Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Digging tubewells in an earthquake

During my recent visit to Kabul, it was clear that Hamid Karzai has chosen between Islamabad and Delhi. For an isolated and apprehensive Karzai, Pakistan is the more compelling partner.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Dec 10

India’s sway in Afghanistan has, over the last four decades, been an alternating saga of triumph and despair, driven largely by tumultuous events beyond our control. But now, for no reason other than negligence, New Delhi’s star is fading over Kabul and the rising sun is Pakistan’s.

Nine years ago, on the 13th of November, alongside a swarm of Tajik soldiers of the Northern Alliance, I entered a Kabul from where defeated Taliban stragglers were fleeing for their lives. From a no-go zone during the five nightmarish Taliban years, the Afghan capital was suddenly strongly pro-India. Having openly backed the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, New Delhi enjoyed close relations with Afghanistan’s new power centres, even with Hamid Karzai, a token Pashtun leader, who was grafted in to head a new government.

Over succeeding years, New Delhi burnished its image through the well-directed injection of some US $1.3 billion of humanitarian aid. India’s soft power contrasted pleasingly with the heavily armed soldiers that emblemized the presence of many countries, and with Pakistan’s brazen support for radical anti-Karzai groups, especially the Taliban, the Haqqani network and old-favourite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami. India looked good in the eyes of the Afghans and the world; and the lower price that we paid in lives gave us sustainability in Afghanistan, something that was denied many other countries by their concerned publics.

Ironically, the very success of this strategy may have engendered the complacency that prevented New Delhi from trimming its sails along with the changing strategic winds in Afghanistan. Washington’s decision to pull out troops from that country --- whether in 2011 or 2014 will be a mere historical detail --- has knocked the bottom out of India’s aid-led strategy, which rested on the foundation of security provided by the US-NATO combine. In the bedlam of a post-US Afghanistan, political presence and muscle will count for more than hearts and minds won.

From the presidential palace in Kabul, a beleaguered Hamid Karzai contemplates this reality: while Pakistan flaunts its proxies, India remains inexplicably unwilling to provide the overt political support that would reassure Karzai in confronting the looming threats. Unsurprisingly, the beleaguered Afghan president is dealing himself a playable hand by negotiating with the ISI-backed jehadi groups and cosying up with Islamabad.

Both these transgress the thickest of Indian red lines but India’s political leadership remains unconcerned, focusing apparently on domestic political survival rather than the impending death-by-neglect of a crucial foreign policy initiative. The prime minister has not visited Afghanistan in five years, even as Kabul fervently seeks an unambiguous gesture of Indian support. Meanwhile, numerous visits to India by senior Afghan ministers and officials remain unreciprocated by their Indian counterparts. And Indian industry, risk-averse and content with picking low-hanging fruit in sheltered areas, has proved unwilling to invest in that country.

If New Delhi is not to be marginalised once again in Kabul, it needs to address a key Afghan complaint that I heard repeatedly from senior Afghan officials during my return to that country this month: “India’s development aid, while deeply appreciated by the people of Afghanistan, cannot substitute for a political policy. As the pre-eminent power in South Asia, is India prepared to just build tube-wells in Afghan villages while the country falls into Pakistan’s lap?”

Adds Fahim Dashty, the vocally anti-Pakistan editor of Kabul Weekly: “Every Afghan, whether Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek or Hazara, regards India as a very good friend. But what is this friend prepared to do to prevent Afghanistan’s neighbours (meaning Pakistan and Iran!) from playing their games in our country? While those countries make their intentions clear, Kabul has no idea what New Delhi is prepared to do in Afghanistan”.

New Delhi must respond with clarity to these important questions from Kabul. India’s riposte to the setback in Afghanistan needs to begin with an overdue state visit by Dr Manmohan Singh to Afghanistan, something that would be recognised in Kabul as an unambiguous gesture of continuing support. That country’s newly elected parliament (the Wolesi Jirga) will soon hold its inaugural session; India’s prime minister should offer to visit at that time, which would almost certainly elicit an invitation to address the jirga, given India’s democratic credentials and the fact that it is constructing Afghanistan’s new parliament building. That inauguration, a year or so from now, would provide the opportunity for another high-profile visit, perhaps by a ten-member team of India’s youngest Lok Sabha members.

Such political initiatives must go hand-in-hand with confidence building with Pakistan, working towards allying Islamabad’s suspicion about our motives. It is worth recalling that, in Colombo, in July 2008, before 26/11 blew away the India-Pak dialogue, the two foreign secretaries --- Shiv Shankar Menon and Salman Bashir --- sensibly discussed their respective roles in Afghanistan. Two months later, India’s National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan, briefed his visiting Pakistani counterpart, Major General Mahmud Ali Durrani, with a presentation on India’s developmental activities in Afghanistan. Durrani’s response: Pakistan would be prepared to join hands with India in developing Afghanistan’s schools and hospitals.

It will be, as the saying goes, a cold day in hell before India or Pakistan take such statements at face value. But if India is to remain a political player in Afghanistan, it must quickly move beyond humanitarian aid and seize the political initiative.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Coastal surveillance network extended to Minicoy Island in Lakshadweep

A view of the lagoon at Minicoy Island in the union territory of Lakshadweep, where a new coast guard station was established today.

The lighthouse at Minicoy. Such lighthouses, all along India's 7600 km coastline, are being used for housing an all-new coastal security surveillance network.

