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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

From Today's Papers - 09 Jul 2014

 Britain still keen to sell Eurofighter to India
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
Britain is understood to be still trying to convince India to re-look at Eurofighter Typhoon instead of going in for the French Rafale aircraft as part of its plans to buy over 100 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

At his meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here, visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague drew her attention towards the technological advantages of Typhoon jets, built on the strength of four European nations —— the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy.

British Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne is understood to have raised the issue at a separate meeting with Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.

London’s renewed bid to sell Typhoons to India came amid reports that the MMRCA tender for which India selected the French Rafale aircraft from the Dassault Aviation stable is still in the works and would take at least another six months to be ready.

The British Foreign Secretary is the first high-level dignitary from his country to touch base with the new Narendra Modi government in India.

MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the meeting between Hague and Swaraj started on a ‘good note’ with Britain announcing its decision to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at London’s Parliament Square.

During their ‘wide-ranging and extensive talks’, the two leaders discussed steps to enhance economic cooperation, civil nuclear cooperation and people-to-people contacts. They also reviewed the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan as also the UN Security Council reforms.

India also invited Britain to become a partner in infrastructure projects such as the Bangalore-Chennai economic corridor.

Swaraj told Hague that she would be visiting Britain in October to participate in the mini-Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) to be held there.
Jaitley rules out release of Henderson report
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today ruled out releasing the top secret Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 war debacle with China.

Less than four months ago, Jaitley had batted for declassifying the same report and even written an article which was posted on the BJP website saying: “I am of the opinion that the report’s contents could have been made public some decades ago.”

The report authored by the then Lt General Henderson Brooks and Brigadier PS Bhagat was commissioned by the Indian Army. The report is classified as ‘top secret’ in India.

On March 18 this year, Australia-based journalist Neville Maxwell, who claims to have a copy of the Henderson-Brooks report, uploaded one part of it on his website. It was widely reported in the papers and television.

The very next day on March 19, Jaitley, the then Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, wrote an article saying: “In the past 52 years, the report has been kept as a closely guarded secret. However, to keep these documents top secret indefinitely may not be in the larger public interest. I am of the opinion that the report’s contents could have been made public some decades ago.”

Today as Defence Minister Jaitley followed the same line taken by his predecessors. “This is a top secret document and has not been declassified so far. Further, the release of this report, fully or partially, or disclosure of any information related to this report will not be in the national interest,” he said, adding that he was aware of reports purporting to disclose a part of the Henderson Brooks Report. The response of the Minister was in lieu of information sought by HK Dua, a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, in March this year.

The BJP had justified the demand for releasing the report on the ground that the country would know how the government pushed the military into a war it could only lose. “What are they trying to hide by making the war report classified?” BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad had then asked. Prasad is now the Union Law Minister.

“We have a right to know what went wrong. We lost the war because of Nehru,” Prasad had said while holding the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru responsible for the debacle.
 India asks UN group to vacate govt house
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
India has asked the United Nations Military Observer Group on India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to vacate a government bungalow in New Delhi, saying the mission has outlived its relevance.

“We have asked it (UNMOGIP) to vacate the bungalow and rationalise its presence in India,’’ MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters here in what clearly suggests the toughening of its stance against the mission which New Delhi has opposed for long.

The bungalow on the Purana Qila road has been the UNMOGIP office for the last four decades. It was allotted to the mission “free of charge”.

Asked if New Delhi’s move reflected a changed policy, the spokesman said, “We are in the budgetary season. Everybody is tightening their belts. You pay for what you get.” He noted that there was no paucity of funds with the UN.

New Delhi’s contention is that the mission has become irrelevant after the Shimla Agreement under which India and Pakistan agreed to resolve all disputes, including Kashmir, bilaterally.
 Advanced BrahMos test-fired

Balasore (Odisha), July 8
India today successfully test-fired an advanced version of the 290-km range Brahmos supersonic cruise missile off the coast of Odisha, giving the country the capability to hit enemy targets hidden behind mountains or in a cluster of buildings with “pinpoint accuracy”.

The missile travelled its full strike range of 290 km in 500 seconds to hit its simulated target after being fired from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur-on-sea, around 15 km from Balasore, BrahMos chief A Sivathanu Pillai said.

