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Monday, 21 December 2015

From Today's Papers - 21 Dec 2015

Mechanised forces bogged down by deficient fleet
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 19
While the Army pitches for increased strike capabilities and continues to validate its transformational concepts for a high intensity war and surgical strikes, its mechanised forces — the key offensive element — is bogged down by serious deficiencies. This has not only adversely affected operational preparedness but would also have an adverse impact in the 12th Army plan as five more Mechanised Infantry Battalions were planned to be raised.

The Army’s fleet of BMP combat vehicles — the mainstay of its mechanised forces — is short by a staggering 47 per cent. The main reason for shortfall is the delay in supply of 389 BMPs by the Ordnance Factory Board, (OFB), which has also entailed an extra liability of at least Rs 270.97 crore due to cost escalation.

Against the authorisation of 2,827 BMP vehicles by the Mechanised Infantry and 323 BMPs by the Corps of Engineers, the current holding of these vehicles is 2,521 numbers and 170, respectively, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has revealed in its latest report.

The Army began inducting various versions of the Soviet origin BMP, including combat vehicles, command posts, engineer support and recce vehicles from 1986 onwards. These are tracked armoured vehicles equipped with their own cannons and anti-tank missiles along with the capability to carrying soldiers into battle. Their role is to complement tanks and support infantry during assaults. At presently they are manufactured solely by the Ordnance Factory, Medak (OFM). CAG observed against indents for 389 BMPs placed on OFM in 2009, with delivery to be completed by 2011-12 for the Infantry and by 2013-14 for the Engineers, Only 179 BMPs were delivered till January 2015. Further, against the production capacity of 600 BMPs at the rate of 100 per year, OFB could produce only 265 BMPs during the last six years resulting in shortfall of 55 per cent of its assessed capacity.
Cantonment boards have failed to fulfil mandate: CAG
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Most cantonment boards have failed to fulfil their stipulated mandate of executing government schemes and providing the required civic amenities to residents in these areas.

A test check of 17 cantonment boards (CBs) by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has revealed that during 2009-14, barring one board, none of the 17 CBs had prepared and implemented town planning schemes, plans for economic development and social justice in their respective areas.

There are 62 cantonments located in 19 states across the country. The main functions of these are broadly the same as those of municipal bodies in towns.

Section 62 of the Cantonments Act 2006 stipulates that it shall be the duty of every board to make reasonable provisions for civic amenities in their areas. The CB is headed by a chief executive officer, who is independent of the Army and is the civil executive interface of the civil population.

None of the CBs provided all 24 types of civic services, mandated under the Cantonments Act, to its residents and no central government schemes applicable in the CBs for uplift of the poor and provision of infrastructure facilities were implemented in the cantonments.

The CAG, in its latest report, has also pointed out that the position regarding revenue generation was also not encouraging as the CBs were unable to optimize revenue generation through taxes and non-taxes, leading to their increased dependency on grant-in-aid from the Ministry of Defence.

This, CAG observed, was mainly due to non-revision of taxes every five years, recovery of property tax at a lower than the stipulated rate and non-levy of vehicle entry tax and various other factors.
Army to open ranges for pvt weapon developers
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
With the government pitching for “Make in India” in the defence sector and several industrial entities envisioning interest to produce weapons, the Army has drawn a policy to open several of its field firing ranges for trials and evaluation of weapons developed indigenously by the private sector.

A draft policy note prepared by the Army sates there is a requirement to develop a robust indigenous defence industry for rapid modernisation of the armed forces and it is imperative to extend facilities at its disposal to the industry for strengthening the indigenisation process.

Field firing ranges that are available with the Army will be provided to the defence private sector for trials and testing of weapon systems and ammunition and procedures and guidelines for the same are being finalised. Indigenous weapon systems were primarily designed and developed by state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation and Ordnance Factory Board.

It is only recently that the private industry has forayed into the defence sector and two 155-mm howitzers were designed by different groups.

There are also local contenders for the Army’s 155-mm gun deal and further down the line could be developments of light artillery guns, rockets and ammunition for small and medium calibre arms as well as tanks and armoured vehicles.

While there are a number of ranges across the country, only a few are owned by the Army and the rest have to be notified from time to time by the respective states for use by the Army for specified period. Notification of several ranges has also been an issue with the states and many a time they are hesitant to notify them for training due to local socio-economic pressures.
Lining up for piece of action to maintain peace along LAC
A look at how New Delhi and Beijing work to lower tensions along the Line of Actual Control — a forbidding Himalayan ridgeline where the boundaries are not defined. The first of a 5-part series
Ajay Banerjee
It’s late December. Along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the mercury plunges to minus 15 degrees Celsius in the afternoon. Mindful of the India-China peace agreement, troops equipped with latest technology are constantly patrolling the area in snow.

