Russia offers joint production of military equipment
New Delhi, July 17
Russia today offered joint production of sophisticated military equipment with India, including cargo planes, as the two countries reviewed the progress in the techno commercial negotiations on Russia setting up third and fourth nuclear power plant units at Kudankulam as part of the energy cooperation between the two countries.
“Our objective is to move from the buyer-seller relationship in the military field to joint production with the potential of sale to a third country,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said at a joint press conference with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna.
The two leaders earlier co-chaired a meeting of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission (IRIGC) trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation. The two sides are understood to have also discussed the dates for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India later this year.
Emphasising that both India and Russia were technologically industrialised countries, Rogozin declared: “Russia wants to see a strong and powerful India the way India wants to see a strong and powerful Russia.”
He, however, pointed that there were differences between the two countries which must be addressed on a priority basis. “We want Russian economic entities to be given the same treatment in the Indian market as other actors are given,” he said.
He was obviously referring to the status of investment by Sistema in the Indian telecom sector. Its joint venture with an Indian partner for providing 2G telecom services was among the licences annulled by the Supreme Court. The Indian side is believed to have informed the Russian side that the matter was currently in the domain of the judiciary and one would have to wait for its final verdict.
In his remarks, Krishna noted that Russia was today the leading force behind the increasingly integrating Eurasian economic space. “To forge greater contacts, we have agreed to jointly study a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) with the Belarus-Kazakhstan-Russia Customs Union.”
He said he had discussed with Rogozin various aspects of bilateral trade and investment cooperation. “We sought definite solutions to certain outstanding problems confronting our business communities and explored ways to enhance our trade turnover.”
Krishna said the two countries had also agreed to redouble their efforts to achieve $ 20 billion trade target by 2015. The figures of the first quarter of this calendar year were encouraging but clearly much more needed to be done.
Rogozin and his high-powered delegation also visited the BrahMos complex in New Delhi where Indian officials urged the Russian team to induct the 290-KM supersonic missile in the Russian naval fleet to further strengthen the joint venture between the two countries.
Russian dy PM arrives in India
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Foreign Minister SM Krishna co-chaired a meeting of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission (IRIGC) trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation
The two sides are understood to have also discussed the dates for Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to India later this year
Officer’s plea of bias by ex-Army Chief dismissed
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 17
The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) today dismissed a petition filed by Major-Gen TS Handa, alleging bias on the part of firmed Army Chief, Gen VK Singh, first in his capacity as the Eastern Army Commander and later as Army Chief. He had contended the “bias” led to him not being empanelled for promotion to the rank of lieutenant general despite an outstanding career profile.
The tribunal’s bench, comprising Justice NP Gupta and Lt-Gen NS Brar, observed that there was no merit in the petition and ruled that the matter did not warrant the tribunal’s interference.
General Handa had moved the tribunal in April, 2011, stating that when he was posted as the General Officer Commanding of 57 Mountain Division, the attitude of General Singh, then Eastern Army Commander and senior reviewing officer, towards his annual confidential report (ACR) led to him being awarded a “displeasure” and a “lukewarm” ACR.
His counsel, Col NK Kohli (retd), contended that despite having an outstanding career profile, he had suffered simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. He had refused to change the Chief’s date of birth while he was posted in the Military Secretary’s Branch at the Army Headquarters as a brigadier prior to proceeding to the North-East. Colonel Kohli contended that apart from the date of birth issue, there was no other reason for being given lower points in his ACR.
During arguments, the Central Government’s counsel, Capt Sandeep Bansal, averred that there were no specific allegations of bias in Handa’s petition and his contentions were his personal perceptions. While pointing out that the allegations were not levelled against the Army Chief in the non-statutory complaint, he said these were added as an after-thought to the statutory complaint filed with the Central Government.
While arguing that Handa’s act of challenging the order on his non-empanelment and the marks awarded in his ACR were barred by limitation, Bansal contended that ACRs assessed performance during a specific period and past performance does not guarantee a good performance in the future. He also added that as per records, all of Handa’s ACRs were above average.
MI spends more on secret funds, MoD wants to know why
New Delhi, July 17
The Ministry of Defence has objected to a sudden and unusual surge in the use of secret funds by the Army’s Military Intelligence (MI) and sought details from the Service on the funds that are spent on pursuits not exactly military in nature.
Objections relate to spending during the period when relations between the defence ministry and the Army were at an all-time low over then Army Chief Gen VK Singh’s date of birth.
