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Friday, 30 March 2012

From Today's Papers - 30 Mar 2012







http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20120330/nation.htm#2
Govt treads cautiously on Army Chief’s issue
Next step likely after IB report
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, March 29
Although under tremendous pressure to act against Army Chief General VK Singh, the UPA government appears to be in no mood to take any hurried decision on the sensitive issue.

With Defence Minister AK Antony ordering a probe into the leak of a letter written by the Army Chief to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, detailing the deficiencies in defence preparedness, the government has decided to take the next step only after it receives the inquiry report.

Sources said the government's primary concern was to identify those responsible for leaking the letter to the media. The Intelligence Bureau (IB), which has been tasked with the probe, is expected to submit its findings by next week. The government's next step will be determined by the findings of that report.

"More than the contents of the Army Chief's letter, it's the leak of the letter that has sent alarm bells ringing in the government," senior officials said. This was evident from the strong words used by the Defence Minister in that context. Antony described the leak of the letter as an "anti-national" act and said strict action would be taken against those responsible for it.

The UPA government has opted for a measured response despite provocations from the Army Chief who first stirred a controversy over his official date of birth, dragging the government to the court. More recently, he publicly declared that he was offered a bribe to clear the purchase of substandard trucks. This was followed by his letter to the PM that was leaked to the media. General Singh fired a fresh salvo when he forwarded to the CBI a year-old letter written by a Trinamool Congress MP containing allegations against Dimapur-based 3 Corps GOC Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag.

With General Singh clearly pushing for a confrontation with the government, there are sections in the Congress and the Opposition that are urging the ruling combine to take some action against the defiant Army Chief. It is being suggested that if the government does not want to take the extreme step of sacking him, it should ask him to proceed on leave for the next two months. General Singh will retire on May 31.

However, there are others who are advising caution. Stating that any extreme step could have serious repercussions, the moderates are suggesting that the matter be dealt with diplomatically as the government may end up making General Singh a martyr by sacking him. 

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20120330/nation.htm#3
Defence expenditure to go up: Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 29
The expenditure on defence is bound to increase as the armed forces need access to the latest technologies and equipment to counter any threat, Defence Minister AK Antony said after inaugurating the seventh edition of International Land and Naval Defence Systems Exhibition DefExpo-12, here today.

Observing that the defence allocation had been consistent with the country's needs, he said, “India's defence expenditure in the recent past has been around 2% of the GDP (it is 1.93% for 2012-13), which has been consistent with our security needs as well as our requirement.”

The four-day exhibition will see the participation of 58 official delegations, including 18 ministerial delegations. Started in 1999, the expo is the biggest-ever with participants booking an area over 30,760 square metre to display products.

Antony said the emphasis was on the need for public-private sector partnership in the defence industry. “With the projected growth of the Indian economy expected at 8-10% for the next two decades, expenditure on defence is bound to increase," Antony said. 

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20120330/nation.htm#4
Army HQ for Lt Gen’s promotion, Chief wants probe
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, March 29
It cannot get more uncertain than this in an Indian Army officer’s climb to the top. While Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, Commander of the Dimapur-based 3 Corps, has been recommended by the Army headquarters for his next promotion, Army Chief Gen VK Singh has now sent a letter to the CBI seeking a probe against him.

These facts tumbled out today. Defence Minister AK Antony said the file to promote Lt Gen Suhag as Army Commander reached his desk on March 22 and that he was surprised to read in the newspapers today that the Army Chief has asked the CBI to probe his role in some purchase.

The Chief has forwarded a letter to the CBI which was written by Trinamool Congress MP Ambika Banerjee alleging irregularities in a purchase. The MP had sent the letter in May 2011 and it was forwarded to the CBI in the past two days.

There are only eight Army Commanders and Lt Gen Suhag is slated to become one on May 31 when two vacancies arise. In case, he becomes an Army Commander, Lt Gen Suhag is expected to the next Chief of the 1.3 million-strong Army after Lt Gen Bikram Singh, who takes over on May 31 this year.

The minister said he was not aware of the Army Chief referring a complaint of corruption against the Lt Gen (Suhag) by a Trinamool Congress MP to the CBI. "Sometime back, during one of the meetings, the Army Chief told me about the particular Lieutenant General. Immediately, I told him that if there is any specific complaint, he must take action.”

