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Sunday, 10 August 2014

From Today's Papers - 10 Aug 2014

Iraqi forces ready to reclaim ground as US continues strikes
Arbil, August 9
Iraq’s federal and Kurdish forces on Saturday prepared their bid to reclaim the lost ground as US jets pounded jihadist positions and also dropped aid to the stranded civilians.

President Barack Obama’s decision to send warplanes back to Iraq, three years after pulling the last US troops out of the country, marked a potential turning point in the two-month-old conflict.

After the first day of US air raids on Islamic State (IS) fighters who had moved within striking distance of Kurdistan, a top official in the autonomous region said the time had come for a fightback.

“Following the US strikes, the peshmerga will first regroup, redeploy in areas they retreated from and then help the displaced return to their homes,” Fuad Hussein told reporters on Friday in the Kurdish capital Arbil.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who has boycotted cabinet meetings for weeks as relations soured with Baghdad, said that failing to arm the Kurdish peshmerga forces had been a costly mistake. He said the American air strikes had damaged jihadists’ war machines on the ground and allowed the federal and Kurdish authorities to unite behind the common cause of defeating the IS jihadists. “The Iraqi army and the peshmerga are fighting side-by-side in the same trenches now,” he said. Iraq's military chief of staff, Babaker Zebari, told AFP on Friday that US advisers, peshmerga and federal top brass were “selecting targets” together.

The first US bombings struck IS positions and at least one convoy of vehicles carrying militants west of Arbil. A White House spokesman said Friday the strikes would be “very limited in scope”, but Babaker Zebari said he thought US air support would extend to other areas. He said the intervention would allow retention of large tracts of land lost to the Sunni extremists since they launched their devastating offensive on June 9. — AFP
Hagel calls for US, Japan, India alliance
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 9
The United States today proposed a trilateral military alliance involving India, Japan and the US, while advising New Delhi that it does not have to choose between Beijing and Washington, but continue to work with both.

US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel ended his three-day visit to India by proposing the alliance, saying “as US and Indian security interests converge, so should our partnerships with other nations”.

“The United States and India should consider expanding their security cooperation with Japan ... We should elevate our trilateral defence cooperation”, Hagel said. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been votary of such an alliance which could turn out to be the most powerful outside the US-led NATO.

China, which has tense relations with Japan since the World War-II (1939-1945), in the past has protested against such a grouping. In May last year, the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper reported “India gets close to Japan at its own peril”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to visit Tokyo at this month-end.

Hagel was delivering a lecture, “achieving the potential of the US-India strategic partnership”, to mark 25 years of think-tank Observer Research Foundation here today.

He chose to strike a balance in its strategy to bring India and Japan closer. “India need not choose between the closer partnership with America and the improved ties with China,” Hagel advised.

In strategic circles, this is being seen as the US understanding India’s point of view which does not see a conflict with China — both nations share a 3,488-km disputed boundary called the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Hagel went on to highlight that China can work “cooperatively” with both India and the US. “In our relations with Beijing, both Delhi and Washington seek to manage competition but avoid the traps of rivalry. We will continue to seek a stable and peaceful order in which China is a fellow trustee”, Hagel said, probably fully knowing that his words are bound to resonate loudly in Beijing, Tokyo and Moscow – the last one being India’s trusted allay for five decades.

Addressing the issue of the hydrocarbon rich disputed South China Sea, Hagel was candid “We ( India and US ) have a shared interest in maritime security across the region, including at the global crossroads of the South China Sea. We also have a shared stake in the security of global energy and natural resource supplies”.

China has claimed total sovereignty over the South China Sea and consequently sole rights over the hydrocarbons under the sea-bed. Indian has gas-oil block off the coast of Vietnam in the same sea and most of its east bound trade passes through these waters. The dispute is pending in the United Nations.

