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Sunday, 20 April 2014

From Today's Papers - 20 Apr 2014

 Don't politicise armed forces: Cong to BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 19
The Congress today condemned the statement of former Army Chief General VK Singh on the appointment of the new Army chief and said it was the prerogative of the government to appoint a Service Chief.

"Now that Gen Singh is no longer in the government, he has no moral right to issue an advice on the appointment of a new Service Chief. It is well-known that Gen Singh is trying to push the case of Gen Ashok Singh who is related to him. The appointment is a (security) sensitive matter and should not be politicised," said Capt Praveen Dawar of the AICC ex-servicemen cell.

The Congress also reacted sharply to the BJP's suggestion to postpone the decision on appointment of the next Army Chief till the elections are over, saying the opposition party should not politicise the armed forces.

"Do not politicise the armed forces. They have kept themselves out of politics.... It is one of the great strengths of Indian democracy. It is a professional decision where the BJP has no role. As far as I know, there is no procedure to consult the Opposition party before taking a decision," party spokesman Shashi Tharoor said.

His remarks came a day after the BJP sounded a word of caution to the government, saying the appointment should not be made in a hurry following reports that the Defence Ministry has initiated the process of making Vice Army Chief Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as next Army Chief.

The BJP has asked government to avoid taking decision on the matter till elections are over. (With PTI inputs)
Nuclear doctrine not matter for fiddling
By loosely talking of “revising” the nuclear doctrine that Vajpayee’s government had enunciated, the BJP raised an unnecessary controversy. Modi was wise to clarify that he was not for altering the ‘no first use’ posture.
Raj Chengappa
Tucked away towards the end of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) manifesto for General Election 2014 was an innocuous sub-paragraph titled “India’s Strategic Nuclear Programme”, which has been the subject of much controversy since the BJP released the document a fortnight ago. After taking a pot-shot at the Congress for having “frittered away” the “strategic gains acquired by India during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime”, the manifesto went on to state that the “BJP will study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine and revise and update it, to make it relevant to the challenges of current times.”
Any such statement coming from the party that ended the ambiguity over India’s nuclear bomb capability by conducting a series of tests in May 1998 is taken seriously across the capitals of the world. For it was in 2003, four years after the tests, that the BJP government led by Vajpayee formally announced India’s nuclear weapons doctrine. The salient points of the doctrine were that India would build and maintain a “credible nuclear deterrent”, that it would observe a posture of “no first use”, meaning that India would use its nuclear weapons only in retaliation against a nuclear, chemical or biological weapons attack on Indian territory or Indian forces anywhere and that India’s nuclear retaliation to a first strike against it by any other country would be “massive” and designed to inflict “unacceptable damage”.

Since then the Congress-led UPA governments have made no public announcements of changes in the nuclear doctrine. However, the BJP is unfair in stating that successive Congress governments had frittered away the gains. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s crowning achievement in foreign policy during his 10-year rule was the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal that saw India break free from its nuclear pariah status and be accepted as a responsible nuclear power. This was achieved without compromising India’s strategic nuclear capability as the deal kept the weaponisation programme out of the ambit — a remarkable feat that became the envy of Pakistan and other countries.

The deal saw the international ban on exporting nuclear fuel and selling much needed nuclear power technology to India being lifted. The immediate benefit was that several nuclear power plants in India that were languishing because of a lack of fuel started functioning to capacity after India was able to import nuclear fuel. But the UPA government shot itself in the foot by yielding to pressure from both the BJP and the Left and passing a stringent nuclear liability Bill in Parliament that has dissuaded foreign civilian nuclear power corporations, including Russians, from setting up plants in India.

On the strategic front, the UPA’s tenure saw India’s nuclear delivery capability being extended to China with the range of the Agni series of missiles crossing 5,000 km. Under the UPA, the Arihant, India’s first indigenously built nuclear powered submarine, went ‘critical’ and is now awaiting sea trials. When inducted next year, the Arihant would form the third leg of its nuclear triad of delivery vehicles — the other two being missiles and aircraft. Meanwhile, the Defence Research Development Organisation is perfecting a range of Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBMs) that are to arm the Arihant. Once commissioned, the Arihant, with its stealth prowess, would enhance the range of India’s nuclear strike capability, pushing it even beyond China.

So the BJP’s remark about the Congress’ performance or the lack of it on the nuclear weapons issue is short-sighted. By and large, successive governments and prime ministers have maintained a rare continuity and consensus about India’s nuclear weapons programme. Vajpayee would not have been able to order the 1998 nuclear tests just months after his second tenure had the previous Congress-led government headed by PV Narasimha Rao not kept India’s nuclear option in a state of readiness. To Vajpayee’s credit, he took the bold step of conducting the tests in the face of stiff international opposition and after that weathered the sanctions that were imposed on India. In fact, every government since Independence has done its bit to enhance India’s nuclear programme.

