chief of Army Staff S.K. Singh, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Satish Soni and Air Vice Marshal M.R. Pawar attended the meeting from the Indian side. Prince Khaled hosted a luncheon for the visiting Indian minister at the Conference Palace on Tuesday.

Spelling out details of his meeting with Prince Salman, Antony said Riyadh and New Delhi would work together in the area of hydrography. Potential areas of cooperation in this field include exchange of information, nautical cartography and hydrographic surveys of important coastal areas, ports, harbors and designated sea areas. "We are also examining the possibility of entering into an agreement in this field," said the Indian minister, adding there will be substantial expansion in cooperation in the area of training.

Both sides will send their respective defense officers to so they can get to know each other and to join training programs, he added.

Antony pointed out the two countries have agreed "to explore the possibility of working together in the area of defense production." To this end, he noted the defense officials of Saudi Arabia will visit India and Indian defense personnel will also come to the Kingdom to see the defense production facilities for themselves and to map out areas of cooperation in defense production.

India is keen to boost its domestic production of defense equipment and warfare tools. Antony himself introduced the first defense production policy of India last year in a bid to significantly reduce New Delhi's dependence on defense imports, encourage private players and manufacture world class indigenous defense products. Asked about reports that India will be building a mountain warfare training school in Saudi Arabia, Antony said all issues will now be looked into by the joint committee.

He, however, did not provide details of the composition of the joint panel. He said: "The joint panel will try to work out an action plan for future cooperation in all fields." However, it is important to note that the Indian army is among the most experienced in the world in mountain warfare. The Indian soldiers have fought several wars and skirmishes in the most inhospitable mountain territories in the past. Hence, this can be a potential area for mutual cooperation between Riyadh and New Delhi.

On the question of sea piracy, he said the joint panel would work out details as how to handle sea piracy in the Gulf of Aden and waters of the Indian subcontinent and its extended neighborhood. “This is a major concern,” said Antony.

With naval patrolling getting tighter in the waters of the Gulf of Aden, which was previously notorious for pirate activities, the pirates now move to India's Lakshadweep Islands in the Indian Ocean. The two sides, hence, reviewed the security situation, said Antony. He said the current situation in the Gulf region is a cause for great concern for India and he hoped the crisis in the region would be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

He said the Gulf region is of immense importance in India's foreign policy. It provides more than half of India’s oil imports, said Antony. The region is perhaps the largest trading partner of India with total two-way trade reaching $130 billion in 2010-11, the minister said while speaking on Indo-Saudi relations. Hence, India would like to raise the profile of bilateral relations further, he said.

He said the Saudi side had also expressed their keen interest to boost relations further with India in all fields following the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. On other subjects taken up for discussions with Saudi officials, he said Prince Salman commended the contributions of Indian scholars in different fields. Prince Salman also fondly recalled the first visit of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Saudi Arabia and the late King Saud to India, said Antony.

Prince Salman also highlighted the visit of King Abdullah to India in 2006 that led to the strengthening of partnerships between the two countries. Saudi Arabia also offered additional crude supplies to India, an Indian government statement said on Tuesday. Saudi Arabia is the largest oil supplier to India, the world’s fourth biggest oil consumer. Indian refiners are currently scouting for supplies to gradually replace oil from Western sanctions-hit Iran.

Referring to his talks with Saudi officials, Antony reiterated that his discussions with Prince Salman and Prince Khaled would lead to specific initiatives to deepen defense exchanges for the benefit of both countries.

Earlier on Monday night, while addressing the Indian community, Antony described the Kingdom as an important strategic partner of India in the region. He said over 6 million Indians live and work in the region and the Indian government appreciates the assistance of their host governments toward their safety and well-being.

Talking about India’s economic successes, he said this has been achieved within the framework of India’s democratic and secular order. “In this order, every Indian enjoys freedom to pursue his beliefs and aspirations and has rights to ensure he can realize his dreams with the assurance that the state will protect his unique identity and individuality," said the Indian defense minister.

Antony, who wrapped up his two-day visit to Riyadh Tuesday evening, said India is working closely with all countries in the Gulf region in a coordinated manner to combat terrorism and for anti-piracy measures.

Antony expressed confidence that his visit will give a “new substance and direction” to Indo-Saudi defense ties, which constitute an important component of the emerging strategic partnership between the two countries.
General's age row threatens Indian army's modernisation
Indian army chief General VK Singh has dropped his case against the government over his disputed age, but as defence analyst Rahul Bedi points out, the row highlights divisions between the armed forces and the defence ministry that threaten to derail the military's modernisation.

The legal battle over the Indian army chief's age may is over, but the ramifications of the unusual controversy will doubtlessly endure.

If not handled appropriately, the consequences of the simmering antagonism between army headquarters and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over General VK Singh's birthday could in the immediate future adversely impinge on the force's long-delayed modernisation plans.

Defence planners in Delhi fear these widening fissures could affect efforts to replace the army's ageing Russian and Soviet equipment - an overhaul needed to augment India's regional military profile in keeping with its burgeoning economic muscle and growing ambition.
'Honour, not tenure'

Matters climaxed last week after India's Supreme Court declined to entertain Gen Singh's 16 January petition seeking a changed birth date.

