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Friday, 24 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 24 Feb 2012
Army man wins his wings
New Delhi When SV Sunil suffered a knee injury that required surgery in early 2010 and kept him out of action the whole year, few would have expected that two years on, he would become one of the keystones that Indian hockey's Olympic dreams would be built around. Putting both personal and physical pain behind, Sunil has emerged as the most recognised face at the ongoing Olympic qualifiers. The fact that he isn't flamboyant or outgoing like some of his teammates makes his recognition all the more special.

In every game so far, the 24-year-old Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) with the Indian Army has left the opposition stranded with his speed, stamina and skills. His attacks have been so relentless that sometimes the rest of the Indian team has problems keeping pace. "I know," smiles Sunil — he hardly ever laughs out loud — "and I have been advised to hang on for just that extra second inside the striking circle to allow others to come up as support. But I have a good understanding with Shivendra Singh and Gurvinder Singh Chandi and they understand that this is my strength. We just try and make sure that I don't get stranded up front," he adds.

The Sunil one saw before his comeback in 2011 — he was called up for the preparatory camp in New Delhi, ahead of the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament - was vastly different. "It was a confidence issue," he admits. "Earlier, I was hesitant to go all out. I always had the speed but thought of being without support upfront, and was not too sure of being able to dodge past the opposition defenders in case I got stuck because of their physical superiority. But now I have been told to just play my natural game.

"The coach has told me not to worry about the opposition or think of getting stuck. Most importantly, he hates back passes, so we are always encouraged to go and attack. That has given me more confidence," he adds.

Though the Coorgi player admits he was below par against Canada in India's last game, he is no longer affected by the odd poor performance on field, unlike earlier when he used to think too much of his game.

Having lost his father, a furniture carver, during the 2009 Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia - where India won gold after 12 years - Sunil is now the sole bread-earner of his family that includes his stepmother and three younger siblings. And he admits he has changed in his approach to both the game and life since then.

"Responsibility ke saath maturity aa jati hai, bachpana khatm ho gaya hai (with responsibility comes maturity, the childishness is gone)," he smiles. " Earlier I used to play hockey because I liked it and it helped me get a job. There was a time (in 2010) when I thought my career was over. It was very bad year - I had missed three big competitions — the World Cup, the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games — two of them at home. But then I realised that my family survives on my performance. So now it's a much more serious thing," he adds.

With so much responsibility on and off the field, it helps that he has an easygoing roommate in Kannadiga VR Raghunath. "He puts on music that we both enjoy. It helps me relax. I also talk to my family at least once a day to know that they are fine. It keeps me grounded," he says. The polite smile finally gives way to a gentle laugh when asked about his marriage plans. "Not before my sister. She is in her first year of graduation, a few years from marriage. Only after that," he says. Till then, he will be happy running circles around the opposition defence.

Friday's matches:
China wants to partner India in piracy fight
China has said it wants to work with India and other countries to boost maritime cooperation, particularly with regard to coordinating naval escorts in the Indian Ocean to fight piracy.

Chinese officials said they were particularly keen to increase coordination with the Indian navy, as naval officials from 20 countries met in the eastern port city of Nanjing on Thursday at the start of a first-of-its-kind two-day international initiative on ocean escorts, hosted by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

Geng Yangsheng, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, singled out India and Japan as two countries with which China wanted to increase exchanges and strengthen coordination of escort missions.

The workshop in Nanjing, he told reporters at a briefing on Thursday, was convened with "a positive attitude" to improve the efficiency of international escort missions deployed in the fight against piracy, through greater exchange of intelligence, commander visits and joint escorts and exercises.

He said the countries had agreed to follow an integrated escort schedule, arranged on a quarterly basis, with the schedule-making being led by "a reference country" chosen every quarter. China, as the first reference country, had already proposed a schedule, and other countries involved in the operation would formulate their schedules accordingly, the official Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

This message of cooperation from China comes against the backdrop of its navy, which once limited its reach to protecting China's frontiers, spreading its presence with plans in place for the development of a blue water navy, even as the country's first aircraft carrier undergoes sea-trials.

The PLAN has become increasingly active in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden, protecting Chinese vessels on a crucial shipping route on which China's energy imports depend. The PLAN also carried out a first of its kind operation last year in evacuating Chinese citizens out of Libya, underscoring its increasing willingness, and capability, to engage in operations beyond China's frontiers, although the country has a long-standing policy of not sending its military overseas.

Since December 2008, the PLAN had deployed 10 navy flotillas, including 25 warships, 22 helicopters and over 8,400 officers and soldiers to the Gulf of Aden on escort missions. "It is in the common interests, as well as the common responsibility and duty, for us all to ensure the safety of ocean shipping," Ding Yiping, PLAN deputy commander, told Xinhua.

China's plans to rapidly modernise its navy have, however, stirred concerns, particularly in the wake of renewed tensions seen last year over disputes that flared between China and 10 of its neighbours over the South China Sea.

The PLAN's increasing participating in escort missions in the Indian Ocean has also brought its ships closer to India's maritime boundaries, even as Indian ships are beginning to sail eastward more frequently amid the renewing of defence ties with India's East Asian neighbours.