A map of the Lakshadweep chain, showing the Nine Degree Channel north of Minicoy

Defence Minister AK Antony inaugurating the Coast Guard station at Minicoy

Today, Defence Minister AK Antony inaugurated a new Coast Guard Station at one of India's most picturesque and remote corners: Minicoy, an island in the Lakshadweep chain, in the Arabian Sea. He also established a new Coast Guard District Headquarters (No 12) on the island of Kavaratti. So far, the Coast Guard District Headquarters (No 4) at Kochi was managing coastal security for Lakshadweep.

Minicoy, which is the northernmost island of the Maldives chain, became a part of Lakshadweep (Laccadive) islands in the 16th century. In appearance, lifestyle and culture, the residents of Minicoy are almost identical to the people of Maldives. Ownership of Minicoy gives India command of the Nine Degree Channel --- a 200 kilometer wide, 8500 feet deep stretch of water --- through which much of the shipping between West Asia and South East Asia must transit.

Extracts from the MoD press release are posted below:


New Delhi: Pausha 03, 1932

December 24, 2010

The last outpost of the country in the Arabian Sea, Minicoy, got its coastal security surveillance apparatus when the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony, on his maiden visit to this part of the country, inaugurated the Coast Guard Station at an impressive function here today. He also concurrently established a new Coast Guard District Headquarters for Lakshadweep at Kavaratti. The set up at Kavaratti has been named District headquarters No 12 and it will have operational control over a number of ships and aircraft such as Hovercrafts, Fast Patrol Vessels, Interceptor Boats, Helicopter and Fixed Wing Aircraft on the commissioning of planned stations. All the operational platforms are equipped with modern surveillance systems, sensors, weapons and communication equipment to maintain round-the-clock vigil at sea.

The two new establishments in the strategically located islands will provide the much needed teeth to Coast Guard operations and enhance safety and security of Lakshadweep Islands. They would also facilitate greater synergy between Coast Guard, administration of Lakshadweep and other agencies.

The Indian Coast Guard also plans to set up another Coast Guard Station at Androth next year and an air enclave at Minicoy in 2012. Six radar stations of the Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN) are also being established in the Lakshadweep and Minicoy islands.

Shri Antony said, the commissioning of the much needed Coast Guard Station at Minicoy has a special relevance due to its proximity to two of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Since the nearest Coast Guard ships and aircraft were based at Kochi, a need for Coast Guard station with a forward airbase at this location was always felt. He said our aim is to create a real-time coastal surveillance system that can be controlled even from remote locations.

Earlier inaugurating the Coast Guard Headquarters at Kavaratti, Shri Antony said, after the Cabinet Committee on Security decided to entrust Coast Guard with the responsibility of coastal security, the organization is in the process of enhancing its surveillance capabilities to perform its tasks effectively. The present force levels and manpower are projected to be doubled through phased procurement, with a proportionate development of infrastructure and augmentation of manpower, he said.

Urging the Coast Guard to involve the local populace in coastal security, Shri Antony said the involvement of fishermen to act as eyes and ears need not be over-emphasised.

Shri Antony was accompanied by the Member of Parliament Shri Hamdulla Sayeed, the Defence Secretary Shri Pradeep Kumar, FOC-in-C (South) Vice Admiral KN Sushil, DG Coast Guard Vice Admiral Anil Chopra and the Administrator of Lakshadweep Shri JK Dadoo.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A two-missile Prithvi salvo successfully test-fired by the Indian Army

The first of today's two Prithvi launches, which were carried out by the army as a tactical exercise in an operational setting.

The DRDO press release is reproduced below:

Two Prithvi Missiles have been successfully flight tested within one hour time from ITR, Chandipur in Orissa. The two launches took place at 08.15 hrs and 9.15 hrs respectively on 22nd December 2010. The liquid propelled twin Engine Prithvi Missile has already been inducted into service by Armed Forces. The two Missiles were taken from the production lot and were test fired by the Strategic Force Command ( SFC ) as part of the regular exercise.

The Prithvi Missiles equipped with state of art guidance system have reached the specified targets with very high degree of accuracy. All the Radars, Electro-optical tracking systems and telemetry stations along the coast have monitored all the trajectory parameters of the vehicle throughout the mission. Ship located near the target location has witnessed the final event. This is the second time two Prithvi Missiles were flight tested successfully within a gap of one hour.

All the launch operations of the two missiles were carried out by the Armed Forces and guided by the Scientists of DRDO. Director, DRDL Shri P. Venugopalan, Director ITR Shri S.P. Dash. Programme Director Shri VLN Rao, Project Directors Shri DS Reddy, Shri Adalat Ali were present and overseen all the operations. Dr V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to Raksha Mantri congratulated all the Scientists and Armed Forces for the successful flight tests. Defence Minister A.K. Antony has also congratulated all the Scientists and Armed Forces for the grand success.

For the F-35 sceptics: Joint Strike Fighter program reaches 2010 goal of 394 test flights

The F-35C prototype (carrier version) shown here being drop tested. Meanwhile, the US Marine Corps is adamant on seeing the F-35B programme through

News about the F-35... from Lockheed Martin

"On Thursday, December 9, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II program team reached its 2010 goal of 394 test flights jointly established by the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office and Lockheed Martin. Since the first flight of the F-35 on December 15, 2006, the program has logged a total of 531 flights, expanding the performance envelope of the three F-35 variants and testing the mission systems.

"We exceeded our 394-flight goal and expect to meet our overall test-point goal this year by reaching ahead and working 2011 test points," said J.D. McFarlan, Lockheed Martin vice president of F-35 Test and Verification. "While we are still behind on our overall STOVL variant testing, we are working through a plan to get us back on track."

