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Thursday, 24 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 24 Jan 2013




Gorshkov fixed, awaits final delivery trials

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, January 23

Four months after a snag had hit the Russia-built sea-borne aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, the damaged parts have been replaced and the ship now awaits snow-melt in the northern parts of Russia to re-commence final delivery acceptance trials in May-June.


The warship, rechristened INS Vikramaditya, was scheduled to be handed over India in December 2012. Now the delivery deadline has been re-scheduled for the last quarter of 2013.


Well placed sources in the Navy informed today that the insulation system of all eight boilers on board the 44,550-tonne behemoth have been replaced with new ones. Three of the boilers had malfunctioned due to faulty insulation during sea trials in August-September 2012.


Once the ship came ashore, the boilers were inspected. The fire-brick lining located on the inside of the insulation had come off. The “fire-brick” is a special ceramic which helps maintain optimum temperature in the boilers. Gaps can show wrong engine pressures and speeds, besides being hazardous.


An official confirmed that the entire insulation was ripped off and new one installed.


As off now, the ship is getting a final coat of anti-rust paint on the portion that will remain submerged.


The boilers on board the ship power four engine shafts. The 500-member Indian Navy team on board Admiral Gorshkov had reported to the Naval headquarters the problem with the warship’s boilers, especially when it hit top speeds nearing 30 knots (around 55 kmph).


India and Russia had signed a $2.3-billion (Rs 12,650 crore approx as per today’s valuation) contract for refitting the aircraft carrier of the erstwhile Soviet Navy. The first contract was signed in 2004 when no other country was ready to sell such a technology to India.


The malfunction notwithstanding, the warship continued to sail and undergo other trials like the landing and take off of MiG-29K fighters from its deck.


The ship has already completed a 90-day sail and covered 11,000 nautical miles. Other than the boiler insulation showing problems at top speed, there was no other issues, Naval sources confirmed.


In October, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov visited India for the 12th annual meeting of the India-Russia inter-government commission on military technical cooperation where the matter concerning the delay in Gorshkov’s delivery was discussed.


Serdyukov had told the media, “We have given a revised time table. Sea trials shall resume in April next year. We believe the transfer (of the ship) will take place in the fourth quarter of 2013.”

No hasty steps on ties with Pak: Antony

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, January 23

Defence Minister AK Antony, who had taken a tough stand following the beheading of two Indian soldiers, today said there will be no hasty decisions for normalising relations with Pakistan and it was “too early” to do so.


Though tension along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir had “reduced” after talks between the two DGMOs, Antony sounded skeptical that the relations between the two countries will reach the level which existed before the beheading on January 8 too soon.


Talking to reporters on the sidelines of an NCC function, Antony said it was “too early to expect normal relations. We have to wait and watch and assess the ground situation and other factors. Regarding the future course of action and relations in the future, we will not take a hasty decision.”


He buttressed his argument saying infiltration attempts are going on even in extreme winters and wondered “if this is the case now, what will be the position (of infiltration) in summers?”.


“After the latest round of talks between the two DGMOs, the tension at the LoC has reduced but I cannot say or set a timeline for normalising the atmosphere there. It depends on so many factors”, Antony said.


On the situation along the LoC, he said: “Even though Pakistan has assured us certain things, we have to see how this assurance translates into action”.

UN Military Observers’ Group

A fossilised system of monitoring LoC


Pakistan has been trying to act smart ever since its forces killed two Indian soldiers near the Line of Control (LoC) and indulged in the dastardly act of mutilating their bodies, going to the extent of decapitating one of them. This was a clear violation of the Geneva conventions for which Pakistan deserved severe punishment. When Pakistan got cornered, its Foreign Minister, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, came out with the funny idea of investigation of ceasefire violations by a fossil called the United Nations Military Observers’ Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Interestingly, the UNMOGIP was set up to monitor the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir that came into existence in 1949 when the two countries signed an agreement in Karachi. Pakistan’s demand for a probe by the UNMOGIP into violations of the ceasefire accord signed in 2003 is, therefore, totally illogical.


The LoC that existed in 1949 is no longer there. The arrangement of the UNMOGIP also lost its relevance after the signing of the 1972 Simla Agreement. Thus, Pakistan’s attempt at the UN on Tuesday to bring the UNMOGIP again into the picture amounts to ignoring the existing reality. With the signing of the Simla accord, India and Pakistan agreed to resolve all the issues involving the two countries bilaterally. The 1972 agreement acquired special significance after it was ratified by the two countries’ parliaments also. The idea of involving any third agency for settling a dispute or problem between India and Pakistan was buried forever.


The hidden agenda of Pakistan behind its latest attempt is to internationalise the Kashmir issue afresh. Islamabad gives the impression of having this unholy intention despite the fact that the two countries are engaged in a dialogue process for the normalisation of their relations. Pakistan should try to understand the gravity of the situation that has come to be created following the mutilation of the two Indian soldiers’ bodies. India is maintaining restraint with a view to preventing the escalation of the prevailing tension. The cause of peace demands that Pakistan must identify its guilty soldiers and give them exemplary punishment.

