Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Delhi, Feb 19: In a reversal of the Indian Army's stand on the indigenous main battle tank (MBT) Arjun, which has been 37 years in the making, Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor has written to the Defence Ministry appreciating the tank's performance.

The Army Chief's letter has come months before the MBT Arjun, which India has been trying to manufacture indigenously for more than three decades, is headed for head-to-head 'comparative trials' with the Russian T-90 tanks that the Army currently operates.

"The Army Chief for the first time has appreciated Arjun tank for performing well. In a letter written earlier this year he said that the tank was subjected to the most strenuous of tests and it performed 'admirably well'," a defence ministry official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.

The letter from the Army Chief came after last year's winter trials of the tank, which has already cost the exchequer Rs.3.5 billion ($71.7 million). The stand is a complete u-turn as the army had made it clear that it would buy no more than the 124 Arjuns it has contracted for because it is unhappy with the tank on various counts.

The Defence Research & Development Organisation's (DRDO) demand for the comparative trials of the two tanks is being seen as a desperate bid to save the Arjun as it would need to manufacture at least 500 tanks to make the project feasible.

"The Defence Ministry had been pushing for the joint trials for the past one-and-a-half-years but people in the military set up were not too keen," the official added.

A reluctant Army had also said that the Arjun can at best remain in service for five to 10 years while it is looking 20 years ahead and needs a futuristic MBT.

However, the Defence Ministry, which has been putting thrust on the indigenisation of the defence industry, wanted to see the project through.

On Feb 11, Defence Minister A.K. Antony had expressed his happiness on the Arjun tank becoming "a reality". "We have seen light at the end of the tunnel," Antony had said speaking of the project.

The tank has been mired in controversy with the army last year having told a key parliamentary panel that the Arjun failed to deliver at the winter trials conducted in the Rajasthan desert in 2007. The army said that many improvements would have to be carried out before it was satisfied with the tank.

Adding fuel to the proverbial fire, Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh hinted at the possibility of "sabotage" during the 2007 winter trials.

The Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement (QR) for the Arjun in 1972. In 1982, it was announced that the prototype was ready for field trials. However, the tank was publicly unveiled for the first time only in 1995.

Arjun was originally meant to be a 40-tonne tank with a 105 mm gun. It has now grown to a 50-tonne tank with a 120 mm gun. The tank was meant to supplement and eventually replace the Soviet-era T-72 MBT that was first inducted in the early 1980s.

However, delays in the Arjun project and Pakistan's decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine prompted India to order 310 T-90s, an upgraded version of the T-72, in 2001.

Within a year of the government approving a project for an upgraded indigenous main battle tank (MBT), India's defence research agency has readied a Mark II version that will undergo summer and winter trials this year.

The defence ministry had last May given its nod to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop the Arjun MkII MBT which would have enhanced features over the first lot of 124 tanks that have been delivered to the army over the last two years.

'The Arjun MkII tanks will go for summer trials this year and later for winter trials at the end of 2011,' a defence ministry official said here Monday.

The army is already operating two regiments of Arjun tanks in the western sector and has placed an order for an additional 124 - two regiments - of the 58-tonne tanks from the Avadi-based manufacturer, Heavy Vehicles Factory.

The army gained confidence in operating the Arjun tanks, despite the initial hesitation, after the first two regiments were pitted against the Russian-built T-90 MBTs early last year in comparative trials in the desert terrain.

The Arjuns, army officers said, had outsmarted the T-90s in all the parameters set for the trials and had prompted the army top brass to admit that the tank was one of the best they had operated.

The Arjun MkII will have about a dozen changes from the first lot, being armed with missile firing capability through a laser homing device.

Though the missile system had been tested on the MkI version of the tank about five years ago, it did not form part of the final design of the initial 124 delivered to the army, and nor will it be mounted on the second lot of 124, ministry officials said.

The system, they said, would have a range of about eight kms, within which it could destroy enemy tanks after homing on to the target using a laser.

Other modifications include better explosive-reactive armour for the tank to protect it from enemy missiles and rockets, improving the sighting facility to provide it a wider view of the battlefield, including night vision capability, and a better communication system.

