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Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Japanese government declares war on powerful civil service

The new Japanese government has set out to stamp its mark on the country with gusto, targeting the all-powerful bureaucracy for its first broadside.

Yukio Hatoyama's new Japanese government has set out to stamp its mark on the country, targeting its powerful bureaucrats
Yukio Hatoyama's new Japanese government has set out to stamp its mark on the country, targeting its powerful bureaucrats Photo: AP
Japan's pen-pushers are just one area of the previous administration's most cherished pillars, but have been targeted within days of the government taking office.
On Wednesday, the same day as Yukio Hatoyama was confirmed as prime minister by parliament, his government announced that Tokyo's mandarins are forbidden to hold news conferences and that the tradition of twice-weekly meetings of administrative vice ministers has been abolished.
The Democratic Party of Japan had made the reining-in of bureaucrats one of the main components of its manifesto in the run-up to the Aug 30 election. But few civil servants can have expected such drastic actions to be taken so swiftly.
Mr Hatoyama's new ministers have ialso targeted dam construction projects, motorway tolls, the health insurance system and secret deals with the United States that permitted nuclear weapons to be brought into the country.
The DPJ has drawn up a blueprint for a National Strategy Bureau that will come directly under the prime minister's office, serving as the central hub for reform of the powerful ministries and altering the way in which budgets are allocated and spent.
The first task of the new bureau will be to claw back some of the 207 trillion yen (£1.39 trillion) allocated for the fiscal 2010 budget.
One way of doing that, the party believes, is by cutting civil servants' pay and thinning their numbers. The target that has been set is a reduction of £673 billion in personnel expenses, but by reducing wages and numbers of bureaucrats.
Katsuya Okada, the new foreign minister, has got into the rhythm of the new administration by ordering a full investigation into secret military arrangements with the US that previous governments have strenuously denied.
Those denials have been undermined by declassified documents in the US and former Japanese diplomats blowing the whistle on arrangements that included Japan permitting US warships and aircraft carrying nuclear weapons to enter Japanese ports or pass through its airspace without informing the government here.
On Friday US officials conceded they could not "dictate" to the Japanese after talks over the new government's objections to a planned new US military base.



A Customs and Central Excise Department official inspects a train at Attari railway station on Friday.

Lt Gen does aerial survey along border

A senior Army Officer did an aerial survey in the Akhnoor sector along the International Border (IB) following the third infiltration bid in the past five days.

An Army spokesperson said Lt Gen GM Nair, SM, VSM, General Officer Commanding of the 9 Corps, went on an aerial recce along the IB in Jammu and Akhnoor sector and also held a meeting with senior officers of the police and the paramilitary forces to assess the security situation. “This was third infiltration attempt made by the militants on the IB within the past five days,” the spokesperson said.(TRIBUNE)

Warship enters Mazagaon waters

MUMBAI: INS Kochi, the second warship of Project 15A, was launched at Mazgaon on Friday morning even as small flags adorning her fluttered in the wind. With dock workers chanting "Ganpati Bappa Morya'' in the background, Madhulika Sharma, wife of Admiral Nirmal Verma, chief of naval staff, inaugurated the 163-m-long ship that entered the waters for the first time. 

The process of equipping her with various armaments and weapons will start soon, and finally, she is scheduled to be handed over to the navy in August 2012. 

This indigenously-designed warship will have state-of-the-art weapons and sensors, stealth features__with the help of which enemy radar cannot spot it easily__an advanced action information system and a host of other advanced features. It will also be fitted with the supersonic BrahMos surface-to-surface missile system. The warship's air defence capability, designed to counter the threat of enemy aircraft and anti-ship cruise missiles, will revolve around the vertical launch, long-range, surface-to-air missile system, which is being co-developed by the DRDO. It also has a multi-function radar system. 

Even as the warship was launched amid fanfare, dock officials, in an informal interaction, said the almost-$ 4-billion licensed production of six conventional Scorpene submarines has been delayed. According to the original plan, the first submarine was supposed to be being delivered to the Indian Navy in December 2012. "But now, the process will be delayed for two years and the first one is expected to be ready only in December 2014 and the second a few months later,'' an official said. 

While Mazagon dock officials attributed the delay to teething problems, defence minister A K Anthony, during the launch of India's first nuclear submarine INS Ari'hant at Vishakapatnam on July 26, had blamed it on "problems in the absorption of technology'' by the Mazagaon dockyard. 