Antony said, “I think the proposal to make him Army Commander is of March 22. The Defence Secretary cleared it and when I checked up today in my office, it is pending.” The minister admitted that he was not aware if the Army Chief had sent the letter to the CBI.

Meanwhile, the CBI has received Gen Singh's covering letter along with the complaint from TMC MP Ambika Banerjee relating to some corruption in a procurement deal. The CBI is likely to write to Cabinet Secretariat and Defence Ministry seeking records of purchases for the Special Frontier Force (SFF).

According to the allegation of the TMC MP, Lt Gen Suhag was posted in the SFF at that time. Gen Singh has now requested the CBI to carry out the probe into the allegations of corruption levelled by the MP in the deals of the SFF when Gen Suhag was its Inspector General, sources said.

http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/cynical-approach-to-tar-my-reputation-army-chief-strikes-back-on-leaked-letter-191312?pfrom=home-lateststories
Cynical approach to tar my reputation': Army Chief strikes back on leaked letter


Read more at:
http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/cynical-approach-to-tar-my-reputation-army-chief-strikes-back-on-leaked-letter-191312?pfrom=home-lateststories&cp
New Delhi:  The Army Chief today forcefully refuted allegations that he is responsible for leaking his letter to the Prime Minister, warning that India's security is at risk because the Army's equipment is obsolete. "This is an outrage! Official communication with the PM, RM (Raksha Mantri) or anybody for that matter with the COAS (Chief Of Army Staff) is privileged information. The leaking of the letter should be treated as high treason. This cynical approach to tar my reputation has to stop. The source of the leak has to be found and dealt with ruthlessly," said the Army Chief today via a mailed statement.

A few hours later, Defence Minister AK Antony said at an official function that "All three chiefs (of the armed forces) enjoy the government's confidence." The minister's statement comes amid speculation that General Singh is on the verge of being dismissed.  Some politicians like Lalu Prasad Yadav demanded as much yesterday. Mr Antony has not suggested who he believes is behind the leak, which he described today as "anti-national...it only helps our enemies." He also said that the Intelligence Bureau has been asked to locate the mole. "We can't spare those people. Strongest action will be taken under Indian law," Mr Antony said.

Support for the Army Chief came today from former navy chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas. He said: "Only one man benefits from the leak of the Army Chief's letter to the PM - the Raksha Mantri as it diverts attention from the bribe issue. MoD (Ministry of Defence), known for its selective leaks, has to draw a line somewhere. This is the worst possible cynicism that they can adopt. Besides, no man in uniform, let alone VK Singh, would ever do such a thing."

The Admiral is referring to the first of three storms generated by the Army Chief this week. On Monday, he disclosed that six months after he took office in 2010, he had been offered a bribe of 14 crores to sanction the purchase of "sub-standard" trucks. The Defence Minister found himself in the awkward position of explaining why he had not acted on the chief's information. Mr Antony said the General had not submitted a written complaint to him. He also said that though he asked the General to take some action, the chief refused.

With less than three months to go before he retires, the Army Chief's vertiginous relationship with the government has hit an unprecedented low. First, there was the disclosure of the offer of a bribe. Then came the leak of the letter to the PM, which has provoked twin debates on the urgent need to modernise the army and to ensure that process does not encourage corruption in contracts.
Speaking on the issue, the Defence Minister today said, "Our policy is zero tolerance for corruption. In the process of procurement, if we receive complaints and it is established - we will not hesitate to cancel contracts at any stage. As per integrity pact, if any malpractice is found, there is provision for strict action to protect money and interests. No one will be spared, I assure you."


Read more at:
http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/cynical-approach-to-tar-my-reputation-army-chief-strikes-back-on-leaked-letter-191312?pfrom=home-lateststories&cp

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/any-deal-will-be-cancelled-if-malpractice-is-found-antony/161812/on
Any deal will be cancelled if malpractice is found: Antony
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Mar 29, 2012, 17:47 IST

With the issue of corruption in defence deals resurfacing after the Army Chief's allegations, Defence Minister A K Antony today said the Government would cancel any deal if any malpractice is found in it.

The Minister said after receiving complaints of wrongdoings in the deal to procure 126 combat aircraft from an MP, the Government is holding an inquiry parallel to the contract negotiations with the shortlisted vendor Dassault Aviation.
"If we get any complaint, we will hold an inquiry. If any malpractice is found, we will not hesitate from cancelling any deal even if it is in final stages. We can do it even after the signing of the contract," he said at the Defexpo press conference.

