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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

From Today's Papers - 25 Mar 2014

 SC notice to Centre on defence land scams
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 24
The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Defence Ministry and the CBI seeking their response to a PIL plea for a CBI probe into various land scams and an independent audit on the use of 17.3 lakh acres owned by the forces in prime areas across the country.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it was "worried" over the serious allegations in the PIL, filed by NGOs, the Common Cause and the Centre for PIL, and as such required its consideration.

The petitioners have cited recent land scams relating to Sukna Lake, Adarsh Society, Jammu and Kashmir, Jodhpur, Lohegaon, Pune and Kandivli (Mumbai).

"Considering the magnitude of the corruption, irregularities and mismanagement and the possible involvement of high-ranking Defence officials and other authorities, a court-monitored probe by the CBI or a special investigation team (SIT) is required," the petitioners contended.

Several reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had highlighted huge losses arising from misuse of defence properties, the petitioners' advocate Prashant Bhushan contended.

"The rot in the management of defence land that works to the advantage of certain vested interests and to the detriment of public interest is the antithesis of people's constitutional rights under Articles 14 and 21," the PIL pleaded.

The petitioners also sought a directive to the Centre to take over the defence land and properties being commercially exploited or under the unauthorised use of private parties and ensure that the revenue generated was put to proper use.

A broad-based expert committee should be constituted to recommend comprehensive systemic reforms in the management of such land and buildings and formulate fresh norms for their use after undertaking an extensive public consultation, the petition pleaded.


    A PIL plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe into land scams and an audit as regards land owned by the forces
    The petitioners have cited recent land scams involving defence land to buttress their contention
    They have sought a directive to the Centre to take over defence land and properties that are being commercially exploited or put to unauthorised use by private parties.
 India, Russia to ink deal for anti-tank ammunition

New Delhi, March 24
India is expected to sign a deal with Russia to procure 66,000 Mango anti-tank shells to meet the shortfall of critical ammunition faced by its armoured fleet including the latest T-90 tanks.

The Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister recently cleared the proposal to acquire 66,000 tank shells from Russia and the deal in this regard is expected to be inked in next few days, Defence Ministry sources told PTI.

Under the deal, Russia will also do transfer of technology on the production techniques of the specialised tank ammunition to the Ordnance Factory Board, which will produce it indigenously, they said.

Faced with shortage of weapon systems, the Defence Ministry has decided to form JVs with the Russian manufacturers to produce them in India like the rockets for the Smerch multi-barrel rocket launcher systems.

The severe shortage of tank ammunition was first highlighted by former Army Chief Gen V K Singh in a top secret letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March this year which later found its way to the media. — PTI
Should the Military have a Say in Governance
In 1992, the Indian Army chief, General Sunith Francis Rodrigues, had to apologise to parliament for suggesting that the armed forces had a stake in India’s governance.

One doesn’t recall the exact words, but his reasoning went thus: “We are first and foremost citizens of India, we pay our taxes, we are willing to lay down our lives for the country; so why should we be at the bidding of politicians without stating our point of view?”

All hell broke lose, with George Fernandes, who went on to become the defence minister, demanding that Gen. Rodrigues be sacked. Despite tremendous public support, the general backed down and issued an apology that was read out in parliament. It took a while before he was rehabilitated, first on the National Security Advisory Board and then as Punjab governor.

This was not the first time a four-star officer had spoken out his mind.

Way back in the early 1950s, General K.M. Cariappa, as army chief, had wanted to send additional troops to Jammu and Kashmir but was forestalled by prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Gen. Cariappa took the unprecedented step of appealing to president Rajendra Prasad, the supreme commander of the armed forces, and Nehru had to backtrack. After his retirement, Gen. Cariappa frequently declaimed on the need for effective governance. He was promptly shunted off to Australia as the Indian high commissioner as the government feared he could engineer a coup!

In the mid-1980s, Lieutenant General S.K. Sinha, then the senior-most officer after the army chief, General K.V. Krishna Rao, and who was expected to move into the top job, was passed over in favour of Lieutenant General A.S. Vaidya, then the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Army Command.

His “crime”? Repeatedly opposing the deployment of the army on internal security duties, the reason being: “If I have to ask my troops to fire on their fellow citizens (to quell riots and other disturbances), how do I expect them to lay down their lives for the country in the case of a war?”

