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Thursday, 24 March 2016

From Today's Papers - 24 Mar 2016

Resolution introduced in US House to bring India on par with NATO allies
Washington, March 23
A Congressional resolution aiming to bring India on a par with America’s NATO allies in terms of trade and technology transfer, besides elevating its status in export of defence articles from the US, has been introduced ahead of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to India.

Introduced by Congressman George Holding, Co-Chair of the House India Caucus, the US-India Defense Technology and Partnership Act (HR 4825) proposes to amends the Arms Export Control Action so as to formalise India’s status for the purpose of congressional notifications as a major partner of equal status as America’s treaty allies and closest partners.

“This legislation will cement the process that has already been made and will lay a foundation for future cooperation and growth,” Holding told the US House of Representatives.

“This legislation will elevate India’s status by shortening the time required for the notification of sale or export of defence articles from the United States to India. It will encourage more joint contingency planning and require the US government review and assess India’s ability to execute military operations of mutual interest,” Holding said.

Welcoming the resolution, introduced ahead of US Defense Secretary Carter’s visit to India early next month, the US India Business Council (USIBC) said it sent an important signal to the Indian defence establishment that today’s political conditions were different from the past. “This Bill not only puts India on a par with other NATO allies  it sends a clear signal that defence cooperation should be a top priority for both governments,” Holding said.

Defence trade between the US and India is one of the strongest areas of the bilateral economic relationship and has risen from $300 million to over $14 billion over the past 10 years, said Mukesh Aghi, USIBC president.  — PTI
Pathankot: MEA discusses modalities of Pak SIT’s visit
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) today convened a high-level meeting over the visit of the Pakistani SIT team for investigation into the Pathankot terror attacks. The SIT is scheduled to arrive here on March 27.

Representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the NIA were also part of the meeting where modalities about the Pakistan SIT’s visit were discussed.

Sources in the government said Pakistan had requested that its team be allowed to stay in India for a minimum period of seven days to carry out investigations. The visas for the five members of the SIT, who sent their applications yesterday, have been confirmed. Sources said the SIT, headed by a police officer, had put together 50 questions that it would pose to the witnesses of the Pathankot attacks.

Other members of the Pakistan SIT include officers from Military Intelligence (MI), Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD).

Sources in the Pakistan establishment said the SIT would meet witnesses to record their statements, besides calling on Indian investigation officers for sharing information.
Chinese whispers go loud
MY nanihal used to be my favourite destination up to standard V. It was during the eagerly awaited annual break of two months, starting from July, that I would enjoy my stay at my Nana-Nani’s and play with my cousins. In Himachal, schools were closed during monsoon because all streams, nullahs and rivulets would overflow. Students came to school, covering a distance of 5-7 km, crossing water bodies that fell on the way. They found it difficult to trudge through the swift current of deep and muddy waters. There were no roads and bridges then. The schools were also few and far between.

My nanihal was located in a sparsely populated village on a steep hill with a cap of a dark pine forest. There were narrow, zigzag dirt paths that connected the slate-roofed houses of the terraced village. My Nana called me “Shehari Babu” because we lived in a village near Sunder Nagar, with a population of about 3,000, which hardly qualified  it for the title of a town. Since it had a high school, a hospital, a thana and a magistrate’s office, it was called a shehar. There was also a makeshift cinema hall which had bolstered its claim to be a town. The craze of cinema caught up with villages to such an extent that rural folks travelled 15-20 km in groups to watch the 6 pm show. There was no matinee show then. “Hawa me udta jaye mera lal dupatta mal-mal ka” had become very popular.

