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Thursday, 12 February 2015

From Today's Papers - 12 Feb 2015

Army copter crashes in J&K, pilots killed

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 11
Two military pilots were killed in a helicopter crash in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district on Wednesday evening, officials said.

The helicopter belonging to the Indian Army crashed into a forest near Safapora in the frontier Bandipora district, the police and Army officials said. The cause of the crash was not immediately known. The helicopter was on a night-flying-training sortie.

“A Dhruv helicopter of the Army’s aviation squadron based at Manasbal crashed about 30 minutes after it took off during a training sortie this evening, killing the two officers — Lieutenant Colonel R Gulati and Major Tahir Khan,” an Army spokesperson said here.

According to defence sources, the radio telephonic contact with the helicopter was lost at 7.43 pm.
Army to commemorate World War-I centenary

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
To mark the centenary of the First World War, the Army is organising a five-day event in the national capital. The aim is to commemorate the role of Indian soldiers in World War-I. The event will be inaugurated by the President.

The sacrifices made by the Indian troops in what is also known as the Great War for Civilisation will _be highlighted.

It is being organised by the Army’s Ambala-based 2 Corps and will be held at the Manekshaw Convention Centre in Delhi Cantonment from March 10 to 14.

Besides an exhibition of wartime photographs, weapons and equipment, uniforms, medals, memorabilia, letters and documents, war trophies and various artifacts, other events on the occasion include a wreath-laying ceremony, a memorial service, a veterans’ run, screening short movies and talks.

Close to 1.5 million Indian troops were deployed across Europe and the Middle East from 1914-1918, out of which over 74,000 never returned.

Nearly every sixth soldier fighting on behalf of the British came from India.

The Indian soldiers’ roll of honour was embellished with 11 Victoria Cross, 973 Indian Order of Merit and 3,130 Indian Distinguished Service Medals. As many as 12 cavalry regiments, 13 infantry regiments and several other units of different arms and services fought in the 13 campaigns that comprised the war.

Besides dipping into the archives and museums of its formations, regiments and training centres, the Army has also asked family members of WW-I veterans to lend any item associated with the war that could be exhibited during the event.

While the centenary of WW-I is being commemorated the world over with the decisive role of Indian soldiers being highlighted at events organised in distant lands, little has been done so far by the Indian establishment except a month-long privately organised exhibition on the subject that has just concluded in Delhi.
LCA’s naval variant to---make debut at Aero India

Shubhadeep Choudhury

Tribune News Service

Bengaluru, February 11
The naval variant of the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) is all set to enthral the audience at the five-day Aero India exhibition beginning here on February 18.

While its more famous cousin LCA (Air Force variant) is a veteran of the biennial air show held in Bengaluru, the naval version of the military jet will make its debut when it participates in the fly past after the inauguration of the exhibition by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Even though the fighter variant of LCA (Navy) was flight tested for the first time recently, it is the two-seater trainer version that will fly in the Aero India show.

The trainer variant is the first prototype (NP-1) of LCA (Navy). Since its maiden flight in April 2012, it had also taken off from the ski-jump facility at the INS Hansa at Goa as part of its carrier compatibility tests.

Impressed with the performance of the naval variant of LCA, the government has already loosened its purse strings to support the project.

“Since we are doing it for the first time, only two prototypes of LCA (Navy) Mk I were initially sanctioned. But as we started making progress, some confidence also started building up and they (MoD) said we should have a third prototype. Now they have said that in order to gain more confidence, we should have two more prototypes,” Commodore CD Balaji, project director of LCA (Navy) told The Tribune here.

Balaji said they were, at present, preparing papers for putting up before the Cabinet for formal approval of the enhanced budget for manufacturing three additional prototypes. The papers would be submitted to the Cabinet in “two to three months time”, he said.

The third prototype will be a trainer variant while the two remaining prototypes of LCA’s naval variant (Mk I) will be in fighter configuration.

Balaji said that the prototypes for LCA (Navy) Mk II variety will all be fighters.

Here also, only two prototypes were initially sanctioned. However, in a meeting of ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) held in December, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar asked for having three additional prototypes, taking the total number of prototypes in this category also to five. Chief of the Naval Staff was also present in the meeting.

This is to “bring significant movement in the programme”, Balaji said.

