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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Flight trials on Gorshkov to begin on July 15

Indian and Russian teams on board Admiral Gorshkov, to be inducted in the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya meaning "Brave as the Sun"

Vikramaditya preparing to leave harbour for sea trials in White Sea (off Russian coast)

Vikramaditya at anchor in White Sea (off Russia)

Vikramaditya initial steaming during sea trials

The flight trials on board INS Vikramaditya will begin on July 15 as Russian MiG-29Ks will land and take off from the flat top carrier as part of the pre-delivery trials. Both Indian and Russian crew have got on-board the leviathan but the trials will be carried by the Russians only. The sea trials have been on since June 9.

During the flight trials the navigation, landing through arrestor wires and ski-jump take-offs.  The Indian crew will conduct the delivery acceptance trials once they take over the warship.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

CCS to consider 22 attack choppers deal in July

Another defence deal is going to fall in the kitty of US, as the Indian Air Force (IAF) has chosen the American Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Longbow Block-III over the Russian Mi-28N Night Hunter for supplying the 22 attack helicopters and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is expected to give its nod shortly. 

The trial report of the two was submitted to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2011, and according to sources, the Russian entry into the tender lost out on technical reasons. The IAF will be purchasing 22 attack helicopters worth $ 1.4 billion, including of training, support and spares.

“The Russian entry lost as it was found to be non-compliant on as many as 20 parameters,” officials said.

Both the helicopters were tried in deserts and at high altitude airbase in Leh.

“The proposal will come up for consideration in the CCS next month,” sources added.

The Ah-64 D Apache is a four-blade, twin engine attack helicopter with a tail wheel-type landing gear arrangement and a tandem cockpit for two-man crew.

The 22 helicopters deal is part of the IAF’s revamping of its rotary wing fleet – primarily consisting of Chetak/Cheetah and Russian Mi series helicopter. The Apaches will be the first US helicopter in the IAF’s inventory and will replace Mi-35 attack helicopters of Russian vintage.

Besides this, the US contender Chinook CH-47 is the frontrunner with the Russian Mi-26 helicopters for the heavy-lift category. The deal is worth $ 2 billion and the force intends to buy 15 of these units.

Even as the US lost out the big-ticket deal for supplying 126 fighter jets to the IAF, the Indo-US defence deals have been on the rise in the past. The two countries have signed defence deals valuing more than $ 10 billion in the last 5 years. Deals worth many more billions are in the offing. The major deals include acquiring six more C-130 J Super Hercules aircraft, four more P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, Jaguar engine upgrades, M-777 ultra-light howitzers and AH-64D attack helicopters.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sluggish economy puts MoD’s demand for more money on hold

In the wake of the slow economic growth causing concern amongst the policymakers, the Defence Ministry has put its plan to seek an additional budget of around Rs. 50,000 crore for the year 2012-13 on hold.

When the Finance Minister had announced the 2012-13 defence budget of Rs. 1,93,000 crore, Defence Minister AK Antony had made it known that the amount was 15.5 percent less than the estimated requirement of the services. Antony announced that as per projections his ministry needed Rs. 2,39,123 crores in total and thus they will require an additional amount of Rs 45,716 crores.

“The budget estimates were given in accordance with the assessment of the new emerging threat perception from neighbouring countries and the forces required it to meet the new challenges. However, with the other ministries facing cut, the defence ministry has also put the proposal of its demand in cold storage,” sources said.

Keeping in pace with the emerging threat scenario around India, the Indian Armed Forces – Army, Navy and Air Force- have been undergoing heavy modernization in the recent years. A reflection of this is that unlike about a decade of lost modernization when its sluggish acquisition processes resulted in unspent defence budgets year after year, the Defence Ministry has managed to completely spend the defence budget for the second consecutive year in 2011-12. In fact, the Ministry had sought an additional budget of over Rs. 3,000 crore.

For the year 2012-13, Antony had said: “But because of the changing threat perception, our Armed Forces need more aircraft, more warships, more tanks, more helicopters, and so on. All these things need more money.” In the current financial year, the Defence Ministry is expected to conclude the largest open tenders to buy 126 medium multi-role fighter aircrafts at an estimated value of Rs. 48,000 crore along with scores of other multi-billion dollar tenders for artillery, helicopters and warships reaching final stages.

