Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Indo-US jet trainer: the Indus moment

While the F-35 JSF (right) seems unlikely to make it to India's shopping list, a joint US-India project to develop a new-gen trainer to replace the outdated T-38 (below) would greatly boost US-India defence ties

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th June 11

The inherent buoyancy of the US-India relationship has again become evident from the US Congress’ recent attempt to jump-start flagging defence ties. Concerned over the drift, the pivotal Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has asked the Pentagon to submit by November 1, 2011, a detailed assessment of the current state of US-India security co-operation; and a five-year plan for enhancing that. Noteworthy in itself is the bipartisan belief within the Committee that “it is in the national interest of the US, through military-to-military relations, arms sales, bilateral and multilateral joint exercises, and other means, to support India’s rise and build a strategic and military culture of cooperation and interoperability between our two countries, in particular with regard to the Indo-Pacific region”. But far more substantive is the SASC’s call on the Pentagon for “a detailed assessment of the desirability and feasibility… [of] a potential US partnership with India to co-develop one or more military weapon systems, including but not limited to the anticipated program to replace the US Air Force T-38 trainer jet”.
This is the first time that the US Congress has officially demanded a report from the Pentagon on the US-India security relationship. It raises the possibility that Congress might end up discussing the trickiest issues that dog US-India defence cooperation: viz. India’s wish for jointly developing military equipment rather than buying over-the-counter from the US; the tough US export control laws that stand in the way of joint development; and the building of trust through successful development programmes for high-technology platforms like the proposed trainer jet, which can only be named the Indus (given the rivers tradition set by the Indo-Russian cruise missile, the Brahmos, an amalgam of the Brahmaputra and the Moskva).

Both New Delhi and Washington understand that, given America’s technology safeguard regimes, joint development programmes can encompass high-technology equipment but not cutting-edge technology. The limits to what the US is prepared to pass on to India were signalled when Washington held back Boeing and Lockheed Martin from a contract floated by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) – the Indian developers of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft – for a development consultancy. That caused bad blood between the two countries and ADA eventually brought in European aerospace corporation, EADS, as consultants. Given that history, the proposal for a trainer aircraft as a joint US-India development project is a sensible one. A trainer is a high-technology platform, but it does not incorporate the cutting-edge aerospace technologies that set red lights flashing over a fighter development project.

Why then should India work with the US when Russia is willing to partner India in jointly developing a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which incorporates not just cutting-edge but even bleeding-edge technologies? The fact, which top officials in the ministry of defence (MoD) ruefully admit in private, is that Russia will not pass on any key technologies to India. Sukhoi, the Russian partner in the FGFA project, has already developed the single-seat flying prototype that Moscow says meets the demands of the Russian Air Force. The work that remains mainly involves avionics and electronics systems and will fall largely into India’s share. The best that the Indian partner, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, can hope to gain from this “joint development” is a level of expertise in project management.

Besides, the US is bound to gradually change its go-it-alone attitude towards developing weaponry. Facing an economic slowdown and expectations of a post-Afghanistan peace dividend, even the mightiest defence spender in the history of mankind will be required to share costs wherever possible. While US aerospace corporations could theoretically pick from a range of partners, working with India provides an assured market that is the largest outside China.

A US-India basic trainer would replace some 450 T-38s currently flying in the US Air Force. Add to that an assured market of at least 200 trainer aircraft in India and there is an excellent business case for partnering India in developing the T-38’s successor.

The SASC has hit a home run with its proposal, even though the US administration has not yet signalled any acceptance of joint development. Over the preceding years, Washington has wasted much political effort in fruitlessly persuading India to sign the three agreements that the US considers essential for enhanced defence cooperation: a Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement; a Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation; and a Logistics Support Agreement. Though not needed immediately, all may eventually come about once Indian mistrust dissipates. The perception of drift was also enhanced by the Antony MoD’s way of doing business: entirely ignore contentious issues, effectively pretending that they do not exist. Finally, New Delhi appeared to have hit the US exactly where it hurts – i.e. in the pocketbook – by the unceremonious ejection of Boeing and Lockheed Martin from the $11 billion competition to sell India 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft.

All this had seemingly set back the relationship. Mid-ranking US bureaucrats were suggesting that India-related proposals would now be given far less attention. Visiting US officials were complaining about a “hesitation within the Indian MoD (Ministry of Defence) about working too closely with the US”. Washington’s apparent reneging on the terms of the US-India agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, by changing the rules on enrichment and reprocessing technology, has further dampened the mood. It is time for a game-changing initiative and Washington has been presented with the idea and the opportunity for a meaty joint development programme that, especially from India’s perspective, would add real meaning to the relationship.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Senate pushes Pentagon on US-India defence ties

The USAF Thunderbirds flying the T-38, a trainer used since the 1960s. Grounded in 2008 after two fatal crashes, the USAF is now considering a new trainer

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th June 11

The United States Congress has moved decisively to bridge a widening gulf between the defence establishments of India and America. In an unprecedented initiative, the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which oversees the US Department of Defense, has ordered the Pentagon to submit a report by November 1st, 2011 with a detailed assessment of the current state of US-India security cooperation; and a five-year plan for enhancing that cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and globally.

