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Sunday, 20 July 2014

From Today's Papers - 20 Jul 2014

Private players get go-ahead to build defence aircraft
Govt clears military procurement proposals worth Rs 21,000 crore
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 19
The Ministry of Defence today altered the mode of purchase of equipment for the Indian armed forces by allowing local private sector companies to produce military aircraft in collaboration with foreign collaborators.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley took the decision as he chaired his first Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting. This breaks the monopoly of lackadaisical Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) that have so far been selected for big-ticket defence purchases.

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a DPSU, currently has the capacity to produce military planes in the country.

The government further cleared procurement proposals worth over Rs 21,000 crore, including five supply ships for the Indian Navy, 32 advanced light helicopters for the Coast Guard, specialised search and rescue equipment for the three services — the IAF, Army and Navy.

Jaitley’s predecessor AK Antony had in November 2010 threatened DPSUs against a similar action but never acted on it. “From now on, there will be no handholding and no nominations… They will have to compete with the Indian private sector,” Antony had then said.

Jaitely today did exactly what Antony had warned of and opened up the defence manufacturing sector to private companies.

Jaitley had recently opened up the defence sector by allowing 49 per cent foreign direct investment.

Boost for Indian companies

    Local private sector companies can now produce military aircraft in collaboration with foreign collaborators
    Indian private industry will handle the Rs 15,000-crore project to replace IAF’s fleet of 56 Hawker Siddeley HS 748 Avro transport planes
    The decision will go to the Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by PM
    Narendra Modi, for ratificationArun Jaitley, defence minister

This is going to be a significant project in which the private sector would be the sole player and this will lead to capacity building,
Defences stronger, but concerns persist
Many urgent lessons were learnt from the war, but some were forgotten just as quickly. The enthusiastic start to revamp the security and defence apparatus has not been able to keep pace.
by Dinesh Kumar

The last 15 years since the Kargil War ended have been eventful and rapid paced. Barely a year-and-a-half after the intrusions in Kargil were vacated, terrorists conducted a gruesome broad daylight attack on Parliament in December 2001. With evidence pointing to Pakistan, India mobilised its armed forces on the border with its western neighbour. This was the country’s largest military mobilisation since the 1971 Indo-Pak war. On two occasions during the 10-month mobilisation named Operation Parakram, India came close to attacking Pakistan twice. Eventually, in October 2002, India withdrew its forces from the border without it serving much purpose. Pakistan had called India’s bluff. But the mobilisation once again exposed the Army’s lack of preparedness and other deficiencies to fight a war and led to it subsequently adopting the Cold Start Doctrine, a posture once employed by NATO forces during
the Cold War.
 Terror attacks

Yet two years later, in November 2003, India and Pakistan reached an agreement to cease fire along the J&K border. But ‘peace’ on the LoC did not translate into peace within the country. A series of bomb blasts, some of them suspected to be sponsored by Pakistan’s ISI, rocked several Indian cities over the years that followed. The most horrific of course was the terror attack carried out by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai in November 2008. Once again India was under pressure to teach Pakistan a lesson. Quite characteristically Pakistan has been economical in cooperating with India in bringing the Pakistan-based master planners to justice.

While terror attacks have been fewer since, over the last year-and-a-half not only has the Pakistan Army been randomly violating the cease fire agreement along the LoC and the international border in J&K, but it has also been engaging in barbaric acts such as beheading Indian soldiers.

China, which for many years maintained a quiet profile along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) that divides J&K and Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin, has meantime been engaging in infiltration and aggressive patrolling across the LAC. On occasions, deft diplomacy has helped defuse difficult situations but has not put a halt to China’s ground and aerial intrusions. All in all, India’s internal and external security situation remains far from satisfactory. At the best of times what has been prevailing is negative peace.

LoC environment

An immediate and predictable decision taken by the Army soon after the Kargil War was the permanent deployment of troops along the 160-km stretch of the Line of Control (LoC) which, until that year, was routinely vacated by both sides each winter. A Mountain Division comprising about 20,000 soldiers has since been on permanent guard duty in this region to prevent a recurrence. The 8 Mountain Division forms part of a post-Kargil War raised 14 Corps. With this, a Corps each has been deployed in each of the three regions of J&K — the Leh-based 14 Corps for Ladakh, the Srinagar-based 15 Corps for the Kashmir valley and the Nagrota-based 16 Corps for the Jammu-Poonch area. All three Corps form part of the Army’s Udhampur-based Northern Command.

