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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

From Today's Papers - 22 May 2013
India to consider Afghanistan’s request for defence equipment
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, May 21
India is not averse to considering Afghanistan’s request for providing defence equipment to the war-torn nation.

This indication was available tonight after visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s meetings with President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Karzai, who is visiting New Delhi for the second time in six months, is understood to have asked India to expand its role in ensuring the security of his embattled nation by providing lethal weapons to his forces.

India has so far been training Afghan security personnel in Indian institutions only. It has also supplied limited number of non-lethal equipment like jeeps and trucks to Afghanistan.

New Delhi has advised Kabul to raise the issue of lethal equipment at the security partnership council meeting of the two countries to be held soon.

The Afghan leader is learnt to have briefed the Indian leadership on the situation evolving in Afghanistan as foreign troops prepare to leave his nation within a year from now.

At his meeting with the President, Karzai was told that India was prepared to increase its bilateral cooperation to institution building, training and equipment to the extent it could.

“India would stand by the government and the people of Afghanistan in the critical period of transition, development and nation-building. India is proud to partner Afghanistan in its efforts towards reconstruction of Afghanistan,” Mukherjee told Karzai.
Defence indigenisation
Government should stop paying lip service
by Gurmeet Kanwal

The Defence Minister, Mr A K Antony, has repeatedly exhorted the armed forces to procure their weapons and equipment from indigenous sources in recent months. It is a well-established fact that no nation aspiring to great power status can expect to achieve it without being substantively self-reliant in defence production. However, it is not the armed forces that are the stumbling block. Unless the government drastically reorients its policies, the import content of defence acquisitions will continue to remain over 80 per cent.

India’s procurement of weapons platforms and other equipment as part of its plans for defence modernisation must simultaneously lead to a transformative change in the country’s defence technology base and manufacturing prowess. Or else, defence procurement will remain mired in disadvantageous buyer-seller, patron-client relationships like that with the erstwhile Soviet Union and now Russia. While we manufactured Russian fighter aircraft and tanks under licence, the Russians never actually transferred technology to India.

Although the country has now diversified its acquisition sources beyond Russia to the West and Israel, recent deals have failed to include transfer-of-technology (ToT) clauses. The much-delayed MMRCA deal with Rafale also appears to have run into rough weather on this account. If this trend continues, India’s defence technology base will continue to remain low and the country will remain dependent almost solely on imports. Whatever India procures now must be procured with a ToT clause being built into the contract even if it means having to pay a higher price. The aim should be to make India a design, development, manufacturing and export hub for defence equipment in two decades.

Though it seeks to publicly encourage public-private partnerships, privately the government continues to retain its monopoly on research and development and defence production through the DRDO, the ordnance factories and the defence PSUs (DPSUs). The latest Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was amended in April 2013 to reflect the current thinking on ‘buying Indian’. However, in effect it still favours the defence PSUs over the private sector. MNCs are allowed to bring in only up to 26 per cent FDI as against 74 per cent for non-defence sector joint ventures. Though the procurement of weapons and equipment worth more than Rs 300 crore from MNCs has been linked with 30-50 per cent offsets, it is doubtful whether the economy is ready to absorb such high levels of offsets.

Since its inception in 1958, the DRDO has achieved some spectacular successes like the missile development programme, but also has many failures to its name. Programmes like the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and the Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun have suffered inordinate delays and time and cost overruns. However, to its credit, the DRDO worked under extremely restrictive technology denial regimes and with a rather low indigenous technology base. The DRDO is now in the process of implementing the report of the P Rama Rao committee that had asked it to identify eight to 10 critical areas that best fit its existing human resource pool, technological threshold and established capacity to take up new projects. And it must scrupulously stay out of production. The private sector has shown its readiness and technological proficiency to take up the production of weapons and equipment designed and developed by the DRDO and must be trusted to deliver.

