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Monday, 1 April 2013

From Today's Papers - 01 Apr 2013
US in touch with South Korea; ready to meet North’s threat

Washington, March 31
The US has said it is in close touch with South Korea and is prepared for any possible threat from the North, amid escalating tension in the Korean peninsula after declaration of "state of war" by Pyongyang.

"We've seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea. We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean Allies," said Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson of the National Security Council.

"But, we would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today's announcement follows that familiar pattern," she said.

Referring to the statement by Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Hayden said the US remains fully prepared and capable of protecting the country and its allies.

"We continue to take additional measures against the North Korean threat, including our plan to increase the US ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar, and the signing of the ROK-US counter-provocation plan," Hayden said.

The White House statement came after North Korea yesterday said it was entering a "state of war" with South and warned that US bases in Hawaii and Guam would be targeted in what could turn into "an all-out war, a nuclear war".

According to North Korea's official news agency, its leader Kim Jong Un, after his meeting with his top commanders, said his country "would react to the US nuclear blackmail with a merciless nuclear attack, and war of aggression with an all-out war of justice".

Kim also signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets, ordering them to be "standby for fire so that they may strike any time the US mainland, its military bases in the operational theatres" in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea. — PTI
North Korean rhetoric
Flexing muscles will not do

North Korea’s threat to attack the US and its allies like South Korea after two nuclear-capable B-2 American bombers flew over the Korea peninsula last week has led to increased activity in Washington DC and North-East Asian capitals. The B-2 sorties, as the US explanation goes, were aimed at demonstrating that Washington DC was “fully prepared and capable of defending and protecting” its interests in the region and beyond. But the North Korean leadership appears to have taken it in a different context — use of force to get Pyongyang’s controversial nuclear programme abandoned. And hence the North Korean declaration on Saturday of being in a “state of war” with South Korea, which, like Japan, depends on the US for meeting threats from North Korea, suspected to have developed low-grade nuclear weapons.

Though communist North Korea and South Korea have been technically in a state of war with each other since they ended their 1950-53 conflict after signing an armistice, they never got engaged in a full-scale war since then. However, Pyongyang has been issuing threats now and then of doing whatever it can to protect its interests militarily. Its threatening statements have been interpreted as nothing but rhetoric to gain global attention for bargaining for financial aid owing to its growing economic difficulties. This time, however, the US has taken the North Korean threat seriously, though with the rider that there is nothing to fear about.

The difference between the earlier threats and the latest one issued by North Korea is that the young North Korean ruler, Kim Jong-un, has signed an order putting its missile units in a state of readiness to attack American interests in the US mainland and South Korea. Japan is also feeling uneasy following these developments. The world should not take the present North Korean leader’s rhetoric in the same manner as it treated the threats by his father. The new ruler seems to be more irresponsible than his father was because of being young and some other factors. Flexing muscles, as the US has done to prevent Pyongyang from taking to an adventurous course, will not do. China, which has friendly relations with North Korea, needs to be involved immediately in the goings-on to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table to sort out the issues relating to its controversial nuclear programme.
‘Survey will end row over Army land’
For the Army that defends Indian territory from external incursions, guarding its own land within the country seems to be becoming a headache.

In Bangalore, where most of the remaining green spaces are preserved by the Army, there have been recent conflicts between city residents and Army authorities over land.

In Karnataka alone, when the Army is not fighting the 59 cases related to its land in various courts, it is warding off encroachers on areas allotted to it. At times, it must even surrender prime areas it held within urban limits for years and instead settle for suburban land some distance away.

To put an end to land-related conflicts, the Army and the State government have initiated a survey of Army land in the city.

“Once that is completed, we will know exactly where we stand. It takes time,” said Major General K.S. Venugopal, who on Sunday demitted office as the General Office Commanding, Karnataka & Kerala Sub Area.

In the State, the Army has been “authorised” or technically allowed to keep 8,772 acres for its various establishments and manpower. “But we hold only 4,430 acres and are short of what is required. To top it, 95 acres have been encroached upon — by expanding slums, new layouts, and other settlers,” he told a news conference in the presence of his successor, Maj. Gen. A.K. Singh.

As a result, the Army has started going vertical for its staff’s living quarters — “a thing we never had to do before”. This is the result of the increasing pressure on land in expanding metros like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune, he reasoned.

“All Army land belongs to the Ministry of Defence, we are only custodians,” he said.

“There are vested interests who try to exploit the situation and grab [Defence] land.” Putting up walls was expensive. “We have taken measures to ensure that no further encroachment takes place,” he said.

