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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

From Today's Papers - 28 Apr 2015

Air crashes: House panel asks MoD to nail suppliers
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi April 27
In a move to fix responsibility for air crashes of the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence today asked the Defence Ministry about the action taken against the guilty officers and suppliers of faulty systems that led to the crashes.
Crucially, the committee also suggested that the 80,000 strong Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) be brought under the operational control of the Indian Army. “The MoD should consult the Ministry of Home Affairs to make (bring) the Indo-Tibetan Border Police under the operational control of the Army to facilitate joint operations and resolve the problems related to incursions,” the committee said.
The Committee was referring to incursions by the People Liberation Army (PLA) of China across the un-demarcated 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) that forms the de-facto border with China. In the past, such a suggestion had been turned down by former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.
The Committee headed by Maj Gen BC Khanduri (retd), now a BJP MP from Uttarakhand, tabled its report in Parliament today.
On the IAF, it said: “A total 83 accidents had taken place between May 2007 and January 2015 (a period of almost 7 years and 9 months). The committee is baffled to find that these accidents have been consistent over the past decade… the rate of accidents has not come down.”
The Committee, which questioned senior IAF and MoD officials, said: “It is evident that there is either a lacuna in training or the systems installed are technically ill-equipped. In both case, the onus lies on the senior management.”
The report blamed the MoD, saying it should have taken cognizance of the matter and made efforts to check accidents and asked “what action has been taken against the guilty officials and suppliers of faulty systems during the past ten years. It is important that necessary action is taken to rectify the (rising graph) of accidents”.
The committee also bared some hard facts on the IAF declining fleet of fighter jets. “If all procurement plans fructify, the IAF is likely to achieve its sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons (18 planes in each) only by the end of the 15th plan period,” the panel said. The 15th plan ends in 2032.
Disaster mgmt battalion soon
Our Correspondent

Hamirpur, April 27
Himachal Pradesh will soon have a disaster management battalion which will rescue people in distress.

This was stated by Rajinder Singh Rana, Vice-Chairman of the state Disaster Management Board ,while addressing a press conference here today.

He said rapid action disaster management teams had been formed in all districts of the state and 30 troops of Home Guards were trained in each _district to meet disaster preparedness.

“All Deputy Commissioners in the state have been asked to make arrangements for disaster preparedness,” he said.

He said the Police Department, Fire Department and Disaster Management Board were organising training camps in schools and colleges regularly to teach students about drills to be performed in case of calamities.

The government had decided to train the youth and members of panchayats and block development committees for disaster management, so that they could help in times of distress, he said.

He said volunteers of the National Service Scheme (NSS) and cadets of the National Cadet Core (NCC) were being trained to meet the challenges posed by disasters.

“The earthquake in Nepal has raised the concern of people around the world for pre-disaster preparedness,” he added.
Army eyes stronger fence with sensors for LoC
Deploys 30 companies behind BSF on international border; repair of snow-damaged fence underway
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, April 27
To curb intrusion by armed Pak ultras, which rise in summer, the Army will soon go in for a new type of fence that will have an integrated system with a lot of sensors to improve its security grid on the de facto borderline.

The BSF has started increasing its strength on the 198-km international border (IB) that witnessed a spurt in intrusion bids by Pak ultras and subsequent terror attacks on the Jammu-Pathankot highway. The Army has deployed 30 companies in “vulnerable” areas.

Talking to mediapersons here today, the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt General DS Hooda said, “We have increased our deployment on the LoC so that the counter-infiltration grid becomes stronger.”

“Repair of fence damaged by snow has started and this year we are looking at a new type of fence having an integrated system. Besides, the fence will have a lot of sensors. So, I am hopeful that we will be able to control intrusion bids even more,” said General Hooda.

In November last year, Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Israel to propel ties between the countries.

On spurt in terror attacks on the Jammu-Pathankot highway, General Hooda attributed them to increase in infiltration bids from across the IB.

“One of the main reasons was damage to the fence due heavy rain and floods. It is being repaired. The BSF is also increasing its strength and we have also deployed 30 companies behind it in second tier,” he said.

On the LoC, he said around 250 militants were present in launch pads opposite 224.5-km LoC in the Jammu sector.

