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Thursday, 10 May 2012

From Today's Papers - 10 May 2012
Hundreds of officers leaving armed forces

New Delhi, May 9
Hundreds of officers of the Indian armed forces have been seeking premature retirement due to one reason or the other. Tabling the figures in the Parliament, the Ministry of Defence said 288 officers sought premature retirement from the Indian Army in the last year alone. The number for the Navy and the Indian Air Force was 122 and 183 officers, respectively.

The three services have a shortage of officers. The Army has a shortage of 11,119 officers against its sanctioned strength of 46,614. The Navy has a shortage of 1,359 officers, while the IAF has a shortage of 1,352. One of the reasons for officers seeking VRS is better options available in the private sector. — TNS
China's containment strategies
India needs to enhance military deployment
by G. Parthasarathy

There are multiple layers in China's approach to relations with India. At one level, there is a Chinese recognition of India emerging as a power that cannot be ignored and that Chinese interests are served by being seen to have a cooperative relations with India, in forums like BRICS and the G-20.

These links are chosen by China to sometimes describe India as having an "independent" foreign policy, even as concern is periodically voiced over growing US-Indian strategic ties. This ostensibly positive approach is balanced by heaping ridicule on India, or making threatening noises, whenever India enhances its space and missile capabilities, or seeks to bolster its defences along its borders with the Middle Kingdom.

But, above all, there is a dominant theme of "containment," in China's policies towards India. This is undertaken by strengthening Pakistan's conventional, nuclear and missile capabilities and by adopting measures to show that while China recognises the legitimacy of Pakistan's control over PoK and the Northern Areas, it refuses to take any action that provides legitimacy to Indian control of the state. Similar policies are adopted while dealing with India's other South Asian neighbours like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and, most importantly, Nepal.

China's "containment" policies have also included attempts to undermine our "Look East" policies, deny us legitimacy on global nuclear issues in forums like the Nuclear Suppliers Group and obstruct measures in the UN to declare Pakistan-based terrorist groups like the Jamat-ud-Dawa as international terrorist organisations. China actively works to further Pakistan's ambitions of "parity" with India globally. For over two decades now, India has often been caught off the wrong foot in dealing with these Chinese policies. But, as China's economic and military power expands, it is becoming increasingly assertive in dealing with its neighbours, particularly on differences over its land and maritime borders. The most serious manifestation of this growing Chinese arrogance and intolerance has been its propensity to threaten virtually all its coastal neighbours on issues of sovereignty over islands in the East and South China Seas.

China now claims that the entire South China Sea is an area of "core interest", periodically sparking direct naval confrontation with Vietnam and the Philippines. This, in turn, has led to its neighbours virtually pleading for a greater American naval and military presence in the western Asia-Pacific region. Washington has not hesitated to oblige, and naval exercises are being stepped up by the Pacific Fleet with countries like the Philippines, Japan and even Vietnam. This enhanced Chinese "assertiveness" appears to have arisen from recent estimates that the South China Sea has oil and gas reserves equivalent to 17.7 billion tonnes of crude oil.

After India was warned by China not to undertake off-shore oil exploration projects with Vietnam and an Indian naval vessel warned not to enter the South China Sea, India and Vietnam jointly stated: "Disputes like the East and South China Sea should be resolved by peaceful means in accordance with universally recognised principles, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea".

India's new-found candour on the South China Sea could not have been better timed. China found itself cornered at the November 2011 East Asia Summit at Bali. While China's Foreign Minister expressed the hope that the maritime disputes over the South and East China Seas would not figure at the summit, all but two of 18 participating nations — Myanmar and Cambodia — did raise the issue, with Singapore, which is otherwise circumspect in references to China, playing a prominent role from among ASEAN members. This approach by the ASEAN countries was adopted despite a warning from China's Global Times that "Any country that chooses to be a part of the US chess game will lose the opportunity to benefit from China's economy".

The Chinese were clearly out of touch with regional sentiments, virtually on their backyard. Responding to queries from Premier Wen Jiabao on Indian oil exploration off the Vietnam coast, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that Indian interests in the South China Sea were "purely commercial", adding for good measure that "issues of sovereignty should be resolved according to international law and practice".

India's growing partnership with Japan has also not gone unnoticed in the Middle Kingdom. Japan is now clearly among India's most important economic partners, with its commitment to the development of rail and industrial corridors across India. The sad reality, however, is the snail's pace at which Indian decision makers and project planners have proceeded in implementing these key projects. Japan, which has faced aggressive and indeed hostile behaviour from the Chinese, on their dispute over the Senakaku Islands in the East China Sea, particularly over the past two years, now sees India as an important partner in building a stable balance of power in Asia.

