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Monday, 13 January 2014

From Today's Papers - 13 Jan 2014

India offers DGMO-level talks with China
New Delhi moves ahead on Border Defence Cooperation Agreement inked during PM's Beijing visit
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 12
The largely unmarked 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China has peace at hand after both sides accused each other of scores of border transgressions last year. What could make it happen is India's experience with Pakistan on keeping in touch at the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) level to ensure border tranquility.

Government sources confirm that New Delhi has invited Deputy Chief of General Staff (CGS) of China's People's Liberation Army for talks on setting up more border meeting points and hotlines between the top military leadership of the two countries.

The Defence Ministry has cleared a formal invite, to be sent through the Ministry of External Affairs, to the PLA's Deputy CGS, who deals with operational issues and day-to-day matters, sources said. The PLA has no such post as DGMO, so the invite is directed to a General who will talk to the Indian DGMO, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia.

A source said: "The process has just started, but the aim is to ensure peace. A direct contact between the top military brass will help in keeping either side in check".

This is in line with the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) inked on October 23 last year during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing.

India has similar DGMO-level arrangement with Pakistan. The DGMO's communicate with each other every Tuesday over a special hotline. They met last month in December at the Wagah-Attari land crossing and vowed to maintain ceasefire.

The BDCA proposes 'mutual consultations' to facilitate contacts and meetings between relevant organizations. It refers to establishing border personnel meeting sites in all sectors, as well as telephone contacts and telecommunication links at mutually agreed locations along the LAC. It points to setting up a hotline between the military headquarters of the two countries.

At present there are three meeting points for Brigadier-level officers to meet at Spanngur Gap in eastern Ladakh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh. There is keenness to have two more meeting points - one at Kibithoo in eastern Arunachal and the one in Himachal Pradesh. As an interim measure for the first time Brigadier level officers met on January 1 at Bumla. Normally, the meetings take place on six-designated days in a year. Brigadiers on either side of the divide can also seek a flag meeting on any contentious issue.
   S Korea wants to set up N-plant in India

New Delhi, January 12
Keen on entering India's growing nuclear market, South Korea wants to build an atomic power plant here but India is not rushing into it.

The government first wants to complete the projects already initiated, including Kudankulam III and IV and Jaitapur, which are facing hurdles on various counts. But India is willing to have cooperation with South Korea in other aspects of the nuclear field, like research.

South Korea conveyed its desire to build a nuclear plant in India when a delegation from its Ministry of Science came here recently, sources said. This was preceded by a visit of a team of Department of Atomic Energy to South Korea to discuss possible cooperation in the nuclear field in November last year.

Sources said India was not very keen on having Korean nuclear reactors immediately. The DAE first wants to concentrate on existing plants and deal with the issues such as liability over which many foreign collaborators have raised questions.

“We would first want to clear the impediments for projects that are already in pipeline and then move on to another projects,” said a senior DAE official. Currently, all power plants are running behind schedule. — PTI
 MoD waives recovery of excess pension from military doctors
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has waived the excess amount of non-practicing allowance (NPA) paid to armed forces doctors who retired before 1996.

But a fresh round of litigation may come up as a recent Supreme Court judgment had stated that NPA has to be considered towards fixation of pensionary benefits.

In its orders issued a few days ago, the MoD has stated that on receipt of representations from individuals as well as associations, the government has reconsidered the matter on humanitarian grounds and has decided to waive the recovery of excess amount of the element of NPA paid to retired armed forces doctors from September 2001 to March 2008.

The government had decided to recover the excess amount after armed forces doctors has lost their case in the Supreme Court for counting NPA towards fixation of benefits. Doctors are paid several thousand rupees per month as NPA.

The MoD order also states that the amount of excess NPA already recovered so far would not be refunded.

About two months ago, the Supreme Court, in a detailed judgment in a separate case, had ruled that NPA needs to be added for fixation of retirement benefits.
Desi defence showpieces powered by videshi parts
NEW DELHI: The Tejas light combat aircraft, 30 years in the making, is just 60% indigenous as of now. The story of the indigenous Arjun main battle tank is even worse. First sanctioned in May 1974, 55% of the tank is still made of imported parts. This is the recurring theme across India's fledgling defence industrial base (DIB), with the government failing to whip DRDO and its sprawling empire of over 50 laboratories as well as the five defence PSUs, four shipyards and 50 ordnance factories into shape.

The defence ministry, with its constant flip-flops, has also failed to spur the domestic private sector into entering the defence production sector in a big way. Neither has it managed to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), notching up a measly $5 million in the last 14 years.

A K Antony may often tom-tom "indigenisation" as one of his guiding mantras, which he feels can curb corruption, but the ground reality has hardly changed in the over seven years he has been at the helm in MoD. India continues to wallow as the world's largest arms importer, with the armed forces still getting around 65% of their military hardware and software from abroad.
In sharp contrast, China has emerged as the fastest growing arms exporter around the globe after assiduously building a strong DIB. It's now hawking fighter jets, warships, missiles and smaller arms to countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bolivia and Zambia.

