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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

From Today's Papers - 10 Jun 2014

10 militants among 29 dead as Karachi siege ends
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

After a 13-hour gruelling encounter, Pakistan security forces on Monday gunned down all 10 terrorists involved in the brazen attack on Karachi's Jinnah International Airport.

The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed the responsibility for the attack that took place just before midnight and left as many as 29 persons, including security personnel and civilians dead.

The TTP said the assault was in revenge to killing of its former chief Hakimullah Mahsud in a drone attack last year. The outfit also blamed the military of killing scores of women and children in recent bombing precision attacks in North Waziristan.

In a joint action by the Army, the Rangers, Airport Security Force and police, all ten attackers were killed, said officials. "Three of them blew themselves up in desperation when they surrounded by security forces," they said. Among dead were 11 Airport Security Force peronnel, two Rangers, four PIA officials and a policeman. As many 26 persons were injured in the attack.

After regaining control of the sprawling airport, spokesman for the paramilitary Rangers Sibtain Rizvi, told reporters, "The attack is over and we have cleared the area of all militants."

The Karachi airport has been reopened for passengers and all flight operations have been resumed. The terrorists, who entered the airport disguised as securitymen, were planning a lengthy siege of the key facility, said officials. The attackers disguised as ASF personnel entered the old Karachi airport terminal from two sides in batches of five each, were not immediately identified though some officials said most of them looked like Uzbek.

(With agency inputs)

13-hour gun battle

    Airport reopened for passengers after 13-hour gunfight
    Militants’ backpacks were filled with food and ammunition
    They were also carrying XStat devices which can heal gunshot wounds within seconds
    11 ASF personnel, two Rangers officials, a police officer and four Pakistan International Airlines officials are among the dead.
 China: New visa pact with India soon
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 9
China on Monday said it has reached an understanding with India for a visa simplification agreement, which, it hoped, would be signed soon to promote people-to-people contact.

Addressing a press conference here, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed Beijing’s readiness to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Delhi to further intensify economic links between the two countries.

Wang, who is here as the Special Envoy of President Li Jinping, called on President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Chinese leader said he had delivered a message to Modi from his President. Li has praised Modi’s leadership and sought ‘peaceful cooperation’ and inclusive development of the two countries.

“Under your leadership, India will achieve greater development and progress. India and China are partners in long-term strategic cooperation. Therefore, let us work together to achieve peaceful cooperation and inclusive development for the benefit of our people and in the interest of peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and in the world,” said Li in his message.

The Chinese Foreign Minister confirmed that President Li would be visiting India later this year. The date of the visit was being worked out. He said Modi had spent a lot of time discussing with him the cultural links between the two countries. Modi, he said, was of the view that both countries must remember that they were ancient civilizations and could together educate the world.

Modi said there was a huge potential for greater cooperation between India and China for a strong and prosperous Asia. He also talked about joining hands in various areas such as counter-terrorism and promoting vigorous cultural exchanges.

China was well aware of India’s concerns over increasing trade deficit between the two countries, said Yi. On its part, China said it was ready to import more from India. Both countries should create more favourable environment for promoting investments, it said.

On boundary dispute, Wang said the two countries were committed to maintaining peace and tranquility along their border and ensuring that the dispute did not cast a shadow on bilateral ties in other areas.

Asked why China continued to issue stapled visas to Indian residents of Arunachal Pradesh, he said there were relatively big areas of dispute between the two countries in the eastern sector. ‘’As a special arrangement, we have resorted to the practice of issuing stapled visas…this is a gesture of goodwill. It does not compromise with our respective positions.”

Beijing presses for FTA

    Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed Beijing’s readiness to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Delhi to further intensify economic links between two countries
    Wang called on President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He confirmed that President Li Jinping would be visiting India later this year. The date of the visit was being worked out
 India to have National Maritime Authority
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 9
In what signals a major change in the country’s defence policy initiated by the newly elected BJP-led NDA regime, India will have a National Maritime Authority and will also open up the defence manufacturing sector to foreign direct investment (FDI).

President Pranab Mukherjee, while addressing a joint session of Parliament today, said: “Recognising the importance of coastal security, my government will set up a National Maritime Authority”.

