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Friday, 26 June 2015

From Today's Papers - 26 Jun 2015

Ex-servicemen threaten to intensify stir
Chandigarh, June 25
Attributing the continuing delay in the implementation of one rank, one pension (OROP) for the armed forces to the bureaucracy, which has consistently been dragging its feet on the issue, and lack of political will on the part of successive governments, the United Front of Tri-city Ex-servicemen on OROP has threatened to intensify its agitation in the coming days.

Addressing mediapersons here today, Lieutenant General Harwant Singh (retd), former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, said the delay in implementation of OROP, and inability of the government to commit a date for it despite repeated assurances in this regard by the PM himself, was forcing them to doubt the credibility of his statements.

He said the fact that Modi had been unable to get the poll promise implemented even a year after storming to power, pointed towards a lack of political will on the part of the government, which is why it had not been able to overcome the resistance by the all powerful bureaucracy. — TNS
Govt sees ‘jawan and kisan’ as it plans to mark ’65 win over Pak
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News service

New Delhi, June 25
The iconic slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” of the 1960s that ignited nationalistic fervour during the 1965 war with Pakistan will see a revival in August-September this year. The government plans to organise a series of events, including a display by the forces, to mark 50 years of the war.

This comes at a time when the BJP-led government is trying to win over armed forces personnel and farmers. A section of the farmers is unhappy with the Union Government over the proposed changes in the Land Acquisition Act, while the veterans of the forces are angry over the delay in implementing the “One Rank, One Pension” (OROP) promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A series of events will be organised by the Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force between August 28 and September 26 on the lawns of Rajpath and Vigyan Bhawan. The war had ended on September 23, 1965, following a peace deal brokered by the United Nations.

The events will include an exhibition at Rajpath. The golden jubilee commemoration of the war will not only recollect India’s victory over Pakistan, but also revive the legacy of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who coined the “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” slogan during the war.

A note by the Ministry of Defence says: “The commemoration and celebration of the golden jubilee of this great victory will be a step in the right direction for conveying the sacrifices of martyrs and actions of gallant soldiers to the nation.”

Two famous battles in the western sector led to successful reclaiming of Khemkaran in Punjab (in the battle now known as “Asal uttar”) and the successful defence at Shakargarh bulge during the battle at Phillora. Paramvir Chakras were awarded to Havildar Abdul Hamid of the 4 Grenadiers and the Lt Col AB Tarapore of the 17 Poona Horse, a tank unit.

The celebrations will commence with the laying of a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti on August 28, the day the Indian Army captured the Haji Pir Pass in Uri region. The MoD wants either President Pranab Mukherjee or PM Narendra Modi to do the honours.

A tri-Services seminar will be held on September 1 and 2. From September 15 to 20, the Army will organise a commemorative exhibition on Rajpath, which will expectedly see a public participation. The exhibition will have four separate displays—the gallantry arena (showing the work of men like Havildar Hamid and Lt Col Tarapore), sacrifice arena, service display arena and the war trophy arena.

Tableaux, sand models and 3D imagery will be used to disseminate information about major battles. On September 20, a commemorative carnival will showcase the might of three Services through tableaux, regimental and cultural events.  The celebrations will end with a concert at Vijay Chowk on September 26.
Myanmar army moves closer to Indian border
New Delhi, June 25
Closing in on the militant camps operating in Myanmar, the army of that country has positioned itself close to the Indian border in a bid to choke the supply routes of insurgents after surgical strikes by the Indian forces earlier this month.

Official sources said the current operation was aimed at insurgent camps operating in Taga of Myanmar that required seven days of travel through dense jungles from the Indo-Myanmar border.

Camps of several insurgent outfits, including the NSCN(K) and the UNLP, were situated in Taga, they said. By positioning themselves along the border with India, Myanmar’s forces were not allowing anyone from the Indian side to carry more than 2 kg ration to cross the border. It was expected to leave insurgents short of supplies, sources said.

