Sunday, September 6, 2009

COAS speaks

CRPF in Valley Wants To Get Out Of Line Of Fire

Srinagar, Sep 05- Perturbed by the broad-day killing of its men last month, paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force has out-rightly contested deployment of its troops, requisitioned for maintaining law and order, by police and has categorically declined setting out in markets for future.
Sources said, recently, CRPF top brass communicated to police that its men, who are a part of ‘compact company’, would not remain deployed in market places, as they said, has been a trend by police in recent past.
The sources said that the CRPF has held it as a violation of standard operating procedure (SOP) between the central and state forces.    
On August 31, two CRPF troopers were killed by militants at Budshah Chowk, outside UCO bank here. 
Confirming the communication, spokesman of the CRPF Prabakar Tripathi said that state police had made it a practice to deploy the personnel from compact company— requisitioned to deal with law and order—on roads and in market places.
“Police has been told to utilize the companies for the specific purpose,” he said.
Regarding the compact companies, he said, they are geared with three main components including arms, teargas component and Lathis and shall be utilized for the law and order situation maintenances only.
“Men with specific skill should be called out for a specific job only,” he added.
According to the paramilitary officials, the CRPF was meant to assist police in calming protests, which has been a routine affair in the valley particularly after the land row agitation last year.    
As per the official figures, there are 519 Coys of CRPF in Jammu and Kashmir assisting police in maintaining law and order situations besides, tackling counter insurgency operation. While, 400 Coys are deployed in Valley alone, they have been deployed in protection of vital installations and VIPs.
The services of the CRPF are also sought in being part of the road opening parties.

Vigilance lid over suspected chopper scam in Gujarat

AHMEDABAD: There is a hint of a scam in Gujarat government’s aviation department, one which should alert VVIPs who fly the Dauphin-N3 chopper purchased by the Gujarat government two years ago.

An inquiry by the state vigilance department has, however, brushed the issue under the carpet. Director of aviation Ajay Chauhan has himself admitted in response to an application filed under Right To Information (RTI) Act that his pilot training in Manila, Philippines, was entirely sponsored by Eurocopter, France, the firm which makes Dauphin helicopters. It was on Chauhan’s recommendation that Rs 42 crores of tax-payers’ money was spent on this flying machine meant for senior government functionaries.

The training, according to Chauhan, was done at Master Flying School, Manila. Chauhan has evaded a reply to related queries about expenses involved in this training, the types of aircraft he flew, for what duration etc. He has replied to the RTI application by saying “for exact details, you may contact (a) Master Flying School, Manila, Philippines, (b) M/s Eurocopter, France”. In the reply to the application filed by a former helicopter pilot of the Gujarat government, Lt Col D Hingorani, Chauhan has also declined to give details of the terms of the contract between Eurocopter and Gujarat government.

It was on the basis of the certificate provided by Master Flying School that Chauhan, a former Indian Air Force pilot, got a commercial pilot’s licence from Philippines. But he hasn’t been able to get a licence from the Director General of Civil Aviation which would enable him to fly planes in India. Chauhan later went to France for pilot training at Eurocopter, as was agreed upon in the agreement for purchase of the Dauphin-N3.

He now claims that he had gone there as an “administrator and technical hand” and that his job as director of aviation was not to fly aircraft. It is another matter even after the training in France and Philippines, even if he wishes so he still can’t fly the helicopter — a job now outsourced to Pawan Hans pilots under another expensive contract. Questions can be raised on why Eurocopter would spend huge amounts of money on the training of an Indian pilot in Manila when the company’s training facilities are based in France.

Besides, a search of the website of Master Flying School shows that the centre is involved mainly in training pilots to fly fixedwing aircraft. Out of its fleet of seven aircraft, only one is a single-engine helicopter. Strangely, even this is not a Eurocopter Dauphin. Chauhan had already logged several hours of flying singleengine choppers like Chetak and Cheetah during his IAF days.

When contacted by TOI on Saturday, Chauhan said, “A vigilance inquiry conducted into various aspects of the purchase of the chopper and training found no discrepancies”.


Graphics: N.V. Jose

Global biggies are engaged in a dogfight to clinch India’s biggest fighter aircraft deal

By Syed Nazakat

When US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates arrived in New Delhi last year, his mission was to vie for one of the world’s richest fighter aircraft deals worth almost $12 billion (Rs 55,000 crore) by which Indian Air Force would get 126 multirole combat aircraft. His visit came just before a deadline for bids on the global defence contract.
A year later, two American aviation giants—Boeing and Lockheed Martin—are frontrunners for the massive deal, which has led to a dogfight among competitors. Boeing and Lockheed have brought their F-18 and F-16 jets to Bangalore for system checks in humid conditions. From there the aircraft would move to Jaisalmer for hot weather checks and to Leh for cold weather and height trials. The IAF is deploying two to three teams from its elite Bangalore-based Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) for the field trials, says a senior IAF officer. 

