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Saturday, 20 December 2014

From Today's Papers - 20 Dec 2014

 Lt Col gets 3-yr RI for graft

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 19
A Lieutenant Colonel from the Army Service Corps has been cashiered from service and awarded three-year rigorous imprisonment by a general court martial for seeking illegal gratification from civilian contractors. The trial of a junior commissioned officer (JCO), who had actually accepted money from contractors, began Wednesday.

The GCM, presided by Brig Naresh Goyal, commander of an infantry brigade, concluded at Ferozepur Cantonment in Punjab on Thursday. The court’s findings and verdict are subject to confirmation by the convening authority.

The officer was charged under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), for attempting to seek illegal gratification.

Sources said he had allegedly sought a kickback of 20 per cent per bill, besides replacing the original items contracted for with cheaper substitutes. He had denied the charges and had contended that he was being framed.

The JCO, whose trial began today, has been charged under Section 13 of the (PCA). He had allegedly received Rs 60,000 and Rs 48,000 from the contractors.

Sources said a local contractor, Gurvinder Singh, complained against the officer posted at a supply depot in October 2009. He, along with two other JCOs, was allegedly filmed by a hidden mini-camera by the contractor while demanding illegal gratification.

A court of inquiry (COI) was ordered by Headquarters 11 Corps to investigate the allegations and based upon the findings of the COI, disciplinary action was initiated against the officer and a JCO.
IAF mishaps: CAG blames it on poorly trained pilots

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 19

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in a report today, blamed the lack of proper training of pilots for increase in the number of Indian Air Force fighter aircraft accidents.

In a report tabled in Parliament, the CAG said that in 2012-13, there were as many as 33 accidents in which 27 pilots lost their lives. All these accidents, the CAG said, occurred because of “technical defects” and “human error.”

These have been caused because IAF can no longer train its pilots properly due to lack of trainers. The CAG has said that IAF doesn’t have the full complement of basic trainer aircraft, intermediate and advanced jet trainers and even simulators. Notably, CAG Shashikant Sharma is a former Defence Secretary.

Going into the details, the CAG said that Bangalore-based defence public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been trying to develop a trainer aircraft for the IAF for the past 14 years. Its inability to produce an aircraft has “adversely affected the stage-II training of pilots” that is when pilots graduate to fly in the supersonic speeds of fighter jets.

The CAG also found that IAF has paid the HAL over Rs 3,000 crore for development of various planes but HAL has spent only about Rs 6 crore. In the meantime, the IAF has inducted some 75 basic trainers for rookie pilots. If the non-availability of aircraft and training aids adversely affected the fighting of IAF, the CAG has questioned the IAF for improper storage of missiles and bombs.

The missiles need to be stored in controlled “dust-free” conditions and expired ammunition need to be stored carefully to “prevent environmental hazards”, but “certain stores are being kept” in the open.
Britain could allow women in army close combat role from 2016
(Reuters) - Britain might allow women to fight in close combat roles for the first time from 2016, the defence secretary said on Friday, in a move that would bring the British army into line with some other Western forces.

Britain's army currently allows women to serve on the front line, but does not let them join units whose main function is to engage and kill the enemy.

The United States, Australia and Canada are among those nations which already have women in close combat roles.

The Ministry of Defence said that women were a step closer to being permitted to join close ground combat units after a review established that mixed groups would not undermine troop cohesion. But it said further research was needed before their admission was given the green light.

That research would focus on exploring the physiological demands of close combat roles and its impact on women's health.

"I hope that, following further work on our training regimes and equipment, we can open up combat roles to women in 2016," Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.

Obama at R-Day celebration

For children playing war games in computer, witnessing the display of India’s armoury, its air force fighters flying past and scrambling over Rashtrapati Bhawan, daredevil army jawans on motorbikes, replica of naval frigate, tanks, guns and missiles at the country’s annual republic day parade in Delhi’s famed Raj Path has always been the most exciting part of the event. But, not for the knowledgeable and defence experts who know how under-equipped are the country’s combat forces compared to those of Russia, China, France, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Japan and the United States, militarily mightiest of them all. Therefore, one may think that exhibiting India’s military toys before the US president Barack Obama at the R-Day function may not exactly be a brilliant idea, after all.

