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Lt Gen Bipin Rawat ‘best suited’ to deal with emerging challenges: Defence Ministry sources

New Delhi: The Defence Ministry insisted on Sunday that Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, named the next Army Chief overlooking the generally followed seniority norm, was “best suited” for the job.

The appointment of Lt Gen Rawat has ignored the seniority of Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Southern Army Commander Lt Gen PM Hariz who have spent longer years in service.

Lt Gen Bakshi was not appointed the Vice-Chief when the post fell vacant in September and Lt Gen Rawat was brought in from the Southern Command.

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. Image courtesy: Twitter@adgpi

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. Image courtesy: [email protected]

“He was found the best suited among the Lt Generals, to deal with emerging challenges, including a reorganised and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the North East,” a source in the ministry said.

On Friday, asked if the line of succession will be broken, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had cryptically remarked: “Line of succession is decided by the people.”

Lt Gen Rawat was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles in December 1978 from the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, where he was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’.

He has commanded an infantry battalion along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an infantry division in the Kashmir Valley.

He also has vast experience in high altitude warfare and counter insurgency operations.

“Lt Gen Rawat has tremendous hands on experience of serving in combat areas and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades,” said the source who did not want to be named.

“He has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the LoC (Line of Control) with Pakistan, LAC with China and in the northeast,” the source said.

“He is known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion, and connect with civil society. His experience as GOC-in-C (general officer commanding-in-chief) Southern Army Command in Mechanised Warfare has been focused towards the western borders, in coordination with the other two services,” the source added.

Soon after the appointment was announced, the Congress questioned the government decision.

Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted: “Why has seniority not been respected in appointment of Army Chief? Why have Lt. Gen. Pravin Bakshi and Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ali Hariz been superseded, Mr PM (Narendra Modi)?”

The Defence Ministry on Saturday night announced the names of the next chiefs of Army and Indian Air Force, 13 days before General Dalbir Singh and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha are to retire.

Air Marshal BS Dhanoa will be the next chief of IAF.

Commissioned into the IAF’s fighter stream in June 1978, Dhanoa, who has flown various types of fighter aircraft and is a qualified Flying Instructor, commanded a fighter squadron during the Kargil Operations and flew numerous night strike missions in the mountainous terrain.

He has also held a number of important operational appointments including commanding a fighter base and leading the Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan.

He has also served as Chief Instructor (Air) at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence) and Senior Air Staff Officer (Chief of Staff) of two operational commands.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 13:56 IST

China will give back seized drone, criticises U.S. hyping up the issue | Reuters

By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING China’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday it had been in talks with the United States about returning an underwater drone taken by a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea, but the U.S. was not helping by “hyping up” the issue.The drone was taken on Thursday, the first seizure of its kind in recent memory, about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay off the Philippines, just as the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), U.S. officials said.The Defence Ministry said a Chinese naval vessel discovered a piece of “unidentified equipment” and checked it to prevent any navigational safety issues, before discovering it was a U.S. drone.”China decided to return it to the U.S. side in an appropriate manner, and China and the U.S. have all along been in communication about it,” the ministry said on its website.”During this process, the U.S. side’s unilateral and open hyping up is inappropriate, and is not beneficial to the smooth resolution of this issue. We express regret at this,” it added.U.S. President-elect Donald Trump weighed in to the row on Saturday, tweeting: “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.”Without directly saying whether the drone was operating in waters China considers its own, the ministry said U.S. ships and aircraft have for a long period been carrying out surveillance and surveys in “the presence” of Chinese waters.”China is resolutely opposed to this, and demands the U.S. stops this kind of activity,” it said.

China will remain on alert for these sorts of activities and take necessary steps to deal with them, the ministry said without elaborating.Earlier, the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, cited an unidentified Chinese source as saying they believed the issue would be resolved smoothly.The United States says the drone was operating lawfully.”The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,” a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water – that it was U.S. property,” the official said.

The Pentagon confirmed the incident at a news briefing on Friday, and said the drone used commercially available technology and sold for about $150,000.Still, the Pentagon viewed China’s seizure seriously since it had effectively taken U.S. military property.”It is ours, and it is clearly marked as ours and we would like it back. And we would like this not to happen again,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said.

The seizure will add to concerns about China’s increased military presence and aggressive posture in the disputed South China Sea, including its militarization of maritime outposts.A U.S. research group said this week that new satellite imagery indicated China has installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea.The drone seizure coincided with sabre-rattling from Chinese state media and some in its military establishment after Trump cast doubt on whether Washington would stick to its nearly four-decades-old policy of recognising that Taiwan is part of “one China.”Those comments came after Trump took a telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 2, prompting a diplomatic protest from China.President Barack Obama said on Friday it was appropriate for Trump to take a fresh look at U.S. policy toward Taiwan, but he cautioned that a shift could lead to significant consequences in the U.S. relationship with Beijing, as the notion that Taiwan is part of “one China” is central to China’s view of itself as a nation. (Additional reporting by Josephine Mason and Meng Meng; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 20:56 IST

AgustaWestland scam: SP Tyagi blames PMO for changed specifications, sent to CBI custody

New Delhi: The changed specification of VVIP helicopters, especially the reduction in service ceiling, were made under the advice of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), said former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief SP Tyagi on Saturday, after which a court sent him to CBI custody till 14 December in the Rs 3,767-crore AgustaWestland helicopter case.

AgustaWestland. Reuters file imageAgustaWestland. Reuters file image

AgustaWestland. Reuters file image

“The PMO then advised to keep the minimum mandatory requirement of the service ceiling of the helicopters to 4,500 metres (from the earlier 6,000 metres),” Tyagi’s defence counsel N Hariharan told the court while opposing the CBI plea seeking custodial interrogration of the accused.

However, putting aside the submissions, metropolitan magistrate Sujit Saurabh allowed CBI to quiz Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie Tyagi, and Delhi-based lawyer Gautam Khaitan till 14 December even as the agency sought 10 days’ custody to unearth bribery charges, saying a huge amount was routed to India through various companies.

“Considering the serious nature of the allegations and gravity of the matter, I am of the considered opinion that police custody for the accused is required for fair investigation,” said the magistrate after a two-hour-long argument between counsel of the CBI and the accused.

The agency told the court that crucial information was collected from three countries — Italy, Switzerland and Mauritius — via letters rogatory and the accused are required to be confronted with it to unearth the larger conspiracy in the deal.

Telling the court that regular meetings were taking place between senior officials of AgustaWestland and SP Tyagi with the help of Sanjeev Tyagi, the CBI has alleged that a conspiracy was hatched to reduce the service ceiling of the helicopters after which AgustaWestland became eligible to supply a dozen helicopters for VVIP flying duties.

It told the court that the words “at least twin engine” were inserted in the amendment proposal in 2005 for procuring VVIP helicopters to bring AgustaWestland into the eligibility criteria, adding that the changes were made deliberately as AgustaWestland helicopters had three engines and a service ceiling of 4,500 metres.

Claiming innocence in the case, the former IAF chief’s defence counsel Hariharan apprised the court that it was a collective decision to procure VVIP helicopters.

Denying the charges, he opposed the request of custodial interrogation, saying that the probe agency had not given any specific and vital point for seeking remand. Countering the CBI allegations, Tyagi said that, as IAF chief 2004-2007, he had nothing to do with the deal and the decision was taken collectively in in consultation with then Defence Ministry, the Special Protection Group and the PMO.

The decision came during the tenure of Manmohan Singh but was axed in January 2013 when the corruption allegations surfaced.

The CBI told court that in 1999, the government decided to phase out the old helicopters as they were not fit to reach high-altitude areas, and the Defence Ministry in 2002 issued global tenders for procuring new VVIP helicopters in which 11 companies participated including AgustaWestland.

However, AgustaWestland could not qualify for the shortlisted companies as it could not meet the eligibility criteria.

“Therefore a conspiracy was hatched by the accused person to help AgustaWestland win the chopper contract by making change in the operational requirements,” contended the CBI, saying Italian nationals and middlemen Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke were in constant touch with Tyagi’s cousin to influence the bidding, and also accessed crucial information.

The middlemen told Sanjeev Tyagi that they had a good contact with Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, then CEOs of the Italy-based Finmeccanica and Britain-based AgustaWestland, which is a subsidiary of the former, and could fix the meeting with them, CBI disclosed.

All the accused, companies included, were booked for criminal conspiracy, cheating and under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 22:21 IST

Mamata Banerjee locks herself up in office, refuses to leave until army is withdrawn

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has reportedly locked herself up in her office in the state Secretariat in Kolkata, citing the alleged presence of Indian Army trucks outside as the reason. She has further claimed that she would leave her office only once the army is asked to move.