The US will be competing with European aviation giants to sell the Indian Air Force a new ‘strike capability’. The Russian manufacturers of MiG-35 and MiG-29 are offering the MiG-35 with improved radar and avionics that give it multirole capability. French firm Dassault is offering its Rafale fighters that come with superior aerodynamics over the F-18.

The Eurofighter Typhoon, which has been developed by Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany, is also being considered by Delhi along with Sweden’s Saab which makes the Gripen fighter jet. The purchase is only the tip of a lucrative iceberg—a massive market for spare parts and maintenance contracts worth billions of dollars.
Under the contract, however, it would be the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure periodic upgrades and service for up to 40 years. For that, the additional life cycle costs would be examined by the defence ministry, says a senior defence official. The contract includes the outright purchase of 18 jets by 2012 with another 108 to be built in India under a ‘transfer of technology agreement’.

Air Vice Marshal (retd) Kapil Kak, who is the additional director of the Centre for Air Power Studies, Delhi, says the fighter jet deal needs to be perceived as more than a weapon system procurement exercise. It has deeper strategic implications. “The deal would address the decreasing number of fighter squadrons of the Air Force due to the phasing out of Mig-21s,” he says, adding that from 39 squadrons (each with 12-18 aircraft), the number has gone down to 32 and would reach 27 in a few years. That would bring it to the level of the Pakistani air force. This is in contrast to China which is feverishly modernising its air force. “This deal will significantly boost India’s capability to deal with out-of-area contingencies.” 

The competition, according to defence experts, can be broadly divided into two categories. On the one hand, there are MiG-35 and Rafale, whose companies have supplied aircraft and equipment to India. Therefore transfer of technology and maintenance would also be easier compared to other competitors. The advantage of MiG-35 is its improved radar and avionics. On the other hand, Rafale offers superior aerodynamic performance. But its weakness includes the absence of a compatible surveillance and advanced targeting pod.

Then there are Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon, F-16 and F-18, which are new aircraft types for the IAF. So the entire support infrastructure would have to be developed. Deba R. Mohanty, a senior fellow in security studies at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, reviewed a copy of the request for proposal shortly after it was issued to the six competitors. He says the surprise plus for Eurofighter could be its Eurojet EJ200 engines, which are being considered as the base power plant for India’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.

“Gripen’s strength includes a wide choice of integrated weapons, its exceptional cost of ownership, and the ability to operate from roads instead of runways if necessary,” elaborates Mohanty. He, however, says that its weakness includes its short-range and AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, which is in the developmental stage. 

Aware of the fierce competition, the US contractors backed by the Obama administration are lobbying hard to secure the deal. It was no coincidence that just ahead of the technical field trials, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed a crucial defence pact on ‘end-use monitoring’ agreement that provides for the export of US weapons and defence technology to India.

The agreement boosts the chances for Boeing and Lockheed to win the deal. India has already announced its plans to buy six Hercules transport planes from Lockheed for nearly one billion dollars. This will be the country’s one of the biggest military aircraft deals with the US.
According to Lockheed Martin executives, the F-16 has the widest multi-role capability among lightweight fighters and the widest choice of avionics and weapon systems. The company has promised to offer the F-35—the state-of-the-art, fifth generation, single-seat, single-engine, stealth-capable fighter jet—in future if India buys the F-16. While an F-16 would have a number of important advantages over Pakistan’s F-16, including its highly advanced radars and infrared searching, the fact that both share common aircraft type could prove a negative for Lockheed.

That could be good news for Boeing, which is offering its F-18 Super Hornet. It is a twin-engine multirole combat jet, which is one of the most advanced warplanes in the world. At present, only the US has it. The F-18’s AESA radar could allow the jet to play a unique role in India’s fighter fleet as versatile quarterbacks, said an IAF official. “It has also a very wide range of integrated weapons,” he adds.

To facilitate the deal, Boeing has proposed joint manufacture of the jets with Indian partners. It also plans to offset the cost by setting up a $100 million maintenance and training hub in India. This is the first time the Super Hornet has been offered for production in a foreign country. India has also signed a $2.1-billion deal with Boeing to buy six maritime surveillance aircraft for the Navy.

“On the technological end, all these jets are world class. They have met India’s requirement and that is why they have been selected for the trials,” says Mohanty. “India has an advantage now to choose the best among them.” According to him, geopolitical considerations are going to play an important role in the selection, as most of these choices have the potential to improve relations with a potential ally. “At the end it is going to be a political decision.”

Kak agrees that the choice of jets offers an opportunity that would strengthen India’s new strategic alliance. He says India needs to diversify its sources of military supplies. “Today 75 per cent of our military hardware is of Russian origin, and there are signs of hardening of its terms for price-quotations and related product support issues,” he says. “I don’t think that is a good sign.”