In November, the program completed 60 flights against a plan of 51. Both the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) and the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variants exceeded their monthly flight targets. The F-35C carrier variant (CV) jet fell just two flights short of its plan.

The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems."

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

India-Russia sign Preliminary Design Contract to co-develop 5th generation fighter. It's official name: Perspective Multi-Role Fighter (PMF)

A Isaykin (Rosoboronexport chief) and M Pogosyan (boss of RAC MiG and Sukhoi) exchange contracts with HAL chief, Ashok Nayak, and NC Agarwal, Director (D&D), HAL

The MoD press release on this occasion is placed below for your information.


New Delhi: Agrahayana 30, 1932
December 21, 2010

A Contract for Preliminary Design of the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft was signed between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi here today. The Project involves design and development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft that will have advanced features such as stealth, supercruise, ultra-maneuvrability, highly integrated avionics suite, enhanced situational awareness, internal carriage of weapons and Network Centric Warfare capabilities.

The aircraft to be jointly developed is termed Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF). PMF draws upon the basic structural and system design of the Russian FGFA Technology Demonstrator with modifications to meet IAF specifications which are much more stringent. The broad scope of bilateral cooperation during the joint project covers the design & development of the PMF, its productionization and joint marketing to the third countries. Programme options include the design & development of a twin seater variant and the integration of an advanced engine with higher thrust at a later stage.

Today's contract is only the first in a series of such contracts which will cover different stages of this complex programme. The total cost including options and the value of production aircraft will make this the biggest Defence programme ever in the history of India involving production of over 200-250 aircraft.

The Contract was signed by Mr. A Isaykin, General Director, Rosoboronexport and Mr. M Pogosyan, General Director RAC MiG & Sukhoi from the Russian side and Mr. Ashok Nayak, Chairman, HAL and Mr. NC Agarwal, Director (D&D), HAL from the Indian side at Delhi.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Afghan president seems to favour Pakistan over India

By Ajai Shukla
Kabul, Afghanistan

[Business Standard, 18th Dec 10, carried a slightly shorter version of this article]

In what will come as a shock to the Indian public, which has supported New Delhi’s political backing and US $1.3 billion developmental aid programme to Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai’s steadfast support for India is being apparently overtaken by his growing alignment with Pakistan.

The signals were unmistakable at a just-concluded “track two” India-Pakistan-Afghanistan trialogue, organised this week in Kabul by an Indian think tank, the Delhi Policy Group. After strongly supporting the first three rounds of the trialogue, over the last two years, the Government of Afghanistan effectively ignored this fourth round, as did the Pakistani embassy.

President Karzai himself, while ignoring the trialogue along with his ministers and senior policymakers, had enough time to have a one-on-one conversation with Pakistani journalist and TV anchor, Naseem Zehra, who peeled off from the trialogue for this exclusive chat with the president.

“Karzai has clearly decided that his survival depends upon hedging his bets with Pakistan”, says an Afghan foreign ministry official in Kabul. “He believes his support from America is running out, and New Delhi is unwilling to go beyond humanitarian aid and provide a more muscular presence.”

These Afghan sources describe an insecure and frightened Karzai who is worried that, with India having decided to confine itself in Afghanistan to soft power and developmental aid, an American troop pullout would see him isolated and at the mercy of the Taliban. His post-American survival, therefore, depends upon building good relations with Pakistan and Iran.

“Every Afghan president is haunted by the spectre of Najeebullah”, explains an Afghan official. Mohammad Najeebullah, who was the president of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, was captured by the Taliban when they swept into Kabul in 1996. He was tortured, brutally killed, and his mutilated body was hung up by the Taliban in this city’s Aryana square.

Foreign ministry sources identify Karzai’s first major pro-Pakistan gesture as the sacking, on 6th June, of Amrullah Saleh, head of the Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. Saleh, an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s backing for the Taliban, was ordered to resign after an abortive rocket attack on a peace jirga (conference) that was meeting to approve negotiations with the Taliban. Interior Minister, Hanif Atmar, was also asked to resign.

That also provided the opportunity to hand over the Afghan National Army (ANA) to a more Pakistan-friendly officer, say Indian officials in New Delhi. The stridently anti-Taliban and anti-Pakistan ANA chief, General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, was asked to hand over command of the army and take over the interior ministry.

At that time, Karzai’s spokesperson, Waheed Omer, insisted that the only reason for Saleh’s removal was a security lapse at the jirga. But most Afghans perceived it as a sop to Pakistan in exchange for “facilitating” a dialogue with the Taliban.

Meanwhile India continued diplomatically, but firmly, to oppose Karzai’s key internal initiative, which was dialogue with the Taliban. “There is no moderate Taliban just as there is no good terrorist,” remains India’s official position, voiced by numerous officials in multiple forums worldwide.

In retrospect, say Afghanistan experts in New Delhi, Karzai’s evolving approach towards Pakistan was evident even before Saleh’s removal. In January this year, Karzai excluded from his new cabinet his longstanding foreign minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, who had been unsparing in his criticism of Pakistan. Zalmai Rassoul, who has been far friendlier towards Pakistan, was appointed in Spanta’s place.

Two months later, in March, the Afghan president declared during a visit to Islamabad, “India is a close friend of Afghanistan but Pakistan is a twin brother.”

Meanwhile, the Indian government continues to rely on the United States and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which currently maintain security across Afghanistan while building up Afghan capabilities. New Delhi is keen to provide training assistance for the ANA and the police, but Washington has resisted an Indian military presence, in deference to Pakistani fears.