The much awaited comparative trials of the indigenous main battle tank “Arjun”, is scheduled to happen next month. The “Arjun” tank will be pitted against the new Russian T-90 tanks in the trials which will take place in the state of Rajasthan.

The outcome of these comparative trials will determine whether the Indian Army will continue with the highly-criticised fleet of Russian T-72 tanks or start relying on the home-grown “Arjun” tank for future battles. The month-long comparative trials will involve a squadron of the” Arjun” tanks against a squadron of T-90 tanks. Each squadron consists of 14 tanks. According to the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has developed the “Arjun” tank at the Central Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE) at Chennai, if the “Arjun” tank performs well against the T-90 tanks, the Indian Army will be forced to order the Indian tank in larger numbers. DRDO feels that the “Arjun” tank could start replacing the T-72 tanks while the T-90 tanks will continue in the fleet.

As for the comparative trials, the main aim is to decipher what the advantages of the “Arjun” tank are, its strengths and weaknesses as well as its operational role in future battles. The comparative trials are being conducted to identify which border area sector the “Arjun” tank can maximise its potential. The trials do not seek to assess whether the “Arjun” tank is superior to the T-90 tank or vice versa.

The forthcoming trials will involve the evaluation of the “Arjun” tank and T-90 tank by day and by night and comparisons will be made on their abilities to speed through rugged, sand-dune-infested terrain, their accuracy in firing even while moving, their abilities to operate for long periods over long distances and the fatigue they impose on their crews.

At present, the Indian army has only ordered 124 “Arjun” tanks and it continues to operate its outdated fleet of T-72 tanks. Although comparative trials of the “Arjun” tank were planned earlier against the T-72 tanks, it did not come through. DRDO, the maker of “Arjun” tanks, claims that the “Arjun” tank is far superior than the T-72 tanks but the Indian Army is not ready to field the T-72 for trials. Hence, the T-90 tank is being fielded for the trials with “Arjun’ tank.

If the “Arjun” tank performs well in the comparative trials, the Indian Army may extend its acquisition from the current figure of 124 “Arjun” tanks to a larger number. The “Arjun” tank is ready for production at the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) near Chennai at a cost of $10 million.


Indian Space Research Organisation successfully conducted the static test of its largest solid booster S200 at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota today (January 24, 2010). The successful test of S200 makes it the third largest solid booster in the world, next to the RSRM solid booster of Space Shuttle and P230 solid booster of ARIANE-5. The S200 solid booster will form the strap-on stage for the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) which is currently under advanced stage of development for launching 4 ton class of communication satellites.

200 solid booster contains 200 tonnes of solid propellant in three segments. The motor measures 22 meter long and 3.2 meter in diameter. The design, development and successful realisation of S200 solid booster were a pure indigenous effort involving Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram and Satish Shawan Space Centre (SDSC) at Sriharikota with the participation of Indian Industries. The S200 solid booster derived its heritage from the solid boosters developed earlier for the ISRO launch vehicle programme. The preparation and casting of S200 solid booster segments were carried out at the newly established Solid Propellant Plant (SPP) at SDSC, Sriharikota.

During the test, the S200 booster was fired for 130 seconds and generated a peak thrust of about 500 tonnes. The performance of the booster was exactly as predicted. Nearly 600 health parameters were monitored during the test and the initial data indicates normal performance.


  MUMBAI: The Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet gets more muscles as the Indian Navy on Saturday commissioned its new stealth frigate INS Satpura which has advanced stealth features to dodge enemy’s radars and packed with potent firepower. The warship, along with its first vessel in the series INS Shivalik, will be deployed in Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean region.
  The warship is the second of its kind to be built in the country at the Mumbai-based Mazagon Dockyard Ltd under Project 17 and would remain the mainstay of the Indian Navy for the first half of the century.

“INS Shivalik has been deployed in the eastern fleet and Satpura will also go there eventually,” a Naval official said. The Indian Navy for years had the Western Naval Command stationed in Mumbai as its “sword arm”, but it has been building its assets in the eastern region with the rising concerns about the presence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean Region.