The Scorpene project got underway in 2005 when India and France signed an agreement for the licensed manufacture of six Scorpene submarines at the Mazagon dock. 

While addressing the audience at Mazgaon after Kochi's launch, Verma said that "delays and cost overruns have been a major cause of concern to the naval headquarters''. "Such situations have sometimes compelled the Indian Navy to resort to imports,'' he said. 

Admitting to the two-year set-back, officials said the delivery time of the submarines to the navy had been brought forward from a year to eight months and the programme would definately be completed in December 2017, as it was decided in the original plan. 

According to the officials, the first Kolkata-class warship launched in April 2006 at Mazagon dock is expected to be delivered to the navy in August 2011 and that will be followed by Kochi in August 2012. 

Dock CMD H S Malhi said the organisation would complete 50 years in May 2010. "With orders in place__the amount is likely to go up to Rs 80,000 crore to be executed till 2020 the Mazgaon Dock Limited is in the league of the world's largest and the busiest shipyards,'' Malhi said.(TOI)

Responsibilities on Indian Navy increased after 26/11: Verma

Naval Chief Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma today said that responsibilities of the Indian Navy has increased post 26/11 terror attacks and suggested to bring all coastal vigilance agencies "under a single security magnet". 

Addressing a ceremonial parade at the Indian Navy's helicopter base INS Shikra, Verma said, "After last year's 26/11 incident, lots of developments took place and at the same time the responsibilities in terms of coastal security have increased. We should bring all agencies involved in the coastal vigilance like Marine Police and Customs under one security magnet and ensure effective co-ordination." 

On his first visit to Mumbai after assuming office as the Navy Chief, Verma said, "Western Naval Command always had greater resposibilies ever since Navy's inception and it met all responsibilties." 

"An exercise for Navy personnel was conducted in Western Naval Command recently and we have learnt several lessons in the exercise. More exercises should be conducted to enable us to keep pace with security challenges," he said. 

He expressed optimism that if big responsibilties are given, the Navy will surely meet them. 

"To strenghthen the Navy, more aircraft will be procured. With more equipment, we will find ourselves confident in facing most difficult of situation we may face at sea route," he said.(BUSINESS STANDARD)

Management body joins hands with Army

The All India Management Association (AIMA) will launch a short-term course in association with the Indian Army. 

Speaking at AIMA’s national management convention here on Friday, Rekha Sethi, director general, AIMA, said the pilot in association with the Indian army would be launched in Lucknow on September 23. 

“To start, with we will train 800 people in Lucknow and going forward will focus on Tier II and III cities, since every other organisation is focusing only on major towns.” Three senior officers from the Army will talk on leadership and on various management skills. 

The association is also planning to join hands with foreign universities in US, Europe and Singapore for launching short-term courses. “We are in the final stage of signing up with a Europe university,” she added. 

Sethi said the association was planning to set up a facility at Gurgaon on 13 acres where it would conduct management development programmes for corporate hosuses. The duration would be from four days to six weeks. The campus is likely to be launched in 2012-13.(BUSINESS STANDARD)

Damaging fallout: 'Dud' Pokhran II blows up 11 years later

MUMBAI: Eleven years after India tested nuclear bombs in the deserts of Pokhran, embarrassing details about the test fizzling out have exploded into a full blown controversy with top nuclear scientists on Thursday demanding that the government institute an inquiry to determine whether the test failed. Former nuclear czars said they were ashamed that information had been hidden. 

Three former nuclear leaders -- M R Srinivasan, P K Iyengar and A N Prasad -- said in the wake of revelations by K Santhanam, project leader for Pokhran II, the government must order a peer review into the yield of the thermonuclear test of May 1998. 

Santhanam went public first on August 26, saying that the yield from the test was far lower than what prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government claimed. On Thursday, in a newspaper article he disclosed embarrassing details saying the test was a failure because the yield was only 25 kilotons, nearly half of what the scientists had then claimed. He said that a meeting of scientists discussed the failure soon after the test and decided to hide it. He also pointed out that the failure meant that India now did not possess a credible nuclear deterrent, indicating that warheads on India's long-range missile could have far less punch than expected. 

R Chidambaram, former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission and the architect of the nuke tests; Anil Kakodkar, then director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, and APJ Abdul Kalam who led the team from Defence Research and Development Organisation, have insisted the device operated according to its design specifications and the yield was 45 kilotons. 

