Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Israel defence links grow


A high-level team from the Israel defence establishment will hold talks here tomorrow with Indian military and security officials on missile shield, cyber warfare and electronic surveillance as they chart the course for bilateral military ties over the next two years.
Neither New Delhi nor Tel Aviv advertises the intensity of their defence relationship, but the frequency of visits and booming arms sales by Israel are evidence of how robust the ties are.

This is the second visit by a high-level Israeli military team to India this month. The chief of the Israeli defence forces, Lt General Gabi Ashkenazi, visited Delhi in the second week of December.
Earlier in November, India’s chief of army staff and the chairman, chiefs of staff committee, General Deepak Kapoor, had visited Israel.

The Israeli delegation to tomorrow’s meeting of a joint working group on defence co-operation will be led by Brigadier General (retired) Pinchas Buchris, the director general in Tel Aviv’s defence ministry. Buchris last visited India in January 2008.The Indian side will be led by defence secretary Praveen Kumar.

Buchris is likely to step down in January following an offer to resign amid a row over appointments with Israel defence minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

For nearly three years now, Buchris has been overseeing Israel’s defence relationship with India, Tel Aviv’s biggest buyer of arms, ammunition and security systems. Israel’s military sales to India in the last five years have topped $5 billion.

The sales could, however, be affected because of a ban on trading with Israeli Military Industries (IMI), which supplies special forces equipment and has joint ventures with India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to manufacture ammunition. The ban was imposed pending investigation into charges that the Israel government-owned firm was close to the former chief of the OFB who was arrested on charges of accepting bribes.

The issue of the blacklisting of the IMI is likely to figure in the talks because not only is it affecting sales, it could also be counter-productive for the Indian military that uses Israeli military hardware in large measure.

Also on the table for discussions are a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aircraft Industries to co-produce a long-range surface-to-air missile for the Indian Navy and a medium-range surface-to-air missile for the Indian Air Force.

The initial cost of the long-range missile project is estimated to be over Rs 2,600 crore and that of the medium-range project nearly Rs 11,000 crore.

Buchris is scheduled to meet defence minister A.K. Antony, national security adviser M.K. Narayanan, the chiefs of the armed forces and DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat, who is also the scientific adviser to the defence minister.

2009 marks turning point in Indo-Russian ties


The year 2009 proved to be a turning point in the ties between India and Russia as the two strategic allies put aside the chill and 'misunderstandings' to re-discover each other in the changing global scenario and extended their defence cooperation for another decade.

Though western nations, mainly the US, is trying hard to enter India's multi-billion dollar lucrative arms market, the long-standing ties between New Delhi and Moscow are standing the test of time with India concluding a key deal this month to buy more Russian nuclear reactors.

High profile visits of President Pratibha Patil in September followed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in December and their parleys with the top Russian leadership put the relations back on track, derailed by what was seen in Moscow as New Delhi's pro-US tilt.

By signing an umbrella civilian nuclear deal and inter-governmental agreement during Singh's visit to extend the long-term India-Russia Military-Technical Cooperation Programme by another 10 years till 2020, New Delhi has given a 'political signal' that Moscow will remain its key strategic partner as in the past, sources in the PMO said.

Since November 2007, when Singh visited Russia for the annual bilateral summit towards the end of the then President Vladimir Putin's term, the relations, time-tested in the past, were clouded by the pricing of aircraft carrier Gorshkov and seemed to be heading nowhere.

Even President Dmitry Medvedev's maiden India visit in December 2008, cut short by one day due to demise of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, failed to melt the ice of Moscow's suspicion about New Delhi's 'drift' towards Washington in the wake of the nuclear deal signed during the Bush Administration.

The 'Year of India in Russia' was also celebrated in 2009 after the success of the 'Year of Russia in India' in 2008.

The brainchild of the erstwhile President Putin, the year long cultural fests of the two countries in India and Russia, were projected to invoke the force of people's diplomacy to rejuvenate the traditional ties, by involving the younger generations of the two countries.

In the second innings of the UPA Government, Prime Minister Singh undertook his first foreign visit to Russia in June to attend the summits of BRIC and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Yekaterinburg and gave a signal of special importance India attaches to its relations with Russia.

According to Tatiana Shaumyan, Director of Centre of Indian Studies of the Oriental Institute of the Russian Science Academy, the Kremlin did not fail to notice Singh's gesture, which to a great extent dispersed the 'India falling into the lap of Americans notion widely subscribed in Russia'.

However, the ice of 'misunderstandings' in the bilateral ties was finally broke by President Patil when she visited in Moscow in early September.

