It's been a while, but as they say, better late than never. We finally made some time to redesign our blog and soon we will have our own independent website. The blog helped us reach a huge audience and generate a lot of interest in this area. As a result, the format and (utility) of the blog seems overwhelmed, hence the transittion to the dedicated site. The URL for the new site and content will be disclosed soon. Till then, enjoy the blog and continue to contribute to our posts.
Navy awaits government nod for new submarines
As its submarine fleet ages rapidly, the Indian Navy is awaiting approval from the government to embark on a Rs.100 billion ($2.3 billion) project to indigenously build the French Scorpene-class submarines.
"We are currently awaiting clearance from the cabinet for the project. We hope the government will take the best decision very soon," said Vice Admiral Parvesh Jaitley, Chief of Materials of the Indian Navy.
"This is a substantial amount and we want to spend the money on the entire project by improving our infrastructure through modernisation of shipyards, equipment purchases and transfer of technology," Jaitley said on the sidelines of an event to launch a new vessel here Tuesday.
"The Scorpene project is our immediate plan," he said, noting the navy had also ordered 21 new ships with various shipyards in the country, including 11 at Kolkata's Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE).
"We have plans to induct more mine counter-measures vessels, fleet tankers and offshore patrol vessels, besides follow-on orders for (the Trinkat-class) of fast attack craft," said Jaitley.
All new vessels would be indigenously built but whenever technology was not available within the country, the navy will "endeavour to get into collaborative arrangements for transfer of technology".
"We want to develop indigenous strength in shipbuilding," he said.
The United States and India have signed a new defense cooperation agreement intended to strengthen military ties during the next decade and set up a bilateral working group that would guide India’s purchase of U.S. arms.
Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is visiting Washington ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in July, announced the new cooperation agreement and said although the two countries have different world visions on some key issues, the growing strategic partnership will continue.
For example, “the United States considers Pakistan an effective ally” in the fight against terrorism, but “we consider that cross-border terrorism in [the state of] Jammu and Kashmir is taking place inspired by Pakistan,” Mukherjee said at a June 28 news conference after meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “But these two perceptions of the situation [do not] mean we are not friends.”
The New Framework for the U.S-India Defense Relationship signed by Mukherjee and Rumsfeld June 28 would replace the 1995 Agreed Minute on Defense Relations between the two countries. The new agreement foresees, among others, collaboration on multinational operations, strengthening of each other’s military capabilities, expanded interaction with other nations in promoting regional security, enhanced capabilities to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, expanded two-way defense trade and collaboration on missile defense, and increased exchange of intelligence information.
The agreement also set up a Defense Procurement and Production Group as part of the existing Defense Policy Group, which coordinates policy discussions between the two militaries. The new group is expected to address the possible co-production of F-16s or F/A-18s, which India is considering as potential candidates to meet its requirement for 125 multirole combat aircraft. India has issued a request for proposals and is considering France’s Mirage 2000-5, Russia’s MiG-29 SMT and Sweden’s JAS 39 Gripen, in addition to the U.S.-made F-16 and F/A-18.
Details of the possible procurement and co-production of U.S. fighter jets will be negotiated by the two sides later, he said.
As part of the new agreement, the United States has offered to “advance the proposed briefing on the Patriot PAC-3” anti-missile system, according to a June 28 press release issued by the Indian Embassy in Washington. India is seeking to acquire the U.S.-made missile defense systems to counter short-range ballistic missiles.
Mukherjee led a large delegation of Indian officials and industry executives who engaged in discussions with U.S. officials and defense companies about defense production issues.
Defense industry executives “on both sides have to understand [each other’s] procedures in greater detail,” Mukherjee said. Indians have to better understand the U.S. technology control and licensing system, while U.S. executives have to better grasp the Indian procurement system, he said.
Mukherjee and his delegation also met Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee — powerful lawmakers likely to influence any possible sale of U.S. weapons to India.
The new defense cooperation agreement is part of a broad effort by the Bush administration to strengthen strategic ties with India under a process called the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership. The current discussions are part of the second phase of these strategic discussions.
In each phase, the two sides are seeking to take specific steps to reassure each other of their interest in the relationship. As part of the agreement reached under Phase I, India agreed to enact new export control legislation — which was passed by India’s Parliament in recent weeks — aimed at curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and clamping down on leaks of sensitive technology.
Since India has done its part, the United States must now act to “liberalize technology control regimes,” Mukherjee said. India, which is a signatory to international treaties that prohibit chemical and biological weapon development, has never allowed sensitive technology to leak, he said.
First Joint Study Finds Strategic U.S.-India Partnership Emerging
LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 28, 2005--For the first time, U.S.-India relations have been examined by a joint task force of noted research organizations from both countries - the West Coast's Pacific Council on International Policy and India's Observer Research Foundation. The new study, released today, found that decades of suspicion are giving way to improved strategic relations facilitated by factors such as India's long-standing commitment to education and science, the opening of the Indian economy to global competition, the migration of influential and entrepreneurial Indians to the U.S., especially the West Coast, and the global effects of the information technology revolution.
On sensitive geopolitical issues, the study found that the expansion of U.S.-India economic and cultural ties has led to increased cooperation over security issues that have proved difficult in the past. Cultural engagement, driven by Indian migration to the U.S. and an explosion of Indian cinema and music, has improved geopolitical relations, according to study findings.
The study also found American concerns regarding the loss of jobs in software and information technology hardware companies to lower-cost firms in India are unfounded. The mutual benefits of business relations between the U.S. and India far outweigh the costs thought to accompany the outsourcing practices of American businesses. However, to ensure an even playing field, the study calls for common standards for skilled professionals in both countries and continuing regulatory reform in India.
The report, authored by former U.S. Ambassador to India and Ohio Governor Richard Celeste, and India's former ambassador to the U.S., Abid Hussain, recommends the following measures are needed to strengthen the emerging U.S.-India partnership:
-- Expanding commerce between the two nations;
-- Promoting cooperation in science and technology;
-- Strengthening cooperation in healthcare and education;
-- Removing barriers to strategic cooperation, particularly in the area of technology development; and
-- Building new constituencies through culture and Indian migration to deepen mutual understanding.
"The Pacific Council undertook this study to increase our understanding of and to strengthen relations between India and the U.S.," said Pacific Council Board Co-chairman and former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher. "We did so because Indian Americans play a prominent role in California and the Pacific Northwest. Furthermore, burgeoning trade and technology ties exist between Bangalore and Silicon Valley, and Hollywood and 'Bollywood'."
The Pacific Council is currently engaged in several other projects, including an extensive study to be released in 2006 of the impact of Islam and other religions on U.S. foreign policy and American relations with other countries, led by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and MacArthur Foundation Fellow Jack Miles, Ph.D.
"The Pacific Council's mission is to foster greater understanding among U.S. and Pacific Rim business and government leaders and to contribute a distinctive West Coast perspective to policy debates. This study furthers both goals admirably," said the council's newly elected president, Geoffrey Garrett, Ph.D.
Based in Los Angeles, the Pacific Council on International Policy is an independent, not-for-profit, international leadership forum established in 1995 in cooperation with the Council on Foreign Relations and the University of Southern California. Its 1,290 members seek to promote better understanding and more effective action by private and public sector leaders from the western United States and the Pacific Rim.
THE Indian Navy received its second craft in as many months today from the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Limited in Kolkata.
The GRSE launched the third of the Fast Attack Crafts (FAC) of the new series this evening. The FAC, christened INS Batti Malv — after one of the islands of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, is part of a follow-on orders to the GRSE in the Trinkat class of ships that were built and delivered to the Indian Navy earlier.
The INS Batti Malv, which cost Rs 50 crores and is capable of interdiction of fast moving crafts and undertaking search-and-rescue missions of the Navy, boasts of ultra hi-tech navigation and communication equipment, Global Positioning System, and a 30 mm gun with optical electronic control, produced indigenously by the Ordnance Factory Board and Chennai based Bharat Electronics.
The ship will also feature a self stabilising gun platform built indigenously by the OFB.
Displacing 260 tonnes, INS Batti Malv is capable of sustaining speed up to 14 knots for a distance of 2,000 nautical miles. The vessel is capable of a maximum speed of 28 knots and is 46 metres long. The ship also features a fully airconditioned modular type accommodation for its crew, an RO plant for generating freshwater from seawater, and a sewage treatment plant.
Vice Admiral Parvesh Jaitly, chief of material for the Indian Navy and chief guest at the launch ceremony, said, ‘‘I was personally associated with the FAC project in my earlier post as the controller of warships. While the GRSE is capable of constructing ships of the frigate class, our country is one of the few that is constructing an aircraft carrier.’’
He said currently 21 ships were being built for the Indian Navy, 11 of them by the GRSE. ‘‘There will be follow on orders for six more FACs,’’ said Jaitly. On the Rs 10,000-crore project for Scorpene submarines, he said that the central government was considering the matter.
He, however, expressed hope that the issue would be resolved within this fiscal.
WASHINGTON (AFX) - The defense ministers of the US and India have signed a 10-year agreement paving the way for joint weapons production, cooperation on missile defense and possible lifting of US export controls for sensitive military technologies.
'The United States and India have entered a new era,' a statement said after the signing by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee, who is on a visit to Washington.
'We are transforming our relationship to reflect our common principles and shared national interests,' it said of the so-called New framework for the US-India defense relationship' signed at the Pentagon.
The ministers agreed to set up a 'defense procurement and production group' to oversee defense trade, as well as prospects for co-production and technology collaboration,' and to sign deals on military 'research, development, testing and evaluation' as well as naval pilot training.
The military pact came three months after the US unveiled plans to help India become a 'major world power in the 21st century' and ahead of a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the invitation of President George W Bush from July 18 to 20.
