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Saturday, 14 December 2013

From Today's Papers - 14 Dec 2013

Bomb falls off IAF jet at Ambala base, explodes
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Ambala, December 13
A bomb mounted on a fighter jet got hooked off during an official drill and went off at the Ambala Air Force Station around 10.30 am here today. The explosion sent a large number of splinters up in the air which fell on the houses in the entire Baldev Nagar area, including the Deputy Commissioner’s residence, about a kilometre from the air base.

While no loss of life or property was reported, the explosion shattered the windowpanes of a large number of houses near the air base. CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda was in the city and was scheduled to fly from the same zone at the time of explosion. This put the district police and the civil administration on high alert with senior officials, including police commissioner, DC and deputy commissioner of police, rushing to the air base to take stock of the situation.

It was learnt that a massive bomb mounted on the fighter jet’s hardpoint (weapon station) came off immediately as the plane took off. The trajectory of the bomb was towards the inhabited areas.
VK Singh seeks quashing of breach of privilege motion against him
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 13
The Secretariat of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly today made it public the reply of the breach of privilege motion notice served on former Army Chief, General VK Singh (retd). General Singh had given the reply to the notice on November 10, 2013, and the state government today made it public.

In his reply to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the former Army Chief made it clear that he has utmost regard for all the democratic institutions of the nation, inter alia, all the Legislative Assemblies and Houses of Parliament as also all the members and functionaries thereof.

"In response to the allegations levelled against me vide the breach of privilege motion moved by certain members of your House, I most respectfully point out that various quotes ascribed to me are inaccurate and incorrect to the extent of being 'misquotes'. I have not spoken anything whatsoever that could even remotely affect or obstruct the functioning, decorum, dignity or position of the legislature or any of the members thereof as also anything whatsoever that shall impede the hon'ble members in carrying our their legislative functions", General Singh stated in his reply.

Regarding his controversial interview with a news channel, he said: "I further wish to bring to your kind notice that during the course of the said interview, I have not spoken anything that was not available in the public domain by way of certain books already published or the WikiLeaks expose, prior to the said TV interviews that were telecast on the news channels".

"I had clarified the entire issue and defended the institution of Jammu and Kashmir against the slander that was published by several newspapers as also the electric media, thereby, leaving no ambiguity whatsoever as to the stand I had taken in the alleged TV interview", he clarified.

"I further wish to point out that whatever I had spoken during the course of the said interviews is based on the information I received from my colleagues and subordinates and also during the discharge of my duties in compliance of the directives of my superiors. The position last held by me was that of the Chief of the Army Staff of Indian Army and my immediate superior was the hon'ble Raksha Mantri of the Union Government. That the same are duly recorded, audited and documented by competent authorities of the Union Government. If this hon'ble House or your good self require perusing any such records then the same may be requisitioned from the competent authorities or the Union Government in the right earnest", the reply stated.

"Therefore, with all the humility at my command, I reiterate and reassure your good self and the august Assembly that my intention and motives are bona fide and none of my acts is ever directed at lowering the prestige or violating privilege of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature neither to obstruct or adversely affect the functioning of the House and the hon'ble members thereof, for whom I have always had utmost regard and I hold them in high esteem", he said in his reply.

"Therefore, in the light of the facts and circumstances hereinabove mentioned, it is respectfully submitted that the allegations as levelled against me by way of the breach of privilege motion moved by the hon'ble Members of this Legislative Assembly, are not made out and appear to be a case of misinformation. Therefore, the same my kindly be quashed by your good self and no further proceedings in this thereto may kindly be carried out in the interests of the justice", General Singh stated.
Sign security pact with US, India tells Afghanistan
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 13
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to have counselled Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to shed his reluctance and expedite the inking of a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States as it was aimed at ensuring the security and stability of his war-torn nation.

At a meeting here this afternoon, the PM told Karzai that Washington was keen to ensure that the situation in Afghanistan did not worsen after the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014, sources said.

The BSA will mandate the size and shape of the US military presence in Afghanistan after the drawdown by foreign troops. Karzai has refused to sign the BSA unless his conditions are met. These include the release of all Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and an end to military operations and searches involving Afghan homes.

Yesterday, a top official of the Obama administration had urged New Delhi to use its good offices to convince Karzai to ink the crucial accord. President Obama had himself taken up the issue with Manmohan Singh when they met in Washington in September.

Karzai, meanwhile, is learnt to have brief Manmohan Singh on the situation in Afghanistan and reiterated his demand that New Delhi supply military hardware to his troubled nation to strengthen its security.