In Bangalore, the Army has many establishments, including the Army Service Corps (ASC) Centre and College, six regimental centres and many units. Some years ago when the Pioneer Corps moved out of R.T. Nagar to HAL airport road and the Parachute Centre moved in there from the North, certain pockets were left vacant, something the Army realised later. The joint survey would settle this issue too.

Last November, the State government unilaterally de-notified land given to the Army next to the Belgaum Firing Range for a college. Any firing range must have free land next to it, he explained.

The denotification, the outgoing GOC said, has affected firing exercises. A U.K. Army team is also due to train there in April-end.

A curious disputed case is the M. Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium, which was leased by the Army years ago through the State government to the Karnataka State Cricket Association.

Part of the city’s defence band and barely half a kilometre from the office of the General Officer Commanding, it is in the heart of the central business district and just opposite Cubbon Park.

The Army says it has sought “legal recourse” for this piece, too.

It frequently sought to host its tournaments when the stadium did not have any other matches or events, but that has not happened, said Maj. Gen. Venugopal. “Strictly the stadium should hold only sporting events and not allow any commercial activity.” The requests have been raised every year during the civil-military liaison conferences chaired by the Chief Minister. “But that has not translated to reality.”
Army neutralize IED, gun down rebel in Assam
GUWAHATI: Security forces neutralized an IED and gunned down a Garo militant leader on Sunday in two separate incidents in Goalpara district.

Army sleuths found the IED, suspected to be planted by NDFB militants, at a connecting road between Kanyakuchi and Saljhar township in Goalpara district under Rangjuli police station. Later, the IED, concealed in a bag weighing 3 kg, was neutralized.

In a different incident, security forces gunned down a Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) militant near the Kashikagra area under Krishnai police station in the district. The deceased was identified as Kawaq Marak, the area commander of lower Assam area.

Security forces found a 9 mm pistol, a magazine and seven rounds of ammunitions from the deceased's possession.
Indian armed forces face shortage of officers, personnel
New Delhi: India's three defence services have reported shortage of officers and other ranks with the Army facing crunch of 10,100 officers as on July 1, 2012, Parliament was told on Monday.

Defence Minister AK Antony told Lok Sabha said in a written reply that Army faced shortage of 26,433 PBORs (personnel below officer rank) as on October 1, 2012.

He said the navy faced shortage of 2,054 officers and 14,512 sailors as on December 31, 2012, while the Air Force faced a shortage of 667 officers as on Feb 1, 2013 and 7,000 airmen as on Dec 1, 2012.
Antony said the government has taken a number of measures to encourage the youth to join the armed forces, including holding recruitment rallies and media campaigns.

N Korea in ‘state of war’ against South
Seoul, March 30
North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a "state of war" with South Korea, its latest bout of angry rhetoric directed at Seoul and Washington, but the South brushed off the statement as little more than tough talk. The White House said it takes North Korea's latest saber-rattling threats seriously while cautioning that Pyongyang has a long history of bellicose rhetoric.

The North also threatened to shut down an industrial zone it operates jointly with the South near the heavily armed border between the two sides if Seoul continued to say the complex — the last major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation — was being kept running for money.

The South Korean government brushed off the North's latest statement on entering a state of war, saying there was nothing fresh in it to cause greater alarm. South Koreans went about with daily lives as they have done through March under the North's constant threat of attack.

The two Koreas have been technically in a state of war for six decades under a truce that ended their 1950-53 conflict. Despite its threats, few people see any indication Pyongyang will risk a near-certain defeat by re-starting full-scale war.

"From this time on, North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly," a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency said. — Reuters

Nothing new, says Seoul
The South Korean government brushed off the North's latest statement on entering a state of war, saying there was nothing fresh in it to cause greater alarm
The North has been threatening to attack the South and US military bases almost on a daily basis since the beginning of March, when the US and South Korean militaries started routine drills

US terms it ‘bellicose rhetoric’
We’ve seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from N Korea. We take these threats seriously. But, we would also note that the North has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and Saturday’s announcement follows that familiar pattern.
Caitlin Hayden, white house national security council spokeswoman

What analysts say
Analysts say a full-scale conflict is extremely unlikely, noting that the Korean Peninsula has remained in a technical state of war for 60 years under a truce that ended their 1950-53 conflict

Army to upgrade entire fleet of infantry combat vehicles
NEW DELHI: India is undertaking an ambitious programme to upgrade its entire fleet of over 2,000 infantry combat vehicles with advanced weaponry and night-fighting capabilities, even as it inducts more T-90S main-battle tanks, upgrades its T-72 fleet and plans a futuristic "smart" tank for battles beyond 2020.

