Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Sunday, 10 March 2013

From Today's Papers - 10 Mar 2013
Chill in Indo-Pak ties persists; no substantive talks with Ashraf
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, March 9
Amid the chill in India-Pakistan ties, Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf today offered prayers at the famous Sufi shrine at Ajmer but New Delhi refused to hold substantive talks with him to express its anger over the recent killing and beheading of Indian soldiers and Pakistan’s continued support to terrorism emanating from its soil against India.

With the BJP upping the ante against the visit, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who hosted a lunch in honour of the Pakistani Premier and his nearly 50-strong delegation at Hotel Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, was at pains to emphasise that the visiting dignitary had only been extended normal diplomatic courtesies which he is entitled to.

Even as several groups of people protested outside the hotel demanding an apology for the killing of the Indian jawans by Pakistani troops, the Pakistani leader and his delegation were received at the Jaipur International Airport by senior Rajasthan Government officials. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot stayed away from all engagements of the visiting dignitary.

In Ajmer too, the usual fanfare associated with such visits was missing as the spiritual head of the historic ‘dargah’ boycotted the Pakistani Premier as a mark of protests against the soldiers’ killing.

The message to Islamabad was loud and clear: it can’t be business-as-usual until Islamabad addresses India’s concern over terrorism.

After Ashraf was accorded a somewhat subdued traditional Rajasthani welcome, he and Khurshid posed for photographers before heading for the lunch. Khurshid appeared calm and expressionless while Ashraf, wearing a black ‘bandgala’ suit, looked quite cheerful. As they shook hands, Khurshid remarked, “just when ‘Khwaja’ wants you to come, then everything works for you to be able to come.” In response, the Pakistani leader looked towards the sky and said, “Inshallah.”

Seated on the high table at lunch from the Pakistan side were the Premier himself, his wife, his son, Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir and two officials.

From the Indian side, Khurshid was given company by four senior officials of his ministry, including MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.

Asked what the two delegations discussed during the 75-minute luncheon meeting, one official said the focus was on subjects like the composite cultures of the two countries, commonalities between them and the importance of spirituality. “There was absolutely no discussion on bilateral issues…the meeting followed the script explained by us during the past few days,” he added.

The official said though the mood at the lunch was quite somber, the Pakistani visitors time and again praised the mouth-watering Rajasthani delicacies laid out for them.

After the lunch, the Pakistani Premier and his delegation, primarily comprising members of his extended family, left for Ajmer in three Indian helicopters and Khurshid took off for Delhi.

Before leaving, the Indian minister briefly addressed the media and explained why India hosted lunch for the Pakistani Premier though the latter was on a private visit.

Mood sombre

One official said the focus during the luncheon meeting was on subjects like the composite cultures of the two countries and commonalities between them

There was no discussion on bilateral issues

The official said the mood at the lunch was quite sombre

The Pakistani visitors time and again praised the mouth-watering Rajasthani delicacies laid out for them
LoC violations won’t be tolerated: Army Chief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 9
While declining to comment on the visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to India in the backdrop of two Indian soldiers being killed recently by Pakistani troops, Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Bikram Singh today said that violations of the ceasefire on the Line of Control would not be tolerated.

“The visit is a political decision taken by the government. I cannot comment upon it as the Army Chief,” he said while speaking to media persons on the sidelines of the Triennial National Convention-cum-Reunion of the War Decorated India here. He said the Army had already conveyed its concerns and emotions to the government on the issue of ceasefire violations and the beheading of an Indian soldier and the killing of another soldier by Pakistani troops in January. General Bikram said the Army was ready to give a befitting reply to any ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops.

“If Pakistan troops violate the ceasefire, our men also fire. This is being taken care of at the tactical level by battalion commanders and it is happening,” he said. On the issue of China strengthening its road and rail network in Tibet near the border, the Army chief said India was aware of the developments and was undertaking infrastructure development in forward areas.

He said that infrastructure development was a continuous process.

