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Monday, 29 December 2014

From Today's Papers - 29 Dec 2014

Ageing jets fast ‘eroding’ IAF’s prowess: Report

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 28

In what should be a wake-up call to the security czars of the country, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Ministry of Defence that its capability vis-a-vis the neighbours was ‘fast eroding’ – all due to an old and ageing fleet of fighter jets, with replacements having been delayed.

The report submitted in Parliament last week highlighted the lackadaisical pace of plans for induction and replacement of the ageing fleet of Soviet-origin MiG 21 and MiG -27 fighter jets.

Two months ago, on October 3, a similar warning was issued by IAF Chief Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha, saying the older aircraft were on their last leg and new acquisitions were running behind schedule. “We have lost the timelines, overruns are much more than they should have been. It is definitely a matter of concern,” he said.

The committee in its report talked about the existing squadron strength. It met IAF officials who said, “We are down to 25 squadrons (each of 16-18 jets) today even though authorisation is for 42 combat squadrons. Thus, our capability has already come down... our capability vis-à-vis our neighbours is fast eroding”. The committee seems to have taken the figure of 25 squadron from October and November this year when the fleet of 195 -odd Sukhoi-30MKi jets was grounded.

“This widening gap occurs because the rate at which fighter aircraft are retiring after the completion of their total technical life exceeds the rate at which their replacements are being inducted,” said the report, adding “the country’s security requirements are _being compromised by ignoring consistently widening gap between the sanctioned and the existing plane strength”.

It also pointed out that the IAF today requires at least 45 fighter squadrons to counter a two-front collusive threat (from Pakistan and China) but the government has authorised 42 squadrons. “The paradox needs to be rectified at the earliest,” it said.

The committee also criticised the slow acquisition plans for the Navy. The Defence Acquisition Council, headed by the Defence Minister, in 2012 sanctioned 198 ships and submarines to equip the Navy for safeguarding national interests. However, at present the Navy has 127 ships and 15 submarines (142 vessels). Another 41 ships and submarines are under construction.

“Regular delays and cost overruns have marred various projects. In case of indigenous air craft carrier, the original sanctioned cost was Rs 3,261 crore which has been revised to Rs19, 341 crore —- six times the cost escalation,” the report said. There have been long delays and cost overruns in almost all acquisition activities.. These time and cost overruns in almost all projects are the major causes of concern. For long, the country’s defence needs have been lying unattended and huge gaps have emerged at the force level, it said.

Talking about infrastructure for airfields in forward areas such as Leh, Ladakh and North-East, the committee said unless the infrastructure projects were completed on time, effectiveness of all other assets, be it fleet or manpower, will be obviated. Hence, it recommended addition availability of funds.
France wants $6-bn Maitri missile deal inked
Paris/New Delhi, December 28

With the Indo-French $6 billion surface-to-air missile system project in doldrums, France is hoping that the new government’s push for “Make in India” will lead to inking of the long-delayed deal.

France remains hopeful of signing the deal although Indian armed forces are sceptical about the missile since indigenously developed Akash is in play.

The missile system project, titled Maitri, was initiated in 2007. It aims at joint development and production of the missile system between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and France’s MBDA. An MoU to co-develop the surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) was signed during French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India in February last year.

Since then, the situation has changed as the Indian Air Force feels its requirements could be met by indigenous Akash surface-to-air missile weapon system.

Asked about reservations by the Air Force, a top MBDA official in Paris said, “We have written back answering the issues raised by the IAF. We are hopeful that this deal will be inked soon.”

The official at the MBDA also said the “Make in India” project was apt for the deal.

He added while the range of SRSAM would be 40 km, Akash’s range was only 25 km.

Indian Air Force sources said they had nothing against the Maitri project per se, but would prefer to use the available Akash missile rather than wait for the Indo-French ones to come.

“The Maitri project can go on, but we want missiles and Akash is serving the purpose,” sources said.

Refusing to comment about the Maitri project, sources in the DRDO said the Akash missile was already in play and was based on a platform similar to Maitri.

“SRSAM is part of our strategic dialogue with India and is raised whenever top officials and leaders from both sides meet. We believe a lot of information has been handed over after the new government took over in Delhi,” an MBDA official said.

French officials said both Akash and Maitri could be inducted as the two would improve overall weapon system of India.

The MBDA believes the Maitri will be better for India as it will be “more cost-effective to develop a new missile than to upgrade a missile based on outdated propulsion”.

