New Delhi, 25 September, 2006

More Joint War Games with Chinese Navy

After meetings between Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash and the US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Gary Roughead, the Indian and US navies identified a common operational need to engage the Chinese navy, to gain a perspective on Beijing’s long-term maritime intentions.. The two forces also agreed to institutionalise exchange of operational information in the Indian Ocean region. ‘‘We’re interested in increasing transparency with the PLA Navy. Its increasing capability is at a rate commensurate with the country’s economic growth. We seek to know their intent. By engaging them, we hope to gain some insight into that,’’ said Admiral Roughead after his visit to India.

On 02 December last year, expressing similar sentiments, Admiral Prakash had said, ‘‘We wonder what their long-term intentions are, but we are not at all averse to better relations with the PLA’’. The Pentagon’s offer for Indian liaison officers to be posted at the US Pacific Command in Hawaii, still hang fire at South Block. They would have much to do with the sharing of operational information and warship movements in the IOR. In Jun this year, Chinese military observers for the first time visited Guam in the Pacific to witness a US Navy/Air Force exercise ‘Valiant Shield’, involving three American aircraft carriers and a large complement of fighters. Admiral Roughead’s discussions in India stretched from maritime domain awareness to security in the Malacca Straits. Incidentally, the Indian Navy also briefed the US Admiral on the situation in Sri Lanka.

In another development, the US Army chief of staff, Gen Peter J Schoomaker paid a three-day visit to India from 08 Sep during which he held talks with top Indian leaders on bilateral defence ties and the regional security scenario. Gen Schoomaker met Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Chiefs of the three services and Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt. This was part of the exchange of high-level visits by India and the US to further strengthen the growing military relationship between the two countries. India told US that Pakistan still has not dismantled the infrastructure to fuel terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, with scores of terrorist-training camps still operating from its soil. This came during an operational briefing on the current situation in J&K.

Joint Training in Hawaii

For the first time, 140 Indian soldiers were in Hawaii participating in the biggest joint drill between the American and Indian armies –– "Yudh Abhyas" (Training for War). The military cooperation with the US was agreed upon by the earlier NDA government, which for the first time allowed them to enter the mountain and jungle warfare schools of the Indian Army, after permission for this was refused by successive governments till 2001. The joint exercises between the two armies, which started with a handful of soldiers, and has increased to 140 troops from the Gorkha Regiment who were flown to Hawaii for the 18-day joint exercise, which ended on September 23. The Americans and Indians officially claim that the purpose of the exercises was for the two forces to communicate, coordinate and fight together. Sources here insisted that this was a cover for the real intention, that is for the Americans to get access to sensitive military training schools for jungle and mountain warfare that the Indian Army had been very possessive about so far.

India–Japan Agree on Defence Cooperation

Against the backdrop of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, India and Japan recently announced a string of measures to step up defence cooperation between the two countries. A joint statement released after Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s talks with his counterpart, Japanese Minister of State for Defence Fukushiro Nukaga, said the Indian Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) will hold goodwill exercises in areas of mutual interest. It said defence ministers of the two countries will hold dialogue at regular intervals, alternately in the two capitals or elsewhere, and also use opportunities for bilateral exchanges at regional and multilateral meetings. The two countries will hold defence policy dialogue at the defence secretary level and there will be regular comprehensive security dialogue and military-to-military talks. The two sides also agreed to exchange ship visits between the Indian Navy and the JMSDF and invite each other’s officials to witness designated military activities. Mukherjee and Nukaga also discussed the threat to maritime traffic and recognised that such new and non-traditional threats affect the security of nations worldwide. They also exchanged views on traditional challenges of mutual concern and interest that have a bearing on Asian and global security. To a specific request from Nukaga, Mukherjee announced that the Indian Army band will take part in the band marching festival in November 2006. He also offered incentives to Japanese SDF trainee officers for participating in the programmes conducted by the National Defence Academy.