For added surveillance, the Army has since acquired Israeli-made Heron and Searcher unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In October 2001, a little over two years after the war ended, India launched its first military intelligence satellite. Known as the Technical Experiment Satellite (TES) and equipped with a space-borne synthetic aperture radar capability, the TES provides for an all-weather round-the-clock coverage with about one metre resolution pictures which are far better than the 5.2 metre resolution capability that was available from Indian satellites prior to and during the Kargil War.

On ground, Israel-supplied sensors have been installed along portions of the LoC to detect infiltration. But most of these sensors have been installed along the Kashmir valley and the Rajouri-Poonch stretch of the LoC from where Pakistan-supported terrorists have been infiltrating on a regular basis. The infiltration has since reduced but not ceased. J&K continues to be afflicted by Pakistan-sponsored insurgency and secessionism.

A sore point that still remains along the LoC in the Kargil region is that Point 5353 continues to be occupied by the Pakistan Army. Located on the LoC, this mountain feature provides a commanding view of Tiger Hill and the National Highway 1A which connects the Kashmir valley to Kargil, Leh and beyond via Zoji La and Dras. The Pakistan Army has fortified its positions on Point 5353 with reinforced concrete bunkers and built a track to carry supplies from a supply base located on its side of the LoC. Pakistan artillery observers can easily direct fire on a 25-km stretch of the national highway visible to them.

There has been little headway in creating an alternative all-weather route via Manali (Himachal Pradesh) to Leh and thence onwards to Kargil (located to its west) and the Siachen glacier (located to its northwest). One of the biggest challenges in making this route a reality is building a tunnel under the Rohtang Pass (13,000 feet), which gets blocked due to heavy snowfall during winter. In contrast, Zoji La (11,500 feet) opens earlier than the Rohtang Pass. On the borders with China, India has woken somewhat late to realise the need to build roads and other infrastructure in those areas. The Chinese are far more advanced. The Indian Army is currently in the process of raising its first-ever Mountain Strike Corps keeping in view Chinese posturing along the disputed Sino-Indian border.

Whether it is a case of too little too slow will be known with time.

Restructuring, but not enough

On July 29, 1999, three days after the Kargil War ended, the government instituted a Kargil Review Committee (KRC) headed by the late K Subrahmanyam, a retired civil servant and eminent defence analyst, to review the events leading to the Pakistani aggression in Kargil district of Ladakh and to recommend measures to safeguard national security against armed intrusions. The report, which was submitted in December 1999 and later made public, led to the constitution of a Group of Ministers (GoM) Committee headed by LK Advani in April 2000 to examine the entire gamut of the national defence structure and formulate specific proposals for implementation of the report prepared by the KRC. The GoM, which held 27 meetings, set up four task forces, one each to specifically examine the Intelligence Apparatus, Internal Security, Border Management and Management of Defence. The GoM submitted its report on February 26, 2001, and on May 11, 2001, the Cabinet Committee on Security assembled to discuss the report. What followed was some high-level restructuring. Among the recommendations accepted was the establishment of an Intelligence Coordination Group and a Technology Coordination Group (tasked to oversee all technical intelligence or TECHINT) to work in close tandem with the National Technical Facility Organisation, which in turn was tasked to operate new strategic TECHINT equipment and facilities.

The government created a Strategic Forces Command, a tri-service Defence Intelligence Agency, a Defence Procurement Board and a holistic 15-year perspective plan. But it stopped short of creating the post of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as the government’s principal military adviser. Neither did it integrate the armed forces with the decision making apparatus of the Ministry of Defence. These two points remain a subject of much debate. Then again, although border management has been fashioned on a one-border one-force principle, there are too many different forces manning India’s international border with various countries. In the case of the Sino-Indian border in Ladakh, for example, there is also the Indo-Tibetan Border Police which reports to its own setup, thus creating coordination issues with the Army.

