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Monday, 19 March 2012

From Today's Papers - 19 Mar 2012
‘China hasn't diverted Brahmaputra’
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS

Guwahati, March 18
Allaying fear over diversion of the flow of Brahmaputra River (Siang in Arunachal Pradesh) at its source in the Tibet region, the Assam Government said there was no evidence to prove that China had diverted the river.

Assam Water Resources Minister Rajib Lochan Pegu said both the Central and state government was keeping a close watch on the flow of the Brahmaputra.

“After reports of the Siang River drying up at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh, the state government got in touch with the Union Ministry of Water Resources and Arunachal Pradesh government officials. We found out that the changes in the river flow were a natural phenomenon based on various factors, including rainfall,” the minister said.

A section of the Indian media had reported in the wake of sharp reduction of water-level of Siang river in Arunachal that China had diverted the Brahmaputra. He clarified that there was no abnormal change in the flow of the river in the last two years.
Army legal officers’ promotions stayed
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, March 18
The Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Department, the Army’s legal wing, is in the eye of the storm yet again. Following a petition by a senior Judge Advocate General officer, alleging irregularities in the empanelment of officers for promotion, the Armed Forces Tribunal has stayed the proceedings of the selection board for Judge Advocate General officers, which was held by the Army headquarters last month.

The controversy arose after the Military Secretary’s (MS) Branch, responsible for officer cadre management, amalgamated two batches of officers of different seniority for empanelment. This, according to Military Secretary Branch’s own policy, cannot be permitted and has thus raised contentions that the move was aimed at pursuing vested interests.

Sources said that 11 officers of the rank of Colonel were empanelled for promotion.

The Judge Advocate General department has just about 120 officers.

Taking up a petition filed by Col Rakesh, posted at Corps 2 Headquarters, Ambala, the tribunal’s bench comprising Justice NP Gupta and Lt Gen HS Panag ordered the Army to hold promotions of Judge Advocate General officers till further orders.

In the instant case, Judge Advocate General officers of 1985 batch were empanelled to be considered for promotion with officers of the 1987 batch-two years their junior.

This is not the first case where promotion of Judge Advocate General Branch officers had been stayed on judicial intervention. Only a few weeks ago, the promotion of an officer to the top slot in the Judge Advocate General was stayed after a departmental officer moved the tribunal alleging that he had been blamed earlier by a court of inquiry for professional impropriety. The officer has since picked up his rank as Major General and is now heading the Judge Advocate General Department.

There have also been a couple of instances wherein promotion of Judge Advocate General officers to the department’s top slot were stayed by the courts.
Turmoil in Balochistan
Pak discriminatory policies are to blame
by Lt-Gen Kamal Davar (retd)

THOSE who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it, as a famous truism goes. That Pakistan displays a proclivity in not discarding its myopic, self-destructive strategies while following consistently the policy of adhering to terrorism as an extension of its state policy externally or indulging in persecution internally of some of its own people is no surprise. Pakistan forgets that it was primarily the unleashing of genocide on its then own citizens in erstwhile East Pakistan that led to the severing of its eastern limb in 1971. An uncanny similarity marks the political and security environment in hapless Balochistan today.

Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan's four provinces covering 44 per cent of its landmass with just 4.5 per cent of its population. Though it has gas deposits and is mineral-rich, it has received an abysmally small share of Pakistani revenue since 1947. It straddles both Afghanistan and Iran which also have a fair number of restive Baloch tribes. The local Baloch constitute many tribes and sub-tribes with the Marris, Bugtis and Mengals being the major ones. In keeping with the overly Punjabi orientation of the Pakistani state, the Baloch have a mere 1.3 per cent representation in Pakistan's armed forces.

Balochistan's unique geographical location, providing connectivity through Afghanistan to the Central Asian Republics or, on its own, to the Karakoram Highway (KKH) and then to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea, gives it immense strategic importance. It is thus not surprising that the strategically minded Chinese have invested heavily in developing the deep-sea port of Gwadar on Balochistan's coastline not only to ensure alternative oil supply routes to the Chinese mainland via the KKH but also dominate the Arabian Sea and the Gulf with its navy once Gwadar is fully operationalised.

