Monday, February 25, 2008

Military-industrial complex in India?

"With private investment in defence, is there a risk of creating a military-industrial complex?" asks Businessworld in a survey. The select respondents, policy analysts and defence researchers, respond:
50% YES: With the growing interest of private players in defence, concerns regarding the creation of an influential lobby comprising the defence forces and the arms industry are surfacing. Some respondents believed that it is highly likely that such a lobby of the military forces and the industry might emerge, albeit in the distant future.

40% NO: Many respondents believed that after all these years of State control over defence without a justifiable level of advancement in the state of technology and an ever-burgeoning import bill, it is high time that the private sector stepped in. As for the possibility of the creation of a military-industrial complex, while some expressed faith in the integrity of senior defence officials, a few others said that even if such a power block is created at some point in the future, it won’t be able to wield much influence over the strategic decisions of the State that might endanger internal security or peace.

10% MAYBE: these respondents were of the view that a State-run MIC already exists in India. Another point that was brought up was that MICs emerge in countries with ‘expansionist’ agendas. India, on the other hand, is not as outwardly focused and is more concerned with protecting its territory.

This survey was prompted by the increased participation of private Indian Companies in the recent Defexpo (defence exhibition) held at Delhi, where companies like Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Larsen and Toubro, and Mahindra & Mahindra held their stalls.
AShok Leyland Stallion
Truck maker Ashok Leyland unveiled its the six-wheel drive Stallion 6x6 at the expo (with technology from Panhard of France). The Stallion has been developed specially for desert and semi-desert areas. It has a hydraulic hoist for self-loading and unloading of ammunition. Ashok Leyland also displayed the vehicle, FAT, which can move through deep sand and is for towing 155-mm artillery guns:
AShok Leyland FAT

Tata Group lead the Indian private sector at the expo with 15 of its companies in diverse businesses such as combat vehicles, special materials, and teleco- mmunication. Tata Motors had its multi-axle vehicle — Tata 8x8, equipped with tiltable steering and tiltable cabin:
Tata 8X8
The Tata LSV will be of particular interest because it is a home-designed, home-made vehicle vying for army’s order for 8,400 light specialist vehicles for use by the mechanised division. 1.2 tonne-payload LSV can carry more men and material than the traditional 500 kg-payload Mahindra jeeps and Ordnance Factory Board’s Jongas.

Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, in alliance with Urban Aeronautics, unveiled a model of a rotorless Vertical Take Off & Landing aircraft (VTOL) to be used as a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle):
Tata LSV is facing competition from Mahindra’s Axe. The vehicle won a lot of admiration when it was shown at the January Auto Expoin Delhi. This is another home-designed, home-made vehicle, albeit it uses a Mercedes engine:
Mahindra Axe

According to Brigadier (Retd) K.A. Hai, CEO of Mahindra Defence Systems, Axe has done rather well in army’s winter trials in the mountains of the north. He is hopeful that the vehicle would also pass muster in the desert of Rajasthan in the summer.

Mahindra will also introduce its new armoured vehicle, Marksman, and a military version of the Scorpio SUV at the expo. In fact, the company intends to replace its traditional jeeps with Scorpios as its standard transport vehicle for Indian army:
mahindra marksman
Meanwhile the government-owned BEL has signed a deal at the Defexpo:
Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) has signed a “term sheet” and two MoUs (memoranda of understanding) with three Israeli defence companies at the DEFEXPO, the international army and navy equipment exposition, held in New Delhi between February 16 and 19. These arrangements will enable the Israeli companies to meet their offset requirements.

A release issued by the company said that its “term sheet” with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd envisages the formation of a joint venture, which is to “encourage indigenous advanced technology capabilities of missile electronics and guidance technologies.” A BEL spokesperson explained that the “term sheet” provided for a “trial period” of one year. A review would then consider whether the joint venture would proceed.