All in all, India engaged in incremental and reactive changes with questionable success. For example, Indian intelligence agencies, the Navy and the Coast Guard combined still failed to prevent the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, a major blot on India’s national security environment. Notwithstanding the constituting of a Defence Procurement Board, India’s process of acquiring weapons and weapon platforms from foreign vendors has been far from satisfactory. India continues to be afflicted by allegations of kickbacks, which has been continuing in earnest ever since the Swedish Bofors Howitzer gun and German HDW submarine kickback scams of the mid-1980s. In fact, a cautious UPA government with AK Antony as Defence Minister ended up blacklisting many foreign vendors, making it impossible, for example, to procure an artillery gun, thus making the Regiment of Artillery the most antiquated arm of the Army.

Since India’s strategic culture involves forming committees on every occasion and excuse, the government in June 2011 formed yet another high-powered committee, this time headed by Naresh Chandra, a retired civil servant, to review the country’s defence management and make suggestions for recommendation of major defence projects. The committee submitted its report in May 2012 with many of the recommendations already been made in the past. This is not surprising since some of the issues and likely solutions are just so obvious.

The list of such review committees on defence management appointed and reports prepared is endless in India’s post-Independent history. There is no shortage of experts to assist on the matter. But the political will to first accept and then, more importantly, implement and operationalise these recommendations is where the problem lies.

Can’t let vigil down

Meanwhile, India’s security concerns have only increased, not reduced. Pakistan will forever need to be monitored very carefully. Democracy is still fragile in that country and the military still dominant. Over the years a myriad of terror groups have established themselves, some ‘friendly’ to the Pakistan state and some in parallel to that state. All this has a bearing on India. China remains India’s long-term concern — it is Pakistan’s closest ally, is closely engaged with most of India’s land and maritime neighbours, is India’s largest trading partner and at the same time displayed aggressive posturing on the borders with India.

Relations with Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka remain delicate and are easily prone to friction. India’s internal security remains fragile with homegrown and Pakistan-sponsored terror groups at play. India has an import-dependent military force with very little self reliance capability. The Kargil War may be long over, but the security environment has not improved. It is only getting more complicated.

The challenges

* Cease fire violation by Pakistan

* Infiltration, aggressive patrolling by China across the LAC

* Ties with Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka remain delicate

* Internal security fragile

* Import-dependent military force.
A war fought and won with an arm tied
When the war began, there was a shocking lack of extreme-weather gear and other supplies and weapons. Yet after the initial setbacks the Indian armed forces acquitted themselves well, even if at a high cost in life and blood.
Raj Chengappa

The war may have officially come to a close on July 26, 1999, but when I went a week later to Kargil the artillery guns were still booming on both sides. As I drove to nearby Dras, the Indian artillery let loose a fusillade of shells to a distant target on the other side of the Line of Control and the sound reverberated across the high mountains like the roll of thunder. The razor sharp and craggy peaks, many of them snow-tipped, provided a deceptively tranquil backdrop to the bloody battle that had been fought both on the heights and in the steep gorges and narrow valleys.
That night as I slept in the bunkers I heard the whistling of Pakistani shells landing not far from our shelters and I did feel fear. Colonel SVE David, Deputy Commander of 56 Brigade that was guarding the heights, though walked around the zone nonchalantly. He told me philosophically: “The splinter that is going to hit you has your name already engraved on it.” The war had already taken a heavy toll with over 500 Indian soldiers killed and another 1,300 wounded, some maimed for life. It was a hard fought victory and David knew that chance and luck also made the difference between the quick and the dead.

There were awe-inspiring tales of bravery as our soldiers repelled the Pakistani intruders on the heights. There were also plenty of clever and unconventional thinking, particularly while retaking Tiger Hill and Tololing, two of the many peaks that had become household names. The Bofors guns had been deployed in full in the valleys and despite the taint over their purchase had performed exceedingly well, providing India with an edge. Apart from lobbing shells to pulverise targets behind enemy lines, the guns were also used in the unusual role of sharp-shooting to dislodge Pakistani soldiers who had occupied the heights and were raining fire at the Indian infantry below.

