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Saturday, 7 September 2013

From Today's Papers - 07 Sep 2013
No Chinese intrusion in Ladakh: Antony
Girja Shankar Kaura & Aditi Tandon/TNS
New Delhi, September 6
Asserting that the Indian Army was under no pressure from the government and was free to handle any situation arising on the border as per need, Defence Minister AK Antony today clarified that there has been no intrusion into Indian territory by China.

Rubbishing reports that China has occupied Indian territory in Ladakh, Antony asserted that there was no question of ceding any part of the country and all steps were being taken to safeguard national security. Facing attack over Indian Government’s China policy, the Defence Minister asserted in Parliament that capacities were rapidly being built along the Line of Actual Control. He said China "fears" India was trying to catch up with it which sometimes results in face-offs between the two armies.

Replying to the clarification raised by members in the Lok Sabha on the similar statement that he made in both Houses of Parliament on the reported Chinese intrusions, the Defence Minister, while pointing out that efforts were being made to find a solution to the long-standing border dispute with China and new mechanisms were being developed to lessen tensions, stated categorically that there was no question of compromising on strengthening India’s capabilities along the borders.

Assuring Parliament that India’s borders were safe, Antony said, “We are clear that on one side, we will improve relations with China, but we will also increase border capabilities to protect our country.”

“We will continue to strengthen our border capabilities and our armed forces. We will do everything possible to protect the country,” Antony said.

He rubbished reports that China had occupied 640 sq km of Indian land in Ladakh and asserted in Parliament that no territory has been ceded to that country.

He said China was more powerful than India in terms of infrastructure along the border as they began improving it a long time back. “We have to accept that China is way superior to us in terms of infrastructure… China is better positioned than India, I admit. But if it is a mistake, it is a mistake by all of us,” Antony said. In the backdrop of Chinese incursions into Indian territory earlier this year, Antony said, “Unlike in the past, India is catching up with China. That is why every year we are complaining of incursions. China has also complained of incursions by India. But incursions aren’t permanent.”

The Defence Minister also denied that Shyam Saran in the National Security Advisory Board report had said that China had occupied 640 sq km on the LAC in Ladakh in the past few months.

“Shyam Saran has categorically denied that he said any such thing in his report to the PMO. There not a single word about Chinese army occupying Indian land in his report,” Antony said.

“I would like to categorically state that Saran has not stated in his report that China has occupied, or has denied access to India to any part of Indian territory. I would like to assure the House that there is no question of India ceding to China any part of Indian territory,” Antony said.
Defence minister clarifies

    In his report, National Security Advisory Board chief Shyam Saran has denied any incident of Chinese intrusion
    Sometimes, patrolling parties of the two sides come closer at the border creating tensions
    Matter is being taken up through political, diplomatic and military channels
    New Delhi wants an amicable settlement of long-pending border issues
New weapons, innovations shore up defences along LoC
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Along the Line of Control, September 6
While new generation weapons are replacing the Border Security Force’s (BSF) vintage armoury and enhancing firepower available to the foot soldier, a host of innovations and improvisations is the order of the day to beef up defences along the Line of Control (LoC) in the wake of heavy ceasefire violations and increasing attempts by Pakistan’s Border Action Teams (BATs) to target Indian forces.

The BSF is in the process of replacing the vintage 9mm Sterling carbine, a British origin weapon dating back to 1944, with the Italian Beretta CX-4 Storm carbine of the same caliber. Supplementing the Storm is the Israeli X-95 5.56 mm assault rifle, a compact weapon designed for the special forces.

Both the new weapons are of modular design with light-weight fibre bodies, advanced optics and higher cyclic rate of fire. The X-95 is a version of the Tavor 21 used by the Army’s special forces’ units and has holographic sights, which makes acquisition of targets much faster and more accurate. Besides accuracy, these are also easier to maintain and operate and less susceptible to jamming.

“While all Sterling carbines are being replaced with the Storm and would be issued at the section level, the X-95 is being issued to select troops in a battalion,” a BSF officer said. “Troops will be able to lay down greater volume of fire than with weapons such as the INSAS rifle, which would be a tactical advantage in a counter-assault situation,” he added. A section comprises 10 men. Over 34,000 Storms had been ordered by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the BSF began inducting them some months ago.