This was the first time any serving Indian army chief had gone to court against the government.

Gen Singh wanted the Supreme Court to acknowledge 10 May 1951 as his birthday instead of 10 May 1950, which he maintained was recorded wrongly.

Ironically, the earlier date had formed the basis of his recent promotions to high rank, including his appointment as army chief.
Gen VK Singh, Delhi, Jan 2012 Gen Singh was the first serving army chief to petition the courts against the government

The confusion over his birthday arose after it was recorded as 10 May 1951 by the adjutant general's branch - which is the army's official record keeper - but as 10 May 1950 by the military secretariat wing, responsible for promotions and postings.

Claiming to fight for "honour and not tenure", Gen Singh asked the Court to accept the later date, which is recorded as his date of birth on his birth certificate, school-leaving form and various other official documents.

If Gen Singh had prevailed he would have served another 10 months until March 2013 as the army chief, seriously upsetting the army's pyramid-like senior hierarchy and also the appointment of his successor.

The Supreme Court dismissed the general's plea and backed the MoD, which had three times rejected the army chief's demand to accept the 1951 date of birth.

The court said that since Gen Singh had wilfully accepted the earlier date as his birthday on three occasions for elevation to high rank, he could not as army chief renege now on his commitment.

The army saw the ruling a major setback for the force and the MoD took it as a victorious put down of the overbearing army.

But in reality both lost as the symbiotic trust and co-operation necessary between the two to work harmoniously to modernise and upgrade the army's depreciated equipment profile now was, at best wobbly.
Daunting challenges

Consequently, the priority for Gen Singh's successor will be to mend ties with the MoD in order to bring about the army's long-delayed transformation to enable it to face daunting challenges.
File picture of India tank The army's modernisation programme has suffered from a lack of planning

The 1.2-million-strong army remains handicapped by severe equipment shortages, obsolete hardware and restricted night-fighting capability.

Even a cursory assessment of its ambitious armour, artillery and infantry modernisation programmes reveal them all to be in a state of flux, afflicted by delays and an overarching lack of planning and resource management.

This impairs its ability to put into operations its new "cold start" doctrine of being able to launch a pre-emptive offensive against Pakistan in a limited war scenario in order to achieve negotiable gains in a nuclear-armed region.

The doctrine requires significantly more efficient weapons systems than are currently in use. It envisages converting static army formations deployed in a defensive role along the Pakistani frontier into "integrated battle groups" capable of undertaking swift, punitive strikes with minimum re-organisation.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

    The government needs to overcome its suspicion of the defence forces”

Arun Sahgal Defence analyst

But the row over Gen Singh's age has imperilled the teamwork between army and defence officials needed to bring about this re-organisation.

While it is nobody's case that Gen Singh could have made good all the glaring shortfalls it is worth examining how precarious what needs to be done has now become.

A significant proportion of the army's main battle tanks and armoured vehicles lack night-fighting capability.

A long-standing proposal to acquire more than 3,000 155mm artillery pieces to replace the six calibres currently in use has been continually postponed for nearly a decade.

An ambitious plan to update by 2020 all of the army's 359 infantry battalions as well as the 66 Rashtriya Rifles paramilitary battalions deployed exclusively on counter-insurgency operations is years behind schedule.

Similarly, efforts to replace obsolete helicopters have been interminably postponed due to procurement irregularities and the issuing, withdrawing and re-issuing of tenders.
Indian soldiers The Indian army faces daunting challenges

And though the immediate pretext for the growing rupture between the armed services on one side and the MoD and its civilian bureaucrats on the other was Gen Singh's age, animosity between the two has grown over decades.

Having always looked upon the military - particularly the army - with suspicion after independence and gazing nervously first at Pakistan's and later at Bangladesh's experience, successive administrations have constantly sought an opportunity to put the uniforms down.

Such inherent misgivings and fear of the military also manifests itself in the non-appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), despite ministerial commissions and review and parliamentary committees stressing the need for such an officer in a nuclear-armed state and for an expanding military power with out-of-area responsibilities.

"Continually postponing the selection of a CDS is hampering not only the long overdue revamp of India's military apparatus but also unfavourably impacting management of the country's strategic command in an increasingly belligerent and nuclearised neighbourhood " said Arun Sahgal, joint director of the Institute of National Security Studies in Delhi.

The government needs to overcome its suspicion of the defence forces, he added.

Sadly the military too is not without blame.

Several military chiefs in recent years and senior officers too have actively contributed to this negative relationship by seeking political and bureaucratic patronage for career enhancement while in service and for lucrative sinecures after retirement.

The issue of Gen Singh's age has been another avoidable divide.

Rahul Bedi is based in Delhi and works as the India correspondent for Jane's Defence Weekly and the Irish Times.
Army HQ restructuring gets under way
The two Deputy Chiefs of Army Staff have been given new responsibilities to lessen the burden of the Vice Chief of the Army Staff, the general who runs the 1.3 million-strong Indian Army [ Images ] on a day-to-day basis, reports Nitin Gokhale.
Amid the unfortunate controversy over the current Chief of the Army Staff, General V K Singh's age issue, the restructuring process at army headquarters under the new transformation plan has quietly begun to roll out at South Block.

