Share Button

Sunday, August 28, 2016

L&T; Hopes For 155mm Howitzer Order From Army

by Shishir Arya

Nagpur: L&T Heavy Engineering, whose 155x52mm self-propelled howitzers have cleared trials over a year ago, is now expecting to get production order within the current calendar year. The gun made by a joint venture of L&T and Korea's Samsung Techwin emerged successful during the test fires and was among the two contenders along with Russia's Rosoborn.

With the company emerging as the sole contender after test fires, the price negotiations were initiated that continued for almost a year. Now with the negotiations having also ended, the deal is in the final stage. "Certain clarifications were sought by the negotiations committee," said Commodore Mukesh Bhargava (retd), the vice-president (international business, defense, and aerospace) of L&T Heavy Engineering. He was in the city for a seminar focusing on opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the defense sector. The meet was organized by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).

With L&T being the leader in the joint venture with Samsung, 50% of the spares used in the gun have been indigenously developed. The company has also completed the confirmatory test fires for the 155x52mm towed guns which are a separate version. There were certain issues in the systems that needed to be addressed. The second round of tests are over with those taken care of. Now the company is awaiting a final word from the government, Bhargava said.

The L&T gun comes as another choice for an indigenously made artillery weapon for the army. The 155mm is similar to Bofors howitzers procured by the government in the 1980s. The version now developed has a higher range. The original Bofors gun is of 155x39mm caliber while the army now mainly wants a 155x52 caliber gun that gives a higher range.

The ordnance factory has also developed an indigenous gun of 155x45 mm caliber giving a comparatively less range. The army has placed an order for 18 pieces of those.

Earlier in the seminar, Bhargava, who is also the convener of CII task force on defense for Maharashtra, apprised the SMEs about risks and advantages of venturing into defense production. "The product has to be perfectly meeting the requirements or else there are chances for businessmen to end up burning their fingers. The components required in the sector are based on complex technology and the bigger players in the private sector are also ready to hand hold the SMEs. However, the end-product should also ultimately meet the requirement," he said.

In a Nutshell 

* Apart from ordnance factories, private players also vying to sell howitzers to army 
* Ordnance factory has developed 115x45mm version as against 155x39mm supplied originally by Bofors
* L&T has come up with 155x52mm self-propelled and towed versions
* Bharat Forge also planning internal validations of its 155x52 and 152x39 mm guns this year

India-US Strategic And Commercial Dialogue To Reflect Upon Progress Made So Far: Official

Sushma Swaraj participates with John Kerry and US commerce secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the US-India Strategic & Commercial Dialogue in Washington in Sept, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will be in New Delhi for the dialogue.

WASHINGTON: Ahead of the India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) next week in New Delhi, a senior American official said this would be an opportunity for the two countries to reflect upon the progress made under the outgoing Obama administration and chart the path forward.

"The S&CD presents an opportunity to really reflect upon where we have come and also chart a path forward on where we want to go and how we want to use this relationship," a senior State Department official told a group of journalists.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will be in New Delhi for the dialogue.

Leading a team of top officials from 12 different government agencies, Kerry and Pritzker would co-chair the last Strategic and Commercial Dialogue under the Obama Administration along with their Indian counterparts the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Kerry would arrive in New Delhi on August 29 from Dhaka. The Strategic and Commercial Dialogue is scheduled to take place on August 30.

This would be the seventh India US Strategic Dialogue which was announced in 2009 by the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is now the Democratic presidential nominee.

In 2015, the US and India added the commercial track and as such this would be the second strategic and commercial dialogue.

On his fourth visit to India as Secretary of State, Kerry is also scheduled to have bilateral meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. He would meet the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 31, the official said.

The Secretary would also be addressing an audience of students, academics, business leaders and journalists at the Indian Institute of Technology where he will talk about "the broad arch and trajectory" of the US-India ties and the importance of that relationship in both addressing the challenges and opportunities of the not only bilaterally, but also regionally and globally.

"...A joint vision statement on the Asia Pacific that was launched during President Obama's historic Republic Day visit that the S&CD presents an opportunity to really reflect upon where we have come and also chart a path forward on where we want to go and how we want to use this relationship to as Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has said to not only advance the interest of the American people and the Indian people but really to advance and benefit global issues," the official said.

