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Saturday, 5 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 05 Oct 2013
US: Pak may face sanctions over gas pipeline with Iran

Washington, October 4
Pakistan could face tough US sanctions if it goes ahead with the multi-billion Iran-Pak gas pipeline, a top American diplomat has said.

The Obama Administration is having discussions in this regard with Pakistan, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Windy Sherman said "On Pakistan, we have had those discussions (on Iran-Pak gas pipeline) and will continue with the Pakistani government. My own assessment is it's not going anywhere anytime soon," Sherman told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"Is the administration having discussions with Pakistan on this issue and are we ready to proceed with sanctions if they continue in the deal?" he asked. — PTI
1984 Sikh troops’ revolt stray case, Centre tells SC
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent
 New Delhi, October 4
The Centre and the Army have sought the dismissal of a PIL against recruitment based on caste, religion and region, contending that such enrolments did not pose any threat to national integrity and rather “enhances its war-fighting effort and combat capabilities”.

In a 114-page joint affidavit in response to the SC notice on a PIL filed by IS Yadav, a medical doctor from Rewari, the government and the Army said “the big revolt by Sikh troops” in 1984 as claimed in the petition “was actually confined to small sections and attributable to peculiar circumstances prevailing then”.

“Such an incident is a stray case as the nation moves ahead. Numerous such minor incidents keep taking place across various types of organisations. These are dealt with according to rules and law on the subject and cannot be attributed to any class-based structure.”

The regimentation system for “war fighting is derived from experiences gained in war over the ages. This system has been the key ingredient of its success in various operations. Even the developed nations look towards India to emulate this model”, it was averred.

In fact, under the present practice a “demographic segment of the population has been grouped together for the purpose of recruitment into some units based on operational needs and not based on caste and region as claimed by the petitioner”.

“Grouping of socially, culturally and linguistically similar troops contributes to smooth execution of complex tactical manoeuvres in operational conditions of extreme stress where normal-rational thinking is inhibited,” it was reasoned. Further, common physical parameters were an important tangible ingredient of tactical military drills and hence regimentation was retained on the “lines of reasonable classification”.

The classification-based units had met several emergencies successfully and, as such, diluting the present composition “will have adverse effect on the motivation and morale of the Army at large”, they contended.

The PIL has sought abolition of recruitments on the basis of caste, religion and region which was part of the divide-and-rule strategy of the British to prevent the emergence of national loyalty among service personnel or a monolithic integrated Indian Army.

Pointing out that the Army was recruiting 1.5 million people, the petition said “such a major source of employment should not become the pocket prerogative of select communities or castes”.

The government, however, said India’s borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka straddled deserts, plains, sea, mountains and tribal regions, and hence “it is logical that citizens of these states will have a large role to play in their defence” due to their acclimatisation to the terrain, and climate and knowledge of language and customs.

Caste-based recruitment

    A petitioner in his plea had sought abolition of Army recruitment on the basis of caste, religion and region, citing the '84 revolt by Sikh troops
    In reply, the government and the Army told the SC the revolt was confined to small sections and was attributable to peculiar circumstances prevailing then
    Further, the classification-based units had met several emergencies successfully and diluting the composition would have an adverse impact on the motivation and morale of the Army, they averred
Fighter jet fleet dwindling, says IAF Chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 4
The Indian Air Force is staring at a rapidly dwindling fleet of fighter aircraft despite having started work on upgrading its airfields in the North-East and Ladakh for 24x7 operations along the frontier with China last week.

IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne today spelled out plans to develop a fighter aircraft base at Nyoma in Ladakh and upgrade seven airfields for carrying out operations in the North-East but warned against a rapidly declining fleet of fighter aircraft.

The IAF Chief, while addressing a press conference ahead of the Air Force celebrations, said they were looking at giving life extension to ageing aircraft since there was no decision on inducting new jets yet.

“The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) are critical. In case the MMRCA does not come to us by the end of the 12th plan (March 2017), our force levels start to go down rapidly. That is what we have to prevent. We have to maintain our force levels to certain levels.”

The MMRCA is stuck in final negotiations between French Company Dassault and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, while the LCA is awaiting its final operational clearance.

