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Friday, 7 March 2014

From Today's Papers - 07 Mar 2014

China on mind, India discusses maritime ties with Lanka, Maldives
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 6
India today hosted the 3rd National Security Adviser (NSA)-level dialogue on maritime security cooperation with Sri Lanka and Maldives, a forum set up by New Delhi to counter China’s bid to spread its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean region.

The forum aims to counter piracy, terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking and strengthen security cooperation between the navies of the three nations.

India’s NSA Shivshankar Menon, Maldives Defence Minister Col (Retd) Mohamed Nazim and Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa attended the meeting. Representatives of Mauritius and Seychelles also participated in the meeting as observers. The first meeting of the forum was held in Maldives in October 2011 while the second took place in Lanka in July 2013.

Briefing reporters on the day-long meeting, Menon said the participants reviewed and expressed satisfaction over the progress in the implementation of various activities in the identified areas. They also discussed new areas of cooperation, including hydrography, training in search and seizure operations, training on board Indian sail training ships, exchanges between think tanks and joint participation in adventure activities.

The meeting of the forum assumes significance against the backdrop of China’s growing influence over Lanka and Maldives. China opened a full-fledged embassy in Maldives some two years back and also got the contract for developing the Hambantota Port in Lanka, much to New Delhi’s discomfiture.

Strategic meet

* The three-nation forum has been set up by New Delhi to counter China’s bid to spread its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean region

* It aims at countering piracy, terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking and strengthen security cooperation between the navies of the three nations

* The meeting of the forum assumes significance against the backdrop of China’s growing influence over Lanka and Maldives
Spying case: SC upholds dismissal of Army officers
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 6
The Supreme Court today upheld the dismissal of 13 Army officers in 1980 for acting as Pakistani spies in the 1970s, observing that the termination orders were not without any material against them.

"A detailed investigation was conducted and all evidence recorded were examined by the Intelligence Department and finally the Authority came to the finding that retention of these officers were not expedient in the interest and security of the state," a three-member Bench comprising Justices BS Chauhan, J Chelameswar and MY Eqbal noted in a 70-page verdict.

The Centre had come to the SC in appeal challenging the December 21, 2000 judgment of the Delhi High Court.
 Sub mishap: MoD must spend wisely, says PC

New Delhi, March 6
Against the backdrop of the recent submarine mishap, Finance Minister P Chidambaram today suggested that the Defence Ministry was not spending funds "wisely" enough and contended the maintenance of the military assets was being neglected.

He insisted that the Finance Ministry provides "a lot of money" to the Defence Ministry and "I sincerely hope that the defence forces will learn a lesson and make sure that the money allotted to them is spent more wisely and more efficiently on essential matters." Chidambaram was responding when questioned by an NSUI member claiming to be sister of one of victims over the provision of sufficient funds to the Defence Ministry.

At a function organised by Congress' student wing NSUI here, the woman said Lt Commander Kapish Muwal, who died in the mishap on INS Sindhuratna, was her brother and asked Chidambaram "why the government is not sanctioning money for security and safety" as casualties are taking place.

She also referred to the sinking of another submarine INS Sindhurakshak a few months back. — PTI
Army, defence ministry to pay Rs 35L
NEW DELHI: A Motor Accident Claims Tribunal has directed the defence ministry and the Army to pay over Rs 35 lakh to the husband of a 32-year-old radiologist who died in a road accident involving a rashly driven Army jeep.

Noting that the defence ministry and the Army are liable for the act of the driver since they own the vehicle involved, the court ordered them to pay Rs 35,51,580 to Dr Mihir Shreyas Munshi, husband of the victim, Dr Harsha Munshi.

"In view of the testimony of prosecution witnesses and documents on record, the petitioner (victim's husband) has prima facie succeeded in proving that Dr Harsha Munshi died due to injuries sustained in the accident caused by the vehicle being driven by respondent 3 (driver) in a rash and negligent manner," MACT presiding officer Harish Dudani said while asking the ministry and the army to deposit the amount within 30 days.