Brigadier Lakhwinder ‘Lucky’ Singh, commanding the artillery brigade at Dras, showed me just how effective the Bofors guns could be. He asked me to choose any point on one of the surrounding hills that was being used for target practice. I chose a clump of bush through the binoculars. He then turned around to his gunner and told him to fix the coordinates and fire at it. The next thing I saw was the bush take a leap in the air – such was the deadly accuracy with which the guns were being fired with.

It was also a time for the Indian Army to take stock and equip our soldiers adequately to retain the heights. The war had exposed our vulnerability both in terms of intelligence as well as equipment to guard what is one of the world’s most inhospitable terrains with heights ranging from 12,000 feet to 20,000 feet and temperatures dropping to below -40 degrees centigrade. Dras is considered one of the world’s coldest places after Siberia.

When the war began, shockingly the troops didn’t have sufficient clothing and glacier gear for the extreme temperatures, and the boots supplied were of sub-standard quality. The number of night vision devices was inadequate, apart from a lack of battlefield radars and unmanned aerial vehicles to detect enemy movement. There was a dire need also for sophisticated signalling and communication devices. Yet after the initial setbacks the Indian armed forces acquitted themselves well and were able to push back the intrusions.

Midway through the Kargil War, when I met General VP Malik, the then Chief of Army Staff, he seemed confident of winning back the initiative. He quoted Carl von Clausewitz dictum, “War is fought with the will of the government, competence of the armed forces and support of the nation.” With the Kargil War turning out to be the first real televised war for India that brought the battlefield into our drawing rooms, there was a huge swell of patriotism and the support of the nation was on full display.

When it came to the will of the government, Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister, had plenty. He had great clarity and I was on board his special flight on his trip to Puducherry, where he made the dramatic announcement that the Indian Air Force would start retaliatory strikes against the intruders, signalling the onset of the battle. Vajpayee then wisely ordered the Indian armed forces not to violate the LoC to avoid escalating the battle into a full-scale war that would have spread all across the Indo-Pak border and could have even turned nuclear. Though General Malik later told me that it was like fighting with one arm tied behind the back.

In the first week of July, I met Jaswant Singh, the then External Affairs Minister, to find out how long the war would last. Jaswant was at his cryptic best. He asked me whether I played chess and had heard of the move called zugzwang. I looked blank. Barely hiding his contempt, he explained that it was a manoeuvre in which you forced your opponent to make a move that would be to his severe disadvantage. He added, “We have Nawaz Sharif cornered.”

Jaswant’s assessment was bang on, for within a fortnight Sharif capitulated and ceasefire was declared with Pakistan withdrawing its troops from Kargil. Though Operation Vijay was a success, it came at a heavy price and unfortunately the lessons have not been fully learnt by us.
Pakistan Rangers Fire Mortars at Indian Positions in Jammu
 Pakistan rangers on Sunday used mortars to target Indian positions on the international border in Jammu district, creating panic among villagers in the R.S. Pura sector.

Police sources told IANS in winter capital Jammu, "Pakistan rangers fired at Pital and two other posts of the Border security force (BSF) in R.S. Pura sector of Jammu today morning.

"Pakistan firing started at 2 a.m. They also used mortars some of which fell in residential areas killing cattle there. The BSF has taken adequate retaliatory measures."

The firing created panic in many villages along the border in the area including Gharna, Sai, Kaku de Kothey areas.

Although silence prevailed on the border in these areas till Saturday, villagers had preferred to remain indoors and avoided working in their fields.

Pakistan has been violating the bilateral ceasefire in R.S. Pura sector for the last one week, causing concern to residents in the border villages.

Indian Army and intelligence agencies believe Pakistan resorts to unprovoked firing on the line of control (LoC) and the international border in Jammu and Kashmir to facilitate infiltration by groups of armed guerrillas.

The army guards the LoC while the BSF guards the international border on the Indian side in Jammu and Kashmir.
Border infrastructure and Chinese checkers
The Indian defence establishment has been gripped by alarm over the rapid pace of Chinese border infrastructure development. So much so that the Indian Army — deeply unhappy over the slow pace of construction of roads on the Indian side of the Sino-Indian border — has recently submitted a proposal to the ministry of defence (MoD) that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) should be directly under the Army and should report to the Army vice-chief.