The presence of Myanmar’s forces had helped increase vigil along the border as Indian forces were already keeping a hawk’s eye on the movement of suspicious elements in the hilly areas, they said.

Insurgents operating in the north-eastern region of the country often forced villagers to provide them with daily provision, food supplies and intelligence about the movement of forces, they said.

This movement of villagers has now been blocked because of the increased presence of uniformed men on both sides of the border having a difficult terrain and dense forests that provide hideouts to insurgents and their informers.

The coming of the two forces close to each other on either side of the border would also increase the understanding between them which would further facilitate smooth carrying out of operations against insurgents, they said. — PTI
Indian Army to witness changes at senior level following retirement of officers
The Indian Army is set to effect several top level changes in the coming weeks with senior officers either retiring or getting promoted.

The Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Philip Campose is to superannuate on July 31. Though no official order has been issued on his replacement, the front runner is GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, Lt General MMN Rai.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi, currently serving as Chief of Staff, Northern Command, is expected to be elevated as Army commander and moved to Eastern Command, Defence sources said. Interestingly, all three Corps in Jammu and Kashmir would have new commanders.

Lt General SK Patyal, an infantry officer who is currently with the Border Roads Organisation, would take over as GOC of the Leh-based 14 Corps, whose area of operation is Sino-India border, they said.

Lt Gen SK Dua will take over the command of the crucial Srinagar based 15 Corps while Lt Gen RR Nimbhorkar would be taking over command of 16 Corps at Nagrota, they added.
Indian Army chasing pipe dreams forever
The Indian Army recently dispatched a global Request for Information (RfI) for a multi-purpose Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV), which has generated much mirth in military-industrial circles, for its sheer ridiculousness and operational folly.

The Army’s request is for an FRCV that will not only serve as a ‘medium’-sized main battle tank to replace the Army’s ageing fleet of licence-built Russian T-72s but also as a ‘light-tracked and wheeled tank’, built on the same platform. In layman terms, this is like asking for a Humvee and a Maruti 800 on the same platform. Hopefully, the document will be either withdrawn or amended before its July 31 deadline.

Surely, the Directorate General of Mechanised Forces at Army Headquarters, responsible for issuing the request, realises the irony and irrationality of drawing up such absurd general staff qualitative requirements (GSQRs), which are technologically impossible for any manufacturer to fulfil.

What is all the more surprising is that such QRs are formulated after extensive discussion, not only by the division concerned — in this case, the Mechanised Forces — but finally approved by the Army’s Deputy Chief (Planning & Systems), who is responsible for acquisitions. His office, as are those involved in formulating the requests and the subsequent proposals, or tenders, is purportedly staffed by competent scientific and technical advisers.

Senior Army officers concede that such over-ambitious and flawed requests for information, leading to equally over-stretched, faulty and diluted tenders, are largely responsible for the alarming equipment shortage that the forces face today. The shortfall includes small arms, howitzers, assorted helicopters, armour with night-fighting capacity, air defence capability and varied ordnance, among other things. Although Army Headquarters blames the hidebound and ill-informed Ministry of Defence (MoD) bureaucrats for this, it also has largely itself to blame for the glaring deficiencies.
‘Blinkered views’

“The whole process is carried out with limited knowledge and blinkered views,” said former Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman, the Army’s leading authority on acquisitions and offsets. Poorly conceived, formulated and drafted QRs create confusion and delays, resulting in the entire process being aborted much later, he said. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence concurs.

In its report tabled in Parliament on April 30, 2012, the Committee declared that as many as 41 of the Army’s proposals for diverse equipment in recent years were withdrawn or terminated. The reasons included faulty or over-ambitious qualitative requirements. The Committee report unambiguously pinned responsibility on the Army. The MoD and attendant financial advisers had no role in framing weapon QRs. Service Headquarters consult with the largely uniformed Directorate General Quality Assurance (DGQA), sometimes with inputs from the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

The typical process is this: all available literature on the equipment is gathered and its multiple characteristics collated. The idea is to include as many features as possible to demonstrate how exhaustively the task has been performed. Thereafter, as the draft travels up the chain of command, it gathers additional parameters, as each officer feels compelled to suggest more improvements. “The final QR takes the shape of a well-compiled wish list of utopian dimensions, which simply do not exist,” stated Gen. Suman.