“The advanced guidance system integrating multiple navigation satellites, including the Gagan system powered with new software algorithm and developed indigenously by Indian scientists and industries, resulted in pinpoint accuracy of the missile system against hidden land targets in mountain warfare.”

BrahMos and DRDO officials involved in the test-firing at the launch block had said earlier the missile could deviate around 10 metre from its target, but the new system would reduce it to less than 5 metre which will make it highly effective against targets such as hardened concrete bunkers in mountain warfare.

The missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher at 10.38 am, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said. It is capable of carrying a conventional warhead of 300 kg. — PTI
 B’desh awarded major chunk of disputed area

New Delhi, July 8
The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in The Netherlands has awarded Bangladesh 19,467 sq km out of total 25,602 sq km disputed area with India in the Bay of Bengal.

While the verdict was termed as "win-win" situation by Bangladesh, India said it was "studying" the "full implications" of the verdict by the arbitration tribunal.

"The Arbitration Tribunal for Delimitation of Maritime Boundary between Bangladesh and India, established under Annex VII of the UN Convention of Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), rendered its award on July 7, 2014.

"We respect the verdict of the Tribunal and are in the process of studying the award and its full implications," the spokesperson for the External Affairs Ministry said.

"We believe that the settlement of the maritime boundary will further enhance mutual understanding and goodwill between India and Bangladesh by bringing to closure a long pending issue. This paves the way for the economic development of this part of the Bay of Bengal, which will be beneficial to both countries," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh described the verdict a "win-win" situation for the parties as it resolved a long-standing bilateral conflict. "The award enables both sides to move forward into a new future and to build a new era of understanding and cooperation in the maritime sector," Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said in Dhaka. — PTI
Patriotism at sundown
Wagah Retreat drill needs a pause, and a rethink

Two young women turned out in crisp BSF finery stride down the tarmac towards the border gate at Wagah. Patriotic songs rent the air, and there is a large audience getting edgy in their 2,500 seats. This is the Retreat ceremony getting under way on the highway to Lahore, clipped as it is by the Radcliffe Line. Soon, BSF men troop in, in twos and fours. There is no mistaking the strident clip, a certain tension in the air; the audience can feel the blood racing in the veins, an adrenalin rush. India and Pakistan flags are lowered by border guards on the two sides, glowering at each other as if to kill by just looking. The crowd by now is ecstatic. Soon, a brusque and cold handshake by two sentries across the line brings to an end what seems like a celebration. A celebration of hate.

Some would call it patriotism, but if a single driving force for the massive surge of emotions were to be identified it would be hatred on the two sides of the border, which is played upon to arouse a rabid nationalism. To what end? Perhaps no one has taken a pause to think that through. To begin with, there was the regular martial Retreat ceremony, which attracted some audience. The audience wanted more, and they were given more - on both sides of the border. Today it is hard to tell if the spectacle is for the audience or the audience comes for the spectacle.

It has now been decided to expand the seating capacity to 13,000 at Wagah and also start a show at the Hussainiwala border. This amounts to reducing our valiant border guards to Roman gladiators, with the audience baying for blood. They suffer severe joints pains and damage, are made to look ridiculous in the exaggerated goose-stepping. Nationalism in a very basic sense means love for the country, which at times requires us to fight for the country too. But let us not confuse nationalism for aggression. The state-sponsored show of aggression must stop.
Reagan-Era Weapons Hinder India Army as Modi Vows to Stem Decay
Working off 1980s blueprints, India’s biggest state-run weapons maker last year went to the deserts of Rajasthan to test a locally produced piece of artillery. When it fired, the barrel cracked.

A year later, India’s military is still waiting for its first new piece of artillery since its last purchase in 1986. Besides delays from Indian manufacturers who are seeking to replicate a weapon Sweden designed three decades ago, plans to buy 1,500 mid-range howitzers have also failed to be executed.

India’s struggle to upgrade weapons used to guard borders with Pakistan and China shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s challenge in transforming a sector plagued by scandal and inefficiency before his first budget. While the country of 1.2 billion people is both a nuclear power and the world’s biggest arms importer, defense spending is near a half-century low as a percentage of the economy and many weapons are obsolete.