Bilateral military exercises with Japan have been reinforced by a trilateral India-Japan-US dialogue and trilateral military exercises off Okinawa. But India still appears to hold back when it comes to military cooperation with ASEAN members like Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, whose naval forces and coastal security would certainly be strengthened by the supply of Indian Brahmos cruise missiles. Given China's own nuclear and missile cooperation with Pakistan, it is astonishing that New Delhi is still hesitant in moving ahead in strengthening the coastal security of friendly ASEAN countries.

While expanding economic and security cooperation is essential for the success of its Look East policies, it is important that New Delhi enhances its military deployments and strengthens confidence-building measures along its borders with China. The Chinese are supreme realists and understand the logic of the politics of power. It is unlikely that the border issue will be settled anytime soon, or that China will give up its irredentist claims to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. China will, however, not find it either wise or beneficial if seeks it to launch a military adventure on its borders with India, especially if India is well prepared militarily, conducts its diplomacy imaginatively and sustains a high rate of economic growth.

China's policies of "containment" of India will continue, but can be managed by imaginative engagement and cooperation on the one hand, combined with a pro-active approach to strengthening our defences and to our Look East policies, on the other. The disastrous 1962 conflict with China was largely a result of a gross miscalculation of Chinese capabilities and intentions and our own diplomatic and military naiveté and follies. Hopefully, we are now wiser and more realistic than we were then.
Defence preparedness should be on par with threat: BJP
New Delhi, May 8 — India's defence preparedness should be on par with the threats it faces in a 'difficult neighbourhood', Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley Tuesday said Tuesday, accusing Defence Minister A.K. Antony of not taking bold steps in this direction.

Participating in the debate on the working of defence ministry, the BJP leader said India 'stood at risk and the threat should not be ignored'.

'In the past few years, the geo-strategic realities of India have changed. Our defence preparedness has to be integral to these changed realities,' Jaitley said.

'Defence preparedness has to match this reality. A radicalised Pakistan under army control with the civilian government as a showpiece is not going to help,' he said.

He said that 'emerging Pakistan-China' military axis has reached a 'new level' putting Indian territory under greater threat.

'The defence experts opine that India must have a potential for 90-day full spectrum war. It must be prepared to meet the China-Pakistan axis for a two-front engagement. The object of this engagement should be to 'defeat Pakistan' and 'holding China'.'

Pointing out 'shortcomings' in the defence forces, he said 'there has been no acquisition of artillery guns since 1986... In the armoury, we have vintage T-55 and T-90 tanks. Seventy percent of our weaponry is night blind. This night blindness has to be cured.'

He also stressed that more needed to be done for the air force and navy as well.

'The Indian Navy needs at least three aircraft carriers. We have only one aircraft carrier... Chinese air force is planning 2,300 combat aircraft by 2020. We are targeting only 750.'

The leader of opposition slammed the defence minister saying 'Why should a minister be prisoner of his own image? India needs a bold initiative by the government.'

'The fear of a possible allegation should not lead to us to inaction. If we continue to proceed at the present pace, we are doing showing a great disservice to the nation,' he added targeting Antony.
Making Army fighting fit
India  is a rising economic and military power but its defence potential remains heavily under-utilised. Parliament can be the catalyst for a defence awakening.

Twenty-one days are left for Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh to demit office. The story that is doing the rounds in South Block is that the Union Minister for Defence AK Antony is counting the days. He fears Gen Singh might refuse to leave on May 31 because he does not have a legal retirement order. On June 1, then you would then have two COASs. A rally was held last Sunday in the capital, organized by Gen Singh’s wife’s brother, Mr Ari Daman Singh. He sought to bring the ideas of the anti-corruption triumvirate of Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and Gen Singh on the same platform. On the occasion he said: The Supreme Court had sidetracked the issue of Gen Singh’s age. At the rally Gen Singh’s supporters absolved him of his moral responsibility to protect the dignity of that high office; instead they accused the Government of failing to protect him from bribe-baiters. What extraordinary logic! But the fight for age goes on.

Gen Singh is the first Chief ever to take the Government to court, not on any organisational grievance but for a personal issue. He also has other firsts to his credit which need not be repeated as these have denigrated the image and standing of the service. His supporters have inveigled the Chief designate Lt Gen Bikram Singh by communalising and politicising the succession issue besides tarring his reputation. Gen Singh himself went a step further by targetting Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, currently a Corps Commander and most likely to become Western Army Commander next month. If the seniority principle is maintained, he is the likely successor of Lt Gen Bikram Singh.

Gen Singh took the unprecedented step of sending a duff complaint of fraud against Lt Gen Dalbir Singh to CBI earlier this year which has already been investigated by the Cabinet Secretariat and the officer cleared by the investigating agency in June 2011. With so many ‘Singhs’ in the fray for the ultimate appointment, Gen Singh apparently wanted one of his Singhs to succeed Lt Gen Bikram Singh and not Lt Gen Dalbir Singh. If nothing else, Gen Singh owes Lt Gen Dalbir Singh an apology.