The SASC has also ordered “a detailed assessment of the desirability and feasibility of the future sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to India, and a potential U.S. partnership with India to co-develop one or more military weapon systems, including but not limited to the anticipated program to replace the U.S. Air Force T-38 trainer jet.”

The Indian MoD has indicated its unwillingness to procure the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), a futuristic, fifth-generation fighter aircraft that is at an advanced stage of development by US aerospace major, Lockheed Martin. The reason that New Delhi cites is an ongoing joint development programme with Russia to develop a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). But MoD sources indicate that there will be keen interest in New Delhi in any joint development programme with the US, especially in the realm of aerospace.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is grappling with a severe crisis in the availability of basic trainer aircraft for its cadets. The Indian MoD is evaluating bids in a global tender for buying basic trainers for the IAF. Meanwhile Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is launching an indigenous programme for developing and building a basic trainer that has been dubbed the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40).

With the Indian requirement estimated at about 200 trainers, joint development with the US would achieve a three-fold purpose: indigenously meeting the IAF requirement; leveraging the experience of the US aerospace industry to ensure that the HAL programme meets time and quality yardsticks; and, most attractive for New Delhi, establishing a framework for high-technology cooperation and joint development with the US.

The SASC initiative was piloted last week by two influential members --- Senator John Cornyn (Republican from Texas) and Joe Lieberman (Democrat from Connecticut) --- as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill (each allocation of the US defence budget is evaluated and passed by the SASC). The amendment notes, “It is in the national interest of the United States… to support India’s rise and build a strategic and military culture of cooperation and interoperability between our two countries, in particular with regard to the Indo-Pacific region.”

This new initiative from the US Congress illustrates how the US-India relationship is expanding from the strategic into the popular realm. The senators’ interest reflects pressure from electoral constituencies, especially the powerful American-Indian community, and from economic considerations like the jobs created by Indian military purchases.

Senior US officials privately contrast the flowering of the broad US-India strategic relationship with deepening scepticism about the defence relationship. Declaring flatly that there was “hesitation within the Indian MoD (Ministry of Defence) about working too closely with the US”, a top American official recently lamented that Washington’s outreach evokes little more than “wariness” from South Block. Meanwhile Indian officials complain that America is interested only in defence sales, talking partnership but implementing technology sanctions.

Henceforth, the flagging Pentagon-South Block relationship will not be left merely to bureaucrats, guided as they are by procedure and precedent rather than by an overarching vision. The efforts of the administration will now be watched over by the US Congress.

Says Manohar Thyagaraj, head of Paragon International, a strategic advisory firm that closely monitors the US-India security relationship, “This signifies that the Senate is willing to take a leadership role in discussing key elements of the US-India relationship. Key constituencies such as industry and the Indian-American community would likely welcome thought leadership by Congress, which can be useful at times of inertia in the Washington interagency process, especially in trenchant areas like technology transfer.”

Friday, 24 June 2011

Pakistan in crosshairs over US' Afghanistan drawdown

US Army soldiers supervise firing training for soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA). The ANA is starting to take over security responsibility for some areas this year, leading up to full responsibility in 2014

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Jun 11

The wheel has turned full circle in Afghanistan. President Obama’s announcement on Wednesday of a faster-than-expected schedule for the thinning out of US forces from Afghanistan is one indicator. The other is the ongoing negotiation of a “strategic alliance” between Washington and Kabul that would permit a substantial US military presence in Afghanistan even after that country assumes responsibility for its own security in 2014.

Afghanistan is no longer the crucial battleground, but the essential base from which America would prosecute its war on terror groups in Pakistan.

It was very different a decade ago, the morning after the 9/11 strikes, when Pakistan’s support was deemed essential for America’s retaliation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. General Pervez Musharraf recounts in his memoirs how US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, demanded staging facilities for US forces, telling him bluntly on the phone that Pakistan was either with America or against it. Powell’s deputy, Richard Armitage, was even franker the next day, famously threatening Pakistan’s ISI chief, Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed, who was visiting Washington, that Pakistan would be bombed back into the Stone Age if it sided with the terrorists.

Pakistan was then an indispensable supply route and America’s enemies were in Afghanistan. But today Washington believes that a “transnational threat” comes not from Afghanistan but from a terror triumvirate in Pakistan: the Al Qaeda remnants; the Pakistani Taliban (called the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP); and the Haqqani network, which is an Afghan Taliban faction that is widely believed to operate under the ISI’s wings.

