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Saturday, 30 November 2013

From Today's Papers - 30 Nov 2013

BSF to guard border with Myanmar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
As the BSF gets ready to take on the onus of guarding the India-Myanmar border, it plans to spend heavily on defences for not merely this border, but also for the Indo-Pak and the Indo-Bangladesh borders, which it guards.

This was stated by BSF’s Director General Subhash Joshi during a press conference here today.

He said he would lead a BSF delegation to Lahore next month for a bi-annual DG-level meeting with Pakistan Rangers. The recent infiltration attempts and ceasefire violations along the Indo-Pak border would be discussed during the meeting.

The DG said the elections in Bangladesh in January might create a volatile situation along the Indo-Bangladesh border. “We will have to be more careful. We will have to be alert to stop illegal migration and prevent unwanted elements from crossing the border,” he said.

On the India-Myanmar border, he said, “We have recently been informed of the decision that the India-Myanmar border will be guarded by the BSF.”

Joshi said the government had approved a five-year modernisation plan for the BSF worth Rs 4,570 crores. Under the plan, BSF’s air wing, transport facilities and communication equipment would be strengthened. The DG explained that the force would procure eight Mi-17 helicopters by the end of the next year.

“We are examining the situation on the India-Myanmar border. On the basis of the examination, we will make a proposal and send it to the Ministry of Home Affairs. It will then be sent it to the Cabinet Committee on Security. After that, the modalities will be chalked out,” said the DG. The government had also sanctioned an infrastructure plan for the BSF.
 Escalating tension
Chinese moves shake region’s stability

A newly notified Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea is racketing up tension in the region. The zone requires aircraft to intimate the Chinese authorities about their flight details in advance and to follow the instructions of the Chinese aircraft controllers. Within days of the announcement, two American B-52 bombers flew through it without notifying the Chinese authorities, as they had always done. Soon Japanese and Korean aircraft followed suit. The AIDZ encompasses a region that essentially extends China's maritime boundary. It includes an uninhabited archipelago of five islands which has become the latest bone of contention between two regional powers, Japan and China.

The dispute over the islands, which Japan calls Senkaku and China Diaoyu, is an old one, keeps on surfacing from time to time, as it did in 2010, when it became the focus of a major diplomatic row between the two countries. It is more about the assertion of sovereignty than any material issues, and this is perhaps the reason that both Asian economic superpowers find themselves at loggerheads over it. The inclusion of these islands in the ADIZ has raised hackles in Tokyo and is causing concern in the region. For the US, it is a sense of déjà vu. In 1996, when China announced an exclusion zone in Taiwan Strait, the US retaliated by sending two aircraft carriers.

China's mighty economic power is correlated to its growing assertiveness in the region as its neighbours, including India, are well aware. Various border issues that pop up time and again indicate a policy rather than instances of individual assertion by some military commanders. While the Indian border has been calm since Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing, the focus has shifted to the South China Sea, where its latest move can threaten regional security. However, China may have bitten more than it can chew. The ADIZ-zone norms are more likely to be flouted than complied with.
Experts: 'Make India' Approach May Undercut New Comm Syste

NEW DELHI — India’s overdue Tactical Communication System (TCS) may be further delayed or fail because development will be restricted to domestic companies under the procurement category called “Make India,” experts and Army officials said.

“The main challenge is adopting a completely new set of procedures for Make for the first time in the form of experimentation with the Army, which is hardly prepared for the same,” said defense Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier.

“Make requires extensive interaction and synergy with numbers of agencies by the Corps of Signal in the lead; more time has been spent in understanding the system, which itself has flaws, than activating procurement. Buy and Make may have been a better option which would have facilitated acquiring project management expertise in the initial stage,” Bhonsle said.

TCS is a $2 billion network-centric warfare system to provide a secure, digitized communication network linking troops on the battlefield with theater command-and-control centers. TCS must be transportable in mountainous and desert terrain, and will be able to transmit large amounts of data, such as maps or video, and can be linked to data from UAVs, an Army official said.