Singh is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress.
Washington has given the greenlight to Lockheed Martin and Boeing to offer F-16 and F-18 warplanes as candidates for the Indian Air Force's multi-role fighter program, while also pledging support for Indian requests for other transformative systems in areas such as command and control, early warning, and missile defense.
India has relied so far on French and Russian frontline fighters.
The United States also might train Indian naval pilots in strategic aircraft carrier operations, reports have suggested.
Against the sound of cicadas singing in the Mediterranean heat, Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 fighters took off from this French air base in their first exercise in European skies, marking New Delhi’s desire to strengthen ties with Western militaries.
Their Russian-built jets roared into the clear sky on twin afterburners, eager to engage French Mirage 2000s off the southern coast.
The flying exercise, dubbed Garuda II, also signaled France’s interest in cultivating defense links with India, a regional power which is looking to augment its armory with new attack submarines and a fleet of 126 multirole combat aircraft.
The French naval chief of staff underlined his country’s interests in maintaining a military presence in the region. The island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean is directly governed by Paris under the status of an overseas region and France has historical links with India, Adm. Alain Oudot de Dainville told reporters June 21.
India’s mixed fleet of Western and Russian aircraft includes Jaguar light strike aircraft, Mirage 2000s, MiG-29s and Su-30 fighters.
As part of the air force exercise, six Su-30K fighters and an Ilyushin Il-78 in-flight refueling aircraft flew against and with six French Mirage 2000s and a C-135 FR air tanker, base commander Gen. Bruno Clermont told reporters June 22.
India’s cooperation with foreign air forces is fairly recent, but marks an eagerness to learn procedures and tactics with friendly forces.
Group Capt. Shreesh Mohan told reporters here that the Indian Air Force started flying with a foreign military in 2003, in Garuda I, when four French Mirages flew to India for exercises with their Indian counterparts.
Indian pilots flew six Jaguars to Alaska last July to operate with the U.S. Air Force and, in other exercises, took part in operations with the services of Singapore and South Africa last autumn. Indian Air Force pilots bested U.S. F-15 pilots in an exercise in India last year.
Garuda II marked India’s first deployment of its Su-30s to Europe, and a first refueling of the Russian-built aircraft with a French C-135 tanker, Mohan said.
“There is a lot of learning value in training with the French Air Force, which we consider a very professional air force,” he said.
Mohan declined to comment on India’s tender for new fighters, in which France is offering the Mirage 2000-5 against the Saab Gripen, MiG-29 and Lockheed Martin F-16. Although Indian pilots had flown against the F-16 and other foreign aircraft, he said, “Flying with an air force is one thing; evaluating an aircraft [to buy] is another challenge.”
He added, “We’re very happy with the Mirage 2000.” India has operated the French fighter for some 20 years. The Mirage 2000-5 would have a more advanced radar, to allow air defense and strike missions.
In Garuda II, a French Mirage 2000 RDI was scheduled to refuel from the high-winged Il-78 tanker. The cross-refueling exercises meant that if France sent Mirage jets into the region, it could ask for refueling support from India, rather than send its own C-135s, allowing an enormous saving, French Air Force Gen. Alain Perriault said.
Both the French and Indian aircraft use the flexible drogue-and-hose refueling system, while the C-135 also is equipped with the rigid boom used by the U.S. Air Force.
Mohan said the fighter exercise showed an “understanding between the two governments for good bilateral relations and enhanced defense cooperation.” The deployment of Indian fighter and support aircraft and 125 personnel was a major undertaking and a valuable lesson in organization and interoperability, he said.
The Indian aircraft flew in two stages: a six-hour leg to Egypt with a stop near Alexandria, then a four-hour flight to this base near Marseille, southern France.
During the eight-day exercise, the two air forces would dogfight and fly mixed patrols as well as engage in increasingly complex operations, designed to show each other how to interact.
Simulated beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles were used during the dogfights. Wing Cmdr. KVR Raju said the Su-30 carries the A12, which uses an active radar and infrared seeker and has a range of 15 to 18 miles. The Mirage 2000 is armed with the Mica, which is also a BVR weapon.
In Garuda I, the Indian pilots used the semi-active R27ER missile, which requires the pilot to use the Su-30’s radar to illuminate the target throughout the engagement.
Other assets planned for use in the exercise included a Mirage 2000N, an E3-F airborne warning and control system aircraft and Tucano turboprops, to simulate transport aircraft.
Mohan declined to give the maximum range of the Su-30, with midair refueling from the Il-78.
India Completes Hat-Trick of Surface-to-Air Missile Tests
India successfully tested June 21 a locally built surface-to-air missile for the third time in five days as part of final trials before its military induction, defense officials said.
The missile Akash — meaning sky in Hindi — was tested at a range in eastern Orissa state, defense ministry officials said in Orissa’s state capital of Bhubaneswar.
It was fired at 1:00 p.m. (0730 GMT) from a mobile launcher at the Chandipur-on-Sea testing range, 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Bhubaneswar, they said.
The 700 kilogram (1,540 pound) missile was tested June 21 and last June 17.
”Comprehensive trials are now on to test various subsystems. Today’s launch was to monitor its propulsion and communications systems,” a scientist at the state-run Defense Research and Development organization said in New Delhi.
”The trials are reaching a conclusion and this missile will be soon handed over for induction into the (defense) services,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, who came close to war in 2002 but whose relations have warmed since, frequently test-fire missiles.
Akash, which can track 100 targets simultaneously with onboard radar, can move at a speed of 600 meters (1,980 feet) a second and deliver a 55 kilogram (121 pound) warhead across 27 kilometers (17 miles) in 50 seconds.
The missile is being developed by DRDO which launched in 1983 a project to build an array of weapons. It hopes to cap the program with a ballistic missile which can fly 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles).
In 1999, a year after India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, the two countries agreed to notify each other ahead of missile tests.
New Delhi’s recent decision to avoid sole-source contracts has dealt a setback to Brazil’s Embraer, whose EMB 145 had been selected as the platform for India’s Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) development program.
Now the Indian Ministry of Defence is requiring a global competition for the intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft, a ministry official said. Other ministry sources said the tender could take four months to clear the red tape, and one to two years to make the new selection.
The tender will be offered by the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which is developing the AWACS using Indian radar. DRDO picked the EMB 145, and last year the ministry granted approval.
In May, the Indian government decided to avoid single-vendor situations in foreign defense purchases after allegations that South Africa’s Denel was involved in kickbacks. Denel’s bid to supply wheeled 155mm self-propelled guns, under negotiation for four years, was canceled.
DRDO officials already have made three trips to Brazil to gather engineering data for the AWACS, said one agency scientist.
The planned construction of three AWACS planes, based on the EMB 145, was about $450 million, he said. The new tender would delay and increase the cost of the program, he said.
The aircraft must be able to carry about 3,000 kilograms, the scientist said. The primary and secondary radar, which will be mounted above the fuselage, and their associated electronics and support equipment weigh about 1,000 kilograms total, he said. This would leave 2,000 kilograms for the crew, operator workstations and other support systems.
The EMB 145 meets these needs, he said.
Still, DRDO engineers asked Embraer to modify the planes in several ways, including mounting radar pylons on the fuselage, strengthening bulkheads and improving cooling systems.
DRDO was already working on designing the antenna array and its thermal management system, the fuselage-mounted electronics, and cable harnesses and mission systems, said the DRDO scientist.
The AWACS is intended to fly for six to 10 hours, and up to 35,000 feet. The primary radar will be able to look for 2-square-meter targets up to 300 kilometers away.
Embraer executives were unavailable for comment.
In another single-vendor casualty last month, the Defence Ministry scrapped a long-pending $114 million program with France’s Thales to buy and produce under license 19 Low Level Transportable Radar systems for the Air Force. Thales was the only contender in the 2004 technical trials.
US offers training on aircraft carrier and presence in Pacific
From an offer to train Indian naval pilots to posting an Indian officer in the Pacific Command and possibly in the Florida-based Central Command as well, Washington is ready with a slew of proposals for Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee as he begins his US trip tonight.
Although a careful Mukherjee has called the visit ‘‘exploratory,’’ these proposals are expected to be discussed when he meets US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Sources said that Washington will offer to train Indian naval pilots in strategic aircraft-carrier operations. The proposal to have an Indian officer at the Hawaii-based Pacific Command is meant for improved coordination in the Indian Ocean.
Although Mukherjee and his Defence Secretary are studying the proposals, the Indian diplomatic establishment has already done its homework with a visit to the Pacific Command. That the US wants to upgrade the military relationship with India is clear from the fact that only Japan, South Korea and Australia have liaison officers based at the Hawaii command.
Incidentally, the NDA, too, led by its External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh had discussed the idea of an Indian presence in this command with Washington.
The aircraft-carrier pilot training will be done at the Naval Air Training Command at Pensacola in Florida. This school was established in 1914 and has given over 100,000 ‘‘wings of gold’’ to naval pilots using 16 squadrons for training aircraft. It offers year-long training in naval helicopter, propeller or multi-engine and strike warfare operations.
Though the Indian Navy trains its carrier pilots at INS Hansa at Goa and on-board its sole aircraft carrier Viraat, it needs help to train pilots using ‘‘catapult’’ operations. This is because Navy will be shifting from vertical take-off and landing aircraft Sea Harrier, deployed on Viraat, to MiG-29 K that will use a steam powered catapult on-board Admiral Gorshkov or INS Vikramaditya. The new aircraft carrier is likely to join the Navy in 2007.
US keen on cooperation with India in advanced weaponry
Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington, the US has indicated its interest for cooperation with India in advanced weaponry and missile defence.