My nanihal village had a unique system of messaging which fascinated and intrigued my tender mind. Once my Nana had to invite his family purohit to perform the birthday rites in the family. The purohit lived far away, which meant hours of arduous walking. “Oye Shehari Babu, come with me, let’s send a message to the purohit.” I curiously accompanied him to a nearby raised place. Cupping his mouth with both hands, and facing the valley, he shouted: “O Bhagirath... oye Bhagirath….” After he repeated this many times, there came a reverberating reply from the opposite side. It must have been Bhagirath. My Nana shouted back: “Please ask Thakur Das Purohit to come to my place on Saturday morning.” The message was received by Bhagirath who lived in the opposite valley, only half-a-kilometre away as the crow flies, but an hour’s walk. Nana explained that Bhagirath would further convey the message in a similar fashion to another ‘shouter’ and that man would convey the message to the purohit. This would take only a few minutes, as against walking to the purohit’s place. Anybody could take the message which was usually sent in the name of the head of the family. This system suited everyone and such chains of messengers were in every direction.

On the appointed day, the purohit duly arrived. My curiosity was satiated. Those were the days when the powder of the rind of soap nut was used as detergent and powder of the seeds of morning glory served as shampoo.
Rafale talks to restart, French negotiators _arrive on March 29
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
Two months after India and France disagreed on the pricing of the 36 Rafale fighter jets, the two sides are set to re-start negotiations on the issue.

India, in January this year, did not accept the price quoted by Rafale manufacturers—Dassault Aviation. The company was asked to come up with a fresh quote on pricing. Sources said French negotiators would reach New Delhi on March 29.

Within the Ministry of Defence, a benchmark figure has been decided upon and in no way this can be changed. Sources said the benchmark was close to $7 billion (Rs 46,000 crore, as on today’s dollar rates). Anything beyond that would be impossible to justify within the country.

During the three-day visit of French President Francois Hollande in January, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed as the first step towards signing a formal inter-governmental agreement (IGA). Only the pricing had to be decided. Specific aspects were discussed on reducing the price, a top functionary said.

Last-minute efforts to ink the IGA for the purchase of jets during Hollande’s visit had come to a naught as New Delhi was not happy with the pricing.

The French President was quoted as having cited a figure of $9 billion for 36 jets, including two types of missiles (air-to-ground and air-to-air), training of pilots, bombs and base facilities for planes. It would translate into Rs 59,000 crore or Rs 1,630 crore per piece. Indian negotiators are willing to pay around $7 billion or Rs 46,000 crore (Rs 1,180 crore per piece).

The IAF is now at its lowest combat strength in more than a decade. The IAF has informed the government of the gravity of the situation.

The IAF, with only 33 squadrons (16-18 planes in each), is nine short of the government mandated 42 squadrons needed to tackle a simultaneous two-front war with China and Pakistan.
'Modernisation of Indian Army underway'
Hyderabad: Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh said that the pace of modernisation in the Indian Army has been accelerated and efforts were being made to replace old and obsolete machinery and equipment with new ones. The results of these efforts will be seen in two to three years, he said, while addressing the valedictory function of the Higher Defence Management course at the College of Defence Management in Secunderabad on Wednesday.

"The Indian Army will overcome the shortage of infrastructure soon," he said during the function. The Army Chief said that the defence forces need to be vigilant across borders as the 'neighbouring country' is indulging in a proxy war with the help of non-state actors and accumulating its forces at the borders.

He expressed confidence that training in identifying cognitive biases during the course would help the participating officers take timely action and positive decisions as senior military leaders.

The Army Chief awarded degree certificates in Master of Management Studies by Osmania University and a certificate of Advanced Course in Management by the All India Management Association to students.
As many as 150 selected officers from the three services, including Army officers from neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nigeria, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, attended the function on Wednesday. The Army Chief gave awards and trophies to officers for academic excellence.

Rear Admiral Dushyant Singh Chouhan, Commandant College of Defence Management, highlighted the activities of the last academic year.

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Indian army battles a new enemy: freak weather

 Unpredictable and difficult weather is quickly becoming one of the key reasons behind Indian Army’s worrying casualty count, as yet another avalanche claimed a soldier’s life along the treacherous border with Pakistan.

The latest tragedy comes just weeks after 10 soldiers were buried under snow after their camp in northern Siachen glacier was hit by a major avalanche in February. While one of them, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad, was miraculously pulled out alive six days after the tragedy, he died a few days later. On February 27, a civilian porter with the Army fell into a deep crevasse in the Siachen glacier and died.