"That is how the Secretary is really looking at those opportunities to have those kind of conversations in his dialogues and bilateral meetings,"the senior State Department official said.

Pakistan Trying To Fuel Tension In Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti Says After Meeting PM Modi

The Kashmir CM discussed the unrest in the valley and the need for the Centre to come up with confidence-building measures

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence on Saturday to discuss the ongoing unrest in Kashmir as the valley faces 48th day of curfew after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani.

Reports state that during Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh's visit to the Valley, the Kashmir CM told him that Centre needs to announce certain confidence-building measures to show that it was keen on resolving the crisis in Kashmir. Mufti discussed the same in her meeting with the PM.

After meeting the PM, Mufti addressed a press conference in Delhi. She told the media that Pakistan has been trying to provoke and fuel tensions in the valley. She also added that like everyone, PM Modi is very concerned about the situation in Kashmir. 

This is the first meeting between the Kashmir CM and PM Modi after the unrest began on July 8, 2016 following Wani's killing. The meeting between the two was fixed after the Center asked Mufti to control the ongoing violence in Kashmir, which has led to a loss of 69 lives.

In increasing efforts to control the violence in the valley, an all-party delegation has been organised that will visit Kashmir in the first week of September. The decision to send the delegation came after a two-day visit by Rajnath Singh in the Valley. He assured that the government is deciding on an alternative to pellet guns, which has left many people blinded and the willingness of the government to speak to "anybody" about the issue.

PM Modi on Monday expressed "deep concern and pain" over the loss of lives and the violence in Kashmir. He said that there was a need for dialogue to address the problems of the people and of a permanent solution to solve the recurrent crisis in the region.

"Those who lost their lives during recent disturbances are part of us, our nation. Whether the lives lost are of our youth, security personnel or police, it distresses us," PM Modi said in a statement. 

Mufti on Thursday defended the actions taken by the security forces during a press conference and said, "People came on streets, we imposed curfew. Did the children go to army camps to buy toffees (candy)? Was the 15-year-old boy, who attacked the police station at Damhal Hanjipora (in south Kashmir), going there to get milk..."

She added that 95 percent of the people want to solve the crisis with peace and dialogue, but the remaining 5 percent of them are resorting to protests and agitations.

Zakir Naik To Face Terror Charges, Govt Likely To Ban His NGO

Center is likely to slap terror charges on Naik for inciting terrorism through his public speeches

The Center is likely to slap terror charges on Islamic television preacher Zakir Naik for inciting more than 50 people who have been accused in cases associated with terrorism. The government may also declare his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), an 'unlawful' organisation that would be banned.

Naik has been accused of motivating the terrorists behind the Dhaka cafe attack — one of the deadliest attacks in Bangladesh — in which 22 people, including 19-year-old Indian student Tarishi Jain, were killed. The action plan against Naik has been sketched out on the basis of his public speeches, the Times of India quoted government sources as saying.

The home ministry has decided to charge Naik under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for his speeches, which contain jihad-inspiring content. "The primary ground for invoking terror charges against Naik are statements by those involved in past terror acts, conceding that they were motivated by his speeches," an intelligence officer told the publication.

Naik has not returned to India ever since a probe in the Dhaka cafe attack found his speeches to be the prime motivation of the jihadis who attacked the eatery in Bangladesh. Considering the situation, Naik is not likely to return to India soon.

Some of the terrorists who have recorded statements against Naik include Feroze Deshmukh, a former IRF employee arrested for his alleged role in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case; Qateel Ahmed Siddiqui, an Indian Mujahideen member murdered inside Pune's Yerwada prison in June 2012; and Afsha Jabeen, an alleged IS recruiter who was arrested in September 2015 on deportation from the UAE.

The government is also set to impose a ban on Naik's NGO, IRF, for spreading hatred in religious communities through public speeches and forced conversions by its members. According to reports, one of the brothers of the 17 Kerala youth who are suspected to have fled India to join the Islamic State (ISIS) was forced by the IRF to convert to Islam.