At a meeting on September 5, the AEC dismissed the first statements made by Santhanam, saying through different types of analysis it was established that the yield of the thermonuclear test was 45 KT. Now, even scientists in Barc, the nation's top nuclear weapon establishment, doubt the claim. 

While saying he was surprised by Santhanam's article, M R Srinivasan, former AEC chairman, told TOI it was time for both Chidambaram and Kakodkar to clarify the situation. ``In such circumstances I think a peer review is certainly warranted,'' he said. 

At the same time he said he still stood by the official position and would support Chidambaram and Kakodkar regarding the yield of the thermonuclear test. ``A lot of information has been published and is on record. So I have really no reason to disbelieve at this stage either Chidambaram or Kakodkar on this issue. However, because of the current controversy, I think the best recourse would be for both of them to clarify the position through a peer review,'' he added. 

Former Barc director, A N Prasad, who has all along maintained that the thermonuclear test was anything but a success, said, ``The painful fallout of this episode is that the credibility of the nuclear scientific community and the respectable name of Barc is being damaged by a few at the top.'' 

In a direct attack on Kalam and Chidambaram, Prasad said: ``If all that Santhanam has written is true, then people occupying high places have misled the country. If all the data about the thermonuclear test has been held by one man (Chidambaram), then how can it be scientifically contested or debated? He has kept it under wraps.'' 

Stressing that there should be a probe by a committee constituted by the government, Prasad said that the team should comprise those having serious doubts about the yield of the test as well as experts who can include former nuclear scientists who have been raising their voices. ``It should not consist of only yes men. It should consist of those who are knowledgeable, who have the capacity to investigate such a serious matter,'' he said. 

``If this committee concludes that the thermonuclear test had completely failed then the government has played a major fraud on the people of this country,'' he said. Asked if the AEC itself can investigate, he replied: ``It has credibility, but no expertise.'' 

Another former AEC chief, P K Iyengar said, ``The government should undertake an active investigation immediately following the statements made by Santhanam in the article. I am feeling really ashamed.'' 

Regarding a revelation in Santhanam's article that the thermonuclear device had not yet been weaponised like the fission devices, he said: ``How will they do it if they are doubtful about the yield? This itself is a clear indication that the test was not a complete success.'' 

Both Iyengar and Prasad said the disclosures by Santhanam, that there was no disturbance to the shafts at ground zero, was also proof that the test was unsuccessful.(TOI)

No permanent commission for women in army: Govt


NEW DELHI: There is no scope for granting permanent commission to women in the army, the government told the Delhi High Court on Friday. 

Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium submitted before Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that the granting of permanent commission to women officers on short service commission in the Indian Army is out of question. 

However, the court has stayed the retirement of the officers involved in the litigation till the final outcome of the case and the matter was posted for final arguments Nov 19. 

The court was hearing the plea of over 20 officers who have filed a public interest petition challenging the government's proposal of Sep 29, 2008, to bypass them for future grant of permanent commission. 

Currently, women are inducted in the army as officers under the Short Service Commission for a maximum period of 14 years though their male counterparts are eligible to receive permanent commission after five years. 

But Subramanium was clear with his brief when he said the government policy would in effect be "prospectively" for future batches of women officers as the training and examination processes of women candidates have to be fine-tuned to suit the "additional avenues" opening up for them in the armed forces. 

As an immediate succor for them, the solicitor general said: "Short Service officers are given an option to join a business course at top schools like the Indian Institutes of Management so as to immediately interface with a corporation." 

But the bench did not agree with the government's contention and asked why there is a difference between male and female officers. 

"We have doubts on why you should do it for male officers and not for the women. Why are they treated differently?" the court asked. 

Rekha Palli, counsel for the officers, argued: "There are 35 percent vacancies in various departments. These women officers are highly trained and have been doing the same jobs for 14 years. But the armed forces do not want them any more despite the vacancies available."

India needs to carry out more N-tests to get it right

The government should set up an independent panel to review the data of India’s 1998 hydrogen bomb test to end the debate over its efficacy, says K Santhanam, ex-deputy director of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
India will need to “carry out two to three tests” to ensure its hydrogen bomb is working and “not rush to sign” the comprehensive test ban treaty, he says.
The panel should include retired “stalwarts in the field”, he suggests. The full report will have to be classified but “a sanitised version of one or two pages” could be made public.

