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Monday, November 16, 2009

272 stranded civilians rescued

The Army has rescued 272 civilians, stranded near the Zojila Pass on the Leh-Srinagar highway for the last three days due to sudden and heavy snowfall in the region.

Official sources said the Drass Brigade swung into action yesterday after its senior officers came to know about the stranded civilians and vehicles.The civil administration with its limited manpower and resources was finding it difficult to rescue them.

The Army said 150-odd vehicles were also brought out of the snow-covered highway at Gumri, just short of Zozila, the pass which connects the regions of Ladakh and Kashmir. The vehicles had been stranded for over three days due to the heavy snowfall and the bad condition of the road between Gumri and Zozila.

“A convoy of military vehicles from Drass was rushed to the spot where a field langar was established and civilians were provided tea and food as they had eaten nothing for long. Truckers complaining of cold were given medical help and kerosene and blankets for the night”, an Army spokesperson said.

To ensure a safe path, the army sent ahead a rescue team comprising one doctor, two nursing assistants, two ambulances,a resuce party carrying food , three heavy recovery vehicles, three dozers, one snow-cutter and one mobile VSAT communication terminal to Matayin and Zojila. Army mechanics were also sent for the help of civilian truckers. The trucks were allowed to pass in groups of eight and a strict vigil was kept to ensure their safety.

The army also provided recovery vehicles to tow away eight heavy vehicles that were blocking the highway.

Increase in number of cadets joining forces, says NCC chief

There has been an increase in the number of NCC cadets from the region getting a commission in the armed forces. This year, 90 cadets, including girls from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, have joined the services.

Director General of NCC, Lt Gen RK Karwal, said this figure included 47 cadets studying in various Sainik Schools and 43 from private and public schools and colleges. A specified number of vacancies in officer training establishments are reserved for “C” Certificate holders.

The increase in the intake from NCC comes at a time when the services are facing a severe shortage of officers in the junior rung and is being viewed as a heartening trend.

There has also been an increase in the response from youth in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the North-East to join the NCC. General Karwal said at present the waiting list of students for enrolling into the NCC was about four lakh. “To cater for the growing demand, the authorised strength of the NCC is being increased from 13 lakh to 15 lakh,” he said. As far as this region is concerned, there are about 1.5 lakh NCC cadets enrolled from the aforementioned states, with another around 65,000 in Jammu and Kashmir.

The NCC is also doubling the number of cadets sent abroad on youth exchange programmes (YEP) with friendly foreign countries. United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka are among countries having youth organisations similar to the NCC.

“About 100 cadets are sent abroad on YEP each year. We are raising this to 200 and the matter has been forwarded to the Ministry of Defence,” the NCC chief said. The number of cadets being selected and trained in adventure activities is also being doubled.

General Karwal said an NCC alumni association is also being set up, which would bring ex-cadets on a common platform. A large number of cadets have been very successful in their chosen vocations, both at home and abroad. The association would enable them to meet periodically and share their experiences, vision and ideals.

India seeks UK help for foolproof security

Security of nearly 8,000 athletes who will be here for the Commonwealth Games 2010 is a primary concern for the authorities making preparations for the mega sporting event being hosted by India.

New Delhi has sought the assistance of Britain and other major world powers in sharing their experiences with India for providing foolproof security to the athletes.

According to high-placed sources, India and Britain are discussing security preparedness of the Indian agencies in eliminating any possible terrorist threat during the games. Particular emphasis was being laid on ensuring security of the mass rapid transit system (MRTS), particularly the metro rail service.

The counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries figured prominently in discussions between British Metropolitan Commissioner Paul Stephenson and his Indian interlocutors during his stay in Mumbai and Delhi. Stephenson had yesterday met Delhi Police Commissioner YS Dadwal.

The sources said Britain was sharing with India the security measures it had put in place after the audacious 2005 tube train terrorist attacks in London in July 2005. London also wanted to know from India the measures that it was taking for the safety of the athletes. Britain will be sending a large contingent for the games. Britain also is facing a situation somewhat similar to the challenge that India faces since the 2012 Olympics are to be held in London.

The sources disclosed that during his talks with Indian security experts, Stephenson told them in detail about Britain’s ‘Operation Overt’, a conspiracy to commit mass murder by using improvised explosive devices on transatlantic airliners. It was one of the largest investigations the British authorities had dealt with till date.

