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Sunday, 17 February 2013

From Today's Papers - 17 Feb 2013
Italian court says can’t give copter deal papers
Joint teams of Defence Ministry, CBI to visit Italy tomorrow
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16
As teams from the Defence Ministry and the Central Bureau of Investigation are getting ready to fly to Italy to obtain details of the alleged illegal pay-offs in the Rs 3,500-crore VVIP copter deal, an Italian court is learnt to have rejected India’s plea for documents related to the investigations into the case.

The Italian probe report has a mention of a military man who too received kickbacks. The middleman of Italian aerospace major Finmeccanica, Guido Haschke, mentions negotiations with an important person in the Indian defence set-up apart from former IAF Chief SP Tyagi and his three cousins.

The Indian embassy in Rome received communication today from the Judge of Preliminary Invetigations of the Tribunal Busto Arsizio Luca Labianca stating that it was "not possible to give a positive reply" to the Indian request, the sources said.

The judge is hearing the matter on alleged bribes which AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, routed through a team of European middlemen to Indian officials. In the letter received by the Indian embassy, the judge said: “The investigations were, in fact, at a preliminary stage, during which, as per Article 329 of Code of Penal Procedure, all information is covered by secrecy. Only parties and their lawyers were allowed to have access to the information and documents.”

However, there’s a glimmer of hope. In the letter, the Italian judge has told the Indian embassy that his office will consider a "fresh request" from the Indian side once the secrecy obligations into the matter get over. Indian embassy in Rome had requested for documents of the probe after the arrest of Finmeccanica chief Giuseppe Orsi in connection with allegations that kickbacks to the tune of Rs 350 crore were paid in VVIP copter deal. Lorenzo Borgogni, former head of external relations of Finmeccanica, was arrested in 2012 following a phone-tap in Italy by agencies that were looking for links between the mafia, big companies and government officials. He has now turned an approver and spilled the beans on his bosses. The MoD today said it was sending Joint Secretary and Acquisition Manager (Air) Arun Kumar Bal to Italy on Monday to try to get as much information as possible related to the facts of the deal. The CBI team will comprise an investigation officer and a law officer.

The MoD had yesterday initiated the first step to cancel the deal by issuing a show-cause notice to AgustaWestland, asking why the contract should not be cancelled in view of the corruption allegations against it. It sought a reply within seven days. In a statement, AgustaWestland has contradicted reports which pre-maturely talked about cancellation of the contract.

“The MoD has not cancelled the contract but has given notice. AgustaWestland is preparing its answers,” it said.

Appearing before a magistrate in Italy, Orsi has denied that he gave any mandate to Guido Hashcke for "any type of manoeuvre" for the operation of India, or about knowing the Tyagi family,” Orsi's lawyer Ennio Amodio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA. Haschke, in his testimony, has said he was acting on behalf of Orsi.

The family mystery

    The warrant in Italian Court talks about how “the family” was to get nearly Rs 194 crore. There were two agreements between AgustaWestland and the middlemen. One was for 42 million euros (Rs 294 crore), which the copter-maker was to pay to Global Services of Christian Michel.
    While the BJP on Friday night alleged that “the family” was a reference to Gandhis, the Congress denied it.
    On Saturday, the lawyer of arrested CEO Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi told Indian mediapersons in Italy that the reference to "the family" in Italian documents pertains to Tyagis.
Torch rally to mark Army central command jubilee
Our Correspondent

Pithoragarh, February 16
The central command of the Indian Army will celebrate its golden jubilee by holding a relay torch rally, “Surya Kiran”, for 60 days beginning March 2. The rally, which will begin from Bareilly on March 2, will cover 27 cities of seven states, including six capitals, a central command communiqué said here today.

“The relay torch rally, which aims at spreading the message of the valour of the veterans to kindle passion among the youth, will cover 5,000 km in seven states. Beginning from Bareilly, the rally will pass from Pithoragarh, Ranikhet, Joshimath, Lansdown, Raiwala, Dehradun, Roorkee, Agra, Mainpuri, Fetehgarh, Banda, Satana, Jabalpur, Raipur, Sambalpur, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Ranchi, Danapur, Gajipur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Faizabad, Kanpur and conclude in Lucknow on May 1,” said the communiqué.