Paris Prosecutor Opens Probe Into Scorpene Submarine Data Leak

A handout photo released by Indian Navy shows Scorpene submarine INS Kalvari

Paris: The Paris public prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation after French naval contractor DCNS filed a complaint for breach of trust over a leak of documents concerning six Scorpene submarines it is building for India, a judicial source said.

DCNS was left reeling after details from more than 22,000 pages of documents relating to submarines it is building for India were published in The Australian newspaper this week, sparking concerns about the company’s ability to protect sensitive data.

“We filed a complaint against unknown persons for breach of trust with the Paris prosecutor on Thursday afternoon,” a spokesman for the shipbuilder said on Friday.

The Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation for breach of trust, receiving stolen goods and complicity, the judicial source said later on Friday.

A French government source said on Thursday that DCNS had apparently been robbed and it was not a leak, adding it was unlikely that classified data was stolen.

The Australian government said on Friday it had asked DCNS to take new security measures in Australia, where the company is locked in exclusive negotiations to build a new fleet of submarines for $50 billion dollars.

DCNS said earlier this week that the leak, which covered details of the Scorpene model and not the vessel currently being designed for the Australian fleet, bore the hallmarks of “economic warfare” carried out by frustrated competitors.

Indian Naval Ships Visit Syechelles

New Delhi: On a two-month deployment in the western Indian Ocean, Indian Navy ships Kolkata, Trikand and Aditya on Friday arrived at Port Victoria in the Seychelles. An official statement said during the visit, the ships would engage with the Seychelles People Defence Force on professional issues.

The three ships, part of the Indian Navy's western fleet, are under the command of Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, Rear Admiral Ravneet Singh.

"Calls on senior government and military authorities, training and technical cooperation measures with Seychelles Coast Guard, sporting and cultural interactions, aimed at strengthening ties and mutual understanding between the two forces, are also planned," the statement said.

"The deployment adds another chapter to the strong defence and maritime cooperation between India and the Seychelles," the navy said.

India regularly undertakes surveillance missions in the Seychelles EEZ, by deploying Indian Navy ships and aircraft, based on request by the Seychelles government.

The last such deployment was by Indian Navy Ship Trikand in July 2016.

Pakistan Army Committing 'Tsunami of Rights Violations': Brahumdagh Bugti

Brahumdagh Bugti thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recently raising concern over the situation in Baluchistan.

WASHINGTON: Pakistani forces are engaged in a "tsunami of human rights violations" in Baluchistan, a top Baloch leader alleged today as he sought the help of the international community including India in the Baloch nationalist movement.

Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Baloch Republican Party and the grandson of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti who was killed in an encounter with the Pakistani army 10 years ago, also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recently raising concern over the situation in Baluchistan.

"Pak forces are engaged in a tsunami of human rights violations. We do not want to live with Pakistan anymore," said Switzerland-based Bugti as he demanded a referendum of Baloch people under the supervision of the United Nations.

Speaking over the phone from Switzerland where he had gone for a commemorative event to pay homage to his grandfather, Bugti urged the international community, including the US, NATO countries, Israel and India, to help them fight their cause including political and military.

He said he is ready for a dialogue with the Pakistani government but insisted that there is no going back on freedom movement.

Baluchistan, of the size of France, is Pakistan's largest province which has been under 'illegal Pakistani occupation for the last seven decades', he said.

Bugti said Modi's recent remarks during his Independence Day is the "most powerful statement" in the last seven decades.

"It is for the first time that an Indian Prime Minister has spoken. We believe that India should have taken this step a long time ago," he said, adding that he is convinced about Baluchistan freedom.

"I am thoroughly indebted to Prime Minister Modi. I thank Prime Minister Modi for speaking raising the voice of Baloch people in his Independence Day address," he said and alleged that Pakistani crime against people is a shocker to the global community.

Use of aerial bombardment, use of gas have become routine, he claimed and added that Baluchistan is the world capital of missing people.

"We are political people. We want to solve this with peaceful means. But there is no way we are going to be part of the Pakistan anymore. We want freedom of Pakistan. We are not fools to try our luck again and again with Pakistan. We are ready to negotiate through peaceful means," Bugti said.