Too early to normalize relations with Pakistan: India

NEW DELHI: A day after India declined Pakistan's offer for talks, defence minister AK Antony on Wednesday said the military flare-up along the line of control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir may have eased but it was too early to get back to normal business as usual with Islamabad.


"It's too early to talk about normalizing the relations. We have to wait and watch, assess the ground situation and other factors. Regarding the future course of action and relations in the future, we will not take a hasty decision," said Antony.


Holding that infiltration bids by militants along the 778km LoC were in progress even now during the extreme winter, when many mountain passes are snowed under, the minister said, "If this is the case now, what will be the position (of infiltration) in the summer?"


The situation on the LoC had turned red-hot, with the two armies exchanging heavy fire on a daily basis, after Pakistani Army "regulars" crossed over into the Mendhar sector in J&K and beheaded an Indian soldier and mutilated the body of another on January 8. Indian officials said the Pakistani Army had violated the ceasefire, which had come into force in November 2003, almost 15 times since January 1.


It was finally only on January 16 that the military de-escalation had kicked in after the Pakistani director-general of military operations had told his Indian counterpart that orders had been issued to his troops to firmly uphold the ceasefire.


The diplomatic chill, however, persists. "After the latest round of talks between the two DGMOs, the tension on the LoC has reduced but I cannot say or set a timeline for normalizing the atmosphere ... It depends on so many factors," said Antony.


"We have to cross our fingers and after the tragic and inhuman incident, even though Pakistan has assured us certain things, we have to see how this assurance translates into action," he added.


The Army, on its part, says the infrastructure of terrorism is still "very much intact" across the border, with over 2,500 militants in 43 terror-training camps. Moreover, around 450 terrorists are present on "border launch pads" waiting for an opportunity to sneak into India, with militant outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba working in close conjunction with the Pakistan Army to launch attacks in India.

Mahindra, BAE Review India Defense Joint Venture


NEW DELHI--Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and BAE Systems are reviewing their defense joint venture in India to see if any changes are needed, the two companies said in a joint statement Wednesday.


Mahindra, India's largest maker of sport-utility vehicles by sales, and U.K.-based BAE said that there has been a "significant evolution" in the Indian market for land systems since the establishment of their joint venture in 2009.


The Defence Land Systems India joint venture -- 74%-owned by Mahindra and the rest by BAE -- makes special military vehicles at a facility on the outskirts of New Delhi. The facility was also to be used to make artillery guns for the Indian Army.


"Developments in both the industry environment and in customer procurement frameworks and acquisition strategies have led the shareholders to institute a strategic review of the business," the statement said.


"This review will assess any changes necessary to address the evolving market and to meet emerging customer requirements," it added. "No decision has yet been taken on the way forward."


The two companies didn't elaborate on their plans.


Khutub Hai, chief executive at Mahindra Defence Systems, a division of Mahindra & Mahindra, declined to comment when contacted.


In addition to BAE, Mahindra has a joint venture with U.S.-based Telephonics Corp. a unit of Griffon Corp. to make radar systems in India, and another with U.A.E.-based Arabia Holdings and Ras Al Khaimah Transport Investments LLC to make and sell armoured vehicles in the Middle East and Central Asia as well as in Africa.

Britain to axe up to 5,300 army jobs

The British government today said it was making up to 5,300 army personnel redundant as part of cuts that will see troop numbers brought to the lowest levels since the early 19th century.


The Ministry of Defence said soldiers returning from or heading to Afghanistan would be exempt from the cuts, the third such round under a programme that will see the army reduced from 102,000 regular troops to 82,000 by 2020.


"Today the Army are announcing the fields from which they will select personnel to be made redundant in the third tranche of the programme; this will comprise up to 5,300 Army Personnel," junior defence minister Mark Francois said.


But he insisted: "The redundancy programme will not impact adversely on current operations in Afghanistan."


Britain still has about 9,000 troops in Afghanistan ahead of a scheduled withdrawal in 2014.


The Conservative-led coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron, which is trying to shrink Britain's massive deficit, has already announced that reservist numbers will be doubled to 30,000 by 2018 to help fill the shortfall.


Britain's navy and air force are also shedding 5,000 posts each under the Strategic Defence and Security Review announced in 2010, while the Ministry of Defence is losing 25,000 civilian jobs.


Francois warned that further army redundancies were "likely" along with job cuts among the medical and dental personnel working with the navy and air force.


The latest cuts have raised fresh concerns about Britain's military capacity, a day after Cameron vowed to show "iron resolve" in fighting Islamic terrorism in the wake of the deadly hostage siege at a gas plant in Algeria.


"There are real worries about the military impact of a loss of skills and capability at a time of increased threats and new global challenges," Jim Murphy, defence spokesman for the opposition Labour party, told BBC radio.


Cameron yesterday acknowledged that, "of course, there are always challenges about the level of resources -- even in times when money is plentiful, and it isn't plentiful today."


But he added: "If you look at the defence and security budget, it is actually in cash terms stable at 33 billion pounds.


"What we have tried to do as a government, and perhaps we need to look again and go even further, is to focus on those threats to our security we face today."


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