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Saturday, 3 March 2012

From Today's Papers - 03 Mar 2012
Antony office ‘bugged’, IB check reveals nothing
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
A stray ‘pin-shaped device’ in Defence Minister AK Antony’s office on the first floor of the South Block has sent security officials into a tizzy after a suspicion was raised that it could be a bug (a remote electronic listening device).

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) was asked to carry out a thorough ‘sweep’ of the room but nothing ‘worrying’ was found.

The government, on its part, denied that Antony's office was “bugged”. “Routine checks are conducted in the offices of the Defence Minister and other officers in the South Block. Nothing has been found in these checks,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.

The pin-shaped device was found in the minister’s office on February 16. Subsequently, IB sleuths were called by Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.

In security parlance, “cleaning and sweeping” of any room means using sophisticated equipment to detect any small wireless listening device that could be implanted in sensitive areas. Such devices — some less than one centimetre in size — constantly emit signals and can be detected only through a surveillance device.

The rooms of the Defence Minister and five senior officials of the Defence Ministry are “swept” randomly by intelligence wings of the three services — the Army, the Navy and the IAF. A suspicious device was detected on February 16 by one such team carrying a hand- held surveillance device that can pick up unusual signals.

Sources described Antony’s office as “very sensitive”. Visitors are screened and are not allowed to take in any electronic device, including mobile phones. Apart from high-level defence meetings, national security plans are also discussed in Antony’s office.

“Also, Antony wields immense power in the Congress. So, there would be many people who would like to know what happens behind the closed doors,” said a senior official, explaining the need for extra caution.

Last year, an adhesive-like substance was recovered from 16 places in the Finance Ministry’s office. At that time too, it was suspected that the substance might have been used to implant electronic listening devices. An inquiry was ordered. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had called in a snooping team of the Central Board of Direct Taxes that works under him and not opted for the services of the IB, the Military Intelligence or the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO).

Later, Mukherjee had dismissed apprehensions of a security breach. After a thorough probe, it was found that the adhesive-like substance was chewing gum left behind by the cleaning staff.

Earlier in the day, when reports of Antony’s office being “bugged” came out, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar sought an explanation from the government.
Pentagon says US forces stationed in India, Delhi denies it
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
Within hours of a top US military commander having claimed that US Special Forces were stationed in India, New Delhi today came out with sharp denial saying no such US troops were on Indian soil.

Ministry of Defence spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said: “US Special Forces teams have never been stationed in India in the past, nor are such teams stationed in the country presently.”

Kar added that the Ministry of Defence has come across a press report relating to remarks attributed to a US armed forces official on the positioning of US Special Forces teams in various South Asian countries, including India. “The report is factually incorrect in so far as the reference to India is concerned,” he said.

News agency PTI in a report from Washington quoted US forces Pacific Area Command (PACOM) Chief Admiral Robert Willard as having said that teams (US teams) have been deployed to enhance counter-terrorism capabilities, particularly in the maritime domain.

“We have currently special forces assist teams laid down in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, as well as India,” Willard told US lawmakers at a Congressional hearing in response to a question on co-operation with India on counter-terrorism issues, the PTI report said.

Separately, India and the US do conduct joint military exercises. One such named “Yudh Abhayaas’ is slated to start in the next two days in the deserts of Rajasthan using mechanised infantry and engineering elements.

Officials in India said the US Commander probably wrongly mentioned such exercises as stationing of his troops in India. Such exercises are conducted with several countries like Russia, UK and France, among a host of other nations, officials said.
China not building dam on Brahmaputra: Ministry
Keeping close watch on developments, says govt
Ashok Tuteja & Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
The government today sought to dispel apprehensions that China was drying up the Brahmaputra’s mighty tributary Siang.

While the External Affairs Ministry reiterated that there was no evidence of construction of any dam on the river by China on its side, the Water Resources Ministry assured that India was keeping a “constant watch on all the developments that have a bearing on India’s interests and will take necessary measures to protect them”.

The Water Resources Ministry said, “The changes in the river regime and flows are a natural phenomenon dependent on various hydro-meteorological and climatological factors.”