Sahumyan said: "Although in the Indian political system, role of the President is considered to be mostly ceremonial, but this wont be true in case of President Pratibha Patil, who perhaps played a key role in re-introducing the traditional warmth in bilateral relations through her personal 'charm' by mesmerising Medvedev and Putin."

During her Russia visit, President Patil managed to reassure the ruling Kremlin tandem that India's engagement with the US was not at the cost of relations with Russia.

This message was repeatedly conveyed by Commerce, Defence and External Affairs Ministers Anand Sharma, A K Antony and S M Krishna respectively during their Moscow visits to prepare for the trade, defence and economic agenda of Prime Minister Singh's annual summit talks on December 7 with President Medvedev and parleys on economic cooperation with Prime Minister Putin.

On its part, Russia also realised the Indian sentiments on the Gorshkov upgrade project's cost escalation and delay in delivery of the much-needed aircraft carrier and its impact on the overall climate of the bilateral relations.

Two weeks after his Yekaterinburg talks with Singh, Medvedev travelled to the Sevmash shipyard in the White Sea town of Severodvinsk and blasted the management, bureaucrats and ministers involved in the Gorshkov project saying it has become the "sole irritant in the Russian-Indian relations".

Earlier, Putin had flown to Komsomolsk-on-Amur to take appropriate measures and arrange extra finances for completing the trials of accident hit 'Akula-II' class the Nerpa nuclear attack submarine to be leased to the Indian Navy.

The Indo-Russian CEO's Council meeting on the sidelines of Singh's visit was a major event, which opened the gates for full blooded economic cooperation and trade between the two nations, which have set the ambitious target of $20 billion bilateral trade by 2015 double the $10 billion target set for 2010.

The global meltdown, which hit Russia the worst among the BRIC economies, prodded strongman Putin to focus on economic ties with Asia in general and India in particular.

"Strengthening the strategic partnership with India remains one of the key priorities of Russia's foreign policy. This to full extent applies to interaction on the global arena, as well as to the development of multi-faceted economic relations," Putin said at Indo-Russian CEO's Council meet.

Putin, who is scheduled to visit India in March 2010 at the invitation of Prime Minister Singh, is keen to bring about 'qualitative' changes in the bilateral economic ties.

"We see, that cooperation with India has acquired real anti-crisis stability, it is not afraid of sharp fluctuations in the global economic conjuncture. Now our task is to move further, activate the whole arsenal of opportunities for the diversification of Russian-Indian contacts," Putin declared.

Since he has the reputation of a 'man of words and deeds' the Russian strongman's forthcoming visit to India could make 2010 an 'Year of India and Russia'.

Jawan injured in LoC firing dies



Jammu, Dec 20 (PTI) The BSF jawan, who was injured in cross-border firing along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir yesterday, succumbed to his injures last evening.

One of the three jawans injured in the firing, Mukesh Chand of 47th Battalion of BSF succumbed to his injuries in the Army hospital in Poonch last evening, Army officials said.

Pakistani troops intermittently fired on Kranti Post in Mendhar sector between 1030 hours and 1100 hours yesterday and injured three jawans they said, adding, Indian troops did not retaliate.

While Mukesh succumbed to injuries, the other two Pawan Kumar and S Jogi were said to be out of danger.

There have been 27 incidents of such ceasefire violations till November 25 by Pakistan along the Line of Control, Army sources said.

India wary as China spreads Nepal reach


New Delhi, Dec. 21: When Nepal army chief Chhatraman Singh Gurung was being feted with the honorary rank of general in the Indian Army here last week, his deputy was quietly signing a deal with a visiting Chinese military delegation in Kathmandu.

To analysts in Kathmandu, the two developments will inevitably evoke a familiar description of Nepal -- that of “a yam stuck between two boulders”. The boulders, of course, are India and China.
But in New Delhi, the military establishment is concerned that India’s army and government are risking losing a space they have traditionally held on to.

General Torun Jung Bahadur Singh, who was acting as army chief in Kathmandu in the absence of Gurung, signed a deal with Major General Jia Jialing, deputy director in the foreign relations cell of the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army. The Chinese pledged 20.8 million yuan (Rs 14.2 crore approximately) as aid for “non lethal” military equipment.

Nepal’s ammunition-starved army is looking for newer and surer sources of supply since India began turning off the tap of military aid in 2001 and then almost brought it to a halt in 2005.

To the defence establishment in New Delhi, the signs are unmistakable: China is stepping-in in Nepal just as it had in Sri Lanka and before that in Myanmar because India has been chary of continuing with military aid to neighbours beset by domestic troubles.

Sri Lanka has all but moved on after brutally crushing the three-decade LTTE insurgency with military might in May this year. Sri Lanka’s army was using Chinese weaponry and ammunition apart from the outdated Indian equipment it had in its arsenal.

