Don’t politicise anti-Naxal operations: Raman Singh
New Delhi, July 3
Amid controversy over a recent Naxal encounter in Chhattisgarh, state Chief Minister Raman Singh today asked the parties not to politicise the issue.
"The Bijapur encounter was not a planned encounter. Such issues should not be politicised," Singh told reporters after meeting PM Manmohan Singh here. He said that Naxals were using innocent villagers as shields to protect themselves from security forces.
To a question over concerns related to safety of the Rowghat mines in Chhattisgarh, he said, "It is unfortunate that matters of national developments are being opposed by Naxals. The state government is working towards development of backward regions. But Naxalites are opposing our efforts. They are trying to reverse the process of development."
The Home Ministry had yesterday decided to provide paramilitary forces to secure the Steel Authority of India's ambitious Rowghat mining project and for construction of a 235-km-long railway line to transport ore slurry through the Naxal-hit area.
The Prime Minister this morning met over 150 tribal students from Maoist-affected areas of Chhattisgarh who were brought to the National Capital by the Chief Minister. They all have cleared entrance examinations for getting into engineering institutes. — PTI
MoD for change in Army structure
New Delhi, July 3
In a significant move to ramp up the war fighting capabilities of the Indian Army, the Ministry of Defence has suggested certain changes in the structure of the force besides addressing issues of equipment and force enhancement with an aim to counter an increasing Chinese threat.
Defence Minister AK Antony and the Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh met on Monday to review the operational preparedness of the Army. Sources said Antony told the Army Chief and the officials of his ministry that “there was a need to have systematic organisational changes if the desired output is to be achieved in a short period of time”.
The Ministry is also set to enhance air-lift capability of the Army in the eastern sector. The provision of combat choppers for the Army and also force accretions and infrastructure in the northeast were also discussed.
In lay terms, the ‘enhancement air-lift capability’ means that the Indian Army will be looking to rapidly deploy more number of troops in the sensitive eastern sector using choppers and tactical aircraft like the C-130-J. The force accretion is an ongoing process, two mountain divisions, some 15,000 each, are being raised slowly. Antony wanted matters to be speeded up. The Army and the Ministry of Defence want a specialised mountain corps which is pending financial sanction at the finance ministry.
The Chief pointed out the factual position on operational readiness and lack of infrastructure in border areas. The issue of the Army’s capabilities to have combat choppers was also discussed. Presently, the IAF flies these.
Charting a strategy to tackle sea piracy
Capt KS Sujlana
The risks and deprivations faced by the sailing community, who despite these threats, relentlessly continue the seaborne trade that is so vital to the economies world-wide, are enormous. It is imperative that the fight against the scourge of piracy is seen and addressed in the correct perspective. The menace of sea piracy emanating off the coast of Somalia is slowly spreading its octopus like tentacles along the coast of Africa and extending deep towards the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.
Taking full advantage of the permissive environment in the failed state of Somalia, where job opportunities are non-existent, the way ward, poor and unemployed youth are readily available to be exploited by nefarious elements. These forces inimical to peace, distant from Africa, provide it subtle backing and have a stranglehold control over this lucrative business. They propagate quick money gains and the soft option of rags to riches, which encourages piracy. Year by year piracy is growing, with pirates extracting huge ransom payments running into millions of dollars.
The Joint War Committee has declared the piracy infested waters as enclosed on the north-west by the Red Sea, west of the Gulf of Oman along longitude 58° East, on the East along longitude 78° East and to the south along Latitude 12° South (see map).
About 400 merchant ships are in the high risk area at any given time. Diplomatic initiatives with other nations must be taken to ensure mutual understanding and if need be, develop links covertly or overtly, for deep penetration into the stronghold of piracy. There is also a lesson to be learnt from decisive anti-pirate operations taken by the US
The International Maritime Organisation has highlighted that piracy worldwide reached an all time high in 2011, during which 544 attacks were reported. It is estimated that pirates took in 160 million dollars and a study predicts this figure to go up to 400 million dollars by 2015. Compared to this, the logistics and functional cost of this highly established and structured business is negligible. All it needs is a small investment in boats and arms, the manpower requirements drawn from the unemployed youth are readily at hand, who mostly under the effect of intoxicants, get easily enamored by the propaganda of quick gains.
