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Friday, 13 September 2013

From Today's Papers - 13 Sep 2013




Japan non-committal on early nuke deal with India

Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, September 12

Contrary to expectations, a civil nuclear deal between India and Japan is unlikely to fructify any time soon.


This became quite clear today after the 7th India-Japan energy dialogue held here between Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Japanese Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.


Addressing a press conference with Ahluwalia, the visiting minister made it clear that there were ‘outstanding issues’ which needed to be addressed before the two countries could sign the nuclear pact.


‘’There are various difficulties which still exist and, therefore, no deadline can be fixed for entering into the nuclear agreement,’’ he added. He declined to specify the outstanding issues.


A joint statement, however, stated that the two sides reaffirmed the importance of an early conclusion of the negotiations for an agreement for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Based on the lessons learnt from the Fukushima disaster, the two countries reconfirmed the need to cooperate in enhancing the safety of nuclear power plants.


The two sides had launched negotiations for the nuclear deal in June 2010. But these negotiations have failed to make much headway, mainly because of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster. The third round of talks between the two sides was held in Japan earlier this month.


Sources said Japan was dealing with the issue of civil nuclear cooperation with India very cautiously since New Delhi is not a signatory to the NPT or the CTBT. India and Japan have been at odds over the provisions attached to the proposed agreement, including the one that bans the transfer of ‘sensitive technology’ from Japan that could be used to develop atomic weapons.


The two sides are divided over a provision that could give India the ability to reprocess spent nuclear fuel discarded by power plants, which would be built using Japanese machinery and materials, to extract plutonium. These differences have already prolonged negotiations.


The talks on a nuclear pact with India had triggered an outcry in Japan from survivors of the 1945 US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who expressed fears that the pace would hamper global efforts to realise a world without atomic weapons. In the event of an India-Japan nuclear deal not materialising, American and French nuclear majors too would find it difficult to enter the Indian nuclear market. They can’t sell nuclear power technology to India without the approval of the Japanese industry.


Outstanding issues remain


    Japan has made it clear that ‘outstanding issues’ need to be addressed before a civil nuclear deal can be signed with India

    The two sides have been in talks since June 2010, but have made little headway mainly because of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster

    The third round of talks between the two sides was held in Japan earlier this month

India to buy 6 more special operations planes from US

Ajay Banerjee/TNS



New Delhi, September 12

Taking the first major step after announcing the formation of a specialised mountain strike crops to face China, the Ministry of Defence has decided to purchase six additional special operations aircraft, the C-130-J, from the United States.


The decision will be placed before the Defence Acquisition Council for formal ratification tomorrow. Defence Minister AK Antony heads the council and it is the final decision-making body in the MoD.


The Indian Air Force (IAF) already has six C-130-J planes that were ordered in 2008 at a cost of around $1.059 billion (approx Rs 4,500 crore then). The additional lot of six planes will be based at Panagarh in West Bengal to augment the airlift capabilities in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country.


"The planes will be tasked with the mountain strike corps that the Army is coming up with," sources said. The Corps was okayed by the Cabinet Committee on Security on July 17.


The purchase, like the first lot, will be through the foreign military sales route directly between India and the US governments.


US Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter will be in India on a three-day visit from September 16 to 18. Carter, along with National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, co-chairs the India-US defence technology initiative set up last year.


The Hindon-based first squadron of C-130-J has proved its mettle in the recent Uttarakhand floods by landing on very short runaways under risky conditions. These planes could be a "game-changer" in the Himalayas where only mud-paved flat grounds are available for use by the IAF.


The aircraft is capable of airdropping armed commandos and material in darkness due to its night-vision imaging. In wartime, it can be employed for special air operations, transport of material and supplies, besides maintenance.


During peacetime, its role includes operations and maintenance in mountainous terrain in adverse circumstances. The four-engine turboprop plane with Rolls Royce engines has the technology and configuration to perform low-level precision flying.


Augmenting airlift capabilities


    The IAF already has six C-130-J planes that were ordered in 2008 at a cost of around $1.059 billion (approx Rs 4,500 crore then)

    The additional lot of six planes will be based at Panagarh in West Bengal to augment the airlift capabilities in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country

    The planes will be tasked with the mountain strike corps that the Army is coming up with

US set to bag $5bn defence deals

NEW DELHI: Having already bagged Indian defence contracts worth over $8 billion in recent years after muscling out Russia, Israel and France, the US is now headed towards clinching another four major deals worth almost $5 billion.


Defence ministry sources on Thursday said the deals for six more C-130J " Super Hercules" aircraft ($1.2 billion), 22 Apache attack helicopters ($1.4 billion), 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers ($885 million) and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters (around $1 billion) "are in the final stages" now.


India will convey this to US deputy secretary of defence Ashton B Carter when he arrives here next week. Carter, who will hold talks with defence minister A K Antony, national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and defence secretary R K Mathur, is the Obama administration's "point man" for expanding defence trade with India as a cornerstone of the bilateral strategic ties.


"The deals should be inked within this financial year (2013-2014) despite budgetary constraints. The C-130J deal, for instance, is likely to go to the Cabinet Committee on Security in October-November," said a source.


The aircraft and howitzer deals will be direct government-to-government contracts under the US foreign military sales (FMS) programme, which does not involve competition through global tenders.


The attack and heavy-lift helicopter deals, however, were won by aviation major Boeing after its AH-64D Apache Longbow and twin-rotor Chinook helicopters outclassed Russian Mi-28 Havoc and Mi-26 choppers in field trials and commercial evaluation.