Hagel reiterated the promise to cooperate with India in co-production, co-development, and freer exchange of technology under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), saying: “The DTTI now has on the table over a dozen cooperative proposals which would transfer significant qualitative capability, technology, and production know-how”.
In defence tech, India’s dil is still firangi
Raj Chengappa
Before Chuck Hagel became US Defence Secretary he distinguished himself in politics and was a highly respected member of the Senate. In India for the past two days, he displayed another talent – as a master salesman for his country. In his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley he stressed on the theme of how Indo-US defence industrial cooperation stood far below the potential.

Hagel pointed out that the next steps in the partnership had "to be result oriented and build momentum with concrete achievements." Among the proposals the US is offering is pushing the co-development and co-production of the next generation of Javelin anti-tank missiles. "This is an unprecedented offer that we have made to India and no one else," he told a gathering at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi yesterday.

America hopes that when Narendra Modi goes to Washington DC next month for a summit with President Barack Obama, the Indian Prime Minister would agree to move ahead on this mega defence deal. The Modi government has already indicated that it wants to put defence industrial development on the fast track by raising the cap on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from 26 per cent to 49 per cent in this critical sector. The buzzwords are co-development, co-production and offsets.
It is important for Modi to push ahead quickly as the paralysis of the UPA government in its final years had dented India’s defence preparedness. But while speed is the need of the hour, equally important is that the Prime Minister uses the challenge to unveil a blueprint that would revolutionise India’s approach towards meeting its armament requirements.

Currently, India’s policy is severely flawed. Last year, India had the distinction, albeit a dubious one, of emerging as the world’s largest importer of armament. A Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report on international arms transfers between 2009 and 2013 revealed that India accounted for 14 per cent of all global sales. It was ahead of China which accounted for 5 per cent of the total imports. In 2013 alone, India imported close to $ 4.6 billion (Rs 30,000 crore) worth of equipment.

The irony is that next month, an Indian spacecraft will reach distant Mars after traversing 680 million km in space — a significant achievement that will put India among a clutch of nations that have the capability to do so. One may rightfully ask: If India can build such sophisticated rockets and satellites, why can’t we manufacture our own defence equipment rather than pile up such a huge bill? That is more than a $ 4 billion question. India’s research and development capability since Independence has only islands of excellence in a vast ocean of mediocrity.

This is particularly true of defence where we spend most of our hard-earned money with little returns. We may have giant public sector units like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, a vast network of laboratories under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Ordnance factories and warship-building units under the armed forces. But yet we end up on top of the list when it comes to importing arms and almost at the bottom in exporting them.

Take Tejas, the Light Combat Aircraft that has been under development since the mid-80s and has recently gone into production. While the DRDO claims it’s 70 per cent indigenous, many of its critical components, particularly the engine, are imported. That’s because while we have mastered rocket technology, we are still struggling to build jet engines. For Tejas, India has picked up engines from American giant General Electric.

Engine making, in fact, has been India’s Achilles heel whether for cars, tanks or warships. The DRDO, which built the Arjun as India’s Main Battle Tank, was forced to import a German engine to power it with Indian efforts falling woefully short. The Navy may have designed the Shivalik-class warship but it had to import the French Pielstick engines for it.

The Indian defence industry, to paraphrase the yesteryear hit from the movie "Shree 420", goes by the verses, "Mera dil hai firangi, phir bhi sar pe topi Hindustani. (While my heart is foreign made, my hat remains Indian)". The Modi government has the opportunity to make a paradigm shift by raising the threshold of technology for both military and civil use. It must scan the horizon and see what critical technologies India needs to develop in each of the vital sectors whether in engines, chips or metallurgy.

