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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 22 Jan 2013



Situation along LoC better now: Khurshid

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, January 21

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today said the situation along the border with Pakistan was a lot better than what it was earlier this month but indicated that India was in no hurry to open negotiations with the neighbouring country over the recent tension.


"I think it is important that we let little time go by so that the dust, as it was, settles. Then in a sensible and calibrated manner we can move forward," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said at a joint press conference with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr here.


On Pakistan Foreign Minister's recent statement offering to hold talks with India at the foreign ministers' level on the recent ceasefire violations, Khurshid said it could not be described as an offer. A suggestion was made on how to move forward and it came through the media. ''We have said that moving away from attempts (by Pakistan) to internationalise the issue to bilateralism is a positive signal.''


The fact was that things were quiet at the LoC after the talks between the DGMOs of the two countries. '' It's a welcome shift...things are moving in the right direction.'' He said India was carefully examining every development in India-Pakistan relations from time to time.


The minister sought to play down some harsh comments made by Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir in recent interviews describing the beheading of an Indian soldier by the Pakistan Army at India's domestic issue and criticising Manmohan Singh's statement that it would not be business-as-usual with Pakistan until it probed the mutilation of Indian jawans.


"We should not react to every statement. I don't think that every statement made in the domestic context should necessarily be treated as the last word," he added.

US & Israel, not Russia, set to dominate biennial aero show

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, January 21

It may be a signal of changing times, if not an indication on India’s defence allies - the US and Israel will dominate the forthcoming aero show, pushing Russia to the third spot.

US and Israeli companies have booked the maximum space at the biennial Aero India that starts in Bangalore on February 6. Russia will occupy the third largest space chunk in the 1.25 lakh sq m show area at the Yelanhaka airbase. It may not be a signal that Russia’s dominance in the Indian defence market has ended, but it surely shows the new players are aggressive in marketing their products.


India and Russia have the upcoming $30-billion deal for the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and multi-role transport aircraft, besides the $4.54-billion deal signed for 71 choppers and 42 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters during December 2012 when Vladimir Putin visited India.


The US will also be the largest participant with 67 companies, followed by France (49), the UK (33), Russia (29), Germany (22) and Israel (18). In the past few years, the US has bagged contracts to supply the C-130-J medium transport plane, the C-17, very heavy lift transporter and the long-range maritime reconnaissance P8-I. On the other hand, Israel has been a major supplier of missiles, ammunition, radar and surveillance equipment.


Addressing a press conference, Secretary, Defence Production, RK Mathur said the ninth edition was expected to be “bigger and better” than the previous ones.


Three aerobatic display teams are expected to be the main attraction at the biennial show.


In 2011, the fight for the $11-billion medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) was to be finalised and some best fighters in the word had dominated the air space. Now with the French Rafale selected as the lowest bidder, it will be the main attraction this time. The American F-16 has also confirmed participation.


The show will see participation by three aerobatic display teams, including the Czech Red Bulls, the ‘Russian Knight’ and the IAF’s ALH Dhruv Sarang helicopter display team.


Asked if China has confirmed its participation, Mathur said, “China has been invited for the show and a formal letter has been sent to them. But we are still awaiting confirmation from them about their participation.” A total of 78 countries would send their representatives to the aero show of which 27 would be showcasing their products at the mega event.

No Suryakiran stunts this year

Tribune News Service


Bangalore January 21

The famed Suryakiran aerobatic team of IAF will not participate in the Aero India show this year. “The Suryakiran team has been disbanded,” said Wing Commander Venu Nambisan, Team Commentator and Administrator of the Suryakiran team, which had been an integral part of all the Aero India aero shows in Bangalore ever since the biennial event was first held in the city in 1996.


The Suryakiran team, consisting of nine aircraft, was dissolved after the Kiran Mk2 aircraft being used by the IAF for the display, was withdrawn from the team to increase the availability of the aircraft for training IAF cadets. Hawks, an Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), were supposed to replace the Kirans for the aerobatics display team. However, this has failed to materialise.

Army to get replacement of Bofors in March

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, January 21

The replacement for the Bofors, the name of Swedish-made artillery gun which caused political turmoil in India during the late 1980s, will be handed over to the Army in March.


Secretary, Defence Production, RK Mathur told reporters today that the trials of the indigenous 155 mm guns, which have been conducted in the presence of the Army, were “extremely satisfactory”. The guns will be handed over to the Army for user trial in March.


As of now, the Army has ordered 114 of these 155mm guns of 45 calibre. The Ministry of Defence has already okayed the induction. The gun is based on the existing AB Bofors design for which Gun Carriage Factory holds the Transfer of Technology (ToT) licence from the AB Bofors.


This will be the first time in 25 years that the Indian Army will get new artillery gun. Attempt to procure new guns earlier failed to materialise in the backdrop of the Bofors scandal.


The tests for the gun have been conducted in extreme climatic conditions in the Himalayas. A summer trial was conducted in May at Pokhran in temperatures exceeding 50°C. The last series of trials were conducted at Balasore in Orissa last year in December at a technology intensive range.


