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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

From Today's Papers - 17 May 2016

Two suspected militants held near LoC
Tribune News Service

Poonch, May 16
The Army claimed to have arrested two suspected militants when they were crossing over to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) via Chaprian village in Mandi tehsil here today.

Two suspected militants have been identified as Mohsin Rashid and Adil Ahmed Reshi. A third terrorist, Bilal Bhat, was also with them. He reportedly jumped down from a mountainside and died on the spot.

Sources said that the Army's 40 Rashtriya Rifles and Poonch SOG on a tip-off launched an operation on the upper ridges of Chaprian sector at Sawjian this morning. The troops noticed the movement of the three suspected terrorists, who were asked to stop. However, all of them started running towards PoK, troops chased them as result Bilal Ahmed reportedly jumped down from the mountain and died. He was involved in the attack on Bijbehara SDPO and was also in possession of a police identity card.

Sources said that the trio managed to reach Chaprian village near LoC in Saujian sector last night and tried to cross over to PoK but the security forces who had received information upped the vigil.
7 BSF men suspended over killing
The BSF has suspended its seven troops posted along the Indo-Bangla frontier, including an officer, after ordering a Staff Court of Inquiry into the killing of a Bangladeshi national suspected to be part of a group of cross-border gold smugglers, last week.

Officials said the incident took place on May 14 around 10 am along the Banpur border post in Krishnanagar district of West Bengal when a group of suspected smugglers surrounded a Border Security force patrol and the force party subsequently fired from a non-lethal gun to disperse them.

Later, they said, a teenager who received the gun shot from the pump action gun succumbed to injuries on the other side of the border. — PTI
US ‘sowing discord’ with India, says China
Beijing, May 16
Accusing the US of “sowing discord” between China and India, Beijing today said the two neighbours are wise enough to resolve their boundary dispute peacefully through talks and asked America to respect their efforts.

Dismissing as groundless a Pentagon report that claimed the Communist giant was deploying more troops along the Sino-India borders, China said it was a misrepresentation of its military development.

“Maintaining peace and tranquility along the

China-India border areas is an important consensus reached between the leaders of the two countries,” the Chinese Defence Ministry said in response to the US report.

“Currently, the border forces of China and India are actively carrying out exchanges, working towards establishing hotline between the two militaries, and are in close communication through the mechanism of border personnel meetings,” it said.  — PTI
Arms purchases: Scam, ban and rhetoric
Dinesh Kumar
India’s 58-year-old Defence Research and Development Organisation has 50 laboratories, eight defence public sector units and 40 ordnance factories. However, India's armed forces are still dependent on imports for 70 per cent of their defence equipment .
Another scam, another ban. This has become the standard practice of every Union government each time allegations of kickbacks surface after a defence deal is signed.

The latest major company to be banned is Agusta Westland owing to allegations of kickbacks in the purchase of 12 AW 101 transport helicopters. The government, which signed the contract in February 2010, froze it in February 2013 barely two months after a first batch of three helicopters arrived in December 2012. But even these three choppers fitted with special security features, meant for high-value dignitaries such as the President and the Prime Minister, have been unable to fly. Reason: they are grounded due to a crisis of spares and after-sales support along with the absence of political clearance.

India's continuing legacy of banning firms started in the mid-1980s when the government blacklisted the Swedish company, Bofors and the German company, HDW following allegation of graft in the purchase of 410 pieces of the 155mm FH-77B Howitzer and four Type 209 submarines, respectively. The “Bofors syndrome” ended up causing such an atrophy in decision making that for almost two decades thereafter successive governments either shied from purchasing big-ticket items from any major private foreign vendor or ended up banning companies each time allegations of kickbacks surfaced. Purchases during this period were mostly made on a government-to-government basis which, though relatively kickback-free, is an expensive route that limits options.