Sources in the MEA said the issue had been taken up with China that had assured that it was doing nothing on its side to affect the flow of the Brahmaputra. In any case, the government was keeping a close watch on activities that could affect the country’s interests, they added.

Tako Dabi, Political Adviser to the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister, who also happens to be the spokesperson of the state government, had yesterday apprehended that China might have diverted water of the river, known as Yarlong Tsangpo in Tibet, or could have put some artificial blockade in the flow.

His comments came even as Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was meeting External Affairs Minister SM Krishna in New Delhi. Dabi was quoted as saying that people in Pasighat town recently found the Siang almost dried up in the area, shrinking about a km from its bank.

China has planned to construct eight cascade hydropower dams in the upper Mekong Basin in Yunnan province, experts say, adding that the issue must be taken up at the highest level. The Brahmaputra issue is now a permanent fixture in India-China talks. However, Water Resources Ministry officials said Dabi’s statement “may be based on the visual impression gathered from general public perception of the rivers flows around Pasighat town”.
DRDO plans oxygen booster for jawans at higher reaches
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, March 2
To deal with situations arising out of rapid induction of troops at extreme altitudes, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is studying the suitability of using oxygen enrichment shelters. These shelters would counter the adverse effects of low oxygen levels prevalent in the mountains.

Induction in high-altitude areas requires a three-stage acclimatisation process spread over several days so that the human body can gradually adapt itself to the harsh climatic conditions. Non-acclimatisation, especially at altitudes above 4,500 meters, can result in serious medical and physiological disorders.

The DRDO is developing oxygen enrichment shelters to help troops when proper acclimatisation process is not possible. In such situations, the use of pharmacological agents like acetazolamide and glucocottocoid is found to be beneficial in preventing acute mountain sickness, a DRDO internal bulletin has revealed.

In Siachen, some posts are located as high as 21,000 feet. Rapid induction of troops at high altitude may be required during combat operations or for search and rescue in case of a major accident or a disaster like an avalanche. More soldiers have been lost to the vagaries of the weather and environment than to enemy action in this sector.

Given the terrain and living conditions at high altitude, only a limited number of troops can be retained at forward posts above certain heights. Reinforcements, if called for, are rushed in from lower altitudes. It has also been recommended that local commanders should maintain an adequate reserve of acclimatised troops at various altitude levels to cater to emergency situations.

Low levels of oxygen, sub-zero temperatures, high-speed blizzards and chilly winds have adverse effects like loss of appetite, lethargy, nausea, pulmonary and cerebral oedema and frostbite. Some of these disorders can be life-threatening. In fact, during the 1962 war with China, high-altitude disorders resulting from rapid induction of non-acclimatised troops led to heavy casualties.
Soldier on tank dies in Chennai after driver crashes into wall

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Chennai:  In a freak accident, a soldier perched over a T-90 battle tank was killed when its driver lost control and dashed against a concrete structure in Chennai today.

A concrete slab fell on the tank following the mishap, killing the soldier and injuring another at the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE).

"It is an unfortunate accident. The tank was taken out for testing. The driver was inside the tank and two others were sitting outside," a senior official told IANS.

"The driver lost control and dashed against a concrete column. A concrete slab fell on the tank killing one person and injuring the other," he said.

The dead man was identified as Harish.

Another source told IANS: "The tanks are parked inside a garage. The vehicle was taken out for a test run when the accident happened.

"It seems one of the steering sticks of the tank got stuck and the driver lost control of the vehicle."

The injured soldier has been admitted in a military hospital.

T-90 is a Russian battle tank. India also manufacturers modified T-90 tanks at the Heavy Vehicles Factory here. These are called Bhishma.

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Yes, was under pressure to resign after Supreme Court verdict, says Army Chief

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New Delhi:  Army Chief General V K Singh, who lost his battle with the Defence Ministry on the age row, feels the Supreme Court has "not effectively" closed the issue but ruled out his resignation.

"It would be dishonest to say that that I was not under pressure to resign.  Even my closest advisors were affected by the media interpretation and, yes, I was extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court had not effectively closed the issue.

"... as chief of army staff, I have a responsibility towards the army and its men and have to attend to the unfinished tasks that I had set out for myself.  I cannot quit until I complete what I have started. Organisational interests are supreme," he told "Outlook" magazine in an interview.