On 15th Dec, the US government released a major review document, which outlined Washington’s plans for the withdrawal of more than 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan. Keeping many more cards in Washington’s hand than were put down on the table, the review suggested that a “responsible” US withdrawal would begin as scheduled in 2011 (read, not many troops will be pulled out next year), leading towards the handing over of security responsibility to Afghan forces in 2014. The review was optimistic that this past year’s “troop surge” of 30,000 additional American soldiers was weakening Al Qaeda and arresting the Taliban’s momentum.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Moment of truth for defence offsets

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th Dec 10

Tomorrow the MoD’s apex procurement body, the Defence Acquisition Council, will consider and possibly dilute India’s defence offset policy. The proposed changes --- especially the “liberalization” of defence offsets into fields like civil aviation and homeland security --- would nullify the very rationale of a defence offset policy, which is to direct foreign money and know-how into India’s nascent defence industry by leveraging our position as a major buyer in the global arms bazaar.

Global arms corporations quite predictably resist investing in another countries’ defence industries: this builds up potential competitors; involves the painstaking and commercially risky task of identifying local partners; it transfers jobs overseas; defence remains a highly regulated field; and there are obvious strategic reasons as well. And so global arms corporations have a persuasive counter-argument that portrays offsets as unscrupulous commercial arm-twisting, which is counterproductive since it yields jobs only in the short term, with the costs borne by the buyer since the vendors load them onto the basic contract.

Foreign vendors selling weaponry to India have constructed an even more pernicious argument: that our defence industry is incapable of absorbing the vast offsets that will arise from arms purchases over the next five years. With a CII-Deloitte report in June projecting that the MoD will spend Rs 3,60,000 crore (US$ 80 billion) on the capital purchase of weaponry by 2015, India’s defence industry would be required to absorb at least Rs 108,000 crore (US$ 24 billion) worth of offsets. Therefore, suggest these vendors helpfully, the buyer should “liberalise” the policy by permitting offsets in easy fields like infrastructure, homeland security, healthcare, etc, where investment is attractive.

These self-serving arguments are, worryingly, being swallowed by the MoD, which is forgetting that it fire-walled the defence offset policy from the national offsets policy (which covers non-military procurements like civil airliners, nuclear plants, etc) expressly to jump-start Indian defence industry. To now allow vendors to discharge offset liabilities in non-defence spheres would be a turnaround that reeks of capitulation before foreign pressure groups.

Instead, the MoD must remind global arms vendors that, by participating in Indian defence tenders, they have explicitly accepted the obligation to meet our defence offset requirements. This places on vendors the responsibility to build the capacities of their local offset partners, if necessary by transferring the technology needed to develop Indian suppliers into viable links in their global supply chain.

Any difficulty that foreign vendors are encountering in finding Indian partners stems from a lazy reluctance to reach above the low-hanging fruit --- defence PSUs like Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd; Bharat Electronics; and large private corporates like L&T, and the Tata Group, which are already flush with offset offers --- and instead identify partners from amongst the many small and medium scale industries that have emerged over the last decade. The Indian defence landscape has an entire ecosystem of defence firms with impressive technological skills and entrepreneurial talent, many of them concentrated around hubs like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and Delhi. So far largely untapped, these provide partnership opportunities to global defence corporations that will endure long after their offset requirements are met.

Much of the government’s muddle-headedness on these issues stems from the absence of a clearly articulated aim for the defence offset policy. Consequently, Indian pressure groups lobby self-servingly: the DRDO pushes offsets for obtaining the 18 technologies that it has listed as key priorities; the IT industry as an opportunity to develop defence software; and low-tech manufacturing companies as an easy source of massive orders for low-end, labour-intensive, repeat manufacture.

To direct offsets into IT or repeat manufacture is wasteful, since these sectors will anyway attract foreign investment based on commercial logic. Nor should offsets be wasted on high technology, which is best prised out of vendors by leveraging the power of major contracts in competitive tendering. India’s US $10 billion multi-role fighter tender, in which the MoD has stipulated --- and vendors have accepted --- the transfer of heavily guarded AESA radar technology, provides the ideal model for obtaining technology.

Instead, offsets must have the clearly stated aim of furthering the defence minister’s oft-enunciated objective of indigenising at least 70% of our defence equipment needs. The MoD must abandon its timid, hands-off approach towards offsets and direct vendors towards carefully identified Indian companies with demonstrated technological skills in key areas. Offset partnerships with global giants would allow such companies to bridge technology gaps and --- by becoming a part of the vendor’s global supply chain --- scale up and generate the financial muscle needed for serious R&D.

For this, the MoD must empower and staff its Defence Offsets Facilitation Agency (DOFA), so that it can map Indian defence industry, creating a capability and technology matrix that can be matched with prospective platform development requirements. Offsets could then be directed to fill the gaps. This would involve an enormous MoD mind shift from its current approach towards offsets where a man-and-a-dog DOFA plays passing-the-offsets-parcel with an equally reluctant Acquisitions Wing, both hoping that when the music stops the other will be left holding the responsibility for offsets.

The need for an activist and empowered DOFA has been understood by industry, if not by the MoD. The CII and FICCI had earlier pledged Rs 25 lakhs each to set up a DOFA secretariat at Pragati Maidan, which could monitor and account for the tens of thousands of crores worth of offsets that lay ahead. But, with trust in short supply, the MoD felt that the companies that would benefit from offsets should not have any role in accounting for them; and the corporates felt, “why should we do the babus’ job for them?” It is time to come together to galvanise India’s defence industry.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Out of line: an army under fire

Despite troubling questions about the internal health of India's best-respected organisation, nobody from within the army is speaking out about the need to confront and fix the problem.

