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Thursday, 7 November 2013

From Today's Papers - 07 Nov 2013

 IAF Chief’s unusual Diwali

Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne had an unusual Diwali celebration this time. Browne and his wife Kiran, spent the festival with IAF men posted to Car Nic, a strategic airbase in the Andaman Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The Air Force Station, Car Nic, was declared a non-family station post-tsunami devastation of December 2004. A total of 116 had died in the tsunami, including IAF officers, men, their wives and children. Browne, who is the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), paid tributes at the Tsunami Memorial and was then invited for a 'Barakhana' with the Airmen. The airstrip was built by the Japanese during their occupation of these islands between 1942 and 45 and was extended to 8,886 feet in 1967. The base which sits on the Indian side of the vital shipping route through the Straits of Malacca, has an air defence unit, Mi-series of helicopters and smaller Dornier fixed-wing planes.
Taking baby steps

The Army's newest Infantry outfit, Sikkim Scouts, is now a month old. Affiliated with 11 Gorkha Rifles, the battalion's official raising day is October 1, 2013. Based on the "Sons of the Soil" concept, the battalion will exclusively recruit local Sikkim youth and will be deployed permanently in the high altitude and rugged terrain along the India-China border in the strategically vital state. Recruitment had started in March and the battalion's flag was unveiled by Vice Chief of the Army Staff on May 27. Besides enabling more people from the state to join the Army and thereby having economic spin-offs, the battalion, like other scouts units in the Army such as Ladakh Scouts, Arunachal Scouts, Dogra Scouts and Gharwal Scouts, will also have the advantage of having troops deeply familiar with the local terrain, environmental conditions and customs as well as closely associated with the local residents.

War hero passes away

Gp Capt TL Anderson, former commanding officer of IAF's No 44 Squadron, now based at Chandigarh, passed away in Australia last week at the age of 88. He is survived by his wife, Sheila Anderson. He was decorated with the Shaurya Chakra for operations in the Naga Hills in the 1950s, and then awarded the Vir Chakra for his actions in the 1962 India-China conflict. He had flown over 70 operational hours to the Chushul airfield in south eastern J&K, ferrying in vital supplies to the troops garrisoned there. Old IAF officers who have served with him have mourned his death.

Unique case before AFT

An unusual case has come up before the Armed Forces Tribunal, where an Army officer has accused a colonel of what in military parlance is called "stealing the affections of a brother officer's wife". The officer has alleged that the incident took place while he was posted in a field area and his wife and the colonel were residing in Delhi. Based upon his complaint, the Army had conducted a court of inquiry and held the colonel blameworthy for the alleged impropriety on his part. In his petition, on which the Tribunal issued notices on October 10 to the respondents, the officer has averred that despite the opinion of the court of inquiry, no action has been taken by the Army authorities thereof.
 Challenges from China
Imports threaten India's energy and cyber security
by G Parthasarathy

Rarely in history has a country moved from rags to riches and from relative isolation to a power, either feared or respected worldwide, in such a short time as China has done after Deng Xiao Ping assumed the reins of power. Bent on overturning a Communist system, which had perpetuated poverty and throwing the slogans of Marx, Lenin and Mao into the wastepaper basket, Deng proclaimed: “Poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious”.

What followed were policies that produced a sustained, near double-digit annual growth rate for over two decades. Recognising that an economically backward and militarily weak China should bide its time before asserting itself internationally, Deng proclaimed: “Keep a cool head and maintain a low profile. Never take the lead, but aim to do something big.”

China's rise over the past quarter of a century has been remarkable. But the historic trait of chauvinism and the dynamics of socio-economic transformation are inevitably having an impact on China's behaviour. The contradictions between an increasingly open economy in an era of expanding global communications on the one hand, and corruption and venality that characterise the behaviour of dictatorial elites on the other, are producing social and economic tensions. These tensions can get out of hand if not addressed deftly. Like all other dictatorships facing such challenges, China's leadership is increasingly resorting to jingoism to divert the attention of its people. The message to the people of China is that with its growing military might and economic power, China is set to share global pre-eminence with the US and will overtake the US soon in economic power. This has been coupled with bullying and coercion of neighbours in order to enforce claims for territorial expansion on China's land and maritime boundaries.