By loosely talking of “revising” the doctrine that Vajpayee’s government had enunciated, the BJP had raised an unnecessary controversy. There was concern that the BJP was planning to shed the “no first use” posture, thereby moving away from the national consensus that India’s nuclear weapons were meant only as a tool of deterrence and were not to be used for an offensive first strike. The BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in a TV interview last week wisely clarified that if he came to power he would not alter the doctrine that Vajpayee had laid down, especially the ‘no first use’ posture. There is certainly scope to fine-tune India’s nuclear policy and speed up programmes needed to keep its deterrent “credible”. That is a valid exercise for any new government. But where India’s nuclear weapons are concerned, political parties should avoid chest-thumping or knee-jerk reactions.
Controversy brews over next Army Chief
KV Prasad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 19
A fresh controversy appears to be in the making over the appointment of another four-star general with the BJP questioning the authority of the outgoing Manmohan Singh government to choose the successor of Army Chief General Bikram Singh, who is retiring this July.

The appointment of Admiral RK Dhowan as Navy Chief has already triggered a row. Senior most Admiral Shekhar Sinha, who was superseded by Dhowan, has put in his papers in protest.

As per norms, a successor to a service Chief is announced at least 60 days in advance, a period that allows the Chief-designate to prepare for taking over the reins. The appointment of current Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh was made three months ahead of the scheduled retirement of then Army Chief General Vijay Kumar Singh, who was embroiled in age dispute with the government.

Former Defence Secretary Vijay Singh said it will be well within the norms to announce the new Chief now and even the Election Commission places no restrictions on such appointments. Recently, with the Model Code of Conduct in place, the Ministry of Defence sought clearance from the poll body before going ahead with the appointment of the new Navy Chief following the sudden resignation of Admiral DK Joshi on February 26.

As on date, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag is next in line to take over the reins of the Army when Gen Bikram Singh hangs up his boots on July 31.

Gen VK Singh as the service chief had imposed a DV (discipline and vigilance) promotion ban on Lt Gen Suhag just before retiring in 2012. The ban was imposed on the grounds that he had “abdicated responsibility” while handling an intelligence operation in a unit under his command in the North-East. The ban was revoked by Gen Bikram Singh following which Gen Suhag got his promotion.

Gen VK Singh, who is now contesting from the Ghaziabad Lok Sabha segment on the BJP ticket, said the norms are being bypassed while making appointments.

“Following the DV ban (in Suhag’s case), a court martial found all guilty even though the punishment did not commensurate the charge,” said VK Singh.

Besides Lt Gen Suhag, other generals in the seniority list include Lt Gen Anil Chait, serving as the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff and Lt Gen Ashok Singh, who is married to Gen VK Singh’s daughter. Lt Gen Chait is retiring in July.

Suhag’s elevation will ruffle feathers

    Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag is next in line to take over the reins of the Army when General Bikram Singh hangs up his boots on July 31
    There are reports that MoD has already initiated the process of appointing Lt Gen Suhag as the next Army Chief
    Gen VK Singh, who imposed a promotion ban on Suhag, claims the norms are being bypassed while making appointments
We have to work together, Sharif tells armed forces
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today praised the powerful Army and its chief Gen Raheel Sharif and stressed on the need to work together for a strong economy, democracy and containment of terrorism.

"Let me remind you that without a strong economy, democracy, rule of law and containment of terrorism, a credible defence system cannot be sustained. We therefore have to work together as a nation to achieve these goals," he said.

Sharif's address at the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad came hours after Defence Minister Khwaja Asif last night issued a statement praising the force and clarifying his position to soothe the nerves of the powerful Army which is upset with certain remarks made by members of ruling party.

"You must also keep in your mind the lives and conduct of officers like Gen Raheel Sharif, who are only known for their professionalism, patriotism, dedication and commitment to their motherland," Sharif said in a rare praise of army chief.

He recalled that the army chief was the younger brother of slain Maj Shabbir Sharif "of whom the nation is proud".

Maj Shabbir, who was killed in the 1971 war with India, had won Pakistan's highest military award 'Nishaan-e-Haider'.

Sharif said despite calls of economy and austerity the state is providing the defence forces all possible resources needed for making the defence of the country impregnable.

