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Monday, 3 March 2014

From Today's Papers - 03 Mar 2014

CBI to probe bribery charges in HAL deal

New Delhi, March 2
A new potential scam has emerged with Defence Minister A K Antony ordering a CBI probe into allegations of bribery into a Rs 10,000-crore deal for supply of aircraft engines to state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) by London-based Rolls Royce company.

The deal relates to supply of engines for Hawk trainer and Jaguar fighter aircraft between 2007 and 2011. An internal probe by the vigilance wing of HAL has prima facie established the charges, Defence Ministry sources revealed.

When contacted for a reaction to the allegation, Rolls Royce said in an email response that the company would be able to do so only tomorrow as today is a holiday.

The allegations surfaced in a letter received by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) recently claiming that bribes were paid to officials in HAL and other departments concerned to bag contracts, the sources said.

HAL immediately initiated an inquiry into the charges through its Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO).

The investigations by CVO have prima facie found that the company allegedly violated several contractual obligations with HAL, the sources said. After the case with the findings and recommendations of the CVO was brought to the notice of Defence Minister, Antony ordered that the case be handed over to CBI for further investigations, the sources said.

After the development, IAF’s several programmes are expected to get delayed but the Defence Ministry is firm that it would not allow any corruption to take place in its procurement process and would take strict action even if it means delays in some of the projects.

Antony has been prompt in ordering inquiries into defence deals even if the complaints are received from anonymous sources to eradicate corruption in military purchases. — PTI

Rs 10,000-crore deal

    There are allegation of bribery in Rs 10,000-crore deal for supply of aircraft engines to HAL by London-based Rolls Royce
    The deal relates to supply of engines for Hawk trainer and Jaguar fighter aircraft between 2007 and 2011.
    An internal probe by HAL’s vigilance wing has prima facie established the charges
    After the HAL’s findings were brought to his notice, Defence Minister referred the case to CBI for further investigations
US warns Russia over Ukraine

Washington, March 2
The US is prepared “to go to the hilt” to isolate Russia for its military incursion into Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday.

He called it “an incredible act of aggression” that may lead to visa bans, asset freezes, trade and investment penalties, and a boycott of a Russian-hosted economic summit of global powers in June.

Kerry said Russian President Vladimir Putin should respect the democratic process through which the Ukrainian people ousted their pro-Russian President and assembled a new government. President Barack Obama pressed his case in a 90-minute phone call on Saturday with Putin, calling Russia’s actions “a clear violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty, and asking for Russian forces to pull back, and still the situation only grew more dire Sunday.

Ukraine’s new Prime Minister warned that “we are on the brink of disaster”, while hundreds of armed men in trucks and armored vehicles surrounded a Ukrainian military base in Crimea. Ukraine has called up all military reservists. — AP
 India’s first border research institute to be set up soon
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
India’s first border management research institute will be set up under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to improve the decision-making process for border issues and assist the government in formulating border management policies.

The Institute for Border Management and Strategic Studies (IBMASS) will be established under the MHA’s Border Management Division. Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde will be the president of the executive council which will govern the institute.

Confirming the setting up of IBMASS, Border Security Force’s former Director General Subhash Joshi, who retired on February 28, said: “We have raised the infrastructure of the institute from our resources. We have sent the proposal to the MHA. We hope that it will continue to grow in future and be a think tank for not only the BSF but for the Central Armed Police Forces,” said Joshi.

The BSF, which was set up by India on December 1, 1965, is currently guarding the India-Pakistan and India-Bangladesh borders and is likely to guard the India-Myanmar border. The IBMASS, which was under discussion for the past two years, is similar to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). The IDSA is funded by the Ministry of Defence and does research on defence and security issues.

“The MHA does not have such a think tank. The idea behind IBMASS is to increase our knowledge base and thereby help improve the decision-making process. What happens now is that solutions are given without a detailed study. This will change with the extensive research that will be done through the institute to create sound solutions and policies for the government,” said BSF Inspector General Aditya Mishra, who is part of the project. The aim of IBMASS is to conduct research, develop tactics and disseminate these findings for an effective border management plan.

IBMASS will have 11 research divisions, according to Mishra. They will research on drug smuggling through the India-Pakistan border in Punjab, Sir Creek and the border management that includes fencing and the use of certain kind of weapons.