Stating that his immediate course of action would be to create awareness in the international community, Bugti, at the same time, also called for military assistance to the Baloch freedom struggle.

"So far we have never received any support from any international countries including India. We want to request India and other countries to help Baluchistan. It is a genocide of (the) Baloch (people) in Pakistan going on," he said.

China On High Alert As India Puts Missiles Along Border

by Koushik Das

China has once again urged India to take necessary steps for maintaining peace and stability in the region.

On Thursday, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement that India should scrap its plan to station advanced cruise missiles along the “disputed” border between the two countries. The Chinese ministry made the request after Indian Armed Forces officials revealed their plan to build up military and civilian infrastructure capabilities in border areas. They also revealed that the Indian Army would equip regiments, deployed on the Sino-Indian border, with ‘BrahMos’ missiles.

Beijing expressed serious concern over the Indian Army’s plan, saying that it was the duty of two nuclear-armed Asian neighbors to create proper environment in order to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues through peaceful negotiation. According to the statement, it is unfortunate that New Delhi and Beijing have failed to resolve their border dispute despite trying hard since 1962 war between the two countries.

Commenting on India’s missile plans, senior spokesperson of the Chinese Defense Ministry Wu Qian said that India had agreed to maintain peace and stability in the border region in the past. However, New Delhi has started sending more troops to the border area in recent times, he added. Wu further said: “We hope that the Indian side can do more to benefit peace and stability along the border and in the region, rather than the opposite.”

Earlier, India strongly criticized the Asian giant for laying claim to more than 90,000 sq km ruled by New Delhi in the eastern part of the Himalayas, saying that China illegally occupied 38,000 sq km of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west. India also slammed China for providing political and economic support to its arch-rival – Pakistan. Beijing’s moves have prompted New Delhi to export missiles to five South-East Asian countries, including Vietnam, which are engaged in a dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Interestingly, the Chinese ministry issued the statement ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the upcoming G-20 Summit. Indian foreign policy experts have opined that Beijing is trying to normalize the situation so that President Xi can get an opportunity to discuss different aspects of bilateral ties in a favorable atmosphere. So far, the Indian government has made no comment on the statement issued by the Chinese ministry.

Key Kashmiri Separatist Leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Arrested

Police detain senior separatist leader of Moderate Faction of Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Molvi Umar Farooq, after he jumps from his gate to defy the curfew.

SRINAGAR: Police in Kashmir have arrested one of the key separatist leaders spearheading protests against Indian rule in the state.

Police arrested Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who was already under house arrest, late Friday and locked him up in a government facility in SRINAGAR.

A strict curfew and a tightening crackdown by authorities have failed to stop some of Kashmir's largest protests against Indian rule in recent years, triggered by the killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani on July 8.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met with Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi on Saturday, seeking a comprehensive dialogue with Kashmiri separatist leaders and neighboring Pakistan to try to resolve the dispute over Kashmir.

Pakistan Spy Operated Two FB Accounts To Obtain Strategic Info

The spy, also known as Nand Lal Garg, revealed during interrogation that he used the two accounts to communicate with his sources in the border areas.

JAISALMER: Pakistani national Nand Lal Maharaj, who was arrested on charges of being an ISI agent, operated two accounts on Facebook for obtaining strategic information from people living in the border districts of Barmer and Jaisalmer, police said today.

The spy, also known as Nand Lal Garg, revealed during interrogation that he used the two accounts to communicate with his sources in the border areas.

Maharaj had uploaded pictures that he had taken of several places in Jaisalmer in one of those accounts. The account also contained pictures of some places in Pakistan.

Police Superintendent Gaurav Yadav today cautioned people against speaking with unknown persons on social media. He also appealed to them to inform police if they come to know of any suspicious persons.

Maharaj had been arrested near the Indo-Pak border in Jaisalmer in Rajasthan earlier this month, with police claiming to have recovered classified information from him.

He is a resident of Sangad district in Pakistan and had come to India earlier this month on visa.

US Set To Ship First AH-6i Helicopters To Saudi Arabia

The US Boeing is set to ship the first twelve AH-6i light attack and reconnaissance helicopters to Saudi Arabia.