The rally was aimed at motivating the youth to join the Armed Forces and the masses to come forward to strengthen the process of nation building and rekindling the sprit of patriotism.

“This will be done by showcasing the stories of valour and sacrifice by the personnel of the central command,” it said.

The communiqué said the rally would cover the area that is home to 29 per cent of the serving soldiers of the Army and 30 per cent of the area of the veterans of the Armed Forces. “To address the grievances of the veterans, the rally will have a number of redress booths under its ‘Desh Sewa’ programme, including pension assistance cells, ECHS clinics, directorate of resettlement camps and camps of the Army Welfare Housing Organisation and the Army placement agency,” it adds.
VVIP chopper scam: from Italy, more on 'the family'
Milan: After he was arrested for allegedly having bribed Indian officials to land a deal for 12 VVIP  helicopters, Giuseppe Orsi resigned on Friday as CEO of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica.

Mr Orsi has denied the allegations of bribery at home and abroad, levelled by Italian prosecutors. His lawyer, Ammodio Ennio, told NDTV that former air force chief SP Tyagi has been wrongly accused by the Italian enquiry of accepting kickbacks from Finmeccanica through his cousins - Julie, Sandeep and Dosca Tyagi.

This claim contravenes the fundamentals of the Italian prosecutors' inquiry, based on interrogations of alleged middlemen and wire-taps.

The lawyer also said that references to "the family" in Italian documents on the case are to the Tyagis. The BJP in India had asked if the allusion was to the Gandhis, which the Congress party had immediately denied.

Mr Orsi's lawyer said that prosecutors in Italy have relied heavily on Guido Haschke who has been interrogated twice about serving as a middleman for Finmeccanica's helicopter division, AgustaWestland (AW). 

He has said that he knew the air chief's cousins well and met the former air chief six or seven times. Retired Air Chief Marshall Tyagi has denied the charges.

The lawyer for Mr Orsi said that Mr Haschke's claims of paying the air chief through his cousins were vague.  "He talks about making payments to the family Tyagi but does not say how or how much to Shashi Tyagi was made.''

Mr Haschke is based in Switzerland and Italy has asked for his extradition.
Army chief visits Japan to boost defence relation
New Delhi, Feb 16 (IBNS): Indian Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Bikram Singh was visiting Japan from Feb 11 to 15 as a part of the ongoing high level exchanges between India and Japan and is expected to further boost the defence relations between the two nations.

During his four day visit, the COAS had important interactions and meetings with a large number of High Level Civil and Military officials to include the Defence Minister, Chief of Staff, Joint Staff JSDF and Chief of Staff, JGSDF.

Both sides agreed on continuing efforts at enhancing bilateral exchanges in the identified fields of Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief and UN Peace Keeping operations and to explore defence cooperation possibilities in new fields.

The COAS also visited important training institutions like the International Peace Keeping Activity Training Institute and the Fuji School besides visiting the Middle Army HQs.

The visit has provided an impetus to the defence ties and will further cement the strategic partnership between Japan & India.
Indian army will never carry out coup, ex-Army chief Gen V K Singh tells Aap Ki Adalat
New Delhi, Feb 16: Former army chief retd. Gen V K Singh has said that the Indian army "will never carry out a coup, it will only defend the nation".
Replying to questions from Rajat Sharma in India TV's show Aap Ki Adalat, the former general blamed some bureaucrats and some army officers for planting, what he called, wrong information in the media about the movement of two units of the Army near Delhi. 

"Today, I can reveal that some bureaucrats and some army officers had planted this baseless news. These two units were part of routine mobilization, and if you remember, there were some developments in Maldives 6-7 days later, these units were meant to go there", said the former COAS.

Asked what could be the motive behind planting such news, the retired general said, "it's very clear. A man (Gen Singh) stands up against the government, and you want to defame him. You want to coerce him. That could be the only motive".

The former COAS also alleged that a former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister was given a plot by the owners in the Tatra truck scam, and the son of a senior Planning Commission appointee stayed in their guest house for one and a half years. 

"There were several officials in the Ministry whose pockets were being lined. Naturally they had a vested interest in defaming me", said the retired general.
Singh ruled out his entry into active politics, saying: "I have a small mission "Reclaim India". I want to raise awareness among the people. Moreover, the present political system is such that good people may not enter politics. That does not mean, all those who are in politics are bad. This country has given me the best for the last 42 years, and I want to give something back to my country".

