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Friday, 2 March 2012

From Today's Papers - 02 Mar 2012
India, China agree to hold first-ever maritime talks
Both nations resolve to maintain peace, tranquillity along border
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, March 1
Taking a giant step towards normalisation of relations, India and China today decided to begin a dialogue on maritime issues while resolving to maintain peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The suggestion for the first-ever maritime dialogue between the two countries was made by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during talks with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna here.

“Both India and China are nations with long coastlines. The two sides feel it would be useful to hold a maritime dialogue. The mechanism for the dialogue would be worked out soon,’’ Gautam Bambawale, Joint Secretary (East Asia), in the External Affairs Ministry told reporters.

The proposed dialogue is being considered a major confidence building measure (CBM) between the two countries given the fact that it comes in the wake of the Chinese navy increasingly trying to assert itself in the Strait of Malacca and the Indian Ocean region. New Delhi has sought to counter the Chinese dominance by strengthening maritime ties with countries in the South China Sea like Vietnam and Japan.

The decision to include maritime issues in bilateral talks is expected to help reduce tension between the two countries ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit towards the month-end.

During their meeting, Krishna and Yang are understood to have discussed the entire gamut of bilateral ties as well as international issues of mutual concern. “China stands ready to work together with India to uphold good-neighbourliness, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, broaden exchanges and promote more comprehensive growth of China-India relations,’’ the Chinese leader said.

Krishna said New Delhi was consistently committed to developing the strategic and cooperative partnership between the two countries. On the complex border issue, it was decided that the working mechanism on the border management established at the 15th round of boundary talks between the Special Representatives of the two countries held in January would met next week in Beijing. The main objective of the working mechanism was to ensure that peace and tranquillity was maintained along the border between the two countries.

The meeting between the two foreign ministers came days after verbal sparring between New Delhi and Beijing over Defence Minister A K Antony’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. China, which lays claim over Arunachal Pradesh, had objected to the visit while New Delhi reasserted that the entire Northeastern state belongs to it.

Meanwhile, a group of Tibetans demonstrated outside the Hyderabad House where the meeting between the two foreign ministers was being held to protest against Yang’s visit. According to MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin, the two countries would soon announce an elaborate programme to celebrate 2012 as the year of ‘India-China Friendship and Cooperation’.
IAF-Army exercise in N-E
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
Aimed at calibrating its war response in the North-East, the Indian Air Force and Army today started a four-day joint exercise in the region to fine-tune special operations and to test out abilities to deploy their forces quickly.

Frontline fighters, airborne radars, UAVs, helicopters, transport aircraft and combat troops of the Army are part of the exercise.

The IAF warplanes are using the three major airbases in the North-East - Chabua, Tezpur and Bagdogra. The advanced landing grounds in Arunachal Pradesh will also be used in the operation codenamed Pralay (catastrophe).

The four-day exercise will involve all the frontline fighter aircraft — the Sukhoi 30-MKI, Mirage-2000, MiG-29, Jaguar, MiG 21 and IL-78 air-to-air refuelling planes. Mi-17 choppers and An-32 transport planes will also take part.

The exercise will include air drop of troops using tactical lift aircraft C-130-J, acquired from the US, while the Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) mounted on a IL 76 transport plane and UAV’s will be used to provide a real-time battlefield picture for better coordination.

The exercise involves the IAF’s Eastern Air Command and Eastern Command of the Indian Army, Wing Commander Gerald Galway, spokesperson of the IAF, said today.
India to induct Akash missiles, holds war game in northeast
New Delhi: Conscious of threats from China from the northeastern borders, India is inducting its indigenous Akash missiles in the region, even as its air force is preparing to meet the military challenge by holding a major war exercise.

Ahead of deploying two squadrons of the Akash surface-to-air missiles in the region, Defence Minister AK Antony will induct them into the Indian Air Force (IAF) at a ceremony in Hyderabad on Saturday, a defence ministry official said on Thursday.

He will also hand over TAL, an advanced indigenously developed lightweight torpedo, to the Indian Navy.
India to induct Akash missiles, holds war game in northeast

With these two inductions into the air force and the navy, India would have achieved major milestones in the development of indigenous military technology.

The two weapon systems that will greatly enhance the air force and the navy's strike and air defence capabilities, have been indigenously developed and manufactured by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Dynamics Limited, a defence public sector undertaking.

Akash and TAL were developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Meanwhile, the IAF began the major war exercise in the northeast, in coordination with the army, to test their day-night combat potential with the use of fighter planes including the potent Sukhoi-30, Mirage-2000, MiG-29, Jaguar, MiG-21 Bison, apart from Mi-17 helicopters.