New Commandant for Naval Academy

Rear Admiral Anurag G. Thapliyal will assume office as the Commandant of Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala on September 7.
He replaces Vice Admiral M.P. Muralidharan, who has been appointed Chief of Personnel of the Navy.
Rear Admiral Thapliyal, an alumnus of the Naval Academy and the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island in the United States, was commissioned into the Indian Navy in July 1977. A specialist in navigation and direction, he held a mix of operational and staff appointments, a press release issued by the Naval Academy said.
Admiral Thapliyal has commanded Ajay, Tabar and Mysore. He also has the distinction of being the Fleet Operations Officer and Fleet Commander of the Eastern Fleet.
Among the important Flag Appointments held by him include the Chief of the Staff of Eastern Naval Command and Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (Information Warfare).

Navy to finetune security system

For the first time ever since Pakistan-based terrorists sailed unhindered to launch an attack on Mumbai last November, the Navy is to lead one of the biggest coordination exercises to fine-tune its coastal security apparatus at the ground level on the country’s western seafront facing Pakistan and the Middle East.
The Navy will take on board all agencies like the coast guard, customs and marine police for the exercise, well-placed sources in the government said while confirming the development. The latest revision of the Naval doctrine announced on August 28 expanded scope of the doctrine to include the threat from maritime terrorism to coastal security. The exercise will start after the monsoon ends.
The forthcoming exercise is a part of the new strategy by which the Navy will lay down standard operating procedure (SOP) for various areas and also detail out the response of each agency to deal with situations at short notice.
The working of the agencies for handling security would be integrated into the Navy’s pattern of working and operations, a source said.
The Navy was given full charge of coastal security on March 1 this year. It has already conducted an exercise on the eastern front for the states on the east coast during summer. “Some lessons were learnt and those will be we implemented when the exercise is done on the western seafront,” a senior official said.
The Western coast is seen as a very vulnerable zone. The entire coastline has been divided into small sectors by the Navy for its own direction-finding. A conceptualisation exercise was conducted some weeks ago on the western seafront. This time, coordination would be the focal point.
It will test the prowess of each “sector” along the coast for the availability of powered boats, man power deployment, fast attack crafts, reaction time, radar coverage, response of AIS transponders and also the efficacy of the identification system for fishing boats.

Pay hike of Badal, ministers on hold

The Finance Department has put up the proposal to increase the salary and allowances of the Chief Minister as well as cabinet ministers on the back burner till next year. The authorities concerned had forwarded the proposal to the Finance Department to increase the salary of the Chief Minister by 233 per cent and of the cabinet ministers by 150 per cent.
Official sources said Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal had rejected the proposal, keeping in view the current tight fiscal situation in the state. He had, the sources said, directed the authorities concerned to postpone the proposal to the next year.
Even officials concerned in the Finance Department had opposed the proposed hefty hike in salaries and allowances. They had opined that the increase should not be more than 25 per cent in any case. And they had opposed the increase in car and house-building loans saying that such loans were available from banks at reasonable interest rates. Moreover, the government had stopped advancing loans to its employees also.
There was a proposal to increase the salary of the Chief Minister to Rs 50,000 per month and of the cabinet ministers to Rs 37,500 per month from the existing Rs 15,000 per month. Of the chief and other parliamentary secretaries, the proposal was to increase the salary to Rs 25,000 per month from the existing Rs 10,000.
There was also a proposal to increase the sumptuary allowance from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,500 per month and telephone allowance to Rs 10,000 per month in case of the Chief Minister and cabinet ministers. The free travel facility was to increase to Rs 2 lakh and constituency allowance to Rs 15,000 per month from Rs 8,000. The house-building loan limit was to increase to Rs 40 lakh from Rs 10 lakh, car advance was to be raised to Rs 10 lakh from Rs 6 lakh and road mileage was to be enhanced to Rs 12 per km from Rs 6 per km and daily allowance to Rs 1,000 per day from Rs 500.
The allowances and loans for chief parliamentary and parliamentary secretaries were to be increased on the pattern of cabinet ministers. The salary of the Speaker was to be increased from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 per month.

Is China itching to wage war on India?

At a time when the global power structure is qualitatively being transformed, the economic rise of China and India draws ever more attention. But the world has taken little notice of the rising border tensions and sharpening geopolitical rivalry between the two giants that represent competing political and social models of development.

China and India have had little political experience historically in dealing with each other. After all, China became India's neighbor not owing to geography but guns-by forcibly occupying buffer Tibet in 1950. As new neighbors, India and China have been on a learning curve. Their 32-day war in 1962 did not settle matters because China's dramatic triumph only sowed the seeds of greater rivalry.

In recent months, hopes of a politically negotiated settlement of the lingering territorial disputes have dissipated amid muscle-flexing along the long, 4,057-kilometer Himalayan frontier. A clear indication that the 28-year-old border talks now are deadlocked came when the most-recent round in August turned into a sweeping strategic dialogue on regional and international issues. The escalation in border tensions, though, has prompted an agreement to set up a direct hotline between the two prime ministers. A hotline, however welcome, may not be enough to defuse a situation marked by rising military incursions and other border-related incidents as well as by new force deployments.

