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Friday, 27 April 2012

From Today's Papers - 27 Apr 2012
Jan 16 troop movement was a training drill, Antony tells RS
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 26
Defence Minister AK Antony today said movement by Army troops in January this year was undertaken for training purpose and was aimed at refining mobilisation drills and preparedness of the force during foggy and wintry conditions.

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Antony said, "The movement was purely for training purpose, aimed at refining the mobilisation drills and ensuring operational preparedness of the Army despite adverse weather conditions."

According to a newspaper report, the central intelligence agencies reported that on the night of January 16, there was an unexpected and non-notified movement by a key military unit around Delhi in the direction of the capital.

Stating that no such report was received by the Defence Ministry with regard to such troop movement, Antony said, "On January 16, one of the units of Para brigade carried out mobilisation to practise mounting from an alternate airfield other than Agra during fogged out condition."

A similar exercise was carried out by the Hisar-based 33 Armoured Division, where a mechanised infantry battalion was mobilised towards Bahadurgarh located west of Delhi to validate its loading, movement and occupation of a harbour in poor visibility condition, the Defence Minister said.

"Having validated their mobilisation drills, both the columns subsequently moved back. There was no report received in the Defence Ministry from intelligences agencies on January 16/17 with regard to such troop movements," he said.
China’s aggressive posturing dominates
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, April 26
China’s aggressive posturing in the South China Sea and its growing profile in the Asia-Pacific region were the hot topics of discussion at the US-India-Japan trilateral dialogue held in Tokyo.

This was the second time top officials of the three countries met to share their perceptions on Asia Pacific, South Asia and maritime security. Opportunities for cooperation among the three countries in different areas were also discussed.

Sources privy to the meeting held on Monday said strengthening the East Asia Summit (EAS) and discreetly checking China’s rise to ensure Beijing plays a constructive and not dominant role were also on the table at the meet.

The potential for greater disaster-relief cooperation was also discussed since the tsunami of March last year demonstrated the practical utility of close coordination.

The first such trilateral dialogue was held in Washington in December last year while the third meeting of the trilateral mechanism will be held in New Delhi before the end of the year.

These meetings are seen as an attempt by the three countries to develop a relationship that has the economic and military weight to balance China.

Strategic observers say that there certainly exists some logic behind India, Japan and the US working together, and that too in a region that lacks solid security architecture. China’s increasingly belligerent posture in the South China Sea and the perceived decline of overall US influence have driven both India and Japan to work out a reformed partnership with the US.

In view of a fiscally insecure environment, Washington, on its part, too appears keen on sharing the burden of securing the region.

Given its attempt to maintain a neutral foreign policy, India had reservations about the trilateral arrangement with the US and Japan lest it came at the expense of its other relationships, particularly the complex ties with China. However, the US had satisfactorily addressed some of India’s concerns in this regard before the trilateral dialogue was launched.

The US feels that India’s participation in the dialogue would strengthen Asia’s regional institutions, such as the EAS and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Trilateral talks

n Officials of the three countries shared their perceptions on Asia Pacific, South Asia and maritime security

n Opportunities for cooperation among the countries also discussed

n The first such trilateral dialogue was held in Washington last December

n The third meeting of the trilateral mechanism will be in New Delhi before the year-end
Antony confirms Army troop movement, but remains silent on questions raised
In a detailed statement in Parliament regarding The Indian Express report on troop movements towards the Capital that spooked the government, Defence Minister A K Antony confirmed that two Army units — a Mechanised Infantry Battalion and a section of the 50 Para Brigade—moved towards Delhi on January 16-17 but skirted the issue of why alarm bells rang in the government.

In his statement, which was to be laid in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday but was released on Thursday as the House did not function, Antony confirmed that one sub-unit of the 50 (Independent) Brigade carried out mobilisation from Agra to Gurgaon on January 16-17. He said it was carried out to practise “mounting from an alternate airfield other than Agra” during foggy conditions.

He also confirmed the movement of a mechanised infantry battalion that was part of the 33 Armoured Division to Bahadurgarh on the same dates, again for a routine exercise. “The battalion reached the general area of Bahadurgarh in the morning hours of January 17 and proceeded to occupy the harbour necessitated for dispersal as per standing operation procedure,” Antony said.

Maintaining that the ministry did not receive any report from intelligence agencies on the movements, Antony sought to downplay the matter, saying both were “purely for training purposes”. He also said that “having validated their mobilisation drills, both the columns moved back subsequently”.