Last year, the Defence Ministry shortlisted two domestic competitors, including the consortium made up of private sector defense majors Larsen & Toubro, Tata Power SED and HCL, which will compete against state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd.

The Defence Ministry sent Staff Qualitative Requirements to the two competitors last month asking them to give a detailed project report by January. Thereafter, each of the two competitors will have to build two prototypes of the TCS at a cost of about $50 million, which will then be put to trials.

Under the Make India category, the government will contribute nearly 80 percent toward the cost of the prototypes and the remainder will be borne by the competitor.

The prototypes will undergo user trials by the Indian Army. After the trials, the selected competitor would produce the entire Tactical Communication System.

Analysts are critical of the Make India procedures, noting such a big-ticket project has never been built under this category.

“The root of the problem is with the Make procedure itself,” defense analyst K.V. Kuber said. “The formulation is so complicated and some specific points have a potential bias for certain sections of the industry. The procedure is not inclusive, and the Ministry of Defence may find itself tied up in knots during the implementation of such a complicated procedure.”

An Army official said the service has been demanding TCS since 1996, but expressed doubt it would ever be successfully built under the Make India category.

An executive of Tata Power SED refused to comment on when the project will be built but said the firm has the capability to develop TCS.
US Stinger offer puts brakes on Indian Army's VSHORADS selection
The Indian Army's long-delayed USD3-5 billion procurement of man-portable very short range defence systems (VSHORADS) is deadlocked following a recent US proposal to supply the Raytheon FIM-92 Stinger missile system via the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.
Official sources said the US offer in September 2013 to provide Stinger systems had stalled the Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) selection from one of three vendors competing for the 2010 VSHORADS tender.

The US offer followed the 26 September meeting in Washington between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama.

India's MoD is known to favour acquiring US materiel under the FMS programme, having procured more than USD8 billion worth of equipment through it since 2002.
Japan, South Korean military planes defy China's new defence zone
TOKYO/SEOUL: Japanese and South Korean military aircraft flew through disputed air space over the East China Sea without informing China, officials said on Thursday, challenging a new Chinese air defence zone that has increased regional tensions and sparked concerns of an unintended clash.

The move came after Tokyo's close ally Washington defied China's demand that airplanes flying through its unilaterally announced zone identify themselves to Chinese authorities, flying two unarmed B-52 bombers over the islands on Tuesday without informing Beijing.
 Tensions have ratcheted up since Beijing's weekend announcement of the zone that includes the skies over islands at the heart of a feud between Japan and China, and its demand that planes flying in the area first notify Chinese authorities.

Japan and the United States have sharply criticized the move, which some experts said was aimed not only at chipping away at Tokyo's control of the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, but also at challenging US dominance in the region.

The United States does not take a position on the sovereignty of the islands but recognizes Tokyo's administrative control and has assured Japan that the US-Japan security pact covers them.

The developments are expected to dominate US vice president Joe Biden's visit to Japan, China and South Korea next week.

Also on Thursday, China rejected South Korea's demand for the repeal of the zone, but appeared to soften its demand that commercial aircraft tell its military authorities of any plans to transit the area. Japan's two biggest airlines have already begun defying that order.

"The East China Sea Air Defence Identification zone is not aimed at normal international flights. We hope that relevant countries' airlines can proactively cooperate, so there is more order and safety for flights," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said naval ships and patrol planes have been operating in the East China Sea and would continue to do so.

"They are carrying out surveillance activity as before in the East China Sea, including the zone," Suga told a news conference, adding there has been no particular response from China. "We are not going to change this (activity) out of consideration to China," he added.
Indian media: New Pakistan army chief
The consensus in the Indian media is that the appointment of a general, considered to be a moderate, as head of the army in neighbouring Pakistan could help improve often-strained relations between the two countries.

Lt Gen Raheel Sharif will take over as new Pakistani army commander on Friday.

Newspapers say the appointment comes at a crucial time for Islamabad - ahead of the beginning of the pull-out of foreign troops from neighbouring Afghanistan in 2014, and at time when Pakistan has to deal with its own terrorism problem and the Taliban.