The air force also used its strategic special operations plane, C-130J from the American Lockheed Martin stable, besides AN-32 cargo planes, midair refuelers, and airborne early warning and control systems (AWACS) platforms. The army brought in its remotely-piloted aircraft to the operations.

Led by the IAF's Shillong-based Eastern Air Command, the exercise codenamed 'Pralay' (Apocalypse), began Feb 29, an air force officer said.

The exercise involves joint army-air operations by the IAF and the Indian Army's Kolkata-based Eastern Command.

"The annual exercise is aimed at testing the combat potential of the IAF in various roles such as air defence, ground support operations, counter air operations, electronic warfare, joint operations with the army, including special operations by day and night," an officer said.

"It also includes conduct of Special Forces operations and night operations in conjunction with ground forces," the officer said.

The entire spectrum of air operations by aircraft under dense air defence environment is being practiced both by day and night.

The exercise also includes facets of network centric operations, electronic warfare as well as information warfare and all technology-intensive battle manoeuvres.

Apart from war fighting in the skies, various ground contingencies related to air force operations are being tested.

"Lessons learned from this exercise would be incorporated in future operational strategies," an army officer said.
Lt Gen Bikram Singh all set to be next Indian army chief

NEW DELHI: Indian government was all set to announce the appointment of Eastern Army Commander Lt General Bikram Singh as the next Army chief, Indian media reported on Thursday.

The announcement would bring to an end the unsavory succession battle marred by several controversies and sniper attacks.

According to senior government sources, the file proposing Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the next Army chief is in the final stages, and would be put up for approval of the Cabinet Committee on Appointments sometime in the next two weeks. The approval, a source said, could come as early as in the first week of March.

The process for appointing Gen V K Singh’s successor, however, included an unusual intelligence check on his family members. Sources said the defence ministry sought clearance from intelligence agencies on Lt Gen Bikram Singh’s daughter-in-law.

The move was prompted by several complaints, from political leaders as well as others, alleging that Lt Gen Singh’s daughter-in-law was a Pakistani, and thus his appointment had potential security implications.

According to sources, intelligence agencies have given a clean chit to Lt Gen Singh, rubbishing the allegations. According to the agencies, his eldest daughter-in-law is an American citizen, whose father is an Afghan and mother is from Central Asia. In fact, the agencies also reported that she had converted to Sikhism upon marriage. "The agencies have given a clean chit. The allegations were unwanted efforts to target him," a senior government source said.

He said they had received detailed resumes of the three senior-most Army Commanders - Lt Gen Bikram Singh, Lt Gen Shri Krishna Singh and Lt Gen K T Parnaik -- from the Army Headquarters and had carryied out other processes such as the routine check by Intelligence Bureau.

The customary procedures would lead to the defence ministry listing Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the senior-most in the line to succeed Gen V K Singh. The file proposing his appointment would then be put up to the Cabinet Committee on Appointments for final approval.

The government official said they were expecting to conclude the process of Lt Gen Singh’s appointment by March 10. "We are not hurrying up anything. We will go by the standard practice," he said. The official also dismissed earlier rumours that the government may announce the new Army chief soon.

Gen V K Singh retires on May 31. The usual practice is to announce the successor two months before the retirement of the chief.
IAF will get Akash tomorrow
The Indian defence industry has achieved a significant milestone by successfully designing and manufacturing the first surface-to-air missile Akash for the IAF and Army thereby boosting air defence capabilities.

Defence Minister AK Antony will hand over the first batch of about 25 Akash missiles to the IAF on Saturday in Hyderabad. This missile, weighing about 700 kg, can hit a target at a range of 25 km and can be launched from a static or mobile platform. The Minister will also hand over the first batch of indigenously designed and developed Tal Torpedo for anti-submarine warfare to the Navy the same day.

Giving details of Akash missiles, Defence Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said here on Thursday, the weapon was developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.

The other missiles which form part of this programme include Agni and Prithvi and they are already inducted into the Services.

Kar said Akash missile is an all-weather system and provides multi-directional and multi-target area defence. The system can handle multiple targets and destroy manoeuvring targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fighter aircraft, cruise missiles and missiles launched from helicopters. It can operate autonomously, and engage and neutralise different aerial targets simultaneously.

Moreover, it has certain unique characteristics like high mobility, all-the-way powered flight till target interception, multiple target handling, digitally-coded command guidance and fully automatic operation.

