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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

From Today's Papers - 18 Apr 2012
US wants to find remains of its World War-II veterans in India
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, April 17
The United States has sought India’s permission to undertake an exercise in this country to locate the remains of 94 of its personnel who lost their lives in plane crashes during the World War II.

The request was made during the India-US politico-military dialogue held between top officials of the two countries here yesterday.

Official sources said the US side conveyed to New Delhi that Washington wanted to make another attempt, particularly in the North-East, to identify the American citizens who died in the crashes.

“Since this is a humanitarian request, India is considering the possibility of facilitating the US to identify the sites where it wants to carry out carry out the search operations,” sources said.

They said the US had in the past also conducted search operations which had not been completed. The Americans had broached this subject with the Indian authorities after a hiatus of more than two years. The US also proposed to undertake similar exercises in China and Myanmar.

The sources said the two countries also discussed how they could cooperate in counter-piracy operations apart from debating South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.

There was also a discussion on the US defence exports policy and reforms it was undertaking in it. “As our key partner, the US wants to sensitise us on key aspects of its defence policy,” sources said.

politico-military talks on

    The request was made during the India-US politico-military dialogue held between top officials of the two countries
    Official sources said the US side conveyed to New Delhi that Washington wanted to make another attempt, particularly in the North-East, to identify the American citizens who died in plane crashes
Adarsh land belongs to state govt, not Army: Panel
Shiv Kumar/TNS

Probe Findings

According to the judicial commission of inquiry, the Ministry of Defence failed to establish its claim towards the title of the plot of land on which Adarsh Housing Society was built. On the other hand, the Maharashtra Government provided adequate documents to claim ownership.

Mumbai, April 17
A two-member judicial commission of inquiry set up by the Maharashtra Government to look into the Adarsh Society scam has ruled that the land, on which the building stands, belonged to the state government and not to the Indian Army. The panel, in its interim report, stated that the building was not reserved for war heroes and widows of martyrs who died in the Kargil War.

The panel comprised of former Bombay High Court Judge JA Patil and former Maharashtra Chief Secretary P Subrahmanyam.

The panel was set up by the government in January 2011 shortly after the scandal came to light. Its terms of reference included ownership of the plot of land, violations of CRZ regulations and the procedures adopted in granting clearances to the building.

According to the panel, the Ministry of Defence failed to establish its claim towards the title to the plot of land in which the society is located. On the other hand, the state government provided adequate documents to claim ownership. "Their claim stands established (under) the provisions of Section 294 of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966 which came into force on August 15, 1967. There is no evidence to show that on that date the land in question was occupied by anybody....," the panel noted.

The panel also took into account submissions made by RC Thakur, chief promoter, Adarsh Society, that the project was proposed prior to the Kargil War. According to the promoter, thus there was no question of constructing flats to house only the heroes and kin of martyrs of the war. Thakur submitted that the Adarsh Society was formed in 1994 and registered on September 28, 2004.The panel noted that there was neither a government resolution nor a notification issued by the state government providing reservation of the land for the defence personnel or Kargil War heroes.

"At the time of the argument, the counsel for Ministry of Defence, Government of Maharashtra or even Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society uniformly submitted that there was no such reservation. Thus, there is no difficulty in recording a negative finding on terms of reference with regard to reservation for housing defence personnel," the report stated.So far, 14 people have been accused in the scandal. Nine, including prominent bureaucrats, have been arrested.
Agni V to be test-fired today

New Delhi, April 17
Taking a major leap forward in missile technology and military deterrent capability, India is all set to test fire its 5,000 km range Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni V tomorrow from a test range off the coast of Odisha.

The test fire of the missile will be conducted tomorrow from a test range in Wheeler island off the coast of Odisha. Preparations have reached their last stage to conduct maiden flight of the missile, Defence Ministry officials said. DRDO Chief VK Saraswat had recently said the missile is being integrated at various facilities for the test launch, which will be witnessed by military officials and other agencies which participated in its development.

Only the US, Russia, France and China possess the capability to operate an ICBM. The DRDO plans to conduct more such tests of the missile over the next one year after studying and analyzing the parameters achieved in each subsequent trial. On the timeline fixed for fully developing Agni V, Saraswat had said another one year of testing will be involved. In November last year, the DRDO had successfully test fired the 3,500 km range Agni IV missile giving muscle to India's deterrent capability against the military adversaries. — PTI
North Korea vs the world
Military controlling the levers of power
by P.R. Chari

THE bigger they are, the heavier they fall. This analogy is fully applicable to the embarrassing failure of North Korea’s test launch of its 1,000-kg Kwangmyongsong-3 (Bright Star-3) satellite on the 13th of April. With extraordinary panache, Pyongyang had invited the foreign media to witness this event, intended to be the showpiece of its week-long celebrations to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the nation, and patriarch of the Kim dynasty. Four hours after the test launch North Korea admitted to its failure; apparently, this was caused by structural problems within a minute of the liftoff, which led to the rocket breaking up into four pieces that fell into the sea off South Korea.