A perceptible hardening of China’s stance toward India is at the hub of the bilateral tensions. This hardening became apparent almost three years ago when the Chinese ambassador to India publicly raked up the issue of Arunachal Pradesh, the northeastern Indian state that Beijing calls “Southern Tibet” and claims as its own. For his undiplomatic act on the eve of President Hu Jintao’s New Delhi visit, the ambassador actually received Beijing’s public support. Since then, the Indian army has seen Chinese military incursions increase in frequency across the post-1962 line of control. According to Indian defense officials, there were 270 line-of-control violations by the People’s Liberation Army and 2,285 instances of “aggressive border patrolling” by it last year alone. Other border incidents also are being reported, such as the PLA demolition of some unmanned Indian forward posts at the Tibet-Bhutan-Sikkim trijunction and Chinese attempts to encroach on Indian-held land in Ladakh.

As a result, the India-China frontier has become more “hot” than the India-Pakistan border, but without rival troops trading fire. Indeed, Sino-Indian border tensions now are at their worst since 1986-87, when local military skirmishes broke out after PLA troops moved south of a rivulet marking the line of control in the Sumdorong Chu sector in Arunachal Pradesh. Those skirmishes brought war clouds over the horizon before the two countries moved quickly to defuse the crisis. Today, PLA forays into Indian-held territory are occurring even in the only area where Beijing does not dispute the frontier — Sikkim’s 206-kilometer border with Tibet. Chinese troops repeatedly have attempted to gain control of Sikkim’s evocatively named Finger Area, a tiny but key strategic location.

In response, India has been beefing up its defensive deployments in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladakh to prevent any Chinese land-grab. Besides bringing in tanks to reinforce its defenses in mountainous Sikkim, it is deploying two additional army mountain divisions and two squadrons of the advanced Sukhoi-30 MKI bomber-aircraft in its northeastern state of Assam, backed by three airborne warning and control systems. To improve its logistical capabilities, it has launched a crash program involving new roads, airstrips and advanced landing stations along the Himalayas. None of these steps, however, can materially alter the fact that China holds the military advantage on the ground. Its forces control the heights along the frontier, with the Indian troops perched largely on the lower levels. Furthermore, by building modern railroads, airports and highways in Tibet, China is now in a position to rapidly move large additional forces to the border to potentially strike at India at a time of Beijing’s choosing.

Diplomatically, China is content, long having occupied land at will — principally the Aksai Chin plateau, which is almost the size of Switzerland. Aksai Chin, an integral part of Kashmir long before Xinjiang became a province of China under Manchu rule, provides the only accessible Tibet-Xinjiang route through the Karakoram passes of the Kunlun Mountains. Yet Beijing chooses to press claims on additional Indian territories as part of a grand strategy to keep India under military and diplomatic pressure.

Since ancient times, the Himalayas have universally been regarded as the northern frontiers of India. But having annexed Tibet, China has laid claim to areas far south of this Himalayan watershed, as underscored by its claim to Arunachal Pradesh — a state nearly three times the size of Taiwan. That Tibet remains at the core of the India-China divide is being underlined by Beijing itself as its claim to additional Indian territories is based on alleged Tibetan ecclesial or tutelary links to them, not any professed Han connection. Such attempts at incremental annexation actually draw encouragement from India’s self-injurious acceptance of Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China.

At the center of the Chinese strategy is an overt refusal to accept the territorial status quo. In not hiding its intent to further redraw the frontiers, Beijing only highlights the futility of political negotiations. After all, the status quo can be changed not through political talks but by further military conquest. Yet, paradoxically, the political process remains important for Beijing to provide the fa├žade of engagement while trying to change the realities on the ground. Keeping India engaged in endless, fruitless border talks while stepping up direct and surrogate pressure also chimes with China’s projection of its “peaceful rise.”

But as border tensions have escalated, vituperative attacks on India in the Chinese media have mounted. The Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, taunted India in a June editorial for lagging behind China in all indices of power and asked it to consider “the consequences of a potential confrontation with China.” Criticizing the Indian moves to strengthen defenses, it peremptorily declared: “China won’t make any compromises in its border disputes with India.” A subsequent commentary in the paper warned India to stop playing into the hands of “some Western powers” by raising the bogey of a “China threat.”

The most-provocative Chinese essay, however, appeared on China International Strategy Net, a quasi-official Web site that enjoys the Communist Party’s backing and is run by an individual who made his name by hacking into United States” government Web sites in retaliation to the 1999 American bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. Posted on August 8, the essay called for a Chinese strategy to dismember multiethnic India into 20 to 30 fragments. This is an old, failed project China launched in the Mao years when it trained and armed Naga, Mizo and other tribal guerrillas in India’s restive northeast.

The strains in Sino-Indian relations also have resulted from sharpening geopolitical rivalry. This was evident from China’s botched 2008 effort to stymie the U.S.-India nuclear deal by blocking the Nuclear Suppliers Group from opening civilian nuclear trade with New Delhi. In the NSG, China landed itself in a position it avoids in any international body — as the last holdout. Recently, there has been an outcry in India over attempts to undermine the Indian brand through exports from China of fake pharmaceutical products labeled “Made in India.”