The BRO currently reports directly to the ministry of defence (MoD). The Army is hoping for rapid acceleration of the border infrastructure creation within the next few months itself.

The Army has reason to be upset. Of the 73 proposed strategic roads to be built on the Indian side near the Sino-Indian border, only 17 roads have been completed. Out of the 73 strategic roads, as many as 54 should have been completed by the end of 2013.

It’s no wonder then that with the formation of the new Government at the Centre, the Army has intensified efforts to speed up border infrastructure. Army chief Gen. Bikram Singh recently met transport minister Nitin Gadkari to discuss the status of crucial border road projects.

The Army has also been delighted by the fact that the Modi government has decided on a massive defence infrastructure boost in the eastern sector — considered India’s Achilles’ Heel — -bordering China and had recently announced easing of norms for environmental clearances.

Under this new policy, the ministry of defence need not approach other Union ministries for environmental clearances for constructing border roads and strategically important projects within 100 km of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

A decision had also been taken during the term of the previous UPA government to construct 14 “strategic” railway lines, crucial for defence preparedness. Of these, nine railway lines are along the northern border and three in the eastern sector that borders China. These include three strategic railway lines in the eastern sector from Missamari (in Assam) to Tawang (Arunachal) and also two other railway lines in the Northeast to Along and Passighat in Arunachal.

In the past few years, India has been steadfastly building up defence infrastructure in the Ladakh area of J&K in the North and in Arunachal Pradesh to the East, including re-activation of advanced landing grounds (ALGs) to support air-operations such as the one at Daulat Beg Oldi in the Ladakh sector.

The Army has already begun raising its Mountain Strike Corps in the eastern sector that will for the first time give it offensive capabilities vis-a-vis China. Some of the strategic roads will be of immense operational help to the newly-founded Corps.

The LAC is the de-facto border between India and China in areas such as the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in the North and Arunachal Pradesh to the East, where both countries have different perceptions of the border. The other Indian border states where the International Border (IB) between the two countries stands are Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim. The total distance of the Sino-Indian border that includes both the LAC and the IB is about 4,000 km.

A few years ago, the MoD had told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, “China has been building its infrastructure. They have the advantage of the topography also because they have the Tibetan plateau whereas from our side, the terrain and the geography are far more difficult. Therefore, these roads have been assigned the highest priority in the Government. But there were issues of land acquisition, there were issues of getting the forestry and wildlife clearance.”
Indian Army men complete tough cycling expedition through Himalayas
Pedalling nearly 700 km across the Himalayas along the India-China border at heights ranging from 9,000 to 19,000 feet while braving sub-zero temperatures, a team of 10 Indian Army personnel Saturday successfully completed a never-before attempted cycling expedition.

Defence officers now hope it will earn the team a place in the "Limca Book of Records".

Led by Captain Navjot Thakur from the army's Striking Lion Division, Kalimpong, the 10-member team - including a junior commanding officer and eight other soldiers - set out June 30 from Khangjakma (19,209 feet) on the Tibetan plateau that overlooks Teesta-Khangtse glacier, the origin of the Teesta river.

They completed the nearly three-week expedition at Sukna in north Bengal Saturday.

During the long journey, they pedalled on their 18-gear Indian bicycles across nine mountain passes, eight of which are not connected by a motorable road.

The passes traversed include Khungiyami La (18,428 feet), Sese La (17,913 feet), Bamcho La (17,500 feet) and Chulung La (17,366 feet).

Nathu La (14,100 feet) was the only motorable pass traversed.

"At several places, we had to lift our bicycles and trudge across the icy road blockages. The freezing temperatures and rains also made our task much more difficult," said Captain Thakur.

"We knew we would encounter these conditions and had practised for nearly three months building up strength and stamina to be able to pedal nearly 60 km in hill conditions," he said.

The expedition followed the alignment of the Teesta river from its origin to approximately the point at which it enters Bangladesh.

The route selected for the expedition is one of the toughest mountain cycling expedition attempted not only in India but the entire world.

The "Limca Book of Records" has been approached to confirm the same and accord due recognition to the expedition, said a defence official.

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