Under the new plan, the two Deputy Chiefs of Army Staff (DCOAS) have been given new and specific responsibilities to lessen the burden of the Vice Chief of the Army Staff (VCOAS), the general who virtually runs the 1.3 million-strong Indian Army on a day-to-day basis.

The implementation of the first phase of this transformation has gathered speed with the appointment of Lieutenant General Ramesh Halgali as the new Deputy Chief of the Army Staff (Information Systems & Training) on Monday.

The other Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Policy and Services), Lieutenant General Narinder Singh had taken over late last year.

Although Army HQ has had two deputy chiefs looking after various functions for some years, a new and clear demarcation of responsibilities entrusted to them is aimed at streamlining the functioning and speed up decision-making processes at the apex level.

So while Lieutenant General Halgali will be responsible for Military Training, Signals (communication), Information Systems (automation), Staff duties (UN Missions etc), Rashtriya Rifles, Territorial Army and Defence Service Corps (the security guards at select military installations and campuses), Lieutenant General Narinder Singh will look after Procurement, Financial Planning, Perspective Planning and various 'line' directorates like Armoured Corps, Artillery, Mech Infantry etc.

This arrangement is designed to somewhat ease the burden on the Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Lieutenant General S K Singh.

The Vice Chief of Army Staff has to not only give crucial decisions relating to day-today operational matters, but has to also liaise with the defence ministry and attend several high-level meetings with other functionaries from different ministries.

The streamlined hierarchy is likely to give little more time and space for the Vice Chief of Army Staff to function more efficiently.

In the Indian system, the Chief of Army Staff has traditionally been giving broad policy direction for others to implement his ideas and concepts.

Lieutenant General Halgali, who came into the limelight after he blew the whistle on the Sukna land issue when he was Chief of Staff at HQ 33 Corps as a major general, was scheduled to take over as Deputy Chief last November, but an adverse administrative remark on his record during the Sukna issue delayed his taking over the post by three months.

Lieutenant General Halgali was Director General, Military Training before taking over as Deputy Chief on Monday.

As Chief of Staff at 33 Corps HQ in North Bengal, he had resisted attempts by then Corps Commander Lieutenant General P K Rath and then Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash to issue a no-objection certificate for a transferring a piece of land adjacent to the Corps HQ to a business consortium for establishing a branch of the famous Mayo College.

Both Lieutenant General Rath and Lieutenant General Prakash have been indicted in the case by an army court martial. Lieutenant General Halgali had initially received an administrative rap for not reporting the matter expeditiously, but has now been cleared of all charges since it later emerged that he had prevented the attempt by his seniors to allow the group of businessman and the two generals to take advantage of loopholes in the system.

As Deputy Chief, Lieutenant General Halgali will be in office for nearly a year and three months to take forward the process of transformation both at the Army HQ level and down the line.

Conceptualised in 2010 after a two-year study by a group of top generals under the current army chief, General V K Singh when he was the Eastern Army commander, the transformation aims to turn the lumbering Indian Army into 'an agile, lethal, versatile and networked force, which is capability-based to meet future challenges.'

In a couple of interviews with me, General V K Singh has said the transformation must be 360 degrees and 'enhance operational capability through reorganisation, restructuring, force development and relocation.'

The concept is based on 13 transformation studies. These range from ways to consolidate strike capabilities and 'flatten' HQs, to 'synergising' all resources. Some of the Indian Army's new transformative concepts are already being 'test-bedded.'
No provision for army, paramilitary personnel to join IPS cadre : Narayanswamy
Puducherry, Feb 13 : Putting every speculation to an end regarding the much talked about lateral entry into Indian Police Service (IPS) from para-military and Indian Army, the Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) V Narayanasamy categorically stated that there is no provision for such a thing although many personnel from different services are taken on deputation for various national agencies.
The minister of state of PMO’s Office was replying to a specific question asked by this writer during the Editors’ Conference on Social Sector Issues organised by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) and held at Poducherry last week.
Earlier, there was an alternative policy floated and discussed at different levels to counter the armed political upheaval in Central India by the Maoists. The deployment of the Indian Army being ruled out to manage a vast area spread over 87 districts in five states, an idea was believed to have been mooted to take young officers from different para-military, specially the Indian Army as IPS officers, which also received critical observations from many corners including IPS Officers Association.
The PMO is believed to have even imagined and worked out a modality for a lateral entry policy setting certain criteria. With minimum five years of service and those below the age of thirty-five years and successfully undergone commando courses were among some of the criteria, which were doing the round.
V Narayanasamy also reiterated the highlights of major initiatives taken up by the UPA government. He said, the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions brought landmark legislations to check corruption in the last two and half years. Besides the RTI, the Grievances Redressal and Whistleblowers’ Bill would confer right on every citizen to time bound delivery of goods and provision for services and redressal of grievances.
He categorically stated that the performances of bureaucrats will be seriously reviewed at different intervals.

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