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Monday, 5 March 2012

From Today's Papers - 05 Mar 2012
China’s defence hike raises alarm
11.2% rise in budget sees it balloon to $106 bn

Beijing, March 4
China today announced it would hike its defence budget by 11.2 per cent to a whopping $106.4 billion, pushing its military spending for the first time to the triple digit, a move that may fuel concerns among neighbours and others about its growing might in Asia Pacific.
The increase announced by parliament spokesman Li Zhaoxing will bring official outlays on the People's Liberation Army to 670.3 billion yuan ($110 billion) for 2012, after a 12.7 per cent increase last year and a near-unbroken string of double-digit rises across two decades.

Li said the world has nothing to fear, and the money spent on the PLA paled in comparison with the Pentagon’s outlays.

"You can see that we have 1.3 billion people with a large land areas and a long coastline, but our outlays on defence are quite low compared to other major countries," Li told a news conference before the annual full session of the National People's Congress, the Communist Party-controlled legislature that will approve the budget.
Asian neighbours, however, have been nervous about Beijing's expanding military, and this latest double-digit rise could reinforce disquiet in Japan, India, Southeast Asia and self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory.

"Eleven per cent, for a Chinese defence budget, is what I would characterise as a reasonably sizeable increase," said C. Uday Bhaskar, a former director of India's Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi. "It also, I would say, goes beyond the normal pegging we do for inflation, and it would be noted with great interest and concern by China's principal interlocutors," he said.

According to the officials figures, China had spent about $ 92 billion on defence last year, which represented a 12.7 per cent increase over the 2010 budget of $ 77 billion. This year's increase would represent a hike of $ 14.4 billion.

Besides, the specified military spending, which many western analysts say is far higher than the official version, China last year spent over $100 billion on internal security. Analysts say the hike in China's defence budget, which is now almost triple of the Indian defence spending, may impact New Delhi's military expenditure.

India had allocated $ 36.04 billion for defence last year, which represented an 11.59 per cent growth over the 2010 budget.

Obama has sought to reassure Asian allies that the United States will stay a key player in the area, and the Pentagon has said it will "rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region".

Obama's proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2013 calls for a Pentagon base budget of $525.4 billion, about $5.1 billion less than approved for 2012.

Beijing has sought to balance long-standing wariness about US intentions with steady relations with Washington, especially as both governments focus on domestic politics this year, when Obama faces a re-election fight and China's ruling Communist Party undergoes a leadership handover.

But the US "pivot" has fanned unease in China, with some PLA officers calling it an effort to fence in their country and frustrate Beijing's territorial claims.

China has advertised its long-term military ambitions with shows of new hardware, including its first test flight of a stealth fighter jet in early 2011 and its launch of a fledgling aircraft carrier in August — both trials of technologies that remain years from deployment.

Beijing is also building new submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles as part of its naval modernisation.

China's military build-up is likely to continue "unabated", irrespective of recent US moves in Asia, the U.S. military commander for the Asia-Pacific region, Admiral Robert Willard, said on Tuesday.

Japan and China have locked horns over islands each claims in the East China Sea; Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations have challenged Beijing over claims to swathes of the South China Sea that could be rich in oil and gas.

A spokesman for Philippines' Department of National Defence, Peter Paul Galvez, said the latest increase in PLA spending was not cause for alarm. Others were more anxious.

"China shares its land border with 14 countries; it used to make sense that a country in such a position maintains strong conventional forces," said Kazuya Sakamoto, a professor at Osaka University in Japan who researches international security. “But in this nuclear age, it does not really make sense that China, a nuclear-armed country, continues to build up its military at such a pace,” said Sakamoto.
Army operationalises second supersonic BrahMos regiment

Jaisalmer, March 4
The Army today successfully test fired the 290-km range BrahMos supersonic cruise missile at the Pokharan range here to operationalise the second regiment of the
weapon system in service.
BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was test-fired on Sunday
BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was test-fired on Sunday

"In conformity and pursuit of operational and strategic surface-to-surface missile capability development, the second BrahMos unit of Indian Army has been operationalised. The Indian Army unit successfully launched BrahMos missile and destroyed the preselected target in the field firing ranges in Rajasthan," an Army spokesperson said here.

