Sunday, November 1, 2009

AFSPA ineffective, says Mooshahary

The controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act on Saturday came under the scanner of Meghalaya Governor RS Mooshahary and additional director of Intelligence Bureau with both maintaining that it was time to revisit the enforcement of the act in Manipur.

Prolonged use of the Act has made it ineffective. There have been abuses of the Act and it will continue. If it is removed, I think the situation would not worsen, in fact it will improve, Mooshahary told a conference of northeastern states' police chiefs in Shillong.

Mooshahary, former chief of NSG and BSF, said it is human nature to 'transgress the bounds of law'.

It is time to reconsider the Act. Once it is removed, the civil society will be more responsible. There is always a scope of reintroducing it, if one thinks that it is needed, he said.

IB additional director RN Ravi said that there is every reason to subscribe to the opinion (of the governor).

DoT, Defence Ministry working on freeing of spectrum by forces

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Department of Telecommunications (DoT) are working together on vacation of spectrum held by armed forces, a top Government official said today.

"It is under consideration. We have to look which spectrum is currently occupied by the Ministry of Defence and what spectrum is available for giving to Department of Telecom," Union Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar told reporters on the sidelines of a programme here.

There is already an understanding that about 25 Mhz will be given by the Ministry of Defence to the Department of Telecom, he said.

The question today is to identify which are those 25 Mhz that are being given and how quickly it can be given, said Chandrasekhar, who heads a high-level committee to monitor vacation of spectrum by defence forces for the launch of 3G mobile services by telecom operators.

To a query on the status of its implementation, he said an MoU has already been signed between them (DoT and MoD).

It is in the first stage of implementation which says that after the MoU is signed 10 Mhz will be vacated by the MoD, and that has happened, Chandrasekhar added.

BSF to be beefed up by adding 29 new battalions

The strength of Border Security Force would be stepped up by adding 29 new battalions, Union Minister of State for Home Mullapally Ramachandran said.

With the addition of new battalions the total strength of the force would go up to 186, he said, delivering the keynote address at the inauguration of the BSF centre at Ayyamkunnu near in Thrissur.

As part of the expansion, a IG headquarters of BSF would be set up in Bangalore and sectoral offices in Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, he said.

Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, who inaugurated the centre, said the state government would provide the required land for the campus. He said the government was keen to ensure that no central project was lost due to lack of land.

State Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Revenue Minister K P Rajendran spoke on the occasion.

Agitational terrorism cause of concern: Lt-Gen Jaswal

GOC-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lt-Gen BS Jaswal (AVSM, VSM) said today that “agitational terrorism” in the state and not militancy was an issue of concern at this juncture.

Addressing mediapersons at the first press conference in a year of the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt-Gen Jaswal said terrorists were coercing and forcing people to take to the streets in the state, especially the valley.

“We have noted that many agitators were even paid for coming out on the streets and block roads. But people slowly understand they were the real sufferers. Agitational terrorism is being effectively handled,” he said, adding that he saluted people for showing resilience towards terrorists.

Kashmir has witnessed shutdowns for months owing to agitations on one issue or the other. “Terrorists have adopted a strategy that they support a mob and often take such steps to instigate a clash or a shootout between the security forces and mobsters.”

He allayed concerns in the country over tension between India and China by claiming both countries had a “mutual strategic trust” based on each other’s capability to respond to any aggression from across the border.

On Pakistan, he said though the morale of the Pakistani army was at an all-time low, an unstable Pakistan was not in the favour of India.

“We are prepared for any exigency and so far there is no threat perception of Taliban turning towards India, but trouble in Pakistan is not good for us,” he said. The GOC-in-Chief said the suicide rate in the Army was one of the lowest in the world.

“The Army has a suicide rate of 6.5 persons per lakh, the Northern Command has a rate of just 4.5 persons per lakh. The USA has 19.5, France 16 and Japan 15 persons per lakh.”

On the Army’s winter strategy to combat infiltration and terrorism, the Lt-Gen said a three-tier security system was in place to check infiltration. “Fencing often comes under snow, but all spots are well covered,” Lt-Gen Jaswal said.

He also denied any troops were being withdrawn from the state. “We calculate the security requirement and the troops are deployed or redeployed on that basis. For the last two years, there were no major incidents in Rajouri demanding redeployment,” he added.

Lt-Gen Jaswal rued that the state government had not taken due care of over 1,000 micro hydel power projects set up by the Army and handed over to it. “The state government has not taken over the management of hydel power projects. Many such projects are lying closed or defunct.”

