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Monday, 18 February 2013

From Today's Papers - 18 Feb 2013


AgustaWestland Copter Mess

CBI-MoD team to meet Italian prosecutors

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, February 17

The joint team of the CBI and the Ministry of Defence, flying to Italy, has been tasked with a three-pronged approach: To try and get authorised copies of the documents and testimonies presented in court so far, take notes during the hearing and speak to the Italian government prosecutors handling the case.


The team is being sent to probe bribery allegations in the purchase of 12 helicopters from AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of aerospace giant Finmeccanica in Italy. The Rs 3,500-crore deal was signed in February 2010.


A warrant in an Italian court names European and Indian middlemen as beneficiaries of Rs 350 illegal pay-off by the AgustaWestland to secure the deal. Among those blamed are former IAF Chief SP Tyagi and his three cousins. The Indian team comprises a Joint Secretary of the MoD, an Air Commodore of the IAF, a DIG of the CBI and a law officer of the CBI. They will be accompanied by an official of the Ministry of External Affairs, tasked with local diplomatic liaisoning. They are expected to be in Italy tomorrow morning. The MoD and CBI teams have been meeting over the past two days with the probe agency getting a detailed presentation from IAF on the tendering process. Yesterday, an Italian court at Busto Arisizio had informed the Indian Embassy in Rome that it could not share the documents at this stage. The law officer of the CBI will study, at what stage, can India seek the documents. The Indian team will be looking to attend the proceedings in court. In Italy, the police and preliminary probe in handled by the Judiciary and is delinked from the Executive, said sources. India will be requesting the Italians to allow its team to speak to prosecutors who are presenting evidence in court regarding the money trail between AgustaWestland and the middlemen in India and Europe.


The CBI and the MoD have no papers as all transactions have been carefully routed through front companies in Tunisia, Africa. As of now, even the Interpol has told the CBI that help can be provided only after a regular case is registered by the CBI.


India does not have a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) with Italy. Under the Italian law, however, the countries not having a MLAT can use a provision to petition the Minister of Justice to seek documents. The minister, on receiving the letter can order that documents be provided, unless the documents requested “may prejudice the sovereignty, safety or other essential interests of the state; the request are expressly forbidden by the law or are contrary to the fundamental principles of the Italian legal system and the criminal proceedings may be prejudiced by discriminatory reasons”. The Minister of Justice, if he/she believes that the letter of request is enforceable, shall forward it to the Court of Appeal (in this case Busto Arsizio). The Court of Appeal shall execute the orders. India has a bright chance as the documents do not impinge on Italian national security.


Russian copters for VVIPs


    With the VVIP copter deal running into rough weather, the IAF has decided that the Russian Mi-17V5 helicopters — the latest in the IAF inventory — will be inducted for VVIP duties within the coming months

    The helicopter has the ability to land and take off at an altitude of 6,000 meters

    Each of the two engines can generate 2,200 hp of power

    It is an improved version of the Mi-17-IV which has two engines of 1,950 hp each. Currently, an older version of Mi-series copter is used to ferry VVIPs

Copter scam set to impact Defence modernisation

KV Prasad/TNS


New Delhi, February 17

The Armed Forces will have to brace for the impact of the possible blacklisting of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica, as it is set to cast a shadow on the process of modernisation the government is committed to.


Besides doing business with India over the past five decades, Finmeccanica has six legal entities - in power, transportation and Defence electronics and a joint venture with Tata through AgustaWestland - registered in the country.


AgustaWestland had supplied 41 Seaking helicopters to the Indian Navy four decades ago.


"The biggest casualty and fallout of corruption is India's military capability… political establishment has to lift the level of debate and is unfortunately not paying enough attention to it," strategic affairs analyst Cmd (retd) Uday Bhaskar said. He said while the services are seeking modern weapons, the government has at times speeded up the process, including procuring it under direct government-to-government sales (foreign military sales) with the United States, which levies a charge for concluding the deal.


Finmeccanica is eyeing both growing commercial market and requirements of the Armed Forces. And its estimates 10-billion euro market for 600 military helicopters over the next 10 to 15 years.


It has pitched NH90 for Indian Navy's requirement of 16 helicopters. The deal is in final stages and is intended to replace Seaking 42 A that came with aircraft carrier INS Viraat.