The unsettled border, however, remains at the core of the bilateral tensions. Indeed, 47 years later, the wounds of the 1962 war have been kept open by China’s aggressive claims to additional Indian territories. Even as China has emerged as India’s largest trading partner, the Sino-Indian strategic dissonance and border disputes have become more pronounced. New Delhi has sought to retaliate against Beijing’s growing antagonism by banning Chinese toys and cell phones that do not meet international standards. But such modest trade actions can do little to persuade Beijing to abandon its moves to strategically encircle and squeeze India by employing China’s rising clout in Pakistan, Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

In fact, the question that needs to be asked is whether New Delhi helped create the context to embolden Beijing to be assertive and bellicose. For long, New Delhi has indulged in ritualized happy talk about the state of its relationship with Beijing, brushing under the rug both long-standing and new problems and hyping the outcome of any bilateral summit meeting. New Delhi now is staring at the harvest of a mismanagement of relations with China over the past two decades by successive governments that chose propitiation to leverage building. New Delhi is so slow to correct its course that mistakes only get compounded. For example: India is to observe 2010 — the 60th anniversary of China becoming India’s neighbor by gobbling up Tibet — as the “Year of Friendship with China.”

Yet another question relates to China’s intention. In muscling up to India, is China seeking to intimidate India or actually fashion an option to wage war on India? In other words, are China’s present-day autocrats itching to see a repeat of 1962? The present situation, in several key aspects, is no different from the one that prevailed in the run-up to the 1962 invasion of India, which then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai declared was designed “to teach India a lesson.” Consider the numerous parallels:

First, like ike in the pre-1962 war period, it has become commonplace internationally to speak of India and China in the same breadth. The aim of “Mao’s India war,” as Harvard scholar Roderick MacFarquhar has called it, was large political: To cut India to size by demolishing what it represented — a democratic alternative to the Chinese autocracy. The swiftness and force with which Mao Zedong defeated India helped discredit the Indian model, boost China’s international image and consolidate Mao’s internal power. The return of the China-India pairing decades later is something Beijing viscerally detests.

The Dalai Lama’s flight to India in 1959 — and the ready sanctuary he got there — paved the way for the Chinese military attack. Today, 50 years after his escape, the exiled Tibetan leader stands as a bigger challenge than ever for China, as underscored by Beijing’s stepped-up vilification campaign against him and its admission that it is now locked in a “life and death struggle” over Tibet. With Beijing now treating the Dalai Lama as its Enemy No. 1, India has come under greater Chinese pressure to curb his activities and those of his government-in-exile. The continuing security clampdown in Tibet since the March 2008 Tibetan uprising parallels the harsh Chinese crackdown in Tibet during 1959-62.

In addition, the present pattern of crossfrontier incursions and other border incidents, as well as new force deployments and mutual recriminations, is redolent of the situation that prevailed before the 1962 war. When the PLA marched hundreds of miles south to occupy the then-independent Tibet and later nibble at Indian territories, this supposedly was neither an expansionist strategy nor a forward policy. But when the ill-equipped and short-staffed Indian army belatedly sought to set up posts along India’s unmanned Himalayan frontier to try and stop further Chinese encroachments, Beijing and its friends dubbed it a provocative “forward policy.” In the same vein, the present Indian efforts to beef up defenses in the face of growing PLA crossborder forays are being labeled “new forward policy” by Beijing.

Moreover, the 1962 war occurred against the backdrop of China instigating and arming insurgents in India’s northeast. Though such activities ceased after Mao’s 1976 death, China seems to be coming full circle today, with Chinese-made arms increasingly flowing into guerrilla ranks in northeastern India, including via Burmese front organizations. India says it has taken up this matter with Beijing at the foreign minister-level. While a continuing 12-year-old ceasefire has brought peace to Nagaland, some other Indian states like Assam and Manipur are racked by multiple insurgencies, allowing Beijing to fish in troubled waters.

Finally, just as India had retreated to a defensive position in the border negotiations with Beijing in the early 1960s after having undermined its leverage through a formal acceptance of the “Tibet region of China,” New Delhi similarly has been left in the unenviable position today of having to fend off Chinese territorial demands. Whatever leverage India still had on the Tibet issue was surrendered in 2003 when it shifted its position from Tibet being an “autonomous” region within China to it being “part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China.” Little surprise the spotlight now is on China’s Tibet-linked claim to Arunachal Pradesh than on Tibet’s status itself.

This is why Beijing invested so much political capital over the years in getting India to gradually accept Tibet as part of China. Its success on that score has helped narrow the dispute to what it claims. That neatly meshes with China’s long-standing negotiating stance: What it occupies is Chinese territory, and what it claims must be shared — or as it puts it in reasonably sounding terms, though a settlement based on “mutual accommodation and mutual understanding.” So, while publicly laying claim to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, China in private is asking India to cede at least that state’s strategic Tawang Valley — a critical corridor between Lhasa and Assam of immense military import because it overlooks the chicken-neck that connects India’s northeast with the rest of the country.

