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Sunday, 1 April 2012

From Today's Papers - 01 Apr 2012
AFSPA amendments pending before CCS: Chidambaram
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 31
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the discussion with chief ministers on the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) could possibly be allowed more time, revealing also that his ministry has sought three amendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

The AFSPA is in force in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of the northeast. There have been demands to remove the Act.

Addressing mediapersons, the Home Minister said three amendments have been sought to AFSPA. The proposal is pending before the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister.
The minister was replying to questions about the suggestion made by the United Nation special rapporteur on extra-judicial summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns that AFSPA should be repealed as it was “symbol of excessive state power and has no role to play in a democracy".

He said that the report of the UN rapporteur was both ‘negative and positive.’

In his understanding, the UN rapporteur had made some positive statements" on AFSPA. The Home Minister said, “Yes, we take note of the view but that's not a novel idea as there are a number of people who have expressed the same view and there are others who have a contrary view which is why the issue remains unresolved.

"The Ministry of Home Affairs, after considering the Justice Jeevan Reddy report and all other reports, is seeking three amendments to AFSPA," Chidambaram said refusing to spell out the amendments.

Sources in the ministry, however, said the amendments include taking arrest warrants in advance, taking away the power of the armed forces to open fire causing death and setting up of a grievance redressal cell.

But these proposals may not be cleared in the existing form. The armed forces have made it clear that they cannot operate without the AFSPA.

Chidambaram, who is facing a demand from the states that the NCTC should be the only matter to be discussed at the April 16 meeting of chief ministers on internal security, said the meeting could possibly be extended by a day to address the issue.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi have demanded that the NCTC should be the theme of the conference while the Centre has a wider agenda for the meeting.

Asked whether there was a possibility of extending the day-long meeting to two days, he said, “That will depend on the convenience of the Prime Minister and chief ministers. But that is an option.”
Antony has promised to remove anomalies in pension: Army Chief
Press Trust of India / Gurgaon Mar 31, 2012, 17:07 IST

Army Chief General V K Singh today said that the Defence Minister A K Antony has promised to remove the anomalies in the pension of ex-servicemen.

Addressing a gathering of ex-servicemen on Delhi's outskirts, General Singh said that the government is sensitive to the needs of the retired soldiers and efforts are being made to remove anomalies in their pension as identified by the sixth pay commission.
"After the sixth pay commission, 46 anomalies were discovered which were causing losses to the ex-servicemen. These have been put before government and we are committed to remove them to ensure that every one gets an equitable pension," he said.

Stating that wrong message was spread on this issue that removing these anomalies will cost too much money, he said "only Rs 1,300 crore is required to ensure equitable pension to retired soldiers".

"When we made the calculation, we found out that if these 46 anomalies were removed, it will be an expenditure of Rs 3,000 crore only and out of this Rs 2,600 crore is for JCOs, NCOs and Jawans. Only Rs 400 crore would be spent to address the problems of officer," General Singh said.

Hoping that government will help in solving the issue after these figures are presented to it, he said, "The Defence Minister has assured us that after completion of Budget session, he will try to remove all these problems one by one."
IB to expedite probe into leak of General's letter
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Mar 31, 2012, 17:23 IST

Government today said the Intelligence Bureau has been asked to quickly complete its inquiry into the leak of a letter written by Army Chief Gen VK Singh to the Prime Minister highlighting various shortcomings in the Army but no time has been fixed for it.

"I don't think there is a time-frame. The Ministry of Defence has asked the IB to look into the matter and I know that the IB is looking into the matter. There is no time-frame. But obviously it has to be done quickly," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters here.
He was responding to a question on when the IB will complete its probe into the enquiry of the leak which has triggered sharp reactions from the government and opposition parties.

On Thursday, Defence Minister A K Antony vowed to take the "strongest action" under laws against those responsible for the leak of Gen Singh's letter to the Prime Minister.

Antony said the government will get to the root of it and find out the persons behind the "anti-national" act.
BrahMos develops anti-aircraft variant of missile
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Mar 31, 2012, 16:01 IST

Indo-Russian joint venture BrahMos has developed an anti-aircraft carrier variant of the 290-km supersonic cruise missile.

"We have achieved the capability to attack aircraft carriers using the supersonic vertical diving variant of the missile and after demonstrating the capability recently with high precision, we will now offer this to the Indian Navy," BrahMos chief A Sivathanu Pillai said here today.
He was asked to comment on the recent two successful test firings of the missile.

