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Monday, 29 October 2012

From Today's Papers - 29 Oct 2012
US, India, Japan to discuss China, maritime security
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, October 28
Amid increasingly belligerent posturing by Beijing in the South China Sea, India, Japan and the US will hold their third trilateral dialogue here tomorrow to expand cooperation in maritime security and other vital strategic areas

During the talks, the Indian delegation will be led by Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary in-charge of East Asia in the External Affairs Ministry. The US delegation will be led by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake, while Deputy Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kenji Hiramatsu will head the Japanese delegation in the talks.

The three countries, projected as the three leading Pacific democracies, are expected to discuss issues related to maritime security, anti-piracy cooperation and intensified consultations on a cluster of regional issues, including the flux in Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Ahead of the forthcoming East Asia summit in Cambodia, the three sides will be exchanging views on the evolving security architecture in East Asia, which has acquired an added traction in view of increased Chinese assertiveness in the region.

The US is seeking to rope in India as part of its strategy which envisages a more proactive role for New Delhi in the region. Although the three countries have denied that the trilateral was targeted at any third country - an all-too-obvious reference to China - Beijing will be the elephant in the room when officials of the three countries hold the talks.

In the wake of converging interests and deepening relations between India and the US and India and Japan on both economic and political fronts, the idea of an India-Japan-US trilateral dialogue had been gaining traction among elites.

The US feels that India’s participation would strengthen Asia’s regional institutions such as the East Asia Summit (EAS) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). India’s economic and trade ties with the ASEAN are as important as its ties with the US. The US, therefore, feels that free trade and investment that connects India to Southeast and East Asia would have profound impact on global trade and economic growth.

The trilaterals are a forum used by the US to obtain a consensus in small groups of friendly countries. The US-Japan-Australia trilateral has been in existence for five years, while the ones on Afghanistan are beginning to proliferate as the 2014 deadline for the drawdown of western troops from the country draws closer. Interestingly, India has shown interest in a U.S.-China-India dialogue in which trade and investment related issues could be primarily discussed.
Radical talk in Punjab a worry for intelligence agencies
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, October 28
The Central intelligence agencies are worried over the developments in Punjab in the recent months coupled with radical thoughts being spread by foreign-based pro-Khalistan elements. The stance taken by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in allowing a memorial for Operation Bluestar and the subsequent developments has led to suggestions from the top echelons that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will have to take a tough political call.

Sources in the government confirmed to The Tribune that the UPA’s top hierarchy, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, has been apprised about the assessment in Punjab and also the stream of thoughts being perpetuated from abroad through the Internet.

The UPA’s top bosses have been told that some plain speaking is required between the Centre, Punjab and all the agencies controlling the law and order and intelligence gathering agencies. For long, the successive governments at the Centre have considered Badal as a moderate and amenable Sikh leader. Sources said the top brass of the Punjab Police led by DGP Sumedh Saini has been in the forefront of the fight against militancy and is fully capable of curbing any trouble makers.

“As of now there is no need for police action, however, a political call needs to be firmed up in dealing with the statements on the memorial issue,” sources said adding the police realises that it will be first to face the brunt in case of misadventure by the radicals. Besides the UPA, even the BJP, the ruling partner in the state with the Akalis, has expressed its reservation on the memorial.

As of now there is a drift and it has been observed by the agencies that the Union Home Minister share his opinion with Badal on the matter of the memorial and also the fact that several Pakistan-based elements and pro-Khalistan elements based in Europe, Canada, the UK and the US are having a free-for-all on the Internet and spreading their own thoughts. Badal may not be able to counter the net-based propaganda, however, he can ensure the right kind of atmosphere in the state.

New Delhi has sounded off friendly foreign countries about the hatred being spread by radicals. “Thankfully, the European nations are ready to hear India. This is a change since the 1980s and early 1990s when political asylum was being granted to the people from Punjab”.
Pay of seniors getting lesser salary than juniors to be hiked
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 28
Removing certain anomalies in its career progression scheme, the Central government has ordered stepping up of pay of employees in cases where a senior is getting lower emoluments than his junior.

The disparities had arisen between employees who came under the scheme before 2006 and those who got benefits between 2006 and 2008 consequent to the implementation of the Sixth Central Pay Commission (SPC).

Orders issued by the Department of Personnel and Training earlier this month state, “It has been decided to allow stepping up of pay in such cases where the senior, but for the pay revision on account of the SPC, would have continued to draw higher pay”.

A large number of Central government employees will be financially benefited by this order. The employees affected had taken up the matter with the government and the anomalies committee, following which the issue was examined by the Department of Expenditure.