However, he did not address the issue of how his ministry reacted to these movements. He remained silent on whether notifications are required when troop movements are taking place near the NCR. While the minister said routine mobilisations by divisional levels are notified to Army HQ, he did not specify whether the two movements were specifically notified, given that the Director General of Military Operations was not aware of them when questioned by the ministry. Antony did not address the questions raised by this newspaper on why the ministry asked the Army to explain the movements and pull back troops.

Even as the sequence of events leading to the troop movements are revealed in detail, the minister has remained silent on the meeting between Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen AK Choudhary to explain the movements. The government’s detailed response to the movements — setting up of barricades and sounding of a terror alert — has also not been discussed.

Antony did not get into details of why the movements were carried out towards the national capital and not in any other direction and the reason behind not informing the Air Force for the exercise involving the Para brigade.
CBI case against British firm owner for Tatra bribe offer
New Delhi : The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a corruption case over alleged irregularities in the Tatra trucks procurement against an owner of a Britain-based company, unknown officials of an Indian defence public sector unit, defence ministry and the Indian Army, the Rajya Sabha has been informed.

The CBI is also carrying out a preliminary inquiry into alleged report of a bribe offer to Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh in respect of purchase of Tatra trucks, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told the house in written reply to questions on Wednesday.

The replies were released to the media by parliament Thursday.

"The CBI has been requested to investigate comprehensively into the alleged report of bribe to the army chief in respect of purchase of Tatra trucks," Antony said.

"A preliminary inquiry has been registered by CBI on April 11, 2012. Further, the CBI has also registered a case under Section 120B read (conspiracy) with Section 420 (cheating) of Indian Penal Code and Sections 13 (2) read with 13 (1) (d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against one of the owners and other unknown persons of a UK-based company, unknown officials of a Defence PSU, Ministry of Defence and Indian Army," he said.

The army chief had last month revealed in media interviews that a retired lieutenant general had offered him a Rs.14 crore bribe to clear a tranche of 600 'sub-standard' trucks.

Later, Antony told parliament, when opposition parties raised the matter, that the army chief had named Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh, a former Defence Intelligence Agency chief, as the person who offered him the bribe.

Just before this statement in parliament, Antony recommended a CBI investigation into the army chief's claims.

The CBI has already taken statements from the army chief on the matter, apart from carrying out raids on premises of persons linked to the case.
BHEL may make ‘Bofors-equivalent’ guns for the Army
Even as the Bofors gun scandal continues to haunt India years after it was unearthed during the 1980s, the good news is that these guns may soon be produced at home. The country’s largest power equipment manufacturer, state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), which is already
making supplies of 76 mm and 127-mm guns to the Indian Navy, said it was looking at producing “Bofors-equivalent field guns for the Indian Army” with appropriate technology selection by the ministry of defence (MoD).

“After our successful stint with the Indian Navy to supply guns for ships, we are now in talks with the defence ministry to manufacture Bofors-equivalent field guns for the Indian Army,” BP Rao, CMD, BHEL, told Hindustan Times.

“Depending on the technology they (MoD) select, we area ready to manufacture these guns at our Haridwar factory where we have a separate manufacturing set up for guns,” said Rao.

Rao clarified that BHEL may not be the only one to manufacture such specialised guns as companies such as Mahindra and L&T were also in the race for the same.

Talks in this regard were at initial stages, a senior defence ministry official said, confirming that efforts were on to produce such guns indigenously.

Field guns or howitzers are identified by barrel diametre. The specifications for the Bofors-type howitzers is 155x45 mm, which means a barrel with a diametre of 155 and length, which is 45 times the diameter. Such guns can fire a shell up to 30 km.

While there has been no purchase of such guns since the Bofors controversy broke out in the 1980s, the government has been in talks for procuring the highest version of the 155x52-mm calibre guns.

Moreover, the recent offset policy of the ministry of defence  will help in indianisation of such specialised guns produced using foreign technology, said Rao. “With the announcement of 30% technology transfer under the policy, foreign vendors would be forced to share the technology to meet such commitments.”
Delhi court defers order on defamation suit against Army Chief General VK Singh
New Delhi:  A Delhi Court has deferred till May 5, decision on whether to summon Army Chief General VK Singh in connection with a defamation suit filed against him by retired officer, Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh, the man he has accused of trying to bribe him to clear the purchase of "substandard" trucks for the Indian Army.