But a "proper ecosystem" has simply not been erected in India. As if the "high import content" in the so-called indigenous projects was not enough, insiders say even the much-touted transfer of technology (ToT) provision build into large defence contracts with foreign manufacturers is a bit of a sham.

"Indian PSUs focus more on just assembling knocked-down kits from foreign vendors instead of properly absorbing technologies," said a senior official, pointing to the ongoing "licensed production" of the Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKI fighters by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).

India has inducted almost 200 of the 272 Sukhois contracted for well over $12 billion from Russia, with HAL producing most of the fighters. "As per plans, HAL should have begun making Sukhois completely from raw material two-three years ago. But there has been a big delay," he said.

"Moreover, the cost of each HAL-manufactured Sukhoi is almost Rs 100 crore more than if the same fighter was directly imported from Russia (the last 42 Sukhois ordered cost over Rs 450 crore each)," he added.

DRDO does have a point that funds allocated for defence R&D are not adequate. "We just get slightly over 5% of the total defence budget. The US defence R&D budget is around 12%, while China has 20%," said a scientist.

But not many are impressed, pointing to huge time and cost overruns in almost all DRDO projects. While the indigenous development of Tejas, Arjun and other weapon systems is certainly to be cheered, the high import content in them remains another source of worry.

Take Tejas, which finally achieved its initial operational clearance last month. It has an American engine, British ejection seat, Canadian canopy sheath and Israeli radar. "A major chunk of its avionics and weapons are also imported. The series production of the Tejas Mark-II version, which is what IAF actually wants, is unlikely to begin before 2022," said an officer.

The Army, in turn, has inducted 124 Arjun Mark-I tanks, while trials are currently in progress for the Mark-II version with 89 "upgrades or improvements". The tank is just about 45% indigenous as of now, with its main laser guided missile being the Israeli LAHAT. "Arjun's missile firing control system, laser target designator, engine transmission, suspension unit and running gear (track) are all foreign," said an Army officer.

India has fared relatively better on the naval front, with all the 45 warships currently on order being constructed in Indian shipyards. Officials say India has achieved 80-90% indigenisation in the "float" (warship's structure, hull etc), 50-60% on the "move" (propulsion) and 30% on the "fight" (weapons and sensors) components.

Dogfight duke: The MiG that forced an army’s surrender
December 19, 2013 Rakesh Krishnan Simha          
The MiG-21 FL was the force multiplier that allowed other IAF aircraft to go in for the kill without having to watch their back during the 1971 War, thereby hastening the fall of the Pakistani military.

The MiG-21 may be the only aircraft in aviation history to have forced a nation to surrender. The devastating attack on the Governor’s House in Dhaka in East Pakistan by MiG-21s proved to be a turning point in the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

India’s blitzkrieg strategy against the Pakistani military had brought the Indian Army to the outskirts of Dhaka within just nine days. Holed up in the huge building, the puppet government of East Pakistan had declared it would not surrender to the Indians.

At 11am on December 14, 1971, a detachment of four MiG-21 FL fighters spotted the Governor’s House. After circling around it once, they went in for their strafing runs, targeting the massive central dome with rockets and bombs. The Governor became so fear stricken that he promptly resigned and took shelter in the UN’s air raid shelter.
It was the MiG-21 – codenamed Fishbed by NATO – that dealt the most severe blows to the Pakistan Air Force. With their air cover blown away, more than 93,000 Pakistan Army troops and 7,000 civilian aides surrendered unconditionally.

Fishbed fury

The Russians had designed the aircraft to be a high-altitude “spot interceptor” but India used it for a multitude of roles. Besides air defence, the MiG-21 was used for high-level ground attack, providing top cover to IAF strike aircraft, luring enemy aircraft away from strategic targets, and combat air patrol.

When the war started on December 3, six squadrons of MiG-21FLs were part of the IAF's order-of battle, participating in operations both in the eastern and western sectors. By the time hostilities ended on December 16, the MiGs had downed four F-104 Starfighters, two F-6s, an F-86 Sabre and a C-130 Hercules of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

It was in the western theatre that the MiG-21 was employed in its primary task, that of air defence, escort and interception. Deployed at all the major air bases, from Pathankot in the north to Jamnagar in the south western area, the MiG-21FLs mounted hundreds of sorties and were continuously scrambled to intercept hostile intruders.

The MiG-21 finally met its original adversary, the F-104 Starfighter, in air combat during the 1971 War. “In all four recorded cases of classic dogfights, the MiG-21s outclassed and out fought the F-104s,” says the official history of the IAF. “The first aerial victory was on December 12, when MiG-21FLs of No. 47 Squadron shot down a PAF F-104 over the Gulf of Kutch and this was followed by three more victories in quick succession on December 17, when MiG-21FLs of No. 29 Squadron escorting (Indian made) HF-24 Maruts, shot down intercepting F-104s near Uttarlai in the Rajasthan desert in gun-missile encounters, while a third F-104, on an intruding mission, was shot down by another MiG 21FL of No.29 Squadron.”
Versatile aircraft

There is yet another unique role the MiG-21 FL played in 1971. Air Marshal (retd) Subhash Bhojwani, who was a young flying officer during the war, says the IAF used the MiG as a high-altitude relay aircraft.