Earlier, addressing gallantry awardees and their families, the Army Chief advised ex-servicemen to remain apolitical. “Having been part of a disciplined force, dabbing in politics would lead to their stature and ethos loosing sheen,” he said.
War heroes seek additional facilities
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 9
Members of the War Decorated India (WDI), an association of Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra and Vir Chakra recipients, today sought restoration of the special pension that was announced for these awardees in 1950.

Speaking at their triennial convention-cum-reunion here today, WDI president Brig NS Sandhu said in the revised notification issued in 1972, the term “special pension” was arbitrarily substituted by “allowance”, thereby cutting off the dearness allowance element associated with pension.

While seeking enhancement of monetary benefits to the war decorated from 1948 onwards, the WDI has also sought that recipients of Mention-in-Dispatches, a gallantry award, also be given appropriate benefits.

Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Bikram Singh and the GOC-in-C, Western Command, Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, were among those who attended the convention.

Two Param Vir Chakra winners -- honorary Capt Bana Singh (Siachen operations, 1986) and havildar Sanjay Kumar (Kargil conflict, 1999) -- as well as the parents of Capt Vikram Batra, who was decorated with the Param Vir Chakra posthumously in the Kargil conflict, and daughter of naib subedar Nand Singh, recipient of the Victoria Cross and Maha Vir Chakra (J&K 1948 posthumous), were among those present.

Speaking on the occasion, Bansal said the validity of the complimentary rail travel cards issued to gallantry awardees would be extended to three years. He also agreed to consider other demands raised by them, including the facility of e-ticketing and online booking for the card holders and upgrade to travel first AC and executive class on all trains.

A large number of gallantry awardees from across the country, their family members and war widows attended the meet, which serves as a platform to air their grievances and address issues affecting them. There are 21 Param Vir Chakra recipients of whom only three are surviving, 219 Maha Vir Chakra recipients and 133 Vir Chakra recipients in the country. Many of the awards are posthumous.

The Army Chief also honoured decorated soldiers and their widows.
Army Chief says Indian soldiers will retaliate if Pakistan violates ceasefire at LoC
New Delhi: Sending out a strong message to Pakistan, Army Chief Bikram Singh said that Indian soldiers won't remain quiet if the neighbouring country violated the ceasefire. However, Bikram Singh said that he didn't want to comment on Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf's Ajmer visit.

"Our soldiers are not sitting idle. We won't remain quiet if they violate the ceasefire. This keeps on happening at the ground. The battalion commanders are the best people to reply," Singh replied when asked about the situation at the Line of Control.

However, he said the Indian Army had already conveyed its concern to the Centre on the issue of ceasefire violations, beheading of an Indian soldier and brutal killing of another soldier by Pakistani troops in January. "At that time, we showed our concern.. We have shown our emotions (to the Centre)," the Army Chief, who was here to attend the War Decorated India Triennial National Convention cum Reunion, said.
Meanwhile, Ashraf amid tight security arrived in Jaipur on Saturday, even as chief of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisti Dargah Syed Zainul Abedin Ali Khan said 'he will not assist Ashraf's prayers to protest the beheading of India soldiers. The Dargah chief told CNN-IBN that the boycott has been announced to protest against the beheading of Indian soldiers at the Line of Control.

Army Chief's comments come a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that there cannot be normalisation of ties with Pakistan unless the terror machine still active there was brought under control. However, Manmohan Singh said India has made sincere efforts to normalise its relations with Pakistan and had achieved some progress.

Ashraf's visit comes at a time when there is a chill in bilateral ties over the ceasefire violations at the Line of Control in Kashmir. An Indian soldier was beheaded by Pakistani troops while the mutilated body of another was found in January.
Farewell to foreign arms?
The Italian chopper scandal has yet again raised questions on why India relies so much on imports. But public sector inefficiencies and very little encouragement to the private sector mean we're very far from going desi.

When the clouds of corruption hovering over the Agusta-Westland helicopter deal (worth over Rs 3,500 crore for 12 helicopters) burst in February with the arrest of former Finmeccanica chief executive and chairman Giuseppe Orsi, all defence minister AK Antony could do was express helplessness in fighting corruption in defence deals.

