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Friday, 20 June 2014

From Today's Papers - 20 Jun 2014

Obama: US troops won’t fight in Iraq
Washington, June 19
President Barack Obama said on Thursday the US would send up to 300 military advisers to support Iraqi forces confronting insurgents inspired by the al-Qaida and was prepared to take targeted military action if necessary.

But the US President, speaking at a news conference after meeting his national security team, said: "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again. We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq," he said. "Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis." Obama said the military advisers would support Iraqi security forces in confronting the insurgents.

He said the US was prepared to take "targeted and precise military action" if the situation required. — Reuters

300 military advisers: The US is ready to take ‘targeted’ military action and will send up to 300 military advisers to assist Iraqi forces.
Top Hizb militant killed in Valley
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, June 19
One of the most wanted commanders of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Adil Mir along with two other militants was killed and an Army officer and jawan wounded in an encounter in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district this evening. Mir was categorised as "A++" commander of the indigenous militant outfit.

The two other militants have been identified as Adil Shah and Tariq Parrey. The encounter took place at Buchoo village in Tral, 40 km from Srinagar, around 5.30 pm. The militants opened fire and tried to break the cordon laid by joint teams of elite counter-insurgency unit of the J&K Police, Army and the CRPF around a house.

"In the encounter that last over half an hour, three terrorists of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen were killed," Inspector General, (operations) CRPF, Nalin Prabhat told The Tribune.

An Army officer and jawan were also injured in the gun battle. The spokesman said three AK-47 Rifles were also recovered from the scene.

However, the locals said the three militants were killed when they were returning from the forested area towards the inhabited village.

Police sources said Mir had been active in south Kashmir for the past six years and was heading Hizb’s operations. The police said he was also responsible for the killing of a village headman in April.
 Pentagon plans to send Special Forces to Iraq: Report

Washington, June 19
The US Defence Department is planning to send Special Forces to Iraq which is witnessing a massive renewal of violence, media reported on Thursday. Intelligence gathering will be one of the major missions if the forces are deployed there, Xinhua reported citing CNN.

The security deterioration in Iraq started June 10 when clashes broke out between the Iraqi security forces and hundreds of Sunni militants who took control of Mosul and later seized swathes of northern territories after the Iraqi security forces withdrew. — IANS
 Army wants jawans to serve longer
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 19
Faced with shortage of jawans that is further accentuated by retirements in mid-30s, the Indian Army now wants its ranks to serve for longer periods.

The Adjutant General’s branch has proposed that the retirement of the jawans be based on their age and not on length of service, which is the present case.

A circular has been sent to all the Army Commanders asking them to give their suggestions on the issue by June 30.

Jawans are very fit and well-trained when they leave and by making them stay on in the Army for 4-5 years more would not be a bad option, sources said.

A sepoy retires after serving for 17 years and mostly between the ages of 35 and 40, depending upon the age they joined.

Recruitments of youth are done when they are between 17 ½ years of age and 23 years of age. The AG branch proposes that a sepoy should retire at 42 years of age.

Similar changes have been proposed for other ranks. The Naik and the Havildar who now serve for 22 years and 24 years, respectively, they be allowed till attaining 49 years of age, proposes the AG branch. In case of the Naib Subedar and the Subedar, who now serve for 26 years and 28 years, respectively, be allowed till completing 52 years of age. In the case of the Subedar Major, there is no change, he will be retired on attaining age of 54. Almost 80 percent of the jawans retire at the level of sepoy.

The extensions will help the Army in retaining its trained men for a few years more.
Nuclear tasks for the new government
Sitakanta Mishra
Though the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government brought momentum to India's civil nuclear programme, it could stride only half way through in some vital areas that the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government ought to carry forward. Any policy reversal or putting them on the back-burner, especially in respect to nuclear agreements with several countries, regulatory reform, and rationalisation of liability regime, would damage India's 'responsible state' image, concurrently plunging the ascending nuclear energy production.