This was reinforced during talks visiting US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns had with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and senior officials here this week.
Bilateral security cooperation is expected to be one of the key areas for discussions Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee will have with his American counterpart Donald Rumsfeld during his ongoing visit to the US.
He is also meeting Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Before leaving for Washington, Mukherjee has made it clear that he was not carrying any shopping list of defence hardware and his visit, the first by an Indian Defence Minister to the US after a long gap, was exploratory in nature.
The US offer to supply to India F-16 warplanes is being debated in the Government here. The Defence Ministry is carrying out technical evaluation of the fighter aircraft but no decision has been taken so far to buy it.
While UN Security Council reforms is one of the important issues that will undoubtedly figure during the parleys Singh will have with President George W Bush, both American and Indian officials have contended that Indo-US relationship should not be viewed on the basis of any single issue.
Burns had struck positive chords saying India has the perfect right and met the criteria for permanent membership of the Security Council like being a large country with significant population, being democratic, giving substantial resources to the UN system, adhering to non-proliferation and counter-terrorism.
He said any decision on the issue of which country the US will back for permanent membership has to be taken by President Bush.
Indian officials contended that it was a "long and complicated process" with numerous hurdles and that New Delhi was pursuing a step-by-step approach hinging on "cautious optimism".
Encouraged by the new momentum in bilateral ties, Burns said these were heading in the right direction. India, he said, is of "increased strategic importance" to the US and that "we are achieving a partnership between our two countries which is truly historic".
Washington has also expressed its keenness for enhanced cooperation with India in agriculture and related areas.
Singh's visit may see the two sides discussing ways of working together on environmental, conservation and wildlife cooperation.
Progress is also anticipated on the important issue of civilian nuclear energy cooperation during the visit. When US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was here in March this year, she had begun a new discussion with the UPA Government on this issue.
Another area of key interest that is expected to figure during the talks is India and the US cooperating together on HIV/AIDS prevention and programmes.
How the two countries can do more to pool in their resources in disaster relief in other parts of the world will also be discussed by the two sides, the officials said.
The US has been appreciative of the speed and decisiveness with which India reached out to help other countries in this region.
A red carpet welcome awaits Singh when he commences his visit from July 18 at the invitation of Bush who is looking forward to hosting him as one of the "most honoured guests".
"We expect this to be one of the most consequential US-India summits in the history of our relationship, going back to the independence of your country," Burns said adding, "There is more on the agenda right now than there has ever been before and the relationship is qualitatively different".
WHEN Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs in the US State Department, visited India last week, Indians had the barely suppressed excitement of a suitor waiting for an "I do" from a comely bride. This was because Burns discussed the US approach to India’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
India’s ambitions took a step closer to reality after the US let it be known that it wants only two more new permanent members besides, of course, Japan, and wants to freeze the membership when it comes to the likes of Germany.
India thinks, for valid reasons, that it fits the bill for having "a flourishing democracy" as described by none other than President George W. Bush, and has been involved with the UN right from the beginning, particularly two score peacekeeping operations across the world.
That apart, India’s improving ties with China and Pakistan, and willingness to discuss Kashmir, which was taboo earlier, has made it immensely acceptable to the world community in general.
What has really mattered — and most Indians, barring the leftist ideologues and those still living in the Cold War era, accept this — is that the US has come to recognise India as a regional power. Not only that, the US has come to depend upon its solidarity and support on a number of issues.
This is, of course, because American national interests coincide with India’s on many counts. Believing in anything else would be foolhardy, and Indians, as also Americans, realise this.
When the history of the post-Cold War era is written, the performance of the United States will be measured in terms of its friendship with India, as much as its response to 9/11, its involvement in Iraq and its success, or otherwise, in confronting Iran and containing China.
For India, too, orphaned by the demise of the Soviet Union and trying to fight terrorism at its borders on its own until 9/11 happened, success in turning around relations with the US will top the list of its achievements.
The upsurge in Indo-US relations is meant to last for a long, long time. It is important for India that the US has de-hyphenated the India-Pakistan relationship. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said so while using superlatives like India being "a big, important, multi-ethnic democracy with a significant Muslim population". Each word used conveys US priorities.
Bush, her boss, voices identical sentiments, being "extremely excited and pleased" about Indo-US ties. He notes that India means "one billion people of different backgrounds". The US, too, has "problems" with different sections of its population and he has emphasised the need to treat them "with patience".
The credit for putting India on American radar screens goes first to the late P.V. Narasimha Rao, and then to Atal Behari Vajpayee. Narasimha Rao made the beginning and then quickened the pace, both towards the US and Southeast Asia. Vajpayee transformed US-India relations and did this despite authorising India’s second nuclear test.
Unlike the Democrats in the White House, the Bush administration has not sought to benchmark India and never made the issue of signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty a core issue in its relations with India. Rather, Bush proposed the "Next Step in Strategic Partnership". The NSSP is a series of sequential steps aimed at minimising decades-old differences on non-proliferation and improving the flow of advanced technology from the US to India.
The Vajpayee Government’s support for the US national defence system resulted to a large extent in Washington giving the nod to Israel to sell Phalcon radars for India’s Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). Previously, in a similar deal between Israel and China, the US denied permission for the sale of Phalcons to the Chinese.
The Indo-US relationship has survived the Bush administration’s obsession with the "war on terror" in which Pakistan stole the role from India as a close and strategic ally because of its proximity to Afghanistan and also because of President Pervez Musharraf’s enthusiasm in pursuing the American agenda.
On India’s part, there is little doubt that its intelligentsia has transformed from being non- aligned and anti-US during the Cold War era to being open to Western overtures and close ties with the US. It questions the US involvement in Iraq — the vehemence among the Muslims is understandably greater than the others — but that has not prevented the burgeoning defence ties being pushed by the Bush administration.
What is significant is that there is a measure of consensus. It is still not all hunky dory. Both India and the US still have to live down 40 years of estrangement and misunderstanding. The US has a record of being apathetic and India, plainly hostile. There’s still the deep problem of each side’s inability to listen to the other.
A major recent issue is India’s agreeing to be part of the proposed gas pipeline network emanating from Iran. Iran is deeply into it and the US does not like India and Pakistan getting into it. Yet, Indians seem cool about it.
Besides the usual symbolic importance of Manmohan Singh’s mid-July US visit, especially if he addresses Congress, the most significant outcome will be increased pressure on both governments to move ahead, now that strategic policy decisions have been made to enhance co-operation across a number of fields.
The visit may mean signing some concrete agreements after all the legwork has been done. It’s a sign of approval by India on the developing relations and of its role in the region and the developing world.
New Delhi, June 24 : Concerns about the reliability of the US as an arms supplier and joint efforts to develop military hardware and technology will be on the agenda during Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee's four-day visit to the US beginning Saturday.
Mukherjee's visit, which will set the stage for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trip to the US next month, figured in discussions at a two-and-a-half hour meeting here Friday of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) presided over by Manmohan Singh.
After the meeting, Mukherjee told reporters that no deals for purchasing military hardware were on his agenda and clarified his US visit was aimed at expanding the scope of bilateral relations.
"I am not going with a shopping list. This is a visit by an Indian defence minister to the US after a long time," he said in response to a question on the US offer to sell F-16 fighter jets to India.
The offer was made soon after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited India in March. In recent weeks, Washington has sent several senior officials to New Delhi to push its military hardware to the Indian armed forces.Senior officials of the defence ministry told reporters broad policy issues an increased cooperation between the defence establishments of the two countries were likely to figure in Mukherjee's discussions with US officials.
"US-India relations have been showing an upward trend and defence ties have played a large role in these relations," said an official. "This visit will build on the existing cooperation."
The text of a "Research, Development, Test and Evaluation agreement" that will facilitate cooperation between India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the US Department of Defence is likely to be finalised during Mukherjee's visit.This pact will be a follow-up to the Master Information Exchange Agreement signed by the two sides last year to ensure the secrecy of data exchanged by their defence research establishments."
The US has some of the world's most advanced military technologies. If it is willing to work together in technology, including research and development, this needs to be explored," said an official. Mukherjee's delegation will include Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh, Defence Production Secretary Shekhar Dutta and senior DRDO officials. Though the US has offered hi-tech hardware like the F-16 and F-18 jets to India, concerns remain in the security establishment here about its reliability as a arms supplier, particulary American laws related to sanctions.
To strengthen business ties, Mukherjee will address top American CEOs at a roundtable organised by the Indian embassy in Washington Monday. A 14-member business delegation from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) will also participate in this interface between Indian and American business.
The FICCI delegation, which will leave for Washington Sunday, will travel to Virginia and Maryland to formalise business partnerships between Indian and US companies in defence-related equipment and supplies.The business delegation, led by V.R.S. Natarjan, chairman of Bangalore-based Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML), comprises representatives of leading private and public sector defence majors like Ashok Baweja, chairman of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, and Y. Gopal Rao, chairman of Bharat Electronics Ltd. They will meet senior officials of the US Department of Commerce, State Department and Pentagon June 28.
Virginia is a major centre in the US for large and medium-sized companies in the defence sector.
The Indian Air Force's base on the Car Nicobar island was devastated in the tsunami. One hundred and sixteen IAF officers and men, their wives and children died in the disaster. Little remained of the air base, which was established as India's southernmost defence post, a sentinel against the unseen forces lurking in regions nearby. The morning of December 26 changed all that.
In true military spirit, IAF personnel worked night and day to ensure that the air base was operational again, just three-and-a-half months after the ocean claimed 3,513 lives in Andaman and Nicobar.
Senior Features Editor Archana L Masih reports on a day in the life of the Car Nic Air Base. The first of a series on life in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, six months after the tsunami.