The test was witnessed by senior Army officials, including Vice Chief Lt Gen Shri Krishna Singh and Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen AK Chaudhary.

The Army has so far placed orders for three regiments of the supersonic cruise missile and with today’s test firing, two of them have been inducted operationally.

The Defence Ministry has also given a go-ahead to the Army to induct a third regiment for being deployed in Arunachal Pradesh along the China border.

One regiment of the 290-km range BrahMos consists around 65 missiles, five mobile autonomous launchers on Tatra vehicles and two mobile command posts, among other equipment. —PTI
In Army, suicides bigger killer than enemy bullets

New Delhi, March 4
Suicides proved to be the Army's biggest adversary than enemy's bullets with around 100 troops losing their lives in acts of self-annihilation against 65 in counter-insurgency and security operations last year.

"Suicides claimed 99 lives in Army last year. Of these, 23 cases were registered in field areas and 76 in peace areas," said Army officials.

Though the number of lives lost due to suicides was a cause for concern, the number of such cases had come down in the past few years, they said. In 2010 and 2009, the number of deaths due to suicides was 115 and 110, respectively.

The figure stood at 142 in 2007 and 150 in 2008. In a few cases, the families of soldiers had alleged murder after which court of inquiries were conducted, the officials said.

In 2011, the number of lives lost in security operations was 65, they said.

"In 2011, 11 officers, 8 JCOs and 46 men achieved martyrdom in operations to uphold the security of our nation," Army Chief Gen VK Singh said recently. — PTI
Army help sought to rescue foresters
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS

Guwahati, March 4
Thickly-forested Sinhasan Pahar (hills) near Diphu in Assam’s Karbi Anglong Hill district is a bastion of tribal insurgents belonging to the Karbi and Kuki tribes.

The area is a biodiversity hot spot known for producing quality ginger. Notwithstanding looming insecurity, Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) of Karbi Anglong East forest division Abhijit Rabha, a dedicated and efficient official of the department, has gone to Sinhasan hills on several occasions in the past to carry out survey of forest resources of the area hardly visited by any senior forest officials because of presence of insurgents.

He was not spared on his last visit on Saturday by insurgents who abducted Rabha and an accompanying forest range officer Ranjan Baruah while they were returning from Sinhasan hills after carrying out survey that started on February 27. Rabha, a 1984 batch Indian Forest Service officer, had led a 60-member survey team that included two Japanese scientists. Thirty members of the team, including the two Japanese scientists, returned to Diphu on February 29.

DB Shetty, SP, Karbi Anglong, said the two forest officers were kidnapped from near Borlag under Manja police station. Police suspects involvement of a newly-formed militant outfit called Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger (KPLT) in the abduction. Another militant group called Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) is also active in Sinhasan hills.

“They were returning from Sinhasan hills when their vehicle was stopped by militants. The other forest personnel in the vehicle were allowed to go while Rabha and Baruah were detained by the ultras,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) Suresh Chand said.

Militants later called up forest officials demanding a ransom of Rs 1 crore for release of the two officers. Meanwhile, the police has sought assistance from the Army to rescue the two forest officials.

Police claimed CCF Rabha and his team had gone to insurgent-infested Sinhasan hills without proper police security though he could have availed of security cover on request.

Sources said Rabha, who had gone to the area on several occasions in the past, had set up a good rapport with local tribal village heads and, hence, chose to bank on the goodwill of people rather than seeking heavy police escort.
Beware of snoopers!
Govt must watch out for bugging devices

The stray ‘pin-shaped device’ found in Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s office in South Block which led the ministry to call in the Intelligence Bureau amid suspicion that it could be a remote electronic listening device has rekindled the controversy over whether our key decision-makers are duly protected from snoopers. Though Mr Antony has strongly denied that his office was ‘bugged’, and the IB has reportedly claimed that nothing ‘worrying’ was found in the thorough ‘sweep’ of the room, there is no room for complacency considering that a ‘bugging’ alarm was raised even by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee a few months ago when he took the Prime Minister into confidence on it. At that time too, it was suspected that the chewing gum-like substance found at 16 places in the Finance Minister’s room might have been used to implant electronic listening devices. Mr Mukherjee had thought it fit to call in a snooping team of the Central Board of Direct Taxes which fell under his ministry rather than adopting the natural course of calling in the IB. The explanation given at that point of time that the adhesive was ‘some sort of chewing gum’ which workers who swept the room may have left behind on the walls, seemed unconvincing.

