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Friday, 12 December 2014

From Today's Papers - 12 Dec 2014

Russia to remain top defence partner: PM
KV Prasad

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 11
India and Russia today reaffirmed to carry forward the strategic partnership between the two countries and decided to expand cooperation in sectors such as energy, defence, health and mining.

Prominent among the 20 agreements, including seven inter-governmental pacts, was the one through which Russia promised to build 12 nuclear reactors and contribute in the ‘Make in India’ programme by manufacturing advanced helicopters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the “Druzhba-Dosti” vision to strengthen the bilateral partnership over the next decade at the end of the 15th annual Summit that discussed broad spectrum of the relationship. `Druzhba' in Russian language means friendship just as ' Dosti' in Hindi.
Both leaders, who met for the third time since Modi assumed office in May this year, pledged to take the bilateral ties to a higher trajectory that also translated into separate strategic vision document on nuclear cooperation.
Modi said Moscow would remain India’s top defence partner. Praising President Putin as a leader of great nation with which India has “friendship of unmatched mutual confidence, trust and goodwill”, he said Moscow remains a “pillar of strength”.

On cooperation in nuclear energy, Modi said both sides envisaged an "ambitious vision" of 10 more reactors of the highest standards of safety in the world. It includes manufacturing equipment and components in India that fits in the ‘Make in India’ policy.

Modi noted that while the first unit of Kudankulam nuclear power plant added 20% to the existing capacity, India and Russia are on course to install next three units of 1000 MW each.
Modi discussed with Putin a broad range of new projects.

Modi announced that Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India its most advanced helicopters that could be used both for military and civilian purposes. Sources said Russia is offering the Kamov.
India also suggested that Russia must shift some manufacturing facilities to India for spares and defence components to which President Putin responded ``very positively'.

Putin said Russia and India have been long cooperating in the defence sector and the two countries have reached a level of joint production of military hardware. He said Moscow is not averse to producing military hardware in India, pointing to the Brahmos missile programme and ongoing projects of advance fighter jet and multi-role transport aircraft.

On the trade front, both sides outlined a number of initiatives aimed at enhancing it from current $10 billion to $30 billion by 2025 by when the level of mutual investments will be over $15 billion each way.

Among the 20 pacts signed include one providing for cooperation, covering joint exploration and production of hydrocarbons, long term LNG supplies and joint study of a hydrocarbon pipeline system connecting Russia with India.

Oil India Limited signed a MoU Russia's Zarubezhneft for cooperation in joint search and evaluation of new hydrocarbons exploration, production, and transportation projects.

India's ESSAR and Russia's ROSNEFT also inked a pact for long-term supply of crude oil. The pact envisages 10-year supply and purchase by India of crude oil.

A MoU was signed between TATA Power and Russian Direct Investment Fund for cooperation in exploring investment opportunities in the energy sector across the Russian Federation.

A separate pact was inked envisaging acquisition of stakes by a consortium of Indian companies in a $2 billion project of ACRON, a Russian fertiliser company.
Will execute projects with China in PoK: Pak

Islamabad, December 11
Pakistan today asserted that it will go ahead with all development projects in PoK and criticised India for asking China to cease its involvement in infrastructure projects, including the multi-billion economic corridor there.

“Pakistan would go ahead with all projects because we have not objected any development project in Kashmir which benefits residents of Kashmir,” Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told mediapersons.

Aslam criticised India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for asking China to stop infrastructure building projects, including construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

Swaraj, answering a query in the Lok Sabha yesterday on projects of China and Pakistan, had said: “The government has seen reports with regard to China and Pakistan being involved in infrastructure building activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, including construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.”

The External Affairs Minister had said the government had conveyed its concerns to China about their activities in PoK, and asked them to cease such activities. China is involved in Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project in PoK. Earlier, it helped in Mangla Dam rising project on the Jhelum.

On UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s readiness to engage with India and Pakistan in resolving the Kashmir issue if requested by both, Aslam said Pakistan welcomes the statement. She said unresolved issue of Kashmir is the root cause of tension with India. “Final settlement of this issue must be through plebiscite and in accordance with the wishes of people of Kashmir,” she said. — PTI
SC upholds benefits to disabled soldiers

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 11
In a single stroke, the Supreme Court has dismissed more than 800 multiple appeals which were filed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) against judgments of the Armed Forces Tribunal that had granted benefits to disabled soldiers.

The Supreme Court’s orders will enhance the quantum of disability pension of a large number of soldiers.

The Fifth Pay Commission had introduced the concept of “broad-banding” disability pension to minimise medical subjectivity and rationalise mistakes of medical boards.

Under these provisions, those having a disability assessed below 50% will get benefits applicable for 50 per cent disability, those having 50-75% disability will get benefits applicable for 75% while disability above 75% will be considered as 100% for the purpose of fixing pension.

However while implementing the concept, the MoD granted it only to post-1996 personnel invalided out on medical grounds and not to pre-1996 or those who were released with disability pension on superannuation or on completion of the term of engagement, though all categories were equally afflicted with the problem of medical subjectivity. Military pension rules, however, _provided that defence personnel released in a low-medical category were deemed to be invalided out of service for purposes of disability pension.