Asked if India had taken any decision on Karzai’s ‘wish-list’, sources said it was on the table, indicating India was still weighing the pros and cons of supplying heavy weaponry to Kabul. Afghanistan has sought nearly 150 main battle tanks, field guns, mortars, transport aircraft, attack helicopters and truck to beef up security.

India apparently does not want to disturb regional sensitivities, particularly with respect to Pakistan which would obviously view any such move with suspicion. There are also apprehensions in Indian defence circles that these weapons could ultimately fall into the hands of the Taliban.
 US award to Army Chief triggers row
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 13
The Ministry of Defence has asked Army Chief General Bikram Singh to explain why he received an award from the US Army without government clearance.

The Army Chief was conferred the ‘Legion of Merit’, the sixth-highest American military honour, during his visit to the US from December 2 to 5. The MoD has claimed it came to know about it only through media reports after the conferment as it was not part of the itinerary provided prior to the visit. The MoD has argued that Services Chiefs have to get government clearance to receive foreign honours.
India rejects OIC resolution on Kashmir
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 13
India on Friday rejected the reference made about Jammu and Kashmir by the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) at its meeting at Conakry in Guinea earlier this week. “We note with regret that the OIC has once against made factually incorrect and misleading references about India, including Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. We reject all such references and resolutions,’’ MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.

He said the OIC has no locus standi on the internal affairs of India or on recent incidents on the LoC. At the instance of Islamabad, the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting, in its resolution, strongly supported the efforts of Pakistan for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue and urged India to remain engaged in a meaningful and sustained dialogue process with Pakistan on all outstanding issues, including the ‘core’ issue of Kashmir.

The resolution also expressed concern at the frequent ceasefire violations by ‘Indian forces’ along the LoC since the beginning of 2013 while appreciating Pakistan for following the policy of restraint, responsibility and dialogue.
Gov't Turns to Indian Firms To Untangle T-90 Missile Woes

NEW DELHI — A dispute with Russia over technology transfer for the Invar anti-tank missile has prompted India’s Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (BDL) to contact domestic companies to help develop the missile’s critical guidance electronics.

The Russians refused to give India the technology for the guidance system for the missile, which will be fired from India’s Russian-made T-90 tanks, despite agreeing to the transfer for licensed production of the missiles, according to a BDL official.

The Indian government approved an Army proposal in October 2012 to acquire 20,000 Invar missiles, but the contract had to wait until August because the government insisted on technology transfer.

The Russians agreed to grant a license for production of the missile and the transfer of technology in August, when a US $470 million contract was signed, the BDL official said.

State-owned BDL, which will manufacture the Invar missiles, has not been given the key technology for the missile’s laser beam-riding guidance system, the official said.

“Usually, the contract with the Russians, or for that matter the French Milan anti-tank guided missiles, includes transferring the production process, including the details like chemical composition and process for propellant and warhead,” the official said. “However, in the case of the Invar missile, no technology transfer has been given for the laser beam-riding guidance.”

But according to a diplomat at the Russian Embassy here, “The technology for the guidance system was not part of the agreement.”

BDL has decided to approach domestic industry to develop the critical guidance electronics for the Invar. Domestic private sector companies, including Larsen & Toubro, Tata Power SED and Godrej, will be asked to collaborate with BDL to develop the laser beam-riding guidance system.

India signed the contract to buy the Invar missiles for the T-90 because the Army said there was a critical missile shortage, an Indian Ministry of Defence source said.

The Invar has a range of five kilometers and a tandem warhead that penetrates a tank’s armor up to 35 inches before detonating.

Fired from the 125mm gun of the T-90 tank, the missile is guided along a laser beam that can be controlled by the tank gunner. BDL has been manufacturing the Invar under technical collaboration with Russia’s Rosoboronexport, but it wants the technology for the laser guidance.

India fast-tracked the purchase of ammunition, including the Invar, after former Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh warned the MoD in 2011 of a critical shortage of ammunition.

India placed its first order for 310 T-90s in 2001, and thereafter began licensed production of the tanks at the state-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory.
The mixed legacy of defence minister AK Antony

In 2011, Indian Army chief General VK Singh wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that sent ripples across the country. In the letter, Gen Singh wrote that the Indian Army's combat weapons were in such a poor condition that they made India unfit for war.

Whether Gen Singh wrote that letter for professional gain or to realise personal ambitions may never be truly known. But the letter’s content did bring to the fore important issues plaguing the country’s defence forces — dismal military modernisation, poor defence preparedness and strained civil-military relations.

