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Friday, 8 August 2014

From Today's Papers - 08 Aug 2014

No change in UPSC exam schedule: Govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 7
The government today made it clear that there was no scope for any change or postponement of the upcoming UPSC’s Civil Services Examination slated for August 24.

The AIADMK gave a new twist to the controversy by seeking examination in all 22 languages under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution as both Houses witnessed uproarious scenes today.

In Lok Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said: “As for this year, there is no scope for postponement of (UPSC preliminary) examination.” He turned down request for any more changes as of now, saying: “It is a Civil Service Examination and changes cannot be done overnight.”

In Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prakash Javadekar said a discussion was needed for any major reform in the UPSC exam pattern. “An all-party meeting will definitely take place,” he said.

The meeting is to be conducted after the preliminary exam — the first stage of the three-stage selection process — is conducted on August 24. On conducting the examination in multiple languages, Naidu said: “There is a force in what our friends are saying about different national languages. I do not call them regional languages or Indian languages, and that is an issue to be debated and discussed with all people concerned, including the UPSC.”

AIADMK’s M Thambidurai raised the issue of conducting the exam in all languages under Schedule 8 of the Constitution. “At present, the exam is held only in Hindi and English languages. What about other languages? Therefore, we are demanding that the examination be conducted in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali and all other languages, which are included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.”

Sources said it would be a mammoth exercise if the AAIDMK demand was accepted. The list has been expanded in the past and more additions are in the offing. On August 5, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha that there was no established set of objective criteria for the inclusion of languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

“At present, there are demands for 38 more languages for inclusion in the Eighth Schedule,” the minister had said.
 US defence secy to address India’s Afghan concerns
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 7
US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel arrived in India today on a three-day visit during which he will address Indian concerns over troop withdrawal from Afghanistan besides focus on India-US “convergence of interests” in the Asia-Pacific.

The two sides will also be looking to take forward the September 2013 Barack Obama-Manmohan Singh joint announcement on “co-production, co-development, research and new technologies for defence equipment.”

This is the second visit of a top US official to India since Narendra Modi took over as PM and the first by a US Defence Ministry official.

The US and Indian delegation led by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley will meet at the South Block on August 8. Before the meeting, Hagel will call on Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Then he will meet Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said: “Secretary Hagel’s meetings will focus on the US and India’s converging interests in the Asia-Pacific.”
India offers to buy more U.S. helicopters, hopes to drive down costs
(Reuters) - India has offered to significantly increase an order for U.S. attack helicopters, Indian officials said, as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel began a visit to New Delhi on Thursday aimed at boosting defence and strategic ties.

The Apache gunships and a deal for Chinook helicopters, both built by Boeing, will top the agenda in Hagel's talks on Friday with the new administration led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India has offered a follow-on order of 39 AH-64D Apache helicopters in addition to the 22 now being negotiated, a Defence Ministry official said. The sides have been wrangling over the price of the gunships, however, with the initial deal having been estimated to be worth $1.4 billion.

The two countries have rapidly expanded military and business ties in recent years, despite discord over issues such as intellectual property rights and market access.

Washington is keen to step up cooperation across the board, seeing India as a strategic partner in the face of an increasingly powerful and assertive China.

According to defence research firm IHS Jane's, India was the top foreign buyer of U.S. arms last year. An Apache deal would be the first big military contract since Modi's government took office in May.

Hagel's trip follows one by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week and is part of the build-up to talks between Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington in September.

Hagel's talks will also cover military exercises and co-production and co-development of armaments and the renewal of a 10-year defence cooperation agreement that runs until 2015.

Hagel said the purpose of his visit went beyond arms sales.

"Our interests are varied and common - stability, security, economics, possibilities, freedom," he said en route to India. "I'll be there, working, yes, our specific issues, but it's larger ... than that."


Hagel said Asia-Pacific was a region of great opportunities, but also of challenges. "We need partners. We need relationships. That's the kind of world we live in, and that's the kind of world that we're going to be living in."

Speaking to reporters on his plane, Hagel was asked about India's apparent reluctance to be seen as a full U.S. ally and he replied that Washington was "mindful" of India's tradition as a independent, non-aligned state.

"We're not trying to change that," he said. "But...we have common interests, and...we think there's more potential to build on those common interests."

U.S. officials say there is the potential for billions of dollars of new arms sales in the next few years and hope Modi can overcome bureaucratic obstacles that have held up some.

