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Thursday, 2 January 2014

From Today's Papers - 02 Jan 2013

Govt scraps Agusta copter deal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 1
The Ministry of Defence today scrapped the Rs 3,600-crore deal with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland to supply 12 copters to fly top politicians. The 2010 deal was mired in controversy and there were allegations of payoffs. “The Government of India has terminated with immediate effect the agreement on grounds of breach of the pre-contract integrity pact (PCIP),” the Defence Ministry said in a brief statement.

The cancellation came after a meeting between Defence Minister AK Antony with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here earlier in the day, said ministry sources. The ministry had sought the Attorney General’s advice on how to proceed in the case.

“The Attorney General said that “integrity-related issues were not subject to arbitration,” the statement said. However, to safeguard its interest against Agusta’s move to press for arbitration, the MoD has appointed an arbitrator from its side. “The MoD has nominated Justice BP Jeevan Reddy as its arbitrator,” said the statement.

Already, prosecutors in Italy have discovered that Rs 360 crore were paid as bribes by the company to win the contract in 2010. In February 2013, India had frozen the contract after the arrest of top officials of the company. However, the firm had till then delivered three copters.

Since then, the CBI has registered a case against former Indian Air Force Chief Air Marshal SP Tyagi (retd) and claimed that Rs 360 crore had been paid to 13 middlemen, including Tyagi, his three cousins - Julie, Docsa and Sandeep Tyagi - European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, besides some Indian companies.

India signed the deal in 2010 after Agusta beat its US competitor. The Russians had opted out of the race. After India froze the contract and asked why it should not be cancelled, AgustaWestland, in November last year, sought arbitration in the matter.

Italian prosecutors suspect kickbacks worth around 10% of the deal --- $ 67.6 million (50 million euros or around Rs 360 crore at then prevailing euro-rupee exchange rates ) --- were paid to Indian officials to swing the deal in favour of Agusta. The documents have been shared with CBI. The CBI in its FIR alleged that cash was handed to Tyagi's cousin, with more money funnelled via a web of middlemen and companies in London, Switzerland, Tunisia, Mauritius and Chandigarh. In August last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General had pointed out that the tender was tweaked to suit Agusta. It has apportioned blame for the period when Tyagi was the IAF Chief. It said former IAF chief Fali Homi Major allowed trials of helicopters that were not even the ones that India was supposed to buy. It narrated how the crucial flying ceiling was lowered from 6,000m to 4,500m allegedly after orders from the Prime Minister’s Office in November 2003. In the revised request for proposal issued in 2006, the mandatory “service qualitative requirement” (SQR) was reduced.

Rs 3,600-cr contract

The government had entered into a Rs 3,600-crore deal with AgustaWestland, a division of Italian defence group Finmeccanica, for purchase of 12 helicopters to fly top politicians in 2010.

Payoff allegations

    The deal went awry in February last year after the then chief executive of Finmeccanica was arrested for allegedly paying bribes to secure the deal, prompting India to freeze payments to the company
    Under India's defence procurement rules, the integrity pact prohibits paying or accepting bribes

The timeline

    Aug 1999: Replacement of Russian Mi-8 VIP copters proposed.
    March 2002: Global tender issued. Agusta doesn’t meet the specified requirement; only Eurocopter found suitable
    Nov 2003: To avoid single-vendor situation, change in requirements mooted
    Sept 2006: Tender re-issued
    Sept 2008: Agusta recommends price of ~3,600 cr
    Feb 2010: MoD signs deal
    Feb 2012: Finmeccanica CEO arrested, MoD orders CBI probe
    Feb 2013: MoD serves first show-cause notice to Agusta
    March 2013: CBI books SP Tyagi and 13 others
    Aug 2013: CAG finds that tender was tweaked, blames Tyagi
    Jan 1, 2014: MoD cancels contract
 India, Pak exchange lists of N-facilities
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 1
India and Pakistan today exchanged lists of nuclear installations and facilities and nationals of each country lodged in other’s jails.

