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Friday, 26 October 2012

From Today's Papers - 26 Oct 2012
Cabinet clears Rs 1,200-crore anti-tank missiles for Army

New Delhi, October 25
A Rs 1,200-crore proposal for procuring 10,000 anti-tank guided missiles for the Army from Russia was cleared today by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

The CCS cleared the proposal to acquire Russian-origin 10,000 Konkurs-M anti-tank guided missiles for the Mechanised Infantry and Infantry battalions of the Army, sources said. The Konkurs-M are part of the weapon systems being procured by the force to augment the anti-tank arsenal in the Army, they said. The CCS had last week cleared the purchase of 25,000 Invar missiles for the T-90 tank fleet under a Rs 2,000 crore proposal. — PTI
Lankan Defence Secretary meets Antony, Menon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 25
In a step towards enhancing ties, Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa met with top officials of India’s security and defence establishment today.

The visiting Defence Secretary held discussions with National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma. He also called on Defence Minister AK Antony.

India has shown its intent to have Sri Lanka on its side despite protests from Tamil Nadu-based political parties.

The Lankans have shown enough tilt towards China and Pakistan and it was about time to correct that, said sources. India’s interests include setting up a chain of coastal radars in Sri Lanka to provide real-time information for faster action to prevent sea-borne attacks like the one on Mumbai in November 2008. China has spread its influence in the island nation by building strategic ports and power plants.

The Lankan Defence Secretary’s visit follows the visit by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during September.
Suicides in the military
An area of much concern for the country
by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)

Of late, suicides in the military have been highlighted by the national Press, and the issue also came up for discussion in Parliament. The yearly average of suicides in the Indian Army is around 100. Some may argue that in an army of 1.2 million, that figure is not alarming. For the military, the life of every soldier is valuable and needs to be protected. There are some very complex reasons for these suicides and it is not possible to compartmentalise these into any set pattern or causes.

The officer whom I relieved on the divisional staff had a bright career and had been cleared for promotion to the rank of a brigadier. A day after handing over charge to me, he shot himself. He had realised that the medical board would block his promotion. The Deputy Commander of a brigade shot himself because some female had intruded into his married life. A soldier’s wife in my unit, for no apparent reason, suffered from fits of depression and the psychologist could not help her. She took her own life. In each of these cases, their depression had taken them to a point of no return, and the cause in each case was vastly different.

The Indian soldier’s woes have increased manifold. A number of wars and low-intensity operations in Sri Lanka and Kargil, and combating unending insurgencies have been his bane. The death of a close friend in these operations led to depression in some cases. Added to these are the repeated postings to high altitude and uncongenial areas, where one experiences persistent feeling of isolation and loneliness, and is haunted by possible sickness and the impossibility of air evacuation due to persistent bad weather in such areas. Postings in peace stations are burdened with overwork with little rest.

A soldier throughout his service, at best, gets no more than two years to live with his family. The break-up of the joint family system has left separated families to fend for themselves. Problems of living alone, raising children, their education and all the connected problems which get transmitted to the husband via the mobile phone, on an almost daily basis, add to the soldier’s anxieties and stresses. The Indian Army soldier is haunted by the prospect of retirement at an early age of 35/37 years, and the consequent financial problems thereafter. So, by and large, a soldier’s life in the Indian Army is stressful and often depressing.

Units with high standards of discipline, good morale and esprit de corps, with good and caring officers, are less likely to face suicide cases. Good leadership coupled with feelings by each soldier that he forms a useful member of the unit and his efforts are recognised and appreciated reduce the chances of depression among soldiers, who could otherwise be more susceptible to this malady. Efficient administration in the unit such as timely grant of leave, ensuring that soldiers get their rightful emoluments and periodic enhancement of their professional skills add to their well-being and contentment. All this reduces stress and anxiety which could be precursors to depression.

Some units adopt a system of early detection of cases of stress and anxiety through the “buddy system” and arrange counselling. As an immediate help at the unit level, a certain number of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) are given basic training in counselling.

The incidence of suicides in the American army is one a day and the percentage of officers in these cases has been higher than in India. The Pentagon sets aside $2 billion for mental health of troops, and the authorities have been trying hard to combat the problem of suicides. General Peter Chiarelli, who recently retired as Deputy Chief of American army, feels that these funds are inadequate. Suicide prevention programmes in the US army do not appear to make much headway. In the American army, there are cases of officers, including some doctors, ending their life though they never served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and had a bright career, happy married life with bright children and no visible scars.

Such is the complexity and, perhaps, paradox of the working of the human mind and its susceptibility to depression and consequent suicides. The state of helplessness in combating this problem is best expressed by Leon Panetta, US Secretary of Defence, in these words, “This issue of suicides is perhaps the most frustrating challenge that I have come across.”

On the other hand, India’s Defence Minister seems to have found a simplistic remedy in liberal leave and good living conditions for soldiers. He has asked the Defence Secretary and the three Vice-Chiefs of the services to go into the issue of suicides. Predictably, this could be followed by constituting a “Group of Secretaries”, (the government’s ultimate solution for any complicated issue) to go into the issue and put up recommendations. This could possibly point to creating a “Department of Prevention of Suicides in the Military”, with an IAS officer as its full-time secretary! But these are perfunctory steps which have become a norm with the government.