Since we are in a buyers’ market, India must insist that all defence purchases have in-built co-development and co-production, apart from offsets to ensure that over a period of time we develop the capability of manufacturing these equipment indigenously and even become a net exporter of defence technology. To attract both foreign and domestic manufacturers, the new government must build an enabling ecosystem that ensures transparency, accountability and predictability in policy and cuts through red tape. It may take more than a decade but at the end of it we could sing "... phir bhi dil hai Hindustani" (yet my heart is truly Indian).
US takes aim at Israeli antitank missiles in Indian arms market
NEW DELHI: Israel, better watch out! The US is going all out to shoot down the Israeli 'Spike' antitank guided missile (ATGM) with its own "Javelin" missile in the lucrative Indian arms market. Given the huge size of the Indian ATGM project, upwards of $3 billion, Israel is sure to strike back.

But for now, the US seems to have gained the upper hand. After earlier being rebuffed by India for not agreeing to "full" transfer of technology (ToT), the US is now promising to not only "co-produce" the third-generation Javelin ATGMs, but also "co-develop" its fourth-generation version.

"This is an unprecedented offer that we have made only to India, and no one else," said visiting US defence secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday, a day after hard-selling joint development and production of advanced weapon systems to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Arun Jaitley.

There are already over a dozen such proposals from the US on the table, ranging from the Javelin, MH-60 Romeo multirole helicopters and "big data cybersecurity" to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), mine-scattering systems and warship guns, which will now be taken forward by the revived bilateral Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), as earlier reported by TOI.
"I will play an active role in expanding the DTTI because it's the centerpiece of our defence partnership ... As our interests align, so should our armed forces and defence systems. Bureaucratic red-tape must not bound the limits of our partnership," said Hagel.
But the US will have to contend with Israel, even though it has now displaced the latter as the second-biggest arms supplier to India after Russia. The Indian defence acquisitions council, in fact, had almost finalized the Israeli Spike ATGMs for clearance late last year, after a series of field trials, before the US muscled its way into the race once again.
The urgent need for third-generation shoulder-fired ATGMs, which are "fire and forget" missiles, for the 1.13-million strong Indian Army cannot be overstated. The force has a huge shortfall of 44,000 ATGMs of different types, half its authorized inventory at present. Both Pakistan and China, the latter with third-generation ATGMs, are far ahead in the capability to halt and destroy enemy armoured attacks.

The force is currently saddled with second-generation Milan (2km range) and Konkurs (4km) ATGMs, produced by Defence PSU Bharat Dynamics under licence from French and Russian companies. "Being wire-guided, they have to be directed to the target. They are not fire-and-forget missiles," said an officer.

Moreover, the indigenous third-generation Nag ATGMs, which are vehicle and helicopter-mounted with a 4-km strike range, are still not operational despite being in the making for over 20 years. The Army has already placed an initial order for 443 Nag missiles and 13 Namicas (Nag missile-tracked carriers).
Pakistan Army Violates Ceasefire Again in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch
 Pakistani troops have targeted Indian forward posts with small arms and automatic weapons along the Line of Control in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, prompting Indian forces to retaliate.

"Pakistani troops opened unprovoked firing from small arms and automatic weapons at our forward posts in Bhimbher Gali sub-sector in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir around 2230 hours yesterday," PRO Defence Lt Col Manish Mehta said.

The Indian Army troops took positions and responded with equal caliber weapons to Pakistan's firing which resulted in intermittent exchanges of fire, he said.

"There was no loss of life or damage to property in the firing on this side of LoC," Lt Col Mehta said.

It was second ceasefire violation by Pakistan this month.

The ceasefire violation and firing by Pakistan comes barely hours after handing over of captured 30-year-old BSF Constable Satyasheel Yadav to Border Security Force (BSF) officials by commanders of the Pakistan Rangers yesterday at the zero line at Octroi borderpost along the International Border in RS Pura sector of Jammu district.

On August 6, Satyasheel Yadav, along with seven other personnel, was on a routine motorboat patrol on Chenab river when its engine suddenly failed and the boat was caught in the main current of Chenab and started drifting downstream towards Pakistan.