“We should be ready for more such tragedies,” a senior Army officer posted in the region said, pointing out the increasing unpredictability of weather in the higher reaches because of global warming and climate change is something that is “more the norm than the exception.”

After almost two days of a gruelling rescue operation, the Army was able to locate the body of Sepoy Vijay Kumar K in the Kargil heights, buried under 12 feet of snow. Another soldier was rescued a day earlier. The avalanche that buried Vijay Kumar was caused by a mild earthquake.

The death of the soldier is the latest in a series of tragedies to strike Army units deployed along forward areas of the India-Pakistan border, especially on the higher reaches.

Nowhere is the challenge of freak weather starker than in Siachen. According to a government statement before Parliament, 869 Indian troops have died at the glacier between 1984 and December 2015. After this, in 2016, the 10 soldiers were buried under an avalanche, just days after three others were also killed in Siachen.

However, freak weather in the higher reaches, not militancy, is the single largest killer of Indian soldiers.

According to Army statistics, around 300 soldiers are killed a year in road accidents. About 100 soldiers also commit suicide a year. Since 2010, over 500 soldiers have committed suicide.

Last year, a total of 155 security personnel were killed in terrorist operations; of them a significant number were from the paramilitary and police forces.
India's Missile Programme in Peril
NEW DELHI: There it is, the sound of another prestigious ‘Make in India’ product being blasted out of the sky. After 32 years and over `1,000 crore later, the Akash missile system, crafted by India’s white elephant DRDO to protect the country from possible aerial threats, has been declared a dud by the Indian Army.  Now, the army is shopping for a suitable alternative abroad by terming the indigenously developed missile as ‘inadequate to meet the army’s requirement in a desired time frame’.
The move not only exposes India’s missile defence vulnerability but also  reveals the weakness in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet ‘Make in India’ push. To counter Akash, Pakistan has recently inducted its FM-90 air defence missile system, procured from PLA China, while on eastern front, China has HQ-7.
shadow the fate and capability of India’s missile programme worth over Rs 70,000 crore, and over a dozen missiles. It also raises the question of relevance and affordability of the country’s premier defence research agency whose only notable successes have been packaged pickles  or neem-based vaginal contraceptive cream.

Army headquarters is in process of acquiring nearly 2,000 air defence missiles to raise its two regiments with an estimated cost of `10,000 crore. On the basis of technical evaluation, three firms from Russia, Israel and Sweden are in competition to supply short-range missiles.  In reply to The Sunday Standard, Army headquarters has claimed that the “targeted short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) system is technologically and operationally superior to the Akash missile system, which DRDO took almost five years to develop.” Further, the cost of the targeted SRSAM project is 70 per cent of the Akash missile system.

In contract, in May 2015, Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag was all praise for Akash missiles.

The cost of the targeted SRSAM project that the Indian Army is planning to acquire from abroad is 70 per cent of the Akash missile system.

In contract, in May 2015, Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag, while inducting two regiments of Akash missiles, had said: “It is a matter of great pride for the nation that today indigenous state-of-the-art ‘Akash’ air defence weapon system is being inducted into the Indian Army. The capability that we have with this system will ensure that it takes care of vulnerability of our assets. Akash is a step towards self-realisation of indigenisation”.

Akash is an indigenously developed supersonic short range surface-to-air missile system with the capability to engage a wide variety of aerial threats like aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles up to a maximum range of 25 km and up to an altitude of 20 km.

The system, which has 96 per cent indigenisation, is capable of simultaneously engaging multiple targets in all weather conditions and is capable of providing comprehensive short-range missile cover to the vulnerable assets in the field force of the Army.

Akash is one of the five core missile systems of the integrated guided missile development programme, launched by DRDO in 1984.

The Army had initially ordered two Akash regiments, with six firing batteries of a project cost of `19,500 crore. But in less than a year, it has changed its opinion on the home-made missile.

“Army has proposed a composite approach of procuring SRSAM from globally and simultenously technological improvement of Akash missile system,” Army headquarters told The Sunday Standard.

When contacted, DRDO officials refused to comment on the army’s claim.

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