Due to severe shortcomings in indigenous capability despite a 58-year-old Defence Research and Development Organistion with 50 laboratories, eight defence public sector units and 40 Ordnance Factories, India's armed forces are dependent on imports for 70 per cent of their defence equipment. Due to this high degree of import dependence, every such ban has adversely impacted the modernisation of the armed forces and therefore India's defence capability. The fact is only a limited number of foreign firms are producing high-end defence equipment. In the corporate world's fast- paced environment, firms keep acquiring or merging or form conglomerates. They are also constantly collaborating with, sub-contracting or outsourcing components to other firms located in various countries. This has combined to complicate the world's defence military-industrial complex. Thus, a ban on one company may in effect tantamount to blacklisting other firms from which India may have bought an entirely different set of defence equipment. Blacklisting on occasions has been wholesale. For example, when allegations surfaced that the former Director-General of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) had taken a bribe, the government ended up blacklisting six firms — four foreign and two Indian — at one go in March, 2012. Among the four foreign companies was the Israeli Military Industries (IMI) which, in 2009, had won a $300 million contract for building a chain of ordnance factories in Bihar to manufacture ammunition for the Bofors 155 mm artillery guns. In addition to depriving the artillery of much-needed ammunition for the gun which played a critical role during the 1999 Kargil War, the government then almost put into jeopardy upgrade programmes of the Jaguar, MiG-21, MiG-29 and Mirage-2000, fighters, the An-32 transport aircraft, the M-1 series helicopters and supply of the Phalcon radars for India's Airborne Warning and Control System. The other three foreign firms banned were Singapore Technologies (meant to supply ultra-light Howitzers), Germany's Rheinmetall Air Defence and Russia's Corporation Defence.

Such is the level of petty politicisation that in February 2000, then defence minister George Fernandes went to the ridiculous extent of ordering an inquiry into every defence procurement made since 1985. Yet corruption in defence purchases seems near epidemic. In 2005 alone, the CBI was investigating as many as 47 cases of defence procurement. In the subsequent five years (2005 to 2010), India went on to cancel deals involving import of 400 anti-material rifles, 197 light helicopters (to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak) and 400 pieces of 155 mm towed artillery guns (from South Africa's Denel) after years of technical trials and negotiations. Then in just three years, from 2012 to 2014, the Central Vigilance Commission referred nine cases for inquiry; the CBI registered 23 cases in connection with defence purchases and the Defence Ministry debarred 10 firms for 10 years.

After spending much time and money, the fact remains that in most cases, starting with Bofors, investigative agencies have been unable to obtain evidence. Neither are firms taken off the blacklist. Due to the blacklisting of Bofors and Denel, the Artillery has been unable to add a new gun for the last three decades. It currently has less than the original 410 155 mm guns in service which is a far cry from the original 1,840 Bofor guns that were planned to equip 92 artillery regiments and 3,600 guns envisaged by 2025. Similarly, the Indian Navy, which is currently down to just 13 conventional submarines, lost an opportunity to acquire more HDW submarines. What a waste!

As it is India's procurement procedure involves 13 different agencies reporting to different functional heads. There are, by turn, eight stages of processing. Each consists of nine to ten approval points, with each approval point having at least three submission points.

With India expected to spend about $100 billion over the next decade on modernising the armed forces, surely there is a need to further simplify procedures and consider devising pragmatic policies in case allegation of kickbacks surface. Bribes must be investigated and the guilty punished but cancelling deals and blacklisting a firm in today's global village after such lengthy and cumbersome procedures that is always followed by a long delivery schedule is akin to shooting oneself in the foot. It only harms the country's armed forces and national security considering that “Make in India”, although ideal, is currently only a slogan.
Now, Handwara girl claims Army man held her hand
Alleges police intimidated her to blame local boys for molestation
Ishfaq Tantry

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 16
In a new twist to the Handwara incident, the minor girl has now claimed an Army man had forcibly held her hand on April 12 when she was coming out of a public toilet located in the main town square.

Seeking registration of an FIR against the unknown soldier for “sexual assault”, the girl told the media during a press conference today that the J&K Police had “pressurised, abused and intimidated” her to make a different statement once she was taken inside the Handwara police station following the incident.

This is the first time the minor girl, who is at the centre of a controversy involving an allegation of molestation by an Army man, has come out before the media since the incident took place over a month ago on April 12. A day after the Handwara incident on April 13, the Army had officially released a blurred video of the girl in which she had denied the molestation charge against an Army man.

Massive protests were witnessed in the area and five civilians were killed in the security forces firing in Handwara and Kupwara between April 12 and 15.

“As I was coming out of the washroom, an Army soldier forcibly held my hand. I screamed and ran away,” said the girl, accompanied by her father and mother.

She said that soon after a crowd gathered at the spot, following which she was whisked away by one policeman, whom she identified as Shafi, to the local police station, where she was “abused and threatened”. She said one police official, Mohsin, even spat at her. She claimed that she was pressurised to change her statement and asked by the police to blame the local boys for the molestation.

She said the Superintendent of Police, Handwara, recorded her video statement on his mobile phone “against her consent” and “under duress” she stated what she was told by the police to say.

Prior to recording her statement before a magistrate on April 16, she said that she and her father were pressurised by the police to stick to the version recorded in the video and were also told that the video was already on the internet and that their lives were now under threat.

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