China seeks to enforce its outrageous territorial claims on its maritime boundaries with countries like Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam through coercion and intimidation, while showing scant regard for the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas. Regionally, it uses its economic clout in ASEAN to divide its members on its maritime boundary claims. It refuses to behave transparently or equitably with its lower riparian neighbours, on its upstream utilisation of the waters of the Mekong river. It suddenly upped the ante on its border dispute with India by laying claim to the whole state of Arunachal Pradesh, just after Prime Minister Wen Jiabao inked an agreement with New Delhi in 2005, in which it was agreed that “The India-China boundary should be along well-defined and easily identifiable natural geographic features”. In Ladakh, the Ladakh-Tiber boundary has been quite clearly defined since 1684, except for some divergences on the status of parts of Aksai Chin.

The “well-defined and easily identifiable natural geographic features” in the Ladakh sector lie along the Karakoram mountains up to the Indus river watershed. Areas which China brazenly intruded into in April like Depsang and Chumar clearly lie on the Indian side of this boundary. It is here that India has walked into a diplomatic quagmire as agreements on peace and tranquility along the “Line of Actual Control” allude to a “Line” whose delineation China refuses to spell out clearly by exchanging maps. This enables China to lay unsubstantiated claims to territories it intrudes into, disregarding past agreements. Prominent Indians like Stopden from Ladakh and former IB Special Director Ravi have spelt out details of how such Chinese intrusions have changed the situation on the ground in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh to India's disadvantage. In future border negotiations India should forcefully refer to the 2005 “Guiding Principles” as the fundamental basis for addressing and resolving the border issue.

The Agreement on Border Cooperation, signed on October 23 last, only puts India in a more disadvantageous position. Its Article VI prohibits India from “following or tailing” Chinese patrols after they intrude into areas India asserts as being on its side of the Line of Control. Technically, the Chinese can now intrude into the Tawang Area which they have long claimed, or choose to move across the Karakoram Range, and then could well demand that our patrols do not follow them, while they return to their former positions. The agreement, moreover, requires us to provide advance intimation of aircraft flights. We are building air bases in Daulat Beg Oldi and elsewhere along the LoC to improve logistics. Are we going to provide advance intimation to the Chinese every time our aircraft fly to these airbases? Moreover, are we going to give China prior intimation of drone reconnaissance flights?

Nine so-called “agreements” were signed on October 23, most of which have only symbolic value. The only agreement showing some movement forward was on the river waters, where the two sides have agreed to enhance the exchange of information on the river water flows, while acknowledging that “cooperation on trans-border rivers” will “strengthen the strategic and cooperative partnership”. Whether this will entail Chinese restraint on diverting the waters of the Brahmaputra is questionable, given their behaviour with the lower riparian states on the Mekong basin. The harsh reality appears to be that given their vastly superior communications along their borders with India and our present inability to mount offensive operations, because of the delays in acquisitions and raisings of strike formations, we appear to have persuaded ourselves that discretion is the better part of valour in the face of Chinese intrusions.

India inked an agreement on “equipment service centres” for Chinese power equipment. The real strategic challenge we face today is, however, the Chinese dominance of our power and electronics sectors. Imports of electronic equipment today amount to $32 billion. Energy and cyber security cannot be guaranteed by facilitating Chinese imports, but by devising policies to enhance domestic manufacturing capabilities and giving Indian industry due tariff protection. It's a pity that the recent Summit was not used to make our concerns known to the Chinese on how their supply of plutonium reactors and reprocessing facilities to Pakistan had endangered nuclear security in South Asia.

On the positive side, however, the Prime Minister, while speaking earlier at the East Asia Summit, welcomed the establishment of an expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum for "developing maritime norms that would reinforce existing international law relating to maritime security". He thereafter pledged to enhance strategic cooperation with Indonesia.

Prime Minister Li Keqiang followed his visit to India by visiting Pakistan. Dr Manmohan Singh could perhaps have reciprocated by stopovers in Tokyo and Hanoi, after his visit to China.
First India-China military drill in five years to begin today
 India and China will on Tuesday begin a 10-day joint military drill on counterterrorism – the first such exercise held between the neighbours in five years – in south-western China, as the two militaries look to boost trust and turn the page on recent tensions along the disputed border.