As forward posts on the LoC come under regular fire, local commanders have come up with several measures to beef up defences and to provide early warning about intruders. While thermal and electronic surveillance equipment has been in place for some time, a large number of high-resolution close circuit TV cameras are now being installed at forward defended locations (FDL), which would send their feed to a central controller giving him the picture in the vicinity on the FDL.

Over the past few weeks, the BSF has procured thousands of small jingle bells that have been strung across fences and trip wires to provide a warning if disturbed. There are also a couple of other measures employed to detect movement, which BSF officers are tight-lipped about.

At the headquarters, BSF troops work day and night designing and fabricating structures and other obstacles that are then installed at the frontline under cover of darkness. Welding equipment, power steel cutters and a host of paraphernalia has been procured for the purpose.
Rupee's Falling Value Hurts India's Defense Budget

NEW DELHI — Indian defense spending has taken a hit as the rupee has fallen in value by more than 20 percent against the US dollar since February, when the defense budget was announced.

Nearly $7.5 billion has been shaved from the current financial year’s allocation of $37.7 billion for defense spending. In February, $1 equaled 54 rupees, and that number has risen to 68 rupees.

Since overseas weapon and equipment purchases are made in US dollars, more Indian rupees are needed to make those buys.

No official from the Indian Defence Ministry would say how much money from the current year’s allocation has been spent, nor quantify the shortfall. However, MoD sources said that since the money allocated for the year has eroded due to the depreciating rupee, the MoD will need to approach the Indian Finance Ministry for additional funds to buy fresh weapons and equipment.

Several defense projects are likely to be rolled over to the next financial year as commitments of contracted programs in the past five to seven years must be serviced first, an MoD source said.

A source in India’s Planning Commission said several projects in the “Plan Head” category could be put on hold to keep the fiscal deficit below the 4.8 percent limit.

In the current financial year, $16.06 billion was allocated under “Plan Head” for weapons and equipment purchases. The rupee’s decline means the money available for new weapons has been reduced by $3.2 billion, even lower than the money allocated in 2012-13 at $14.74 billion.

The MoD buys fresh weapons and equipment from domestic and overseas sources through the Plan Head allocated by the Finance Ministry. The Planning Commission source explained that if planned expenditure is kept under check to keep the country’s fiscal deficit under control, the MoD will be left with less money to buy fresh weapons and equipment. Therefore, several defense projects will have to be rolled over to later financial years.

MoD sources said that could affect programs such as the procurement of Lockheed Martin C-130J aircraft, Airbus Military A330 aerial refuelers, assault rifles, howitzer guns and torpedoes, and the re-engining of Jaguar aircraft with Honeywell engines.

No official would say how much additional money would be required, nor would anyone confirm whether the Finance Ministry would be approached.

“Allocations are not made in dollar terms. However, payments related to contracts with the foreign vendors are required to be made in dollars and other foreign currencies,” said defense analyst Amit Cowshish, a retired Indian MoD bureaucrat. “Because of the value of the rupee going down by about 20 percent in the last few months, more Indian rupees would be required to buy the dollars (and other currencies) for making payments, which become due this year under those contracts.”

Analysts said if the rupee does not recover against the US dollar, the government could delay clearances for other big-ticket projects.

“We would have to resort to the following options: Delay the Cabinet Committee on Security clearances of mega projects, delay planned payments if contractually feasible, defer the Contract Negotiations Committee in progress and transfer some not-so urgent deals into the next yearly or five-year plan, and wait and watch for the next three to four months to see how our economy is progressing,” said defense analyst Sharad Deshpande, a retired Indian Air Force air marshal. “The [Defence Research and Development Organisation’s] plans, too, will be hit.”

The $12 billion Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft program is in the Contract Negotiations Committee stage, and MoD sources say there is a good chance that the contract’s signing would be delayed until the next financial year.

“I would like to believe that the acquisitions that relate to foreign exchange will be the first to be put on hold,” said K.V. Kuber, CEO of defense consulting firm Sugosha Inspirations and a retired Indian Army colonel. “Therefore, the acquisitions [under] the ‘Buy Global’ and ‘Buy and Make Global’ [import categories] are most logically the ones to be stopped until the government finds the money.”
Army crosses forest bump in Arunachal Pradesh
The Indian Army will build a strategic 400-acre ammunition point at the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh to strengthen its defence.

Not willing to leave anything to chance when it comes to China, the army says the point near the line of actual control (LAC) will help forward troops in the sector.