In comparison to the defence budget of Rs.1.70 lakh crore in 2011-12, this year Indian defence budget was 13.15 percent higher at Rs 1.93 lakh crore, out of which Rs. 79, 579 crore was to be spent on purchase of new weapons and platforms.  The hike though considerable as per the Indian standards will be no match to the country’s eastern neighbor. China’s increased budget has continued to cause concern in India. According to Pentagon’s South Asian Defence and Strategic Year Book China’s total military spending has increased by 189 percent between 2001 and 2010, an average annual increase of 12.5 percent. As per data, China is the second largest spender of defence after the US and India comes at position 9.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Singaporean Air Force using Indian base to cough up more

By Devirupa Mitra
New Delhi: Arguing that maintenance costs have gone up, India has asked its best friend in South East Asia to cough up more money in exchange for using its military bases for the training of the Singapore Royal Air Force. 

The two countries are racing against time to complete negotiations for renewing the lease agreement with Singapore for long-term basis, with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong scheduled to arrive in India in the second week of July.

"We have asked for more money due to the current economic situation... We hope to reach an agreement with the Singaporeans soon," said a senior government official.

India has had a long tradition of defence relations with Singapore, which has given high priority to its military preparedness following its bitter split from Malaysia in 1965. 

But, in October 2007, India for the first time allowed a foreign country to station its foreign troops and defence facilities on a long-term basis – which was a demonstration of India’s reliance on Singapore as an anchor for its Look East policy. 

The bilateral agreement for the conduct of joint military training and exercises in India between IAF and Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) was signed in Delhi, as part of the annual Defence Policy Dialogue. 

Incidentally, Singapore and India have also signed a similar bilateral agreement for army training, but it will come up for renewal next year.

For Singapore, which has an area of just 700 square kilometer, overseas training for its fighter pilots primarily flying F-16 fighter jets is necessary, in the absence of any suitable open tracts of land and airspace. 

“It has been a win-win situation for both sides. We get upgraded facilities, while they get space to conduct their exercises,” said the senior official. 

In the last five years, Singapore has set up its own facilities at Kalaikonda air base in West Bengal, including residential block and stores. 

“Singapore has similar agreement with other countries like United States and Australia, but the training comes here at a comparatively cost effective ate,” said the official, adding that they expected the escalation of price to be easily afforded by the prosperous city-state. 

Singapore has been the fourth highest defence spender in the world on per capita terms, after US, Israel and Kuwait.  

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released Monday, it is also the fifth largest importer of arms for the last five years. This year, Singapore had allotted nearly 24 percent of its annual budget towards defence, amounting to $9.6 billion.

For India, Singapore has been its most vocal supporter in the regional security architecture. It is also India’s largest trading partner in ASEAN. 

Economy slowdown hits strategic rail lines' construction

Economic downturn has hit the infrastructure-building along the Line-of-Actual Control (LAC) as the Finance Ministry has expressed its inability to spare Rs. 80,000 crore to construct six strategic railway lines in the regions bordering rising China.
Even as China had laid down 10,000 km long rail network in the adjacent Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the “commercially non-viable” yet strategically important railway lines on the Indian side are founding no takers in the Railway Ministry or the Finance Ministry.

The Indian Army had proposed construction of 14 strategic lines in the Ladakh and north-eastern regions of the country- six of these lines have been accorded top most priority by the Ministry of Defence to bulwark Indian defences. “Six of these lines in the mountainous terrain will entail cost of Rs. 80,000 crore. The Railway Ministry has shown inability to spare that kind of amount for these commercially non-viable links. The Finance Ministry has also said that it cannot spare this much amount at the moment,” sources said, adding the economic slowdown has made the Ministry of Finance to postpone commitment to the construction of rail network in the border areas.

The delay in moving forward on these construction projects can cause India dearly as China is moving at a feverish pace on this front. The infrastructure development in the TAR region along the 4,057 km long Indo-Chinese border has given the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) the capability to move around 4,50,000 soldiers to the border within 30 days that will mean three Chinese soldiers for one Indian soldier.