For tackling this Pakistan-based threat, a section of US policymakers have long argued that America does not need 97,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. In the lively Washington debate in 2009 that led to the American “surge” of 30,000 additional soldiers to Afghanistan, US vice-president Joe Biden argued against stepped up manpower-heavy, “counter-insurgency” operations against the Taliban. Instead Biden advocated primarily for technology-intensive, “counter-terrorism” operations against jehadi groups and their bases in Pakistan. This needed little more in Afghanistan than Special Forces, intelligence units, and unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) for striking pinpoint targets.

The US raid on Abbottabad last month that killed Osama bin Laden, and the killing of Al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri shortly after that, were spectacular “counter-terrorism” successes of the kind that Biden, and many other Americans, continue to advocate.

As Bruce Reidel, a retired C.I.A. officer who conducted Mr. Obama’s first review of strategy in the region, told The New York Times: what the bin Laden raid in Abbottabad “demonstrated more vividly than ever is that we need a base to strike targets in Pakistan, and the geography is simple: You need to do that from Afghanistan.”

Now US President Barack Obama, riding on the euphoria of these operations and with an eye on re-election by a war-weary electorate in 2012, has moved decisively towards a counter-terrorism strategy. Overruling his Afghanistan military commander General David Petraeus, who had argued for a token withdrawal of about 5000 soldiers in 2011, Obama has announced a markedly sharper cut of 10,000 troops this year and another 23,000 by the end of next summer. That would still leave 64,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan; those numbers would gradually reduce in the lead-up to 2014, when security responsibility would be handed over to Afghan forces. How many American soldiers would be permitted beyond 2014 would be decided in the ongoing “strategic alliance” negotiations.

Meanwhile, other members of the NATO coalition are bound to follow the American lead. The United Kingdom, with about 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, is pulling out 450 soldiers this summer, and has announced that all British combat troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2015. France has also announced a withdrawal that parallels America’s.

Their place will be taken by Afghanistan’s fledgling security forces --- the Afghan National Army (ANA); and the Afghan National Police (ANP) --- which coalition members are training. ANA and ANP numbers have swelled to 296,000, of which 100,000 have been added in just the last six months. There are serious questions over their capability. Just one recruit in ten is literate and desertion rates remain worrying, though increased salaries have brought them down somewhat.

Critical to the American vision for Afghanistan is the reconciliation process with the Taliban. A long-term US presence is anathema to the Taliban; a US drawdown, alongside the failure of reconciliation, could well result in the effective Balkanisation of Afghanistan, with the Taliban controlling southern Afghanistan and the remaining US forces militarily propping up Karzai’s (or a successor’s) government in northern Afghanistan. At least one prominent American thinker, former US Ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, has foreseen the de facto division of Afghanistan, with US drone and Special Forces strikes being conducted from northern Afghanistan into the south and into Pakistan.

For Pakistan, the US drawdown is ominous since Washington’s reduced dependence on Pakistan will allow more effective arm-twisting of Islamabad. As senior US officials have briefed New Delhi, the dependence on Pakistan for logistical routes has already come down thanks to Russia’s cooperation in expanding the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). This involves landing US supplies in Baltic Sea ports and then transporting them to Afghanistan through Russia and the Central Asian countries over a 3,200-mile railway. Even though the NDN is four times as expensive as the comparatively straightforward route through Pakistan, it already accounts for half of America’s logistical requirements in Afghanistan. Any reduction in the American presence will further decrease Pakistan’s leverage.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Eurofighter and Euroradar confirm that the Typhoon will get its AESA radar by 2015

The Typhoon, pictured here with Meteor air-to-air missiles, will receive the new CAPTOR-E AESA radar by 2015, says a company release from the Paris air show (pasted below)

Eurofighter and Euroradar confirm 2015 entry into service target date for the Typhoon new generation E-Scan radar

After one year of industry funding, the Eurofighter and Euroradar consortia have received renewed strong support from the Partner Nations and have agreed to continue the full scale development programme of the next generation E-Scan radar, confirming the 2015 entry into service date.

Supported by the Eurofighter partner nations: the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and Spain, Eurofighter GmbH and Euroradar began full scale development of the new CAPTOR-E radar in July 2010.

The new radar will have AESA capability that far exceeds any other radar available today and in the foreseeable future and will be developed to satisfy the requirements of the Partner Nations and customers across the globe.

The new radar will retain the key features of the existing market leading Captor-M radar in order to exploit the maturity of the current system, using latest generation technology to provide further advanced performance. The Typhoon’s AESA radar will offer a variety of benefits over M-Scan, including increased detection and tracking ranges, advanced air-to-surface capability and enhanced electronic protection measures.