With more and more sophisticated electronic snooping gadgetry becoming available, the threat to national security cannot be treated lightly. This is not something on which political parties must play partisan politics and score brownie points. When the suspicion over Pranab Mukherjee’s office being bugged was first made public, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had described it as “India’s Watergate”. Such loose statements must be avoided unless proper investigation reveals any such thing. But on its part the government must strengthen its safety mechanism to ensure that the new technology for snooping with different agencies is used only against strongly-suspected wrong-doers under a laid-down procedure approved at the highest level.

The other aspect is the kind of unbridled freedom given to intelligence agencies. There must be due accountability of these agencies so that the temptation to snoop on private citizens, violating their privacy without due reason, as was done in the case of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, is resorted to only if national security is jeopardized or national interest is compromised.
Cold war between Iran, Israel
India can afford to wait and watch
by T.V. Rajeswar

The attack on the Israeli embassy car on February 13 in the Diplomatic Enclave area, New Delhi, was part of the Iran-Israel feud going on for years. Similar attacks on Israeli vehicles had been reported in Georgia in Central Asia and Bangkok (Thailand) in East Asia. In Bangkok there were three bomb attacks, according to the Thai authorities, who reportedly detained a person responsible for one of the bombings. The arrested person turned out to be an Iranian national, who was inexplicably carrying an ID card with him. While the investigating authorities in Delhi are not prepared to say that Iranians were involved in the attack, the needle of suspicion undoubtedly points towards Iran.

Iran's ambition to go nuclear is known. The numerous centrifuges for enriching uranium that Iran had set up in recent months have increased Israel's anxiety. Israel selectively carried out attacks against some of the scientists working in the nuclear reactors in Iran. The last of such attacks was carried out by Israel in January this year. The US and the European Union imposed several crippling sanctions on Iran in recent months to send across the message that Iran should not cross the red line without inviting direct intervention militarily.

The US has been carrying out a balancing act between Israel and Iran to ensure that the situation does not go out of control. More importantly, Israel has to be restrained from carrying out its long-term plan of launching crippling strikes against the nuclear facilities in Iran. Such an attack would lead to a much bigger war, not excluding the US.

Iran has offered to hold talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) authorities so as to assure them that Tehran is not really going nuclear.

The US has a greater responsibility in the entire Iran-Israel faceoff. The US has to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran's hands so as to prevent the global balance from imploding, and also control Israel, which seems to be looking for an opportunity to launch a nuclear attack on Iran if it is convinced that Iran's nuclear facilities at Natanz and elsewhere are now dangerously close to nuclear explosion.

President Obama's worry is that once there is a nuclear attack by Israel on Iran, the responsibility of bringing the conflict to a close would fall on the US which may willy-nilly be forced to intervene. The financial and other consequences will be enormous.

Where does India come in this large canvas of the Iran-versus-Israel-and-US conflict? India can afford to wait and watch.

The Vice-President of the European Union, Catherin Ashton, who was in Delhi recently, said in an interview that Iran was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and hence it was binding on it to comply with the provisions of the NPT. She went on to say that India and other countries should review their relationship with Iran to ensure that Iran complied with the provisions of the NPT.

US and European Union officials believe that Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons which means a serious threat to Israel. The IAEA has stated that it has credible information that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of nuclear device. It is also reported that Iran has a medium-level uranium enrichment facility near Qom. The IAEA ordered Iran to stop uranium enrichment as the technology used for it can also be used to enrich it to the higher level needed for a nuclear explosion.

In a riposte to the European Union measures against Iran, the latter put out a threat that it would cut all oil supplies to EU countries. President Obama sent a nuclear warship to be stationed in the Straits of Hormuz which was meant to be a standing warning to Iran that it stood to face crippling strikes if it crossed the limits drawn by the IAEA.