The government’s Assured Career Progression Scheme (ACPS), which granted two financial upgrades on completion of 12 and 24 years of regular service to employees who did not get promotion in the existing grade, was applicable up till August 2008.

It was replaced in September 2008 by the Modified Career Progression Scheme. As the revised pay scales under SPC were applicable with effect from January 2006, those employees who received benefits under ACPS between 2006 to 2008 got financial upgrade in the revised scales. Consequently, senior employees who got benefit under ACPS prior to 1996 began drawing lesser pay than their juniors.

The new order stipulates that for pay to be stepped up under the scheme, the junior and senior employee should belong to the same cadre and the posts in which they have been promoted or upgraded should be identical. Further, the senior employee should have been drawing equal or more pay than the junior before receiving ACPS benefits.
Another World War II bomb found from Mumbai sea
Shiv Kumar/TNS

Mumbai, October 28
A dredger deployed to deepen the seabed off the Gateway of India here discovered a bomb suspected to be dating back to the Second World War, said the police official here today.

The oblong-shaped device measuring three-feet in length was found 6.48 nautical miles from the city, said the police official.

“We have called the naval authorities to investigate and defuse the explosive,” said HG Shinde, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Yellow Gate Police Station, which is responsible for the western coast.

Coast Guard officials, who have been informed about the bomb, said: “The device could weigh at least 50-55 kg and could be one of the biggest bombs dating back to World War II to be discovered off the Mumbai coast.”

It is the second time in more than a year that a bomb dating back to the World War II was being discovered off Mumbai. Last year also a bomb weighing 45 kg was discovered by a dredger which was deployed to deepen the seabed off the Mumbai docks.

According to police, the bomb could be one of many that were scattered in and around the city's docks following the Great Dockyard Explosion of 1944, when a British Warship SS Fort Stikine carrying a cargo of gold, cotton, motor spirits and explosives caught fire.

The resulting blast damaged 28 ships and took more than 700 lives. Gold bars, ammunition and bombs continue to be discovered from the neighbourhood of the docks nearly 70 years later.

Police’s Speculation
The bomb could be one of many that were scattered in and around the city's docks following the Great Dockyard Explosion of 1944, when a British Warship SS Fort Stikine carrying a cargo of gold, cotton, motor spirits and explosives caught fire
Finmeccanica unit denies paying agents to win India contracts
(Reuters) - Finmeccanica reiterated it has always done business in India through official channels, rebutting media reports its helicopter unit had used two agents to secure a contract.

In an emailed statement, AgustaWestland said on Sunday it had never appointed two men named in press reports as agents or intermediaries in its VVIP helicopter programme.

In India companies are not allowed to use agents in contracts of this nature.

An Italian anti-corruption probe centering on a 560 million euro Indian helicopter contract (the VVIP programme) has targeted Finmeccanica chairman and chief executive Giuseppe Orsi, who has denied wrongdoing.

The probe, triggered by allegations of an ex-Finmeccanica employee who is himself under investigation, focuses on alleged kickbacks paid to secure an order of 12 helicopters India awarded in 2010.

Meanwhile, a recent report in the Indian Express said an official in the Indian army had asked for a $5 million backhander to help AgustaWestand win another bid for 197 light warfare helicopters.

"AgustaWestland is astonished that the press refers to a memorandum which is unknown, directly or indirectly, to the company and is related to a programme other than the VVIP," the company said, adding it had been excluded from the bid since it had not met tender requirements.

"AgustaWestland confirms its relations with the Indian Ministry of Defence have always been conducted through the official channel, in line with all applicable rules," it said.

Finmeccanica head Orsi has been steering the loss-making group through a restructuring, but has been weakened by news he was being investigated in the Indian probe.
Army procurement must be subject to stringent oversight
Two recent reports related to procurement and purchases in the army provide cause for serious concern. First, in an internal audit carried out by the Comptroller of Defence Accounts, irregularities were found in 55 transactions under the Special Financial Powers of army commanders. The emergency purchases made by the generals not only led to an estimated financial loss of Rs 100 crore but also compromised security protocols. That the purchases were made in blatant disregard of guidelines, through agents rather than directly from manufacturers, calls for a thorough probe. The breach of protocol is further exemplified by the fact that in some cases the manufacturers were based in India itself.

Read along with the Italian report on the purchase of VVIP helicopters for the Indian Air Force — where three Indians are being probed for their role in the Rs 3,546 crore deal in which bribes to politicians and money laundering have been suspected — the evidence points to a deep-rooted malaise. It is clear that foreign military procurement is often compromised by middlemen and lobbyists. The end result is that the equipment procured is neither up to standards nor value for money. However, while boosting indigenous defence production is a good long-term strategy, Indian defence manufacturing is yet to become cutting edge. In such a scenario, foreign defence procurement must continue but with stringent oversight. This should also apply to generals exercising special financial powers. The army brass ought to be sensitised about financial profligacy and the corresponding loss to the public exchequer. Probity in defence deals must be maintained at all costs.
Despite 657 New Officers, Indian Army Still Faces Big Shortage of Officers
India’s IMA along with US Military Academy, West Point and Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst are three of the best military academies in the world.