But there was another aspect to this. Most unlike a serving armed forces officer, Lt. Gen. Vaidya had openly supported then prime minister Indira Gandhi’s decision to enter into an alliance with a tribal outfit in Tripura that had strong militant links.

But then, things haven’t always been negative and a shining example of this is the perfect understanding that existed between Indira Gandhi and the then army chief, General (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw, on the conduct of the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh out of East Pakistan.

Ever the no-nonsense officer Gen. Manekshaw made it amply clear that he would not be bulldozed and demanded some nine months to be fully ready. Indira Gandhi had no option but to acquiesce and thus, while Bangladesh declared its independence on March 26, 1971, the war began only on December 3 of that year. The result was a clinical victory on the eastern and western fronts.

The question is: Had such a situation existed in the early 1960s, would the 1962 India-China war, whose reverberations are still being felt half a century later, happened?

The top secret Henderson-Brooks report posted online by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell on his blog earlier this week – its contents were hardly a secret as it formed the basis of his seminal work “India’s China War” – makes it amply clear that there was a yawning mismatch between the government’s thinking and that of the armed forces.

“It is obvious that politically, the Forward Policy (of Jawaharlal Nehru) was desirable and presumably the eviction of the Chinese from Ladakh must be the eventual aim. For this, there can be no argument, but what is pertinent is whether we were militarily in a position at that time to implement that policy,” the report says.

That’s not all.

“The government, who politically must have been keen to recover territory, advocated a cautious policy whilst Army HQ dictated a policy that was clearly militarily unsound,” the report adds for good measure.

Would this mismatch had been there if there were a better interface between the government and the military? Most certainly not!

In fact, there are reports that a war game conducted in 1960 had pointed to a possible Chinese invasion. However, when the three-star officer who conducted the war game moved to become Indian Army chief, the report was quietly shelved, apparently at the government’s instance.

Why then has such contraditory situations existed for so long? Because of the traditional bureaucracy-driven trust-deficit that exists with the armed forces – exemplified most recently when Gen. A.K. Singh was army chief and moved a large body of troops in January 2012, rattling the top echelons of the government.

It is this trust-deficit that has prevented the implementation of one of the most crucial defence reforms since Independence: the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a one-point reference for the government on all matters military. The bureaucracy fears that the CDS could become so powerful that he could come to overshadow them.

The 21st century is far removed from the situation that existed during the First Gulf War (1991), an event that many believe has shaped modern-day strategic thinking as exemplified by the events that followed: the Second Gulf War and the US-led NATO operations in Afghanistan.

While the armed forces have kept up with contemporary developments, the government, unfortunately, remains tied to the past. It’s time to shed the sloth and come together for the common good if India is to take its rightful place on the global stage.
Shocking: Indian Army fast running out of ammunition
New Delhi: The world's second-largest standing army is fast running out of ammunition.

The Indian army comprising 1.18 million soldiers, by the number of fighting troops, is not in a very good shape at present.

A Times of India report says, the army will not be able to sustain a full-fledged war for more than 20 days.

Tanks, air defence units, artillery batteries and infantry soldiers are all facing the problem of shortage of ammunitions, says the report, which adds, the army may not have enough ammunition reserves to sustain a full-fledged war for even 20 days as against the norm of 40 days.

Army chief General Bikram Singh had recently said, if there was proper budgetary support for the new ammunition roadmap, the army should have 50 per cent WWR (war wastage reserves) and three years of training ammunition by 2015.

In other words, the Army is at not even 50 per cent war wastage reserves (WWR) right now, which means it does not have adequate reserves to fight a war for even 20 days.

It is expected to reach 100 per cent WWR only by 2019.

The Indian Army top brass is desperate that the new government which takes charge after the general elections in May, supports its new ammunition road map, both in terms of fund allocations and timelines.

The report says, though the Defence Minister has approved the roadmap, it is up to the new government to implement it.

The army is on the verge of raising its 17th Moutain Strike Corps having over 90,000 soldiers over the next seven years. This alone will require 32 new infantry battalions, apart from armoured, artillery and air defence units, the report said.
1971 War: How Russia sank Nixon’s gunboat diplomacy
Exactly 40 years ago, India won a famous victory over Pakistan due to its brilliant soldiers, an unwavering political leadership, and strong diplomatic support from Moscow. Less well known is Russia’s power play that prevented a joint British-American attack on India.

