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Sunday, 6 May 2012

From Today's Papers - 06 May 2012
Indian Army kick starts war game exercises in the state of Punjab
The Indian army will conduct another major military exercise in the state of Punjab, which will go on for one month, starting from the first week of this month.
The Haryana based Western Command of the army will be participating in the exercises. The IX Corps, headquartered at Yol, Himachal Pradesh and the XI Corps, headquartered at Jalandhar, Punjab will be taking part in the exercises, which will be attended by a total of 20,000 soldiers along with heavy military equipment like tanks and artillery pieces.

The Indian Army is simultaneously conducting Operation Shoorveer, which will be conducted from May 02 to May 05. Shoorveer is termed as the biggest military exercise ever undertaken by the Indian Armed Forces since independence. 60,000 troops, along with a large number of aircrafts and battle tanks are taking part in the exercise, which is ongoing in the neighboring state of Rajasthan.

According to the defense sources, on top of the Indian army units, a number of troops and aircrafts from the Indian Air Force (IAF) will also be taking part in the operations. From the army, a number of main battle tanks and mechanized vehicles will be taking part, while from the IAF side Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Attack Helicopters and fighter jets will participate.

The military drills will test the army’s ability to incorporate the state of the art technology and assimilating them to the operating cycle. The operations will also test the readiness of the armed forces to undertake various manoeuvres and successfully carrying out various tasks assigned to the respective units. On top of these, the army will be practicing the use of very high resolution satellite images, aerial surveillance and will be monitoring the performance of various local and foreign developed radar systems for different scenarios.

The army will also be checking its ability to repel the enemy military units in case of any territorial incursion and will also test its capacity to carry out brief, but sudden offensives to weaken the enemy. The timing and location of the military drills are significant, as the operations will be held very close to the Indo-Pak border.

Army spokesman Colonel RK Sharma announced that the most important set of military maneuvers will be held on May 12. Indian army sources said that the operations like the one to be conducted in Punjab will help to hasten the transformation of the Indian armed forces to a well trained, modernized and agile fighting force, able to handle the most delicate and complex of the issues.
Ex-Army Major is the first disabled Indian at ‘UNICEF’
Major Gopal Mitra may desire to borrow vision for few moments to salute the Indian tricolour flying high at the ‘UNICEF headquarters’ in New York on his first day of a new job tomorrow. A former Indian Army officer, Mitra is the first disabled person from India to be appointed at the headquarters of a major ‘UN agency’.

Mitra is joining the ‘UNICEF’ as programme specialist, and his role will involve providing technical support to enhance the inclusion of children with disabilities in policies and programmes at global, regional and national levels. The ‘UNICEF’ works for child rights in more than 190 countries.
Complex Tatra deal making holes in Army’s budget
NEW DELHI: The sale of allterrain Tatra trucks to the Indian Army is done through a far more convoluted route than what was known in public . Besides, the procurement of Tatra spare parts involves a similar complex methodology , making holes in the force's budget. Sources said the price for trucks coughed up by the Army is over 100% more than the original equipment manufacturer's cost, while that of spare parts is around 300% dearer.

The CBI is probing the Tatra deal following Army chief Gen V K Singh's claim that he was offered a Rs 14-crore bribe by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh in September, 2010, on behalf of NRI businessman Ravi Rishi, to clear the trucks' purchase. Rishi owns Tatra Sipox (UK) that supplies the vehicles to defence PSU, BEML, which, in turn, sells it to the Army.

Sources said Tatra a.s., the Czech firm, that manufacturers the trucks, actually sells the vehicles to Venus Projects Ltd of Hong Kong, a firm owned by Rishi.

According to some sources in the government, in this sale, Tatra a.s. offers a 35% discount. Venus Projects sells it to Tatra Sipox (UK) after the cost is marked up by 30%, sources said. The transaction , though, is only on paper , they added.

Tatra Sipox (UK) sells it to BEML after the costs are marked up by about another 20%. Then, BEML sells it to the Army, with further 25%- 35% rise in costs.

Rishi, the promoter of Tatra Sipox (UK), confirmed the circuitous route, but insisted that there was no major mark up of prices. "The Czech Tatra a.s. makes engines , cabin, (and) transmission for Tatra truck and have authorized Venus Projects Ltd HK to sell this to India both for military and civilian markets," he said.

He said, Venus Projects Ltd was also a 50% shareholder of Tatra Sipox (UK) Ltd; "therefore, the goods from Tatra a.s. were invoiced to Venus Projects Ltd, which, in turn, invoiced it at almost the same price to Tatra Sipox (UK) Ltd." Rishi said, "The price at which BEML sells the trucks to Indian Army/MoD is beyond the control of Tatra Sipox, and Tatra Sipox is not even privy to this rate. BEML would definitely have their own mark up as they are building the truck."

