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Monday, 11 February 2013

From Today's Papers - 11 Feb 2013
India proposes water treaty as China goes on damming spree
New Delhi, February 10
Water is emerging as a new possible irritant between China and India, which has proposed a bilateral mechanism to deal with it.

India is pressing China to have either a water commission or a inter-governmental dialogue or a treaty to deal with water issues between the two countries. This comes in the wake of the Chinese move to approve construction of three more dams on the Brahmaputra in Tibet, in addition to the one being built without informing New Delhi.

Following the Chinese move, a high-level inter-ministerial committee, comprising officials from External Affairs Ministry, Defence Ministry, Department of Space, among others, met here to take stock of the situation and decided to take it up with China. The issue was once again taken up when a senior Chinese embassy official met MEA officials to give details on the construction proposal.

“Though the issue (of having a bilateral mechanism) has been part of our discussions earlier also, the recent move by Beijing has further pushed the matter. There is a need for some mechanism to deal with water issues between the two countries on the lines of what India has with other countries like Pakistan," sources said.

Recently, the Chinese Cabinet had approved a document which mentions construction of three dams at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu on the Brahmaputra.

Reacting to the Chinese move, the official spokesperson in MEA has said India carefully monitors all developments on the Brahmaputra.

“As a lower riparian state with considerable established user rights to the waters of the river, India has conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities, including at the highest levels.” The official spokesperson stressed the need for China to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in the upstream areas. Maintaining that its move to build three more dams on the Brahmaputra in Tibet will not affect the flows to downstream areas, China has said it is in “communication and cooperation” with India over cross-border river issues.

“China has always taken a responsible attitude towards cross-border river development. China and India are maintaining communication and cooperation on the cross-border river issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing.

However, Hua did not specify whether the two countries are in communication regarding the new dams which it proposes to build by 2015. — PTI

Water Sharing

    China recently approved construction of three more dams on the Brahmaputra in Tibet, in addition to the one being built without informing New Delhi
    Maintaining that its move will not affect water flows to downstream areas, it said it is in “communication and cooperation” with India over cross-border river issues
    India has the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan under which the two countries share information and cooperate on the matter
    The Ganges Treaty with Bangladesh establishes a 30-year water-sharing arrangement and recognises the neighbouring country's rights as a lower-level riparian
HC overturns several AFT decisions
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
Several recent decisions of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) that denied relief to defence veterans, especially disabled soldiers, have been overturned by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The high court’s rulings, which, according to a section of the legal fraternity, have made some critical observations about the AFT decisions, have come as a succour to the affected defence personnel.

In a series of decisions in the past one month, the HC has set aside various decisions of the AFT by which benefits were denied to defence veterans.

On claims of disability pension rejected by the AFT, the high court has held that the AFT cannot accept medical board opinion or statements of the government as gospel truth and is duty bound to apply mind and provide reasons. It has been held that the AFT cannot merely go by what the government states in its stand.

In yet another case, the HC has held that it was wrong for medical boards and the AFT to declare as “constitutional” those disabilities which are listed in the rules as ones “affected by stress and strain of service”.

Another judgment of the AFT was set aside in a case where without following due procedure a defence personnel was discharged on the basis of four red-ink entries and the discharge was later endorsed by the AFT.

In one case, the AFT had dismissed the pensionary claim of a pensioner but the HC termed the view of the AFT as ‘myopic’ reminding that pension is not a bounty but is the property of an individual. The decisions that were set aside were given by the AFT bench comprising Justice NP Gupta and Lt Gen NS Brar.

Lawyers as well as litigants feel that they are forced to knock the doors of courts when most of the issues can be effectively resolved at the AFT level itself.
Gorkha soldier’s wife fights for benefits
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
About eight years after a Gorkha soldier went missing and his whereabouts remain unknown, his wife is running from pillar to post in a “foreign” land to get her due benefits sanctioned from defence authorities.