Taking place only a week after both countries signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) to expand confidence-building measures, the drills will be formally inaugurated on Tuesday near Chengdu.

Chengdu is the headquarters of one of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) seven military area commands, whose responsibility includes the entire Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) as well as the middle and eastern sections of the border with India. An Indian army contingent arrived in Chengdu on Monday, officials said.

The drills, analysts say, are more symbolic than substantial: the counterterrorism drills are nowhere near as comprehensive as a full-fledged exercise between two armies. The larger objective is to expand confidence and trust between the two militaries, which are often grappling with tensions along the border.

The 10-day exercise is the third round of the “hand-in-hand” drills that the two countries initiated in 2007 in Kunming, in south-western Yunnan province. The second round was held in Belgaum, Karnataka, the following year.

Defence exchanges were suspended for more than a year starting in 2010, after China refused to host the then head of the Northern Command citing “sensitivities” on Kashmir. The move came amid a disputed over China’s issuing of stapled visas to Indian residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

India agreed to resume defence ties after China quietly withdrew the stapled visa policy in the months following the former Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in December 2010, and subsequently agreed to host senior officials from the Northern Command in several delegations.

Last month, both sides signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to China. The agreement is aimed at expanding confidence-building measures and preventing the recurrence of face-offs, by formalising rules such as no tailing of patrols and widening direct contact between military commands.

The 10-day drill has been seen in China as being particularly significant because it follows the signing of the BDCA as well as the visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India in May.

“It is a signal to both sides that the militaries can do something to improve the bilateral relationship,” said Lan Jianxue, a South Asia scholar at the China Institute for International Studies (CIIS) in Beijing, a think-tank affiliated to the Foreign Ministry.

“As a result of the historical background,” he told The Hindu in an interview, “it is good for the two militaries to communicate more with each other directly. The resumption of exercises will help to increase confidence about the other side.”
Agni missiles set for flight tests in next one month

In a step forward to build an active credible nuclear deterrence, India has planned a series of missile tests in next one month. Four missiles of the country’s most ambitious Agni series have been slated for flight tests. The missiles include Agni-I, Agni-II, Agni-III and Agni-IV.

Defence sources said while Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Indian Army would carry out the user trials of Agni-I, Agni-II and Agni-III, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) would conduct the third developmental trial of Agni-IV.

The tests have been scheduled in the wake of second successful experimental trial of India’s longest 5000-km range Agni-V missile on September 15. All the four missiles will be test-fired from the Wheeler Island test facility of Integrated Test Range (ITR) off the Odisha coast.

While preparation is on in full swing for the user trial of Agni-I missile, which is likely to be conducted on November 8 (earlier scheduled for November 7), tests of rest three missiles will be carried out in a gap of one week each.

The 12-tonne Agni-I has a strike range of 700-900 km. Its length is 15 metres and it is powered by both solid and liquid propellants which impart it a speed of 2.5 km per second. The missile was first test-fired on January 25, 2002.

The 2000-km range Agni-II missile is designed to be launched from a rail-mobile launcher, but it is also available in road-mobile configuration. The missile has a length of 20 metres, diameter of one metre and weight of 16 tonnes. It can carry a payload of around 1000 kg and has appropriate on-board thrusters fitted on the second stage. The missile was cleared for production after its induction in 2004.

On the other hand, Agni-III, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing up to 1.5 tonnes, is 17 metres tall and has a diameter of two metre with weight of around 50 tonnes. It is expected to be the mainstay of India’s nuclear deterrence programme when fully operational. The 3000-km range missile was inducted in the armed forces in June 2011 and next test will be its second user trial.

Having a strike range of around 4000 km, the two-stage solid propelled Agni-IV missile is 20 metre tall and weighs around 17 tonne. Compared to the Pershing missile of the US in terms of technology, the indigenously built Agni-IV missile has many cutting edge technologies, which can meet global standards.

Agni missiles are part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) of the country.

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