“Similarly, 100 others are in launch pads opposite LoC in Kashmir. As the snow melts, the number as well as infiltration attempts increase. The reports are already with us and it’s a routine activity every year. There is nothing exceptional in it, but we are fully prepared to meet any situation,” he said.

He added that the soldiers have been put on an alert along the LoC.

On the Amarnath Yatra, he said all planning had been done and appropriate security measures would be put in place.

On possibility of BAT attacks on the LoC, he said, “The Army has been getting such inputs, but we have also changed our strategy and surveillance has been enhanced.”

Earlier, General Hooda felicitated Ram Nath Meena, Divisional Traffic Manager of Northern Railway, for his selfless dedication and professional work rendered for the Army.
China maritime tensions dominate ASEAN summit
Kuala Lumpur, April 27
Southeast Asian leaders edged closer to open criticism of China’s land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea at a regional summit on Monday, as the Philippines drew the ire of Beijing which called its objections to the work “unreasonable”.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, which was supposed to showcase the 10-member bloc’s progress towards economic integration, was overshadowed by the long-running maritime territorial dispute.

ASEAN’s renowned “consensus” approach has been tested over the South China Sea, with several members including host Malaysia reluctant to antagonise China, but diplomatic sources said Kuala Lumpur would eventually give in to pressure from some neighbours and address the reclamation issue at the meeting.

A statement to be issued after the closing ceremony later on Monday will say that reclamations have “eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea”, according to a draft seen by Reuters.

“We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in and over-flight over the South China Sea,” it will say.

The draft seen by Reuters does not refer specifically to China, but would nonetheless be ASEAN’s strongest response yet on the controversial reclamations in the disputed waters. — Reuters

Sea of trouble

    China claims 90 per cent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan
    Recent satellite images show China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in the Spratly Islands and may be planning another
    While many of the claimants have built facilities such as airstrips on some of the islets and shoals they occupy, China’s efforts have been by far the most extensive and dramatic
Desi defence cos ranked among least transparent
MUMBAI: Indian companies involved in the defence sector are ranked among the least transparent in the world in a latest report by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI). The report, titled "Defence Companies Anti Corruption Index 2015," measures the transparency and quality of ethics and anti-corruption programmes of 163 defence companies from 47 countries.

The report, based on all-desk research conducted between April and December 2015 on publicly available information, comes at a time when India, with a defence budget of $40 billion, is looking at modernizing its army, navy and air force with latest equipment, ships, fighter jets, arms and ammunition.

Indian Ordnance Factory, the world's largest government-operated production organization and the oldest run by the Indian government, has been ranked 'F' by TI on the 'A to F' scale, where 'A' stands for highest and 'F' for lowest level on the transparency index.

Publicly listed government firms like Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BMEL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) have been ranked 'E' while Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had to be content with a 'D'.

Bangalore-based BMEL is Asia's second largest manufacturer of earth moving equipment and it controls 70% of India's market in the sector, while BEL is a Navratna which manufactures advanced electronic products for the Indian armed forces. Both BEL and BMEL have improved their ranking by one grade compared to 2012.

"Corruption in defence affects us all. It is not just about commissions on sales; corruption can also directly threaten the lives of citizens and soldiers," said Mark Pyman, director of the Transparency International UK Defence and Security Programme, adding that "companies that have improved are taking the lead in bringing transparency to this often-secretive sector".

The firms that made it to the 'A' grade on the list include all US-based companies like Bechtel, Fluor Corporation, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Indian Army Everest Team Retrieves 19 Bodies of Foreign Climbers

NEW DELHI:  An Indian Army Everest Expedition team has helped pull out the bodies of 19 foreign climbers from the Everest camp. The team was training at the Base Camp at Everest when a massive temblor hit Nepal on Saturday, triggering an avalanche that buried their equipment. The Indian Army team is safe.

The team also brought to safety 61 injured people.

The medical officer accompanying the army expedition has treated a number of injured international mountaineers besides the 61 injured climbers.

The team also provided considerable medicines and rations from their own resources to help the other climbers.

Six helicopters were sent to the avalanche-hit area on Saturday, but only two could operate because of inclement weather.