The proposed Indian railway lines are aimed at quick troop mobilization and logistics sustenance if the rivalry around the unresolved Indo-China border. The Indian Army’s last hopes are now pinned on the Planning Commission to implement these projects at the earliest. Most of these projects are located in the North-East, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Some of the important railway projects in North East are Missamari (Assam) to Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), North Lakhimpur (Assam) to Along (Arunachal Pradesh) and Murkongselek (Assam)-Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh). Tawang is strategically important to India and is one region in the North east claimed by the Chinese. Inclement weather in the region make it difficult to maintain supply routes.

In the north, the key rail projects are Jammu-Akhnoor-Poonch, Rishikesh-Karanprayag and Tanakpur-Bageshwar (Uttarakhand) besides others. The objective is to have all-weather connectivity and provide weapons, food and other essential items to forward posts.

Tatra fall out: PSU loses status of Most Favoured Suppliers

In an important fallout of the public sector undertaking Bharat Earth Movers Ltd  (BEML) selling "over-priced" Tatra trucks to the Indian Army, Defence Minister AK Antony has instructed the three service Chiefs that PSU's shall not be the preferred in awarding defence contracts.

Antony had told this to Admiral Nirmal Verma, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne and General Bikram Singh during the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting at South Block on Friday.

According to sources while underlining the importance of "indigenisation", the Defence Minister said: "awarding contracts on nomination basis to the PSU's will be discouraged. Greater competition will be infused gradually."

Reiterating his commitment to "transparency" in the defence procurement, Antony told the DAC which decides what needs to be purchased and in what quantity for the armed forces said that the open tenders should be the norm in defence procurement unless situation demands urgency.

"Unless it (procurement) is operationally very important nomination should be discouraged," sources added.

This is a big news for the private players in the defence sector who have been demanding a level playing field in comparison to the Public Sector defence majors who have the advantage of sustained funding and captive buyers. In Antony's words, "The private players will be given level-playing field gradually. So that they do not complain in future," sources added.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Procurement worth Rs. 20,000 crore cleared by DAC

In a major boost to the aging Air Defence of the Indian Army, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Thursday cleared the procurement of three regiments of Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missiles (QRSAMs). The Indian Army will be floating tenders to replace its obsolete Russian Kvadrat missile systems. (The three units will be inducted in the 12th five year plan, while the rest five units will be inducted in the next five year plan).

The focus on the obsolete air defence came following the leak of the confidential letter written by former Indian Army Chief General VK Singh in March. The letter pointed out that 97 percent of the Air Defence of the force has become obsolete. 

Various other procurements were considered during the 2 hour-long marathon meeting attended by the three Defence Minister, Minister of State for Defence, Service Chiefs and Defence Secretary. Other projects cleared include-

1. Procurement of 14 Dornier aircraft of the Indian Air Force from public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) valuing around Rs. 1,000 crore
2. After the success of the pilot project of the Air Force Network (AFNET), plans to implement it across the country was also approved at the cost of Rs 7000 crore
3. Proposals of the Navy and the Coast Guard to procure 116 30 mm surface guns for their warships were also approved.

India, China inch closer on maritime security issue

In the face of overlapping strategic interests in the Indian Ocean Region and South China Sea, India and China on Thursday inched forward on the issue of maritime cooperation as both sides agreed to set up groups to facilitate exchange of information pertaining to maritime trade and security so that the competition does not escalate into a full-blown conflict.

Last year, the aggressive People’s Liberation Army (PLA)-Navy’s stance towards an Indian naval warship passing through South China Sea after giving visiting Vietnam, prompted both countries to put in place a maritime protocol to avoid skirmishes in high seas, something on the lines of arrangement between the US and the USSR during the peak of Cold War.

“India would set up an inter-ministerial group on its side while China would have an official team that would periodically exchange view of maritime issues relating to trade and security,” officials said. The decision was taken during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s talks with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the Rio+2- summit at Rio de Janeiro.

Calling for a de-escalatory mechanism in case of any “misunderstandings”, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma had said in December 2011 that such a “maritime protocol” was “under examination” by the government.  India already has an arrangement with China to deal with incidents at the 4,057 km-long land border, be it the intrusions of patrol parties with the latter, when border personnel hold talks at the local unit levels.

In 2011 amphibious assault Ship INS Airavat sailing at South China Sea had been threatened over the radio by a person identifying the area as Chinese territory and asking the Indian warship to back off. Earlier in 2009, China claimed its warships had forced an Indian submarine to surface after it was allegedly found tracking the movement of the Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean when these were on their way to join the anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden. 