Munshi had approached the tribunal seeking compensation submitting that the accident took place on the morning of February 1, 2007.
Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh to visit Nepal next week

KATHMANDU: Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh would visit Nepal next week to attend a ceremony during a joint military exercise being organised in the country's western region.

Though the date of Singh's arrival is tentatively fixed for March 13, a detailed itinerary of the two-day visit is yet to be finalised, said sources at Army headquarters here.

Gen Singh is expected to attend the closing ceremony of the Surya Kiran-VI that commenced yesterday in Saljhandi of Rupan ..
Indian, Nepali armies hold joint military exercise
Kathmandu: The armies of Nepal and India are holding a joint military exercise named 'Surya Kiran VI' at the Integrated Army Training Centre (IATC) at Saljhandi in Rupanddehi district of southern Nepal.

According to the Nepal Army Directorate of Public Relations (DPR), an infantry battalion of each country's army -- comprising 250 officers and personnel from the Indian Army and 200 from the Nepal -- are taking part in the joint military exercise that started Wednesday. The training slots which were initially started from the platoon level have now been upgraded to the battalion level.

During the two-week-long exercise, the armies from both sides will upgrade their practical and principle aspects of jungle warfare, anti-insurgency operation, rescue operation, and share experiences on counter-terrorist operations.

The exercise also includes a detailed training in organisation and conduct of disaster response, management and rescue operation.

Nepal Army's Maj Gen Victor JB Rana inaugurated the joint military exercise and interacted with participants, according to the DPR.

This is the sixth such military exercise between the Nepalese and Indian armies and third in Nepal.

A top Nepal Army official told IANS that Indian Army chief Gen Bikram Singh is scheduled to observe the joint exercise March 14 along with his Nepali counterpart, Gen Gaurav Sumsher Rana. He will be arriving in Kathmandu March 13.

The two army chiefs will also discuss the strengthening of bilateral ties between the two armies as well as extending Indian military cooperation to the Nepal Army. The training is scheduled to conclude March 18.

Initially, the Indian Army took the lead in 2011 and concluded the first counter-insurgency and jungle warfare exercise in Mizoram state in India in 2011. Since then, the two sides have been holding the joint military exercise in either country on a regular basis.

"During this training, troops will be able to entail anti-insurgency and jungle warfare in a practical way," said a statement released by the Nepal Army, adding that that such training will also help to understand various aspects of military skills and practices at lower level through experience sharing.

Earlier, the fourth series of exercise 'Surya Kiran' was held in Pithoragarh in India in September-October where Gen Rana participated as chief guest at the concluding ceremony.
Computers of defence establishment hacked
New Delhi: In a major security breach, around 50 computers belonging to the armed forces and the DRDO were hacked sometime back and classified files could have been compromised.

Apparently in view of the development, an advisory has been issued to the Services that computers having internet facility should be kept at a distance from those on which classified work is conducted.

The security breach took place in December and was detected by the intelligence agencies after which a high-level probe was ordered, government sources said. The computers that were hacked are located in the South Block and belong mainly to the Army along with the other two forces, they said.
The security establishment fears that up to 30 files marked as classified could have been compromised in the process, the sources said. National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon sought to downplay the hacking incident saying there are "various forms of compromise" and "not every leaked password is a big threat to security

."A mere fact that some computer is open in North Block and South Block and is accessible does not mean that therefore there is big gap in security." Insisting that "things are not in bad shape", he said,

"We will deal with those computers which we feel are compromised." An advisory issued to the Services said that it was found that a spyware was detected which could read the files of computers, which were not even connected to internet, the sources said.

Armed forces have suffered a lot due to the attempts of hacking by Chinese and Pakistani hackers as one Major posted in Andaman and Nicobar Islands was found to have leaked critical information from his computer.
Caught off guard yet again
The series of mishaps on our naval front have reopened the debate on how politicians and bureaucrats are playing havoc with our essential defence acquisitions

It is Defence Minister A K Antony and his senior officials who need to answer why modernisation of the armed forces has been given the go-by

As the Manmohan Singh government prepares to lay down office and pass the country’s reins over to a new government in May, one of its most disconcerting  legacies would be the lack of preparedness of India’s armed forces, which it would be bequeathing to the successor government.