Last year, India stressed its strong support for the "freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea", after the INS Airavat, returning from a goodwill visit to Vietnam, was told over radio by an unidentified caller, claiming to represent Chinese authorities, to leave "Chinese waters". Analysts here have stressed the need for greater communication, with the navies of both countries increasingly likely to encounter each other on the high seas. Defence exchanges between both countries only recently resumed, following almost a year of suspension over the stapled visa issue, and naval cooperation remains limited.

Chinese analysts have pointed to joint anti-piracy escort missions as a possible platform to increase communication and build trust.

Shen Dingli, a leading strategic expert and director of the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University, told The Hindu in a recent interview he did not see any frictions at present between the Indian and Chinese navies, and that it was natural that "both China and India would move around in the high sea area, in Pacific or Indian Oceans, for commercial interests and for protecting sea lanes of communications."

"If India still has concerns, invite China to [have] access to India's ports," he suggested. "And India could have access to China's ports as well."
Choppers Will Have to Battle it Out in Booming Asia
With a 14% increase in defense spending last year, Asia is rapidly becoming the target of companies in the aerospace and defense sector. In fact, the region is expected to become one of the largest markets for defense-related choppers worldwide by 2015.

The trend has already started as a number of Asian countries are set to place purchase orders which would together amount to a whopping $10 billion over the next three years -- an amount lucrative enough for three U.S. chopper manufacturers that will be competing for these orders, along with others from Russia and Europe.

The three U.S. chopper contenders in the fray include Boeing's (NYS: BA) Apache helicopters, Textron's (NYS: TXT) Bell, and United Technologies (NYS: UTX) -owned Sikorsky with its Seahawk choppers. Others are Eurocopter's NH90 and Russia's Mil Mi series of choppers.

Demand shifts away from the U.S.
Currently, the U.S. is the biggest buyer of military choppers, accounting for about 50% of global sales. However, U.S. and European suppliers are witnessing slowing demand from domestic markets on account of sluggish economic outlook and defense budget cuts. The defense suppliers are looking to capitalize on the surging Asian demand to offset weakness at home.

Continued economic growth, coupled with tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, is pushing the demand for defense products, including choppers. Rotorcrafts do not feature in the priority list of military requirements, and most of the Asian countries have deferred buying of new choppers for quite some time. The recent wave of demand from Asia only means that they have come to a point where they need to replace their aging fleet of military choppers. That is good news for the suppliers, but the competition is tough, and who walks away with the winner's trophy is yet to be seen.

While China, Malaysia, and Vietnam are also Asian hotspots, I found two countries that have a lot to offer to these suppliers: India and South Korea.

India order book
India is looking to buy naval, attack, and heavy-lift helicopters. The country needs 55 naval helicopters and can choose from Sikorsky's Seahawk, Textron's Bell 429, and Eurocopter's NH90 choppers. This deal is expected to be worth $2.2 billon.

India recently issued tenders for 22 combat helicopters and 15 heavy-lifting choppers. Boeing pitched its AH-64 Apache range against Russia's Mil Mi-28 Havoc for the combat helicopter category, and it's apparently favorably placed in the deal owing to its versatility and advanced technology. The deal is yet to be finalized. Further, there is a possibility that the country may extend this order to 44 helicopters.

For the heavy-lifting choppers, top contenders are Boeing's Chinook and Russia's Mi-26 Halo. Boeing's Chinook was used extensively in Afghanistan and is a tried and tested model. Thanks to its powerful contra-rotating tandem rotors, the Chinook is capable of literally standing still on a mountain or rooftop to drop or pick up personnel, which may make it the preferred choice by India for high-altitude combat.

These orders come on the foot of the $11 billion contract for 126 fighters provisionally awarded to Paris-based Dassault Aviation SA (AM)'s Rafale last month. The country expects to tender for supply of another 322 light helicopters combining the requirements of the Indian Air force (125) and Indian Army (197).

South Korea
Attack helicopters are hotly in demand in South Korea, too. The country plans to buy 36 attack helicopters in a tender worth $1.5 billion. Fighting for this contract are Boeing's Apache, Textron's Bell Viper, and Eurocopter's Tiger. That does not mean South Korea has nothing to offer United Technologies. The country is expected to request proposals for its anti-submarine contract, which Sikorsky's Seahawk hopes to secure.

The Foolish bottom line
The ability to bag contracts will depend on the competitive edge of these companies -- with a pinch of politics, of course. I think this region could be a bright spot for defense contractors going forward.
Army foils infiltration bid, arrests one
Jammu : The Indian Army Thursday said it foiled an attempt by militants to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan and arrested a Pakistani guide.

Army officials said seven or eight men were sighted Wednesday night in Tarkundi area on the Line of Control (LoC) in the mountainous district Poonch, about 240 km northwest of Jammu.

"The army challenged and fired at them, forcing them to retreat. One man accompanying them was arrested," an officer said.

The man was identified as Mohammad Khadim Rawalakot in Pakistani Kashmir. Said to be a guide, "he is being interrogated", the officer said.

