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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

From Today's Papers - 21 Jul 2015

Govt rolls out plan for desi military hardware
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 20
In what will lay the guidelines for indigenisation of military hardware, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) today announced a 15-year plan to produce hi-tech naval equipment in India aimed at doing away with costly imports and dependence on foreign suppliers.

Called the Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan (INIP) 2015-2030, it entails an exhaustive list of 46 kinds of equipment used in naval warships, submarines, planes, helicopters, underwater and air-borne surveillance systems.

“Now, the list of items is known to the Indian industry and also to the MoD-owned public sector companies. They can make long-term plans with the surety of purchase, if they produce it right and the best,” an official said.

The list lays down what will now be produced in India and not allowed to be imported. This includes multi-role helicopters, surface-to-air-missiles, early warning radars, underwater unmanned vehicles, diesel engines for warships, gas turbines, an air independent propulsion (allows submarines to stay submerged for longer periods), satellite communication system, torpedoes, night vision and advanced optics for naval pilots, towed sonars carried by warships to detect underwater submarines.

In the past, some progress has been made in these categories. “It is not an easy task but a beginning has to be made,” an official said. A source cited an example saying engines of all warships are imported, while even the major overhaul of older generation planes is being carried out in Russia. The MoD recently ordered towed array sonars from a European firm for its warships after Chinese submarines started making forays into the Indian ocean, but these could be last.

Announcing the plan, the MoD was candid that the sector has been opened for the private enterprises. “Industry, including the private sector, can play a vital role in meeting sophisticated needs of the armed forces through cost-effective utilisation of its know-how and existing infrastructure,” a brief on the plan said.

The “15-year Indigenisation Plan” was first prepared and promulgated in 2003 in keeping with the induction plan of new platforms. This plan is reviewed every five years, with the last revision undertaken in 2008.

The ‘INIP 2015-2030’ is aimed at enabling the development of equipment and systems through the DRDO and the Indian industry over a 15-year period. It formulates a structured process to develop systems by specifying technologies and broad requirements catering to new induction platforms in the Navy such as INS Vikramaditya, the Teg Class frigates, Fleet Tankers and Scorpene submarines.

In addition, the plan also caters to requirements of aviation and diving equipment for the first time. The Directorate of Indigenisation at Navy is the coordinating agency for all efforts. The office shall be working closely with industry associations such as CII, FICCI and Assocham, among others.
In a first, Chinese warship docks at Mumbai port
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 20
India and China today entered a small footnote, a positive one, in their rather acrimonious military history with New Delhi allowing “rest and recuperation” facilities to a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warship.

In a first, Jinan, a Luyang II-class Guided Missile Destroyer, tonight called on at Mumbai, Indian Navy Western command.

The warship is on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden and needed replenishment of stocks, rations and fuel for which it will be stocked from Mumbai.

It will halt in Mumbai for four days before sailing back to Salalah, Oman, on July 24.

The move comes only two months after a joint statement between the two nations — during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Beijing in May — showed intent to cooperate. “The two sides will exchange visits of naval ships,” the statement had said.

In the past, Chinese warships have made a port call at Vishakhapatnam on the east coast. But this is the first time that a “turnaround facility” is being provided. The matter of allowing such facilities was raised during the Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) in Beijing in April.

The two countries, edgy over each other’s claims and counter-claims along the 3,488 km-long Himalayan frontier, have negligible military exchange. Rather, India is suspicious of China joining hands with Pakistan and launching a simultaneous two-front war.
Give the Sword Arm honour & dignity
The proposed symbolism of celebrating the 50th anniversary of 1965 war in August will look extremely distasteful against the backof a hunger strike by the very same partakers of the unparalled gallantry of 1965, sitting on a hunger strike.
Unfortunately today, the One Rank One Pension (or OROP) conversations often digress into the emotionally charged yet unnecessary territory of comparative political commitments, intra-functional benchmarking, financial and administrative implications and such like bureaucratic meanderings. While all these are factual challenges, they end up obfuscating the real and irreversible cost of OROP indecisiveness  — the strongly perceived, national apathy and loss of conscience towards the Defence Forces and for their over 40-year-old cause. The debilitating and scarring consequences of such a “wait” haven't been understood by the polity.