Triggered by the arrest of a suspect in Pakistan, the British authorities made 24 arrests in August 2006, 17 of which were charged with a total of 30 offences. Enquiries were undertaken in the US, South Africa, Mauritius and Belgium.

He impressed upon the Indian authorities that good working relationship among international security agencies was now more vital than ever in meeting the threat of terrorism, which was a menace that has now engulfed almost the entire globe.

change of command

Lieutenant General Naresh Chandra Marwah will succeed Lieutenant General Bikram Singh as the General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps of the Army next month, Lt Gen Bikram Singh has been moved to Army headquarters at Delhi.

Coast Guard, Navy ill-equipped

KOCHI: At a time when high-level coastal security review meetings are frequently taking place in the country’s capital, the security scenario down Kerala’s coastal belt has gone haywire due to the inefficiency of the Navy and the Coast Guard.The latest incident of intrusion by a foreign yacht off the Kochi coast on Friday night has cast shadow over the existing coastal surveillance system and has brought to light the inefficiency of the Coast Guard and the Navy.According to the Central Industrial Security Force(CISF) officials, the French yacht with two foreigners onboard managed to come close to the Cochin Port from the high seas without being noticed by the coast guard, the Navy and the other security agencies.The Coast Guard and the Navy came to know about the incident only after officials of the Central Industrial Security Force(CISF) at Cochin Port noticed the yacht which was anchored near the Port. Subsequently, CISF officials took the two foreigners into custody.Ironically, it was only a month ago that the Navy, the Indian Air Force, the Coast Guard, the Kerala Police, the security wing of the shipyard, the CISF and the Customs Department jointly conducted a two-day coastal security exercise, styled `Triton’ off the Kochi coast to prepare themselves to meet any eventuality if an incursion takes place.When enquired about the incident, senior Coast Guard officials said that they do not have the required manpower and vessels to monitor the entire coastal belt of the State.“We have only two vessels, which are currently engaged in rescue operations after around 150 fishing boats went missing in the Arabian sea. We have been doing our best with the limited facilities we have for coastal surveillance.At times we have to devote ourselves more on rescue operations,” a Coast Guard official said and added that as far as Kochi was concerned, a lot of foreign yachts visit the Part and it was impossible for the Coast Guard to check each and every yacht.Highly placed sources in the Police Department said that coastal surveillance would get a short in the arm once the coastal police station comes up in Kochi.They said that construction of the coastal police station in Kochi had been completed and it was likely to be inaugurated on November 21.“We have received two hightech interceptor boats. Coastal security will be enhanced once the police starts patrolling, in coordination with the other agencies concerned,” the officials said.

Military Operation against Maoists?

Never in the history of India, New Delhi linked the left wing Maoist movement with Pakistan. But in a recent conspiracy of Indian Intelligence agencies various resistance groups to Indian rule are being linked with Pakistan. The sole aim of this strategically acrobatic move is to malign Pakistan internationally.  In this context, in a recent statement, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while admitting that his government failed to achieve much success against Maoists maintained that infiltration through various routes was going up. Where Indian Prime Minister described the Maoists movements as the gravest internal security threat, the Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram admitted presence of Maoists in 17 states and disclosed that they are responsible for 90 percent of the violence in the country. In fact Indian Prime Minister has for the first time openly admitted that despite efforts, the level of violence in the affected states is continuously rising. Recently, while addressing state Police chiefs at a three days conference at New Delhi, Chidambaram disclosed that last year alone there were 1,591 incidents of Maoist violence resulting in 721 killings while this year until August there had been 1,405 incidents, resulting in 580 deaths spread over 11 states. In fact, as the time is passing, it is becoming more and more difficult to control Naxals but no one is ready to accept the responsibility of bringing the situation to such a critical stage. 

      The Indian Government sources at New Delhi, quoting Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai, claim that India is all set to launch joint Army, Air Force and Para Military Forces operations against Naxals in November 2009. The Indian Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) had recently approved the Government's plan to counter Maoists in the six affected states. Initially the operation would be carried out in four states namely Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Maharashtra, where according to Indian Intelligence reports most of the Maoist infrastructure, training camps and strongholds are located. On the basis of results of operations in said four states, joint Indian forces will be moved into remaining two states as well as other effected areas. In all, joint operations will be carried out in phases in 20 Naxals affected states. Troops from Indian Army, Indian Air Force and personnel of CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), a Central force, with State police in frontal role have already been earmarked for the next month’s operations. Although, Indian Union Home Minister P Chidambaram during his recent visit to Maoist-affected states of Chattisgarh and Jharkand ruled out that there is any move to involve the Army in the fight against Naxals but this is what India is hiding. The government at New Delhi has already allowed Indian Air Force to retaliate if it is attacked by Maoists. Similarly, unusual movement of Indian troops have taken place in Maoist affected areas/