The US has begun to deliver AH-6i helicopters that are capable of carrying AGM-114 Hellfire missiles after a one-month delay.

The helicopters which are also capable of carrying machine guns of 7.62mm and 12.7mm, are to be shipped by air to Saudi Arabia's National Guard "as soon as possible", Sputnik News reported Saturday.

The second batch of twelve units will be delivered by sea. Initially, the aircraft were supposed to be delivered at the end of July, but the shipment was delayed for many unmentioned reasons.

Boeing had 6 machines ready in June, and the company will produce an additional two machines per month. The completed shipment is anticipated to reach Riyadh in February 2017.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of numerous human rights violations in connection with the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, including the killing of some 9,000 civilians and the deliberate destruction of civil objects, such as schools and hospitals.

The recent withdrawal of US military specialists from Saudi Arabia may be related to the US attempt to distance itself from Saudi war crimes.

An announcement regarding the transport of the first twelve AH-6i Little Bird helicopters was posted on the US Federal Business Opportunities website on Wednesday this week.

Pakistan Has Proved Time And Again That It Cannot Be Trusted': Former Indian Army Chief

Analyzing factors that have brought ties between India and Pakistan to a new low, former chief of army staff, General Deepak Kapoor (retired), has said that first and foremost what comes to mind is the lack of trust between the two nations, and added that Pakistan has proved time and again that it cannot be trusted. "Starting with 1948, 1965, 1971, the Kargil War, the proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir, inciting of communal trouble in different parts of the country at different points and times since independence. Broken promises, especially in regard to the investigations, which had been promised by the Pakistan into both Mumbai and Pathankot attacks. Going back on understandings at Bangkok, Ufa and Lahore, the list is endless, and that is why that lack of trust is going to persist," he elaborated.

Delivering the inaugural lecture on the theme 'Pakistan-Deep State: Fountainhead of Terror and Conflict' organised by Center for Land Warfare Studies at the Manekshaw Center here on Thursday, General Kapoor said, "Second very important aspect is the role of the army, the Pakistani Army. As we all are aware, and we all don't need to go into details, the army has been directly or indirectly ruling Pakistan. But what is of our interest is that, it has been dictating the foreign policy of Pakistan, especially when it concerns to India in all its aspects. So, whether it has been in the driving seat, or in the back seat, it has always been the Pakistan Army."

"There is no denying that Indo-Pak relations is one of the evergreen topics in all think tanks and it is going to remain so ,because it affects both our internal and external environment and the effect it has," he added.

"Indo-Pak relations have followed a meandering curve," he observed, adding that there are a "number of highs and a much larger number of lows, like the current low that we are going through, and it's called a historic load for the simple reason that the reference to Baluchistan by the Prime Minister on the 15th of August, in addition to what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir, has brought it to a level where even we don't know who to talk to in Pakistan."

"You just cannot help, but indulge in Pakistan bashing," he added.

The seminar was organised with the idea of training focus on important aspects that require discussion, analysis and understanding, such as Pakistan's power structure, its anti-India mindset, its selective approach and actions against terror organisations, the Pakistan military's role, support and direction of terror against India and Afghanistan, Pakistan's military modernization and development of its nuclear and conventional deterrence to support the proxy terror war in Jammu and Kashmir.

The importance of the Pak-China and the Pak-US dynamics within the regional security calculus was also discussed by eminent personalities.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

IDN TAKE: Fate of US Campaign To Defeat ISIS By Recapturing Mosul In Jeopardy

by Dibyendu Sekhar Kumar

1. Iraq - War Front

1.1 The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and allied tribal fighters had recaptured the Waleed Border Crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi Border on August 3. ISIS mounted a counterattack on August 8 - 9 against the Waleed Border Crossing as well as the Tanf Border Crossing in Syria, which is held by the US-backed New Syrian Army. Both attacks were repelled.

1.2 Iraqi Peshmerga affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) launched clearing operations southeast of Mosul on August 14 - 15, seizing at least twelve villages in the Ninewa Plains. The operation originated from positions near the Khazir Military Base between Mosul and Arbil and progressed south towards the town of Gwer.