The former general said, there should be three requisites for a good politician -- good image with no criminal case pending, capability and the motivation to serve the nation and society. 

Asked why he attended a rally with Indian National Lok Dal chief Om Prakash Chautala, who is himself in jail on charge of corruption, the retired general clarified  it was to celebrate the birth anniversary of his father Chaudhary Devi Lal. 

"Devi Lal ji is the man who introduced Old Age Pension in Haryana years before other states started this scheme. He also waived off tax on poor people's bicycles. If Chautala was there because of his father, I can't push him out", said Singh.

The former Army Chief said: "Had I wanted to become a governor or an ambassador, I could have stayed silent on the Tatra truck scam. Rs 26 lakh worth trucks were being sold to the army for Rs 1 crore. Most of the judges, when they approach 64 years, angle for chairmanship of commissions. Most of the bureacrats, approaching retirement, agree to do whatever they are asked to. 
"I am not that sort of man. There are two types of people - one who sits on bended knees and takes alms, and the other who stands straight with head held high, ready to fight injustice. I belong to the other group", said Singh.
On the Technical Supports Division controversy, the former general said, like the RAW, this unit was set up in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks to keep watch on developments across the border. 

"Like RAW, which never does research, the TSD is neither technical, nor does it provide support, nor does it have snooping equipments. It was set up on the operational directive of the Raksha Mantri to enhance army's capability.  The process of setting up the TSD began before my tenure", Singh said. 

Asked by Rajat Sharma whether the report that nearly Rs 18 crore was spent on TSD to find out about the citizenship of the daughter of present Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh, the retired general laughed saying: "These are all imaginary.  It's better not to believe such reports. And if I want to know the nationality of somebody, I would rather check the passport, why use TSD?"

On the issue of an Army major entering his residence, the former Army chief said, "First of all, he came suddenly to my residence in the absence of myself and my family members. He asked my exchange staff to go way. He went to different rooms, and even opened up my computer in the study. It was then that my daughter came in suddenly. Then, what will you do?"

Asked whether the TSD was used for snooping on ministers and bureaucrats, the retired general said: "I don't need to snoop on ministers and bureaucrats. I don't give bribes, nor receive bribes."
The former army chief lashed out at former Pakistan dictator Pervez Musharraf saying that he has been spreading lies about Kargil conflict since the beginning.
"He (Musharraf) has this habit of lying. First, he said, his army was not involved in Kargil. Now it has been revealed, he had come 11 km deep inside Line of Control and spent the night. It means he had been telling lies all along."

On Musharraf's claim that Kashmir could have been Pakistan's, had not Nawaz Sharif (the then PM) gone to the US president, the retired general said: "I can only say this much that while living presently in a nice house in England, he should stop daydreaming."

The former Army chief said, India should adopt a no-nonsence policy towards Pakistan. 

"Pakistan never sincerely accepted our hand of friendship. We have to evolve a policy of how to deal with our neighbour. We should make Pakistan understand that if it does something wrong, we will hit back, and if it behaves well, then we can be friends. Like a big brother, we need to give a tight slap, if it misbehaves", said Singh.
Spate of scams hits defence modernization programme
NEW DELHI: From Bofors to Barak, HDW to Denel, recurring defence scandals continue to hit the modernization of the Indian armed forces that have to deal with two potentially hostile, nuclear-armed neighbours as well as insurgencies within.
"The scams hit where they really hurt. Many a time, the best system is selected and paid for...but allegations of bribery or wrongdoings derail the acquisition projects. The guilty should be hung. Concrete action is required to clean up the system, right from the bottom to the top," says a top military officer.

With the arms acquisition budget already being slashed by Rs 10,000 crore in this fiscal, amid indications that there will be no concrete hike in the 2013-2014 budget, as well as the erupting scandal over the VVIP helicopters, the worst fears of the military are again coming true. Critical defence projects will slow down, if not come to a grinding halt.

The recent Naresh Chandra Committee report, incidentally, has also held there is a need to relook at the entire process of cancelling arms contracts or blacklisting defence firms since they can prove counter-productive to the nation's security. Consider artillery guns first. The series of scandals, beginning with the infamous Swedish Bofors one in the mid-1980s and followed by the ones of South African firm Denel and finally Singapore Technology Kinetic's (STK) in later years, has meant the Army has not inducted a single advanced 155mm artillery gun for the last three decades.