      The Intelligence summaries submitted in the month of October 2009  by Indian Military Intelligence (MI), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) highlighted that Naxal menace can be wiped out from across the country only through joint operations of Indian Air Force, Indian Army and Para Military Forces. The operations against Naxals, according to a rough estimate, would last for more than two years in which Israeli and US commandos would assist India with arms and expertise. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is confident that they can wipeout Naxals in a period between 12 to 30 months. Before Prime Minister Singh orders ‘go’ to its joint forces against Naxals, there is a need to make an independent assessment about India’s brutal action against Sikhs in the past. Even today any security plan is not complete without mentioning the names of a number of Sikh organizations in possible terrorist attacks. Where the action against Sikhs was generally confined to only one state, what repercussions India has calculated after joint operations against Naxals in 20 affected states. India still has time to rephrase the plan against Naxals before it is too late. Even if talks with Communist Party of India or other groups repeatedly fails, still there should be room for another round of talks, aiming at removing their grievances and carrying out massive development work in Naxals affected areas. One wonders, why Indian politicians and members of civil society are reflecting ignorance on the issue. It is right time to lobby against all those who are interested in misadventure against Naxals as it would lead to popular movements for separatism, allowing foreign conspirators to interfere directly in the internal affairs of the country.

Author has completed Masters in History and International Relations and currently pursuing M Phil in Rural Development. Email:

Despite setback NAL to deliver for IAF

BANGALORE: Despite setback caused by the crash of the second prototype of SARAS in March, the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) would deliver 15 Light Transport Aircrafts to the Indian Airforce as agreed.It was informed by the Centre for Civil Aircraft Design and Development (CCADD) Head MS Chidananda at the inauguration of the newly constructed Aircraft Hanger at the NAL Belur Campus.Further, the NAL would also be delivering another 30 aircrafts to the Indian Airforce and is expecting to make the first delivery in the third quarter of next year, said Chidananda. The certification delay may hamper the delivery date, however, to which Chidananda said, “that is a minor problem.” NAL also has been working on the weight reduction of the light transport aircraft, he said. The 14-seater third prototype of the Saras would now weigh 500 kg lesser and that was achieved using composite wings and tail.It was also announced at the event that NM5, a general aviation aircraft would roll into the market by 2011.The aircraft is jointly designed by Mahindra Aerospace.Pvt. ltd and NAL at an estimated cost of 22-crore. Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State for Science and Technology in his inaugural speech praised NAL for mastering the entire gambit of aviation design technology.

Reality check: Army at only 50% of its capabilities

New Delhi: While Pakistan is flush with funds and weapons from the United States, and China is modernising its military on a massive scale, the Indian army has presented a bleak picture of its capabilities. The army has admitted to having achieved only 50% of the capabilities required to defend the country's borders and fight insurgency in the north-east and Jammu & Kashmir.

Worse, it will take another 20 years to achieve 100% capability to repel any act of aggression, the army has revealed in an internal assessment report submitted before members of the standing committee on defence.

According to the army's 'state of capability development' assessment, most of its arms, including the infantry, artillery and armoured, would achieve 100% capability only by around 2027.

Beijing has for long been flaunting its capabilities along the border, where it has built up all-weather infrastructure up to the last posts which are equipped with modern amenities.
The shortfall in Indian capability is attributed to the delay in the acquisition of modern systems. The report says the infantry, artillery and mechanised forces have achieved about 60% of the capability required.

The projection is worst in case of combat helicopters, where the army has achieved just 17% capability. The army believes it would achieve 100% combat chopper capability only by the end of the 14th five-year plan in 2027.

The army's efforts at emerging as a modern military with full network-centric capability would also be achieved by 2027 -- currently, the capability stands at 24%. The concept refers to integration of the army into a force sharing real-time information using several networks, improving situation awareness and fighting capabilities.

Equally worrisome is the capability of the key fighting arms of the army.

The artillery has just 52% of the total capability required to defend the country. The figure would touch 97% only by the end of 2027, the report said.