The new AESA array, larger than the ones available to our competitors thanks to the Typhoon’s voluminous radome, will be fitted on a repositioner that will provide a wider field of regard when compared to those installed or scheduled for introduction on other fighters.

The new radar will offer customers the freedom to retrofit their existing Typhoons when required. The radar will have significant growth potential and both existing and new customers will be able to participate in tailoring the radar to meet their individual operational requirements.

The new AESA Radar is part of the platform and systems enhancement ongoing with Eurofighter to ensure Typhoon leads the way as the world’s best new generation multi-role combat aircraft.'

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Enhancing coastal security: New interceptor boat commissioned into Coast Guard

Fast Interceptor Boat ICGS C-152, pictured here, was commissioned into the coast guard on Saturday. Manned by 11 sailors, it is capable of 45 knots, with an endurance of 500 nautical miles at economical speed.

I had written an article on coastal security in March... it is posted on Broadsword and the link is http://ajaishukla.blogspot.com/search?q=coastal

It would appear that the acquisition of coastal security boats is continuing apace, with Fast Interceptor Boats and Fast Attack Craft being steadily churned out by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) and Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL). On the occasion of the commissioning of the Coast Guard's latest interceptor boat, the Coast Guard press release is pasted below:


1. At an impressive ceremony on 18 Jun 2011 at Okha, Indian Coast Guard Ship C-152 was commissioned by Dr Vijayalakshmy K Gupta, Secretary (Defence Finance), in the presence of DIG BS Yadav, the Commander Coast Guard region (North-West). Apart from the officers and men of the Indian Coast Guard, the ceremony was also attended by representatives of various Central and State Govt organisations and the media.

2. Post 26/11, the Indian Coast Guard is on the pursuit of augmenting its surveillance capabilities, so as to meet its enhanced tasks and responsibilities effectively. The present force level and manpower are planned to be doubled by graduated procurement, with proportionate infrastructure development and augmentation of trained manpower. 09 more Coast Guard stations are planned to be established by 2012, wherein each station will have two boats to undertake search and rescue, close coast patrol and respond to fast developing situations at sea. More assets will be based in these stations depending upon infrastructure and availability of operational logistic support facilities.

3. The 30 metre Boat, built by M/s ABG Shipyard, Surat, displaces 90 tons and has an endurance of 500 NM at an economical speed of 25 knots. It can achieve a maximum speed of 45 knots for responding to urgent calls at sea. The ship specially designed for close coast and shallow water operations will immensely help to augment the surveillance capability of the Coast Guard on the Gujarat coast.

4. The boat commanded by Comdt(JG) R Vijay, has a crew complement of 11 Enrolled Personnel.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

How long can India ignore the Taliban?

It is time for India to open a dialogue track with the Quetta Shoora of the Taliban, which increasingly chafes at restraints and controls imposed upon it by Pakistan

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th June 11

After a decade of deft manoeuvring in Afghanistan with its successful aid policy, New Delhi has taken its eye off the ball. While Washington tries hard to nudge Mullah Omar into sharing power in Afghanistan – a political watershed in a decade-long war – our mandarins have chosen to pooh-pooh the process. Taking cover behind the Mullah Akhtar Mansour fiasco – when a “senior Taliban leader” was flown by the Royal Air Force from Pakistan to Kabul last November for peace talks, but turned out to be a money-seeking impostor – Indian officials dismiss any thought of opening their own track to the Taliban with the toss-off: “Who knows who we would end up talking to?”

But, as I discovered during a recent visit to Kabul, the dialogue with the Taliban is being seriously pursued and it is captivating everyone who matters: the insurgents, the Afghan polity and government, the Americans, the United Nations and practically every Afghan who has time left over from scrabbling together a livelihood

Lutfullah Mashal from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s key intelligence agency, told me that American negotiators have met Mullah Omar’s representatives, including Syed Taib Agha, a Taliban ambassador-at-large. Besides Agha, the dialogue has also featured Qudratullah Jamal, formerly Mullah Omar’s minister for information and culture. Admittedly, Mullah Omar himself has remained invisible, but that is not necessarily suspicious; negotiating is something that Omar disdains. As Mashal says, “Nobody has seen Mullah Omar, nobody has talked to him, but his trusted people are talking.”

This dialogue, however, has created discord between Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shoora and Pakistan. Taliban sources lament that Pakistani pressure is forcing Omar to engage with the Americans. Without that, he would be little disposed to talk, being increasingly confident of outlasting the coalition forces in Afghanistan. Given the Quetta Shoora’s single-point agenda of forcing foreign forces out of Afghanistan, negotiating with the Americans is a humiliating climb-down. But Islamabad, with its feet held to the fire by Washington, has bluntly told Omar that dialogue is essential, if only to stave off US pressure. But this is a serious loss of face for the Taliban and confuses its rank and file.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s representative to Pakistan until Islamabad handed him over to Washington for an extended stay in Guantanamo Bay, is among those who best understand the Taliban’s complex relationship with Pakistan. Zaeef points to the growing contradiction between the Taliban’s uncompromising rejection of foreign occupation on the one hand; and on the other, Islamabad’s weak-kneed acceptance of American drone attacks and Special Forces operations on its territory. Pakistan has also arrested, and handed over to America, dozens of senior Taliban leaders over the last decade. A proud Pashtun like Omar resents being coerced into dialogue by what he considers a duplicitous and craven government.

