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Sunday, 8 March 2015

From Today's Papers - 08 Mar 2015

No date fixed for next round of talks with India: Pak
Pakistan’s adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz has said the recent foreign secretary-level dialogue with India failed to fix a date for the next round of talks.

Aziz was talking to media yesterday about Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar’s visit after attending launching ceremony of a book by Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Majeed Malik here.

“There was no date fixed for the next round of talks,” he said, commenting on the outcome of the meeting.  Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam used the term “ice-breaking” while summing-up the Tuesday discussions, a view with which Indian sources concurred.

In August, India had called-off foreign secretary-level talks at the eleventh hour because the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi held consultations with Kashmiri separatists.

During the recent parleys, the two sides raised their “concerns” but there was little progress on the much-hoped resumption of peace talks. Aziz also said Chinese President Xi Jinping would not attend the Pakistan Day parade on March 23 but visit later.

“The dates for the trip are being negotiated through diplomatic channels,” Aziz said. — PTI
Victoria Cross recipient to be paid tributes at Bathinda
Victoria Cross recipient Rifleman Gabbar Singh Negi from 2/39th Garhwal Rifles, who laid down his life while fighting for the British Army against the Germans, will be remembered during the centennial martyrdom year function at the 2 Garhwal Rifles headquarters in Bathinda, Punjab, beginning March 10.

Garhwal Rifles officers led by Major Bhaskar Bhatt paid floral tributes to Rifleman Gabbar Singh Negi at his memorial at Chamba in Tehri district today. District Magistrate, Tehri, Yugal Kishore Pant, accompanying the Army team, also paid floral tributes on behalf of the state government.

The District Magistrate said Gabbar Singh Negi, while fighting for the British forces during the World War, was the first man to enter the main trench and go round each traverse driving back the enemy and forcing them eventually to surrender at Neuve Chapelle in France.

Unfortunately, Gabbar Singh Negi was killed during the engagement on March 10, 1915. He was born at Manjood village, near Chamba, in Tehri district on April 21, 1895. He was awarded Victoria Cross posthumously by the King of England then for his conspicuous acts of bravery and devotion to duty whilst serving with the expeditionary force.

Pant said plans were afoot to convert Gabbar Singh Negi’s paternal house at Manjood village into a memorial in association with the Cultural Affairs Department soon.

According to Army officers, the lamp lit at the Gabbar Singh Negi’s memorial at Manjood village would be carried to the 2 Garhwal Rifles headquarters in Bathinda and a grand function would be organised on March 10 to mark 100 years of the Rifleman’s martyrdom.

Inder Singh Negi, president of the district Ex-servicemen Welfare Society, said Tehri district was feeling proud at the honour being bestowed upon Rifleman Gabbar Singh Negi. The members of the martyr’s family, namely Sabbal Singh Negi, and Kamal Singh Negi, were present on the occasion.
Recognize skill sets in armed forces to Create in India: Experts
The skills ministry will soon tie-up with the defence ministry to take forward the Make in India innovation to Create in India, a minister has said.
“We are looking at using the last year of service of JCOs and below to train them (in specialised jobs). If they don’t want to come out as trainers, they can come out as entrepreneurs,” Minister of State for Skills & Entrepreneurship Rajiv Pratap Rudy said at the One Globe 2015 conference here, adding his ministry will soon sign a MoU with the defence ministry for this.
“Make in India will not be successful unless we have skilled workforce. In China, 47 percent of the workforce is skilled, in Australia about 60 percent, in Britain 68 percent, in Germany 74 percent, in Japan 80 percent, and in South Korea 96 percent, but in India, in 65 years, just two percent of our workforce is skilled. “In the next five years or so, we will have the largest youth population of about 465 million in the age group of 20 to 35 years. If you look at the eight to nine percent growth in the next decade or so, infrastructure will require another 100 million people, automotive & auto care will require about 35 million people, health would require about 12 million people and textiles about 36 million people,” Rudy said.
“We have teachers in this country but there is a dearth of trainers. We are thinking of many out-of-the-box ideas for creating an ecosystem for the skilled manpower in this country,” he added. The fourth annual edition of One Globe knowledge conference also brought together top and highly decorated veterans from the army, navy and air force to deliberate on the technological and skills impact of indigenization & modernization of India’s defence industry. “Whenever a defence serviceman retires, he is always put in security-related job roles. But there are as many as 972 different skills in defence sector including communications and satellite technologies,” said Major General Kuldip Sindhu (retd), who served as the first managing director of the ECHS health scheme for defence pensioners and widows.
 “Instead of just a Make In India strategy, which can also include mere assembling of semi-knocked down kits or completely knocked down kits, we need a Create in India strategy to help India become a defense equipment exporter, by encouraging our people to use brainpower to address the nation’s priorities creatively. The ingenuity of our dabbawallahs is being taught as a case study at leading institutes like Harvard and we should replicate similar creativity in our defence capabilities,” he added.
Ambani Bros Get Firm Foothold in Indian Defence Industry

Two of India’s most aggressive businessmen, the brothers Anil and Mukesh Ambani have established a firm foothold in the defence industry.