He called for support of the soldiers on the ground. “A jawan has a split second to take a decision. If he will not shoot, he will be killed,” he said while referring to human rights violation complaints. “Only 35 out of over 1,500 such complaints have been found true,” he said.

Lt-Gen Jaswal also negated figures circulated in the media about the number of militants active in the state as well as those waiting at launching pads across the border. “Only five out of 100 intelligence reports are trusted. We don’t have the exact figures, but infiltration bids would be foiled,” he added.

Chinese soldiers on Lankan ships?

Tamil Nadu fishermen belonging to Mandapam village in Ramanathapuram district have complained to Indian Coast Guard officials about Chinese presence on Sri Lankan naval vessels that attacked them last week.

A group of fishermen told reporters at Rameswaram that a team of higher officials from Coast Guard met them on Wednesday and inquired specifically about Chinese soldiers on Lankan vessels. The officials took photographs of the injured fishermen and the damaged boats.

The attacked fishermen said the Coast Guard officials asked them to describe the appearance of those soldiers whom the fishermen identified as Chinese. The officials took note of the fishermen's views and assured them that it would be conveyed to the authorities concerned.

Fishermen belonging to Ramanathapuram and Nagappattinam districts have been complaining about Chinese presence for the last three months. They had also alleged that it was the Chinese who had treated them harshly.

On October 28, a group of fishermen who were attacked and chased by the Sri Lankan navy near Katchatheev island said they saw Chinese soldiers on Lankan ships.

And on September 25, two groups of fishermen belonging to Nagappattinam who returned to shore wearing gunny sacks complained that the Sri Lankan navy and the Chinese who were on their boats attacked them and ill-treated them. They asserted that they could distinguish between Sinhalese and non-Sinhalese, since they were meeting the Sinhalese regularly for several decades.

The fishermen said they were stripped naked, made to stand in the midnight sea breeze with ice boxes on their head.

The fishermen were asked to tear the Indian National Flag in their boats and forced to wear them as loin cloth, while saluting the Sri Lankan national flag. They were forced to eat food, which was urinated by the Chinese soldiers, they said.

PC: Any more terror attack from Pak will be retaliated


Home Minister P Chidambaram tonight warned Pakistan against meddling with India and said any more attack from the country will be retaliated “very strongly”.
He said he had been warning Pakistan not to play with India and that the Mumbai attacks should be the “last game”.
“We have been gaining strength day by day to counter terrorism from across the border. I have been warning Pakistan not to play games with us. (I have told them that) the last game should be Mumbai attacks. Stop it there,” he told a public meeting here.
“If terrorists and militants from Pakistan try to carry out any attacks in India, they will not only be defeated but will be retaliated very strongly,” he said in his speech in Tamil. — PTI

Captive flight trials of Astra missile carried out

India’s missile programme took a crucial step forward on Saturday with Indian Air Force test pilots carrying out the captive flight trials of the indigenously designed and developed Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM).
A Su-30MKI combat aircraft especially tasked for the trials took off from Air Force Station Lohegaon (Pune) for a 90-minute sortie with the Astra missile. Till Thursday, four sorties, including flying the missile to super sonic speeds and to 7Gs, had been accomplished. Captive trials are mandatory to actual firing of the missile from the aircraft.
The active, radar homing Astra -- India’s first air-to-air missile -- which, at its design altitude of 15 km, will enable fighter pilots to lock-on, evade radar and shoot down enemy aircraft about 80 km away, is part of India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and has been under development at a number of defence laboratories led by the Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory.
Astra can be compared to the U.S.’ AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM, France’s MICA (Missile d’interception et de combat aĆ©rien, “Interception and Aerial Combat Missile”) and Russia’s R77 (RVV-AE) missile.
The ground launch of Astra was successfully conducted at Chandipur-on-Sea, off the Orissa coast in September 2008.
Captive flight trials involve the Su-30MKI carrying under its wings at one of its six hard points (stations designated for the carrying of stores) an inert missile (with no explosives but simulating the real missile) which has not been electrically or electronically ‘connected’ to the aircraft’s on-board systems.
Captive or aero mechanical integrity tests allows a verification of aspects such as the mechanical, structural and electrical compatibility between the missile and the aircraft, and whether vibrations, strain, stress, etc. are within design levels.
Only after the missile is proven in captive flight trials can it be fired from an aircraft.
Disclosing news of Phase 1 of the captive flight trails which have come after about four years of planning and certification, senior officials said the trials would cover the entire flight envelope of the Su-30MKI, including attaining the fighter’s altitude ceiling of 18 km and a speed of 1.8 Mach, and undertaking the various complicated manoeuvres that the aircraft is designed for. The trials are likely to involve around 15 sorties.
Russian launcher
Though the missile has been indigenously developed, Astra currently depends on a Russian launcher and seeker head. The seeker is yet to be integrated with the missile’s radar, algorithms, etc.
Officials said Astra has been designed to pull a latax (lateral acceleration) of 40g. (40 times the acceleration due to gravity).
The second phase of the trials -- avionics integrity tests -- are expected early next year and will involve the integration of the missile’s avionics with that of the aircraft, and a dialoguing between the cockpit and the missile. Officials also disclosed that “some guided flights with a seeker to check for guidance will take place early next year.” The actual firing of Astra from the Su-30MKI is expected in July-August 2010.
Astra is to be initially fitted on the Su-30MKI and the Mirage 2000, with the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and the MiG-29 scheduled to be equipped with it later.