The purchase of spare parts for Tatra trucks supplied to the Army defies logic even more, Army sources said. The arrangement is as follows: BEML places order for spare parts with Tatra Sipox (UK) that passes on the contract to Jupiter Slovakia, sources said.

They pointed out that Jupiter Slovakia has a list of suppliers for Tatra spare parts, and seldom approaches Tatra a.s, the original manufacturer , directly. Tatra a.s. comes in the frame only if Jupiter Slovakia fails to source spare parts from its other suppliers. Consequently, the spare parts' prices are inflated by around 300%.

However, Rishi denied there was any irrationality in the sourcing of spare parts. "For spare parts, there is a set system of pricing and supply. Tatra Sipox (UK) Ltd; provides a yearly price list in Jan/Feb of the year, which is valid from April 1of that year to March 31of the next year. BEML uses this price list of all parts to place orders on Tatra Sipox (UK) Ltd," he explained.

Tejinder's case sent to another court

I n a new twist to the defamation case filed against Army Chief General V K Singh, a Delhi court on Saturday refused to pass orders citing "attempts to browbeat and pressurize" it by the lawyer of Lt General (Retd) Tejinder Singh, the complainant in the case. Metropolitan magistrate Sudesh Kumar transferred the criminal defamation suit filed by Lt General (Retd) Tejinder Singh to court of additional chief metropolitan magistrate Amit Bansal, saying counsel Anil Kumar Aggarwal, who is appearing for Tejinder Singh, has "lost confidence over the courts of law and legal procedure". TNN
Army chief’s message to India from Siachen
Chief of the Pakistan Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s reiteration on the other day for more confidence building measures (CBMs) between Pakistan and India seemed more intended for Indian ears than the former.
In a way, Kayani’s third visit to Gayari where 139 men of the 6th Northern Light Infantry were buried alive in an avalanche on April 7 indicated a CBM of sorts. It was the first time that an Indian journalist Aneeta Joshua of daily The Hindu, was taken to a forward position that is a mere 3.5 miles away from combat posts at Siachen.
She was barred from visiting even the twin city of Rawalpindi in the last two years since she had been posted in Islamabad. In the changing circumstances, Aneeta was allowed to travel the entire breadth of Gilgit-Baltistan that her country disputes as part of Pakistan.
The COAS chose the occasion to also reiterate his call for demilitarisation of Siachen. In Pakistan, he said in response to a question, the idea got across-the-board support.
“It has been received positively in India also except with some ifs and buts. That is understandable because there have to be CBMs between the two countries and then we have to move forward. Let’s hope we can move forward.”
He re-emphasised that he was all for a peaceful resolution, “but short of that we will do what we are supposed to do -- fighting, that is”.
The presence of Aneeta Joshua, it seemed, was to convey the message to her one billion countrymen back home.
She may be the only Indian to see this picturesque part of Pakistan that boasts four out of the top 10 highest peaks in the world. Wearing the specialised white gear worn by soldiers in this oxygen-deficient environment, where more people die of frostbite than combat, her inquisitiveness was palpable. She asked a Pakistani colleague if she could take a few photographs. “Well, you have not been stopped.”
She was not even stopped from sitting with her Pakistani counterparts in the official meeting that had the cream of Pakistan Army. The COAS himself opened up the discussion describing the harsh circumstances in which soldiers had to operate. He said he could not help sharing his thoughts as he had served as the GOC and then corp commander in-charge of that area.
The local commander could not resist saying that the ‘confidential’  briefing was meant for the chief and he did not expect journalists (let alone an Indian one) to be there. It turned out to be a good presentation but was hardly the material that one cannot Google.
It was an awkward situation for the troops if not shocking to find an “enemy” within their midst. An army officer almost fell in disbelief when he realised in the middle of a conversation about the combat situation that one of his audiences was an Indian. A soldier was asked if he had seen an Indian before. “Not on our side of the border,” he responded frankly while staring at Aneeta as if she was a different specie.
Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas, when asked about this, dismissed the linkage between Aneeta’s presence and the chief’s statement on India as far-fetched. He said the focus of the visit was to bring the father of Major Zoha, who lay buried in the rubble, to see the effort by the army to recover the bodies.
“Aneeta’s visit is part of Army’s campaign to open up,” he said while pointing out that the Pakistan Army had already taken Indian journalists to trouble spots like Chakoti in Azad Kashmir and Swat. AFP
Military exercise 'ShoorVeer' culminates
Jaipur: Military exercise 'Shoorveer', the biggest summer war game of Army's South-Western Command involving over 50,000 troops, culminated today in Hanumangarh district and nearby areas in Rajasthan.