For its size and population, India’s military spend on modern war equipment is among the lowest. Barring the rare-use missiles, very little of high-tech war equipment is manufactured in India. Nearly 70 per cent of India’s military hardware is imported. Though India boasts nearly a two-trillion-dollar economy, its annual war equipment import is worth less than five billion dollars. Honestly, there is nothing much to show off India’s defence might that the world’s top merchants of war are not already aware of. India’s military, among the world’s largest in terms of the number of combatants, regular and reserve, is also among the most underequipped. Almost 65 per cent of the annual defence budget go into the routine spending on personnel and establishment. The annual expenditure on armament and spares acquisition is only around $8 billion, domestic and imported, or less than 50 per cent of total cost of procurement and maintenance.

According to published figures by Pentagon, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and the Jane’s, China spent over $188 billion on military programs in 2013. China's official budget has grown by an average of 9.4 per cent each year in real terms since 2004. "China's military investments provide it with a growing ability to project power at increasingly longer range," observed a Pentagon report. However, it is still far less than the US military spending of about $640 billion in 2013. In comparison, Russia’s military spend in 2013 was $88 billion. Saudi Arabia, the fourth largest defence spender, budgeted $67 billion for its military, representing 9.3 per cent of its GDP.

On paper, India ranks 9th in annual defence expenditure. In 2013, it was budged at $47.4 billion, or 2.5 per cent of its GDP, according to the SIPRI, though the amount mentioned by IISS was much lower at $36.3billion, or 1.8 per cent of GDP. The big variation could be because of the fact that the actual expenditure was much less than the budgeted one. A good portion of India’s annual defence budget is left unspent almost every year and drawn back to partly cover the large general budget deficit. As mentioned earlier, the expenditure hardly presents the state of the country’s military arsenal. Interestingly, India’s defence budget, accounting for 16 to 18 per cent of the total annual budget barely manages a 10-line mention in the finance minister’s 90-minute-long speech. It provides no insight of the working of the defence department, leave alone even a general information such as the strength of Indian Army and its tooth-to-tail (frontline combat soldier-to-staff) ratio.

India’s poor domestic defence manufacturing capability has been a key reason behind its under-armed military over the years. Export is expensive. Foreign exchange is dear. Choice of technology and products is limited. As against a total of $402-billion arms production by the world’s top 100 companies in 2013 (SIPRI report), the combined sales of three defence manufacturers from India, the 9th largest defence spender, was only $5.5billion. Of the three Indian defence manufacturers, figuring in the top 100 list, only Hindustan Aeronautics (2013 sales $2.582 billion) improved its ranking to 42 from the previous year’s 43. Bunched together, Indian ordnance factories (combined 2013 sales at $1.918 billion) lost five ranks from 49 to 56 in terms of sales. Bharat Electronics, the third firm in the list, lost six ranks to 82 out of 100 with a turnover of only $1.054 billion in 2013.

Globally, the war industry has been most profitable. It has also been known as notoriously shady when it comes to striking sale deals with national governments, bribing political executives, bureaucrats and generals. Ironically, India’s political masters found more comfort in dealing with such international arms wheeler-dealers and discouraged domestic manufacture of high-tech defence equipment. The practice has been going on despite bribery allegations in defence import contracts continuing to tarnish the image of successive governments, beginning with Nehru’s (jeep import scandal) during the first arms engagement with Pakistan over Kashmir, soon after the independence (1947-48).