General Singh said many commentators were looking at this matter as a classic case of strained civil-military relations, and drew parallels with the unfinished resignation of General K S Thimmayya, to predict his resignation.

"But I see the age as something that I and the army have to address, and we will do it once we are given a legal order," he said in reply to a question about the wide speculation that he would resign since the Supreme Court did not uphold his case.

General Singh said the apex court order has created more confusion, without addressing the main issue. It talks of a statutory complaint being divided into two parts--the process of decision-making on the one hand and maintainability on the other.

"The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has argued that since the decision has been taken by them to peg my Year of Birth as 1950, I must accept this regardless.  This goes against the principles of natural justice," General Singh said.

Asked about the impression that he had lost the battle and that the Supreme Court had ruled against him, he said it was a strange situation.

While the apex court was dealing with the case there was a parallel minute-by-minute interpretation of the proceedings in the media.  Breaking news on TV and newspaper headlines the next day delivered their own verdict which declared that 'the General has lost the battle'.

But, he said, when the order came out on February 15, the media did not report it and everyone missed its import. "It is an innocuous order that leaves recognition of the DoB to the competent authority based on records.  The media was reporting obiter dicta in a highly exaggerated manner," he said.

To a question about his decision to withdraw the petition in the court gave an impression that he was satisfied with what the court had to say, General Singh said after his statutory complaint was rejected the Defence Ministry on December 30 last, he had moved the court.

On February 3, the court questioned the decision-making process which led to it being turned down and opined that it went against the principles of natural justice.

On February 10, the Attorney General withdrew the Defence Ministry's order against the statutory complaint and tacitly admitted that the actual DoB was 1951 and that the ministry was opposing it only "on a matter of principle".

General Singh said after that there was nothing else to be said in court especially since the judges had also indicated that the court did not want to get into the actual date of birth.

"Now, unless the Defence Ministry's decision-making process is spelt out so as to explain the rationale behind still pegging my YoB as 1950, how can I challenge it. I therefore withdrew my petition and have decided to wait for the MoD to give its reasons afresh," he said.

He said it is important to put in place systems that ensure that such cases were never repeated in future.

Asked about the views of his daughter who wrote in an article pointing at the hand of former chief General J J Singh in the DoB controversy, General Singh gave no direct answer except to say that the problem got aggravated when the Defence Ministry chose to "endorse this line without going into why this was being done".

Q: Are you saying that the 2006 decision (taken by J J Singh) was illegal?

A: It has its ramifications. Even I say that I don't contest it, it cannot be implemented because the SC order does not say anything about the legality of two different dates of birth.

To a question he was looked upon as someone standing up to the establishment, giving as good as he got, General Singh said, "being Chief of the Indian Army does not insulate me from public opinion and I am aware that many feel that I was wrong in taking the fight to the MoD".

He said the tendency after reaching senior ranks is to avoid rocking the boat. "But if I, as the chief, did not stand up for what is correct, what sort of a message would I be sending to the rank and file," he said.

Similarly, he said, that despite the overwhelming opinion he should resign, it was necessary for him to stay the course.

"The SC has sidestepped the issue. But it certainly does not clear the way for any illegal order to be given to the Army. Had I resigned, it would have been a self-goal and in the long run, against the interest of the organisation," General Singh said.

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AK Antony's office 'bugged', ministry orders IB probe
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Mar 02, 2012, 13:29 IST

In a sensational case, Defence Ministry authorities have detected alleged bugging of the office room of Defence Minister A K Antony and Intelligence Bureau (IB) has been asked to probe the matter.

Sources in the Ministry told PTI today that the development came to notice on February 16 following which Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma took up the matter with IB for a probe.
The matter was brought to notice by two Army personnel who were manning the telephone lines in the Ministry.

After this was brought to notice, Ministry officials refused to get their phone lines checked by the Army personnel, they said.

The matter had come to light soon after the long-drawn battle between the Army and the Defence Ministry over the issue of General V K Singh's age came to rest following an intervention by the Supreme Court.

Gen Singh's age issue was resolved after the apex court forced him to withdraw his petition on February 10 where he was asked to accept May 10, 1950 as his date of birth.