The IAF has a sanctioned force level of 42 squadrons (each having around 20 planes), but it is currently down to 34 squadrons, some with ageing MiG-21s.

“We are authorised to have 42 squadrons, but are much less than that. In the 12th and 13th plans (ending March 2022), we want to maintain a certain force level. We will phase out a number of squadrons right up to 2022,” said the IAF chief.

He added that the fleet levels would be maintained by giving life extension to fighter aircraft. “We will have to give life extension to a few fleets. We are going to phase out certain types of MiG-21s and MiG-27s. The MiG-21 Bison fleet will have to continue till 2025.”

“The MMRCA is an important project for the IAF because of our declining force levels. We need the LCA at the earliest and the MMRCA on time. If we sign the MMRCA next year, the first plane will come in 2017. We cannot delay any further,” the IAF Chief said.

He said the advanced landing grounds (ALGs) in the North-East are being upgraded to have day and night facilities.

“A sum of Rs 720 crore has been released for the ALGs and work started last week. By 2016, most of these will be ready for operations,” he said.

The ALG at Nyoma in south-eastern Ladakh is being developed into a full-fledged air-base. It will be ready in around five years at a cost of Rs 2,173 crore.

“Once ready, we want to operate everything from there - fighters, helicopters and transport planes. Nyoma is 13,300 feet high but it will be possible to base aircraft there.”

The ALGs in the North-East - built by the British for the Burma operations in 1944 - exist at Pasighat (East Siang), Ziro (Lower Subansiri), Mechuka (West Siang), Tuting (Upper Siang) and Walong (Anjaw). Another ALG at Vijainagar was paved last year. But Vijainagar, which has 6,000 inhabitants, lacks a road link or electricity.

China has seven airstrips in Tibet and 19 in Xinjiang - both bordering India. Besides, all-weather roads enable thousands of troops to move rapidly across the plateau and carry out patrol duties in vehicles.

Nyoma airfield to be a base

    IAF plans to develop a fighter aircraft base at Nyoma in Ladakh; will upgrade seven airfields in the North-East
    The advanced landing ground will be upgraged in 4-5 years at a cost of Rs 2,173 crore
    Once ready, the base will handle all types of aircraft, including fighters, helicopters and transport planes
Copter deal: Ex-Deputy Air Chief quizzed

New Delhi, October 4
The CBI today questioned a retired Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in connection with the VVIP helicopter deal. Sources said the officer, ex-Deputy Air Chief JS Gujral, was examined as a witness in the case. Gujral had retired as an IAF commander a few years back.

As deputy IAF chief, he was in charge of procurements. The CBI is inching towards filing its charge sheet in the case as it has got almost all the documents from Italy, which are now being studied, sources said. — PTI
AgustaWestland invokes arbitration over chopper deal
AgustaWestland has invoked arbitration over a scandal-tainted deal to sell helicopters to the government, according to a statement on Friday from the unit of Italy's Finmeccanica.

In February, India froze payments on the 560 million euro contract to supply 12 helicopters after the deal became mired in allegations of bribery and the then-CEO of Finmeccanica was arrested by Italian police for allegedly paying bribes to secure the deal.

Italy and India are separately investigating allegations that AgustaWestland paid bribes to win the 2010 deal for the helicopters to be used by senior politicians.

AgustaWestland denies the allegations.

The company said in the statement that suspension of payment was not provided for under the terms of the contract and that authorities had not responded to its requests for bilateral discussions since April.

A defence ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The need to resolve this issue has left AgustaWestland with no other option but to invoke arbitration; the next step prescribed by the contract. This is not a step we take lightly," it said.

Arbitration would be conducted under the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996, according to the company. Of the three arbitrators, one each would be chosen by the buyer and seller and the third would be nominated under the agreement of both sides, the company said.

India had taken delivery of three helicopters before the deal was stalled. Three more have been ready for delivery to India since April, three are close to completion and work has begun on the final three at the company's plant in Somerset In Britain, said Guy Douglas, an AgustaWestland spokesman in New Delhi.

In August, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found what it said was wrongdoing in the deal.

In its report, the CAG said that the defence ministry had initially set a condition that the helicopters be able to fly to an altitude of 6,000 metres (1,970 feet), which meant AgustaWestland could not compete since the AW101 was certified to fly only to 4,572 metres.

