Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Let them die

Amir Kasav, the captured baddie is stuck in some unknown hellhole, where he is, if news reports are to be believed, alternating between lunatic taunting and suicidal sobs. Yesterday's TimesNow had the ticker that Kasav had reportedly pleaded that he be killed or else, "LeT will kill my family".

Well, guess what a**hole... thats just too bad!!! We don't care. And neither should we. Where was this concern when this worm-hearted pig looked through the sights of his rifle, and calmly shot down innocent civilians. Did he ask them if they had families? Did he think even a bit about families when he pumped in 3 bullets into Karkare's chest? Did he even believe that the people he filled with lead were little more that the pathetic little sh*ts that he had been brainwashed into believing?

Well, too bad for your family Kasav, but if you really were worried about their safety and wellbeing, maybe you shouldn't have left home in the first place. And maybe, just maybe, you should have thought of that when your mind was filled with thoughts only of killing.

((P.S. - Is that why we're getting to know so much about his family?? Make the job easier for the LeT?? I guess so))

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Terror 1: India 0

I think I'm going against the tide by saying this, but the Terrorists won, and heres why:

Objectives of the Attack

  1. Kill people - Achieved
  2. Successfully attack high value targets - Achieved
  3. Ensure widespread media attention to attacks - Nailed it!!
  4. Bring a general feeling of insecurity - Achieved
  5. Attack foreign and high value hostages to bring international reactions and reduce tourism - Achieved - India is now top 20 dangerous places.
  6. Affect Business by killing business leaders and hitting business targets - Achieved - expected 50,000 Crore loss to industry.
Our Objectives:

- The terrorists knew they would most likely die. So killing them wasn't a victory for us.
- They didn't take hostages, except at Nariman, and even there, they were all killed, so we failed again.
- Short surgical Operation - Failed - a 3 day siege was certainly not a success, even if it succeeded in the end.

The only way we can salvage a victory or a draw out of this is if we learn from it, and react hard and fast. Destroy the Terrorists and their infrastructure, because the terrorists still had a final objective:

- Strengthen the cause of Jihad and live to fight another day.

This is a long term aim (not too long term though - it has a shelf life of a few months, so we need to act fast) and the most important one at that, and we can make sure that by destroying them, they fail in the long run.

Indian Govt - your move!!

Post Mumbai - What should India do?

After the Mumbai attacks, the groundswell of popular anger seems to have caught our Netas by surprise. Not that it'll last. When the Chief Minister of a state says that "not even a dog would have looked towards his house", when talking about a Martyr of the recent attacks, it should be pretty clear how disgustingly insolent our political 'leadership' is.

The problem here is simple - the "lip-stick wearing" cosmopolitan people of the cities don't vote, and so, the Netas don't care. The votebanks in the rural areas don't know about whats going on, and are more worried about their own lives (which is understandable). So why should the Netas care about this "little incident" when it will not affect them in elections anyway?

So the simple answer to all those people who are venting their rage, or like me, are sitting quietly and gnashing their teeth - VOTE, YOU FOOLS!!! And if you think there is no one worthy enough to vote for, STAND UP AND LEAD!!!

Coming to the government's response to this, there are 6 questions the Indian Administration should ask about Pakistan and the attackers:

1. Who is Responsible?

2. Did they have any institutional backing - Pak Govt, Army, ISI.

3. Who is in control in Pakistan?

4. Is it in their interest to stamp out this terror infrastructure?

5. If so, will they be ready to do that, taking any means necessary?

6. Based on the Answer to qn. 5, how do we respond?

The answers we're getting till now are:

1. Unclear, but a clear LeT hand.

2. Less clear is the level of ISI support. Pakistani Govt's hand is notably absent (till now at least), but given that ISI is firmly under Pak Army control, that issue isn't ruled out.

3. Certainly not the Civilian Govt, which is still tenuous. Its almost certain that the Army has the govt by the throats and Controls all political, military and security matters, given the backtrack over sending the ISI chief. The govt seems to only have the control over development issues that the Army has no interest in.

4. Obviously not in the Pak Army's interests to stop terror - they are clearly supporting the Taliban and LeT, and have an even more active support for Anti-Indian terror groups.

6. Solution - How should India respond?

No easy answer to this, but a whimpering, weak position is certainly not it, neither is a repeat of 2002, which in the end, served no purpose except waste billions of dollars and weakened the economic growth.

Instead, I think we should engage the Pakistani civilian Govt, both with Carrots and Sticks. Zardari and his govt would want to stamp out these terrorists if they had the Choice. So give it to them.