1.3 The ISF recaptured the city of Qayyarah on August 25 following more than a month of operations to secure terrain on the southern and western outskirts of the city after security forces seized the Qayyarah Airbase on July 9. The ISF breached the city limits of Qayyarah on August 23, encountering limited resistance in the southern neighborhoods. The ISF secured the city center and government complex on August 24 and Joint Operations Command announced full control over the city on August 25.

Iraqi Security Forces rejoicing after a successful operation against ISIS targets

2. Political Situation

2.1 The Iraqi Council of Representatives (CoR) voted to withdraw confidence in Sunni Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi on August 25.

a) The Reform Front, an opposition party in the CoR driven by Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has spearheaded the process to oust Obeidi.

b) Obeidi attended the CoR on August 1 for the questioning session, the prerequisite for a vote of no-confidence. However, during the interrogation, Obeidi accused his rivals within Etihad of corruption during a questioning session on August 1, including Speaker Juburi. The Federal Court acquitted Juburi of the corruption charges on August 9. Following Juburi's acquittal, Obeidi's rivals requested to proceed to the vote of no-confidence.

c) The CoR met on August 23 to consider the vote of no-confidence. However, the CoR lost quorum when two parties, the Sadrist Trend-affiliated Ahrar Bloc and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), walked out of the session.

d) The CoR met on August 25 to take up the issue again and voted no confidence.

2.2 The vote was rendered by a simple majority, while the Constitution stipulates that dismissing a minister requires a vote of an absolute majority.

a) The CoR announced that Obeidi was dismissed; 142 CoR members voted against him, 102 voted in support and the rest of the 263 attending CoR members abstained.

b) 142 members was enough for a simple majority. The Iraqi Constitution (Article 61.8.A) mandates that a minister is dismissed on the basis of an absolute majority, which is 165 CoR members.

c ) Frequently-citied legal expert and two State of Law Alliance (SLA) stated that the requirements for removing a minister are a simple majority, contradicting the Constitution that states that removing a minister requires an absolute majority.

2.3 Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the allied Reform Front exploited internal rivalries within the Sunni political bloc to oust Obeidi. The Sunni bloc remains vulnerable to further fracture.

a) The Sunni political bloc, Etihad, is not unified. Obeidi's party, Mutahidun, is a rival to the Iraqi Islamic party, to which Speaker Salim al-Juburi belongs. Etihad has remained a fixture in the CoR out of necessity to counter Shi'a political dominance, but the parties are not cohesive.

b) Obeidi's removal was partly a self-inflicted casualty by Etihad. Obeidi accusations against his rivals within Etihad, including Speaker Juburi, during his questioning session on August 1, publically exposed a major rift between senior Iraqi Islamic Party and Mutahidun leaders, with Mutahidun leader Osama al-Nujaifi calling for Speaker Juburi's removal.

c) The Reform Front is the shadow political bloc that emerged after the parliamentary crisis in April 2016 in which a rump Parliament formed and attempted to oust CoR Speaker Juburi. It is covertly led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. 

d) The Reform Front exploited the internal Sunni political rivalry that led to questioning Obeidi to generate the necessary support to remove this key minister from PM Abadi's government.

e) Maliki has attempted to regain the premiership by weakening his political rivals. He targeted Obeidi to 

           1) dismiss a key ally to Prime Minister (PM) Haidar al-Abadi and 
           2) weaken Etihad as a force that could resist his influence in the CoR.

f) Obeidi's removal leaves the Iraqi Sunni political parties significantly weakened within the government. Speaker Juburi, himself the target of persistent efforts by the Reform Front to remove him from office, remains weak and vulnerable to a future no-confidence vote.

g)Internal Sunni disagreements and Obeidi's removal could complicate national reconciliation efforts between Iraq's Sunnis and Shi'a, essential to long-term success following the potential recapture of Mosul from ISIS.