Later, the ministry lowered the minimum altitude requirement to 4,500 metres, even though the helicopters were expected to be used in northern and northeastern parts, where terrain is mountainous and altitudes are high, the auditor said.

Jackie Callcut, chief executive of AgustaWestland's India unit, said the altitude requirement was changed to avoid a single-bidder situation.

"The altitude requirement was an irrelevance to AgustaWestland anyway; it was well known the AW101 would have been re-certified to 6,000 metres if needed," she said in a separate statement.
No Kargil-like situation in Kashmir, says Indian army chief
Indian Army Chief Bikram Singh today said there was no 'Kargil-like situation' in Jammu and Kashmir, where an encounter to stop a major infiltration attempt from across the border has entered the 11th day.

His comments came as two terrorists were reportedly killed this morning during another infiltration bid at Guguldhar area near the Keran sector where Indian troops have engaged in an encounter since September 24, when almost 30 terrorists tried to cross over from Pakistan.

The encounter was on even as the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met in New York and agreed to deescalate tension on the border as a priority. They decided that the Director Generals of Military Operations on both sides would interact regularly to ensure this, but no such conversation has happened since the PMs met on Sunday, September 29. 

Sources in the Army said they were likely to talk next Tuesday. 

There has been concern that the current infiltration attempt might lead to a situation similar to 1999, when India and Pakistan engaged in an armed conflict after Pakistanis occupied key posts in Kargil. Especially after reports suggested that at least a dozen terrorists may have dug into abandoned houses in the village of Shala-Batu in Keran, which is 100 km from Srinagar, to fire at Indian soldiers.

But the Army chief denied this today. "It is nothing like that. We are dominating from all sides and the terrorists are holed up. The terrain is very, very difficult, treacherous and they are stuck in that. We will get them out, it's a question of time," said the army chief.

Early this morning, two bodies were found along with weapons. The army says 12 terrorists were killed when the encounter began, but none of those bodies have been found.

Though Pakistan has denied any role in the infiltration bid, the army says the Pakistan's Border Action Team may have been involved.

There have been over 120 ceasefire violations this year - highest in eight years - along the Line of Control. The number of infiltration attempts from across the border has also doubled compared to last year.
Indian Army's operation continues with final combing of infiltrators

Srinagar, Oct 4: The army operation against a group of infiltrating guerrillas in the Keran sector on the Line of Control (LOC) continued for the 11th day Friday. The cordoned off area has not been cleared by the army in north Kashmir's Kupwara district. The army cordoned off a motley group of 35-40 heavily armed militants on the Indian side of the LOC in the Keran sector Sep 24, foiling a major infiltration bid. Defence sources told IANS Friday that two brigades of the army have been tasked to tackle the group. "We are moving into the area with caution because the militants could have planted booby traps in the area." "The bodies of 15 guerrillas killed in this operation so far have not been recovered, because our priority is to ensure that the those militants inside the area are not allowed to escape," the defence sources said. Another defence source said the "probing fire by the army troopers has not been responded to by the militants in the cordoned area for the last many hours now". Lt.Gen. Gurmit Singh, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Srinagar based 15th corps, has already told reporters that no post of the Indian Army has either been vacated by the army or has been occupied by the guerrillas in the area. He, however, said the gathering of a large number of guerrillas at one time is a new methodology of the infiltrating groups, and some border action teams (BAT) were also involved in Keran infiltration bid. The BAT in the army parlance refers to a group of 20 to 25 heavily armed and motivated guerrillas, who are used to help infiltration into the state. The corps commander said it was too early to suggest that the Pakistan Army was directly involved in Keran infiltration bid. The Keran operation came up for a mention in the state legislative assembly now in session in Srinagar. Harsh Dev Singh of the Panthers Party raised the issue in the assembly and demanded a statement from the government. He said since the Keran build-up involved the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the state government must make a statement. Speaker Mubarak Gul said the details about the operation would be with the army and defence ministry, and the state government would take time to obtain authentic information on it from the ministry. Later, the members of the Panthers Party walked out of the assembly, raising slogans against Pakistan.
Showdown between RIs and Pakistan Army: Implications for India
The cacophony of Pakistani religious radicalism seems to be heading for a crescendo. The country is being torn apart between the contending power centers of Radical Islamists (RIs) and the Army, with neither of them showing any intention of climbing down. As far as country’s much hyped civilian governments of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, or that of the cosmopolitan Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, are concerned they have been reduced to pleading with folded hands before the leadership of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the army to let peace talks get underway, but without any success. They can’t go against the wishes of the army which wants the TTP to lay-down arms, give up its jihad against it and once again become a pliant tool which can be exploited by the GHQ to pursue its ‘strategic’ agenda in Afghanistan and Kashmir in India.