In fact, with the Dalai Lama having publicly repudiated Chinese claims that Arunachal Pradesh, or even just Tawang, was part of Tibet, a discomfited Beijing sought to impress upon his representatives in the now-suspended dialogue process that for any larger political deal to emerge, the Tibetan government-in-exile must support China’s position that Arunachal has been part of traditional Tibet. The plain fact is that with China’s own claim to Tibet being historically dubious, its claims to Indian territories are doubly suspect.

Today, as India gets sucked into a pre-1962-style trap, history is in danger of repeating itself. The issue then was Aksai Chin; the issue now is Arunachal. But India is still reluctant to shine a spotlight on Tibet as the lingering core issue. Even though Tibet has ceased to be the political buffer between India and China, it needs to become the political bridge between the world’s two most-populous countries. For that to happen, Beijing has to begin a process of reconciliation and healing in Tibet.

Internationally, there are several factors contributing to China’s greater assertiveness toward India as part of an apparent strategy to prevent the rise of a peer rival in Asia. First, India’s growing strategic ties with the United States are more than offset by America’s own rising interdependence with China, to the extent that U.S. policy now gives Beijing a pass on its human-rights abuses, frenetic military buildup at home and reckless strategic opportunism abroad. America’s Asia policy is no longer guided by an overarching geopolitical framework as it had been under President George W. Bush, a fact reflected by the Obama administration’s silence on the China-India border tensions.

In addition, the significant improvement in China’s own relations with Taiwan and Japan since last year has given Beijing more space against India. A third factor is the weakening of China’s Pakistan card against India. Pakistan’s descent into chaos has robbed China of its premier surrogate instrument against India, necessitating the exercise of direct pressure.

Against this background, India can expect no respite from Chinese pressure. Whether Beijing actually sets out to teach India “the final lesson” by launching a 1962-style surprise war will depend on several calculations, including India’s defense preparedness to repel such an attack, domestic factors within China and the availability of a propitious international timing of the type the Cuban missile crisis provided 47 years ago. But if India is not to be caught napping again, it has to inject greater realism into its China policy by shedding self-deluding shibboleths, shoring up its deterrent capabilities and putting premium on leveraged diplomacy.

Brahma Chellaney is professor of strategic studies at the privately funded Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.

India building its nuclear stockpile

Days after US reports exposed Pakistan's secret nuclear expansion programmes, Pakistan has now hit back with diversionary tactics, accusing India of building up its nuclear stockpile.

Pakistan has caught on to a senior Indian nuclear scientist's recent comments on the Pokhran tests and is now accusing India of building up its nuclear stockpile.

Pakistan's foreign office spokesperson, Abdul Basit has said that Pakistan hoped a unilateral moratorium on testing in South Asia would continue to be observed.

“We are obviously disturbed by the reports that India might be considering to conduct an additional nuclear test,” said Basit referring to reports that the recent claim by the former defence scientist, K. Santhanam, of the failure of the 1998 thermonuclear device test, was in fact a ruse by the Indian nuclear establishment to pave the way for conducting another nuclear test.

The spokesman said Pakistan had proposed a regional restraint regime, which included a regional nuclear test ban treaty.

“Those proposals are still on the table. Meanwhile, we hope that the unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing effective since 1998 in the region will continue to be observed,” Mr. Basit said.

Responding to remarks by the Indian Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, expressing concern over reports of Pakistan’s expanding nuclear arsenal, the spokesman said it was Islamabad’s policy to maintain a credible deterrence at the “minimum possible level.” Pakistan was against an arms race in South Asia, which was why, he said, it had proposed the restraint regime, including a ban on further testing.

K Santhanam, a former DRDO scientist had alleged on August 26 this year that the nuclear tests conducted by the NDA regime at Pokhran in 1999 were duds and did not at all enhance the power of India's nuclear arsenal.

Santhanam, who was director for 1998 test site preparations, told Times of India that the yield for the thermonuclear test, or hydrogen bomb in popular usage, was much lower than what was claimed. He emphasised the need for India to conduct more tests to improve its nuclear weapons programme, and said India should not rush into signing the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty).

News reports suggested that his comments had reopened the debate on whether India has all the data required and can manage with simulations.

“Based upon the seismic measurements and expert opinion from world over, it is clear that the yield in the thermonuclear device test was much lower than what was claimed. I think it is well documented and that is why I assert that India should not rush into signing the CTBT,” Santhanam told TOI.

The test was said to have yielded 45 kilotons (KT) but was challenged by western experts who said it was not more than 20 KT.

The exact yield of the thermonuclear explosion is important as during the heated debate on the India-US nuclear deal, it was strenuously argued by the government’s top scientists that no more tests were required for the weapons programme. It was said the disincentives the nuclear deal imposed on testing would not really matter as further tests were not required.