It is this taut tightrope of policy making and execution that Arackaparambil Kurien Antony has been treading on for the last seven years, making him, at the ripe age of 73, India’s longest-serving defence minister. Known for his carefully crafted 'non-corrupt' but 'status-quoist' image, Antony took over as defence minister from predecessor Pranab Mukherjee in October 2006. The only other person to have had a long stint as head of the ministry of defence was Babu Jagjivan Ram; he served as the country’s defence minister for six years over two terms — first from 1970-1974 under the Congress government and then again between 1977-1979 in the Janta Party government.

Antony failed to respond to several requests for an interview and did not respond to a questionnaire sent for this article.

Born in a Syrian-Catholic family in Cherthala, near Alleppey in Kerala, Antony has managed to remain equidistant from the church and from corruption. He has spent a better part of his four-decades plus political career occupying powerful positions. He assumed office as a cabinet minister under the PV Narsimha Rao-led Congress government in the 1990s, served three terms as the chief minister of Kerala and served at the Centre again under the Congress-led UPA 1 and UPA 2 governments. Antony was ranked among the 10 most powerful persons in the country by a leading, national daily in 2012.

While Antony himself has steered clear of controversies in the last seven years, he has antogonised the Army, Navy, Air Force and the strategic community. Among other things, they are riled by the defence ministry’s opposition to the creation of the office of a permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee (COSC) as recommended by the Naresh Chandra task force on defence reforms.

"He (Antony) is certainly an honest politician with impeccable integrity. But simultaneously, he is also the worst defence minister India has seen in the last 65 years,” said retired Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak. Kak based his observation on the “sad delay” in India’s military modernisation and also on Antony’s “self obsessed” nature which, Kak says, is likely to have disastrous implications on the country’s defence preparedness. Kak served in the Indian Air Force for nearly four decades.

“His personal honesty cannot prevent corruption in the ministry. Scams continue to take place, adding to delays and creating impediments for genuine projects,” said a retired senior army official pleading anonymity.

A senior journalist from Kerala, Hari Kumar, points to Antony’s past to say: “He carefully plans his resignation such that he moves to a better and more powerful assignment.” When Antony resigned from Narsimha Rao's cabinet, he was made chief minister of Kerala. A year after he resigned as Kerala chief minister in 2004, he was made the Union defence minister.

Defence procurement under Antony’s tenure has taken a setback, with several deals, such as Tatra trucks and AugustaWestland choppers, being scrutinised over alleged irregularities and kickbacks. This is apparent by the continuing absence in the Indian Army of towed and self-propelled 155mm howitzers for the plains and the mountains, according to Gurmeet Kanwal of the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA). “The Air Force’s plan to acquire 126 multi-mission, medium-range combat aircraft to maintain an edge over the regional air is also stuck in the procurement quagmire,” wrote Kanwal in a recent IDSA paper.

Under Antony, the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) has been amended several times, most recently in April 2013, to strengthen the scrutiny in the system. “In effect, it still favours the defence PSUs over the private sector. MNCs are allowed to bring in only up to 26 per cent FDI as against 74 per cent for non-defence sector joint ventures," wrote Kanwal. Many analysts feel that even the indigenisation of defence technology, vehemently advocated by Antony, is a ploy to appease public sector undertakings, who consider him to be their “my baap”.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on defence in its report presented to the Parliament this April stated that there has been a “steady decline” in the number of defence contracts signed during the 11th five-year plan period from 2007-08 to 2011-12. The number of contracts signed each year during the 11th plan period is 84 in 2007-08, 61 in 2008-09, 49 in 2009-10, 50 in 2010-11 and 52 in 2011-12, said the report.

Insiders say that bureaucrats in the defence ministry have sufficient power to scuttle defence deals as Antony is known to give a free hand to the bureaucracy. Many claim this helps Antony, an atheist who follows spiritual guru Mata Amritanandamayi, save his skin when controversies erupt.

India is expected to spend approximately $100 billion over the 12th and 13th defence five-year plans on military modernisation. “We need a person who is not pro-self, but pro-India, and can thus utilise the resources to the best, rather than sit on files for the sake of personal, intangible gains,” said Kak.

Professor Srikant Kondapali of the Centre for East Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University said: “Antony cannot function in a vacuum. He may wish to spend a trillion dollars on defence procurements, but does the country’s defence budget allow him to do so? Besides, India is procuring equipment and things are moving.”

