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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

From Today's Papers - 22 Jul 2014

Hold talks, India tells warring Israel, Palestine
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 21
Urging the warring Israel and Palestine to come to the negotiating table and look to implement the peace plan as prepared by Egypt, the government today asserted that India’s policy on Palestine issue remains unchanged and it would not take sides over the Gaza conflict as the Congress-led Opposition staged a walk-out in the Rajya Sabha demanding a resolution on the issue.

As the government forestalled a resolution on the issue as demanded by the Opposition, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the House should not be divided and should condemn violence the world over.

Hitting out at criticism of the NDA government over its stance on the Gaza conflict, Swaraj also clarified that there is no change in the Narendra Modi government’s foreign policy with regard to Israel and Palestine and it believed in good relations with both.

“There is absolutely no change in India’s policy towards Palestine, which is that we fully support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel,” the minister said and emphasised that this policy has been in vogue through various governments, including those of the Congress, the BJP and coalition governments headed by Deve Gowda and I K Gujral.

She was replying to a short-duration debate on Gaza situation during which the Opposition condemned the violence in Gaza, pressed for adoption of a resolution, demanded suspension of all military purchases from Israel and wanted India to raise the issue at the UN.

Rejecting Opposition demand for a resolution, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said the rule 176 under which the discussion took place does not provide for a resolution or motion of any kind. Besides, he pointed out that the government was not agreeable to a resolution or motion of any kind and there was no consensus, because of which he could do nothing.

Later, almost the entire Opposition, which had stalled the House last week by pressing for a discussion on the issue, staged a walkout. BJD, however, did not join them.

Responding point-by-point to the issues raised by the Opposition members, the External Affairs Minister asked how could the members accuse the government of not speaking on the issue as on July 15 India had reacted to it in a joint statement issued at the BRICS summit in Brazil.

“On July 15 we gave our reaction on the BRICS platform and the statement came in for praise, there was no shortcoming in it,” said Swaraj. Prime Minister Modi attended the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa - Summit in Brazil July 15-17, where a joint statement condemning the violence in Gaza was released.
 Oppn: Suspend military purchases from Israel

New Delhi, July 21
Opposition parties today condemned the violence in Gaza and persisted for adoption of a resolution by Parliament against it. They also demanded suspension of military purchases from Israel.

At the end of the debate, members of the Opposition walked out despite External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s repeated appeals to members of the Opposition Benches that the Rajya Sabha should not be divided, but instead send a message that wherever there is violence, it is condemnable. Both Israel and Palestine should accept Egypt’s offer of peace talks, Swaraj said, asserting that India’s policy on the Palestine issue remained unchanged. CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said Israel was the biggest supplier of arms and ammunition to India. — TNS
  Army Chief visits Western Command headquarters
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh/ Anandpur Sahib, July 21
Chief of the Army Staff General Bikram Singh yesterday arrived here on a two-day visit to Headquarters Western Command, Chandimandir.

He was briefed by Lt General Philip Campose, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, on operational aspects pertaining to areas of responsibility of the command. He was apprised of training initiatives being taken by the command to enhance the operational effectiveness especially with regard to counter terrorist operations.

The Army Chief, who is superannuating at the month-end, interacted with the veterans residing in the tricity as well as commanders and other officers of the command. He also addressed all officers of the command and exhorted them to continue working hard and maintain the highest standards of operational, training and administrative activity.

He today paid homage to martyrs and laid a wreath at the Veer Smriti war memorial.

General Bikram was accompanied by Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) president Bubbles Singh, who interacted with ladies, including veer naris.

Pays obeisance at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib

General Bikram and his wife Surjit Kaur today paid obeisance at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib at Anandpur Sahib.

He said he was here to thank god for his successful completion of tenure as the Army chief.

While talking to mediapersons, he said he did his best for the forces since he took over as the Army chief on May 31, 2012.

The period of two years was meant to bring about a change in the force. This, however, was a continuous process and his successor would look after the remaining things, said the General.

He, however, refused to reply queries on the reports of ceasefire violations by Pakistan stating that he was on a religious visit.
Unreliable Sukhois
India should develop own fighter aircraft

Most disturbing but not surprising is the revelation that a large percentage of the Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter fleet stands grounded due to engine problems. The issue is disturbing because the Russian-supplied Sukhoi is the most advanced of the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter fleet and will have a critical role to play in both defending the Indian skies and attacking the adversary in the event of a war. However, the engine trouble is not that surprising because problems with respect to the Russian-supplied defence equipment are not uncommon.

For the last two and a half years in particular, the aircraft's engine has frequently suffered a flameout or become inoperable mid-air. This has resulted in pilots aborting their training missions in order to quickly land this twin-engine long-range multi-role fighter with just one engine functioning lest the second engine too should become inoperable. Thankfully, on most occasions both engines have not flamed out at the same time or else it could have resulted in the loss of aircraft and pilot fatalities. The Sukhoi-30 had a safe flying record from 1997, when it was first inducted, up to 2009, when the IAF first lost this aircraft. Since then, three more of these highly expensive fighters have been lost to accidents, mainly on account of engine trouble, forcing the IAF to temporarily ground its fleet. Today, again, a significant percentage of the Sukhoi fleet stands grounded owing to engine unreliability.

The IAF regularly faces problems with its Soviet-origin aircraft. In the early 1990s, most of its MiG-29 air defence fighter fleet was grounded for a while on account of spares. The IAF needs to quickly fix the problem with Russian cooperation and carry out checks on all Russian-made aircraft and equipment considering that, unlike the erstwhile Soviet Union, Russia no longer offers the same level of reliability. Far more important is the need for India to work towards a permanent solution. And that is to attain self-reliance by developing its own fighter aircraft, including, especially engines. Else, so long as India remains import dependent, it would forever remain vulnerable.
IAF Rapped for Buying Expensive Mahindra Scorpios & Toyota Innovas
 The Air Force was rapped by the CAG for "irregularities" in procurement of more than 100 expensive Mahindra Scorpio and Toyota Innova vehicles against the procurement provisions to replace existing ones.

"We observe that in contravention of the extant orders, Air Force headquarters had introduced between 2009 and 2011 two new types of vehicles, Mahindra Scorpio and Toyota Innova to replace the Maruti Gypsy and Tata Sumo respectively," the government auditor said in its report tabled today in Parliament.

The report said the IAF had procured 100 Scorpios at a cost of Rs. 7.78 crore and "irregularities were observed in the procurement of these vehicles".
 "Scorpio was introduced in replacement of Maruti Gypsy which was neither out of production nor redundant. By IAF's own admission, the Scorpio was costlier than existing category from maintenance and operational angle," it stated.

The CAG said the procurement of these vehicles "was against the procurement manual provisions as specifications were not clearly mentioned keeping in view the specific needs of the IAF but similar vehicles offered by different firms were not evaluated either on specification or cost basis".

The CAG said the IAF approved procurement of 19 Innova vehicles for their utilisation in Su-30 MKI combat aircraft squadrons and units situated at hill-stations for Rs. 1.19 crore.

"We observed that there was no deficiency of similar vans and there was an excess of 88 similar vehicles against authorisation. None of the 19 Innovas was alloted to the units for whom these were stated to have been procured. They were allotted to other units in contravention of Defence Ministry orders," it said.

The CAG rejected IAF's claim that the vehicles were procured for transfer of sensitive electronic equipment and similar items.

The IAF was also reprimanded by the auditor for not outsourcing the vehicle requirements for officers of the rank of Group Captain and below through which it could have saved Rs. 1.95 crore.

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