Santhanam triggered the debate in August by saying the hydrogen bomb test’s explosive yield had been only 25 kilotonnes, and not the official 40-50 kilotonnes.
The debate has since split the nuclear establishment. It has been argued that the DRDO, and thus Santhanam, had no access to the test data. However, sources say because of the close relations between the scientists involved, Santhanam was known to have been “made aware of the primary data”.

Critics also say the sceptical assessment was based on partial information. DRDO handled only some of the instruments used to measure the explosion — ground motion and fibre-optic sensors and shockwave accelerometers.
The Department of Atomic Energy, which claims the test was a success, used radiochemical analysis. “My arguments are still solid, ” says Santhanam.
There is no reason to be embarrassed about hydrogen bomb test failure, he says. “No country in the world succeeded in the first try.”
But he believes that India’s nuclear deterrent is not credible with warheads limited to 15 kilotonnes — the yield of a successful fusion bomb test.
Brajesh Mishra, national security adviser during the tests, contests Santhanam’s claim that the issue of the yield was decided by a “voice vote” in a 1998 meeting. “There was no voice vote.” S K Sikka of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre did most of the explaining and he doubted, as Santhanam has claimed, there were any military officers present.
“There are people in the world who still believe the world is flat. What more can I say?”(HINDUSTAN TIMES)

IAF opens airstrip near China border

NEW DELHI: In a major breakthrough, the Indian Air Force, for the first time, landed its AN-32 transport aircraft at Nyoma, an advanced landing ground situated at an altitude of 13,300 feet, in the western sector in Ladakh, on Friday. 

The successful landing of a fixed wing aircraft at Nyoma -- situated 23 km from the Line of Actual Control with China -- enables IAF to operate in the inhospitable terrain of the Ladakh region and provide adequate backup to the Army. This would help the Army carry troops and arms and ammunition at short notice to this sensitive sector. 

The landing comes just 15 months after an AN-32 landed at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO), the highest airfield in the world situated at an altitude of 16,200 feet. In November last year, IAF had opened another airstrip at Fuk Che. 

Friday's development marks an achievement as it comes amidst the recent rise in incursions by Chinese forces. 

The development of Nyoma base was a joint effort by IAF and Army which carried out aerial and ground reccees for the base to be made operational for fixed wing operations. Though helicopters have been landing at Nyoma, this is for the first time that a fixed wing aircraft landed at the airstrip. 

The task of developing the landing base to the standards required for big aircraft was undertaken by the Engineer Regiments of 14 Corps. 

The joint development of Nyoma by IAF and Army in extreme weather conditions is another step towards enhanced coordination between the two services. 

Nyoma's development would also ensure that movement in the area continues when road traffic gets affected during the harsh winters. It will also enable improved communication network in the region, facilitating economical ferrying of supplies as well as promotion of tourism. 

The first AN-32 aircraft landed at Nyoma at 6.25 am on Friday. The aircraft was commanded by Group Captain SC Chafekar with Western Air Command chief Air Marshal NAK Browne and Army's Northern Command chief Lt-General PC Bharadwaj on board, an IAF statement said.(TOI)

Media blowing Chinese incursions out of proportion: PM

New Delhi, Sep 18 (PTI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said that the media was playing up the reports of Chinese incursions across the border out of proportions.

At an Iftar party hosted by him at his residence, he said the media was playing up the issue out of proportion.

Singh said Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan met National Security Advisor M K Narayanan yesterday and had good discussions with him.

The Prime Minister was asked about incursions by Chinese troops which media has been reporting about vigorously lately.(PTI)