Mamata had earlier alleged the large presence of army vehicles deployed at toll booths across highways, saying the state government was kept in the dark over this move.

“Army has been deployed in the state without informing the state government. This is a very sensitive issue. This is unacceptable. We do not know anything about it. It has never happened,” Banerjee told the media. “We want details. Federal structure has been disrupted and democracy twisted. Has Emergency been declared? We had no information.”

A Defence Ministry spokesman said there was “nothing alarming about this” and the exercise is carried out as per government orders. “The army conducts the annual exercise throughout the county with the aim of getting statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency,” said the spokesman.

The three-day exercise, now being conducted within the Eastern Command area, would end on Friday.

She iterated that a civil operation cannot be launched by the army without informing the state and claimed it was the result of a “political vendetta”.

“What was the magnitude of the incident that the central government didn’t inform the state government? This is a political vendetta,” she said.

Continuing her tirade against the Narendra Modi-led central government, she said: “Is it some kind of planning to start a war within the country? The road is ours and is administered under the state’s law and order although it is categorised under the Centre’s National Highway Authority of India.”

She claimed public is being harassed and their vehicles are being stopped along the toll collection points.

“Even if the Army carried out a mock exercise, the state government should have been kept in the loop. The public is panicking. If this is happening in a civil area in Bengal, this could happen in Bihar, next in Uttar Pradesh, then in Tamil Nadu and other states as well. It is a very serious situation and it is dangerous than Emergency. We are facing an extremely black day,” she said.

With inputs from IANS

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 23:09 IST

New blacklisting policy, projects worth Rs 83,000 crores cleared by Defence Ministry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Defence Ministry on Monday cleared a new blacklisting policy that will do away with blanket bans on companies indulging in corrupt acts and approved projects worth over Rs 82,000 crore for purchase of fighter aircraft, tanks, rockets and mini drones.Contrary to expectation, the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, did not take a decision on the Navy’s proposal to purchase 12 US2I amphibious aircraft from Japan, though the issue came up for discussion. However, it is expected that there would be some forward movement on this issue during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Tokyo on November 11-12.The DAC also gave Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to Indian Air Force’s plan to purchase 83 Tejas Mark 1A aircraft at a cost of Rs 50,025 crore, Defence Ministry sources said. It also accorded AON for the purchase of 15 Light Combat Aircraft being manufactured by HAL for the Army and Air Force for a tentative cost of about Rs 2,911 crore.AoN was also given for the repeat order of 464 Russian origin T90 tanks which are being manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board for Rs 13,448 crore, besides for procurement of 598 mini UAVs at a cost of Rs 1,100 crore. However, the most significant take away from the DAC is the clearance of the new blacklisting policy.Though Defence Ministry officials remained tight-lipped about the features of the new policy maintaining it will be put up on website in the next few days, sources said it will ensure that while companies are dealt with harshly, it will not affect the modernisation process. As per the new policy, the focus is on graded blacklisting and fines. This means that if a defence conglomerate is caught doing wrong in a particular project, it will be banned for a specific number of years from dealing in that particular segment only.It can continue to pitch for projects in other segments. “It will be a product specific ban rather than blanket blacklisting. Also, there will be an option for heavy penalties besides those in contract and even individuals can be banned,” a source said.The new policy would also allow many of the stuck programmes, like the heavy weight torpedos for the six Scorpene submarines, to move ahead with clarity. “The DAC considered and approved the guidelines for suspension or banning of business dealings with entities,” a Ministry source said. For the first time, the Ministry accorded AoN for two Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) products – LCA and Tejas.The LCA cost will include those for simulators and auxiliary equipment. While the IAF will receive 10 LCH, the Army will get 5 to begin with. The mini UAVs approved for the Indian Army will come under the “Buy Indian” category and the force will now issue a tender for the same.The DAC also cleared the way for the issuance of tender for six additional regiments of the Pinaka rockets for Rs 14,633 crore, sources said. Each regiment consists of three batteries of six Pinakas and each Pinaka battery comprises six launcher vehicles, each with 12 rockets, six loader-replenishment vehicles, three replenishment vehicles, two Command Post vehicle (one stand by) with a Fire Control computer, and the radar.

Ram Kishan Grewal’s last words: Sacrificing my life for my country

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ex-serviceman, whose alleged suicide led to a huge political showdown with detentions of Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and many other AAP and Congress leaders, had written in his suicide note that “he is giving his life for his country and his fellow jawans”. The 70-year-old ex-serviceman Ram Kishan Grewal from Haryana’s Bhiwani district had allegedly consumed poison behind the Jawahar Bhavan, which houses the Ministry of External Affairs, on Tuesday afternoon.Police said he along with three of his companions had come to the city apparently to submit a memorandum to the Defence Ministry over the issue of OROP. Grewal wrote his suicide note on a document he wanted to submit to the Defence Ministry. He wrote, “I am sacrificing my life for my country, my motherland and for my brave fellow jawans,” police said.In an audio clip of Grewal’s last conversation with his son that was aired on news channels, he told his son that “he had consumed poison and was sacrificing for OROP and his fellow jawans who were not getting their due.” According to his friends, Grewal, who served in the Army and the Defence Security Corps for 30 years, had been “upset” over the issue for sometime.

No down-gradation of military-civilian ranks: Defence Ministry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Defence Ministry on Thursday said there has been no down-gradation or any change in the existing equivalence of the Service ranks vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts. There have been reports in the media claiming that the government has issued a new order lowering the status of military officers with respect to their civilian counterparts in the Armed Forces Headquarters.These reports, quoting a letter dated October 18, 2016 issued by the Ministry of Defence, “are erroneously stating that the equivalence has been disturbed and status of Service officers has been downgraded”, a statement by the Defence Ministry said. It is clarified that there has been no down-gradation or any change in the existing equivalence of the Service ranks whatsoever, it said.The existing functional equivalence as clarified in 1991 and further reiterated in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2005 has only been re-affirmed. It is further clarified that the present reiteration of rank equivalence, is only for matters of assigning duties and functional responsibilities as is already existing in different offices of the respective Service HQrs of the Army, Navy and Air Force having component of Service personnel as well as civilian officers.”It has no bearing on civilian employees outside these offices of the Service HQrs. It is reiterated that there is no change in the rank structure or the status of the Armed Forces personnel,” the Ministry said.

Kejriwal attacks Modi govt over repeated extensions to SIT on 1984 riots; calls it ‘anti-army’

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday attacked Narendra Modi-led central government, calling it “anti-army”.

File photo of Arvind Kejriwal. Getty images

File photo of Arvind Kejriwal. Getty images

He also attacked the central government for giving “another” extension to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed to probe 1984 riots.

In a tweet, Kejriwal alleged that the central government is “just using” the army’s sacrifices for political gains.

“Weak OROP, reduction in disability pension and now this. Isn’t Modi government anti-army? They just milch army’s sacrifices for political gains,” he wrote.

Kejriwal’s tweet came in response to a media report, which he quoted in his tweet, saying that the armed forces are upset with a letter issued by the Defence Ministry regarding their rank disparity vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts.

According to the quoted report, the Defence Ministry circular brings the rank of armed forces officers a notch down compared to their earlier status.

One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme aims to grant retired armed forces personnel pension parity with those retiring now.

Indian soldiers receive disability pension equal to their last drawn salary for 100 per cent disability. The government recently turned it into a slab system, which, according to critics, significantly reduced their pension.

The Defence Ministry later asked the Anomaly Committee of the 7th Pay Commission to continue with the old system.

In another tweet, Kejriwal also attacked the central government over the SIT investigating 1984 riots.

“Extension after extension. Zero result till now. Obviously, there is no intention (to bring justice). Intention is to save culprits of 1984 riots,” Kejriwal tweeted, quoting another media report.

The media report said that the SIT set up by the Home Ministry has been given another extension till February 2017.

The panel set up in February 2015 was initially granted six months to file report, but was later given two extensions.