The fighter variant of the carrier compatible jet (Mk I) flight-tested recently will be put up for static display at the aero show. The stationary naval fighter will be fitted with weapons including missiles and bombs.

“LCA (naval variant) is being visualised for deployment at indigenous aircraft carrier, which is supposed to get ready by the end of 2018. By around 2020, the LCA fleet should start operating from the carrier,” Balaji said.

The carrier will have a mix of strike aircraft and air defence aircraft. While MiG-29 will be the striker aircraft, the LCA will perform as air defence platforms to thwart attack on the carrier by enemy aircraft.

Two key weapons in the naval variant LCA’s arsenal – R 73 missile and Derby beyond visual range missile – for fighting against enemy aircraft had been already tested by the Air Force version of LCA, Balaji said.
Concern combined with realism
China unsettled by the readiness of the US and India to expand their military ties
G Parthasarathy
The year 2015 began with clear indications of how the Narendra Modi Government intends to position itself in global affairs. The Prime Minister’s invitation to the Heads of SAARC Governments for his swearing-in was followed by intensive interaction in Yangon and Brisbane with regional and global leaders, during the East Asia and G-20 Summits. The focus was very clearly on sending out the message that India was determined to return to a high-growth path economically. It would play a proactive role not only in regional economic integration with its ASEAN neighbours and major economies like Japan and South Korea, but also in fashioning new security dynamics across the Indo-Pacific region. India’s security perimeter was no lager confined to the Indian Ocean rim, but extended across the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

While the Xi Jinping visit to India was marred by the Chinese military intrusion in Chumar, the message to Beijing was that while India would resist territorial incursions, it was ready for dialogue to end tensions, expand economic cooperation and widen interaction in forums like BRICS and G 20. But the event that received widespread global attention was the visit of President Obama on India's Republic Day. That visit clearly signalled that India was opening its doors to foreign investment, expanding the scope of bilateral cooperation in defence and seeking solutions constructively to issues of environment, energy, intellectual property rights and climate change.  New Delhi recognises the reality that the US is going to remain the pre-eminent global power for at least the next two decades. At the same time, one has to recognise that differences in areas like Intellectual Property Rights, especially in pharmaceuticals and in climate change, posed difficult challenges.  Moreover, the road ahead in nuclear power cooperation with the US is going to be bumpy. Legal challenges on issues of compensation appear inevitable. It also remains to be seen if American reactors can supply power at reasonable and competitive rates.

While India can be satisfied at signs that the US support for the Afghan armed forces will continue together with air support, American ambivalence on the Taliban will remain a matter of concern. India will have to now seek greater cooperation on the Afghanistan issue in interactions with members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, including particularly China and Russia. The Americans clearly understand that India will not join the Western efforts to isolate and condemn Russia. The recent trilateral India-Russia-China ministerial meeting in Beijing has made it clear that India has serious concerns about the challenges China poses to its national security along its borders and by its nuclear, missile and military relationships with Pakistan and its assertiveness across the India Ocean littoral. Despite this, every effort will be made to address differences on the border issue seriously, while expanding trade, industrial and investment ties, equitably and realistically.

Unlike Pakistan, which reacted immaturely and churlishly to the Obama visit, the Chinese reacted with a measure of concern combined with realism. The Chinese were unquestionably unsettled by the readiness of the US and India to expand military ties, while enunciating a common vision for the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific regions, “from Africa to East Asia”.  The references to the need to avoid the threat of use of force and abide by the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea clearly conveyed concerns over Chinese behaviour in its maritime disputes with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. It was also asserted that there would be strengthening of India-Japan-US trilateral cooperation. The Chinese responded by expressions of concern together with rolling out the red carpet for Mrs. Sushma Swaraj and welcoming a proposed visit by Mr Modi in May 2015.  One can reasonably expect that at the very least, such a visit will lead to measures that ensure that border incursions like those which occurred in Depsang and Chumar in 2013-2014 are avoided.