Singapore to Formalise Defence Links with India

As a step to formalise its budding defence links with India, Singapore has signed an agreement on training of troops and air force personnel in Indian establishments. Singapore already has similar arrangements with other countries such as Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Thailand, the United States and France. Singapore, which has held joint naval exercises with India for the past 12 years, last year held joint army and air force exercises with the Indian army on the subcontinent, involving artillery and some 500 Singapore ground troops over a period of more than a month. It also deployed half a dozen F-16 fighter jets. Singapore now hopes it can formalise this cooperation with a memorandum of understanding. Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the IISS summit that Singapore is emerging as a hub for India's expanding economic, political and security ties with East Asia. "New areas of defence cooperation, including joint training facilities are emerging and supplementing existing cooperation between India and Singapore in the naval, maritime and counter-terrorism spheres," he said.

Defence Procurement Manual Revised to End Scams

To make defence deals “cleaner and swifter”, the government of India has now come up with some revised armament procurement procedures. In an attempt to cleanse this crucial area and usher in greater transparency, the MoD on 30 Aug unveiled a new “Defence Procurement Procedure” and a “Defence Procurement Manual”. Their main objective, besides eliminating corruption, is to make the process of purchasing defence equipment simpler and, at the same time, faster and also to provide a level playing field for indigenous producers — the absence of which had been a longstanding grievance of the domestic players. The two documents mark an improvement over the DPP (capital procurement) and DPM (revenue procurement), enunciated last year. Now, while evaluating bids to determine the L-1 vendor (who quotes the lowest price), the effect of taxes and duties payable by the Indian industry would be ‘‘neutralised’’ since foreign companies do not have such liabilities.

The latest DPP and the DPM are comprehensive documents with clearly-stated norms and guidelines on –– ”buy”, “buy-and-make” and “make” procedures. They also include shipbuilding procedures and fast-track measures for acquisitions. The offset policy is firmly in position. The major decisions on defence purchases would henceforth be taken simultaneously in a collegiate manner by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC); the generic requirements of the three services would be placed on the ministry’s website to enable vendors to register themselves on the internet; and there would be increased transparency in the conduct of field-trials, wherever necessary.

Other crucial components of the new procedures are the requirement of a pre-contract integrity clause for all contracts over Rs 100 crores, and a procedure for implementing `offset’ provisions for all contracts over Rs 300 crores in respect of capital schemes. During the 11th Plan Period the country would gain an estimated Rs 45,000 crores by way of offsets. In an attempt to expedite the purchase of arms, ammunition and other equipment at short notice, as was the case during the Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999, a fast-track procedure –– which itself is an improvement over the programme promulgated in 2001 –– has been put in place with a view to adopt a ‘top down’ approach in which all critical decisions would betaken collectively by the DAC.

India, of course, has emerged as one of the world’s largest defence importers in recent years, spending as it did a staggering $6 billion on armament purchases in 2004–2005. Moreover, it plans to spend well over $30 billion for acquisition of military hardware and software during the 11th Plan period (2007–2012). In keeping with this, the government expects almost $10 billion to flow back into India for investment through ‘‘direct offsets’’ between 2007 and 2012. The new policy actually builds up on last year’s policy, which laid down the 30% offset clause for all defence deals over Rs 300 crores and the pre-contract integrity pact in all contracts over Rs 100 crores.

The full text of the revised Defence Procurement Procedure and Defence Procurement Manual m may be studied at the MOD website

India to Get Sukhoi Jets Ahead of Schedule

In a move to save costs and speed up delivery of Sukhoi fighter aircraft to Indian Air Force from Russia three-years ahead of schedule, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has scrapped initial plans for full indigenisation of the warplanes at its facilities in India. An agreement signed recently between Russian arms firm Rosoboronexport and Indian Defence Ministry changed the timeframe of the completion of the US$3.5 billion contract for the licensed production of 140 Su-30MKI fighters by HAL. The original Sukhoi license production deal signed in December 2000, the largest single Indo–Russian defence contract in 40 years, had provision for full indigenisation of the multi-role fighter planes at HAL facilities in India and last of the 140 Su-30MKI was to be delivered in 2017. The amendments in the initial deal provide for the completion of delivery of 140 fighters in 2014 three years ahead of schedule with India declining to shift the whole production cycle to HAL facilities as the cost of the indigenously-produced fighter would have doubled.  Russia, which has so far supplied 26 kits to HAL for the assembly of Su-30MKI, would earn an additional USD 350 million through the supply of components by its companies, which otherwise would have been produced by HAL. Sources in the Russian supplier Irkut Corporation said that the deal could be closed even by 2012.