The DRDO must now concentrate its efforts on developing critical cutting edge technologies that no strategic partner is likely to be willing to share; for example, ballistic missile defence (BMD) technology. Other future weapons platforms should be jointly developed, produced and marketed with India’s strategic partners in conjunction with the private sector. The development of technologies that are not critical should be outsourced completely to the private sector. Also, the armed forces should be given funding support to undertake research geared towards the improvement of in-service equipment with a view to enhancing operational performance and increasing service life. Gradually, the universities and the IITs should be involved in undertaking defence R&D. This five-pronged approach will help raise India’s technological threshold over the next two decades by an order of magnitude.

The defence production process must provide a level playing field between defence PSUs and private Indian companies forming joint ventures with MNCs where necessary. The amount of FDI that MNCs can bring in must be raised to 49 per cent immediately and to 74 per cent in due course to make it attractive for MNCs. However, no MNC that is unable to provide transfer of technology - either due to the home country’s restrictive laws or due to proprietary considerations - should be considered for future defence acquisitions.

India cannot leap-frog to a higher defence technology trajectory virtually overnight. Transforming a low technology base to a higher plane will need time, patience and large-scale capital investment. It will also need strong support across the political spectrum. In the interim period, inevitably, there will be a further dip in defence preparedness. This short-term weakness in capacity building will need to be carefully weighed against long-term gains that will be strategic in nature. The risk involved will require fine political judgement backed by sound military advice.

As the largest importer of arms and equipment in the world, India has the advantage of buyers’ clout. This clout must be exploited fully to further India’s quest for self-sufficiency in the indigenous production of weapons and equipment. The immediate requirement is to think big in keeping with the country’s growing economic clout and to plan for the future with a level of confidence that policy planners have not dared to exhibit before.

In 10 to 15 years India must begin to acquire most of its defence equipment needs from Indian companies-with or without a joint venture with an MNC. Only then will the era of self-reliance in defence acquisition truly dawn on the country. It will be a difficult quest, but not one that a great nation cannot realise.

The writer is a Delhi-based strategic analyst.
Pakistan's China-made fighter jets to escort Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's plane
Islamabad: Six JF-17 Thunder jets of the Pakistan Air Force will escort Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's aircraft when it enters Pakistani airspace on Wednesday at the start of his two-day visit, symbolising the close links between the two sides in defence and strategic sectors.

The JF-17s, developed and built jointly by China and Pakistan, will guide the special Air China Boeing 747 aircraft to Nur Khan airbase, where a 21-gun salute will mark Mr Li's arrival, officials said.

The JF-17s will fly past the airbase as Mr Li will be received by President Asif Ali Zardari and caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, they said.

This is Mr Li's first visit to Pakistan since assuming office in March and a "warm welcome awaits him", said a statement from the Foreign Office.

The visit will focus on "broadening the horizons of multi-faceted ties" between the two countries.

Mr Li's visit is taking place at a time when Pakistan has elected new national and provincial assemblies and the PML-N party is set to form the new government.

During his stay in Islamabad, Mr Li will hold talks with Mr Zardari and Mr Khoso.

Mr Zardari will host a luncheon for Mr Li to which the leaders of major political parties have been invited.

The Prime Minister will also host a banquet for his Chinese counterpart.

On the second day of his visit, PML-N chief and Prime Minister-designate Nawaz Sharif will meet Mr Li.

The two countries will also sign several memoranda of understanding for cooperation in different fields.

Mr Li will address the Pakistan Senate on May 23.
Army chief to visit France to boost defence ties
New Delhi: Seeking to strengthen bilateral defence ties, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh would be on a five-day visit to France starting Sunday.

The Army Chief would be on a five-day visit to France starting May 26 and will discuss ways of strengthening defence ties between the armed forces of the two sides, Army officials said here.

During the visit, he will go around several important institutions of the French Army and hold parleys with the top military leadership there to discuss ways of further strengthening ties, they said.

The two sides are also expected to discuss joint exercises and hardware cooperation, they said.

