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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

From Today's Papers - 25 May 2016

Prez in China with NSG agenda
Don’t club us with Pak on N-club membership, Pranab to tell Beijing
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

Guangzhou, May 24
India is looking to de-hyphenate itself from Pakistan as far as membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) goes. As President Pranab Mukherjee landed in China on a four-day visit, those familiar with the developments made it clear that India had never objected to Pakistan's NSG membership.

“China, along with other countries, have been maintaining that there should be a thorough discussion on whether non-NPT countries can join the NSG, and this decision should be made on consensus. This applies to all non-NPT countries, including Pakistan,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told mediapersons on Monday, ahead of Mukherjee's visit.

China had recently objected to India's membership of the NSG on the grounds that it has yet to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This was  seen as a sign of China's friendship towards Pakistan which has been arguing that if India is allowed in the elite NSG club, so should Pakistan.

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However, those in the know in the government maintain that India has never endorsed or blocked Pakistan’s membership to the club. The membership is by consensus and the US has backed India's claim, given India’s clean record on non-proliferation. Pakistan, whose nuclear proliferation record has always been a matter of concern, is pushing for a berth in the NSG, if India gets it. India had recently cited the example of France which became a member of the NSG without signing the NPT. The Chinese have, however, countered this saying, "France was a founder of the NSG so the issue of its acceptance to the NSG did not exist."

Officials in the government said the Chinese argument (that India could not be admitted in the NSG club without first signing the NPT) did not hold because there were no set of rules as such for the NSG membership. Also, India is primarily concerned with its own membership rather than that of another country.

India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan are some of the UN members that have not signed the NPT yet. The NSG membership issue is likely to be raised by Mukherjee during his talks with the Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping, over the course of next few days. While the India-China relationship is a not a smooth one, it is nevertheless being hoped that the visit of the President will help remove the strain between the two countries.
US Senate okays Bill to block $300 m aid to Pak
Washington, May 24
A Senate panel has approved a legislation that blocks $300 million military aid to Pakistan unless the Defence Secretary certifies to the Congress that Islamabad is taking “demonstrable” steps against the Haqqani terror network.

The Senate Armed Services Committee — which renewed blockage of $300 million coalition support fund to Pakistan subject to action against the Haqqani network like previous year when it passed the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA)-2017 last week — has, however, argued in favour of continuing security assistance to Pakistan.
“In recognition of the critical importance of the bilateral US-Pakistan relationship and the need for enhanced security and stability in Pakistan, the committee recommends a provision that would provide the Secretary of Defence the authority to reimburse Pakistan up to $800 million in fiscal year 2017 for certain activities that enhance the security situation in the northwest regions of Pakistan and along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,” it said in a report.

“The provision would also make $300 million of this amount contingent upon a certification from the Secretary of Defence that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network in Pakistan,” the report said.

The NDAA-2017 is scheduled to come up before the Senate for voting, during which several Senators are expected to bring in amendments to this Bill. Senate version of the NDAA differed from that of the House on many issues, including Pakistan. While the House version of the Bill, which was passed last week, calls for blocking $450 million of the $900 million US aid to Pakistan in coalition support fund, the Senate version has reduced both figures to $300 million and $800 million, respectively.

“The Defence Secretary has not taken a decision yet,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Devis told reporters when asked if Ashton Carter has issued the Congress- mandated certification. — PTI
The LCA’s 33-year journey far from tejas
Dinesh Kumar
The Tejas LCA, India's indigenously developed light combat aircraft, which continues to be under development for the last three decades, is a compromised aircraft and has only 35 per cent indigenous components. The induction schedule has been revised several times from the initial 1995 deadline.
In Sanskrit, tejas, the name given to India's indigenously developed light combat aircraft (LCA), means brilliance. On May 17, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha announced that the Indian Air Force (IAF) would induct its first squadron of Tejas in July, while giving the thumbs up after flying its trainer version. Much as this news may seem to be “brilliant”, the fact is that this hugely delayed aircraft is yet to get its final operational clearance which is currently rescheduled for December this year. Worse, the Tejas Mark-I (Mk-I) is a heavily compromised aircraft with significantly reduced operational capability. Besides, the IAF's first Tejas squadron will comprise a mere four aircraft, that is one-fourth the normal size of a fighter squadron, which will be only high on symbolism and undoubtedly far from tejas (brilliant).  

The LCA's long journey began over three decades ago in 1983 when the government sanctioned the project followed by the constituting of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in June 1984. In October 1985, the IAF issued its list of requirements needed in the aircraft with a demand for 240 LCAs, including 20 trainers to be inducted by 1994. The LCA was supposed to replace the ageing Soviet-origin MiG-21s, the mainstay of the IAF, which were then scheduled to be phased out in the 1990s. 