BEL has also signed two MoUs, with Israel Aerospace Ltd-Malat., which will facilitate “joint working” in the area of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems. The public sector company is to “undertake product support”, apart from manufacturing and supplying the designated sub-systems. This arrangement is meant to help the Israeli entity meet its offset obligations.

The PSU also signed an MoU with Elisra for “joint working for various airborne electronic warfare programmes for Indian defence requirement.”

So instead of a "military-industrial complex", we are likely to see healthy competition between private and public companies in the defence sector.
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Monday, February 18, 2008

Growing terror in the south

Following the foiled attack on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the subsequent arrest of six Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists on 10 Feb 2008 by UP’s special task force, Bangalore has once again come back into focus as a target for terror attacks.

Dhanya Krishankumar
The confessions of those arrested reveal that their initial target was the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) in Bangalore in 2005, and one of the LeT operatives, Sabauddin, who has confessed to his involvement in the terror attack on Indian Institute of Science (IISc), has now admitted to conducting a recce at the ISRO campus. But the heightened security and his inability to strike a rapport with members of the security team forced his team to abandon the proposed attack on ISRO and look at other possible locations.

Sources say, Sabauddin even confessed to have carefully studied the time taken by city transport to reach ISRO, and also the time required to travel from the ISRO campus to his house. And the confessions and chilling revelations continue even as a team from Karnataka heads to UP to assist in the investigations.

South India has overnight emerged as the hub of terrorist groups waiting to strike. Anti-terrorism experts warn that attacking Bangalore would be a logical step for the jihadis at a time when India is becoming an economic power and, therefore, IT hubs like Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad seem attractive targets. And the recent unearthing of terror training camps in the forests bordering North Karnataka following the arrests of Mohammed Ghouse, Asadullah Aboobaker and Mohammed Asif in Bangalore has merely exposed how deep the terror network has penetrated some of the southern cities.

Interrogations have also revealed that the real threat comes not from Kashmiri militants but from local Kannadigas who are being indoctrinated into joining terror groups. Bangalore, the coastal areas and Gulbarga region are the most terrorist-infested areas in the state. These areas have become a hub for terrorists from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Gulf countries.

The worrying fact is that the police and intelligence agencies are not equipped to deal with the rising terrorist activities. In 1992, the State administration constituted The Anti Terrorist Squad to deal with terror. But so far other than being rechristened as the Anti Terrorist Cell (ATC); and growing from a one-man army to a unit with three people, not much progress has been made. Unlike the Mumbai ATC, which has a dedicated team of trained officers who focus on curbing terror in the state and country, the Karnataka ATC is only a coordinating agency. According to officers, the state ATC merely collates information and passes on the alerts to the state police who have the jurisdiction to act on the information.

Karnataka emerging as a new base for such terrorist activity is not a healthy sign for the people, the industry or business,” says N. Reghuraj, chairman of CII (southern region). “We will meet the government soon, with requests to come out with a suitable policy to prevent any more mishaps and future problems.”

Bottom line, even as the shocking revelations of terrorist activities in the state keep flowing in, it’s high time the police and political establishments in the state formulate a strategy to handle the looming crisis without brushing it under the carpet till tragedy strikes again.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Archaeological sites

Renowned archaeologist Prof. B. B. Lal had first excavated the ancient city of Sisupalgarh in 1948 and then he had referred Sisupalgarh to be a 2000-year-old fortified township.

The Hindu
Nearly 50 years after, two researchers R. K. Mohanty of Pune-based Deccan College and Monica L. Smith of University of California started excavating a portion where they claim to have exposed 18 previously unknown pillars and several associated structures on a mound within the fortification wall. During current excavation several artefacts and urban structure of pre-historic period also came to the light.

Though archaeologists and anthropologists continue to emphasise on the fact that Sishupalgarh is unique, there has been no attempt on part of the State Government to protect and preserve the site. New constructions are coming up within 20 metre to 30 metre distance of monuments. “Entire Sishupalgarh is said to be a fort area. However, land patches have been systematically transferred in the name of private individuals."