Not only has Gen Singh succeeded in sullying his own image as COAS but has also dragged two successors to face the music when they become COAS. The age row and its fallout has led to the politicisation of the episode. Former Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav was the first to smell the coffee and predict that Gen Singh had political ambitions. His family and supporters have set the stage for a political career but they should be wary of the company they choose for him. All one has to do is recall the Congress’s vociferous support for Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat at the time of his dismissal, his subsequent use by the party at local hustings and finally the unceremonial discard.

Only one other senior Army officer, a Lt Gen who was passed over as COAS — the only supercession in the Army at that level — tried his hand at politics, riding a bicycle and donning a Gandhi cap. The experience was disastrous. Just a handful of Generals have made it to Parliament but without earning any colours except Major General BC Khanduri. The other achiever is a Major, Jaswant Singh, six times MP who won his spurs several times. He joined politics young and did not helicopter into Parliament like some dynasty scions.

Gen Singh’s scarred legacy has certainly won some positive even if shortlived consequences: The expectation of a sharper Parliamentary oversight of defence preparedness judging by the spirited debate in the Rajya Sabha in the last two days. Although Gen Singh’s leaked letter on hollowness in critical equipment was a routine missive to the Prime Minister, it did reveal the lackadaisical attitude and response of the Defence Ministry to operational deficiencies. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on defence has apparently been energised and according to one of its members, “we were alarmed by the shortages”. The member said that the Standing Committee is scrutinising the Ministry’s demands for grants and was optimistic that events of the last three months will catalyse defence procurement.

The question is does the Standing Committee on Defence (and the Defence Consultative Committee which meets less frequently) have the expertise and capacity to exercise oversight over strategic, defence and security issues even when they have specialists to service the committee. These parliamentary tools are inadequate to provide oversight which can prod the Ministry of Defence.

In the past defence Budgets have not merited any debate in Parliament other than the Finance Minister’s statement in allocation of defence grants with the routine afterthought “more funds will be allotted if required for our brave soldiers,” followed by patriotic thumping of desks. Now Mr Jaswant Singh has given a notice of discussion under Rule 193 for discussion on defence following the Gen Singh affair. This is a rare occasion when a debate on issues ranging from civil-military relations, defence reform and other strategic issues could take place.

Mr Hazare’s team is periodically reminding us about the criminal antecedents of our parliamentarians. But no one is revealing their qualifications in defence, security and strategic subjects. It is not too late to restart a capsule for MPs at the National Defence College or at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses. Mr Arun Singh, a former Minister of State for Defence, could tell service Chiefs a thing or two about tanks, aircraft and submarines. The billions of dollars proposed to be invested in strengthening and enhancing defence and strategic reach is bereft of a long term political vision, parliamentary guidance and higher defence management.

Predating Gen Singh’s media disclosures it seems the ‘probity first’ Defence Ministry has been working quietly on streamlining the defence procurement system. A task force on defence modernisation and self reliance chaired by former Secretary Defence Production Ravinder Gupta is looking at not the ideal but an implementable procedure. At the IDSA, former Secretary Defence Finance Vinod Misra has established a workshop on defence procurements and offsets, and his team is just back from the US after studying best practices and procedures there. The US has 1,800 personnel involved in defence procurement.

India is a rising economic and military power though its defence potential is heavily under-utilised. Parliament can be the catalyst for a defence awakening. The Gen Singhs in waiting will have to prod Parliament.
Truck manufacturing not critical technology: Govt
New Delhi: Amidst the raging controversy over Tatra trucks procured by Indian Army, the government Wednesday today said truck manufacturing was not a critical technology and so they were bought from private vendors.

"There is no need for us to manufacture everything," Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said during Question Hour in Rajya Sabha.

Trucks are manufactured at Ordnance Factory, Jabalpur, and higher class of vehicles will be manufactured if it is felt that it is critical technology.

"As it is not critical technology, its (manufacture) is not given priority," he said.

Neither he nor Najma Heptulla (BJP), who had asked the question, named Tatra.

Heptulla said Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley had yesterday remarked that Indian defence forces can manufacture missiles and rockets but not trucks.

In March, Army chief General V K Singh had stated that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear sub-standard Tatra trucks, opening a can of worms.

Raju said Rs 193,407.29 crore has been allocated from the Budget for defence services for 2012-13.

"The budgetary provision of Rs 193,407.29 crore made for the Defence Services Estimates is 15.5 per cent less than the projected requirements for the various Services/Departments," he said.

Rs 112,096.22 crore was sought for Army, Rs 44,478.90 crore for Navy and Rs 56,838.25 crore for Air Force. Against this, Rs 96,564.83 crore was allocated for Army, Rs 37,314.44 crore for Navy and Rs 48,220.26 crore to Air Force.

"The funds allocated are adequate to meet the obligatory charges, essential maintenance requirements, contractual commitments and some fresh modernisation schemes for the present," he said.

He, however, admitted that the allocation would show a decline over the previous year if inflation and depreciation of rupee was taken into account.

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