India, Germany Sign Defence Agreement

On 07 Sep, India and Germany signed their first-ever joint defence cooperation agreement to provide for transfer of German hi-tech weapons technology and broader interaction between the armed forces of the two countries. The agreement was concluded with German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung during the high-level visit of Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Germany and France. The RM said,"The agreement would open doors of German technology transfer to India and provide the framework for holding joint naval exercises and more interaction between the armed forces of the two countries”.

With this India has found another partner to broad base its military suppliers so as to make arms purchases more competitive and deepen its technological base through joint and co-production of armaments in critical areas. An institutional mechanism has been put in place to transform the ‘buyer-seller’ relationship into a ‘strategic’ one. A High Defence Committee (HDC) under co-chairmanship of Defence Secretaries of the two countries has been formed and will meet once a year. It will have three sub-groups –– strategic defence cooperation, defence technical cooperation and military-to-military cooperation to cover the entire gamut of defence related issues. Germany is the fourth major nation after Russia, France and UK with which India has finalized a strategic defence agreement.

India, France to Mull over 'N-word’

The French offer of cooperation in civilian nuclear energy development figured prominently in the defence dialogue with India, when the Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited Paris recently. France assured New Delhi of cooperation in development of nuclear energy for civil use, although the Indo–US agreement on civilian nuclear deal was still pending with the US Senate. However, the signing of a crucial Indo–French agreement on transfer of technology for production of French cruise missiles by India was put off owing to last-minute hitches. The deal, which would have facilitated the transfer of critical technology for sub-systems, needed for India’s indigenous missile programme, was to have been the high point of Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to France. There were no details about the hitches and French officials too were tight-lipped about why the deal was stalled. The sources said the deal would be signed later.

The proposed agreement envisages the transfer of technology from European missile consortium MBDA to India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Besides cruise missile technology, India is seeking the supply of ring laser gyros, a key component holding up the progress of the nuclear-capable Agni missile programme as well as other indigenous missiles from France. In addition to missile technology, India is looking to France for know-how for other futuristic weapon platforms with applications in space and surveillance, he said. Elaborating on India’s wish list, Mukherjee said it included the supply of spares and technical know-how as well as arrangements with French equipment manufacturers for setting up production facilities for spares and weapon sub-systems.

India–Indonesia Joint Naval Patrols

The Indian Navy and its Indonesian counterpart engaged in a three-week patrolling of the Andaman Sea to counter piracy, smuggling and other trans-national crimes. The latest round of patrolling is part of the maritime operations that began in September 2002 following the signing of a navy-level bilateral protocol. Scheduled to conclude ceremonially at Port Blair later this month, the current patrolling is also punctuated by a joint naval exercise aimed at improving "interoperability" between the two forces. Two Indian Navy vessels, a landing ship and a fast-attack craft, as also an Indonesian corvette were pressed into service.

Indo–British Airforce Exercise

For the first time since Independence, British fighter aircraft will operate from Indian airbases for undertaking combat manoeuvres, when the joint air exercise with the Royal Air Force (RAF) commences next month. Air Force sources said the seven-day exercise would be held at the Gwalior Air Force Station in Madhya Pradesh from October 13. Code-named “Indradhanush 2006”, this would be the first ever joint air exercise with the RAF, to which the Indian Air Force traces its birth in 1932. The IAF’s structure, administration and ideology are largely based on what the RAF infused into the then Royal Indian Air Force. Although RAF aircraft have flown to India for aerobatic displays and for participation in aero-shows in the past, their fighters have never been here. Last year, the RAF’s famed Red Arrows aerobatic team, flying Hawks, had performed in India.

