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Thursday, December 3, 2009

New MS.....

Lt Gen Nair GoC 9 Corps is being tipped to be new Military Secretary on February 1.In all probability he will succeed Lt Gen Avdesh Prakash.

Army men face action for selling weapons


New Delhi, December 2
In what is a serious blow to the image of the Indian Army, administrative and disciplinary action has been initiated against 41 officers, one JCO and four retired officers for allegedly selling their personal weapons in the grey market. 

Minister of Defence AK Antony, in a written reply in the Parliament said, these were non-service pattern weapons that are sold at dirt-cheap rates to the officers for their collection. These are not weapons of the Indian Army. Antony said, a Court of Inquiry was held to enquire into the circumstances under which some serving/retired army personnel had sold/purchased/disposed off firearms and ammunition of various calibers. The District Collector, Sriganganagar had provided a list of officers who sold their non-service pattern (NSP) weapons, which included two Major Generals and two Brigadiers. The Court of Inquiry however did not find them involved/blameworthy in the matter. 25 officers who were in possession of more rounds of ammunition than authorised for their NSP weapons have been censured. 
Air space violations
Pakistan’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s)-used for reconnaissance missions-have violated Indian air space some five times in the past one year. Separately, Chinese two choppers intruded into India on separate occasions in June this year. Besides this a fixed wing medium sized aircraft of Pakistan also intruded into India while the Chinese sent across a “slow moving aircraft” in May this year, AK Antony told the Parliament in written reply. The intrusion by Chinese choppers is the same incidents which led to a huge media outcry with both Nations exchanging a heated words. All such cases are taken up with the concerned country through diplomatic channels, as per established procedure, Antony said.

265 crashes in 20 years
  In the last two decades since April 1989 and up to November 26, 2009, 265 fighter aircraft of the Russian origin MiG series of the Indian Air Force have crashed. A total of 96 service personnel and 44 civilians were killed in these cases, the Defence Minister informed the Parliament today. Each accident was investigated through a Court of Inquiry and remedial measures undertaken accordingly to check their recurrence, said Antony.

Warship-building process too slow, says Navy chief

With growing strategic needs to protect the coastline, fuel supply lines from the Gulf and to combat piracy, the Indian Naval Chief, Admiral Nirmal Verma, today sought a change to warship-building methods and strategies of the country. Terming the pace of construction as too slow, the Admiral, addressing the annual press conference on the eve of Navy Day, said there was need to do much more.

“The construction schedule is where our shipyards lag”, Admiral Verma said, even as he separately said the Navy was looking to have another construction line for conventional diesel-powered submarines. This would be in addition to the existing one at Mazagon Docks, Mumbai, where the Indo-French joint project for the Scorpenes was on.

On the nuclear submarine, he said the INS Airhant, inaugurated on July 26 this year, would be inducted in the Navy within two years and it would be equipped with ballistic missiles. He refused to set a date on when India would acquire the Nerpa, a Russian Akula-class N-powered submarine.

On building additional N-powered submarines, he hoped that the government would not let the huge investments in nuclear submarine building wither away after the submarines were commissioned.

Admiral Verma, who took over from Admiral Sureesh Mehta a couple of months ago, was candid as he made out the case for speeding up warship building in the country. The Navy had currently given orders for 34 ships in three different shipyards of the country, but the rate of delivery was only one ship per year, he said, adding that the Navy would be forced to go in for imports.

Over the next decade, the Navy's fleet strength will be 40 ships (34 from Indian shipyards and six from abroad) and 60 aircraft and an equal number of helicopters. The new orders will take the number of warships to 160 and aircraft to about 290. It currently has 130 ships and another 190 aircraft and helicopters in service.

In the next year alone, the Navy will get delivery of two frigates, six fast-attack crafts, two survey vessels and a fleet tanker.

The Admiral said he was in favour of having a larger private participation in warship building. Larsen and Toubro has set up the country’s largest shipyard in Tamil Nadu and had announced some two months ago that it was ready to take orders of the Navy.

He allayed fears that the post-26/11 Mumbai attacks, the Navy had changed its focus. It remained focussed on its primary task of the country's security on the high seas.

PC: Forces to be reduced in J-K

Twenty years after Pakistan-sponsored militancy took roots in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram today announced a reduction in force deployment levels in the state even as he himself admitted that it could be a “risky step.”

Replying to a passionate and - at times - a heated debate on internal security in the Rajya Sabha here this evening, the Home Minister said the Centre is willing to take "what appears to be a risky step" of withdrawing security forces and hand over law and order to the state police.