North Korea had claimed, straight-faced but improbably, that the satellite was designed to study weather patterns and the distribution of its forests. This required its placement in a low-earth “sun-synchronous” orbit to allow a constant view of North Korea during each pass over its territory. Before the launch North Korea had duly issued the statutory NOTAM (notice to airmen) informing the satellite’s flight path that would take it due south; it would shed its first stage off the western coast of South Korea, and its second stage east of the Philippines.

The United States and its allies had consistently argued this was the launch of a long-range missile and not a satellite. But North Korea stuck to its guns, claiming that a satellite launch was not the same as a long-range missile test and was, therefore, unobjectionable. It is unlikely to bother now with explaining anything further; and, therefore, the failure of its missile/satellite test will leave this issue unresolved.

North Korea had withdrawn from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003. It has not joined the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), or the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). It deploys short-range and medium-range missiles, and has acquired the capability to enrich uranium and produce weapons-grade plutonium. What North Korea was hoping to achieve by developing three-stage, long-range missiles remains obscure, but it was probably testing its booster rockets to power missiles with an intercontinental reach. Incidentally, its four previous long-range rocket tests since 1998 had uniformly failed; they were, in fact, not tests, but demonstrations of political will to traverse the dual paths of tongjanghun (military-first politics), and juche (self-reliance). Amusingly, the launch of its Bright Star 2 satellite had also failed shortly after liftoff, but North Korea claimed it was circling the earth beaming revolutionary messages.

Political and economic compulsions apart, the relevant question arises: What is North Korea’s technological competence in these areas? Developing nuclear missilery indigenously requires sufficient knowledge of several sciences as also the availability of different technologies. As Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the Monterrey Institute’s East Asia Nonproliferation Programme, notes, rocket launches test “a really complex system using volatile chemicals and (are) subject to extreme shock and vibration. The environment is so unforgiving that even small details are critical. As a result, tacit knowledge is important, even for low-level employees like welders and so forth.” It is apparent that North Korea has isolated itself for too long to permit its developing the knowledge base and technical capabilities by purely indigenous efforts; getting them from clandestine sources has obvious limitations.

Seen from the domestic perspective, the political disaster from this failed satellite launch would be devastating for Pyongyang since this spectacular event was also designed to boost the legitimacy of the rule of 28-year-old Kim Jong Un, who had been anointed leader after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December last year. Apart from the legitimacy issue, there is the question of restoring “face”, very important in the Confucian culture. Speculation is, therefore, rife that North Korea will soon conduct a nuclear test (its third) to deflect attention from the failure of its satellite/ missile launch. Indeed, feverish tunneling at its Punggye-ri test site, where its two earlier nuclear tests had been conducted in October 2006 and May 2009, indicates preparations being made for another nuclear test. The yield from these two earlier nuclear tests of 900 tonnes and 4,600 tonnes of TNT equivalents respectively is indicative of their having ‘fizzled’, and ended in virtual failure. There are plausible technical reasons, therefore, for North Korea attempting a third test.

But a nuclear test would defy Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from conducting such tests. It would also compound Pyongyang’s economic problems, since it had committed itself in end-February to suspend nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile tests in exchange for 240,000 tonnes of desperately needed food aid from the United States. Unsurprisingly, this agreement, like its many earlier pledges, has been unilaterally abrogated by Pyongyang. The United States, South Korea and Japan have condemned this breach of faith by North Korea; even China, its only ally in Northeast Asia, has not been supportive, but only called for calm and restraint by all concerned.

What does all this mean for the emerging situation in the region? The US has announced that it is suspending food aid to North Korea, and is conferring with South Korea, Japan and other allies to impose further sanctions on Pyongyang. The expectation is that Russia and China will support these measures, since they had gone along with the UN Security Council condemnation of North Korea’s satellite launch in 2009.

Overall, North Korea’s isolation will deepen. And, what of the domestic scene? Kim Jong Un does not currently possess the control exercised by his father over North Korea’s military leaders. Could they become a fully autonomous power centre with a more unpredictable policy orientation? It also seems unavoidable that the legitimisation of the rule of Kim Jong Un will take a much longer time, especially in a culture which looks askance at bright young men. In the interim period, North Korea will be ruled by its powerful military operating in the background. Kim Jong Un would provide its public face, which should soon become clear.
Tatra truck deal: CBI quizzes BEML chief
Natarajan was asked to appear only to clarify some points as he is not an accused in the case
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Apr 17, 2012, 15:17 IST

BEML Chairman and Managing Director V R S Natarajan today appeared before the CBI as the agency had asked him to come for giving clarifications pertaining to procurement and supply of Tatra all-terrain trucks to the Army.