Recovering from the initial embarrassment of the revelations, the government seems to have finally accepted that the long-term solution to rampant corruption is an urgent and immediate turn towards aggressive indigenisation in military manufacturing. And indications emerging from the Ministry of Defence are that such a new course of action is under preparation, and could soon be unveiled. However, the transition from being a heavy importer of military wares to creating a robust military-industrial complex within is a stroll in an unmapped minefield.
Take a cue from China

A recent study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) pointed out that India has in recent years become the world's largest recipient of arms, accounting for 10 per cent of global arms imports in the period 2007-11. In contrast, China, which was the largest recipient of arms between 2002 and 2006, fell to fourth place in 2007-11.

This is mainly because China has aggressively pursued indigenisation over the past couple of decades . As a result most of its current defence budget — officially estimated at $119 billion for this year — will be spent on purchases from within the country. As such, a massive amount of money flows into its domestic military-industrial complex which has a multiplier effect — on R&D, employment generation, and battlefield surprises for adversaries.

The fact is that India's present efforts, and systems , are not up to the task of creating a robust military-industrial complex. The vested interests of the defence public sector units (DPSUs), ordnance factory board (OFB) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) actually symbolise what is stopping India from creating such a thriving complex, even though the country has one of the world's most dynamic manufacturing sectors. By keeping private sector on the margins of defence procurement, India has allowed itself to be caught in a vortex of imports and public sector inefficiencies.

Yet many Indian private sector players have exhibited their manufacturing capabilities, innovative leadership and growth ambitions across various segments. Several Tata group companies, L&T, the Mahindra group, Reliance and others continue to remain optimistic of a breakthrough. Whenever called in to meet a challenge these companies have shown they are capable of it. Larsen & Toubro built the hull for India's indigenous nuclear submarine and is now ready to build conventional submarines. However, the navy and the MoD do not seem to be very enthusiastic. Tata Power SED (Strategic Electronics Division) recently exhibited a 155mm/52 calibre truck mounted howitzer, developed in partnership with Denel of South Africa. The company says it is presently 50 per cent indigenous. However, the Army doesn't seem to be very excited, arguing that Denel is blacklisted in India.

The story doesn't end there. Reliance Industries Limited has committed its intent to invest about $500 million to $1 billion (approx Rs 2,750 crore to Rs 5,500 crore) in developing an aerospace centre. Reliance claimed it would hire about 1,500 people for the division. The number of such private firms with big ambitions is not limited to these few. Mahindra, Punj Lloyd, other Tata firms, and several others too have made their intent rather clear.

The challenges

But standing in the way of a turn towards aggressive indigenization are two specific challenges — DRDO's monopoly (in conjunction with public sector companies ) and the powerful influence of arms agents. "It is easy to talk about indigenisation. But in practice it is going to be extremely difficult. From Antony shedding his own Nehruvian obsessions with public sector to forcing armed forces to appreciating the need for indigenisation, it is a complicated scenario ," says the CEO of a leading Indian private sector player.

The biggest challenge would actually from the DPSUs, ordnance factories and the DRDO. They together account for around 30 per cent of the annual defence procurement, and almost 100 per cent of military research. Beyond the numbers and tall claims, these groups are today clearly bloated, inefficient monopolies. Worse, they are all directly or indirectly promoting India's heavy dependence on foreign suppliers, and this remains the worst-kept secret of Indian defence procurement.

DRDO's lofty claims do not mean much today to the Indian military, which also has to meet the challenge of insurgencies. Most of the major weapon platforms that the research agency — on its own or with other government partners — set out to make are still far from being inducted by the forces.

DRDO is no longer a robust research agency capable of catering to the growing demands of 21st century warfare. The Rama Rao Committee's recommendations for reforming DRDO were a telling story of just what's wrong. The committee said the DRDO brand was "wilting" . It pointed out that just 3 per cent of DRDO scientists had PhDs. The committee had also identified the lack of interaction with end users (the military) at all levels of project execution as among the problems. And yet, the committee's recommendations for overhauling DRDO are woefully inadequate, admits a senior MoD official.