While six personnel managed to swim to safety and another one was saved by a rescue boat, Satyasheel Yadav got drifted in the strong current and he subsequently landed 400 metres away in the Sialkot sector of Pakistan.

At the flag meeting between Battalion Commandants of BSF and Pakistan Rangers at Octerio BoP in RS Pura sector of Jammu district, both sides made a commitment to uphold peace and tranquility on the border and extend all cooperation to each other in dealing with emergent incidents in a proactive and positive manner.

On August 5, Pakistani troops had targeted Indian forward posts with small arms and automatic weapons along the LoC in Sher Shakti forward belt of Poonch district.

General Officer Commanding of Nagrota-based 16 Corps, Lt Gen K H Singh had recently said that the Indian Army has been directed to give a befitting reply to Pakistani troops over ceasefire violations, firing and infiltration attempts from across the border.

Eight ceasefire violations by Pakistan were witnessed in July. In June, it violated the ceasefire 5 times along the LoC and IB in Jammu region. There were 19 incidents of ceasefire violation along the LoC in April-May.
India, US agree on arms deal, but technology transfer remains key
India and the US on Friday agreed to go in for co-development and co-production of advanced weapon systems, with Washington pushing New Delhi for early decisions on offers ranging from the next-generation Javelin anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

But India will not jump headlong into any venture without first ensuring the US sticks to its promise to provide "ground-breaking technology" on par with its closest allies, even though the Modi government is keen to strengthen the moribund domestic defence production sector.

The decision to revive the floundering Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) between the two countries, as also work towards the extension of the 10-year India-US defence framework, was taken after visiting US defence secretary Chuck Hagel held delegation-level talks with his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley.

As the name DTTI suggests, the US is eager about "trade" as the world's largest arms exporter. Having bagged Indian defence deals worth $10 billion in the last decade, with more like the ones for Apache and Chinook helicopters on the way, has only served to whet its appetite. But for India, the focus is on "technology" to ensure it can build a robust defence-industrial base to shed its embarrassing tag of being the world's largest arms importer.
So, it was the importance of "technology transfer" that Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed in his meeting with Hagel, holding that he was keen to see "further progress" in bilateral defence ties, including in "defence manufacturing in India".

Jaitley, in turn, said, "The development of our own indigenous capabilities is a major objective that guides our present policies. In this direction, we have taken steps to raise the FDI cap (from 26% to 49%) in the defence sector. We look forward to work closely with the US in this regard," said Jaitley.
But India is still not fully convinced about the US as a reliable long-term, high-end defence supplier, given its propensity to impose sanctions and stringent export control laws. The US, however, believes it can effectively marry trade and technology, with benefits for both.

Stressing that "security, stability, freedom of sea lanes, economic development and energy" is in the interest of the two countries as well as the Asia-Pacific region, Hagel said the US wants to be a partner in India's military modernization and recognises its needs to strengthen its defence-industrial base.
The US will be led by its under secretary of defence acquisition, technology and logistics Frank Kendall in the DTTI. The Indian points-man, in turn, will be the defence production secretary, which is a comedown from before since former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon earlier led the initiative. Jaitley, incidentally, accepted Hagel's invite to visit Pentagon when he goes to Washington to attend the annual meetings of IMF and World Bank.

Of all the joint development and production offers, the US is especially keen to push the case for fourth-generation Javelin ATGMs, which even President Barack Obama has personally pushed with Modi. The Indian ATGM project, after all, is going to be worth over $2.5 billion. Javelin is in contention with the Israeli "Spike" tank-killing missiles to bag the project, as was earlier reported by TOI.

With the 1.13-million Indian Army grappling with a huge shortfall of 44,000 ATGMs of different types, the project involves an initial direct acquisition of the man-portable "tank killers", with a strike range of 2.5km, followed by technology transfer to defence PSU Bharat Dynamics for large-scale indigenous manufacture. The Army is keen to equip all its 382 infantry battalions with third and fourth-generation ATGMs.

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