Several French companies are in the race for Indian military tenders including the artillery firm Nexter, which is vying to supply towed howitzers to the Army.

The Army main stay in anti-tank weaponry Milan 2T missile is also supplied by the French firm MBDA.

Indian Army had also held exercises with French troops in Uttarakhand area a couple of years ago.
Indian Firms Tapped for Howitzer Trials

NEW DELHI — For the first time, Indian defense companies have been selected for trials in a howitzer gun tender.

The Indian Ministry of Defence has failed to buy a single howitzer gun in the past 13 years because the global competition for a variety of 155mm/52-caliber guns was aborted over the blacklisting of an overseas competitor on charges of corruption.

Larsen & Toubro (L&T), which has tied up with South Korean company Samsung, and state-owned Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML), which has partnered with Slovakian company Konstrukha, are competing with Russia’s Rosoboron export for the tracked gun tender.

The Indian Army wants to buy 100 tracked guns valued at more than US $750 million.

The tender issued in 2011, which was a rebid of a 2007 tender, went to India’s Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro, BEML and Rosoboronexport. Tata Power SED had tied up with Huta Stalowa Wola HSW of Poland.

“The selection of a domestic defense company in the howitzer gun tender will encourage more tie-ups with overseas defense companies in tapping the howitzer gun market in India, valued at over $5 billion,” said Nitin Mehta, a defense analyst based here.

As part of the Indian Army’s plan to replace all of its field guns, named the Field Artillery Rationalization Plan, the Army would buy a mix of around 3,600 155mm/52-caliber guns by 2020-25.

In the past 13 years, the MoD floated tenders for 1,580 towed guns, 100 tracked guns, 180 wheeled and self-propelled guns, and 145 ultra-light howitzers. So far, not a single gun has been bought.

Since 2005, when India banned South African company Denel, the MoD also has banned howitzer competitors ST Kinetics of Singapore, Israel Military Industries and Germany’s Rheinmetall Air Defense from doing business in India for 10 years.

The blacklisting resulted in termination of the procurement process and rebids of the tender.

The overseas companies were blacklisted on charges of corruption, and the government’s anti-fraud agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, is probing the charges.

An L&T executive said it has built a tracked version based on the portfolio of its partner, Samsung, which he said would be a homemade advanced version of Samsung’s K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer.

Earlier, BEML had developed a tracked gun with a fully autonomous turret developed by Denel. After the blacklisting, BEML teamed up with Konstrukha, a BEML executive said.

The Indian Army’s artillery consists of 155mm/39-caliber Bofors FH-77B howitzers bought in the late 1980s, and only 200 of the 410 guns are functioning. In addition, the Army uses 105mm field guns and Russian 130mm guns.

India has negotiated the purchase of 145 155mm/52-caliber guns from the US subsidiary of Britain’s BAE Systems on a government-to-government basis.

As part of the homemade initiative, the state-owned Ordnance Factories Board has developed prototypes of 155mm/45-caliber Bofors-type howitzers based on the blueprint of 155mm/39-caliber guns.
Karzai seeks Indian military aid to fill gap left by Nato

NEW DELHI // The Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s visit to New Delhi to seek military support will force India into a regional “balancing act”, say analysts.

Mr Karzai’s trip is seen as an effort to strengthen ties with India, a country that could help Afghanistan fill the power vacuum that will be created when Nato troops withdraw in 2014. He met the president, Pranab Mukherjee, yesterday and planned talks later with Manmohan Singh, the prime minister.

Afghanistan’s engagement with New Delhi will be watched closely by the government of Pakistan, now headed by prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has promised improved economic and diplomatic links with India.

Pakistan shares a border with Afghanistan and is eager to retain its influence in the region, which might be threatened by any Indian agreements with Kabul.

“It’s a balancing act. It’s one that New Delhi is capable of managing,” said Nitin Pai, co-founder of the Chennai-based Takshashila Institution, a defence policy think tank.