And more than five years ago:
Lost City of Cambay
For archaeologists the word certainty is an oxymoron. The origin of the glass bangle was initially believed to have been the result of Indo-Roman contacts in the 1st century A.D. Then bangles were found among the painted greyware of Hastinapur dating 7 B.C. The ornament's antiquity and origin was pushed further back when they were more recently found in Harappan settlements of 2000 B.C.

As S.P. Gupta, chairman of the Indian Archaeological Society, says, "Nothing is static. Dates are constantly being revised by newer findings. The discovery of the Harappan site of Dholavira in Gujarat, for instance, pushed all our dates back by 1,000 years."

Oceanographers from the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) while taking routine sonar photographs off the coast of Gujarat unknowingly photographed the ruins of a vast ancient city submerged 40 m under the sea. Last fortnight, after spending weeks dredging the site and picking up over 2,000 artefacts, the NIOT team made some astonishing revelations.

It found that the ruins under the sea were strung across a 9-km stretch on the banks of an ancient riverbed which even had signs of a masonry dam. The submerged city bore striking similarities to Indus Valley Civilisation sites in the mainland. One of its structures, the size of an Olympics swimming pool, had a series of sunken steps that looked like the Great Bath of Mohenjodaro. Another rectangular platform was 200 m long and 45 m wide-as big as the acropolis found in Harappa. A larger granary-like structure made of mud plaster and extending to 183 m was discernible.

The real stunner came when the team sent samples of a fossilised log of chopped wood to two premier Indian laboratories-the Birbal Shahni Institute of Paleobotany (BSIP) in Lucknow and the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) in Hyderabad-to determine its antiquity. The BSIP dated it as 5500 B.C. But the NGRI found its sample to be much older: possibly dating back to 7500 B.C.

In the Indian subcontinent, the only evidence of large agricultural settlements dating back to 7500 B.C. were discovered in Mehrgarh in the Bolan river valley in Baluchistan, now in Pakistan. But as S.R. Rao, India's most experienced marine archaeologist, points out, there is no evidence of parallel development of the hinterland in Saurashtra to support the growth of a big city like Cambay during that period. Rao, who was called in by the NIOT team to examine the evidence, concedes that it does show the existence of a prehistoric site. That would make Cambay at least the oldest known settlement in India.

Others believe that if validated, the findings could lead to a paradigm shift in the basic premises that Indian history has been built on. Delhi University historian Nayanjot Lahiri is "excited by the possibilities" and says that it could give the heave-ho to the diffusion theory of civilisation that proposes urbanisation spread from West Asia to the Indus and thence downwards to India.

Read more on the ancient ruins discovered five years ago and ask why nothing further has been heard of from this site ever since the fall of the NDA government? Also go through the story of how the oceanographers went about their work:
Sending divers 40 m deep to collect samples is a trying proposition. The exploration of Dwarka in 1981 looks like child's play compared to this operations. Divers could spend a long time underwater collecting material from the Dwarka site, which is just 5 m deep. In the Gulf of Cambay, the tidal variations are up to 11 m, which means that a four-storey building will get submerged twice a day. Even expert divers from the Indian Navy cannot stay underwater for more than 20 minutes in the interregnum between the tides. Hence, the need for ROVs and sea-bed crawlers.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

IAF developments

Sarkozy guard of honour India
With the visit of the new President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, to India last month India and France are set to upgrade their defence ties.

5 new agreements were signed:
The agreement between French Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Atomic Energy was for constructing and operating Jules Hotowitz (JH) reactor.
An MoU that establishes cooperation between the Baba Atomic Research Centre and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research on the one hand and GANIL on the other on the use of spiral 2 high intensity beam production system will be signed in Mumbai.