Commentators, however, add a third item to the list of priorities for the new Pakistani army chief - relations with India.

Writing in The Tribune, Pakistani author and columnist Nasim Zehra says that "India and Afghan policies" will be Gen Sharif's "acid test".

An article in The Pioneer predicts that the army chief will play a "crucial role" in Pakistan's "diplomatic parleys" with India, the US, China and the Gulf states.

The paper recalls that Gen Sharif had been a "key player" in developing new army doctrines, "where the infantry training manual has essentially been re-written under his watch to move the largest fighting arm and backbone of the army from the traditional India-centric role to a more diversified counter-insurgency capacity".

"India hopes for pragmatism," reads a headline in The Asian Age. "The Indian Army is hoping that the Pakistan Army Chief-designate will take a more pragmatic line on relations with India instead of the hawkish and confrontationist stance of his predecessor - current Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani," says the paper.
Relations with Japan and China

Media also feel that Japanese Emperor Akihito's six-day visit to India from 30 November could "signal or augment a shift in Japan's foreign policy", and create an alliance to counter-balance China's influence in the region.

The visit is "being seen as a move by Japan to remove any 'psychological gaps' that exist in forging closer ties with India," The Business Standard reports.

"Coming as the visit does at a time when both India and Japan believe they have been at the receiving end of Beijing's high-handedness, diplomatic sources were hard-pressed to convince media persons that there was no China angle in the emperor choosing to visit India," The Times of India points out.

Commenting on the air defence zone that China declared recently over disputed islands in the East China Sea, The New Indian Express feels that "New Delhi should stoutly support the US and Japan and make it clear that China cannot unilaterally appropriate airspace rights".
Italian Marines on trial

Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the case against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen, has suggested that they should be "charged under an Act that mandates the death penalty", the Hindustan Times reports.

The paper adds that this has created tension between the NIA and the foreign ministry, as Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid had assured the Italian government that the marines would not be charged with the death penalty.

The marines are accused of shooting the fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012. They were guarding an Italian oil tanker and said they mistook the fishermen for pirates.
"Suffering" Indians

Moving to social affairs, The Economic Times reports that, according to a Gallup survey, one in every four Indians is suffering due to the country's "poor economic performance in recent years".

"Average suffering in India more than doubled between 2006 to 2008 and 2010 to 2012," the poll found out.

And finally, India's first women's bank - Bhartiya Mahila Bank - is set to offer free health insurance to all its female customers, the Hindustan Times reports.

"The free health insurance cover is aimed at pulling as many women as possible who currently do not have a bank account into the banking fold," Rajiv Takru, financial service secretary, was quoted by the paper as saying.
Govt expresses concern over jawan-officer clashes in Army
New Delhi: The government has conveyed its concern to the top brass in the Army over incidents of fracas between jawans and officers.

It has comes in the backdrop of over five such incidents being reported in the Army in the last three years.

The concern was expressed at the recently held Combined Commanders' Conference here which was addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A K Antony.

The top defence brass was told that the educational and the social background of the jawans have changed in the recent years and there was a need for the officers to handle them in proper manner, sources said.

A need for sensitising the officers regarding their dealings with the jawans was also felt, they said.

There have been several such incidents since 2010 in which jawans and officers have clashed over one reason or the other.

Last month, an altercation during a boxing match led to a clash between officers and soldiers of an Army unit in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, leaving three personnel including the second-in-command of the 10 Sikh Light Infantry unit injured.

Army chief Gen Bikram Singh, who is the Colonel of the Regiment, while taking serious note of the incident, had ordered an expeditious court of inquiry (COI) and punishment to the guilty. The 10 Sikh LI is based in Delhi and was in Meerut's Dobhotua village for an exercise.

According to the Army chief, there will be "zero tolerance" for such acts of indiscipline.

In similar incidents, on August 8, 2012, jawans had agitated against the commanding officer and certain functionaries of the 16th cavalry unit in Samba, while on May 10-11, 2012, a case of manhandling involving officers and other ranks of the 226 artillery unit took place at the Mahe field firing range in Leh.