As per the deal, the Maitri missiles will be produced only in India and the first deliveries will happen three years after the agreement is signed. India can also export the missile with “MBDA support”. — PTI
French Defence Firms Back Modi's 'Make in India' Push
With India expected to spend over USD 200 billion in the next decade to modernise its military, French defence firms are eyeing a piece of the cake and are ready to "adapt" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' push.

Though waiting for more clarity, French defence firms are scouting for partners as the new government in India pushes for indigenisation rather than buying off the shelf from foreign companies.

"Of course, if we had the choice we would rather prefer to build in our country but we have to adapt to the context. We know the trend is there. So the idea is more to see how to capture the trend," Jerome Penicaud, Bid Manager Surface Ships and Naval Systems Division of French defence giant DCNS, told PTI.

He was candidly replying to a question whether DCNS was happy about 'Make in India' push or would it have preferred to build ships in France only.

While DCNS is already building Scorpene submarines in India through their domestic partner Mazgaon Docks Ltd (MDL) in Mumbai, the next big project they are eyeing is the nearly Rs 16,000 crore amphibious warfare ships, called Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) project.

"For the LPD project, here the idea is that the ships are built by one of the Indian shipyards that has been selected. We are partners. We are here to bring the design and necessary technical assistance. That is the way we are addressing Make in India," he said.

DCNS has tied up with Indian private shipyard Pipavav for this project.

Other big project that DCNS is eyeing is the P75I of the Indian Navy under which six submarines will be built in India at a cost of about Rs 50,000 crore.

Sources indicted that DCNS is likely to sign a deal with MDL for this project.

Another major project that the French firms will be bidding for is the Rs 15,570 crore proposal to acquire 814 artillery guns.

While 100 such guns would be bought off the shelf, 714 would be made in India.

"It is one of the major deals that we can have around the world. You can imagine that for Nexter and our partner L&T, it is an important project," Jean-Michel Domitrovic, Executive Vice President of Nexter, told.

Without waiting for the formal tender -- Request for Proposal, the French firm has already tied up with Larsen and Toubro and Ashok Leyland to produce the 155mm/52 calibre mounted gun system being called Indian Caesar.

Asked how he sees the new government vis-a-vis the UPA, Domitrovic said the "problem" faced with the previous government was that it was difficult to know the decisions.

"With this new government we expect and we hope that decisions can be taken faster and we can have a better view of the acquisition process. Where we are, what is being planned for next month like that. It is very important for us," he said.

The Indian Army has not acquired artillery guns in the past three decades after the Bofors scam surfaced in 1986.

At least six tenders have been issued so far but were cancelled due to a number of reasons including blacklisting and single vendor scenario.

The plans to acquire such guns were first mooted under Army's Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP) formulated in 1999.

Domitrovic was also candid enough to say that it is "unacceptable" for a country like India not to have acquired any artillery guns since 1987.

Another French major MBDA, is equally eager to partner with Indian companies for various missile projects.

"We already have a joint partnership going on with Indian firms and are looking forward to deepening it," a senior MBDA official said.

One of the major decisions taken by the Modi government was to increase the FDI limit in defence sector to 49 per cent.

"The evolution from 26 per cent to 49 is positive. We are looking forward to any order on further evolution on that," Xavier Hay, Managing Director of Airbus Helicopters in India, told PTI.

Asked about 'Make in India', he said it is at an early stage.

"Let us see how it is structured," Hay said, pointing out that the firm already has a partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
Army shows the way in enforcing helmet rule
PUNE: The traffic police may have started enforcing the helmet rule as part of a special drive over the last two months, but for the past many years, a set of people in the city have not flouted the rule even once. Servicemen in Pune, like in rest of the country, have always used the helmet, as mandated to them by the army, and now swear by it as the best way to ensure the safety of riders.

Defence personnel riding two-wheelers within the Pune Cantonment area have to mandatorily wear the helmet. The rule applies to the pillion rider too. Non compliance is treated as a serious offence, with punishment ranging from losing the right to drive the two-wheeler for a couple of days, to even as much as the defaulter being put on trial for indiscipline.

The logic behind the army enforcing the helmet rule is simple - each life is precious, not just for the loved ones of a person, but also for the country. After all, maximum lives lost in most two-wheeler accidents are of people in their most productive age group.

While full compliance is summarily 'expected' from the servicemen and their families, in many cases even civilians slip on the safety gear when they are riding in the cantonment area- be it for regard for the rule strictly enforced on cantonment roads, or fear of being reprimanded.