1. Restart the covert operations against the ISI and terrorists (which had been closed down by IK Gujral way back in '97). Actively destroy and destabilize the ISI's hold on Pakistani policy and the terror groups.

2. Reactivate the assassination wing of RAW, which was closed down. This is no longer the time to wait for extraditions, which Pak will not do - US does not wait, and neither does Israel. Kill the 20 leaders of the terrorist organizations, and if need be, their backers in the Pak Military and ISI. This is no longer play time - gloves should come off.

3. Strike at Terror camps in PoK, either through air strikes, or through commando operations. Collateral damage be damned.

4. And Lastly, take a more active interest in Afghanistan - if need be, inject a battalion or two of special forces troops along the Pakistan Border (although I doubt the US will allow that), so that we can strike at terror infrastructure which is aimed at India - LeT and other terror groups have camps in A'stan and the border areas, but given that they do not directly affect US operations, they are being mostly ignored. That should stop.

Charity Starts at Home:

Unfortunately, without credible steps taken in India, we won't be able to respond in Pakistan. Coming to action to be taken in India itself, unfortunately, this is even more of a pickle:


1. Strengthen the IB, RAW and other intelligence agencies - make sure that they do not fall victim to bureaucratic bean counting, and have all the funds they need. Remove them from Political control, and force cooperation between them.

2. Create a parliamentary committee to oversee the Intelligence agencies (a la US). Keeping them under only the PM's control ends up meaning that they are controlled by bureacrats in the PMO.

3. More openness from the intelligence organizations - excessive secrecy usually means that failure is being disguised.

4. Stamp out the inter-agency wranglings with an iron boot. Tough to do, but absolutely critical.

5. Open up intelligence agency recruitment to everyone, rather than the present system of deputation. Senior positions must be filled by career spooks, not policement who are deputed to them.

Security & Policing:

1. Improve the infrastructure of security agencies - it is absolutely disgraceful that the 3 Mumbai top cops were shot and killed through their sub-standard vests, while the request for a 100,000 better vests were being held up by some idiotic bean-counter who didn't know a thing about security issues

2. Give the agencies more autonomy, by removing them from bureaucratic control. Civilian control does not mean bureaucratic control.

3. Make sure that the people (bureaucrats) overseeing security issues are trained in them, and not some blundering idiot who didn't know that Marine Commandoes exist and were stationed less than a mile away from the site of the attacks.

4. Give them more leeway to procure equipment by providing with a larger fund limit.

5. Anti-terror Capabilities:

  • Form specialized anti-terror centres in each state, with wings in all the major towns and cities, equipped with the latest technology, and given enough funds and a free hand.
  • Give them the support of intelligence agencies and anti-terror forces like the NSG in terms of training, cooperation and intelligence sharing. Remove the middlemen and allow these agencies to talk directly.
  • Set up dedicated SWAT-types forces in all major towns and cities, with dedicated air-wings to ferry them with speed. Set up NSG branches in major Metros, as mooted, with their own aircraft.

Police reforms are a must :
  • Right now, the constabulary in most Indian cities is absolutely uncontrollable, being in the pockets or some politician or the other. Get them out of political control.
  • Ensure that the top brass has a free hand in disciplining, suspending and firing their men.
  • Give the policemen good infrastructure, pay, weaponry, and above all, excellent training. Lathis are not enough. They need better vests, weapons, and communication equipment.
  • Strict retraining of policement - ensure that they stay fit, and keep up with Technology, and don't lose the grip over assault tactics.
  • Training - ensure that cops are well trained, and not just the officers, but constables as well - it should not be a Raj style leader-chela force, but a professional, thinking police where all are equally knowledgeable
  • In particular, improve the possibilities for transfer from the constable to Officer level. This is provide much needed enthusiasm to learn.
Investigative reforms:
  • Improve and professionalize investigation capabilities.
  • Split investigation away from law and order duties - Let police stations keep the order, give the CoD or a body of detectives the power to investigate all major crimes, such as murder, dacoity, terrorism, etc. Not only will this ease the pressure on police officers, who are both overworked and ill-trained, but will improve success rate in catching the accused, shorten investigative time, and make the results foolproof and free from external pressures.
  • Improve forensic and investigative capabilities by pushing money into improving infrastructure, equipment and technology - we should not have only 3-4 Forensics centres in the whole country, but a lot more - at least 2 in a state.
Legislation & Strong Action:

1. Bring back a POTA like anti-terror law.

The power of anti-terror legislation isn't in their deterrent capabilities, but more so in the power it gives the authorities to carry out extra-ordinary measures to investigate, prevent and prosecute such attacks.