For instance, in 2004, the Army issued a tender for 168 light utility helicopters to replace the obsolete fleet of Cheetahs and Chetaks inducted into service in the mid-60s. The proposal required the chopper to hover uninterruptedly for 30 minutes, a capability no helicopter in the world possessed at the time. The maximum hover time then available, with a U.S. helicopter, was seven minutes. The Army was forced to withdraw the tender soon after.

Similarly, a tender to upgrade FH-77B 155mm/39 calibre howitzers, acquired in the 1980s, had to be scrapped twice, first in 2006 and again in 2009, as the QRs drawn up by the Artillery Directorate were unworkable. A BAE Systems official associated with the upgrade at the time said that the requirements were ‘unrealistic’ for these old guns, expecting more capability than even new howitzers.

In 2013, the request sent to at least five overseas vendors to replace the Army’s obsolete Bofors 40mm L-70 and Soviet ZU-23mm 2B air defence guns had to be scrapped. All five vendors declared the requirements to be unreasonable, as they demanded a firing rate of 500 rounds per minute, a capability no gun in the world possessed.

The same has applied to tenders for tank fire control systems, long range observation systems and for different ammunition types, all terminated over the years on grounds of overreach and unrealism. It would appear that the Indian Army’s search for matchless, and globally unavailable, equipment and capabilities triumphs over and over again.
Parrikar failing the armed forces
Few tears will be shed, especially in the corridors of power, given his frequent gaffes, if Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar makes good his threat not to talk to the media for the next six months. Speaking less will give Parrikar more time to think and to grasp fundamental defence issues that still elude him. Seven months after his appointment -- when he boasted that swift action was his speciality and that, as an Indian Institute of Technology graduate, he would quickly master technology-related issues -- the new defence minister remains the new defence minister.
Alarmingly for someone who Prime Minister Narendra Modi has anointed a central pillar of the ‘Make in India’ policy, Parrikar has evinced neither the will nor the domain expertise needed to transform a military culture of buying foreign weaponry into one that promotes indigenous arms.
This lack of leadership was painfully exposed this fortnight, when the army rejected the plan to develop its next tank in the country, instead inviting international companies to design a tank for India and supervising its construction. This would waste 30 years of Indian toil in designing and building the Arjun tank, an experience that must be harnessed into a more capable, next-generation tank. The Defence Research and Development Organisation is already working on such a tank -- dubbed the Future Main Battle Tank -- that the defence ministry told Parliament in 2010 would be ready by 2020. Yet the army has scuppered this project, with Parrikar watching helplessly from the side-lines.
The reason is obvious. Parrikar and his bureaucrats prefer to buy than to build, since the latter involves active government leadership in coordinating the accumulation of diverse capabilities that go into a weapons platform. In building the Arjun tank, for example, the DRDO started with little expertise and with a technologically primitive domestic industry. As it painstakingly learnt how to design a tank, many of the sub-systems -- such as the engine, transmission, fire control and night-vision systems -- remain imported.
Meanwhile, Indian companies built others -- such as the armour, gun, ammunition and suspension system -- labouring alongside the DRDO to master these new technologies. An ecosystem now exists for tank production in India, even though the government failed to support these so-called ‘Tier-I’ and ‘Tier-II’ vendors (systems and sub-system suppliers) morally, technologically and financially. Meanwhile, the army did all it could to scuttle the Arjun’s evolution instead of partnering the DRDO.
After the Arjun outperformed the army’s Russian T-90 tank in comparative trials in Rajasthan in 2010, the generals adopted a new tack. Complaining that the 60-tonne Arjun was too heavy, they demanded an improved Arjun Mark II. Incredibly, the additional capabilities demanded added up to another five tonnes.