Defence Minister AK Antony has set a target of inducting the gun in 2013.


The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has been tasked with manufacturing 155mm Howitzers. Under the project, the OFB will manufacture two prototypes of 155mm 39 calibre FH-77-B02 guns (the technical name for Bofors) and the upgraded version of 155 mm 45 calibre Howitzers.


The decision to allow the OFB to manufacture these guns was taken after the Army failed in more than five attempts to modernise its artillery.


As part of its artillery modernisation plan, the Army plans to purchase 400 Howitzers that can be towed away along with 180 self-propelled ones and 145 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH).



Trials conducted


The tests for the gun have been conducted in extreme climatic conditions in the Himalayas


A summer trial was conducted in May at Pokhran in temperatures exceeding 50°C


The last series of trials were conducted at Balasore in Orissa last year in December


Secretary, Defence Production, said the trials of the indigenous 155 mm guns were extremely satisfactory

Kashmir and Pak-India relations



The first two weeks of the New Year saw the worst spike of violence in the Kashmir region, since Pakistan declared a unilateral ceasefire in 2003. The recent report by The Hindu indicates: “An Indian army unit had started building observation bunkers along the LoC; ceasefire agreement of 2003 bars such construction, but Indian commanders argued that the bunkers face outwards and posed no threat to Pakistan, Indians refused to stop the work; as the construction continued, Pakistani troops started shelling across the LoC, the Indian troops fired in retaliation. Such tit-for-tat exchanges persisted for weeks slowly degenerating into death of soldiers on both sides.”Pakistan says three of its soldiers have been killed in firing by the Indian troops since January 6. India, in turn, has accused Pakistani troops of killing two of its soldiers on January 8, and blamed that one dead body was mutilated. Pakistan has denied the responsibility for the attack as well as the allegation of mutilation, and has proposed an inquiry by a third party. Against this backdrop, various tiers of the Indian leadership resorted to an increasingly harsh tone towards Pakistan. In his first public reaction to the flare-up, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned that there “cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan. Speaking to reporters at a ceremony to mark India’s Army Day, he termed the killings, on January 8, a “barbaric act”. He said: “What has happened is unacceptable…….Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book.” The Indian Army Chief, General Bikram Singh, also threatened to retaliate. He said that he had directed his military commanders to be “aggressive” in the face of provocations. In the same vein, India’s Chief Military Commander in Kashmir cranked up pressure on Pakistan, saying that flag officers meeting aimed at calming tensions was fruitless. The Indian Air Force Chief, Air Marshal N.A.K. Browne, threatened “to look for some other options” to secure Pakistan’s compliance with the ceasefire. Defence Minister A.K. Antony described Pakistan’s conduct as a “turning point”. Pakistan, however,  sought to lower the temperature by opting not to react to some of the hostile statements made by the Indian leaders, including their Army Chief. Nevertheless, India must be apportioned much of the share of the blame for deteriorating bilateral relations. However, there were saner voices as well that cautioned against “jingoism”. The Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister, Manish Tewari, said: “Professional armies’ respect rules of engagement…….transgressions are surmounted through tactical responses and not driven by jingoism.” He added that the mappings of tactical responses were best left to “professionals” in an apparent disapproval of the Indian opposition’s strong military advice on the issue. Some commentators have accused PM Manmohan and his government of “caving in” to hardliners. “Over the past few days, as an increasingly jingoistic clamour has been worked up in television studios and outside, the government has passed up every opportunity to underline the imperative of keeping the bilateral dialogue process separate,” opined an editorial in the Indian Express.Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar rightly warned against “upping the ante” between the two countries. “We see warmongering,” Khar said at the Asia Society session in New York. “It is deeply disturbing to hear statements that are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement…….The doors to dialogue are open…….We need to meet at any level, I think we need to call each other, we need to become mature countries, which know how to handle their truth.” Khar denied the Indian accusations that Pakistani forces had beheaded one of two soldiers that India says were killed. She said an inquiry had found “no evidence” of the deaths. She also proposed a meeting with her Indian counterpart to recommit to the ceasefire. Whereas, Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said: “We will await the Prime Minister’s direction in this regard…….India was hopeful that Pakistan had understood the ‘strong message’ of the Prime Minister…….Talks have not frozen between India and Pakistan.” Meanwhile, at the professional level, the two armies have successfully defused the tensions following the talks between the Director General Military Operations (DGMOs) from the both sides. Spokesperson for the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said: “Both sides agreed on the need to reduce tension on the LoC.” Likewise, the Indian army also confirmed the development. “An understanding has been arrived at between the two DGMOs to de-escalate the situation along the LoC,” India’s army spokesperson Jagdeep Dahiya said. He added that Pakistan’s DGMO Major General Ashfaq Nadeem said strict instructions had been passed not to violate the ceasefire. Dahiya pledged that Indian troops stationed along the LoC would also not breach the ceasefire forged between the two countries in 2003. “No fresh incidents of firing or violation of the ceasefire agreement have been reported from the LoC,” Rajesh Kalia, the spokesman for the Indian army’s northern command told the media.The reaction to the event indicates how fragile the peace overtures between Pakistan and India are; it has also demonstrated the relevance of resolving the Kashmir dispute to the maintenance of durable peace between the two countries. Experience has it that though bilateral initiatives could lead to substantial progress, these processes are often liable to instant unravelling. India and Pakistan have recently made significant progress in engaging each other on important issues such as the Siachen glacier and Sir Creek, improving trade and economic relations, developing energy sector cooperation, and greatly liberalising visa regimes. Sports and cultural exchanges had just begun to create confidence in the viability of peaceful co-existence. Against this backdrop, the LoC clashes could not have come at a worse time. The facts surrounding the deaths of Indian soldiers are still disputed and New Delhi’s initial claim that one of them was beheaded now seems to be incorrect. Yet, elements in the Indian government and media displayed anti-Pakistan sentiment to such an extent that a souring in relations was inevitable. Hockey players and artists visiting India were sent back in a hurry, as if war had started. The operationalisation of the much touted visa regime for senior citizens has been withheld on flimsy grounds and Pakistani women cricketers visit to play for the World Cup in India is in doldrums.This is a moment for sobriety,  prudence and statesmanship, not frenzied responses and the beating of war drums. India’s response to this trivial incident has, indeed, been erratic. It should muster the political will to settle the Kashmir dispute in line with the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In the presence of this tipping point, the outcome of efforts towards durable peace between the two countries would remain questionable.