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Dec 10

On 27th April 2007, while a dazed United States military was being battered by the resurgent insurgency in Iraq, a mid-ranking US Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling, published a brutally frank assessment of the failures in American generalship that had led to the bloodying of the world’s most powerful military machine. Writing in the “Armed Forces Journal”, a private magazine focused on defence, Yingling urged the US Congress to fix accountability for the debacle in Iraq, lamenting that, “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

Yingling’s article raced across army chat rooms, combat bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and military seminar halls. Hard-hitting, incisive, and loaded with statements like, “The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship”, the analysis pushed America’s senior military leadership towards acknowledging, confronting and acting to fix the problem.

India’s armed forces, alas, have neither a Paul Yingling nor a culture of interrogating and addressing serious internal problems. With revelation after damaging revelation --- including financial misappropriation, sexual misconduct, fake encounters and influence peddling --- placing troubling questions over the internal health of India’s most well-respected institution, not a single serving officer has thrown out a Yingling-style challenge.

Rot at the top?

This silence has endured even through the recent revelations about the improper allocation of multi-crore apartments in Mumbai’s tony Colaba area to a bevy of generals and admirals. The Adarsh Housing Society affair, which has riveted the country, is not just about the apparent abandonment of ethics by 3 service chiefs and 5 officers of three-star rank. Even worse, it is about the alleged subversion of army postings to keep Major General Tej Kishen Kaul in Mumbai so that he could keep the file moving while a succession of key military commanders in Mumbai and Pune were handed out flats, allegedly in exchange for their silence.

“Corruption exists mainly within the senior ranks”, avers Major General Afsir Karim, a retired paratrooper with a reputation for probity. “Bad apples manage to get into the organisation… after all, the (military’s) selection system has no psychological check for integrity. As they rise and start getting the opportunity to make money, they surround themselves with a coterie of staff officers and subordinates who are quickly subverted… the corrupt pull each other up within the system. And from them the rot spreads to other parts of the military.”

Echoing this assessment is a former army commander, well known for ramrod honesty, who ran afoul of his boss after instituting an inquiry into evidently corrupt purchases of equipment. He describes the insidious disillusionment of idealistic young officers who gradually realise that the values that were catechized during their training are hardly reflected in day-to-day unit life.

In their training academies, officer cadets are indoctrinated with Field Marshal Chetwode’s motto: “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

But, on being commissioned into their units, these young lieutenants often encounter a different reality. An increasing number of units in peace stations focus less on training than on “career-enhancing” activities like officers’ mess parties and ladies’ club functions, which commanding officers believe would please their bosses or, even better, their bosses’ wives. Meanwhile youngsters who are posted to the field, or to counter-insurgency operations, come up against a pressure-cooker insistence on success at all costs; after all, the promotions of bosses all the way up the line hinge on operational accomplishment. With so much at stake, fake encounters and false reports are desperate options for creating an illusory world of success.

"Five-star" culture

Old-school generals say that this new environment of flexible morals and professional dishonesty has inevitably spilled over to the handling of money. Traditionally indifferent even disdainful towards money, senior officers are now developing a yen for what the military has always disparaged as the “five-star culture”.

“The military had a culture of its own and never felt the need to imitate civilian lifestyles”, says General Karim. “You met civilians, even socialised with them, but you always came back to your mess life. Today, many senior officers want a lifestyle that cannot be supported by military pay and allowances.”

Rising alongside the appetite for money, has been the opportunity to gather it illegally.

“The money that an officer handles rises exponentially as he is promoted up the chain”, explains a former army commander who prefers to remain unnamed. “With defence budgets boosted by a growing economy, each of the six field army commanders oversees budgets today that are in the hundreds of crores.

Take the example of the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command, where the commander, a lieutenant general, controls an annual budget of Rs 2500-2700 crores. Large chunks of this are spent at his sole discretion, including “special financial powers” for Rs 100 crores, and another Rs 15-16 crores for obtaining intelligence about militants.

“I could simply order my staff to give me Rs 20 lakhs to pay a political source for important intelligence”, says the former army commander. “I wouldn’t need to provide proof that I had handed over the money to anyone. I could justify the expenditure simply by stating that I needed a political perspective.”

Such opportunities for corruption abound. Northern Command’s budget for rations is about Rs 700 crore per year, with another Rs 100 crore allocated for hiring civil transport. The budget for operational works, i.e. constructing bunkers, lighting and temporary housing, is over Rs 250 crores. And, inexplicably, Northern Command has retained with itself --- despite several attempts to transfer this responsibility to New Delhi --- the job of buying rations for troops deployed on the Siachen Glacier, an annual expenditure of some Rs 40 crores.

Other formations handle smaller budgets. But all these contracts come loaded with the potential to explode into public scandals.

Lieutenant General RK Nanavatty, who headed Northern Command at the start of this decade, and was feared and respected for his unwavering rectitude, says that he could see the current crisis coming: “I have always said that the biggest danger for our army was the gradual degradation of moral values. I could see morality eroding and this worried me because trust is the basis of military functioning.”

Time for action

A key concern amongst soldiers, serving and retired, has been the military’s lame defence in the face of credible allegations of wrongdoing like those around the Sukhna Land allocation and the Adarsh Housing Society scam. Many believe that frankly acknowledging the problem and taking exemplary action against corruption would protect, perhaps even enhance, the military’s public image.