The institute will comprise about 80 researchers, which will include officers from the BSF, ITBP, Sashastra Seema Bal and the Coast Guard.

For effective border management

    The Institute for Border Management and Strategic Studies (IBMASS) will have 11 research divisions to work on issues of border management, trade and relations
    IBMASS will comprise about 80 researchers, which will include officers from the BSF, ITBP, Sashastra Seema Bal and Coast Guard
Pakistani Agent of Fear Sends Chill Down Defence Ministry Spine
Away from the glittering glory of medals won in battle and blood, the spit and polish of boots on parade and the intimidating bulks of battle tanks roaring at night during military exercises on the Western border lies a murky darkness inhabited by shadowy, traitorous figures that live by treachery and subterfuge.

On February 23, a traitor was unmasked when Indian investigators swooped on the house where Inderpal Singh Kushwaha, just retired from the Army, lived. They found enough proof to be convinced that Kushwaha worked for Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI). The raid on his Cariappa Marg residence in the leafy, deceptively somnolent Jhansi Cantt yielded deployment details of Indian Army’s Arjun tank regiments, CDs with classified information on war games, classified minutes of the meetings involving senior army officers, a copy of a confidential battle presentation by the Gorkha regiment, annual confidential reports of Army officers and more. A top intelligence officer said that the 51-year-old mole had been shipping top military secrets to his ISI handler Sikander in Pakistan for the last 7-8 years. Kushwaha had codenamed Sikander ‘Major Anil.’

The fact that  the spy served for nearly a decade as the personal assistant to many senior army officers in sensitive posts is sending shivers down the spine of the Defence Ministry. As the story unfolds, the extent of damage the traitor has caused India’s defence preparedness is being ascertained. It is going to be a long haul. And the haul was big enough to strike fear in the security establishment. Kushwaha who retired as a subedar in October, 2013, had used his position to gain access to secret files, according to Army Intelligence sources. ATS sleuths also recovered CDs containing secret coded communications downloaded from the army’s intranet server. Some of the seized documents date as far back to 2005-2006, suggesting that the damage done is extensive. Kushwaha’s last posting was as Personal Assistant to the Brigadier of 31 Artillery brigade in Jhansi, a specialised unit dedicated to provide heavy weapons support during war. Kushwaha had been posted at various places including Kota, Jaipur and Siliguri.

“What is shocking is the recovery from his possession of ultra sensitive minutes of senior army officials meetings and specific details of tank deployments. So far four banks accounts in his name in ICICI, PNB and SBI have been unearthed and a team of officials are already examining the transactions,” the source said.

Investigators feel that further interrogation of the ISI mole would throw up more links. They suggest he may not be operating alone. “Although over 30 ISI modules have been neutralised in the past three years, the documents recovered from Kushwaha reveals that he was the biggest ISI mole who had access to top secret documents,” he added.

Last year, Home Ministry official Surendra Sharma working in the Office of Foreigners Division was arrested after Counter-Intelligence unit of Army and the Intelligence Bureau busted the ‘Pokhran ISI spy ring’ in Rajasthan. Sharma was allegedly supplying classified information to ISI operative Sumer Khan. The Home Ministry estimates that security agencies have arrested at least 48 ISI spies including 10 Pakistani agents and 38 Indians in the last three years. Of the 38 Indian moles, 10 were government officials, including two ex-servicemen, three serving personnel and three civilians.

For long, the guardians of national security has been battling the demons of deceit—spies recruited and trained by ISI whose sole aim is to destabilize  India. At a time the Armed Forces have been plunged into a self destructive crisis with personal duels erupting between senior commanders, political buccaneers filibusting hierarchies and lives sacrificed by defective equipment, Khushwaha’s arrest could have consequences for the Army’s morale.
The expanding military sphere in India
Another Lok Sabha, the 15th in the series, has concluded its five-year tenure. Whatever business was transacted in the house was, indeed, exasperating and raucous. Unfortunately the house representing the democratic system has fallen by the wayside practically in all Asian countries.

In another three months, Indian voters will once again queue up before the polling booths to elect their representatives. Their quality has been wanting. But I am confident that the next house will be better in content because the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has changed the political scenario in the country to make it cleaner and transparent.

Yet, I do not like the increasing influence of the armed forces. Indian Defence Minister AK Antony was correct in saying that there can never be an army coup in the country. First Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru too echoed the same thoughts when he opted for the parliamentary way of governance after independence in August 1947. His argument was that the country was too large and too caste and religion ridden.