The level of unpreparedness is reminiscent of 1962, when the Chinese struck on our borders and literally caught the country napping, as the political establishment refused to see the writing on the wall.

The series of mishaps on our naval front, the latest being on the INS Sindhuratna, in which two officer-sailors lost their lives and seven were injured, which precipitated the resignation of the Navy chief, Admiral D K Joshi, have reopened the debate on how politicians and bureaucrats are playing havoc with our essential defence acquisitions. The submarine, at 26 years old, had exceeded its life by four years even after refurbishment, the old batteries were in danger of giving way anytime and the cabling was in a dangerous state, prone to a disaster.

The cold reality is that the UPA government has totally failed to upgrade the ageing fleet of the Indian Navy, as well as vital equipment of other armed forces, to the level that even their immediate critical requirements are not being met for lack of funds and bureaucratic wrangling.

It is Defence Minister A K Antony and his senior officials who need to answer why modernisation of the armed forces has been given the go-by and the country has been left so under-prepared to deal with external aggression.

The fact of the matter is that even as the Army has been instructed to be prepared to fight a war on two fronts, acquisitions of desperately needed armour and artillery systems have been endlessly delayed.

Our Navy operates with death-trap submarines, the Indian Air Force has only two-thirds of the squadrons required, and our army functions without such basics as night-vision capabilities. Our missile armoury leaves a lot to be desired.

Leave aside armaments, for years we have not even been able to dredge Mumbai harbour so that submarines may move in and out round the clock; consequently, such movement is restricted to the high-tide periods – and is one reason why a sub scraped its bottom recently.

All three services face large-scale deficits of officers, because the armed forces’ pay scales and service conditions are not attractive enough to bring in talent.

Since 1952, the services have laboured under a dysfunctional government , “Rules of Business”,  which declares that the ministry of  defence, under the secretary, is responsible for the defence of India — not the armed forces. The ministry has the power to create innumerable hurdles in the path of each service getting financial approval for anything from a battery to a ship. There is good reason to believe that  the Sindhuratna was operating with overaged batteries, which let off vast amounts of explosive hydrogen, because the replacement batteries were locked in unpardonable red tape.

The recent INS Sindhuratna mishap, in which two officers were killed due to asphyxiation and seven were injured, was a classic case of paying the price for persisting with a ship that was no longer seaworthy, in callous disregard of safety norms. Repeated reminders to defence ministry mandarins to procure new submarines and in the interim, provide for replacement of the batteries of the existing ageing submarines, had fallen on deaf ears, even though batteries are indigenously made. So strong is the stranglehold of the bureaucrats, that their complacency knows no bounds. Their accountability is so loose that they get away with anything.

It is small wonder then that morale in the armed forces has touched a new low in recent years.

The mishap on INS Sindhuratna was the second major accident in the country’s ageing submarine fleet in the last six months. Earlier, INS Sindhurakshak, a Russian Kilo-class submarine like the INS Sindhuratna, had sunk at the Mumbai naval dockyard, killing three officers and 15 sailors, after a series of internal explosions in its fully-loaded weapons compartment on August 14, 2013.

The concern on the sorry state of preparedness for any eventuality needs to be addressed not because it has been raised by the chief of the third largest army of the world, but for safeguarding the country’s national security at a time when India’s neighbours, particularly China, is undertaking massive military modernization, with a defence budget which now officially exceeds $100 billion (India’s latest defence budget is $40.4 billion).

The building of the Scorpène class submarines is in progress within the country, but six submarines will join the Navy only by 2022. An immediate step that India needs to take could be the acquisition of two more nuclear submarines of the Akula class, on lease from Russia. The Russians are willing to lease a nuclear submarine, but considering the good relationship between the Russian and Indian navies, it might be possible to persuade President Putin to part with one more Akula, until the Indian indigenous building project catches up.