Pillai said the test firing for the steep dive variant was done for the Army and after its success, the path is clear for the induction of the fourth regiment of the  missile for mountain warfare.

The army has plans of deploying this missile regiment in the Northeast along the borders with China and the proposal was accorded sanction in a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting last year.

The development comes in the backdrop of China's first aircraft carrier undergoing scientific testing and training exercises ahead of its commissioning in August.

The BrahMos chief said the tests were also to evaluate certain new systems of the missile, which are produced by the Indian industries so that bulk production clearance can be given for integration.

"This will facilitate faster induction in the Indian armed forces," he said.

Pillai said with the Indian forces planning to induct a number of new aircraft such as the 126 multirole combat fighter jets and the MiG 29K naval fighters, BrahMos was considering developing a smaller version of the BrahMos missile for them.

At present, the company is developing an air-launched version of the Su-30MKI, which falls in the heavy weight category among fighter jets.
The hollow army

    March 31, 2012
    By Mrinal Suman
CBI not convinced with details in Indian army chief’s complain

New Delhi: Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not registered any case on India army chief General VK Singh’s bribery allegations till now, media reported on Saturday.

According to reports, the investigation agency was not convinced with the details provided by the army chief in his complaint and will seek clarification from him next week.

The CBI may write to or meet General Singh next week, it said.

Indian army chief had blamed former Defence Intelligence Agency chief Lt Gen Tejinder Singh (retd), who had allegedly offered him a Rs 14-crore bribe in August 2010 to clear the purchase of “substandard” trucks, for launching a smear campaign against him.

While the chief tried to explain the reasons behind making the revelation 18 months later in an interview on March 26, his statement offered no insight into why he did not take action against Tejinder Singh.

The chief did say that after the matter was brought to Antony’s notice, steps were taken "institutionally to keep a wary eye" on the retired officer.   The interview triggered the latest round of confrontation with the government, after his date of birth row.
The government sent Expressions of Interest (EoI) to eight carefully vetted companies, asking them to bid for the TCS contract. Besides BEL; L&T; Tata Power (SED); and HCL, EoIs were also sent to Rolta; Wipro; and the PSUs Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL); and ITI. But now there are just five contestants, with L&T, Tata Power (SED), and HCL having bid as an SPC (special purpose company).

According to Jayant Patil, Executive Vice President at L&T, the distribution of stakes in the SPC are: L&T, 56.67%; Tata Power (SED), 33.33%; and HCL 10%.

The TCS will be a fully mobile communications grid, which can be moved anywhere during war, even deep into enemy territory, each one providing an army corps (a formation of some 60,000 soldiers) with a backbone network on which to communicate and transfer large volumes of data.

The TCS operates much like a cellular phone network, but with three major differences: the TCS's exchanges and switches will be installed in high-mobility vehicles, allowing them to be transported and set up anywhere. Secondly, large volumes of data will be transmitted over the TCS, such as streaming video from sensors like unmanned aerial vehicles. Finally, information sent out over the TCS cannot be easily intercepted or jammed since it will not be transmitted on a single frequency. Instead, transmissions will hop frequencies, dozens of times every second, in a pre-programmed sequence.

Business Standard has learned from MoD sources that the ministry has almost completed the selection of the two vendors who will build the TCS prototypes. At the next meeting of the Defence Production Board, the decision is likely to be finalised.

Once the MoD announces the two winners, they will each have about 6 months to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR). This will define every system, sub-system, and capability of the TCS network. Based on that, the MoD will decide on the amount that developing the prototype is likely to cost. The figure is likely to be around Rs 300 crore for creating a working prototype of a TCS for an army division (15,000 troops). The MoD will fund 80% of the development cost; with 20% paid by the vendors.

Rahul Chaudhary, CEO of Tata Power (SED) says that the prototypes could take about18 months to build, which will be followed by user evaluation trials that could run for another 6-8 months. Based on that, the final form of the TCS will be decided, and documented in the form of a General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR). That will be the frozen design for the final system.

While the government could select a single winning vendor to build all seven TCS systems that the army requires for seven corps, market expectations are that the order could be distributed, in a 65:35 ration, between the two vendors. This would expedite production, as well as mitigate production risks. Each corps' TCS is expected to cost about Rs 1,500 crore.

Patil explains the working arrangement between L&T; Tata Power (SED); and HCL. Notwithstanding the pattern of ownership, work share will be distributed in a 40:40:20 ratio. Both the larger partners, L&T and Tata Power (SED), have already spent years developing the data handling technologies, switches and routers that will be needed for the TCS, which are prominently displayed at their stalls at the ongoing Defexpo India 2012 defence exhibition in New Delhi. However, work will be allocated based on efficiency of production, lower costs and expeditious delivery.