My worry, however, is over the say which the armed forces are beginning to have in the affairs of governance. Take the stationing of troops at the Siachen Glacier. Was it necessary, even after several retired top brass said that such a move had no strategic importance? Even otherwise, when an agreement had been struck by foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan, our armed forces should have followed the decision but they had it stalled. Instead of being a no-man territory, the soldiers of both countries at the glacier are suffering due to the inclement weather and losing men at regular intervals.

Take another example of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which empowers the army to detain or even kill a person on suspicion without any legal action. The northeast has been under it for years. A government-appointed committee found it ‘unnecessary’ and recommended its withdrawal. But the armed forces have had their way and the AFSPA continues to be in operation.

Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has officially asked New Delhi to free the state from the law’s application. He has made the appeal publicly. But the central government has not relented because the armed forces want the AFSPA to continue. Even a marginal concession of releasing political prisoners as requested by the Jammu & Kashmir chief minister has been denied.

More recent is the inquiry into the ‘encounter’ at Pathribal in Jammu & Kashmir. The army is alleged to have killed five ‘terrorists’ while the local villagers have said that the deceased were innocent. The Central Bureau of Investigation inquired into the matter and has submitted its report before the Supreme Court. According to the report, it was a fake and cold-blooded encounter.

In fact, breaking his silence after 23 years, the then Kupwara deputy commissioner, S M Yasin, said recently that he had been threatened and offered promotions to change his report on the alleged mass rapes in Konam Poshpora in February 1991. It is strange that the army has claimed that there was no such incident. The self-acquittal by the top brass has only aggravated the sense of alienation and resentment among the people in Jammu & Kashmir. The government of India should still set up a judicial inquiry headed by a Supreme Court judge to investigate into what were perceived as fake encounters.

Hardly has the dust settled down on the Pathribal encounters when the story of a possible coup in January 2012 has become public. Two army units — one of which was an armoured battalion moved to Delhi from Agra. Any movement of troops in the periphery of the capital has to be made with prior permission. Still both units moved and were withdrawn only when the defence secretary summoned the Director General of Military Operations, Lieutenant General AK Choudhary, at midnight and conveyed to him that the top in government was very unhappy and concerned.

When a daily newspaper broke the story at that time, Defence Minister AK Antony rubbished it. So did some key army and civilian officials. Now, Lieutenant General AK Choudhary, after his retirement, has confirmed the story. More shocking is the confirmation by Air Chief NAK Browne, then heading the Air Force. He has said, “The paratroopers were being moved to check out the possibility of their marrying with the C-130 at Hindon air base, near Delhi.

Still the defence minister has said that it was “a routine training exercise.” When after telling the director general of military operations, the government sends a chopper to check if the troops were on their way back, there is more than what meets the eye. Since the date synchronised with the appeal to the Indian Supreme Court by the then army chief, VK Singh, on his birth date, the movement of the military units was given importance beyond proportions.

The entire matter has to be examined further by a team of top retired civil and military officials to reach the bottom of the ‘routine exercise’. It cannot be left at the mere denial stage despite Defence Minister Antony’s vehement denial. Even a limited say of the armed forces in civilian matters is ominous.

The armed forces are apolitical and this nature of theirs is a tribute to their training.

The Indian military knows and honours its place in a democratic polity. Still, the examples I have given should serve as a grim warning. True, the democratic temperament has got implanted on the Indian soil. But this should not be taken for granted. Even a small example of Bonapartism should be probed thoroughly. The armed forces are for the country’s defence and the decision to use them rests with the elected government. This is something basic and no compromise can be made in a democratic structure.
Battle for Top Posts Turns Army, Navy into Warzones

Army and Navy have become the battlefields of ambition and lust for power. Senior generals and admirals in the Army and the Navy are busy in an internecine war to see who reaches the top. While Admiral D K Joshi’s resignation has indicated that the Navy was sailing on choppy waters, Army is turning into a hostile terrain as the inner conflict for the top post in the wake of General Bikram Singh’s retirement in August intensifies.

According to sources in the Indian armed forces, the tug-of-war that claimed Admiral D K Joshi’s job has been on for six months now. Trouble for Joshi, who is perceived as outspoken and honest, didn’t begin with INS Sindhurakashak submarine sinking in Mumbai on August 14. It actually began when Defence Minister A K Antony rapped the navy for “frittering away nations assets” at an in-camera naval commanders conference on November 23 last.

