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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

From Today's Papers - 25 Nov 2014

INS Vikrant lost war against own countrymen: Sena
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, November 24
INS Vikrant, which is currently being scrapped, has lost the war for survival against its own countrymen, Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna wrote in an editorial today.

A ship-breaking company which bagged the country’s first aircraft carrier at an auction earlier this year began cutting Vikrant’s hull last weekend. “Everyone in the country was against the scrapping of this ship and wanted it to be converted into a museum. Could we not have collected Rs 100 crore to save the Vikrant from being reduced to scrap,” Saamna asked in its write-up.

The Vikrant was towed away to the ship breaking yard at Mumbai port a few months ago even as some social activists began a last-ditch effort to save her. The scrap company even offered to give away the Vikrant to be converted into a museum provided it was reimbursed the money spent on buying the ship at the auction, but the state and Central governments expressed their inability to come up with funds.
DRDO to develop early warning system for landslide prediction
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 24
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) are undertaking a joint project to develop a system to provide early warning about landslides in mountainous regions.

Under the project, DRDO’s Defence Terrain Research Laboratory (DTRL) would develop instrumentation and allied technology for the system, while the GSI would undertake ground-based geological works such as boring, ground survey and geo-technical analysis, DTRL director MR Bhutiyani said.

The mountainous regions of the country, particularly lower and mid-Himalayas as well as hilly terrain in central and south India, are increasingly becoming prone to landslide due to massive deforestation, mining, unauthorised and unregulated constructions and encroachments along natural water channels.

The DTRL is involved in assessment of terrain characteristics, developing terrain database management and creating thematic maps and terrain intelligence reports for the armed forces and certain other government agencies. It is also associated with disaster management studies.

Another DRDO laboratory, Snow and Avalanche Studies Establishment (SASE) is involved in terrain and snow cover analysis as well as forecast and mitigation of avalanches in upper Himalayas for facilitation of troops as well as civilians.

The DTRL-GSI project is aimed at developing technology for an early warning system for landslides that is based on instrumentation and empirical relation between rainfall, ground saturation and displacement.

Dr Bhutiyani said a joint pilot project was already underway in the field to develop a model for forecasting landslides and the data generated would be used as a base to develop standard operating procedures for instrument-based landslide monitoring.

Wreaking havoc

* Landslides rank third in the list of natural disaster for causing death and destruction

* In the Himalayas, landslides kill one person per 100 km

* According to the study, landslides affect about 15 per cent of the country’s area, with the average annual damage pegged at 200 lives and Rs 550 crore

* The most recent were in Uttarakhand last year, in which several thousand people were killed and hundreds of structures were destroyed

* Landslides also occurred in Sikkim in 2012 which killed scores of people. Several landslides in coastal regions and peninsular India have also wreaked havoc
MoD to change policy on blacklisting foreign firms
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 24
In an effort to strike a balance between tackling corruption in defence deals and having a method to deal with foreign companies who pay bribes, the Ministry of Defence will soon come out a policy of graded punishments and do away with ‘uniform blacklisting’ of foreign companies.

This will be in line with the decision the MoD took in August when it did not blacklist Finmeccanica, which owns AgustaWestland but offered a solution of graded punishment which ensured that no ongoing project would suffer. The company was contracted to supply 12 AW 101 helicopters for VVIP travel in India which was mired in allegations of kickbacks.

In August, the MoD took a decision that the company will go ahead with all contracts under execution; continue supply of spares and upgrades to India. However, all contracts in which the company had been declared lowest bidder after competition shall be put on hold till further orders. The MoD said in case of fresh tender or request for proposal, Finmeccanica will not be invited.

The company is in contention for Indian military contracts worth over $6 billion (approx Rs 36,000 crore).

Sources in the MoD said a new policy is being considered and ‘blacklisting’ a firm may not be good option as it just forecloses options for India. The challenge is from unscrupulous corrupt elements on one side and cutting down the delays in equipping the forces with the best equipment, weapons and aircraft, on the other.

The question remains how to deal with foreign companies who, despite being the best in their class, offer bribes or are forced to offer bribe to bag contracts in India.

“Blacklisting clearly has not deterred bribe-seekers in India, but may have contributed in slowing down acquisition. Punish the wrongdoer but why punish the forces by denying them technology and the equipment,” said a source.