Nuclear vision

With the civil nuclear agreement with US, the India-specific safeguards agreement with IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver in 2008 to procure enrichment and reprocessing technology and equipment (ENR), India has initiated civil nuclear cooperation with around two dozen countries and three dozen industrial houses. Currently, 21 nuclear power reactors are in operation producing around 5000 MW. Six reactors under construction are expected to generate an additional 4,800 MW, while another 33 are planned. Today nuclear energy constitutes around 3.6 per cent of the total electricity produced in the country and the vision is to install 20 GWe by 2020.

Uranium supplies from Canada, France, Kazakhstan, and Russia have helped Indian reactors to operate with high capacity. Nine reactors recorded an unprecedented 97 per cent capacity factor during 2011-12. With the imported uranium from France, the Kakrapar reactors recorded 99 per cent capacity factor during 2011-12. Meanwhile, nuclear power output has increased by over 80 per cent i.e. from 18,634 million units in 2006-07 to 35,333 million units during 2013-14. The Unit 1 reactor at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) has reached 90 per cent of its operating capacity and 900 MW were generated by the reactor and will reach to 1,000 MW soon in the final stage.

On April 19, India and Russia have signed a framework agreement for building the third and fourth units of the KNPP and the cost has worked out to Rs 33,000 crore ($5.5 billion) reportedly, lower than the expected $7 billion. An MoU has been signed in for Early Work Agreement (EWA) between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) and Westinghouse for Mithivirdi plant in Gujarat. Meanwhile, India and France have reportedly agreed on the cost of power that will be generated by Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) in Maharastra — Rs 6 per unit, down from Rs 9.18 per unit quoted by the French company Areva initially.
National energy mix
India ultimately aims to achieve a sustainable nuclear fuel cycle using its vast thorium reserves to produce sizable energy to contribute to the national energy mix. By a mix of indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), Fast-Breeder Reactors (FBRs) and Light Water Reactors (LWRs) with foreign technical cooperation. Beyond 2032, large expansion based on FBRs and later thorium-based reactors are envisioned. The 500MW Prototype FBR (PFBR), first commercial nuclear reactor designed to generate more fuel than it burns, stationed in Kalpakkam, drives India closer towards harnessing its vast thorium reserves.

However, fuelling the existing and planned PHWRs and LWRs in the interim, keeping in mind the ambitious production target, exploration of domestic uranium reserves alongside proactive investment abroad should be prioritised. Beside the Jaduguda mine in Jharkhand, if the newly discovered abundant Uranium reserve in Tummalapalli of Andhra Pradesh and Domiasat in Meghalaya is viable for exploration, India can maintain its uranium-based reactors alongside the plutonium and thorium-driven fuel cycle.

Shackled within

With the worldwide goodwill to partner with India in nuclear commerce, India's civil nuclear programme is at a take-off stage. The UPA government strived hard to unshackle India of the international technology embargo, but could not expedite nuclear energy expansion drive that is shackled within. Owing to pockets of resistance and non-cooperation by State governments new projects are in a hostage.

With the absence of coalition compulsions, the Modi-led NDA government can swipe the nuclear baton deftly. At the outset, to garner greater social acceptance of nuclear energy, a few prevailing uncertainties need urgent attention. For example, capability of renewable energy sources to meet India's future electricity needs, cost-effectiveness of nuclear energy, and how safe and secure nuclear energy is.

A comprehensive study (2011-12) by SP Sukhatme of IIT Bombay concludes that renewable energy sources if stretched to their full potential can at best contribute 36 per cent of the total need of electricity during the next six decades; but alone cannot meet the future needs, to provide a desired per capita value of 1,840 kWh/yr. The intermittent nature of solar and wind energy, required heavy base-load power for the manufacturing sector to maintain high economic growth, and mounting energy requirement of residential, commercial and transportation sector combined necessitate leveraging of India's nuclear energy industry.

With fast construction timeframe, high plant load factor, long lifespan, and low fuel costs nuclear energy, even though capital intensive, is competitive. In India's case, nuclear energy is cheaper outside the coal belt and a viable option in terms of Long Range Marginal Cost (LRMC). If we take Tarapur-1and 2 experiences, it has been found to have delivered for four decades cheapest electricity, the current tariff being about Rs 1/kWh. In addition, both primary and secondary economic benefits of nuclear projects for the local, state and national level are huge.