Joshi was upset that Antony’s comments in a closed-door meet was made public through a ministry press release and he vehemently defended the navy on its safety record at the December 2 annual press conference. With that began a series of reports on 10 incidents, which created an impression that the Navy was careless in its operations, top naval sources said.

Joshi had argued with Antony on the day he resigned that even insignificant operational incidents like a boat hitting the jetty while being berthed were “blown out of proportion” to deliberately make him fight a perception battle about the Navy’s professionalism. “If you notice, there is a pattern emerging. There are pulls and pressures at work,” a senior armed forces officer, who did not wish to be identified, told the Sunday Standard. “There is a game being played. And it becomes obvious with each passing day,” he added.

It is part of the South Block buzz that only a few months ago Joshi had issued orders that officers, who had been overlooked for promotion but were still posted at one place for over five years should be immediately transferred. Nearly 60 such officers were moved out of their comfort zones. Some officers strongly felt that there were “deliberate” leaks about the naval incidents and they pointed a finger at those who may benefit with Admiral Joshi now gone. But what has again triggered a succession battle in the Navy is Joshi suggesting in his resignation letter that vice chief Vice Admiral R K Dhowan be made the interim chief till a regular Admiral is appointed to the top job. Soon, information began to float that Dhowan was not qualified to become chief, primarily because he was not the senior-most Vice Admiral and he had no “command” experience at any of the three Naval Commands at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Kochi.

The senior-most officer is Western Naval Commander Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha. Applying the seniority principle, Sinha qualifies to be the next chief after Joshi’s resignation. But to scuttle that possibility, questions have now been raised on his moral responsibility, since nearly 10 of the accidents and incidents, including that of Sindhurakshak and Sindhuratna submarines, took place under his watch.

Old files have been dusted out by some in the navy and defence ministry hierarchy to note that at least two former Navy chiefs had raised doubts over his professional acumen and that they were against Sinha being promoted to take charge of operational command. One of the two chiefs was Joshi’s predecessor Admiral Nirmal Verma, who retired in 2012 and is now on a diplomatic assignment in Canada. Verma had recommended to Antony in 2012, just before his retirement, that Sinha should not be considered for posting as the chief of the Integrated Defence Staff headquarters in Delhi, which is also considered a commander rank and responsibility.

In the Army, General Bikram Singh is all set to retire from service in August this year. When that happens, present Vice Chief Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag is tipped to be the next chief. But six months before it’s likely to happen, there are efforts to pin responsibility on Suhag for a botched-up intelligence raid in the Northeastern region under his watch as the 3 Corps commander in Dimapur, with reports of a cold-blooded extra-judicial killing in Nagaland by the then personnel from the intelligence unit, doing the rounds, sources said.

General V K Singh, just before his retirement in May 2012, had imposed a Discipline and Vigilance ban on Suhag being promoted as Army commander for this “lapse” under his 2 Corps command tenure. But General Bikram Singh, on assuming office as chief in June 2012, revoked the ban accepting Suhag’s explanation to an earlier notice issued to him. Suhag got promoted with retrospective effect from June 1 that year to take charge as Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander.

Attempts are on to make the allegations of “lapses” on part of Suhag floating. If it happens, then Southern Army Commander Lt Gen Ashok Singh, whose son Dr Anirudh is married to General V K Singh’s daughter Yogja, would succeed General Bikram Singh as chief. He is the second senior-most Lieutenant General. But, sources say that as a counter to the allegations against Suhag, it is being floated around that Lt Gen Ashok Singh was the 1 Corps commander in Mathura and the armoured units under his command rolled from Hissar towards Delhi in mid-January 2012 when General V K Singh had gone to the Supreme Court against the central government for getting his birth date restored in service records as 1951 instead of 1950. However, the word ‘Coup’ has been left unsaid in those reports.

That way, both officers would stand discredited before the nation and their chances of being the Army chief would be scuttled.

IAF is flying in clear skies

The Air Force isn’t facing a succession war within. The leadership change was settled three months ago, with Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, an ace fighter pilot, becoming chief on his predecessor Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne retiring on December 31. Raha will enjoy full three-year tenure as chief and will retire in 2016.Chief Marshal Arup Raha took over as the chief on December 31 last year.

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