In the composite concept of nationhood, the Defence Forces are the “Sword Arm” of the body — a necessity that was born of the womb of Partition itself, and with the immediate role it played in the aftermath of Independence and the protection of Kashmir in 1948. It formally reiterated itself in 1962, 1965, 1971, Kargil and the umpteen counter-insurgencies and undeclared wars across the length and breadth of India, and sometimes beyond. Its relevance temporarily rearing its head during the countless natural calamities, social disorders and all other ills and challenges facing the country — none borne of its volition.

 A silent, disciplined and tireless epitome of the lofty idea of “India”, the Defence Forces stood steadfast with finest and rarest traditions of plurality and secularity, in action. But, there is a fundamental difference of narrative via-a-vis the Defence Forces of our neighbouring countries. Our Defence Forces stayed the course (at the borders or the cantonments, never straying), never eyeing 'Delhi' — the same was not true of Pakistan, Bangladesh or Myanmar. Interestingly, the proclivity for the corridors of power or the “stickiness” of Defence interference is best borne out of the fact, that while the Indian Army is working under its 28th Head of Army (including the posts of “Commander-in-Chief” and later ‘Chief of Army Staff”), the Pakistani Army is  effectively under its 14th head of Pakistani Army. Some like Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq and, more recently, General Pervez Musharraf preferring to overstay their welcome and democratic requirement. Meanwhile, the Indian Defence forces have been fiercely and proudly, apolitical. Unfortunately, this very quality has seen its steady and consistent decline of its standing in the Warrant of Precedence from No 2 in 1947 for the Commander-in-Chief to No 12 today for its Chief of Army Staff — symbolic,yet, a telling tale of its consistent fate, ordained by the powers that be. 

Perversely and ironically, the jubilation of its famed victory in 1971 was acknowledged with the seeds of the present OROP issue, with its first tinkering with the pension system with a downward revision from 70 per cent of the basic pay to 50 per cent in 1973.

The “secondment” of the forces was on full-swing and to compound matters, there was a societal, psychological and financial new world emerging that was making the soldier think beyond the enemy, the border or the cantonment — the opening up of the economy in the 1990s and the unleashing of the private sector was being celebrated and somewhere along the way, “pension” was becoming a dirty word. Typically, the catchment of the soldiering stock was from “generational” families and regions who started wondering about the fate of their parents now being forced to sit on the footpaths near Jantar Mantar, an unprecedented act for those from defence services. What was the option and who cared in the new world order? Confusion and angst started setting amongst the forgotten uniformed fraternity, in or out of services.

I threw my weight behind the ageing soldiers, war widows and families of this immensely patriotic lot of Indians at Jantar Mantar, last week. Unlike the typical protesters from any specific region, religious, social or cultural denomination  — this was a set of diverse people who had earlier in their lives, stood ramrod straight during the “Kasam Parade,” swearing on their respective religious books to protect the country as soldiers of India. No region, no religion but simply put, protect India — and now, to find them sitting and fighting for their izzat was indeed a sad reflection for the nation as a whole.

Today, many children of the OROP protestors are still staring down the “enemy” in the most inhospitable environs under bone-chilling state of danger, with their backs to the country — perhaps wondering as to why this issue still hasn't been resolved? As to why their parents and loved ones are being told to be “patient”.  This, after an ostensible agreement across board, as a justifiable right and deserved correction (not “privilege”) to a governmental anomaly towards the Defence Forces. All subsequent comparisons with other government functions and departments are a deliberate bogey, unnecessary and not germane to the issue. The fact is, any organisation that has service conditions similar to that of the soldiers of the Defence Forces has a case of “One Rank, One Pension” (read, retire at 35, risk both limb and life as part of standard duty. Not to mention the type of service locations and implications on a soldier's family and financial life, post early retirement) — hand on heart, the answer needn't be debated, ad nauseam.