2.4 The successor Defense Minister could be a worse partner to the US and anti-ISIS Coalition in Iraq. 

a) Etihad will likely insist that the Defense Ministry remain a Sunni position. However, the intra-Sunni fighting will inhibit any consensus on a replacement candidate. Therefore, should a Sunni candidate become Defense Minister, he will be weaker than his predecessor because he will lack full political backing from the Sunni parties.

b) It is possible that a compromised political figure may take the Defense Ministry, and may be more receptive to Iranian interests than those of the US 

c) A Reform Front candidate or a pro-Iranian Defense Minister chosen from a proxy group such as the Badr Organization may restrict US involvement in Iraq on the eve of major military operations to retake Mosul. 

2.5 All ministerial positions - including the Prime Minister - are at risk if only a simple majority is required for no confidence, should the judiciary uphold this reading of the constitution.

a) The precedence of dismissing a minister with only a simple majority puts all weak ministers and allies of PM Abadi at risk.

b) A simple majority can be as low as 83 CoR members. The Reform Front, a Maliki support base, is in reach of the numbers to consistently vote out ministers. Maliki could push through the dismissal of any minister, provided that he is able to exploit political differences to generate the numbers necessary to balance against opposition blocs.

c) CoR also began on August 25 to question Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the prerequisite for the vote of no-confidence. In addition, CoR Speaker Salim al-Juburi remains a target of Reform Front animosity and remains vulnerable to a no-confidence vote.

d) The precedence of simple majority may also put the position of PM Haidar al-Abadi at risk. However, it will be more difficult to achieve a consensus on a replacement for PM Abadi, which would result in the collapse of government and trigger the process to form a new government.

e) Iran and the US have also made it clear that they are not willing to see PM Abadi go, having blocked a previous attempt by Maliki to oust him in April 2016. He will likely remain in his position, but severely weakened and robbed of political support from allies.

2.6 Iraq currently has no Minister of Defense or Minister of Interior. 

a) The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are split between the Ministries of Defense and Interior. The ISF currently has neither minister on the eve of the Mosul operation.

b)The former Minister of Interior, Badr Organization member Muhammad al-Ghabban, resigned on July 5, 2016, following the massive attack killing hundreds of civilians in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood on July 3. The Interior Ministry is currently led by a deputy minister aligned with the Badr Organization.

c) Minister is constitutionally deemed resigned from his position on the date of the withdrawal of confidence. As with the Minister of Interior, it will be PM Abadi's responsibility to nominate an acting Defense Minister until a new candidate is approved. To date, a candidate for either the Defense or Interior Ministers has not been named.

2.7 The fate of US campaign to defeat ISIS by recapturing Mosul is in jeopardy.

a) US coordination will continue through the Joint Operations Command (JOC). However, Obeidi's removal will likely diminish the US's ability to effectively coordinate with the ISF on the eve of strategic anti-ISIS operations in Mosul.

b) Political inability to fill the vacant position will delay the timeline to recapture Mosul and the remaining ISIS-held cities in Iraq. The US's intensive lobbying effort among political parties to retain Obeidi in his position failed, highlighting the limits of US diplomatic influence within Iraq's shifting political environment.

c) PM Abadi's position to resist pro-Iranian overtures may be limited, especially if a Reform Front candidate, a pro-Iranian candidate, or a non-professional candidate assumes the Defense Ministry.

d) The US may lose its ability to operate in Iraq if a candidate opposed to the US and Coalition presence in Iraq assumes the position.

e) The fracturing of Sunni political parties will prevent the reconciliation of Sunni populations to the government, a requirement for strategic success.

Dibyendu Sekhar Kumar is an avid Defense enthusiast and a great fan of IDN. This piece on the Iraqi-ISIS war was written by him exclusively for IDN. Views expressed are his own.

Admin - IDN

L&T; Sets ₹2 Lakh Crore Revenue Target by 2021

L&T wants to achieve revenues of ₹2 lakh crore by 2021 without compromising on the margins and achieving an order inflow in excess of ₹2.5 lakh crore per annum, said Group Executive Chairman A M Naik on Friday.

He was addressing the shareholders at the company's annual general meeting (AGM).

Naik said: “We believe that the economic conditions are now starting to turn in favour of our company. Combined with the right strategy and on-ground execution, our target, though ambitious, is achievable.”

