Is the Defence Minister India’s biggest security problem?

AK AntonyBY RSN SINGH

It is now more than one month that India is without a Navy Chief. Has the Defence Minister reduced India to a ‘Banana Republic’?

In an organization like the armed forces, which prides in tradition and discipline, the appointment of the next Naval Chief should have taken not more than an hour. The delay gives credence to many conspiracy angles, the most robust being the indecision in manipulating the ‘succession plan’ due to conflicting interests of various arms lobbies and vested interests in the country. These interests work on a minimum 10 year perspective because that is the gestation period for major arms deals, i.e. from the proposal to the delivery stage. It may be reiterated that at present India is the largest importer of arms.

In the next decade, India is expected to buy defence equipment worth $100 billion. Earlier, there was not much premium on ‘succession plan’ as the major supplier was the Soviet Union. Ever since the Soviet Union disintegrated and the Russian supplies dwindled, making way for other Western sources, the phenomenon of ‘succession plan’ was introduced. Is it this ‘succession plan’ that is preventing the Defence Minister AK Antony to appoint a Naval Chief?

It is intriguing that an unprecedented number of the accidents have taken place involving Indian naval vessels during Antony’s tenure as Defence Minister. It is also intriguing that these accidents have not taken place in the mid-sea but on the shore. India has done a number of exercises with the foreign navies in the recent past, all without any mishap. Recently, the Indian Navy conducted a massive month-long naval exercise ‘TROPEX 2014’. Around 60 ships and submarines, and 75 aircraft took part in this exercise. This exercise in which both the Western and Eastern Fleet of the Indian Navy participated was again without any mishaps.

When inexplicable accidents took place on the two submarines, i.e. INS Sindhurakshak (August 2013), INS Sindhuratna (February 2014), it was attributed to age related problems. Then there was accident on INS Kolkata (March 2014), guided-missile destroyer under construction at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Limited. Before that in January 2014, INS Betwa, indigenously built frigate, collided with an ‘unknown’ object while approaching the Mumbai harbor. Some ships have run aground solely because the Mumbai harbor had deliberately not been dredged for several years despite implorations by the Indian Navy. Since August 2013, there have been 11 mishaps in the Indian Navy.

All mishaps/accidents, Mr Defence Minister, it is reiterated happened on the shore. It is a clear case of subversion and sabotage.

The Navy being headless for more than a month also appears to be a case of subversion and sabotage.

The Defence Minister and the government had absolutely no business to accept the resignation of Admiral Joshi before his successor was in place. In somewhat a similar situation that this author is in the know, when the former Army Chief Gen VK Singh offered to resign, the megalomaniac and trusted babus of Antony insisted that they would not allow him to resign as that would upset their ‘succession plan’. They taunted that the General served at the pleasure of the President and therefore had no choice but to serve as long as the President’s pleasure on the recommendation of the government persisted. There are many unsavory stories in the air regarding the underlying reasons for Admiral Joshi’s resignation. Admiral Joshi is too much of a professional and gentleman to vent the real reasons, if any, in public. But the alacrity with which the Defence Minister accepted his resignation and his deliberate procrastination in appointing the next Naval Chief smacks of influence of undesirable and may be inimical forces.

If it takes this long to select a Naval Chief from amongst men of dedication, discipline and integrity; surely then there is subversion and sabotage.

The image of the other two services, i.e. Indian Army and Indian Air Force, have no less been damaged during Antony’s tenure. In the case of Army, the Defence Minister has to explain, as to on whose behest did he resend for clarification to the Law Ministry about the ‘Date of Birth’ of Gen VK Singh, after the Joint Secretary in the Ministry had ruled in favour of the General. Antony as a god fearing politician must answer this. The world otherwise knows the truth. By the way, the Defence Minister should know that in filing his nomination papers for the forthcoming parliamentary elections, the General has given his ‘Date of Birth’ as reflected in his matriculation certificate. Was it such a tricky issue? Why this desperation for a ‘succession plan’?

The Air Force has also come under flak indirectly because of charges of kickbacks in the AgustaWestland deal to former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi. As per the Italian authorities, the former Air Chief received only a small portion of the kickbacks out of the total Rs 350 crores. Intriguingly, the Italians shut their mouth after making this allegation, but not without some threatening insinuations against other quarters! While the Defence Minister has been quiet on the other possible beneficiaries, he had no qualms in the former Air Chief becoming the fall guy. Were there no other politicians or bureaucrats who received kickbacks? A Defence Minister cannot be selective in honesty and integrity.