Army chief General Bikram Singh is pushing hard for speedy modernization of the 1.13-million force, especially the fighting arms of infantry, artillery and mechanized forces, which had virtually stalled over the last few years due to shoddy management of procurement projects as well as bad blood between his predecessor Gen V K Singh and the defence ministry.

The Army wants to bolster the "shock and awe" capabilities of its mechanized forces, which includes 63 armoured corps regiments and over 30 mechanized infantry battalions, in tune with its war doctrine that lays stress on being prepared for high-intensity, fast tempo and short-duration battles. Both strategic mobility and enhanced firepower are required for rapid offensive thrusts into enemy territory.

While infantry combat vehicles may be the slightly poorer cousins of tanks in terms of armour-protection and weaponry, they perform the critical task of carrying soldiers into the battle zone backed with fire support. Apart from being amphibious, they are also useful in urban combat and asymmetrical warfare.

"The plan is to provide desired offensive capabilities to our BMP-II and BMP-IIK infantry combat vehicles, which can carry 10 soldiers, on three fronts: thermal imaging integration, armament upgrade and engine upgrade," said a source.

Back-of-the-envelope calculations show the overall cost of this entire project could touch Rs 10,000 crore. The armament upgrade alone, for instance, would be worth over Rs 5,000 crore, with the BMPs to be equipped with two twin-missile launchers on each side, 2nd-generation-plus ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) and 30-mm automatic grenade launchers.

"It also includes TIFCS (thermal imaging fire control systems) to increase accuracy of weapon systems and panoramic sights for the commanders to be able to look in all directions," said the source.

While over 950 BMPs have already been fitted with thermal imaging modules, the rest will now be equipped with advanced "TISK" systems that integrate ATGMs, auto-canons and PKT machine guns to ensure they can be fired accurately at night. "This integration should be completed by mid-2014. The existing 285 horsepower engines of the BMPs will also be upgraded to 360 horsepower," he said.

As for the armoured corps, they have already inducted around 800 of the planned 1,657 Russian-origin T-90S tanks and 124 indigenous Arjun tanks (the Mark-II version of which is being developed with "89 improvements"), apart from upgrading its old warhorse fleet of T-72 tanks.

‘Encroachments on defence land is a major problem’
Major General K S Venugopal, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Karnataka and Kerala (K&K) Sub Area, is shedding his uniform after 37 years of service in the Indian Army.  On the eve of handing over the baton to the next man, Anantha Krishnan M catches up with the passionate solider to capture his thoughts on Bangalore city and more.


CE: What are your thoughts when hanging your boots after serving the Army for so many years?

KSV: It has been a great experience to have served the nation during the last 37 years. This excludes three years training in National Defence Academy and one year at Indian Military Academy. Also, another six years in Sainik School, Thiruvananthapuram.  In effect, I started wearing the uniform (khaki then) in 1966 and it has continued, till today.  I ‘hang my boots’ with lot of satisfaction and pride, that I had the privilege to be a part of this unique organisation called Indian Army.

CE: What are your thoughts on Bangalore city?

KSV: Bangalore is one of the best cities in the world. We are fortunate to have a very balanced climate, people living in harmony and the city has the potential for growth.  In future, all developments must be done in a planned manner - pay more attention to hygiene and sanitation, traffic management and environment. We must also plan for creating additional power & water.

CE: What are the main problems that the Army is facing in Bangalore?

KSV: Encroachments on defence land in various pockets is a challenge. As the Metro grows, there will be more pressure on defence land due to unplanned growth and expansion of townships.

CE: Is there any delay in major expansion plans of Indian Army in Bangalore due to the state government’s apathy?

KSV: No. The state government has been very helpful in all cases except the firing range at Belgaum, which was denotified unilaterally without informing the Central government. The range was earlier notified up to 2020.  This move has adversely affected training of our personnel as well as joint training with other countries.

CE: With the city growing, is the Army finding it tough to protect its land?

KSV: No. We have done the survey of most of the land jointly, with the help of state administration. All arrangements are in place to protect our land. The state government has been considerate to assure us of equal value land in lieu of the defence land encroached and under dispute.

CE: What are the main problems the Army is facing in Karnataka?