Khusi Maya Gurung’s husband, a havildar in the Fourth Gorkha Rifles, had gone to Nepal on annual-cum-sick leave of 68 days in September. While availing leave, he fell sick and was admitted to a local hospital in Nepal, but was advised by the doctors to report to a military hospital in India for further treatment since he was serving in the Indian Army.

Accordingly, the soldier left for treatment at Command Hospital, Kolkata, in September 2005, since his unit was then located in Kolkata. He boarded the Poorvanchal Express from Gorakhpur to Kolkata along with another soldier from his unit. During the journey, he got down at Chhapra Railway Station for fetching drinking water but did not return to the train. His companion, Rifleman Uttam Thapa, last saw him at the said station.

The family members and the soldier’s unit thereafter made extensive efforts to trace the soldier but without any result. Thereafter, the military authorities duly registered an FIR with the Railway Police at Chappra, but even the police could not locate the missing soldier or his body and he remains missing till date and his disappearance also remains a mystery. Later, the Army declared him a deserter rather than missing and also dismissed from service in an ex-parte manner.

After repeatedly taking up the case for release of pension and other benefits with the Gorkha Training Centre at Subathu near here did not yield any results, Khusi moved the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal.

In her petition, she has contended that according to government policy, service and pensionary benefits are to be released to families of personnel whose whereabouts are not known. Earlier government departments used to wait for seven years for presumption of death and then used to release the arrears but in 1988 the government issued a policy that some benefits would be released immediately on declaration of disappearance and some other service benefits would be released after one year of declaration of disappearance after lodging a missing report with the police.

The Army authorities have maintained that she cannot be given benefits under pension regulations as her husband had been declared a deserter. She has contended in her petition that service is only forfeited for pension only in case a person has been convicted for the offence of desertion by way of a court martial, which is not so the case.

Missing for eight years

    A havildar in the Fourth Gorkha Rifles went missing eight years ago while coming back from his home in Nepal
    The soldier left for treatment at Kolkata’s Command Hospital in September 2005 and boarded the Poorvanchal Express from Gorakhpur to Kolkata along with another soldier from his unit
    During the journey, he got down at Chhapra Railway Station to fetch water, but did not return
    The Army declared him a deserter rather than missing and also dismissed him from service in an ex-parte manner
    After repeatedly taking up the case for release of pension and other benefits with the Gorkha Training Centre at Subathu, his wife moved the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal
ITBP to procure HAPO bags for troops at high altitudes
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 10
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) will be provided with 25 High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPO) bags that are life-saving equipments for its troops posted along the Sino-Indian border, who are often diagnosed with High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema, a sickness that causes accumulation of fluid in the lungs due to shortage of oxygen.

The HAPO bags will be used by troops posted at altitudes of 10,000 feet to 18,000 feet above sea level, according to an ITBP officer. These areas are located in Himachal Pradesh, Leh and Ladakh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. The HAPO bags will also be carried by long-range patrols of the ITBP, which last for about 10 to 15 days.

“In high altitudes, a troop who is suffering from HAPO can be placed inside these bags. The bag is insulated from inside and can be inflated manually, by electricity and by battery. Through a duct located on the bag, oxygen can be supplied to the person from a cylinder,” said the officer.

The ITBP will also procure about 200 portable, light-weight oxygen cylinders. The force will also be provided with 24 oxygen concentrators for generating oxygen for many people. This device will be first used on an experimental basis. It can be used by troops who get stuck in high altitude locations due to an avalanche or bad weather.

According to reliable sources, the tender for supplying HAPO bags, oxygen cylinders and concentrators was opened to companies in December last year. The equipments are likely to be procured in a month.

The officer said before these bags were introduced to the force, the only two methods of providing medical aid to a person diagnosed with HAPO, was to call for immediate air evacuation or transport the person to lower altitudes by foot. “The evacuation of a sick person by a chopper to the sea level usually causes his immediate death. So we have advised our troops to instead carry the man by foot to lower altitudes, which can take days, eventually causing his death,” said the officer.