It is pertinent to recall that at the time of independence in 1947, the Khan of Kalat had refused to merge Balochistan with Pakistan and only a massive intervention by the army in Balochistan ensured its annexation by Pakistan. Since then Balochistan has been gripped by civil wars in 1958, 1963 and again in 1973.

Gen Pervez Musharraf, in particular, during his rule, had unleashed not only his army in great strength in Balochistan but also armed helicopters and even jet fighters against Balochi insurgents, including killing the widely respected Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and his son. General Musharraf, who is perhaps the most hated Pakistani leader in this province, also established many cantonments in Balochistan. A serious insurgency continues till now.

Baloch grievances against Pakistan are rooted in the denial since 1947 of their political rights, the fear of being swamped by Punjabi machinations, exploitation of the province's natural resources and local land being leased to foreigners. A large number of Balochi tribal leaders have escaped to the US and the UK and are vociferous in their demands of seeking Baloch independence from Pakistan. Only recently in Islamabad, Baloch leader Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo stated that Pakistan's infamous ISI was running Balochistan for the last 15 years and untold genocide had been unleashed on the impoverished people there. The ISI has been notorious for its “kill and dump” policy for years. According to reliable estimates, 231 bullet-ridden bodies were found along roadsides in Balochistan last year. Recently in the fashionable area of Clifton in Karachi, the ISI engineered the murder of Nawab Bugti's granddaughter and his 13-year-old great-granddaughter with a nearby police picket looking the other way.

The world community, so far oblivious of the repression of the Balochi people, appears to be waking up to continuing Pakistani barbarism in Balochistan. In February this year, Amnesty International testified before a US Congressional Committee on the grave human rights abuses in Balochistan. Importantly, a Republican senator has moved a House concurrent resolution in the US Congress seeking the right of self-determination for Balochistan. This step has evoked much protest in Pakistan with the latter complaining of interference in its internal affairs by some US Congressmen and further vitiating the already deteriorating relations between the erstwhile allies.

India, consistent with its policy of non-interference, has studiously avoided meddling in Balochistan despite regular unsubstantiated Pakistani allegations to the contrary. Baloch nationalist leaders are naturally miffed at India's laid-back attitude towards their yearnings for freedom and always remind the Indians of Balochi secular credentials and their respect for Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Not many in India are aware that at the time of Independence, no Hindu or Sikh families were driven away from Balochistan unlike from Punjab, the NWFP and Sindh. In addition, after the unfortunate destruction of Babri Masjid in India, no old Hindu shrines were demolished by the Baloch.

Overall, India has to be prudent as regards its Balochistan policy but must, at the same time, firmly tell Pakistan to abandon its policy of interference in Jammu and Kashmir as a quid pro quo. As India must keep its options open on happenings in the neighbourhood, Pakistan is in a bind, anyway, as far as Balochistan is concerned for the restive province's future is currently anyone's guess !
Bengal youth have brittle bones, army stops staffing
Bone deformities due to arsenic poisoning are rampant among youth in Bengal, the Indian army has found. Less than 100 youths among the 2,000 who turned up for an army recruitment drive in February, passed the physical test.
posts,” said group captain TK Singha, chief public relations officer, ministry of defence. “Most of the students failed the basic medical test because of defects in bone structure,” said an officer. “This was not visible by the naked eye, nor did it affect normal life.”

But that was because of the young age of the candidates (between 17 and 23 years), he said. The problems will become more pronounced with age and may end in deformities.

"We found out most of the candidates came from arsenic affected regions of Bengal, and drink water from hand pumps," he said. Hand pumps — used rampantly in the state — are the most widespread source of arsenic poisoning.

The recruitment was not for fighting ranks but for technical positions — aviation, ammunition and nursing.

“We need some basic medical fitness for technical staff too, but the candidates could not even match those criteria,” said another officer who was present at the recruitment camp.

“Arsenic can affect any organ, including bones, causing deformity, brittleness and degeneration,” said Sudarshan Niyogi, professor of chemical engineering at IIT-Kharagpur and an expert in the field.

Arsenic contamination in Bengal was detected more than 30 years ago, said Niyogi.

