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Friday, 5 April 2013

From Today's Papers - 05 Apr 2013
Strange treaty
Arms exporters have the upper hand

The UN General Assembly at its session in Geneva on Tuesday cleared an arms trade treaty which can be used by conventional arms producers to do business according to their whims. India was among the 23 countries which expressed their reservations while abstaining from voting. The objections raised by the opponents of the global treaty call for its immediate review, though it was voted overwhelmingly by 154 nations. The viewpoints of the treaty’s opponents cannot be ignored if these are similar to those of rogue nations like North Korea, Iran and Syria, which openly opposed the resolution on the treaty. The problem of being bracketed with these countries did influence India’s decision as New Delhi initially wanted to cast its vote against the discriminatory document.

The treaty suits international arms exporters as it allows them to terminate an agreement unilaterally. This means any defence-related agreement that India as a leading importer of arms signs with a supplier-country will have a major element of unpredictability. Any exporter can ditch India at a crucial time. The treaty can also be used to arm non-state actors or groups like terrorist outfits. It can be easily used for causing destabilisation in any country. The Western nations which have voted in favour of the treaty will be free to do arms business with groups fighting against governments in West Asia and elsewhere in the world. Terrorist groups can also take advantage of the weaknesses in the treaty.

The countries which have abstained from voting are mostly those which are not only arms importers but also have insurgent groups fighting against the ruling establishments on different pretexts. Among them are Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Indonesia besides India. What happens to the concerns of these countries remains to be seen. But the West has shown that it continues to view terrorism from an angle different from that of India and other victims of this scourge.
North Korea warns of nuclear strike, US boosts missile defence
Seoul: The United States has scrambled to reinforce its Pacific missile defences, preparing to send ground-based interceptors to Guam, as North Korea said Thursday it had authorised plans for nuclear strikes on US targets.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Pyongyang's increasingly bellicose threats combined with its military capabilities represented a "real and clear danger" to the United States and to its allies South Korea and Japan.

"They have nuclear capacity now, they have missile delivery capacity now," Hagel said Wednesday. "We take those threats seriously, we have to take those threats seriously."

The Pentagon said it would send ground-based THAAD missile-interceptor batteries to protect military bases on Guam, a US territory some 3,380 kilometres (2,100 miles) southeast of North Korea and home to 6,000 American military personnel, submarines and bombers.

They would complement two Aegis anti-missile destroyers already dispatched to the region.

Shortly after the THAAD announcement, the North Korean military said it had received final approval for military action against the United States, possibly involving nuclear weapons.

"The moment of explosion is approaching fast," the Korean People's Army general staff said, responding to what it called the provocative US use of nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in ongoing war games with South Korea.

The US aggression would be "smashed by... cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means," it said in a statement.

While few of the North's threats have been matched with action, reports Thursday said it appears to have moved a medium-range missile capable of hitting targets in South Korea and Japan to its east coast.

"We are closely monitoring whether the North moved it with a view to actual launch or just as a show of force against the US," Yonhap news agency quoted a South Korean official as saying.

A provocative missile test-fired into the sea over Japan is one scenario that analysts have said the North could opt for as a relatively low-risk way of exiting the crisis with a face-saving show of force.

Yun Duk-Min, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul, said the latest nuclear threat was similar to one issued a month ago, but with the added weight of "approval" -- presumably by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

"The problem is whether Kim, who is still young and inexperienced, knows how to handle this escalation," Yun said. "Where does it end? That's the worrying question."

North Korea blocked access to its Kaesong joint industrial zone with South Korea Thursday for the second day running, and threatened to pull out its 53,000 workers in a furious reaction to the South's airing of a "military" contingency plan to protect its own workers there.

Pyongyang informed Seoul on Wednesday it was stopping the daily movement of South Koreans to the Kaesong complex, the last real surviving point of contact between the two countries.

"The full closure of the complex is set to become a reality," a spokesman for the North's Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said.

The North has said that the more than 800 South Koreans currently in Kaesong -- 10 kilometres (six miles) inside the North Korean border -- can leave whenever they want but many have chosen to stay to keep the factories running.

North Korea threatened a "pre-emptive" nuclear strike against the United States in early March, and last week its supreme army command ordered strategic rocket units to combat status.

Most experts think it is not yet capable of mounting a nuclear device on a ballistic missile capable of striking US bases or territory.

Tensions have soared on the Korean peninsula since December, when the North test-launched a long-range rocket. In February, it upped the ante once again by conducting its third nuclear test.

Subsequent UN sanctions and joint South Korea-US military drills triggered weeks of near-daily threats from Pyongyang, ranging from artillery strikes to nuclear armageddon.

The escalating crisis has triggered global concern, with China and Russia issuing repeated calls for restraint and UN Chief Ban Ki-moon warning that the situation had "gone too far" and risked spiralling out of control.

This week, the North warned it would reopen its mothballed Yongbyon reactor -- its source of weapons-grade plutonium. It was closed in July 2007 under a six-nation aid-for-disarmament accord.