The announcement is significant as this will be an overarching body that will look at all angles of security, trade, commerce and offshore oil-rigs associated with the 7,516 km-long coastline.

The Ministry of Defence-backed think-tank, the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), in its policy brief to the new government on May 22, had suggested the setting up of a National Maritime Commission - something like what the President promised today.

After the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the Indian Navy had been mandated as the overall security provider while coordination with other ministries was lagging. The waters around India offer fish, minerals, gas and oil that need to be tapped for the benefit of the economy.

Speaking of reforms in defence procurement, including increasing FDI and opening up the sector, the President said: “The government will encourage domestic industry, including private sector, to have a larger share in design and production of defence equipment. We will introduce policies to strengthen technology transfer, including through liberalised FDI in defence production”.

At present, the FDI limit is 26 per cent with selective cases being allowed higher investment. Under the new regime, the Commerce Ministry has suggested three-graded FDI — 49 per cent, 76 per cent and up to 100 per cent FDI.

The President hoped that the country would emerge as a global platform for defence manufacturing, including software. “(It) will strengthen our defence and spur industrial development as well as exports.” He promised a stronger defence preparedness plan by modernising armed forces and addressing the shortage of manpower on priority.

Mukherjee, who was defence minister from May 2004 to October 2006 during the first term of the UPA, promised on behalf of the NDA regime, to set up a ‘Veterans Commission’ to address grievances of retired soldiers.

“My government will do everything to repay the debt of our brave and selfless soldiers”, he said while adding that a National War Memorial to honour the gallantry of our soldiers will be built. The “one rank, one pension” scheme will be implemented.

An overarching body

    An overarching body, it will look at all angles of security, trade, commerce and offshore oil-rigs associated with the 7,516 km coastline.
    Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, in its policy brief to the new government on May 22, had suggested the setting up of the commission
    After the November 2008 terror attacks, the Indian Navy had been mandated as the overall security provider.
 Maoist belt to get more choppers

New Delhi, June 9
Making it clear that Maoist insurgency will be dealt with an iron hand, government today agreed to use helicopter for troops’ deployment in conflict situations and favoured increasing the chopper strength for Naxal-hit areas.

At a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, it was also decided to provide multi-skilled 2,000 personnel for carrying out development work in Chhattisgarh which has been worst-hit by Naxal violence.

During the meeting, which was attended by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and top Home Ministry officials, Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami gave a presentation during which he informed that four helicopters were being used for rescue operations or troops in conflict situations.

The state government requested the Centre to use helicopters for troops’ deployment or sending reinforcement when an encounter is on, which was agreed to, official sources said.

It was agreed in principle by the Home Ministry to increase the number of helicopters to six subject to approval by the Defence Ministry, they said.

Facing shortage of contractors for carrying out development work in Naxal-hit areas, the Chief Minister sought the Centre’s help in providing nearly 2,000 multi-skilled personnel having technical knowledge.

“Two technical battalions (about 2,000 men) comprising engineers have been sought for construction projects in Chhattisgarh,” Raman Singh told reporters here after the two-hour meeting.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) had been involved in various projects in Chhattisgarh till 2010. However, it started withdrawing after the then UPA government decided to strengthen road network along India-China border for which BRO is the first choice. — PTI
 290-km range Brahmos test-fired

Karwar (Karnataka), June 9
Indian-Russian joint venture Brahmos Aerospace Monday test-fired its 290-km range supersonic missile from the yet-to-be commissioned stealth destroyer INS Kolkata off India's west coast here in Karnataka, officials said.

"Brahmos' representatives successfully conducted the installation test-firing of the cruise missile from the launcher in coordination with the Mumbai-based Mazagon Dockyard Ltd, which built the warship," a senior naval official told IANS here, about 500 km from Bangalore and 660 km from Mumbai.

Though the lead ship in its class was launched in 2006, it has been undergoing sea trials for its commissioning into Indian Navy later this year. — IANS
 More Punjab students making it to NDA
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 9
Twenty-three cadets from the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Armed Forces Preparatory Institute (AFPI) at Mohali have made it to the final merit list of the NDA course commencing shortly.

They were among the 41 cadets of the AFPI’s second batch that took the entrance examination. Last year, seven cadets from the AFPI had been selected for the NDA.