India was also doing oil exploration in the South China Sea after purchasing the rights from Vietnam in a region claimed by China. Moreover, the increasing trade volume of China passing through Indian Ocean Region has translated into Beijing deploying more assets in the region to ensure security of its Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs). This perpetual alignment of trade interests has made Indian and Chinese navies to join hands in the Gulf of Aden to counter the menace of piracy.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Antony, Army Chief to review force’s modernization

Nearly a month after taking over the reins of Indian Army, General Bikram Singh will get down to business with Defence Minister AK Antony to review the modernization process of the force that has various issues like ammunition shortage, vintage artillery staring in its face.

Since the time former Indian Army Chief General VK Singh’s confidential letter to the Prime Minister detailing the “hollowness” of the force’s military preparedness leaked, Antony has conducted three review meetings so far to assess the ongoing modernization process and fast track critical acquisitions.

“The review meeting with General Bikram Singh will be first since he assumed office. The meeting will take place in the first week of July after giving a comfortable one month’s time to the new Chief to settle down in his office,” officials said.

General Bikram Singh has a daunting task cut out for him as the army aviation, tank ammunition and Artillery continues to remain Achilles Heel of the 1.2 million-strong force. Many of the key acquisition programmes like 197 light helicopters and; towed and self-propelled artillery guns have been in limbo for ages now.

Both the deals have run into rough weather again. “The Minister has been asking the officials of MoD and the Army to examine the possibility of compressing the time taken for technical evaluations and trials. The Defence Ministry has already increased the financial powers of the service chiefs threefolds and the fourth review meeting will take it forward.”

The force has “huge” gaps between the sanctioned and existing machines with the Army Aviation. As per data the Army is short of 155 helicopters and the existing Cheetah/Chetak helicopters used for maintenance at high altitude forward bases are ageing and in dire need of replacement. However, the efforts to replace the rotor wing machines have been stalled repeatedly as the tender for 197 helicopters was scrapped in 2007 and the new tender is also on the verge of cancellation.

There has been no forward movement on the artillery procurement since the time Singapore Kinetics got blacklisted on corruption charges in 2009 hitting the Army’s modernization plan badly. Ammunition is another area of concern and the situation is further aggravated as the Nalanda Ordnance Factory is yet to become operational after Israeli Munitions Industries was banned following corruption charges.

Both – Antony and General Bikram Singh – are expected to deliberate on the issues when they get down to business in their first review meeting.

Peep into Indian naval warships in Oman

Indian Navy's ships, including its lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat, are on their western deployment to Oman.INS Viraat will be opened for Omani and Indian nationals from 10am to 4pm tomorrow (June 22).

Visitors to the ship have to carry proof of their identity.

Visitors have also been requested to park their vehicles at Jibroo yard and collect coupons for entry into the port. Coupons will also be available on Indian School Darsait premises. Shuttle buses would be available for visitors to ferry them to the ships from the parking area.

India-Oman relations are exceptionally close, having reached the level of a strategic partnership and it is in this framework that Indian naval ships will be making a port call to Muscat between June 21 and June 23.

The ships coming to Muscat include aircraft carrier INS Viraat, stealth frigate INS Talwar and indigenously built guided missile frigate INS Ganga. These
three ships are part of the Western Fleet of the Indian Navy. Captain AB Singh, VSM, Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier INS Viraat is the Officer in Tactical Command for this Carrier Task Group.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pics from Indo-Chinese Passex

Six years after Indian Naval ships gave a port call at a Chinese port. Here are some pics of the Passex conducted between two countries.

On completion of the four day visit to Shanghai, INS Shivalik and PLA(N) Ma’anshan conducted passage exercises comprising naval manouevers, communication exercises and cross deck helicopter landings. 

Photos Courtesy Indian Navy

Sunday, June 17, 2012

After Siachen talks freeze, eyes on Sir Creek talks

With "frank" Indo-Pak talks on the issue of Siachen Glacier – the highest battlefield in the world – failed to reach any resolution due to Islamabad's non-willingness to climb down from its position, the June 18-19 negotiations on Sir Creek falling between Indian Kutch region and Pakistan's Sindh province are likely to meet the same fate.

