New Delhi: The defence ministry on Wednesday estimated the annual expenditure of the ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) scheme to be around Rs 7,500 crore.
The arrears from July 1, 2014- the date of implementation as announced by the government- until December 31, 2015, will be approximately Rs.10,900 crore, the ministry said in a statement.
This is set to push the defence budget for pensions, which is estimated to go up from Rs.54,000 crore as per Budget estimates of 2015-16 to around Rs.65,000 crore, the proposed Budget estimate for 2016-17.
This is an increase of about 20 percent of the defence pension outlay.
The statement said 86 percent of the total expenditure on account of OROP will benefit Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and other ranks.
“The government of India had taken the historic decision to implement OROP in November 2015. This fulfilled the long standing demand of the defence forces personnel after 42 years benefited over 18 lakh ex-servicemen and war widows,” the statement said.
Payment of arrears and revision of pension under OROP is to be made by the Pension Disbursing Authorities in four installments, except for family pensioners and pensioners in receipt of gallantry awards who will be paid arrears in one installment.
Asked about the development, Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement spokesperson Col Anil Kaul (retd) said it “seemed ok”, but they would be studying it and come out with a detailed reaction later.
“We are still studying it. It seems ok… so far it seems to be almost there, except that they are paying out from July (2014), not April,” Col Kaul told reporters. (IANS) (picture courtesy: huffingtonpost.in)
New Delhi, March 28: As India focuses on enhancing domestic production of military hardware, a surge in its export was recorded in nine months to end-2015, with the net value touching almost $210 million (Rs.1,400 crore). According to the annual report of the defence ministry, the Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and the private sector companies exported products worth Rs.1,397 crore from April to December 2015. The final figures for the fiscal ending March 31 are yet to be tabulated.
Exports in the financial year 2014-15 were valued at Rs.994 crore. “The trend in export shows phenomenal growth by the industry,” the defence ministry report said. It also lauded the role of private companies in the defence sector, stating that the exports by the sector had shown “accelerated growth” by 12-14 companies. The major destinations for defence exports from India include Afghanistan, Algeria, Belgium, Ecuador, Indonesia, Israel, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Sudan, Vietnam and the UK. Among the major items being exported are Offshore patrol vessels, spares for radars, Cheetal helicopters, turbo chargers and batteries, electronic systems, light engineering mechanical parts and personal protective items, which comprise articles like helmets, bulletproof jackets and other types of clothing. The report also observed that the online system for NoCs (No Objection Certificates) which was started in November 2014 is working satisfactorily. In August 2015, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for issuing NOCs for export of military stores by public or private defence industry were also revised. Under this, the requirement of an End User Certificate to be countersigned or stamped by the government authorities has been done away with for the export of items like parts, components or sub-systems. As the government promotes participation of private sector in defence manufacturing, the report also said that the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has issued 319 Industrial Licences to 190 companies till January 2016. Of these, 50 companies with 79 licences have started production. The new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) envisages providing a boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative, enhanced role for private sector, and promoting medium and small scale industries. It also has a new category of Buy Indian — Indigenous Design Development and Manufacturing under which indigenously designed equipment with 40 percent content will be procured. According to Sweden-based think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), between 2011 and 2015 India was the largest importer of arms, accounting for 14 percent of the global trade. It, however, does not appear prominently in the list of defence exporters, with the top slot being taken by the US, which accounts for 33 percent of global arms export, according to SIPRI. According to the Institute’s analysis, adding together the data that states have made available on the financial value of their arms exports, the estimated total value of the global arms trade in 2013 was at least $76 billion. It adds that the true figure is likely to be higher.
Washington: It has become apparent that the Americans are making great efforts to establish a military and political partnership with India, a major power that has traditionally gravitated towards maintaining good relations with Russia.
US President Barack Obama paid a “historic visit” to New Delhi in January 2015 and, according to some analysts, the visit “ended an era of estrangement between the two countries”, which had lasted for decades. The main outcome of the visit was a settlement of the question involving the supply of US nuclear technologies to India. The Americans are seeking to oust the Russian company Rosatom from India.
Anglo-Saxons eager to enter the Indian Subcontinent
The main focus of talks was the US entry into the Indian weapons market, traditionally occupied by products from the Russian military-industrial complex. As part of the DTTI programme, four joint pilot projects were launched. These included the production of a new generation of lightweight drones, the RQ-11 Raven, containers with reconnaissance equipment for the C-130, portable hybrid power generators, and uniforms aimed to provide protection against chemical and biological weapons.
“In the footsteps” of Obama’s visit, Pentagon Chief Ashton Carter visited India in June 2015. His trip resulted in the two countries signing a ten-year framework agreement on defence cooperation.
New Delhi’s cooperation with Washington is developing not only in the technologies sphere, but also in the military and political areas. India appears to be willing, more than ever before, to cooperate with the United States, in the background of strained relations with China.
The Malabar 2015 joint naval exercises were held last year, involving naval forces of the USA, India, and Japan; to the displeasure of Chinese authorities. These were the first such exercises held since 2007, and India said these would become an annual event.
During the preceding eight years, such exercises were not carried out because China objected to them, but now the regional powers are willing to aggravate their relations with China under the aegis of the United States. Analysts say the reasons for the escalation in tensions in South Asia are the growing territorial ambitions of Beijing.
Adding to the long-standing conflict between India and China, concerning the disputed ownership of territories of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, relations have been further exacerbated by competition for control over the South China Sea. This despite the fact that Delhi is not formally a party to the dispute between Beijing and Washington over the sea passage lanes, through which up to 50% of India’s trade travels.
However, Indian politicians fear that China will not limit itself to the South China Sea, and will try to expand its influence towards the Indian Ocean as well.
