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Thursday, 31 March 2016

From Today's Papers - 31 Mar 2016

Pathankot attack scene shown to JIT
Protests mark restricted visit to air base
Pathankot, March 29
A five-member Pakistan Joint Investigation Team (JIT), accompanied by NIA officials, today visited the Pathankot air base that was for most part visually barricaded as scores of Congress and AAP workers protested outside against their probe into the terror attack.

On January 2, a group of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists had launched a pre-dawn attack on the air base, killing seven security men.

The team that arrived in Amritsar in the morning from Delhi in a special plane was taken to Pathankot by road to avoid giving it an aerial view of the strategic base. The team was ferried in six bullet-proof vehicles for the 118-km journey.

Around 11.30 am, the members were led into the complex through a specially created entrance at the perimeter wall that was breached by the terrorists. White curtains were used as visual barricades to ensure they could not have a glimpse of valuable defence assets.

The team, officials said, was taken to only the “scene of crime”. After spending around 40 minutes at the air base, the visitors were taken in a mini bus to other places relevant to the case. The team was driven to Koliyan village area where Punjab Police SP Salwinder Singh, his friend Rajesh Verma and cook Madan Gopal were abducted. It also visited Gulpur village where the SP and his cook were dumped.

They were then taken to Tajpur village where the SUV in which Rajesh in injured condition was finally found.

The team also visited the spot near Kathlour bridge where Ikagar Singh, a taxi driver, was killed after being kidnapped. The proposed tour to the civil hospital mortuary, where the bodies of the four terrorists have been kept, was called off at the last minute. The team could also not go to the forward post in Bamial as the BSF had reservations given its strategic importance.

NIA wants undertaking

New Delhi: The NIA has asked the JIT to give an undertaking that the evidences gathered in India will be admissible in a Pakistan court. NIA DG Sharad Kumar said: “During the 26/11 trials, we had sent several evidences and dossiers to Pakistan, but they said they were not admissible in their court. So we have asked them to give the undertaking.” TNS
India rejects as ‘tutored’ Pak video of former Navy man’s ‘confession’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 29

India today rejected as tutored a video released by Pakistan purportedly showing its arrested former Navy officer Kulbhushan Yadav “confessing to his involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan”.

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said the six-minute video that purportedly showed Yadav’s “confession” was tutored and had been prepared under pressure.

“The video shows this individual making statements that have no basis. That the individual claims to be making these statements out of his own free will not only challenges credulity, but also clearly indicates tutoring," the ministry said.

The ministry said the government "categorically rejects allegations that this individual was involved in subversive activities in Pakistan at our behest". Sources in the government said it was yet another attempt by Pakistan to deflect attention when an investigation was going on into the Pathankot terror attacks. The ministry said the man's presence in Pakistan raised the "possibility of his abduction from Iran."

The ministry said despite several requests, Pakistan had failed to provide consular access to Yadav, who was arrested last week.
Army now legally owns _5 lakh kanals in Ladakh
Samaan Lateef

Tribune News Service

Srinagar March 29
The Jammu and Kashmir Government has legally handed over 5 lakh kanals to the Army for setting up its bases, firing ranges and for other defence purposes in Ladakh. The land will include over 40,000 kanals for setting up an artillery firing range at Mandal Thang in Leh district.

“We have given the approval to authorise 5 lakh kanals to the Army in Ladakh for defence purposes, including establishing bases and firing ranges,” said a senior official in the Home Department.

The official said that out of the 5 lakh kanals given to the Army, it was already in possession — both lawfully and unlawfully — of over 4 lakh kanals in Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh.

The revenue department wanted the Army to either vacate the land acquired unlawfully or provide rent to the government. After the Army refused to vacate the land acquired unlawfully, the “state government gave in and asked it to take its lawful possession for seeking compensation,” the Home Department official said.

In Leh, the Army had unlawfully taken possession of over 90,000 kanals of state land which made the total possession of land under its control to over 2 lakh kanals.

Deputy Secretary, Revenue, Ghulam Rasool, confirmed that the government had initiated the process to legally authorise the land to the Army that is under its unlawful possession.

Army has also received approval from the state government for setting up an artillery firing range at Mandal Thang.

