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Sunday, 24 March 2013

From Today's Papers - 24 Mar 2013
Antony stresses self-reliance in defence
Tells DRDO to complete unfinished projects without delay
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
Defence Minister AK Antony today reiterated the importance of self-reliance in producing military equipment if India were to emerge as a big power.

Inaugurating the 37th Directors' Conference of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) today, Antony referred to the recent VVIP helicopter deal that had put the Defence acquisition process under the scanner to make a point.

"Such incidents highlight the need to look within and make us realise that there is absolutely no substitute for self-reliance," he said.

The DRDO, making a departure from the past, has invited select industry captains to its three-day conference, allowing them to gauge their scope for developing military equipment.

Antony said unfinished projects that had been in the pipeline for a very long time should be completed at the earliest. In this connection, he drew the attention to the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) - Tejas - and said the DRDO must not extend the date beyond 2014 for the final operational clearance of the aircraft for induction into the Indian Air Force.

"I am tired of answering questions in Parliament on 'Tejas'," Antony quipped.

'Tejas' had last participated in IAF exercise "Iron fist" in February. The single-engine fighter plane has an initial operational clearance and is being flown by the IAF to fine-tune various aspects before it is put to real-time operational flying.

Urging the DRDO scientists to focus on priority areas, Antony said the ultimate test of success of an organisation laid in the satisfaction of the users - in this case the three Services.

The DRDO, he said, had to take a lead if indigenisation goals had to be met. The three Services, the Ministry of Defence and private industry had to work together to ensure quick and transparent acceptance of the systems being produced by the DRDO, he added.

Antony complimented the DRDO for the progress achieved on the Agni-V and the BrahMos missile systems.

"Allocation of funds will not be a constraint. Continuous funding will be required for R&D to survive, but with more emphasis on indigenisation and self-reliance we will save a lot of money in the long run."

Among those present were Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and DRDO chief Dr VK Saraswat.
Taliban vow to send Musharraf to 'hell' on his return to Pakistan
Islamabad, March 23
Pakistan's Taliban have threatened to dispatch suicide bombers and snipers to kill former President Pervez Musharraf when he returns home from exile on Sunday after nearly four years to contest the May 11 election.

The 69-year-old escaped three assassination attempts when in office from 1999 to 2008, a target of Islamist extremists because of his alliance in the US-led "war on terror" and attempts to clamp down on militants.

In a Taliban video obtained by Reuters, Adnan Rasheed, who took part in a previous attempt to assassinate Musharraf, warned: "The mujahideen of Islam have prepared a special squad to send Musharraf to hell. There are suicide bombers, snipers, a special assault unit and a close combat team."

Video footage shows hooded militants in combat gear clutching AK-47 assault rifles conduct training exercises along hills. Some practice making a roadside bomb, which later explodes.

"Pervez Musharraf, you see the death squad around me," said a bearded man who appears to be their trainer, in English. "We urge you to surrender yourself to us, otherwise we will hit you from where you will never reckon."

Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup and resigned in 2008 when his allies lost a vote and a new government threatened him with impeachment. He left the country a year later. The former army general faces the possibility of arrest on charges that he failed to provide adequate security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before her assassination in 2007, and in relation to other cases.

But his most immediate concern may be the Taliban, who are seeking revenge for his crackdown on militants fighting to topple the US-backed government and impose their austere version of Islam. "When the jackal's death is near he heads to the town," said Rasheed, who was among 400 prisoners who were broken out of a jail by militants in 2012.

Militants were especially enraged when Musharraf's security forces launched a full-scale attack on Islamabad's sprawling Lal Masjid in 2007 after followers of radical clerics running a Taliban-style movement from there refused to surrender. The government said 102 people were killed in fighting when the complex was stormed.

"The Pakistani Taliban is fully prepared to deal with this pharoah. If God is willing, we will give this devil what he deserves and give satisfaction to the victims of the Lal Masjid," said Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan in the video. — Reuters
Will be in Pak on Sunday'
Pervez Musharraf (pic) said he will follow through with his plans to return to his homeland on Sunday
He stated that he will return to take part in the May elections despite the "fear of the unknown"
The ex-President angered the Taliban and other groups by joining the US war on terror following the 9/11 attacks.
Pak: Need to settle disputes through talks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
Pakistan today emphasised the need for properly handling differences and settling all disputes with India peacefully through the process of dialogue.

Addressing a function at the Pakistan High Commission here on the occasion of the 'Pakistan Day', its High Commissioner Salman Bashir also affirmed his country's 'complete solidarity' with the people of Kashmir.

"Pakistan is determined to develop and promote good, friendly and cooperative relations with all neighbours, particularly India," he added.

Bashir had last night hosted a dinner at the high Commission premises to mark the occasion. Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur was the chief guest at the function, attended by members of the diplomatic community, Parliamentarians, scholars and journalists. However, senior Kashmiri separatist leaders were conspicuous by their absence at the dinner.
The mother of all misjudgements
The US-led coalition forces came up with no evidence of the cache of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which was the supposed cause of the war. Yet, they have left the country in no better condition than when they invaded it.
Raj Chengappa
First there was the big lie. Ten years ago, on March 17, then US President George Bush warned the world and issued an ultimatum to then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, stating, "The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfil their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.... Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair notice, in formal declarations — and responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defence, it is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now." The year was 2003, just two years after 9/11, and much of the world, including India, was willing to believe Bush.

