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Thursday, 7 February 2013

From Today's Papers - 07 Feb 2013
Chinese presence at Pak port a matter of concern: Antony

Bangalore, February 6
Pakistan’s decision to hand over the strategic Gwadar port to China is a matter of “serious concern” for India, Defence Minister AK Antony said today.

“Chinese are now constructing that port on Pakistan’s request. In one sentence, I can say that it is a matter of concern to us. My answer is simple and straightforward,” he said at the Aero India press conference here. The minister was responding to a media query if the handing over of Gwadar port in Pakistan to China would make India’s western frontiers more vulnerable.

Gwadar port is located at the apex of the Arabian Sea and the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

It is also only about 400 km away from the Strait of Hormuz, a key global oil supply route. The minister’s remarks in the backdrop of reports in Chinese official media that the port development was not an attempt by the Chinese side to “encircle” India.

Pakistan had recently approved a deal that transferred operational control of Gwadar port from Singapore’s PSA International to Chinese Overseas Port Holdings Limited. — PTI
3 officers, 16 others in dock for fracas in armoured unit
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, February 6
Over two-and-a-half years after an altercation between officers and jawans of an armoured regiment resulted in four young officers being assaulted, disciplinary proceedings in the matter continue to hang fire with the Army ordering recording of a fresh summary of evidence (SoE).

Three officers of the regiment, including the then commanding officer, eight junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and eight other ranks have been attached with an infantry battalion in Amritsar for disciplinary proceedings.

The incident took place in 45 Cavalry on May 29, 2010. A court of inquiry (CoI) headed by Brig AK Thakur, Commander of an artillery brigade, had blamed the commanding officer for ineffective command and not taking effective steps to handle the situation. The two other officers were blamed for ill-treating and beating a jawan which led to the altercation. The jawan was faring poorly during morning PT, resulting in a scuffle between him and an officer. This later led to the situation blowing up.

Based upon the findings of the CoI, a disciplinary action was ordered against the officers and jawans involved, following which the SoE was recorded. The Army ordered a fresh SoE, now underway at Amritsar, after a technical lacuna cropped up over the earlier version.

According to the tentative chargesheet issued last month, the JCOs have been blamed for failing to exercise due command and control over troops who “behaved in an unruly and undisciplined manner” resulting in the use of criminal force by them on two captains and two lieutenants. Other charges of misdemeanour and making false statements before the court of inquiry have also been levelled against some of them.

Of the eight JCOs, five have since retired and Section 123 of the Army Act was invoked to recall them for disciplinary proceedings. Sources said they were being kept under close arrest for the past several months and had moved the Delhi High Court against their detention. The case came up for hearing today and the Army will release them, provided they make themselves available for proceedings.

the case
z An altercation took place between officers and jawans of 45 Cavalry on May 29, 2010, resulting in assault on four young officers
z A court of inquiry (CoI) blamed the commanding officer for ineffective command and not taking effective steps to handle the situation
z The Army has now ordered recording of a fresh summary of evidence
Defence budget to shrink: Antony
BANGALORE: Defence minister AK Antony said on Wednesday that the military budget for the financial year 2013-14 will see a cut, both in capital and revenue budgets. Antony was speaking at the launch of Aero India 2013. The minister attributed the spending cut to global recession, especially in the developed nations. He said the outlays for all departments will be affected.

However, expenditure in 'priority areas' will not be reduced, he said, adding that these areas will be chosen by the armed forces without interference from the ministry.

"There will be no cut in the operational preparedness of the armed forces," Antony said at a press conference, flanked by MoS for defence Jitendra Singh, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne and other delegates. The minister also said the HAL Intermediate Jet Trainer, Sitara, will be manufactured by 2015 and will participate at the next edition of the air show in Bangalore.

HAL, which is manufacturing Sitara, is facing criticism for lack of significant progress from all quarters of the government and the armed forces including Air Marshal NAK Browne and the media. "Currently, HAL, DRDO and the IAF are cooperating fully to make IJT a reality by 2015," Antony added.

The defence minster also said that China's role in building Pakistan's Gwadar port was a "matter of concern". The Indian government was making serious efforts to improve relations with China, he added. "China is modernizing its areas bordering India. The government is similarly strengthening the borders India shares with China," he added. The minister said there is a delay in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft programme due to budget cuts.

"We want to clinch the contract at the earliest though we have to make sure there's no malpractice at any stage of procurement," he added. On reports of the Ultra Light Helicopter Project being scrapped, Antony said the stakeholders of the project - Army, Navy, Air Force, MoD and others - are collectively taking a decision in this regard.
Army is not ready for a more humane law: Chidambaram on AFSPA
The Army has taken a strong stand against any dilution or amendment to the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), making it difficult for the government to move forward on this proposal, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Wednesday.

Mr Chidambaram, who was the Home Minister till a few months ago, said any question about opposition to amend the Act to make it "more humanitarian" should be posed to the Army.

"The armed forces, and especially the Chief of Army Staff, the present one and the previous one, have taken a very strong position that AFSPA should not be amended," he said while delivering the K Subrahmanyam Memorial Lecture in New Delhi.

There was a proposal to amend the AFSPA so as to lift it from certain areas of Jammu and Kashmir but the Defence Ministry is strongly opposed to it.

"Now, how does the government move forward in the face of such widely divergent views on the sensitive subject"? Mr Chidambaram said.

Mr Chidambaram and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah are in favour of dilution of AFSPA.

"My view on AFSPA is known, the view of the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on AFSPA is known.

We have Jeevan Reddy Committee report but yet if the Army takes a very strong stand against any dilution or any amendment to AFSPA, it is difficult for a civil government to move forward," Mr Chidambaram said.