When Wing Commander Nitin Sathe is through for the day in his office, he just walks around his table and arrives home.
His home is in the same room, on the left side of his large desk. Across a white wooden partition that separates his office from his personal space which comprises a neat single bed, a rack of books and a handful of personal belongings.
"People can call me at any hour and I can say -- 'I'm in office'," laughs the officer endowed with tremendous good humour.
WingCo Sathe, as he is referred to by the other officers, arrived at the base -- India's southernmost Air Force station in the Bay of Bengal -- on New Year's day, five days after the tsunami devoured the base, reducing it to a wasteland of rubble and corpses.
Last month, the Car Nic Air Base resumed operations once again. "The runway is repaired, navigational aids and the basic infrastructure is in place. The operational capabilities of the station is back to normal," says WingCo Sathe studying his presentation on a laptop, taking us through a series of 'then and now' pictures.
"In fact, we have seen more planes landing and taking off after the tsunami than before."
In a few weeks, he and the other 26 officers stationed there, will move out of their college kind of room sharing arrangements in their office block to a newly constructed living accommodation. Made of special earthquake resistant material, the quarters are very basic -- one room with attached bath, two beds, separated by a table and a cupboard.
There are no frills, no luxuries and there is every possibility that officers will continue to share rooms like they have been doing these past six months. The amenities are very rudimentary but they know they are working in unusual circumstances 1,300 kms from the Indian mainland where the geographical location and the destruction of infrastructure has torn life and affected communication.
Picked up from different air bases in India, they were sent to Car Nic immediately after the tsunami to rebuild the air base from the dust.
"When we arrived here, all the surviving previous staff was being evacuated. They were all so distraught that we hardly had any time for the formal handing over of charge by them. We just had to pick up from scratch. We did not even know stuff like where the keys to the cupboards etc were," says Squadron Leader P M Beniwal, who had been transferred from the base in July 2004 and was reassigned to CarNic after the tsunami.
For a first time visitor to the base, the sight can be shocking. The destruction is so overwhelming that just imagining what it must have looked like when the waters raged in on December 26 leave you numb.
In fact, the scale of the devastation on Car Nicobar island becomes most evident only on entering the Air Base because en route all villages have been flattened reducing them to an empty ghost land with sinister boards reading 'Erstwhile Perka, Erstwhile Small Lalpathy, Erstwhile Malacca.' The Erstwhile indicating where the villages and their inhabitants once stood and lived.
"The homes in these villages did not have much concrete and were made of wood, so they were completely washed away. That is why only few pillars can be seen in the debris, the rest has been flattened," says Squadron Leader Beniwal as we drive down the road on the western side of the island.
The Air Base, on the other end of the island, was a full-fledged helicopter station with a huge infrastructure. Around 700 staff and personnel lived there with their families. It had two schools, VIP guest houses for the air chief marshal and other visiting dignitaries, a shopping complex and homes for the station commander, officers and air men.
The concrete rubble, the partially destroyed structures and the 160 acres of land lost to water ingress here have to be seen to understand the quantum of destruction.
Today, after six months of clearing the debris, what remains is a chilling reminder of the tragedy. Cars lie in mangled heaps, homes seem to have been blasted into unrecognisable shapes -- second floors flung upside down, blackened trees lying in gigantic tangled piles. A refrigerator flung out of someone's kitchen is now lodged in the branches of a tree.
"There is a 500 per cent improvement in the quality of life now," says WingCo Sathe, "At that time we were cutting plastic bottles into two to use them as plates and did not have spare laces for our shoes when they broke."
When WingCo Sathe, then based in Patiala, was sent to Car Nic, he remembered to carry his dungrees and mosquito net. Getting the runway working for relief activity was the first priority. "We used whatever we got -- some of us used axes to chop the wood and pushed it off the runway."
The 9,000 feet runway, originally measured around 3,000 feet when it was constructed by the Japanese during their occupation of the island between 1942 and 1945 in the Second World War. It was taken over by the Indian Air Force in 1956.
Forty-five tons of epoxy was used to repair the runway. The repairs began every day, post 4 pm, after the flights for the day ended. The work went on through the night till 4 am. The epoxy needed three hours to dry and the flights resumed at around 7 am.
The highest point at the air base is on the runway -- it is called Middle Point. "We have instructions that in the event of an earthquake we should run towards Middle Point," says Sqd Ldr Beniwal standing near the erstwhile home of his friend Squadron Leader Rajshekhar who perished along with his wife and son in the tsunami.
Their daughter Meghna miraculously survived the disaster by floating on a door. She now lives with her grandmother in Hyderabad. "I used to live across the street and used to play with Sqd Ldr Rajshekhar's children. Meghna's grandmother sent me a picture of her recently," says Sqd Ldr Beniwal.
A few minutes later as we pass through the cluster of the wreckage of cars, Sqd Ldr Beniwal points to the remains of a gray Daewoo Matisse. "That used to be Sqd Ldr Rajshekhar's car," he says.
The Air Base lost 116 officers, men and family to the tsunami. Those who survived were immediately evacuated, given a month's leave and subsequently transferred to other stations. The base was no longer deemed a family station and new officers and men were sent to replace, rebuild and carry out the relief operation -- Operation Madad (Help).
WingCo Sathe (right) remembers taking a broom and sweeping a path in a room full of glass. There was a bathroom at the other end and he was lucky to find the key. "There was no water in those early days, so two of us used to share a 25 litre can of mineral water for bathing and ablutions."
The officers and men got down to clearing the debris, disposing the bodies and spent all their waking hours bringing some semblance of order. Rice, dal and vegetables was eaten by the officers and men from a common kitchen.
"Pilots who flew down as part of the relief activity sometimes used to stay and work here for a month or so. They would feel sad about leaving," recalls WingCo Sathe who has maintained a journal of those days and points out that the first break they took from work was on January 16.
At the peak of the relief effort, around 5,000 men were pressed into service. Around 10,000 residents were evacuated in Op Madad from the Car Nicobar island. The IAF flew around 226 sorties till January 26.
"Today there are 400 to 500 men involved on an as required basis," says Lieutenant General Aditya Singh, commander-in-chief, Andaman and Nicobar Command.
Offices have been repaired and airmen quarters restored. The officers dine at the temporary mess because the grand officers mess was destroyed, and spend most of their time at work. "Our families are not here so there is no distraction," says Sqd Leader Beniwal.
Their day begins at 5 am and work at 7 am. Lunch is around 2 pm and work officially gets over around 6 pm but there is always something to do in their 'home office'. Phone calls from HQ, visiting VIPs, liaisoning with the civil administration.
Television viewing is restricted to Doordarshan because the cable television connection is yet to be restored. At times the signal is weak and cell phones do not work, but landlines at the base are operational. Newspapers are flown in, depending on the weather. A television channel crew had to spend an extra three days on Car Nic this week because no flight could operate in the downpour. For entertainment, the staff sometimes watch a DVD/VCD, go for walks in the morning and evening and play volleyball or basketball.
Officers will serve at the base for a year-and-a-half, the tenure for a 'hard area' posting; a regular posting lasts two to three years. The ministry of defence is looking for 170 acres away from the sea to build new housing blocks, and WingCo Sathe thinks it will take two years to complete the rebuilding process at the base.
"We are living normal lives now. We have come a long way from what we were to what we are today," he says.
On the tarmac, visible from his office, are a Dornier 228 and one IL-76 -- a huge heavy lift aircraft used to transport landmovers etc to the base. It can accommodate a helicopter in its belly. Both aircraft are ready for take off.
Wing Co Sathe drives up in his car -- coloured in the IAF sky blue -- to check on the aircraft. Tomorrow is a busy day when a delegation of MPs including the Leader of the Opposition L K Advani arrive at the base. A television crew is expected before that and a group of teachers are to arrive the following week. A chopper is to be loaded in the IL and a long queue of people walk into the aircraft.
It is after 1 in the afternoon and Wing Commander Sathe, the chief operating officer at the Car Nicobar Air Base, Squadron Leader Beniwal and Wing Commander N K Atri are at the runway, a short distance from the remains of the air base they have come to rebuild. It is the middle of their usual day.
Drawing lessons from the Afghan war where US forces had to ferret out the Taliban from caves and bunkers, India's leading defence explosives laboratory in Pune has developed specialised bombs to deal with terrorist hideouts.
While the high-penetration smoke-spewing incendiary ammunition developed by the High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) is ready for production, work has been initiated on oxygen-depleting thermobaric warheads.
"The earlier version of the suffocating smoke-spewing incendiary ammunition did not have a high penetration capability. Our latest version can penetrate 9-inch-thick walls and then explode inside, releasing suffocating smoke to ferret out terrorists," HEMRL director A Subhananda Rao said in an exclusive interview with TOI.
Thermobaric warheads, which are used to attack targets inside closed environments such as bunkers, caves or buildings, explode after penetration, releasing a shock effect, flammable gas and sucking out oxygen. HEMRL, which specialises in developing a range of powerful warheads for Indian munitions and propellants for missile systems, has initiated work on thermobaric warheads. "We have already started work on this and will have a project sanctioned," Rao said.
HEMRL has also developed anti-thermal, anti-laser smoke bombs that obscure infra-red signals and enable tank movement behind a smoke cover. These grenades which emit smoke and also provide IR (Infra red) screening effect provide a cover from active and passive night-vision devices, thermal imagers and laser range finders and thereby increase the survivability of tanks and armoured vehicles in the battlefield.
Rao said it would take another two years for the HEMRL to develop the multi-spectral camouflaging flares that mislead anti-aircraft homing missiles by simulating the exhaust emissions and infra red/millimetre wavelengths of the Su-30 and other combat aircraft.