But there are "some loose ends" in the deals that need to be tied up first. The defence ministry, for instance, has told Boeing that it should drop its insistence on "limited liability clauses" being included in the agreements.


Similarly, the M-777 contract has been hanging fire since January 2010 due to field evaluation reports being "leaked" and certain other irregularities involving a top Indian Army officer. "There is an inquiry in progress but it should not be a major hurdle," said another source.


Cost escalation is another big factor. Due to the long delay, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency last month hiked the cost of the M-777 deal from the earlier $ 647 million to $885 million for the 155mm/39-calibre howitzers.


Incidentally, the four deals are also in tune with the government's recent approval to the Rs 90,000 crore plan to raise a new mountain strike corps along with two "independent" infantry brigades and two "independent" armoured brigades (totalling over 80,000 soldiers) over the next seven years to plug operational gaps against China.


While the first six C-130J aircraft acquired by IAF are based at the Hindon airbase, the six new "Super Hercules" will be housed at Panagarh in West Bengal. Panagarh will serve as the headquarters for the new Army mountain corps.


Similarly, the air-mobile M-777 howitzers, with an almost 30-km range, can be swiftly deployed in high-altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh by helicopters and aircraft to counter China.

India Sends Draft Border Cooperation Agreement to China



NEW DELHI — China has sent a draft of a border cooperation agreement to India, a document that is expected to be signed when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Beijing in October, according to Indian Defence Ministry sources.


Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony told the Lower House of Indian Parliament on Aug. 20 that a draft has been received.


“Two rounds of negotiations have been held so far. The purpose of the proposed agreement is to formalize mechanisms and procedures to enhance mutual trust and confidence between the border troops of India and China and to facilitate the maintenance of peace and tranquility along the border with China,” Antony said.


Antony, during a visit to Beijing July 4-7, discussed with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Chang Wanquan, the establishment of a formal mechanism to improve security at the borders, pending the final settlement of the territorial dispute between the two countries.


The Border Defense Cooperation Agreement is expected to create a formal mechanism to prevent clashes between the two countries’ troops along the more than 4,000-kilometer-long Line of Actual Control.


“Finalization of the agreement may not be very easy because China will insist on stoppage on infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control in areas which India says fall in its territory,” said Mahindra Singh, a retired Indian Army major general.


China claims 92,000 square kilometers of Indian territory. The Line of Actual Control is neither marked on the ground nor on mutually accepted maps.


Both the countries have been building infrastructure and acquiring weapons and equipment along their borders.


Even as India prepares to fight China in the future, the possibility of a war in the near future appears remote, analysts said.


Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier general and New Delhi-based defense analyst, has told Defense News previously that there is little chance of the two countries going to war now.


“India and China are both strategically unprepared for war. The two Asian giants are presently on the catch-up curve from developing to developed countries. While they are simultaneously modernizing the militaries, the overall national strategies appears to be to maintain the status quo until comprehensive national power reaches a level where surplus can be invested in war making,” Bhonsle has said. “This stage may be decades away.”


India spends around $38 billion on defense spending, compared with China’s $115.7 billion.

Sharif readies to choose next Pakistan army head

With the exit of Asif Zardari and the election of Mamnoon Hussain, the stage is now set for the appointment of the new army chief and also the chief of the joint chiefs of staff committee. One is the most powerful position in Pakistan and the other is a ceremonial appointment that wields almost

no power.

It is said the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff is a position for possible army chiefs who were unpalatable to the then president or PM.


The same tradition may be followed by prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who currently holds both portfolio of defence minister and minister for foreign affairs.


While Sharif has talked about seniority and competence as the only two criteria for appointment to the position of army chief, the person who fits the criteria is also someone who participated in the coup against Sharif in 1999.


As things stand, Chairman of the joints chiefs committee Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne retires in early October and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani also exits by November.


In between all this, the retirement of the army’s two senior most generals - Khalid Nawaz and Alam Khattak in October makes the prime contender for the post of the COAS the next senior most general, Haroon Aslam.


Aslam, currently Chief of Logistics Staff would be followed in seniority by Lt Gen Rashid Mehmood, the chief of general staff and Lt Gen Raheel Sharif.


But Haroon Aslam, a former commando, was also part of the team that ousted Sharif from his position in 1999 and brought Gen Musharraf to power.


Given this, some analysts say another tradition may be considered in which it is the chief of general staff who is considered as the army chief in waiting.


Observers say Gen Aslam may be appointed to the joint chief position while Gen Rashid Mehmood may be brought in as army chief. The current CGS, Gen Mehmood has the best of both worlds. On the one hand he is said to be Kayani’s man as well as being close to the Sharifs given that he has served as corps commander Lahore and also hails from that city. Many say that Sharifs would prefer a Punjabi as army chief and one from Lahore is an added bonus.


If merit is to be the criteria, then Gen Aslam is the foregone conclusion. A commando by training, Aslam has served in the Military Operations Directorate and with his new appointment as the CLS after serving as corps commander, is ready for promotion as a four-star general.


It is now up to Sharif to make a decision. On previous two occasions, Sharif preferred loyalty over merit when he appointed Gen Waheed Kakar and Gen Musharraf as army chiefs in 1993 and 1998.


The choice to appoint an army chief is a double edged sword. The former ruling Pakistan People’s Party had the chance to appoint the new army chief in November 2010 but instead it opted to extend the tenure of the incumbent army chief.


Some say Sharif may opt to select someone else. Third on the seniority list is Raheel Sharif, whose career is known to be devoid of any surprises.


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