Washington DC, December 3, 1971, 10:45am.

US President Richard Nixon is on the phone with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, hours after Pakistan launched simultaneous attacks on six Indian airfields, a reckless act that prompted India to declare war.

Nixon: So West Pakistan giving trouble there.

Kissinger: If they lose half of their country without fighting they will be destroyed. They may also be destroyed this way but they will go down fighting.

Nixon: The Pakistan thing makes your heart sick. For them to be done so by the Indians and after we have warned the bitch (reference to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi). Tell them that when India talks about West Pakistan attacking them it's like Russia claiming to be attacked by Finland.

Washington, December 10, 1971, 10:51am.

A week later the war is not going very well for Pakistan, as Indian armour scythes through East Pakistan and the Pakistan Air Force is blown out of the subcontinent’s sky. Meanwhile, the Pakistani military in the west is demoralised and on the verge of collapse as the Indian Army and Air Force attack round the clock.

Nixon: Our desire is to save West Pakistan. That's all.

Kissinger: That's right. That is exactly right.

Nixon: All right. Keep those carriers moving now.

Kissinger: The carriers—everything is moving. Four Jordanian planes have already moved to Pakistan, 22 more are coming. We're talking to the Saudis, the Turks we've now found are willing to give five. So we're going to keep that moving until there's a settlement.

Nixon: Could you tell the Chinese it would be very helpful if they could move some forces or threaten to move some forces? (see how the losers are ready to side with their that time enemy)

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: They've got to threaten or they've got to move, one of the two. You know what I mean?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: How about getting the French to sell some planes to the Paks?

Kissinger: Yeah. They're already doing it.

Nixon: This should have been done long ago. The Chinese have not warned the Indians.

Kissinger: Oh, yeah.

Nixon: All they've got to do is move something. Move a division. You know, move some trucks. Fly some planes. You know, some symbolic act. We're not doing a goddamn thing, Henry, you know that.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: But these Indians are cowards. Right?

Kissinger: Right. But with Russian backing. You see, the Russians have sent notes to Iran, Turkey, to a lot of countries threatening them. The Russians have played a miserable game.

If the two American leaders were calling Indians cowards, a few months earlier the Indians were a different breed altogether. This phone call is from May 1971.
Nixon: The Indians need—what they need really is a—

Kissinger: They’re such bastards.

Nixon: A mass famine. But they aren't going to get that…But if they're not going to have a famine the last thing they need is another war. Let the goddamn Indians fight a war.

Kissinger: They are the most aggressive goddamn people around there.

The 1971 war is considered to be modern India’s finest hour, in military terms. The clinical professionalism of the Indian army, navy and air force; a charismatic brass led by the legendary Sam Maneckshaw; and ceaseless international lobbying by the political leadership worked brilliantly to set up a famous victory. After two weeks of vicious land, air and sea battles, nearly 100,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered before India's rampaging army, the largest such capitulation since General Paulus' surrender at Stalingrad in 1943. However, it could all have come unstuck without help from veto-wielding Moscow, with which New Delhi had the foresight to sign a security treaty in 1970.

As Nixon’s conversations with the wily Kissinger show, the forces arrayed against India were formidable. The Pakistani military was being bolstered by aircraft from Jordan, Iran, Turkey and France. Moral and military support was amply provided by the US, China and the UK. Though not mentioned in the conversations here, the UAE sent in half a squadron of fighter aircraft and the Indonesians dispatched at least one naval vessel to fight alongside the Pakistani Navy.

However, Russia’s entry thwarted a scenario that could have led to multiple pincer movements against India.

Superpowers face-off
On December 10, even as Nixon and Kissinger were frothing at the mouth, Indian intelligence intercepted an American message, indicating that the US Seventh Fleet was steaming into the war zone. The Seventh Fleet, which was then stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin, was led by the 75,000 ton nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. The world’s largest warship, it carried more than 70 fighters and bombers. The Seventh Fleet also included the guided missile cruiser USS King, guided missile destroyers USS Decatur, Parsons and Tartar Sam, and a large amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli.