The only major navies still operating conventional submarines are China and Japan. The others have shifted to an all-nuclear submarine force and India should do the same. In the vast reaches of the Indian Ocean, the slow pace of transit of conventional submarines makes them a liability, which can only be overcome by acquiring larger numbers. A far more efficacious solution is the nuclear-propelled SSN, which is twice as expensive as a conventional submarine, but is far more effective.

The indigenous route to nuclear SSNs is some years away, since these require more powerful reactor plants than the missile-armed Arihant.  India’s submarine community also needs to deliberate on transiting to an all-nuclear submarine force. The government on its part, needs to help the Indian shipbuilding industry and the Department of Atomic Energy by looking for strategic partnerships involving the building of nuclear propelled submarines.

When the former Army chief, General V K Singh, while in office wrote a secret letter to the Prime Minister, which was leaked, highlighting the critical deficiencies in equipment, weapon systems and ammunition, there was a hue and cry. But over time, the reality has seeped in and there is deep concern in policy-making circles. There is no doubt that we need to pull up our socks. The sooner we do it, the better for the country which clearly faces a crisis today.
Under-fire Antony releases success record
New Delhi, March 5: Faced with mounting criticism from within the armed forces and from the Opposition, A.K. Antony’s defence ministry today issued a 26-page statement on his record, coinciding with the announcement of general election.

In “Shri A K Antony as Defence Minister — A Look Back”, the ministry is not even seeking to be unbiased. The manuscript is not a balance sheet. It is a list of all that the forces have got since Antony took over in October 2006 and went on to be the country’s longest-serving defence minister.

There is no mention of the disaster that overtook the Indian Navy’s INS Sindhurakshak for instance — easily India biggest peacetime military loss — that sank in the naval dockyard in Mumbai last August, killing 18 of the crew.

But the list opens with the navy. The commissioning of the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier that joined the fleet this January is ranked no. 1 in Antony’s achievements. Earlier known as the Admiral Gorshkov, the carrier was contracted in January 2004, at the time of the NDA regime, and was originally slated for delivery in August 2008.

It sailed into Indian waters six years later and after Antony approved an upward revision in price by the Russians even after the contract was signed.

The ministry also lists the “criticality” of the nuclear reactor that powers the submarine Arihant and the launching of indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant among Antony’s top achievements.

The Arihant and the Vikrant are not commissioned into service. The Arihant is about to go into sea trials and the Vikrant hit water in August last year and is expected only in 2017.

But perhaps the biggest achievement Antony can justifiably claim is the decision to raise a Mountain Strike Corps (MSC), which will ultimately be the Indian Army’s largest formation, to be headquartered in Panagarh, Bengal.

The decision broke “India’s strategic planning out of the cocoon”, claims the defence ministry statement.

“Reflecting the country’s widening strategic horizon”, the decision to raise the corps for “decisive lightening offensive capabilities” on the frontier with China in the Northeast will involve a cost of Rs 65,000 crore.

For the first time, the defence establishment has officially acknowledged that the MSC will be supported by IAF Sukhoi 30 combat aircraft being based in airfields in Bengal and Assam: Hashimara, Bagdogra, Jorhat, Tezpur, Chhabua, and Mohanbari. The army has also raised two mountain infantry divisions in Nagaland and Assam.

The MSC is the first genuine force accretion by the army. New corps that have been created in the past five years were carved out of existing formations.

Antony’s ministry has claimed that since the terror attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 — in itself a failure by coastal security forces — it has ramped up measures and acquired new radars and sensors to bring India’s 7500km-long coastline under watch.

Claims on development of indigenous defence technologies, such as the Main Battle Tank Arjun Mark II and the Light Combat Aircraft ring hollow. Both projects in which the Defence Research and Development Organisation is deeply involved have languished through changes of government. They are not with the users — the armed forces.

The ministry statement gives a wide berth to the issue of civil-military relations that have loomed large over Antony’s tenure. An army chief (General V.K. Singh) had challenged the government in court and last month a navy chief, Admiral D.K. Joshi, resigned in a move that his friends say was “a cry of despair”.

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