The Defence Minister said in the recent past also, Government has cancelled many major defence contracts after the complaints against them were found to be true.

Antony said the Defence Ministry deals have a strong clause of the Integrity Pact, which has to be signed by vendors taking part in deals worth over Rs 100 crore.

The Integrity pact is to guard our own money and interest and against any malpractice and "there will be no mercy in dealing with such issues".

On the MMRCA deal, the Defence Minister said he had ordered an inquiry into the alleged wrongdoings by an MP as the Government has to be "careful" at every stage that there is "no foulplay".

Antony said the contract negotiations in the major deal were also going on simultaneously and will take around six to eight months before they are put up before the various stages of Government clearance.



http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/service-chiefs-enjoy-govts-confidence-antony/161790/on
Service chiefs enjoy govt's confidence: Antony
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Mar 29, 2012, 15:54 IST

In possible signs of thaw, Defence Minister A K Antony today appeared to be ruling out any action against Army chief Gen V K Singh but vowed to take the "strongest action" under laws against those responsible for the leak of his letter to the Prime Minister.

He disclosed that the Intelligence Bureau has been asked to go into the leak of the letter in which the Army chief had said that the country's security might be at stake and said the government will get to the root of it and find out the persons behind the "anti-national" act.
"All the three service chiefs still enjoy the confidence of the government. They are working...Otherwise, how can they continue," he told reporters when he was asked whether Gen Singh still enjoyed the government's pleasure and confidence.

At a press conference at the DefExpo, he was also asked whether the government would continue to "grin and bear" Gen Singh till retirement in May or ask him to go on leave following a spate of controversies surrounding him.

The Minister's remarks on the confidence in the service chiefs came moments after a statement issued by Gen Singh from Jammu that the leak of his letter should be treated as "high treason" and its source should be dealt with "ruthlessly".

Maintaining that no patriotic Indian would indulge in leak of sensitive communication because it would only help the enemies, Antony said the report will be available at the earliest.

"I assure you that we will not leave it there. We will make every possible attempt to find out the real culprits who have done this anti-national activity and they will be given the maximum punishment under the Indian Penal Code," he said.

Ever since he lost the battle over the age issue, Gen Singh has been at loggerheads with the government and has given media interviews claiming he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to swing a substandard defence deal.


http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/article3258899.ece?ref=wl_opinion
Tatra seeks nod for legal action against Army Chief
Bangalore, March 29:

Tatra Sipox (UK) Ltd has sought the Defence Ministry's sanction to start legal proceedings against the Army Chief, General V.K. Singh, for what it claimed as slanderous allegation against it by imputation in the course of an interview to The Hindu recently.

The General had alleged he was offered Rs 14 crore as bribe to clear purchase of 600 sub-standard Army trucks.

Though he did not name the brand in the interview,, virtually all the 7,000 trucks used extensively by the Army since 1986 are from Tatra. Indian defence enterprise BEML assembles them under licence at Bangalore, KGF and the new Palghat facilities. The General also had said the price of the trucks was inflated.

Tatra Sipox's letter dated March 28 is addressed to the Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Mr Shashi Kant Sharma, and is signed by Ms Elena Ustynovich.

Internet searches show her to be a Surrey, UK-based Director for two group companies —Tatra Tanax Ltd and Tatra FTC.

The letter, a copy of which is with Business Line, said, “We are aggrieved by the nature of the false and unfounded allegations and the grave harm it causes to our reputation.”
No complaints

It said that so far there were no complaints about the performance of the trucks. As Tatra sells through BEML, it has no reason or occasion to approach General Singh, it said.

The trucks carry people, materials, jammers, communication equipment and are also used to launch missiles.
‘Will affect reputation'

The letter said: “Undoubtedly, it will adversely affect Tatra's reputation and its present and future commercial prospects... We are, therefore, constrained to proceed to adopt appropriate legal proceedings including but not limited to prosecution of General V. K. Singh for the offences of slander/libel/defamation and other remedies that may be available to us in law.

“Since [he] is a serving officer in the Army we have been advised that it would be appropriate that we approach and seek from your office the necessary legal sanction to proceed with such legal remedy against General V.K. Singh.”
All deals transparent: BEML

Separately, BEML's CMD, Mr V.R.S. Natarajan, said all its truck supply deals to the Army were transparent and clean. Being the sole supplier, the question of a middleman did not arise nor was true.