The US-Korea Institute at John Hopkins University said Wednesday that a satellite photograph seen on March 27 appeared to show construction work around the reactor was already under way.
Army to Install Statues of Manekshaw 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 birth day 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.
Night Vision Devices: Rs2,800 Cr Deal
New Delhi: The Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) Tuesday cleared a Rs. 2,800 crore deal for boosting the night vision capabilities of the Indian Army's tanks and infantry combat vehicles, an official source said.
The DAC, which was headed by Defense Minister A.K. Antony approved the procurement of 2,000 pieces of night vision devices for T-72 tanks for Rs. 1,000 crore; 1,200 pieces for T-90 tanks for Rs. 960 crore and 1.780 pieces for infantry combat vehicles for Rs.860 crore.

While discussing the deal for purchasing AgustaWestland VVIP helicopters for the Indian Air Force, which has been put on hold after graft charges emerged, the meeting decided that the name of Brigadier Y.S. Saini, who allegedly figures in another deal, would first have to be cleared before any other action is taken.

Italian prosecutors investigating defense giant Finmeccanica have accused a serving Indian Army officer, identified as "Brigadier Saini", for allegedly demanded $5 million to influence a contract for 197 light helicopters in favour of the company's subsidiary, AgustaWestland.

The meeting, however, remained inconclusive over the issue of changes in the defense procurement procedures (DPP), the official said. This would now be taken up at its meeting on April 20.

The Council was expected to approve changes to procurement rules that would boost indigenization of defense procurement by giving a bigger role to the indigenous industry for supplying military hardware to the armed forces. In addition, it would give domestic industry, both public and private, the right of refusal before the import option is exercised.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE
Scandal Further Complicates Italy’s VVIP Helo Tender
NEW DELHI — AgustaWestland’s VVIP helicopter scandal has hit India’s long-pending tender to buy 197 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH).

The Defence Acquisition Council at its April 2 meeting failed to decide on the fate of the LUH buy and instead was apprised of the probe initiated by the Indian Army into the role of a serving brigadier who allegedly sought kickbacks to swing the LUH helicopter deal in 2009.

Documents seized by Italian authorities while probing Finmeccanica point to the brigadier’s offer to swing the deal, said a source in the Indian Ministry of Defence. No evidence has so far been found against the brigadier, who was overseeing the flight trials of the LUH in 2010.

The $1 billion LUH tender, in which Kamov of Russia and Eurocopter are competing, could face cancellation for the second time in six years, added the source, because of the latest controversy.

The Indian Defence Ministry has asked the Italian authorities through the Indian Foreign Office to make available to them details of the documents in which the name of the serving officer emerged through interrogations being carried out in Italy.

Media reports here said that documents filed in an Italian court said an Army aviation brigadier had sought money to alter the LUH tender during the initial stages in 2010 to favor Italy’s AgustaWestland, which was subsequently disqualified in the technical evaluation round.

The LUH field trials have been completed but the announcement of the preferred vendor has been postponed indefinitely in the wake of the latest controversy.

The tender in 2009 was sent to Eurocopter, AgustaWestland and Kamov. AgustaWestland has since been eliminated.

The 2009 tender was a repeat of an earlier tender in which the program was canceled after Bell Helicopters complained about a lack of transparency in the procurement program. Eurocopter had emerged as the winner.

The Indian Air Force and Army need the LUH to replace aging Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.
Suspect in fatal Fort Knox Army base shooting apprehended
A soldier suspected in the fatal shooting of a civilian employee at an Army base in Fort Knox, Ky., was apprehended for questioning on Thursday, according to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, commonly referred to as CID.

The man apprehended by police in Portland, Tenn., and CID agents.

The man is assigned to Fort Knox’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, CID said.

Officials described Wednesday's shooting as a "personal incident."

The base was briefly locked down and remained on heightened security Wednesday night.

The victim, who was an employee of U.S. Army Human Resources Command, was transported by ambulance to Ireland Army Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to a statement from the public affairs office of the base.

The incident was “not a random act of violence," said Chris Grey, spokesperson for the independent Army investigative agency.

The base was placed on full lockdown following the shooting, but it was lifted early Wednesday evening, the official said.

The military base, which sprawls over 170 miles in three counties about 30 miles south of Louisville, Ky., is separate from but adjacent to the famous federal gold depository.
US Army's last tanks depart from Germany
STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. Army’s 69-year history of basing main battle tanks on German soil quietly ended last month when 22 Abrams tanks, a main feature of armored combat units throughout the Cold War, embarked for the U.S.

The departure of the last M-1 Abrams tanks coincides with the inactivation of two of the Army’s Germany-based heavy brigades. Last year, the 170th Infantry out of Baumholder disbanded. And the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade at Grafenwöhr is in the process of doing the same.

On March 18, the remaining tanks were loaded up at the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s railhead in Kaiserslautern where they then made the journey to the shipping port in Bremerhaven, Germany. There they boarded a ship bound for South Carolina.

The tanks belonged to the 172nd along with a mix that were leftover from other units, according to the 21st TSC.

“It is an honor to be one of the soldiers escorting the last battle tanks out of Germany,” said Sgt. Jeremy Jordan of the 529th Military Police Company, in an Army story about the journey. “As these tanks sail back to the U.S., we are closing a chapter in history.”

From World War II on through the Cold War, tanker units were a heavy presence in Germany. At its peak, Germany was home to 20 NATO armored divisions, or about 6,000 tanks, according to the 21st TSC.

“There is no [U.S.] tank on German soil. It’s a historic moment,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Marotto, 21st TSC spokesman.

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