Last month, India's cabinet cleared a proposal to allow 49 percent foreign participation in the defence industry, up from a current cap of 26 percent.

Hagel said he would be looking at whether there would be the potential to go beyond 49 per cent something U.S. defence firms want before allowing technology transfers India craves.

The initial batch of Apache helicopters is meant to replace the Indian Air Force's ageing fleet of Soviet-era aircraft and will be armed with Hellfire and Stinger missiles.

The Indian Army has separately requested a fleet of at least 39 of these attack aircraft, some of which will be deployed as part of a new mountain division it is raising along the disputed border with China, an army official said.

"The point is we are looking at 60 to 70 pieces eventually, so the expectation is the vendor will factor that in, in the price negotiations," said the defence ministry official, who asked not to be identified in line with ministry policy.

U.S. defence sales to India have grown from the low hundreds of millions of dollars in the decade to 2008 to more than $9 billion since that year.
Telangana Independence Day venue in Army cross hair
HYDERABAD: Barely a week before the Telangana government is to host its maiden Independence Day celebrations at Golconda Fort on August 15, defence authorities have claimed that the 51-acre land that the TRS regime plans to use as its venue for various official events belongs to them.

The 'disputed' 51-acre plain land is located behind the main fort. While the Telangana government's revenue records say the land is classified as `sarkari poramboke' (land belonging to the state government), defence authorities say it is actually cantonment land. Now, it has been decided that the state and defence officials will conduct a joint survey to resolve the land dispute.

The controversy was triggered by Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's recent decision to host the tricolour on Independence Day at Golconda Fort. KCR visited the site on Tuesday and zeroed in on a site near Rani Mahal for hoisting the flag while the guests will seated in the lawns opposite Taramati Masjid. The officials also said nearly 10,000 to 12,000 people can be accommodated in the lawns. And for the first time, a police parade has been planned to be conducted inside the fort. The premises should be made ready for holding the police parade and display of a tableau by January 26, 2015, the CM had instructed the officials.

Accordingly, Telangana revenue officials surveyed the 51 acres (20.30 acres in survey no. 244, 16 acres in survey no. 245 and 14.08 acres in survey no. 246) from 9.30 am to 7 pm on Tuesday and put up boards stating that the land belonged to the Telangana government. However, defence officials arrived at the site around 7 pm and removed the state government boards and put up their own claiming that it was military land. However, at 9.30 pm, the Telangana revenue authorities removed the boards that claimed it was defence land.

On Wednesday, the district administration got the area cordoned off by 6 am and locals and mediapersons were not given access to the site. By the afternoon, Hyderabad collector Mukesh Kumar Meena apprised chief secretary Rajiv Sharma and other CMO officials about the dispute between the state and defence authorities.

After consultations with defence authorities, it was decided that a joint survey of the Golconda Fort would be conducted by the two parties. "Both revenue and military authorities will take up a joint survey of the entire 80 acres of land surrounding Golconda Fort. Since the defence officials claim that they were given the 51 acres of land in 1956, we will exchange documents to decide the ownership of the land," Meena told TOI.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's aim to integrate SAARC (South Asian Nations for Regional Cooperation)-member countries is most likely his top priority foreign policy goal. If this is achieved it will undoubtedly be a game changer for the whole region.

Modi's first foreign trips to Bhutan and Nepal indicate his priorities. There is no doubt he will also visit all the other SAARC countries. But the goal of upgrading SAARC into a South Asian Union (SAU) can be dramatically hastened.

Before leaving for Nepal, Modi hoped to open a new chapter in Indo-Nepalese ties. He specified enhanced economic relationship. After his return he can initiate a radical proposal. He can turn conventional wisdom on its head. Instead of enhanced trade creating the total trust required for establishing SAU he can establish total trust to enhance trade.

It may be noted that India's relations with its SAARC neighbours are soured by trust deficit created through terrorism. LTTE in Sri Lanka, Maoists and Pakistani infiltrators in Nepal, Islamist terrorists in Pakistan, are all preventing South Asian integration. This is not an accident. It is through the design of hostile foreign forces interested to keep South Asia divided.

India can frustrate these hostile forces by starting with Nepal. It has to exploit its unique relationship with Nepal. Since 1947 there has been continuing relationship between the Indian army and its Nepalese counterpart. This is due to the Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army.