The Army has not yet commented on the development.

Last year, a similar incident was reported from the office of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee when snooping devices allegedly were found from there.

A inquiry was ordered by the Finance Ministry after adhesive-like substances were recovered from his office, raising suspicion that they might have been used to implant electronic listening devices.
IAF holds combat test exercise in NE
GUWAHATI: The Eastern Air Command of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has launched a major exercise codenamed 'Pralay' in the Brahmaputra valley and rest of eastern India. This exercise, which began on Wednesday, also involves joint army-air force operations by the IAF's Eastern Air Command, based in Shillong, and the Eastern Command of the army, headquartered in Kolkata.

IAF officials in Shillong said this annual exercise is aimed at testing the combat potential of the Air Force in various roles such as air defence, strike operations, offensive ground support operations, counter air operations, electronic warfare, joint operations with the army, including special operations by day and night. "For the exercise, forces were moved from other commands well. Su 30 MKI, Mirage-2000, Mig-29, Jaguar, Bison, Mi-17, AN-32, C-130, AWACS and flight refueling aircraft as well as remotely-piloted aircraft from the army are taking part in the exercise," the IAF official said.

IAF officials said a lot of emphasis was given to Special Forces' operations and night operations in conjunction with ground forces during 'Pralay'. The exercise with ground forces, particularly in the valleys of Arunachal Pradesh, are being conducted both by day and night. "Bombing missions at air-to-ground ranges by all aircraft under dense air defence environment are being practised both by day and night. The exercise includes facets of network-centric operations, electronic warfare as well as information warfare," he added.

Apart from war fighting in the skies, various ground contingencies related to Air Force operations are being tested during the ongoing exercise. The officials said, "The changing times in terms of technological advancement and changed pattern of operations training necessitates this exercise to be flown in changed setting. Lessons learnt from this exercise would be incorporated in future operational strategies for the region."

The Eastern Army Command is also actively taking part in training their forces in the joint operations. The exercise would culminate in long-range bombing missions simulating deep strikes in enemy territory. Sources said the exercise will be completed on Saturday.
Modernisation of armed forces & long-term defence planning are a must for national security

As the new fiscal year approaches, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's New Year message that included national security for the first time, underscores the importance of modernisation of the armed forces.

Read together with his address last October to the Combined Commanders' Conference, where he acknowledged that the 'international strategic and political environment has deteriorated from our point of view, especially in our immediate neighbourhood', and the admission by defence minister A K Antony that defence modernisation and infrastructure development have lagged behind, his reassurance is timely.

Speaking at the 2011 K Subrahmanyam memorial lecture at New Delhi, former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra charged Mr Antony with putting probity above operational imperatives in following 19th-century procedures for arms acquisition, illustrating the case of the MMRCA.

The same charge is echoed by some in India's private sector and foreign vendors who accuse the MoD of suffering from the doctrine of unintended consequence by creating the monster of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) that has been modified six times to ensure transparency. Mr Antony himself has been cautioning the private sector not to corrupt his officials.

Yet, uniquely, last year, modernisation funds were fully utilised. How will Dr Singh catalyse the MoD to get its act together without someone thinking strategically? Use his cerebral NSA, Shivshankar Menon, as proactively in defence as he does in foreign policy.

India is in the unenviable situation where both its land borders with Pakistan and China are unsettled and threats of terrorism, Naxalism and piracy are ever increasing. One is periodically reminded that China has risen, while India is still rising and no one will come to India's help in the event of conflict - or conflict spilling over - from Af-Pak.

India will have to fight its battles alone and, as Dr Singh reminded last October, have "the necessity to strengthen our own capabilities and be ready to stand on our own feet when required". Astrategic reset is essential to meet the emerging security challenges.

Of the 340 recommendations by the Kargil GoM, many are unimplemented, including the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). A headless Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) created a decade ago is an exercise in futility. Integration of the three services with MoD has not even begun while jointness is only in name.

Defence planning on the basis of 15-, five- and one-year plans is compartmentalised and offers no strategic choices. The IDS simply collates the three services' plans and lets the MoD determine priorities. The service chiefs have consistently complained about inadequate say in decisionmaking.