On April 29, 2010, an altercation had taken place between an officer and a jawan of the 45th cavalry unit in Gurdaspur.

The Army has already taken steps against its personnel in these cases and more than 200 officers and jawans faced disciplinary or administrative action last year.

After the clashes, the Army commanders were told to exercise zero tolerance in such cases and extend exemplary punishment to give "necessary preventive lessons" to the personnel.

In some of the cases, the Army has completed its probe and more than 200 personnel have been handed down punishments for their alleged roles in the clashes.
India Gives Navy Control of Andaman and Nicobar Command

NEW DELHI — To shore up its Andaman and Nicobar Command, India has given control of the command to the Navy alone rather than continuing the current practice of rotating control among the Air Force, Army and Navy.

The Indian Ministry of Defence decided that giving control to the Navy would help strengthen the command, a Navy official said.

The command was created to observe Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean and to function as a base for future littoral warfare.

The command is functioning at a low level and includes troops and officers from all three services, the Navy official said.

Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter aircraft have been placed in the command, and there are plans to increase the number of operational airfields on the island, as well as stationing an unspecified number of submarines.

The Andaman and Nicobar islands comprise 572 islands that lie less than 100 kilometers from the Indonesian coast. A joint command was established there in 2001 to boost India’s ability to rapidly deploy troops in the region.

While the command is intended to bolster defenses against China, analysts say, it also will prepare for littoral warfare due to its strategic location. The Andaman and Nicobar islands straddle the strategic seaway leading to the Malacca straits. These islands are near a number of littoral states in the Bay of Bengal and stretching to the Indian Ocean.

The ultimate role of the Andaman and Nicobar Command will be overseeing Indian interests in the Indian Ocean region, said Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier and defense analyst.

“The role of this command would firstly be essential in providing a sort of springboard to strengthen India’s look-east policy. Secondly, to set an example for the viability of creation of future integrated commands. Thirdly, enable India to ensure and enhance the security of the region in the eastern part of the Indian Ocean region.”
Tunnel near Eastern Command HQ has Army worried
In what could be a major security breach for the defence sector, a deep tunnel, leading to the headquarters of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command at Fort William, has been discovered. The military intelligence wing of the Army is looking into the matter, said sources.

The chance discovery of the tunnel — almost 12 feet long, around four feet wide and running below Red Road in central Kolkata — has thrown security agencies in a tizzy. The road is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city, and used for all sorts of VIP movement, including that of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

City police arrested five people from near the tunnel between Thursday night and Friday. However, senior Kolkata Police officials claimed they are all drug addicts who often dig out and sell underground cables to sustain their habit.

The matter came to light at around 9 pm on Thursday, when a dishevelled man turned up at a Kolkata Police kiosk and informed the cops on duty about the presence of some people in the tunnel.

A patrol van reached the spot to find five persons inside the tunnel, stowing away cables and steel plates. It was later found that the informant was part of the gang, but fell out with the others after a dispute over the share of the proceeds. A senior police official told reporters, “We have informed BSNL and other agencies to verify whether these cables belong to them. We have launched an investigation into the matter.”

Although an Eastern Command spokesman told reporters the police are looking into the matter, sources said the matter has already been taken up by military intelligence, and they are concerned with the gravity of the situation.

According to Army sources, the mouth of the tunnel was just opposite one of the main entrances to Fort William, which is also the road on which the Republic Day parade takes place every year.

Sources said the five persons arrested could have been acting on instructions from people planning a major terror strike. “It would have been easy to pack the tunnel with large quantities of explosives, which would have caused significant damage and mayhem. It is unfortunate that it must have taken a lot of time to dig the tunnel, and yet it didn’t come to anyone’s notice,” said an official.

Officials agreed that the incident is reminiscent of one that took place last year in Kashmir, where Border Security Force personnel discovered a 400-meter-long tunnel from the Pakistan side into India.

“The matter is of great concern. Kolkata might not be Kashmir, but the situation is serious nonetheless because it could have been used for a major subversive act,” pointed out sources in the Army.

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