Years ago the recruitment pattern was changed. The vacancies filled from the traditional classes who had been providing manpower for the army were shifted to the overall population spread in the country, and the recruitment came to be based on recruitable male population of a province. It may be valuable to determine if this recruitment pattern had added to the suicide cases. It is only a detailed analysis of personal data that a workable solution can be evolved. It is a problem that the army cannot just shoot it down or run a tank over it!

It would be pertinent to look into the enrolment standards. Military service has been rendered so unattractive that, for the present, it is the last choice for those who seek government employment. Military service is not just another avenue for employment for the unemployed. It is a well-acknowledged fact that soldiering is not everyone’s cup of tea. It may be worthwhile to introduce some elementary psychological tests for those seeking to join the military service as soldiers. Comprehensive tests on these lines are already conducted by the Services Selection Boards for those seeking entry into the officer cadre.
China appoints new Army Chief ahead of key Party Congress
Beijing: Amidst looming national leadership transition and escalating tensions with Japan, China on Thursday appointed a new army Chief of Staff along with several other top officers, sidelining generals associated with disgraced Communist Party leader Bo Xilai.

Gen Fang Fenghui, who was one of the few military commanders regarded as close to President Hu Jintao has been appointed as the Chief of the Headquarters of the General Staff of the 2.3 million strong People's Liberation Army, (PLA). He succeeds Gen Chen Bingde.

Gen Fang was the Commander of the Beijing Military Region.
and appointed to various key Commands.

Liu Yuan, the Political Commissar of the General Logistics Departments, and Gen Zhang Haiyang, the head of the political department of the Second Artillery Division, who were reportedly associated with Bo in the past were sidelined.

Bo is currently awaiting trial for various charges against him.

Informed sources said besides the Army Chief, many Commanders who got top posts in today's reshuffle were one way or the other associated with Hu.

This raises speculation that the outgoing President not only got his way in getting his men appointed to key slots of the military, he may also continue to be the Chairman of the all-powerful Military Commission, which governs the defence structure in China.

In many ways Hu is looking to follow his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who after relinquishing the Presidency continued to be Chairman of the Military Commission for two years before handing over the baton to Hu.

Analysts say that Hu too is expected to do the same.

The new appointments came ahead of the key Congress of the ruling Communist Party which will be held on November 8 to select new leaders.

The appointments were made on Thursday amid China's rising tensions with Japan over the disputed islands.|head
India’s $2B Border Solution: Satellites, Gear and Sensors

NEW DELHI — India plans to build a Border Space Command as part of a larger effort to manage the country’s more than 15,000-kilometer border with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, according to an Indian Defence Ministry source.

After concluding that fencing, unattended ground sensors and other gadgets are not sufficient to monitor the country’s porous border, the Indian Home Ministry will build advanced structures that use satellites to manage the border, the MoD source said. The Home Ministry finalized the plan this month to spend more than $2 billion in the next five years on the command.

The Home Ministry plans to send “expressions of interest” to overseas companies for advanced solutions, the source said. The ministry will also assess available worldwide technologies to create a blueprint for the plan, which will include acquiring a dedicated Home Ministry satellite, and setting up ground structures with advanced sensors, fences and electronic equipment linked to command structures.

The ministry decided to beef up border security after Indian authorities discovered a 400-meter-long tunnel from Pakistan into India on July 28. The tunnel, in the Samba district, was detected after rains forced a straight-line cave-in near border fencing.

“Satellites can play an important role for management of borders in varied forms. Continuous surveillance is key to border management. Satellites can provide [that], in addition [to] terrain mapping, communications with remote locations and transponders,” said Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

The Border Space Command plan will include construction of more than 500 border posts along the frontiers with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The government will also purchase electronic surveillance equipment, such as night-vision devices, handheld thermal imagers, battlefield surveillance radars, direction finders, unattended ground sensors and high-powered telescopes.

India mainly uses fences and unattended ground sensors along sections of the 15,000-kilometer border. However, the fences are not foolproof, and the sensors have not responded on several occasions, said a source in the border paramilitary force.

This year, India sent a team to Israel to learn from that country’s experience in erecting the security barrier along the West Bank and Gaza Strip and to assess technologies New Delhi could use, an official from the Home Ministry said.

India launched its fencing project in 1986, and only 40 percent of the border is fenced, the paramilitary source said.

Managing the border is important for not only maintaining the security of the country, but also reducing the workload of the Indian Army, which is fighting a low-intensity war with terrorists and insurgents, an Army official said. The Army must devote its time exclusively to preparing to fight a future war with Pakistan and China simultaneously, rather than getting bogged down in border skirmishes, the official said.
Army items procured in non-transparent manner: audit report
 An internal audit report of the Defence Ministry has detected that army commanders have spent money on procuring imported items from agents in a "non-transparent manner" in "violation" of defence procurement procedures.