It would be too much to expect China to proceed more cautiously in its policies of military, nuclear and missile technology and weapon transfers to Pakistan. China will also proceed ahead with enhancing support for its Maritime Silk Route, designed to surround India, across its entire coastal periphery. But recent developments in Sri Lanka and Myanmar should serve as a caution to the Mandarins in Beijing about getting overzealous on “strategic containment” of India. The recent agreements with the US, Japan and Vietnam should also serve as a signal to Beijing that a determined India can, at the very least, respond diplomatically to its moves in the Indian Ocean by counter-measures, leveraging its partnerships with China's immediate coastal neighbours and the USA.  Following a categorical US commitment to back India for APEC membership, China has indicated that it will not be an obstacle on this score. The time has also perhaps come to informally sound out the US, Australia, Japan and ASEAN States like Vietnam and Singapore for exploring possibilities of India joining the Trans-Pacific partnership in course of time.

There are indications that Mr Modi will visit France, Germany and the UK this year, apart from a visit to Russia. With a number of its members afflicted by serious economic maladies, the European Union appears to be increasingly looking inwards. But its major powers do have the potential to contribute significantly to Mr Modi's “Make-in-India” programme and its defence modernisation. The proposed visit to Israel has also to be looked at in this context. Missing from this schedule are possible visits to Gulf countries like Oman, Qatar, Iraq and, circumstances permitting, even Iran, especially if we are able to finalise long-term contracts for the import of LNG. There is now every indication that, like the prices of oil, the prices of LNG are also set to fall in the coming years as global shale gas production rises. Success on such an active foreign policy agenda will naturally depend on the government's success in getting its economic reforms agenda and legislation approved by Parliament.
50 killed in Ukraine ahead of Minsk peace summit
Minsk, February 11
At least 50 persons were reported killed in the last 24 hours, including 16 in a devastating rocket attack on Kramatorsk, the Ukrainian government’s eastern military headquarters and administrative hub.

In the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, city officials said that 11 people had been killed, including nine in a mortar strike on the city early today. Rebels, who rarely announce military casualties, said they had lost seven fighters.

The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany were to hold peace talks today aimed at halting a 10-month war in Ukraine where dozens were killed in the latest fighting.

In the run-up to the summit, the climax of a frantic diplomatic push to prevent the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War from escalating, Russia expressed optimism.

“Experts are working, there is noticeable progress,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, although he signalled there would be no flexibility on the crucial negotiating demand from Ukraine that it be given back control of its border with Russia.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned he could “introduce martial law throughout Ukraine” if the talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk failed to stop the war with the pro-Russian separatists.

“I will not hesitate with this decision, if the actions of the aggressor lead to further escalation,” he told a cabinet meeting.

Martial law would mark a grave escalation of the crisis, freeing up military resources for the fight in the east but also likely leading to the cutting off of foreign investments, including a vital loan from the International Monetary Fund.

The pro-Western Ukrainian leader said he, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would speak “with one voice” to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they accuse of backing the separatist rebellion. “The key position is that we need an unconditional ceasefire,” he said.

US President Barack Obama has warned Putin that Russia would be made to pay if the talks fail.

A French presidency source said Hollande and Merkel would “try everything” to achieve peace but that hours before the start of the summit at about 2100 IST there were “quite a lot of problems still to be resolved”.

Merkel’s spokesman said the summit offered “a glimmer of hope, nothing more”. “It is uncertain whether an outcome can be reached, but despite all the uncertainty, it is worth trying in the interest of the suffering people in eastern Ukraine,” said Steffen Seibert.

The bloodletting on both sides has been relentless in recent weeks as pro-Russian separatists have pushed a new offensive and Kiev forces have counter attacked. — AFP
Pak likely sheltered Osama bin Laden: Ex-ISI chief
Islamabad: Pakistan's powerful spy agency most likely sheltered Osama bin Laden and hoped to use the Al-Qaida chief as a bargaining chip with the US to strike a deal on Afghanistan before he was killed in a covert Navy SEALs raid in 2011, an ex-ISI chief has said. "I cannot say exactly what happened but my assessment ...was it is quite possible that they (the ISI) did not know but it was more probable that they did. And the idea was that at the right time, his location would be revealed," Lieutenant General (retd) Asad Durrani told Al Jazeera. PTI

Three Muslim students killed in US shooting
Washington: The police have arrested a gunman in the killing of three Muslim students in the university town of Chapel Hill in North Carolina, US news reports said on Wednesday. The shooter, identified as Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was being held in Durham County Jail on three counts of first-degree murder. The victims were identified as Chapel Hill residents Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh. PTI
M&M to buy 25-30% in Pipavav Defence
The Mahindra group is planning to make a big-bang entry into the defence sector, with the acquisition of 25-30 per cent stake in Pipavav Defence, India’s largest private shipyard, based in Gujarat. Banks privy to the deal said the Pipavav Defence board was slated to meet on Friday to approve the transaction.

