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Saturday, 31 October 2015

From Today's Papers - 31 Oct 2015

Skirmishes can start war, China warns US
Asks Washington to stop its dangerous and provocative acts in South China Sea
China's Naval Commander told his US counterpart that a minor incident could spark off a war in the South China Sea, if the United States did not stop its “provocative acts” in the disputed waterway, the Chinese navy said on Friday.

Admiral Wu Shengli made the comments to US chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson during a video teleconference on Thursday, according to a Chinese naval statement.

The two officers held talks after a US warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of Beijing's man-made islands in the contested Spratly archipelago on Tuesday.

China has rebuked Washington over the patrol, the most significant US challenge yet to territorial limits China effectively claims around its seven artificial islands in one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

"If the United States continues with these kinds of dangerous, provocative acts, there could well be a seriously pressing situation between frontline forces from both sides on the sea and in the air, or even a minor incident that sparks war," the statement paraphrased Wu as saying.

"(I) hope the US side cherishes the good situation between the Chinese and U.S. navies that has not come easily and avoids these kinds of incidents from happening again," Wu said. Speaking earlier, a US official said the naval chiefs agreed to maintain dialogue and follow protocols to avoid clashes.

Scheduled port visits by US and Chinese ships and planned visits to China by senior U.S. Navy officers remained on track, the official said.

"None of that is in jeopardy. Nothing has been cancelled," said the official.

Both officers agreed on the need to stick to protocols established under the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

"They agreed that it's very important that both sides continue to use the protocols under the CUES agreement when they're operating close to keep the chances for misunderstanding and any kind of provocation from occurring," the U.S. official said.

Indeed, Wu said he believed the Chinese and U.S. navies had plenty of scope for cooperation and should both "play a positive role in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea".

A U.S. Navy spokesman stressed Washington's position that U.S. freedom of navigation operations were meant to "protect the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law". Chinese warships followed the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, as it moved through the Spratlys on Tuesday. The U.S.

Navy is operating in a maritime domain bristling with Chinese ships. While the U.S. Navy is expected to keep its technological edge in Asia for decades, China's potential trump card is sheer weight of numbers, with dozens of naval and coastguard vessels routinely deployed in the South China Sea, security experts say.

China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. — Reuters
India, Russia to restart talks on fighter jets
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 30
Despite India and Russia still having ‘serious’ differences over the joint development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), the two-sides are set to immediately re-commence the stalled negotiation process on the plane. Talks have been stalled for the past two years.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will take up the issue with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu at the annual meeting of the two ministers in Moscow, sources have indicated. Senior Indian Air Force (IAF) officers will be part of Parrikar’s delegation.

Parrikar has left for Russia and will be meeting the Russian minister on November 2.

Before that, he will visit St Petersburg on the north-west coast of Russia. He will be visiting the Admiralty shipyard that makes submarines and also runs a state-run research centre. Though the IAF had a demand of some 127 FGFAs, it has halved its demand to have just three squadrons (around 18 planes in each). It was first reported in The Tribune in its edition dated August 11.

There are two parts to the FGFA project. One is the research and development (R&D) contract for $11 billion for long-term development of the jet. It has been pending ratification since 2013. The second is the actual joint-production or manufacturing of the plane. The preliminary design stage of the FGFA programme was completed in June 2013 and India has so far spent Rs 1,483.15 crore on it.

As a result, the T-50 fighter jet has been built for the Russians under its PAK-FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation) programme for the FGFA. The jet is already test-flying and is slated to be inducted into the Russian air force in 2016.

New Delhi wants a more powerful engine; a greater share in the joint-production and is looking to get some of the planes in an off-the-shelf deal and not wait longer as its fighter-jet fleet is dwindling.

New Delhi is likely to suggest to Moscow that the T-50 fighter jet could be supplied to the IAF while the research to improve upon the aircraft could be carried on simultaneously.
Top Chinese army general to visit India, Pakistan
China's highest ranking defence officer will visit India next month, the first in a decade as the PLA seeks to expand relations with the Indian military and increase mutual trust along the border amid a series of incursions by Chinese soldiers. General Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of the China's Military Commission, will visit India and Pakistan in the middle of November, Chinese defence spokesman, Senior Colonel Yang Yujun said at a media briefing here today.

These visits are regarded as part of Chinese military's efforts to expand ties with its Indian counterpart and solidify close defence cooperation with close ally Pakistan's armed forces. The purpose of the visit is to implement the consensus reached between the political leadership of the two countries and enhance friendship and mutual cooperation between China and the two countries, Yang said. While Fan's visit to Pakistan is seen as an attempt to solidify relations in the backdrop of China's USD 46 billion investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, his visit to India comes at a time when New Delhi and Beijing have made efforts to improve defence ties. Fan is the highest uniformed official whose rank is above that of the Defence Minister in China's military hierarchy.

The CMC is the over arching body of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), headed by President Xi Jinping who also heads the military and the ruling Communist Party of China (CMC). Indian officials say that in his three-day visit, Fan will hold talks with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and other top defence officials. A host of issues will be discussed including efforts by both sides to improve relations between the troops deployed along the disputed border in the backdrop of a number of tense standoffs.

