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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

From Today's Papers - 01 May 2012
Defence reality: Ageing aircraft, low firepower & scarce ammo
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, April 30
The dismaying details of the country’s lack of defence preparedness are out. Ageing aircraft fleet, scarcity of choppers, not enough tank ammunition and shortage of artillery guns, the picture is far from perfect on the defence front.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, has in a forthright report tabled in the Parliament today revealed these stark realities.

The committee’s report assumes importance as the Army Chief General VK Singh had written a letter to the Prime Minister revealing critical shortages. The letter had got leaked to the media.

Headed by Satpal Maharaj, a Congress MP from Uttarakhand, the House panel said: “There is a huge gap between the required and the existing force levels.”

"There is an urgent need to build defence capabilities to face any challenge, including the worst scenario of a two-front war....The committee may like to emphasise that India is surrounded by difficult neighbours and as such there is an urgent need to allocate adequate outlay to the Services," it said.

Comparing the sanctioned and the existing strength of choppers with the Army Aviation, the report said: “There is a shortage of 18 Cheetah, 1 Chetak, 76 Advance Light Helicopters (ALH) and 60 Advance Light Helicopters (Weapons Systems Integrated) (ALH-WSI).”

“Tank ammunition is another area of concern. The blacklisting of Israel Military Industry has further compounded the problem. The whole contract with them has fallen through and other alternate routes are now being activated,” said the panel.

“Blacklisting of the companies ultimately results into blacklisting of the rarest technologies. There’s a need to find some solution,” the report said. A total of six companies have been blacklisted following a CBI report. The committee said it was “ alarmed at the way deficiencies have been allowed to persist”. The House panel was particularly critical of shortage of artillery guns.

“Blacklisting of the companies ultimately results into blacklisting of the rarest technologies. There’s a need to find some solution,” the report said. A total of six companies have been blacklisted following a CBI report. The committee said it was “ alarmed at the way deficiencies have been allowed to persist”. The House panel was particularly critical of shortage of artillery guns.

“The IAF data indicates that most of the aircraft were three decades old. While MIG-27 and MIG 29 were inducted 25 years ago, the choppers — Mi-25/35, Mi-8 and Mi-17 — were more than 29 years old,” it said.

The committee said the IAF, at present, has 34 fighter squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42. Th strength is likely to reduce further to 31 during the 12th Plan period - 2012-2017. "The defence expenditure of India is lowest as compared to US, China, Pakistan, Russia and France," the report said. The committee said military expenditure in terms of percentage of the GDP in all these countries except Pakistan is increasing over the years.
Antony, PC hint at progress on Indo-Pak issues
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 30
Hinting at positive movement on India-Pakistan issues, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony and Home Minister P Chidambaram, in separate developments today, expressed confidence that issues between the two nations would be resolved.

Antony said India and Pakistan have agreed to hold meaningful and result-oriented discussion to demilitarise the Siachen glacier region where 26 soldiers died during deployment last year.

The Defence Minister gave a written reply in this regard in the Lok Sabha today. On diplomatic measures for demilitarisation of Siachen, Antony said, “The 12th round of Defence Secretary-level talks were held between India and Pakistan on May 30-31, 2011. It was agreed to continue the discussion in a meaningful and result-oriented manner.”

Both sides welcomed the ongoing dialogue process that was contributing to an enhanced understanding of each other's position, Antony said.

Demilitarisation of the glacier, where India holds commanding heights, is one of the issues that has been raised repeatedly at Indo-Pak meetings.

The glacier is a no-man’s-land that was occupied by India under operation ‘Meghdoot’ in 1984 after it suspected that the Pakistan army was sending a team to occupy it.

Troops of both armies occupy posts between 16,000 ft and 22,000 ft high and its costs an estimated Rs 3 crore a day to maintain supplies and troops.

Recently, Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had said that Siachen, the highest battlefield in the world where the two countries are engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, should be demilitarised.

The Indian Defence Ministry has not taken any stand on the issue so far, but has made it clear that it would want guarantees from Pakistan that it would not engage in any adventures if the glacier is demilitarised.

Later in the day, Home Minister P Chidambaram said he was hopeful that the liberalised visa regime between India and Pakistan could be signed when the Home Secretaries of the two countries meet.