He pointed that the opening up of the defense sector will lead to business opportunities worth ₹13 Lakh crore over the next 10 years. With the resolution of issues relating to fuel supply and a clearer understanding of nuclear liability issues, the nuclear power sector is expected to grow significantly in the years ahead.

The estimated opportunity from this sector over the next 10 years is up to ₹50,000 crore.

Naik interacting with the media after the AGM said the ₹4,300 crore orders for making big artillery guns will come up in four to six weeks, and hopefully, the group stands to win ₹50,000 crore defense orders by December 2017.

Naik said that that the group is keen on restructuring Infrastructure Projects Development Company (IDPL), which hopefully will happen by March next year.

The power plant run by the group in Nabha, Punjab, will have to wait for restructuring as it is facing some legal problems, which needs resolution. The group’s debt equity is healthy at 0.35:1 and it will become healthier as it becomes asset light and consolidated, he said.

On the opportunities in the international market, Naik said that the opportunities in the Middle East have slowed down due to crash in oil prices. Many infrastructure projects have been suspended for at least three years. Therefore, the group has started focusing on new orders from seven countries in Africa and Far Eastern countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia,

Philanthropic Activities

Naik also shared his vision about carrying out philanthropic activities from his earnings as the Chairman of L&T.

He said he got motivated by his grandfather who helped the poor and underprivileged.

“My father also left Mumbai and went back to the ancestral village in Gujarat and joined an upcoming school as its Principal, which benefited 20 schools in that area. When I remember that work, I worry that what should I give back to the society,” he said.

Naik said that when the opportunity came in 1995, he had donated ₹4 lakh to a local hospital to build a new floor in the hospital.

Russia, India Discuss Superjet-100 Contract, Production of Ilyushin-114

NEW DELHI - TASS: Russia and India are in talks over future purchases of Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet-100 airliner, Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Aleksandr Potapov told Russian media in New Delhi in the wake of last week’s session of the Russian-Indian working group for modernization and industrial cooperation.

"Russia and India are conducting proactive negotiations with a number of Indian air carriers over marketing Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet-100 airliner. Also in progress are consultations with India’s aviation authorities regarding the validation of SSJ 100 certificates," he said.

The absence of a firm contract with India is the main obstacle to validation, he added.

"At the same time we believe that this is a very promising area of cooperation and we agreed with the Indian partner to push ahead with the work in the same direction," Potapov said.

Production of India’s own regional plane may become an important joint project in civil aircraft building, he added.

"At India’s request we’ve sent our proposals for launching a joint venture with India’s government-run aircraft-building corporation Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to produce Ilyushin-114-300," Potapov said.

The KPMG consultancy in the middle of last April published a report saying that India by 2020 will not only rise to the position of the world’s third largest aircraft market after the United States and India but also get ahead of them to rise to first place by 2030. Experts attribute the potential for such considerable increase to population growth prospects, air traffic’s growing popularity (at the moment no more than 0.5% of India’s population use air carriers’ services) and lower jet fuel prices.

Common Interests

As he looked back on the August 18 meeting of the Russian-Indian working group for modernization and industrial cooperation, Potapov said new cooperation guidelines were identified that failed to enjoy proper attention before.

"First and foremost this applies to civil shipbuilding, water purification, light industry and production of composite materials," Potapov said.

He believes that India is a very promising market for Russia’s export-oriented projects to sell mining and metallurgical equipment. The Indian side expressed interest in establishing cooperation with Russian metallurgical companies for the implementation of new projects.

"Lower import duties on products brought in for such projects might prove very helpful. The joint group for research into the conclusion of a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Commission is in the process of considering the possibility of lifting tariff barriers. Russia’s Industry and Trade Ministry is involved in the commission’s work," Potapov said.

India says it would like to cooperate with Russian research and educational establishments in advancing technologies for the exploration of deep mineral deposits, such as iron ore and coal.

"We see good prospects for joint work with the Geological Survey of India in the field of knowledge exchange, development of joint projects and technologies and joint geological exploration. Russian partners for joint work along these lines are being identified," Potapov said.

The working group also discussed the outlook for Indian companies' participation in ore mining in the Russia’s Republic of Buryatia.