Armed forces upset over status downgrade; Parrikar assures intervention

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After crying foul over OROP and disability pension, officers in the armed forces are upset over a Defence Ministry circular which purportedly downgrades their status vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts, prompting Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to say he would personally look into it and resolve the issue.The order has brought an army Major General (rear admiral in the navy and vice-marshal in the air force) on par with a principal director at the Armed Force Headquarters (AFHQ) Civil Service. A Brigadier/Commodore/Air Commodore would be equal in status to a director, and a Colonel/Captain/Group Captain equivalent to a joint director in the civil service. The circular issued by the Defence Ministry, dated October 18, on rank equivalence between defence officers and armed forces headquarters (AFHQ) civil service officers brings the rank of armed forces officers a notch down compared to their earlier status, officers said.As per the new circular, a civilian principal director, who was earlier equivalent to a Brigadier, would now have the status of a two star general, a director rank officer to a Brigadier and a joint director to a Colonel, a development which has not gone down well with the armed forces. A Major General earlier had the rank of a joint secretary. The circular says that the equations are to be followed at service HQs, and “has the approval of the Hon”ble Raksha Mantri” (defence minister).Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, when asked to comment on the development, said some people were trying to “misguide” as the issue related to only functional responsibility (of armed forces) and not status vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts. “These are functional responsibilities. They (military officers) will be on the same platform as was done earlier. I will check up myself,” Parrikar told reporters on the sidelines of the naval commanders conference here. “First of all, these are only for functional responsibilities…this is not status….there are some people who are trying to misguide,” he said. The Minister said he will take a look at all previous orders to see if there was any discrepancy.Parrikar said he and the government were sensitive to the issues related to the armed forces. “I can assure you that I am very sensitive to such issues. The moment they are brought out, I act on them. The only difficulty is when it becomes public discussion, I cannot be party to discussion. I will resolve the issue,” he said.

Govt changes agenda, parliamentary panel won’t discuss surgical strike

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, scheduled to be held on Friday, is expected to generate fireworks as the government has decided not to brief the parliamentarians regarding the surgical strikes conducted by Army’s Special Forces across the LoC on September 29.Congress members of the Parliamentary panel, Ambika Soni and Madhusudan Mistry, expressed deep disappointment over the government decision not even to brief the MPs “behind the closed door” . Fearing that the MPs may demand information regarding the military operation, at the last minute, the government changed the agenda of the meeting to recording oral evidence of the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Law and Justice, and the Election Commission of India on the status of implementation of the e-postal ballot system, or the electronic voting facility for the armed forces personnel.Earlier, the agenda of the meeting was to take oral evidence of representatives of the Ministry of Defence regarding the shortage of ammunition for the army, including the Mountain Strike Corps. The meeting was postponed last week as the Defence Ministry seemed hesitant to respond to any query on the surgical strikes.The ministry later agreed for a briefing after persuasion from committee chairman Major General (retd) B C Khanduri of BJP, but with the condition that no visuals of the Army action would be shown and the Army will not answer any questions regarding details of the surgical strike.Afterward, the Defence Ministry wriggled out of the briefing stating that giving out any such details will affect the future Army operations against terrorists and it did want to discuss the acute shortage of arms and ammunition for the defence forces.Demanding restoration of the original agenda for the meeting, Rajya Sabha members Soni and Mistry wanted the Army officers to inform the committee about the number of surgical strikes carried out since 2004. Sources said the Congress MPs had planned to quiz Army officers to embarrass Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who had said that no surgical strike across the LoC ever took place, except on September 29. Parrikar had given full credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the decision to “teach Pakistan a lesson”.“It is high time that the attitude of the Defence officials towards the standing committee members undergoes a change for the better, and the committee is informed about the problems that the defence forces face while combating adversaries on our borders,” they said.The leaders also wondered what harm there would be in briefing the MPs when the leaders of Opposition parties could be briefed about the issue on the very day of the attack. They said the government decision amounted to a “lack of confidence” in the MPs, who were bound by the oath of secrecy. “This position is absolutely unacceptable to us,” they said.“Despite repeated mentions in the committee, the Defence Ministry never presented their policies and preparedness to meet emergency situations, nor have they come out with valid reasons for delay in acquisition of defence equipment, including arms and ammunition. The Make in India initiative also seems to be a complete failure in the defence sector,” the Congress leaders said.

India, Russia to sign Kamov 226T deal: All you need to know about multi-use helicopters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian president Vladimir Putin are expected to sign the crucial agreement for the production of 200 Kamov 226T helicopters domestically on the sidelines of the Brics summit from 13 to 16 October in Goa.

Kamov 226T will replace the aging Cheetah and Chetak choppers. “The complex agreement to set up a joint production facility of Ka-226T helicopters is expected to be signed at the Brics forum,” said a statement by Rostec State Corporation, an umbrella organisation of about 700 Russian firms founded in 2007 to promote the development, production, and export of high-tech industrial products for civil and military purposes.

File image of Ka-226T. Russianhelicopters.aero

File image of Ka-226T. Russianhelicopters.aero

This agreement conforms to Modi’s ‘Make in India’ vision because it will promote indigenous defence manufacturing, according to a report in The Financial Express. The report also quotes Russian Helicopters, which makes Kamov, as saying that “the light multipurpose helicopter is designed for work in difficult conditions of high mountains, hot climate and on marine areas. It allows for reconnaissance, targeting and monitoring of transportation (up to 1500 kg)”.

The chopper can carry about seven paratroopers and has a maximum take-off weight of 3,600 kg. The agreement was signed by India and Russia during Modi’s visit to Moscow in December. The preliminary contract was signed by the head of Rostec Sergei Chemezov, CEO and Modi in December last year.

“The agreement on manufacture of Kamov 226 helicopter in India is the first project for a major defence platform under the ‘Make In India’ mission,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup quoted Modi as saying, according to a report in The Economic TimesThe report also quotes sources as saying that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be a primary partner for the choppers. Viktor Kladov, Head International Cooperation of Rostec told The Hindu that the first 40 helicopters will be assembled in Russia for faster deliveries and the rest will be done in India.

The Ka-226T underwent testing in India as part of the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter (RSH) acquisition programme, which was cancelled by the Indian authorities in 2014. The helicopter out-performed its Western counterparts during flights in India’s hot conditions and mountainous areas, according to airforce-technology.com.

The heads of the state corporations will conduct a series of negotiations on development in the area of Russian helicopter export and after-sales servicing. Chemezov will head Rostec’s delegation to the 2016 Brics Summit.

“The contract for export and joint production of 200 Ka-226T helicopters is one of the key projects in the framework of trade and industrial relations between Russia and India. We plan to expand them in both military-technical and civilian areas,” Chemezov said.

Rostec is currently in negotiations with the Defence Ministry here for a long-term contract for after-sales servicing of Russian-made helicopters, which are widely used in India.

“We are expecting to set up an after-sales service in a profoundly new format. There is an array of other projects, where we see perspectives for mutually beneficial cooperation, which we plan to discuss at the Brics Summit,” Chemezov said.

Ka-226T specifications

The Ka-226T is a light, twin-engine multi-role helicopter for military and civilian purposes. The military version helps in hard-to-reach conditions, according to Russian Helicopters.

The Ka-226T copters are fitted with high-visibility nose and a new rotor system. Its rotors are made from composite materials. The low height of the rotor makes it necessary for the passengers to approach the chopper from the rear, when the rotors are turning.

The multi-role helicopter also boasts of incredibly precise hovering ability, excellent maneuverability and high safety standards.

An unusual feature of this helicopter is that it has an interchangeable mission module, attached to its bubble-shaped cockpit, instead of conventional cabin, according to military-today.com.

Fuselage of the Ka-226T has a length of 8.6 m, while its width is 3.2 m and it has a height of 4.1 m. The diameter of its main rotor is 13.2 m.

The cabin measures 2.35 metre long, 1.34 metre wide and 1.4 metre high. It offers a volume of 5.4 metrecube and is fitted with mooring equipment for securing cargo and folding seats for accommodating troops.

With inputs from PTI

Surgical strikes: Why India did not release video evidence of cross-border operation

Right from the word go, the Pakistani army establishment was more keen to deny “surgical strikes” than accepting it as a reality. That was the precise reason why Pakistani army is learnt to have used its communication channel pleading India to play down the magnitude of the strike.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

And there were enough reasons for it. At first glance, the imagery of a “vulnerable Pakistani army” was too much of a cost to bear. Over the years, people of Pakistan are fed with myths about its army’s larger-than-life image. Among all institutions in Pakistan, the army is build up an image of being inviolable.

The surgical strikes had not only broken this myth to smithereens but also exposed gaping chinks in Pakistan’s armour. With Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif set to retire shortly, the Pakistan’s deep state was the first time running for a cover. India’s surgical strikes across the line of control (LoC) proved to be a moment of reckoning for the Pakistani army which found itself under siege.

What appeared to have complicated the matter for Pakistan is the decision of the Indian government to inform Pakistan by using the communication line of director generals of military operation (DGMOs) of both the countries. When the Indian DGMO informed his Pakistani counterpart about the nature of the operations, it rang the alarm bells in Pakistan.

However after assuring the limited nature of the “surgical strikes”, Indian side maintained that there was no move to escalate it any further. A close scrutiny of the Indian DGMO’s press conference in the morning and his decision not to entertain any question on the issue was calculated to give Pakistani army a space for maneuvering.