"This is an advanced area and will take us another two years to develop," he said.
Meanwhile, a superior alternative to the conventional tear gas has been developed by the HEMRL, specifically at the request of the Border Security Force. These new non-lethal smoke bombs based on capsicum oleoresins (active chemical in chillies) have been demonstrated successfully and are ready for production.
New Delhi’s determination to go ahead on a gas pipeline project with Iran despite opposition from the USA is not likely to damage its relationship with Washington, say US-based analysts. “It will not strain US-Indian ties,” said Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who served as a senior adviser to Robert Blackwill when he was the U.S. Ambassador to India. “This relationship is far more encompassing and strategic for it to be disrupted by a disagreement over Iran.”
Negotiations on the gas pipeline began in 1994, but no headway was made until last year because of tensions between India and Pakistan, and the project’s prohibitive cost. The 2,600 km gas pipeline project, with an estimated cost of about $ 4.5 billion, has been strongly opposed by the USA because of concerns about Teheran’s secretive nuclear programme and its sponsorship of terrorism.
India’s Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, a strong advocate of the pipeline, recently said: “We are sensitive to U.S. concerns and trust they are aware of our requirements. It is impossible for India to secure its energy requirements without access to natural gas resources in the extended neighborhood, especially Iran... I hope that even as we work with the U.S. and Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to meet international concerns, the U.S. will work with us in securing our vital energy requirements.”
To sustain its current 7 per cent growth rate, India imports more than 70 per cent of the crude oil it consumes. It is expected to import some five million tons of gas this year alone, with at least 20 per cent coming from Iran.
India is on “fairly solid ground” when it talks about its energy needs, says Anupam Srivastava, director of the Asia programme at the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Some U.S. officials have indicated that the pipeline would put a crimp in U.S.-India relations. On a recent visit to New Delhi, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control Stephen Rademaker revealed the extent of this concern. “We think it [the Iran pipeline] would be a mistake. It would provide oil revenue to Iran that could be the basis of funding for weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Rademaker said.
During a recent meeting in Washington with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly told the minister that the Iran pipeline would violate the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA). The act empowers the president of the USA to order punitive measures against any international company that invests more than $ 20 million a year in Iran’s energy sector. A violation of this act would mean sanctions on Pakistan, Miss Rice warned.
Dr. Srivastava pointed out that the ILSA couldn’t, by law, stop other countries’ economic engagement with Iran. “This is just a U.S. extra-territorial law, not an international law. So when the U.S. sanctioned eight Chinese companies on December 27, 2004 for providing nuclear assistance to Iran in violation of the same act the Chinese said they broke no law - so all the U.S. could do is to stop business with the Chinese firms.”
The Bush administration’s opposition to the pipeline stems from its suspicions that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons programme and concern that revenue earned from the pipeline will be used to fund terrorists. Analysts say this opposition could be dropped if Iran agrees to provide International Atomic Energy Agency weapons inspectors access to its nuclear plants.
US willing to address reliability issue regarding defence deals
The US wants to dispel the notion that it is an unreliable partner concerning defence deals. According to sources, “The US agrees that at the political level there is a signal that it is willing to address this issue.”
New Delhi has acknowledged that the US remains the source of some big technologies, therefore, the two countries are moving towards taking defence ties beyond the realm of joint military exercises.
“India provides a very good platform for outsourcing some component manufacture or joint production,” the sources said.
As part of the forthcoming visit of defence minister Pranab Mukherjee to Washington next week, an agreement for cooperation in defence hardware and joint ventures is expected to be inked.
Mr Mukherjee’s visit, perhaps, could provide some indication to Washington that India is interested in some of the high-end aircraft the US is willing to sell and co-produce with India, said sources.
While defence ministry officials made it clear that the minister was not “going with a shopping list” during his weeklong visit on June 27 to that country, the plans of Indian Air force to purchase 126 medium range combat aircraft, will come up for discussions, they said.
The project had not yet reached the request for proposal (RFP) stage, with some new dimensions emerging with the US offering to sell high technology aircraft to India for the first time, officials pointed out.
Mr Mukherjee will visit the US Pacific Command in Hawaii for a live demonstration of advanced anti-missile defence systems. Apart from discussing and demonstrating anti-missile defense systems, the key US aim in taking Mr Mukherjee to Hawaii will be to remove mistrust in US-India strategic relations, sources said.
In another pending deal, New Delhi has conveyed to Washington that India is not particularly impressed with the PAC-3 missile unit offered with the two-tier US anti-missile defence system, on the grounds that it is too slow for the very short reaction period required in the sub-continent, especially with regard to neighboring Pakistan.
The United States embassy officials told FE that the US administration was upbeat and open about developing tie-up with India on sales and transfer of technology in strategic arms field and disclosed for the first time that since January 2002, the United States arms and systems sales to India had touched almost a $1 biLLIon.
“So far 1,320 licences for arms hardware worth $300 million and 156 agreements worth more than $688 million had been authorised,” the officials said. “With the state department going fully electronic by year end, we expect arms sales licence clearance to be shorter than present 14 to 15 calender days,” they added.
Declaring that the US applied same arms sales licensing procedures to all countries including allies, embassy officials said that Washington was insisting no change in end use and no re-transfer of technology to third countries without the US approval.
Major United States armament firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing are vying for India plans to acquire 126 medium range combat aircraft.
Top American general, Lt-Gen Jeffrey B Kohler, who is the director of Pentagon’s defence security cooperation agency (DSCA), earlier this month gave a detailed presentation to senior Indian Air Force and ministry of defence officials in the US on F-16 and F-18 fighter aircraft and informed the Indians of the basic capabilities of both aircraft.
Gen Kohler is reported to have said that the F-16 and F-18 fighters being offered to India were the latest versions and not ‘off-the-shelf’ stock like those being supplied to Pakistan.
India Again Successfully Tests Surface-to-Air Missile
India successfully tested an Indian-built surface-to-air missile June 20 for the second time in two days, a defense ministry official said.
The missile Akash -- meaning sky in Hindi -- was tested at a range in eastern Orissa state.
It was fired at 11:15 am (0545 GMT) from a mobile launcher at the Chandipur-on-Sea testing range, 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Bhubaneswar, Orissa’s state capital, the ministry official said.
The 700 kilogram (1,540 pound) missile, which hit a flying drone, was last tested on June 17.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, who came close to war in 2002 but whose relations have warmed since, frequently test-fire missiles.
Akash, which can track 100 targets simultaneously with onboard radar, can move at a speed of 600 meters (1,980 feet) a second and deliver a 55 kilogram (121 pound) warhead across 27 kilometers (17 miles) in 50 seconds.
Akash is being developed by the state-run Defense Research and Development organization which launched in 1983 a project to build an array of weapons. It hopes to cap the program with a ballistic missile which can fly 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles).
In 1999, a year after India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, the two countries agreed to notify each other ahead of missile tests.
History was made on Monday in the Indian Navy when the first woman vice admiral, Punita Arora, was seconded to the maritime force as the Director General Medical Services with the rank of surgeon vice admiral.
Arora held the rank of lieutenant general with the Indian Army during her earlier posting as commandant of the prestigious Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) at Pune.
An alumnus of the college she was heading, Arora was commissioned into the Army Medical Corps in January 1968. She did her post-graduation in gynaecology from the same institute in 1976.
A renowned gynaecologist, she has held many prestigious appointments including head of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at AFMC, senior advisor and consultant gynaecologist at the Army Hospital (Research and Referral) in New Delhi and commandant of the Military Hospital in Jammu and Kashmir.
Arora is also a postgraduate examiner of University of Pune and Rajiv Gandhi Medical University.
For her distinguished services, she was awarded the Sena Medal in 1998, Vishist Seva Medal in 2003 and the Chief of Army Staff's Commendation. She is also Colonel Commandant of the Army Medical Corps.
HAL Discusses Partnerships with Leading Aerospace Companies
HAL reinforced its presence in the International Aviation arena by continuing dialogue with important aerospace companies. The static display aircraft of HAL continue to draw large crowd at the show and many of the prospective customers took test flight in Dhruv, the Advanced Light Helicopter.
Various foreign delegations, including ministers and senior officials visited HAL static display area to enquire about Dhruv and IJT. The armament systems displayed along with Dhruv generated keen interest amongst the visiting military officials who spent considerable time enquiring about the details of the weapons to be integrated on ALH.
Chairman, HAL held discussions with the major companies on the ongoing co-operation on a range of issues such as progressing the joint marketing of ALH to international customers with Israel Aircraft Industries, new business opportunities in collaboration with Turbomeca of France, Elbit Systems Ltd of Israel and Smiths of UK.
Several business models placing great emphasis on mutually beneficial partnership were discussed at length. Shri Ashok K Baweja, Chairman HAL, reiterated that India of the current day and age has full range of expertise, skill sets and knowledge to forge mutually beneficial partnership with leading international aerospace industries.
He emphasized upon the rapid growth of knowledge in India, particularly in design, analysis and software related applications, to meet the most stringent standards in the field of aviation.
Russian defense industry has suffered another blow in India as the Russian President Putin was solemnly declaring friendship to his Indian counterpart. According to Mr. Putin, "Russia-India relations are developing today in the best possible way." However, the situation is not so optimistic with regard to prospects for Russian arms sales to India.
India may stop buying Russian military aircraft and air defense systems altogether. Meanwhile, the United States is making unprecedented concessions in the field of military and technical cooperation while imposing its friendship on India. USA is offering India to launch joint production of the outdated F-16 fighters in India. The offer is ostensibly made "in token of friendship." Americans are also hinting at a potential sale of its much-vaunted Patriot air defense system to India.