The graceless termination of the Chief of Army Staff 's age row will exacerbate civil military relations. Speaking at the Admiral R D Kataria Memorial Lecture last November, CAG Vinod Rai urged the government to repose trust in the armed forces by giving full financial powers to service chiefs as the DPP involved the participation of 13 agencies.


The ghost of Bofors has added fear to the three Cs - CAG, CVC and CBI - retarding the procurement process. Are we surprised that the army has not added a single gun to its inventory since 1986 when it is required to deter a twofront war?
Similarly, acquisition of air defence assets, helicopters, future main battle tank and modernisation of infantry are unacceptably delayed.

Inexplicably neglected, the navy, the fulcrum of the country's maritime influence from Hormuz to Malacca Straits, has just 132 warships with 14 ageing submarines. Around .`3 lakh crore are to be invested over 15 years to transform it into a new 'multi-dimensional navy'.

The accent is on reviving submarine Project 75 India in tandem with the French Project 75. On the horizon are three aircraft carriers, the Russian nuclear-powered submarine Chakra II and the indigenous nuclear-powered submarine. The IAF has been living dangerously with its combat strength steeply depressed.

Like with other services, nonimplementation of long-term perspective plan and time and cost overruns of indigenous projects like LCA have put it in a tailspin. Without a basic trainer and the advanced jet trainer not fully operational, old aircraft and curtailed training have taken a toll on pilots.

On the brighter side, MiG 29 and Mirage 2000 fleets are being upgraded and Sukhoi 30s added to recompense LCA delays. 126 MMRCA Rafaels will come into service by 2016 in tandem with 250 fifthgeneration fighters jointly produced with Russia joining by 2018. But delivery is the perennial imponderable.

Defence readiness suffers from lack of planning, jointness and political direction. Dr Singh's New Year resolution on modernisation of the armed forces is unlikely to materialise any time soon unless he shows leadership and strategic autonomy.
Defence ministry asks armed forces to prioritize purchases
NEW DELHI: Days of frenzied defence purchases by India may be over, at least for the immediate future.

According to sources, the committed liabilities -- money to be paid for contracts already signed -- of the Indian defence budget has reached almost 65-70% of the total capital outlay. As a result, the defence ministry has told the armed forces to "prioritize" their purchases.

India has been among the world's biggest defence buyers for the past many years, thanks to the regular hike in defence budgets and efforts to make up for the 'lost decade' of the 1990s, when defence modernization had come to a virtual standstill. Since the Kargil conflict of 1999, the military stepped up its shopping spree in the international market. Between 2006 and 2010, India bought 9% of all arms imported in the world, emerging as the largest weapon importer ahead of China.

However, serious financial issues have now cropped up to slow down this spending spree, say sources. An official pointed out that India's committed liabilities for purchases made in recent years is now hovering around 65-70% of the total capital outlay. Last year, the total capital outlay for the three services was Rs 69,198.81 crore. The total defence budget, which also includes revenue allocation, was Rs 1,64,415.49 crore.

Government sources said MoD has told the Army, Navy and IAF to "prioritize" their purchases. Instead of the frenzied push for every purchase, the three services will have to clearly prioritize what they want urgently, an official said. "The MoD has been telling them about the need to prioritize for some time," he said.

Officials said this also would call for taking a relook at future projections. "We will have to think of them, and rationalize so that we are able to buy them within the allocations," the official said.

Sources said the sudden induction of new systems could also cause trouble to the budget balance, especially between the capital and revenue outlay. They pointed out that the new inductions mean they would require higher revenue allocation for maintaining the systems.

The sobering realization comes at a time when the government has already moved to cut the defence budget by a few thousand crores to meet the rising fiscal deficit challenges. The unusual move to cut defence budget during a financial year will only further slow down military purchases.

Indications are that the defence budget for the coming year would rise by about 10% from the allocation for 2011-12, while the capital outlay would rise by about 15%. Other than catering for inflation, the hike would mean no significant increase. "So we may have at best about 35% of the capital budget for new purchases," a source said.

This situation has arisen because of major purchases, mostly by the Navy and the IAF, in recent years. The two forces, and the Army to a minor extent, have undertaken major purchases of ships, aircraft, helicopters, missiles and other systems.

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