“The Army had been demanding land for setting up an artillery firing range at Mandal Thang and their demand has been accepted,” said District Development Commissioner Leh, Prasnna Ramaswamy G.

The Army has been provided land at Mandal Thang after the government refused to renew the lease of 10 firing ranges in J&K which expired in 2014.

Of its total 66 firing ranges, the Army has been operating at least 12 in J&K, which is the highest in any state. The firing ranges are used for testing small arms and heavy artillery.
'Make in India' best suited to cater to needs of Indian Army: Lt Gen Subrata Saha, Deputy Chief of Army Staff

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QUEPEM (GOA): Government's 'Make in India' policy is best suited to cater to the needs of the Indian Army, says Lt Gen Subrata Saha, Deputy Chief of Army Staff (P&S). At the Defence Expo 2016, Saha said that the government's new Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) has been designed to suit some very basic needs of the Indian Army.

Speaking extensively about the new DPP at an event organised by FICCI, Saha said, "Partcipation of various MSMEs and private companies makes Indian Army ..

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Private defence firms keen on Make in India

Imports contribute 75% of India’s defence equipment needs; the domestic private sector’s share is just 5%
Mumbai: Domestic telecom equipment maker Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd (HFCL) is known for two things: in the late 1990s, it made outrageous bids for telecom licences and later on it had its share of run-ins with the capital markets regulator for its suspected involvement in rigging share prices in a case dating back to 1999-2001.

But that’s the past and it’s makeover time as the company, with revenue of Rs.2,553 crore in 2014-15, has won government licences to design, develop and manufacture aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.

HFCL is just one of the private firms eyeing defence projects. Between January 2001 and February 2016, the commerce ministry has granted 333 industrial licences to private firms for defence manufacturing, according to data on the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) website.

They include Micronel Global Engineers Pvt. Ltd, Marine Electrical (I) Pvt. Ltd, Defsys Solutions Pvt. Ltd, Naistoco India Pvt. Ltd, Comint Systems and Solutions Pvt. Ltd, Ananth Technologies Ltd, DCX Cable Assemblies Pvt. Ltd and OIS Advanced Technology Pvt. Ltd.

There are more familiar names too: Tebma Shipyards Ltd, Premier Explosives Ltd, Titagarh Wagons Ltd, Taneja Aerospace and Aviation Ltd, Punj Lloyd Aviation Ltd, Dynamatic Technologies Ltd, Bharati Shipyard Ltd, Ashok Leyland Defence Systems Ltd and AMW Motors Ltd.

And then there are big, established ones such as Bharat Forge Ltd (BFL), Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Tata group, Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T), Godrej Group and the Mahindra Group.

Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group and the Adani Group’s Adani Defence Systems and Technologies Ltd are the latest to enter the race.

So, why is there a rush to be part of the defence sector?

It is partly the result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on defence equipment as part of his Make in India campaign.

This government thrust for defence too has a reason. India is the world’s largest importer of defence equipment and spends around $24 billion a year, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. And this means import substitution and indigenization.

Domestic private firms have a significant opportunity, says Kabir Bogra, associate partner at New Delhi-based law firm Khaitan and Co. “The serious players in the space have been investing for the past decade or more (Tata group, BFL, L&T) and have built a portfolio in electronics, land systems, aerospace products and short-range missiles. Most of these are either in talks or have already concluded framework arrangements with foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), therefore to a large extent, the preparatory work is completed or in progress,” he said.

For instance, BFL has tied up with Israel defence tech firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and Elbit Systems Ltd and UK-based Rolls-Royce Corp. Similarly, Tata group has tied up with US-based firms Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co.

“However, for them to deliver on their potential, the government needs to be commercially sensitive and a few large contracts need to be commissioned. Most notably, NUH (naval utility helicopter) tender needs to be taken on priority along with artillery products to send a clear signal to the domestic industry that things are moving. The ministry of defence needs to commit itself to time frames for concluding these,” Bogra said.

The tender to buy NUH was scrapped in 2014 after years of process or inviting proposals and tenders. But now things are different as the government aims to revive the private sector. According to A.K. Gupta, secretary, department of defence production, ministry of defence, the private sector now has the opportunity to pick up a 25% share of defence production.