India boasts of world’s third largest standing Army behind the Peoples’ Liberation Army of China and the armed forces of the United States. The country is also very proud of its armed forces which have proved their mettle in battle after battle over a period of more than 100 years, and won innumerable laurels and kudos in battlefields across the world. The Dehra Dun-based Indian Military Academy (IMA) is the primary source of providing officer cadre to the Indian Army. Over the past 80 years, IMA has produced more than 51,000 officers for the Indian Army. However, the Indian Army today is facing a gnawing shortage of officers.

The sanctioned strength of officers in the Army is around 46,500. However, according to Defense minister AK Antony, the Indian Army is short of 12500 officers as of 2010. The question before the Indian Military establishment is how to fill up this sizeable gap? The army, which has growing commitments both on its Western and Eastern fronts, has proposed an increase by 16,000 officers in its sanctioned strength. However, it is easier said than done. It takes two to four years to train an officer and the existing infrastructure at IMA is already bursting at its seams and would need to be substantially expanded if the intake of gentlemen cadets is to be increased.

The Indian Military Academy has an expansive complex spread across 1400 lush green acres nestling at the foothills of the Himalayas. At any given time, it trains 1800 cadets. It holds two graduation ceremonies every year in months of June and December called, “Passing out Parades”, each approximately with 550 to 700 commissioned officers. At the Passing out Parade held Saturday last week, 657 new officers joined the ranks of the Indian Army; additionally there were 21 gentlemen cadets from friendly foreign countries who were also trained at the Academy.

IMA Commandant Lt. Gen. Manvender Singh told media persons Friday that IMA had proposed to increase its intake from the present 1800 to 2400 cadets. However, it would need 2000 acres of additional land sufficient to meet the training requirements for a larger number of cadets. He also indicated that the National Defense Academy (NDA) too would be expanded. Incidentally, NDA is the principal inter-service training institution which trains future officers of the Indian Armed Forces. After a strenuous 3-year long training, the army cadets from there are sent to IMA while Navy and Air Force cadets are sent to their respective Naval Academy and Air Force Academy.

The only other training institute is the Officers’ Training School (OTS). It was set up in 1963 in the wake of Chinese aggression of 1962 and its primary task then was to train gentlemen cadets for emergency commission in order to meet the expanded requirements of officers. OTS was renamed as Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) on January 1, 1988 when it completed 25 years of its existence. However, it had started training officers for short service commission much earlier from 1965 onwards.  Later, with the entry of women officers into the army from since September 21, 1992, about 100 lady officers are trained there every year.

The birth of the Indian Military Academy in December 1932 was the culmination of a long and persistent demand by a strong and vocal Indian public opinion for the grant of commission to Indians in the British Indian Army. The first batch of 40 gentlemen cadets fittingly called ‘The Pioneer’ was commissioned in 1934. It included big names like Smith Dun, Mohammad Musa and SHFJ Manekshaw. Dun was to later become the Chief of the Burmese Army and Musa of the Pakistan Army. Manekshaw, as is well known, went on to become a Field Marshal, and led the historic 1971 Indo-Pak war that ended with the creation of Bangladesh. Another distinguished pioneer was MF de Mellow who was to become a legend for his news broadcasts on All India Radio during the World War II and later as a star cricket commentator.

Today, IMA stands along with the United States Military Academy, West Point and the UK’s Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst as three of the best military academies in the world. There is also a good deal of mutual respect and bonhomie amongst these three international military academies.

Indian Military Academy has set up some hoary traditions which successive generations of gentlemen cadets imbibe. The most famous is the Chetwode Credo which instills in every cadet the religious belief “that the safety, honor and welfare of the country would come first always and every time, the honor welfare and comfort of the men you command come next and finally your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

At the Passing out Parade Saturday, there were a large number of parents, who had come from various parts of the country to proudly watch their sons getting commissioned that day into the Indian army. I accosted a farmer from Bihar dressed in a loose shirt and lungi; he wore his pride on his shirt sleeve, and there were tears of joy in his eyes when he told how hard his son studied even when he could not afford to pay for his tuitions etc. There were some siblings too prancing about to celebrate the grant of commission in the Indian army to their brothers. There were proud sisters as well. It was almost like a mini India with parents (and siblings too) coming from various parts of the country to see for themselves what would be a red-letter day in the life of their son.

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