Taj Palace offers army officers a 'gesture of gratitude'

The hotel will provide rooms at sharply reduced rates to mid-rung, senior personnel. Guests at New Delhi’s tony Taj Palace Hotel who come across army officers in their smart olive greens trooping through the foyer need have no apprehensions of a security alert. The army officers are more likely to be fellow-guests. An agreement between the Indian Army and Taj Hotels provides rooms at sharply reduced rates to mid-rung and senior army officers.

According to the agreement, generals will be entitled to rooms in the Taj Palace for Rs 5000 per day. Brigadiers, colonels and lieutenant colonels visiting the capital, can stay, two officers to a room, by paying Rs 3000 per day each.

That is exactly the amount the government pays as daily allowance (or DA, in government parlance) for officers of these ranks while visiting Delhi on temporary duty.

A letter from the army’s Additional Director General for Administration and Coordination informs all army officers that this agreement is valid from 15th August 09. Army officers staying at the Taj Palace Hotel will also be entitled to a buffet breakfast, tea and coffee facilities in their rooms, use of the hotel fitness centre, swimming pool and jacuzzi and welcome drinks. As a final sweetener, they can get their uniforms ironed for free.

Sanjukta Roy, Director of Public Relations for Taj Hotels, told Business Standard, “This price slab has been offered as a gesture of gratitude to the army that serves the nation. Taj has the prerogative to decide its room prices. It also has the prerogative to offer varying prices for different segments.” The hotel’s rack or card rate is about $350 (roughly Rs 17,500) a night, though most tariffs are usually subject to negotiation.

The air force and the navy are not a part of this arrangement.

With army mess rooms in New Delhi hard to come by, accommodation at the Taj Palace Hotel will be welcome relief to mid-seniority officers who visit on temporary duty. And for the Taj Group, the dozens of officers moving in and out of the capital on temporary duty, will facilitate high room occupancy.

Army officers explain that this arrangement with Taj Hotels materialised after the Sixth Pay Commission raised the daily allowance for travelling officers’ accommodation, aligning it closer with market rates for quality hotels.

A room in an army mess, when available, comes fully equipped with staff, services and meals, but mess accommodation in Delhi is near impossible to obtain. Before the Sixth Pay Commission, DA was far below the tariff for a suitable hotel room, leaving visiting officers with few decent choices.

Following the Sixth Pay Commission, a letter dated 23 Sept 2008 from the Additional Director General for Administration and Coordination raised the DA almost three-fold. Lieutenant colonels, colonels and brigadiers were granted a DA entitlement of Rs 3,000; Major generals and above get a DA of Rs 5,000; and majors and below, with a DA entitlement of just Rs 1,500 continue to have few accommodation options.

For military officers, who mounted a heated campaign for higher pay and allowances in the Sixth Pay Commission, this agreement with Taj Hotels goes some way towards alleviating perceptions that their status was being steadily eroded. However, officers point out, this arrangement is so far restricted to just one hotel in one city. Officers also complain that their allowances for meals and transport are unrealistically meagre. Their food entitlement in New Delhi is just Rs 300 per day; in smaller cities and towns it is correspondingly reduced.

Job crunch, recession makes army jobs attractive

JAIPUR: The job crunch in the market due to economic slowdown and the revised pay-scales have again encouraged youngsters to join the armed forces. In the past one week about 1,000 students have turned up seeking jobs in the Indian Army for technical posts during a recruitment drive in five city-based engineering colleges under the scheme University Entry Level.

Aporve Joshi, a third semester student, who appeared in an interview said, "In the midst of recession no other sector offers a job with good salary, job security and honor." He feels that, "once you have joined the defence services you become immune to any financial crises at macro or micro level."
The army officials say they have received an overwhelming response as the number of students appearing in the orientation programme increased manifold compared to other years.

"The Sixth Pay Commission, which raised the armed forces salaries have made this profession a most-sought-after among the students this year," said Col VS Gill, member of a team to shortlist candidates for SSB final interview.

When asked, do you think that ill effects of recession on corporate and Sixth Pay Commission will encourage the students to join army, he replied "Certainly yes, the armed forces offer better future prospects then any other profession."

Officials conducted personal interviews of engineering students (in third or fourth semester) in colleges such as Poornina Engineering College, Compucom College, Apex Engineering College and Yagnawalkya College.

Meenu Saxena, placement co-coordinator, PIT said, "As the economy is badly hit by recession and corporate were laying-off jobs. The students' interest for the defence forces, which offers good remuneration and emoluments is obvious."

The selected candidates will appear in the Short Service Commission Board interviews before they will finally placed in armed forces.

The army officials have also decided to visit city engineering colleges in the second week of September. The recession has come as silver lining for the armed forces that is facing a shortage of middle-rung officers.

Ceasefire violations have increased

NEW DELHI: Army Chief Deepak Kapoor on Friday said the number of ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Army have increased, enabling militants to infiltrate India. — PTI

Russia won’t agree to curbs on technology transfer to India

The two countries should look at ways to augment and expand their cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy: Putin Russia committed to enhancing nuclear cooperation with IndiaAssistance to India in building its nuclear submarine is proof

MOSCOW: Russia will not agree to any curbs on the transfer of sensitive technologies to India, a senior Russian official said as President Pratibha Patil held talks with the Russian leaders.