Standing between the Indian cities and the American ships was the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet led by the 20,000-ton aircraft carrier, Vikrant, with barely 20 light fighter aircraft. When asked if India’s Eastern Fleet would take on the Seventh Fleet, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Vice Admiral N. Krishnan, said: “Just give us the orders.” The Indian Air Force, having wiped out the Pakistani Air Force within the first week of the war, was reported to be on alert for any possible intervention by aircraft from the Enterprise.

Meanwhile, Soviet intelligence reported that a British naval group led by the aircraft carrier Eagle had moved closer to India’s territorial waters. This was perhaps one of the most ironic events in modern history where the Western world’s two leading democracies were threatening the world’s largest democracy in order to protect the perpetrators of the largest genocide since the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. However, India did not panic. It quietly sent Moscow a request to activate a secret provision of the Indo-Soviet security treaty, under which Russia was bound to defend India in case of any external aggression.

The British and the Americans had planned a coordinated pincer to intimidate India: while the British ships in the Arabian Sea would target India’s western coast, the Americans would make a dash into the Bay of Bengal in the east where 100,000 Pakistani troops were caught between the advancing Indian troops and the sea.
To counter this two-pronged British-American threat, Russia dispatched a nuclear-armed flotilla from Vladivostok on December 13 under the overall command of Admiral Vladimir Kruglyakov, the Commander of the 10th Operative Battle Group (Pacific Fleet). Though the Russian fleet comprised a good number of nuclear-armed ships and atomic submarines, their missiles were of limited range (less than 300 km). Hence to effectively counter the British and American fleets the Russian commanders had to undertake the risk of encircling them to bring them within their target. This they did with military precision.

In an interview to a Russian TV programme after his retirement, Admiral Kruglyakov, who commanded the Pacific Fleet from 1970 to 1975, recalled that Moscow ordered the Russian ships to prevent the Americans and British from getting closer to “Indian military objects”. The genial Kruglyakov added: “The Chief Commander’s order was that our submarines should surface when the Americans appear. It was done to demonstrate to them that we had nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean. So when our subs surfaced, they recognised us. In the way of the American Navy stood the Soviet cruisers, destroyers and atomic submarines equipped with anti-ship missiles. We encircled them and trained our missiles at the Enterprise. We blocked them and did not allow them to close in on Karachi, Chittagong or Dhaka."

At this point, the Russians intercepted a communication from the commander of the British carrier battle group, Admiral Dimon Gordon, to the Seventh Fleet commander: “Sir, we are too late. There are the Russian atomic submarines here, and a big collection of battleships.” The British ships fled towards Madagascar while the larger US task force stopped before entering the Bay of Bengal. :evilgrin:

The Russian manoeuvres clearly helped prevent a direct clash between India and the US-UK combine. Newly declassified documents reveal that the Indian Prime Minister went ahead with her plan to liberate Bangladesh despite inputs that the Americans had kept three battalions of Marines on standby to deter India, and that the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had orders to target the Indian Army, which had broken through the Pakistani Army’s defences and was thundering down the highway to the gates of Lahore, West Pakistan’s second largest city.

According to a six-page note prepared by India's foreign ministry, "The bomber force aboard the Enterprise had the US President's authority to undertake bombing of the Indian Army's communications, if necessary."
Upgraded Indian Howitzers Cleared for Summer Trials

NEW DELHI — India’s homemade 155mm/45 caliber gun, which failed last year’s summer trials when a barrel burst while firing, has successfully completed winter trials and is cleared for summer trials, an official of the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) said.

The winter trials were completed early this month after the gun’s barrel was rebuilt, the OFB official said.

OFB is attempting to upgrade the howitzer, bought in the late 1980s from Bofors of Sweden, based on drawings supplied by the company under a technology-transfer agreement. The upgrade from 39 to 45 caliber was launched by OFB three years ago after the Indian Army failed to procure any howitzers through open competition. The procurement process had to be stopped on several occasions because of corruption allegations against competing overseas defense companies.

The Army has already ordered 114 of the guns. An Army official said the upgrade by OFB appeared “shaky” last year when the barrel burst during trials.

“We will doubly check the gun in summer trials,” the official said.

The Army has been unable to buy any howitzers since 1987 despite efforts formalized in 1999 to convert all existing artillery to 155mm/52 caliber guns, for a cost of more than $6 billion.

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