A young Major from the 14 Punjab regiment briefs the troops. “Keep in mind the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA). Look for telltale signs (Chinese activity). Take pictures and document them,” Brigadier DS Kushwah tells the well-clad group. The BDCA, inked in 2013, has helped lower tensions along the border. “Meetings have helped. BDCA-type agreements do help in resolving local issues,” he said.

“We are also trying to absorb more and more technology solutions. Latest technology such as sensors, night-vision cameras and Long-Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS) allows greater response time to Indian troops,” Brigadier Kushwah said.

The McMohan Line drawn up by British Foreign Secretary Henry McMohan in 1914 — disputed by China — is the cause for differing perceptions along the tense LAC, the 3,488-km de facto Sino-Indian boundary that runs east-west along the Himalayan ridgeline. New Delhi and Beijing have claims and counter-claims, yet they have to ensure against gun-toting soldiers on either side literally pulling the trigger.

The LAC near the Bum La, 16,000 feet above sea level, is a 37-km distance on a dirt-track north of Tawang, home to the famous Tibetan monastery. It was from this spot that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered India in October 1962 and rumbled down for almost 300 km or till the lower hills of Arunachal, close to the plains of upper Assam.

As a team of The Tribune reaches the top of 14,400 ft-high hill amid heavy snow, the patrol party is “watched” from the base, where others enjoy a hot meal of “kadhi-chawal” (gram-flour curry and rice).

“A patrol party can sustain on its own for 72 hours. The situation will worsen when temperature will drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius in January,” said Colonel Rajesh Singh, Commanding Officer of the 14 Punjab (Nabha Akal) Regiment who hails from Palampur in Himachal Pradesh. Training for the infantry includes Wushu (unarmed combat), rock climbing, launching mortars, firing from rifles in the snow, running for a specified length to doing snow patrols. Besides military training, some of the troops have learnt Chinese. In his book “India’s China war”, Neville Maxwell explains the differing perception of the LAC and takes it back to the 1914 Simla conference between British India, China and Tibet (which was then an independent entity).

“McMohan was filing out details on the maps up to the last moment…the line was drawn on two map sheets at a scale of eight inches to a mile….it was accepted by Tibet in March 1914 through an exchange of letters which made no mention of any principle (watershed or ridgeline) upon which the line was drawn,” the book reads.
Defence deals on agenda as Modi heads to Russia on December 23
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 20
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pay his first state visit to Russia on December 23-24. Though the dates are yet to be officially announced, sources say Modi will head to Russia next week. The visit is likely to see major agreements in the defence sector and further Russian commitment to invest in India.

Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin paid a one-day visit to New Delhi on December 8 to lay the groundwork for Modi’s visit. Russia has been reeling under sanctions imposed by western nations in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis. The recent shooting down of a Russian plane by Turkey has further strained ties in the region with Russia now looking to expand economic ties with other nations.

In an interview to Tass, Rogozin said that Russia was looking to India to fill the vacuum. He further said that India-Russia relations now needed to move beyond the military arena. “Previously, it could seem that we were focused on military-technological cooperation. It is no longer so. We need India as a major trade and economic partner in the first place in conditions when we can no longer maintain economic interaction with partners like Turkey because they have, indeed, been treacherous and cunning and have committed something, which is going to throw our relations far back,” Rogozin said.

Sources said that talks were on with Russia to lease another nuclear submarine to India in December during Modi’s visit. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who visited Russia a little more than a month back, held discussions on the subject with Russia.

In 2012, India had leased a 12,000-tonne Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, the INS Chakra, for a 10-year period for $900 million. Even at that time, then Defence Minister AK Antony had confirmed that negotiations were under way for a second nuclear submarine. The final announcement on the leasing of a second submarine might be made during the PM’s visit.

The last summit meeting between Modi and Russian President Vladmir Putin was held here in January. The two leaders had then discussed the possibility of Russian helicopters being awarded a contract for building 197 Kamov-226T reconnaissance and observation helicopters in India. To sweeten the deal for India, Russia has suggested that this will be built under the “Make in India” initiative.

The Indian partner is yet to be decided and could either be Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) or Reliance Defence.
Report Unveils India’s Army Deficiency
NEW DELHI: India’s top auditor has said in a report which was presented before the Indian parliament that Indian Army lacked Parachutes for over a decade which were important in certain missions.

A report published on the Hindustan Times stated that India’s Ordnance Factories Board failed to provide the parachutes which were developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 2006 after incurring over INR 100 million in cost.

The report also brought into light the incapability of the army aviation corps saying it had been observing shortfall of 32 % against its authorised fleet strength..

The auditor also pointed to the low serviceability of the Sukhois, India’s front-line combat aircraft.

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