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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

From Today's Papers - 18 Nov 2014

At job rallies, Army to test Punjab youths for dope
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 17
Often described in folk tales as the land of brave warriors, Punjab now faces the unpleasant reality of the Indian Army carrying portable drug testing kits at recruitment rallies to check whether youth have taken performance enhancing drugs to clear physical tests.

The tests are done randomly on the youth who clear the first stage of recruitment – a 1.6-km run that is to be completed in six minutes. Sources in the Army say tests were started seven-eight months ago.

In July this year, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released data of drugs related cases across the country. As per the data, Punjab emerged at the top with 10,220 registered drug related cases in 2012.

‘Pupils’ of the eyes of each youth are observed and those found suspicious are screened. The ‘pupils’ dilate if the youth is on drugs. A check for dilated pupils is done by sending a youth to a dark room where light is directed on the face. Drug addicts do not blink their eyes.

A portable drug testing kit costs no more than Rs 250 and it tests urine samples for traces of drugs.

Officials refused to share figures of those caught on dope. They said the announcement is made in advance that a drug test will be conducted. The first suspicion of the Army surfaced during the previous recruitment drive when authorities found syringes and empty vials of drugs in Punjab and in Alwar (Rajasthan) in 2012.

A candidate wins more marks if he completes the tests quicker or for the greater number of ‘repetitions’. Sources said performance enhancing drugs can make a difference.

The first stage 1.6-km run, if completed inside 5 minutes 40 seconds, will earn 60 marks. Up to six minutes, it will earn 48 marks.

Random tests

    The tests are done randomly on youth who clear the first stage of recruitment.
    Such tests were started seven-eight months ago.
    As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Punjab was at the top with 10,220 registered drug related cases in 2012.
    The suspicion surfaced during the previous recruitment drive when authorities found syringes and empty vials of drugs in Punjab and in Alwar in 2012.
 Russian air force chief to visit Sukhoi squadron
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 17
Russian air force chief Colonel General Viktor Nikolaevich Bondarev, who is on a three-day trip to India, will visit the Pune-based Sukhoi-30 MKI squadron where a plane was crashed on October 14 after pilot seats ejected automatically.

He will also visit the National Defence Academy on the outskirts of Pune and the Air Force Academy at Hyderabad.

Colonel Gen Bondarev today called on Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha and Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag in New Delhi.

High-level interactions between the two nations have taken place regularly since the signing of the Declaration on the India-Russian Strategic Partnership in 2000.
Railways, Defence spar over 19 Northeast lines
Railways is headed for a tussle with the Defence Ministry over the classification of 19 rail sections in the Northeast as “strategic lines” for the Army. The Defence Ministry recently denied a railway proposal to include these lines/projects in the list of strategic links. Railways is not willing to treat it as the final word because it says the yearly losses on account of the lines is huge.

Railways had proposed to the Defence Ministry that apart from the 14 strategic rail lines already identified, an additional list of 19 lines be also termed “strategic” because they are either primarily along international borders or are links to the strategic lines. Traffic is minuscule in many of these lines and are largely being used for the movement of men and materials of the Army. The resultant operating losses for Railways, for instance, on three of those lines alone are upwards of Rs 122 crore per year. In three of the other gauge conversion works involving connectivity to Tripura, the annual loss in pegged at Rs 318 crore, as per documents accessed by The Indian Express. Terming them “strategic” would exempt Railways from annual dividend payable to the government and would also entitle it to reimbursement of the operating losses.

After a couple of reminders over the past one year — the last one being in September — involving senior Railway Board officers writing to Defence Secretary R K Mathur, the latter finally got back last week to say that these 19 lines are “out of the purview of the Armed Forces”.

“These lines have associated fund/revenue related issues and do not directly support (other than Bogibeel Bridge and Sevok-Rangpo line) Army’s strategic requirements,” says the letter from the Defence Ministry to Additional Member (Works), Railway Board, V K Jain. The reply from the Defence ministry has Railways geared up for further action.

“It is not like the final word on this has been spoken. All this while only letters were being exchanged…Now we will have meetings with them and try to explain our point of view. It is an inter-ministerial issue that we hope to resolve at this level,” Chairman, Railway Board, Arunendra Kumar told The Indian Express.

Most of the lines in contention have been bleeding railway coffers even though they were constructed to feed the strategic lines identified by the Defence Ministry.

“Most of these lines are financially unviable and Indian Railway is forced to pay dividends on the amount spent for construction of the lines. It is becoming difficult to sustain this,” Jain had said in his letter to the Defence Secretary on September 16. Currently, 14 rail lines are identified by the Army as strategic lines.
It’s time for India and the U.S. to band together
Amid the falling out between Pakistan and the United States and China’s rise, there is no better time for the two powerful democracies to develop a strong alliance.

India’s recently elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi just enjoyed a very successful visit to the United States. Modi, who is the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is a very different kind of leader than those of the ousted Congress Party. He appears to be substantially pro-foreign investment and in favor of market-based reforms to improve his nation’s welfare.

But for Modi to jumpstart India’s economy, a new balance of power must emerge in Asia. As the world’s most powerful democracies, India and the United States should consider developing an alliance. A mutual defense treaty could maintain regional peace and security, counter threats to the liberal economic order, and promote the regional status quo, which would in turn underwrite India’s rejuvenation.

With the end of the Cold War, the falling out between Pakistan and the United States, and China’s rise, now is the right time for a United States-India accord. Defense cooperation between the two nations remains strong. In 2005, the United States and India agreed to nuclear cooperation. Last year, India imported approximately $2 billion of military equipment from the United States, a significant increase from $237 million in 2009. Today, the United States is the Indian Army’s most frequent partner for military exercises. A mutual defense treaty will solidify this vital collaboration.