“We have nothing to hide. All costing is in the open. It has no role in the current controversy. We will be happy to clear the air before the investigators.”

http://gulfnews.com/news/world/india/l-t-to-develop-artillery-programme-for-army-1.1001554
L&T to develop artillery programme for army

India's Engineering giant Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) and defence major Samsung Techwin Co., Ltd (STW) of South Korea have teamed up to develop Tracked Self Propelled Artillery Programme for the Indian Army
Mumbai: India's Engineering giant Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) and defence major Samsung Techwin Co., Ltd (STW) of South Korea have teamed up to develop Tracked Self Propelled Artillery Programme for the Indian Army.

As part of the programme, L&T plans to set up the integration and testing facility for roll-out of these guns from its world-class, dedicated defense equipment facility in Talegaon, near Pune in Maharashtra.

An announcement to this effect was jointly made by L&T and STW at DEFEXPO 2012- the exposition of defence equipment and systems in New Delhi on Thursday.

The project involves developing the 155mm/52 calibre tracked, self propelled artillery, with L&T as the lead partner.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/beml-chairman-slams-chief-motivated-he-has-a-gr.../930375/
BEML chairman slams Chief: ‘motivated, he has a grand plan’
The chairman of BEML, the public sector undertaking which, along with Tatra-Vectra, has supplied all-terrain vehicles to the Indian armed forces since 1986, has said that Army Chief General V K Singh’s statement describing the vehicles as “sub-standard’’ was a “highly motivated one” by someone who did not “understand ground reality”.

The BEML chief’s counter-attack comes as the Tatra-Vectra company today is understood to have sought the written permission of the Ministry of Defence to file a defamation case against General V K Singh for prejudicing the quality and price of the vehicles, 7,000 of which are being used by the armed forces.

It is in the context of clearing a fresh tranche of Tatra vehicles that the Army Chief alleged he was offered a Rs 14-crore bribe.

Speaking to The Indian Express from Bangalore, BEML (formerly Bharat Earth Movers Limited) chairman V R S Natarajan said that the Army Chief had no role to play in the continuing supplies of the vehicles and so there was no question of him holding up the acquisition. “If you ask my view, his opinion was a highly motivated one and was aimed at defaming the Tatra brand and probably getting the company blacklisted... He obviously has some grand plan in his mind. I don’t know what he was talking about since he only had a consultative role to play at the time of preparation of the budget,’’ Natarajan said.

He said that the March 2010 order for 788 vehicles from Tatra-Vectra had already been executed and that trials for an even larger order were in progress. “Allegations of bribes being paid in the Tatra deals and agents working overtime for this are absolutely false since it is I, as BEML Chairman, and my team of former and serving defence personnel, who are the ones who handle all the negotiations and paperwork with the BEML. Only we deal with the defence forces and the MoD on behalf of Tatra, nobody else.’’
“More than one Army Chief, as well as so many junior and senior military officers who have used these vehicles in deserts and hilly terrain have praised the technical capabilities of the vehicles,’’ he said. “What the present Army Chief has said shows that he does not understand ground realities and had some motivation to make such remarks.”

http://www.livemint.com/2012/03/29154414/Further-delay-likely-in-jet-de.html
Further delay likely in jet deal as Antony underlines caution
“If we get any complaint, we will hold an inquiry. If any malpractice is found, we will not hesitate from cancelling any deal even if it is in final stages. We can do it even after the signing of the contract,” the minister said while inaugurating the seventh Defexpo in New Delhi.

He added that any defence contract worth more than Rs. 100 crore is bound by an “integrity pact” and that it can be cancelled even in its final stages.

This comes even as M.V. Mysura Reddy, a Rajya Sabha member, wrote to Antony on 27 February questioning the “manipulation of the evaluation process” in picking the lowest bidder for the fighter jet deal. Mint has reviewed a copy of the letter and of its 29 February acknowledgement by Antony.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/BEML-Tatra-dismiss-graft-charges/Article1-832740.aspx
BEML, Tatra dismiss graft charges
Defence public sector unit Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) and Tatra and Vectra Limited on Thursday dismissed allegations that former Defence Intelligence Agency chief Lt Gen (retired) Tejinder Singh had offered Rs 14 crore bribe to army chief Gen VK Singh to clear an order for 600 Tatra
trucks for the army, saying they had no such need to pay bribes as they were the only vendors for those vehicles.