“The fact India has not been able to buy artillery is symptomatic of the problems of governance within its armed forces,” said Harsh Pant, a defense studies professor at King’s College in London who has written books on India-China ties. “Overhauling the military is going to be a huge challenge. Modi has the mandate to do it, but he is going to have to move very quickly because he will come up against lots of entrenched interests that don’t want reforms.”

workers manufacture parts for an Indian Army mine protected vehicle (MPV) at an... Read More

The previous government budgeted defense spending for the year ending March 31 at 2.2 trillion rupees ($37 billion), up 10 percent from the previous 12 months. India’s consumer-price inflation exceeds 8 percent, the highest in Asia.
Spending Lags

In the last financial year, defense spending was estimated at 1.8 percent of gross domestic product, the lowest since 1963, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, a government funded research group, said last year. Per person India’s military spending is about three times less than China and among the lowest in Asia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

About 60 percent of defense spending goes to paying salaries for about 1.3 million soldiers, the world’s third-largest standing army. What’s left is used mostly to buy weapons from abroad because India’s state-run factories aren’t able to meet the army’s needs, leaving tanks without shells and soldiers without bulletproof vests, according to a parliamentary defense committee report published last year.

“We are lagging at a faster and faster pace,” Avinash Chander, head of the department for Defense Research and Development Organisation, a government unit that develops military technology, said this week. “That requires resources commitment as well as a focus on the key areas.”
Foreign Investment

Standing on the deck of India’s biggest warship last month, Modi called for the country to minimize its reliance on imports and become self-sufficient in weaponry. His government is considering proposals to make it easier for foreign companies to invest in the defense sector.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry, a top business lobby, says it supports raising the limit to more than 50 percent only on a case-by-case basis for equipment such as aircraft engines and advanced missile guidance systems. The limit is now capped at 26 percent for most investments, with anything more than that requiring special approval.

Foreign companies with advanced technology will require management control before investing in India, according to Rahul Bedi, an analyst at IHS Jane’s in New Delhi.

“Nobody in their right mind is going to transfer technology to the Indians with the Indians in charge,” Bedi said. “It doesn’t make any commercial sense for anybody.”
U.S. Interest

Raising the investment cap would make it more attractive for companies such as Boeing Co. (BA), BAE Systems Plc and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) to tie up with domestic firms to make weapons. In the last 13 years India’s defense industry has drawn about $5 million in foreign investment, less than the amount for glue and gelatin production, government data shows.

“Companies like Lockheed have targeted India as one of the most important and appealing weapons buyers over the next two decades,” said Loren Thompson, an analyst with the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Virginia-based research organization, and a consultant to defense companies including Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin.

“What the U.S. companies see is a rapidly expanding economy in which the military standards are high enough to justify the purchase of world-class weapons,” he said.

India surpassed China in 2010 to become the world’s largest arms importer, and now buys three times as many weapons as its northern neighbor, according to SIPRI. While India depends on imports for 70 percent of its weapons, many planned purchases have stalled.
Jets Delayed

Two years after Paris-based Dassault Aviation SA (AM) won an $11 billion order for 126 Rafale fighter jets, the world’s biggest contract for warplanes in about two decades, a shortage of funds is holding up the deal.

“It is fair for complex matters that it takes some time,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in New Delhi last week, expressing his frustration over the delays. “There is a difference between some time and too long.”

In 1986, when India last purchased artillery, Sweden’s Bofors AB was accused by Indian police of paying $14.3 million in bribes to obtain the $1.3 billion contract. No one has ever been convicted in the scandal. Three tenders for artillery since then have been scrapped because of corruption concerns.

“The lack of new artillery undermines our defense preparedness very seriously,” said Dipankar Banerjee, founding director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi, who commanded troops on the border with Pakistan. “Modi has his heart in the right place with the military, but that doesn’t mean he will be able to execute that plan.”
Army Chief General Bikram Singh Addresses China's National Defence University Cadets
Beijing:  Army Chief General Bikram Singh today addressed the cadets of the National Defence University in Beijing, a day after holding hectic parleys with China's military top brass on a host of issues including the implementation of the new border defence mechanism.