KSV: The main problem is revamping of the Kendriya Sainik Board and ensuring that the veterans get their due and they are able to live with dignity. Though the state government has been very helpful, more needs to be done for the ex-Service men (ESM). Each district should have a welfare board and all privileges such as employment in state departments, allotment of dwelling units, admission to children and so on, due to them must be given on time and in a transparent manner.

CE:  What are your most unforgettable moments in uniform?

KSV: There are many. Important ones being my tenure as the Company Commander in Sri Lanka and Battalion Commander in Kashmir Valley.

In Sri Lanka, we had lot of difficulties. There were no maps, no photographs and lack of knowledge of the terrain and people. I was commanding a company of 14 JAT. None except me knew Tamil. That added to our problems. We were operating in another country and it was extremely difficult to explain to men the ‘rationale’ of being there. As a young Company Commander it was a great challenge to motivate the men and fight for the ‘cause’ of another country.

The other moment was when I was the Battalion Commander of 14 JAT, inducted into Lolab Valley infested with militants, after a three-year tenure in Rashtrapati Bhavan and Red Fort. It was a herculean task to bring all ranks into the operational grid. But it was highly satisfying to see the Battalion settling down quickly.

CE: As GOC K&K Sub-Area, what were your major challenges?

KSV: The major challenges were protection of the land entrusted to us by the Government, ensuring respectability to the serving and retired soldiers and streamlining the Ex -Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme.

CE: What’s your message to young aspirants?

KSV: If the younger generation wants to lead a clean, healthy and happy life, they must join the Army. Each citizen must give something in return for what the nation has given you. What better than being a part of an organisation that defends the country from external aggression and internal disorders. Be honest, pro-active and adventurous. You will remain physically fit, mentally alert and socially happy and the respect you earn from the society will carry you through.

Defence Ministry to study quality of food for troops

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) will soon carry out an independent survey to determine the satisfaction levels of India’s 13 lakh troops on the quality of rations supplied to them in the field.

For the purpose, the MoD will rope in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS) to suggest alteration in rations, depending on the troops’ nutritional requirements.

The MoD gave this assurance in an Action Taken Note (ATN) to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which was however unhappy that the study had not yet been carried out despite the supply chain management of rations in the Indian Army being examined by it in 2011. The PAC presented the ATN in Parliament this month.

“The (Defence) Ministry is considering to undertake independent survey by the ICMR and DIPAS for determining the satisfaction level of the troops and to suggest alteration in rations depending on nutritional requirements, development of food technology and preference of troops,” the MoD said in its ATN.

“The Ministry has asked ICMR whether it would like to undertake the study this year on satisfaction levels,” it said. The MoD also assured the PAC that the defence food specifications are reviewed continuously and are revised through a Technical Standardisation Committee, which meets annually.

The PAC, however, regretted that the survey “is still under consideration of the ministry, though assurance to that effect was given in 2011 when the subject was under examination of the committee.”

Deprecating the “inordinate” delay, the PAC asked the MoD to initiate urgent measures for undertaking the proposed survey without any further delay to gauge the satisfaction levels of the troops taking into consideration their “calorific, nutritional and conditional” requirements.

The PAC had, in 2011 report, noted that the DIPAS study carried out between 2001 and 2005 had revealed that satisfaction level of troops regarding quality, quantity and taste of rations in general was “very low” and in particular with respect to the quality of meet and fresh vegetables. It also noted that 10 of the 50 samples of ration supplied to the troops posted in Jammu and Kashmir were “sub-standard” and of “poor” quality.

How arms dealer Abhishek Verma exploited top-secret defence information
New Delhi / New York: Through hundreds of documents now being investigated by the CBI,  and accessed by NDTV, startling new details are emerging of how arms dealer  Abhishek Verma, his wife Anca Neacsu, and their partners brazenly worked the system. 

Emails that the CBI believes were written by Mr Verma reveal him accessing and exploiting top-secret defence information. He also claimed he was paying bribes to government officials, and had interactions with officials in the Defence Ministry and the Indian armed forces, to ensure that rifles, carbines and pistols manufactured by US defence manufacturer Sig Sauer  were pushed onto shortlists for contracts worth millions of dollars. 

NDTV cannot independently verify the authenticity of the emails.
NDTV reported earlier this week that the CBI says it has found evidence that a kickback of $50,000 was transferred by Sig Sauer through a matrix of front companies to Mr Verma. This bribe was meant for a government official referred to in emails by Mr Verma and his partners as "VIP."

At stake was a multi-crore deal for sniper rifles for the Indian Army.

"VIP" was to be paid for removing an anonymous complaint filed against Sig Sauer's 716 assault rifle.   If that complaint had been recognized, Sig Sauer  would have been blacklisted, making it ineligible for not just this deal, but for the billion dollar contract to replace the Army's INSAS rifle, for which the manufacturer is still in the running.

In an email dated July 23 2011, Mr Verma told his associates that the anonymous compliant, received by the Defence Ministry, warned of audacious irregularities in how the SIG assault rifles had been conducted in the United  States by Indian Army officers.

According to the complaint, SIG had hired a firing range for the trials but army officials did not reach it on time. Listing the contents of the compliant, Mr Verma writes, "The range wasn't available the second day therefore firing was done at 300 metres distance and the same results were extrapolated for 800 meters and SIG weapon passed."

Mr Verma tells his partners and wife that the complaint also said, "The officers who went to USA were looked after and 1 of the officer's wife was taken shopping!"

The complainant said these malpractices meant that  Sig Sauer should be dropped from the competition.  Worried about the consequences, Mr  Verma wrote if the defence official in charge "takes cognizance of the anonymous complaint... then the entire deal would be scrapped and re-tendered.

In the same email, Mr Verma shared with his partners  highly classified information on how other manufacturers had fared in the trials, which means he accessed a top-secret army report.

In an email dated July 26, 2011, Mr Verma outlined the urgent need for the bribe for "VIP."  He asked for $50,000 to be wired "tomorrow, Tuesday or Wednesday" for 'business development' in India and this cannot be delayed a day as each day counts."

The same day, an account was opened at JP Morgan Chase Bank, New York and $51,000 was deposited into the account.. A few days later, on August 2, 2011, an email from Mr Verma's colleague, C Edmonds Allen, confirmed that the transfer to Ganton, Mr Verma's company, was complete.

China proposes border defence pact, India to go slow
NEW DELHI: China today proposed a border defence cooperation agreement to avoid any misunderstanding or flare up along the boundary but India is not rushing into it as wants to study the proposal thoroughly.

During a Secretary-level meeting here, the two sides decided to hold Army-to-Army counter-terrorism exercise in China this year. The dates would be finalised during the visit of an Indian Army delegation to China next month. The Indian delegation was led by Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.
At the meeting, the Chinese delegation led by its Deputy Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Qi Jianguo proposed an agreement under which troops of the two countries will not tail each other if noticed during patrolling along the disputed Line of Actual Control, sources told PTI.

The proposal also has a clause which suggests that troops of either side will not fire at each other under each other under any condition, they said.

However, the Indian side gave no commitment, the sources said. India wants to study the proposal thoroughly and do due diligence before taking any decision.

This was the second meeting between Qi, who is in-charge for Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence in the People's Liberation Army, and Sharma in the last three months after they met at the Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) in January.

The Chinese side had discussed these proposals informally during the ADD also but India had then asked it to submit these points in a formal manner at a later stage.

The Army-to-Army exercise would be held after a gap of around five years. The first one was held in 2007 in Kunming in China while the second edition was held in Belgaum in Karnataka in December 2008.

The exercises were stopped after tensions between the two sides over denial of visa to the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal in 2010 and issuing of stapled visa to residents of Jammu and Kashmir by China.

During the meeting, both sides agreed to finalise the plan of bilateral exchanges between the armed forces of India and China. It has been decided that exchanges will be conducted between the Armies, Navies and Air Forces on both sides, the Defence Ministry said in a release.

It was agreed that strengthening of exchanges between the armed forces should be carried out as a way of building mutual trust and confidence and consistent with the overall bilateral relationship between both countries, the release said.

Sharma and Qi also discussed issues relating to the regional security situation. The Chinese Lt Gen also called on Defence Minister A K Antony and conveyed that the new leadership in China attaches high priority to consolidate cooperative relations with India in all spheres.

Antony is also planning to visit China by middle of the year after which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also expected to visit Beijing.

Meanwhile, addressing the 12th V K Krishna Menon memorial lecture, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said with China, India has a "complex boundary issue,". "The biggest boundary problem in the world is still unresolved but the leader of the two countries decided to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border and we have been successful in doing so for several decades," he said.

The NSA said the two countries have "without waiting for a settlement of the boundary issue developed rest of the relations to the point that China today is our largest trading partner in goods and we make common core on several issues of global significance."

He said this may not be the ideal and not the best situation that you could envisage "but it is certainly better than where we were before. Most importantly, both displayed the will and ability to manage differences and build on commonalities."

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