Even before he was sworn in as President, Obama was talking to Israel about Iran's nuclear programme. Obama reportedly impressed the Israelis, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, for his determination to stop Iran from going nuclear. There were reports that the Israeli Prime Minister was not very happy with President Obama putting more emphasis on the need to safeguard the non-proliferation policy and Iran's compliance to it than ensuring Israeli security.

The US and the EU have been putting pressure on India for cutting its ties with Iran, particularly stopping the import of oil. However, India has told the US that India's energy needs made it necessary for the oil import to continue. India also has pointed out that it has over six million people in the Gulf region who send millions of dollars back home regularly and Iran is the only country which provides land access to Afghanistan. It is not easy for India to take decisions like cutting of its ties with Tehran because of these considerations. In any case, India is not convinced as yet that Iran would disregard its NPT obligations and opt for nuclear power notwithstanding occasional claims by Iran regarding its nuclear capability.

In a recent interview, President Shimon Peres of Israel made some important observations. He said nuclear bombs did not shoot themselves. In whose hands the bombs were made all the difference. A bomb with North Korea alarmed the world, but not with countries like China.

He referred to the two decade-old Indo-Israeli relations and Israel having become an important and dependable supplier of weapons to India over the years.

India values its relations with Israel, which was demonstrated by the recent visit of Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna to Israel.

Indo-Israeli relations are, therefore, too important to be trifled with. The cold war between Iran and Israel will continue and India can afford to watch and keep a close eye on the developments.

The writer is a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau and an ex-Governor of UP and West Bengal.
Indian army runs short of ammunition
New Delhi, Mar 4: Army Chief General V K Singh on Sunday, Mar 4 wrote a letter to Defence Minister AK Antony saying Indian army is seriously short of ammunition and in the event of war, it may run out of stocks in two days, reported Indian media.

Report further claim that Indian Army also running short of artillery and air defence ammunition.

Moreover, same situation likely to continue as government hinting at cuts in defence spending in the next budget.

But, neighbouring country China on Sunday, Mar 4 announced to increase in their military spending by 11.2 percent this year. According to Chines official, country will spend nearly 106.4 billion dollars on defence in 2012.
China boosts military muscle with $100 bln defence budget
China's official defence budget will cross the $100 billion mark this year as per a statement released Sunday in Beijing. This allocation marks an increase of 11.2 per cent over the last year to 670.27 billion yuan - which corresponds to $106 billion.

The annual increase has been relatively modest, given that over the last decade the increase has been closer to 20 percent, but this may have been impelled by the prevailing socio-political and fiscal challenges that even a robust economy like China has to contend with.

The trend lines are instructive and it may be recalled that in March 2008, Beijing had announced an official defence budget that corresponded to $57 billion, and now in 2012 - four years later - the figure at $106 billion has almost doubled.

Yet the PRC draws attention to the statistic that this figure is less than two percent of the country's GDP and that if the gross/absolute defence figure is climbing steadily - it is more due to the overall growth of the GDP.

If this trend is maintained, then it would be reasonable to expect that by 2016 - the PRC's official defence budget will be in the bandwidth of $220-250 billion.

The contrast with the U.S. - the current global 'gorilla' and the preeminent military power - is striking. The U.S. allocates upwards of half a trillion dollars for defence and with the additional costs incurred due to the two post 9/11 wars it is waging - this figure has been in the range of $700 billion and is between 3 to 4 percent of national GDP.

Clearly, China will take more than a decade to reach this fiscal peg - if current extrapolation about GDP growth rates and defence allocations stays valid.

The major military tussle over the next two years is likely to be between the U.S., Russia and China, with each dyad exuding different degrees of anxiety. With Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin on the cards - and a new leadership waiting in the wings to follow President Hu Jintao - it will be instructive to monitor the defence cooperation between Moscow and Beijing with special emphasis on the trans-border military capabilities that the Chinese PLA is seeking to acquire.

More by coincidence than design, India also announced its new army chief at the time that Beijing was unveiling its new defence allocation. Lt. General Bikram Singh, the Eastern Army Commander (Kolkata), will take over from the beleaguered Gen VK Singh, the current army chief who completes his tenure on May 31 - the date of birth controversy having been resolved by the highest court in a Solomon-like manner.