With the aircraft carrier of the Navy, INS Virat, is in the western fleet, now the force is looking forward to operate two aircraft carriers in both the regions. The ship, which is the second in its class and the largest of its kind in the world, was inducted into the force by the Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and will be commanded by Captain Sharat. The first ship of the series, INS Shivalik, was commissioned last year and the last of the series- INS Shayadari will become operational by next year.
  The frigate, conceived, designed and constructed indigenously, will give boost to the capabilities of the Indian Navy in the eastern region. A stealth warship is designed to have low signatures so that they remain undetected to enemy electronic sensors of other navies. It’s shape is designed to evade detection by radar; it is engineered to give off minimal infra-red (IR) emissions; and every piece of equipment on board, from engines to toilet flushes, are designed to work silently so that the ship cannot be heard by the enemy’s sonar and acoustic sensors. This stealth will allow the INS Satpura to reach near enemy positions undetected and inflict maximum damage.
  Features INS Satpura is equipped with state-of-the-art defence against nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. The atmospheric control system filters and controls the temperature and humidity of the air coming into the ship at all times, including the air being used by the engines. It removes any radioactive, chemical or biological impurities, thereby protecting the crew and the systems even during a nuclear, biological or a chemical attack.

The Satpura is equipped with a mix of imported and indigenous weapon systems and sensors, including Barak surface-to-air missiles and Russian-made Klub cruise missiles, ‘shtil’ air defence system, rapid fire guns, basic anti-submarine warfare weapons and two helicopters. The ship also has indigenous Kavach chaff-dispensing system to counter incoming missiles and indigenous sonars and anti-submarine warfare systems.

  The ship’s domestic requirements of fresh water will be met through two reverse osmosis plants, while a fully automated galley will “enable the crew to be fed Indian, Continental and Asian gourmet meals, including freshly baked bread and home-made ice-cream.

The accommodation arrangements for the 35 officers and over 250 cre have been provided by Godrej which met the criteria laid down for crew comfort and space management.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


The Wagah border came into existence at the time of India’s Independence and partition. Pakistan became a new nation and Wagah, a small village found itself on the world map for its famous ceremonial border between India and Pakistan. It is also referred to as the Berlin wall of Asia and has an iconic, political, and historical importance. The most interesting thing about this border is the flag lowering ceremony that is held everyday at dusk. It attracts thousands of people from both sides of the border and foreigners as well.
The Wagah border was created with the inception of Pakistan as a new nation and saw the massacre of thousands of people in the greatest human migration that ever took place. Millions of people were displaced, their homes plundered, and many became victims of violent riots. The Wagah border can sometimes be a grim reminder of the history of anguish and atrocities of people who were rendered homeless and forced to migrate.
August 15, 2001: This day saw an unprecedented event on Wagah border when thousands of people from both sides participated in a peaceful candle light procession. Many people still hope that the hostilities between India and Pakistan will end. However, trade was still restricted to porters carrying small commodities for households in the villages near the border. This changed in 2006, when after sixty years; trucks carrying specific commodities crossed the border. This was a milestone for both the countries, politically and economically as well.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


The killing of Baloch Nationalist leader Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti along with two dozen of his followers on August 26 by the Pakistani army has raised a storm in Balochistan.

Many see a close parallel between the happenings there and in erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971, when it seceded and became Bangladesh. There was the infamous massacre of the intellectuals/leadership at Dacca University.

Ironically, Akbar Khan and his Bugti tribe were considered closer to the ruling establishment of Pakistan as opposed to the Mengal or Marri tribe that was allied with the National Awami Party founded by 'Frontier Gandhi' Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan.

Turmoil in Balochistan has a long history. It is the largest province of Pakistan, but is very sparsely populated. In addition, it has almost all of Pakistan's mineral and natural gas resources. Yet is also undoubtedly the least developed part of Pakistan.

While Balochistan supplies the natural resources, the Balochis themselves remained poor. This had bred a sense of grievance.