Police need to be given the power to tap phones, surveill suspects, hold suspects for longer periods than needed, and to use aggressive interrogation measures (BUT NOT TORTURE) against suspects to prevent attacks or to prevent the perpetrators from escaping. Time is of the essence in such cases, and that means that extra-ordinary measures are needed. Added to that is the secrecy element, where suspects being in contact with anyone can potentially blow the whole operation.

It is inexcusable that we do not have any laws to take on terror. We need one, and right now!! The common human rights nonsense be damned. However, keep an oversight and a strict eye to ensure that these laws are not misused - judicial oversight of the investigations is the best way possible.

2. Stronger action against illegal migrants:

This section is a huge national security risk, and until they are deported, terrorists will find an easy support base. Political will is needed, as is community unity from those affected - Netas need to know that not taking action on this is not winning them votes, or love.

3. The will to strike:

Without a strong leadership which is ready to defy international pressure and ineffective international laws, none of the above will work. We need to have leaders who think like those in Israel. Political consensus is needed, and in the absence of, a strong will by the leading party to ram through despite opposition from even its supporting parties (who obviously have their own motives). Else, it will all be in vain.

Two thousand years ago, a Roman citizen could travel the world without fear, for if the safety of even one of its citizens was in question, the Roman state would respond with fearsome force, sending its legendary legions to destroy those responsible, even if they had to traverse a thousand miles. That is the level of commitment we need. Unfortunately, that seems to be absent from all but the American and Israeli Governments. Our own, seems to believe that a few hundred dead out of a billion is a small thing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


This is what happens when a nation thinks that it can defeat terrorists by sweeping their attacks under the carpet and trying to brush them off flies.

This is what happens when the nation decides to forget about their security when voting.

This is what happens when the concerned official cares more about his wardrobe, his masters and his own life.

This is what happens the leaders bicker about anti-terror laws and human rights but forget that even the thousand's who've died, and the hundred who died yesterday also had rights!

This is what happens when leaders think that supporting & condoning terrorism will get them votes from certain communities (the most disgusting height of stereotyping - as if the people who've died were only Hindus).

This is what happens when counter-terror agencies are not given technology, money, manpower or power, and aren't kept on a tight leash when they are.

This is what happens when you forget that those who died were people too, and not numbers.

This is what happens when we JUST STOP CARING!!!

Why is it that Gordon Brown talks of a "Vigourous response", while out great stooges only Condemn and Condole??

Will the government wake up at least now? Or are they waiting for their lives to be threatened (Dec 13??) till they decide that its time to act?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Youtube Terry & the Viral Video from Hell

If you've been following the defence aviation grapevine for the past week or so, you'd have surely heard about the so-called controversial video (Part 1 & 2) and comments by Col. Terrance Fornof of AFB Nellis about the Indian participation at Red Flag Nellis. Bharat-rakshak also had a lively discussion about the videos. Vishnu Som of NDTV, who was present at the exercise then gave a rebuttal to some of the points raised by the good Col on another BR thread. The other Indian DDM's obviously had a field day trying to rake in the TRPs by piggybacking on some of Fornof's "offensive" remarks about the Exercise and IAF.

I just saw the video (2 parts- 18 min), and disagree with most of the hyperbolic hyperventilators on the Indian side. The video was clearly an informal dinnertime discussion (listen to the clinks and clanks in the background) about the exercise, and given the video quality, location and steadiness I'm pretty sure it was an official video for USAF posterity that unf0rtunately (or fortunately??) got out.

Pilots are known to be a spirited and frisky bunch, and the language and enthusiastic tone of the talk, and the racuous response by the audience are indicators of this. Given that, its wholly unreasonable to expect these pilots to speak among themselves with a drollness reserved for diplomatic banquet-parties.

I will not talk about the factual mistakes that the Col. made, namely about the Su-30's engines, the Bison Radar, datalink and a few others... they are small errors that any pilot can make about an unfamiliar aircraft, and make no difference to the discussion itself. We can hardly expect our pilots to know what engine or datalink the F-16 has.

The major thrust was on three issues:

1. Su-30MKI, MKI vs F-22.

  • TVC - Su-30 vs Raptor
  • Size - big aircraft, big RCS
  • Comparison with the F-15
2. Indian pilots and their experience with the Mig-21 Bison.

