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Saturday, 26 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 26 Oct 2013

 Indo-Russian joint exercise ends
Raj Sadosh

Abohar, October 25
The Indian Army today added another feather to its cap with the successful completion of Exercise Indra 2013 involving Russian and Indian forces. It is a landmark event as battalion-level exercises involving Russian and Indian mechanised forces have been held in India for the first time.

In Exercise Gangneva (name derived from rivers Ganga in India and Neva in Russia) at the Mahajan Field Firing Range in Rajasthan today, Indian and Russian mechanised troops captured a notional rebel strong point with an impressive assault of attack helicopters, tanks and infantry fighting vehicles called BMPs.

Small teams of Indian special forces were inserted using helicopters near the objective for intelligence-based precision operations. The joint exercise was witnessed by senior officers of both the armies. General Officer Commanding Chetak Corps Navkiran Singh also attended the operation.

Exercise Vindhural (name derived from the Vindhya mountains of India and the Ural mountains in Russia) encompassed search-and-destroy operations. A mock village was constructed in which a heavy concentration of rebels was depicted. Troops of both the armies cordoned off the village and then, conducted search operations. Using helicopters, personnel of the Indian special forces made attempts to nab a notional rebel leader. Casualty evacuation drills using helicopters were also conducted.

Earlier, a function was organised for the visiting army in which Indian Army troops presented martial dances of India. The performances of ‘lazium’, ‘malkhamb’, ‘jhanj pataka’ dance of Maharashtra and ‘gatka’ of Punjab left the Russians spellbound.

After the drill, a senior officer said that a greater level of understanding has been achieved in matters of resource utilisation and nuances of tactical-level procedures. Indian Army’s vast experience in counter-insurgency operations and management of conflict-ridden areas has been acknowledged the world over. Friendly foreign countries are making a beeline for joint training with the Indian Army, he said.
 Countering chemical weapons
How India can prepare to deal with chemical attacks
by Lt-Gen SS Sihota (retd)

On August 21, 2013, the world witnessed with shock and disgust employment of chemical weapons in Syria against its own people. It was followed by a drama enacted by the powerful nations which are permanent members of the Security Council. These nations claim to be protectors of human rights and are responsible for ensuring world peace. John Kerry, US Secretary of State, made a forceful speech against the Syrian regime. He claimed that the US had identified the perpetrators of this barbaric act. It appeared to the world that US was ready to punish them even without the endorsement of the Security Council. But the US and its allies failed to execute that threat due to many internal and external pressures. The United Nations sent its teams to investigate the matter.

These teams confirmed that chemical weapons were used but failed to name the agency responsible for their use. The whole episode has revealed the impotence of the world body and the inability of the super powers to be able to act in such situations. One can go back in history and can see that US intervention in Iraq too was not solely for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction but to pursue and achieve their own economic goals. It is indicative of the future trend of the attitude of these nations.

After going through this entire charade it is only now that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been tasked to destroy 1000 tonnes of chemical arsenal housed in about 40 sites in Syria. There is no clear declaration about whether the Syrian regime or the rebels were responsible for using the chemical weapons. It is also being debated as to whether President Putin or President Obama came out the winner in this game of gaining supremacy of the world.

While this debate lingers, I am sure authorities responsible for the security of their nations, including India, must be examining their vulnerabilities and evaluating their preparedness if confronted with a situation like Syria. It is quite obvious, notwithstanding the prevalence of the Chemical Weapons Treaty, every country will have to meet this challenge from within their own resources without looking over their shoulder for outside help.

India is surrounded by hostile neighbours. Its borders are disputed and volatile. Forces inimical to us are pushing terrorists into our country. It is not far-fetched to presume that these elements can lay their hands on chemical arsenal lying unaccounted for after the cold war. International terrorist organisations are capable of sharing their booty. In fact, there is no need for weaponisation of the chemicals; destruction or damage to the chemical industry can create the same havoc. Our attitude towards granting licenses to the industry without much care for safety and security aspects is well known. Bhopal is still fresh in our minds.