“Why should we wait for the civilian agencies to prove criminal guilt?” asks a former army deputy chief, Lieutenant General GD Singh, widely respected for his integrity. “We have our own code of conduct, which does not rest on court orders or judgements. When an officer is clearly corrupt, we should ostracize him from our community; none of his peers should even speak to him; he should be treated as a pariah.”

Considering that officers who were commissioned in the mid-1970s are generals, admirals and air marshals today, it is a paradox that the military often blames the changed background of those who now join as officers for the decline in values and standards. Far more likely, say the more discerning observers, is the “osmosis of values” that stems from increased interaction --- across all ranks --- with society in general. This takes place in many ways: cantonments, earlier located well outside towns and cities, are now almost indistinguishable from the rapidly expanding civilian colonies that have surrounded them. The army’s growing counter-insurgency commitments brings soldiers into close contact with civilians, and with the institutions of governance. Meanwhile, the growing reach and intensity of the electronic media beams the civilian world into the remotest military outposts.

Most officers today are keenly aware of the world outside the barracks and are deeply cynical about the declining mores of civilian institutions. Officers, and even soldiers, ask: with the political class, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the police and even the media deeply compromised, how can they point a finger at the military, an institution synonymous with honour and sacrifice? But underlying that question is a more troubling one: with corruption everywhere, is it possible for the military to remain unaffected?

The current army chief, General VK Singh, publicly declared while assuming office last April that restoring the army’s “internal health” would be his focus. The general has his task cut out for him.

Offset debate within MoD

The first of the IAF's six C-130J Super Hercules will soon be delivered by Lockheed Martin. The offsets around this and other deals have raised deep concerns within the MoD

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Dec 10

On Wednesday, 15th Dec, the MoD’s apex decision-making body, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), will hold a crucial meeting to decide on far-reaching changes in the Defence Offset Policy. Significant sections of the MoD fear that the proposed changes would unduly benefit foreign arms vendors, while derailing the offset policy’s aim of strengthening domestic defence industry.

Business Standard has learned from senior MoD sources that the DAC will consider, and possibly approve, the following amendments to the offsets policy, which have long been sought by the global arms industry:

(a) Liberalising the offset policy to permit indirect offsets in civil aviation and homeland security. Currently, vendors must discharge their offset obligations entirely within the defence industry.

(b) Expanding the definition of services that qualify as offsets. Currently, the services that qualify for defence offsets are “maintenance, overhaul, upgradation, life extension, engineering, design, testing of defence products, defence related software or quality assurance services.” Now, many more services are being considered, including training.

(c) Allowing transfer of technology to be eligible for offset credit. So far, the MoD has insisted that it will pay upfront for technology, as a part of the main contract. Now, by providing technology as an offset, a vendor could discharge his offset liability.

(d) Permitting foreign vendors to invest “in kind” in Indian defence industry. Presently, the policy permits “direct foreign investment”. Permitting investment in kind would allow vendors to claim as offsets the supply of goods and services, e.g. training simulators.

Yesterday, Business Standard had reported that Lockheed Martin’s US $275 million offset offer --- arising from its $962 million sale to India of six C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft --- had been accepted by the MoD despite not meeting the provisions of the current offset policy. If the DAC okays these proposed amendments, however, offset proposals like Lockheed Martin’s would become permissible.

The MoD’s current offset policy mandates that foreign vendors that are awarded defence contracts above Rs 300 crores must plough back at least 30% of the value of the contract into Indian defence production or R&D. But global vendors, particularly US arms corporations, insist that the Indian defence industry does not have the capacity to absorb the Rs 40,000 to 50,000 crores worth of offsets that could arise over the next five years.

Global industry has kept the pressure on the MoD ever since offsets were announced in the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2006 (DPP-2006). The influential US-India CEO’s Forum is pushing for permitting defence offsets in civil aviation and homeland security. And on 25th August, six defence and aerospace bodies that represent almost every major US, British, German, French and Canadian arms corporation sent the MoD a joint memorandum urging “liberalisation” of the offset policy.

Indian industry, meanwhile fiercely resists dilution of the offsets policy, especially companies that have invested in defence capabilities and now see offsets as a lever for growth. On 29th November, at a meeting in the MoD, industry bodies CII and FICCI opposed the proposed changes, arguing strongly that Indian defence companies are capable of absorbing offsets. On the other hand, ASSOCHAM, dominated by companies that see defence as an opportunity for mass manufacture rather than high-tech capability creation, has argued for liberalising the policy.

“Liberalising offsets would completely defeat the purpose of an offset policy”, says a major private defence company CEO, speaking anonymously. “Expanding offsets to civil aviation, for example, would mean that a vendor could fulfil his obligations by producing luggage conveyer belts.”

Meanwhile, a divided MoD has internally debated whether to allow transfer of technology as offsets. The Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), which has drawn up a list of 18 key technologies that must be acquired from abroad, argues that offsets provide a viable route for obtaining these. But MoD bureaucrats have resisted this plea, arguing that it would be difficult to fix an acceptable price for a particular technology.

“It would be very easy for a foreign vendor to give us artificially tailored financial arguments about what it cost to develop a technology”, says a senior MoD official. “We could end up with a valuation much higher than what that technology actually cost.”

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Lockheed offsets mock MoD norms

The IAF's first C-130J Super Hercules at a photo-op after making its first flight. This aircraft is slated to be delivered within the month

(A two-part series on India’s defence offset policy)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 9th Dec 10, has a modified version of this article

Earlier this year, while commenting on India’s poorly framed and inadequately monitored defence offset policy, this newspaper had highlighted the potential for foreign arms vendors to completely bypass their offset liabilities (“India’s next big scam”, 20th Apr 10). That, it now appears, is already happening.