BEML chairman and managing director VRS Natarajan told reporters that his public sector defence manufacturer was the only firm that produced this class of vehicles under licence from Tatra and Vectra and hence did not need to bribe anyone for getting orders.

"We are the nominated nodal agency for the defence ministry to manufacture this class of trucks and supply to the army," Natarajan told reporters in New Delhi on the sidelines of the four-day defence exposition that kicked off at the capital's exhibition venue Pragati Maidan.

Echoing similar sentiments, Czech Tatra's chief Ravi Rishi too said they would not approach any officer of the government for orders, as they had a contract directly with the BEML that has been licensed by his company to manufacture the trucks in India.

"The truck is manufactured by BEML with licence from us. We only supply some spares and using some indigenous spares, BEML builds the truck. We do not sell the trucks directly to the army or supply it to the defence ministry. It is the job of BEML," Rishi said.

The army had recently named Tatra as the firm for which Tejinder Singh was lobbying in a press release.

The army headquarters had issued the release to counter allegations that the army chief had ordered the snooping of defence minister AK Antony and other security top brass at the peak of his age-related row.

The army release had claimed that the reports were appearing in the media at the behest of Tejinder Singh, whose bribe offer of Rs 14 crore to clear orders of 600 Tatra trucks was spurned by the army chief.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_battle-of-attrition-on-between-army-chief-government_1668868
The war of attrition between the army chief and government showed no signs of abating with Gen VK Singh describing as "high treason" the leak of his letter on defence preparedness and the government promising that those responsible would be given "maximum punishment".

As Gen Singh's March 12 letter to Prime Minister in which he had complained about lack of defence preparedness continued to generate controversy, he issued a strongly worded statement in which he said the source of leak should be dealt with "ruthlessly".

In a brief statement released by Army Headquarters, Gen Singh, who is currently in Jammu and Kashmir, said his official communication with the Prime Minister and Defence Minister is "privileged" communication.

"The leakage of the letter should be treated as high treason. Cynical approach to tarnish my reputation should stop. Sources of the leakage should be found and dealt with ruthlessly," said Singh, who is due to retire on May 31.

At a press conference in Delhi, Defence Minister AK Antony vowed to take the "strongest action" under laws against those responsible for the leak of Gen Singh's letter to the Prime Minister.

He disclosed that the Intelligence Bureau has been asked to go into the leak of the letter and said the government will get to the root of it and find out the persons behind the "anti-national" act.

Maintaining that no patriotic Indian would indulge in leak of sensitive communication because it would only help the enemies, Antony said the report will be available at the earliest.

"I assure you that we will not leave it there. We will make every possible attempt to find out the real culprits who have done this anti-national activity and they will be given the maximum punishment under the Indian Penal Code," he said.

Asked whether government would take action on demands for removal of Gen Singh, the Minister said, "all the three service chiefs still enjoy the confidence of the government. They are working...otherwise, how can they continue".

He was asked whether Gen Singh still enjoyed the government's pleasure and confidence and whether the government would continue to "grin and bear" him till retirement in May or ask him to go on leave following a spate of controversies surrounding him.

The Minister's remarks on the confidence in the service chiefs came moments after a statement issued by Gen Singh from Jammu that the leak of his letter should be treated as "high treason" and its source should be dealt with "ruthlessly".

Ever since he lost the battle over the age issue, Gen Singh has been at loggerheads with the government and has given media interviews claiming he was offered a bribe of Rs14 crore to swing a substandard defence deal.

On top of acrimony over the issue, the leak of his secret letter to the Prime Minister enraged parliamentarians and political parties, some of whom demanded his removal.

On Thursday, in yet another embarrassment to the government, a Delhi newspaper carried a story that Gen Singh has referred to the CBI a corruption complaint of a Trinamool Congress MP against Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who commands the Dimpaur-based 3 Corps and is in line to be Army Chief after Singh's successor.

Initially Antony sought to parry questions on the controversies surrounding the Army chief urging journalists not to bring Army into all controversies and damage institutions.

Asked if he felt a sense of betrayal, Antony said he would not reveal his personal feelings and his judgements would be on the basis on facts.

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