The TTP and its radical Islamist allies, on their part, want to neither give up their arms, nor tone down their sectarian/ideological agenda of shariatizing Pakistan so as to eventually convert it into the Islamic Emirate of Pakistan. Moreover the TTP and its allies have smelt blood. They realize that they have weakened the resolve of the Pakistan army to militarily deal with them by tying down a substantial chunk of its strength in FATA, KPk, Karachi and elsewhere, inflicting significant casualties on it, undermining the morale by targeting senior generals (the latest being Major General Sanaullah) and leaving it with little additional troops that could be mobilized for any meaningful operation against them. They also realize that the governments in Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar are more than willing to dance at their tunes and constantly look over their shoulders to see if the RIs are nodding their approval for their actions.

The Pakistan army is caught in a cleft stick on the issue of dealing with the RIs. A significant section of the Pakistani military establishment sympathizes and empathizes with the sectarian agenda of the RIs due to its own religious predilections. At the same time the army as a whole is reluctant to expand the conflict with the RIs by expanding the area of its anti-insurgency operations. It is mortally afraid of the terrorist blow-back in various parts of the country as a result of launching any substantial operation against them in their strongholds, which have for all practical purposes become the ‘liberated’ (or shariatised) zones. Yet the RIs can not be allowed by the army to gain total hold over the governments to usher in their Islamic agenda, as it would destroy their own power and privileges.

The Pakistan army’s top-brass realizes, irrespective of its sectarian identification that in a shariatised Pakistan its army would be reduced to the same level of importance, or insignificance, as the Iranian Army vis-à-vis the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In a shariatised Pakistan the TTP and its radical allies are unlikely to disband themselves, or give up their arms. They would become the real power behind the country’s governing structures and would call the shots. This would ring the demise of various Fauji Foundations and other military enterprises in Pakistan that allow senior military commanders to live a life of opulence and manipulate the politics of the country from behind the scene. At present the Pakistan army Chief is a major, and at times the overriding, centre of power. His transformation into just a cog in the state machinery can not be countenanced by a majority of Pakistan army top-brass and the rank and file. Besides, it is again the sectarian issue. Pakistan army’s soldiery is still largely Barelvi in its religious orientation. The officer corps has a large number of Deobandis, but they do not subscribe to Wahabi/Salafi radicalism for various reasons. They are unlikely to meekly surrender to the RIs onslaught.

The army has been hoping so far that a pliant Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan governments that had close affinities with the RIs would be able to persuade them to come to negotiating table on its terms. They tried to achieve this through the recent All Parties Conference (APC) initiative for peace talks with RIs, when senior army brass not only attended its deliberations, but also briefed all the participants on the security situation in the country. The TTP responded by ambushing and blowing up senior army officers. Thus it is an interlocking situation for the Army and the civilian government of Pakistan. And they do not seem to have either any more cards left to play, or initiatives to be explored. Yet the instinct for survival remains strong in all of them. It is this instinct which has made them throw food to the marauding hyenas so far with the hope that it would keep them at bay. But, the hyenas are getting closer.

So what they could do now? Do something that distracts the hyenas and send them somewhere else. This is just not a rhetorical thought any more. The RIs have mentioned India in hostile terms and want to deal with it, particularly over Kashmir. Would the GHQ play the India card now by exacerbating tension in J&K to the extant that it allows them to generate war hysteria in Pakistan, which forces TTP and its radical allies to tone down their march to Islamabad and rather join the jihad for defending Pakistan and Kashmir? They wish to gain some respite through such a strategy and hope that other avenues would open up to them in the meanwhile to deal with the country’s sectarian crisis on a better keel. The chain of events unfolding on the LoC in recent weeks seems to have a method behind the seeming madness.
Indo-US wargames 'Exercise Shatrujeet' being held in Goa
New Delhi: Indian and American troops are practising amphibious war manoeuvres in Goa as part of efforts of the two countries to build strong ties between their armed forces.