A “partial ban” — instead of what could have been a “complete” one – was the option for Finmeccanica in August. It also marks a shift from the term of Defence Minister AK Antony who used to order “blacklisting” of armament companies after allegations of corruption and bribery. On March 28, 2012, speaking in Parliament, Antony confessed: “If a written complaint, even if anonymous, was received, I used to forward it for inquiry”.

The case in which the second such case after the Narendra Modi-led government ruled out blacklisting of global engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, which too is under the CBI scanner for allegedly employing agents, on the grounds of “operational urgency and national security”.

The engine maker had agents for its contract for supply of engines to the petroleum and natural gas ministry and had nothing to do with the Ministry of Defence.

Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh, who has had served under Antony in UPA-I, before he shifted his loyalties to the BJP and handles the same portfolio, has publically spoken about how blanket blacklisting was causing harm.

What it means

* The Ministry of Defence plans to do away with ‘uniform blacklisting’ of foreign companies and give graded punishment to wrongdoers

* This is in line with the ministry's decision in August to punish Finmeccanica, which owns AgustaWestland, but not blacklist it

* This will help keep unscrupulous elements at bay without affecting the supply of equipping and technology to the armed forces
Doval is special envoy for China border talks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 24
In keeping with tradition, the Narendra Modi government today appointed National Security Adviser Ajit Doval as the Special Representative for the ongoing boundary talks with China, a signal that the dialogue can restart.

“Ajit Doval has been appointed as the Special Representative of India to conduct boundary negotiations and strategic consultations with China. This arrangement will be part of NSA’s overall assignment,” an official announcement said.

Ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September, Doval had visited Beijing and predicted an “orbital jump” in the bilateral relations.

Though Doval, former Intelligence Bureau chief, was appointed the NSA by the Modi government soon after assuming office in May, he was not designated the SR, the pointsmen on either side who are expected to take forward the dialogue on the boundary issue.

India and China had established the mechanism of Special Representatives in 2003 to thrash out a resolution to the vexed boundary question. The two sides have so far held 17 rounds of talks, making some progress.

The arrangement came in force during the period of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had appointed his NSA Brajesh Mishra for the task and in the previous governments of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the job was handled by NSAs JN Dixit, MK Narayanan and Shiv Shankar Menon.

The last round of talks was held in February in Delhi between the then NSA Shivshankar Menon and Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi.
Joint military exercise between Sri Lanka and India armies concludes
 Nov 24, Colombo: A three-week long joint military exercise between the special forces of Indian Army and Sri Lanka Army concluded Sunday with a closing ceremony at the Magampura International Convention Centre in Hambantota, the Army said.

A contingent of 42 Indian Army Special Force troops including 5 officers and 37 other ranks joined the Sri Lankan contingent of 300 Special Forces and Commandos, and a few Navy and Air Force personnel in the exercise called Mithra Shakthi.

From Sri Lanka, 168 officers and other ranks from Sri Lanka Army Special Forces and Commando Regiment, accompanied by 16 officers and other ranks from Sri Lanka Navy and 16 officers and other ranks from Sri Lanka Air Force, together with all 42 Indian Army Special Force troops, participated in the Exercise.

The Exercise, meant purely to share knowledge and experience between Special Operation Forces of both Sri Lanka and Indian Armies through enhancement of interoperability, joint efforts and mutual exchange of Special Operation tactics, was implemented under the directions of the Army Commander, Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake during the three weeks.

The modalities for the three-week long Exercise have been closely coordinated through the Directorate of Army Training at the Army Headquarters in consultation with the corresponding authorities.

The Mithra Shakthi Exercise, an initiative, designed largely by the Indian Army was the successful outcome of the 'Annual Defence Dialogue' (ADD) that was co-chaired in Colombo early October by both Mr. R.K Mathur, Indian Defence Secretary and Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Secretary to Ministry of Defence and Urban Development.

In the aftermath of the ADD, held in January 2012, a Sri Lankan contingent of 48 service personnel took part in a similar Exercise in New Delhi, India at the invitation of the Indian Army.
Parrikar relook at agents, blacklists
New Delhi, Nov. 24: The Centre is debating lifting a ban on arms agents — called “middlemen” since the Bofors kickbacks row that erupted in 1987 during the Rajiv Gandhi government’s term — in a new set of guidelines on procurement of military hardware.

The new guidelines may be a part of the defence procurement policy — a manual introduced in 2004 that is revised every year — or may be publicised through a separate announcement.