Nevertheless, each time a problem related to nuclear technology takes place anywhere, many draw baseless parallels to India's programme. In the process, the specificities and achievements of Indian nuclear projects are overlooked. India has over 400 reactor years of commercial nuclear operation without any major safety- related accident. Its nuclear plants have survived tsunami and earthquake. Undoubtedly citizens have the legitimate right to raise their concerns and genuine concerns need to be addressed by the authorities; but the fact is that the world has no longer easy energy choices.

The question is "how much risk society is willing to accept to realise the promise of nuclear technology". By bridging the gap between the scientific community and the public, and bringing into light the benefits accrued over the years by the local communities around the existing nuclear facilities the authorities will be able to dispel many thriving misperceptions. Creation of a Social Acceptance Committee can be a precursor to garner greater public support and act upon their grievances in a humane manner.

Regulatory reform

In pursuit of bringing vitality to nuclear regulatory mechanism, the UPA government presented to the Parliament the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill with recommendations of the Parliament Committee on Science & Technology and Environment, which is yet to be passed.

The Bill has proposed to establish the Council of Nuclear Safety to review policies on nuclear safety, but included the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) as a member who also heads the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) that controls nuclear plants. The new government must review the provisions of Bill to ensure independence of the regulatory mechanism (NSRA) from the promoting agency (DAE) and approve it as priority.

Rationalising liability

India's Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act came under serious scrutiny in the wake of the proposal to sign the first commercial civil nuclear agreement with the USA in September last year. The BJP, then in Opposition, remarked any bypassing of operator's "right of recourse" in Clause 17 of the Act as "corruption", and Manmohan Singh's 'gift to American nuclear companies'. Yet, very few realise how uncannily the liability act, that holds nuclear suppliers liable for nuclear accidents, has stymied India's nuclear energy expansion drive. Though many countries have expressed willingness for civil nuclear business with India, not a single commercial contract for the import of reactors has been signed, except the Kudankulam 3 and 4 with Russia recently.

Rationalisation of India's liability regime is desirable and possible by innovative reconciliation of concerns of various stakeholders. First, by having an institutional-procedural understanding with the suppliers Indian operators can provide timely feed-back to the supplier on the wellbeing of a particular component or certify after a period of time the usage of the component that it does not suffer from a "patent or latent defect". Second, find suitable insurance to the extent to cover probable risks involved. To add predictability to suppliers' obligations, liability can be limited to a certain reasonable time frame, like guarantee and warranty period. Lastly, consider creation of an American-style corpus to which the suppliers could be asked to contribute.

Though the UPA government struggled to convince Japan and Australia for nuclear cooperation, could not ink deals with finally. Australia is the largest supplier of uranium and promising to meet India's requirements. An accord with Japan is requisite for reactor import as Japanese manufacturers supply crucial components used in the American and French reactors. Also, GE and Westinghouse are owned by Japanese companies Hitachi and Toshiba.

Making possible civil nuclear deals with Australia and Japan someway, and any move in pushing India's candidature for NSG would attest Modi government's nuclear diplomatic acumen.

MODIfied strategy

The new government has to embark on the dual challenge of maximising benefits from the understandings with global partners while taking along the domestic public to achieve greater acceptance of new nuclear projects.

While carrying forward the UPA's nuclear spell in the immediate-term, capacity building of domestic industrial houses and diversification of India's nuclear industry can be planned in the long-term by implementing the joint ventures with partners like NTPC, Nalco, ONGC, Indian Railways, Indian Oil Corporation, SAIL, etc. Prime Minister Modi, having experience in hosting nuclear project in Gujarat, is expected to bring more vitality to India's nuclear energy vision. Given the employment generation and energy security potential, Paramanu justly fits into Modi's pledge for Sabka Vikas.
MI stops passage to Pakistan for Army ruggers in Indian team
Fourteen members of the national rugby team, all from the Army, were withdrawn from the squad travelling to Lahore for the Asian 5 Nations 15-a-side tournament. According to Indian Rugby Football Union vice-president Aga Hussain, they had to return home from the Wagah border as they didn’t get clearance from the Indian military intelligence.