The two Home Secretaries are expected to meet in the last week of May. “We can talk of trade and have confidence-building measures along the LoC,” the Home Minister said.
China, Pak forge fresh ties with Ukraine
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, April 30
China and Pakistan, who are defence allies and also partners in the joint development of the fighter aircraft ‘JF-17 Thunder’ for their respective air forces, have now decided to add more teeth to their warplane by inducting newer engines. They have also gone in for a strategic switch that will keep India on its toes.

Beijing and Islamabad are not banking on the supply of Russian jet engines for the JF-17, but have tapped an alternate source —Ukraine — which has similar technology as it was part of the erstwhile USSR. Indian security agencies have informed the government about this move and given a detailed assessment of what it means for India and why China-Pak have made this strategic switch towards Ukraine. The Russian media has reported during the past two months that Moscow has stopped supplies of the Klimov RD-93 engines to Beijing.

The JF-17 was inducted in China and Pakistan in the past two years. Pakistan plans to get 250 JF-17 aircrafts in the next few years and is, at present, operating little over two squadrons — some 50 planes. The single-engined JF-17 is powered by the Russian engine Klimov RD-93, which is a variant of the RD-33 used on the MiG-29, which India has in its fleet. In 2010, Russia, possibly under pressure from India, asked China not to export the JF-17 aircraft to Pakistan saying “third country export of its products was unacceptable”. Russia’s own industry was not too keen as China intended to compete with their aircraft MiG-29 in contracts in African and East-Asian countries. In 2010, Russian companies MiG and Sukhoi demanded from the export wing Rosoboronexport to stop deliveries of the RD-93 engines to China. Indian agencies say China and Pakistan are headed to sign contract with Ukraine for supply of fighter jets engines
Adarsh land belongs to Army, says Army Chief

Mumbai, April 30
Army Chief Gen VK Singh today said the land in south Mumbai on which the scam-tainted Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society stands belonged to the Army.

He also said the judicial commission, which has drawn a contrary conclusion, was not "a court". "Commission ko koi manyata nahi hai (The commission has no standing)...That had been appointed by the state, for its own information. So, we need not take its finding seriously," he said.

"Orders to demolish the structure (building) have already been the onus is on you (media) to ensure that the building is demolished," Gen Singh said during an interaction with the reporters after a book release function here.

"The judicial commission has also said that it was not giving a judgment, it was merely a fact-finding report.

Whatever documents we had given had not been considered seriously...," Singh said, in reply to a question. — PTI
Finding a solution to Siachen
Need to make the map of Saltoro ridge public
by Air Commodore Jasjit Singh (retd)

More than a week after the terrible avalanche at Gayari (in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) buried nearly 110 Pakistan Army soldiers and another 70-odd civilians, there is no sign of recovery in spite of Pakistan using every possible effort and even heavy machinery to shift the thousands of tonnes of snow that has settled above the unfortunate victims of nature's anger. Any and every human being who can visualise the tragedy cannot remain unaffected.

General Kayani's anguish and palpable helplessness while on a visit to that area was writ large on his face and his words, and in our own helplessness we can only empathise with him and the Pakistan Army. The tragedy, so soon after the major earthquake further south, has once again brought the issue of the "Siachen conflict" to the fore, and the tragedy may still serve the two countries if a solution to it can be found on the basis of fair and established norms.

But the question now has to be raised: Can we look for a solution to this conflict and cooperatively try to maintain a peaceful environment in that region in the hope that natural disasters at least would become less frequent, if not totally eliminated? The obvious answer is yes, especially since the two countries had signed an agreement as far back as July 27, 1949, as to how the cease-fire line is to be drawn in this area; and this agreement has to be only implemented in word and spirit. That agreement, normally called the Karachi Agreement signed by senior military officers from both sides (as a follow-on to the cease-fire agreement), clearly demarcated the Cease-Fire Line (CFL) based on the factual position on the ground as on that day. However, the CFL was demarcated on a one-inch map but only up to what came to be known as Point NJ-9842. The bilateral agreement specifies that the final stages of the CFL would be demarcated up to Khor and "thence north to the glaciers."

Here we must note the use of plural in mentioning the CFL from this point onward. The CFL was left undemarcated at this point, no doubt, because it was not expected at that time that the high mountains to the north could become a source of conflict. But both governments had agreed that the line would continue to Khor, "thence north to the glaciers." Incidentally, the CFL (and its successor LoC) runs south to north for nearly 15-km before it stops at NJ-9842. The use of plural in mentioning glaciers clearly indicates that there is more than one glacier in consideration here. A well-established principle and custom of demarcating borders and lines of control in mountainous areas is to follow the high crest separating the two watersheds on either side. This is also why mountain passes usually mark the boundaries.