India is now holding a tender for the order of 126 multi-purpose lightweight fighters for the national air force. There are 4 bidders at the moment including Russian Aircraft Concern MiG for the MiG-29M/M2; Lockheed Martin for the F-16; SAAB for the fighter Gripen; and DASSAULT for the fighter Mirage 2000. In accordance with the tender terms, a winner should launch licensed production of its aircraft in India. The Russians believed that their greater flexibility with regard to licensed aircraft production would be an advantage at the tender. Representatives of Rosoboronexport indicated earlier that neither American nor Swedish manufacturers had any experience regarding cooperation with the Indian side in the area of aircraft assembly. However, the above circumstances did not prevent the Americans from taking a step toward the potential customers. Needless to say, the Indian-assembled F-16 would be a lot cheaper than its equivalent put together in the U.S. or Europe. There is still an excess of qualified labor supply in India, and labor costs are low. The Indian air force is likely to spend as much on domestic assembly of U.S. fighters as it would spend on licensed production of Russian aircraft. The Americans made an unprecedented decision, no doubts about it. So far just a handful of countries has been given such a "privilege" despite the possibility for partial joint production of the fighter stipulated in the original provisions of the F-16 development program. The F-16 is currently manufactured outside the U.S. by Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, and South Korea.
For the first time in history the U.S is making such an offer to a country that is neither a NATO member state nor it has Americans troops deployed on its territory. What are the reasons behind this spectacular move? Aside from economic motivations, it is obviously a matter of geopolitics.
First, the U.S is beginning to gradually force out Russian, Ukrainian, and Chinese arms suppliers out of the region by offering India its state-of-the-art weapons at a reasonable price. Ukraine and China sell arms mostly to Pakistan, a longstanding rival of India's. The Americans are dealing successfully with Pakistan too. The Pakistanis always showed consistency in their simple stance on the issue of U.S. arms sales to India. They always objected to such deals while asking for more U.S. arms for themselves. It is unlikely that the U.S. will fail to cut a similar deal for the F-16 with Pakistan, terms of a contract will probably copy those of the Indian deal i.e. joint production of the fighter in a buyer's country. In any case, the issue has been already discussed during the talks between the U.S. and Pakistan.
Washington is also keen to hold back China's growing influence in the Asian Pacific region. Shortly after the news about the U.S. plans for launching joint production of the fighter in India, Reuters put out an article titled USA: apprehensive about China while selling arms to India. The article cites Lt. General Jeffrey B. Kohler, director of Cooperation for Defense and Security. Mr. Kohler believes the modern arms sales to India and Pakistan that should be viewed only in the context of growing Chinese strength. The "yellow threat" looks much more scary to the Americans than the threat posed by the Soviet Union in the past. Therefore, the U.S. is likely to make any concessions as it supplies more or less modern weapons to countries which are relatively loyal to America. Washington aims to reach a sort of local parity with Beijing.
Russia and its arms exports can hardly qualify for the above geopolitical game. The situation is to advantage of the Americans since they know better than anybody else that Russia's defense industry heavily depends on export deals. These days a delay in talks on any foreign contract can bring about dire consequences including bankruptcy for any company of the Russian defense industry. Should Russia leave the traditional markets of the Asian Pacific region (high profitability and capacity being the main features of the region's markets), the scale of the Russian defense industry will shrink significantly. Besides, the move would signify a final devaluation of Russia's foreign influence in the region.
Gripen International, the combat-plane venture owned by SAAB AB and BAE Systems Plc, plans to submit a proposal this year or in early 2006 to sell as many as 126 fighter jets to India.
Senior members of the Indian Air Force visited Gripen officials at the Paris Air Show this week, said Managing Director Johan Lehander in a phone interview today. The venture expects India to invite proposals by early next year, he said.
“We got confirmation that they will go on with the process,'' Lehander said. “We are talking about India buying new aircraft.''
BAE Systems Plc, Europe's biggest weapons maker, in February reduced its stake in Linkoeping, Sweden-based Saab and ceded marketing responsibility for the Gripen. Saab is seeking to boost Gripen exports as an order from the Swedish government, the company's biggest customer, comes to an end.
In India, Saab may face competition from Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-16 combat plane, Boeing Co.'s F/A-18 and Dassault Aviation SA's Mirage and MiG Corp. The winning combat plane will enter service in about 2009.
The U.S. government has proposed selling as many as 75 F-16 fighters to India's neighbour Pakistan and also offered India F-16s or F/A-18 planes. India and Pakistan fought a war in 1971 and came close to another conflict in June 2002. India, a Soviet ally in the Cold War, wants to replace aging MiG-21 jets.
Gripen will start delivering 28 fighter planes to South Africa in 2008, a year after the sale of 204 jets to Sweden ends. The venture is also leasing aircraft to Hungary and the Czech Republic.
During the Kargil war, the Pakistan military had prepared their nuclear-tipped missile to fight back a possible Indian attack, and former US president Bill Clinton had informed about the military's move to the then Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif, Bruce Riedel, a close aide of Clinton, has been quoted as saying this in a forthcoming book "Pakistan Between Mosque And Military" written by a Pakistani writer Husain Haqqani.
On learning about the military's plans, Sharif was taken aback and said that India was probably doing the same, writes Haqqani, a former Pakistani diplomat, journalist and senior adviser to Pakistan's government. Presently, he is a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
According to the Dawn, Riedel further says: "Clinton asked Sharif if he knew how advanced the threat of nuclear war really was? Did Sharif know his military was preparing their nuclear-tipped missiles? Was that what Sharif wanted, Clinton asked? Did Sharif order Pakistani nuclear missile force to prepare for action? Did he realize how crazy that was? You have put me in the middle today, set the US to fail and I won't let it happen. Pakistan is messing with nuclear war."
Riedel, a special assistant to Clinton and a senior director of Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council in the Clinton era, says that he was present in the July 4, 1999, meeting between Clinton and Nawaz.
During the meeting, Clinton also raised the issue of Pakistan's reluctance to help the US catch Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders. "The president was getting angry. He told Sharif that he had asked repeatedly for Pakistani help to bring Osama bin Laden to justice from Afghanistan. Sharif had promised often to do so but had done nothing. Instead the ISI worked with bin Laden and the Taliban to foment terrorism," Riedel adds.
The former US official recalls that Clinton's draft statement on the Kargil crisis also mentioned Pakistan's role in supporting terrorists in Afghanistan and India.
Apparently hinting that Sharif had withdrawn troops under US' pressure, Riedel says that at the end of that meeting, Sharif agreed to announce a Pakistani withdrawal from Kargil and restoration of the sanctity of the Line of Control in return for Clinton taking a personal interest in resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue.
'Akash', the country's surface-to-air missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on- sea here on Friday, defence sources said. The multi-target missile with a range of 25 km was test-fired at 2.30 p.m. The missile hit a "para-barrel target" showing its consistency, the sources said.
The missile had better features than its US counterpart 'Patriot' and can be launched from a battle tank, the sources said. It has thrust during its entire flight and the propulsion will work till it hits the target, they said. The 5.6 m long sleek missile has a launch weight of 700 kg and can carry 60 kg of warhead and the radar is capable of tracking 64 targets and guide upto 12 missiles simultaneously.
The army and air force, which would be deploying the missile, wanted it to demonstrate consistency during the entire flight for which the trial was conducted, the sources said. The sophisticated missile which uses an integral ramjet rocket propulsion system and has low reaction time, operates in conjunction with indigenously built rajendra surveillance and engagement radar developed by Electronic Research and Development
Establishment (ERDE), Hyderabad. 'Akash' is part of India's Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) developed by the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO).
U.S. Willing To Talk to India About Supplying Missile Defense
A U.S. official said June 16 his government was willing to talk to India about supplying missile defense systems, but urged New Delhi to spell out regulatory mechanisms for controlling exports of sensitive technologies.
“We are willing to talk to India about missile defense. Missile defense is very expensive. So, it is not something that India will enter into lightly,” visiting U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, Stephen Rademaker, told reporters.
Rademaker lauded India for a recent legislation by parliament on export control of sensitive technologies, but added that the “end game” would be a set of regulations for implementing it.
Earlier this year, Washington offered to step up a strategic dialogue with New Delhi including military and high-tech cooperation as well as expanded economic and energy cooperation.
It expressed willingness to discuss the issue of defense transformation with India, including other systems such as command and control and early warning.
India was a Cold War ally of the Soviet Union and maintains close ties with Iran, which the United States accuses of developing nuclear weapons and supporting Middle Eastern extremist groups.
Traditionally, it has bought most of its military equipment from Russia, France and Britain, but recently has shown interest in the military hardware of U.S. defense firms.
The United States and India signed a landmark agreement last January to share advanced technology, including in peaceful nuclear applications.
Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit here next month, a senior State Department official described 2005 as a watershed year in relations between India and the US but said there are significant hurdles to overcome.
Testifying before the House International Relations Subcommittee for Asia and the Pacific, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca said: "We are accelerating the transformation of our relationship with India, with a number of new initiatives."
These, she noted, included engaging in a new strategic dialogue on global issues, and on defence and expanded advanced technology cooperation.
President George W. Bush came to office in 2001 recognising the growing importance of South Asia to the US, she noted and added that during his second term his intention to build on the already strong relationships and move to the next level was making progress.
She reiterated the Bush administration's mantra that relations with India and Pakistan were de-hyphenated and stood on their own.
With India "this is a watershed year", she said especially with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to that country and a series of senior officials making their way back and forth between India and the US not to forget the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush's promise to go to India some time later this year."