Incidentally, the LCA was conceived just as the IAF was retiring India's first indigenously developed fighter — the Hindustan Fighter (HF)-24, also known as Marut. The government then did not consider it worthy to upgrade and develop further variants of the HF-24 which had been conceived in 1955, designed by a reputed German aeronautical engineer (Kurt Tank), first test flown in 1961 and which later saw action in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Instead, this aerodynamically well-designed single-seat twin-engine but under-powered ground attack aircraft was retired in 1985. The ADA thus started from scratch.

The LCA, as is the case with all major defence research and development projects, is a mind-boggling case study of delays, slippages, compromise and mismanagement (despite some hard work) that continues till date. There are two other disconcerting realities about the Tejas. First, the aircraft is far from indigenous, with only 35 per cent made in India and 65 per cent components sourced from overseas (mostly American and Israeli), making it an import-dependent aircraft. In fact, every major component starting from the engine and flight-control system to armaments is of foreign origin. 

Second, the Tejas Mk-I has significant shortfalls, with 53 waivers and concessions. These shortfalls include lower engine thrust, higher weight, limited fuel capacity in the absence of drop tanks, markedly deficient self-protection jammers which limit its electronic warfare capability and the absence of Radar Warning Receivers and Counter Measures Dispensing System to name a few. Neither are there any certified trainer aircraft to train pilots. This has reduced the aircraft's operational capability and survivability, thereby limiting its operational utilisation. Although these shortcomings are expected to be overcome in the Mk-II version currently scheduled to be completed by December 2018, it could, however, take longer to complete considering the track record.

Consider the following: The LCA's first flight was originally scheduled for 1991, only to be revised to 1996, 1999 and 2000, before being first test flown in January 2001. Similarly, the induction schedule has been revised several times from the initial 1995 to 2003, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012 and now 2018 (for the Mk-II), by when 35 years would have elapsed. In the meantime, owing to the inordinate delay in the development of the LCA, the government has already spent Rs 20,000 crore for upgrading 125 Soviet-origin MiG-21 Bis and 62 MiG-29 fighters, 61 British-origin Jaguar strike aircraft and the French Mirage-2000 even as the IAF's squadron strength has fallen from the sanctioned 42 to 33, with all MiG-23, MiG-25 and several MiG-21 squadrons having been retired.

There are several reasons behind the delay of the LCA. Apart from a period of post-May 1998 nuclear test sanctions, among the most notable has been India's inability to develop several key components which has necessitated design changes and purchases from overseas. This includes the failure to develop the Kaveri engine (started in 1989 with unending deadline revision to 1996, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2012 and currently unknown along with a cost escalation from the original Rs 383 crore to Rs 2,839 crore as of December 2009). This has necessitated a design modification each in the Mk-I variant for the American General Electric F-404 engine and in Mk-II for the F-414 engine.

The ADA was unable to develop the Multi-Mode Radar for tracking multiple targets (original deadline December 1997, with a deal for co-development with Israel finally signed in June 2009), the Flight Control System Actuators (currently American), Radome (British) and the Multi-Functional Display System (Israeli), among several other critical items. The IAF too ended up causing a delay of over seven years because it wanted changes in the armament: the Israeli R 73E close combat missile instead of the R-60; integration of the Israeli Derby and Python-5 beyond visual range missile; addition of the Russian 500 kg M-62 bombs; and a Counter Measures Dispensing System. Some of these features and armaments are yet to be incorporated in the Mk-I. 

One hopes that the Tejas will not meet the same fate as that of the import-dependent “indigenous” Arjun tank which was conceived over four decades ago in 1974. Only 124 of the Arjun Mk-I are in service, while the Army still awaits the Mk-II. Clearly, the ADA with its 152 work centres engaged in developing the LCA needs to put in more tejas (brilliance) in developing the Tejas.
45 ultras killed by Army in Valley this year
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, May 24
The Army has gone full throttle this year so far and eliminated 45 militants in Kashmir. It has also reviewed its summer strategy along the 744-km-long Line of Control (LoC).

“A total of 45 militants have been eliminated by security forces in Kashmir from January 1 this year,” said  Col SD Goswami, Northern Command’s Udhampur-based defence spokesperson.

On May 16, a militant, Bilal Bhat, had jumped off a cliff to escape soldiers and died, taking the total number of slain militants to 46. Bhat along with his two associates was trying to exfiltrate to PoK via the LoC in the Poonch sector.

Army sources, however, said that despite gunning down 45 militants in Kashmir this year, militants were waiting in launching pads on the Pakistani side of the LoC.