“We are willing to withdraw a significant number of battalions,” Chidambaram said, adding that he could not give the number of battalions due to security reasons. The Home Minister buttressed his announcement saying the incidents of violence in J&K have been the lowest in 2009.

“The number of civilian and security forces casualties has been the lowest this year. The forces have been stopping infiltrations and neutralising the militants. Festivals like the Id and Gurpurab have been peaceful. Thousands of Sikhs took out a procession in the valley to mark Gurpurab,” the Home Minister said. The Amarnath Yatra was peaceful while lakhs continue to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine in the state.

On terrorism, the Home Minister said India is as vulnerable to a terror attack today as it was a few months ago because terrorist groups have forged alliances against the country. But he added, “God forbid, should there be any terrorist attack, our response will be swift and decisive." He said over a dozen attempts have been foiled.

Without naming Pakistan, Chidambaram said even while there has not been any terrorist attack in the last one year, the country cannot lower its guard because “our adversary has not changed its attitude...” he said while adding that “You will note that I am using the word adversary and not enemy...” The epicentre of the cross border terrorism is the junction point of Afghanistan and Pakistan and “… we are vulnerable”.

On Naxals, the Home Minister took on the civil society that justified the violent methods of the Naxals. “The civil society says the Naxal cause is right.. while Naxals describe the state as an enemy, they say the Parliament is a rotten system and believe in armed struggle to seize power. For them, the police, the paramilitary and the Army are enemies.

The time has come for the nation to decide how to deal with them,” he said. The Minister said that the government would use force to re-assert wherever we have lost control over an area. “There can be no development unless the government controls the area,” the Home Minister added.

On ULFA, he said was likely to make a political statement in the next few days and that the government was ready to talk to them. He said the government policy would be zero tolerance towards the Jihadi or Hindu militants. “Terrorism is inspired by religious fanatics… no one should blame all Muslims or Hindus.”

BJP members Prakash Javadekar, Balbir Punj and SS Ahluwalia objected to his statement of “Hindu militancy”. Chidambaram said whether it is Islamic terrorism or Hindu militancy, there has to be zero tolerance.

Indian airspace violated 11 times: Antony

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Pakistan and China violated Indian airspace six and three times respectively in the past one year, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Wednesday.

In a written reply to a question in parliament, Antony said US aircraft entered the Indian airspace illegally on two occasions.

In May, a slow moving aircraft of the Chinese Air Force crossed the international border. On June 21 and 24, two Chinese helicopters entered the Indian airspace.

Pakistan’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle crossed the Line of Control (LoC), which divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, five times.

Twice US transport and cargo aircraft entered the Indian territory without proper authorisation.

‘All such cases are taken up with the concerned country through diplomatic channels as per established procedure,’ Antony added.

Political indecision should not hamper weapon upgradation

The Army has been looking for frontline artillery for the last 24 years but scandals regarding the purchase of weapons have caused unprecedented delay affecting the morale of the army. From the sanctioned 47 squadrons of the Indian Air Force (IAF) the strength has depleted to 31 squadrons in the last six decades due to the indecisiveness of policy makers, said G Parthasarathy, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan who was in the city to deliver Kakasaheb Gadgil lecture organised by Kakasaheb Gadgil Pratishthan.

He said India should strengthen its covert capabilities along with strengthening of the diplomatic ties. “Chinese policy is containment of India. It is well known that Pakistan nuclear weapon programme is taking place with the support of China. India needs to strengthen its military base near its border,” he said lauding the tough Indian stand during the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang

He said that Pakistan government was controlled by the Army and the pressure exerted now by opposition in Pakistan to handover the powers of president to prime minister was the handiwork of Pakistan Army. “ It was Political leaders in Pakistan who nurtured the terror outfits one time or the other. Taliban was first supported by Benazir Bhutto for domestic gains and to gain strategic depth inside the Afgan region. Likewise, Nawaz Sharif working along with ISI, patronised and supported Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT),” he added.

He said when China has land and sea border disputes with almost all neighbours from the north to the Bay of Bengal.

“It is unfair to project that India has border disputes with its neighbours. China’s aggressive nationalism and unity is its strength and India has to play according to its strengths,” he said 

140 killed in 265 MiG fighter jet crashes

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has lost 265 MiG fighter jets in crashes during the last two decades leaving 140 people dead, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Wednesday.

'In the last two decades (since April 1989 and up to Nov 26, 2009), 265 MiG fighter aircraft of the IAF have crashed. A total of 96 service personnel and 44 civilians were killed in these cases,' Antony told the parliament in a written reply.