Earlier this week, the ADAG Group wrested control of western India based Pipavav Defence in a deal which would cost it INR2400 crore (US$318 million). Pipavav Defence has a strong order book in weapons and platforms and has established several partnerships with international companies. The ADAG Group is led by Anil Ambani and a new group company, Reliance Defence and Aerospace (RDA) will spearhead the group’s entry into the defence sector.

A source familiar with the development told, “this is a big bang entry, no question about it. The ADAG Group is into telecom, infrastructure and technology; sectors which complement the defence industry. It will take them little time to enter defence verticals such as shipbuilding, C4iSR and aviation.”

RDA has reportedly set its eyes on an Indian MoD project to manufacture helicopters in India. The Indian army and navy have a requirement for hundreds of helicopters and the MoD had recently invited international manufacturers to partner with Indian companies and bid for this multi-billion dollar project.

Previously, another company, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) led by Mukesh Ambani, the elder brother of Anil Ambani had set up Reliance Aerospace Technologies Pvt. Ltd. An Indian business newspaper which described RIL as a “highly networked and deep-pocketed company”, said it wants to invest US$1 billion over the next 5 years into the defence business.
Indian Budget Casts Doubt on Rafale Deal
NEW DELHI — India may not have the funds to seal the deal with Dassault Aviation to purchase $12 billion Rafale fighter planes, according to an Air Force source.

While India plans to boost hike defense spending by almost 8 percent, defense analysts and military officers say it falls short of expectations and isn't enough to buy fresh weaponry.

India will spend US $40.4 billion on defense in the April 1 2015-March 31 2016 financial year, according to the Feb. 28 proposal to Parliament.

That's an increase of 7.74 percent over the previous year. The previous year's budget went up 12.4 percent.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gave no additional funds in the "Capital Account Head" of the budget proposals, which is earmarked to buy fresh weapons. The budget included the same amount as last year: $15.5 billion.

"With the stagnation in capital expenditure, I believe there is very little left in the budget to cater to new contracts," said Laxman Behera, research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses think tank in New Delhi.
Amit Cowshish, retired Defence Ministry finance adviser and defense analyst, said: "It is unlikely that the allocation [under Capital Account] would cater for only committed liabilities."

Said an Air Force officer: "With no fresh money it is unlikely if we can contract the $12 billion Rafale fighter deal with Dassault Aviation of France, nor buy additional aircraft in the next financial year."

The contract is to be paid in installments, with 15 percent due at the signing of the deal.

At best, a $2.5 billion deal finalized two years ago to purchase attack and heavy lift helicopters from Boeing could be inked as the US company has threatened to hike the price if the deal is delayed, the official added.

"The budget allocation may not be sufficient even for contracted projects as they are carry over from the 2014-15 budget on capital account," said Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised during that election to modernize defense and meet weapons requirements, said defense analyst Nitin Mehta. "The first full budget of the new government announced Feb. 28 is a let down on expectations," he said.

"There are serious concerns over government's commitment to fully budget India's defense and security needs despite statements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on modernization of the armed forces," he said.

Said Mehta: "Sadly, the budget reflects continuation of the policies of the previous government. For structural changes there has to be greater synergy between the Ministry of Defence and Finance."

Behera said security needs to have support from both the government and lawmakers.

"However, such security needs are to be satisfied within the overall resource availability," he said. "The defense budget 2015-16 has been subject to resource crunch arising out of slowdown in revenue mobilization and greater devolution of resources to the state government."

However, Cowshish said defense still constitutes around 13.88 percent of India's total budget and as such is a major chunk of allocation.

"Defense budget is the second largest single item of expenditure in the non-plan segment of the union budget. One has to keep these facts in view while forming an opinion on whether the allocation is in sync with the promise or not," Cowshish said.

With such a tight defense budget, it remains to be seen which of the ongoing programs will be inked. Nearly $20 billion worth weapons purchase projects are in the mix, including:

• $12 billion to purchase medium multirole fighter jets

• $1.2 billion for six Airbus A330 tankers

• $1.1 billion for 22 Boeing Apache attack helicopters

• $1 billion for 197 light utility helicopters,

• $833 million for 15 Boeing Chinook heavy lift helicopters,

• $600 million for light howitzer guns from BAE Systems

• $200 million for 98 Black Shark torpedoes from WASS

• $350 million for 1,418 Israeli-made thermal imaging sights for T-72 tanks

• $250 million for 262 Barak missiles from Israel Aerospace Industries

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