The situation is the result of a lack of any major acquisitions in artillery since the Bofors scandal in the late 1980s. Subsequent scandals involving companies such as Denel and Singapore Technologies, both of which have been blacklisted, further crippled modernisation of the artillery.

The infantry, the army admits in the report, has only achieved 65% of its capability. It will reach the 100% mark only by 2027. The infantry wants to replace its indigenous INSAS rifles, acquire night fighting capabilities, new generation anti-tank missiles and rockets, and better protection for its soldiers.

The armoured regiments have reached 71% of the capability development, the best compared to other arms. The army is producing T-90 tanks indigenously, besides inducting 126 indigenous Arjun tanks. It is also looking at night fighting capability, NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) protection, and enhanced air manoeuvre capability.

The mechanised units of the army have achieved 62% of the required capabilities, while the engineers have achieved 60%. Special forces and para units have achieved 69% of the capabilities required.Overall, if one were to take the average of individual arms' then the army's "state of capability development" is just over 51%, the report says.

Tanks and carriers on army shopping list


New Delhi, Nov. 15: The Indian Army is in the market to buy hundreds of new troops carriers and tanks to reshape and re-inforce its mechanised forces, partly for deployment in high-altitude border zones and partly for counter-insurgency operations.

On the army’s shopping list are infantry combat vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and light tanks.

It has issued requests for information to buy 300 light tanks and 100 armoured personnel carriers (APCs). It expects to increase the total number of new APCs to 500 in five years.

The army is also looking to buy an unspecified number of Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) to replace the Soviet-origin BMP-I and BMP-II machines. There are more than a 1,000 BMPs in service with the army’s mechanised forces.

Infantry Combat Vehicles and APCs are comparable — each is capable of carrying nine to 11 troops with equipment into an offensive. But ICVs have greater firepower. 

The Indian Army wants an ICV that can be mounted with a cannon, a machine gun and anti-tank guided missiles. 

The Strykers, deployed by the US in a joint exercise (Yudh Abhyas 09) with the Indian Army in Babina last month, are also in the sameleague. The US used Bradley fighting vehicles, now being replaced by the Strykers, in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

An army source said the light tanks were to be deployed in high-altitude areas, particularly along the border with China. 

The army maintains a small unit of heavy T-55 and T-90 tanks in North Sikkim, near the China border.

But the heavy T-90 — the army’s main battle tank — is incapable of negotiating the hairpin bends in the mountains. Light tanks are expected to be able to perform the task better.
The army wants the light tanks for all-terrain use. It is looking to buy 200 wheeled and 100 tracked light tanks. The source said the number of tanks to be procured was likely to be increased from 300.

For all the platforms — ICVs, APCs and light tanks — the defence ministry will want to buy a small number off the shelf and insist on a transfer of technology agreement with the vendor.
The Indian Army is in the process of raising two new mountain divisions. Each division will have about 17,000 troops. The first is likely to start deployment in the Northeast, including the Arunachal border, by the end of the year.

Research reactor at BARC to be shut down by December 2010


MUMBAI: The 40 MW CIRUS research reactor located at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) here will be shut down completely by December 2010 as per the Separation Plan under the Indo-US civil nuclear deal reached between Prime Minister Manmohan singh and former US President Bush.

The 49 year old CIRUS which was refurbished in 2005 for carrying out research work and production of medical radioisotopes will be closed down completely by the end of December 2010 and subsequently decommissioned, BARC director Dr Srikumar Banerjee said.

Scientists are currently using the refurbished CIRUS for doing basic research, conducting engineering experiments, testing of equipment besides producing medical radioisotopes, he said.

The Separation Plan (civilian and military ) committed India to shut down the Canadian-supplied 40-MW CIRUS research reactor and shift the French-supplied fuel core of the 1-MW Apsara reactor to a new research facility outside the strategic BARC complex.
Although CIRUS which has been involved in India's strategic programme will be shut down completely and later decommissioned, APSARA is being modified into a 2 MW reactor using indigenous low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel and its new incarnation will become operational by 2012 to back up the indigenous 100 MW research reactor ‘DHRUVA' , Banerjee said.

UAVs to flush out Naxals from hideouts

NEW DELHI: In its battle against Maoist violence, the government is now going hi-tech. It will for the first time use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to detect Naxal hideouts in dense forests and hilly terrain and monitor the movement of ultras to help ground forces carry out precision attacks.