"I think you should ask the question to the armed forces and ask why are they so opposed to even some amendment to AFSPA which will make AFSPA more humanitarian," he said.

On the issue of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Mr Chidambaram said the Centre was in favour of it while state governments were opposed to it.

"Central government is championing NCTC, state governments are opposing NCTC. Very seasoned critics will jump to criticism if there is an opportunity to criticise the central government. They are completely silent in criticizing the state governments. Why is that?" he said.

Mr Chidambaram wondered why there were no seminars or conferences in states like Tamil Nadu or Odisha or Gujarat to speak against the respective Chief Ministers for opposing NCTC.

On VHP leader Praveen Togadia's alleged hate speech, he said "I have no comments on the person you have mentioned.

These are persons who are determined to create disharmony in society. The law must take its course".

"I don't know what the person you referred to (has) said, whether he said it, whether it is an offence. I can't say it, I can't judge sitting here. The law must take its course if there is a violation," Mr Chidmabaram said.
Indian Army to get US ultra-light howitzers this year
The Indian Army is set to get the first lot of 145 ultra-light howitzers it is purchasing from the US for $700 million this year.

According to a report in the current issue of India Strategic defence magazine, a team from the army, including from the Corps of Electronics and
Mechanical Engineers (EME), Directorate General of Qualitative Assurance (DGQA) and the defence ministry visited the US in January to establish the parameters of the BAE Systems M-777 gun being in conformity with the requirements.

This testing was part of the procedure, described as Maintainability Evaluation (ME), and now the final step is about discussions to finalize the price along with spares and maintenance support.

The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) had issued a notification indicating the possible sale of the gun to India on January 22, 2010.

The US Army sent two guns to India for trials, and the Indian Army tested the 152 mm/39 caliber system in the hot and mountainous terrains (Pokhran and Sikkim) the same year, pointing out some shortcomings, which have been rectified.

Although the M-777 gun is made by the multi-national BAE Systems in the US, it is being purchased from the US Army under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.

Procedurally, the US would supply whatever is there in the contract, and if something is left out, then India has to send a Letter of Request (LOR) to the US Government again even if it is a simple nut or bolt. The company will have nothing to do with it.

For instance, in 2004, India purchased the first equipment - Raytheon's Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) - under FMS from the US, and willy-nilly, Indian officials did not cater for spares and support. Finally, Raytheon, which manufactures hi-tech weapon systems for land, sea and air, fixed it, more out of goodwill.

This time, the process should be thorough.

The M-777 is the first artillery gun to be partially made of titanium to reduce its weight and give it mobility, and is easily carried under-slung by heavy lift helicopters like the Chinook CH 47, 15 of which the Indian Air Force is buying from Boeing.

The M-777 has extensively been used in Afghanistan's tough hilly and mountainous terrain with effective fire.

Senior officers of the Army are confident that the acquisition of M-777 will not go beyond 2013, and if there is a delay, it would not be beyond fiscal April 2013-March 2014.

India Strategic also reported that summer trials of the upgraded Bofors FH 77B (155 mm/39 caliber), which India bought from Sweden more than a quarter century ago, would be held mid-year in the hot Rajasthan desert.

The upgraded gun is being developed by India's state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which had got the designs for indigenous production as part of the deal when the gun was acquired but did nothing about it for whatever reasons.

This in fact was the first case in which India got the rights for transfer of technology (ToT) but the opportunity was lost due to political allegations.

OFB's upgraded Bofors gun, being upgunned to 155 mm and 45 caliber, would be based on outdated technology though and in any case would be a stop-gap arrangement till the artillery gets the bigger 155 mm/52 caliber guns, both self-propelled and towed.

The Bofors guns proved extremely effective in neutralizing the Pakistani positions in the 1999 Kargil War, and several army officers swear by it, saying that it was the artillery fire which demolished the Pakistani soldiers, who had infiltrated into the Indian side and occupied a number of hilltop positions.
Apache choppers to support Army's operational plans: Air Chief Marshal
Bangalore: New inductions in the IAF such as Apache attack helicopters will be in support of operational plans of the Army, which is raising a new Strike Corps along the borders with China in the northeastern sector, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said here on February 5.

"Whatever inductions are taking place in the IAF, they will fully support the Army's plans. All the strike helicopters like the Apache...they will all support the Army s plans," he told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar here.

The proposal was first sent by the Army but it was returned by the government which asked the three services to work together on plans to strengthen their capabilities in that region. "We sent the revised plan to the Defence Ministry in December," Browne said.
he IAF is planning to deploy majority of its new inductions such as the additional C-130 J transport planes and six new midair refueling tanker aircraft at the proposed headquarters of the new Corps in Panagarh in West Bengal to strengthen country's defence capabilities in that sector, IAF sources said.

The force is also planning to station part of the fleet of 22 Apache helicopters being procured from the US in that sector. The proposal is awaiting clearance from Defence Ministry's Finance Wing and its cost is being estimated. Commenting on how the cut of around Rs 12,000 crore in the defence budget was affecting his force, Browne said, "Well we have the 42 Su-30MKI aircraft.

The contract (for the additional planes) has to be signed. Payments have to be made for that because the first four aircraft deliveries will take place in March. We have to find money for it."

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had signed a deal with Russia for the additional 42 Su-30MKIs in December, 2012 and of these 28 will be produced under licence by HAL in the country and the rest would be built in Russia.

On Defence Research and Development Organisation's proposed Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project, Browne said it was "too early" to talk about the plane being a fifth-generation one. "When all requirements are firmed up, then we will see what technologies are possible and what are not possible. Then you put it in that bracket," he said

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