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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

From Today's Papers - 25 Apr 2012
Summer months real test for J&K: Antony
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, April 24
At a time when relations between India and Pakistan are perceived to be improving, Defence Minister AK Antony on Tuesday told top military commanders that the summer months would provide an “even more realistic assessment” of the situation.

At the Unified Commanders’ Conference that saw participation of top officers of the Army, Air Force and the Navy, Antony’s remarks were apparently aimed at addressing the concerns in certain quarters over the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir.

His remarks come close on the heels of Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s statement that Siachen, the highest battlefield of the world where the two countries are engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, should be demilitarised.

The J&K situation has vastly improved over the past few years, he noted. “We have to remain vigilant,” Antony said.

The Home Ministry has proposed some changes in the AFSPA. These will be discussed in the Cabinet Committee on Security. On Siachen, the defence secretaries of the two countries met last year.

Antony also spoke on the volatile situation in the Af-Pak region. He said latest events clearly showed that issues between those countries were far from being resolved. Developments in that region have a bearing on India’s security, he said.

Antony said while modernisation remained the government’s topmost priority, a mechanism had to be put in place to fast-track procurement of defence equipment and upgrading infrastructure.

Af-Pak volatile

n Antony said events in the Af-Pak region showed that issues between those countries were far from being resolved
n Developments in that region have a bearing on India’s security, he said
The cloud clears out
Gen Bikram Singh must re-build morale

THE Supreme Court deserves to be commended for having dismissed a petition against the appointment of Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the next Army Chief in unambiguous terms. For an army whose morale has suffered incalculable damage as a fallout of the age row of outgoing chief General V.K. Singh, it was indeed necessary that the Supreme Court deal with the issues raised against General Bikram Singh expeditiously and decisively, which the court has done. The Indian armed forces have been an epitome of communal harmony and it was most unfortunate that the petitioners—men of stature as former Naval Chief Admiral L.R. Ramdas and former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswamy, among others--- imputed that the decision to appoint General Bikram Singh was inspired by lobbying by the Sikh Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee and the motivated moves by then Army Chief J.J. Singh in 2005 to ensure General Bikram Singh’s elevation. That the Supreme Court bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and H.L. Gokhale described these imputations as “very unfortunate” should put to rest these allegations with communal overtones.

The petition against General Bikram Singh had relied on two grounds—his alleged role in a 2001 fake encounter and the reported excesses committed by the Indian forces in Congo in 2007 when General Bikram Singh was commander of the UN peacekeeping forces in that country. Rejecting the first charge the court pointed out that an encounter in which a colonel had been shot dead, a jawan killed and a lieutenant injured could hardly be deemed a ‘fake’ one. As the Attorney General emphasized, Bikram Singh himself was shot in the back and was operated upon for bullet wounds. On the second charge Justice Lodha referred to the Cabinet file during the court’s lunch recess and found that then Lt General Bikram Singh was not part of the Indian contingent posted in Congo. Instead, he was on “secondment” with the United Nations. As for the SGPC if it did ‘lobby’ for the General it was unwise but it cannot be deemed a disqualification.

With the apex court having given its verdict, General Bikram Singh must now gear up to restore the morale of the officers and men of the force when he takes office. On General V.K. Singh’s part it would be apt if he tells his supporters not to muddy the waters any more for his successor.
India: Government vs. Army

Seldom has a conflict between an army chief and political heavyweights gone unnoticed. The latest melodrama surrounding the age of India’s army chief is no different. The adjutant general’s branch, which is the army’s official record keeper, had recorded his birthdate as 10 May 1951, whereas the military secretariat wing, responsible for promotions and postings, had put it down as 10 May 1950.

Would something as trivial as this, drive the chief of one of the largest armies of the world to take his own government to court? Well, apparently it has.

Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh claims he is fighting for honor and not for tenure. Unfortunately the facts seem to be rallying against him. The general himself accepted the 1950 birth date during his last three promotions, leading to his appointment as army chief in 2010. He had raised his concerns in 2007 in a letter he wrote to Lt. Gen. PR Gangadharan, who was the military secretary at that time. This was later brought to the notice of Bimal Julka, the then Joint Secretary (G/Air), Ministry of Defence (MoD), who was, to say the least, displeased at Singh’s conduct. After understanding the unrest his memo had caused, Gen. Singh threw in the towel in 2008 when he accepted the official date in the larger interests of the organization. He was subsequently appointed GOC (General Officer Commanding) to the Eastern Command in March 2008. Though no one can deny the fact that the MOD was relentless in its pursuit of making sure Gen. Singh had given his word in the most pellucid form possible, Gen. Singh still had the opportunity to defend his ‘Honor and Integrity’ but chose not to do so, for his potential promotion was at stake.

The Court requested Singh to honor his commitments and after keen observation, gave him the humiliating option of either withdrawing his petition or losing the case. The general withdrew his petition. If there wasn’t enough on his platter already, his letter to the Prime Minister on the rueful state of the Indian Army was leaked and many politicians felt the leak came from the General’s camp.

Recent claims that Gen. Singh was offered a Rs. 14-crore (~$2.5mn) bribe by retired defense intelligence agency chief Lt-Gen. Tejinder Singh, to conclude the deal for ~600 "sub-standard" Tata trucks, have put the general more firmly in the spotlight.

A fitting anticlimax to the episode saw the general recently state that his stand was never against the government and that he was very much a part of the government. He went on to blame the ‘elements’ for trying to tarnish his image.

Gen. Singh isn’t the first chief who has had to fight for his ‘honor’. In 1959, Army Chief Gen. KS Thimayya offered to resign after an altercation with Defense Minister VK Krishna Menon, after the latter’s refusal to accept the potential threat of the India-China conflict. The latter felt it was nothing short of imagination from the restless military man. The then Prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, managed to convince Thimayya to stay until his retirement in 1961. Furthermore, Nehru told Parliament that the general’s concerns were “rather trivial and of no consequence” and that they arose from “temperamental differences and did not include promotions”. Sadly, Nehru backed the wrong man, for China made a reality out of Thimayya’s ‘imagination’ in 1962.

It isn’t difficult to imagine the frustration Thimayya would have felt when the Defense Minister treated his concerns so lightly. His honor was certainly at stake and he did his best to uphold it.

Why is it relevant?

Gen. Singh’s reason for bringing his age into the picture, yet again, is something only he can deem sensible. His timing for bringing up accusations of bribery could not have been worse. Why wasn’t this brought up earlier? Will the country still believe in the integrity of the Defence Ministry after what has transpired? If the entire system was based on merit rahter than on seniority, would the general’s age be of any concern? For a government that has lost the right to preach about right governance, the state of the Indian army is just another nail in its coffin. Unfortunately, whilst the political class is still playing the ‘blame game’, there seems to be little improvement in the plight of the common man. No matter the cacophony, considering the command the Prime Minister has over his cabinet, the revamping of the Indian Army seems but a distant reality.
Antony warns of emerging threats from China, AfPak
New Delhi : Warning that developments in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and China's strategic rivalry with India and Japan will have security implications for Asia, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Tuesday said that these threats and future challenges cannot be appreciated by other nations from outside the region.

Inaugurating the unified commanders conference of the army, navy and the air force here, Antony also stressed that modernisation of the armed forces remained the top most priority of the government and called for putting in place a mechanism to fast-track procurement of modern equipment and upgrading infrastructure.

"Any development in the Af-Pak region will have strategic and security implications for India. We need to keep a close watch on the situation in the region," he told the top commanders, noting that the latest events in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region clearly indicated that the threats from the region had not yet subsided.

His reference to the region comes in the wake of a series of terror attacks carried out by the Taliban on Western diplomatic missions in and around Kabul a week ago.