Competitor for the $1-billion deal is American Sikorsky. In addition, the Indian Navy is working on replacing Seaking 42 B and looking for 56 multirole helicopters.


Also in the pipeline are 70 naval utility helicopters to replace the Chetak fleet and AgustaWestland is one of the leading competitors in the field of helicopters, whose elimination is bound to squeeze the field and reduce leverage for a competitively priced product.


It may also affect the already delayed indigenous aircraft carrier programme since Finmeccanica is contracted to install radars on the ship now under construction at the Kochi.

India, US and Afghanistan to focus on post-pullout stability

Ashok Tuteja/TNS


New Delhi, February 17

India, the United States and Afghanistan will hold a trilateral dialogue here on Tuesday which will primarily focus on finding ways and means to stabilise the situation in the war-torn nation after the drawdown of foreign troops in 2014.


Top officials of the three countries would also discuss how they could cooperate among themselves in various developmental activities.


The US has been insisting that India increase its involvement in the embattled nation after the foreign forces hand over control of the security operations to Afghan forces.


The Indian side at the meeting is expected to include YK Sinha, Additional Secretary in-charge of Afghanistan in the External Affairs Ministry. The US is sending Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake for the meeting.


Officials here said the meeting was significant since the US, India and Afghanistan all share a common vision for a strong, peaceful, and prosperous region and have pledged to work together on common challenges and opportunities including combating violent extremism, strengthening cultural exchanges and increasing regional trade and economic integration.


They said the meeting reflected their mutual commitments to transparency and coordination as Afghanistan continued with it ongoing security, economic and political transitions.


The meeting follows the inaugural trilateral consultations held at the Afghan Mission in New York on September 25 last year.


This is not the only trilateral on Afghanistan in which India is involved. In fact, a trilateral meeting between Russia-India-China (RIC) on Afghanistan is also being scheduled shortly. India, being the fifth largest donor to Afghanistan, is quite concerned over the evolving situation in Afghanistan, particularly once the foreign troops withdraw from there. As many as 94 out of 102 members of the Upper House of the Afghan Parliament were in India earlier this week to hone their skills in democratic culture and institution-building.


In October 2011, it had signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan which, among other things, training of the Afghan National Army.


Meanwhile, Britain is said to be pitching for a strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan to the discomfiture of New Delhi. British Prime Minister had earlier this month played host to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to prepare the ground for the strategic partnership agreement. India, however, feels that Britain is looking at Afghanistan from Pakistan’s point of view without involving countries like India in it.




    Focus will be on finding ways to stabilise the situation in the war-torn Afghanistan after the drawdown of foreign troops in 2014

    Top officials of the three countries will also discuss cooperation in development activities

Pirate attacks: CISF may guard Indian vessels

Shaurya Karanbir Gurung

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is awaiting the go-ahead on its plan for a sea-borne commando contingent to protect Indian merchant vessels from pirate attacks on the high seas.


However, it has been about a year since the Indian National Ship Owners’ Association (INSA) had requested the government for the armed guards on its merchant vessels for protection against pirates at mainly off the Gulf of Eden.


The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had assigned the task to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), but the security cover arrangement is yet to be finalised.


The Ministry of Shipping recently sent an initial proposal to the MHA, requesting it to grant permission for the CISF personnel to guard the Indian merchant vessels. The MHA has replied asking for the specification of the objectives.


“The Shipping Ministry needs to specify how many men they want, for how much time, the terms of conditions, the training and deputation. They would also have to decide on the rules of engagement for the CISF personnel. The Home Ministry will provide the manpower and the weapons based on their specifications,” said sources.


Anil Devli, the CEO of the INSA, said it had first made its demand to the Shipping Ministry for armed guards on board its vessels about a year ago. The Shipping Ministry got in touch with the MHA.


“We have had three meetings in which we discussed the operational details like where the men will board the ships and the rules of engagement. We also discussed the amount of the salaries they would be given,” he said.


The CISF officers assert that the main reason for the delay in finalisation of the agreement is the rules of engagement in foreign waters have not been decided. “It has been about a year since the proposal was made and this issue is yet to be settled. The Ministries of Shipping, Law and Justice and External Affairs have to decide on this matter. We don’t want a similar incident like the Italian marines had faced,” said a CISF officer.