The UAVs, with in-built camera and well-equipped data and video link, will gather and record information which will be shared among security forces engaged in anti-Naxal operations, specially in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

Trials of these UAVs, developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), were recently conducted in Hisar and Delhi while more trials will be conducted in the jungles of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand soon.

"We are satisfied with the UAV trials in Hisar and Delhi. If we are satisfied with the next stage of trials, we will take the help of UAVs in our operations against Naxals,'' a home ministry official said.

The UAVs also provide flexible surveillance and reconnaissance capability with external payload, including weapons capability. "Since Maoists keep changing their movements, deployment of UAVs will certainly be an advantage for security forces,'' the official said.

Each UAV costs a minimum Rs 18 lakh and the home ministry has already earmarked a substantial amount of funds for the purpose.

According to official estimates, Naxal violence has killed more than 2,600 people, including civilians, in 5,800 incidents in the last three years. The highest number of incidents of violence has taken place in four worst-affected states -- Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa -- where 2,212 people lost their lives from January 2006 to August this year.

The Cabinet Committee on Security had already approved the government's new plan to counter Maoists under which the affected states will have an effective coordination and the police will take a lead role.

The anti-naxal plan also includes a Rs 7,300 crore package for undertaking developmental works in areas cleared off the left-wing extremists.

Canadian PM may finalise nuclear deal with India

Toronto: Canada's Premier Stephen Harper who will embark on a three-day visit to India is expected to finalise a deal on civilian nuclear technology and sign an agreement to safeguard investors' rights in the two countries, officials said.

Harper, who will be accompanied by a high-powered official delegation, will discuss bilateral issues with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh and focus on building up comprehensive and holistic relationship with India.

Indo-Canadian organisations like Canada India Business Council, Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) and Canada India Foundation or leading Canadian companies like Bombardia, Sun Life and financial companies which have big stakes in India are associated with the trip, they said.

Harper may seal a deal allowing Canadian firms to sell civilian nuclear technology to India and sign a Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement to safeguard investors' rights in the two countries.

A number of prominent Indo-Canadians who are in India have been invited at a luncheon meeting in Mumbai tomorrow where the Canadian Prime Minister would address a meeting elaborating on business opportunities

"There is a tremendous amount of potential in our relationship with India. We share a history of cooperation in the Commonwealth and the United Nations, as well as a shared commitment to pluralism, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Our goal is to build a stronger, more dynamic partnership based on shared commercial, political and regional interests," Harper had said.

The Government of Canada has opened new offices in Hyderabad, Calcutta and Ahmadabad in 2009, bringing the total number of diplomatic and commercial offices in India to eight.

The strength of ties between the two nations is also reflected by the fact that an estimated one million Canadians of Indian origin and about 7,300 Indian students are currently studying in Canada.
in Canada and how Canadian technology could help Indian companies to boost their productivity, they added.

Alleged Pakistani spy arrested

Devesh K. Pandey

NEW DELHI: A Pakistani national allegedly involved in espionage activities has been arrested at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here by the Special Cell of the Delhi police. Several defence-related and sensitive documents have purportedly been seized from him.

The suspect, whose identity has been kept a secret in the interest of investigations, was about to board a flight to Dubai when he was intercepted by the Special Cell sleuths on Thursday, following a tip-off by Central intelligence agencies. They checked his passport, purportedly issued from Lucknow, and found that it was obtained fraudulently.

Subsequently, he was interrogated in coordination with intelligence officials and Special Cell sleuths.

On checking his personal belongings, the police reportedly found several photographs and hand-drawn maps of an Air Force base near here and the Army’s Meerut Cantonment in Uttar Pradesh. Besides these, other security sensitive documents were also found, sources said.

Based on the findings, the Special Cell arrested the accused on espionage charges. During interrogation, he reportedlyclaimed that he was from Karachi in Pakistan. After being induced by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence to work as a spy against monetary compensation, he was trained and then sent to Nepal by air, from where he illegally entered the country through the porous Indo-Nepal border, sources said.

The accused disclosed that he had been staying in the Shahdara area of northeast Delhi for the past four years. According to sources, he managed to procure some identification documents — like a driving licence — showing him as an Indian citizen.

The police have so far not come across any evidence to suggest that the accused had earlier gone out of India through legal or illegal means. He remained in contact with his Pakistan-based handlers mostly through e-mail. He made calls using public telephones that are now being identified. Efforts are also being made to extract details of the e-mails sent by him. The accused is being taken to different parts of U.P., including Lucknow, to identify the places he visited and also to track down his local contacts.