Manoj Joshi, a senior journalist and an expert on national security affairs, says that Antony’s term has been one of “failure and missed opportunities.” “Here is the need to integrate the training, logistics, acquisition and some war-fighting functions of the three services to obtain the biggest bang for the buck. It is unfortunate that India usually commits itself to reform after it is hit by a crisis,” said Joshi.

Critics say that Antony has failed to show clarity on what the defence ministry stands for. Even though he customarily mentions China as a 'challenge' and 'potential enemy number one' — words earlier used by then defence minister George Fernandes in 1998 — Antony fails to put forth his stance or vision for India vis-a-vis its neighbours.

The challenges for the defence ministry have only been increasing and with the rise in the number of ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control and repeated incursions by China on the Line of Actual Control, the defence minister cannot afford to be viewed as indifferent.

"Unfortunately ministries are busy outsmarting each other at most times, and fail to make any clear policy or even a statement,” said Kondapali, who believes that India’s defence policy has been consistent over the years.

But the fact that the ministry of defence is without military expertise and has no formal strategic thinker cannot be overlooked. This theory of hollowed leadership is made apparent by reports that the National Security Council, an advisory body, has met just once in the last three years.

Besides, Antony has been skipping events that are strategic from a defence diplomacy perspective. In June, Antony refused to attend the ShangriLa Dialogue convened by the International Institute of Strategic Studies on defence issues in Singapore. Two months later, in August, he skipped the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) as well as a meet organised by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

The fact that Antony chose not to meet the defence ministers of the United States, China, Japan, Russia, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand reflects that “defence diplomacy and building strategic relationships” even with neighbours and stakeholders is not high on his radar.

2013 defence budget: Rs 2.03 lakh crore
Capital expenditure (capex): Rs86,741 crore
Army: Rs 17,883.83 crore
Navy: Rs 24,149.03 crore
Air Force: Rs 39,208.84 crore

Major procurement programs
Multi-billion dollar deal for procuring 126 multi-role combat aircraft
$2 billion deal for procuring six mid-air refueling tankers
Six additional C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the US

Deals under scanner during Antony’s tenure
2013: Violations in procurement of 12 VVIP choppers from Anglo-Italian firm AugustaWestland
2012: Alleged bribery charges in deal to buy 600 trucks from British firm Tatra Sipox
2009: Alleged kickbacks paid in deal for supply of components for Arjun battle tanks bought from SIFL and AMW-MGM
2009: Controversy erupted over Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai. Meant for widows of, retired and serving army personnel, flats in the skyrise located in a prime area were allotted to scheming officials; several rules were flouted in the process
2007: Malpractice reported in the supply of rations to troops in high altitude areas

Delayed projects
Light combat helicopters: Delayed by four years
Intermediate jet trainers: Delayed by two years
Light utility helicopter: Delayed by more than two years
Light combat aircraft: Under development for 35 years
Postal ballot of no use to defence staff, family: PIL
 NEW DELHI: An Army officer's wife has moved the Supreme Court seeking a technologically sound voting mechanism for armed forces personnel posted in remote areas, alleging that the existing postal ballot system had not been of any use to them, their wives and adult children in casting votes.

Petitioner Neela Gokhale, who is also an advocate, said, "The Election Commission is taking several measures to reach out to voters in remotest locations but it is unfortunate that there have been no adequate and appropriate step taken to facilitate the Indian armed forces personnel to cast their votes."

She said personnel in the 1.13 million strong Army were drawn from every nook and corner of the country and many were deployed in remote parts of the country - from the glacial heights of Siachen and jungles of north-east to the deserts of the west.

"Thus, a vast population of the country and their spouses and eligible children are precluded and deprived from exercising their franchise because of an inefficient and inadequate mechanism employed for casting their votes in general elections," the petitioner said. The PIL is likely to be taken up by the apex court on Friday.

The Representation of People Act, 1951 and the rules there-under allow soldiers an option to exercise their franchise by postal ballot or by proxy voting method. "However, both these mechanisms have not been able to yield satisfactory results due to certain inherent deficiencies," Gokhale claimed and raised two issues relating to voting by armed forces personnel and family members residing at the place of posting.

"The first issue is registration of a member of armed forces and his family members eligible to vote to be included in the electoral roll, and the second issue is related to an effective mechanism to allow them to cast the vote in the constituency where the particular armed forces personnel is registered," she said.