"China's rise as an economic and military power and its assertive policies have implications for India. China's strategic rivalry with India and Japan would definitely affect the Asian security environment.

"All these developments pose challenges to all the wings of the defence forces. In the Indian context, these challenges cannot be felt in the same measures by other countries," he said.

Referring to internal security scenario in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir, Antony said the situation in the border states had improved over the past few years.

"However, the coming summer months (in Jammu and Kashmir) will prove to be a real test for an even more realistic assessment. We have to remain vigilant and active and cannot afford to drop our guard," he added.

Regarding the joint Andaman and Nicobar Command of the three services, Antony said, "we are strengthening and revitalising the formation and are working on force accretion and upgrading the infrastructure to help it in fulfilling its operational task".

He also asked the commanders to address the entire spectrum of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare capability.

Emphasising on modernisation of the armed forces and hastening the process of weapons and equipment buying, Antony said this, however, cannot be done at the cost of a set of core values such as "transparency, probity and accountability."

He urged all commanders to ensure that these principles are adopted and followed in letter and spirit.

"We have a collective responsibility to ensure that every single rupee is spent meaningfully and judiciously and wasteful expenditure is eliminated," he added.

Noting that the government was constantly fine-tuning the defence procurement procedure to cut down delays in procurement process, Antony asked the services to "put their best foot forward" by having a well-defined approach to procurement, based on clear and objective general staff qualitative requirements (GSQRs).

"There is also a need to ensure that procedures are strictly adhered to and the services ensure the timely meeting of technical parameters," he said.

"The government is reviewing the current levels of delegation of financial powers to cut down on unnecessary delays and we have also revised the offset policy to facilitate its easy discharge by the original equipment manufacturers," he said.

Regarding a nationwide, secure and dedicated optical fibre network, to be implemented by the ministry of communication and information technology, in lieu of vacating of a part of spectrum held by the defence services, Antony said the approval of cabinet committee on infrastructure for budgetary grants for the project is awaited.

He said, the 'defence band' and the 'defence interest zone' have been mutually agreed upon by the ministry of defence and communication to meet the spectrum requirement for strategic communication of defence forces and this would be promulgated soon.

Describing cyber-crimes as "another dimension" in the security architecture, Antony said the defence services "need to be fully aware of the implications and put in place security systems and standard operating procedures to counter such threats."$%20285%20milion%20Weapons%20Locating%20Radar%20RFP-%20BEL%20To%20Participate
Indian Army To Issue US$ 285 milion Weapons Locating Radar RFP- BEL To Participate
Our Bureau
The Indian Ministry of Defense is expected to issue an RFP for the procurement of 29 Weapons Locating Radars (WLRs) worth INR 1,500 crore (USD 285,307,790) in the coming months which India's government owned defence electronics company, BEL has announced its intention to participate in.
The project will surely attract attention from other WLR manufacturers from the U.S., Israel, and Europe, some of whom would be keen to partner with BEL and transfer technology so as to bag the India contract.

      Speaking at BEL's Annual Press Conference, its Chairman and Managing Director, Anil Kumar, said, “We will most likely receive the RFP from the Ministry of Defense in the second quarter and we expect to win this tender to supply WLRs to the India Army".

      “We should’ve gotten it by now but there has been a delay in issuing the RFP,” he added.

       BEL has other projects in the pipeline including SATCOM, Battlefield Management and Tactical Communications Systems (TCS) which they are offering to the Indian MoD.

      The Bangalore-based electronics major is also eagerly awaiting a decision to be made on Tactical Communications System procurement. “TCS is an ongoing project. We have responded to the RFI that was issued and we should know the status in the next coming months,” said Kumar.

      Meanwhile, BEL will augment its R&D division and improving infrastructure by investing ‘in-house expenditure’ worth 400cr (USD75,760,500).

      According to Kumar, the indigenously-made coastal surveillance system is expected to be delivered by 2013 to 36 mainland stations and 10 island stations.