“Around 25% of the defence PSU (public sector undertaking) turnover can be off-loaded to the private sector, and the ministry has already de-licensed 60-70% of the production,” he said earlier this month in Mumbai.

Public sector undertakings in defence sector have a cumulative turnover of about Rs.50,000 crore, he said.

Last week, Tata group said it expects defence and aerospace business to increase its revenue by 7.5% to Rs.2,650 crore in the year to 31 March.

Defence and aerospace are important growth drivers identified by Tata group chairman Cyrus Mistry and significant investments will be made in these areas, said Mukund Rajan, member, group executive council, and the brand custodian of Tata Sons Ltd.

Tata group companies engaged in the defence and aerospace sector include Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TAS) and its subsidiaries, Tata Advanced Materials, Tata Motors Ltd, Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division, TAL Manufacturing Solutions, Tata Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Tata Steel Ltd, and Tata Elxsi Ltd.

Defence has the potential to contribute 15% to Tata Motors’ revenue from the current 3% if it wins the order to make Future Infantry Combat Vehicles or FICVs, for the Indian Army, said Vernon Noronha, vice-president of defence and government business at Tata Motors.

The contenders for the FICV contract include L&T, Mahindra and Mahindra, Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd (formerly Pipavav Defence) and Titagarh Wagons Ltd. The order could be worth about Rs.60,000 crore over the next few years, according to defence ministry officials.

Currently, the order book of Tata Advanced Systems (TAS), the aerospace and defence arm of Tata group, stands at Rs.4,500 crore. A majority of it are export orders, said Sukaran Singh, chief executive of TAS.

It expects to get more orders in the domestic market, he said. TAS is working on projects, including missiles, radars, aerospace and unmanned aerial vehicles and counts companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp., Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Boeing Co., Pilatus Aircraft Ltd, Cobham, RUAG and Rolls-Royce as its customers.

In November, TAS formed a joint venture with Boeing to make aerostructures for aircraft, deliveries for which will start from 2018.

Tata Motors, in partnership with the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation, has also designed and developed India’s first amphibious infantry combat vehicle Kestrel.

Last week, the auto maker tied up with BFL and General Dynamics Land Systems to develop FICVs for the Indian armed forces.

Tata Motors has supplied over 100,000 vehicles to the Indian military and paramilitary forces, so far, and expects its future growth to come from combat vehicles, the group’s executives said.

Tata Power SED, another group company, is planning to invest Rs.700 crore to set up a defence equipment manufacturing plant in Karnataka, Tata executives said on Wednesday. It plans to double investments at this plant over the next two to three years.

To be sure, currently imports contribute almost 75% of the defence equipment needs; public sector and domestic private sector players contribute only 20% and 5%, respectively.

A January report of domestic brokerage ICICI Securities Ltd said it is difficult to track any other industry with similar import-substitution opportunity all through the history of independent India.

“While the growth of the defence sector will follow along its strategic and technological requirements, the domestic defence industry is still in its infancy—which translates into a huge opportunity for investors and Indian enterprises,” ICICI Securities said.

The brokerage firm also foresees hurdles for private enterprises. “Across platforms, indigenization has more or less trailed the intended goals, with imports inevitably making up for the shortfalls. Further, execution of platforms has faced the typical headwinds of higher book-to-bill ratios for defence PSUs. While DPP (defence procurement procedures), 2013, has created excitement along with Make in India projects, it may take significant time to fructify. Over the next five years, we see limited prospects of meaningful indigenization barring radars and missiles,” the report noted.
7th Pay Commission: Armed forces pitch for better compensation, common pay matrix
7th Pay Commission: The absence of the military in the Empowered Committee has been a major cause of concern for the defence services.
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At about 10 am on March 11, the three military chiefs were in the meeting room of the cabinet secretariat to attend a crucial briefing. The Pay and Allowances Review Committee (PARC) of the three services, comprising Major General rank officers, had been allotted 45 minutes to brief the Empowered Committee of Secretaries to process the recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission (7th CPC).