Besides cadets from the AFPI, there are 10-12 students from the state who have also made it to the final merit list.

The NDA admits 300 cadets for each course and cadets from the AFPI comprise nearly 8 per cent of the course strength. Besides AFPI cadets, 10-12 students from Punjab join the NDA course each semester, taking the total strength from Punjab to 33-35, making up to 12 per cent of the course strength.

“This is the largest number of youth from Punjab that has joined the NDA in 20 years,” said Maj Gen BS Grewal (retd), AFPI director.

“When I was a cadet at the NDA in 1968, youth from Punjab comprised nearly 30 per cent of the course strength. When I was posted there as the Deputy Commandant in 2009, the figure was down to 2 per cent. In one course, there were only six boys from Punjab,” he added.

The AFPI, a Punjab government initiative, admits selected students after Class X for a two-year programme to train and orient them towards officer-like qualities. The institute is affiliated with a school to enable them to complete their Class XII, which is required for joining the NDA. A similar institute to impart training girls for getting a commission in the Armed Forces is being constructed.

Once known as the sword arm of the nation for contributing the highest number of officers to the armed forces among all states, the share of Punjab had plummeted owing to various socio-economic factors. Even the intake from Punjab in other service institutions such as the Indian Military Academy has been abysmal. Not only officers, Punjab is also facing problems in getting the right talent for the rank and file.
China Prepared to Settle India Border Dispute, Wang Says
China is ready for a final settlement of its border disputes with India and prepared to invest more in the South Asian nation if trade rules are eased, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said late yesterday in New Delhi.

“Through years of negotiation, we have come to an agreement on the basics of a boundary agreement, and we are prepared to reach a final settlement,” Wang told reporters in the Indian capital near the end of a two-day visit that included a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India and China are seeking to prevent their territorial disagreements from affecting economic ties. China is India’s largest trading partner and their combined trade was $49.5 billion in the April-December period, according to Indian government data. The two nations are home to one third of the world’s population.

Chinese companies would be prepared to invest in developing Indian infrastructure, including high-speed train networks, and the nation’s manufacturing sector with more attractive regulations, Wang said. The two countries agreed to relax visa rules to boost tourism during his visit, Wang said.

“China-India cooperation is like a massive buried treasure waiting to be discovered,” Wang said. “The potential is massive.”

The Chinese government may be motivated to resolve tensions with India as Chinese relations with Japan and Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam and the Philippines have deteriorated in recent months over other territorial disputes.

Modi, elected prime minister in May, has accepted an invitation from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for an early visit to Beijing, Modi’s office said late yesterday.
Territorial Claims

India accuses China of occupying 38,000 square kilometers (about 15,000 square miles) of territory in Jammu and Kashmir, while the government in Beijing lays claim to 90,000 square kilometers of land in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

India and China have both made claims to territory held by the other and clashed during a brief border conflict in 1962. The potential for hostilities was highlighted last year when India alleged Chinese troops had crossed into Indian-held territory in Ladakh. The incident, the most serious dispute between the neighbors in a quarter of a century, triggered a three-week escalation in tensions ending with an agreement negotiated by army commanders.

Modi in his election campaign this year promised to take a harder line on protecting India’s borders with China than his predecessor as the two nations aim to end troop clashes that have hobbled their relationship for the last five decades. Modi warned China to drop its “territorial mindset” in February and said his country’s weakness had encouraged China’s army to enter Indian territory last year.

“With China, Modi will be trying to balance trying to win their investment for things like infrastructure projects, and at the same time trying to reinforce the borders,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor in Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj met Wang on June 8 for more than three hours, Syed Akbaruddin, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters in New Delhi then. The top diplomats talked about increasing Chinese investment into Indian industrial parks, he said.

“Both the leaders felt there was a tremendous untapped potential for growth of economic ties,” Akbaruddin said, adding that “everything” was discussed, including countering terrorism. “China is a neighbor with whom we share a long border. Our neighborhood is a major focus of our government.”

In his press briefing yesterday, Wang said: “We regard each other as a priority and each other’s development as an opportunity.”