In the recent past we have witnessed the use of gases by terrorists in theatres and metros to cause maximum damage. We also have forces within the country that are willing to create disturbances through unethical means and yet remain unaccountable for it. India is a country ripe for rogue chemical attacks. Are we prepared to counter this threat?

Our military preparations to protect soldiers from weapons of mass destruction started in right earnest only in the early 1980s. A number of officers were sent to western and eastern bloc countries to gain first-hand knowledge and study the philosophies of individual and collective protection systems. These officers brought back sufficient information about their organisations, equipment and training. This became the basis for our own preparations. Till that time our knowledge of the subject was theoretical. We were naïve enough to think that if we covered our naked body parts with polythene it would be sufficient to provide protection from chemical gases or liquid droplets.

Some of the chemical suits with expired shelf life meant to be worn during decontamination operations of ships were being considered for individual protection in case of emergency. These suits can cause unbearable exhaustion in a matter of a few minutes. Our laboratories tasked to produce chemical masks were satisfied by manufacturing these by borrowing moulds and using untested materials. A gas mask, to be effective is required to undergo a seven-stage inspection, including a mustard gas test. It is also not common knowledge that if a mask is worn over even a slightly unshaven face it will not seal properly to prevent entry of the gases. It may also not be known to most that a hood mask which seals at the neck is essential to protect bearded personnel.

By now, militarily we seem to have reached a sound level of preparation to fight in the nuclear biological and chemical battlefield. But are we prepared to save civilians if chemical weapons are employed by the terrorists or due to industrial leakage? The equipment is very expensive and hundred per cent protection for a large population is almost impossible. The short shelf life of the equipment adds to the economic burden. Unlike natural disasters, where there will be a warning period, man-made disaster will appear without any warning. We may not be able to save casualties by handing over the situation to the military as has been the common practice in the past.

India’s National Disaster Management Authority was established in 2005, primarily with the assistance and knowhow of the military. Despite occasional criticism of it being handled by non-professionals, it has performed reasonably well while dealing with natural calamities. But our state-level disaster management authority does not seem to be in full gear. Probably it has the same mindset and level of preparation which was prevailing in the military in the early 1980s. Unlike natural disaster, where there will be a warning period, manmade disaster will appear without any warning. We cannot expect the National Disaster Management Authority to react so swiftly. Keeping in mind the spread of our country and its population, it will be the state authorities, local government officials and public at large who will play a predominant role to minimise casualties in the situations and scenario projected above.

Fine-tuned intelligence gathering may be able to prevent rogue elements from using chemicals at will. The public itself needs to be educated in the detection of chemicals in the air and taught immediate action drills to save themselves and others around them from becoming its victims. Well-rehearsed arrangements to evacuate people from crowded places like theatres, underground markets, metros and habitation near the chemical industry will help in reducing casualties.

The civil administration will have to be very strict in granting licenses after verifying safety and security aspects and subsequently ensuring implementation. A well thought out strategy, that includes a public awareness programme, is required to be formulated by state and the local administrative authorities, lest we regret that we did not heed the warning from the Syrian episode.
India Extends Relations With China, Russia

NEW DELHI — India has made small but steady progress improving political and defense relations with China and Russia, signing a border cooperation agreement with Beijing and agreeing with Moscow to purchase another nuclear sub.

Still, the border issue with China has not been solved and a joint combat fighter effort with Russia remains unsettled.

India and China, on Oct. 22, inked the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing, establishing a formal mechanism to improve security along their 4,056-kilometer Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is the disputed border between the countries.

The four-page BDCA was signed by Indian Defence Secretary R.K. Mathur and Lt. Gen. Sun Jianguo, Chinese People’s Liberation Army deputy chief of General Staff. The agreement is the fourth confidence-building agreement signed by the countries since 1993, an Indian Defence Ministry official said.

Despite the BDCA, no final agreement appears to be in the offing on the border dispute between India and China over which the two countries fought a brief battle in 1962, said an Indian Army official. China claims 92,000 square kilometers of Indian territory and the border between India and China is currently defined by the LAC, which is neither marked on the ground nor on mutually accepted maps.