In 1971, at the height of the Bangladesh war, processions were taken out in Quetta in favour of independence for Balochistan. Slogans were raised praising Indira Gandhi [ Images ] and surprisingly, General Jagjit Singh Arora, who was perceived as the liberator of Bangladesh. The first revolt in the 1970s was ruthlessly put down by the Pakistani army led by General Tikka Khan, who earned the nickname of 'Butcher of Balochistan'.

Like the initial Six Point programme of the late Sheikh Mujibur Rehman of Bangladesh, most Balochis agitated for regional autonomy and not independence or secession. That this struggle was violent has more to do with the tribal ethos and general lawlessness of Pakistan, rather than any real evil intent.

Yet like Bangladesh, Pakistan, under military rule, has used purely military means to solve a political problem. In the case of Bangladesh, according to the report of the Hamidur Rehman Commission (appointed by the Pakistan government), more than 300,000 Bangladeshis were killed in a span of six months. Yet rather than end the revolt and solve the problem, Pakistan lost its eastern wing.

Pakistan has also been freely using helicopter gunships and airpower against its own people. It is interesting to compare Indian operations in Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ] with this. We have never used airpower in Kashmir. The reason is simply that it is a blunt instrument and the danger of collateral damage is great.

Despite all the motivated anti-India propaganda, the total casualties do not exceed 40,000 over 10 years in Kashmir (of which 2,000 are Indian soldiers and many thousands are victims of terror strikes). Does it mean that the Indian army [ Images ] uses rubber bullets?

The truth is that it is well understood in India that quelling an internal unrest is a long haul, and massive force cannot be used indiscriminately. Do the Pakistanis (and their sympathisers in India) realise that in this brutality there is very little to choose between Israel's attacks on Lebanon or Palestine and Pakistan?

The Indian approach towards the leaders of insurrection has also been very different, be it the late Angami Zapu Phizo of Nagaland, Laldenga of the Mizo National Front or even Ahmed Shah Geelani of Kashmir's pro-Pak Jamaat-e-Islami.

As a matter of record, Geelani got a lease of life when he was treated for cancer in Mumbai's [ Images ] Tata Memorial Centre (at the Indian taxpayers expense) a few years ago. That he continues to spew venom at India and Indians speaks volumes of his character.

Indians never went in after individuals. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Indians would rather follow the British model of Malaya (under Sir Gerald Templer who successfully dealt with the Malayan communist insurgency).

The Pakistani army, under the heavy influence of the Americans, is more prone to follow the Vietnam model of body count and search and destroy missions.

Obviously the Pakistani army does not want to learn from its own mistakes in Bangladesh or its neighbour's success. When Musharraf calls it a 'great victory' he betrays a 'company commander' mentality (using deductive military logic of tactics for complex strategic and politico-military issues). With this one event it seems Musharraf has used up his nine lives and his physical or political continuity is in grave doubt.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images ] should be well advised to avoid meeting him in Cuba or the US since he is a likely to remain a 'lame duck' dictator (despite his high sounding title of President). India's indirect endorsement of him will alienate Baloch opinion as well as his likely democratic or military successor.

Essentially Balochistan and Pakistan's tragedy is its inability to evolve a federal structure. Autonomy of provinces is wrongly viewed as a threat to national security. Our southern neighbour Sri Lanka [ Images ] suffers from similar disease.

The creation of a set-up similar to India's provincial structure is something the Tamils would be quite satisfied with notwithstanding their demand for an independent Eelam. But the movement towards federalism in Pakistan is stalled in the absence of true democracy, the only ultimate solution (as advocated in Great Danger, Grand Opportunity by Inpad members on

India's success in dealing with centrifugal forces owes a lot to our federal structure where the states have a great degree of political and economic freedom. The creation of linguistic provinces keeping in with the wishes of people was the best thing that happened to India.

This was partly an accident as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru [ Images ] was opposed to it. It was after Potti Sriramulu fasted to death for the creation of Andhra Pradesh that the floodgates to reorganisation of states were opened. The reality of the Indian subcontinent or for that matter South Asia is that many regional identities like Tamil, Marathi and Sikh have a long historical and cultural context.

