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Saturday, 18 July 2015

From Today's Papers - 18 Jul 2015

CBI conducts checks at Navy, Army properties
Drug policy violated?
The checks were conducted at Naval Hospital in Mumbai's Colaba and Armed Forces Medical Stores Depot in Kandivali

The checks followed information that drugs were being allegedly purchased in violation of the 'Stock Policy'

New Delhi, July 17
The CBI today carried out surprise checks at Indian Naval Hospital (INHS) in Mumbai's Colaba and Armed Forces Medical Stores Depot in Kandivali after receiving information that drugs were being allegedly purchased in violation of the 'Stock Policy'.

The action of the agency took place in coordination with Naval and Army authorities.

The CBI sources said they had received inputs that medicines were allegedly being procured from local dealers at exorbitant rates instead of purchasing these stocks at approved rates from contract dealers or original manufacturers in accordance with "Stock Policy".

"The information also indicates that certain drugs are allegedly being procured in excess of the actual requirement and in violation of the 'Stock Policy', thereby leading to expiry of a large quantity of medicines," an official said.

The sources said it was also alleged that expired medicines were being returned without realising the cost of the same from the local dealers. PTI
Parrikar forms panel on soldiers’ grievances
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
In an unprecedented step, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has set up a committee of experts to look into grievances related to service matters and pensions of Armed Forces personnel so as to initiate measures to minimise litigation and disputes in courts.

The orders for setting up the committee were signed by Parrikar yesterday. Consisting of five members, the committee will report directly to the Defence Minister and is mandated to submit its findings and recommendations within 60 days. The committee’s terms of reference include recommending broad institutional changes to mechanisms for redressal of grievances and holistically examine resolution of issues that have led to massive pending litigation.

According to sources, over 10,000 cases pertaining to service matters such as pay fixation, promotions, policy interpretation, pensions and military justice are pending before the Armed Forces Tribunal, the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

The committee members include Lt Gen Richard Khare, former Military Secretary; Lt Gen Mukesh Sabharwal, former Adjutant General; Chandigarh-based High Court lawyer Major Navdeep Singh; and Kargil war survivor and blade runner Major DP Singh.

Terming it a historic progressive decision to bring comfort to serving and retired defence personnel, Major Navdeep Singh said formulating the committee was a watershed moment devoid of any political hues and in line with the Prime Minister’s directives that the government should be able to focus on the core functioning of its ministries and disputes should be resolved in-house so that aggrieved employees were not forced to approach the courts.

Ex-servicemen’s organisations have for long been calling for reduction in litigation, especially appeals initiated by the MoD against disabled soldiers in the past few years.
Pak moves UN against ‘ceasefire violations’
Islamabad, July 17
Pakistan today lodged a complaint against India with the UN military observer group for “ceasefire violations” along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

“United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was asked to use its good offices to investigate Indian ceasefire violations,” Pakistan army said, claiming the Indians were using heavy mortars and machine guns on civilian population living along Working Boundary and the LoC, resulting in casualties.

Pakistan also claimed that four of its citizens had been killed in the firing from across the border.

UNMOGIP observers have been located at the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir since 1949 and supervise the truce between the two neighbours.

India has been maintaining that the UNMOGIP has outlived its utility and was irrelevant after the Simla Agreement and the consequent establishment of the Line of Control.

There have been a series of ceasefire violations along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan which has resorted to mortar shelling of Indian areas over the past two days. Both sides have said they had suffered casualties.

Pakistan recently claimed to have downed a “spy drone” belonging to Indian security forces. India has rubbished the allegations, saying the drone appeared to be of Chinese design and is commercially available off the shelf.

Too early to speculate on India visit: Aziz

Amid escalating tensions at the Indo-Pak border, Pakistan’s national security adviser Sartaj Aziz has said it is "too early" to speculate on the timing of his visit to New Delhi to hold talks with his Indian counterpart as agreed at Ufa.

Aziz declined to comment on Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar's statement yesterday, warning Pakistan of "effective and forceful" response to unprovoked firing and cross-border terrorism.

"I don't want to vitiate the atmosphere by reacting to the statement that I have already seen," the Pakistan Prime Minister's Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs said.

Aziz termed it as "mischief" to suggest that tension was cropping up between the two countries and that could fizzle out his plan to visit New Delhi. He claimed that Pakistan was out to reduce the tension. — PTI

Keeping close watch on border tension: US

Washington: The US has said it was closely following the developments on the Indo-Pak border where there has been an escalation of tension and asked both countries to “bilaterally” work their way through the situation. “We want to see the tensions reduced, we want to see the two countries bilaterally work their way through this,” State Department Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Thursday. — PTI
How do India and Pak begin?
Take a leaf from Washington’s notebook
AFTER an hour of civilised dialogue in Russia last week, India and Pakistan are back at what they have been doing intermittently since the Mumbai attacks — exchanging gunfire on the border, summoning each other’s envoys and trading angry statements. The situation was deemed serious enough for Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to warn of an “effective and forceful response” if Pakistan resorted to unprovoked firing. For good measure he also underlined India’s commitment to take steps that would contribute to peace and tranquility on the border. That provided solace to India’s sound-byte warriors who have put their money on Narendra Modi’s willingness and ability to ‘tame’ the ‘incorrigible’ Pakistanis. But the emphasis on a tranquil border, however, is only half the story of what was agreed upon by Modi and Nawaz Sharif in Russia.

As the Pakistani foreign policy veteran Sartaz Aziz had said the phrase “to discuss all outstanding issues” also stood for talks on settling other issues of discord such as Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen. In this context it was gratifying for Jaishankar to sidestep a loaded query on whether talks between the National Security Advisers could be held in such a charged atmosphere. Pakistan ought to realise that past instances of violence have turned Indian public opinion against the renewal of friendly relations. New Delhi’s spin masters should also wake up to the fact that perpetrators of such violence will remain unpunished when the other side turns its face away from resolving old and festering wounds.