“Russia is guided by the nuclear cooperation pact it signed with India last year, which does not contain any restrictions on the transfer of technology or reprocessing of spent fuel,” the official said commenting on the U.S. efforts to ban the sale of enrichment and reprocessing equipment (ENR) to India. Pact on reactors

Under an inter-government agreement signed in December Russia is to supply to India four third generation VVER-1200 reactors of 1170 MW. The reactors will be set up at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu, where two VVER-1000 reactors have already been installed. A commercial contract for the construction of four additional reactors at is expected to be signed later this year.

Russian leaders have assured Ms. Patil that they were committed to enhancing and deepening nuclear cooperation with India.

Russia was all set to move forward and implement the agreement to build more nuclear reactors in India, President Dmitry Medvedev told Ms. Patil during their talks in Thursday, informed sources said.

Cooperation in nuclear energy also came up during Ms. Patil’s meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday, with the Russia premier saying that the two countries should look at ways to augment and expand their cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy.

The U.S. tried but failed to exempt the ENR transfers from the nuclear export waiver that international nuclear watchdogs granted India last year. However, at the G8 summit at L’Aquila in Italy in July Americans persuaded its partners to refrain from supplying ENR technologies to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The Russian official, who asked not to give his name, told The Hindu that Moscow would not abide by the G8 ban on ENR transfers in relation to India.

“Our inter-governmental accord with India providing for full nuclear cooperation was signed in line with last year’s decisions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the International Atomic Energy Commission to lift all restrictions on nuclear trade with India. There is no way this accord can be reversed.”

The official said Russia’s massive assistance to India in building its first nuclear submarine was proof of his country’s commitment to full-fledged cooperation in nuclear technologies.

The accord gives India freedom to proceed with the closed fuel cycle, which includes mining, preparation of the fuel for use in reactors and reprocessing of spent fuel.

IIT-Bombay faculty joins nationwide relay fast

Nearly 4,000 IIT faculty members in the country are participating in the agitation, which has entered its second phase. Ten days ago, the faculty members of the elite engineering institutes had taken mass casual leave. The faculty members here continued to teach but wore black badges as a mark of protest. They said the Union HRD ministry should consider their demand seriously as they were overburdened with an additional 27 per cent of students admitted through the OBC quota besides catering to the new branches of IITs.

The faculty members had submitted a memorandum to the ministry last month in support of their demand. The IIT faculty is currently getting salaries as per the Sixth Pay Commission report, which according to them is equal to the UGC grade. They, however, want a higher scale as IITs are specialised higher educational institutes.

Meanwhile, IIT-B director Devang Khakhar appealed to the faculty members to desist from any form of protest, following  issuance of an order related to pay and allowance by the ministry of human resource development on August 18 last.

Pak upgrades its nuke arsenal: US report

NEW DELHI: A US Congressional report has said that Pakistan is increasing and upgrading its nuclear arsenal which is mainly targeted at India.

This new claim adds weight to a recent assessment that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could reach 100 weapons in a decade or so.

The latest report of the Congressional Research Service, a bipartisan research wing of the US Congress, said that Islamabad has a stockpile of around 60 atomic warheads and is making qualitative and quantitative improvements to its nuclear arsenal, according to reports.

In what is a further cause for worry for not just India but the international community, the report also maintained that Pakistan is likely to increase the number of circumstances under which it would be willing to use nuclear weapons first. Though Islamabad has pledged a no-first-use of nuclear weapons, it has not ruled out first use against a nuclear-armed “aggressor”, the report said.

The Congressional Research Service report, which is entitled “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues”, said that the cue for Islamabad’s upgradation of its nuclear weaponry came from a Pakistani foreign office statement.

The US congressional report noted that the Pakistani foreign office spokesperson had said in a May 21 press briefing that though the Pakistani government’s is against a “nuclear or conventional arms race in South Asia,” it may need to increase its nuclear arsenal in response to India’s arms expansion. the spokesperson had further said that Islamabad would take all steps to safeguard its security. These remarks were made in response to India launching its first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine on July 26.

The congressional report has said that this was indicative of Pakistan’s intention in the matter. The report also attempted to assess the impact of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal on Pakistan’s nuclear expansion plan but said that as Pakistan’s decision on nuclear facilities are not made public it was difficult to make an assessment.

The congressional report adds to the calculation of the Federation of American Scientists that Pakistan has a stockpile of 70 to 90 nuclear warheads and is busily enhancing its nuclear arsenal and reprocessing facilities. A report by a FAS scientist had estimated that in a decade or sooner Pakistan will have at least 100 nuclear warheads and also the missiles to launch these nuclear warheads.

The report had further pointed out that Islamabad is improving its weapon designs and moving beyond its first generation nuclear weapons. All these reports also come in the backdrop of the US accusation against Pakistan of altering US made missiles.