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Friday, October 9, 2009

Nuclear sub delivery may be delayed

Moscow, Oct. 8: The delivery of an Akula-II class Nerpa nuclear submarine to the Indian Navy could be further delayed as repairs on the underwater vessel have been hit by a crash-crunch faced by the Russian shipyard.
Although the pre-delivery factory trials have been successfully completed after last November’s mishap claiming 20 lives of technical staff and crew members, the shipyard has its power supply cut for non-payment electricity bills, hampering the work on Nerpa, general director of Amur Shipyard Nikolai Povzy said on Thursday.
Russia was to deliver the Nerpa nuclear attack submarine to the Indian Navy on 10-year lease in June-July. —PTI and ASIAN AGE

Russia starts construction of three frigates for Indian Navy

Moscow: Russian shipyards here launched full scale construction of three more KRIVAK class stealth frigates to be armed with anti-ship version of BrahMos cruise missiles for the Indian Navy.

The three new warships would be delivered to India in 2011-2012, a Russian official said.

The new frigates of Project 1135 have been christened as INS Teg (Sabre), Tarkash (Quiver) and Trikand (Bow) by President Pratibha Patil by a special decree and are follow up order by India under a USD 1.6 billion deal signed in 2007.

"The hulls of the three frigates are ready and are on the launching berth. Equipment has been loaded on two frigates and first of these would be launched later this month," the Yantar Naval shipyard said in a statement.

 Earlier, Russia's St Petersburg based Baltiisky Zavod shipyard had built INS Talwar, INS Trishul and INS Tabar.

Indian Air Force confident of combat capabilities: ACM Naik

HINDON: If you thought IAF despite being one-third the strength of the Chinese air force could not hold its own, cast aside any such doubts. AirChief Marshal P V Naik says IAF is quite confident of its combat capabilities. 

" Yeh chhota mota, chunnu munnu air force nahi hai. Jitna bhi strength hain abhi, kafi hai. Lekhin isse zyada hona chaiye (This is not a rag-tag air force. The strength we have now is enough. But it should grow in the future),'' said ACM Naik, on the sidelines of the IAF Day parade and flypast here on Thursday. 

The IAF chief said though the force's fighter squadron strength was currently down to 32-33 (despite having an authorised strength of 39.5 squadrons), it would gradually increase and attain the desired strength by 2022.

As earlier reported by TOI, with both China and Pakistan bolstering their air combat fleets, IAF now wants another 50 Sukhoi-30MKI multi-role "air dominance'' fighters to cater for any contingency on both the eastern and western fronts.

These 50 new Sukhois will in addition to the 230 of these twin-seater fighters already contracted from Russia in three deals worth upwards of $8.5 billion. IAF has already inducted 105 of the 230 Sukhois till now.

In its quest to emerge as a "strategic aerospace force'', IAF has embarked on a major modernisation drive, which ranges from Israeli AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) and aerostat radars to American C-130J `Super Hercules' heavy-lift aircraft and Russian Mi-17-1V helicopters, as also additional mid-air refuellers, quick-reaction surface-to-air missile systems and the like.


New Delhi, Oct 8 (IANS) An Indian Army Major-General who was denied promotion for over two years was Thursday given some relief with the Delhi High Court asking the army to give him his due promotion.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs.10,000 on the army for not obeying the court’s earlier directions.