Cobra’s hunt fells 24 rebels

Raipur, Sept. 18: At least 24 rebels were gunned down in the strongest attack on Maoists launched by security personnel in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh since last night.
While 10 bodies of Maoists have been recovered so far, an assistant commandant of the CRPF’s elite Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra), Manoranjan Singh, was killed in action.
Five jawans were said to be missing and a combing operation has been launched to search for them.
This was Cobra’s maiden operation in Chhattisgarh and it involved some 600 personnel, so far the biggest movement of forces in any rebel operation in the state.
Senior police officers have denied that the operation, code name Green Hunt, was a part of the Union government’s larger plan of launching a massive anti-Naxalite operation across states.
“It was part of the state’s ongoing offensive against insurgency,” the inspector-general of police (headquarters), R.K. Vij, told The Telegraph.
Security personnel raided a rebel camp located at Palachalam, 600km south of Raipur, under Kisteram police station area on Thursday evening.
The forested and hilly area adjoining Andhra Pradesh often doubles up as a rebel hideout because of its inaccessibility. Additional director-general of police Girdhari Nayak said that jawans surrounded the area from all corners and then attacked the camp. Rebels retaliated and a gun battle ensued, continuing for the better part of the night.
Nayak added that 10 bodies were recovered and security personnel had destroyed an arms factory being run at the hideout.
During the gunfire, the assistant commandant from Manipur was killed on the spot, while four jawans were injured. The government rushed two helicopters to evacuate the injured. Sources said the condition of all those injured and admitted to Jagdalpur government hospital was critical.
The personnel then launched a massive combing operation to search for the missing jawans.
The operation coincided with the arrival of senior IPS officer Vijay Raman, 58, recently promoted by the Centre as special director-general of police to deal with the Maoist menace.
The 1973-batch officer will co-ordinate with directors general of police of seven Maoist-hit states and will be based in Raipur.
Raman landed here yesterday evening and met chief minister Raman Singh and top police officers who refused to divulge details of the meeting. He was supposed to return to New Delhi this morning, but after being informed about the operation he landed in Nagpur and rushed to Dantewada.(TELEGRAPH)

China strikes back on Arunachal


Barely weeks after it failed in its attempt to block Asian Development Bank (ADB) funds to a project in Arunachal Pradesh, China has successfully struck back.

Last month, in a development New Delhi has been quiet about, China won a vote on a “disclosure agreement,” which prevents ADB from formally acknowledging Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. (A disclosure agreement is a formal notification of a project once it’s approved by the ADB Board).

On June 16, India had successfully isolated China — the entire ADB Board except Beijing had voted in India’s favour — and secured approval for its $2.9-billion country plan. China had raised objections to the plan because it included $60-million projects in Arunachal Pradesh. It argued that ADB cannot fund projects in “disputed areas” like Arunachal Pradesh.

Clearly, China did not give up after that defeat and the reversal is symptomatic of its growing clout. It’s learnt that India lost the vote despite US and most of the Western bloc voting in India’s favour. In what was relatively a narrow margin, the scales were tilted in China’s favour by Japan, Australia and a group of other South East Asian countries. Despite US support, India was also surprised by the fact that Australia chose to go with China. Pakistan, of course, also went with China. 

Post cross border firing, high alert sounded in Jammu

Apprehending that some militants might have sneaked into the Indian side during the cross-border firing in Nikowal Pargwal area on Thursday night, Jammu and Kashmir police has sounded a high alert in the district. 

All entry and exit points have been sealed, vehicles are being checked and people frisked. Security in the city and adjoining routes has been intensified to check for any suspected person, police said. 

A major check point has been set up on Jammu-Akhnoor road to check all passengers coming via buses, trucks and other two and three wheelers, they said. 

Additional security has been also deployed at Jammu bus stand, Railway station and other vital points. 

The security has also been tightened in view of the Navratras, the nine days festivity of Goddess Durga, starting on Friday. 

Over 40,000 pilgrims pay visit at the holy cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi during Navratras and state's tourism department is organising a nine-day festival at Katra, the starting point for the yatra, from Friday.(IE)

New piecemeal cases against Hafiz, US says: act on 26/11

As Pakistan charged Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed in two fresh cases, neither of it dealing with the 26/11 attack, the US has upped the ante, saying it was important that “swift and lengthy” punishment be given to the six Mumbai terror attack suspects in Pakistan. 

“Going after Hafiz Saeed and dismantling terror infrastructure in that region are extremely important for both the US and India... It is extremely important that these perpetrators be brought to justice and put behind bars, and receive sentences commensurate with their crimes against India, US and the world,” US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer said here on Friday, after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram. 

The two FIRs lodged at police stations in Faisalabad against Saeed and a close aide, Abu Jandal, under a provision of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, accuse him of “inciting” people to wage jehad against “infidels”, a senior police officer told PTI. The founder of the banned Lashker-e-Toiba, Saeed is accused of asking people to wage jehad at iftaar dinners and at a meeting with JuD activists on August 27 and 28.