Uneasiness had crept into civil-military ties and it was confirmed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar A Khan who said an "irritant" had come up lately which "we will get over".

The uneasiness is primarily due to the ongoing treason trial of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

Gen Sharif had recently warned critics against undermining the military's institutional morale.

Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid also attended the function.
Enrolment of Army Personnel in NPR to Begin Next Month

The Directorate of Census Operations, Kerala, will soon begin the enrolment of Indian Army personnel stationed in the state in the National Population Register (NPR).

This will constitute the ‘wrap-up’ stage of the first phase of NPR-related work in Kerala, Census officials said. Expected to be launched in a month’s time, the enrolment will cover Army personnel stationed at the Military Station in Pangode, Thiruvananthapuram, and the Defence Security Corps (DSC), Kannur.

Central public sector undertaking Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has been entrusted with the listing of Army personnel in Kerala, Census deputy director A N Rajeev said.

“There will be greater stress on the confidentiality aspect in the enrolment of armed forces personnel.Certain details, which were collected from civilians, will not be collected, for instance,” he said.

 “The Census Directorate has already completed the enrolment of Navy personnel stationed at the Southern Naval Command, Kochi, and the Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala.

Enrolment in the NPR is compulsory under the Citizenship Act, and the process had been kicked off among the state’s civilian population back in 2008.

The NPR is a “comprehensive identity database”, including biometric signatures of all usual residents of the country maintained by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Census Directorate had begun enrolment of the coastal population in Kerala in 2008.

Other civilian population were enrolled subsequently and, currently, 82 per cent of the eligible population in the state are listed in the NPR, according to Census officials. “We wrapped up civilian enrolment some months ago. We have also generated 1.13 crore Aadhaar cards to the NPR-enrolled,” Rajeev said.
Overseas Companies Seek Tie-Ups Through India's OFB

NEW DELHI — A new Indian procurement policy that gives priority to state-owned defense companies has prompted Elbit Systems and Thales to forge ties with the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which administers 41 weapon factories, and promise to transfer high technology in return for firm orders, an OFB source said.

Under Defence Ministry changes to procurement policy last year, state-owned companies get first priority in weapon procurement, and overseas defense companies will be the last option.

The overseas companies will capitalize on firm orders with OFB in return for transferring technology, the OFB source said.

No executive from Thales or Elbit was available for comment.

Elbit of Israel has agreed to transfer technology for the production of thermal imaging systems to the state-owned electro-optics factory in Deharun, which will supply Indian artillery, armored and paramilitary forces. This deal alone can assure business worth more than $150 million to Elbit with repeat orders expected, the OFB source said.

Thales, a major French electronics group, has agreed to transfer technology for night-vision systems to a Dehradun-based OFB factory that was awarded a contract worth $150 million to supply the devices.

The demand for night-vision devices and optic systems is worth more than $400 million per year.

This year, BAE Systems offered to help OFB with its $2.5 billion modernization of the 41 aging ordnance factories. A BAE executive said its plan, submitted to OFB, promises to increase productivity and reduce manufacturing waste.

When completed, the OFB modernization could create stiff competition for local private-sector companies, forcing them to review their strategy in tapping a weapons market, analysts here said.

Russia is the main supplier of technology to the state-owned ordnance factories, followed by Israel and South Africa.
Other Projects

Among OFB’s major plans are upgrading howitzers bought from Bofors in 1987 from 39 caliber to 45. Winter trials of the prototype were successful, and if summer trials succeed, production would begin at a state-owned factory in Jabalpur, the OFB official said.

The Army has ordered 114 of the upgraded guns, and more orders are likely to follow.

Planned new projects include manufacturing new-generation assault rifles and carbines; 155mm cannons and mounted gun systems; rockets for Russian Smerch multibarrel rocket launchers; rockets for Russian-made Grad launchers; a successor to the L-70 air defense gun; a very-short-range air defense missile; and upgraded ammunition for 84mm rocket launchers, the OFB official said.

OFB is increasing production capacity for Russian T-90 and T-72 tank engines operated by the Indian Army.

In addition, the Nalanda factory will make a variety of ammunition for bi-modular charges, while the Korwa factory would produce carbines, the official said.

Other OFB projects include integrating light field guns on infantry fighting vehicles and development of a stabilized remote-control weapon system.

However, OFB sales have stagnated. Total sales figures for the 2012-13 financial year were $2.07 billion, $2.06 billion for 2011-12 and $1.9 billion for 2010-11.

“Low productivity and obsolete machinery in several of the OFB plants has been responsible for the stagnated sales of OFB,” said Mahindra Singh, a retired Indian Army major general.

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