Says another Talib: “We are angrier today at Pakistan than America. Pakistan is playing a double game, telling the Muslims that we are looking after your interests … but actually they are working for America. Thousands of Taliban are in jails in Pakistan even today.”

AfPak watchers know that Taliban-Pakistan relations were hardly smooth when Omar called the shots in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Now, however, uneasy coexistence is giving way to deep bitterness within the Taliban.

This widening fault line provides South Block an opportunity to transform its traditional power calculus in the AfPak region, which unquestioningly lumps Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shoora with the ISI-military combine. There seems little recognition of Mullah Omar’s impending collision with Islamabad; nor that “the Taliban” that the ISI mobilises against Indians in Afghanistan belong to the Haqqani network, which Pakistan maintains far more lovingly than the Quetta Shoora. Divide and rule is standard ISI practice; during the anti-Soviet jihad, it had presided over seven Afghan mujahideen factions, playing one against the other. Today, the ISI effectively maintains two Afghan Taliban by keeping the Haqqani network functionally and financially autonomous from the Quetta Shoora. But, despite the fear that the Haqqani network generates with its suicide strikes and Al Qaeda linkages, Mullah Omar remains the spiritual and symbolic leader of the Taliban, the Amir-ul-Momineen (Commander of the Faithful). With his uncomplicated agenda (freeing Afghanistan of foreigners); his straightforward methods (gun-toting insurgency rather than suicide bombings); and his growing disenchantment with Pakistan, he represents a real opportunity for an Indian overture.

But ideology invariably trumps realism within the Indian establishment; anyone who deals with the ISI is surely the enemy! Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a former senior Talib official, now deputy head of the High Peace Council, provides the obvious context. “The Taliban are in the battlefield against the world’s greatest power, which heads of a coalition of 48 countries. They will take the support of anyone who could support them … Pakistan; the Indian government; or the Iranian or Chinese government. This is the nature of the battlefield.”

New Delhi’s dialogue with Mullah Omar will not be easy. Omar knows that India supported the hated Afghan communists; then the Soviet Union invaders; then the mujahideen factions that battled the Taliban; and then the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Furthermore, the fissures between Pakistan and the Taliban may not turn out wide enough to exploit. But as South Block prepares for a post-2014 AfPak, it would be a strategic blunder to not even have tried to open communications with a major player in the Great Game.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Broadsword Book Review: Lt Gen J.F.R. Jacob, "An Odyssey in War and Peace": A failed attempt at rewriting history

An Odyssey in War and Peace
Lt Gen. J.F.R. Jacob
(India: Roli Books, 2011)
189 pages
Rs 350/-

Lieutenant General JFR Jacob’s second book, like his first, should be given a wide berth. An exercise in unabashed self-aggrandizement, Jacob shores up his reputation by destroying others’, a ham-handed attempt that ends in failure and leaves one gritting one’s teeth.

The innocent reader should have been warned in 1997, when General Jacob published “Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation”, an implausible chronicle of the Bangladesh campaign of 1971 that essentially argued that the official history was cockamamie. Jacob unblushingly claimed that he had masterminded that campaign; while his boss, and his boss’ boss --- eastern army commander (Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora) and the army chief (General, later Field Marshal, Sam Manekshaw) --- were incompetent figureheads who garnered the credit.

Now, Jacob has come out with a wider-ranging paean of self-adoration. In chapter after unrelenting chapter, Jake (as the author styles himself) recounts his army career. Moving with Jake from one posting to the next, the yawning reader quickly discerns a pattern: each boss is an incompetent wastrel with only one thing going for him: Jake’s arrival onto the team. Predictably Jake quickly sizes up the situation, bulldozes his plan through his dim-witted superiors, and pulls off a rescue act for which posterity should be grateful.

“Jake and I, we broke the naxals”, he quotes West Bengal Chief Minister Siddharth Shankar Ray as telling “all and sundry” after anti-naxal operations in West Bengal. Even the moderately well informed newspaper reader would wonder when and how the naxals got back on their feet after Jake was done with breaking them. Don’t bother looking for the answer in this book.