Moreover, the Defence Minister also needs to explain that why is it that most leakages about kickbacks in arms deals like Bofors, AgustaWestland or Rolls Royce engines, are from foreign soil. It is surely not out of great attributes of propriety that these Western countries have. On the contrary, most of these are rouge countries in financial matters and with respect to arms market. Arms deals are often used as a tool of diplomatic blackmail. It is therefore not surprising that the trajectory of the Italian Marines case and selective leakage of the AgustaWestland deal fluctuate correspondingly. One engenders the other.

Most of the Western countries thrive on illegal and ill-gotten money of anti-national elements in the developing country, be it politicians, bureaucrats, terrorists and outfits like LTTE, Maoists, Kashmiri separatists, etc. A portion of that money is used to effect ‘succession plans’ in the armed forces of the target countries and in propping NGOs to implement their political agenda. Some reports attribute that there was a clear linkage between Anna’s agitation at Ramlila Maidan and American support as the latter was so peeved with the Indian establishment in not getting F-16 deal, that it kept its embassy without an Ambassador for nearly eight months during the period. It was also during this period, that the US Intelligence personnel in the Embassy had an overwhelming role.

A little noticed affair was that India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) awarded a $1 billion repeat contract on December 27, 2013 for six additional C-130J Hercules transport aircraft. It was during this period that there was an unprecedented diplomatic hiatus between India and the US owing to Devyani Khobragade affair. Ostensibly, the Indian establishment showed lot of umbrage over the issue of spiriting away husband of Devyani’s maid from India by the US authorities. But that was for public consumption. In the garb of that umbrage the government persisted with the deal. The least it could have done for the sake of honour of the country was to suspend the deal. Moreover, this deal was at a time when there is more pressing requirement of MMRCA, a $12 billion deal which is finalized with Dassault France, but not signed on one pretext or the other.

The systematic blacklisting of companies by the MoD does raise doubts whether it is a deliberate ploy to make a financial bonanza by vested interests or weaken the country or to kill options so that the only avenue that remains open is the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.

How is it possible that under the Defence Minister’s watch, a DPSU, i.e. Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) was making windfall profits from the Indian Army? How is it that while the country had the Transfer of Technology (ToT) from the manufacturers of Bofors for production of 155mm guns, we were desperately scouting for the same in the international market? The trials of these indigenous guns have the by and far successful. Which are these forces trying to kill India’s indigenous efforts? The Indian Navy’s track record with regard to indigenization has been most impressive. Today, more than 70 percent of the Navy’s inventory is indigenized. Then why this sudden flurry of accidents and abuses with regard to our indigenous capabilities? There a host of commentators who are being paid to decry the DRDO, day in and day out. Their writings would still be acceptable if it had positive suggestions, but most of them border on pressing the canard that Indians are incapable.

It is during Antony’s tenure that an officer of the Military Intelligence, Lt Col Purohit, has been in civil custody for many years without a charge-sheet. He probably committed the sin of infiltrating into Indian Mujahideen (IM) and LeT. As and when the truth about the Technical Support Division (TSD) raised in wake of 26/11 is revealed, the country may not forgive the architects of the Court of Inquiry. The only mistake probably this TSD committed was to give hell to the terrorists. Is it surprising therefore that beheadings of our jawans have taken place and their severed heads taken around Pakistan to mobilize jihadis for recruitment? Is it surprising that the clamour from vested interests for removal of the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) has been most strident under this Defence Minister? Is it surprising that ethnic cleansing was attempted in Kishtwar? Is it surprising that the Chinese were emboldened to occupy Indian territory in Depsang in pursuance of their geopolitical interests?

The moot questions therefore are: whether the image of the armed forces grown or diminished under the stewardship of Antony, whether there has been accretion or depletion of fighting wherewithal of the armed forces, and whether the secured space in India has increased or shrunk.

Antony is a politician who compels a drastic relook of the very concept of corruption in the country. Is corruption only personal integrity and financial propriety? It is touted that he is upright because he had once resigned as the Chief Minister of Kerala, when his party suffered rout in Lok Sabha election in 2004. In India, unfortunately, most instances of resignation have been used as a tool for higher political office. Most of such characters are politically devious, who know how to cloak their dishonesty with the garb of integrity. Integrity is the basic imperative for any human being. So this oft repeated assertion that a particular politician or bureaucrat is honest, and therefore fit to occupy high office, is misplaced contention as it is based on the premise that all politicians and bureaucrats are inherently corrupt. The cloak of financial integrity cannot be an excuse for inefficiency, ineffectiveness and manipulations.