Armed Forces joint exercise begins

THIRUVANATHAPURAM: The Indian Armed Forces have embarked on a joint exercise on the Lakshadweep Islands. The tri-services exercise which began the other day will be on till next week. ‘’All three services are involved. 200 Army personnel, ships of the Western and Eastern fleets of the Indian Navy and assets of the Indian Air Force have been deployed. The exercise is concentrated in the Lakshadweep area,’’ sources said. With inter-operability being the key-word these days, one aim of the joint exercise is to enhance coordination among the three forces. That the exercise is being conducted at the highly-strategic Lakshadweep archipelago gives it added significance.  Also, joint exercises here are a mark of the growing strategic importance of the peninsular region of the country. Recently, the Maritime Air Operations (MAO) were brought under the Southern Air Command which is expanding its assets in the South.  On Friday, ‘Ekuverin ‘09’, a joint exercise of Indian and Maldivian troops had come to an end at Belgaum.

Viraat to be back in action in a week

NEW DELHI: The ‘mother’ will be back in action soon. With power projection being the name of the game, India is finally ready to once again deploy its solitary aircraft carrier INS Viraat on the high seas after an almost two-year gap.

INS Viraat is now on the verge of completing its ‘sea-acceptance trials’ and ‘work-up phase’ off Mumbai after an 18-month-long comprehensive refit in Mumbai and Kochi to increase its longevity as well as upgrade its weapon and sensor packages.

Coincidentally enough, the 28,000-tonne old warhorse will also be completing its 50th year as an operational warship this November. Originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes in November 1959, it was inducted into the Indian Navy in May 1987.

‘‘Even British officers, who have served on her, are stunned we have managed to prolong its operational life so much. After this refit, it will serve us for at least five years more. It should be ‘full-ops’ in a week or so,’’ said a senior officer.

While Navy is justifiably proud of getting INS Viraat back in action, it’s a telling comment on the Indian defence establishment’s utter lack of long-term strategic planning to build military capabilities in tune with the country’s geopolitical objectives. An aircraft carrier prowling on the high seas, with its accompanying fighter jets tearing into the skies from the mobile airstrip, after all, projects power like nothing else.

US, on its part, has 11 carrier strike groups deployed across the globe to rule the seas. China, in turn, is actively scrambling to get carriers of its own in keeping with its big superpower aspirations. Successive Indian governments, however, been quite apathetic to Navy’s quest to have three aircraft carriers — one each for the eastern and western seaboards, while the third undergoes repairs — to protect the country’s ‘primary area of geopolitical interest’ stretching from Hormuz Strait to Malacca Strait.

The long-delayed 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at Cochin Shipyard, for one, will be ready only by 2015. For another, India will get the refurbished 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov, undergoing a refit at the Sevmash Shipyard in North Russia, only by early-2013 now. India and Russia, of course, are still bitterly negotiating Gorshkov’s final refit cost, with the price likely to settle upwards of $ 2.5-billion. There is another big worry for Navy. INS Viraat may be all set to resume duties but it’s left with only 11 Sea Harrier jump-jets to operate from its deck.

From 1983 onwards, Navy had inducted 30 of the British-origin Sea Harriers, which take off from the angled ski-jump on INS Viraat and land vertically on its deck, but has lost over half of them in accidents. Be that as it may, the 13-storey high INS Viraat will soldier on — with its motto of Jalamev Yasya, Balamev Tasya (he who controls the sea is all powerful) — for the foreseeable future.