Government sources confirmed that a top Defence Ministry official has asked the MI to explain the nearly 33 per cent increase in spending of secret funds during the financial year ending March 2012 over the previous year.
In terms of figures, the government wants to know how Rs 67 crore was spent under a particular head during the last financial year as compared to an expenditure of Rs 49 crore in 2010-11.
As per laid down norms, secret funds of the MI, like those of other snooping agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing, are not subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
In the case of the Military Intelligence, an internal audit is conducted at a high-level and the file is cleared by the Defence Secretary. The audited report remains secret and is neither tabled in Parliament nor can it be accessed through the Right to Information Act. Funds are allocated under the budget and have to be spent as per the mandate of the agency.
Some weeks ago, the Defence Ministry returned the file to Military Intelligence with objections after perusing through it in order to clear the internal audit report for the expenditure of Rs 67 crore.
Spending of such funds is usually made by formations for intelligence and counter-intelligence operations in areas where the Army in deployed. Objections relate to part of the funds, allegedly not used for the purposes mandated.
“The spending is being examined to see if the mandate of the MI was exceeded in any manner,” well-placed sources said.
As per the practice, the Defence Secretary clears the audited report to complete the process of government overseeing use of slush funds. Unusual spending by the MI of funds with a specific mandate attracted attention of the internal auditors. The issue is expected to lead to some changes in the way the MI spends its money.
Sources said new Army Chief General Bikram Singh has directed all regiments and units to account for every paisa spent and scrupulously follow established accounting norms.
Sources said the ministry is also against the MI’s Technical Support Division whose work came under the scanner after reports of phone-tapping of top Ministry officials surfaced in the media earlier this year. The IB was called by the Ministry to electronically “sweep” the rooms of the Defence Minister and other top officials in the South Block.
Spending surged when the Army Chief’s age row was at its peak
Unusual spending by the MI of funds with a specific mandate attracted the attention of internal auditors
Secret funds of the MI, IB and RAW are not subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General
For the MI, an internal audit is conducted and cleared by the Defence Secretary, but the report remains secret
Officer, gentleman and an upright politician
There cannot be a better candidate than Jaswant Singh for the Vice President’s post. He has a distinguished record as Defence Minister and Member of Parliament. The Armed Forces would be proud if he wins.
Mr Jaswant Singh is a distinguished graduate of the Indian Military Academy batch of December 1957, which was the silver jubilee year of the raising of this outstanding institution. He joined Central India Horse, fought in the 1965 war and then decided to leave because he found it difficult to say ‘sir’ to all his seniors. His passion for horse-riding, horse and cycle polo is still very strong. The six-time Member of Parliament and India’s first former serviceman to hold at various times the Defence, Foreign and Finance portfolios, has now been nominated for the penultimate honour: of contesting the election of Vice President.
Serving soldiers and former servicemen will be happy about it. Someone with a defence background who understands the nuances of national security will represent their cause in the legislature and influence the executive in not delaying decisions that affect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
Gentleman Cadet passing out of the IMA to become young officers are reminded about their future responsibilities and priorities. That the safety, honour and welfare of the country come first and foremost followed by the safety, honour and welfare of the men under their charge. Their own safety and comfort come last always and every time. This is service before self. But is there anyone in the Government responsible and accountable for ensuring the safety, honour and welfare of soldiers and ex-servicemen? Judging from the fact that ex-servicemen were finally forced to return their blood-soaked medals to the President, the ceremonial C-in-C of the Armed Forces in protest for Government not caring for their welfare, obviously not.
Successive Governments have treated ex-servicemen’s problems lightly and the operational needs of the serving even less seriously; except during a brief period when Mr Singh was holding the twin charge of Defence and External Affairs. The bureaucratic firewall between Government and armed forces is inimical to the interests of the services and till it is turned more military-friendly, skewed civil military relations will continue to undermine morale and operational efficiency of the services.
What Mr Jaswant Singh did was to recall his friend and once confidant and junior Defence Minister to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Mr Arun Singh, as adviser on implementing defence reforms recommended by the Group of Ministers following the Kargil Review Committee report. Mr Arun Singh was de facto the Defence Minister in the mid-1980s and he quit only after Bofors. He possesses rare strategic and military insight and expertise as well as the intuition about what is do-able given the firewalls in place. Much of the forward thinking relating to the defence of the country was done by Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Arun Singh, which are reflected in some of the decisions taken by the Naresh Chandra Task Force.