There was a series of litigation thereafter wherein various Benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal, High Courts and now the Supreme Court in a detailed decision held that pre-1996 disabled personnel and those released on completion of terms or superannuation could not be deprived of the benefits of broad-banding.
US embassy to _get first woman defence attache

Washington, December 11
The US embassy in India is all set to have its first woman defence attache with the appointment of Brig Gen Robin L Fontes.

Fontes from the Defence Intelligence Agency was recently appointed to the key position.

She would be the first woman attache assigned to India and the first general officer to serve as an attache in India since the 1960s, the Defence Intelligence Agency said today.

“[India] is a very important country to [the United States] in the Pacific region. Developing good relations with key to meeting our national security objectives,” said Fontes.

“Demonstrating to them how important this relationship is has meant putting a general officer there," she said. During her tour, Fontes will serve as the primary military adviser to the US Ambassador to India and function as the Department of Defence's representative to India. "It's always a privilege to be able to serve and certainly in a key place such as India," she said. — PTI
Army's Tough Rules for Social Media Use After WhatsApp Trouble
The Indian Army is on the offensive after being caught off-guard by a string of unsigned messages on social media sites such as WhatsApp.

In a series of guidelines that it today published on its Facebook page, the Army has said, "personnel are prohibited from circulating chain mails, messages, posts etc on aspects of Armed Forces." Interestingly, the Army also asks veterans to be careful on what messages they forward. 

The Army's guidelines come after several unsigned messages were critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election speech in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday where he had politicised the Budgam incident in which two innocent people were killed. 

In its Facebook post today, the Army says, "there has been a concerted attempt by inimical elements to tarnish the image of the Army by posting malicious and damaging content based on half truths." 

Earlier, in a statement to NDTV, senior Army officials said that the anonymous social media messages being discussed were part of a psychological warfare operation meant to spring disenchantment in its ranks.

According to the Army, "all the messages are part of a malafide operation.... None of the messages have been written by serving officers of the Indian Army.  Army Headquarters is monitoring social media 24/7."

NDTV has also accessed two separate and seemingly unrelated WhatsApp posts which were being forwarded among the large online defence community. One of the messages, claiming to be about the Uri encounter in which 11 soldiers and policemen were killed, said, "The terrorists desperately tried to break the cordon established by Lieutenant Colonel Sankalp Kumar, Havildar Subhash Chand and Naik Gurmail Singh but these brave hearts fought till their last breath."

The Army says this message is a complete fabrication since the sequence of events described is incorrect and the Commanding Officer of the unit has denied that anyone in his unit has posted this.

The WhatsApp messages, fake or real, continue to be circulated despite a message from Army Commander General DS Hooda to officers sent several weeks back. In his message, the General said, "The print, electronic and social media are powerful tools which sway not only public opinion but also the sentiments of our own officers and men. Let us not fall prey to them."

For the Indian Army, the battle on social media is one that it is unaccustomed to. The anonymous nature of applications like Whatsapp mean that it is often impossible to get to the bottom of who is posting these messages. But the message from Army Headquarters is clear -- These are not our men or women. This is psychological warfare and we need to defend ourselves against such attacks.
Russia to help build 12 nuclear  reactors, manufacture its most advanced chopper in India
NEW DELHI, December 11: Russia will help build a dozen nuclear reactors, and manufacture one of its most sophisticated helicopters in India for civilian and military use as well as for export to third countries.

These are among a large number of decisions taken by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 15th annual India-Russia summit held here today.

The two sides signed as many as 20 documents in the presence of Modi and Putin. Seven of them are agreements between the two governments, and 13 are MoUs between Indian and Russian companies—-both public and private—- for cooperation in sectors such as defence, energy, oil and gas exploration, and such like.

Addressing a joint press conference after the summit, Modi said: "We have outlined an ambitious vision for nuclear energy of at least 10 more reactors." (The joint statement issued on the occasion talked of Russia helping India build not less than 12 nuclear reactors during the next two decades).

Modi said these reactors "will have the highest standards of safety in the world." The civil nuclear cooperation also includes manufacture of equipment and components in India, he added.

Russia has supplied two reactors to a nuclear plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu under a long-delayed agreement. It may supply four more to Kudankulam.

The hunt is currently on for suitable sites for building more nuclear plants with Russian assistance. A site close to Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh off the Bay of Bengal is reportedly being looked at.

Modi said: "We also discussed how to align our defence relations to India’s own priorities, including Make in India. I am pleased that Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India one of its most advanced helicopters which can be used for both military and civilian use."

"This will include the possibility of exports from India. We will follow up on this quickly," Modi said.

He also proposed that Russia should locate manufacturing facilities in India for spares and components for Russian defence equipment in India.

Modi said Putin responded "very positively" to the request.

Modi pointed out that in the last six months, both the countries have conducted joint exercises across all three wings of the armed forces.