Highly-placed sources in the government said that the script, however, went haywire as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reacted to surgical strikes and called Indian’s move as “naked aggression”. Since Sharif was briefed about India’s military action, he could not get time to hide his outrage. However, the army leadership soon intervened and started denying surgical strikes. Of course, India found Pakistan’s denial as not unusual.

However, at the same time, top leadership in the government, defence forces and agencies dealing with the internal security were put on the highest level of alert as there were inputs about Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) staging something spectacular to get even with surgical strikes. The foiled attack at the Baramulla army camp was an indication of Pakistan’s design.

As of now, the government is in no mood to lower the guard. Given the fact that India is going to host the 2016 BRICS Summit on 15-16 October in Panaji and holding various events all across the country, officials of the home ministry and defence ministry have been asked to maintain maximum vigilance to thwart any attempt of retaliation either by Pakistan directly or through proxies across the country.

Also Read: Modi lost faith in Sharif long before Uri attack: What was the tipping point?

Defence ministry clears mega purchase, howitzers, Dhanush artillery guns on buy list

New Delhi: The Defence Ministry on Saturday paved the way for purchase of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers, worth about USD 750 million, from the US and also approved bulk production of 18 Dhanush artillery guns, the first acquisition of such weapon systems by the Army in three decades since the Bofors scandal.

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, took up 18 proposals including new schemes worth Rs 28,000 crore for discussion.

Another key project that got an Acceptance of Necessity (AON), which will now allow the Navy to issue tenders, was the proposal to build six next generation missile vessels under ‘Buy Indian’ category for Rs 13,600 crore.

“DAC has approved progressing of ongoing case of procurement of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route from US. DAC directed independent progressing of offset. The delivery of these guns will be in India which will help in substantial saving of transportation cost,” a senior Defence Ministry official said.

File photo. AFPFile photo. AFP

File photo. AFP

The DAC has also shortened the supply period of the guns, with a strike range of 25 kms. Sources said though the exact period could not be known.

Explaining the process, the officer said that India had sent a letter of request to the US government showing interest in buying the guns which will be deployed in high altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, bordering China.

The US had responded with a Letter of Acceptance and today’s DAC looked into the terms and conditions and approved it. This letter will now be sent back to the US and the process for the payment of first installment will begin.

The offsets, under which BAE Systems, manufacturer of the gun, will invest about USD 200 million, will be pursued independently.

While 25 guns will come to India in a fly away condition, the rest will be assembled at the proposed Assembly Integration and Test facility for the weapon system in India in partnership with Mahindra.

The DAC also noted the “satisfactory progress” in manufacture of indigenous Dhanush guns, also known as Desi Bofors.

“While three guns would be delivered for user exploitation by 30 June, three more will be handed over by September end. DAC also cleared bulk production of 18 guns to enable better exploitation and setting up of indigenous production,” the officer said.

The gun, a towed howitzer with a strike range of 38-km, has been developed by Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Kolkata, after going through the design and voluminous documents running into more than 12,000 pages which were delivered to India under the first phase of Transfer of Technology as part of the Bofors gun deal in late 80s.

Defence Minister Parrikar holds discussions with industry representatives

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday held discussions with industry representatives who presented their concerns and recommendations on strategic partnerships that the government plans to enter with private firms in critical sectors of defence manufacturing.Parrikar met with the five-sub groups that were set up to have a focused discussion on the subject. They gave their presentations before the Minister and the Ministry will now study the recommendations in detail before going in for more meetings, defence sources said. The five sub-groups are focused on armoured fighting vehicles (AFV), aircraft and helicopters, submarines, ammunition and macro process management of issues.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former DRDO chief V K Aatre had earlier this year submitted a report to the Defence Ministry recommending guidelines for selecting domestic private firms for strategic partnership. However, Indian private defence industry is divided over the issue with some big players batting for it while others pushing to delay it by at least next five years.Parrikar has already held a round of talks with the industry chambers over the issue. The feeling among several private industry players is that only the big firms will benefit out of this move.However, many large firms are not open to the idea since they feel they would be restricted to just specific fields and, therefore, their overall investment and plans will get affected.

Manohar Parrikar to meet industry representatives to discuss strategic partnerships

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will meet with industry representatives on Saturday to carry forward the discussion on strategic partnerships that the government plans to enter with private firms in critical sectors of defence manufacturing.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

The meeting will be the first one with a sub-group that has been created to have a more focused discussion on it, sources said.

Former DRDO chief V K Aatre had earlier this year submitted a report to the Defence Ministry recommending
guidelines for selecting domestic private firms for strategic partnership.

However, Indian private defence industry is divided over the issue with some big players batting for it while others pushing to delay it by at least next five years.

Parrikar has already held a round of talks with the industry chambers over the issue.

The feeling among several private industry players is that only the big firms will benefit out of this move.

However, many large firms are not open to the idea since they feel they would be restricted to just specific fields and, therefore, their overall investment and plans will get affected.

Parrikar claims middlemen-defence ministry nexus no longer exists

New Delhi: The nexus between middlemen, arms agents and government officials has been broken, according to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who also said that investigators were on hot trail of suspects in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.  AFPDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar.  AFP

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. AFP

There was “fear psychosis and frozen mindset” when he inherited the ministry in 2014 and no one was ready to take
any decision and changing that system was a challenge, he asserted.

“Under our tenure, we have broken the nexus that middlemen and arms agents had with officials in defence ministry,”
Parrikar told PTI in an interview.

He said things have come to such a change that officers are not afraid of putting negative views on a file which they avoided earlier.

“The crux of the achievement is change in mindset. The ministry was in a fear psychosis and was stuck up in a frozen mindset. I have managed to break this barrier of fear and create atmosphere of trust, if not full but partial that is good enough for the Ministry to start moving,” he said.

Parrikar, who assumed charge of the Ministry in November 2014 from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, talked about wide-ranging issues concerning his ministry including Rafale deal, AgustaWestland scam and acquisition programmes and described transparency, fast decision-making process and ease of doing business among his other successes.

On AgustaWestland probe, he said the investigators are hot on the trail of people, including journalists, who are
linked to the VVIP chopper scam and the effort is to unravel the money trail with evidence.

Asked about murmurs that government has evidence against journalists in the VVIP chopper scam, he responded, “Who said we have evidence? I am not saying there is no evidence but evidence required in such matters need to be conclusive. Let them (investigating agencies) link.

“Sometimes you get evidence but it cannot be linked in a particular manner. Let them do their job. They are trying to crack open the money trail. It is not easy.”

Parrikar said there are many people whose tickets for foreign travel were booked through middleman Christian Michel.

“It has to show that it was done for a particular reason. Let us assume, there is an air show and someone sends tickets. This cannot be proved as corruption. Many a times, when marriages are held in Goa, the host sends air tickets to guests. But this is not corruption. Because he wants them to come there but if it happens too often, and for too many times, then it can definitely be a special favour. Then it starts going into the zone of corruption,” he said.

Parrikar stressed that the investigative agencies have been given a free hand. “The job of the political class is to ensure that officers should be allowed to function freely. To see they are not pressurised,” he said.

Parrikar said many in the ministry knew “hera pheri (wrong doing)” was happening to ensure that the Italian firm is shortlisted for the VVIP chopper contract.

“They did not have courage to talk about the wrongdoings as key bureaucrats concerned with the deal were close to the power centre. And that close contact is proved by the fact that most of them got coveted posts after their retirement or even after the job was done,” he said, adding that six people linked to the deal got rewarding positions.

These people are favoured people, he said, adding, “I am not alleging but favourite means powers thought of them as own guys who will do the job.”

Asserting that “no one can influence me”, the defence minister said his decisions are based on merit and what is
there on file.

“To the best of my ability, I will make a judgement on that. And my judgement, on most occasions, are judgements
which are beneficial to the government. May be once or twice, erroneous judgements can be made but judgements are based on information available and to the best of my ability to interpret,” he said.

Parrikar said he will not buy an equipment simply because someone he knows has recommended and nor will he reject
something because someone has batted for it.

“Obviously, if it is a good product and price is good, I will consider it. That is why I had the courage to say Bofors is a good gun. Corruption in it was bad. People who did corruption should be punished, not the guns,” he said.

He also lamented that the ministry had not purchased a single artillery gun after Bofors controversy and he had tom
push for the same as it was stuck for over three decades.

Parrikar also questioned why the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas took 32 years.

“The test flight of the aircraft took place in Vajpayee’s tenure in 2001. After that, during 10 years of UPA government, how many meetings did defence minister conduct to ensure that LCA goes into production and is inducted into Air Force? I did it. I did about 18 meetings on this issue. I pushed them both together. Asked Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to do what is required and asked IAF not be unreasonable,” he said.