For those looking for slander, Jacob obliges at every page-turn. One boss, Major General Reggie Noronha, is described as a “coward” who “loved his liquor and insisted that [Jacob’s] officers and their wives should attend the numerous parties” at his mess. Another one of Jacob’s commanders in Ladakh was “suffering from gout and did not move out of his headquarters”, leaving Jake to run affairs. The southern army commander, Lt Gen LP Sen was “a pucca brown sahib [who was] more interested in attending the races in Bombay and Pune than in attending office or visiting combat units and formations”. And Jacob’s commander in 1971, Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, is ridiculed as an ineffectual wimp who planned the travel of his wife to the surrender ceremony in Dacca in 1971, even as Jacob bulldozed the Pakistani commander into surrendering with 93,000 soldiers!

Jacob’s memoirs are located in a militarily interesting era from World War II; through the 1947-48 Kashmir conflict; the 1962 Sino-Indian war; the 1965 war with Pakistan; to the triumph at Dacca in 1971. Most soldiers of that period would have a story to tell. Sadly, Jacob clouds those events with his obsession with himself. Having been left out of battle in 1947-48 (he was in the artillery school in Deolali, Maharashtra); of the 1962 war (posted at Staff College, Wellington, Tamil Nadu), and in 1965 (back again in Deolali), a military psychologist would understand Jacob’s attempt to snatch all the credit for the 1971 Bangladesh campaign, independent India’s most comprehensive military victory.

Jacob’s bete noir is the hero of 1971, Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw, modern India’s best known and acclaimed military commander. Most people who knew Manekshaw concede that his talent as a raconteur immeasurably enhanced his public charisma. But for Jacob, Manekshaw was a mere creation of a “media campaign”. He describes Manekshaw variously as anti-national; anti-government; anti-Semetic; verbally indiscreet and professionally indifferent. Jacob claims that Manekshaw had no combat experience other than “a brief spell” in 1942. Manekshaw’s famously colourful account of how he won a Military Cross for gallantry after being badly wounded in Burma is dismissed as “Manekshaw’s flair for the dramatic.” As proof of Manekshaw’s failings, the author cites the infamous court of enquiry ordered into his “anti-national” behaviour by the defence minister of that time, VK Krishna Menon, allegedly at the behest of his protégé (and virulent Manekshaw-hater) Lt Gen BM Kaul. Ironically, this same incident is usually invoked to illustrate Manekshaw’s uprightness.

Jacob recounts some shocking conversations with Manekshaw, unverifiable since the latter is dead. When Manekshaw was named army chief, he appointed Jacob the Chief of Staff (second-in-command) of the crucial eastern command. Jacob alleges that Manekshaw told him in a phone call that, “he had very little confidence in [Aurora].” When Jacob asked Manekshaw why then was he appointing Aurora to such a key position, the future field marshal allegedly replied, “I like to have him as a doormat.” Readers familiar with military custom and tradition would find this hard to swallow.

Independent India has produced dozens of combat heroes, young men and women as gallant as any in the history of warfare. But we can boast of a mere handful of world-class generals. Jacob’s vainglorious autobiography provides a psychological insight into how some generals put self before everything else, including the reputation of many who are no longer alive to answer and before an institution that emerges in an appalling light.

Q&A with Wahidullah Shahrani, Afghanistan’s Minister for Mines: "India will consume most commodities by 2030" "

At an interview with Wahidullah Shahrani at his office in Kabul on 6th June 2011

by Ajai Shukla
Kabul, Afghanistan
Business Standard, 12th June 2011

With 22 companies, including two Indian consortia, bidding for an integrated project to develop the 2 billion-tonne Hajigak iron ore deposit in Bamiyan Province in Central Afghanistan, Wahidullah Shahrani, Afghanistan’s minister of mines, spoke about the giant project to Business Standard’s Ajai Shukla in Kabul.

Q. Is the tendering on track?

The process is on schedule and the response has been encouraging. We facilitated the visit to Bamiyan of [the bidders], and gave them a tour of the Hajigak deposits. The closing dates for the submission of final bids is 3rd August and the [Afghan] government will make a decision sometime in October.

Q. The bids will encompass far more than just the extraction of iron ore from Hajigak?

Besides the extraction of ore, the bids will include setting up a steel production plant utilising the nearby high-grade coking coal deposits; [exploitation of] the high-quality chromite deposits in the same package; job creation in Afghanistan; infrastructure development including railroad and power; and the evacuation of ore and steel to neighbouring countries for the entire duration of engagement, which should be 35-40 years. Also, other benefits like paving the way for establishing a cement plant… [there is] strong potential demand for cement in Afghanistan as a post-conflict country where construction is the largest sector.

Q. And the bids will be evaluated as a comprehensive package?

The bids would be evaluated based on comprehensive economic criteria… [including] royalty to the Afghanistan government, infrastructure development, vertical integration to maximise employment, and issues of environment. The bidders’ commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) norms, and to bringing about sustainable development of the area, will be major factors in our evaluation.