Dubbed 'flying coffins' for their frequent crashes, only 150-160 of the over 450 single-engine MiG-21s with the IAF are still in service. A large number have been lost in accidents during peace time.

Antony said that all precautions are being taken before flying the aircrafts.

'Each aircraft accident in the IAF is investigated through a court of inquiry and remedial measures are undertaken accordingly to check their recurrence in future.

'Besides continuous and multi-faceted efforts are always underway in the IAF to enhance and upgrade flight safety,' Antony added.

However, a senior IAF official said that because it faces a shortage of fighter squadrons, the IAF cannot afford to phase out the ageing MiG-21s. If it does that, it would diminish its force level drastically.

'The main problem with MiG-21s is that they are very old and the on-board systems have become obsolete,' a highly-placed IAF official, who has flown the combat aircraft, told IANS.

The IAF, the world's fourth largest air force, currently has a fighter squadron strength of 33.5 against the sanctioned 39.

The Indian government has issued tenders for acquisition of 126 medium multi-role combat aircrafts but the acquisition has been delayed due to time consuming procedures, which include submitting of bids, technical evaluation of proposals from global military suppliers and field trials.

The first aircraft would conservatively be inducted only by 2020, according to defence ministry sources. The assessment is that the retirement of the five squadrons of MiG-21s will diminish the IAF's conventional edge over its adversaries.

The current deadline for the retirement of MiG-21s is 2011. But this is likely to be pushed back further due to the slow pace of procurement and indigenisation process.

The latest crash took place Sep 11 when a MiG-21 went down in Bathinda in Punjab, killing the pilot.

The MiG-21s, inducted in 1964, proved their worth in the 1971 war with Pakistan and again in 1999 during the Kargil conflict, also with Pakistan. The IAF inducted its first MiG-21 from the erstwhile Soviet Union five years after their induction into the Soviet Air Force. Thereafter some 450 MiG-21 jets were inducted in the IAF to bolster its strength.

The indigenous LCA (light combat aircraft) project has been marred with delays because of the inability of military research bodies to provide engines with right configuration for the aircrafts. 

Indian air force grounds fighter jets after crash

All 100 such planes have been grounded as the IAF carries out "precautionary checks" following the crash.

Two crew members managed to eject from the Russian-designed Sukhoi-30MKI just before the crash on Monday.

Last month Indian President Pratibha Patil rode in a Sukhoi jet, becoming the first Indian woman to do so.

Monday's crash was the second such incident involving a Sukhoi fighter jet this year. The air force is believed to have sought assistance from Russia for this investigation, the Times of India reported.

China not a threat to us: Navy Chief

Admiral Nirmal Verma told CNN-IBN’s Vishal Thapar the Navy was acquiring 30 warships, which would strengthen India’s growing role to ensure peace and stability in the region.

Verma said the Indian Navy’s exercises were not targeted at any nation and intended to test its capability. “We've had a series of (naval) exercises and these exercises have been very heartening and very comforting. These exercises were no different from the Army exercises,” he said.

“We are very sure of our maritime interests and we prepare for that. It maybe that some others might also have their interests in the same region but I don't see any reason for worry.”

Verma claimed India’s neighbours were not worried by its plans to acquire warships. “As far as our neighbours are concerned, they also welcome it, because there are many of them who don't have the assets to acquire such things,” he said.Verma said several nations had requested India for maritime security because of increasing piracy.

Army court’s report on land scam awaited: Gen Kapoor

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor Wednesday said he was yet to get a report of a court of inquiry which has indicted two senior-ranking generals in a land deal.

“I will get it once it is finalized by the presiding officer. Once the court of inquiry is finalized, it goes to the convenient authority. When the authority approves the court of inquiry then we will think of what is to be done. It will come to me after that,” Kapoor told reporters.

A court of inquiry found that two top generals, Lt. Gen. Awadesh Prakash and Lt. Gen P.K. Rath, “blame worthy” in bending rules to give no-objection certificate (NoC) to sale of state-owned land to a private builder for building a school near Sukna cantonment in Darjeeling, West Bengal.

An NoC is mandatory for sale of land adjacent to military stations due to security reasons.

The defence ministry is also awaiting the army court’s report. According to ministry officials, Defence Minister A.K. Antony himself has sought the report.

“Whenever there is a irregularity in the procedure, a court of inquiry is held. And as soon as the ministry gets to know about the findings, we will also like an explanation,” Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju told reporters outside parliament.

Prakash is currently posted as director general military services at the army headquarters here. The army also cancelled Rath’s appointment as the deputy chief of army staff after his name figured in the controversy.