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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

From Today's Papers - 05 Jun 2012
US Defence Secy arrives today
Af-Pak, China to figure in talks
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, June 4
As the US has announced a significant "China-centric" change in its strategy towards Asia, US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta will arrive in India tomorrow on a two-day visit to reassess the New Delhi-Washington defence relationship.

Panetta may even suggest that the two nations move beyond the transactional nature of ties, especially as the US makes a definite eastward shift in its military policy.

Notably, Panetta's visit is just one week ahead of this year's India-US strategic dialogue, which will be held in Washington on June 13. Recent commentary by experts point out that US is a seller and India is a buyer of equipment, and that is where the relationship ends.

India has ordered around $10 billion (approx Rs 50,000 crore) worth of military hardware from the US, including transport and reconnaissance planes. Unlike the US-led NATO grouping, the militaries of India and the US may not operate together in a real-time environment in the foreseeable future, hence the deadlock in relations. The two countries have joint naval, air force and army exercises.

Panetta, a former Director of the CIA, will be on his first visit to India in his capacity as Secretary of Defence. It will be the first such visit since former Secretary of Defence Robert Gates met counterpart in New Delhi in January 2010.

Panetta will meet Defence Minister AK Antony, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the day and will also deliver a lecture at the government think-tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA).

Sources said it was clear that the US would want a greater commitment from India on Afghanistan after the NATO troop draw-down from 2014.
Krishna leaves for China; Beijing issues advisory against India travel
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, June 4
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is leaving for Beijing tomorrow to participate in the 12th Summit of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to be held on June 6 and 7. India will pitch for greater role for itself in the grouping and increased strategic cooperation with SCO members

However, on the eve of Krishna’s visit, China put New Delhi in a difficult situation by issuing an advisory, cautioning its citizens against travelling to India due to the recent nation-wide strike over the recent hike in the price of petrol.

Though there was no official reaction from India, the advisory, dated June 1 and posted on the Chinese Embassy website, is being seen as a retaliatory move against India recently issuing an advisory cautioning its traders against doing business in the Chinese business hub of Yiwu in view of three incidents of kidnappings of Indian traders by local suppliers to settle trade disputes.

“According to Indian media reports, many places in India are witnessing protests and strikes due to the recent hike in oil prices. Railways and highway transport have either come to a halt due to strikes or have been impacted to different degrees,’’ the Chinese advisory said.

It is expected that Krishna will take up the advisory issue when he holds bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the SCO meet.

This is the Indian foreign minister’s second visit to China this year. He had last visited Beijing in February to inaugurate the new building of the Indian Embassy.

India, which currently enjoys the status of an observer in the SCO along with Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia, has been seeking full membership in the grouping for some time but opinion in divided between China and Russia over the induction of new members into the six-nation grouping. At present, it comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Though the SCO was former in 1996 primarily as a confidence-building mechanism to resolve border disputes, its member countries have over the past few years increased cooperation in defence, intelligence sharing, and counter-terrorism. The SCO has also intensified its focus on Afghanistan, which is likely to be granted the observer status in the grouping.
United States curbs on Javelin missile sale cloud Indo-US relationship
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi Jun 05, 2012, 00:14 IST

A dangerous flashpoint in United States-India relations faces visiting US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, who faces tough questions from Indian officials on Tuesday. The US State Department has slashed India’s request for Javelin anti-tank missiles, offering instead a smaller quantity that Washington sources say is “less than half of what India has requested for.”

Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials are furious that Washington, an avowed strategic partner, has pared down India’s requirement of Javelin missiles, even while arguing that defence sales are a cornerstone of the US-Indian strategic relationship.
This (US reduced offer) is a deal killer. Washington will not dictate the quantity of weaponry we need. This will severely damage the prospects of US vendors in future arms contracts,” a South Block official told Business Standard.

This unexpected rebuff stems from the US Department of Political-Military Affairs, a State Department office that examines the political fallout of proposed US arms sales. Pol-Mil Affairs, as this department is called, often nixes or curtails arms sales because they might “destabilise the regional military balance.”

Neither the US Embassy in New Delhi, nor the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), is prepared to reveal the reason provided by Washington for slashing the Indian request. The Ministry of External Affairs and the MoD have not responded to requests for comments.

US Embassy spokesperson, Peter Vrooman, said, “We don’t discuss individual sales. Secretary Panetta looks forward to having an exchange with the Government of India on a broad range of issues.”

Andrew Shapiro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, had told Business Standard, in an exclusive interaction during his visit to New Delhi on April 17, that Washington had cleared the transfer of technology for manufacturing the Javelin missile in India. Given that readiness to transfer high-end technology, the curbs placed by Washington on the missile numbers remain inexplicable.

The FGM-148 Javelin, built by US companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, is one of the two anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) that the Indian Army is evaluating for its 350-odd infantry battalions. The other is the Spike, built by Israeli company, Rafael. These are both shoulder-launched, “fire-and-forget” ATGMs, which means that they autonomously track their targets after they are fired by a two-man crew.

Both missiles are scheduled to come to India for user evaluation trials later this year. However, the Javelin has already impressed the Indian Army. During joint exercises with the US Army, Indian missile crews have fired ten Javelin missiles. All ten hit their targets.

The US industry, which has heavy stakes in a successful Javelin sale to India, is sharply critical of the State Department for curtailing the Indian request. “Offering a reduced number of missiles will almost certainly kill the Javelin deal; in fact it seems to almost be designed to be so. It seems as if Hillary Clinton herself remains unconvinced about the India relationship and is trying to set a different tone,” complains an industry member.