Sanjeev Kumar, CEO of Pune Cantonment Board attributes the compliance to the army way of life. "While the safety of the servicemen and their families is paramount of course, the other aspect is to do with discipline - directives are followed in letter and spirit not just by the defence personnel, but also their families," he said.

The rule is followed across all cantonments and army stations in the country, said an official who did not wish to be quoted. "Wearing a helmet when riding a two-wheeler in the cantonment is mandatory for all defence personnel. People are checked and stopped for non compliance. Of course, we don't enforce it on civilians as that is the duty of the city's traffic police, but the awareness drive conducted by them has definitely worked as we see more people wearing helmets now," he said.

According to Colonel Shashikant Dalvi, an ex serviceman, political will is needed to really enforce the helmet rule in the city. "The helmet rule was made for army personnel when two wheelers started being used and it was mandatory from the word go. The fear of being pulled up was enough of a deterrent for us and then it gradually became a way of life. So much so, that my family members too never step on two-wheelers without a helmet even now. It's ironical that many civilians don the helmet when they enter the cantonment, but take it off as soon as they are outside the army area. Unless the traffic police get political backing and the penalty for defaulters is increased so that it pinches, enforcing the helmet rule in Pune is difficult," he said.
 Military courts: a defence

On the one hand, we should all get behind the Pakistan Army and the entire political class because they are now seemingly united to fight the long overdue war against monsters that the army and these politicians themselves once created.

On the other hand, we should be very worried about due process, about our democracy, and perhaps most of all about yet another generation of army majors rising to the rank of army brigadiers with a sense of ingrained moral superiority over our judges, policemen and MPAs.

How does a conscientious Pakistani reconcile these two disparate instincts? Most of us place a premium on black and white clarity. There is nothing Bush about this. It is human nature. We want to be on the side that we believe is right, and true.

The army is made up of roughly six hundred thousand of our sons and brothers. Putting on the uniform is an incredible act of sacrifice and courage, especially in Pakistan. This is, let’s remember, an army that has been at war for over a decade – on its own territory, against its own citizens, in multiple theatres, and under the swirling clouds of complex international political economy, and assassinations, protests, elections and electricity blackouts at home. Worst, all of this is seen through the lens of the actions of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf. The army can never live down its role in our republic’s various dysfunctions. The sins of generals past, weighing down on our heroic men in arms today is fundamentally unfair.

Yet this much is also true. The military has mothered a pathological hatred for Pakistani democracy, a process that goes back to before Ayub, and continued through the daily grind of the containerised ‘revolution’ we had to endure over the last four months. It turns out the devil knows how to work more than one human frailty. The clowns in our discourse that the army can’t outright buy, it seduces with vanity (everyone else is a foreign agent). Does the veneer of distance, because General Pasha is no longer in service, absolve the culture of the Pakistani military of its hatred for politicians and democrats? It absolutely does not.

Perhaps worse, every generation of corps commanders and chiefs from after the Zia era have failed to challenge violent religious extremism as a legitimate marker of Pakistani identity. Some have endured this silently, and others have endorsed it enthusiastically. Anti-west, pan-Islamist gobbledygook is not the fringe rhetoric in our society. It is mainstream. Pakistani generals who have watched our brave sons bleed to death from the wounds of our ‘strategic depth’ must today tiptoe around this Al-Qaedaised narrative of Pakistani statehood. And make no mistake, the Al-Qaeda narrative is the Hizb ut Tahrir narrative is the TTP narrative is the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi narrative is the Abdul Aziz narrative is the pan-Islamist violent extremist narrative. It is one painting, on one canvas.

What unwitting captives of this narrative don’t understand is that a rejection of democracy is a rejection of Pakistan and Pakistani statehood. The evidence is in what this anti-state narrative has generated as outcomes. The people that made, defended and financed Pakistan in infancy, would, if alive today, constitute a bunch of ‘wajibul qatl infidels’. Can you imagine the Quaid, Sir Aga Khan, or Zafarullah Khan appealing to our good senses? Can any right-winger in this country get away with defending those three men as good Pakistani Muslims in the Pakistan of 2014? You know the answer to that.

The otherisation of our very identity as a refuge for minorities took four decades. This process was incubated, and nursed by our military and intelligence services, with the support of a parade of ‘democrats’ that include senior members of every single mainstream party in the country. Every single one.