Many of the original ideas emanated from Mr Jaswant Singh’s Defending India, a masterly encapsulation of the deficiencies in Indian strategic and military thought. About the firewall, he says, it is the state itself which is responsible for blunting the sword arm, a thought endorsed by Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta in their book, Arming without Aiming.
India’s Himalayan blunders could have been averted had we not lowered our guard after independence. The British left us with sound political institutions and systems of governance but strategic and military thinking was not passed on. Traditionally defence critiques have arisen following military and operational mishaps and not as part of any institutionalised defence and security review. Barring the 1971 military success over Pakistan, which eventually became a case of battlefield victory turned into political defeat, the record is one of self-inflicted lapses. The premature acceptance in 1948 of a cease fire in Jammu & Kashmir, the Himalayan blunder of not using the Air Force in 1962, the strategic folly of returning Haji Pir Pass to Pakistan in 1965, the mindless storming of Golden Temple in 1984, the ill-managed expeditionary force to Sri Lanka in 1987 and the kid-glove handling of Gen VK Singh will all figure in the hall of foul-ups.
Unfortunately no lessons are imbibed as the reports lie closeted in Government safes because we are afraid to confront our mistakes.
Similarly on the welfare side, the one-rank-one-pension issue has demonstrated through the ex-servicemen movement that even the most obedient and disciplined can lose their cool. The Sixth Pay Commission had created four classes within a class and this had led to the anomaly of a Brigadier getting more pension than a Major General, sending several flag officers to court.
The Government has finally appointed a high level committee for OROP which is to submit a final report on August 8 to preempt a threatened nation-wide protest movement by ex-servicemen if the Government does not accept OROP by 15 August. It is high time the Government took notice of the 1.4 lakh serving and the 23 lakh retired military personnel; if you include families, the figure swells to 1.5 crore. Members of the Armed Forces must vote for the government which takes defence of the realm as an institutional responsibility and ensures they get the wherewithal to meet the security challenges and are cared for after service.
Recently, in the Rajya Sabha, we saw the first ever comprehensive discussion on defence preparedness following Gen VK Singh’s revelations. This is a good augury. Through a Private Member’s Bill Mr Jaswant Singh had given notice for discussion in the Lok Sabha too but it was not taken up.
Besides his rich Army experience, he has endeared himself to the Indian-origin Gorkhas from Darjeeling district who chose him to represent their cause in Parliament. Nearly 40 per cent of the Gorkhas in the Indian Army are Indian citizens and the bulk comes from Darjeeling and the North-East. Mr Jaswant Singh has played a constructive role in the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha efforts in elevating the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council into a Gorkhaland Autonomous Authority with enhanced powers. Jaswant now speaks Gorkhali. He has already inaugurated a martyrs’ memorial in Darjeeling and given GJM leaders, Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri, sound strategic advice on how to conduct future campaigns.
The Government requires institutionalised capacity to think through the strategic path a rising India needs to take. Mr Jaswant Singh’s elevation to Vice President would be an asset to the Rajya Sabha and an honour for the Armed Forces, adding strategic and intellectual inputs for defending India.
Referring to India’s “serial imports” in military hardware, an article in the CPM weekly People’s Democracy asks that the government issue a white paper on the current status and self-reliant capability of defence PSUs and other defence research and manufacturing entities, focusing not on the financial health of these entities, but on analysing the capabilities for autonomous development. It says that the gap in defence capability underlined by the previous army chief’s letter to the prime minister has provided an “additional fillip” to the foreign acquisition spree and has spurred a campaign to “undermine” defence PSUs.
On the recent orders placed for 75 Swiss-made Pilatus P-7 propeller-driven basic trainers for over Rs 3,000 crore, which it calls “most shocking”, the article states: “In all the roughly four decades since the development of the HPT-32, used not only by the Air Force but by flying clubs and other civilian establishments for training rookie pilots, could not the HAL and the department of defence production, or any other aeronautical establishment, conceive and execute a plan to develop the next generation of basic trainers, one of the simplest of aircraft? If HAL or ADE or DRDO were not delivering the goods, what was the department of defence production, with a separate minister of state, doing? And what was the defence minister doing, presiding over this vast empire? Or the scientific advisor to the defence minister? Or, indeed, the cabinet as a whole?”
Contemplating how far behind India now lags in autonomous technological capability, the article states that the current state of affairs marks a colossal failure “not only of the defence industry, but also of the political leadership and the civilian bureaucracy”.