DPSUs and ordnance factories (OFB) have also become liabilities. While the long-pending recommendation for corporatising ordnance factories (in which these government departments are turned into PSUs) has been in cold storage because of employee resistance, OFB has failed to evolve into a modern factory network. Consider the INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifle, meant to be the primary personal weapon of the Indian soldier; it has now been dumped by the Army. Nothing better captures the OFB problem. Today, the Indian Army and other arms of the military are scouting the global market looking to place huge orders for personal rifles.

And then there are the powerful arms dealers, who have been partnering with foreign firms to sell wares to Indian armed forces. "Middlemen are thriving because foreign companies do not have the wherewithal to navigate the Indian military-bureaucratic and political systems. We are extremely corrupt, inefficient and biased," says a senior military officer, who got himself out of an important posting in procurements after he came face to face with the ugly underbelly of Indian defence procurement.

Battlefield uncertainties have exponentially gone up in recent decades. Everything from unmanned combat vehicles to stealth technology is redefining the way we fight. The challenge, then, is to find a new architecture to create a robust military research and development culture; and an industrial complex in India. The private sector cannot be kept out of such an effort.

No bang for the buck

MBT Arjun

The main battle tank is still to be accepted fully by the Army even after almost four decades of development. It was originally aimed to replace the Russian T-54 and T-72 tanks which made up the bulk of India's armored firepower. Dogged by delays and performance issues due to its excessive weight, the Arjun has almost become a symbol of the tanking hopes on indigenisation.

Light combat aircraft

A project kickstarted in earnest in 1984 with the establishment of the Aeronautical Development Agency, the fighter is far from full-scale induction into the Air Force. Many are beginning to call for a renewed focus on LCA so that India can have a truly home-grown fighter. For now, its engines come from the US since the indigenous Kaveri engine isn't ready.

Artillery guns

India is yet to make its own modern artillery guns, though it had technology transfer from Bofors since late 1980s. In fact ever since the Bofors scandal broke, India has not bought a new artillery gun.


DRDO's greatest success has been in developing ballistic missiles. However, there are many questions over the organisation's exaggerated claims. DRDO has had to collaborate with Israelis for developing surface to air missiles, and continues to be dependent on Russia for the Brahmos cruise missiles.
Defence budget cuts to affect national security
Nations, like every household, have to live within their means. Just as individuals lose their respect in society if they live beyond their means, nations lose their international influence, and compromise their national security, when they mismanage their finances. Living beyond its means with its growing budget deficit, India is steadily losing its influence and respect across its neighbourhood. Its influence is being challenged in its neighbours ranging from Maldives and Sri Lanka to Nepal and Bhutan. They are increasingly turning to an economically dynamic China, which promises and efficiently delivers on its economic assistance, military cooperation and political support.

This slide in India’s influence abroad gathered momentum when Moody’s International Services warned in June 2012 that growth in India will fall below the projected level of 6.5%, to 5.5%. The government vehemently rejected this assessment. Economic growth has, however, recently fallen to below 5%. On December 11, Standard and Poor’s warned that India’s sovereign rating could be downgraded to “junk status” in the next 24 months, because of high fiscal deficit and debt burdens. More recently, just before the presentation of the Union Budget, Moody’s warned that with a current account deficit of 5.4% against an acceptable level of 3%, India stood exposed to a serious threat of being downgraded to a negative rating, as a prelude to being reduced to “junk” status.

Faced with this crisis, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the author of the “dream budget” of 1997, acted firmly with spending cuts in the current financial year, reducing the fiscal deficit to 5.2% of GDP. He has set the target of bringing it down to 4.8% in the coming financial year. But with populism advocated by the extra-constitutional National Advisory Council resulting in financial profligacy over the past few years, the Indian economy is in a bad shape. It remains to be seen if the measures suggested by Chidambaram revive investor confidence and if sectors like infrastructure perform more efficiently than they have in recent years. Interestingly, the Heritage Foundation in Washington, which has been well disposed to India in recent years, has expressed scepticism about targets for spending and deficit reduction being met, and doubted that the manufacturing sector, currently in the doldrums, will grow fast enough to provide much-needed employment opportunities.