The environment ministry’s forest advisory committee (FAC) has okayed the diversion of around 1,400 acres (566.58 hectares) of forest land in the strategically important West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, close to the LAC.

Decks have been cleared for diversion of forest land as the army’s mountain division told FAC that “over the years, deployment of military formation and units in the sector has been constrained due to meagre defence land holdings”.

According to the army, “it’s an inescapable operation requirement to locate an ammunition point” in Sanglem village in West Kameng. The army need 2,800 acres but 1,400 acres have been okayed as part of Phase I.

The land sought for diversion is for establishing “an ammunition point and other infrastructure..., which is a strategic and operational necessity for the security of the nation”, the army has said.

The site inspection report says the project will have “significant adverse effect on the general ecosystem” as 46,000 trees would be axed and vast stretches of forest area would be cleared.
The army, however, clarified that “no feasible alternative site is available for the project”. Also, “not all trees shall be required to be felled” as roads and magazines will be built along least vegetated areas.

The army will try to keep the green belt intact for “better camouflage and concealment of ammunition point”. Only access roads and spots for magazines will be deforested, but under the supervision of a forest officer.

The FAC okayed the project with certain conditions. One is that compensatory afforestation will be carried out over degraded forest land twice the size of the area being diverted.

The environment ministry has the right to take the final call on the matter after going through the FAC’s recommendations. In all probability, the ministry will accept the proposal given the strategic importance of the project.

The army has also sought a green nod for diversion of another 482 hectares of forest land to build an ammunition sub depot (ASD) for storage in Assam’s Charduar reserve forest. The area is close to the roads/ foothills of Arunachal. The army has said it is an urgent operational requirement.
Panagarh gears up for role in Arunachal's defence
KOLKATA: The establishment was developed by the US army during World War II for what is known as the 'Over the Hump' operations against the Japanese. Today, after nearly 70 years, Panagarh in Burdwan is well on its way into being developed as a hub that will deal with the defences of states like Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). With routine incursions by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) reported from Arunachal Pradesh, the process to develop Panagarh has been expedited by the Army and Indian Air Force.

Recently, Air Marshal Ravi Kant Sharma, AOC-in-C, Eastern Air Command, visited Air Force Station Panagarh and reviewed the situation there. The second lot of C-130J Super Hercules, that are to be procured by the IAF soon, will be stationed at Panagarh. Induction of the C-130J at Panagarh — the second squadron after the Veiled Vipers at Hindon — will enable IAF to mobilise troops to the forward eastern front in the shortest possible time. Lockheed Martin will build necessary infrastructure for the aircraft at Panagarh, as part of the package.

"During his visit to Panagarh, the Eastern air commander emphasized that the air base — used as a diversionary one till recently by the IAF — is of great strategic importance. The base is being developed as one of the major flying bases in the Eastern Air Command, he said. He also urged that officers and air warriors at Panagarh adopt a pro-active approach to ensure timely completion of infrastructure development for the Super Hercules," an officer said.

At the same time, advanced landing grounds in Arunachal Pradesh like Tuting, Mechuka, Ziro, Aalo, Pasighat, Walong, Tawang and Vijaynagar are also being upgraded to allow the C-130Js to land with troops and material. "Now that the Globemasters have also been inducted into the IAF, mobilization of troops and equipment, including tanks, will be fast. Force multipliers like mid-air refuellers will provide necessary assistance," another officer said.

With the Cabinet Committee on Security approving the Army's proposal to raise a Mountain Strike Corps, prepartions are also on to develop infrastructure for the 45,000 officers and personnel at Panagarh. Senior officers of the Eastern command have already carried out aerial reconnaissance of the existing base at Panagarh to work out details. The Corps' primary responsibility will be to remain prepared for any offensive strike by the PLA across the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Given the lack of infrastructure on the ground on the Indian side, an aerial approach is of great importance. The PLA has held several exercises in TAR in recent months, conveying to India its preparedness for high-altitude combat.

"The Corps should get fully operational from Panagarh within the next few years. It will have two infantry divisions, each with nearly 15,000 men trained in mountain warfare. The infantry brigades in the Corps will also be able to operate independently and mount offensive action across the LAC if required, with helicopter lift and attack support. It will also have an aviation brigade, three artillery brigades, an air defence brigade and an engineering one," the officer added.

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