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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

From Today's Papers - 05 May 2015

Ahead of PM’s visit, Army, PLA plan hotline link
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Udhampur, May 4
To quickly resolve incidents of stand-offs and ensure peace, India and China will soon have more meeting points between their respective armies on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh with a hotline link at the local level.

The two nuclear-capable countries will also have a hotline link between their Army headquarters in New Delhi and Beijing.  The current year has witnessed 59 face-offs and 268 incidents of transgressions on the LAC.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Beijing this month to propel ties.

On the 744-km Line of Control (LoC) with a hostile Pakistan, India is in the final stages of getting more teeth in the form of a sophisticated border fence with a lot of sensors and night-vision devices on it. In an exclusive interview with The Tribune, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda said, “There is an understanding between us (India and China) to have more meeting points along the LAC in Ladakh. Right now, we have only one (Chushul). We are moving forward and soon, we will have additional meeting points with hotline link for troops on both the sides."

General Hooda said that situation on the LAC was largely peaceful. "Since there is no well-defined LAC, incidents of transgressions do occur. Both the sides patrol areas up to their perception (of LAC). So these activities continue but there is an understanding between us to keep peace. The series of border meetings in the past few days is in league with that," he said. He said that talks were on to have a hotline link between Beijing and New Delhi.

On Siachen, he said that it was peaceful and stable. "There is less likelihood of the adversary indulging into any mischief. The troops are alert and they are provided the best of facilities," he said.

On the new type of fence to be erected at the LoC, he said, "We are looking at three new designs. We have already done the trials and it has been put up at Shamshabari (Kupwara). As soon as the snow melts, we will get to know the effect of snow on it. The new design has integrated modern sensors and night-vision devices."

"I think it will be more effective. We have not gone for any foreign country because the technology was available with us," he said.

The Northern Army Commander said that there were nearly 1,500 militants in various training camps in PoK and 250 to 300 of them have been kept in various launch pads on the other side of the LoC in the Jammu region.

"Things are quiet as of now on the other side of the LoC in the Kashmir region. Once the snow melts, their (militants) number and activities will go up," he said.

When asked how real the threat of the Taliban and ISIS to Jammu and Kashmir was, the General said that till date, there were no tell-tale signs of them either in J&K or its frontiers.

"Their footprints are largely seen on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border but they certainly are a cause for concern," he said.

There had been reports that Taliban may divert its "fighters" to J&K to wage a war against the Indian security forces while the waving of ISIS and Al-Qaida flags in Kashmir last year had aroused concern in the higher echelons of the Army.

On the spurt in terror attacks by armed Pakistani militants along the 198-km-long International Border (IB), he said that the IB had become active since October 2013.

"The BSF has got some plans to put some additional troops in the second tier also. It has been improving its posture. We are there and I think our tier behind the BSF is adequate," he said.
Infiltration low, but Army sees no comfort zone
Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Tangdhar, May 4
There is calm along the Line of Control (LoC) in northwest Kashmir’s Kupwara district. But the troops are maintaining a high alert as the “activities” across have stepped up.

With militants apparently having shifted their focus to the international border in the state, the nearly 350-km-LoC in the Kashmir region, like in Tangdhar, is peaceful and as per the Army, it has witnessed zero infiltration so far.

Senior Army officers said since January this year, they had not witnessed any infiltration along the LoC in the Kashmir region, though the activities from across the border had increased.

“Despite there being no infiltration attempt so far, the counter-insurgency grid is in place and any attempt to sneak into the Valley from across will be dealt with successfully,” said an Army officer in Srinagar.

“With the melting of snow, the militants like in the past will attempt to sneak in,” he added.

In the Kashmir region, the LoC is manned by two Army divisions --- Baramulla-based 19 Infantry Division and Kupwara-based 28 Mountain Division --- which are under the Srinagar-based 15 Corps.

There has been a visible decline in infiltration attempts from across the border in Kashmir since India and Pakistan agreed on a ceasefire along the LoC in 2003. In the past three years, the infiltration attempts in Kashmir are also on a decline.

“In 2012, 121 infiltration attempts were made. The number decreased to less than a three-digit number in 2013. In 2014, militants made 65 infiltration attempts,” a defence official said.

He added that a strong counter-infiltration grid along the borders and multi-tier security along the LoC had helped them to bring down infiltration over the years.

The LoC in the region runs through lofty peaks, rugged mountains, thick forests and fresh water streams from Gulmarg in Baramulla through parts of Kupwara district to Gurez in Bandipora and it has been a battleground since militancy erupted.

