Sunday, March 23, 2008
Though it is early days yet for the Tata Group’s military forays, Chairman Ratan Tata is doing enough to suggest that he is committed to creating a defence conglomerate, which may one day rival Lockheed Martin or BAE Systems.
Tata’s aggression in the military sector has to be seen in the context of India’s ambition to become a regional power, and its race to upgrade its armed forces. Over the next 5-7 years, India is expected to spend about $45 billion (Rs 1.8 lakh crore) on military ware. The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2006 allows India’s private companies to compete with its public sector for defence orders.
Tata Motors has developed an indigenous light specialist vehicle (LSV) that is currently being tested by the Indian Army, which has evinced interest from a couple of South-East Asian countries, too. The Tata Group is also trying to enter the aerospace area through manufacturing tie-ups for initially low-tech activities — making floor boards for Boeing’s Dreamliner passenger aircraft and cabins for Sikorsky’s S-92 troop transport helicopter.
Though Tata Group companies have been in the defence production business for decades — Tata Motors has been supplying logistics vehicles and Tata Power handles defence electronics — it was in 2006, the year the government decided to allow private Indian companies to become prime contractors in defence projects, that Ratan Tata made the first moves towards the creation of his military industrial complex. Tata Advanced Systems (TAS) was created as a dedicated defence company completely owned by Tata Industries, one of the group’s key holding companies.
The company has signed up with Europe’s EADS to bid for a $1-billion contract to provide tactical communication systems (TCS) to the Indian Army and with America’s Sikorsky Aircraft for making cabins for the S-92 helicopters. It has also signed an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries for developing, producing and supporting missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and radars and electronic warfare systems. TAS is also talking with Israel’s Urban Aeronautics to first market and then manufacture the latter’s UAVs, which can take off and land vertically.
The strategic electronics division (SED) of Tata Power is manufacturing the Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers for the Indian Army, having developed it in collaboration with DRDO. It is also involved in the development of the Akash missile launcher system for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and it is working on a target-locating-and-firing system for 105-mm mounted guns of the army. In February, it signed an agreement with the French defence electronics maker Thales, for supplying optronics — electronic systems for reconnaissance, target identification, detection and weapon-guiding capabilities of an airborne platform — for the existing and the future needs of the Indian Air Force, particularly for the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA).
Tata Motors is trying to solve the problem of upgrading the Indian Army’s legacy tanks and combat vehicles for greater mobility. the basic hulls of these vehicles still have life, but they lack in power for the current speed required by the Indian Army. For example, the T-72’s power pack — engine and gear box — currently generates only 700 bhp whereas the army wants it perked up to 1,000-1,200 bhp. “Because of our experience in the passenger vehicle business, we have the capability to work out solutions to integrate more powerful power packs into vehicles originally designed for lower power,” says V.S. Noronha, head of defence business at Tata Motors.
Tata Advanced Material (TAM) is another key cog in the Tata Group’s military machine. For both military and civilian uses, the company produces composite materials for making extremely light yet very resilient items, such as bullet-proof vests and launcher tubes for missiles, among other things.
Even as Tata marches ahead with his military business, there is a concern in some quarters over the emergence of a private military industrial complex in India, akin to the one in the US. According to Laxman Kumar Behera, associate fellow with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis in New Delhi, though the Indian private sector at present neither has the technological capabilities nor the excess capacity for military products, once it grows to a significant size, it could start influencing the country’s policies and priorities to suit its needs.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
This painting depicts the demolition of the Keshav Rai Temple at Mathura in January 1670 by order of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, and the construction of a mosque in its place. As per the Masir-i-Alamgiri, an official history of Aurangzeb's reign which was compiled from revenue records, official correspondence, treaties, and despatches, "In this month of Ramzan, the religious-minded emperor ordered the demolition of the temple at Mathura known as the Dehra of Keshav Rai. His officers accomplished it in a short time. A grand mosque was built on its site at a vast expenditure."
This is history as per the Mughal records. Even the die-hard leftists, who tried so hard under the dictatorship of Indira Gandhi to whitewash all instances of Muslim intolerance from history books, grudgingly admit that at least Aurangzeb was a bigoted, ruthless, and intolerant ruler. Not so in Chennai....when this painting was displayed in that southern city, the police stormed into the gallery, destroyed the paintings and roughed up three women hosting the art exhibition!
This vandalism, display of intolerance, and the violation of women's rights, was done at the instance of the ruling communal party called the DMK, and its Muslim supporters, prominent among whom was the ex-Nawab of Arcot who had the audacity to claim, "the paintings amounted to fabrication and distortion of history.....Aurangzeb had never done anything to harm the Hindus."
His own forefathers had been servants of Aurangzeb and had forcibly occupied the lands around Arcot during the Mughal invasion of the south. French journalist Francois Gautier's Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) put together this exhibition based on official records of the Mughal Empire....the exhibition also included Firmans, hand written orders of Aurangzeb to his subordinates.
The collection was first exhibited to critical acclaim at the Habitat Centre in New Delhi. It next travelled to Pune where one lakh people visited the show. It was equally well received in Bangalore where the popular Gallery G hosted the exhibition. FACT then decided to take the collection to Chennai where it was supposed to be exhibited at the Lalit Kala Akademi from March 3 to 9.
In Chennai high-ranking and respected government officials N Vittal, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, and B Raman, security expert and former RAW official inaugurated the exhibition.
Some of the other paintings:
Mathura Brahmans carry the murti of Sri Krishna to Rajasthan (Kingdom of Mewar) to save it from being desecrated by Aurangzeb the medieval terrorist. It is housed today at the famous shrine of Nathdwara.
The burial of Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb's father whom he kept in a prison in his old age, and on his death denied him the dignity and ceremony of a royal burial. The builder of the Taj Mahal was taken in an ordinary coffin by a side gate of the Agra Fort to be buried next to his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Aurangzeb's elder brother Dara Shikoh being paraded through the streets of Agra, after being captured in Baluchistan. Aurangzeb's intention was to humiliate his brother in the eyes of the public, but the result was just the opposite as can be seen with the Mughal soldiers threatening to shoot an arrow at the restless crowd. Also shown is generous Dara throwing his shawl to a beggar.
Collection of jaziya, a tax paid by infidels for permission to live in an Islamic State, from Hindu peasants. It's impact was highest on the poorest section of the infidel population, in addition the tax-payer had to come on foot and offer the money with his open hands. Jaziya was imposed by Aurangzeb after the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh in 1679, and the occupation of his Kingdom of Jodhpur by the Mughal invaders.
Hindus from villages around Delhi gathered in that city and appealed to Aurangzeb to spare them this communal tax. They were joined by the shopkeepers and artisans of Delhi...Aurangzeb sent forward his elephants to crush these peaceful protestors.
A father and son are brought in chains, taken into the torture chamber.....their remains fed to the dogs. Probably the execution of Dara Shikoh. EDIT- It's actually Maratha ruler Sambhaji and the poet Kavi Kulesh.
Writing a letter in the last decade of his reign, Aurangzeb asks his officers, "The temple of Somnath was demolished early in my reign and idol worship put down. It is not known what the state of things there is at present. If the idolators have again taken to the worship of images at that place, then destroy that temple in such a way that no trace of the building may be left."