The size of India’s armed forces on headcounts had never represented the quantity and quality of its military arsenal. Not that President Obama or the world is ignorant about it, but making a display of India’s armoury before foreign such top ranking visitors from countries that have been feeding Indian forces for years may appear to be rather funny. However, the US president may not mind. Conversely, the snapshot of India’s arsenal may encourage him to lobby for more US arms sale to the country. In fact, Modi may even bite the bait to strengthen the country’s national security in the face of growing Pakistani military menace along the LoC and Chinese incursions across the LAC. (IPA)
Ottawa quietly apologized to India after Canadian soldiers appeared with posters of Sikh radicals at temple
Canada apologized to India in 2011 after a ministerial inquiry confirmed that military personnel had participated in a Remembrance Day event at a Surrey Sikh temple that "glorified terrorists."
At the event, according to internal documents, the Punjabi-speaking officer now running to become a Liberal MP warned his colleagues not to let themselves be photographed near posters of "martyrs" of the movement to create an independent Sikh state called Khalistan out of the Punjab area in India.
That officer, Lt.-Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan, was acclaimed Friday as Justin Trudeau's Liberal candidate in Vancouver South and has been criticized in recent days by some critics of the Khalistan movement in Canada for attending the 2011 event.
However the internal document show that Sajjan was ordered to attend the event.
Internal correspondence from 2012 indicates Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged that government officials and MPs were playing with fire attending events like the Remembrance Day ceremony and the annual Vaisakhi parade in Surrey, where some floats have included posters of Sikh radicals.
The government "must adopt a much more rigorous process for screening event invitations," Harper wrote to a Conservative MP who had complained about government representatives being compromised.
The revelation that Canada apologized to India, which according to one expert underscores a risk of trying to win support in immigrant communities, was contained in a Dec. 8, 2011 email from Harper's office.
It was in response to complaints from some Punjabi-Canadians that religious fundamentalists would hijack a solemn day to honour the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers.
"Canadian Armed Forces members were invited to attend a Remembrance Day event; this was not expected," wrote Katherine Coutinho, then a communications officer at Harper's regional office in Vancouver.
She added that Gen. Walter Natynczyk, then chief of defence staff, "has apologized to the Indian High Commissioner."
National Defence has continued to provide vehicles and personnel for the Vaisakhi parade, which draws more than 200,000 people, after being assured by organizers they'd be vigilant in avoiding future embarrassments, according to an internal document dated Aug. 7, 2013.
That document, from Defence Minister Rob Nicholson's office, said such events are important to help find Indo-Canadian recruits and ensure Canada's military is "inclusive."
The 2011 Remembrance Day event, hosted by the Dasmesh Darbar temple, was intended "to recognize the sacrifices of Canada's soldiers," according to a report at the time in The Vancouver Province newspaper.
The armed forces contingent appeared in front of a giant "Honouring our Fallen" poster accompanied by photographs of Sikh soldiers during the two world wars.
But nearby was a large poster of prominent Sikh militants who died during the Indian army's raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. A picture of the ceremony with that in the background was published in The Province.
Wearing a blue turban in the poster was Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the leader of the separatist Sikh militants who died during the Amritsar raid.
Temple President Davinder Singh Grewal, who confirmed that his temple has long displayed a poster honouring Parmar, rejected on Friday the notion that the posters at the 2011 event were glorifying terrorists.
"They are freedom fighters," he said, adding Parmar was never convicted before he was killed in India in 1992.
However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Josephson, in a 2005 acquittal of two Sikh leaders charged in the Air India bombing, noted that both the Crown and defence accepted that Parmar was the plot mastermind.
At the time of the temple event, Sajjan had just been appointed commander of the reserve B.C. Regiment. Sajjan, a former Vancouver policeman, was decorated for achievements during three tours as a soldier in Afghanistan, was also featured as a role model in the Conservative government's "Welcome to Canada" handbook for new immigrants.
Sajjan confirmed in an interview that he attended the event, but said it was no coincidence that photographers didn't capture him near the posters. "I did not take part in those pictures because I didn't think it was appropriate."
Documents from Nicholson's office make it clear that Sajjan was under orders to attend the event, and that he warned his superior officer after arrival that his men shouldn't appear near the militant posters.
Sajjan also advised his colleagues to do the same, but that advice was rejected, said the the letter, which also cleared him of faulty decision-making.

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