The Empowered Committee is chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, PK Sinha and is meant to function as a screening committee to process the recommendations with regard to all relevant factors of the 7th CPC in an expeditious, detailed and holistic fashion. The Empowered Committee consists of 13 secretaries, which includes nine IAS officers, one IPS officer and one from Railway Board. There are, however, no military officers on the committee. “We are 29.7 per cent of all central government employees, as are the Railways. They have a member on the Committee but we don’t. The IPS, with strength of only 4,675 officers, has a member,” a senior military officer told The Indian Express.

The absence of the military in the Empowered Committee has been a major cause of concern for the defence services. The emotions of those in uniform have been running high since the time 7th CPC submitted its recommendations to the government in November last year. Military officials monitoring various social media platforms told The Indian Express that they have been “shocked at the vehement anger and outrage” among military personnel “not only against the civilian bureaucracy but also senior military officials” over the recommendations of the 7th CPC.
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The issue has been discussed at the highest levels in the services where fears of things going wrong, in case corrective steps are not taken to address the anomalies by the Empowered Committee, have been expressed by the military hierarchy. These fears were the reason for the three military chiefs to take the unusual step of being present for the briefing of the Empowered Committee. Even earlier, immediately after the 7th CPC submitted its report, the three chiefs had jointly written to the defence minister about their concerns over its recommendations.

According to those present at the March 11 meeting, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha spoke before the presentation by stating that the issues about to be raised are important as there is discontent among the rank and file. Requesting the committee to look favourably at the issues, he highlighted the fact that the status of the armed forces has been downgraded in the 7th CPC, and for the military, status and honour is the most important aspect of their service to the country.

The 25-minute PowerPoint presentation by PARC raised four demands before the Empowered Committee. The first demand was for grant of a Common Pay Matrix for the military and the civilian employees. The Defence Pay Matrix of the 7th CPC has only 24 pay levels while there are 40 pay levels for the civilians. This means that all military officers will stagnate at the pay reached after 31 years of service, which will, in turn mean that their pensions will be Rs 20,000 less than their civilian counterparts.

Senior civilian government officials say that due to higher number of ranks in the military compared to the civilian bureaucracy, it is not feasible to have a Common Pay Matrix. They say that the defence services were thus offered the option of a separate pay commission, which was rejected by them. “Our attempt is to get fully integrated into the system, at par with the civilians. Going for a separate pay commission defeats that purpose. We instead want to have a member on the pay commission,” explained a military official.

The second demand of the military pertained to Reciprocity of Allowances. A large number of allowances are applicable to civilian employees but not to the uniformed personnel. In April 2009, the government issued a letter stating that all compensatory field and other allowances applicable to the armed forces will also be applicable to the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). But the allowances of CAPF have not been extended to the armed forces.

In its presentation, PARC furnished the example of a CAPF DIG in Leh would be earning an allowance of Rs 57,500 while a Brigadier will get only Rs 17,000. Similarly, a military jawan deployed for disaster management like flood or earthquake relief shall get no allowance while a National Disaster Response Force will gets Rs 6,000 every time he is deployed, and a CAPF jawan will earn Rs 17,000.

“The comparison with CAPF is not fair. Some of their allowances look high because of the concept of detachment and special duty allowances. The military now wants the option, at every place, to choose between either the CAPF allowance or the military allowance, whichever is higher. This is prima facie not fair,” countered a senior civilian bureaucrat. The military’s third demand is for restoration of weightage in pensions, which has been removed by the 7th C. The weightage in terms of years of service, because of early retirement of military officials, was removed by the 6th CPC but it was restored for JCOs and jawans in 2009 by a committee headed by the then finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee. It was further enhanced by two years by the government in August 2012.

The military also wants the disability pension to be applicable on a percentage basis as it is to civilians. This was the case so far, but the 7th CPC has recommended a slab-based system for the military. It means that while an Additional Secretary would get Rs 60,000 as disability pension, a Lt General will earn only Rs 27,000.

The fourth demand of the military is about other allowances such as the technical allowance. The memories of a mutiny in the Indian Air Force in 1996, due to vast difference in the allowances of pilots and others, are fresh in the minds of the military hierarchy. With the removal of Tier-2 of technical allowance recommended by the 7th CPC, a pilot will get Rs 25,000 as allowance while his technical counterpart will get only Rs 3,000 per month. This, the military fears, is bound to raise discontent.