Mr Karzai arrived for his two-day visit on Monday to bolster their ties as 100,000 Nato troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year. Concern is mounting that the Taliban will exploit the power vacuum after the withdrawal.

The talks expanded on a 2011 “strategic partnership” between India and Afghanistan that aimed at deepening security and economic ties, including training an estimated 2,000 Afghan military officers a year.

India has provided little else in terms of military support.

“India is prepared to increase bilateral contribution to institution-building, training and equipment to the extent India can,” a statement from Mr Mukherjee’s office said yesterday. It did not say whether it would include military aid.

Before the meetings, Mr Karzai’s office said that Afghanistan had requested “all kinds of assistance from India to strengthen our military and security institutions”.

Pakistan had proposed a partnership with Afghanistan in 2012 and offered military training to its army, but the Afghan government has not been receptive to the idea.

Border skirmishes between Pakistan and Afghanistan have added to the tension. This month, border guards clashed at the disputed pre-colonial border, the Durand Line.

Afghanistan accused Pakistan of using heavy artillery and tanks during fighting along Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. Pakistan claimed the clashes were a result of unprovoked Afghan action.

Afghan security forces have since asked for better equipment on the border. An official said the Afghan delegation would explore the possibility of equipping the army with Indian artillery.

The meetings between Mr Karzai and Indian leaders served a dual purpose for India, said Mr Pai.

“Karzai’s trip to India is to get India to use its political and diplomatic capital to shape a modern, liberal, democratic dispensation in Afghanistan and possibly to employ military power as well,” he said.

But retired Brig Rumel Dahiya, deputy director general, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, played down speculation that India would be a major military equipment supplier to Afghanistan.

“India imports most of its military equipment and there are obvious restrictions to third party sales,” Mr Dahiya said.

“What little India produces, that may have been asked to fill the gap that is needed for Afghanistan’s capacity-building and military shortages but it will not be to empower a fight with Pakistan.”

On Monday, Mr Karzai received an honorary doctorate from the Lovely Professional University in Chandigarh, a private university in Punjab.

Mr Karzai thanked India for its support in his acceptance speech.
Border conflict stirs old resentments over ‘incursions’ in Indian media
The Sino-Indian border is heating up again. A "tent confrontation" between the Chinese army and the Indian army has been continuing near the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

From an Indian perception, the Chinese army has invaded Indian territory, and this time is the most serious invasion in the past 25 years. Some Indian media outlets claim China has invaded Indian territory 600 times in the past three years.

The Sino-Indian border issue is very complicated, and even resulted in war in 1962.

That conflict became the excuse for India to bolster the military and develop nuclear weapons. The root reason for so many "incursions" is that the two sides have not reached a consensus on the LAC, let alone a formal border.

However, since 1993, China and India have signed two agreements and one protocol on the maintenance of peace and tranquility and confidence-building measures in the border areas, and have set up a working mechanism for consultation and coordination on border affairs.

These efforts have helped ensure durable peace and stability in the region. There is a very small possibility that China and India will fall into serious conflict.

Nevertheless, bilateral relations between China and India are very delicate. As well as the boundary problem, China-Pakistan relations, the Dalai Lama issue, and tension over water resources also hinder the promotion of China-India relations. These problems mean India has a deep-seated distrust of China.

With the US "rebalancing" toward the Asia-Pacific, the Sino-Indian relationship is seeing subtle changes these days.

Some Indian scholars trumpet an alliance under US leadership to counterbalance China. For example, Harsh V. Pant, a professor of defense studies at King's College London, argues that India's strategic interests can only be realized by an Asia-Pacific arrangement where the US retains its predominant status, while Indian Express columnist C. Raja Mohan advocates that India should shift its policy of strategic autonomy and strategically cooperate with the US.

So far, India has strengthened its "Look East" policy. It has enhanced strategic and security cooperation with countries such as Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, and has taken a high profile in the South China Sea disputes.

In December 2011, the first trilateral dialogue between the US, Japan and India was presided over by the US, and one of the topics discussed was China's growing military and political global position.