VAdm Suresh Mehta –– Chief of Naval Staff Designate

The seniormost naval officer and fighter pilot, Vice Admiral Suresh Mehta has been named as India's new Chief of Naval Staff. Mehta, currently Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, will assume the job on October 31, when present Chief Admiral Arun Prakash retires. Born on August 18, 1947, Mehta, an alumnus of National Defence Academy, has held many prestigious onboard and staff appointments including having commanded the Western Fleet, the sword arm of the IN during Operation Parakaram. An aviator like the present chief, Mehta has extensively operated from aircraft carriers, including INS Vikrant. Promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in 1995, the new chief designate has served as Flag Officer Goa Area.

Suresh Mehta's assumption as Chief of Naval Staff, was expected to provide a shot in the arm to the Indian Navy's indigenisation programme. Mehta, a known supporter of indigenisation of the Navy, is backing the overhaul of domestic ship-building facilities so that the induction of new ships is speeded up. The process of placing orders with Indian ship building companies which went into high gear under outgoing naval Chief Admiral Arun Prakash was expected to bet speeded up under Mehta, observers felt. The Navy which did not commission any new ship through the 1990s, will have 35 new ships by 2012. The indegenisation programme of the Navy was also aimed at beefing up its blue water capabilities. Simultaneously, the Navy was also obtaining more ships from abroad. Aircraft Carrier Admiral Gorshkov (INS Vikramaditya) was expected to join the Navy next year while three Krivak Class frigates from Russia will be delivered by 2012.

New Naval Base on East Coast

The Indian Navy set in motion efforts to build a futuristic naval base between Rambilli and Elamanchili, about 50 km south of Visakhapatnam. The Eastern Naval Command (ENC) needs to have a new base as the existing channel at Visakhapatnam port, shared by the Navy and the port, is narrow and getting crowded. The new base is of strategic importance for the ENC to expand its facilities in an exclusive enclave by deepening a natural channel to have easy access to the sea. Of the 5,000 acres sought by the Ministry of Defence, the Andhra Pradesh Government has already allotted 500 acres and the remaining land will be assigned shortly. As the allotment is for the Navy, the process is being accorded topmost priority by the district administration. A focal point for naval operations in the eastern seaboard, ENC has its origin in the Royal Naval Base developed in 1939, later commissioned as Royal Indian Naval Ship Circars in April 1942. Visakha has the submarine arm of the Navy and training centre for marine commandos. There are over 40 warships, six submarines and 22 aircraft under its operational command.

US Helicopters for Indian Army

Six years after American defence firms forayed into the Indian arms market consequent to the lifting of US embargoes, an American company is set to bag the first commercial deal for selling 197 light helicopters to the Indian army. After almost two years of evaluation, including trials at the world's highest battlefield on the Siachen Glacier, the army has, according to highly placed sources, opted for Bell helicopter's 407 Shen model in preference to Eads' Eurocopter. Though the army has given its technical evaluation to the Defence Ministry, the deal is yet to be cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council headed by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherhee as well as the cabinet committee on security. Though the price negotiations are yet to be finalised, the deal, which includes the training of Indian pilots, is estimated to be worth over $400 million. After the lifting of sanctions, the US made military sales of the ANTPQ fire-finding radars and reached an agreement to sell the retired warship USS Trenton. All these are government-to-government deals done through the foreign military sales (FMS) programme of the US.

Lt-Gen Bartwal Takes Over as New DGMI

Lt-General Digamber Singh Bartwal, a Jat regiment officer, took over as the new Director-General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) at Army HQ. This change became necessary due to the exit of his predecessor, Lt-Gen Deepak Summanwar, after a controversy broke out over his wife’s shooting of a film at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, without obtaining clearance from the Defence Ministry.

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