"Indian Army expedition team continues to assist in rescue operations," the ministry of defence spokesperson Sitanshu Kar tweeted.

Tulsi Prasad Gautam, executive director of Nepal's department of tourism, told Xinhua that a few of the injured climbers were being treated in Pheriche village near Lukla.

Other climbers were on their way down from the base camp, Gautam said.

Saturday's earthquake, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, killed over 2,500 people and left 5,850 injured. The temblor had its epicentre in Lamjung district, around 75 km northwest of Kathmandu.

It also triggered a series of avalanches which hit Mount Everest base camp.
China better prepared for war?
In an explosive revelation, a report of the parliamentary standing committee on defence has stated that in case of war, the Indian Army will take “more than a day to reach” the crucial Tawang area of Arunachal Pradesh due to a “critical situation” regarding border road infrastructure while “our neighbouring countries” (an obvious veiled reference to China) can “reach the borders within two to three hours”.

China covets Arunachal Pradesh, especially the Tawang area within Arunachal, and refers to the state as “south Tibet”. This is probably the first time that the vulnerability of the Indian Army — to protect Tawang in case of a war against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) — has been accepted. “The committee are dismayed to note that in Tawang area, the situation is very critical so far as the connectivity is concerned. In case of war, the Army cannot reach there in a day. While our neighbouring countries can reach borders within two to three hours, our Army takes more than a day to reach there. This is a matter of great concern with regard to our defence preparedness,” the parliamentary standing committee on defence has stated, in a report submitted to Parliament on Monday. The revelation was made during concluding remarks by the committee on activities of the BRO which is now under the MoD and tasked with construction of border roads.

In other reports submitted to Parliament, the committee also mentioned how the slow pace of acquisitions has had an adverse impact on operational preparedness of the armed forces. In an important recommendation, the parliamentary committee said capital expenditure and allocation for the armed forces should be “non-lapsable and (on) roll-on allocation (basis)” for the armed forces between financial years so that crucial acquisition of weapons and equipment is not delayed. On the IAF, the parliamentary committee said the IAF now has “35 active fighter squadrons”, adding that the IAF had informed it that “by 2022, the IAF will be around just 25 (fighter) squadrons thereby losing even the slight edge over the rival neighbouring nation” (an obvious reference to Pakistan).
Desi Bofors howitzer Dhanush clears critical trials

Bengaluru, April 27: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed on Monday that the home-grown 155 mm x 45 mm calibre artillery howitzer -- Dhanush -- has successfully completed the rigorous winter and summer trials. The Dhanush, often dubbed as the Indian version of the Swedish-made Bofors gun, has now cleared all technical parameters during the trials conducted by the Indian Army.

The MoD quoted Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar informing the members of Parliament Consultative Committee that Dhanush incorporates many state-of-the-art improved features. Dhanush is priced approximately around Rs 12-14 crore, which is almost half the price of an artillery gun in its class.

"The minister informed the committee, attached to the MoD, that Dhanush has many embedded features better than the guns which the Indian Army currently posses," MoD sources said. Dhanush had undergone extensive trials at Khetolai in Pokhran as well. The Indian Army had waited for over three decades to strengthen its firing units with a 155-mm artillery gun.

The MoD said that the Consultative Committee was discussing the ‘role performance and future' of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the largest and oldest production unit in the country. The OFB is a conglomerate of 39 ordnance factories with two new projects coming up in Nalanda (Bihar) and Korwa (UP). Sources said that Dhanush has a better range compared to Bofors and its electronic sighting/laying system for the targets is far superior to those imported in the 1980s. Parrikar is said to have informed the committee that in addition to Dhanush, the OFB has also developed a home-grown 40-mm Multi Grenade Launcher (MGL) for 40 x 46 mm Low Velocity Grenades (LVG). The MoD said that assault rifle ‘Ghaatak' (7.62 x 39 mm) developed through desi R&D too has met all the parameters as per the General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs). Ghaatak was evaluated by the paramilitary forces under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Keeping in the NDA government's Make in India policy, MoD quoted Parrikar saying that the OFB would be made into a lead integrator of major platforms and as a manufacturer of world class defence equipment.

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