Americans are benefitting enormously from their relationship with India. Indians have emigrated to the U.S. in large numbers, they and their children have enriched American universities, and their entrepreneurship and technical skills have produced thousands of jobs and companies. Indian-Americans have become political leaders (including two governors), university professors, and the CEOs of household-name companies like PepsiCo and Microsoft. Bilateral trade has increased five-fold since 2001 to nearly $100 billion; Presidents Obama and Modi recently pledged to raise it another five-fold. New Delhi’s economic reforms have reinforced its valuable role in regional stability at a time when disorder seems to plague the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

India’s historical ally, the Soviet Union, had been aligned with the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and their Congress party. This gives Modi’s BJP incentive to develop a viable alternative in a robust alliance with the United States. As the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi is already on record as favoring neoliberal economic policies, spurning India’s vestiges of socialism, five-year plans, and overregulation of private industry. Modi’s tenure as Gujarat’s leader was not without its religious and managerial complexities. Modi’s political success and promises of economic reform in spite of these bumps suggest that the new prime minister could function as a reformer in the American mold. India’s foreign investment prospects stand to grow even stronger as its national security becomes more reliable.

Most importantly, India and the United States share an immediate interest: containing China. China’s political and military rise as the world’s largest economy may be inevitable. However, it is unknown whether China’s rise will spell the end of the western economic and political order. At the beginning of the Cold War, many observers worried that the Soviet Union and the communist bloc would attain global dominance. But the United States and its allies successfully pursued a steady, half-century containment strategy, rebuilding the West, fostering Asian and Latin American growth, and waiting until the Soviet Empire collapsed under its own weight.

Faced with an authoritarian, expansionist China and a revanchist Russia, it is in both American and Indian interests to strike an alliance. Russia’s Ukrainian incursion and China’s aggressive moves along the India-China border and in the South China Sea should encourage cooperation between the U.S. and India. Indeed, American and Indian interests coincide far more than those of the United States and China. The United States and India both aim to maintain democracy worldwide, preserve a stable international order, peacefully resolve militaristic and trade issues attending the South China Sea, and promote economic growth through free markets. Meanwhile, China defends authoritarianism, seeks to maintain the role of state-owned enterprises, and may be destabilizing Asia in its quest to reassert its claims against its neighbors.

Drawing 2.3 million active frontline personnel and a $126 billion defense budget, China seems intent on using its military to expand its political influence. But the nation can be fickle in its allegiances. In fact, its only constant commitment is to pragmatism. Beijing famously broke with Moscow in 1961, invaded Vietnam in 1979, and has gone from skepticism to endearment to engaged rivalry with the United States. In 1971, Beijing even consulted Washington about its uncertain strategy during the Indo-Pakistan War over the sovereignty of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan. Despite having a troubled relationship with India since the Sino-Indian War of 1962, China knows that having Most Favored Nation status with the U.S. (rechristened as Permanent Normal Trade Relations) is much too important to jeopardize.

India’s best interest will lead her to build a coalition with the United States, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia. India’s role in this balance of power would be crucial. In fact, India has an opportunity to survey as a counterweight to China, just when the U.S. needs to reconsider its relationship with Pakistan. Once Washington’s staunchest ally in the region, Islamabad—whose relationship with India is fraught with fears over their shared border—has become an obstacle to ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban and destroying al-Qaeda. Without the United States, however, Pakistan would lose its primary military and financial advisor and aid source.

India cares about collaborating with the United States and with other nations. A military equipment deal, a goodwill package like the Marshall Plan, or legislation raising India’s H1B visa quota, particularly for science and IT professionals—something that American firms have been clamoring for, anyway—would go a long way. The two nations would also benefit from mutual cooperation to apprehend terrorist networks that have bedeviled both the United States and India. All of this would help India stabilize South Asia.

The deal makes sense on both defense and economic fronts. President Obama and future commanders in chief can present such bipartisan foreign policy to a newly composed Senate for treaty ratification. The United States will benefit from a strong ally to stabilize a disruptive region of the world, while India can gain the confidence of having the support of the world’s most powerful democracy. There is no better time than today for such a partnership. Both nations should consider seizing it—after all, fortune favors the bold.

John Yoo is the Heller Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General. Riddhi Dasgupta is an international law expert and author of International Interplay. Views expressed are their own.
No 'Dhanush' for the Army?
 After placing an initial order of 114 indigenously-made Dhanush howitzers, there are doubts whether the Army will go ahead with the purchase even though a snag in the gun has been sorted out.

The Army is desperately short of new long-range artillery having failed to induct any new gun after the Bofors scandal.

The Dhanush is an upgraded version of the Swedish 155 mm Bofors howitzers bought by India in mid-1980s based on the original designs. It is a 155mm, 45-calibre gun with a maximum effective range of 38 km in salvo mode compared to the 39-calibre, 27-km range of the original guns. It is 80 per cent indigenous, with the APU (auxiliary power unit), electronic dial sights and few other small items being imported.

The Dhanush prototype suffered a barrel burst during firing trials at Pokhran in August last year, which has since been resolved.

An official with knowledge of the matter said. “It's true that the trial at Pokhran didn't go well. There was a barrel burst. However, it was later confirmed that the burst was not due to a defective barrel, rather the ammunition wobbled out-of-axis to exert additional pressure on the barrel, causing the accident”.

The official added that “the raw barrel was sent from the Metal & Steel factory, Ishapore, which is known amongst the ordnance factories for its quality barrel work”.

The army has placed an initial order for 114 guns and an expressed interest in procuring 300 additional howitzers. But after the initial enthusiasm, the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is presently awaiting an indent from the Indian Army. The present lull may be an indication that the Army may be weighing other options of procuring howitzers.

Despite numerous efforts, Defence Ministry and Army officials were not available for comment.

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