A Defence Minister, who cannot take political risks and allows his country’s defence preparedness to be compromised, deliberately or otherwise, can be a good politician but definitely not a patriot.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Malaysian Aircraft 370: Truth buried in the Pacific?

BY RSN SINGH

The statement by former US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott regarding the Malaysian plane mystery: “Direction, fuel load & range now lead some to suspect hijackers planned a 9/11-type attack on an Indian city”, was not off the cuff or given in jest. It was a deliberate remark on twitter. It was not a statement from an ordinary person, but from someone who was closely linked to the US foreign policy and intelligence apparatus for almost seven years under the Clinton administration from 1994 to 2001. Talbott is known for his expertise on South Asia, nuclear arms control and Russia. It may be recalled that India’s then foreign minister had several rounds of talks with Talbott between 1998 and 2000, famous as ‘Jaswant-Talbott Talks’. The talks covered a wide range of strategic issues, and are considered to have created the spade work for Indo-US nuclear deal. It is therefore unlikely that Talbott would have made a statement on the missing Malaysian aircraft without an agenda based on some intelligence inputs.

The impact of his remark has been that it has buttressed the theory that the scene of disappearance/accident of the aircraft is in Asia and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). It may be reiterated that so far the search for the aircraft has been overwhelmingly confined to the IOR, completely discarding the Pacific Ocean. Is it deliberate?

[sociallocker]Russia-China Angle

Even as the search for the aircraft by 26 countries continue primarily in the IOR, another extremely widely read source (http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index1753.htm) also maintains the IOR theory. However, it says that the plane was carrying some highly suspicious cargo and was headed for the US base at Diego Garcia. As per this source the ‘suspicious cargo’ was first loaded on a US-flagged container ship MV Maersk Alabama at Seychelles. Guarding this cargo were two former US Navy SEALs personnel, Mark Daniel Kennedy and Jeffrey Keith Reynolds. They were employed by a security firm, The Trident Group, which specializes in protection of vital transfers of both atomic and biological materials throughout the world. No sooner the cargo was offloaded in Malaysia and consigned to Malaysian Flight No. 370 for further transportation; both Kennedy and Reynolds were found dead on the ship. The reason ascribed was ‘overdose of heroine’.

Further, the source says that the Russian Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces (GRU) was monitoring the movement of this suspicious cargo right from the beginning and had alerted the China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS). Accordingly, the MSS ordered the aircraft to land at Hainan Island, but before it could do so all phones of PLA personnel posted on Spratly Islands were jammed and it was at this time, i.e. between 1:07 am and 1:21 am that the aircraft disappeared. This report maintains that the aircraft then headed Westwards in the IOR to Diego Garcia.

Credibility of Russia-China Angle

The report as discussed above has certain unimpeachable elements. First, it gives the name of former SEALs, who were found dead under suspicious circumstances. Second, it gives the name of the security firm that deployed them. Third, it is established that the said firm specializes in protection of nuclear and biological material during transport. Fourth, it gives the identity of the vessel, which transported ‘highly suspicious cargo’ from Seychelles to Malaysia. The ascribed reason that the former SEALs died because of overdose of heroine seems highly implausible because given the physical and mental training and job of Navy SEALs, they cannot be drug addicts.

The ultimate destination Diego Garcia is also implausible because an aircraft with 227 passengers (15 countries) and 12 crew members, dead or alive cannot be kept concealed to so many American military personnel posted at this secret base.

The unsuccessful attempt by China to direct the aircraft to Hainan Island, since it was carrying ‘dangerous cargo’ is likely as the Island is a major PLA base with large airfield. It is also a major nuclear submarine base. The theory of jamming of phones on Spratly Islands is also logically possible and acceptable, so as to prevent any alert to mainland by PLA personnel when the aircraft changed course.

Westward Theory: Many Loopholes

It is being bandied feverishly that the plane took a Westerly direction. The tweet by Strobe Talbot has only queered the pitch. In effect, the entire search operation has been confined to IOR. The disappearance/accident of aircraft in the IOR is very unlikely due to the dense radar and satellite coverage of the region. There is phenomenal amount of shipping activity in the IOR. In fact, amongst the oceans, it is only the Indian Ocean which is witness to intense strategic and economic activity. Apart from littoral countries, it must be factored that the US is a major player in the IOR, by virtue of its base in Diego Garcia.