Lt Gen Tejinder Singh claims that allegations made against him in a March 5 press release issued by the Army are "completely false and concocted". One of those allegations is that he offered General VK Singh Rs. 14 crore in bribe on behalf of a company called Vectra in 2010. The Army Chief had caused a stir when he made that allegation in an interview last month. That matter is now being investigated by the CBI and Gen Singh's statement has been recorded by the investigation agency.

Ravi Rishi, the CEO of Vectra, which provides Tatra trucks to the Army, has also been questioned repeatedly by the CBI.  Mr Rishi has denied that Tejinder Singh either formally or informally represented Vectra as a middleman.
Gen Tejinder Singh had testified before the court in support of his complaint against the Army Chief last Tuesday and had sought that the court summon Gen VK Singh.

The retired Army officer also approached the Supreme Court yesterday, asking it to sanction a CBI inquiry against the Army Chief for allegedly ordering the illegal monitoring of phones in the Defence Ministry. Tejinder Singh says the CBI should raid the homes and offices of Army Chief General VK Singh and his relatives.
'CBI has filed preliminary inquiry on Army Chief's complaint'
CBI has registered a preliminary inquiry against executives of a UK-based company and officials of a Defence PSU, defence ministry and army in its probe into Army Chief Gen VK Singh's allegations that he was offered bribe to clear a defence deal, the government has said.
In written
reply to a question in Rajya Sabha yesterday, defence minister AK Antony informed the House on steps taken by government to investigate cases of corruption in armed services and the ministry.

"CBI has been requested to investigate comprehensively into the alleged report of bribe to the Army Chief in respect of purchase of Tatra trucks. A Preliminary Inquiry has been registered by CBI on April 11," he told the House.

Further, the probe agency has registered a case under Section 120-B of Prevention of Corruption Act against one of the owners and other unknown persons of a UK-based company, unknown officials of a Defence PSU, defence ministry and Indian Army, Antony added.

Replying to a question on defence firms blacklisted by government, he said, "Recently six firms have been debarred from doing business for 10 years with defence ministry, consequent to filing of charge sheet by CBI. One of these firms, STK Singapore was in contention of providing 52-calibre guns to India."

On corruption cases in defence services, Antony said such instances have come to light through various sources including Military Intelligence, media reports and etc.

"Cognisance of offence is taken on verification of facts. Appropriate action as per rules is taken against those found culpable. Adequate mechanism exists in the Army Act and rules/regulations thereunder, to curb such acts," the defence minister said.
Panel finds chinks in Army’s armour
NEW DELHI: The parliamentary standing committee on defence is likely to substantially endorse Army chief General V K Singh's concern about critical shortages in Army's ammunition and border connectivity in its upcoming report on the demands for grants of the defence ministry. However, it is unlikely to paint an extremely alarmist picture as Gen Singh's letter to the Prime Minister did.

The committee has found that there are huge gaps in at least four areas. It has found significant gaps between the number of sanctioned and existing helicopters. It was told by the Army that not one of the sanctioned 60 weaponized advance light helicopters has been inducted. It was also told about the shortage of another 76 advance light helicopters, and about 20 Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.

The committee was told about critical shortage of tank ammunition. The situation, especially regarding FSAPDS (Fin Stabilized Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot), has been worsened by the recent blacklisting of its supplier, Israel Military Industries, the panel has found.

The Army vice-chief told the committee that the Army should ideally have ammunition for 40 days of fighting, but there were deficiencies on some counts. He said FSAPDS holding was available for just three or four days of war. However, the committee was told that in case of infantry and armour ammunition, the Army was okay, while in artillery there was shortage of electronic fuse.

The committee is expected to express anger over the way in which the deficiencies have been allowed to persist, leading to the present criticality. It would also put special focus on the way artillery modernization has suffered ever since the Bofors scandal broke in the mid-80s.

The committee is likely to recommend an increase in the financial powers of the service headquarters, which is presently Rs 50 crore, to Rs 150 crore or Rs 200 crore.

The panel found that bureaucratic hurdles blocked construction of strategic roads and railway infrastructure along the border areas. The defence secretary told the committee that the Planning Commission was not providing any additional allocation to railways for upgrading rail infrastructure along the border. The committee is also expected to call for a quicker dispersal of cases pending for clearance from the environment ministry on border roads. There are 14 forest and wildlife cases pending clearance from the ministry for India-China border roads. There are another 162 cases pending similar clearance from the ministry for other road links.

The committee is also expected to note that some retired defence officers are working with private sector firms and act as middlemen for defence procurement. In light of this, it has recommended that the government should impose a five-year ban for retired military officers before they can join any defence firm.

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