A funny take at all the running around like headless chicken about the power and opportunity of Social Media…
More to follow!
The Indian Army is all set to procure 145 US made howitzers in a direct government-to-government deal. The howitzers are M777 make which are 155mm light-weight which can be swiftly deployed in forward and inaccessible areas by helicopters and aircraft. The guns are fitted with laser inertial artillery pointing systems and other equipment.
The American Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified the US Congress of the decision made by the U.S. federal government. It also asserted that the sale will boost ‘interoperability‘ between Indian and American soldiers and marines.
“It will also improve the security of an important partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South Asia,” added DSCA.
The Indian Army is generally opposed to such purchases through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route, as it bypasses the competitive bidding process used to procure arms and ammunition for the armed forces in India as it rules out any comparative trials and price negotiations.
The ultra mobile howitzers will help India strengthen its capabilities to react to any emergencies at a short notice. The guns are used by U.S. forces as a primary weapon for indirect fire. The all-weather howitzers, which have a 25-30 km range, will also be useful for supporting Para-Special Force battalions while they operate behind enemy lines and in ‘out-of-area contingencies’.
India had tried to procure such guns on two previous occasions also but the attempt failed. During the first attempt the South African gunmaker, Denel, was shortlisted but was later found to be indulging in corrupt practices. In the case of lightweight howitzers, ST Kinetics a Singapore based firm was indicted for similar practices where Sudipto Ghosh, the then Chairman of the Ordnance Factory Board was implicated.
The U.S. has been eyeing the lucrative Indian defense market like other nations in the fray with the Indian government’s decision to modernize the army at a whopping cost of INR 20,000 crore. India also seems all set to approach Washington for another FMS deal to acquire ten C-17 Globemaster-III giant strategic airlift aircrafts priced at over a $220 million apiece.
While the world leaders opened a major international conference on Afghanistan’s future in London on Thursday, President Hamid Karzai admitted that it could take anything between 5 to 10 years for Afghan forces to take over from the American-led coalition fighting the Taliban. He further clarified that it may take even longer to end his nation’s dependence on financial aid to sustain its military.
Leaders from around 70 nations including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Canadian Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are attending the one day conference. Mr. Brown announced that the transfer of responsibilities from coalition forces to the Afghan forces would start this year.
“This is a decisive time for the international cooperation that is helping the Afghan people secure and govern their own country,” Mr. Brown said. “This conference marks the beginning of the transition process,” he said, referring to the handover to Afghan authorities of responsibility for security.
The coalition forces are targeting to weaken Taliban by dividing their forces using a central fund of about USD500 million being projected as a “pay-for-peace” plan. The proposal is targeted to bring the Taliban fighters to civilian fold.
Ban Ki-moon has named Staffan de Mistura, a veteran Swedish diplomat, as the new top U.N. official in Afghanistan. De Mistura, has been a former U.N. representative in Iraq. He will start his stint on March 1 this year.
As the coalition nations plan the next steps the plan to attract the Taliban cadres may seem to be bit tough given the fact that the U.S. military intelligence believes that the Taliban now has shadow governments in 33 of 34 provinces. Taliban sources meanwhile responded in a strong tone to the conference, calling for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces.
“It is a matter of great sorrow that the invaders led by U.S.A. are bent on sticking to the military approach of the issue,” the statement said.
“We want to say clearly, if the invaders want to save themselves from further financial and life losses, they should not deceive their people by illusory plans and strategies, nor they should waste time on them, or make our people face further sufferings and problems. They should accept the solution put forward by the Islamic Emirate, which is the full withdrawal of the invading forces from our country.“
A second major gathering of the leaders is expected to take place in Kabul, in a few months from now.
[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrpdCqvkzHM]Five British sailors have been detained by Iranian authorities after their racing yacht was stopped by the Iranian navy while sailing from Bahrain to Dubai. The racing yacht named the Kingdom Of Bahrain is owned by Sail Bahrain, was crewed by nine men including the five Britons. The yacht was apprehended last Wednesday after it set sail from Bahrain to Dubai. The boat is believed to have strayed off international waters, when it broke its propeller.
The detention of the men was made public yesterday by Britain’s Foreign Office, though the officials said that they had contacted the Iranian authorities on November 25. The sailors have been identified as – Oliver Smith, Oliver Young, Sam Usher, Luke Porter and radio DJ David Bloomer. They were heading to Dubai to join the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race.