The theory or the speculation that the aircraft took a northerly direction towards Kazakhstan is again most improbable as no pilot would cross Himalayas at low-altitudes due to unpredictable weather and wind shear. Moreover, the Af-Pak region is known to be covered by a very dense radar network. In Afghanistan, due to the presence of ISAF, the network is so dense that, euphemistically speaking, not even a fly can get through the airspace. To illustrate the contention, an Indian aircraft engaged in casualty evacuation from Tashkent was flying lower than the designated height over Afghanistan. A US F-16 aircraft scrambled to interrogate. Once explained that the reason for low-altitude was overload, the Indian aircraft was allowed to proceed.

Time Zone Factor

The Westerly direction theory or speculation seems relatively incredulous as the crew of the aircraft would have to add into the night, i.e. the hours of darkness. In the easterly direction, however, the aircraft would meet the ‘first light’ in a matter of few hours from the region where it changed course. After first light, a trained pilot can fly manually as low as 50 meters above the water level, thus avoiding any radar.

Also given the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and relatively low radar network the possibility of the aircraft making 90° eastward course is highly possible.

Emergency Locator Transmitter

The most intriguing aspect of the entire saga is that the ‘emergency locator transmitter’ fitted externally to the aircraft has not triggered, which happens with absolute degree of certainty whenever an aircraft makes a ‘g’ impact on the ground or water.

Assessment

From the inputs as discussed, there are certain assessments to be made:

  • The aircraft was loaded with ‘dangerous cargo’, orchestrated by forces inimical to China or Russia, to be offloaded at Beijing.
  • The Chinese authorities were alerted by Russian Intelligence.
  • The plan once compromised, the pilots effected the alternate plan and took an easterly course in the Pacific.
  • The aircraft flew extremely low to avoid radar detection after first light.
  • The aircraft landed at some remote base, before which the passengers segment was possible depressurized by the pilots.
  • The passengers as a result of depressurization died.
  • All through this period, the pilots had put on their ‘independent’ oxygen masks.
  • Once the pilots were out, all emergency signaling units were deactivated manually and then the said cargo was removed and the aircraft was destroyed to the last detail.
  • The captain of the aircraft had created a simulator in his house, the data from which has been completely wiped out. Was he practicing for this eventuality?

Concluding Questions

The forgoing assessment emphasizes on the Eastern course possibility. Is this the reason the US has been on an overdrive to underscore the ‘Western course theory’? Was the tweet from Talbot, a deliberate diversionary tactic? Readers can now make their own assessment.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)[/sociallocker]

Part of the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report on the India-China war of 1962

A section of the confidential Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report, which has been lying with the Defence Ministry for over 50 years now, has now been put online by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell. The report was a result of the government inquiry into the humiliating defeat at the hands of China in the 1962 border war.

Apart from writing on what led to India’s defeat in the 1962 war, Canary Trap, in a series of posts in last few years, has repeatedly called for declassifying this report. You can read the report below:

Part of the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report on the India-China war of 1962 by The Canary Trap

The Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report is not the only document which gives an insight into what went wrong. There are a series of other declassified documents released by the US State Department, CIA, Russian Presidential Archives and other agencies, that reveal interesting details about the war. Here is a list:

Home Ministry report exposes Arvind Kejriwal

Doubtful payments, dubious signatures, embezzlement of funds, inappropriate accounting system at Arvind Kejriwal’s NGO Kabir. This is what an audit report prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) suggests.

The report “Inspection of Foreign Contribution Records Pertaining to an NGO Kabir – 2005-06 to 2011-12” was prepared by the MHA in August 2012.

You can read the entire report below. Here are some of the points raised by the inspection team after going through the records of the NGO.

  • No documentary evidence for salaries and allowance paid to the employees has been provided to inspection party.
  • No rent agreement of the premises (E-109, Indraprashta Building, Pandav Nagar, Delhi – 110092) as it was not traceable. No rent receipts from the land lord either.
  • Amount of Rs 17,68,261 has been paid to different RTI activists throughout the country between the years 2008 to 2011-12. However, no agreement between the individuals and association was made available to inspection party.
  • No cash book for the period 2006-08. As per statement of Manish Sisodia, the cash book has been lost somewhere due to shifting of office. It is again questionable that vital documents like cash book has been lost. From the perusal of details in the years when cash book was maintained, i.e. 2008-09 till date, it has been observed that most of the expenditure has been incurred in cash. In the absence of cash book, the genuineness of expenditure can’t be ascertained.

The report also mentions a series of questionable expenditure by Manish Sisodia for which there were no sufficient records available.

Read the entire report below:

Inspection of Foreign Contribution Records Pertaining to an NGO Kabir by The Canary Trap

Should the media not applaud Kejriwal’s anti-corruption plank?

BY SAEED NAQVI

It is true that every anti-corruption movement in recent history has decisively shifted the centre of gravity of Indian politics yards to the right, as writers have asserted recently. Such campaigns have always had considerable media support.