US defence major Lockheed Martin’s offset proposal, arising from its sale to India of six C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft for US $962 million (about Rs 3835 crores), are seen by some MoD officials as violating provisions of the offsets policy. They say they make a mockery of the ministry's stated aim of boosting indigenous defence industry.

Lockheed Martin’s US $275 million offset offer --- which Broadsword has reviewed in detail --- was proposed on 21st Nov 08 and cleared by the MoD. However, several ministry officials fear that allowing Lockheed Martin to bypass their offset liabilities would invite similar disregard by other vendors.

The largest component of Lockheed Martin’s offset offer is a US $121 million proposal to import and operate a “weapons system trainer” (WST), which is a simulator on which instructors from Indian company, Mahindra & Mahindra will train IAF crews of the C-130J.

The first shocker is the cost of the WST, one of four simulators needed to train C-130J aircrews (the others being a “cockpit procedures trainer”; “avionics systems management trainer”; and a “fuselage trainer”). For this piece of hardware alone, Lockheed Martin is claiming offsets credit worth US $121 million, almost 45% of its entire offset liability.

This has been made possible because the Indian Air Force, for reasons unknown, did not include simulators while actually purchasing the C-130J. the WST been a part of the C-130J contract, Lockheed Martin would have been liable --- in accordance with the Defence Offset Policy, a part of the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008 (DPP-2008) --- to pay 30 per cent of the cost of the simulator as offset.

Pushpinder Singh, a noted aerospace expert and the editor of Vayu magazine points out, “Simulators are vital for training crewpersons. That is why every buyer of aircraft includes training simulators in the primary contract. That benefits the buyers because the vendor becomes liable for offsets for the simulator as well.”

Responding to an emailed query from Business Standard, Lockheed Martin confirmed: “The requirement for a weapon system trainer (WST) was not included under the Letter of Request (LOR) for the C-130J issued by the Government of India in December 2006. Lockheed Martin chose to include a WST in its offset proposal…. The Government agreed with our view and approved the proposed offset project after negotiations.”

Contacted by Business Standard for a comment on the IAF’s actions, the defence ministry did not respond.

Considered individually, almost every component of Lockheed Martin’s $121 million simulator offset proposals violates the defence ministry's offsets policy. Take, for instance, offset credit for $48 million to directly import the simulator, which will be installed in Hindon, outside Delhi, and operated by Mahindra & Mahindra, Lockheed Martin’s Indian offset partner.

Straight imports of defence equipment cannot be treated as offsets under the Defence Offsets Policy. Lockheed Martin, however, claims: “Direct foreign investment is permitted as an offset under the terms of the DPP. The milestone credits for the WST project are based on direct foreign investment in India which results in the provision of aircrew training facilities and capabilities.”

This, say offset experts, is factually incorrect. Para 2.1(b) of the offset policy permits “direct foreign investment for industrial infrastructure for services….” But the policy defines “services” as “maintenance, overhaul, upgradation, life extension, engineering, design, testing of defence products, defence related software or quality assurance services.” What is being provided in this case is a ready-built simulator from Lockheed Martin.

The other credits claimed by Lockheed Martin, in connection with the WST are:

(a) Offset credit for US $15 million, for technology transfer. The DPP-2008 has no provision for technology transfer to be treated as offsets.

(b) Offset credit of US $55 million, for contracts that will be given to the Mahindras to operate and maintain the simulator.

(c) Offset credit of US $3 million, for travel savings, which has been calculated in terms of air tickets, lodging, TA/DA etc, for IAF personnel who would otherwise have had to travel to the US. This is not permissible as offsets in DPP-2008.

Lockheed Martin’s other offset proposals have rung alarm bells within the ministry. They include offset credit of US $20 million for “aircraft engine design services” with Bangalore-based engineering firm, QuEST. This would only be treatable as an offset if the design services were for military engines, but there is no way of ensuring that.

It has proposed offset credit of US $15 million for “manufacture of F-16 avionics components” with Tata Power. While this would indeed be eligible for offsets, Tata Power confirms that there is no ongoing dialogue with Lockheed Martin.

Finally, a whopping offset credit of US $119 million for “manufacture of RFID components” with Bharat Electronics. RFID components are not military equipment under the DPP-2008, and this manufacture does not qualify for offsets.

Worried by such violations of the offset policy, the MoD is carrying out a major review. But Indian defence industry, which was supposed to benefit from offsets, is concerned that, instead of tightening the policy, the MoD is poised to create further loopholes that would benefit foreign vendors.

(Tomorrow, Part 2: MoD poised for a flawed offset policy review)

($ mn)
Defence ministry
Manufacture of RFID
119Does not qualify as not
military hardware
Simulator import48Straight imports cannot be
treated as offsets
Contracts to M&M55Relates to import (of simulator)
Aircraft engine
design services
20Eligible only for military engines
Technology transfer15No provision
F-16 avionics 15Eligible for offset components
Travel savings3Not permissible

Monday, 6 December 2010

Book review: Arming without Aiming

India’s military modernisation
Stephen P Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta
India: Viking/Penguin, 2010
223 pages; Rs 499

The title of a book usually comes to the authors somewhere along the process of writing it. After reading the delightfully named Arming without Aiming, though, I cannot help suspecting that the title was born first and then a book written around it. Disappointingly, the authors, both well-reputed commentators on South Asian security, have done a little more than arrange morsels of information — many of them from questionable news reports in the Indian media — to buttress their thesis that New Delhi’s growing defence expenditure serves no clear military-strategic objectives.