The presentation by PARC earned a word of praise from the Cabinet Secretary who promised to go into the details. But the military is concerned as the pending six ‘core anomalies’ from the 6th CPC have not been resolved so far. A committee of secretaries formed in 2012 to resolve those anomalies, recommended that they be resolved by an expert body, the 7th CPC. But those anomalies in status and parities were not addressed by the 7th CPC.

The 2012 committee of secretaries was formed by the government after then defence minister, AK Antony wrote in June 2012 to the then Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, warning that “There is growing discontentment among the Defence service personnel and Ex-servicemen across all ranks, due to various anomalies in the fixation of pay and pensions. My apprehension is that unless we take some corrective action, issue may take a bad turn.”

Four years down the line, the military hierarchy now fears that the former defence minister’s words may turn out to be prophetic.
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Defence Procurement Procedure 2016: An ambitious roadmap for India's industrial defence base
The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), unveiled on Monday, has laid out the process for acquisition of equipment for the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. An attempt has been to make the system more transparent and cut out delays But the centerpiece of the new policy is to boost home grown defence industry and give a fillip to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 'Make in India' initiative.

At the heart of the DPP is a new category for indigenously designed, developed and manufactured equipment. Simply put, it allows India’s fledging private sector a much bigger role in production of military hardware. Equipment manufactured in this homegrown category will get preference or to put it in officialese, will be the "preferred category" to supply the defence forces.

But the DPP remains a work-in-progress with defence minister Manohar Parrikar saying that a review will be undertaken after six months.
File image of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File image of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“I do not say the document is foolproof. Let us take a review after six months. Nothing is perfect, but we are taking it to perfection,” he said. Also, a key element in the DPP, the part dealing with the 'strategic partnership' has not yet been finalised. This is because opinion remains divided within the government on this sensitive issue.

The new policy gives India’s private sector both the support and freedom to design, develop and manufacture defence components with the help of foreign partners of its choosing. This can be done by a joint venture with a foreign collaborator without having to get the signature of a joint secretary sitting in the defence ministry. For years the armament industry had been the exclusive preserve of public sector utilities (PSU). The state-run giants have been pampered and crores have been sunk into locally-made equipment that has taken decades to develop. Since Independence, India has sought to be self-reliant in manufacturing defence equipment.

But the effort was to have state-run units take on the responsibility.

Naresh Chandra, former Indian ambassador to Washington, believes that successive governments have protected the defence PSUs."Money was sunk into these industries with no hope of returns. There are huge vested interests,'' said Chandra.

The new policy will help the private sector to set the base for the development of India’s defence industrial complex, which has so long been under the strangehold of the defence ministry babus. Importantly this will also create jobs for India’s teeming workforce. Not that the situation will change immediately, these are at best baby steps towards building a self reliant defence manufacturing base for the future. The new DPP would help India reduce its dependency on foreign countries and source defence equipment within the country.

If the government's ambitious plans for indigenous manufacturing take off properly, India can save as much as $50 billion from its likely spend of over $260 billion on defence equipment in the next 12 years, says an Ernst and Young report. This is a distinct advantage. India’s private sector has welcomed the new policy. "By introducing and according the highest priority to 'Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured procurement', DPP 2016 will definitely spur more design development activities within the country and contribute towards much higher indigenous content and will finally create a vibrant domestic defence industrial base,’’ Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general, Confederation of Indian Industry.

The private sector is already in the field, but in a small way. FDI in defence was raised from 26 percent to 49 percent soon after the Modi government came to power. The latest announcement will give them the much needed impetus to go ahead without looking over their shoulders. Significant players like the Tatas, L&T, Reliance, Punj Loyd, Fokker Elmo and India Forge, Mahindra and Mahindra, are already in the field. Lars Olof Lindgren of SAAB, the Swedish aerospace and defence corporation, believes India has the potential to do well in the high-tech sector.

L&T had already tied up with a South Korean company to manufacture ammunition for K9-self propelled rifles. The joint venture private companies are also hoping to make assault rifles. Tata is in the field with collaboration for the C-130 Hercules aircraft with Lockheed Martin and  C-17 aircraft with Boeing. More such joint ventures are expected to gather momentum.