Who exactly are the beneficiaries of this uncontrolled loot is oft debated. Who is making most of the money, while the sun of piracy shines? Are these the African pirates who represent the visible front face and seen on the wrong side of the law; or, are these the back office white collar pirates in the form of insurance companies, the arms and equipment manufacturers, the private maritime security companies (PMSC) providing armed guards, the negotiators who include lawyers and a host of other elements? This enormous loot is a self propellant, which only fuels piracy and makes it eradication a difficult proposition. Rumored whispers claim that the pirates who form the sword arm as the boarding team get only 10 per cent of the ransom money, 15 per cent goes to the African operations headman and a whopping 75 per cent finds its way out of Africa!
It is estimated that about 400 ships that are in the high risk area at any given time, voluminously add to the financial pie. These ships take additional insurance cover estimated at 8 million dollars a week, the PMSCs providing armed guards charge 4,500 dollars per day, the kidnap and ransom negotiators (KRN) charge 200,000 to 400,000 dollars for negotiating. Ransom money it seems is further insured, the private aircraft companies who take the responsibility to drop the ransom charge up to 150,000 dollars, besides the lawyers and a host of others. Reportedly, majority of the controls and the negotiators are based in Europe.
Money losses apart, the safety of the sailors is of major concern for Asian countries, particularly India, Philippines and China, and those from the erstwhile Soviet Block, who provide majority of the sailors. It is in this back drop that the theme for the 26th Asia Pacific Roundtable at Kuala Lumpur in May, was Asian Security Governance and Order. During the roundtable, Prime Minister Datuk Najib, of Malaysia, emphasised that Asia needed to change its mind set and take greater responsibility for its security and must specially cater for security at sea to protect the large percentage of Asian crews manning merchant marine fleets the world over.
In the past, the Indian Government's response in particular has been lukewarm, merely reiterating that keeping in view the need to comply with international law, it is difficult to react proactively. However, for the record, it was the Indian Navy which took one of the first actions against pirates along the Somalia coast, but that action has since been down played and a tight muzzle placed over this readily available effective dissuading force. On the other hand, the same international law does not seem to hold good for some countries. A glaring contrast is the much publicised case of pirates attacking and hijacking an American ship, Maersk Alabama, where the five day standoff ended when US Navy SEALs went into action on April 12, 2009 and got the American crew and vessel released. There is a lesson to learn from the American attitude, when it comes to American lives and interests, no international rules or agreements hold good. Another example, though in a milder and different way, is that of the European Union (EU) Navy in May. The EU forces carried out a disruptive action against known pirate supplies and equipment along the coast of Somalia. Post action, a very cautious and carefully worded statement released by the EU commander stated that the action undertaken was merely to show full sympathy for the local Somali people and fishermen, and it emphasised that at no point did EU boots step ashore. In response, the pirates threatened dire consequences on the seamen held hostage. From this it is evident, that such half hearted operations cannot be a permanent solution, well knowing that no war is ever won without the boots landing ashore.
The other end of the reaction spectrum does not involve western countries. On May 10, around 250 nautical miles from Ras Al Madrakah, Oman, ten armed pirates in two skiffs chased a crude oil tanker. It took anti piracy measures, increased speed, made evasive maneuvers and managed to evade the first boarding attempt. The pirates regrouped in their skiffs, linked with the mother ship in the vicinity and launched a second attack. This time, approaching at a high speed they managed to successfully board and hijack the vessel taking the crew hostage. The tanker carrying 135,000 tonnes of crude was commanded by an Indian captain and manned with a crew of 11 Indian, 14 Filipinos and 1 Romanian. There was no concrete reaction to this incident.
The hijacking clearly indicates that there is a prolonged time gap between the sighting of pirates and raising the alarm before the final act of a hijacking. However none of the military forces deployed in the region, be it NATO, Oman, EU or Iran, made any proactive attempt to negate the hijacking or take any follow up action. Given that the place was distant from Indian shores, an immediate proactive action was not feasible, but even subsequent responses were markedly adrift and wanting. Satellite tracking later pinpointed the ship at anchor, off Somalia, north of Bandar Bella, at a pirate hub. There was a rather meek, embarrassing reaction from the Director General of Shipping (DGS), asking the Mumbai-based recruiting agent to obtain information on the condition of the Indians onboard the vessel. This shows the neglect to such matters, because, as per norms the DGS is continuously kept abreast of the position of every vessel transiting this high risk area with details of the nationality of its crew.