Parrikar is failing the country and Modi’s vision of ‘Make in India’, by standing by while the army scuttles the Arjun’s successor. He must exercise leadership by calling in the army, the DRDO and captains of industry, both public and private, and telling them flatly that the days of importing Russian armoured vehicles is over, and that a family of Indian tanks, infantry combat vehicles, reconnaissance vehicles and missile carriers will take their place. He must ensure they hammer out time-lines and financing, and allocate responsibility for who will build what and by when. Such decisions require the exercise of subjective judgement by decision-makers, not the time-consuming, timid ‘out’ of competitive tendering. Private industry must be given ownership of intellectual property they develop and, crucially, assured profits from mass-producing the components and sub-systems they develop. Liberal taxation regimes must be uniformly applied across industry. Untenable notions of “national security”, long misused by the public sector to keep out private sector competition, must be thrown overboard. Messrs Tata, Godrej and Mahindra, and chief executives of the other private firms, are as good Indians as the heads of public sector behemoths.
This meeting must be inaugurated with the ceremonial burning of the ‘Defence Procurement Procedure’, which could be retrospectively renamed ‘The Book of Reasons to Do Nothing’. To Parrikar’s credit, he has declared that a lack of trust was impeding his ministry’s functioning and the procurement manual embodies mistrust, with its preoccupation on procedures rather than outcomes. With the DPP out of the way, a ‘Manual of Standards’ must be introduced to specify uniform parts that could be used across various defence platforms. The Russian military uses the same bolt to fasten wheels on to trucks, tanks and helicopters; and the same air blower is fitted in ships, aircraft and land systems. This makes for cheaper volume manufacture and eases logistics and stocking.
This big-picture combat vehicle project must encompass futuristic versions of all the military’s current fleet, drawing in projects like the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle proposal that have meandered along for years like lost and forlorn cows. Each type must be overseen by a project manager, with unreasonable delay penalised with sacking. Parrikar himself - being an IIT graduate -- should chair six-monthly or annual review meetings to monitor progress.
The minister must evolve a similar big-picture approach to untangle the army’s biggest current problem -- the shortage of battlefield fire support, like artillery. Parrikar’s current solution is to expedite several individual procurements, each of a different gun type -- including a 155-millimetre towed gun; mounted gun system; ultra-light howitzer; and two self-propelled gun types. Even though several indigenous initiatives are under way - including a successful Ordnance Factory Board gun; a DRDO-led project called the Advance Towed Artillery Gun; and more than one Indian private sector solution -- Parrikar has failed to coordinate and synergise those by taking a step back and re-evaluating fire support de novo. Such a step could also factor in new equipment like the improved Pinaka rocket launcher, cruise missiles and the Prahar missile, all of which would enhance fire support to the front-line soldier. India could add another deadly dimension to its battlefield fire support by asking Washington for the A-10 Thunderbolt II (nicknamed Warthog) aircraft - a proven battlefield beast that the United States Army custom-built to pour fire on to enemy front lines, even in the face of retaliatory ground fire. With the United States close to retiring its Warthogs, we could evaluate the benefits of acquiring this legendary aircraft at throwaway prices under the “Excess Defense Articles” category.
Such a holistic approach would benefit not just the indigenising of systems but also import, where it is inescapable. Our large military requirements make for an enormous buyer’s leverage, which the ministry fritters away in piecemeal purchases. The navy needs sonars and torpedoes for multiple types of surface and submarine vessels, but all these are imported separately, linked with individual warship contracts. Instead, our requirement of 100-odd sonars and several hundred torpedoes could easily be processed as separate contracts, with global vendors strong-armed into building in India for the global market.
This is equally true for air force procurements. If the ministry views the big picture of our fighter requirements, rather than as individual “procurement cases”, major indigenisation of sub-systems and systems could be obtained from bundling the development and production of the Tejas light fighter, Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, Multi-Role Transport Aircraft and a host of helicopters that the military requires.
All this, of course, requires Parrikar to take a step back and look afresh at the unimaginative way we do our procurement. Hopefully, his silence will now give him the time.

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