And then there was Peshawar. Which happened after the Marriott bombing (which was in the year 2008 AD, or roughly over two thousand days ago). After the Marriott was bombed, there was the GHQ attack. That was in 2009, or over 1,800 days ago. The GHQ attack was not the only one on our military. Serving generals have been assassinated, army families have been slaughtered whilst praying Juma at Parade Lane in Pindi, and at PNS Mehran they took out half our fleet of P3C Orions.

Today, many patriotic Pakistanis have an urge to ignore history and swallow the entire edifice of new military courts, and the faux subservience of the military to our political leadership, sideways. This is a baton too large, even for the most optimistic and gullible of us.

The truth is that the case for military courts rests on one simple, but powerful fact. Army majors and colonels are not as vulnerable to terrorist intimidation as our district and sessions judges, or our high court judges, or our Supreme Court judges. That fact, and that fact alone, is both the most legitimate reason to accept military courts, and the starkest commentary on what we have allowed our society and state to become. This is a moral dilemma that Pakistanis have to assess with great sobriety.

One the one hand we should unapologetically stand in support of the army at a time of national crisis. Pakistan needs a strong and effective military, and an even stronger and more effective intelligence community.

On the other, we have collectively, army families included, suffered unspeakably, because Pakistani society has failed to hold its generals accountable for their behavior. This is true during martial law, as much as it is during democratic rule. It is true of the strategic blunders we’ve committed, as much as it is true of corruption and rent-seeking we have allowed. Criticising the existence of Defence Housing Authorities may seem like a trivial exercise, but it is an act of patriotism. It is a challenge to unchecked moral authority. No republic can survive the unchecked moral authority of any individual or institution. Putting on the uniform is an act of heroism, but even heroes cannot be exempt from accountability.

So while I support the military courts on the basis of an internalised doctrine of necessity, I think it would be criminal for us to not ask serious questions about military courts today, and every day until they are established, and twice a day, until they are eventually disbanded.

Would it have been preferable for our prime minister to announce constitutional amendments for legal and judicial reform that could have enabled civilian judges to do what the military courts are now going to be asked to do? Of course.

The majors and colonels that will now be sentencing terrorists do indeed have a different hardware and software to our judges. It isn’t necessarily better. But when terrorists menacingly taunt the Pakistani republic with an invitation to ‘go to hell’, military officers are better equipped to respond by saying, ‘You first’. There isn’t a constitutional amendment app for that. Yet.

The big test of how useful this all will be for Pakistan is whether the convictions are indiscriminate across all terrorists, or whether they are restricted to terrorists that have fallen fowl of our broken, low-grade, low-IQ, strategic thinking. For now, we will have to trust General Raheel Sharif and the army high command. Because, let’s face it, what other choice do we have?

But the long-term reality is stark, ugly and begs reflection. We face the problems we have today because we allowed our soldiers to become social engineers. We allowed our social engineers to take over our mosques, and our television talk shows. Then we threw away the keys. It is no small irony that to get them back, we need our soldiers.
CAG blames Army for delay in Arjun tanks’ induction
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 26
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has blamed the Indian Army for delaying the induction of Arjun tanks developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and blamed the Ministry of Defence for playing along by allowing costly imports.

A comparative trial between the Arjun and the imported Russian T-90 tanks was done in April 2010 by fixing different benchmarks – very stringent for the Arjun and relaxed for the T-90, said the CAG in its report tabled in Parliament last Friday. The Arjun still scored over the T-90 on some issues, the trials were conducted on four parameters — fire power, survivability, reliability and miscellaneous issues.

The CAG has revealed what was restricted to the corridors of MoD and hidden behind secrecy of ‘national interest’. An order was placed for additional T-90 tanks in November 2007 even as Army kept on adding its requirements for the Arjun, said the CAG. The CAG also did not spare the Ministry of Defence, saying the “decision for import was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security based on a note submitted by the ministry”.

Incidentally, the issue of ‘sabotage’ in trials of the Arjun was first flagged in April 2008 by then Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh during the first term of UPA government. Since then, Rao switched parties, and is now again at the same post in the Narendra Modi-led regime. “The possibility of sabotage needs to be examined,” Singh had said in 2008.

The CAG, in its latest report said there were eight instances in which Arjun in the comparative trial was judged against more stringent benchmarks parameters. “We noticed, eight instances where the Army placed benchmark of parameters on Arjun which were more stringent in comparison to those placed on T-90 tanks… the imposition of more stringent parameters precluded a level playing field”.

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