North of NJ-9842 there are two glaciers: the Siachen Glacier to the east of the high crest and the Baltoro Glacier (where the avalanche took place) to the west of the crest which goes by the name of the Saltoro Ridge. Indian Army posts defending the Siachen Glacier are located on the Saltoro Ridge which forms a natural watershed between the two glaciers; and hence natural and consistent with customary as well as formally defined borders. Logically, therefore, the Saltoro Ridge (which runs south to north before it alters towards the north-west closer to the K-2 mountain) should be defined and demarcated as the mutually acceptable line in terms of the Karachi Agreement.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has not been willing to accept what are well-established principles as well as the substance of the Karachi Agreement it had signed. The nomenclature of the AGPL (Actual Ground Position Line), adopted to give some space to Pakistan, which has told its people that its army is fighting in Siachen (though it is not even at its edge), does not provide any sanctity to the line. In terms of the terminology, the AGPL merely indicates the ground position of the two sides at a particular time with little or no obligation to maintain it at the CFL or LoC. The term was adopted on the request of Pakistan; but perhaps Pakistan did not realise that this would leave the region wide open to any future military deployment by either side since the LoC would not connect to a recognised and accepted border.

The term Siachen is used rather loosely even by people who know better; and so is the term "de-militarisation" which Pakistan has been seeking to adopt since 1948. De-militarisation is not an option unless we are willing to accept the same for the state of J&K! A few days earlier General Pervez Musharraf had claimed that Pakistan's aggression in Kargil was "tit for tat" for Siachen! He concedes that Pakistan had laid claim to some part of the Siachen Glacier which in his view was "no-man's land." This is indeed strange for a former DGMO, Army Chief and President of a country. Perhaps, the brave soldier had never read the Karachi Agreement? But responsible countries and professional armies don't start a war of aggression merely because the chief "felt very bad."

If we are to solve the problem in that area, the core issue is to make the map of Saltoro ridge and the location of Indian (and Pakistani) posts public. It is curious that such maps continue to be marked "Secret" even though the only people who know the exact position are the Indian and Pakistan armies along the Saltoro ridge! So, who are we keeping this secret from? Once the maps are made available to the public on both sides and its consistence with the Karachi Agreement re-emphasised, there would, no doubt, be greater acceptance of the reality and the utility of extending the LoC along the Saltoro ridge northward to K-2. Ultimately, this is the only solution to the battle against the elements.n
Pakistan army believes in 'strong democratic system': General Kayani
Islamabad:  Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Monday waded into a standoff between the government and judiciary, saying the country's development and welfare depend on state institutions functioning within their constitutional limits.

"The country's Constitution has clearly defined the responsibilities and functions of national institutions and it is incumbent on them to perform their duties within constitutional limits", General Kayani said while delivering an address at an event marking the army's Youm-e-Shahada (Day of Martyrs).

In an apparent reference to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's conviction of contempt by the Supreme Court for refusing to act on orders to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, the army chief said the prime objective of the democratic system is to "ensure the welfare, happiness and increased dignity of the people and the establishment of a balanced society where every person can get justice equally".

"This is the only way which can further strengthen Pakistan's national security," he said during the late night ceremony to honour soldiers killed in the line of duty and while fighting extremists.

The military, he said, believes in a "strong democratic system and its continuation". General Kayani, however, said Pakistan is "still in a state of war despite unprecedented sacrifices made by the people and security forces in the campaign against terrorists and extremists."

"The Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps, Pakistan Rangers and police had achieved successes in many difficult areas while fighting against extremists and terrorists while the people's sacrifices and steadfastness had boosted the morale of the armed forces, he said.

"I am hopeful that we will emerge from this stage victorious with the help and prayers of the nation. We will be successful when we have a strong belief in the ideology of Pakistan. Any doubt about this ideology would weaken the country," General Kayani told a gathering that included top Pakistani military officials and defence attaches from different countries.

Referring to the American raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden and a cross-border NATO air strike that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead in November last year, General Kayani said "some foreign elements had launched a campaign of mistrust" despite the sacrifices made by the Pakistani people and armed forces.