Spearheaded by Jaipur-based South Western Command of Indian Army- also known as the Sapta Shakti Command- the exercise involved army troops sharpening their battle skills in peak of summer.

The exercise was conducted with more than 50,000 troops from infantry, armoured and artillery units coordinating their skills to mount an offensive on the enemy.

Strike One Corps and Chetak Corps took part in the exercise as part of a cohesive and synergised 'Air Land Battle'.

The exercise highlighted importance of the enhanced battle field transparency and situational awareness achieved by an array of surveillance devices and various force multipliers as manifested by an era of network revolution, a defence spokesperson said.

'Shoorveer' began on March 1 and the Army Chief General VK Singh reviewed and witnessed its final stages on May 2 and 3 in Hanumangarh.
Tatra supply deal: CBI questions ex BEML chairman
The CBI on Saturday questioned former BEML chairman and managing director TVS Shastri in New Delhi in connection with the Tatra all-terrain vehicle supply deal.

Shastri who preceded present chairman VRS Natarajan came to the CBI headquarters in the morning and answered queries of
the sleuths till evening, CBI sources said.

Sources said Shastri was questioned on the agreements on technology transfer for manufacturing all-terrain trucks from Tatra which are known to have unique axle technology allowing it to conquer almost any terrain.

The agency is probing alleged irregularities in assigning supply from the Czechoslovakia-based Tatra, with which the agreement was originally signed in 1986, to the Tatra-Sipox UK owned by Rishi in 1997 showing it as Original Equipment Manufacturer and the fully-owned subsidiary of the Czech company, they said.

A CBI spokesperson said this was against the provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure for supplying the vehicles to the Indian Army on the basis of the orders placed by the ministry of defence.

"It is further alleged that in this manner, vehicles worth thousands of crores of rupees have been supplied to the Indian Army. In continuation of the aforesaid conspiracy to cause undue benefit to the UK-based company, the unknown officials of the Defence PSU allowed change of currency from US Dollar to Euro and further by not levying the Liquidated damages caused further loss of Rs. 13.27 crores," the CBI said.
Countdown to Army Chief's retirement begins

New Delhi: The countdown to Indian Army Chief Gen VK Singh hanging up his boots May 31 began on Saturday with his first farewell visit to the Western Command headquarters in Chandimandir.

The General will be in Chandimandir till Sunday before returning to Delhi Monday, sources in the Army headquarters said here.

It is customary for Army chiefs and top commanders to go on farewell visits to key formations before their retirement when they get the opportunity to interact with troopers and officers.

Gen Singh, after over 40 years of service, will turn 62 May 10 as per his service record and retire May 31, paving way for army chief-designate Lt Gen Bikram Singh to take over the reins of the 1.13-million-strong Indian Army.

The 22-month tenure of Gen VK Singh, which began March 31, 2010, has been acrimonious over his attempts to get his birth date amended in service records, for which he even dragged the central government to the Supreme Court in January this year.

He could not succeed in getting the court to rule in his favour and had to contend with his birth date in service records remaining May 10, 1950 instead of May 10, 1951.

However, the government and the court refrained from questioning the veracity of his other records such as birth certificate, school leaving certificate, and passport that maintain his birth date as May 10,1951.

If the plea had been accepted, it would have given the general another 10 months as army chief and he would have retired in March 2013.

This would have upset the chain of succession in the army, which is decided on the basis of seniority at the time of the incumbent chief's superannuation.

Just ahead of his plea before the court, Gen. Singh, during his press conference January 14 on the eve of Army Day, had said that he "did not know" if this was his last Army Day as the chief.

He did not have to wait long. In March, the army issued him a retirement warning letter and within a week, the government named Lt Gen Bikram Singh, the Kolkata-based eastern Army commander, as his successor.

However, the tumult in Gen VK Singh's tenure as chief did not end with the age row.

He dropped a bombshell during an interview that he was offered by a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear a deal for 600 Tatra trucks by a retired army officer and that he had informed Defence Minister AK Antony about it.

This rocked the Parliament and Antony had to order a CBI probe into the allegations, apart from giving an explanation.

As if this was not enough came a media report claiming that the general might have mobilised two key Army units from Hisar and Agra towards New Delhi on the intervening night of January 16/17 this year.

The report dropped hints that it might have been a coup attempt that was thwarted by an alert government. The report was dismissed by the government and the army.

Since then, the cold vibes in corridors of South Block, seat of the defence ministry, seems to have come down.

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