After a preferential share offer, the Mahindras and Gandhis (current promoters of Pipavav) were likely to hold equal stake and an open offer would be made to the shareholders of Pipavav Defence, said a banker. The Gandhi family owns a 45 per cent stake in the company. “The final contours of the transaction are under discussions between the two, especially the shareholding and the management rights,” the banker added.

On Wednesday, the Pipavav Defence stock closed 16 per cent higher at Rs 64 on the BSE. If the deal is approved, the Mahindras will invest about Rs 1,000 crore in the company, valuing Pipavav Defence at about Rs 4,000 crore.

Apart from Mahindra, two other corporate majors, including Larsen & Toubro, which has a shipyard in Tamil Nadu, were in the race to buy a stake in the shipyard. However, the Mahindra group won the race due to its better offer and a promise to take the company to the next level.

When contacted, a Mahindra spokesperson said the company did not comment on speculation, while a Pipavav Defence spokesperson declined to comment.
Pipavav is a prized asset due to its well-established infrastructure and a strong order book. Apart from making warships, Pipavav also constructs patrol boats and cargo ships for customers across the world.   For 2013-14, the company reported revenue of Rs 2,278 crore and a profit of Rs 8.36 crore.

Analysts said with Pipavav in its bag, Mahindra will get a head start in the defence sector. Currently, Mahindra supplies armoured vehicles to the Indian Army, Air Force, and paramilitary and state police forces. Its vehicles are also exported, through the home and external affairs ministries. The company is the largest private-sector supplier of bullet-proof vehicles in the country. Soon after taking over charge as prime minister last year, Narendra Modi had said India would encourage local companies in sectoral production, adding the country should export defence equipment instead of importing these at a huge cost. Experts say even if the government gives part of its estimated purchase orders worth $247 billion through the next three years to Indian companies, it will change the dynamics of these firms and give a fillip to the domestic economy.
The National Democratic Alliance government’s focus on ‘Make in India’ has created a big opportunity for Indian companies. Also, the government has increased the cap on foreign direct investment in defence to 49 per cent. With the government promising to favour Indian companies in defence orders, there is a rush among Indian entities, including the Tata group, the Mahindra group, Reliance Industries and the Munjals of Hero MotoCorp, to get into the defence sector. Companies such as the Mahindra group, the Tata group and L&T are vying for orders for trucks, jeeps, submarines, frigates, aircraft carriers, offshore patrol vessels, corvettes, missile systems and other military hardware and software. As of now, Russia, France and the US are the biggest suppliers of defence equipment to India.
India has reached maturity of technology for defence requirements, says DRDO official
Bangalore, Feb 11 (PTI) India has reached maturity of technology in realising its defence services requirements and it is necessary to exploit the potential of the private industry to increase the production rate, a top Defence Research and Development Organisation official said today.

"We have been growing from nowhere. In the last two three decades we have reached the maturity to the international level, almost closer to the international level in terms of technology of aircraft, helicopters and missiles and Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV)," DRDO Director General (Aeronautical Systems) K Tamilmani told reporters here.

AeroIndia is an opportunity for India to showcase the strength in the Aeronautical field, he said briefing about the five-day aero show beginning here from February 18, which would be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"Make in India" is the theme of the 10th international edition of the aerospace and aviation exhibition.

He said "now engine technology is one thing we need to focus little more, remaining areas we have reached almost closer to where we need, what India needs to build with the technology available."

With Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas, technology is available for any product to be realised for the future for the Indian Defence Services, either Air force or Navy or Army, he said.

"On helicopter technology – LCA has given us great input to decide whatever type of helicopter we are doing — whether it is five tonne category or ten tonne category, India is capable of doing. All technologies are available including production technology," he said.

Stating that Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has been a successful programme though started a little late, Tamilmani said "today all the technology required for the UAV programme is available."

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