"Our SPC is a business school case study," says Patil of L&T. "We are creating efficiency within our consortium by not just competing externally, but competing within the consortium as well."
Two men, both with rock-solid reputations for integrity. In any other circumstance, they would have made for a great team to lead the nation’s defence forces. Instead, they have been pushed into doing battle with each other. One, possibly the “victim” of “a hidden agenda”, refuses to take things lying down. The other—his political boss—hobbled by the remote-control handling of his ministry by people more powerful than him, can do nothing more than wring his hands in despair.

The General V.K. Singh saga is destined to go down as one more example of the UPA government’s misgovernance, irrespective of whether the army chief goes now or in May, when he’s due to retire. The redeeming aspect of the entire fracas, though, is the issues it has thrown up. Is there something drastically wrong with the armed forces’ interface with the civilian leadership? Why are the armed forces’ concerns on defence security and preparedness not being addressed? How powerful is the shadow of the arms lobbies in senior defence appointments and vital procurements of arms and equipment? The questions are piling up thick and fast, and the needle of responsibility has slowly but surely shifted from defence minister A.K. Antony to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his leadership. It is now clear that as the UPA government busied itself in battling scam after scam, it reacted to the growing disquiet within the armed forces with petty point-scoring.

In the last six years since Antony has been the defence minister, a chair he occupied after Pranab Mukherjee vacated it to move to the finance ministry, his handling of his charge has been viewed with dismay by defence-watchers. He is in many ways perceived to be of the same mould as his prime minister. Their personal image may be blemishless, but both are seen as ineffective leaders presiding over a growing culture of “anarchy and chaos” around them. Would the army chief’s controversy have played out the way it’s doing currently had it been capped with some deft handling early on? The UPA government, and Antony in particular, underestimated V.K. Singh’s capacity to take the “injustices done to him and to the army” to their logical conclusion. “This is spinning out of control,” says Major General Ravi Arora (retd), who heads defence magazine Indian Military Review, “because we have a weak leadership in Antony. He has not even exercised his discretion on a small thing like the DoB controversy which, if handled maturely, would not have landed the defence establishment in an embarrassment. This is undoubtedly bad leadership which is allowing unaccounted-for bureaucrats to have their way. Just being honest won’t do.”


“This is spinning out of control because we have a weak leadership in Antony, which is allowing unaccounted-for bureaucrats to have their way.”Maj Gen Ravi Arora, Indian Military Review               

The issue, though, is not just about a minister sleeping on the job. More sinister is the possibility of the hidden hand of arms lobbies—represented by retired officers of the armed forces and bureaucrats—in fixing tenures and appointment of senior officers in the three services. Consider the sequence of events. A ‘top secret’ letter written by the army chief to the prime minister detailing the abysmal state of defence preparedness due to alarming shortages in arms and equipment is quietly leaked during the ongoing session of Parliament. The timing is perfect; it immediately leads to a clamour from parliamentarians for the general to be sacked. The implication being that the “leak” has come from his camp and is designed to embarrass the government as it did not accept his request over his DoB. The leak comes within days of the army chief giving an interview to a national daily in which he says that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore by a retired lieutenant-general in return for clearing the purchase of 600 more “sub-standard” Tatra heavy-duty trucks for the army.

All through the DoB controversy, V.K. Singh’s team had pointed to the role of frustrated arms dealers in having him out of the way because he refused to toe their line. The names of two army chiefs also came up, one of whom (J.J. Singh) the army chief himself raised in an interview to Outlook last month. The question of just who is out to get him assumes importance in the light of all this. As Adm L. Ramdas (retd) points out, “I’m concerned about who is benefiting from all this? It deflects attention from the main issue flagged off by the army chief.”

Indeed it has. Says Adm Vishnu Bhagwat (retd), “He is clearly being framed by arms lobbies. The pregnant statement is the one made by this person who offered him the bribe. That ‘people before you have taken and people after you will take’.” Bhagwat, who is the only naval chief to be sacked while in office—for refusing to appoint a government favourite as his deputy chief of naval staff—goes on to explain, “The arms dealers are 99 per cent foreign companies who have Indian agents here. The disturbing thing is that the intelligence services of foreign countries—such as the MI-6, CIA and Australian intelligence—ride piggypack on these Indian agents who also double up as informers! Not just that, they subvert the services and MoD by getting people on their payrolls. The embassies are in the know and facilitate these operations to benefit their own defence industries. It is well known that these lobbies plan the careers of officers on their payrolls. Way back in 1985, we knew who’d be the air chief at that time, because of a particular person’s proximity to arms dealers. Who will guard the guards?”