On the last day of his visit to Beijing, he addressed the cadets of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) National Defence University, a rare event for an Indian Army Chief.

Mr Singh, who is the first Indian Army Chief to visit China in nine years, interacted with the cadets on India-China relations and the ties between the two militaries, which remained frozen for long until few years ago following the 1962 border clash.

Mr Singh spoke on strategic military leadership challenges in the 21 st century, without making any direct reference to Sino-India ties but later answered questions on the bilateral ties and relations between the two militaries, Indian officials said.

The Indian media was not invited to the event and officials were reluctant to provide details of the interaction.

Mr Singh, who is retiring this month, apparently wanted it to be non-media event, they said.

He will go to Shanghai tomorrow where he would visit a naval base and visit a Chinese naval ship before leaving for home.

Commenting on his visit, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the talks focused on improving militaries ties despite the "historical issues".

"India and China have more common interests than divergences. The two countries have the capacity to deal with historical issues," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told a media briefing with the Chinese officials.

"Military to military relations are an important component of bilateral relations. The two countries should enhance mutual trust and practical cooperation, properly manage disputes and establish a military to military action that is commensurate with the bilateral relations," he said.

Yesterday Mr Singh, who is also the Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, held talks with Chief of General Staff of PLA General Fang Fenghui, Vice Chairman of China's Central Military Commission General Fan Changlong, Vice President Li Yuanchao and Vice Executive Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui.

Mr Singh held wide-ranging talks with Fang, discussing increasing of military to military contacts, implementation of last year's Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) and increasing high level exchanges between the two militaries.
Sale of Tobacco in Army Canteens Be Stopped: Vardhan

Armed forces establishments should stop selling tobacco products through their canteens and the policy providing such items at a discount to armed forces personnel should be revisited, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has suggested.

In a letter to Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, Vardhan also suggested that all defence establishments including naval ships should be declared 'No Smoking' zones.

He wrote that the sale of alcohol and tobacco is commonplace in defence canteens. "The anti-smoking efforts have so far not focused on this particular health risk that puts thousands of armed force personnel at great risk which is entirely preventable," he wrote.

The Health Minister further said that there is no data available as to the extent of smoking in Indian Armed forces and consequently the adverse health impact on the defence personnel following tobacco use.

"To my understanding there is no policy formulated by the Armed Forces on tobacco sales and its use," he said.

Noting that tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, Vardhan said that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco kills half of its users.

"In numbers, tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year," he said.

He said military personnel are required to pass fitness tests, undergo periodic drug tests, and meet weight and body-composition standards or face disciplinary action, including possible discharge.

"Yet despite the underlying expectations for superlative fitness and despite the availability of state-of-the-art tobacco-cessation programs, many military personnel still use tobacco, and its use remains accepted, accommodated and promoted in the armed forces. Why?

In his letter, Vardhan wrote that military personnel are sometimes said to need tobacco for stress relief but countered it saying that tobacco users in the military report higher levels of stress than non-users.

So perhaps the stress being relieved is actually derived from nicotine withdrawal, he added.

He said the argument that tobacco is a necessity for military service members devalues their long-term quality of life and ignores the military's obligation to provide healthy, effective means of stress relief to service members.

The Health Minister also said that efforts to remove tobacco from military stores might be resisted by the tobacco industry and its allies.

"But many tobacco-control policies, such as clean- indoor-air-laws and cigarette laws have been similarly characterised as harbingers of government inclusiveness," Vardhan wrote.

He said that he strongly feels that armed forces need to be physically and mentally fit and avoid using substances that compromise their health and well being.

"Therefore the armed forces must stop selling tobacco products through their canteens and the Ministry may revisit its policy of making available cigarettes and other tobacco products at a discount to the members of the services," Vardhan said.

Such a step should be backed up by education and information campaign so that the opposition to the proposed measures may be nipped in the bud, he said.

"Furthermore, all defence establishments including naval ships should be declared 'No Smoking' zones. This would go a long way in creating a healthy and fit force that can take up any enemy challenge with grit and determination," he said.

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