Talking about his tenure as defence minister, he said the journey so far had been good.

“File movement has started. Decision-making on directions (are happening). They do not fear even giving a negative
opinion also,” he said.

Talking about specifics, he said a lot of positive changes have taken place in welfare of ex-servicemen besides armed forces involved in field operations getting a “morale boost”.


VVIP chopper scam: Defence Ministry has not opened any inquiry into navy tankers

Contrary to reports, the Defence Ministry has not opened any other deal for investigation besides the AgustaWestland chopper contract, defence sources said on Friday. The remarks came in backdrop of media reports that the MoD has opened an inquiry into a 2009 purchase of two naval tankers. The allegations were that inferior quality of steel was used by the Italian firm which caused an incident on board the tanker in 2010. “MoD has not opened any inquiry into navy tankers with so called sub standard steel,” sources said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, the deal had come under criticism of the CAG in 2010. A Navy spokesperson said necessary procedures were followed diligently prior to acquisition of these tankers. The official said a few minor cracks were observed on the superstructure when the ship was coming back from Russia with aircraft carrier Vikramaditya. “The cracks probably occurred due to a combination of factors like sub-zero temp in the region, heavy sea, stormy conditions among others. The repairs were carried out in Lisbon by original equipment manufacturer and the ship was made ready in a few hours. “Board of Inquiry to investigate the cause was conducted and there was no material failure found. The ship is fully operational since and has been deployed extensively,” the official said adding the ship is on deployment in the Persian Gulf as of now.

Disappointing figures for FDI in defence indicate that a greater push is needed

According to Japanese firm Nomura, foreign direct investment (FDI) in India during financial year 2015 was to the tune of US$ 34.9 billion. This is a massive 61.6% jump from US$ 21.6 billion during 2014. According to the report, the FY 2015 inflows are 1.7% of GDP, up from 1.1% in the previous year. The obvious reason is India opening up to the world, remodeling its economic policies and in particular the ‘Make in India’ call given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Economic Survey released on 27 February this year states that FDI in India has received a dramatic boost from the launch of the Make in India initiative, major objectives behind the Make in India being job creation and skill enhancement in 25 sectors of the economy, including automobiles, aviation, biotechnology, chemicals, construction, defence manufacturing, electrical machinery, electronic systems and mining.
After the September 2014 launch of ‘Make in India, there was an almost 40% increase in FDI inflows from October 2014 to June 2015 over a similar period in previous year. Entities from several countries like Japan, China, France and South Korea announced their intention to invest in India in various industrial and infrastructure projects. According to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP): FDI inflows under the approval route (which requires prior government permission) increased by 87% during 2014-15 with an inflow of $2.22 billion; more than 90% of FDI was through the automatic route, and; during 2014-15, foreign institutional investment rose by an unprecedented 717% to $40.92 billion.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Under the Make in India program, the government has reportedly awarded 56 defence manufacturing permits to private sector entities in the past one year, after allowing 49% FDI in the defence sector in August 2014, compared with 47 granted in the preceding three years. Singapore, Mauritius, Netherlands and the US account for the major share of FDI inflows into India. Out of FDI equity inflows of $24.8 billion during 2015-16 (April-November), more than 60% came from Singapore and Mauritius.
However, when the figures of FDI in defence were laid down in Parliament on 29 April 2016, they were quite disappointing. The written reply given by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar read, “The actual flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) takes time to mature. From August 2014 to February 2016, a total amount of Rs.112.35 lakh (Rs 1.12 crore) has come into the country as FDI in the defence sector”. This actually amounts to a pittance compared to the overall FDI coming in and the Make in India campaign. There is no doubt that funds flowing in through FDI are also suspect with ongoing investigations in the VVIP helicopter scam indicating possibility of bribe money of some Rs 100-120 crore having come through FDI. Significantly, the Economic Survey mentioned herein also states, “These inflows need perhaps to be examined more closely to determine whether they constitute actual investment or are diversions from other sources to avail of tax benefits under the Double Tax Avoidance Agreement that these countries have with India.”
Notwithstanding the above, there is a need to seriously examine why the defence sector has failed to attract FDI even in the backdrop that when the Modi government took over in May 2014, it hiked the FDI limit from 26% to 49% in defence equipment manufacturing, and also announced the ‘Make in India’ campaign to encourage Indian industry to take over some sections of manufacturing which were being imported. Significantly, the Parliament had also approved FDI in defence sector beyond 49% on case-to-case basis, obviously for state-of-the-art products. The hesitation of FDI in defence is because of multiple factors, as discussed in succeeding paragraphs.
-First, the DPP-2016 issued is incomplete: criteria for choosing strategic partners are not defined; whether wholly-owned subsidiaries of foreign companies qualify as Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) is not clear; detailed offset guidelines not notified; no changes mentioned to the Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap (TPCR) in vogue in the past decade and a half which hasn’t helped much; no worthwhile changes in other procedures including the Fast Track Procedure (FTP); no changes in the Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) mechanism in terms of combining it with TEC or Staff Evaluation Committee and raising its threshold from the existing INR 300 crores as also dropping of the DPSU member as recommended by the defence private industry, and; chapter containing the revised standard contract document as well as various annexure and appendices has not been released.
-Second, just facilitating foreign companies to bypass government and the FIPB in finalizing defence investment deals is unlikely to suffice. The issues of IPR and the number and guarantee of what would be absorbed in India too need to be addressed.
-Third, The private sector continues to doubt the government’s resolve in providing a level playing field. Many of them cite example of the Army’s Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) project where fresh expression of interest (EoI) was issued in March 2014, yet four entities empanelled in 2010 were also included, which they feel was done only to accommodate the OFB. They visualize OFB being selected as one of the development agency, leaving just one remaining vacancy for balance private industry.

-Fourth, while Parliament approved FDI in defence beyond 49% on case to case basis in 2014, MoD has still to define what “state-of-the-art”. This is an atrocious state of affairs, which has only come to light when FIPB was questioned about the Tata-AugustaWestland JV to manufacture helicopters in India. Obviously all cases pertaining to FDI in defence beyond 49% are stuck because of the same reason.
So, when Defence Minister Parrikar told Parliament “The actual flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) takes time to mature”, it obviously includes the incompetent bureaucracy of MoD which is unable to define past two years what state-of-the-art implies. Can you have a better example of red tape, that too in backdrop of mounting criticalities of the military that includes a void of 1000 helicopters? In the past several years, the DIPP of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has been recommending 74% FDI in defence in case of ToT and 100% FDI in case of making available state-of-the-art technology.

Clearly much more facilitation for Make in India is required. The government must also get on with the vital need to reorganize the higher defence set up, which is adversely affecting the defence of India. It is time to bring military professionals in MoD, as also having a defence secretary from outside the IAS, as recently suggested by Ashish Puntambekar, Designer, Defence Economic Zone Project through a letter to the Defence Minister, post his exasperating experiences with MoD bureaucrats. Revelations from the ongoing AugustaWestalnd helicopter scam also underline the urgent need for reorganizing the MoD.

The author is veteran Lieutenant General of Indian Army.