“Given the enormous complex nature of geography, history and politics of their border dispute, it is not likely to be solved; it will gradually become less interesting and exciting for both sides. ... Boundaries will become gradually less important and get marginalized,” said Swaran Singh, professor for diplomacy and disarmament at Jawahar Lal Nehru University.

The Army official said the BDCA would help improve understanding between the armies stationed along the border because there will be regular meetings at a senior officer level. Border personnel will meet at designated positions along the LAC, and there will be periodic meetings between officials of the defense ministries, an Indian Defence Ministry official said.

The two countries are trying to reduce tensions along their borders, which has been exacerbated by frequent incursions by China, said the Army official. In April, troops of the two countries came face to face for 21 days in the Ladakh region of the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, where Chinese soldiers planted tents inside Indian territory.

New Delhi and Beijing have kept a low-key diplomatic stance regarding these incursions to avoid a confrontation.

India and China held several discussions on the BDCA beginning in January, but after the incursion by Chinese troops in the Ladakh region, the pace of negotiations quickened. During Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s visit to China in July, the two sides agreed to quickly conclude negotiations.

While no Indian official or analyst is optimistic of an early settlement of the boundary dispute, there is unanimity that India needs to be concerned about Chinese military modernization and its growing footprint in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

“Attempts to find a resolution of the boundary dispute between India and China should be combined with military capacity building and defense preparedness by India,” said defense analyst Nitin Mehta.
Russian Naval Deal

Meanwhile, Singh and Russian President Vladmir Putin did not sign any new defense pact during their Oct. 20-22 meeting in Moscow, but Indian Defence Ministry sources said an agreement was reached to acquire another nuclear submarine.

The­ Navy will finance the construction of and then lease the Akula-class vessel for more than US $1.2 billion over its lifetime. Under the lease, Russia will handle maintenance and overhauls. India operates another Akula nuclear submarine, the Nerpa, which was inducted on lease from Russia in April last year.

The highlight of the new Akula submarine, which India hopes to induct in about four years, will be its ability to mount the Indo-Russian BrahMos, a supersonic cruise missile, which has a range of 290 kilometers, said a Defence Ministry source.

Akula-class submarines are able to carry nuclear missiles that have a range of 3,000 kilometers, but the Nerpa is armed with the Klub missile that has a range of less than 300 kilometers.

The Defence Ministry source said the agreement to lease the nuclear submarine would not be included in public joint statements but confirmed that an agreement has been reached.

The joint statement issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs after Singh and Putin met merely said, “The sides emphasized that the traditionally close military and technical cooperation between the two countries was a crucial element of the strategic partnership and reflected the high level of trust between the two states.”

India and Russia still have not finalized a work-sharing agreement on the joint Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project, an issue that also figured in the Moscow talks. Antony said he would discuss the work-sharing on FGFA during his visit to Russia in November, the Defence Ministry source added. India, which is contributing 50 percent of the development costs, wants to increase its work share, which is said to be less than 20 percent. India also plans to pay more than $25 billion for the aircraft.

In 2010, a preliminary agreement was drawn between state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau to jointly develop the FGFA, but a final contract has still not been reached.

India has been trying to maintain equal relations with Russia and Western sources as it forges defense ties since the United Progressive Alliance government came to power in 2005. But announcements of major defense projects are not made in summit talks, said analyst Mehta.

“If the joint statement of the Oct. 21 summit level in Moscow does not mention any major defense project, it should not be read that defense ties between India and Russia are tapering off,” Mehta added.
India’s Defense Procurement Bungles
In February I wrote a piece for The Diplomat noting that India was, to use that old bromide, “at a crossroads” on its road to armed forces modernization.

I argued that, despite mind-numbing bureaucracy and a misfiring indigenous defense industry, India was buying its way towards establishing a well-supplied fighting force at land, air and sea.

Events since then have conspired to challenge that rosy assessment of military procurement on the subcontinent. A combination of corruption allegations and Ministry of Defence mismanagement are conspiring to foul up what should be relatively straightforward deals.