Pakistan must hold true to its commitment of not treating terrorists as cross-border avengers while India should end easily resolvable disputes as proof that it is genuinely interested in lasting peace. Perhaps it could make a beginning with Sir Creek, where a dry run of the ’65 war was enacted 50 years ago. Both could also pay heed to the spirit of reconciliation demonstrated by the US in turning the page with Iran and Cuba, two long running disputes that had seen as much skullduggery as one gets to witness in the case of India and Pakistan.
CRPF jawan opens fire at colleagues; 2 dead
Bijay Sankar Bora

Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 17
A CRPF jawan today allegedly opened indiscriminate fire at his colleagues when they were out on an operational task at Tihu in Nalbari district of Assam, leaving his colleague and a Class 9 student dead.

Six others — a student and five CRPF men — were injured in the firing that took place when the jawans were on duty at an agitation spot on the National Highway-31.

Sources said CRPF ASI DR Bardoloi and Himangshu Tamuly were killed on the spot in the firing by CRPF jawan Amal Kumar Das, who was also critically injured in the firing retaliated by his colleagues. Others who were injured are: CRPF men Dayaram Bodo, Janardhan Mohale, Diganta Kumar Baniya and Nirmal Das, and student Brojen Baishya.

Sources in the police said Das allegedly opened unprovoked firing with his service weapon on his colleagues while a team of CRPF personnel was keeping a watch on a group of nearly 100 protesters blocking the NH-31 around 10.30am.

Gyanendra, an eye witness, said a group of protesters led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) were blocking the national highway to press for their demand for creation of a sub-division in Tihu, while the CRPF personnel and the Assam police were present at the spot when Das opened fire on his colleagues.
Indian Army shortlists BEL and Punj Lloyd for $100 million air defence guns upgrade
NEW DELHI: The Indian Army has shortlisted state-run Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and private player Punj LloydBSE 8.68 % for a project to upgrade its ageing Zu 23 2B air defence guns in a selection process that has been on for over four years.

After several rounds of trials in different weather conditions and terrain, the $100-million contract has been progressed beyond the technical evaluation stage, with commercial bids likely to be opened within the next six months.
Sources said while five companies had initially taken part in the competition, three did not make it past the technical evaluation, leaving only Punj Lloyd and BEL in the fray. The upgrade is critical for the Army that wants to modernise its 468 air defence guns of the 1960s vintage to make them all weather, capable of day-night operations and equipped with a digital fire control system.

Confirming the development, Ashok Wadhawan, president (manufacturing) at Punj Lloyd, said the company is confident of its ability to execute the contract and is looking forward to the final round of commercial bid opening that would determine the winner of the contract.

"We have gained considerable experience on the project and also have a modern 30 mm air defence gun ready for requirements of the Indian Army," the executive said. BEL also has considerable experience in upgrading of air defence guns and is currently involved in a major project to modernise the L 70 series of guns with the Army.

As reported, the defence ministry earlier this week gave a go ahead for a Rs 16,800 crore contract to replace its ageing Zu 23L 70 series of guns under the Make in India route. The contract however is expected to take a few years for conclusion.
Army rejects US offer of Raven mini-drones for its foot-soldiers
NEW DELHI: The Indian Army has virtually rejected the Raven mini-UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) being offered by the US, in a blow to the much-touted bilateral defence trade and technology initiative (DTTI) for joint production of military technologies.

Sources say the Raven RQ-11 does not meet the technical parameters or GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements) laid down by the Army for the hand-launched spy drones to equip all its 382 infantry battalions, as also counter-insurgency force Rashtriya Rifles and mechanised units.

"The Army wants futuristic mini-drones, not the current-generation Raven being offered as the `Cheel' drone to the force. It can give good imagery with clarity only from an altitude of 150-metre above ground level," said a source.

The Army, in turn, wants a man-portable drone which can operate at least 1,000-metre above ground level to ensure it cannot be shot down by enemy rifles or light machine guns. "If there is to be joint manufacturing, it makes sense to go in for a futuristic bird rather than an existing one," said a source.

After the rebuff, the US is now trying to push "another upgraded" drone in a joint collaboration between Raven-manufacturer AeroVironment and Bangalore-based Dynamatic Technologies.

Raven was one of the four "pathfinder projects" identified for co-development and co-production under the DTTI during the Obama-Modi summit here in January. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar and his US counterpart Ashton Carter inked the expansive 10-year bilateral defence framework last month.

But "project agreements" could be finalized for only two of the pathfinders -- mobile electric hybrid power sources or generators, and chemical-biological warfare protection gear for soldiers.

The Raven proposal has run into rough weather, with the Army sticking to its stand despite pressure to "dilute" its existing GSQRs for the mini-drones. Both the defence ministry and Army on Friday declined to comment on the matter.

Interestingly, as many as 35 Indian vendors have already offered to manufacture the mini-drones as per the GSQRs. The 1.13-million strong Army requires at least 598 mini-UAVs to ensure "battlefield transparency" for its foot-soldiers.

These man-portable drones offer an endurance of two-three hours for an operational surveillance radius of around 10-km. Being stealthy because of their small size, these drones will also be used to equip the Para (Special Forces) battalions for covert missions beyond enemy lines, counter-terrorism operations and `beyond-the-hill' surveillance.

The armed forces do have the larger Israeli Searcher-II and Heron drones with much longer endurance for surveillance and precision-targeting missions. But much like the Army, IAF and Navy also want micro-UAVs for surveillance and protection of their airfields and warships.

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