Strained relations with Beijing are pushing New Delhi into the arms of Washington and leading to some cooling of relations with Moscow. However, it is also clear that Russia cannot become India’s ally in its confrontation with China.
What about Russia?
India is vital for the Russian defence establishment. In 2013, for example, India accounted for around 35% of all Russian arms exports and brought $4.7 billion in revenues to the domestic defence industry. New Delhi is firmly established as the major buyer of Russian military hardware.
However, contrary to expectations, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia in December 2015 did not result in the signing of large contracts for the supply of military equipment. Modi preferred to go slow, and put off the signing of most contracts for an indefinite period. The only significant defence cooperation deal was signing an agreement on the production, by the holding company Russian Helicopters, of 200 Ka-226 helicopters in India, within the framework of the “Make in India” programme.
In recent years, India has been insisting on Russian defence products being manufactured on its territory. This is not very favourable for Russia, and creates additional difficulties in the production process; the technological base and Indian experts are not able to fully provide the necessary operating conditions.
Partly for this reason, the programme to build a fifth generation fighter jet (FGFA) for the Indian Air Force was suspended. Although “on paper”, this fighter is ready to go, further work on the project has been stalled. India insists on parity distribution of all works between Russian and its own specialists, despite the fact that Indian aircraft builders are not yet ready to provide the necessary quality required for the production process.
Also, at the end of last year, the Indian military abandoned the idea of buying Russian 155 mm self-propelled guns, the MSTA-S, opting instead to buy South Korean K9 Thunder artillery systems.
Moscow intends on keeping New Delhi within its political orbit. During his meeting with the Indian PM Modi, Vladimir Putin said Russia was in favour of India becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, noting that it was “a great power, conducting a balanced and responsible foreign policy”.
However, according to Vladimir Sotnikov, senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies RAS, there exists no particular threat that rapprochement between India and the United States will lead to a deterioration of Russian-Indian relations. New Delhi should be able to stick to its multi-vector foreign policy, continue on its non-aligned course, which its leaders have been pursuing since the 1960s.
“We should not assume that if India has undertaken a policy of rapprochement with Washington, it is moving away from Russia and BRICS. Prime Minister Modi’s goal is to support equal relations with all large countries. Our strategic partnership with India continues, and the Indian sides close relations with the United States will not have any negative impact on cooperation between Moscow and Delhi. The fact that the Indian authorities are seeking to diversify their suppliers, buying weapons not only from Russia, but also from the United States, Israel, and other countries, does not indicate any anti-Russian intentions on the part of Delhi,” the analyst said in an interview.
Sotnikov said Indian politicians are aware that one of the objectives of the White House is to damage Russian-Indian relations, along with countering the ever-growing Chinese influence in the region, but Delhi intends to stay aloof from this confrontation.
Most analysts agree that Modi’s government was elected on the basis of its policy of pragmatism, and this is understandable because, despite the fact that in the first months of 2016, India has managed to overtake China in terms of economic growth rate, a large proportion of the country’s population still lives below the poverty line.
Will India be able to maintain a balance in its relations between the strongest world powers; Russia, the USA, and China; which are trying to pull New Delhi in diametrically opposite directions? Washington, according to many analysts, is making every effort to derail the current Indo-Russian partnership, and it is hoped that Indian politicians maintain the necessary cool-headedness, and keep at the right distance from their American colleagues, and not become involved in the confrontation between the West and Russia.
Lt. Commander Vartika Joshi, who is set to lead India’s first all women crew to sail the oceans, says that a boat or the sea doesn’t differentiate between a man and a woman and there are no shortcuts to the physical and mental fitness required to sail the open seas.
Lt. Commander Joshi, along with a crew of five women, will soon go globe-trotting. Their adventure is likely to start in 2017. The team stood out at the just-concluded International Fleet Review (IFR) where the crew was on INSV Mhadei, a sail training boat of the Indian Navy on which they are currently training.
“We are training every day for the sailing and it requires a hard level of physical activity. You have to be physically and mentally very strong and there is no shortcut to it,” Lt. Commander Joshi told IANS in an interview.
“It does not matter whether you are a man or a woman, you have to do what you are required to do,” said the sailor, who is a naval architect by training.
The crew is being trained by Commander Dilip Donde, the first Indian sailor to circumnavigate solo across the globe on INSV Mhadei.
Commander Donde, in the same tone, said a sailor is a sailor, irrespective of gender.
“The sea does not differentiate between a man and a woman. A sailor is a sailor,” Commander Donde told IANS.
Asked about his guru mantra to the team, the commander said: “Never let your guard down… You have to be on your toes all the time.”
Riding the open seas in a sailing boat is not an easy feat to pull off.
The crew needs to be aware of every inch of the boat, which they may need to repair themselves in case of damage. Weather in the open sea also remains unpredictable, and smaller boats face more challenges.
Lt. Commander Joshi was confident.
“This is certainly Mission Possible. We have been taking a special training on circumnavigation since (last) April. The course included navigation, equipment, managing a crisis or distress situation and communication courses,” she explained.
The team sailed to Visakhapatnam for the IFR from Goa, and is now on its way back to continue the training.
The boat on which the journey will finally be undertaken is at present under construction in Goa, and the crew has to familiarize itself with every inch of the vessel.
Apart from Lt. Commander Joshi, the team includes Lt. Pratibha Jamwal and Lt. P Swathi in the core group, besides Lt. Vijaya Devi and Sub Lt. Payal Gupta. A sixth member is yet to be named.
INSV Mhadei had been used by Commander Abhilash Tomy for his own solo, unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation under sail. (IANS) (pic courtesy: shyamgopan.wordpress.com)