The Chinese general's visit to India comes in the immediate backdrop of a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) which since 2012 is focusing on resolving the tense standoffs arising out of Chinese troops' incursions into areas on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The standoffs began before the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India as his first overseas destination soon after he took over the post in 2013 as a goodwill gesture.

The standoff in which Chinese troops pitched tents in Depsang area in Ladakh continued for several days before they withdrew.
Army to create 140 colonel posts for ‘support arm units’
NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented move, the defence ministry on Thursday admitted before the Supreme Court that it had made a mistake by distributing all 1,484 colonel posts among Army's combat units under the post-Kargil war 'command-and-exit' formula to lower the battalion commanding officer's age.

Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh told a bench of Justices T S Thakur and Kurian Joseph that the allocation of colonel posts to just the combat units of Army was wrong and said defence minister Manohar Parrikar, in consultation with the Army top brass, had decided to create 140 more such posts to provide better promotion opportunities to lieutenant colonels in Army's support arm units - air defence, corps of engineers and corps of signals.
Of these 1,484 posts, 700-odd were distributed on pro-rata basis among different units. However, the manner of distribution of the second tranche of 700-odd colonel posts in 2009 during UPA regime was challenged in the Armed Forces Tribunal, which had ordered pro-rata distribution. This order was challenged in the SC by the defence ministry.

For months, the defence ministry kept defending the decision to confine the additional posts of colonels to combat units on the basis of the recommendations an expert committee headed by A V Singh, which had found the Indian Army's initial response to incursions by Pakistan regulars and infiltrators during Kargil war to be sluggish.

"The committee found that age of colonels, who command a battalion comprising 800-odd soldiers, was a little over 40 years while the same for Pakistan and Chinese armies was 37 years. The committee had recommended a command-and-exit policy by which colonels would serve as battalion commanders for two to three years and exit to a non-command post by the time they reach the age of 40. To bring down the age to 37 years, an additional 1,484 post colonels were created," the ministry had said.

However, after the bench headed by Justice Thakur made it clear that it was unfair to support arm units, the defence minister and the Army top brass reviewed the situation and offered to create 140 more posts of colonels for air defence, corps of engineers and corps of signals.

In a combative articulation of the fresh decision, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh informed the court that the government wanted to be fair to all sections of the armed forces and this made the bench call the ASG "General Singh". However, the ASG clarified that the normal promotional avenues would be available to Army Services Corps, EME and other non-combat units.

The bench termed the decision as "very fair" and told the ministry to ensure that these additional 140 posts were given to the meritorious among the support arm units on the basis of merit list drawn by earlier promotion boards. It asked the ASG to submit by November 19 the time-frame within which these 140 promotions to colonel posts would be effected.

Lead petitioner Lt Colonel P K Choudhary argued in person and alleged that the Army Service Corps was being discriminated against in promotion to colonel posts. But the bench brushed aside the charge saying he had chosen ASC wing on his own volition.

"Persons who want to get faster promotion in Army always choose a combat unit rather than a non-comabt unit like ASC. When the infantry is facing bullets, ASC men have a comparatively cushy job, their role being limited to supplying ration. We are not going to change the policy decision framed as per the report given by expert committee headed by A V Singh," the bench said.
Beef ban: Defence Ministry asks Indian army to stop buffalo slaughter ritual
The Defence Ministry of the Modi government under Manohar Parrikar has asked the Indian army to stop buffalo slaughter, reports an English daily.

The ministry has asked the army to ensure that none of its units indulge in the ritual slaughtering of buffaloes, which is an age-old tradition. Instructions have been issued to put an end to the practice of certain army units to behead a male buffalo during Dussehra, that is attributed mostly to Gurkha tradition.

The ministry accepted that the practice was traditional but said that 'laws have now changed', reports the daily. Interestingly, the government is using the 'animal cruelty' angle combined with the fact that buffalo slaughter is illegal by law, to push for this ban.

"It is understood that there may be some who wish to carry out this tradition but rules should not be bent. If there is such a need, rules can be followed and the animal can be taken to government authorized slaughter houses as per the law," said a top defence ministry source to the English daily.

The reaction to this diktat has been mixed. While some in the army welcomed the order, others have opposed the move.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

From Today's Papers - 28 Oct 2015

China frets as US ship enters disputed waters
Beijing, October 27
The Chinese Navy today had its first major face-off with a US warship after it ignored Beijing’s warning and sailed close to artificial islands China is building in the disputed South China Sea, prompting China to denounce the incident as a “threat” to its sovereignty.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “strong discontent” and “resolute opposition” over a US warship patrol near “Zhubi (Subi) Reef”, which is part of “Nansha” Islands in the South China Sea also known as Spratly Islands, claimed by China.

China’s angry reaction came after Pentagon said USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island Beijing is building in the Spratly Islands without the permission of the Chinese government.

“This action by the US threatens China’s sovereignty and security interests, endangers the safety of personnel and facilities in the reef, and harms regional peace and stability,” ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a media briefing here.