Why our paramilitary should be part of future Indo-US exercises


Two separate incidents earlier this week caught my attention. The death of four CISF personnel in an Improvised Explosive Device blast in Dantewada and the Yudh Abhyas, the largest joint army exercise between the Indian and US armies.

The IED blast were part of a stepped up Maoist strategy to deter the government from carrying out a planned offensive against their central Indian strongholds by the paramilitary forces like the CRPF and the BSF. The military exercises were part of annual wargames aimed at greater interoperability between the two armies. The detection and disposal of IEDs was part of the drill. But wait, precisely what are the chances of the Indian army operating with the US military? According to a vehement Defence Minister A.K. Antony, "not now, not in the future."  So if the defence minister himself doesn't see a future for these exercises, exactly what purpose do they serve other than, perhaps, a shop window display for US military hardware. But there is another force, or a group of forces which could gain from the United States military.

Poorly equipped and trained with hand-me-down weaponry from the Indian army, the paramilitary forces are extremely vulnerable to twin threats from the Maoists- IEDs and ambushes. Maoist supreme commander Mupalla Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy confirmed they had received assistance from LTTE bomb makers in fashioning these deadly explosive devices.

Sure, the Indian army can train the paramilitary in the intricacies of jungle warfare but not in the high technology that goes into combating insurgency. This is where the United States comes in. Today, there is no country in the world which has as much experience in combating IEDs as the United States military. Learning from a majority of the over 4000 US troop casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan are from IEDs. The US has a Joint IED Defeat Organisation (JIEDDO) and is investing over $ 1 billion in potentially game-changing technologies like ground sensors which can detect if soil has been freshly dug to devices which can detect command wires which detonate IEDs. Practically every new counter-insurgency platform deployed in the world today--- from mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles to the hand-held mini-UAVs--- are a direct result of the Iraq and Afghanistan experience and these have considerably reduced casualties. Our paramilitaries could learn something as basic as Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) which enable western armies to sustain prolonged patrols.

Sure, critics would carp at assistance from 'foreign forces' to fight 'our own people' but would this be less than the cost of sending in the central forces as cannon fodder? If the Maoists make no bones about admitting assistance from the LTTE for making the bombs that kill policemen, why should the government have any qualms about getting global expertise in defeating the threat. Home minister P Chidambaram who controls nearly half-a-million central police forces and severely condemned the killing of the CISF troopers, recently visited the United States. But more about learning how the US manages homeland security and coordinates multiple agencies. He should start sending representatives of the BSF and CRPF for joint exercises with the US military if he is serious about saving lives.

Army patents two varieties of camouflage


KOLKATA: The army has finally patented its uniform. The Ordnance Factory, Avadi, in Chennai, has warned that legal steps would be taken against companies that continue to churn out clothing that resemble battle fatigues worn by soldiers.

For long, the army had been concerned about the use of camouflage clothing by civilians. Even militants in insurgency-hit areas use such clothing. This makes it difficult for troops to distinguish between the enemy and their comrades. Even Maoist leader Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji was seen wearing camouflage trousers on the night he released Atindranath Dutta, the abducted officer-in-charge of Sankrail police station.

"We have patented two varieties of camouflage. One is a jungle pattern in green and the other a desert pattern in brown. Both will have the logo of the Indian Army. Till now, we could do little against companies manufacturing such textile. Now, we can take legal action even if a product resembles our cloth in any way. Textile manufacturers, traders and even the general public have been asked to inform us of any misuse of the designs," a senior officer said.

In some parts of the country, like Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Assam, use of camouflage clothing by civilians is banned in principle. The use of jungle' shoes readily available across the counter at many stores is also discouraged. However, with no law to fall back on, the defence ministry could not take any legal steps against the offenders.

"In recent times, it has become fashionable among the youth to wear combat fatigues. It may be alright in peaceful locations, but there is immense confusion in insurgency-hit states. It is very difficult to distinguish between friend and foe during a crisis. The situation turns worse when there are civilians moving around in fatigues. In fact, we also strongly object to the use of combat fatigues by security agencies," the officer added.

But what about central paramilitary force units who use combat fatigues. Sources said the Ordnance Factory Board has already started selling the material to the ministry of home affairs.

"Some paramilitary units have even started using the material for their uniform. When the OFB can manufacture weapons and supplies for such organisations, why can't we supply uniforms. The uniforms may carry the Indian Army logo but this will not lead to problems. In fact, this will lead to solidarity," another officer said.