This depleted the tour party to 12 ruggers, all civilians, on match day against Uzbekistan in their first Test. Two team management officials, Nasser Hussain and Manas Kumar Jena, both recently retired players, had to take the field but India was still a man short for the 15-a-side opener. Top-seeded India lost 23-17, a close game, conceding two penalties in the last seven minutes.

Hussain said permission was denied at the last minute at the Wagah border in Amritsar. “Not just Pakistan, MI clearance is needed for all countries. However, given the prevalent situation in Pakistan, the authorities might have decided to deny clearance for the Army guys to travel,” Hussain said.

Hussain said they had been cleared by the Ministry of External Affairs, but sources in the defence ministry said the Army component of the team could not travel as permission was not forthcoming from the MEA. Senior officials said while MEA had cleared the rugby team, special permissions required for service personnel were not processed. Officials said that they were informed that the special permissions would take at least three weeks, not leaving enough time for the trip. There’s no travel advisory issued for Pakistan. Hussain said: “Since the Army boys travelling there would’ve been sensitive, authorities would’ve taken a call.”

The Army contingent formed the entire forward-pack of the Indian team. Also, the depleted squad means no substitutions in the event of injuries.

The Indian squad did not have the choice of opting out of this International Rugby Board (IRB) tournament either, as this is the only Asia-level 15s that it is scheduled to play, and IRFU would’ve faced sanctions and been docked ranking-points. “We’ll be in rankings trouble if we don’t play any IRB full-members for the whole year,” Hussain said.

Last year, a U-19 colts rugby squad from India had travelled to Pakistan for the Asian juniors, and a seven-a-side squad had done so in 2012. “By and large, rugby-relations have remained cordial and each team travels to the other’s country regularly,” Hussain said.

Former captain Nasser Hussain, now retired, who chipped in as player on Thursday, posted on Indian Rugby Football Union’s Facebook account: “With Match Day today, Team India is faced with a herculean task as they take the field with 12 players + 2 management (to try and make up numbers) in the first A5N test against the Uzbeks. Unfortunately, 12 players from the Indian Army selected to represent the country were denied clearance to travel to Pakistan by the Ministry, on the eve of the team’s departure.

Nonetheless, the boys are
In 'Dhanush', Indian Army's Prayers Answered
 If all goes well over the next few days, the Indian Army's prayers for a towed artillery gun looks set to be answered soon.

The summer trials of 'Dhanush', a 155-mm, 45 calibre gun built by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), a defence public sector unit, are slated to begin at the Pokhran firing ranges from Friday, highly placed sources have told NDTV. The winter trials, a prerequisite along with summer tests, was carried out in the high altitude areas of Sikkim in the winter of 2013.

If the gun, based on the design and manufacturing technology provided by Swedish gun maker Bofors AG in the late 1980s, passes the test in the week-long trials in the heat of Rajasthan's desert, the OFB is likely to get the final clearance for manufacturing the desi but improved version of the original Bofors gun (the earlier version was of 39 caliber and, hence, had a shorter barrel) and fill a critical gap in India's artillery arsenal.

For more than 15 years, the Army's artillery modernisation plan has suffered one way or the other, the tendering process getting embroiled in allegations of manipulation and corruption at various stages. At least two foreign manufacturers have been blacklisted in the process. The Army, which needs over 1,500 towed artillery guns at an estimated cost of over Rs. 10,000 crore, is desperate to get new guns since no new guns have been inducted after the Bofors joined the Indian Army in the late 1980s.

The Army has given an initial indent of 116 guns to the OFB, with an option to increase the order to 416 pieces of artillery. The OFB gun, with its electronic sighting and laying system (Ballistic Control System or BCS) for aiming the gun at the target, will be a major improvement over the Bofors' manual system. More importantly, the Dhanush is likely to be priced at Rs. 14 crore a piece, less than half of a similar gun manufactured abroad.

While the original Bofors gun has a maximum effective range of 27 kilometres, 'Dhanush' can fire a salvo up to 38 kilometres in the plains, those involved with the gun's manufacturing said.

If the trials go off smoothly and the Army then gives the final clearance, the OFB has plans to double its manufacturing capacity from the current 18 guns a year.

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