IAF bombers returning after striking deep in Pakistani territory often found it difficult to land back home because they were either flying under the radar or out of radio range. “So our role as MiG-21 FL was to fly high at an altitude of 9 km and relay the signals to the returning fighter pilots,” says Bhojwani.

“We would use code language and I was a 'sparrow'. The Pakistanis who intercepted our conversation never imagined that it was a MiG-21 FL flying at high altitude and instead thought the Russians secretly gave Indians their AWACS aircraft, the Moss.”

Raid on Badin

Badin was one of the most important IAF targets of the war. Located in southern Sindh, it was home to a powerful signal and radar unit, which provided coverage to PAF air operations in the south-western sector. It was a gift from the Americans for Pakistan joining the Baghdad Pact, and proved to be a huge “pain in the neck” for the IAF. Although it was heavily defended by anti-aircraft guns, the IAF decided to have a crack at it.

On the morning of December 12, two MiG-21s were sent from Jamnagar to obtain photo cover of the radar complex. A few hours later, four MiGs attacked the complex but the bombs didn't land directly on the antennae.

The following day, the IAF threw three four more MiG-21s at Badin. This time the MiGs struck the aerials and the power generating structure of the radar complex. However, one aircraft was lost to ground fire. The operation put out the centre and made life a little easier for Indian pilots.

Fishbed fear

With top cover provided by MiG-21s, IAF Sukhoi-7s and Hunters launched relentless attacks on Pakistan’s forward airbases, forcing the PAF to operate from bases further inland. This curtailed their range and the PAF aircraft were no longer able to attack freely.
From December 8, says the IAF, Western Air Command changed its tactics for counter air and close air support operations. “Deliberate attempts were made to attract the PAF's attention and invite aerial engagement. Strike missions were led by fighters which flew high enough to be seen on Pak radar screens. But the PAF refused to cooperate. Instead there was a marked decline on attacks on Indian troops.”

One of the reasons why the PAF refused to engage in dogfights was the fear of encountering the MiG-21. The Pakistanis were now psyched by the multiplier effect of the MiG-21. The Russian aircraft was – to use an American football term – running interference for IAF bombers and strike aircraft and the PAF could do nothing about it.

Also, because war involves constant attrition, both sides were losing aircraft almost daily, but the PAF was losing planes and pilots at a faster rate. So the PAF decided to opt out of the air war and preserve its remaining aircraft rather than take on the likes of the MiG-21.

“The MiG-21 proved to be a highly effective air defence weapons system,” says the IAF. Grouping the high flying MiGs with low flying Hunters and Sukhois was a brilliant tactic. The air superiority umbrella created by the Fishbed allowed other IAF aircraft to mount their attacks in an environment that favoured them. The MiG-21 was indeed the dogfight duke of the 1971 War.
German defence minister wants family-friendly army
BERLIN - Germany's new defence minister wants to create more family-friendly armed forces by making it easier for soldiers to work part-time and extending childcare, she told a Sunday newspaper.
"My goal is to make the German armed forces into one of the most attractive employers in Germany," Ursula von der Leyen, Germany's first female defence minister, said.
"In doing so, the most important issue is the compatibility of employment and family," the 55-year-old, mother-of-seven said in an interview with Sunday's Bild newspaper.
Von der Leyen's move from the labour to defence portfolio came as a surprise when Chancellor Angela Merkel's new cabinet under her "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats was unveiled four weeks ago.
Viewed as an up-and-coming possible successor to Merkel, von der Leyen lost no time in visiting German troops in Afghanistan a few days before Christmas and revealed in the Sunday interview she had been tapped for the job only five days before being sworn in with the rest of the cabinet.
"Anyone who, for example, uses the option of a three- or four-day week while raising a family must still have career prospects," she told Bild.
Among the reforms, she said she was also considering a system whereby overtime could be saved up and then used for looking after small children or elderly parents.
She also wants to study the army's system of transferring soldiers every two to three years, she said. "A career in the armed forces must not mean as a rule: always on duty and every few years a move," von der Leyen said.
And she added that widening childcare provision would be one of the first measures looked at.
"We need a flexible system of childcare across the armed forces," she said, calling for the provision of out-of-hours care, before or after the normal working day, beyond that offered by barrack nurseries.
Von der Leyen, who was family affairs minister in Merkel's first cabinet, has been credited with driving social reforms, many borrowed from the centre-left opposition, including expanding childcare and granting new fathers paid leave.
Her comments come amid a debate in Germany about how to better combine family and professional life, as Europe's top economy grapples with an ageing and shrinking population and tries to boost the birthrate and lure women back to work.
New Family Minister Manuela Schwesig, a Social Democrat, has proposed cutting the work week for parents of young children, possibly to 32 hours, and using taxes to help fund the proposal.

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