The list of nuclear installations and facilities is exchanged by the two countries on January 1 every year as part of an Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities. The agreement, signed on December 31, 1988, came into force on January 27, 1991. This is the 23rd consecutive exchange of lists between the two countries, the first one having taken place on January 1, 1992.

Both sides also exchanged the list of nationals lodged in other’s jails as part of an Agreement on Consular Access between India and Pakistan. The agreement was signed on May 21, 2008, and is exchanged twice every year on January 1 and July 1.

Pakistan is believed to have handed over a list of 281 Indian prisoners, while India has reciprocated with a list of 396 Pakistani prisoners. As per the list, there are 232 Indian fishermen and 49 civilians in Pakistan jails. India has 257 Pakistani civilians and 139 fishermen in its jails.

Prisoners’ list

* As part of an Agreement on Consular Access between India and Pakistan, the two countries also exchanged the list of nationals lodged in each other's jails. The lists are exchanged on January 1 and July 1 of every year.
 Mountain strike corps, its1st division raised
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 1
The mountain strike corps, aimed at countering China, was formally raised by holding a "flag hoisting" ceremony at Ranchi today. The headquarters of 59 Division, under the Corps, was also raised simultaneously this morning. The second Division, 72, will be raised at Pathankot later.

This is the first corps to be raised since the 9 Corps was raised at Yol, near Dharamsala, in 2005.

It would take another 10 months to complete staffing and equipping of the 59 Division that would get already established regiments, sources said. The regiments would be replenished with new recruits as this corps would lead to force accretion and not draw from existing forces.

Instructions have already been issued for moving of regiments. Each of the Divisions will have four brigades and a strength of around 30,000 each, including infantry, signals, artillery, engineers, armoured and supply, besides helicopters. The existing three strike corps at Ambala, Mathura and Bhopal have around 80,000 troops each.

The CCS cleared the corps on July 17, allocating Rs 64,000 crore to be spent over the next six-seven years.

Ranchi is the temporary headquarters. The corps and the division will have their headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal. The IAF special operations aircraft, C-130 J Super Hercules, will also be based there.

Maj Gen Raymond Norohna has been designated as the first GoC of the corps that has been named the 17 Strike Corps. Normally a strike corps is headed by a Lieut General rank official. Maj Gen Norohna is slated for promotion as Lieut General and the file for his appointment along with the promotions of 14 other Major Generals is pending with the appointments committee of the Cabinet.

The board for promotion was conducted on November 13 and since then the file has been moving between the Ministry of Defence and the Army over some queries.

First since 2005

* This is the first corps to be raised since the 9 Corps was raised at Yol, near Dharamsala, in 2005

* It will take another 10 months to complete staffing and equipping of the 59 Division that will get already established regiments

* The second Division, 72, will be raised at Pathankot later
 Lt Gen Suhag takes over as Vice Chief of Army

New Delhi, January 1
Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, who is tipped to be the next Army Chief, took over as the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff today.

General Suhag, who was commissioned in the Gorkha Rifles in 1974, has a long experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and North East and had participated in IPKF operation in Sri Lanka.

The Army had announced the decision to designate Suhag, till now the Eastern Army Commander, as the next Vice-Chief on December 12.

His fate appeared uncertain after the then Army Chief Gen VK Singh imposed a discipline and vigilance promotion ban on him while he was heading the 3 Corps in Dimapur.

VK Singh had charged Suhag with "abdicating responsibility" in "a most unprofessional and lackadaisical manner" while dealing with a botched operation by an intelligence and surveillance unit under him.

The ban was revoked by Gen Bikram Singh, when he took over as the Army Chief, paving the way for Suhag's elevation as the Eastern Army Commander in June, 2012.

Gen Suhag has had a tenure as a company commander in Operation Pawan, which was launched by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka.