According to sources, when Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma met his Pakistani counterpart Nargis Sethi in the Garrison city of Rawalpindi" frank exchange of views" took place. Sharma is said to have told the Pakistani delegation that the history of Indo-Pak relations especially in the light of Kargil conflict in 1999, does not advise any "drastic" change at the 72-km-long Siachen Glacier.

"The Defence Secretary also informed the Pakistani delegation, which was keen for demilitarization of the Glacier, that in the light of historical precedence the Indian government's position is very difficult and any withdrawal would become very difficult to explain to its citizens as Pakistan has proved to be untrustworthy time and again," sources said.

"Even as Pakistan had been making noises of reaching a resolution on the Siachen Glacier issue in the aftermath of losing 130 soldiers in a massive avalanche, it was not willing to accede to our demand of authenticate the present troop positions on the ground," sources added.

Now all eyes are on the June 18 talks on about 100-km long Sir Creek that will be held in New Delhi. The Sir Creek dispute consists of three parts – a land boundary from Rajasthan to Gujarat, the water channel and the maritime boundary. While the land boundary is more or less agreed upon, the delineation of boundary in Sir Creek channel is the main bone of contention with the maritime boundary also hinging upon it. Sir Creek is important as it will decide the Exclusive Economic Zone in the sea falling in both 
country's control and the ability to use the Creek waterway for naval and civil shipping.

The dispute has been about a 100 year-old. In 1913 for the first time the area was contested by Rao Saheb of Kutch and Chief Commissioner of Sindh. The Government of Bombay gave a verdict in 1914, which forms genesis of the Sir Creek dispute between India and Pakistan post independence in 1947.

While Pakistan has been citing Paragraph 9 of the verdict to claim that boundary lies to the east of Sir Creek implying that the region belongs to Pakistan. India, on the other hand, cites Paragram 10 that indicates that the Creek remains navigable for the complete year and brings in international Thalweg principle. As per this principle, if a water body between two countries is navigable for the most of the year the boundary has to be fixed in its middle and it is to be divided between the two countries equally.

The negotiations on the issue received a major boost as the two countries agreed to conduct a joint hydrographic survey of the area to ascertain its navigability. The Creek was found to be entirely navigable by naval units of both the countries and the report finding was Okayed by both the sides. 

According to officials in 2008, however, Pakistan did another flip-flop and refused to accept the established navigability and thus the applicability of Thalweg principle.

Vice Admiral (retd) BR Rao, who as Chief Hydrographer of the country was part of the joint survey conducted by the two countries in 2007 told the Defence Express, "In my personal opinion the main channel of Sir Creek will be difficult to resolve because of democratic government on both sides making giving away of even one inch of land inconceivable. One can presume that the resolution of main channel will only by political masters."

Vice Admiral Rao who has been part of negotiations of maritime boundary disputes with Bangladesh and Myanmar, suggested delinking of the maritime boundary issue that will decide the Exclusive Economic Zone from the land boundary dispute. "Maritime boundary starts from where land boundary ends.

But in absence of a land reference point I advised to delineate maritime boundary seawards. Both the countries had agreed on boundary from 200 nautical miles away from coast to 150 nautical miles towards the land.

"During this time Musharraf (Pakistan President) was keen to resolve the maritime boundary issue. In fact the Pakistan delegation told us that they could resolve the maritime boundary issue in 5-10 minutes but they would like to consider all the three issues in composite, which means the solution will not be anytime soon."

Over a period of time the geography of the region as also changed with the channel of the Creek changing its course to westwards. Citing this Pakistan in the 2011 Sir Creek talks staked claim on the mouth of Sir Creek and the adjoining creek on India side known as Pir Sanai creek. The land mass dividing Peer Sanai Creek and Sir Creek in old maps has disappeared over these years. The unreasonable position of Pakistan derailed the talks last year, with only take away was the willingness to meet again.