The 118-page audit report has also found that many security-sensitive equipment such as bullet proof jackets, night vision devices and parachutes by the Northern Army Commander between 2009-2011 from "unlisted and unregistered" vendors.

"A large number of stores in quite substantial quantities have been purchased, from intermediaries acting as trading outfits for importing the product from some foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) vendors in a non transparent manner, in violation of provisions of defence procurement manual," the report said.
"Under the cover of open tender enquiry, a large number of trading outfits effectively acting as agents in a disguised form, have been able to grab orders for various stores and equipment," it added.

The audit report has detected a loss of Rs 100 crore incurred by the army commanders while using their Special Financial Powers up to Rs 125 crore for procuring equipment on an urgent basis for the troops under them.

The audit observed that the army commanders have gone ahead to procure equipment which was available with the force and in some case, they have done so even when surplus inventory was available in the central pool.

It said certain equipment having "serious security implications" such as bullet proof jackets, IED detection devices and binoculars, Army Headquarters' MGO branch did not give any categorical advise to Command headquarters about the quantity rates and sources for supply of these item.

"Despite the serious security implications, the security sensitive items were procured by the Command headquarters, subsequently from firms which were not registered either with Command or with the DGQA or any other organisation in the defence system," it observed.
CCS clears 10,000 Russian anti-tank missiles for Indian Army
A Rs1,200 crore proposal for procuring 10,000 anti-tank guided missiles for the Army from Russia was cleared today by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

The CCS cleared the proposal to acquire Russian-origin 10,000 Konkurs-M anti-tank guided missiles for the Mechanised Infantry and Infantry battalions of the Army, sources told PTI here.

The Konkurs-M are part of the weapon systems being procured by the force to augment the anti-tank arsenal in the Army, they said.

The CCS had last week cleared the purchase of 25,000 Invar missiles for the T-90 tank fleet under a Rs 2,000 crore proposal.

The Konkurs are part of the anti-tank weapon family of the force which includes the Milan anti-tank guided missiles which India has been buying from France and also license-producing it at the Bharat Dynamics Limited facilities here.

Soon after the Mumbai terror attack in 2008, there were reports suggesting that the Army was facing a severe shortage of tank ammunition as well as anti-tank weapons.

Former Army Chief Gen V K Singh had also written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighting a critical shortage of tank ammunition and obsolescence of the air defence weaponry.

Soon after the letter was received, Defence Minister A K Antony held several rounds of meetings with top Ministry brass and military officials and since then has taken steps to ease the shortfall.
Indian Army loses battle for firing range on Pakistan border
The Indian Army’s plans for a manoeuvring training range close to the Pakistan border in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, has received a setback. A high-level committee comprising officials of the defence and petroleum ministries, set up to resolve the contentious issue, has rejected the army’s request for land in the area for it.

The petroleum ministry has opposed the army’s proposal despite assurances by the latter that its military training programmes will not affect oil and gas exploration work.

Many blocks in the said region have been allotted to M/s Focus Energy Ltd, ONGC and other oil companies for exploration purpose and the petroleum ministry feels that the army’s project cannot co-exist with this work. Not losing hope, the army raised the issue with senior officials of the defence ministry at the army Commanders Conference held in New Delhi last week.

“We have communicated our stand to the top brass of the ministry of defence to take up the issue with the ministry of petroleum and natural gas,” a senior army officer said.

Defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar refused to comment on the issue despite a detailed questionnaire sent to him by DNA. Rajasthan principal secretary (mines and petroleum) has proposed that an alternative site be considered for the army’s training range, and highlighted the need and feasibility for both the army and Focus Energy to co-exist.

Since Operation Vijay and Operation Parakram, the army has been pushing hard to acquire around 1.88 lakh hectares of land at Shahgarh Bulge, barely 10 km from the Line of Control. The project which has “in principle” approval of the defence ministry, has been hanging in the balance after reserves of oil and gas were found in the same area.

“It is recommended that formal acquisition of the land be undertaken immediately after exploration is complete and specific areas required be earmarked by the end of 2013. The ministry of petroleum, oil and natural gas be asked to indicate a firm date for the same to enable pre-acquisition formalities to be undertaken in a timely manner and to ensure that this period is not unduly extended,” the committee observed. The committee has not been able to arrive at a unanimous view on co-existence of the army range and oil exploration company.

The army is already facing acute shortage of field ranges and has taken up the matter with several civil authorities. About 10 years ago, the army had 104 ranges across the country but the number has come down to 66 including 12 acquired and 54 notified ranges. Thirty-eight field firing ranges have been taken away from the army and re-notified in this period, the army claims.

Oil vs Army

    Army says its military training programmes will not affect oil and gas exploration work, but petroleum ministry has opposed its proposal
    Many blocks in the said region have been allotted to M/s Focus Energy Ltd, ONGC and other oil companies for exploration purpose
    Rajasthan principal secretary (mines and petroleum) has proposed that an alternative site be considered for the army’s training range
    About 10 years ago, the army had 104 ranges across the country but the number has come down to 66

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