The US warship was monitored, tracked and issued with warning, Lu said declining to provide details of how many Chinese vessels were involved in the face-off with the US destroyer, the first after US asserted that its naval ships and planes will sail and fly through the South China Sea to assert freedom of navigation.

“Make no mistake, the US will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea will not be an exception,” US Defence Secretary Ash Carter has warned during his recent Australia tour.

China claims sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea, which transit some of the busiest sea lanes in the world and is believed to sit atop a vast amount of oil wealth. — PTI
India, Sri Lanka begin joint naval exercise
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 27
Cashing in on the overtures of the 10-month-old “pro-India” regime in Sri Lanka, India has commenced a naval exercise in the neighbouring county and that, too, at the strategically vital port of Trincomalee on the East Coast of the island.

The busiest sea lanes of communication (SLOC’s) pass close by and the port is natural deep-water harbour. China has been trying for long to find a toe-hold at the port to have some presence as its entire ship-borne crude oil supplies originating in the Persian Gulf pass through the same SLOC. India found a small toe-hold in March this year. The naval exercise will cement the ties, sources said.

“The Indian and Sri Lankan Navies would undertake the 4th edition of Sri Lanka-India Exercise (SLINEX) off Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, from October 27 to November 1,” Indian Navy spokesperson Capt DK Sharma said today. This is the fourth such naval exercise between the two countries since 2005.

Indian naval ships Kora, Kirpan and Savitri, along with ship-borne integral helicopters, entered Trincomalee today to participate in the exercise.
ITBP to deploy women along China border
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 27
For the first time, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which is deployed along the tough, mountainous terrains along the India-China frontier, will use its women personnel in combat roles.

ITBP Director General Krishna Chaudhary today said 512 women constables of the general duty (GD) cadre or the fighting arm were being trained to be deployed at border outposts (BOPs) across the frontier, at altitudes reaching more than 18,000 feet from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

They will reach their new postings by the next summer. The ITBP will also ensure at least half the strength of BOPs comprised women personnel.

“It will be odd if for example, two women constables are sent to a BOP where there are 40 men,” said an ITBP officer. Facilities such as toilets for the women personnel will also be constructed at the BOPs, where they will be deployed.

The ITBP is also in talks with the Union Public Service Commission to start recruiting women officers in the GD cadre starting from the rank of Assistant Commandant, the DG said. This will allow women officers to command their own units comprising 1,000 personnel.

“When we recruited women constables there were a lot of reservations among senior force commanders about how effective and comfortable they will be. But I have ensured that women personnel are going to be deployed shoulder to shoulder with men,” he said.
Army officer, 2 Hizb militants killed in Kashmir encounter
A senior Army officer said the operation was launched based on specific information about the militants’ presence in the area.
Two Hizbul Mujahideen militants and an Army officer were killed in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Monday.

Police said the slain militants were working under Hizbul commander Burhan Wani.

The Army and Special Operations Group of the police launched an operation in Drabgam village in Pulwama on Monday evening and called it off on Tuesday morning.

A senior Army officer said the operation was launched based on specific information about the militants’ presence in the area.
Gopalpur to Have Odisha's First Defence Manufacturing Unit Under Make-In-India Scheme

BALASORE: The State is going to have its first defence manufacturing industry soon. The unit to come up under the 'Make in India' programme will be established in the Tata Steel’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Gopalpur in Ganjam district.

Defence sources said the defence unit is being set up by Sure Safety Solutions (SSS), a Mumbai-based firm in collaboration with Meggitt Defence Systems Limited, a UK-based international aerospace, defence and performance sensors group. SSS develops and integrates products and solutions in the field security, surveillance, defence simulators, aerial and surface targets, UAVs, and other technology driven products required for the modernization of armed forces and combating insurgency.

It has an agreement with Meggitt for the engineering of extreme environment components and smart sub-systems for aerospace, defence and energy markets. The firm has been provided land for the state-of-the-art facility for manufacturing of aerial target systems in the Special Economic Zone. An official of SSS said groundbreaking ceremony for the industry will be held at Gopalpur on Wednesday which is expected to be attended by Industries Minister Debi Prasad Mishra.

Last year the SSS had supplied Banshee Jet 80 aerial targets for the test-launching of the indigenously developed surface-to-air medium range supersonic missile Akash from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea. The target’s performance was appreciated as the missile hit it successfully.

Banshee Jet 80 is an aerial target for surface-to-air and air-to-air weapon systems. The aerial vehicle is designed to float for overwater operations recovery. This latest version is fitted with twin, 40-Kg thrust gas turbine engines giving a total of 80-kg of static thrust.

This aerial target, considered as best in the world in its class, has been inducted in the Indian army and navy. At least 44 countries are using this vehicle as target. It is expected the firm would manufacture components and sub-systems for the aerial target. Sources maintained that the defence firm finds Gopalpur suitable for its plant due to its vast test range. “There is an Army Air Defence College at Gopalpur and it has an ideal test facility for aerial targets. The place suits the requirements. The SSS is expected to produce quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicles used for surveillance and exploration,” the source said.

Apart from being a manufacturing unit for unmanned aerial targets, this industry will also support in supplying the Meggitt's orders from the Indian armed forces for aerial targets.


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