In the past 14 years, nearly 4,000 attempts have been made by militants to sneak into the Valley.

“So far the LoC is calm, but we are keeping an eye on the situation,” said a senior Army officer at Tangdhar. “Last year, three infiltration attempts took place in our sector and all of them were foiled.”
Akash to be inducted into Army today
New Delhi, May 4
The Indian Army will get two regiments of the surface-to-air missile (SAM) “Akash” on Tuesday. A ceremony is slated to dedicate the first missile system, which is an all-weather medium-range system developed indigenously.

The air defence system will protect the ground troops and equipment in case of a war. The Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), a Ministry of Defence owned company, will hand over the first system to the Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag.

It will allow Army troops to tackle incoming threats. In 2008, the Indian Air Force (IAF) introduced this indigenous system for its air defence needs. The Army version has modifications to allow it to be mounted on heavy duty Tatra trucks to provide the ability of ‘shoot and scoot’. — TNS
Disability, war injury pension enhanced
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 4
The Ministry of Defence has enhanced the disability and war injury element _of pension of disabled and war-disabled armed _forces pensioners.

The new pension would be based on the fitment of the minimum of pay of the pay-scale concerned instead of the earlier incorrect procedure of giving it on the basis of the minimum of the pay-band that comprised a bunch of several pay scales for different ranks.

The orders for armed forces pensioners come about five months after similar orders were issued by the government for civilian employees. While enhancement of pension is welcome news for _veterans, this benefit has been granted only with effect from September 24, 2012, and not from January 1, 2006, the date of implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission.
MoD eases norms for attendant allowance
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 4
In a move that would benefit a large number of aged disabled veterans, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revised the procedure of paying constant attendant allowance (CAA) to entitled pensioners.

A circular issued by the MoD last week states henceforth, the CAA would be paid on a monthly basis along with the disability or war injury pension. Earlier, CAA was being paid in arrears twice a year on the basis of declaration made by the recipient to the pension disbursing agency in May and November each year.

The changes have been made keeping in view the hardships faced by the disabled pensioners in claiming CAA. The matter had been under review by the government for quite some time, following several representations.

The pensioners entitled to receive CAA will now be required to submit a declaration on employment of an attendant for the following year or the duration for which CAA has been sanctioned, at the time of initial payment and thereafter undertake the exercise once a year at the time of their annual identification.
Army rues lack of funds for critical weapons
NEW DELHI: We don't have the money to buy the weapons we really need - that's what the Indian military brass has told Parliament's standing committee on defence. The report on the military's concerns was submitted last week and India's generals explained that thanks to a record low budget allocation this year, defence forces won't be able to buy operationally critical equipment like artillery guns, carbines, missiles and antitank systems for the army as well as patrol vessels and surveillance helicopters for the coast guard.

This year's budget gave a hike of 7.9 per cent in military spending, and as a percentage of GDP, total defence spending is 1.7 per cent — the lowest since 1960s. India's army has said the country's defence budget should be brought up to 3 per cent of GDP. China's defence spending is 2 per cent of GDP, Pakistan's 3 per cent, America's 3.8 per cent and Russia's 4.1 per cent, according to ministry of defence estimates.

The defence ministry is planning to petition the finance ministry for additional funds in June.

Defence submissions to the committee have made the point that the budgetary hike will cover maintenance and salaries and committed liabilities for past purchases. Only 8 per cent of the capital allocation in the defence budget is for new projects.

Submissions made to the House panels say the army has identified 20 key projects it wants to sign but that the "money is not there". "Yes, alot needs to be modernised. We are aware of it. We have got our plans but finally there is a funds crunch. That is being reflected in the way funds get sanctioned on the ground," a senior army Lieutenant General told the panel. Defence brass is typically not identified in submissions made to House panels.

Countering criticism that its own system of procurement is prone to delays, the army told the panel: "The crunch is that you do not have the money. Just because the money is not there, there is a certain slowing down when it comes up to that level of sanction, the big projects because all the big projects go to the Finance Ministry and tend to slow down. So, if the money is there, I am sure the things would fall into place."

Similar representations have come from the air force, which has been given only a fourth of its required funds for new projects. In fact, the money for air force's new projects - Rs3,264 crore - will barely be enough to make the first installment payment for the 36 Rafale fighters India is purchasing from France.
For the coast guard, not only is there not funds for new acquisitions, this year's budget allocation will have to be used for paying commitments for last year.