"India and the United States have begun a high-level dialogue on energy security, to include nuclear safety, and a working group to strengthen space cooperation. Our defence relationship is expanding and we are revitalising our economic dialogue. The US relationship with India and our commitment to developing even deeper political, economic, commercial and security ties have never been stronger," Rocca emphasised.
"As Secretary Rice has said, we see India becoming a world power in the 21st century, and our dialogue with India now touches on broad issues around the region and the world," she reiterated, adding, "The United States is supportive of India's growing role as a democracy that is stepping on to the world stage to take on global responsibilities."
She again drew attention to India's coordinated efforts on tsunami relief efforts, its role during the Nepalese emergency, and efforts to support the peace process in Sri Lanka.
The US-India Economic Dialogue initiative is focused on enhancing cooperation in four areas: finance, trade, commerce and the environment, she said, pointing to the April 2005 signing of a landmark Open Skies civil aviation agreement, supporting India's moves forward with financial, trade, energy, water, and agriculture reforms designed to sustain and elevate its "impressive" rate of growth and reduce poverty.
"Reforms in these areas would allow pursuit of new opportunities with the United States in a variety of high-tech fields and would allow Indian consumers a greater choice of goods and services," she said.
"Additionally, we are establishing a forum of US and Indian chief executives to discuss specific and innovative ways to improve economic ties."
But challenges remain such as "significant" tariff and non-tariff barriers that are a problem for US businesses interested in India's market, intellectual property protection that has been helped by India's 2005 enactment of a new patent law to provide patent protection for pharmaceuticals and biotechnology inventions that has to be built upon so that India's intellectual property laws and enforcement efforts against piracy and counterfeiting become world class, contributing to further economic development and enhancing consumer choices and creativity in India.
"To help accomplish our mutual economic objectives for the Indian people we also need to devote our near-term attention to additional trade disputes involving specific companies, such as US investors in the power sector. We also need to deal with more general 'policy' issues, such as Indian government subsidies for fertiliser and LPG and non-transparent standards," Rocca said.
The Bush administration sees India and Pakistan's rapprochement as bold steps contributing to overall stability in the region, she stressed, and Washington will continue to encourage wide-ranging dialogue between the two countries to settle all issues including Kashmir.
The bus service across the Line of Control, she said, "is having a real impact on the lives of average Kashmiris, allowing resumed contacts between long-separated populations".
"We now have an exciting window of opportunity to work with our partners in South Asia and make truly historic progress. Our goal is to move forward firmly and irreversibly on paths to stability, democracy, moderation and prosperity," Rocca said.
New Delhi To Produce Torpedoes Under License From Italian Firm
With an indigenous lightweight torpedo delayed, India will produce under license a design by Italian firm Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subaqua (WASS), according to an Indian Navy official.
Under a contract signed in April, WASS will build a few dozen torpedoes to meet the pressing need to arm India’s frigates, destroyers and submarines, but within 15 to 20 months, production will start up in the Hyderabad facility of India’s state-owned missile producer Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (BDL), the official said. The Navy intends to buy about 900 lightweight torpedoes, he said.
The Indian-built torpedoes also will be sold by WASS to European customers, a senior BDL official said.
Finmeccanica officials also are talking with WASS and BDL about developing and marketing a more advanced torpedo for export, a Finmeccanica executive said here.
An 18-year effort by the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop and build 990 lightweight torpedoes to replace India’s own aging arms has failed to come to fruition, an Indian Defence Ministry official said.
DRDO had proposed to begin production around 1995, but “technology denial by foreign suppliers” prevented that, a DRDO official said.
The Indian Navy official said the DRDO’s torpedo was rejected after a series of trials.
The Navy is using about 250 obsolete Russian and Western torpedoes intended for retirement in 1999.
Pakistan has submitted its request to buy 75 new and upgraded F-16C/D Falcon fighter aircraft after the Bush administration announced it would resume sales, said US Defence Security Cooperation Agency head Air Force Lt-General Jeffrey Kohler on Wednesday. Kohler told reporters in Washington that Pakistan had also asked about buying 11 used F-16s.
Earlier press reports said Pakistan was seeking to buy only 24 then 55 F-16s. But the numbers cited by Kohler suggest that Pakistan wants to make the F-16 a mainstay of its combat aircraft fleet. As part of the Pakistan Air Force’s fleet modernization program, Pakistan is also buying the JF-17 Thunder light fighter aircraft jointly developed by China and Pakistan. Pakistan has ordered 150 JF-17s. The JF-17 is a Mach 1.6-Mach 2 aircraft, with advanced avionics and excellent handling capability. Although it is not in the same league as fourth- and fifth-generation western fighters like the F-16 Block 50/52 or the French Mirage 2000-5, it is more than a match for India’s indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) that is expected to be the mainstay of the Indian Air Force in the future. At $ 15 million per copy, the JF-17 is also much cheaper than the F-16. The F-16C/D Block 50/52 sells for $ 40 million to $ 45 million each, depending on avionics and other options. So 75 of these F-16s would cost Pakistan between $ 3 billion to $ 3.375 billion.
As against this, 150 JF-17s will cost Pakistan $ 2.25 billion, in nominal terms. But the net cost to Pakistan will be considerably less. Under the terms of the income-sharing formula agreed between the Chinese manufacturer, Chengdu Aircraft Group of Companies, and the PAF’s Aircraft Factory at Kamra (which will supply manpower, aircraft components and other inputs), 50 per cent of the proceeds from all JF-17 sales will come to Pakistan as its share. Thus, the net cost to Pakistan of the JF-17s ordered by the PAF could be reduced by as much as $ 7.5 million per copy, bringing the cost of the aircraft down to $ 7.5 million — for a total net price tag of $ 1.125 billion for 150 J-17s.
Kohler said that Pakistan had requested prices for F-16c/D Block 50/52 aircraft, the most modern F-16s flown by the United States Air Force and the current production standard. He said similar aircraft have been exported to Poland, Greece, Chile, Oman and Israel. Only the United Arab Emirates flies a more advanced variant, Block 60, with improved radar, defence and range. The UAE acquired eighty Block 60 F-16s under a deal with the American manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, concluded in 2000, at a total contract price of $ 8 billion, or $ 100 million per plane. But this price tag included the cost of missile systems fitted to the aircraft.
The US was initially reluctant to supply the missile systems. But it agreed to do so after UAE officials said they were not interested in buying the F-16s if the deal did not include the missile systems. Kohler said he had held arms-sales talks with Pakistani Defence Ministry officials last month. He said, "I think when we go back and talk to them about the cost of the new systems my guess is that they will downsize slightly the request for new aircraft and may increase slightly the used."
A team of executives from Lockheed Martin’s F-16 assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas, is due in Islamabad shortly to discuss the proposed sale. Meanwhile, the good news from Pakistan’s point of view is that the Chinese Air Force has now also decided to buy 200 JF-17s, in a deal that could be worth up to $ 3 billion. Under the income-sharing formula agreed between the two countries, Pakistan’s share of revenue from the sale to the Chinese Air Force could total as much as $ 1.5 billion, making the deal an important new source of foreign currency earnings for this country.
Moreover, the sale to the Chinese Air Force is expected to greatly boost the prospects for the JF-17 on the world market. Sales to other countries would substantially add to Pakistan’s foreign currency earnings in the years ahead, which would help to reduce its trade gap and improve its balance of payments. China and Pakistan tested the first prototype of the JF-17, also known FC-1 or the Super-7, on August 25, 2003. A publicly held test flight was made in Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan province, on September 3, 2003, with Pakistan Air Force Chief of Staff Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat attending the ceremony. The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that the maiden eight-minute flight of the plane, named Xiaolong (or Fierce Dragon), proved highly successful at Wenjiang Airport in Chengdu.
During the test flight, the plane demonstrated its outstanding mobility, and good interception and ground attack capability. With its advanced design and state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, the JF-17 has the combat capability of a third-generation fighter plane and is on par with the world’s most advanced light fighter aircraft. With its small size and relatively low cost, the plane is suitable for modern combat operations and ideal for sales to developing countries that cannot afford to pay the much higher prices of western jet fighters in the same category.
The JF-17 has some features like advanced avionics and cost effectiveness that give it an edge over India’s indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft. From Pakistan’s perspective, this makes the JF-17 an attractive option to replace its ageing fleet of Mirages, F-7s and A-5s. The JF-17 is a light weight, all-weather, multi-role aircraft with a speed of Mach 1.6-Mach 2 and a high thrust-to-weight ratio. It has the ability to engage targets at all speeds and altitudes within the conventional flying envelope. In surface attack and interdiction roles, the aircraft can strike at long distances. It can also carry high- and low-drag bombs, laser-guided bombs, runway-penetration bombs and cluster bombs. Its engine is of Russian origin, and is being made in China under license. China and Pakistan have invested more than $ 500 million in the development of the aircraft. The JF-17 project has been completed in a record time of four years.
Following the September 3, 2003 maiden test flight, the aircraft began undergoing a validation process, which is expected to take two-and-a-half years. Serial production is due to start in January 2006. The JF-17 has an advanced flight control system, which is a mix of conventional and fly-by-wire controls, making it highly agile and manoeuvrable. It is capable of carrying a variety of weapons systems including short-range missiles, beyond-visual-range missiles, anti-ship missiles and anti-radiation missiles. The JF-17 would meet the PAF’s bulk requirement, while induction of the fourth-generation F-16s offered to Pakistan by the United States in March 2005 would give the country’s air defence a cutting edge. In addition to the fourth-generation F-16 Block 50/52, other fourth-generation options being considered by the PAF include the French Mirage 2000-5, the Russian SU-30 and a Swedish aircraft.