Among the three services, the Indian Navy has been the best in sourcing equipment from the country. In fact, it has done well. The Navy had a design bureau in its ranks since the 1950s. This is why the Navy is able to build the platform for its warships and patrol boats. In fact, India sold its first offshore patrol vessel (the Barracuda) to Mauritus for a cool $58.5 million in December 2014.

The sale was commissioned when Modi visited the island state.

India is also building a nuclear-powered submarine (the Arihant) with Russian help. It has already had its sea trial and was supposed to be part of the International Fleet Review, but did not make it. Most of the warships and patrol boats used by the Navy are homegrown, though of course, the engine and much of the equipment is imported. But that is common all across the world. So if the Navy can do it, so can the Army and Air Force.

But that will take time. However, India is on its way to building an industrial defence base in the coming years.
Saab wants to make India its manufacturing base
Swedish defence major Saab has expressed interest to be an "Indian company" and is willing to transfer complete defence technology to the country, Jan Widerstrom, chairman and managing director of Saab India Technologies, told the Economic Times.

The aerospace and defence manufacturing company, whose JAS 39 Gripen aircraft has been in the race for many of India's defence procurement deals, was taking part in the ongoing India's Defence Expo 2016 at Goa.

"I say that I want to be Indian. I want our company to be Indian, and in the right environment, we will be Indian," Widerstrom was quoted as saying. According to an earlier report last month, Hakan Buskhe, the company's CEO and president, too said Saab was ready to not only set up a base in India and manufacture the Gripen aircraft, but was also ready also for "true transfer of technology."

Widerstrom added that the government was working to make the environment right by measures such as raising the FDI limit to 49 percent and unveiling a new defence procurement policy.

Alongside the Gripen fighter aircraft, Saab has offered help to India's Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) to build the next generation version of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). The company is aggressively promoting itself on the missile technology front as well, added the ET report. Given the array of indigenous missile technology that India already owns, Saab intends to offer niche products catering to all three services -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- of the defence sector.

Widerstrom explained how the company wishes to have a global footprint in each of the market. India apart from being an important market also has a vast base of engineers and is a growing economy. "We definitely see big prospects for the future. We want to supply not only to the Indian market but also supply to other markets with India as the manufacturing base," Widerstrom added.

"We are offering our missile programmes and air defence programmes in line with the 'Make in India' concept," he emphasised.
Now, Gujjar-Bakerwal leader demand special regiment in Indian Army to fight militancy
Jammu: A prominent Gujjar-Bakerwal leader has demanded setting up of a special regiment in the Indian Army comprising people from the community to fight militancy.

"As majority of the Gujjar and Bakerwal population of Jammu and Kashmir lives in forests and along the Line of Control (LoC), a special Gujjar Regiment should be raised for fighting militancy," Shamsheer Hakla Poonchi, a prominent Gujjar Leader of Jammu and Kashmir said.

He said the nomad community has always stood against militancy in the state and has also helped repel the Pakistani tribal invasion in 1947.
"Be it the tribal invasion of 1947 or any other Indo-Pak war, Gujjars and Bakerwals have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Indian Army," he said.

He said that it was a member from his community who had informed the Indian Army about the presence of Pakistani Army regulars in the heights of Kargil.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

From Today's Papers - 29 Mar 2016

Pathankot attack: JIT given proof of ‘Pak hand’
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung & Mukesh Ranjan

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 28
India today shared with Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team (JIT) the details establishing Pakistan nationals’ role in the Pathankot air base attack as the team met Indian investigators.

The JIT members, it is learnt, did not raise objections to the evidences of the involvement of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and other Pakistan nationals.

A day after their arrival, the JIT members reached the National Investigation Agency (NIA) headquarters, where they were briefed about the probe carried out so far.

After daylong deliberations with the team, NIA Director-General Sharad Kumar, while talking to The Tribune, said: “We are ready to share all information and evidences available with us as part of our investigation. Our probe is transparent and we have nothing to hide. But we need cooperation and reciprocity from Pakistan in the interest of the investigation to reach a conclusion.”

During the interaction, the Indian investigators gave a presentation to the visiting officials on the findings of the investigation so far.

India put forth evidences that allegedly linked JeM’s head Maulana Masood Azhar and the leadership to the attack, an NIA source said.