The Peer Sanai Creek is important for India as it is used by its naval
assets. Pakistan's control over the mouth of the Creek would give it a leverage to block it for use by Indian warships and merchant vessels. In the 2011 talks a critical Indian concession also did not find favours with Pakistan. As the Channel of Creek changed its course to West and equal division of the water body would have meant a closer boundary with Sindh province much to the discomfort of Pakistan. Keeping this in mind India conceded to ignore the westward lunge of the channel and divide it equally
from the middle.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lt Gen Suhag named Eastern Army Commander

Ending weeks of speculations over the elevation of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag – presently heading the Dimapur-based 3 Corps - the government on Friday announced his appointment as the Commander of strategically important Eastern Army Command. 

Tipped to take over as reins of the 1.2 million-strong Indian Army from the incumbent General Bikram Singh, Lt Gen Suhag’s promotion had come under fire as the outgoing chief General (retd) VK Singh issued a show cause notice to him and put a Disciplinary and Vigilance ban on him thereby stalling his promotion.

“Lt Gen Suhag’s appointment has been cleared and in all likelihoods he will take over as the Eastern Army Commander on Monday,” defence officials said. The announcement has come days after General Singh lifted the DV ban against him paving the path of his promotion.

Indian crew gets onboard Admiral Gorshkov

The home-coming of Russian-built aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov has got a major boost as the complete Indian crew has got on board the floating-deck carrier.

According to sources the Indian crew will be part of the flight trials on board Admiral Gorshkov, rechristened as INS Vikramaditya, will begin soon.

 CNS Admiral Nirmal Verma after extensive tour of Vikramaditya in July last year
“The complete crew of Gorshkov – over a thousand people – has got on board the warship. The flight trials will begin soon and Russian fighter jets will undertake these trials,” sources added. The MiG-29 Ks fighter jets that will operate from this warship once it touches Indian shores on December 4 are presently conducting shore-based flying from Goa. The pilots have been undertaking training in the US to take off and land on an aircraft carrier.

“The crew of Gorshkov comprises of both experience sailors and fresher. Many of the crew-members have already served on board the Indian Navy’s lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat,” sources added. While the delivery date of the warship is fixed certain trials of the aircraft carrier will be done post its induction in the force.

The platform will be handed over to the Indian Navy finally sometime in November this year thereafter it will begin its voyage to Indian shores.

Monday, June 11, 2012

India-Pakistan begin Siachen talks amidst clamour for demilitarization

Amidst growing clamour from the peace activists from both the countries to turn the world’s highest battlefield- Siachen Glacier- into “Mountain of Peace”, India and Pakistan on Monday began the defence secretary-level talks on the issue in Rawalpindi, the Garrison City of Pakistan. 

Even as Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani has sent feelers about softening of Paksitan’s stand on the issue in the aftermath of an avalanche in the region claiming lives of 140 Pakistani soldiers, nothing “dramatic” is likely to come out of the two-day talks. 

Indian Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma along with his Pakistani counterpart Nargis Sethi will hold talks to resolve the issue. Besides the delegation level meeting, the two defence secretaries are slated to have a one-on-one meeting as well. Sharma is accompanied by defence ministry and foreign ministry officials; and Director General of Miltiary Operations.

The talks are in the series of talks held by the two countries to reach a mutually agreed upon solution on the issue. Last Secretary-level talks were held in mid-2011 in New Delhi without yielding any results.

Both the Armies continue arduous deployment on the frigid heights of Siachen Glacier since 1984, the price paid in terms of lives claimed by harsh weather and money spent by these two developing countries. Even though not a single shot has been fired in the Siachen (literally translating into Valley of Roses) Glacier since 2002, the loss of lives on both side of the continues. India lost 26 soldiers in last one year alone.

The issue came to fore as the Pakistan Army suffered its worst tragedy as 140 soldiers were entombed in the region after a massive avalanche in April. Emphasising that both countries needed to resolve the Siachen issue, General Kayani had blamed India for a tough stand.

The bone of contention is that while India has been seeking authentication of present troop deployment in the region before demilitarization, Pakistan has been insisting on the restoration of troop positions as agreed in 1972 Shimla agreement.

Indian troops are sitting on dominating positions on the Glacier with a great strategic value for acting as buffer between Chinese controller Shaksgam valley and Pakistan occupied Baltistan.

The root of imbroglio is that 1949 Karachi agreement mentions no demarcation of border between the two countries beyond a peak marked NJ-9842 for reference and mentions that thereafter the border lies northward of the Glacier. This leaves a room for interpretation.