All of us who had covered the Afghanistan war in 2001 knew that Bush meant business. To reach Iraq, I flew into Kuwait where US-led coalition troops had gathered in large numbers to begin the assault from there. We all underwent a course on how to protect ourselves from a nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) attack, conducted by helpful British shoulders. I even purchased an expensive gas mask and as we heard news about Iraqis launching a couple of missiles at Kuwait we scurried for cover along with the rest of the population. People were stocking up food for weeks in case they were forced to be holed up in the event of an NBC attack. I even did a course on how to walk in a mine infested area as we waited for the war to begin.

Launched on March 19, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom, as the invasion was known, was fast and furious, designed to "shock and awe" Iraqi forces. As the coalition forces unleashed a storm of devastating aerial attacks on major Iraqi cities, including the capital Baghdad, Iraqi military resistance faded away rapidly. What was expected to be a long-drawn and bloody war was almost over within the first 21 days of assault. By May 1, the coalition troops took control of Iraq as Saddam Hussein and his henchmen fled, leaving the populace leaderless and in chaos. Coalition troops announced the end of combat operations and the beginning of the occupation of Iraq, which ended only in December 2011, when the last batch of US troops pulled out.

In the years after the coalition forces occupied Iraq they came up with no evidence of the cache of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which was the supposed cause of the war. By 2005, two years after the war, US and British intelligence agencies admitted they had found no evidence that Iraq had in its possession nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. The then German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, called the second Iraq war the "mother of all misjudgements". To his credit, he had opposed the invasion from the beginning. As did Barack Obama, then a US Senator, who had termed it "a dumb war" and when he became President ensured that American troops pulled out as quickly as they could.

The US-led coalition has left Iraq today in no better condition than what I saw of the country when I visited it one year after the war. Democracy in Iraq remains nascent as sectarian and ethnic battles continue to rage across the country. Parliament is crippled, corruption and crime rampant. When I went back in 2004, the seeds of chaos that followed the aftermath of the war had already been sown. There were no jobs for ordinary Iraqis.

When I travelled to Karbala, at the gold-domed shrine of the martyred Imam Hussain, a bespectacled teacher, Fadhat Hussain, told me that he hadn't received his salary for months and he had to feed his wife and four children working as an assistant to a blacksmith. "I am up to my knees in debt. When Saddam was ruling at least we got our salaries." Hussain said. Another Iraqi told me that during Saddam's time crime was negligible but now thefts and rape were common and the average citizen feared for his security. Baghdad had become, as one resident described it, a "city of Ali Babas". Ziad Salah, a trader, told me, "Everyone in the queue has a hand in each other's pockets and at the end of the line is the government's hand."

Recent reports from Baghdad show that nothing has really changed. Opinion polls in the US indicate that in retrospect most Americans believe that the second Iraq war was a mistake. Over 4,000 US soldiers were killed and 32,000 wounded — a high price to pay for freedom that has already turned into a nightmare. No surprise then that the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq war was an unhappy one with hardly any celebrations. Instead, 50 people died in bomb blasts across Iraq. With the US pullout from Afghanistan just a year away, there seems to be little hope that Kabul would be better off than Baghdad after the coalition forces withdraw. For all those who propagate the concept of regime change, Iraq and Afghanistan are grim lessons to learn from.
Army to banish Bofors bogey, adopt indigenous, US routes
NEW DELHI: With defence minister AK Antony pushing for greater indigenization in the defence production sector to avoid scams, the Army is now pinning its hopes on two "prototypes" of artillery guns developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to boost its long-range, high-volume firepower.

Even as the force eagerly awaits the "user-trials" of these 155mm/45-calibre field guns in June, it's also pushing for inking of the $647 million contract for acquisition of 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers (ULH) from the US by April-May to "exorcise" its recurring Bofors ghost.

The series of scandals in the artillery arena â€" beginning with the Swedish Bofors one in the mid-1980s and followed by South African Denel, Israeli Soltam and Singapore Technology Kinetic's (STK) in later years â€" has left the Army grappling with huge operational gaps since not even a single new 155mm howitzer has been inducted for the past 27 years.

Interestingly, both the new projects on the horizon â€" part of the long-delayed over Rs 30,000 crore artillery modernization plan â€" have a strong "Bofors angle". While the ULH deal will be a direct government-to-government contract, which is said to preclude kickbacks, the 155mm/39-calibre M-777s are manufactured by BAE Systems, which now owns the original Bofors company.

The two OFB prototypes are also based on the designs obtained under the transfer of technology (ToT) provisions in the infamous Rs 1,437-crore Bofors contract for 410 155mm howitzers in 1986.

MoD sources said the "letter of acceptance" for the ULH deal should be ready by March-end or so. The air-mobile howitzers, capable of being swiftly deployed in forward areas by helicopters and aircraft, are primarily meant for the high-altitude areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh to counter China.

"An Indian `maintainability evaluation team' visited the US from February 8 to 25 to inspect the howitzers. The guns will be delivered to India within a year of the deal being closed," said a source.

On the other front, the OFB prototypes were "satisfactorily tested" in Pokhran on February 4. The Army wants to induct 414 of these field guns, which have a range of 38-km as compared to the 30-km of the original Bofors gun, in the first stage.

"The prototypes, one with 68% indigenous parts and the other with 46%, will undergo validation firing in March-April before the final user trials in June," said the source.

The other 155mm/52-calibre artillery projects include purchase of 100 self-propelled tracked guns from a foreign vendor and the development of 814 mounted gun systems through a joint venture with the private sector.

But the biggest one is the over Rs 12,000-crore project to buy 400 155mm/52-calibre towed artillery guns, followed by indigenous manufacture of another 1,180 such guns after transfer of technology from the foreign vendor. This project has been derailed at least a couple of times in the past, the last time after STK was blacklisted due to the corruption scandal against former OFB chairman Sudipto Ghosh.

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