Two Italian marines were arrested for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen off the Kollam coast in Kerela on February 15, 2012, while mistaking them as pirates.


The CISF officer said the new task would benefit the force by providing varied expertise to its men. “This will create further recruitment in the force. It will increase human resources. These men who will deployed on the ships are likely to get handsome payment in dollars, which will include their salary and insurance, besides other benefits,” he added.


The CISF is presently awaiting the go-ahead to start training an initial contingent of 150 to 200 of its water-front commandos. These men are posted at locations consisting of water bodies, nuclear power plants and units of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Indo-French ties

New high with strategic deals


The visit to New Delhi by French President Francois Hollande, for the first time to any Asian capital after he came to power in May last year, was a significant development from various angles. It came after India supported the French military action in Mali to restore the government’s authority in that poor African country. The French President arrived in the midst of a controversy over the AgustaWestland helicopter deal in which Italian defence firm Finmeccanica was alleged to have paid a bribe to a former IAF chief’s family members to get the purchase agreement in this regard finalised. But Hollande did not hesitate in declaring that both countries were vigilant about preventing any kind of corruption in the deal being negotiated between India and France for the purchase of 126 Rafale fighter planes. Once this biggest defence purchase contract is signed it will lead to a very meaningful industrial and technological cooperation between the two great democracies.


The deals for the Rafale aircraft and the Maitri surface-to-air missiles, for which negotiations have been completed, will mark a new beginning in Indo-French relations as these two defence items will be co-produced in India. This has been a long-standing demand of India that it would prefer such defence purchase agreements as entail the production of the equipment concerned in India.


France is among the countries which agreed to go in for nuclear trade with India soon after the India-US civilian nuclear deal became a reality when George W Bush was the US President. The French are committed to building six next generation European pressurised reactors at Jaitapur, but the project has got delayed owing to some concerns raised by Paris over India’s nuclear liability law. But now it seems there will be no more delays, as indicated by President Hollande. He tried to allay India’s safety concerns by stating that the same kind of nuclear reactors as are to be built at Jaitapur will come up in France too. Both countries will be the gainers with increasing nuclear trade between the two sides. Their growing strategic relations will also help India in realising its dream of becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security council. France has always been a supporter of India’s case in view of the global reality today.

Ex-Army Chief JJ Singh for strengthening defence mechanism vigorously

AMRITSAR: Former Army Chief Gen J J Singh today said though a war with China is unlikely in the near future, India must keep modernising and strengthening its defence mechanism as a formidable deterrent.


"India must take up development of border areas and update its intelligence network to deal with neighbours including China and Pakistan," said Singh, also the Arunachal Pradesh Governor.


Interacting with media persons at the 107th annual Convocation of Khalsa College Amritsar, he said the present century belongs to Asia, and therefore, China and India must work together as most powerful nations of this continent.


"We have shared history of peaceful co-existence despite border tensions in 1960s. There are ample opportunities to resolve pending issues peacefully," said Singh.


"China and Pakistan must understand that patience of India is not its weakness and it is capable of defending its borders," he said.


During his convocation address, Singh stressed on modernisation of education and female literacy.

Army foils infiltration bid in J&K

JAMMU: An infiltration bid by a group of five militants was today foiled by the Army which launched a massive search operation along the Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri sector of Jammu and Kashmir.


"A suspected move of a group of four-five persons was detected by alert army troops along the LoC at Hamirpur area, Balakote sector of Bhimber Gali Brigade, Rajouri at early hours today," PRO defence S N Acharya said.


"Immediately, the surrounding area was cordoned off. The infiltrating group was challenged by our troops," he said, adding that the men thereafter took cover in the bushes and opened fire on the troops.


The troops then fired back in the direction from where the movement had been observed, Acharya said, noting that the intermittent firing continued during the night.


"The exchange of fire stopped at around 0600 hours today. The intruders probably retreated taking advantage of the darkness, thick vegetation and ground topography," the PRO said.


A search operation was launched at day-break to detect any injured person, or any left over stores in the vicinity, he said, maintaining that the search operation was still in progress.


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