“We have evidences and intercepts of the conversations between the slain terrorists and their JeM bosses, including Azhar and his brother Rauf Asgar. We also have a video of Asgar declaring that he sent the terrorists,” said the source.

Right before the attack, Azhar was in contact with Asgar, the JeM’s commander, who was further in touch with their key planner and handler Kashif Jaan, explained the source. In most conversations, Kashif was talking to the terrorists from Bahawalpur in Pakistan. “He was dictating to them how the plan had to be executed. The JeM bosses, including Kashif, had escorted the terrorists to the point of infiltration into India,” said the source, adding India had sought voice samples of Azhar, Asgar and Kashif.

India also showed to the JIT photographs of the arms and ammunition — carried by the terrorists — allegedly bearing Pakistan marking, said the source. Clothes, medicines, shoes, food packets, thermal wear and even wire cutters were also allegedly brought from Pakistan.

One of the terrorists had spoken to his cousin and mother based in Pakistan before the attack, said the source. The NIA showed proof of this conversation to the JIT and demanded the DNA samples of the terrorist’s mother from Pakistan.

“We have shown them the evidences (in relation to the JeM and Pakistan’s link to the attack) and the JIT has not raised objections,” said an NIA officer. India had also sent Letter Rogatories (LRs) to Pakistan, seeking evidences in connection with the attack. India also asked the JIT to respond to the LRs, if they wanted to cooperate with the investigation.

While the NIA officer denied the Pakistan team making requests regarding the attack’s investigation, sources said the JIT demanded the call data records and the IMEI numbers of the mobile phones, belonging to Punjab Police Superintendent Salwinder Singh, his wife, gunman, the base commander of the Pathankot Air Force Station and others related to the case.

Singh with his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma and cook Madan Gopal were allegedly abducted on the night of December 31-January 1 by the terrorists, who had attacked the airbase on January 2. The JIT further demanded the sketch and the CCTV footage of the gun battle, a copy of an alert issued to the airbase, details of security measures taken by the base commander, said the source. It also wanted a report on the alleged border crossing and the BSF deployment along the International Border with Pakistan. The Pakistan team sought access to the Garud commandos, National Security Guards and any witnesses who have seen the terrorists. The team asked the Indian side to give the autopsy report, DNA samples and the details of itemsrecovered from the terrorists.
Defence procurement policy unveiled
Quepem (Goa), March 28
After a delay of over a year, the much-awaited new defence procurement policy was unveiled by the government today with an aim to ensure transparency, fast-track acquisitions and to lend a push to the “Make in India” initiative.

The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)-2016 announced by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, however, did not contain a key chapter on the proposed strategic partnership. Parrikar said it would take another 2-3 months to finalise the model.

To be applicable from April, the procurement policy lays the roadmap on how India, the world’s largest arms importer, will acquire defence equipment in future.

The announcement was made at the inaugural ceremony of the Defence Expo (Defexpo)-2016 at Quepem town, about 50 km from Panaji. The new DPP has included a new category to acquire weapons—IDDM (indigenously designed, developed and manufactured). The IDDM will be the first preferred category.

Parrikar said a review of the new DPP would be undertaken after six months. “I do not say the document is foolproof. Let us take a review after six months. Nothing is perfect, but we are taking it to perfection,” he said.

He said the DPP could push the agenda of “Make in India” and country’s target of achieving defence industry network. With the new DPP, it would be ensured that there was greater transparency and faster clearances, he said.

The DPP has been loaded online on the Defence Ministry’s website and will be made available in hard copy format after 15 days.

Parrikar said certain concerns of foreign companies would be addressed through this policy over 3-4 months. The new policy also allows the Defence Acquisition Council to take a “fast-track” route to acquire weapons, something which was limited to only the armed forces till now.

In a bid to cut down on the time taken for acquisition process, it mandates that all AONs (acceptance of necessity) of a particular platform will be valid for only six months as against the 12-month deadline now.

Also, no AON will be notified until it is accompanied by a finalised RFP (request for proposal or tender). This means the time taken for an RFP has been cut down drastically.

Parrikar said defence export clearances were to be granted online. He said the policy would also include “Start-up India” initiative.