A division bench comprising of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M.C. Garg asked the army to promote Major-General A.K. Kapur, who has already served 37 years, to the rank of Lieutenant-General.
Kapur has been denied promotion since 2007 even after the recommendations of the special selection board (SSB).
However, the army contended before the court that since two cases were registered against Kapur by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), he could not be promoted.
“Taking note of the fact that the SSB had been held after the first information report (FIR) was registered and yet the SSB in its own wisdom had recommended the petitioner for promotion, finding nothing adverse in his career profile, proves that his case should be re-examined,” the bench said.
The court also noted that in the two cases registered by the CBI nothing has come on record against the petitioner and a pending inquiry cannot be the only basis for not giving him promotion.
“Mere pendency of a vigilance case would not come in the way of promotion of an officer,” the bench said.
“The CBI enquiry had produced no results…and despite waiting for a period of 10 months no recommendation have been made by the CBI and then the petitioner approached the court,” the bench said.
The court also took note of the fact that since Kapur is retiring Nov 30, 2009, his opportunity to earn his rank would be defeated.
“No amount of subsequent monetary compensation is a substitute for holding the rank. The privilege to wear the uniform and the rank is only of the armed services, paramilitary services and the police and it is the aim of any officer to hold the highest rank and wear the same on his shoulder.”

Red threat for youths

Ranchi, Oct. 8: Maoists have threatened village youths of dire consequences if they join the Indian Army. 

Posters warning youths of dire consequences were noticed on the walls of several houses in some villages under Rania police station, Khunti, first on Tuesday night, but no one dared to remove them. These villages are located about 55km from Ranchi. 

The posters remained pasted on the walls of mud houses and even the government-run primary school buildings till Wednesday afternoon. 

Some of the posters were noticed in Sode, Konvirkel, Bagia, Hau and Nersing villages, which are 15km from Rania police station. These places are Maoist dens and even the police visit these villages only with sufficient backup and anti-landmine vehicles. 

The threats came in the wake of an army screening which is on in Dhanbad. 

More than 22,000 candidates had recently turned up to participate in the recruitment rally. 

Khunti superintendent of police Asim Vikrant Minz and officer-in-charge of Rania police station Chandrabhan Ram, however, had no information about the posters till late in the evening. 

“I have just returned from the jungles after meeting officers deputed for operation against extremists. I have not received any information as my phone was out of range,” Minz said. 

The situation is alarming as around 1,000 youths are selected every year from the state for various armed forces, including the military and paramilitary. 

Army recruitment officer in the state Colonel Umesh Sharma said he had heard such a thing for the first time and expressed his desire to see copies of such posters for further action.

Stand up to China

Chenghis Khan would be proud of today’s China, the so-called socialist heir to Marx and Engels that has more in common with the marauding hordes of times past. No wonder then the portrait of Stalin was prominently displayed at the parade celebrating Beijing’s 60th anniversary. One of the world’s most tyrannical and inhuman rulers, responsible for the murders of tens of millions of Russian women and children, his picture still takes the pride of place in the office of the CPM politburo in Kolkata.

Therefore, it was not surprising that CPM secretary-general Prakash Karat underplayed China’s recent intrusions and attributed Indian criticism to the strategic alliance between India and America. Those who remain sentimental about Beijing are confusing China with communism that represented the cleansing thoughts, reformist ideals and passions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Such people cling to China with all its faults because they themselves have drifted away from the ideology of the true Left. If they had any spark of intellectual honesty left in them, they should have tried to rescue communism from China and not allow themselves to use this ideology to justify their conquests.

Both the CPI and CPM, which claim to represent the Left, still have the same reverence for Beijing as they did when the Chinese were undertaking Long March under the leadership of Mao Tse-Tung. Then the goal was to build an agrarian economy from below. Capitalism, which the country has now adopted for development, did not fit into the scheme the Chinese were pursuing at that time.

The way China is behaving towards India today invokes memories of the run up to what happened in 1962. The forcible building at that time of the infamous Aksai Chin road and the gruesome murders of our border patrol men, whose bodies were tied to the tails of horses, is a sad chapter in the history of our bilateral relations and something we hoped had been buried.

But recent incursions by the Chinese soldiers into Arunachal Pradesh have been accompanied by written boasts that they can take over the whole place in a couple of days. This is hardly a manifestation of the ‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai’ equation. Beijing may be the beneficiary of $50 billion bilateral trade, but the Chinese officials seem to be asking how a pygmy like India can compete with the economic and military might of China.