Modi’s first trip abroad will be to Bhutan later this month, followed by Japan in July and then the U.S. in September, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs. Modi is also likely to attend a summit with leaders of China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa next month and the United Nations General Assembly in September.
Indian army’s injections recovered from Karachi airport attackers
Karachi- Several made-in-India injections “Factor-8” have been recovered during a search operation at the Karachi airport, officials said today.
Indian army uses Factor-8 injections in frontline combats and these injections are not available in markets.
Officials said that these injections are believed to be used for stopping bleeding. All the ten militants were killed following operation of the security forces.
However, Pakistan authorities have not yet confirmed this and have said they are investigating the issue.
Army places part orders for Indian Bofors
NAGPUR: Even as summer trials for the indigenous 155mm guns, made on the lines of the Bofors howitzers, are planned this month, the army has placed a part order with the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to make 20 pieces of these howitzers. This is over and above the guns that are being put up for trials.

"This indicates that the army will be finally inducting the indigenous Bofors. We have already begun procuring material to meet this order," said MC Bansal, chairman of OFB, during a visit to National Academy of Defence Production (NADP). The institute trains officers joining the Indian Ordnance Factory Service (IOFS) cadre.

"We are confident that the guns will pass summer trials also, as there is no room for any doubt. This may be followed by a bulk order of more than 100 guns," said Bansal. So far, as many as 1,800 shells have been fired during the trials, which is probably the highest ever. There was one incident of barrel burst last year, but that was due to defective ammunition in the shell, and not because of the gun's design, Bansal stressed.

OFB is currently designing the 155x45 mm calibre guns, but work is also underway to develop 155x52mm guns, which would have a better range, said Bansal. The army is scouting the global market for the higher calibre guns. Though he did not specify a time frame for it, Bansal said that it is a gradual process and so far certain subsystems of the 155x52 mm howitzer have been developed.

Bansal said OFB will also soon put up carbine machine guns developed jointly with Defence and Research Development Organization (DRDO) for trials. Earlier, there were plans to develop the weapon with Singapore-based ST Kinetics, but the project could not take off following a commission scandal.

He said work on developing the indigenous assault rifle has also been put on the fast track. "There were stoppages during the firing trials conducted last month, but it is a part of product development, and will be come over," said the OFB chief.

At the same time, DRDO has been asked to make certain modifications in the multimodal hand grenade also planned to be manufactured by the ordnance factory. There were problems related to the timing of explosion once the grenade's pin is taken off, which has to be addressed before going ahead with bulk production, said Bansal.

On the government plans to have 100% FDI in the defence sector, he said OFB does not see it as competition, since certain components of strategic importance that do not pass economic feasibility will continue to be made in the ordnance factories.
Ministry to Hang Up On Anonymous Complaints that Delay Defence Deals

NEW DELHI: It has taken only a fortnight for the Narendra Modi government to pinpoint a major bottleneck in timely completion of defence projects. Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh made it clear that the new government’s focus will be on removing the existing bottlenecks and to tackle issues facing the defence deals that are stuck due to “investigation” into each and every complaint that lands in the Defence Ministry.

To remove hurdles in ensuring smooth supply of urgently required military equipment to the country’s 13.1-lakh armed forces, the Defence Ministry henceforth, will not cancel or stop the procurement process based on “frivolous” complaints. It will proceed with the process till a court of law found substance in them and pronounced a sentence.

In the previous UPA regime, then Defence Minister A K Antony made it a practice to put on hold procurement of military hardware, even on the basis of anonymous complaints.

“One particular issue we would like to address is the deals getting delayed or cancelled or sent to investigation over anonymous and frivolous complaints, as was witnessed during the previous UPA regime,” he said to a specific query.

In nearly all defence deals, anonymous and frivolous complaints come on behalf of arms firms that have lost a tender or a contract. Such complaints usually raise questions on the procurement procedure followed or the winner‘s product not meeting the set standards. “Many a times, the complaints are from the defence firms that have lost a tender or a contract. They complain against procedures followed in the selection or try to mar the selection process itself in favour of their rival company. These complaints and anonymous letters delay the acquisition process,” Rao Inderjit Singh noted.

On other occasions, there are complaints of bribery or pecuniary benefits obtained by those officers who are part of the selection process.