The current detention is expected to fuel tension between Iran and the West. Iran and Britain have not been at good terms given the Iranian accusations in past weeks on Britain of specifically trying to derail their elections. Britain has been vocal about its stand against the proposed work on 10-nuclear reactors being planned by Tehran.
This is not the first incident in recent times when Britons have been captured by the Iranian authorities while at sea. Iran took 15 British service personnel including the Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines, from the frigate HMS Cornwall, hostage on March 23, 2007 and held them for 13 days. The service personnel were taken hostage at gunpoint and accused of straying into their waters.
Iran seems to have a tough stance on the current issue:
Iran will take serious measures against five British yachtsmen detained in the Gulf if it proves they had “evil intentions,” a close aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday.
Oil prices rose by over $1 on fears of a diplomatic crisis shortly after news of the detainment was made public on Monday.
“The judiciary will decide about the five…naturally our measures will be hard and serious if we find out they had evil intentions,” Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, the president’s chief of staff, told the semi-official Fars news agency.
Iran has finally decided to release the five sailors. The British Foreign Office confirmed the release of the men, who went off the international waters on Novemeber 25, while traveling from Bahrain to Dubai.
“After carrying out an investigation and interrogation of the five British sailors, it became clear that their illegal entry was a mistake,” the Revolutionary Guard said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency. “After obtaining necessary guarantees, it was decided to release them.“
The men would be released in the international waters in presence of the team’s officials.
It’s here and it’s real. The US President Barack Obama has finally let the cat out of his bag. He has announced the much awaited decision on troop numbers on Sunday night, a White House spokesman said. Though the formal plan in terms of troop numbers and other logistics will be announced on Tuesday, the current announcement confirms the earlier resolve by the US President, to “finish the job” in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press quoting White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reported, that Mr. Obama held an unannounced meeting on Sunday night with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Senior military officials have been informed about the decision and now the British, French and Russian leaders are being briefed about the plan.
Following his discussion with the Secretary of State, Obama briefed senior staff including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Security Adviser James Jones. He later held a videophone conference with the head of the US operation in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan.
The US announcement comes close to the announcement of the British stand by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, where he committed to send 500 special force members to Afghanistan. Mr. Brown for the first time also revealed the role of special troops in Afghanistan. He said the British people had a right to know that the highly trained Special Forces are playing their full role not only in force protection but also combating the Taliban militants directly along with the regular forces.
US has around 70,000 troops in Afghanistan and may add around 30,000 more troops based on Gen McChrystal’s request who has asked for around 40,000 additional troops.
In a mishap that the authorities are labeling as “an insider’s mischief”, about 55 workers of the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka, India, were exposed to an excessive radiation dosage when they drank water that had been mixed with tritium, a highly radioactive substance. All the workers had to be rushed to hospital for a preventive check-up.
Bloomberg reported, based on an e-mailed statement from Shreyans Kumar Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), which operates the plant, that no worker was hospitalized. Jain in his statement also said that an initial probe didn’t reveal any violation of operating procedures or “radioactivity releases” or security breach. He said that, the systems of all the units are healthy and there is no release of radioactivity to the environment within or outside the plant site. A probe has been launched in the matter. Officials of Intelligence Department as well as state depatment have been informed.
The incident occured on November 25, when the first unit (220 MWe) of the plant was under shutdown for annual maintenance. The officials alleged that “an insider had mixed tritium in drinking water in a cooler kept in the operating island of the first unit” at Kaiga. Unit 1 at Kaiga continues to be under annual maintenance shut down since October 20. Unit 2 and 3 are operating normally. Unit 4 is under construction.
The Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, Prithviraj Chavan, labelled the act “malevolent” and assured that the incident is not an accident but a sabbotage which is being taken “very seriously”.
Tritium is the radioactive form of Hydrogen. If inhaled or consumed via food or water, tritium can lead to cell damage. It also increases chances of cancer. The state-of-the-art indigenously designed 220 MWe pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) of the Kaiga Atomic Power Station attained criticality at Kaiga on September 24, 1999. The site has been selected for having six Reactor Units of pressurised heavy water reactors each of 220 MWe.