The officer added that action under the Copyright Act can also be taken against civilians continuing to wear camouflaged clothing. Such people may even be charged with wearing combat fatigues to confuse those actually entitled to wear them. 

We are ready for border offensives: Army

Srinagar: Sending a clear message to India's neighbors, the Army on Saturday said it was well prepared to deal with any moves from Pakistan or China. "The Army is well prepared to meet any eventuality from Pakistan and China. We maintain an adequate posture in our borders. My troops understand the need to maintain peace along the Line of Control (with Pakistan) and the Line of Actual Control (with China)," said Lieutenant General BS Jaswal, general officer commanding in chief (GOC-in-C) of the Northern Command

The Northern Army commander admitted that there remained some areas of differences in the perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), between India and China, in the Ladakh region. "These are being addressed on the diplomatic front. However, building our defence capability and preparing for any contingency is an ongoing process. From the defence point of view we are aware of the ground realities and are prepared to deal with any eventuality," he said.

Lt Gen Jaswal said the incidents reported in the media are merely transgressions and not incursions (from the Chinese side). "Transgressions are reported by both sides and resolved through regular Border meetings at the local level. On the LAC, peace and tranquility prevails. Both sides patrol upto their perceived lines, as per the agreed Border Management posture," he said.

The Army commander also sent a tough message to Pakistan for violating the ceasefire and infiltration. "The LoC is a clearly-defined line and accepted by both India and Pakistan. Infiltration across the LoC is something we reckon with failing regularity throughout the year. However, the situation is normal with minor aberrations along the LoC which are addressed through the medium of flag meetings. Ceasefire violations will not be tolerated and effectively responded to," he said.

There have been 37 infiltration attempts made from January till date, in which 74 terrorists were killed. "Most infiltration bids have been foiled and 74 terrorists were killed, albeit some infiltration has taken place. Adequate measures are in place for an effective domination of the LoC, including synergy of employment of all surveillance means. A three-tier deployment exists, which is dynamic and based on the movement pattern and concentration of terrorists," he said. The Northern Army commander said militancy in the state has shown a downward trend. 

N-deal India's passport to the world: George Bush

NEW DELHI: George Bush has scrupulously stayed away from commenting on US strategy or politics after he quit office. But on Saturday, in what was a unique intervention, Bush used an Indian platform to weigh in on a crucial Obama administration decision, by hoping the US would not lose its nerve and ‘‘abandon’’ Afghanistan.

As president, George Bush much preferred to give India the nuclear deal than a place in the UN Security Council. But in India on his first major trip abroad after he retired, Bush made a strong pitch for India to be in the UN Security Council, while acknowledging that the path would not be smooth, because of ‘‘global’’ politics.

On India, Bush was unwavering. Describing the nuclear deal as ‘‘historic’’ Bush said, ‘‘[By signing the deal] the US recognized India’s nuclear weapon’s programme. It is India’s passport to the world.’’ But he also revealed a deeper strategy behind the deal. It would help India, he said, to move away from an overwhelming dependence on oil from unstable countries.

‘‘We must see the possibility of a seat for India in the United Nations Security Council. India has arrived as a strong democratic country in the world. It is a tolerant, peaceful and multi-religious democracy.’’

Addressing the the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Bush said, ‘‘The mission in Afghanistan has been long and difficult and costly, but I believe it is necessary for stability and peace...If the Taliban, al-Qaida and their extremist allies were allowed to take over Afghanistan again, they would have a safe haven and the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women, would face a return to a brutal tyranny. This region and the world would face serious threats.’’

But he refused to give ‘‘advice’’ to Obama, merely observing that the work was ‘‘hard’’.

Bush’s remarks are significant, coming when Obama administration is wringing its hands on a review of Af-Pak policy, appearing to be leaning towards a growing clamour in Washington to reduce US footprint in Afghanistan. Bush received the kind of admiration and adulation in India that is normally reserved for stars. Bill Clinton gets star billing here as well, but he has a personal charm that is missing in Bush.

Stressing that US and India would have to partner together against terrorism and extremism, he said, 9/11 (September 11, 2001) in US and 26/11 (November 26, 2008) in India were both moments of ‘‘clarity’’, impelling the two nations to tackle such acts of terror. ‘‘The extremists hate our vision of human rights, prosperity and peace,’’ he added. ‘‘Both our nations are engaged in an ideological struggle.’’