With the office of the army chief having been bruised in recent months, Lt. General Bikram Singh will have his hands full when he assumes office, with a range of issues that will need immediate and sustained attention - and none more critical than the modernisation of the Indian Army's inventory - which is budget related.

Four years ago India projected a defence budget for the financial year 2008-09 as Rs.105,600 crores - which at the time was about $26 billion. At the time China's was pegged at $57 billion - and that figure has now reached $106 billion.

India will announce its own defence expenditure in mid-March - and it is unlikely to cross the $50 billion mark. My own estimate is that it will be closer to the $40 billion threshold - or below Rs. 200,000 crores.

The GDP-fiscal logic which shapes the Indian defence allocation is self-evident. China's GDP is almost four times that of India's. But more than the asymmetry in funding, the PLA as an institution and national military preparedness has received single-minded policy attention from the Chinese ruling apex spanning the Mao-Hu continuum.

India is a telling contrast, where attention paid by the political spectrum on the military is episodic and emotional, rhetorical and reactive. Little wonder that the outgoing army chief has cautioned his Minister that the war-waging capability of the army has been "seriously degraded" - given the inordinately long delays in procurement decisions. Beijing and Rawalpindi would no doubt be studying this development very closely.

China's defence tab crossing the $100 billion mark is significant and the inherent opacity about China's public spending - especially for its military - raises questions about the credibility of the official figure.

Beijing's penchant for assertive muscle-flexing will cause some concern in the region and India is not alone in this regard. But political Delhi has to ensure that national security and husbanding the military machine are not sacrificed on the zero-sum anvil of arid domestic politics.
Govt probes 'snooping' by Army equipment
The Ministry of Defence may have denied reports that the office of Defence Minister A K Antony was “bugged” but sources have confirmed to The Sunday Express that the government and intelligence agencies are verifying “specific information” that at least two sets of “off-the-air mobile phone interception equipment” were deployed in the capital by a section of the Army brass.

It is understood that details of the equipment — manufactured in Ukraine and called “passive interceptors” in common parlance — were received by top officials in the government last month. Incidentally, this was the time that Army Chief General V K Singh’s date of birth controversy was playing out in court.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is understood to have since been asked to establish the veracity of the reports and locate the vehicles on which the snooping devices are believed to have been mounted.

Specific intelligence with the government describes the purchase of the off-the-air equipment in mid-2010 by an Army intelligence unit. The information is that the equipment — which can intercept telephone conversations within a 3-km radius — was mounted on two “private” vehicles. One is believed to have been a Tata Safari with a Rajasthan licence plate, the other a Maruti Esteem registered in Delhi.

According to intelligence received by the government, sources said, these two vehicles were routinely parked in residential bungalows on Krishna Menon Marg and Kushak Road, besides Delhi Cantonment.

When contacted by The Sunday Express, the Army information about misuse of off-the-air equipment was “speculative”. He said, “Such equipment is used only in counter-insurgency areas, it will never be used in the capital.”

What is significant is that reports of such “illegal” use of the equipment also come at a time when the IB is in the process of tracking down the owners and users of around 1,500 pieces of such off-the-air interceptors imported over a 10-year period.

The process of building an inventory of such equipment began two years ago after reports of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) allegedly misusing their snooping equipment — mounted on SUVs called “eagles” — by deploying them in the diplomatic enclave in New Delhi.

The Ministry of Home Affairs subsequently asked Customs authorities for an inventory of all such imported equipment, and asked the IB to trace users including those in the private sector. That, sources say, is still work in progress.

Instructions were also issued to all non-government users to surrender the equipment, but according to sources, hardly anyone has come forward. Meetings with top officials of all intelligence agencies (including NTRO) have been held, prohibiting the use of such off-the-air equipment.

As far as the military establishment is concerned, it is only the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Signals Intelligence that uses such equipment in militancy-prone areas.

In fact, in recently released Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the MHA for legal interception of telephones, Signals Intelligence is listed as one of the nine “notified” agencies, but with a specific priviso: interception can be done only in Jammu and Kashmir, the North-East and Assam service areas.

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