Although, regular medical checkups of all ITBP personnel are conducted before they are sent to high altitudes, any one of them can be diagnosed with HAPO. “The sickness is caused due to shortage of oxygen at high altitudes, where there is low atmospheric pressure. The lungs get filled with liquid. Oxygen does not reach the brain and other muscles. The person has difficulty in breathing, coughs, has trouble in walking and exercising and suffers memory loss,” added the officer.

An ITBP officer who was on a Himalayan expedition was diagnosed with HAPO. “At a high altitude, he was drinking coffee and had suddenly collapsed. He was brought to Delhi and then to Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh). He was eating dal and roti, but he could not even place the food in his mouth. He could not coordinate his hand that either touched his forehead or his ear,” said the sources.
Budget cuts hit armed forces' modernisation plans
The slow growth of the Indian economy in recent years has had a cascading effect on the country's military. According to government estimates, the defence budget for the current year, 2011-2012, has been cut by a whopping Rs. 14,000 crore and acquisitions of new weapon systems have been either put on hold or delayed. Defence ministry officials have told NDTV that the budget cut is the biggest in several years.

Talking to reporters at the recently concluded Aero India show in Bengaluru, Union Defence Minister AK Antony said, "India is not an island. The world economy is going through a tough time, we will have to cut down." 

Mr Antony said that the government is drastically cutting down on expenditure across the board and "budget cuts fall on our department too." He said that there will be no cuts in "priority areas" and the "operational preparedness" of the military will not be affected.
Senior officials have told NDTV that out of the overall estimated cut, Rs. 10,000 crore comes from the capital budget, which means the defence ministry would have much less to spend on buying new systems to upgrade old and aging weapons. The rest, Rs. 4,000 crore, is expected to be slashed from the revenue budget, which is used for paying salaries and meeting other running costs of the armed forces.

The armed forces had sought an outlay of Rs. 2,39,123 crore this fiscal, which amounts to 2.35 per cent of the projected GDP for 2012-13. It was, however, given a little over Rs.1,93,000 crore. Out of this, about Rs. 67,000 crore is the capital expenditure budget; revenue budget is pegged at a little over Rs. 1,13,000 crore.

As a result of the cuts, almost all critical purchases of new weapons systems have been affected. India's single biggest defence deal ever, a contract with France for around 200 new-generation fighter jets - pegged at between $15-17 billion - has been deferred to the next financial year. Although negotiations with France are complete, India wants to stagger the acquisition because of the lack of funds.

Similarly, the purchase of Ultra-Light Howitzers from the US for deployment in the mountainous border areas to counter China has been delayed. 

Sources have told NDTV that the Indian Navy's plans to rapidly replace its aging fleet of conventional submarines with six new submarines have been affected. Each new submarine is estimated to cost anything between Rs. 7000-8000 crore.

The proposal to equip every infantry battalion of the Indian Army deployed in the plains with Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMS) has also taken a hit. The Navy's proposal to acquire multi-role helicopters to replace the old Sea King helicopter fleet has been put in cold storage.

Last week, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, when asked about the cuts in the defence budget, said, "You must have the money to provide the money." He also said that this year's cut could be made good next year only if India recorded faster growth translating into more tax collections.

Modernisation of the Indian military was put on hold during the 1990s and the 2000s as India grappled with its new economic realities, and needs, post liberalisation. Most of the equipment that the armed forces currently use was developed either in the 1970s or 1980s. It was only in the latter part of the last decade that the focus shifted back on rapidly modernising the military so that it is capable of addressing the altered strategic realities in India's neighbourhood.
'Replacement of Army's Chetak choppers delayed inordinately'
New Delhi: A former top Army officer has criticised the government for delays in acquiring replacements for Chetak and Cheetah helicopters, terming the acquisition process as "unreasonably sluggish".