CBI sources said Natarajan was asked to appear only to clarify some points as he is not an accused in the case.
Natarajan arrived at the CBI headquarters here at about 11.30 am.

The central probe agency is likely to ask him the reasons for allegedly renewing the supply contract with Tatra Sipox UK in 2003 much before it was required in 2006.

Natarajan may also be asked details of payments made to Tatra Sipox UK and procurement process of equipment used in assembling these trucks, they said.

In 1997, Tatra Sipox UK had signed the truck supply deal with BEML which was in alleged violation of defence procurement rules stating that procurement should be done directly from original equipment manufacturer only, the sources said.

The CBI has alleged that since Tatra Sipox UK was not the original manufacturer of these all-terrain trucks, the rule that defence procurements should be made from original manufacturer was violated.
Defence ministry’s inaction tilted balance in state government’s favour
The defence ministry’s “apathy” and “inaction” in asserting its right on the land gave the state government the edge in their tussle to prove ownership of the plot on which the 31-storey Adarsh society has come up.
The two-member judicial commission, led by former high court judge JA
Patil and former chief secretary P Subramanium, highlighted the lapses made by the defence ministry and said it helped corroborate the state’s claim.

The 107-page report highlights the complexity of the land ownership issue.

If the army did not have the plot listed in the Military land Registrar – a record of all plots owned by the defence – the state also did not create a property card for the plot until 2004.

What made the crucial difference is that the defence ministry did not have any documentary evidence to prove the plot existed before 1937 and was in its possession.

The commission had earlier ticked off the army for submitting unauthenticated maps dating 1897 and 1909, one from Google and another from the Edinburg Geographical Institute, to prove it owned the plot. The army also submitted a 1957 Survey of India map, which was inconclusive.

The commission said the inconsistent conduct of army officials also worked against the ministry. This includes correspondences from 1958 to 2010, wherein officials have said the land belongs to the state. The report documented that in 2010, current defence estate officer Gita Kashyap wrote that “as per records”, the land belonged to the state.

The report questioned why the army remained quiet when its eco-park, allegedly inaugurated on the plot in 1996, was pulled down in 2004 and when the tower was constructed.

The state submitted several reports and maps on Backbay Reclamation, which clarified its stance that as per the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, all reclaimed land after 1967 belongs to it. “There is no evidence to show that on that date the land in question was occupied by anybody,” the report said.

The commission said the army’s plea of adverse possession – claim of right to property against true owner on grounds of long possession – was not “ethical” and smacked of “unwarranted inimical attitude” against the state.
Despite corruption charges, BEML expected to truck on
With just a fifth of its sales coming in from the Ministry of Defence, coupled with a diverse business mix, will ensure business continuity for BEML
Pradeesh Chandran & Mahesh Kulkarni / Bangalore Apr 18, 2012, 00:05 IST

On the surface of it, things don’t look so hot for BEML—formerly Bharat Earth Movers Limited, a public sector company under the ministry of defence and maker of construction equipment and rail and metro coaches, but now most famous for supplying the Indian army with heavy duty Tatra trucks in order to negotiate rough terrains, carrying troops and heavy payloads. The company, 54 per cent of which is owned by the government, is a stock market favourite, but now under the intense scrutiny as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has commenced a probe into the alleged irregularities in the purchase of Tatra heavy duty trucks, assembled by BEML, over the last two decades.

The inciting incident that set the cat amongst the pigeons was a statement by the Chief of Army Staff, General V K Singh, that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 core to sanction the purchase of 600 Kolos Tatra high-mobility vehicles. The main charge subsequently levied against BEML is that it imports the truck for around Rs 40 lakh and sells it to Army at almost double the cost. The Tatra trucks, which were made by Czech major Tatra, were supplied to BEML as completely knocked down (CKD) kits and were assembled by BEML at Bangalore, KGF, Mysore and Palakkad units. This has been allegedly going on for many years putting in jeopardy BEML’s status as the preferred supplier to the armed forces.
BEML, which is aiming at a business of $1 billion (about Rs 5,000 crore) in 2012-13, gets barely 20 per cent of its business (In 2010-11, BEML reported a turnover of Rs 3,623 crore) from the Ministry of Defence in India through its heavy equipment businesses, such as earth moving, transport, mining and aerospace amongst others. No surprise then, that it was betting big on the modernisation of the Indian Army.