"With this (coast guard) budget they can go on for six months. We are hoping to take (it) up with the finance ministry in the month of June," Defence Secretary RK Mathur said.
Negotiations in Rafale deal to start this month, says Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar
Panaji: Ahead of French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian's visit to New Delhi this week, India  said negotiations for buying 36 Rafale fighters off the shelf will commence this month and will be wrapped up in a time- bound manner.

"The government-to-government committee will be set up which will begin negotiations on the (Rafale) deal. The negotiations will start anytime in May and we have to conclude them as early as possible," Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told PTI here.

Jean-Yves Le Drian is scheduled to visit India on May 5 and hold talks with Parrikar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on May 6 to carry forward the proposed deal.

Last month, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Paris, India and France had agreed to get into a government to government contract for 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition keeping the critical requirement of the Indian Air Force in mind.

The deal is estimated to be over USD 6 billion and will have about 30-50 per cent offset.

Parrikar said the government-appointed committee will complete the negotiations in a "time-bound manner".

"He (Drian) will visit only for the purpose of working out the modalities and to take the process forward. We will not be directly involved in future talks. The committee is being appointed for it by two governments to kick-start the process and fix the modalities," he said.

French defence major Dassault Aviation, makers of Rafale, is likely to enter into a joint venture with state-run HAL or any private player to set up a base here for augmenting its existing production line in Merignac in France, defence sources said.

Parrikar also said the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) will be in place in the next two-three months and is likely to come up before the ministry in June as there are some chapters that are to be addressed.

"Basically the policy consists of exports, 'Make In India' initiative, level-playing field for suppliers, policy on agents, black listing policy besides others," he said.

Parrikar maintained that these are under finalisation and some of them might be notified before the end of June.

"But I can say that in next two-three months the DPP will be in place," he added.

The Defence Minister said the policy for procurements would depend on strategic importance of the deal and its type.

He said the Defence Ministry's committee on DPP will give its report within 45 days.

"The committee will go through DPP and suggest amendments in next 45 days. They can also submit their interim report so that some aspects would be dealt in the meantime. You can see lot of procedures coming up in May and June itself," he said.

Parrikar said despite the work is in progress over the DPP, the Ministry has already cleared procurements worth Rs 1,10,000 crore, of which 90 per cent are under 'Make in India' initiative.

"The current procedures have lot of lacunae. It has lot of unexplained areas. The committee is considering some of the aspects in the procedures like level-playing field for everyone, and also excise duty will be common across the board. We are also working on other areas to have more transparency and easier modes," he added.

The Minister said the DPP, which establishes parameters for India's defence procurement process, is going to be the biggest step for the Ministry which has already taken up some action including allowing 49 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the sector and in some cases even 100 per cent.

"The second step is that most of the procurements are done with majority of the component with Make In India. The Defence Ministry has also delisted some of the items for exports. In the last 6-8 months the export NOCs are granted online," he added.

"Earlier, the NOCs used to take months to get cleared. Now we give them within specified time frame. I have been intimated by industry that export NOCs are getting cleared faster," Parrikar commented.

The Minister said the entire idea of DPP is to ensure that 'Make In India' initiative is a success and also long-term guarantee is provided to the suppliers.

"Today, if someone makes an item for defence, there is no guarantee that he will get the order for five years at a stretch. Who will develop something and spend energy unless he is clear on what is the amount of business that he would be able to do? If someone develops something he needs a long term guarantee," said the minister adding, the Ministry will treat suppliers as partners.

Parrikar said when someone develops something he should be given initial support. This aspect would be considered in DPP.
Rolta to develop devices for Indian Army
Indian diversified technology company Rolta India Ltd. (RIL) on Monday said it is in the process of signing "definitive agreements" with an Israeli electro-optics company, Meprolight, to set up a joint-venture to manufacture equipment for the Indian armed forces.

"To be owned 51 percent by Rolta and 49 percent by Meprolight, the joint venture will take advantage of technology transfer from Meprolight for manufacturing and developing the state-of-the-art optronics devices based on image intensifier and thermal imaging technologies in India," RIL said in a statement.

"It will address the growing demand for night fighting capabilities by the Indian defence and security forces."

Member of global defence and security group of companies SK Group, Meprolight develops, manufactures and markets systems for infantry, armed forces, law enforcement agencies and civilian markets.

The proposed joint venture is subject to approval from concerned authorities.

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