He raised and commanded 33 RR in Nagaland and later led 53 Infantry Brigade, which was involved in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir, an Army spokesperson said. — PTI
Cold brings IAF’s ‘big bird’ to Chandigarh

While flying out of the Chandigarh airfield, don't be surprised if you catch a glimpse of the Indian Air Force's Big Bird, a C-17, parked in a corner.

The IAF's newly acquired Globemaster III heavy lift aircraft has been stationed in Chandigarh for undertaking sorties to the northern sector as winters have set in and many roads have become non-operational.

Airlifting supplies to the northern sector is primarily the responsibility of the Chandigarh airbase, which is also home to an IL-76 squadron, an AN-32 squadron and a helicopter flight that operates the world’s largest chopper, the Mi-26.

The American C-17 can airlift about double the load that can be carried by the Russian IL-76 strategic freighter, enabling the IAF to ferry in more material with fewer sorties.

Having been in service for less than six months and forming part of the Hindon-based 81 Squadron, “Skylords” — the three Globemasters that have arrived from the US so far — are already making their presence felt. Besides other tasks, a single C-17 recently airlifted an infantry battalion to Port Blair.

Colonel’s Deadly Scoop

For hockey enthusiasts, there is a new treasure trove of rare old photographs, news clippings, messages, analysis and anecdotes in the form of
a coffee table book brought out by Olympian and Arjuna Awardee Col Balbir Singh.

Titled “The Colonel’s Deadly Scoop”, the profusely illustrated book recounts in detail the journey of Indian hockey, detailing its triumphs as well as moments of crisis, life in uniform and the role played by the army in promoting the sport.

The author, who in his own words “made playfields his battlegrounds as he did not get a chance to go to war”, hails from a fourth-generation military family from Sansarpur in Punjab. His grandfather had fought in the First World War, his father battled Rommel’s tanks in the deserts of North Africa in World War-II and later fought Pakistani raiders to save Srinagar in 1947 and his son now serving with the Parachute Regiment.

Women behind Tejas success

A few weeks ago, the Tejas light combat aircraft was granted ‘initial operational clearance’ to enter IAF service. A host of women engineers played vital roles in the development of the indigenous light-weight fighter. Some of these women engineers have been working for decades in the male-dominated Indian aviation industry and have been associated with Tejas as well as other aircraft design and development projects for several years.

Many among them have reached senior positions in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the state-owned unit engaged in production of the fighter. Two engineers, Chandrika SK and Shardha K are working as deputy general manager and assistant general manager, respectively, with HAL.

Several among them also had opportunities to travel abroad to France and Russia in connection with the development programme and accompany the Tejas during field trials. In fact, the design team for the Tejas’ trainer two-seat trainer variant was led by women engineers Poongothai and Mamatha K.

Sportsman General in Jaipur

In their new General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, the Jaipur-based South Western Command has a sportsman who has donned Indian colours.

Lt Gen Arun Kumar Sahni, who took over as Army Commander on December 31, is a sportsman of standing.

Belonging to the Regiment of Artillery, Lt Gen Sahni is an accomplished horserider and a polo player, who has represented the country in polo and equestrian events. Now hopes are high that Army polo teams will get spurred on to do even better.

As a military professional, he has served as the Additional Director General, Military Operations, in Army Headquarters, where he was responsible for force structuring and operational preparedness of the Army. He also had a stint as Assistant Military Attaché at Embassy of India, Moscow, for three years.
Stabilising volatile borders
Hopefully, recent moves by India and Pakistan will preserve the sanctity of LoC
G. Parthasarathy

A BSF soldier patrols along the border fence at an outpost in Suchit-Garh, near Jammu.
The return of Nawaz Sharif to power in Pakistan was marked by pious statements by him on peace and stability on the one hand and by inflammatory rhetoric describing Kashmir as Pakistan’s “jugular vein” on the other. Whether it was at the UN in New York or at the White House, Sharif chose to return to his stale rhetoric of Kashmir being the “core issue” between India and Pakistan, implicitly asserting that there could be a nuclear holocaust unless Pakistan reached a satisfactory solution to the issue with India. This rhetoric was accompanied by the unleashing of an old Sharif family retainer Hafiz Mohammed Saeed to spew venom, threatening conflict against India not only on Kashmir, but also for allegedly diverting and depriving Pakistan’s people of their vital water resources. The Pakistan army has augmented this diplomatic effort, by claiming that it will use tactical nuclear weapons in the event of Indian retribution to future 26/11 Mumbai-style terrorist attacks.