A key US frustration in the defence relationship has been New Delhi’s refusal to sign three defence cooperation agreements that Washington has pressed for: a Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); a Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA); and a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA). New Delhi believes that signing these agreements would put it overtly in the US camp, diluting its “multi-aligned” foreign policy that emphasises strong relations with multiple foreign powers.

There are also growing frustrations in Washington over India’s resistance to allow US “end-user” inspections of weaponry sold to Indian security forces. New Delhi regards end-user monitoring as a violation of sovereignty.
Dhoni leaves for Delhi, to visit Siachen on Wednesday
Indian Cricket captain MS Dhoni left for Delhi on Monday after meeting new General Officer Commanding (GOC) designate of Srinagar based Chinar Corps, Lieutenant General Om Prakash. The captain who is goodwill ambassador of the Indian Army, spent his day in Kashmir's summer capital
Srinagar interacting with patients, officers and troops besides meeting the new General Officer Commanding (GOC).

“Lieutenant Colonel (Honorary) MS Dhoni met the GOC designate of Chinar Corps, Lieutenant General Om Prakash, who is scheduled to take over the reins on June 09, 2012,” JS Brar, Srinagar based Defence Spokesperson said.
The spokesman said that Dhoni also interacted with officers and troops of the Chinar Corps in Badami Bagh cantonment in addition to school children from downtown Srinagar.

“Thereafter, he met patients at the 92 Base Hospital and besides thanking them for their sacrifices in the duty of the nation, also presented them gifts,” the officer said.  Being a Territorial Army Officer, Dhoni visited two TA battalions based in Srinagar.

Speaking to the troops, he exhorted them to keep performing their tasks zealously, and also posed for a group photograph with the troops, the spokesman added.

Dhoni left for Delhi later in the day. His Leh and Siachen visit will  start on Tuesday.
Ramdev, Anna protests 'timely': Gen V.K. Singh (Supersedes earlier story)
Vrindavan (Uttar Pradesh), June 4 — Former Indian Army chief General V.K. Singh has said the anti-corruption campaigns by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev are 'timely and valid'.

After offering prayers at the Banke Bihari temple here, Gen Singh, who retired May 31, said Sunday that corruption was a major issue and it was up to the government to devise ways to tackle it.

He was asked to comment on the campaigns launched by yoga guru Ramdev and anti-corruption crusader Hazare who fasted in Delhi Sunday.

Talking to reporters, he said that while there were many issues facing the nation, he did not have any immediate plan to join politics.

Gen. Singh refused to talk about his 42-year tenure with the Indian Army, and merely said that he came to Vrindavan to pray.

He hoped the government would do all it can to maintain the honour of the armed forces.

'At the end all was good and I wanted to thank God for his blessings,' he added.
Tatra probe: CBI team to visit Czech Republic
NEW DELHI: Suspecting that Ravi Rishi may have received elaborate assistance from Army insiders over the past 25 years, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has sought all inspection records and related files on the all-terrain truck from the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) since 1997. CBI has also summoned a former DGQA, Lt Gen Amarjit Singh, who had joined Rishi after his retirement.

CBI sources said the agency would also summon some senior retired military officers who went on to work for Rishi after handling Tatra acquisition, while they were still in service.

DGQA looks after quality assurance for arms, ammunitions, equipment and stores supplied to the Army. The agency has also asked DGQA if it received any complaints regarding spare-parts of Tatra trucks.

Agency sources said they have summoned Lt Gen Amarjit Singh for questioning to know more about the DGQA inspection procedures that were followed for Tatra trucks during his tenure.

CBI suspects that several officials from different units of the ministry of defence (MoD) and the Army, who had joined Rishi's company after retirement, could have played a vital role in ensuring that the Tatra acquisition went on smoothly for the past 25 years. The agency is likely to question two former MGOs (Master General of Ordnance) of the Army, who, too, had joined Rishi's Vectra group after their retirement.

Sources said that a CBI team will soon visit Czech Republic for probe, including ascertaining why the Army was supplied with Tatra vehicles based on an older technology. The agency would also be sending a Letter Rogatory (LR) to Czech Republic seeking information.

So far, CBI probe has revealed that despite stringent clause for indigenization and upgrade of technology in the original agreement signed with Czech based Tatra a.s, the indigenization by defence PSU BEML remained far behind the target levels.

"The Czech Republic based company would be able to give us specifications of parts which were coming here. Also, it would give us a clear picture on Venus Projects, one of the companies run by Ravi Rishi and involved in the Tatra deal, and prices quoted and taken for the parts," added the CBI source.

In another development, which may land BEML chief V R S Natarajan in trouble, the agency probe has established that India had enough technical knowhow in 2002-03 for manufacturing most parts of Tatra trucks, a claim contradicted by Natarajan during his interrogation.

Sources said that 100% indigenization of Tatra trucks had not happened till 2002, when Natarajan signed a fresh contract despite the previous contract of 1997 being valid till 2006-07. "He (Natarajan) has been claiming that we did not have technical expertise, but our records show that we had enough technical expertise in manufacturing the parts, which were mostly being imported," a source said.

Sources said trucks, which are now assembled by BEML and supplied to the Army, have not performed well in high altitude. Though the Army flagged its poor performance on several occasions, the PSU didn't go for technology upgrade.

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