Messrs Cohen and Dasgupta are correct, if not original, in pointing out that “India’s modernisation has lacked political direction and has suffered from weak prospective planning, individual service-centric doctrines, and a disconnect between strategic objectives and the pursuit of new technology." But the fundamental illogic in the authors’ thesis — a blemish that spreads its stain across the book — is the unquestioning assumption that these drawbacks stem from India’s strategic restraint.

Due mention is made of the benefits that have flowed from Indian restraint, especially the absence of global alarm over India’s military rearmament. But Arming without Aiming is coloured by a western approach towards the exercise of power. Restraint, the authors argue, is something that New Delhi will have to “break out of” in order to “assume its place as a great power”. A benign power, they assume, is disadvantaged in organising its levers of coercive force and, therefore, hamstrung as a great power.

The book begins well, presenting itself as a slim, pleasing hardback, even if the tiny typeset has been tailored for the strategist’s superior vision. The authors’ strong academic capabilities come through in the preface, in a short but interesting exploration of the earlier literature on why India has not been more focused in developing its military power. The authors also explore the historical roots of Indian restraint, including Nehru’s hiring of British scientist P M S Blackett as a defence adviser and Nehru’s acceptance of his advice that military spending remain below 2 per cent of GDP.

The authors remain on firm ground while using historical examples to illustrate India’s restraint: the pre-1962 period of low defence spending; the 1971 decision to limit war aims to the liberation of Bangladesh; and the 1974 decision to go no further down the nuclear path than a “peaceful nuclear experiment”. But they go badly wrong in arguing that India’s invariable failure at being assertive — in the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict; in occupying the Siachen Glacier; during Exercise Brass Tacks; and in the Sri Lanka conflict — reinforced India’s inherent restraint. Influential policy-makers in New Delhi perceive at least two of those operations, Siachen and Brass Tacks, as successful examples of coercive diplomacy. How then would they reinforce restraint?

Incorrect conclusions like this stem from the authors’ US-based perspective, and from Cohen’s long years as a Pakistan expert. Siachen, they argue — using the same logic as the Pakistan Army — is a failure because “initial Indian success has since proved to be a steady drain on Indian military resources”. The Indian military mindset, however, does not evaluate Siachen in logistical terms. For New Delhi, Siachen is a symbol of will and a continually successful feat of arms; Rawalpindi sees it as a debacle, something to be quickly wiped off the slate, and has consistently sought a mutual withdrawal from Siachen.

Besides the absence of local nuance, Arming without Aiming is marred by a string of factual errors that undermine its credibility with the reader. Misleadingly characterising the ill-conceived intervention in Sri Lanka as “India’s Vietnam”, the book asserts that more Indian soldiers died in Sri Lanka than in any other post-Independence war. In fact, the casualty count in Sri Lanka was barely one-third the count of India’s full-scale wars (Sri Lanka: 1,157 dead, 3,009 wounded; 1971 war: 3,843 dead, 9,851 wounded).

In a similar fashion, the book mixes up T-90 tanks with the T-72; it claims that India’s defence spending reached 5 per cent of GDP in the 1980s (it never went near that figure); and states that there are five contenders in the ongoing multi-role fighter tender (there are six). But these errors are fleabites compared to the authors’ argument that India’s low GDP per capita prevents it from devoting sufficient resources to defence! Even a novice in defence economics knows that the absolute GDP, rather than the per capita figure, governs what a country can allocate to defence. Luxembourg, with a per capita GDP of $105,350 (World Bank, 2009) can hardly claim the ability to spend more on defence than India, with our meagre figure of $1134 per capita.

The book’s heavy reliance on information from the Indian media, traditionally hostile to the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), has generated an indiscriminate condemnation of indigenous research efforts. Much of this is outdated at the time of publishing, having been superseded by structural reform within the DRDO and by the turnaround success of major projects like the Arjun tank and the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.

Despite its drawbacks, Arming without Aiming is worth reading as an interrogation of the central crises in India’s military system. The authors correctly highlight that the directionless expansion of India’s military structures, and the acquisition of expensive weaponry, has not been accompanied by the political leadership that is needed to reconcile competing interests and allocate resources in a coherent manner. As a result, India’s strategic choices remain far more limited than they need to.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Mountain version of Brahmos tested

A press release, issued by the DRDO today, is reproduced below, along with the video footage released by the DRDO of today's test.

DRDO: Brahmos Block III version Successfully Test Fired

Block III version of Brahmos with advanced guidance and upgraded software, incorporating high maneuvers at multiple points and steep dive from high altitude was flight tested successfully from Launch Complex III at Integrated Test Range, Chandipur at 10:55hrs.

All Telemetry, Tracking stations including naval ships near terminal point have confirmed the mission success. The launch was executed from a Mobile Autonomous Launcher by the trained Army Personnel. DRDO scientists, who have significantly contributed for this advanced guidance system were thrilled to see the supersonic maneuvers of the missile in the real time display, proving their immense effort. The flight witnessed by high ranking officials of the Army, expressed their happiness to have such high potential weapon system in the Army.

Dr. A Sivathannu Pillai, CC R&D (DRDO) & CEO, MD Brahmos Aerospace has confirmed from the Block House the successful mission and described it as a “text book launch”. Shri P Venugopalan, Director DRDL, Sri SP Dash, Director ITR and Sri S. Som, Project Director participated in the successful mission. Defence Minister congratulated DRDO & Brahmos scientists and Army Officers and the whole team for the success of the mission.