Sharif’s apologists in South Block, of course, claimed that he cherished nothing more than peace and harmony with India. Yet, Sharif’s return to power was marked by 195 cease-fire violations, with the Lashkar-e-Toiba even choosing to attack an Army officers’ mess in the Jammu sector and with Indian jawans being beheaded elsewhere, by infiltrators crossing the LoC. South Block did not do its credibility any good by misleading the Defence Minister A.K. Anthony to first claim and then retract from a statement he made, absolving the Pakistan army of its sins. It was against this background that it was agreed at the New York summit that the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs), would meet and devise measures to deescalate tensions across the LoC.

Given their desire for a civilian shield, behind which they like to avoid responsibility for their actions on the LoC, the Pakistan army stalled on the proposal, by insisting that delegations should by headed by civilian officials. But, they ultimately had to yield when India insisted that the talks should be between DGMOs as agreed to in New York. Firmness pays and the DGMO talks held on the Wagah border yielded some positive results. The most important part of the Joint Statement issued at Wagah on December 24 was agreement between the DGMOs to “maintain the sanctity (of) and ceasefire on the Line of Control”. They also agreed to make the existing hotline between them more effective. Two flag meetings between Brigade Commanders on the LoC were also agreed to, for maintaining peace and tranquillity across the LoC. The successful meeting of the DGMOs was followed by a meeting between Commanders of the Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers in which there was forward movement on issues like effective use of existing communications and on illegal constructions close to the border. Most importantly, people who cross the border inadvertently, do not, hopefully, have to spend months incarcerated.

While some tend to link these developments to the exit of the hardnosed General Kayani, this ignores the reality that there is nothing to suggest that there is any change in the Pak army’s long-term policies of supporting radical groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Toiba, for promoting violence across Pakistan’s borders with India and Afghanistan. It also now appears that there are differences between the army and the political establishment on using force against the Tehriq-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP), in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan’s Tehriq-e-Insaf, which rules the Pakhtunkhwa Province and Islamist Parties like the Jamat-e-Islami are all opposed to the use of force against the TTP. But, the army has, interestingly, commenced operations against the TTP, in North Waziristan.

This development appears to suggest that after TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in an American drone strike, the Sharif government has acquiesced in the military operations in North Waziristan, as Maulana Fazlullah, the TTP’s new leader, is known to be a fundamentalist hard liner. There also appears to be a deal between the military and its long-term assets, Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani, that the operations against the TTP will not challenge the Haqqani hegemony in North Waziristan, or reduce ISI support for their operations in Afghanistan. This complex arrangement involving deals within deals, could well fall apart, in which case, border management across the Durand Line will become a nightmare. Thus, while Pakistan may find it expedient to observe the “sanctity” of the Line of Control if things get out of hand on its north-western borders, it could also revert to its old ways, if things cool down in the tribal areas. India would be well advised to be prepared for both eventualities.

The meeting of DGMOs now sets the stage for India to insist with Nawaz Sharif that it expects him to reaffirm his government’s commitment to the “sanctity” of the Line of Control. He personally pledged to respect the “sanctity” of the LoC to President Clinton when he rushed to the White House on July 4, 1999. During this visit, Sharif implored President Clinton to bail him out, as Pakistan’s Kargil misadventure was becoming a national and international disaster.