Editorials in the CPM and CPI journals — People’s Democracy and New Age, respectively — target Home Minister P. Chidambaram for his purported ice-cream remarks, notwithstanding his denial and subsequent correction by news organisations. In its editorial, New Age criticises the UPA government on the issues of price rise and the tackling of the Naxal problem. “(The) UPA 2 government that earlier tried to justify price rise as a worldwide phenomenon now treats it as index of development,” states the editorial. While the home minister has been under attack from the Opposition for actively pursuing cases involving Sangh Parivar activists in bomb blasts at Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express and the Ajmer Dargah, the editorial alleges that these cases are “being diluted”. “All sorts of stories, involving even military intelligence, are being planted to create confusion and provide (an) alibi to the Hindutva brigade to come out of embarrassment [sic],” it alleges, while demanding the home minister’s removal.
Recalling the Bathani Tola massacre on its 16th anniversary, CPI(ML) weekly ML Update targets the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar. “Contrary to the claims of the Nitish government and its apologists, feudal and casteist violence are in no way a thing of the past in Bihar. This is underlined by the way supporters of Barmeshwar Singh vented their fury on the day of his killing by arson and attacks on Dalit hostels in Ara, with the collusion and inaction of the police and administration,” it says. Citing data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, the article claims that crimes against Dalits have risen under the Nitish Kumar regime. “Not only are atrocities against Dalits on the rise in Bihar, Bihar’s rate of chargesheeting cases and conviction are also the worst in the country. Bihar’s rate of chargesheeting cases under the atrocities act stands at 82.2 per cent, below the national average of 90.7 per cent.”
SL top military officers cut short India visit
Two senior Sri Lankan defence officials today left here cutting short their visit to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, India in the wake of protests by political parties in Tamil Nadu against imparting training to them by India.
Major General Jagath Diaz of the Sri Lankan Army and Rear Admiral S Ranasinghe of the Lankan Navy left the hotel where they were staying in Coonoor near Wellington at around 5.45 am and reached here by road escorted by police, a senior police official said.
The two Sri Lankan officials left the city by a special aircraft, the official said. Police and Defence sources, however, refused to reveal their destination.
They had come to Wellington in neighbouring Nilgiris district after undergoing training at the National Defence Academy, New Delhi.
Their departure comes a day after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and key UPA ally DMK President M Karunanidhi demanded that the two officers be sent back, saying imparting of training to Sri Lankan defence personnel by India hurt the sentiments of Tamils.
The two officials, part of a 25-member delegation comprising representatives of 10 countries, were at the Wellington college to attend a two-day seminar, which is to conclude today.
This is the second incident in recent days when Sri Lankan defence personnel were forced to leave Tamil Nadu in the wake of protests by the political parties.
Eight Sri Lankan airforce men, undergoing training at the IAF base near Chennai, were shifted to Bangalore after Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi and others demanded they be sent back.(Outlook India)
300 militants active in Kashmir, 600 waiting to sneak in: Army
The Indian Army on Tuesday said there was an increase in the number of active militants in Jammu and Kashmir, pegging the militant number at around 280-300, more than 100% jump from the figure of 119 in 2011.
It said more militants will be pushed into the valley with terror
infrastructure intact in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Pakistan.
"Still 280-300 militants are active in Kashmir. Though militancy related incidents are taking place, but the overall situation is stable," said 15 Corps General Officer Commanding Lt General Om Prakash in Srinagar.
Prakash, who took over charge of strategic 15 Corps from Lt General Ata Muhammad Hasnain recently said the militant infrastructure in PoK and Pakistan is still in place.
"Our inputs suggest here are 550-600 militants waiting at launching pads in PoK. The mentors of militants are carrying out regular reconnaissance from forward posts, looking for opportunities so that militant could be sneaked into the Valley," he said.
Claiming alert troops were minimized infiltration, Prakash said, "The army has able to bring down the level of infiltration, but, cannot be stopped completely due to the tough terrain."
The army officer, however, said compared to year 2000, militancy has come down.
"In 2000, security forces had gunned down two thousand militants in one year alone.
Prakash said the security forces have killed many Lashkar militants.
"In absence of foreign cadres, the Lashkar militants are trying to exploit local youth. The security agencies are keeping close watch on the missing youth," he said.
On recent attacks in south Kashmir, Prakash said the army had curtailed its operations in south after improvement in the situation.
"There are people who try to fill the vacuum created by the army in south Kashmir and started attacking the soldiers and other security forces," he said.
He claimed the police have identified the militant modules responsible for the attack in Pampore and Kulgam in south Kashmir.