On Thursday, the two sides also signed an agreement for training of Indian armed forces personnel in the military educational establishments in Russia.

The agreement lays down provisions and procedures for training courses in military educational and training establishments and will also facilitate a better understanding between the two defence forces.

The light-utility helicopters project is worth $3 billion, andwill be the first big-ticket "Make in India" initiative in the defence sector.

For the chopper deal, the public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or an Indian private firm could partner with a foreign firm for production of Kamov-226T helicopters. In India, the bidding for these ‘reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters’ is restricted to Indian firms and their joint venture partner.

In the first phase, the order could be for 384 helicopters, which could later be increased to 600 to replace the ailing Cheetah/Chetak fleet used by the Indian army and air force, the Hindustan Times today quoted senior Indian government officials as saying.

This invite was inserted late into the programme, and is intended to be a signal that India-Russia ties should go beyond the "ordinary buyer-seller" ties and reflect the true nature of a "growing partnership".

In October, the Modi government had scrapped acquisition of 197 light-utility helicopters from foreign firms because the selection process had been marred by allegations of corruption.

Russian Kamov-226T and Eurocopter and Bell were eying this contract. The tender was cancelled for the second time in seven years.

RSH helicopters can be used for day and night operations. They include reconnaissance and surveillance, evacuation, scout role, and aiding civil authorities to deal with any cris

The deepening of India-Russia energy cooperation comes in the wake of Moscow inking a $400 billion deal with Beijing for supplying gas for 30 years earlier this year, which Putin had termed a "watershed event".

Modi noted that Russia has been India’s foremost defence partner through decades, and said his first visit outside Delhi as Prime Minister was to new aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya — a ship bought from Russia.

"It sails our seas as a great symbol of our defence cooperation. Even as India’s options have increased, Russia will remain our most important defence partner," Modi declared. More than 70 per cent of India’s defence equipment is either sourced from Russia or manufactured in India with Russian technology.

The Prime Minister said Russia has been a pillar of strength for India’s development, security and international relations and both the countries discussed a broad range of new defence projects.

Modi said that he met Putin twice at the opposite ends of the world - in Brazil and Australia. He recalled that President Putin and the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee launched the annual summit process in 2000.

Modi said the two countries have "a strategic partnership that is incomparable in content". Russia has been "a steadfast supporter" even in difficult moments of history, he added.

Speaking after Modi, Putin said there is a need to boost trade between India and Russia. "Russia is keen to deepen the political dialogue between the two countries to strengthen cooperation in various areas," he added.

The Russian President said the two countries have a special privileged partnership and it continues to develop dynamically.

Referring to the annual bilateral trade, the leader said it was not enough. "We talked of measures to diversify bilateral trade," Putin added.

The joint statement said the two sides expect to treble bilateral trade to $30 billion by 2025 from $10 billion now. Russia hopes to invest $15 billion in India and expects Indiato invest an equal amount in Russia. India has already invested more than $6 billion in Russian oil and gas fields, while Russian investments in India amount to less than a billion dollars.

Modi and Putin jointly inaugurated the World Diamond Conference later in the day. In the evening, Putin met President Pranab Mukherjee who hosted a banquet in his honour.

The Russian President flew back to Moscow late in the night.
People of JK want to be part of India, says Defence Min
Srinagar: Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar on Thursday said that people of Jammu and Kashmir want to be part of India and the democratic system.
He said the recent spurt in strikes by militants in Jammu and Kashmir was aimed at disrupting the Assembly polls underway in the state, “but those designs have been foiled by the people who have come out in large numbers to vote.”
“This (attacks by militants) is an attempt to bring it (high voter turn-out) down again. But we managed to get good voting. You see Tral, for example… from one per cent to 37.8 per cent (voting).
“People are coming out in large numbers to vote. People of J-K want to be part of India and the democratic system,” Parikkar told reporters as he arrived here on his maiden visit to the state after assuming office.
Soon after his arrival, the Defence Minister was briefed by General officer Commanding of army’s Northern Command Lt General DS Hooda about the security situation in the state.
“The Defence Minister was apprised about the situation obtaining along the Line of Control, Line of Actual Control and hinterland operations of the army,” an army official said.
The official said Parikkar was also briefed by General Officer Commanding of army’s 15 Corps Lt General Subrata Saha about the army operations in the Valley, with particular reference to Uri operation on December 5 and Nowgam infiltration bid that was foiled on December 02.
The Defence Minister also inspected the recoveries, including weapons and warlike stores, recovered from the slain militants in the two operations in first week of the month.
Parikkar also visited the ‘War Memorial’ at the Badamibagh headquarters of army’s 15 Corps to pay tributes to the eight soldiers, including a Lieutenant Colonel, who were killed in the attack at Uri.
Parikkar said that the possibility of more such attacks cannot be ruled out with two more days of voting left in the state where the Assembly polls are being held over five phases. The two remaining dates on which polling is to be held are December 14 and December 20. The counting of votes is on December 23.
“Till the elections are on, the possibility (of more attacks) cannot be ruled out. We are alert about it,” he said.

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