Since the early eighties, arsenic related skin diseases were detected in Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North-24-Parganas, South-24-Parganas, Burdwan, Howrah, Hooghly and Kolkata by Kolkata's School of Tropical Medicine and the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health.

Following a 20-year study, the School of Environmental Studies of Jadavpur University, categorised those districts as severely affected areas.
Nitin Pai: Stop just looking ? grab East!
Nitin Pai / Mar 19, 2012, 00:38 IST

Its significance lies in the fact that it took 40 years to happen. Next week, Bangladesh is set to honour a number of Indians, including Lt Gen J F R Jacob, one of the architects of the Indian army’s victory over Pakistani forces in the 1971 war. Those unfamiliar with history might wonder why it took so long. Those who are familiar might wonder if this is more than a fleeting moment in bilateral relations with a country with which we ought to have excellent relations but don’t.

In the binary world of Bangladesh politics, one party has made being anti-India a part of its political DNA. Fortunately, for India, that party – Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party – is not only out of power but also deeply discredited among the Bangladeshi people. Even more fortunately for India, the ruling Awami League is not only strongly in favour of strong relations with India but it also has a solid majority in Parliament.
Since she assumed office in 2008, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has invested considerable political capital in wooing India. If she and her party have traditionally been favourably inclined towards New Delhi, her policies also reflect a growing realisation in the Bangladeshi middle class that participating in the economic growth processes of both India and China presents them with a ticket to their own. It is not uncommon to see Bangladeshi officials and businessmen cite their proximity to Indian markets as a selling point to foreign investors.

The agreements she signed during her January 2010 visit to New Delhi were remarkable, as have been the results on the ground since then. Bangladesh made it possible for Indian security forces to apprehend Arabinda Rajkhowa, a top United Liberation Front of Asom leader who had long found a safe haven in Bangladesh. A recent flare-up apart, border guards in the two countries now co-operate in border management. There has been good news on the economic front. Those who recall being baffled by former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s hostility to a proposal by the Tata Group to pump in $3 billion in an investment-starved Bangladesh were pleasantly surprised to see NTPC invest $1.5 billion in a joint venture to build a power plant in the country. Deals on the most difficult issues – border demarcation, land transit and water sharing – are at hand or tantalisingly close.

All this suggests that our Bangladesh policy should simply read: keep Sheikh Hasina in power until Khaleda Zia, too, realises that there are no rewards for being anti-India.

New Delhi might not state it in these terms but has clearly worked to reciprocate Dhaka’s moves. Yet what might have been a landmark agreement had the two prime ministers signed it during Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in September 2011 was held up by two broken sluice gates on the Farakka Barrage in West Bengal, a few miles upstream from the Bangladesh border.

Two broken sluice gates gave West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee enough pretext to block a deal that would have allowed India land transit through Bangladesh, connecting the north-eastern states with multiple road and rail links to the rest of India. Once the Bangladeshi negotiators realised that Ms Banerjee would block a water-sharing deal that they wanted, they took the land transit deal that India wanted. Not only did Ms Banerjee wreck a grand bilateral deal, she has also weakened Sheikh Hasina politically.

The United Progressive Alliance government cannot escape its share of the blame. Surely, if a deal of such strategic significance was under negotiation, then it should have kept Ms Banerjee on board. On a matter like this, the Congress party should have invested more effort in hammering out a domestic consensus.

Where do we go from here? Urgent attention is needed to arrest the drift. Earlier this year a video of Border Security Force personnel brutalising a Bangladeshi prompted calls for a boycott of Indian products. One incident like this can undermine years of diplomacy and political investment.

If New Delhi does not act purposefully now, there is a risk that political compulsions – yes, others can have them too – will compel Sheikh Hasina to step back. Her overtures are driven by her sense of promoting Bangladesh’s interests. Analysts in Dhaka point out that land transit is the only bilateral issue where they have strong cards. It is understandable that they should insist on getting a mutually acceptable water-sharing deal in return for allowing India land transit. If Sheikh Hasina loses the next elections, we can expect the next government to set the clock back on bilateral relations all over again.