Code named Exercise Shatrujeet, the four-day joint Indo-US war games are being held at Goa to enhance cooperation between the two armed forces. The US Marine Corps arrived at Goa on board USS Harpers Ferry on September 30.

"The exercise is planned as part of Indo-US defence cooperation under the Defence Policy Group. The aim of the exercise is to undertake joint training in amphibious operations with a view to build and promote positive military relations between the two nations," an army official said.

The exercise will provide an opportunity for both forces to interact and work together, he added.

Apart from Shatrujeet series of war games, India and the US hold several joint military training exercises between their armed forces including the Malabar, Yudh Abhyas and the multilateral Red Flag exercise held in the US.

India recently accepted an invitation to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) in Hawaii, a multilateral exercise that is expected to involve nearly two dozen nations.
IAF planning fighter base at Nyoma in Ladakh
India is upgrading seven airfields in the northeast for day and night operations and has drawn plans to develop Nyoma in Ladakh as a fully operational station as part of efforts to ramp up defence infrastructure along the border with China, a top commander said Friday.

Addressing a press conference here ahead of the 81st Air Force Day, the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, said that funds had been released for upgrading seven advanced landing grounds in the northeast, most of which will be ready by 2016.

Browne said that Nyoma was an important location for both the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force in southeast Ladakh and had good weather round-the-year.

He said the cost of developing the air base would be around Rs.2,173 crore and it will take 4-5 years to develop it.

"We want to operate everything (all kinds of aircraft) from there," he said.

He said the proposal for developing Nyoma was with the finance ministry and is expected to be taken up by the cabinet next month.

India has taken steps to ramp up its infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control to match China's steps in this direction.

Replying to queries on the operation in Keran sector of Jammu and Kashmir against heavily armed militants, Browne said it was "localised" and the the army is capable of dealing with the situation.

Browne, who heads the chiefs of staff committee, also noted that frenetic attempts were being made from the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) to push in infiltrators before the onset of winter.

The Indian Air Force would provide any assistance sought by the army, he added.

He said that IAF was authorised 42 fighter sqaurdons but its present strength is much lower and noted that if the proposed induction of new combat jets does not happen by 2017, the force levels would rapidly fall.

The IAF chief said in case the proposed medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) is not procured by the end of the 12th Plan (2012-2017), then force levels will rapidly go down.

That we have to prevent," he said, adding that "force levels need to be maintained to keep up the country's deterrent capabilities."

Browne said his hope was that in 20 years one of the base repair deopts (BRDs) of the IAF was able to produce a MMRCA. He said some of the BRDs had world class facilities.

"Why not. That is the area we have to target. We have to be self-sufficient in that sense," he said.

French firm Dassault Aviation had bagged the MMRCA deal for 126 planes last year after being declared the lowest bidder. Eighteen aircraft are to be purchased in a fly-away condition, while Hindustan Aeronatics Limited (HAL) is to manufacture the 108 under licence. Price negotiations are currently underway.

Asked if the MMRCA negotiations will be completed this year, he said it was difficult to put a timeline.

He said if the deal is signed next year, the first aircraft will arrive in 2017.

He said the ALGs in the northeast were expected to be ready by 2016.

The ALGs in the northeast include Ziro, Passighat, Walong, Tuting and Mechuka.

Answering another query, he said Mi 8 helicopters, which ferry VIPs, will be phased out from next year and decision will have to be taken on their replacement.

Asked about the three AW-101 helicopters supplied by AugustaWestland for the elite Air Headquarters Communication Squadron, he two of these were in VVIP configuration while one was a cargo variant.

The defence ministry had concluded a contract with AgustaWestland in February 2010 for 12 AW-101 helicopters for 556.262 million euros (Rs.3,726.96 crore). The helicopters were ment to ferry the president, the prime minister and other VVIPs.

The defence ministry has frozen the contract after allegations of kickbacks against top officials of of the Anglo-Italian firm.

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