In Myanmar, where India was shy of courting the military junta because of Delhi’s political support to the democracy movement of Aung San Suu Kyi and the fear of international criticism, it has stepped up visits and exchanges. Three years ago, India even supplied field guns and a maritime surveillance aircraft to Myanmar.

But by then the Chinese were everywhere, investing in Myanmar’s ports, highways and industries and helping prop up its army militarily.

For the military establishment in India, the waning of goodwill in Sri Lanka and Myanmar is a loss that it is now trying to make up. In Nepal, senior Indian Army officers say, there cannot be a waiting period.

Nepal is vastly different for India from the island nation or from Myanmar. With neither of those countries does India have an open border. The unique India-Nepal relationship grants reciprocal citizenship rights (minus voting rights) to the residents of each country. Nepalese Gorkhas serve in the Indian Army in large numbers.

The move to fete General Gurung and resume arms supplies to Nepal’s army, sources argue, should be seen in this context — and not merely from the point of view of touching off sensitivities among the Himalayan nation’s Maoists.

One officer said that when Prachanda headed the government before being forced to quit over the reinstatement of the former Nepal army chief, General Rukmangad Katawal, there were moves by Kathmandu to get closer to China.

Prachanda’s defence minister and former chief of the Nepal Maoists’ militia, Ram Bahadur Thapa (Badal), visited Beijing in September 2008. The Chinese army’s deputy chief, Lt Gen Ma Ziaotian, who also oversees India-China military relations and was in charge of their two joint drills, met Prachanda in December last year.

Now, Prachanda’s successor and Nepal’s current Prime Minister, Madhav Nepal, is scheduled to visit China on December 26.

The Chinese have expressed concern over the Tibetan protests in Nepal at a time Kathmandu is reported to have sought Indian military help to build an airstrip for its army’s air wing in Surkhet near Nepal’s border with Tibet. The Nepal Maoists have been quick to allege that India intends to use such an airstrip as a base for operations against China in the event of hostilities.

After being given his honorary rank and hosting General Deepak Kapoor at a lavish reception in the Nepalese embassy in Delhi last week, General Gurung is understood to have invited the Indian Army chief to Kathmandu.

Traditionally, a new Indian Army chief’s first visit has been to Nepal where he, too, is given the honorary rank. Kapoor’s predecessor, General J.J. Singh, now governor of Arunachal Pradesh, was twice advised against visiting Nepal for the ceremony. Kapoor has visited many countries and is now in the last leg of his tenure.

Whether Kapoor will accept the invitation and visit Kathmandu before he retires early next year will be a demonstration of the Indian government’s diplomatic intent in the face of the resurgent Maoists in Nepal.

The resumption of arms supplies — armoured personnel carriers, Insas rifles, ammunition and possibly even tanks — to Nepal’s army and a visit by Kapoor will demonstrate not only New Delhi’s resolve in encouraging an “apolitical and professional” military in Nepal but also its determination to maintain its strategic and political space in the Himalayan country that China is nibbling into.

Now packaged biryanis, appetiser foods for Indian Army


Army personnel deployed in icy heights like Siachen and Kargil now can look forward to munch mutton and chicken biryanis or non-vegetarian sandwiches with all nutrients and taste attached, thanks to the efforts of a leading food laboratory.

In its bid to cater to growing demand for non- vegetarian food among defence personnel deployed in high- altitude places, Mysore-based Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) has developed specially prepared and packaged these delights that have a shelf life of one year.

These products had been developed based on non-thermal technology, which helps retain nutrients and taste of Indian food for a long time, DFRL Director Amarinder Singh Bawa said.

"We have developed these products after the Indian Army evinced interest in non-vegetarian fare.

Indian Army inducts UK-made ROVs for using in J&K

JAMMU (BNS): New improved Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) made in the United Kingdom have been inducted by Indian Army to use it against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Jammu and Kashmir.

"For the defusing of IEDs planted by the militants and avoid causalities in blasts, latest state-of-the-art technology of UK-made ROVs has been inducted in the operations here," according to a media report.

“The ROVs, remotely-controlled tracked vehicles designed to conduct investigation and deal with the IEDs, have recently been delivered to 115 engineers in the state along with several other Engineering units,” an army official was quoted as saying.

Latest technology of ROVs has a cable drum up to 150 meters and fiber optic cable up to 200 meters and can be controlled up to a distance of one km. They have chains like a tank or a JCB which make it different from the old ones.

“There is full-fledged command station, which acts as a control centre for remote operating and monitoring ROV. The station has several latest tools to deal with IEDs, including manipulator shotgun, disrupt laser, mechanical grab, car towing equipment and X-ray system,”  the official said.