The window of opportunity to put bilateral relations with Bangladesh on a stable path will close in around a year. New Delhi should use the symbolism around Dhaka’s gesture in honouring General Jacob, D P Dhar, Bhupen Hazarika, among others, to move quickly on a grand deal with Bangladesh before election fever takes over the country. The heroes of 1971 could lead the two countries to yet another victory.
Singapore gains toehold in world arms industry
Singapore, better known for its clean-cut image and electronics exports, is seeking a place in the global arms industry by exploiting technological expertise honed on its own amply funded military.
From armoured personnel carriers used by British forces in Afghanistan to ammunition and firearms, the city-state is trying to enlarge the overseas market for its homegrown weapons and defence systems.

Its arms exports were in the limelight recently when India's defence ministry banned six weapons manufacturers for alleged involvement in a 2009 bribery case -- one of them a relatively little-known company from Singapore.

ST Kinetics, part of the multibillion-dollar ST Engineering industrial group, swiftly and vigorously denied the accusation but the mere mention of the firm underscored Singapore's growing ambitions in the world arms market.

Singapore's Straits Times newspaper said ST Kinetics was bidding for a contract to supply India with howitzers when the process was put on hold over the bribery allegations.

Its parent ST Engineering, with revenues of Sg$5.99 billion ($4.72 billion) in 2011, was the only Southeast Asian firm on the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's list of the world's top 100 defence manufacturers released last month.

Partly owned by state investment agency Temasek Holdings, ST Engineering dominates the defence industry in Singapore. It says it is one of the world's top suppliers of 40mm ammunition as well as portable weapons like its CIS 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher.

The company was the biggest exhibitor at last month's Singapore Airshow where among the equipment on display was a new version of the Bronco, an armoured all-terrain troop carrier used by British forces in Afghanistan.

"Our things are battle-proven. If you need something special, we can also customise to give you an edge over other people," Patrick Choy, executive vice-president for international marketing at ST Engineering, told AFP at the show.

The British Army's 115 Broncos -- first deployed in Afghanistan in 2010 and dubbed the "Warthogs" -- are ST Engineering's pride, and billed as the first armoured vehicles built for a Western army by an Asian firm.

Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, the second-largest foreign contingent after the US troops in the coalition, operating in the the difficult terrain of Helmand province.

Jon Grevatt, a defence specialist for IHS Jane's, a global security think tank, said the firm "has done a grand job with the Bronco" but noted that "the British Army heavily customised it to suit its operational needs in Afghanistan".

Beyond Britain, ST Engineering exports weapons and military equipment to other countries but refuses to divulge details.

According to the Stockholm institute, Singapore has sold defence products to Indonesia, Chad, Nigeria, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil since 2000, generating $1.75 billion in 2010 alone.

Despite its diverse customer profile, ST Engineering is still heavily dependent on the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Grevatt said.

Singapore has the largest defence budget in Southeast Asia, thanks to public funds generated by its phenomenal economic growth. It has set aside Sg$12.28 billion ($9.68 billion) for defence in 2012, at 24.4 percent the largest single allocation in the government's total budget.

Surrounded by far larger neighbours, Singapore has pursued a robust defence strategy since its acrimonious split with Malaysia in 1965, and was initially advised by Israel.

All able-bodied Singaporean men are required to devote two years of full-time military service upon turning 18, providing additional manpower on top of the estimated 20,000 armed forces regulars.

"As a defence manufacturer ST is driven largely by what the SAF needs... which is still conventional systems," Grevatt said.

"ST's conventional land systems for the SAF will be difficult to sell outside Singapore because several factors are against it... the Western market is in decline and conflicts are also winding down."

However, ST Engineering's non-defence sectors contribute about 60 percent of revenues, with the diverse portfolio bolstering growth potential, he added.

Apart from its defence business, the company has worldwide operations in commercial land systems, aerospace, the marine industry and engineering, with over 100 subsidiaries in 23 countries.

Its aviation arm ST Aerospace is the largest independent aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul provider in the world.

"Defence manufacturers today have to be diverse and have their fingers in many pies to survive," Grevatt said.
India will be a superpower in future: Bhutan general
“We are proud to be associated with India, which has the third largest army in the world. It has all the right features to become a superpower in future,” General Batoo Tshering, Chief Operations Officer of the Royal Bhutan Army told reporters after the passing out parade at the Officers Training Academy (OTA) here on Saturday.