Another issue being circumvented is regarding insurance companies that respond only where an insured ship owner has a legal liability. There is no legal requirement or obligation to pay ransom, as it is not covered by insurance companies despite the fact that any payment made by a shipping company as ransom is likely to be extremely high. However, after the piracy nightmare has been enacted, insurance companies step in again with their post piracy humanitarian response programme to mitigate the risk of piracy induced mental trauma for seafarers, which is beyond comprehension of those who have never been in such situations. Hijackers detain ships ranging from six weeks to eight months, torture crew and are now even resorting to inhuman measures like chopping off limbs of the captives to expedite extortion of ransom.
The advocacy of best management practices for on board staff to fight back the pirates is totaling misplaced. Merchant mariners are not trained combatants; their evasive or proactive actions have limitations. They are no match to the inhuman tactics adopted by the pirates who are armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades. Backed and reinforced by mother ships, the pirates approach the targeted slow moving vessel in high speed boats giving them no scope to escape. The pirates are resolute in their intent, and are mostly under the effects of hallucinogens perpetrating schizophrenic behavior and once onboard, they are known to run amok. It is reported that this unpredictable behaviour is the result of chewing khat, a drug made from a Somali plant.
Setting course for future
India and Asia have to respond and stand up to protect their citizens. To reduce this threat, a two pronged strategy is necessary. Firstly, the Asian countries concerned must have a response plan and put in place an Asian security net in this high risk area that authorises hot pursuit and elimination of such vagabonds. Secondly, develop streams to divert the money reaching the primary recipients. As far as India is concerned, they need to adopt new measures. First, the Indian insurances companies must develop financial muscle to cover the risk of vessels transiting the area and look to exploit business and have a stake in the maritime sector. Secondly, the land based security companies in India should develop into PMSC that would provide security guards on board the vessels. For such employment, there is no dearth of trained ex-servicemen. Thirdly, there is a need to enact special laws applicable in this high risk area, which besides other appropriate laws must include one which forbids another craft to approach within 150 meters of the ships and, if they do so, same is at their own risk. The security guards must be covered by law to avoid unwarranted legal actions. Having said that, security guards must exercise due diligence and follow the rule of minimum force to avoid repeat of an event like that of the Italian guards killing innocent Indian fishermen. Fourthly, India must exploit its long association with African countries. Diplomatic initiatives must be taken to ensure mutual understanding and if need be develop links, covertly or overtly, for deep penetration into the stronghold of piracy. The drying up of the money, coupled with harsher rules will help to eradicate this menace.
India has to flex its muscles and show its strength in international waters. The recent initiative by India and China to periodically exchange views with each other on maritime trade and security and the grouping of naval ships of these two Asian giants with that of Japan and South Korea in anti-piracy patrols in infested waters from July 1 are welcome steps.
India to give dossier on Abu Jundal during Indo-Pak talks
New Delhi: India will give Pakistan a dossier on 26/11 handler Abu Jundal during the talks between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries to be held today in Delhi. The dossier will include Jundal's passport issued by Pakistan, indicating the involvement of its state agencies in the Mumbai attacks that took place in 2008.
Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani is in New Delhi for talks with his Indian counterpart. Though he has said that he has been given the mandate to carry forward the dialogue process with India, terror and the recent arrest of 26/11 handler Abu Jundal is likely to overshadow the day-long talks.
"We have seen reports of Abu Jindal and we have requested Indian government to share reports with us and we would definitely try and do something about it," Mr Jilani said soon after his arrival on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Minister SM Krishna told NDTV, "(We) always discussed terror during Indo-Pak talks, will do now also. Whatever Jundal has revealed to our agencies will be evaluated. We will have to make value judgment on whether we can trust Pakistan." (Watch)
Islamabad says it wants hard evidence from India on Jundal's Pakistan connection, and while they have denied issuing him a passport, on the eve of the talks, Indian security agencies released copies of what they said was Jundal's Pakistani passport. (Read: Jundal's passport shows him as a Pakistani national)
Sources say these details will be shared with the Pakistani delegation and New Delhi will ask Islamabad to investigate how this passport was issued.
India will share details of the control room Jundal has talked about in Karachi and will again ask for the voice samples of those identified by him. India will also hand over a list of Jundal's Pakistani contacts given by him during his sustained interrogation by the security agencies.