Internal tussles have had their external stimuli quite consistently until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990-91. Thereafter, free from external ideological pressures, Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao set Manmohan Singh, his Finance Minister, on a new path. This became Manmohan Singh’s chosen route even during his own two terms as Prime Minister. He hitched his wagon to a hyperpower seeking full spectrum global dominance, and sometimes by that association looked energetic during UPA-I.

The hyperpower started running out of steam by 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed, signaling structural flaws in the engine of capitalism. That is the development after which Manmohan Singh has looked limp and directionless throughout UPA-II.

The current hype around Narendra Modi is designed to provide the contrast. The alternative to Modi is no longer the Congress but a coalition of muscular, regional parties with help from either of the mainstream parties. Brooding over this politics, like Banquo’s ghost, is the AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal. His contribution to the outcome of these elections will be only known on May 16, when the results are declared.

One achievement must be credited to him straight away. He has removed the screen behind which Congress and the BJP romance. Kejriwal has taken full advantage of the media attention – at the India Today Conclave, for instance – to tear into the Congress-BJP collusion. Will this considerable expose not have a bearing on the election? That the two parties are indistinguishable on economic and social issues cannot be lost on the electorate, particularly minorities. Look at the list of their candidates: they are both equally thick skinned on corruption.

The situation poses an interesting question. As mentioned at the outset, all anti-corruption campaigns have provided occasion for politics to be shifted further to the right. In which direction will Kejriwal’s double-fisted assault on both, the BJP and the Congress, shift Indian politics?

“Crony capitalism” is clearly in his target. This cannot be honeyed music to “crony capitalists” who have controlling interests in both the national parties.

When one considers the ideological infighting within the Congress upto and after Independence, Jawaharlal Nehru comes across as something of a Samson, holding on his shoulders the temple of a secular, socialist republic. On all social and foreign policy issues his colleagues, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Rajaji – were all suspicious of non-alignment. They would have taken India into the Western camp from day one of Independence. Don’t forget, it was only “transfer of powers” that took place in 1947.

It were the ideological heirs of Nehru’s opponents who in 1969 sought to wrench the party away from Indira Gandhi’s socialist platform. There was considerable external support to Indira’s instinctive moves. After all, Indo-Soviet relations peaked during the 1971 Bangladesh war.

This was the phase of lightening moves and counter moves on the international and the national chess board. Just when New Delhi was at its coziest with Moscow, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto facilitated Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to Beijing. Then, by a splendid irony, next year, in 1972, Indira Gandhi and Bhutto were face to face at the Shimla Summit.

When Indira plotted to split the Congress in 1969, she prepared the ground by relieving Morarji Desai of the Finance portfolio. He resigned.

But Morarji Desai, shown the door by Indira in 1969, became the Prime Minister of the Janata Party led government in 1977. By 1999, intermediate stages were no longer required by Hindu nationalism’s moderate Atal Behari Vajpayee to became Prime Minister for a full term.

It is not surprising therefore that this year, Narendra Modi was being audaciously built up as the mascot for good governance and Hindu nationalism.

This is when Kejriwal may have spoilt Modi’s party. For the last four months AAP has been pegging away at his crony capitalist links. The media is playing down the negatives. The results on May 16 will establish how much of Modi’s sheen was lost by being exposed to charges of corruption.

Will Modi’s progress be checked by an anti corruption campaign? This will be the first time that such a campaign has not boosted the Right.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Photos: Maoists ambush CRPF jawans in Sukma

Here are some photos of injured CRPF jawans being shifted to Ramkrishna care hospital in Raipur following the Maoists attack near Tongpal in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday morning. Sixteen CRPF jawans have been killed in the attack besides a villager. (Media Reports)

Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh (March 11, 2014) - 1

Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh (March 11, 2014) - 2

Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh (March 11, 2014) - 3

Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh (March 11, 2014) - 4

Maoists also took away the weapons of the jawans after the ambush which includes, six AK-47 rifles, two SLRs, three grenades, one LMG, seven Insas rifles, and two wireless handsets.

The names of the martyred jawans and a lone villager are: Rajendra Gaekwad, Manoj, Nakul Dhruv, Pradeep Kumar, Neeraj Kumar, Nauhar Singh, Kaushal Singh, Somnath, Aditya Kumar Singh, Lachinder, Subhash Kumar, Faizal Haq, TR Singh, IK Pisda, Mohan Singh (a pressure bomb was planted below his body which was removed), and Vikram Nishad (civilian).

(Information and Photos Courtesy: Shankar Anand)