The Bhutanese Army chief, who is on a five-day visit to strengthen defence ties between the nations, also praised OTA for training women cadets. Speaking to media persons, Lt Gen Sunil Jog, SM, VSM and Commandant of OTA, said, “The cadets have gone through 49 weeks of intensive training and have achieved everything in a fantastic way. We are all very proud of them and wish them luck wherever they have been posted.”

On a query regarding infrastructure, he said, “OTA currently trains 500 cadets. We will soon get latest training facilities and accommodation for 750 cadets. We have already written to the government of India.”
The passing out parade was marked by pride and emotions, as 284 cadets were inducted into the Indian Army on Saturday on completion of 11-months of gruelling training. “It was my ambition to serve the country. My father was a great source of inspiration to me. I feel so proud and honoured,” said Rajalakshmi of Tuticorin, who was one of the five cadets representing Tamil Nadu.

The event was also memorable for 16 foreign cadets, fifteen from Afghanistan and one from Lesotho who underwent training at OTA. Speaking to DC after the ceremony, Farhad Dilshad from Afghanistan said: “The experience in India was amazing. The culture here is not very different from that in Afghanistan. During the training period, we got to learn the ways of the Army. I hope the good relations between the two nations continue.”
Defence research and development organisationto focus on new missile systems, UAVs
PUNE: The defence research and development organisation (DRDO), which has been allocated Rs 10,640 crore in the Union Budget 2012, will put a major thrust on projects including development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Kaveri-II engine for the light combat aircraft, and new generation and tactical short-range missiles, in the year ahead.

"The allocation is 6% more than what we had received last year. We expected an 8% increase, but the allocation meets our requirements by and large," said DRDO's director general V K Saraswat during a visit to the Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (VRDE) at Ahmednagar, about 110 km from here.

Saraswat, who is also the scientific advisor to the minister of defence, performed the 'ground breaking' ritual for the country's first of its kind vehicle dynamics test track. The Rs 26.99-crore facility will go operational from November 2013 at the VRDE for testing of defence and commercial vehicles. Chief controller of research and development S Sundaresh and VRDE director C P Ramanarayanan accompanied Saraswat.

The DRDO chief identified other thrust areas related to development of a new system for the 155-mm artillery gun, a bi-modular charge system, which is ammunition for the 155-mm Howitzer gun, and new materials for high-temperature and armoured applications, including those required for hypersonic missiles and new generation turbines.

He said, "Almost 40% of the DRDO's budget goes into development of strategic systems, while the remaining 60% is utilised for the science and technology-based programmes. The UAVs form a key component of these programmes while the focus is also on the new generation missile systems that go beyond the existing Agni V."

Referring to the area of armament, Saraswat said, "It has been almost a couple of decades since the country has opted for development of a new gun system. The time is ripe for us to do undertake strong activities in this area. The Pune-based Armament Research and Development Establishment is working on this new system."

He added, "The bi-modular charge system or BMCS, as it is commonly referred to, has successfully gone through various trial processes and is now set to go for production by the Ordnance Factories soon."

Asked about the defence offset from the $ 11-billion deal for 126 French-made Rafale combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force, Saraswat said, "The matter is being handled by another department (the Defence Offset Facilitation Agency), but we expect that the provision of offset is used to bridge the technology gap. We have given a list of items to our offset management team to work on."

The offsets, which were first introduced in the Defence Procurement Policies of 2005 and 2006, refer to the provision of foreign vendors, who are awarded defence contracts worth Rs 300 crore or more, to plough back at least 30% of the contract value into Indian defence production or R&D.

The upcoming vehicle dynamics test track forms part of the DRDO's effort to further the armed forces' requirement of state-of-the-art ground vehicles with excellent manoeuvrability and power to weight ratio under low intensity conflict operations.

Incorporation of high-end technologies like anti-lock braking and anti-roll over mechanism become crucial to achieve this objective. Evaluation of technology-intensive vehicles meant for induction in the Army need special purpose tracks and instrumentation systems. The test track will seek to address these requirements.
Nepal govt directs Ministries to halt Gurkha recruitment

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