Sources, however, say that no operational details or leads which are being followed up will be shared with Pakistan.
Last week, Home Minister P Chidambaram strongly stated that Jundal's arrest showed there was state support for the 26/11 attack. It evoked a sharp reaction from Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik who said that India was failing to control its own citizens.
Sources say India will also raise the issue of Sarabjit Singh - the Indian who is accused of spying in Pakistan and currently on death row.
The issue of Jammu and Kashmir and friendly exchanges such as visas are also on the agenda. Last month, Pakistan unexpectedly put off a liberalised visa agreement with India at the Home Secretary- level talks.
Separatists from the Valley today met Pakistan Foreign Secretary Mr Gilani. They were divided on the dialogue process between India and Pakistan. The moderates termed it as necessary for building 'mutual trust' while hardliners dubbed it as a 'futile exercise'.
The two sides will also try and make headways on two very crucial issues - Siachen and Sir Creek.
The meeting of the Foreign Secretaries is meant to pave the way for a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the two countries later this year.
Brigadier held in defence canteen scam
MUMBAI: An army brigadier was arrested by the CBI in connection with a corruption racket, involving employees of the canteen stores department (CSD) of the defence ministry and a private company, an official said here Tuesday.
Brigadier Anuj Kainthla, CSD joint general manager-I, has been charged with accepting a bribe of Rs.7.50 lakh from Sankalp Consumer Products Pvt. Ltd. (SCPPL), which he ploughed into realty in Panchkula.
According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), he took favourable decisions at various stages like introduction of consumer items, price revisions and issuing supply orders which benefited SCPPL.
Kainthla was presented before a special court which remanded him to CBI custody till July 5, the official said.
This is the latest arrest in the racket busted by the CBI June 30 in Mumbai when CSD Joint General Manager Bikas Ranjan Daschaudhary was nabbed while accepting a bribe from officials of SCPPL.
Three SCPPL officials Milind Govilkar, Vilas Harer and Manohar Vibhute were also arrested.
Govilkar and officials of the CSD allegedly conspired to manipulate the requirements of the stores which benefitted SCPPL's interests.
The CBI carried out raids at 20 places around the country at the official and private residences during the probe.
Headquartered in Mumbai, the CSD operates five regional offices, 34 depots and 3,825 canteen (stores) all over India to provide consumer goods to serving and retired defence personnel.
Prez congratulates Army team for scaling Mt Everest
New Delhi: President Pratibha Patil on Tuesday congratulated the women mountaineering team of the Indian Army which summited the Mount Everest- the highest peak of the world.
Congratulating the team members during a "flag-in" ceremony here, Patil said, "Indian Army has added another feather on its cap by fielding a women's team for undertaking such an extreme adventure with full success".
The 22-member team led by ace mountaineer Colonel Ajay Kothiyal included seven women officers from various branches of the Indian Army. The youngest of the members was 25-year- old Captain Smita.
The team reached the top of the peak on May 25 after a gruelling trek through the South Col region which is also known as 'Death Zone' for posing extreme difficulties to the mountaineers.
Subedar Rajendra Jalal, a veteran mountaineer who has already scaled five eight thousand-meter peaks including the Everest in 2003, became the first Indian to summit the highest mountain without supplementary oxygen supply.
Applauding the courage shown by Subedar Jalal who fought altitude sickness and disorientation while climbing the peak, Patil said, "My special compliments to Subedar Rajendra Singh Jalal who is the first Indian Army mountaineer to climb the Everest without using supplementary oxygen."
Recalling the experience of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who first climbed Mount Everest about sixty years ago, Patil said, "It is so very true. When we achieve success in a challenging task such as going up a mighty mountain, it teaches humility besides helping in overcoming fear and realising the great strength of being a disciplined person."
The expedition was undertaken by the Army Adventure Wing on completion of its 25 years.
Antony reviews readiness, Army may get attack copters
The Army is on its way to get the much desired attack helicopters that it has been pitching for with the matter being discussed in detail with Defence Minister A K Antony who reviewed the Army’s preparedness levels and discussed its acquisition plans for the next two years.
In a detailed meeting on Monday, Army Chief General Bikram Singh is believed to have made a strong case for the acquisition for ‘combat air assets’ that are part of the acquisition plan to give more teeth to its strike formations.