First up in this list of shame is the MoD’s failure to sign off on a deal to buy 145 M777 lightweight howitzers from BAE Systems. The contract, which was routed through Washington’s government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, should have been signed off years ago. Instead, the Indian MoD missed a October 15 deadline that BAE had imposed because the company could not afford to keep the gun’s U.K. production line open while it waited for Delhi to sign on the dotted line.

The delays means that if the Indian Army wants the M777 – which by all accounts it does – then it’ll have to pay at least an extra $50 million to reopen the line.

Next up is the omnishambles over the 12 AgustaWestland AW101 VVIP helicopters that India was supposed to be getting this year. Three had been delivered when a corruption scandal exploded around the contract, with two company executives arrested in Italy and a former Indian air chief marshal accused of taking bribes by Indian investigators. While all involved deny any wrongdoing, the MoD suspended payments with nine helicopters still to be delivered.

The case developed further this month when AgustaWestland filed for arbitration in an attempt to force the MoD to unblock its payments and get the contract back on track. This may have backfired, however, with MoD officials apparently incandescent at the company for filing the arbitration claim when the defense minister was in hospital and only days after the ministry’s top air procurement official had died.

The fallout from the AgustaWestland case can also be seen in the services’ procurement plans. In April the MoD delayed the army’s plans to spend 150 billion rupee ($2.3 billion) on Rafael Spike non-line-of-sight anti-tank missiles because of sensitivities at sole-sourcing such a big contract.

It is also impeding recent attempts by the U.S. to kick start the military-industrial relationship with Delhi. The Pentagon – in the form of outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter – has promised to co-develop at least two systems with India: a successor to the Javelin anti-tank guided missile and the next-generation EMALS catapult for launching aircraft off carriers.

The chances of either of these joint developments getting off the ground are severely compromised by India’s inability to sort out its basic procurement relationships with foreign vendors, as the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) noted in a September letter to the Pentagon that was provided to IHS Jane’s.

The USIBC letter complained that India was imposing "unfeasible delays" on signing defense contracts and that foreign defense companies had little post-delivery liability protection. It pointed to the M777 deal as a key example of the problems being faced.

Meanwhile, the Indian MoD’s largest ever foreign procurement – the MMRCA deal to buy 126 Dassault Rafale fighters – has been kicked into the long grass by alleged disagreements over the responsibility for quality control on license-built aircraft and the ongoing depreciation of the rupee, which has pushed the price up just as India’s economy has slowed.

This chain of events may not elicit the most sympathetic response from the neutral observer. It’s hard to get too upset at the sight of a U.S. business lobby complaining at foreign defense regulations, while the consequences of India’s economic slowdown and currency issues are not just being felt by the defense industry.

But on a strategic level, India’s almost masochistic ability to snarl up foreign defense procurement – alongside the institutional hurdles to successful indigenous production – could have more serious side effects than just obvious reputational damage.

The Indian Army’s ambitious Field Artillery Rationalisation was established in 1999 and envisaged the $5-7 billion procurement of 3,000-3,200 assorted caliber howitzers by 2027. None of these acquisitions have been completed.

Major General Sheru Thapliyal (rtd), a former artillery officer, warned IHS Jane’s in June that the army could face a situation where it has no effective long-range howitzers – unlike its neighbors. And even where it does have guns in service, such as the 105 mm Indian Field Gun and its derivatives, their 17 km range is well below the contact envelope of China and Pakistan’s more modern guns.

“At several points along the Pakistani and Chinese frontiers the range achieved by these guns barely crosses India's borders, rendering them ineffectual,” a three-star artillery officer told IHS Jane's.

In this light the significance of the M777 deal is thrown into sharp focus. The M777, which can be slung beneath the CH-47 Chinooks that India is also buying from the U.S., is supposed to equip two mountain divisions that are being stood up to counter China’s strategic moves on the Line of Actual Control. With no artillery, these divisions are little more than paper units.

It isn’t all doom and gloom for India’s armed forces, and the army in particular. South African prime contractor Denel is set to be removed from a blacklist after an investigation into alleged bribery was closed without resolution, and a number of local private firms have established joint ventures with international companies to build some of the gun types that India desperately needs.