The alternative to postal ballot through proxy voting, which was brought into existence through Election Law (Amendment) Act, 2003, allowed armed forces personnel, or any other service voter like him, to fill Form 13F of the rules and specify the proxy appointed by him, get it attested as per the procedure and register as a classified service voter.

Gokhale faulted the proxy voting procedure as a violation of the principle of secrecy, cardinal to casting of vote. In addition to the violation of secrecy, "the entire process of nomination of a proxy itself is very cumbersome, making it difficult for a service voter or his family members to comply with the requirements and cast vote", she said.

"Therefore, the soldiers may be conferred the right to be registered as voters in the constituency where they are serving/posted at the relevant time, as ordinary residents of that constituency. This will enable the personnel to cast their vote in person and even reduce the expense involved in the postal ballot system and complications in the proxy procedure without compromising the secrecy of vote," she said.
52 Afghan Army cadets to pass out of IMA today
 As part of its efforts to enhance Afghan National Army (ANA) capability, India has been training a large number of cadets from that country. Now, 52 cadets, who form the second-largest batch of Afghan soldiers to have completed training, will pass out of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) on Saturday.

The passing-out parade will be witnessed by 16 senior officers of the Afghan Army, who themselves trained at the Academy between 1974 and 1982. Many of them would be accompanied by their wifes and children. These officers include Musa Khan Akbarzada, now Governor of the Ghazni Province, and Mehrabulddin Safi, Governor of Kapisa.

The Army said that from 1974 to 1982, as many as 37 Afghans attended one-year training as cadets at the IMA, after training for three years at the National Defence Academy or the ACC Wing. Thereafter, training at the IMA was suspended due to the fighting between the Mujahideen and the Soviet Army.

However, ever since training resumed at the National Defence Academy in 2007 and at the IMA in 2011, a very large number of ANA officers have been trained there. Many officers, who had passed out till 1982, achieved high-ranking jobs in the Afghan Army and in government and civic offices.

The proposal to invite these officers for Saturday’s parade was mooted in February this year.

The Ministries of External Affairs and Defence subsequently approved a proposal for 20 ex-IMA officers to visit India, with their spouses, for a week this month. Finally, 16 officers with 11 spouses and 13 children arrived on December 10.

Forty-eight cadets each are still in the first and second terms at the IMA. The 52 cadets from the ANA are the second biggest after the batch of 58 which completed training in December 2012.

Now on, India intends training nearly 1,000 ANA soldiers in various defence establishments every year. The ANA personnel are undergoing specialised courses at the Artillery School, Devlali; the Mechanised Infantry Regimental Centre, Ahmednagar, and the Infantry School, Mhow, apart from in the IMA and the NDA.

The training of Afghan officers is of great strategic importance to India as it prepares for a larger role after the proposed withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition from the country from 2014.

Besides making the ANA capable enough to handle internal security once nearly a lakh foreign soldiers leave the war-ravaged nation, New Delhi is considering a request from Kabul for military equipment to deal with any surge in the activities of the Taliban or the Haqqani network in Afghanistan.

India also wants to curb these forces so that there will be no “spillover effect” in Jammu and Kashmir.
‘Indigenisation key to defence industry’
 The process of defence procurements is so complex that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) face several hurdles in entering the sector, Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry president R. Shivakumar said here on Thursday.

SMEs should be given greater opportunities in the defence sector, he said and added that at least 30 per cent of defence procurements could come from SMEs.

Mr. Shivakumar was speaking at the MSME Defexpo 2013, an international sub-contracting and supply exhibition on defence, aerospace and home security.

On the defence perspective, Major General Sanjeev Shukla said that if MSMEs ensure that the standards of their products are at par with international ones, the Indian Army will be able to accommodate up to 70 per cent of their purchases indigenously. “Two and three-tier vendors, in particular, could contribute in a large way,” he said. “Indigenisation is key to the entire industry,” he added.

While MSMEs have great opportunities in the defence sector, indigenisation of products has been “limited”, and “links between companies and buyers need to be built”, said H.P. Kumar, Chairman and Managing Director of the National Small Industries Corporation. “We need to strengthen linkages in the supply chain,” he said.

Union Minister of State for MSMEs K.H. Muniyappa said that local production and capabilities should be encouraged especially with regard to defence products. “Indian products are as good as products anywhere else in the world,” he said.

Among the stalls representing defence manufacturing companies and defence public sector companies, including HAL and BEML, an unlikely exhibit by a “military general store”, which supplies uniforms to all armed forces in south India, turned out to be the biggest crowd puller.

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