Given the imperatives of forthcoming general elections and the need for fiscal prudence, the finance minister inevitably reduced the defence budget. It is, however, noteworthy that there has been an augmentation in the foreign assistance budget for key neighbours like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. The defence budget has, however, been reduced to 1.79% of the GDP—its lowest level in past three decades. The Kargil conflict took place after the Pakistan Army was convinced that its Indian counterpart was ill-equipped to fight, after drastic reductions of the defence budget in the 1990s. Ayub embarked on his military adventure in 1965 after he thought that the encounter in Kutch in 1964 established Pakistan’s superiority in firepower. China’s attack in 1962 took place after Mao was convinced that the Indian army lacked the equipment and firepower to meet a Chinese onslaught. It does appear that after the recent budget cuts, it is going to take considerable time to set up a Strike Corps in the Northeast to deter Chinese transgressions. Moreover, delays in acquisition of the MMRCA, mountain guns and other systems would inevitably cause setbacks to operational preparedness. We also need to seriously ponder over whether State-run monopolies in defence production really serve the cause of developing indigenous high-technology capabilities, essential for development of a viable defence industry in the country.

Populism, financial profligacy and inadequacies and shortcomings in the defence industry have taken their inevitable toll on self-reliance in defence procurement and on defence preparedness.
Chinese defence budget 3 times more than india

New Delhi: China — as per its official figures — will be spending nearly thrice as much as India on defence, highlighting the fact that the Chinese dragon is focused on increasing its comprehensive national power despite global recessionary trends.

This is in contrast with India, which announced a marginal defence budget hike for 2013-14 while slashing the quantum of its defence Budget hike.

India had also slashed its capital expenditure (money for weaponry and equipment for military modernisation) by Rs 10,000 crore in the current financial year 2012-13.

The steep Chinese defence budget hike has left Indian defence analysts worried.

According to reports from Beijing on Tuesday, China has hiked its defence budget by 10.7 per cent to $115.7 billion which is almost thrice that of the Indian defence budget of about $37.4 billion for 2013-14.

China arms bill tops $180bn

A defence analyst — speaking on condition of anonymity — said “the hidden component of the Chinese defence budget is usually about 60 per cent which means that the actual Chinese defence budget could well be close to $180 billion”.

The analyst added, “The Chinese defence budget hike this time of 10 per cent is in conformity with the normal pattern of 10 per cent hike every year. This shows that the global recessionary trends do not seem to have affected the Chinese defence budget.”

In contrast, global recessionary trends seem to have cast their shadow on Indian defence spending. In fact, defence minister A.K. Antony had recently referred to the “difficult economic situation both at home and abroad” in the context of the Indian defence budget allocation.

Meanwhile, reacting to the Chinese defence budget hike, well-known defence analyst Commodore (Retd) C. Uday Bhaskar said, “China is taking its national security requirements in a very serious, focused and determined manner which is a contrast to the Indian example.

China is focusing on its trans-border military capability and this is of very deep strategic import.”

While the Chinese dragon continues to militarise, the Indian government is still to take a decision on approving the formation of a mountain strike-corps that will give the Indian Army offensive capabilities for the first time ever against China. Several important defence projects such as artillery acquisitions for the Army have also got repeatedly delayed.

The IAF is looking forward to the induction of 126 fighter aircraft in the proposed MMRCA deal with French firm Dassault but the deal is yet to be signed. The Navy also needs more submarines, even as the much-awaited induction of the French-origin Scorpene submarines has been delayed.

According to defence ministry sources, China had — during the recent India-China Annual Defence Dialogue in Beijing — expressed a desire to work more closely with India in strengthening defence ties and had apparently hinted that the bitterness of the 1962 war should be forgotten.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal