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Thursday, 4 April 2013

From Today's Papers - 04 Apr 2013
China in Afghanistan
Reasons for seeking India's cooperation

India is getting feelers from China that they need to cooperate in Afghanistan so that religious extremists --- the Taliban --- are not able to take advantage of the situation that will arise after the withdrawal of the US-led foreign forces from the war-torn country. This single factor is the main source of worry for both New Delhi and Beijing. The Taliban factions are feeling upbeat with the scheduled departure of foreign troops not being far away. Despite their negative role in Afghanistan, which has suffered so much as a result of the activities of the Taliban, the extremists' support base in the landlocked country remains formidable. The US-led anti-terrorism drive in Afghanistan has not been able to discredit the Taliban or make these elements insignificant.

That is why Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has now become soft towards the Taliban as a practitioner of realpolitik. Interestingly, nowadays he uses harsh expressions more against the US than the Taliban. This shows that if a Karzai-sponsored candidate wins the coming presidential election there, Taliban factions will have a greater chance of being inducted into the government. Including the Taliban in the new government that will be formed has already been endorsed by the US and influential European countries.

The Western backing to a political dispensation to be run in partnership with the Taliban is part of a strategy for bringing about stability in Afghanistan. But the strategy has a major weakness: allowing the Taliban to share power in Kabul will embolden the extremists in Xinjiang in China, Jammu and Kashmir in India, all over Pakistan and elsewhere in South Asia. Thus, taking the help of the Taliban for peace in Afghanistan will amount to sowing the seeds of instability in parts of South Asia and China. The West is, therefore, pursuing a faulty strategy. The strategy of India and China in Afghanistan is based on their development projects. Both New Delhi and Beijing believe that development can work as an antidote to extremism represented by the Taliban. However, the two Asian giants can succeed in sidelining the Taliban only if China stops Pakistan from pursuing its negative policy of backing the Taliban for short-term gains.
Armyman found with eyes gouged near Jammu
An unconscious armyman, with both his eyes gouged, was rescued today by residents near Jammu and shifted to hospital, police said.

Soldier Rakesh Kumar, who left his home on March 31 for his posting area in Kishtwar which is also in Jammu and Kashmir, was found injured near Chowki Choura village, about 60 km north of Jammu, police and the victim's family said.

Mukesh Kumar, brother of the victim, said Rakesh had left his home in Nowshera village, about 30 km from the spot of incident on March 31.
"I have no idea as to who is behind this. I am on my way to the military hospital where he is admitted," he said.

A police official said, "It does not appear to be a militancy-related incident and Pakistan army's role too does not appear to be behind the incident as the Line of Control is about 10 km from the spot."

Police and the Army have started inquiring into the incident.
Army to install Field Marshal Manekshaw statues in Delhi, Wellington
Life size statues of Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw would be installed at Delhi and Wellington near here as part of the 100th birthday celebrations of the former Chief of the Indian Army, a top army official said today.

The statues of the first Indian military officer to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal in the Indian Army would be installed at Army College in Delhi and Madras Regimental Centre, Wellington, Maj.Gen Ravi Thodge, Chief instructor (Army), Defence Service Staff College, Wellington, told reporters on the sidelines of memorial services of Manekshaw.

On the occasion of the memorial services, a wreath was placed at the 'Parsee Cemetary' here, where he was laid to rest on June 27, 2008.

Fd Marshal Manekshaw, also remembered as "Sam Bahadur", led the Indian Army during the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971 which led to the liberation of Bangladesh.

Born in April 3, 1914, his over four-decade military career saw him participate in World War II, the three wars against Pakistan and the 1962 India-China War.
IAF, not Army, will get Apache attack helicopters: Govt
NEW DELHI: The defence ministry has rejected the Army's case for "ownership" of the 22 heavy-duty Apache helicopters, armed with deadly Hellfire and Stinger missiles, which India is all set to acquire from the US in a $1.4 billion contract.

The MoD, citing defence minister A K Antony's approval, has held the 22 AH-64D Apache Longbow gunships will "remain" with the IAF because the procurement deal was an "ongoing" one, which did not fall into category of "future" acquisitions, said officials.

The Army has been eyeing the Apache helicopters, that earlier defeated Russian Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant's Mi-28 Havoc choppers in the field trials conducted by IAF, for which the final commercial negotiations are now underway between MoD and Boeing.

Antony last year was compelled to step into the bitter turf war raging between Army and IAF for years, which publically erupted even during the 1999 Kargil conflict, over the ownership of attack helicopters.

The minister had then decided that "future" procurements of attack helicopters would be for the Army since the force contended it desperately needed the gunships to target enemy infantry and tanks on the ground.

But IAF argued it should be allowed to retain all the attack and medium-lift helicopters because it would be "very expensive" if the Army duplicated efforts and resources by getting its own "little air force". The "command and control" over IAF's two existing squadrons of Mi-25/35 attack helicopters was in any case in the hands of Army.

After MoD said the Army would also get its own attack helicopters to resolve the imbroglio, the force had laid claim to the "ownership" of the 22 Apache helicopters as well. "But the procurement process for the 22 Apache helicopters began much before the decision about giving Army ownership of future such inductions was taken," said a MoD official.

An undeterred Army, however, chalked out plans to have its own "mini" air force in the years ahead. Apart from creating a permanent cadre for the Army Aviation Corps, the force is raising "aviation brigades" for each of its three "strike" and 10 "pivot" corps.

The Army currently operates 195 Chetak/Chetak light observation helicopters as well as 70 Dhruv advanced light helicopters. Its long-term plans include three helicopter squadrons (10-12 choppers each) â€" armed or attack, reconnaissance and tactical lift â€" each for all its 13 corps as well as "a flight" of five fixed-wing aircraft each for its six regional or operational commands.
Indian Army Wants to phase out Maruti Gypsy , Search begins for new 4×4
The Maruti Suzuki Gypsy, a dated but highly capable SUV, known as the mountain goat in many off roading circles, may be staring down the barrel. The Indian army, the largest customer of the Gypsy plans to phase out this SUV in favour of a new SUV with improved specifications. The improved specifications include a diesel engine, ABS, Twin Airbags, an 800 Kilogram payload, power windows and a five door design. The Gypsy, in its present guise, does not meet any of the above specifications and this has led to the speculation that the off roader might have reached the end of the road.

Gypsy SUV

When it was launched in 1985, the sleek but still rugged lines of the Gypsy made it an instant hit, although that popularity never really translated into massive sales figures.The numbers and the ubiquity came when law-enforcement agencies around the country and the armed forces began adding the sports utility vehicle (SUV), originally based on the Suzuki Jimny, to their fleets. The more agile, petrol-driven Gypsy was preferred over the slower, diesel-driven vehicles that had until then proliferated within the ranks of the police and the services.But the sales of the Gypsy to the armed forces may dry up, according to five people familiar with the matter who declined to be identified.

Will this be the end of the road for the vehicle, given that its biggest customer, the Indian Army, wants a sturdier vehicle with more modern features?When the Indian Army sought bids for the 800kg general service vehicle category, Maruti didn't participate as it doesn't have one that meets the requirements. Maruti's Gypsy sells in the 500kg general service vehicle category.

Rivals such as Tata Motors Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd and Nissan Motor Co. have bid for the contract for 30,000 vehicles valued at Rs.3,000 crore, according to the people cited above.These people said that once an 800kg vehicle is selected, it will start replacing the Gypsy.Features being sought include airbags, anti-lock braking systems, air-conditioning, power windows, five doors and central locking—specifications absent in the Gypsy, which pretty much still looks the way it did in 1985."This is a part of the fleet modernization process of the army and the changes have been sought as Gypsy has become obsolete with time," said one of the people cited above. "The army changed the requirements in 2010 and they (Maruti Suzuki) did not participate for the 800kg class 4×4 general service vehicle tender as Gypsy could not meet the above mentioned new requirements."

A senior Maruti official speaking on condition of anonymity said that while it did not participate in the bid for the 800kg category, this doesn't mean that the army will stop using the Gypsy.The "army has never said that the 500kg category will not exist. Maybe both of these categories may co-exist. So to say that the army will stop procuring Gypsys will be far-fetched," he said.However, the request for the proposal issued by the army has mentioned that "minimum requirement for general service vehicle" is 800kg. Currently, Maruti's Gypsy is sold in that (500kg) category.A Maruti Suzuki spokesperson, responding to a detailed questionnaire, said, "We have supplied over 27,000 Gyspsys and continue to serve the Indian Army." He didn't respond to other questions sent by email.

The Gypsy, along with Mahindra's MM550, was inducted into the Indian Army in 1985 and Maruti has been selling roughly 3,000 units a year to the armed forces?ever since. Maruti has supplied more than 27,000 Gypsys to the army, a company spokesperson said.A Tata Motors spokesman confirmed that it has bid but declined to give further details. A Mahindra and Mahindra defence division spokesperson declined to comment on the matter. An email sent to the Nissan India spokesperson declined to comment. Emails sent to the spokespersons of the army and defence ministry remained unanswered till press time.

While Mahindra is said to be sending a prototype based on its Scorpio SUV, the Tata Motors's prototype will be based on the Safari platform. Nissan, participating in a defence procurement bid for the first time in India, will send a prototype based on its X-Trail SUV. There is an old Indian Army connection with the Japanese company, however, through the P60 SUV?that Nissan introduced in the 1960s. It was modified into the Jabalpur Ordnance and Guncarriage Assembly—Jonga for short.Price bids for the Indian Army vehicle tender will be opened after technical clearance is given to the prototypes. Testing will begin by the end of this month after the companies submit their sample vehicles by 15 April.

"The tender will be awarded to the lowest bidder," said one of the people cited above. "It will be a phase-wise purchase and the army will replace its entire fleet of Gypsys in some years. However, the new general service vehicles will only be a part of the army from 2017 as the process of bidding and placing orders normally takes three-four years."The army will gradually stop procuring Gypsy SUVs and the vehicle will eventually be phased out, the person said.The Gypsy's exit from the army had already been on the cards, said Deba R. Mohanty, chairman and chief knowledge officer, Indicia Research and Advisory. "I presume that Maruti may not be meeting the new requirements. Having said that, I think it will be a huge order and augurs well for the Indian companies involved in it."

Other requirements that the Gypsy won't meet include the stipulations about being diesel driven, having a minimum 120 horse power, compliant with Bharat Stage (BS) III and BS IV environmental norms and weighing 800kg or above, apart from climbing ability.Maruti doesn't want to upgrade the Gypsy or develop a new platform as the cost involved wouldn't be justified by the numbers it could sell, according to another company official."The numbers that we sell to the army are substantially low as compared with our other models," said the Maruti official. "Hence, it does not make sense to invest in developing a new platform altogether specifically for the army. We have enough demand coming from the commercial car market and the focus is to meet that demand."

Also, Maruti doesn't have a powerful diesel engine in its portfolio that could compete with those of the Safari or the Scorpio. In India, Maruti gets the 1300cc-diesel engine that it uses in several vehicles from Fiat SpA. Developing a new platform for a vehicle costs about Rs.800-Rs.1000 crore, according to experts.
Fate of new chopper deal in a limbo
The fate of a Rs. 3,000-crore deal to equip the armed forces with 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters (RSH) remains uncertain in the aftermath of the controversial VVIP chopper deal.

The army has conveyed to the defence ministry that the role of a brigadier, who allegedly sought bribes to swing the deal in favour of UK-based firm AgustaWestland, needs to be probed before taking any decision on the deal.

It was found during the course of Italian investigations into the Rs. 3,760-crore VVIP chopper deal that an Indian Army officer had demanded $5 million to influence the contract for 197 helicopters in favour of AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence group Finmeccanica. The officer was identified as "Brig Saini."

The proposal to purchase these choppers came under the scanner due to technical deviations from the tendering process.

The defence acquisition council, headed by defence minister AK Antony, will take a final call on the proposed acquisition.

Rs 2,820 crore to help combat at night
The defence acquision council cleared proposals worth R2,820 crore to improve the night-fighting capabilities of the army.
The force will now buy 5,000 thermal-imaging sights for its tanks and infantry combat vehicles (ICVs) to enable soldiers to fight in both day and night conditions. The sights would be procured from defence PSU Bharat Electronics Limited.

In all, 2,000 thermal-imaging sights would be bought for T-72 tanks, 1,200 units for T-90 tanks and 1,800 pieces for ICVs.

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