Both countries also agreed to intensify exchanges between their nuclear scientists, establish structures for training and undertake nuclear safety research.
In addition, the dialogue between nuclear safety authorities of respective countries will be reinforced, especially in the context of future industrial cooperation.

In the defence sector, an agreement was signed on mutual protection of classified information while both sides agreed to take defence ties beyond buyer-seller relationship.

They decided to initiate detailed discussion on Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and agreed to intensify joint programmes and prospects in defence industry, conduct joint research and facilitate transfer of technology.

Agreements were also signed on transfer of sentenced prisoners and on India-French Development Cooperation through French Development Agency.

An MoU was also signed on establishing an International Associated Laboratory in the field of Neuro Science.

Mirage 2000-9

The highlight of the visit was a multi-billion Euro deal for upgrading India's Mirage 2000 fleet of fighter aircraft.
Under the deal, worth 1.5 billion Euros cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security, the Indian Mirages would be upgraded to Mirage 2000-9 levels as flown by the French Air Force.

Through the upgradation, the Indian Air Force is planning to increase the life of its Mirage fighters by 25 years.

The upgradation will involve advanced radars, avionics and arming them with air-to-air missiles with longer reach beyond visual range.

This deal was under negotiations the past year between HAL and Dassault:
HAL and Dassault are all set to sign a $800 million deal for a comprehensive upgrade of the Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fleet which boasts of over 50 fighter jets.

The upgrades include:

-- New avionics, including an advanced navigation system, mission computers, Mil 1553 B data with Digibus, a pulse doppler radar that can find objects out to 70 nautical miles

-- Two displays and an advanced head-down display in a glass cockpit

-- Electronic warfare systems, including new radar warning receivers with instantaneous wide-bank receivers, an integrated missile warning receiver with continuous time-to-impact information, and new jammers and countermeasure systems

-- Increased fuel capacity

-- Four Derby beyond-visual-range missiles

-- Two short-to-medium-range Python V missiles

-- Long-range smart munitions

-- Full mission simulators

After some negotiations the French defence and aerospace company Thales was also included in the upgrade programme:
"I think, things are finally moving forward," said Jean-Paul Perrier, executive vice president for the $17-billion French giant, referring to the government's intention since two years ago to upgrade its fleet of 51 Mirage 2000 fighters.

"We have the full knowledge and the solutions for a low-risk and cost-effective upgrade of Mirage 2000. Thales will also cooperate with Indian and other French industries for the project," Perrier said.

Apart from HAL, other Indian companies that are expected to partner with Thales in the upgrade project include the Department of Aviation Research and Bharat Electronics Ltd that has had a long association with the French company.

The Thales-HAL consortium will include Dassault, which shut down the production line for Mirage 2000s five years ago.

Hawk AJT India

And in related news the IAF is to get 40 additional Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft:
Continuing with its flurry of big-ticket defence deals, India is now firmly on course to acquire another 40 British 'Hawk' advanced jet-trainers (AJTs) to add to the 66 such aircraft already contracted in the Rs 8,000-crore project finalized in March 2004.

Though the IAF has been asking for 40 more Hawks for quite some time now, sources said the new procurement has only now been cleared by the Defence Acquisitions Council, chaired by defence minister A K Antony.

Five of the 'flyaway' Hawks from UK have already arrived at Bidar airbase in north Karnataka, earmarked as the hub for all IAF fighter training in the country, with the older MiG-21 training establishments at Tezpur, Bhuj, Jamnagar and Nalia being gradually disbanded.

Antony is likely to go to Bidar on February 23 for the formal 'commissioning ceremony' of the Hawks. Thereafter, from June onwards, IAF will begin using the AJTs to impart stage-III training to newly-commissioned fighter pilots.
Hawk AJT
"The proposal will be placed before the Cabinet Committee on Security for the final nod very soon. The 40 new Hawks will be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which is already gearing up to take on the production of 42 AJTs from the earlier deal," said a source.

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