How should India judge whether Sharif is going to respect the “sanctity:” of the Line of Control? Sharif’s first term as Prime Minister was marked by using his handpicked ISI chief, General Javed Nasir, to stage the Mumbai bomb blasts in March 1993. During his second term, Sharif not only emboldened and gave respectability to Hafeez Mohammed Saeed, but also set up a “Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandak Committee” headed by General Nasir, to incite and subvert Sikh pilgrims from India. “Khalistan” flags were fluttering in Sikh places of pilgrimage in Pakistan, just after Prime Minister Vajpayee’s Lahore Bus Yatra. A close watch is also imperative on Sharif’s approach towards these pilgrimage groups and efforts to incite and revive militancy in Punjab. A policy of wait and watch, with dialogue, if any, confined to terrorism, infiltration, trade and economic relations and people-to-people contacts with Pakistan should suffice, till a new government assumes office in India, after the coming General Election.
Army harassment: Police record complainant’s statement
AJMER: A day after reports of FIR being filed against senior Army officers in Nasirabad came out in the open, the Army provided a copy of its Court of Inquiry to the police. The Court of Inquiry was ordered on December 15. The FIR was filed on December 19 after a local court directed to do so on the basis of a complaint filed by a Lt Col who alleged that he was being harassed by senior officers for questioning misappropriation of funds.

The police on Monday also talked to senior officers in the cantonment and recorded the statements of a few officers while others were found to be out of station. The statement of the complainant, Lt Col Arun Kumar, was also recorded.

"Senior officers of the Army provided us a copy of Court of Inquiry which was ordered on December 15, before a complaint was filed in the court by the complainant," said Ashok Meena, SHO of Nasirabad city police station.

Since the matter is related to Army, police are also seeking guidance from senior police officers to begin a parallel investigation. "It is Army's internal matter and therefore we will also consider the report of the Court of Inquiry," said Meena.

Meanwhile, sources said that the complainant, Lt Col Arun Kumar, during his posting in an artillery brigade in Bikaner in 2002, was punished for "willful disobedience of a lawful command" and accordingly he lost five years of seniority. He was also severely reprimanded.

Defence spokesperson Col S D Goswami said that the complainant was under treatment in military hospitals for "persistent delusional disorder" from February 2007 to January 2013, after which he was declared fit for duty.

The Army, meanwhile, did not provide him a 'sahayak' unlike given to other officers, neither was he allowed to go home during his daughter's engagement.

Sources said that Army on Monday gathered all records of Lt Col Arun Kumar and also the records of 2002 when he was posted in Bikaner. Officials also gathered all papers of treatment of Kumar since his recruitment and also records of 2007 onwards from certain hospitals. "The Army will act on this issue after getting the final report of the Court of Inquiry," said Colonel Goswami.

Meanwhile, sources said that it was mishandling of the entire case by the Army which resulted in the complainant approaching the court.
Probe underway into Keralite Army Officer's Plaint

With the Army allegedly dragging its feet, the Rajasthan police have launched an investigation into a complaint filed by Keralite Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Arun Kumar that he was being branded a lunatic for reporting corruption by his superior officers.

The probe was launched on the basis of a court order asking the police to investigate his complaint.

The Nasirabad City Police have filed a case against senior Army officers on the complaint filed by Lt Col Kumar - hailing from Thiruvananthapuram - and attached to the HQ 374 Composite Artillery Brigade, Nasirabad. The police have listed as accused the Commander and Deputy Commander of the 374 Composite Artillery Brigade, a Colonel of the 212 Rocket Regiment, the Commander of the Military Hospital in Nasirabad and the medical officer and officiating registrar of the hospital.

Circle Inspector Ashok Kumar Meena, Station House Officer of the Nasirabad police station (City), told Express that an investigation was on, and that his officers were in the process of collecting statements from the Army officers concerned.

Express on July 1 had reported on the Army officer’s plight. Kumar had charged his senior officers of persecuting him, and subsequently detaining him illegally in the psychiatric ward of the military hospital, for reporting corruption in the Army.

He also approached the court earlier this year and shot off legal notices to top Army brass. Shortly after that, he was discharged from the hospital and posted back to his unit. In September, the Army had set up a one-man panel to look into his complaint, but no action, allegedly, was taken.

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