I thought China occupied in 1962 all the territory it claimed and declared a unilateral ceasefire. It did not even agree to the Colombo proposals which suggested the withdrawal of 12.5 km from the positions the two sides held. India, even though a victim, complied with the proposals. Many years later when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Beijing, he agreed to give sanctity to the Line of Actual Control.

New problem

Over the years, the border talks between the two countries have not resulted in any firm borders either on the Ladakh or Arunachal side. But the middle sector, including Sikkim, has been recognised by China. Why has it now intruded into Sikkim and left its evidence in the shape of large red Chinese characters painted on rocks?

The latest irritation has come in the shape of visas granted to people originating from Kashmir. Instead of the standard type, the visa has been attached to a separate piece of paper stapled on to the passport. This is nothing more than a childish prank designed to convey that China can lay down the law and get away with it as well. The result has been that the students who were given the new type of visas could not go to the universities of their choice in China because India did not recognise the visa given to them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh continues to commend a relationship of peace and goodwill despite these provocations. I concede that China is far ahead of us in military prowess. They have more conventional weapons as well as nuclear devices. Yet, India is not the same as it was in 1962. It is economically an emerging giant. It may not have allocated as much money to defence as the dangers on its borders warrant.

Jawaharlal Nehru also made the same mistake. He wanted to develop the country instead of having a large military arsenal. But if the Chinese want to articulate that power lies in the barrel of the gun, New Delhi may also be forced to re-order its priorities. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of Vietnam’s book. Here is a small country that has also suffered a border dispute with China but stood its ground and refused to kowtow.

We are not on weak ground, but what I cannot understand is the series of statements by the service chiefs one after another declaring that India could not take on China. These are not statements for public consumption. If we are ill-equipped in military strength, the chiefs can communicate this to the government, which is the right authority to take care of any inadequacies. Otherwise they are not only demoralising the people, but also misguiding the government.

One thing evident is that we do not have enough expertise on China. India by now should have encouraged the development of scores, if not hundreds, of experts capable of dissecting and analysing every Chinese move. Both Russia and Japan have, over the years, amassed sufficient information to help them deal with the Chinese. We can learn from them and see how they have been neither cowed down nor intimidated. Force, however strong, cannot and should not have the last word.

All-out offensive against Naxals okayed

NEW DELHI: The government will now go the whole hog against the Red ultras. Plans have been set in motion to deploy around 70,000 paramilitary personnel in the naxal-affected states, which in conjunction with the state police forces will soon take the battle to the Maoist rebels in their jungle and other hideouts. 

A day after home minister P Chidambaram issued an ultimatum to Maoists to jettison their armed struggle or face full-scale action, sources said the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Thursday gave the green signal to the major step-up in operations against the rebels in consultation with the respective state governments after the Maharashtra assembly polls later this month. 

"Full-scale security offensive, coupled with equitable development, will be the guiding principle, while taking the state governments fully on board,'' said a top official. 

The planned major offensive will revolve around the "complete domination of affected areas'' till civil and police administration is fully restored. "It might take two to three years but it will be done. The beginning has already been made in Lalgarh in West Bengal and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh,'' said a senior home ministry official. 

Even as the over two-hour-long CCS chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the security as well as economic options to take on the red menace, IAF announced its own plans to deploy its Garud commandos and mount machine guns on its helicopters to protect its aircrew and aircraft. 

That naxalism has swiftly emerged as the biggest internal security challenge in recent years can be gauged from the fact that while less than 90 security personnel have been killed in counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir this year, over 270 of them have already lost their lives battling the ultras in states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. 

This represents the highest toll for security forces in anti-naxal duties in a single year, with the killing of 18 policemen by naxals in Gadchiroli region of Maharashtra on Thursday only reinforcing the huge challenge ahead. 