"This campaign pushed the entire nation into a psychological crisis and forced the nation to review relations with others", he said.

"We think that others will have to keep in mind our sovereignty, pride and honour," he added.

"While keeping the people's aspiration in mind, the armed forces will work according to any national policy forged through consensus to protect the country's sovereignty and honour," General Kayani said.

General Kayani paid tribute to the 139 people, a majority of them soldiers, who were buried under snow when an avalanche hit a high-altitude army camp in the Siachen sector on April 7. He pledged that the army would continue its search for the trapped men.
Outdated hardware is Army’s Achilles heel: House panel
utdated and insufficient military hardware has become the Achilles’ heel of the Indian armed forces.

Flagging concerns over long-standing gaps in the country’s defence preparedness, a Parliamentary panel has asked the government to speed up the induction of fighter jets, trainer
aircraft, artillery guns, tank ammunition and helicopters for the army’s aviation wing.

In a report tabled in Parliament on Monday, the Standing Committee on Defence expressed shock over how deficiencies in critical capabilities were allowed to linger on, denting the military’s operational readiness.

The panel’s report comes a month after army chief General VK Singh flagged concerns about the weakening capabilities of his force to PM Manmohan Singh in a leaked letter. The chief had enumerated poor night fighting capabilities, shortage of tank ammunition, obsolete air defence systems and ill-equipped Special Forces as the main areas of worry.

The committee expressed concern over “the huge gap” between the required and existing combat squadrons of the IAF. “The gap would be to the extent of 11 squadrons (190 fighters) during the Twelfth Plan (2012-2017)…The country will reach the requisite level of 42 squadrons by the end of the Fourteenth Plan (2027),” the panel noted in its report, asking the government to fast track acquisitions.

The panel asked the government to make sure the IAF inducted the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mark-II planes by December 2013 “at any cost” to make up for the crippling shortage of trainer aircraft.

The report revealed that the problems of scarcity of tank ammunition were compounded due to the blacklisting of Israeli Military Industries.

Deploring the shortage of artillery guns — the army hasn’t inducted new guns after the Bofors scandal erupted in the late 1980s — the committee said the government should “at least now” take the “desired initiatives” to fill the gaps.
Antony to skip review of military exercise 'Shoorveer'
PTI | 08:04 PM,Apr 30,2012

New Delhi, Apr 30 (PTI) With Parliament session on and other commitments, Defence Minister A K Antony will skip the review of culminating stages of exercise 'Shoorveer' in Rajasthan, which will be attended by Army Chief Gen V K Singh. The Defence Minister was scheduled to witness a joint drill of Indian Army and IAF in deserts close to Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan on May 3, sources said here. But Parliament is in session and there are several other commitments due to which the Defence Minister will not be able to witness the summer training exercise of the forces, they said. Antony was to witness the exercise along with Army Chief Gen V K Singh who will reach the area on May 2. Spearheaded by Jaipur-based South Western Command of Indian Army- also known as the Sapta Shakti Command- the exercise involves army troops sharpening their battle skills in peak of summer. The exercise is conducted with more than 50,000 troops from infantry, armoured and artillery units coordinating their skills to mount an offensive on the enemy. During the culmination stage, the Indian Army would be assisted by frontline fighter aircraft of the IAF which would assist the troops in launching a concerted attack on the enemy defences. "The exercise would be a platform to validate the new concepts, systems, equipments and arms inducted into the Army in recent years," officials said. A large number of innovations and modifications which were carried out by the Army units and formations recently to enhance their combat power are being tested in the field, they said.
Army to hold one of biggest war exercises
JAIPUR: The Army is gearing up to hold one of its biggest ever war exercises on the western front called 'Exercise Shoorveer' in Bikaner and Hanumangarh districts to showcase the might of the Indian Army.

Army officials said President Pratibha Patil and defence minister A K Antony will witness the exercise which will see participation of over 5,000 soldiers between April 30 and May 5.

Formations and units under South Western Command will participate in the exercise. It will be based on the Integrated Theatre Battle Concept.

The Western and South Western Commands of the Indian Army are likely to deploy their frontline aircraft including the Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000, Jaguars and the AWACs for the war game.

Bikaner district collector Bhanu Prakash requested the people not to go to the areas where the war exercise will take place. He has directed all the SDMs to inform the public about the war exercise.

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