China and Pakistan plan to also target markets in the Middle East, Africa and South America for sales of the plane. Any reduction in the $ 15 million per plane cost due to an increase in the production run would make it an even more attractive proposition for overseas buyers. The JF-17 fighter is also expected to be attractive for overseas buyers due to its advanced avionics and high maneuverability.China is Pakistan’s main defence supplier. The two countries have cooperated on a number of projects, including joint production of the K-8 jet trainer aircraft. The K-8 has been inducted into the Pakistan Air Force and has also been sold to several other countries. A $ 40 million deal for the sale of ten K-8s to Saudi Arabia was finalized in September 2003.
Brazil's aviation major Embraer announced Wednesday it had signed an agreement with India to supply aircraft for the development of an indigenous airborne early warning and control system.
The Indian government had last year cleared a proposal from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop the system using indigenous radars. The total programme is expected to cost Rs.18 billion.
Embraer announced at the Aero India 2005 show here it had signed a memorandum of understanding with DRDO to support the new airborne early warning and control system's development.
"The new asset will be based on the EMB 145 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (aircraft)," said a statement from Embraer.
It said the EMB 145 was one of the world's best selling aircraft for surveillance and reconnaissance.
"Embraer's commitment to contribute its previous experience in platform development and complex systems integration was a key factor in DRDO's selection," it noted.
The Brazilian firm, which had earlier signed another agreement with New Delhi to supply five Legacy executive jets that will be used for VVIP travel, said it hoped to sell three EMB 145 aircraft to India.
"Indian government analysts and Embraer company engineers are collecting necessary technical data on the aircraft for the study. At the request of the Indian government, an Embraer team recently visited DRDO and held in-depth discussions to support DRDO personnel in their task," the statement said.
An order for additional EMB 145 aircraft "could materialise in the future, based on a successful first development phase", it said.
"The company considers this partnership a significant milestone with DRDO, an institution renowned to be one of the leading high technology developers in Asia," said Embraer's executive vice-president for defence market, Romualdo Barros.
"The Indian aerospace industry has reached remarkable achievements and Embraer is proud and thrilled to participate in this initiative. Besides the upcoming contract to supply our EMB 145 platform, we could be involved in some engineering work."
India has signed a contract with Israel to buy three Phalcon airborne early warning control systems. This is in addition to the development of the indigenous systems.
Army asks Bofors for live demonstration of new guns
The Government’s decision to completely re-work the acquisition process for wheeled artillery guns is now official.
With the deal, which almost went to South African firm, Denel, earlier this year, now on hold, the Army has asked Bofors Defence AB for a live demonstration of its new Archer 155mm 52-calibre self-propelled howitzer. Bofors officials told The Indian Express that the request was being processed and an invitation would shortly be sent for an Indian Army team to visit Sweden for a firing demo.
The Army envisages the need for at least 30 wheeled 155mm howitzer regiments (600 guns) over the next ten years. The need may shoot up if the current Army HQ thought process of scaling down the requirement for tracked howitzers is finalised.
The Archer system, which will be inducted into the Swedish and Danish armies early 2008, is ready and two specimens are likely to be used in the next few months for a live firing trial. Bofors is also preparing to present features that the Army did not have on its General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs), including Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) capabilities, the world’s first ever guided shells and the Uniflex-2 modular charge system on the Archer.
Built on the Volvo A30D mega-truck platform, the Archer was developed to completely fulfill the Swedish artillery doctrine. The towed variant of the same L-52 guns has just completed a third round of trials in India for a substantial deal to arm at least 50 artillery regiments.
Haken Kangert, Chairman of the India-specific marketing arm of Bofors Defence, said that the company was willing to transfer Archer technology to New Delhi so that a bulk of the guns could be built under license in Bangalore. In addition, Kangert said Bofors would be willing to participate in an upgrade of the Army’s current arsenal of 400 old generation L-39 guns that New Delhi purchased in 1986 from AB Bofors.
The Indian Army’s towed gun arsenal should ideally arm more than 100 regiments — in excess of 2,000 towed howitzers. The Army already has 400 towed L-39 Bofors guns, in currently converting its 130mm guns to the 152mm standard and will soon be armed with 1,000 more 152mm guns. It further envisages five tracked gun regiments and ten regiments of wheeled turret based artillery systems.
5th-generation fighter by Sukhoi to be ready by 2007
The fifth generation fighter plane under development at Sukhoi Aircraft Corporation is to make its maiden flight in 2007.
"The development of the fifth generation fighter is proceeding in strict compliance with the schedule and the plane will be flight-tested in 2007," the Russian Air Chief, General Vladimir Mikhailov, said while visiting Kubinka airbase near here.
Russia has offered India a stake in its fifth generation fighter programme and the issue was discussed during President A P J Abdul Kalam's recent Russian tour, when the Indian President visited Sukhoi Aircraft Corporation.
According to Sukhoi sources, the experience accumulated during the implementation of Su-30MKI fighter project for the Indian Air Force provides a 'solid ground' for the Indo-Russian interaction in developing the fifth generation fighter, which would match the US JSF project.
According to Kremlin Military Aide Alexander Burutin, by 2012 the Russian Air Force will have up to 60 per cent of new inventory.
"A new armament programme has been developed and we shall achieve this parameter by 2010-2012," Burutin was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.
U.S. lawmakers Tuesday criticized the Bush administration's plans to sell advanced fighter jets to Pakistan, saying the move could result in an arms race with India, derailing a two-year-old peace process, but experts were divided over the potential implications of the sale to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's government.
The Bush administration announced March 25 it will sell an unspecified number of F-16s to Pakistan, bringing to an end a two-decade-long dispute with the South Asian nation over the aircraft. In the late 1980s, Washington had agreed to sell 32 F-16s to Pakistan, but the former President Bush, the father of the current president, cancelled the deal following a dispute over Pakistan's nuclear program.
At the time of the announcement, the Bush administration also offered advanced fighter aircraft to India, Pakistan's arch rival with which Islamabad is now engaged in a peace process. The Bush administration has become close to India and at the news conference to announce the sales said it wanted to "help" the South Asian giant become a superpower.
Lawmakers asked Tuesday if the Bush administration's plans would not set off another arms race between two poor nations who have fought three wars since almost-simultaneous independence in 1947.
"The F-16 is for fighting India, not terrorists," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. "How can we in good conscience permit such a poor country that is without a healthcare or education system for its people spend money on a blue ribbon showoff weapon system like the F-16?"
Both Republicans and Democrats on the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific asked why the sale of technologically advanced warplane was vital to a poor nation ruled by a military dictator. Rather than supplying Pakistan with enhanced weaponry, many lawmakers said the United States should be promoting democracy and telling Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, to focus on rooting out terrorist groups in the country.
"What do we get for setting aside our democratic principles, our concerns about nuclear proliferation, and showering Pakistan with military hardware?" asked Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, D-N.Y. "Why... we get cooperation on the global war on terror," he said sarcastically.
Appearing before the subcommittee, Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, said Pakistan's leaders have "taken the steps necessary to make their country a key ally in the war on terrorism and to set it on the path to becoming a modern, prosperous and democratic state."
Rocca added: "It should be noted that with respect to the war on terror, Pakistan is saving American lives everyday."
Some experts who spoke before the panel said though Pakistan was a key ally, Washington needed to be wary of the country.
"Intelligence reports repeatedly assert that in the border area with Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda remnants continue to find a safe haven, and often with the connivance of local Pakistani authorities," said Dana Robert Dillon, a senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.
Ackerman said he feared the worst if the United States went ahead with the sales, which have angered India.
"This is what is called an arms race," he said. "The leaders of Pakistan have come through coups and assassinations as much as they have through elections. There is no respect to India's democratic institution - this is not leading by example."
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is expected in Washington soon, is likely to raise the issue of the sales with the Bush administration, Indian news reports say.
Experts, however, downplay the likelihood of an arms race between the two nuclear-armed neighbors who came close to a fourth war two years ago before their current attempts at peace.
"Both sides understand that a conventional war could rapidly deteriorate into a nuclear exchange, my judgment is that the F-16's do not change this situation," said Stephen P. Cohen, a senior fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, a centrist Washington think tank.
He said an arms race was a factor before the two nations acquired nuclear weapons in 1998.
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said it was not Washington's job to tell countries what they should or should not want to defend themselves. He noted India had expressed interest in buying similar warplanes from France and that it and Pakistan would advance their defense systems with or without U.S. sales. He added it would be more dangerous for these countries not to have sophisticated military capabilities.
"Weakness always encourages bullies - the biggest deterrent to bullies is to be strong enough that they won't be pushed around," said Burton.
Rocca said the sales would not affect stability in the region and noted it was equipment Pakistan needed.
"The sale meets Pakistan's legitimate defense needs, making Pakistan more secure without upsetting the current regional military balance," she said.
Those comments reflect the Bush administration stand that relations between the two sides are rapidly improving, an assessment not everyone shares. Cohen said he was concerned the administration was not paying enough attention to the prospect of a war between India and Pakistan.
"It seems to hope that the present India-Pakistan dialogue will flourish, leading to some kind of agreement on Kashmir and other outstanding disputes," he said, noting he was pessimistic about the situation.
The countries have for the past two years engaged in a series of political, cultural, sporting and diplomatic exchanges in a bid to solve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, the Himalayan region they both claim. The arms sales, some lawmakers said, would add affect a fragile situation.
"I am not a person who thinks that peace comes at the end of a barrel," said Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif. "We are adding to the aggressive behavior rather than addressing the social needs as a top priority."
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Cooperative Cope Thunder
Nikhil and Jehangir wrote an exhaustive article about the Cooperative Cope Thunder joint event. Their article was publihed in Vayu magazine. Click on the link below to read the in-depth article with amazing pictures courtesy of mark Farmer at topcover.com
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