In the past, the Air Force has protested against any acquisition of attack helicopters by the Army, arguing that such choppers should be operated by the Air Force that is specialised in air combat. However, with the matter being discussed in a meeting with Antony on planned acquisitions for the next two years has given the Army’s case a clear boost.
Sources said that a detailed review was carried out in a two hour meeting that included the Defence Secretary and other senior officials. Antony is believed to have directed the Army to fully utilise its budget in the current financial year and has suggested organisational changes to ensure that projects are carried out on time.
The minister reviewed the planned accretion of force levels and infrastructure in the North- East and discussed the enhancement of air lift capability for the eastern sector. Among other things, the Army discussed its plans to improve ordinance depots that hold stocks of ammunition.
The current progress in acquisition of artillery equipment was discussed and the Army shared its plans to enhance night visibility for combat platforms. The acquisition of new UAVs to enhance the reconnaissance and surveillance capability of the Army was also part of the discussions.
This was the first meeting to review the army’s force levels since Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh took over.
Defence Diary: Pipping ceremony held at INS Shivaji
The Pipping ceremony for the Cadets of 25th Naval Engineering Course was held on Monday at INS Shivaji, Lonvala. The cadets’ journey began three-and-a-half years ago, on January 10, 2009, when they joined Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala for the Naval Orientation Course. They joined Naval Engineering Course on May 30, 2009. As many as 72 Cadets were presented with the Midshipman Epaulettes by Chief Guest Commodore P J Rangachari, Commanding Officer, INS Shivaji. As part of the celebrations, a cultural programme was organised by the Cadets on Sunday. INS Shivaji is a premier training establishment for naval trainees in which the Cadets undergo a four-year B. Tech degree course at the Naval College of Engineering (NCE). Cadets Training Department at INS Shivaji was instituted with the advent of the 10 + 2 (Tech) Scheme in 1985. This was the 25th and the last batch of Naval Engineering Course.
visits NCC Directorate
Lt Gen Ajay Kumar Singh, GOC - in - C, Southern Command, visited the NCC Directorate in Maharashtra recently. The Army Commander was received by Maj Gen Yashwant Singh, Additional Director General, NCC Directorate, Maharashtra and was presented a Guard by Senior Wing Girl Cadets. He was introduced to the officers of the Directorate and was informed of the trophies won by the Maharashtra Directorate at the national level. During his presentation to the Army Commander, the Additional Director General emphasised on the contribution of Maharashtra Directorate in nation building and holistic development of the vibrant and dynamic youth of Maharashtra with special emphasis on military training, sports and adventure, personality development, social awareness programmes and training & motivating the youth in joining the Armed forces. The Army Commander congratulated the Maharashtra Directorate for winning the coveted Prime Minister’s Banner and Trophy 15 times since its inception and appreciated the quality of NCC training being imparted to youth. He also praised the vast spread and coverage of NCC in the state. The Army Commander directed all the officers of the Directorate to continue working with dedication and sincerity to achieve the aims and terminal objectives of the NCC. The Army Commander also assured the Directorate of all possible assistance from the Southern Army.
Antony wants Army to use UAVs on China border
New Delhi, July 2, 2012, DHNS:
Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday asked Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh to augment India’s surveillance and intelligence gathering close to Sino-Indian border in the North East and Ladakh, for which the Army has been instructed to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) more frequently.
During a 90-minute meeting with Gen Singh to discuss security threats emanating from China, Antony stressed on having more UAVs in these areas and increase intelligence gathering and surveillance capabilities, official sources said.
Gen Singh, on his part, flagged Army’s concerns on threats from China and appealed to the minister to speed up the modernisation process, which includes allowing the Army to set up its own aviation wing for bolstering air support to border operations.
The new Army Chief, who commanded the Eastern Army Command in Kolkata, impressed upon the minister on Army’s need to expand its air operations particularly in the north east even though the Indian Air Force is opposed to the idea of Army having an expanded aviation wing. At the moment, the Army depends on the IAF to a large extent for air support.
Expansion of the Army Aviation Wing remains a bone of contention between the two services. Antony told Singh to enhance airlift capacities in the eastern region and keep medium-lift and attack choppers in ready for action. However, no decision has been taken on the expansion of the Army aviation wing. The Army has also been asked to increase its force deployment close to the border and improve border infrastructure.
The bureaucratic and technical bottlenecks in raising a new mountain division were also discussed during the meeting.