After independence six Gorkha regiments formerly of the British Indian Army became part of the Indian Army. A seventh Gorkha regiment was established by the Indian Army comprising Gorkha soldiers who refused a transfer to the British Army.

All Gorkha soldiers are ethnic Nepalese given Indian citizenship. They have earned reputation of great courage and won innumerable gallantry awards. Their induction into the Indian Army could not have been without tacit approval of the Nepalese Army. Therefore already there is considerable trust on which more can be built.
Modi can offer full fledged joint defence to Nepal between both armies. This treaty should include joint defence over even India's nuclear weapons. An apex body of both governments would exercise ultimate authority over use of nuclear weapons. Could Nepal refuse such an offer?

If such a treaty were signed it would automatically lead to a two-nation SAU with common market, joint defence, enormously enhanced trade and curtailed visa restrictions. Would not other SAARC nations be tempted to join? After his historic invitation to SAARC heads of state to his swearing in ceremony, this should be the next step for Modi if he really means business.
Refrain from making substandard defence products: Lt Gen KJ Singh
Chandigarh: Ensure quality and refrain from making "substandard" items for the defence sector, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Command Lieutenant General KJ Singh today urged the Indian manufactures.

"The government is doing a lot to involve industry into defence modernization...the government is well meaning and it is giving chance (to the industry)...But whether everything is sir no. As a user I am not satisfied," Lt Gen Singh said while addressing a conference on safety and security organised by CII in Chandigarh today.

Noting that quality control was a "big issue", Lt Gen Singh alleged that some of the defence makers here had misused the quality control certifications.
"Quality control is a big issue. We have started self certification. We allowed you (industry) to do quality control certifications on your own. But it has been misused," he said adding that the basis elements like hoses and relays were found to be substandard.

"It is not in cutting edge technology. India launches space rocket, it sends satellite but it also make hoses, relays, --basic elements which are substandard which are disgusting. I am sorry to use this word. Cheating defence ... cheating your own mother land. How can it be allowed. This is your own house please do not do it," he said.

The Lt Gen claimed that some of the industrialists, who made inferior quality items, are based at Ludhiana.

"Making money is part of the industry and that is why the industry is there and you are not here for charity. But trying to make money in one generation and becoming a Tata-Birla. It is also not correct. Please maintain quality control in defence products," he said.

But when later asked by reporters how serious the substandard quality issue, Singh refused to respond.

However, he said, "...products which are supplied to defence like tanks, fighting vehicles, there is often a failure of components, which are not of high end technology... like rubber hoses, relays, cables...It is basically because our ancillaries are not doing proper quality control."

Lt Gen Singh, who was commissioned in 63 Cavalry in June 1977, also praised the Centre for raising FDI limit to 49 percent for defence sector.

"In the recent past, there was a restricted list for manufacture of components which has been pruned now. A large number of items have been removed. Now it is possible to make components without having to have extensive licenses and that must enthuse you (industry) also because Punjab is known to make these components," he said.

Lt Gen, who took over as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Command on 1 August, also laid emphasis on remaining vigilant to thwart any attempt by the neighbouring country to launch insurgency in Punjab.

"We have faced two insurgencies and one is going on in Jammu and Kashmir..It is not insurgency. It is a proxy war.

"But let's not become complacent,...if Pakistan has its way, it will again start insurgency in Punjab...Please remain vigilant," he said.

He further said that cyber security was the most ignored aspects in India. "We have to wake up or we will come to a state where our system will collapse," he said.

Later Lt Gen also urged the industry to hire retired Jawans.

"In armed forces, every year 60,000-70,000 Jawans retire at age between 36 to 39 years. If you can design programme we will train them and afterwards you can employ them," he said.
India seeks Israel missile deal; Hagel to meet Modi
NEW DELHI - The new Indian government under Narindra Modi’s leadership is moving the cabinet committee on security (CCS) to buy 262 Barak-I anti-ship missile systems and spares, costing nearly Rs. 1,000 crore, from Israel.

The purchase was cleared by defence acquisition council under former defence minister AK Antony last December.

Defence Ministry sources said the CCS note was moved this week for the purchase of the Barak missile from Israeli Aircraft Industries and Rafael Advanced Systems of Israel.

Both firms were probed by the CBI in 2006 for a Rs. 1,100 crore missile deal in 2000 under the previous NDA regime and were black-listed by the UPA regime.