While the armed forces are looking at quick procurement in view of the criticality of the situation and the urgent requirement that they have, their needs do not get fulfilled due to the long-drawn investigation into those complaints.

As of now, several key procurement projects of the armed forces are stuck over complaints, both anonymous and some frivolous.

One such procurement stuck over a decade now, after being cancelled once previously in these years, is the 197 Light Utility Helicopters for the Army and Air Force. In the latest tendering process, which began in 2008, has been moving forward in spurts and starts, getting derailed in the middle of 2013 again.

The procurement of the helicopters is key to the survival of Indian Army men posted in inhospitable Siachen Glacier, where the only means to transport goods and personnel is by these light utility helicopters.

The Defence Ministry has not decided to not to initiate action such as cancellation of deals or suspension of contracts while investigation is in progress, but to proceed with the procurement process. “Punitive action against offenders in such complaints would be taken against defence companies and individuals involved only after charges are proved in a court of law,” Rao Inderjit Singh said.

Earlier, action was being taken only on the basis of complaints. That scuttled acquisition plans, each and every time.

In fact, Antony had also admitted to such complaints landing on his desk on a number of occasions. But his response had always been: “We will never brush any complaint under the carpet. We will not dump any complaint into the dustbin. We will inquire into them.”

This stand of Antony had led to a large number of complaints reaching him. Most of the complaints were sent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a probe.

Between 2010 and 2013, the defence ministry had referred a record number of 90 cases to the CBI in those three years. The ministry had referred 22 cases each in 2010 and 2011 to the CBI. In 2012, the ministry sent 36 cases to the agency and in January of 2013, it referred 10 cases.

Antony admitted in the Rajya Sabha in March 2013 in reply to the members‘ queries that complaints alleging irregularities and corruption in defence deals are received from “various sources from time to time”.

Of these 90 cases, 42 were still under investigation, 41 cases were pending trial and five cases had been closed by the CBI after recommending administrative action. Since then, Antony had recommended 20-odd complaints more to the CBI in 2013-14.

Rao Inderjit Singh, who was the Minister of State for Defence Production in the UPA-I government was a victim of such complaints. Singh lost his portfolio after some complaints were sent to Antony against his junior minister alleging that he was involved in a defence land scam in Kandivili in Mumbai involving a private company called Neo Pharma Limited. The complaint was referred to the CBI in January 2012 and after a probe, the agency found nothing wrong against Rao Inderjit Singh and closed the case as such in March 2013.

However, the Defence Ministry under Antony had put the tendering process in cold storage. It’s a year since that action.

A letter purportedly written by a middleman claimed that a serving Brigadier of the Indian Army had sought a bribe of Rs 25 crore from a company that is not even in the race in the tender anymore.

Key Projects held up

M777 ultra light howitzers: In mid-2012, Defence Minister A K Antony received an anonymous letter complaining that the selection of the howitzers was not done as per the procurement procedure and that the gun, of which the Army required 145 units, had not met the standards. Along with the anonymous letter, a few pages of a report on the selection trial held on the howitzer were also sent as an attachment. The papers suggested that the selected gun had not met some of the parameters set on its performance. Antony ordered a probe into the matter and after a six-month probe into the complaint, no substance was found to proceed on the matter. Two years hence, the `3,500-crore contract signing is still pending.

Light Utility Helicopters: In December 2007, the `7,500-crore tender for 197 of the helicopters was cancelled by Antony after complaints emerged primarily from a rival company that the then winner Eurocopter (present day Airbus Helicopters) had not followed the procedures for selection. The complaint was that the company had not presented the helicopter it was offering for sale to India during one of the trials and hence was a violation of the procurement procedure. The Defence Ministry then went in for a reissue of the tender in 2008 after going through a four-year process in the now cancelled tender. Even the second tender faces the threat of cancellation. Neither of the two firms now in the race are responsible for the procurement process getting derailed in the middle of 2013. In an Italian probe into corruption charges against its firm AgustaWestland, the investigators stumbled upon a letter purportedly written by an arms middleman, claiming that a serving Indian Army Brigadier had sought a ` 25 crore bribe from the Italian company executive to favour the company in the tender. AgustaWestland was eliminated in the trial stage. Only European consortium Eurocopter and Russian Kamov are in the race.

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