Baloch identity similarly goes back to pre-historic days and predates the birth of Islam (the Brohi language is one of the oldest in the world). To think that the killing of one man or wiping out the leadership would end the problem is foolish.

However, Pakistan is unlikely to be ousted from Balochistan in a hurry. The differences with the Bangladesh situation are quite obvious. Pakistan suffered from a grave handicap of distance as well as the cutting off of lines of communication in case of war in erstwhile East Pakistan.

Balochistan is a geographically contiguous part of Pakistan. External help for the Balochis can at the most come from landlocked Afghanistan, and with the heavy US and NATO presence there, even this is problematic. Thus there are severe limitations on the the kind of external help the Balochis can depend on. .

Both the Vietnam war in its final stages and the Afghan conflict clearly proved that a conventional armed force cannot be defeated by guerrilla fighters alone. In the case of Vietnam there was wholesale defection from the South Vietnamese army that paved the way, a situation most unlikely in Pakistan.

The Najibullah regime survived the Afghan guerrillas' onslaught for nearly a year, and in the end it was the major defections by his forces and direct Pakistani intervention that ultimately sealed his fate. In the Bangladesh war as well, while the Mukti Bahini indeed was a great help, the ultimate knockout blow was delivered by the regular Indian army. Unless there is a radical change in the US/NATO approach to Pakistan, this is unlikely to happen.

The most likely scenario is that guerrilla war will continue in Balochistan and Balochis in other parts of Pakistan will carry out a campaign of sabotage. The Pakistani state will continue to limp along. Balochistan is not Bangladesh.


As heavy fighting continued between nationalist rebels and security forces in Baluchistan, Pakistan has accused India [ Images ] of supporting violence in the troubled southwestern province. "India is supporting the miscreants in Balochistan," Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao told a press conference on Thursday.

"The reaction of the neighbouring country over the action of Pakistan's law-enforcement agencies against the miscreants is clear evidence that they are being backed by India," he was quoted as saying by the local daily Dawn on Thursday.

Surprisingly, several other papers reported that he accused a 'hostile neighbour', while Dawn quoted him as naming India.

India had, last month, expressed concern over the Pakistani military using helicopter gunships and jet fighters to bombard the rebel positions. Pakistan resented this, saying that it was interference in its internal affairs.
Is Baluchistan burning?

Sherpao made the allegations on Thursday, after holding talks with pro-government tribal chiefs of the province. Separately, Pakistan's former Army Chief Aslam Beg and ex-chief of ISI General (retired) Hamid Gul charged both India and the United States with fomenting trouble in Baluchistan.

In interviews published in The Post, both had accused Indian consulates located in Afghanistan and Iran.

"The terrorists who are fighting in Balochistan are friends of India and foes of Pakistan. That is the only reason the Indian government expressed concern against military operations in the province," Gul was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting was reported in Baluchistan between rebels and security forces. Ten people were killed as a result of this on Wednesday night.


The extreme reaction to the innocuous Indian remark asking Pakistan to exercise restrain while dealing with its own population in Balochistan has clearly exhibited Pakistani vulnerability in Balochistan.

Balochistan has been Pakistan's Achilles heel.

The region is of importance to India [ Images ] as any pipeline bringing gas to India from Iran or Central Asia will pass through it. The ruling elites in Pakistan, in their quest for nationalism and national unity, have always tried to suppress any spirit of genuine federalism perceiving it as a prelude to separatism.

The main challenge to Pakistan's effort to have a unitary structure can be attributed to the extreme ethnic consciousness and a sense of strong socio-cultural identity of most of the ethnic groups residing inside Pakistan. In nearly six decades of Pakistan's existence the Baloch have always been out of the mainstream and that is why while the Pakhtoons gradually assimilated in Pakistani society with the passage of time, the Balochs moved away. The regional aspirations of various ethnic groups and their efforts to assert their sub-national identities poses a potent threat to the Pakistani State.

Musharraf, What about Baluchistan?

With the exception of Punjabis all other groups perceive themselves as Pakhtoons, Balochs, Sindhis or Mohajirs first and Pakistanis later. All these groups also suffer from a persecution complex and feel that they are being discriminated against by the Punjabi elite.