It's no wonder many think that India may abandon strategic autonomy in order to ally with the US and contain China.

Currently, Indian policymakers have a relatively clear judgment on Sino-Indian relations and Indian-US ones. India doesn't have the ability to directly confront China yet, and as a country prioritizing economic development, India is in need of a peaceful neighboring environment.

Affected by the economic crisis, the US is also heavily burdened by its domestic economic problems.

Within India, the so-called China threat is a trick by Indian political figures to fool their people and Western countries. By making waves about China, Indian politicians can avoid domestic problems, bolster up national morale, and raise votes. And on the international level, India can obtain advanced weaponry and technologies from Western countries.

However in fact, the major direction of Indian military expansion is the Indian Ocean, and the navy has the largest part of India's rapid growing defense budget. India's military strategy on land is defensive, and it has another, more serious competitor than China in the Indian Ocean.

The border issue is still an obstacle in bilateral relations. India has never fully confronted its failings in 1962.

For instance, the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report, detailing the reasons why the country lost the war, was never declassified and has not been released to the Indian public.

It's time for Chinese and Indian scholars to conduct joint research on some historical problems, to alter both sides' long-standing misconceptions.

Defence Minister to visit China soon

Indicating that the military stand-off with China in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh sector in April was a thing of the past, India on Monday announced that Union Defence Minister A K Antony will visit China later this year as part of the efforts to further enhance the bilateral ties.

The official announcement coincided with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s ongoing visit to the country. Li had earlier in the day met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which also witnessed the signing of eight crucial pacts on bilateral cooperation . Besides, the two leaders agreed on the need to settle the Sino-Indian border row at the earliest.

New Delhi’s Ambassador to Beijing S Jaishankar told reporters here that Antony will be among the top Indian government functionaries scheduled to visit the Communist nation later this year. Other key visits will be those of Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon.

“On the bilateral side, we ( the Centre) are looking at Union Defence Minister (Antony) going to China soon. We have had some amount of discussion on more defence cooperation and defence exchanges, apart from maritime security,” the envoy said. On the occasion of Li’s visit, the two nations also issued a joint statement, in which the two sides agreed to further enhance bilateral cooperation on maritime security, search and rescue at sea, oceanic scientific research and environment protection.

They also agreed to “work together to tackle increasingly outstanding non-traditional security threats, and strengthen cooperation on Naval escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Coast of Somalia, earnestly safeguarding the security of international sea-lanes and freedom of navigation.”

The two sides noted that “enhanced interaction in the military field was conducive to building mutual trust and confidence.” Both sides also agreed to “hold the next round of joint training exercises later this year.”

They also decided to increase exchanges between the Armies, Navies and the Air Force. India and China had last month finalised plans for their third joint Army exercise, that will be held at Kunming in Southern China in the second half of this year.

Codenamed ‘Hand-in-Hand’, it will focus on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
Gen Singh to be invited to laud joint Everest expedition
Chief of Army Staff Gen Gaurav SJB Rana is preparing to invite Indian Army chief Gen Bikram Singh to Nepal to congratulate a joint Nepal-Indian Army expedition that successfully climbed Mt Everest.

The Nepal Army leadership held informal talks with senior Defence Ministry officials on inviting Gen Singh as a special guest for a ceremony to be held in Kathmandu early next month, said a source at the Army Headquarters.

The ministry has suggested that the Army leadership hold informal talks with the Indian Army brass to confirm their presence in the function.

Of the 20 Nepal and Indian Army soldiers that reached the top of the world, nine reached the summit on Sunday while the remaining 11 made it to the top on Monday morning. The expedition collected 2,000 kg garbage and brought it down to the Everest Base Camp, said Nepal Army spokesman Suresh Sharma.

Of the summiteers, six from Nepal and five from India are scheduled to participate in the Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon, a run to be held at the highest altitude beginning May 29. The joint military expedition reached the Everest Base camp last month.

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