Thankfully, “patience’ is not a standard soldering lingua franca. Imagine if the soldier were to profess the virtues of “patience” in handling a few of their own duty challenges? Let us not preach what can be immensely counter productive.

Where then is the issue? My trysts with the civilian bureaucracy at the highest offices like that of the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, the President of India (as the Military Secretary to the Presidents, KR Narayanan and APJ Abdul Kalam) to that of the local panchayat level (as the Lieutenant-Governor of a territory without a state assembly) points in the sad case of OROP,  towards one of prathamikta (read, priorities) and more dangerously of neeyat (read, intent) of a few disinterested stakeholders.

This is not a commentary of any political setup. The 1971 war was fought under the Congress rule and Kargil under the BJP. Both major parties are alive to the sacrifices, justness and specificities of OROP. My own experience suggests that administrative implementation challenges aside (to be expected), such like decisions, once taken by the highest authority to be undertaken in toto, breaks all roadblocks. I have no doubts that the OROP decision is irreversible and inevitable; it is a question of time.

The Sword Arm does not get strengthened only by arms purchases or replacing ageing equipment only (that is also important). First and foremost is to retain the izzat (and therefore the fighting spirit) of the combatant soldier — this izzat is now contextualised to OROP and is being challenged with a “patience” suggest, after 40 years of collective indifference,  the Defence Forces are not oblivious of the situation.  July 26, Kargil Vijay Diwas, is a fitting date for OROP redemption and implementation. A visit by the Defence Minister to these OROP protestors would not be seen as an act of succumbing, but a large-hearted step towards acknowledging the sacrifices of these soldiers and ensuring the dignity and izzat of those who put their lives before the nation and ensure, India remains India. The writer is former Lt-Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Puducherry.
CSD car purchase norms eased
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 20
The purchase of cars by armed forces personnel from the Canteen Stores Department (CSD) outlets has now become easy. Those entitled can get sanctions directly through CSD depots with the authorities doing away with the need to obtain prior centralised sanction from the Army Headquarters.

In January 2012, the sales of cars through the CSD — which offers vehicles at a discount vis-à-vis the open market — had been limited and all applications for purchase were required to be submitted to Army Headquarters where they would be scrutinised and a periodic priority list would be drawn up.

This had been done due to budgetary constraints. Under the norms, all payments made by customers were deposited in a consolidated fund, from where further disbursements were made to different vendors.
Ex-servicemen to intensify protest
New Delhi, July 20
As the monsoon session begins tomorrow, the ongoing protest by retired veterans of the Indian armed forces against non-implementation of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) will intensify.

Several opposition parties may join the protest at Jantar Mantar. On July 14, ex-servicemen had given seven days to the Centre following which protests will spread. The period is about to end and the next step towards escalation will commence on July 23. — TNS
Army Warns Pakistan of 'Unexpected Damages' for Ceasefire Violations
Jammu:  The Indian Army has warned Pakistan today of "unexpected damages" if it continues to violate the ceasefire along the border in Jammu and Kashmir.

"There are certain elements across the border who want to create trouble on the Line of Control... we have to give them certain unexpected damage to so that they don't repeat it in future," said Lieutenant General KH Singh, who commands the 16 Corps.
The senior officer said that Pakistan started shelling and firing on villages in the Poonch sector in Jammu on Saturday on Eid because India had managed to stop terrorists from crossing the border just two days before that. Five civilians were injured in the area.

"One girl was killed on the Pakistan side - we regret the incident. The Pakistani army also suffered major damages. They chose the Eid day to retaliate and targeted our civilian areas after Eid prayers," he said.

The clashes over the weekend have raised doubts about a much-discuss thaw between India and Pakistan after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, at a summit in Russia this month. They agreed that their top security officials would hold talks. But in the days since then, the ceasefire along the Line of Control and the International Border has been repeatedly violated, with one Indian killed.

The simmering tension saw Pakistan, in a break from tradition, refusing festive sweets from Indian soldiers on Eid on the border in Punjab.

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