This is first major infiltration attempt by militants this year to sneak into India.

16 army men killed, 9 injured as avalanches strike Kashmir
SRINAGAR: Sixteen army personnel, including five officers, were killed and nine others injured in two avalanches in Ganderbal and Bandipora districts of Kashmir Valley.

"Massive avalanches hit two Army Posts in Central and North Kashmir on Wednesday, resulting in the death of 16 soldiers. Three jawans are still missing," Defence spokesman Lt Colonel J S Brar said here today.

Rescue operations were hampered by heavy snowfall which continued through the day.

The first avalanche hit the workshop area of the 109 Infantry Brigade, which guards the LoC in Gurez sector, at around 10 PM yesterday in Dawar area in Bandipora.

"Thirteen jawans lost their lives and as many were rescued, while three jawans are still missing," Brar said.

Of the 13 army personnel who were killed, four were Junior Commissioned Officers, officials said, adding that four soldiers were also injured in the incident.

"This particular area is not normally avalanche prone and is cut off from the rest of the Valley in winter months...Rescue operations are being hindered by heavy snow and bad weather conditions...A specialised team from High Altitude Warfare School along with two avalanche rescue dogs have reached the spot," the spokesman said

An official of the state's Disaster Management Cell said the avalanche damaged 25 army vehicles and 17 barracks.

Four abandoned residential houses and a school building were also damaged.

The spokesman said another avalanche hit an Army Post at Sonamarg in Ganderbal district in Central Kashmir at about 4.45 PM yesterday.

"One Junior Commissioned Officer and two jawans died, while six persons - one JCO, three jawans and two civil porters - were injured," he said, adding that nine army personnel were rescued.

"Major damage to infrastructure has also taken place," Brar said.
Pak's Gilgit lease to China catches Indian army unawares
The latest proposal of Pakistan to lease Gilgit-Baltistan to China for 50 years has caught the Indian army unawares. And the commanders have gone into a huddle to figure out what it means for India. The presence of People's Liberation Army personnel in Gilgit-Baltistan, earlier part of
the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, had been exposed by the New York Times and later substantiated by army commanders here, but what was not known was that the area would be all but governed by China.

"We had no clue about the lease part of the story," said an army officer privy to the developments along the borders in Jammu and Kashmir to Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity.

US think tank Middle-East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has analysed this situation.

Sources said that the army was now again putting on the board the possibility of twin attacks by China and Pakistan - that the two friendly countries may attack India and Jammu and Kashmir could be the battlefield. The army documented the possible scene three years ago, but not many had lent credence to the possibility at that point of time.

Talking to Hindustan Times, minister for transport Qamar Ali Akhoon said that this de facto takeover of Gilgit-Baltistan "would hurt our strategic interests. We must wake up to the strategic dangers of such a nexus between China and Pakistan".

Akhoon is from Kargil, facing which is the Gilgit-Baltistan area. "This is a matter of concern for us all because that area is part of Jammu and Kashmir. We are afraid that the Chinese presence would hurt our ethos, culture and ravage our landscape," he said.

Apart from the military strength that the region will receive, the area will open ways for China to set up its naval base in Gwadar in Balochistan.

In the past, Pakistan had been kind to China when it had ceded PoK's 5,180 square km for the Karokaram highway in 1963.

The Chinese presence in these areas already poses a threat to the Siachen glacier, the highest battleground of the world.
rmed Forces' plan in public domain
Bangalore, Feb 22 2012, DHNS:

The roadmap of the Indian Armed Forces – the Army, Navy and Air Force – is in the process of being made available on public domain to help private industry know the needs of the forces.

war model: Visitors take a look at a model displayed at the second international conference on electronic warfare at Tata auditorium, IISc in Bangalore on Wednesday. DH PhotoSpeaking on the sidelines of an international conference on 'Electronic Warfare,' Vice Admiral Shekar Sinha, Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff, said: "The Armed Forces' Long-term Integrated Perspective Plan will be in the public domain soon, it will be put up on the Ministry's website."

Noting that the plan would put on paper the needs of all the forces, barring some sensitive issues, for the next decade-and-a-half, he said: "This will help increase private participation. While there is no question on the capabilities of our PSUs, we feel the need for an expansion in the base so as to improve delivery and servicing."

This information, he opined, would help the private sector in drawing their plans, forming joint ventures, bidding for projects and so on.

He said that the private players would have to comply with the guidelines of the Defence Production Procurement (DPP), which was the process of procurement in the country. Pointing out that there is a gap between research and development (R&D) and the needs of the forces, he said: "The private sector will be able to fill this gap, thereby, providing the PSUs with time and resources to concentrate and focus on niche technologies that will not be given to us by anybody."

I V Sarma, Director (R&D), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) said: "In the next ten years, we'll need to do five times more than what we have done in the last decade in areas pertaining to R&D, manufacturing, services and so on."

G Elangovan, DRDO Chief Controller, Research and Development (Avionics) said: "In the last few years, India has developed a lot of technology, but we are still not comparable to US or Israel. There are demand and supply constraints. Private players can help bridge this gap."

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