"While concepts and doctrine formulation do receive reasonable attention and thus have a contemporary flavour, the process of acquisition of weapon and support systems continue to be unreasonably sluggish," former Director General Artillery, Lt Gen Vinay Shankar, has said.

"Take for instance, the acquisition of the replacements for the outdated Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. The case was initiated before the turn of the last century. The order for the first batch of 197 helicopters is yet to be placed.

"Unless the procurement process is streamlined and made time-bound, India's defence capability will remain woefully inadequate. Revising procedures every year to make them more rigorous is inexcusable escapism," Shankar said in an article in the latest issue of 'Indian Defence Review'.

Strongly defending the army's plans to strengthen its aviation corps, he attacked the Indian Air Force for "resisting" the government's approval of the army's decision to acquire attack helicopters.

He said the approval to buy attack choppers was the outcome of "decades of dialogue, representations, haggling and persistence. The resistance by the IAF was unrelenting, bitter and just as forceful as it was against the setting up of the Army Aviation Corps." Referring to the Air-Land Battle concept, the former artillery chief said this required allocation of adequate aviation resources and capability at the operational and tactical levels.

"Such resources must be integral to the force structures. From the Indian Army's point of view, this principle regrettably has not been observed. Consequently, the Indian Army's combat capability has been avoidably circumscribed. This lacuna must be addressed on priority," Shankar said.

Maintaining that acquisition plans must take into account several complex considerations including the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) inventory and planned acquisitions, he said "it would be terribly wasteful if the acquisition plans of these platforms are not coordinated with extreme care."

As the global arms industry concentrated on selling systems that have a broadly universal application, the former army officer said, the Indian defence industry must -- either on its own or in collaboration -- concentrate on a range of systems that will enhance force capability in the mountains of Kashmir and the Northeast.
Defence expo at Western Ghats school
A two-day exhibition on the Indian Armed Forces - the Great Indian Defence Odyssey- began at the Western Ghats International School in Ettimadai near here on Friday.

With the objective of instilling patriotism among school and college students, the school has joined hands with the Army, Navy and Air Force for this exhibition.

Among the weapons on display include 105mm field gun and a 2.5 tonne-artillery battle weapon that can destroy a target at a distance of 17 km. A 120mm Mortar (250 kg), which can reach 6.5 km, was also on display besides small arms such as 9 mm machine guns, 7.62 mm machine guns and 5.56 mm assault rifles used by the Army.

While the Indian Air Force displayed aircraft models and brought out the aviation history of Sulur Air Station, which was established during World War II, Lieutenant D. Malathi of INS Agrani explained the significant contribution of women to the Navy.

P. Ramesh, Group Captain, Air Force Administrative College, Red Fields, inaugurated the expo in the presence of Captain Shivalal, Executive Officer, INS Agrani, Red Fields.

Among those who took part in the exhibition include Brigadier S. Suresh Kumar from Madras Regimental Centre (MRC), Wellington, the Niligiris, Colonel Varun Singh Tanwar, Field Regiment, Indian Army, Coimbatore, and Air Commodore S. Choudhry, Indian Air Force, 5 BRD, Sulur.

Air Squadron (2) belonging to National Cadet Corps also displayed models of remote control aircraft and gliders. The 5 (TN) girls battalion explained to the visitors the basic details of warfare techniques such as how to read the maps, compass, protractor, different types of firing methods and how to pitch the tents.

Defence officials explained the recruitment procedures and motivated the college students to serve the country through a career in the Armed Forces.

Video presentations were also given on the occasion. An emergency van of the ‘108’ GVK EMRI ambulance service made a live demonstration of the equipment in the van and taught first aid procedures.

Students of the Western Ghats International School displayed models on science, math, space, fine arts and the green concepts under the title EUREKA-2013.

They also came out with portraits and information of 60 personalities under the title ‘Pride of India.’ Students of various schools and colleges from Coimbatore, Tirupur and Palakkad visited the exhibition.

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