      BEL suffered major setbacks during this past financial year. The company failed to complete delivery of the Akash SAMs (Surface-to-Air Missiles) and, only managed to deliver 50 out of 96 that were originally ordered. “Production has resumed again after facing technical difficulties. We are hoping to complete the order by December 12, 2012”.

      BEL is also eyeing the offsets from the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal and is seeking more export deals with the government.
BJP for debate in LS on defence preparedness

New Delhi: With the country's defence preparedness coming under sharp focus, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh on Tuesday sought a comprehensive discussion in the Lok Sabha on the sensitive issue.

Singh, a former Defence Minister, raised the issue during Zero Hour asking the government to come forward to allay the apprehensions being raised about national defence preparedness.

The effectiveness of the armed forces and the country's defence preparedness was being questioned, he said and sought a proper discussion on all aspects of the issue.

Singh said he had moved a notice to suspend the Question Hour on the matter as the issue was of prime importance.

The BJP leader's demand came in the wake of the recent scandal involving Indian Army's orders for Tatra trucks and the Army Chief raising concern over shortage of equipment.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has also decided to carry out a "comprehensive" review of defence preparedness and bring out a report.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Army Chief VK Singh had reportedly contended that the forces were "devoid of critical ammunition" to defeat enemy movement, air defence was "97 per cent obsolete" and the infantry was crippled with "deficiencies of crew served weapon" and lacked night fighting capabilities.

The parliamentary panel, which is looking into the budgetary allocations of the Defence Ministry for 2012-13, is considering issuing summons to senior officials from the three services as well as the Defence Ministry on the issue of preparedness.
Help killed army officer for property
Five years after a reclusive ex-Indian Army officer went mysteriously missing from his posh south Delhi bungalow, a domestic servant, whom the former had nurtured as a brother for more than a decade, led the police to his buried skeletal remains.  The mere realisation that Captain
Anurag Raj, 48 — a resident of Satya Niketan who was last seen in late March 2007 — was slowly but steadily drifting back towards his estranged family was reason enough for Bhullai Ram, 31, to murder him in cold blood before relegating him to a makeshift grave.

"Enquiries made during investigation revealed there was a strong bond between Capt. Raj and Bhullai Ram. So much so, that he had even willed a huge estate from his ancestral property in Bhullai Ram’s name," said Chhaya Sharma, DCP (south).

Born to a Brigadier in 1972, his drinking habit had forced Capt. Raj to take voluntary retirement from the Rashtriya Rifles in 1992, an investigator said.

Two years later, when his wife left him because of the same habit, Capt. Raj restricted social contact with to a sole human being: Bhullai Ram, who had been working for him ever since being recruited by the army at the age of 16.

"Due to strained family ties, there was virtually no one else in his life except Bhullai Ram whom he was even helping to build a small house at his native village in Uttar Pradesh's Raebareli. This March, his skeletal remains were exhumed from the same house," DCP Sharma said.

Precisely five years after his rage and, perhaps jealously, had prompted Bhullai Ram to smash Capt. Raj's skull with the latter's rifle, he spilled the proverbial beans a day before his police remand was scheduled to end.

Interestingly, a single hand-written note addressed to his elder sister in which he had expressed his wish to stay with her, helped investigators decipher the contours of what their predecessors couldn't.

"In the note, the Captain, seemingly heartbroken at Bhullai Ram's disloyalty, had also complained about a slight tiff he had had with him recently. That set us thinking about his possible involvement in the case," said an officer.

"Bhullai Ram had even managed to pass a lie detector test, conducted on him during initial investigations into the case, unblemished." But, he broke down during repeated rounds of questioning over eleven days.

After killing Capt Raj, he had then had wrapped his body in a blanket, shoved it into an iron trunk and transported it to his village before burying it.

Over the five years, Bhullai Ram was busy forging cheques and withdrawing money from Capt. Raj's bank account.

He is currently lodged in Tihar Jail.

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