The Akash system consists of a launcher, a missile, control centre, multifunction fire control radar and supporting ground equipment. The missile can carry a 55-kg payload. It can fly at a speed of up to Mach 2.5 and climb up to an altitude of 18 km and public sector company Bharat Dynamics Limited(BDL) has manufactured it.

The IAF plans to have eight squadrons of the Akash systems with one squadron having 120 or so missiles. The Army, which plans to have six squadrons, will get these missiles once IAF’s order is completed, sources said adding this missile will be the mainstay of air defence of the country up to 2030.

As regards Tal Torpedo, the spokesman said the weapon was designed and developed by the National Science and Technology Laboratory (NSTL), Visakhapatnam. The light weight torpedo is an electrically propelled, self-homing system which can be launched both from ships and helicopters. It can hunt submarines with a speed of 33 knots with endurance of six minutes in shallow and deep waters. The torpedo weighs around 220 kilos and BDL is manufacturing these torpedoes at its Visakhapatnam unit.
Indian army chief to visit despite cancellation
Defense officials believe Gen. VK Singh will visit at future date after scheduled arrival canceled in wake of Iran tension.
India's military chief is expected to visit Israel despite a decision by the Indian government to cancel his trip this month, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The Indian Daily News and Analysis (DNA) news website said Thursday that Gen. VK Singh was scheduled to arrive in Israel between March 16 and 18 to discuss the growing defense cooperation between the two countries, but that the visit was cancelled due to soaring tensions with Iran.
An intro to Lt Gen Bikram Singh, India’s next army chief?
Lt Gen Bikram Singh, currently the Eastern Army Commander is slated to be the next Army chief, succeeding Gen VK Singh who will retire at the end of March. Before his Eastern Command assignment, he was the Director General of Staff Duties at the Integrated Head Quarters of MoD (Army).

The Economic Times reported that the process for appointing Gen VK Singh’s successor was more rigorous than usual because of allegations that Lt Gen Bikram Singh’s daughter-in-law was Pakistani, a factor that could have made his appointment untenable because of security concerns.

Image courtesy: Indian Army

But ET sources say intelligence agencies have given a clean chit to Singh on this count. It reports, “according to the agencies, his eldest daughter-in-law is an American citizen, whose father is an Afghan and mother is from Central Asia. In fact, the agencies also reported that she had converted to Sikhism upon marriage.”

In January this year, Lt Gen Bikram Singh was accused of staging a fake encounter by the mother of an alleged militant killed in firing by Rashtriya Rifles personnel in South Kashmir’s Anantnag town in March 2001 when he was a Brigadier. On 16 February, the Jammu and Kashmir high court gave a month’s time to the defence ministry to submit its response on the petition filed in the case.

Lt Gen Bikram Singh was commissioned into the Sikh Light Infantry Regiment in 1972 after finishing his course in the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy.

He is a a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, the Higher Command Course at MHOW and the US Army War College, Pennsylvania, USA.

Singh has served in three UN Peace-keeping Missions, his latest assignment being Deputy Force Commander and GOC of a Multinational Division in Africa, comprising officers and troops of 48 nationalities.

His notable appointments at Army Headquarters include two tenures each in the Directorate General of Military Operations and the Directorate General of Perspective Planning.

The Indian Army website says:

    “During his over 38 years of eventful military career and active service, he has held a number of important Command and Staff appointments. He has commanded an Infantry Battalion in the North East and on the Line of Control in J&K, an RR Sector in South Kashmir and an Infantry Division again on the Line of Control in J&K. He was the Corps Commander of prestigious 15 Corps in his last command tenure.”
Lieutenant General Ahluwalia retires after 40 years of service
Lt Gen VK Ahluwalia, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Central Command retired on Wednesday after nearly four decades of service in the Armed Forces. He took over the reins of Central Command on March 1, 2010 as the 28th Army Commander of Central Command from Lt Gen JK Mohanty. On this occasion, Lt Gen VK Ahluwalia was given a Guard of Honour at Surya auditorium complex in Cantonment here. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Lt Gen Ahluwalia was commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery from Indian Military Academy on November 14, 1971. He has had a distinguished career with prestigious command, staff and instructional assignments. A pioneer of Bofor guns, having been trained in Sweden, he raised the first Bofors battery of the Indian Army. For his distinguished and meritorious service, he was awarded Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and Yudh Seva Medal. Lt Gen Ahluwalia is being replaced by Lt Gen Anil Chait. Lt Gen Anil Chait was the Commandant of Army War College in MHOW. He has commanded the 54th Infantry Division and 2nd Corps and is credited to raise the first Reorganised Amphibious Formation (RAMFOR) in the Army.

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