While 33,000 security personnel are already deployed in these states, another 37,000 will be drawn from various paramilitary forces like CRPF, ITBP, BSF, SSB and CoBRA as part of the stepped-up drive against naxalites. 

The armed forces, however, will not directly join the battle. Air Chief Marshal P V Naik said the Garud special forces would be deployed in IAF helicopters -- engaged in reconnaissance, logistical and casualty evacuation duties in the ongoing anti-naxal operations -- to ward off any naxal attack on them. 

"But there will no Rambo-style operations or a free-for-all,'' said the IAF chief, stressing the security measures were meant for self-defence and use of "offensive airpower'' was strictly not on the radar screen due to the high risk of collateral damage. Defence minister A K Antony, too, said the armed forces would not be "directly used'' in the anti-naxal operations. 

Paramilitary forces under the home ministry, along with the state police forces, will instead drive the anti-naxal battle. "The aim is to confront the Maoists simultaneously in all affected states to eliminate the menace,'' said an official. 

"Although operations against the ultras are already in motion, they will be stepped up once polls in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh are will free around 25,000 central paramilitary personnel,'' he added. 

The security dragnet will specially focus on the two tri-junctions of Jharkhand-West Bengal-Orissa and Chhattisgarh-Orissa-Andhra Pradesh to prevent any attempt by the Maoists to sneak from one zone to another. 

Even for the election duties in Maharastra -- guarding polling stations, poll material and election staff -- the Centre has deployed 4,000 specially-trained personnel in the Gadchiroli, Gondia and Chandrapur regions. 

"They have been asked not only to do area domination before the polls but also to conduct operations on the basis of local intelligence before and after the polling on October 13,'' said another official.

Disabled soldiers get scooters, cash

Pune During the Indo-Pak War in December 1971, Naik Ram Dass of Mahar regiment was caught in a mine blast that killed 14 soldiers of his regiment. Dass damaged his left leg that night and has been on crutches since then. On Thursday, 45 disabled soldiers like Dass were given a modified scooter each at the Bombay Engineering Group by head of Southern Command, the General Officer Commanding in Chief, Lt Gen Pradeep Khanna. “Around 10 pm, the mine blew up and killed and injured many soldiers. It happened on December 11, nine days after the war broke out,” he said. In 1985, Dass retired from the Army.
Now 58, he lives in Buldana with his three children. “I do not know yet how to ride a scooter, but I can learn. My children will teach me,” said Dass. “It will be quite useful when I visit nearby places, like the market or the canteen. Till now, I have been travelling by autorickshaw,” he said.
The 12 soldiers injured in battle include those who had participated in Operation Vijay in Kargil , Operation Parakram, operations in the Uri sector and while disposing off with ammunition in Akhnoor.
Recent cases are of Sepoy Mangal Singh of the 6 Rashtriya Rifles battalion who was injured in Kupwara in March 2009; his right leg was amputated below his knee. In January 2009, Naik Thombre Sanjay Dattaray was injured in a mine blast at Nowshera.. The rest of the soldiers presented with scooters were injured in non-battle situations.
“These vehicles have been specifically modified to suit their purposes and this will improve their mobility tremendously,” said Lt Gen Pradeep Khanna, GOC-in C, Southern Command. Each scooter is worth Rs 53,000.
“We have fought four wars, besides operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East. It is the mission of the Army to instill confidence amongst our disabled soldiers so that they continue to be responsible citizens who inspire the rest and do not remain a subject of sympathy,” Khanna said. Khanna also gave away cash assistance to the tune of Rs 20,000 each to eight war widows.

Army not for fighting Naxals: Southern Command chief

The Indian Army is not getting involved in anti-Naxal operation at this juncture, said General officer Commanding in Chief of the Southern Command, Lt Gen Pradeep Khanna.