Q. Security remains a major concern for the bidders.

The companies can be confident that the Afghan government will make all security arrangements. From securing the workers’ camps, the steel plant, movement in Kabul, in Bamiyan and in between… all that will be our responsibility.

Q. And if Indian companies, which face especially serious threats, say they would like to secure their own camps?

We will be flexible of course. Even though in Hajigak… all the arrangements have already been made.

Q. The Bamiyan area has other potentially lucrative deposits besides Hajigak… such as the Sia Darra iron ore deposits. Will a company that steps forward in Hajigak be preferred when other deposits in the area are awarded?

Those companies will be much more competitive because of their strong presence in the area, their local knowledge, their well-developed infrastructure… they will be in a very competitive position [to bag any future mining contracts in the area].

Q. There is some uncertainty about evacuation infrastructure, on which the ore and steel would be moved out to regional and international markets. What would the Afghan government like to see?

After we evaluate the final bids, there will be negotiations over how to develop the infrastructure. We have been hearing that some companies want to evacuate 25 million tonnes of iron ore [annually] to India, which requires significant investment in developing a railroad. In those negotiations… all options will be taken into account including size of the railroad, its capacity and routing. A linked issue would be the upgrading of dry ports in Afghanistan for handling 25 million tonnes of iron-ore, or 20 million tonnes of steel per year.

Q. Would you could indicate your preferred evacuation route, or leave the decision to the company?

The Afghan government would have strategic preferences, but any decision would be arrived at in consultation with the company.

Q. Two or three routes are being considered. Firstly, evacuating the ore through Uzbekistan, via Mazar-e-Sharif. Then there is talk about evacuating through Pakistan…

…Which is the most convenient one in terms of location, but India would have other concerns here. However, based on the new Trade and Transit Agreement that Kabul signed with Pakistan a year ago, Afghanistan can export anything to India… not just traditional exports like fresh and dry fruits but anything, including our mineral wealth. Steel produced in Afghanistan, even by a foreign company, will be treated as Afghan exports.

Q. But Pakistan insists that goods from Afghanistan be unloading at Wagah and transhipped onto Indian containers. Is that feasible for large volumes of minerals?

All the ore will not be exported to India…. There is also huge demand from other countries of the region, like Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, and China. To assess the commercial viability of the project, you have to consider the demand from other regional countries. But India certainly has a huge demand and we believe that, by 2030, India will be the largest consumer of commodities in the world.

Q. There is also the option to supply the ore to China, which would evacuate it through the route it builds for the Aynak copper mines.

That is an option. Alternatively, it could be evacuated through Iran, through Chabahar port, to which the government of India has built a highway. But I believe that whichever company wins the Hajigak contract would use a combination of options, supplying the demand from within Afghanistan, from neighbouring countries, supplying to China, and also evacuating it back to India.

Q. India has offered to set up a school of mines in Kabul?

I made the request when I visited Delhi [last year]. And, when Dr Manmohan Singh visited Kabul last month, he confirmed that the GoI would support the National Institute of Mining as part of its aid package to Afghanistan…. The Indian School of Mines (ISM), Dhanbad, is assisting us in developing the curriculum. Our focus will be on metals, coal, mineral economics, mineral law, environmental and health issues, contract management etc. It will be a comprehensive mining institute. Two faculty groups have already gone for training to ISM Dhanbad.

Q. Does all this place India in an advantageous position in bidding for Afghan mines like Hajigak?

India is in a very advantageous position. Besides the traditional and historical linkages between the two countries and their strategic relationship, India has become the fourth largest economy in the world and, by 2030, India will become the world’s largest consumer of commodities…. We have a special feeling for the people of India; their investment will be culturally comfortable. Given the glorious future of the Indian economy, investment in Afghanistan’s commodities will be very much in India’s benefit. And finally, India has emerged as a major contributor towards Afghanistan’s development with an aid contribution of around $2 billion. We would welcome large-scale investment by India into Afghanistan.

Q. Have you zeroed in on the next big project after Hajigak?

After Hajigak, in July this year, I will put five major projects on tender: three copper and two gold deposits in different parts of the country and, in February of 2012, I will put a huge oil basin in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on tender. In addition, we are having good negotiations with Indian companies for developing chromite deposits. The economic advantage of most of Afghanistan’s deposits is that they are open pit deposits, and commercially very viable. Plus the potential of cement. We are a post conflict country, which is expecting to consume about 6.5 million tonnes of cement annually. India is the world’s third largest producer of cement and we have been negotiating with a number of Indian companies for investment in this very important sector.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

DRDO: Prithvi accuracy better than 10 metres

The DRDO official press release is reproduced below.


New Delhi: Jyaistha 19, 1933

Wednesday, June 09, 2011

The surface to surface Prithvi (P-II) Missile was successfully flight tested this morning at 9 am from Launch Complex-III at the Interim Test Range (ITR), Chandipur in Balasore District of Orissa. The Launch was carried out as part of the regular training exercise of the Armed Forces.