Pakistan claims that the line joins NJ 9842 with Karakoram Pass, which is North West of NJ 9842. The Indian position is that the line runs towards the glaciers along the watersheds formed by the Saltoro Range as per the internationally accepted principle of border delineation.

IMA's Passing Out Parade

Sorry folks! Had been off on a road trip. Had attended Indian Military Academy (IMA) Dehradun's Passing Out Parade on June 9 and have been driving virtually incessantly for the past five days.

It was a memorable experience. The "josh" is almost contagious as young boys get their hard earned stars on the shoulders. I was so upbeat about watching the cap tossing ceremony. But the previous Indian Army chief  General VK Singh has done away with the practice as it was disrespecting the uniform.

 Here are some of the pics

Me outside IMA's Dakshin Dwar

The Gentlemen cadets paying homage to the martyrs at Hut of Remembrance a day prior to their PoP

 Pipping ceremony
The newly commissioned officers taking their first salute

Show some Josh

First casualty in Tatra scam: BEML Chief suspended

In a first casualty in the Tatra scam, that was exposed by the former Indian Army Chief General VK Singh, the Defence Ministry has suspended BEML Chief VRS Natarajan.
MoD's statement
"The Government has put the CMD of BEML Shri VRS Natarajan under suspension following a recommendation by the CBI that he should be kept away from the post to ensure fair investigation.    The charge of CMD has been given to P Dwarkanath, the senior most functional Director in BEML.  The CBI is currently investigating into various charges against Natarajan."

(Update at 7.32 pm

The Tatra Scam has claimed its first scalp as Defence Ministry on Monday suspended the defence major Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) Chief VRS Natarajan following CBI recommendations to ensure “fair” probe into the matter.

Natarajan, head of the ‘Navratna’ Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) BEML for 12 years, has been in the eye of storm since former Indian Army Chief General VK Singh blew off the lid from the irregularities in supply of the trucks from the Czech firm. The former Chief had levied charges that the trucks in service with the Indian Army for the last 25 years were “over-priced” and “sub-standard”.

In a brief statement Defence Ministry’s spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said: “The Government has put the Chief Managing Director of BEML VRS Natarajan under suspension following a recommendation by the CBI that he should be kept away from the post to ensure fair investigation.” Following Natarajan’s suspension BEML’s senior most functional director P Dwarkanath will officiate as the Public Sector Undertaking’s Chief.

However, the suspended BEML Chairman insisted that he would come out clean. “I respect the decision of the government. I will come out clean in the case,” Natarajan told reporters in Bangalore.
Earlier on June 6, the Defence Ministry had sought an explanation from Natarajan for going to the media threatening General VK Singh to either apologize or else he will be slapped with a defamation suit. The Ministry said that no permission was given to the BEML Chairman in this regard.

General VK Singh had kicked up a furore after he claimed that a bribe offer of Rs. 14 crore was made to him on behalf of Tatra trucks to clear more acquisition of these sub-standard trucks. The first of Tatra trucks were inducted into the Indian Army in 1986 and presently there are 7,000 of these trucks with the force. The Tatra trucks are the backbone of the Indian Army as its whole missile systems and Cold Start or “Pre-emptive” Strategy to mobilize troops swiftly is based on these trucks, with flexible axle – “the only of its kind in the world for on road and off road application”.

BEML used to manufacture the trucks in India under license from Vectra. By now BEML was envisaged to indigenize the trucks completely, but, only 60 percent of the heavy duty vehicles’ components are manufactured in India.

The Defence Ministry had ordered the CBI to probe Natrajan’s role in the dubious deal. Defence Ministry AK Antony had sanctioned the probe in February after a two-and-half-year-long inquiry by Ministry and BEML’s officials beginning 2009 confirmed the foul play.

BEML had come under scanner, after Antony’s Cabinet colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad wrote written a letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi alleging irregularities on the part of Navratna Company in the Tatra truck deals. The letter was then forwarded to the Defence Ministry for investigation. Azad had got the complaints from a DRDO official Dr. D Hanumanthappa
Following this the Defence Ministry claims that the vigilance wings of the Defence Ministry and BEML have been examining the matter and there have been communication between the CBI and the Chief Vigilance Officer of BEML on these allegations. It was after this inquiry that Antony sanctioned a CBI probe into the matter on February 21 this year.