Is something similar at play in the present episode? What was in the realm of conjecture till a few days ago is now crystallising before the public gaze. As Col R.S.N. Singh, a former officer of the Research and Analysis Wing and a defence analyst, says, “The arms lobby has become so powerful that they decide who will be chief and how long his tenure will be. Knowing V.K.’s reputation for honesty, it was obvious to these lobbies that he had to be moved out after two years so that a more pliable person could be installed. The DoB issue was manufactured to limit his tenure, but the chief eventually went to court to sort it out. The court left the matter open and did not take a decisive view. They concluded that the resultant embarrassment would make V.K. Singh resign. But he was made of sterner stuff and refused to resign (refer Outlook interview, Mar 12). The lobby then began to build up a case to sack him. The anonymous letter which the government took note of, regarding snooping in the defence minister’s office, was aimed at this end. The latest leak should also be seen through the same lens. They want him out soon—which means now!”

What makes it worse is that all this is happening under the watch of one of India’s most honest defence ministers ever. Even after spending six years heading a challenging ministry, Antony has made little effort to understand the ethos of the services or the issues and sensibilities that rule their world. Service officers point to how he is the very antithesis of the dynamic service environment which lays great premium on ‘josh’ and competence.


“If someone is corrupt, fix him, but don’t stall arms and ammunition. Infantry soldiers haven’t fired their carbines in three years, as there’s no ammunition!”Lt Gen P.C. Katoch (retd), United Services Institution   

An army commander who commanded the sensitive Northern Army told Outlook, “As soon as Antony took charge in 2006, he was given a presentation by the director-general of air defence where it was pointed out that 97 per cent of the AD guns were obsolete. Even Delhi does not have adequate air cover.” Six years on, the army chief’s leaked letter refers to exactly the same situation even now. The Union minister’s obsessive quest for probity in defence deals is leading to costly delays and an alarming decline in even routine procurements. The talk in defence circles is that the armed forces are paying the price for preserving St Antony’s clean image. Says Maj Gen Mrinal Suman (retd), the country’s foremost expert on defence procurement, “Modernisation of the Indian armed forces is considered to be lagging behind by more than 10 years. More than 85 per cent equipment is obsolescent or getting closer to it, and a paltry 15 per cent equipment is of state-of-the-art technologies. India’s penchant for blacklisting foreign firms has been one of the major contributing factors to this state of affairs. We shot ourselves in the foot by blacklisting Bofors, HDW and Denel. Unfortunately, we have learnt no lesson. A.K. Antony has chosen to continue in the same vein.” Adds Lt Gen P.C. Katoch (retd), serving on the council of the United Services Institution, “If someone is corrupt, fix him, but do not stall vitally needed arms and ammunition. For the last three years, infantry soldiers have not fired their carbines because there is no ammunition for their training. It is a shame on the defence minister.”

Few, therefore, could quarrel with the contents of Gen V.K. Singh’s letter to the prime minister. Its ‘leak’, though, had MPs from the Samajwadi party, the JD(U), the CPI(M), and even the Congress’s own Harshvardhan Singh, demanding that V.K. Singh be shown the door. However, a scathing rebuttal from the general—“This (leaking of a top secret letter) is an act of high treason and the persons responsible for it should be punished”—and the soaring approval for his actions subsequently led to a rethink. By Thursday evening, the mood in the government had changed, the evidence of which came in the conciliatory tone Antony set in his press conference. He described the leak as “an anti-national act”, and tasked the Intelligence Bureau to get to the bottom of it. Rather than sack the army chief in a rush, the best way forward, say sources, would be to watch how the situation unfolds. Removing V.K. Singh would only leave him looking like a martyr. A senior leader in the Congress party says, “Sacking the chief will only hurt the government and the defence minister. If we do that, we will give more ammunition to our critics. The government will not only be blamed for inaction but will also be called intolerant.”

The BJP, careful to project its seriousness on issues of national security, adopted a two-pronged approach on the matter, with leaders like Jaswant Singh slamming the government, and Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley expressing concern over the leak. As of now, the general has got a reprieve. Once Parliament adjourns, the knives will once again be out for him. “The government has been driven to a wall this time,” warns Adm Bhagwat. “It will bide its time and strike back like it did with me in 1998. If I were VK, I would not trust these conciliatory moves.” The saga continues. Watch this space.

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