“It is a big problem but it is still a state subject,” Khanna said, while speaking to the media at the Bombay Engineering Group at a ceremony to commemorate war heroes, war widows and disabled soldiers on Thursday. The Southern Command has jurisdiction of states from Rajasthan and Bihar in the North to southern tip of India; many of these states have naxal presence.

“It is a Ministry of home affairs subject. Every state is raising its own special force - the COBRA - to fight the naxals - however we have been involved in the training of these forces,” Khanna said. He said that the Indian Army had trained forces in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh in the past in counter insurgency. 

Earlier in his speech, Gen Khanna said that the Indian Army was well prepared to combat the onslaught of terror as the “enemy from the western borders” was trying to sneak in as many terrorists into the country before the onset of winter. “The Army is playing a vital role to put a stop to this,” Khanna said. On the recent spate of heavy rains and floods, Khanna said the Army would move in if the situation in Goa and Maharashtra worsened.

In Goa and Maharashtra, Khanna said that the situation had not deteriorated to the extent of calling in the army. “We are on stand by in Goa and Maharashtra,” he said. “In Karnataka and AP, 1,500 jawans are still at work, they have rescued close to 20,000 people,” he added. 

Naxals remain defiant, kill 17 state cops

MUMBAI: A day after Union home minister P Chidambaram appealed for peace, Maoists in Vidarbha launched a massive attack on the state police, killing at least 17 and injuring half a dozen security personnel. One of the most daring attacks on security forces came just four days before the state goes to polls on October 13. 

According to the initial information available, a police team of 45 personnel was on patrolling duty near Laheri in the far-flung region of Gadchiroli district when it was ambushed by the Maoists at around 1 pm on Thursday. The incident sparked a gunbattle between the two sides which lasted for more than four hours. 

Seventeen policemen, including sub inspector CS Deshmukh, were killed in the ambush by more than 150 Naxals, they said. The Naxals were in police uniform. According to the police, Naxals also suffered some casualties, but the exact number of casualties is not known. Additional security forces have cordoned off the affected region and the combing operation to nab the killers is on. 

Police sources said all the dead policemen belonged to Maharashtra’s C-60 anti-Naxal special force. Members of this force, along with the local police, had gone to the spot to take stock of election-related preparations. While returning after the assignment, they were ambushed. The Naxals also attacked the reinforcements, which were sent to aid the police team under siege. 

The attack — the second in less than 18 hours, came a day after Mr Chidambaram, in Mumbai, appealed to Maoists to shun violence. “As long as the Maoists believe in armed liberation, we have no choice but to ask security forces to take them on and engage them,” Mr Chidambaram had said. 

Earlier in the day, in another incident, a gang of Maoists set fire to Ramgad Panchayat building, reducing all records, furniture and fittings there to cinders. As the terrain is heavily forested, the combing operation will take long, the government sources indicated. The audacious attack comes close on the heels of a senior police inspector in Jharkhand found beheaded by Naxals. 

Meanwhile, the Centre on Thursday rushed additional paramilitary forces to Gadchiroli district where 17 policemen were killed in an ambush by the Maoists, to assist the state security forces. “Additional (central) forces are in Maharashtra and they are already on way to assist the state police,” Union home secretary GK Pillai told reporters in New Delhi. 

In another related development, a Delhi court on Thursday extended the police remand of Kobad Ghandy, a Politburo member of the banned CPI (Maoist), by seven days to facilitate the investigating agency to gather evidence and unravel the designs of the extremist outfit. In her order, chief metropolitan magistrate Kaveri Baweja allowed 59-year-old Ghandy’s custodial interrogation till October 15. 

With a base spanning over 40,000 square kilometres across 20 states, known as India’s Red Corridor, Naxals are repeatedly described as the biggest internal security threat to the country. Among the worst-hit by Maoist violence, Gadchiroli district in eastern Maharashtra is around 180 km away from Nagpur and 1,200 km from Mumbai. The district borders Andhra Pradesh, where the Maoist rebels have a stronghold for a long while.