Bombay HC orders demolition of Adarsh tower, stays it for 3 months

The Bombay High Court on Friday ordered demolition of the 31-storey scam-tainted Adarsh apartments in the heart of Mumbai and sought criminal proceedings against politicians and bureaucrats for “misuse” of powers, holding that the tower was illegally constructed. However, on a plea made by the Adarsh Housing Society, a division bench stayed its order to pull down the building close to the sea at Colaba for 12 weeks to enable it to file an appeal in the Supreme Court, despite the Maharashtra Government opposing it.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In its order, the division bench asked the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to carry out the demolition at the expense of petitioners (Adarsh Society). The court also asked the Centre and Maharashtra Government to consider initiating civil and criminal proceedings against bureaucrats, ministers and politicians for misuse and abuse of power to get plots under the scheme, originally meant for Kargil war heroes and war widows.Seen as a symbol of corruption, the Adarsh scam kicked up a huge poltical storm after it surfaced in 2010 , leading to the resignation of the then Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan. In February this year, the Maharashtra Governor accorded sanction to the CBI to prosecute Chavan under the provisions of the Indian Penel Code in the case. When his reaction to the verdict was sought, Chavan said, “Unless I get it in my hand the copy of the order, I cannot comment on the issue.”The order was delivered in an open court by a bench of Justices R V More and R G Ketkar on a bunch of petitions filed by Adarsh Society challenging the demolition order of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and a title suit filed by the Defence Ministry claiming that it owned the land on which the 31-storey society building was constructed. The court asked the Centre and state government to consider taking departmental proceedings in accordance with law against bureaucrats. “The disciplinary authority shall take decision in accordance with law without being influenced by the findings of the high court,” said the bench.The bench placed on record its appreciation for the complainant Simpreet Singh, a member of National Alliance of People’s Movement. “But for this intervention, perhaps the gross violation by the petitioners (Adarsh Society) would not have been detected,” the court observed. The court also asked the Adarsh Society to pay Rs one lakh as cost to each of the six respondents including Bharat Bhushan, Director of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Nalini Bhat, Advisor and Competent Authority, MoEF, Sitaram Kunte, former Commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and three others. In its report, CAG had observed that “this episode of Adarsh Coooperative Housing Society reveals how a group of select officials placed in key posts could subvert rules and regulations to grab prime government land for personal benefit.” In 2011, the state government set up a two-member judicial commission headed by Justice J A Patil to inquire into the scam. After probing the issue for over two years, it submitted its report in 2013, which found that there had been 25 illegal allotments, including 22 purchases made by proxy.Apart from Chavan, the commission also indicted several leading politicians. Later, the CBI, the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also investigated the scam. Acting Advocate General Rohit Dev told the court today that he was opposing the stay sought by the petitioner (Adarsh Society) to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. Adarsh Society had filed a petition in 2011 in the Bombay High Court challenging the demolition order issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Senior counsel Navroz Seervai, appearing for Adarsh Society, argued that there were no violations either of the rules or CRZ norms.The Defence Ministry also filed a petition in the high court seeking implementation of its demolition order, besides filing a title suit in the high court claiming that it was the owner of the plot on which the plush Adarsh Society building stands in South Mumbai.In January 2011, the union ministry of environment and forest had issued a demolition order mainly on the ground that the society did not have CRZ clearance. The building still remains unoccupied and without electricity and water supply.The court had in September 2015 started final hearing of petitions, including the one filed by the Adarsh society challenging demolition order of the Union Environment Ministry and plea of the Defence Ministry seeking implementation of the demolition order and a title suit of the plot’s ownership. In December 2015, the bench had reserved order after hearing all the parties.Welcoming the order,activist Simpreet Singh, who had filed a complaint, said, “It has been a long journey, we started in 2006 by filing an RTI and now we stand vindicated. The High court order is a welcome step”, Singh told PTI.The ruling BJP and Shiv Sena also welcomed the order terming it as “historic” while the Congress, which was haunted by the multi-crore scam, said the ruling has nothing to do with the party or its leaders.

VVIP chopper deal: Congress gives breach of privilege notice

Congress on Friday gave a breach of privilege notice in Rajya Sabha against the Defence Ministry for issuing a statement on AgustaWestland chopper deal when Parliament is in session.The notice was given by Congress MPs Shantaram Naik and Hussain Dalwai. The two contended that the statement on the issue should have been given in the House by the Defence Minister as Rajya Sabha is in session, party sources said. According to the Congress members, publishing of a clarification through a government website, therefore, constitutes a breach of privilege of the House and of the members, the sources said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Defence Ministry had in a statement yesterday refuted Congress’ claims that AgustaWestland was blacklisted by the UPA government and said it was the NDA, on July 3, 2014, that had actually put on hold all procurement and acquisition cases in the pipeline of six companies involved in the VVIP chopper scam.On the Congress allegation that the NDA gave clearance to a joint venture involving AgustaWestland through the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, the ministry had said this proposal was approved on September 2, 2011 based on an application by Indian Rotorcraft Ltd, a joint venture of Tata Sons with AgustaWestland NV, Netherlands.

AgustaWestland case: All you need to know about the VVIP choppers scam

Rajya Sabha proceedings were continually disrupted on Monday and Tueday by the Opposition, seeking a probe into the Ishrat Jahan case as well as the Uttarakhand crisis. Next on the agenda is India’s biggest defence scam after Bofors, the AugustaWestland case.

In a move that could spark political controversy, the BJP may name Congress president Sonia Gandhi with respect to the controversy, especially after the Italian Court investigating the scandal has acknowledged then Air Force chief SP Tyagi’s role in the choppergate.

Before the issue is addressed in the Upper house on Wednesday, here is all you need to know about the AugustaWestland chopper scam:

What is the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case?

In February 2010, the Congress-led UPA government signed a government contract with UK-based AugustaWestland to buy 12 AW101 helicopters for the Indian Air Force for Rs 3,600 crore. The purpose of this deal was to have chopppers fly VVIPs like the president, prime minister and others.

In 2013, however, the deal was put on hold by the government after Bruno Spagnolin, CEO of AugustaWestland and Guiseppe Orsi, chairman of the Italian parent company Finmeccanica, were arrested on charges of bribing middlemen to acquire the deal with IAF.

The following day, then defence minister AK Antony ordered a probe into the matter.

Early in 2014, the Italian court investigating the chopper scam names former chief of the IAF, SP Tyagi in the scam, stating that he was bribed by Finmeccanica to sign the deal with AugustaWestland.

In 2015, however, reports of Tyagi’s acquital by the Italian court appeared, stating that there was no corruption by Indian officials.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

How was Tyagi involved in the scam?

The Indian Air Force had urged the Defence Ministry to purchase helicopters that were capable of flying in high-altitude areas like Siachen and Tiger Hill. After careful evaluation of the AW101, it was ascertained that it was not capable of flying 6,000 m and above and could only reach up to 4,572 feet.

The alleged middleman in the deal, Guido Haschke, revealed that while AW101 did not meet the technical requirements of the IAF, the deal was signed after Haschke tweaked the contract with the help of his Indian contacts.

AugustaWestland allegedly paid €30 million in bribes, of which €20 million was routed through Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

A CBI report that came in later said that prior to Tyagi being appointed as Air Force chief, the IAF had ‘’vehemently opposed’’ the lowering of the altitude requirement. This changed after Tyagi came into the picture and the IAF “conceded to reduce” altitude requirements, allowing AugustaWestland to re-enter the bidding process.

Initial investigations by the Italian prosecutor said that Tyagi had personally met Haschke before, and that the bribery took place via Tyagi’s cousins Julie, Sandeep and Dosca. Tyagi, however, has denied any claims of having met Haschke.

In recent investigations by the Milan Court of Appeals, particularly in its 225-page judgment, Tyagi’s name appeared more than once. The judgment said, “So, in the absence of contrary indications, it must be concluded that the reward bestowed to ‘Tyagi family’ for their work in support of AW in relation to the race of the Government (of) India for military helicopters amounts to €10,500,000.”

Why is Sonia Gandhi’s name being brought into this?

The Milan Court of Appeals, in its judgment, took note of the conversations between the three middlemen — Carlos Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guildo Haschke — who mention ‘Mrs Gandhi’ as being the ‘driving force behind the VIP’ and her close aides Ahmed Patel and Pranab Mukherjee — the latter is referred to as being the ‘British High Commissioner’.

In a letter dated 15 March, 2008, Christian Michel wrote to Peter Hulet, the then head of India region sales and liaison for AugustaWestland, saying “Dear Peter, since Mrs Gandhi is the driving force behind the VIP, she will no longer fly with MI8 … Mrs Gandhi and her closest advisers are the aim of the High Commissioner, senior adviser Prime Minister Manmohan Singh obviously the main figure, then there’s Ahmed Patel Secretary”.

Current progress

In April 2016, Guiseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolin were sentenced to four-and-a-half years and four years imprisonment respectively. The court also ordered the two executives to pay €7.5 million euros ($8.5 million) — a sum related to the amounts deemed to have been allegedly paid in bribes.

A CBI probe into the matter is ongoing in India.

With inputs from agencies

OROP payments made to 13.02 lakh pensioners, everybody will be covered by mid-April, promises Parrikar

New Delhi: Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said that increased pensions under the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme have been disbursed to two-thirds of the beneficiaries while the remaining will get it by mid-April.

File image. PTIFile image. PTI

File image. PTI

“The OROP pensions are being disbursed at a very fast speed. By February 17, two-thirds of the pensioners were covered,” Parrikar told reporters. “Before Holi, most of them (pensioners) should be covered,” he said, adding that those left out will get their pensions in the first two weeks of April.

An official statement released later said pension payments have now been credited to the accounts of 13.02 lakh pensioners, totalling about Rs 2,293 crore.

The money has been released through Defence Pension Disbursing Offices (DPDOs), the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Punjab National Bank (PNB).

By March 17, DPDOs had released about Rs 606 crore to about 3.20 lakh defence personnel, the SBI released Rs 1,337 crore to 7.75 lakh pensioners, including family pensioners, while PNB released about Rs 350 crore to about 2.07 lakh pensioners, including family pension cases.