The writer is a retired air commodore and former assistant chief of air staff of the Pakistan Air Force. At present, he is a member of the visiting faculty at the PAF Air War College, Naval War College and Quaid-i-Azam

Antony heads for Myanmar to bolster defence cooperation

NEW DELHI: Defence minister A K Antony left for Myanmar on Monday to bolster bilateral defence cooperation, ranging from better border management to "capacity-building" of the Myanmarese armed forces, as part of the larger strategy to stem China's growing footprint in the region.


Myanmar's importance for India can be gauged from the fact that Antony's visit comes shortly after foreign minister Salman Khurshid and Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, in his capacity as the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, visited the country in November-December.


Accompanying Antony on the two-day visit are defence secretary Shashikant Sharma, Eastern Army Command chief Lt-General Dalbir Singh Suhag and Navy vice-chief Vice-Admiral R K Dhowan, among others. "Both sides will also discuss modalities for improving mechanisms for patrolling along land and maritime boundaries in order to curb activities of insurgent groups," said an official.

Indian Army rule in Mumbai Marathon

The country’s armymen completed a clean sweep in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon’s full marathon (Indians) yesterday with Lyngkhoi Binning (2:21:51), Ashish Singh (2:23:05) and Elam Singh (2:23:09) finishing first, second and third respectively.

However, army’s distance running chief coach KS Matthew was not a very happy man. Matthew explained: “We have some very good, young distance runners at an ongoing training camp in Bambolim, Goa, but were unable to bring them here as they are preparing for next month’s nationals to be held in Delhi. While events like the SCMM bring in money, doing well at the nationals earns the soldiers promotions. While the winner’s prize money at the SCMM is around Rs 4,00,000, a promotion earns a soldier a salary hike of Rs 5000-6000 per month.


Job security


“And keeping the long-term job security in mind, soldiers prefer the latter. Besides, there is fierce rivalry between the Services and other teams like the Railways and oil and gas companies at the nationals and success here can transform a soldier’s life. On the other hand, even if a soldier wins an event like the Mumbai Marathon, his promotion is not guaranteed.”


SCMM 2012’s defending champion and Olympian Ram Singh Yadav is a standout example of this. Ram Singh not only won last year’s edition of the Mumbai race in a record time of 2:16:59s, but also qualified for the London Olympics therein and became only the second armyman after Shivnath Singh (1976, Montreal) to qualify for the Olympic marathon. He however, remains a hawaldar till date.


“Ram Singh may become JCO (junior commissioned officer) in a few months but that promotion is through his tenure and not necessarily through his achievements,” added Matthew, who also informed that Ram Singh, who skipped the Mumbai race due to army commitments in Delhi, will be participating in the nationals next month. Ram Singh’s absence in fact, also affected the timings of the Indian winners.


Missed Ram Singh


“Had Ram Singh been here, he would not only have won the race comfortably, but even the athletes finishing behind him would have had better timings as he would have set the pace for them,” said Matthew.


And right enough, both Binning and Elam were unhappy with their timings. “Being a champion (in 2010 & 2011), I was confident of winning first place, but I expected to finish the race within two hours and 18 minutes and break the course record. “Had Ram Singh been there I would have been able to do that as we practise together at the Army Sports Institute (Pune),” said Binning who took home Rs 4,50,000 for his effort. Elam added: “The result would have been different if he (Ram Singh) was here.”


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