Parrikar had earlier said the new blacklisting policy would also be issued separately next month and made it clear that there would be “no relaxation” for those already blacklisted. “Bribe givers” would be punished, he said.

However, the existing blacklisted firms would be allowed to appeal before a vigilance committee of the Defence Ministry for delisting under the new policy. — PTI
IAF pilots set record, fly 10,000 km in open cockpit
Kolkata, March 28
A team of 14 pilots of the Indian Air Force has created a new national record by completing a 10,000-km-long paramotor adventure expedition.

“It is a no mean feat considering that the pilots flew in an open cockpit remaining unprotected from the vagaries of weather and other elements while traversing through varying terrain ranging from mountains, coasts, forests and desert,” an Air Force spokesperson said.

The IAF expedition ‘Pradakshina’ had set out on a 10,000-km-long flight on February 1 from IAF’s Kalaikunda airbase in West Bengal and came back to a rousing welcome this Saturday.

The feat by the ‘Skyriders’ team of 14 Air Warriors led by Wg Cdr MPS Solanki surpassed the existing national record of 9,132 km. The team undertook circumnavigation of India along the periphery. The team followed the eastern coast to Kanyakumari before turning northwards along the western coast till Gujarat. — PTI
Army ‘was sent to protect judicial officers at acting CJ’s instance’
Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28
The Army was sent to protect judicial officers at the instance of the Acting Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court during the Jat agitation. Information to this effect was furnished before a Division Bench during the hearing of petitions hovering around the lawlessness in the state during the agitation last month.

As the case came up for hearing, the Bench of Justice SS Saron and Justice Gurmit Ram was told by the amicus curiae, or the friend of the court, Anupam Gupta, that the state failed to protect judicial officers.

The assertion came just about a fortnight after a Rohtak Court recorded in its order the details of attack on the houses of judicial officers. In his order, Rohtak Sessions Judge Sushil K. Gupta asserted: “It appears the curfew was only on papers. There was a complete collapse of the law and order machinery.

“Even the gate lights, name plates and sign boards of the Sessions’ House were broken. All judicial officers were so afraid that on the evening of February 20, they had to run out of their houses to seek shelter at a safe place”. The observations were made during the hearing of a bail plea by Virender Kumar, an aide of former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

During the course of hearing this afternoon, Gupta also referred to a letter by Bhiwani Chief Judicial Magistrate-cum-secretary of the District Legal Services Authority Swati Sehgal.

Addressed to Panchkula District and Sessions Judge-member secretary of the Haryana State Legal Services Authority, the letter said: “It has been told to me that from February 20 till February 29, the police guards deputed for the safety and protection of the court complex were disarmed. No intimation of the aforesaid action was given by the police department SP to the District Judge nor the guards deputed at the court complex bothered to inform the District Judge or any other judicial officer about the same.”

“As per the information, during the Jat agitation, the DC and all officers of the administration and their families were at the residence of the SP for their safety, where a special guard was deputed.

“Judicial officers posted in Bhiwani had several sleepless nights. Neither the police nor the administration, took the responsibility of safeguarding the families of judicial officers,” she added. The Bench took note of the communication before fixing April 4 as the next date of hearing.
Chinese military to end all paid public services in 3 yrs
Beijing, March 28
Chinese military has announced that it will halt all paid public services such as hospitals and hotels to people within three years as part of reform to weed out corruption in the 2.3-million-strong world’s largest army. The Central Military Commission (CMC) headed by Chinese President Xi Jinxing has called for an end to all paid services of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police Force, the PLA Daily reported.

As per the announcement the CMC, which is the supreme body of all the PLA forces planned to completely stop paid services within three years.

“Paid services can sometimes encourage corruption and the military should focus on national defence,” Gong Fangbin, a professor at the PLA’s National Defence University, told state-run Global Times. Paid public services refer to services provided by the military to the public, such as military-run hospitals, hotels or others that do not pose a security risk, Gong said, adding that such services may be managed by social organisations in the future. Services related to social security can be conducted within the military under the system of civil-military integration, official media here reported.

A large number of high-ranking Generals of the PLA have been either punished or being prosecuted in the massive corruption campaign launched by Xi in the last three years. — PTI


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