Other banks assigned the task of disbursement of revised pension have been directed to complete the payments latest by March-end, the statement added.

On 5 September, 2015, the Centre announced its decision to implement the OROP, a demand for which was made more than four decades ago. In pursuance of this decision, a notification was issued on 7 November, 2015, by the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare in the defence ministry.

As many as 101 OROP tables were released by the department on 3 February, 2016, containing revised pensions of different ranks and categories.


Govt accepts proposal to acquire 244 specialized guns for Rs 7,000 crore

The top acquisition body of the Defence Ministry on Friday accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AON) to the IAF’s proposal to acquire 244 air defence guns at a cost of Rs 7,000 crore to be installed in vital locations including metro cities.The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) also cleared the Navy’s proposal to buy weapons and sensor systems for the P17A project wherein seven Shivalik-Class stealth frigates are being built.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The meeting, chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, also discussed the new Defence Procurement Procedure, Defence Ministry sources said adding that another DAC could also be held this month.The take away from Friday’s meeting was the IAF’s proposal for close in weapons systems which can target UAV’s, glide bombs among others.The last meeting of DAC was held on February 23 where the Minister had reviewed acquisition proposals cleared in the last two years.

We will bring positivity: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar defends World Cultural festival amid controversies

Defending the Art of Living event on World Culture Festival venue, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was quoted saying: “We’ll leave it as a beautiful bio-diversity park. As per my knowledge, not even a single tree has been cut down, we’ve only trimmed four trees. We want Yamuna to be clean. We will not pollute the environment. We haven’t cut a single tree.” Reacting to the criticism over army men construction the pontoon bridge, Sri Sri Ravi Shankhar said that some people were habituated to speak negatively and they would bring positivity. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>ICC World Twenty20 2016: Hong Kong vs Zimbabwe, Group B 1st T20 Match Live Cricket Scores & Ball by Ball commentaryAnand Arya, the complainant who has raised objections to the three-day World Cultural Fest being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation, has said that the event would cause irreparable damage to the delicate ecosystem of Yamuna floodplains. ‘Our only complaint is that, it (event) will cause serious damage to eco-system and bio-diversity in the area. There should not be any temporary or permanent structure in that area,’ Arya told ANI. ‘Although recreation activity is permitted, but all these have to done according to the biodiversity and the ecosystem. The ground water recharge that supports water for 40 percent of Delhi will be affected due to this event,’ he added.Earlier the foundation said in a statement: ‘We have used only eco-friendly material like wood, mud, cloth, and scaffolding towards building a temporary stage.” NGT hearing on Sri Sri’s Culture Festival on banks of Yamuna: NGT ask UP Govt counsel “with what authority did you give parking permission?The area which you have given, does it come under flood plain? “Have the organisers taken more area? How much money has been spent clear the debris?”
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ALSO READ President not to attend Sri Sri’s cultural extravaganza; NGT to resume hearing on event todayhe Indian Army, which has built a pontoon bridge on the Yamuna for the Art of Living Foundation’s upcoming World Culture Festival, is likely to build one more to ease movement of lakhs of people who are expected to attend the controversy-ridden mega event. The development came even as there was criticism from some quarters, including the social media, about using Army to build the floating bridge for such an event.”Lakhs of people are expected to turn up. There is a question of law and order and also fears of stampede. Permission has been granted by concerned authorities to host the event. If a permission has been given, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure everything is run smoothly,” highly placed defence soures told PTI. They said the organisers had approached the Defence Ministry seeking six such bridges but the Army was asked to erect only one. A second bridge has been erected by the PWD. “The Delhi Police has now given a report saying that there are fears of stampede and hence the Army might build another bridge,” the sources said, adding that a Minister from the Delhi government has also written to the Ministry highlighting the need for such bridges.
ALSO READ President not to attend Sri Sri’s cultural extravaganza; NGT to resume hearing on event todayThe sources said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had asked the Defence Secretary to look into the issue. During his interaction with the Army, the force wondered whether their personnel should be used to help a “private event”. “The Minister was of the view that since permission has been granted, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure everything was fine. The Army, which has the expertise, was asked to step in keeping the larger good of people in mind,” the sources said.They added that the Army has been used during Kumbh Mela and even the Commonwealth Games. Told that the event has come under the scanner of the National Green Tribunal, which looks after the environmental issues, sources said the Army is only helping people and it is up to the concerned authorities to grant permission or withdraw it.President Pranab Mukherjee will not be attending the festival in the wake of controversy over holding the three-day cultural function on the Yamuna flood plains beginning here this Friday. Mukherjee had earlier agreed to attend the valedictory ceremony on Sunday. While the organisers of the function expect lakhs of people to attend the function, concerns have been raised by experts about the damage to the environment that may be caused as the three-day event was being held on flood plains of the river in east Delhi.With inputs from agencies

Budget 2016: Despite Modi’s nationalistic rhetoric, Jaitley has disappointed defence sector

By Prakash Nanda

As a student of Indian strategic affairs for many years, I do not recall a single year when the Finance Minister of India has not mentioned allocations for the defence ministry in his annual budget speech. The absence of any mention of defence in this year’s budget makes Arun Jaitley unique in that sense. In his budget proposals for the year 2016-17 in Parliament on Monday, Jaitley did talk of the extra burden that the nation has to bear for the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission Report and One Rank One Pension (OROP) for the defence forces. But then the fact remains that pensions do not constitute a part of the defence budget.

But what is more surprising is that not only did Jaitley fail to mention the defence ministry in his speech, but his ministry also went one step further in removing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) from the list of “important ministries” in highlighting the budget proposals in its press releases. And this was all the more surprising, given the fact that Jaitley was the first defence minister of this government when it was formed in 2014 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s mammoth electoral victory. Besides, we have a prime minister who takes great pride otherwise in nationalism and talks of making India a great military power.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

However, realistically speaking, one should not be surprised. As this writer had mentioned in the very first article in this series, with Indian GDP growing at about seven percent over last year and given the global recession, no government, let alone the one led by Modi, would have been able to go for a substantial hike in Indian military expenditure. In that sense, the Modi government has kept the past trend of a nominal increase in budgetary allocations for the defence. But in doing that, it has made some changes in the method of allocations this year.

Traditionally, there have been six headings of defence budget: Army, Navy, Air Force, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories (OF) and Civilians (working along with the forces). This time what Jaitley has done is that he has clubbed DRDO, OF and Civilians under the heading ‘Defence Misc’ and the three services under the heading ‘Defence Services’. For the first category, Jaitley has provided Rs 1,18,465.84 crore whereas for the three services he has allocated Rs 2,22,456.14 core. If one adds the two, we have total figure of Rs 3,40,921.98 crore for defence in this year’s budget. This is thus an increase of Rs 94,204.98 crore over the last year’s budget which stood at Rs 2,46,727 crore. It is a considerable increase in terms of percentage.

However, as has been the case over the last years, this time too the Revenue heading takes the giant share in the budgetary allocations. Under the ‘Miscellaneous’ heading, the revenue side is Rs. 24,510.23 crore as against the capital front’s Rs 11,622. 95 crore. The total allocation thus is Rs. 36133.18 crore, out of which, and this is significant to note, the planned expenditure will be only Rs. 450 crore, the rest of the Rs 3,56,83.18 earmarked for ‘non-plan’ expenditure. In other words, one can say for research and development, so vital for the success of DRDO, there is not enough money.

As regards the three services, the same is the case. The revenue head is Rs 1,43,869.46 crore and the capital head is Rs 78,586.468 crore. Army, as usual has got the lion’s share, followed by the Air Force and the Navy. Army’s revenue expenditure stands at Rs 1,02,788.84 crore, out of which as much as Rs 67,721.78 crore will be spent on pay and allowances only. The Navy’s revenue head reads Rs.17424.79 crore (salary and allowances will take Rs 5,272 core) and that of the Air Force at Rs 23,655.83 crore (salary and allowances will cost Rs 12,072.53 crore).

Let us see now the capital expenditures so vital for the modernization of our armed forces. Obviously, the expenditure is not enough. The Air Force which is terribly underequipped as far as the fighter squadrons are concerned, has been allotted a meager sum of Rs.17833 crore for acquisitions of new aircraft. And the Navy also has been allocated a negligible sum of Rs.12467 core for adding to its fleet. For other items on capital expenditure for three services, such as land, construction, medium and heavy vehicles and other equipment, there is nothing significant in this budget to mention.

Overall, much against the wishes for their respective capacity enhancement, the three services have been badly let down by the finance minister, particularly when the inflation for military equipment in the global market every year is 12 to 15 percent and there is a sharp fall in the value of the rupee against dollar, the international currency.