This controversy couldn’t have arrived at a worse time. The defence budget has been going up substantially year on year and the company was in prime position to get contracts to make tank engines and transmissions for India’s main battle tank, Arjun, in addition to exploring overseas prospects. BEML declined to share its perspectives for this story.

If this isn’t bad enough, the Indian Army is considering rejecting the single vendor system for procuring high mobility vehicles. It has formulated new parameters and has already floated a request for proposal (RFP) in 2010 for supply of new set of trucks.

All of this suggests that BEML is as good as toast. Yet, analysts tracking the company closely think that the current controversy will not have a significant impact on BEML as a quality supplier of products to armed forces. “There is nothing wrong in the Tatra truck supplied by BEML, but the manner in which it was procured from Tatra and supplied to Army at high cost is questionable,” said Major Gen Dhruv C Katoch, additional director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), a Delhi-based autonomous think tank on strategic studies. “BEML is a defence company and why will the ministry of defence blacklist its own company? At the most, it may punish the individual who is behind the wrongdoings and may change its chairman.” The simple fact is that the company is majority government-owned and the one predictable aspect of the government is that it is not likely to oust any member of its brood.

Then, there is the notion that an entire company shouldn’t be dragged through the mud because of the actions of a handful. “It is only an individual who may be behind the irregularities in the truck deal and we cannot blame the entire company. It is now up to the investigating agency to find out the culprits and punish them,” said a non-executive director of BEML, who does not want to be identified.

Other experts draw a parallel to the infamous Bofors deal in which the equipment was priced higher but was of a good quality. The Bofors case, considered one of the biggest scams in the history of Indian defence sector, was valued at around Rs 64 crore for the procurement of 155 mm field Howitzer.

BEMLOne indication of BEML’s purported immunity lies in the value of the company’s shares which one would have expected to get pummelled by the recent accusations—instead, it actually touched a monthly high of Rs 603 on April 10, 2012 trade on the BSE.

Senior officials of defence ministry and Army reiterated this stand to the members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence. The officers told the standing committee that Tatra trucks had performed well for the forces, and the procurement process can be done without a middleman or commission agents.

The fact is., that even if the order inflow from the defence sector slows down until the air is cleared on corruption charges, BEML has other divisions which can keep its engines running. Despite being a defence public sector undertaking, BEML, has over the years diversified into non-defence areas. Today, it derives 42.17 per cent of its turnover from mining and construction business, 36.76 per cent from rail and metro business and the balance from other businesses.

For the year ended March 2012, BEML was expected to clock revenue of Rs 1,500 crore from the railway business and Rs 1,000 crore from the defence segment. In FY12, the company secured an order worth Rs 1,400 crore from the Army for supply of 204 units of Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARVs) based on T72 tanks but also received an order for supply of 135 intermediate metro coaches from Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited (DMRCL), Natarajan told Business Standard in an interview recently. He said its turnover from the mining and construction equipment business during the fiscal 2011-12, is set to grow by 25 per cent to Rs 2,000 crore.

“We have a strong order book of Rs 6,000 crore on hand, and deliverable in two years. We expect at least Rs 200 crore business from international operations this year,” Natarajan said. The company has recently entered into a contract with a Holland-based company, Vosta, to manufacture and supply machines for marine and river desilting applications—the lone Indian company to do so. The company is also hoping to ride the boom in the metro rail sectors in Indian cities.

Not bad for a company that should be on the ropes.
Indian Army chief-designate conferred medal for distinguished service
New Delhi, April 17 — Indian Army's chief-designate and present Eastern Army Commander Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh and vice chief Lt. Gen. Shri Krishna Singh were among senior armed forces officers conferred medals for distinguished service of the most exceptional order by President Pratibha Patil here Tuesday.

These two senior army officers received the Param Visisht Seva Medal (PVSM) in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, and Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju.

Patil also honoured 13 other senior officers -- Lt. Gen. S.R. Ghosh, the Western Army commander, Lt. Gen. K.T. Parnaik, the Northern Army commander, Lt. Gen. K. Surendranath, the Army Training Command chief, Lt. Gen. N.C. Marwah, the Andaman and Nicobar fortress commander, Lt. Gen. A.K. Singh, the Southern Army commander, Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, the Integrated Defence Staff headquarters chief, Air Marshal D.C. Kumaria, the Western Air commander, and Air Marshal A.K. Gogoi, the South Western Air Commander, with the PVSM.

Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh and Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne were also present on the occasion.

These apart, the President also honoured Capt. Ashutosh Kumar and Lieutenant Colonel Kamaldeep Singh, both from Rajputana Rifles, with Kirti Chakra, the second highest peacetime gallantry medals.

She also awarded three bar to Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM) and 18 AVSMs, apart from 16 Shaurya Chakra, the third highest medal for gallantry during peacetime.

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