Contentious issues like the Kalabagh dam, distribution of Indus water and frequent dismissal of elected state governments have fuelled this feeling of alienation and led to the creation of Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement by various groups clamouring for regional autonomy and federalism.

Of all the sub-nationalisms, the strongest threat to Pakistan at present is posed by Baloch nationalism, which is again rearing its head after 30 years. The problem in Balochistan is potentially serious in that it seeks to generate separatist and nationalist sentiment within a culturally distinct ethnolinguistic group that had its own autonomous history and has not changed much under British rule.

Spread over 147,000 square miles, Balochistan comprises 43 percent of Pakistan's land mass but has only five percent of Pakistan's population. It also has immense natural resources and most of Pakistan's energy resources. Its location astride the oil lanes of the Persian Gulf, at the triangle where Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan meet, makes it geopolitically and strategically the most important part of Pakistan.

It commands nearly the country's entire coast -– 470 miles of the Arabian Sea. On the west, it borders Iran and after Peshawar, its northern border was the key staging area for the 'jihad' in Afghanistan.

It is a land that is ruled autocratically by its feudal lords. Historically, it has been a loose tribal confederacy, which owed allegiance to the Persian emperor and the Afghan kings at different times in history. The ethnic origins of the Baloch set them distinctly apart from the peoples of the Indo Gangetic plains.

The Pakistani establishment has rather simplistically attributed the violence in Balochistan to mainly two factors, one: the rejection of nationalist parties by the voters in the last elections and their consequent removal from power, and two: the apprehension of feudal lords that the mega developmental projects will expose the population to outside world and thereby weaken their hold on them

pakistan exporting terrorism through afghan students

As Shahab-ur-Rehman in Peshwar reports this impacts Afghan students and traders.

Sitting in an Afghan school Dost Mohammad finds it difficult to understand the lecture being given in Pushto.

He used to get excellent grades in his Pakistani school.

But after year 10 he was told he couldn’t continue without a Pakistani identity card.

He now attends an Afghan school and has had to learn Pushto and Dari.

“It’s been very hard for me to understand the Afghan subjects. Most Afghan Students have either abandoned their education or moved over into Afghan Schools in Pakistan but the quality of these schools is much lower.”

He wants to see an agreement between the two neighbors so that Afghan refugees can complete their education in Pakistan.

“My father wanted me to complete my education in Pakistan as it’s much better than Afghanistan. The current restrictions on us are badly affecting the future of Afghanistan.”

Outside the school Gulab Khan is working as a taxi driver.

“I did my primary education at a Pakistani school, later I shifted to a Afghan-run school but the standard was so low that I left school.”

Mir Agah is the principal of Afghan High School Al-Taqua in Peshwar.

“Afghan schools in Peshawar are not free. These schools don’t get money from the government. The students have to pay and they have to give their documents accredited by the Pakistan foreign office and the Afghan consulate.”

Like students, Afghan refugee traders have contributed to the Pakistani economy.

But now the Federal Board of Revenue wants more of them to pay tax.

The board recently registered 500,000 Afghan businesses that need to start paying tax.

Usman Bilour is the President of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce.

“Afghans are not refugees any more. They are foreign nationals. They have to register themselves and pay tax like anyone else. Afghans are earning millions but paying no tax. There are hundreds of thousands of Afghans working in restaurants, hotels and other lucrative businesses but they are still enjoying refugee status. It is high time they were brought into the tax net.”

But Afghan traders do not agree.

Carpet making is the major business for Afghans living in Pakistan.

Abdurahman is the vice chairman of the Afghan refugees Carpet Union.

He says Afghan traders are paying many indirect taxes.

“We are exporting carpet through Pakistani exporters who pay the taxes. We also help this country to earn foreign money. Already 80 percent of Afghan carpet traders have returned to Afghanistan. We will also go back if the government forces more taxes on us. Carpets are the top export item from this area. The government should provide us security and facilitate us.”

Zareef Khan, an Afghan craftsman, has decided to return home instead of pay the taxes.