Prithvi-II, the first indigenous surface to surface strategic Missile, capable of attacking targets at ranges of 350 kms, reached the predefined target in the Bay of Bengal with a very high accuracy of better than 10 meters. All the Radars, Electro-optical systems located along the coast have tracked and monitored the Missile throughout the flight path. An Indian Naval ship located near the target witnessed the final event.

The entire launch operations of the Missile were carried out by the Armed Forces, monitored by the Scientists of DRDO. The flight test of the Prithvi-II met all the Mission objectives and was like a text book launch. Dr. V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri and Secretary Defence R & D, witnessed the launch operations and congratulated the Armed Forces and Scientists for the successful flight test. Shri VLN Rao, Programme Director AD, Shri SK Ray, Director RCI, top officials of Strategic Force Command and DRDO were present during the Mission.

The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony has congratulated the Armed Forces and Scientists for the successful flight test.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

New Afghanistan mining projects create opportunity for India

Photo: courtesy Ajai Shukla
Part of the proposed site for the 2 billion-tonne Hajigak mining project in Central Afghanistan, for which two Indian consortia are submitting bids in July

by Ajai Shukla
Kabul, Afghanistan
Business Standard, 7th June 2011

The new Great Game for the rights to mine Afghanistan’s enormous mineral wealth is gathering momentum. With the global mining industry, and especially Indian mining majors, already focused on the unfolding competition for the massive Hajigak iron-ore mine, Afghanistan has announced five potentially lucrative mines.

Speaking exclusively to Business Standard in Kabul, Afghanistan’s Minister for Mines Wahidullah Shahrani revealed, “After Hajigak, in July this year, I will put five major projects on tender: three copper and two gold deposits and, in February 2012, I will put a huge oil basin in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on tender

Immediate attention, though, is focused on the tender for Hajigak, a two-billion-tonne deposit of high-grade iron ore in the central province of Bamiyan, for which bids are required to be submitted by August 3. Shahrani said the winner of the Hajigak contract would be finalised by October.
Afghanistan has shortlisted a total of 22 companies for the Hajigak contract. Of these, 14 are Indian companies. According to Indian media reports, Steel Authority of India Ltd and NMDC are putting together rival consortia to bid for the project.

The bids are likely to include the setting up of an integrated steel plant that will consume high-grade coking coal from nearby deposits; a road or rail evacuation route; a full-scale worker skill programme; and an education programme for villagers living nearby.

“The bidders’ commitment to corporate social responsibility norms, and their ability to bring about sustainable development of the area, will be major factors in our evaluation of the bids,” he says.

According to him, the winner will be selected on “comprehensive economic criteria… (including) royalty to the Afghanistan government, infrastructure development, vertical integration to maximise employment, environment, and proposals for community and social development.”

From May 7 to 12, the Afghan government took representatives of 16 of the shortlisted companies (including 11 Indian) to the proposed site of the Hajigak mine for an on-ground evaluation. During that visit, organised by Afghanistan’s mining ministry, company representatives were acquainted with the geological, geographical, security and social realities of the project site.

A key aspect of each proposal will be the evacuation infrastructure that the bidders propose. China, which was awarded the Aynak copper mines in Loghar province, Afghanistan’s first big sale of mining rights in the post-Taliban era, has undertaken to build a railway line from the northern provinces, to Bamiyan (where Hajigak is located), to Kabul, and then to Torkham on the Pakistan border at the Khyber Pass.

Shahrani believes that a viable alternative that could form the Hajigak evacuation infrastructure would be a railway line running westwards to Iran, along the Zaranj-Delaram highway that India had built in the mid-2000s, to the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Meanwhile, China continues to grapple with several issues at its copper mine in Aynak, including local resentment at being deprived of their land; security problems, including at least one rocket attack on their encampment; and the unearthing of ancient religious relics, which has somewhat delayed the project.

But Shahrani says Afghanistan has learnt from those experiences and the relatively secure environment around Bamiyan, populated by the Shia Hazara tribes, provides a stable atmosphere for whichever company or consortium wins the contract.

“The companies (at Hajigak) need to be secure and the Afghan government is making all arrangements. Security at the work camps, the steel plant, movement of men and materials, everything will be taken care of by the government of Afghanistan. We will permanently locate 1,500 persons of the Afghan National Police at Hajigak.”

In case the contractor wants to bring in their own security, like for an “inner ring” as the Chinese have done, Shahrani says Kabul will be “flexible”.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Leaving for Afghanistan... hold fast!

Bye, folks! Will be in Afghanistan from 3rd to 7th June... sniffing the breeze and talking to Afghan policymakers about what could lie ahead. See you all in a few days....