The over Rs 20,000 crore artillery modernization programme remains in a limbo. The biggest artillery project stuck is the over Rs 12,000-crore project to buy 400 155mm/52-calibre towed artillery guns from the foreign vendor, followed by indigenous manufacture of another 1,180 such guns after transfer of technology. The other planned acquisitions include ones for 814 mounted gun systems, 180 self-propelled wheeled guns and 100 tracked guns.

"The Bofors proved its worth in the 1999 Kargil conflict. But sadly, the technology transfer envisaged in the original howitzer contract got derailed due to the scandal. It's only now that the Ordnance Factory Board has come up with a new 155mm/45-calibre howitzer for trials," said an officer.
Similarly, the Navy is vehement about the effectiveness of the Israeli Barak-I anti-missile defence systems fitted on its 14 frontline warships, including aircraft carrier INS Viraat, to intercept incoming sea-skimming missiles with "pin-point accuracy" at a nine-km range.

But the force is fast running out of Barak missiles now. The fresh acquisition case has been hanging fire due to the slow CBI probe into the kickbacks case into the initial Rs 1,160-crore deal for nine Barak-I AMD systems, along with 200 missiles worth Rs 350 crore, inked with Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael in October 2000.

The FIR was lodged in October 2006 but the probe has gone nowhere. The story in the HDW submarine scandal was the same. The submarine-building lines at the Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai lay idle since the early-1990s after the controversy erupted. It was only after years of delay that the government inked the French Scorpene submarine project, under which six vessels are being built at MDL for Rs 23,562-crore.

The 30-year submarine building plan, as approved by Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in July 1999, had envisaged that 24 new submarines would be manufactured in India, the first 12 with transfer of technology from foreign collaborators and the next 12 indigenously.

But 14 years later, not even one new submarine is anywhere close to induction, while the Navy makes do with a ageing conventional fleet of only just 10 Russian Kilo-class and four German HDW submarines, with just over half of them being fully operational at any given time.
LoC tension: India returns Pak soldier's body
New Delhi: The Indian Army returned the dead body of Pakistani soldier, who was killed in a firefight after he had crossed the Line of Control in the Nowshera sub-sector, with ‘military respects’ on Friday evening.

"On 14 February at approx 1500 hours, own troops at Laam post in Rajouri sector observed suspicious movement along the Indian side of LoC. On being challenged by a patrol party, the infiltrator opened indiscriminate fire injuring two jawans. In the ensuing encounter the infiltrator was killed and one AK-56 rifle along with some other warlike stores recovered. The body of the deceased was later handed over to the J&K Police (PS Naroka)," said an Indian Army spokesperson, Col Jagdeep Dahiya.

"On 15 February at approx 1000 hrs, the Pakistan DGMO made an unscheduled call to the Indian DGMO requesting for the soldier’s body to be returned. Acceding to this request, the dead body was returned to Pakistan Army personnel in the same sector in the evening with military respects," he added.

Colonel Dahiya further said ''it is also pertinent to note that Pakistan troops violated the ceasefire by resorting to heavy unprovoked automatic fire on Indian posts in Mendhar Sector from 2000-2100 hr on February 14''.

The Indian Army spokesperson earlier in the day confirmed fresh incidents of ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri Sector.

Colonel Jagdeep Dahiya said there have been two incidents of ceasefire violations in the Rajouri Sector yesterday, one in the Krishna Ghati sub-sector and another in the Nowshera sub-sector.

A string of clashes along the 742-km LoC last month marked the worst violations of ceasefire that was put in place by India and Pakistan in late 2003. Two Indian soldiers were killed, including Lance Naik Hemraj who was beheaded by Pakistani troopers in an attack along the Line of Control in Mendhar Sector of Jammu and Kashmir on January 8.

India had strongly protested to Pakistan about the killing of the two jawans. Pakistan had denied India’s claim that its troops crossed the Line of Control to ambush a patrol party in the Mendhar sector in Poonch district.

The clashes had sparked a war of words before the Directors General of Military Operations of the two sides agreed on steps to de-escalate the situation.

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