The guidelines are also likely to set the rules on “blacklisting” of firms being investigated on corruption charges.

Defence ministry officials say the re-look at the policy follows a deeper understanding that existing rules boomerang on the armed forces.

For example, since the defence ministry under UPA-II’s A.K. Antony blacklisted AgustaWestland in a deal on VVIP helicopters, an effective blacklisting of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica was hurting the forces, especially the navy. Finmeccanica group companies are engaged in executing ongoing contracts.

Last Saturday, the defence acquisitions council (DAC) deferred a decision on a programme to buy light cargo planes because only a Tata-Airbus venture bid for it. The single-vendor situation had arisen in part because Finmeccanica was forbidden from participating in competitions for new contracts.

Officially, a decision on the programme was deferred because defence minister Manohar Parrikar wants to study it further. Deferment is not Parrikar’s style, going by his first promise made in office: to be speedy and transparent.

The defence ministry is finding that the current policy is an impediment to Narendra Modi’s “make in India” campaign. The Parrikar-led ministry has set an unofficial deadline of three years to see “make in India” defence projects fructify on ground.

The establishment is now swinging around to the view that if the current rules of procurement were to continue, such an ambition would be difficult to achieve. Even under the current policy, for example, agents are permissible but the policies and the formalities involved in granting them a licence are discouraging for the industry.

The “blacklisting” of firms, practised mainly in the Antony regime in almost all cases of official investigations into corruption charges, is another area.

Saturday’s DAC meeting, the first chaired by Parrikar, that agreed to open formalities to buy mounted gun systems worth Rs 15,750 crore was itself an eye-opener.

More than half the foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that are capable of making the gun are barred from doing defence business in India to a greater or lesser degree.

The absence of the guns — not a single heavy gun has been imported since 1987 — is telling on the operational capability of the Indian army’s artillery regiments.
Indo-US defence treaty: Killing many birds with one stone - See more at:
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stimulate 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 form an alliance. A mutual defence treaty will maintain regional peace and security, counter rising threats to the liberal economic order, and promote the postwar status quo that will generate India’s rejuvenation.

With the end of the Cold War, the falling out between Pakistan and the US, and China’s rise, the timing is perfect for an India-US accord. Defence cooperation between the two nations remains strong. In 2005, the US and India agreed to nuclear cooperation. Last year, India imported approximately $2 billion of military equipment from the US, a significant increase from $237 million in 2009. Today, the US is the Indian Army’s most frequent partner for military exercises.

Americans are benefiting enormously from renewed relations with India. Indians have emigrated to the US 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, university professors, and the CEOs. Bilateral trade has increased five-fold since 2001 to nearly $100 billion; and New Delhi’s economic reforms have reinforced its valuable role in regional stability at a time when disorder seems to plague West Asia and Southeast Asia.

As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi is already on record as favouring neoliberal economic policies that spurn India’s vestiges of socialism, five-year plans and the permit-licence raj. Modi’s political success and promises of economic reform make the new prime minister a reformer in the American mould. But most importantly, India and the US share an immediate interest: Containing China. China’s political and military rise as the world’s largest economy might be inevitable. However, it is unknown whether its rise will spell the end of the western economic and political order. At the beginning of the Cold War, many observers similarly worried that the Soviet Union and the communist bloc would rise to world dominance. But the US 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 could manage itself no more.

Drawing 2.3 million active frontline personnel and a $126 billion defence budget, China seems intent on using its military to expand its political influence. But China can be fickle in its allegiances and its only constant commitment has been to pragmatism. Beijing famously broke with Moscow, invaded Vietnam, and has of course gone from antipathy to affection to engaged rivalry with the US. Despite troubled relations with India since the war of 1962, China knows that its status as Washington’s most favoured nation (or, since 1998, the rechristened Permanent Normal Trade Relations) economic partner is much too crucial to jeopardise.

India can build a balancing coalition consisting of the US, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia. Its emergence as a counterweight to China presents an opportunity matched by the time for a re-alignment in the American approach to Pakistan. Once Washington’s most dependable regional ally, Pakistan has become an impediment to freeing Afghanistan of the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda. Without the US, however, Pakistan would lose its primary adviser and financial source.

India wants to collaborate with the US and the community of nations. A military equipment deal, a goodwill package or legislation raising India’s H1B visa quota would work deftly. The same goes with mutual cooperation to apprehend terrorist networks.

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