Parrikar sets new guidelines for defence ministry on appeals in SC

New Delhi: Cracking down on routine filing of appeals in the Supreme Court by defence ministry in several cases decided in favour of employees and pensioners, Minister Manohar Parrikar has issued a fresh set of guidelines overhauling the procedure.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

The step is likely to bring down grievances of civil and military employees, pensioners and disabled soldiers, since the ministry was known to litigate till the Supreme Court decided against it.

In the fresh MoD policy, the concern of the defence minister over rising litigation in routine matters and those
involving meagre financial implications has been noted.

The fresh procedure would now involve the processing of proposals by the Defence Services Headquarters on whether to file an appeal or not. The joint secretary concerned would either send the file back for implementation or for the views of Legal Advisor (Defence) if he feels that the case is fit for appeal.

If the legal advisor feels that the case is not fit for appeal and the joint secretary agrees, then the file would be sent for implementation. In case the joint secretary is in favour of filing an appeal, the approval of additional secretary would have to be taken.

The policy also states that no appeals would be filed in sensitive matters or those involving public policy unless
approved by the minister.

On implementation, the ministry is expected to shed the “compulsive litigant” tag, experts said.

The move comes soon after the submission of the report of the Committee of Experts constituted by the defence minister which expressed displeasure with the MoD for “indulging in luxury of litigation” and which recorded that appeals were being filed as a default reaction by indulging in “ego-fuelled” litigation.

The committee, comprising Lt Gen (retd) Mukesh Sabharwal, Lt Gen (retd) Richard Khare, lawyer (retd) Major Navdeep
Singh, Kargil veteran Major (retd) DP Singh and former Judge Advocate General (retd) Maj Gen T Parshad, had reminded the ministry that government was not an ordinary litigant trying to win against its own citizens by hook or crook and it was its duty to settle honest claims and policies already adjudicated by high courts and Supreme Court.

The Committee had recommended that in case of both civil and military employees, decisions of tribunals in their favour should normally be accepted and a challenge should only lie in exceptional cases at best till the high court and only in the rarest of rare cases to the Supreme Court.


Defence minister Parrikar rules out withdrawing troops from Siachen

Visakhapatnam: Terming the recent death of 10 soldiers in an avalanche on the Siachen glacier “painful”, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Sunday that withdrawing troops from the world’s highest battlefield could not be a solution.

“This incident is painful to me personally, but the solution that is suggested is not a proper analysis,” he said, referring to demands that Indian soldiers be withdrawn from the glacier.

Asked if the proposal to convert Siachen into a “peace mountain” still exists, the minister said: “The decision (on deploying troops) on Siachen is based on the security of the nation.”

Manohar Parrikar. File photo. Image courtesy: ibnliveManohar Parrikar. File photo. Image courtesy: ibnlive

Manohar Parrikar. File photo. Image courtesy: ibnlive

He said the loss of human lives on the Siachen had come down in recent years due to improved facilities.

“We have lost thousands of soldiers to get control (of the glacier)… The loss of life is less in the last few years,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an International Maritime Conference here.

He said the incident had nothing to do with preparedness. “I don’t find any loose ends. It’s an avalanche… These are unpredictable in nature.”

Parrikar said the search operation was on though there was little hope of survival of the soldiers.

“The hope of any survival is nil. They are covered in tonnes of ice,” he said.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh suggested in 2005 that the world’s highest battlefield be converted into a “peace mountain” without redrawing the boundaries between India and Pakistan.

India and Pakistan maintain permanent military presence at heights of over 6,000 metres or 20,000 feet. Both have lost many men to extreme cold in the area where temperature can dip to minus 50 degrees Celsius.

The army has meanwhile deployed advanced equipment to search for its men. These include wall penetrating radars.

Ten soldiers, including a Junior Commissioned Officer, were buried on Wednesday after an avalanche hit their post located 19,000 feet above the sea level on the southern side of the glacier.


Defence Ministry asks CBI to probe complaints against 2 Major Generals

The CBI has been asked by the Defence Ministry to probe complaints against two serving Major Generals for allegedly having assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. The Ministry had in September red-flagged the promotion of certain officers following allegations of impropriety.”The Defence Ministry has forwarded to CBI complaints against these two officers and has sought a reply,” defence sources said on Thursday, adding that the government will not tolerate corruption at any level.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The CBI will now look into the complaints and report back to the Ministry. Giving a background to the case, sources said that a meeting of the Special Promotion Board of the Army was held last year to fill up the vacancy of three Lieutenant Generals for which about 33 officers were considered.A set of names cleared by the Board was sent to the Defence Ministry. However, following the meeting of the Board, a series of complaints against some officers surfaced, many of which were being circulated on the social media too.Taking cognizance of the matter, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar himself looked into the issue. It was found that one of the two officers, against whom the Ministry has roped in the agency, had faced a CBI inquiry few years back over allegations of corruption in a project undertaken by Border Roads Organisation, sources said.The CBI did not find enough evidence for criminal prosecution. “They suggested that this does not fall in the ambit of criminality, it falls in the ambit of disciplinary procedure guidelines”, they added.”BRO is a mixed cadre organisation. The matter came to the Army. The Army said that the act pertained to civilian issues and hence action cannot be taken up by them. The matter got tossed from here to there as army disciplinary proceeding is different from that of the civilians,” the sources said, adding the actual proceedings have not started.In the meantime, his promotion came up and he got the Discipline and Vigilance (DV) clearance since there was no formal proceedings against him.

New Defence Procurement Procedure to push ‘Make in India’ initiative

Over a year after the government promised a new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), a top body of the Defence Ministry on Monday, approved a new policy document in this regard which provides for increase in contract threshold from Rs 300 crore to Rs 2,000 crore for offsets, tweaking the L1 policy and pushing the ‘Make in India’ initiative.The new document – DPP 2016 – which will take at least another two months for it to be notified, allows government funds up to 90 per cent of development costs to private companies to push research and innovation, and aims to enhance private sector participation and speed up procurement process.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It has also brought down the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) validity to six months from earlier one year, which means that the forces will have to issue tenders faster.However, the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, deferred decisions on critical issues of blacklisting, agents and selection of sector-wise strategic partners.”We have finalised the DPP 2016. The major part of the changes have been approved today. What is now left is minor changes,” Parrikar said addressing reporters.The significant change in the DPP has been the decision to raise the contract threshold of Rs 300 to Rs 2,000 crore for offsets. This means that only those deals which are worth over Rs 2,000 crore will have an offset obligation.”We currently have signed offsets worth USD 5 billion and another USD 8 billion is in pipeline. We may not be able to absorb all of this. Moreover, offsets also increase the cost of the product by 14-18 per cent,” Parrikar said explaining why the threshold has been increased.The Defence Ministry has also approved changes its L1 policy of selecting lowest bidder. Under the new move, 10 per cent extra weightage will be given if a system displays better qualities than required.Another major change in the DPP is the policy to fund Indian private entities in Research and Development to encourage more local development.”Medium and small scale industries will get opportunities,” he said, adding that the Department of Defence Production will fund up to 90 per cent of the R&D. Remaining 10 per cent of the development cost would be reimbursed, if the RFP for the equipment developed is not issued within 24 months from the date of successful development of prototype,” he said.Under the new DPP, a new category called the ‘IDDM’ or ‘Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured’ platforms has been created. This category, with at least 40 per cent indigenous content, will get top priority and will be first to be chosen for tenders. Under the new DPP, Make (Indian) category has been divided into three parts. One is 90 per cent government funded while the second is industry funded and third reserved for medium and small enterprises.Parrikar also made it clear that in cases of single vendor, when the requirements are specific, it will go through. He said that the DPP will apply to only new projects and not to those which are already in process.Parrikar also said that the blacklisting policy will be different from the defence procurement policy and will be issued separately. He said that only those companies that have been cleared by CBI will be taken off the blacklist. Parrikar also took dig at former Defence Minister A K Antony saying he will will not keep companies on blacklist to protect “so called image”.The Minister said that only firms with majority stake and controlled by resident Indians will be eligible for projects under Make category.”Companies need to be registered for five years, three years in case of MSMEs. Companies need to have a minimum credit rating of B++, issued by recognised rating agencies.”For projects with development costs equal to or exceeding Rs 5,000 crore, a minimum ‘net worth’ of 5 per cent of the development cost, subject to maximum of Rs 1,000 crore, should be there. In all other cases, positive net worth is the minimum eligibility criteria,” Parrikar said.

Contract threshold for offsets raised in new defence acquisition norms

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Aerial surveillance detected militants entering Pathankot air base: defence ministry

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