“The terrain is such that possibilities of successful infiltration cannot be ruled out. At the same time, there is immense pressure on ultras in launching pads because of continual success achieved by security forces in Kashmir this year,” they added.

Sources said the rapidly depleting cadre of militant outfits in Kashmir had become a cause for concern for the Pakistani army and the ISI.

“While the Army will be consolidating the gains made in the hinterland (within the state), we have a robust counter-infiltration strategy on the LoC, which has an appropriate mix of technology and human resource,” said the sources.

“Innovative troop deployment, including ambushes, efficient use of surveillance and monitoring devices, besides fencing along the LoC have enhanced our ability to detect and intercept infiltration,” the sources added.

The Army anticipates that militants in launching pads may try some non-traditional routes to sneak into J&K this summer.

“Our endeavour has always been to intercept and neutralise them (militants) before they reach the barbed fence,” they added.

As per an official report, 18 “highly trained” militants crossed the LoC and sneaked into Kashmir via frontier Kupwara district in April this year. Out of them, five were shot dead in recent encounters with security forces.

Last year, over 100 militants were killed by the Army in the state.
Bodies of six Assam Rifles personnel flown to native places
A wreath laying ceremony was conducted at 12 Bihar Headquarters in the state capital to pay tribute to the martyrs.
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Bodies of the six Assam Rifles personnel who were killed in an ambush on May 21 in Chandeldistrict of Manipur were today flown to their respective homes from Imphal airport in a special Indian Air Force flight.

Prior to that around 9.30 am, a wreath laying ceremony was conducted at 12 Bihar Headquarters in the state capital to pay tribute to the martyrs.

The solemn ceremony was attended by Chief Minister O Ibobi, his deputy Gaikhangam and high ranking officers of the Assam Rifles based in Manipur.
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The deceased included Junior Commission Officer BaldevKumar (55) from Himachal Pradesh, Havaldar Susarjit (27), Rifleman Pawan Singh (39) of Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir), Rifleman Mahesh Gurung (43) of Uttarkhand, Riflemen Bhupendra Kumar (32) from Himachal Pradesh and Akhilesh Kumar of Uttar Pradesh, AR sources said.

The six soldiers were killed in an ambush near the Indo-Myanmar border’s “No Man’s Land” while coming back from a land-slide affected village in Manipur to their base camp.

CorCom, a conglomerate of proscribed outfits, in a statement issued to the media had claimed that the ambush was carried out by them.
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Army promises to hit back hard on Manipur militants
"I can assure you no setback can ever dilute the resilience of the Indian Army," said Lt Gen Abhay Krishna.
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The Army on Tuesday vowed to hit back hard on the militants who carried out an ambush which killed six Assam Rifles personnel in Manipur’s Chandel district on Sunday. “In counter-insurgency operation it is a matter of initiative and opportunity. They have been able to get this opportunity but it is not long before we hit back and we will hit back very hard,” Lt Gen Abhay Krishna, General Officer Commanding of 3 Corps, told reporters here.

The Army and Assam Rifles have been continuously running an intensive combing operation to trace the militants in the deep jungles near Indo-Myanmar border, where the incident happened on Sunday afternoon. Refusing to divulge details of the operations before the media, Krishna said the search was on in the jungles.
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“I can assure you no setback can ever dilute the resilience of the Indian Army. We are trained to be resilient. This type of casualties is a setback for everybody but it is also an opportunity to bounce back and bounce back with a bigger success,” he said, adding strong action cannot be taken at the press of a button.

On the security situation in Manipur where 18 army personnel were killed in the same district last year in an ambush by NSCN(K) militants, the officer said, “After one year they have been able to get this opportunity but we will wrest
this opportunity and initiative very soon”.

Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh condemned the incident. We stand united in the fight against insurgents and ill continue to strive for furtherance of peace in the region, he said, adding those involved in such crimes will be severely punished.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had directed security forces to take “strongest possible action” against the militants involved in the ambush.

Meanwhile, the mortal remains of the martyrs were sent to their hometowns in two specially requisitioned Indian Air
Force aircraft accompanied by a team of Assam Rifles personnel. In a solemn wreath laying ceremony conducted in true traditions of the Indian Armed Forces, homage was paid to the six martyrs of 29 Assam Rifles.

Wreaths were laid by the Chief Minister, his deputy Gaikhangam and high ranking officers of Army and Assam Rifles based in Manipur. CorCom, a conglomerate of proscribed outfits, in a statement issued to the media, had claimed that the ambush was carried out by them.

The deceased include a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and five jawans of the Assam Rifles.
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