But given what’s happened in the past, the ongoing possibility of corruption – and the ongoing possibility of anti-corruption investigations – will probably stop arms sales from being finalized. India’s soldiers are still not getting the weapons they need. Without fundamental reform to the Indian MoD and how it buys arms, that is unlikely to change soon.
Nod for short-range surface-to-air missile soon
A final nod from the Indian government on the Short-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (SR SAM) project is expected shortly. The project involves joint development of short-range surface-to-air missile for the three services by technology transfer from European MBDA in joint development with DRDO and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) as the production agency.

The announcement of completion of negotiations between the two governments was made in a joint statement during French President Francoise Hollande's visit to India in February. Loic Piedevache, country head, MBDA, said, "We are expecting the project to be finalised very shortly. We look at India as a long-term strategic partner."

The missile is to be developed in two variants — ship-based variant for the Navy and land-based for the Indian Army as well as the IAF.

The consortium's another flagship project Milan 2T is expected to be further extended and contract for the same is likely to be signed "soon" according to Piedevache. "The modalities of production are still in discussion phase with BDL," he said.

It may be noted that the Defence Acquisition Council recently approved procurement of additional Milan 2T portable anti-tank missiles for the infantry. This, when the original manufacturer has moved to a more advanced extended range (ER) version of the missile.

BDL has so far produced 1, 2 and 2T versions of the missile. The consortium's PARS 3LR missile has also been one of the contenders for arming HAL's Rudra platform along with Israel. While the field evaluation trials were completed about a year ago in Sweden, a final decision from the MoD and the Army is awaited. HAL had handed over the first weapon systems integrated version of ALH to the Army in Aero India 2013.

While the increasing importance to the strategic cooperation between India and France was further underlined during former foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai's Paris visit in June that listed 'defence' as one of the pillars of strategic cooperation between the two nations, the DRDO in September 2011 had inked a deal with Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) for increased cooperation between the two nations.

The consortium which has been working with the British MoD on various funded missile projects has also made presentations to the Indian agencies according to its UK officials.
Accident Further Delays Indian Howitzer Acquisition
Indian Army efforts to acquire howitzer guns from domestic sources received a jolt this summer when the barrel of a prototype Bofors howitzer being upgraded here burst during trials.

An internal committee, which gave its findings to the Indian Defence Ministry this month, said neither the barrel nor its Indian-made ammunition was at fault, an MoD source said.

The upgrade of the howitzer has now been stalled and induction of the 114 guns the Army ordered last year has been delayed.

India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is attempting to upgrade the 155mm/39-caliber guns to 155mm/45-caliber weapons.

The Army has not been able to buy any howitzer guns since the 1980s because the process has been aborted on several occasions when corruption charges resulted in companies being blacklisted. Denel of South Africa was blacklisted in 2005; Rheinmetall’s Swiss arm, Israeli Military Industries and Singapore Technologies were blacklisted in 2009.

OFB began the upgrade two years ago, based on drawings supplied by Bofors in the 1980s as part of the transfer technology arrangement.

MoD sources said OFB does not have the technical know-how to upgrade the guns because the state-owned company produces guns of lower caliber.

A BAE Systems executive said his company is ready to help OFB upgrade the gun. BAE owns the howitzer unit of the Swedish company Bofors, from which the Indian Army acquired the guns in the 1980s.

The Indian Army requires a variety of 155mm guns that will cost more than US $6 billion as it plans to replace all its artillery weapons.

An Army official said the service is disappointed over the delay in acquiring the guns, adding that the effort by OFB to find an alternative appears to have fizzled. The official added that efforts should be made to acquire the howitzers on a government-to-government basis to speed the procurement process.

To tap the howitzer market, domestic private-sector companies have also teamed with overseas companies to make a gun here with indigenous content. India’s private major Larsen & Toubro has joined with South Korea’s Samsung to compete in a howitzer self-propelled tracked-gun tender.

Domestic private-sector Tata Power Strategic Electronics Division has also developed a 155mm/52-caliber mounted gun with a firing range of 40 kilometers. While the company would not officially comment on its foreign partners, sources said help has been sought from Denel.

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