However, the ban on purchase of Barak missiles was lifted by Antony after the Navy raised a hue and cry about protection of its warships from anti-ship missiles.

"India needs Barak missiles to arm its aircraft carriers and front-line warships against strike aircraft and anti-ship missiles. The Barak will be fitted on at least 14 Indian warships and the newly acquired Vikramaditya," said an official.

On the other hand the Obama administration will push for the stalled mega deals for M-777 ultra-light howitzers and Javelin anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) during US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to India.

There will be talks on ways to further bolster the already expansive strategic partnership, ranging from sharing of intelligence and cooperation on counter-terrorism to joint combat exercises, but the cornerstone will remain the US offer to provide India with "ground-breaking" weapon technology on par with its closest allies.

Having bagged defence deals worth over US $10 billion over the last decade, the US is obviously hungry for more. Of the different co-development and co-production offers, ranging from helicopters to UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), Washington is hard-selling the one for next-generation of Javelin ATGMs the most, said sources.

But no defence deal will actually be inked during the visit of Hagel, who is slated to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, NSA Ajit Doval and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Friday.

Interestingly, Hagel is being accompanied by a top-level delegation which includes Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar and under Secretary of Defence Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall.

While the US $2.5 billion deals for 22 Apache attack and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters are virtually finalised now, India is not too interested in buying the second-hand MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) vehicles the US had deployed in Afghanistan and will not be taking them home after its pull-back from the war-ravaged country later this year.

What the US is really keen on is the Javelin ATGM, which is facing stiff competition from the Israeli 'Spike' tank-killing missile.

Under the over Rs 15,000 crore project to equip Indian Army's all 382 infantry battalions with such man-portable missiles, there will be an initial direct acquisition, followed by technology transfer to defence PSU Bharat Dynamics for large-scale indigenous manufacture.

Similarly, Washington is keen to resurrect the long-pending US $885 million deal for 145 ultra-light M-777 howitzers, which has hit a dead-end due to high costs and "non-compliant" offsets package.

The air-mobile howitzers were meant to equip the new XVII Mountain Strike Corps (90,000 troops) being raised by the army to gain "quick reaction force capabilities" against China.
Army drive to remove unexploded shells from Jammu firing ranges
Akhnoor (Jammu): As part of its "humanistic approach" towards residents of border villages, the Army has launched a drive to clear firing ranges in the Jammu region of unexploded shells.

The drive has been named 'Mission Humsafar'.

"As part of its humanistic approach towards people residing in the border villages, Army has launched 'Mission Humsafar', a major clean-up drive for unexploded shells in Kalith Field Firing Ranges in Akhnoor, Kalith and Chinota area of Jammu district," PRO (Defence) Lt Col Manish Mehta said Thursday.

The drive follows Operation Falah (welfare) launched by the Army to clear Kashmir's Tosa Maidan area of unexploded shells last week.

"During the mission, the Army is carrying out physical search of the complete area and any unexploded artillery shells and mortar blinds will be collected and destroyed," Lt Col Mehta said.

The Army will also educate the locals regarding safety aspects to be borne in mind during firing in the range.

It has employed mine and explosive-detector dogs, remote-controlled explosive detection vehicles (RCVs), metal detectors and engineer personnel, especially trained for such tasks, equipped with gadgetry and other technical devices for this operation, he said.

"In a concerted drive to get rid of any unexploded shells and mortar blinds, Indian Army under Crossed Swords Division will carry out a major combing operation in the ranges over a number of days to make the area totally safe for movement of civilians and their livestock, he added.

"As informed, residents of around 20 odd villages surrounding the firing range welcomed this humanitarian initiative of the Army and were appreciative of the fact that the Army, besides ensuring security of borders and maintaining peaceful environment in the area, has also been constantly upgrading the standard of living of people by undertaking useful projects under Sadbhavana initiative," he said.

Kalith Field Firing Range (KFFR) which is marked into separate zones for artillery, mortar and small arms firing is located close to the Line of Control where many units of the Northern Command carry out regular field firing.

With the establishment of Kalith Field Firing Range Cell at Station HQ Pallanwala since July 2011, the ranges have been safe and incident-free and no civilian causality has been reported to have occurred inside the range area as a result of the blinds, the PRO said.

The locals have been in favour of re-notification of the Kalith Field Firing Ranges and the case is presently with the state government for consideration.

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