3. Issues faced during the exercise by both planes and pilots.

MKI vs Raptor:

I find this the most complimentary portion of the video itself, unlike most who saw it in negative light. The fact that a senior USAF pilot is acknowledging that the IAF has bridged a massive gap and is slightly better than the USAF itself is a big admission from a very gung-ho and egoistic bunch of people (pilots in general, and not the USAF itself. Just to clarify, Thats a good thing to be as a pilot).

More importantly, that Fornof was constantly comparing the Su-30 with the F-22 and talking about how reassured he was that the F-22 was a way better aircraft is amazing. We already knew that the MKI is nowhere close to the Raptor, which is really a revolution in aviation design, and to think that the USAF was worried that the Su-30 might be as good, or close to it till they saw it in action speaks volumes of the MKI's capabilities. Remember that the F-22's capabilities have been touted as much for its radar and sensors, and the American's have not got a look at the Su-30s 'tronics at all. So we still have a lot of hidden cards.

The major point that people found contentious was the "drill-his-brains-out" comment. Too bad they didn't see it for what it was - just a passionate and air-force way of describing tactics. Having faced and developed tactics for the F-22 (which again, Fornof pointed out, was really a very long shot), they were able to apply these tactics to the Su-30 against new pilots. And here, Fornof pointed out that this advantage was a long shot anyway, and you'd have to hope that the opposing pilot was dumb enough to do that. And some of the inexperienced Indian pilots did (according to Fornof) do that on an inferior aircraft (to the F-22) and got killed as a result.

The big thing is - Fornof himself states that the INDIANS WOULD FIX THIS FAST as they learnt and then, we'd beat the F-15s and F-16s "ON A REGULAR BASIS". Its a compliment to our pilot's, especially considering his disdain for the French and sympathy for the Korean's inexperience. Seems like there were only two real forces at Nellis - US and IAF. The fact that the only chink the USAF could find in our armor was a long shot that would be fixed anyway is a testament to our strength.

Of course, it has been pointed out that no 1vs1s were flown at Nellis. And the Cope-India thing also, there was no chest thumping by the IAF (Fornof does not mention the IAF, but only says Indians - the DDM and media obviously thumped their chests till it hurt, so Fornof could be referring to them as well, with good reason).

A small point about the TVC on the F-22 - Fornof points out that the F-22's TVC is only for Post-stall maneuvering, while the MKI's can be used for normal maneuvering as well... I'm no expert, but that does sound to me like an advantage to the MKI.

And if the USAF is saying that the only way to fight the Su-30MKI is the Raptor, god help the Pakistanis and Chinese who won't have either.

Indian pilots & the Mig-21 Bison

I'll start with the Mig-21 Bison, which Col. brought up to talk about the experience our pilots have come out of
. Given the admiration he had for the capabilities of this 50 year old jet against even the modern F-15s and 16s, I think is a compliment.

The 1-vs-1, Fornof correctly pointed out (and most ppl missed) took place at Mount Home (as mentioned by Vishnu Som as well), but his points about having been drilled out has been rebutted by Som. I guess its a matter of perception, but even Vishnu has agreed that "there were days when several Su-30s were shot down". No aircraft is invincible, but as I mentioned above, given that the only chink (that we know of) that they could find was in the temporary inexperience of our younger pilots should be reassuring.

Just to point out, even in Cope India, 1 on 1 wasn't the main focus, as both USAF and IAF have mentioned. Another point to note is that Fornof was almost certainly talking about the sustained non-TVC rate, and talked about the F-15 being able to follow the MKI better than against a Raptor, after which the Pilot engages TVC on the turn to get an advantage. Again a case of not hearing the good Col. closely.

More importantly, he is extremely respectful and amazed at our zero error rate, which again shows the respect IAF has earned among their pilots.

Issues & Random points:

The point about fratricide has been explained by Vishnu, and is clearly not a fault. Fornof has not talked about the Frats by their aircraft, but the fact that our pilots have taken this issue so seriously is obviously another pointer that Fornof also notes.

RF Nellis, as the Col. mentions, is not like Alaska, which is a goodwill pageant, but a serious exercise aimed at creating coalitions - anybody says we're not respected by the US?? Fornof does mention (in a somewhat brusque manner), that we are not yet integrated with their forces. No one on this side of the world disputes that.

The FOD point itself was not so much an insult, but a matter of fact way of putting the point across. Fornof has explained about our reasons for the 60" spacing, and does mention quite clearly that a satisfactory workaround was found. Quite clearly no insult to anyone.

The major thrust of the talk was about how professional our pilots were, how good the Su-30 and even the Bison is, and how the ONLY way to be better is to get the Raptor. Simple. Nothing more, nothing less. What Fornof has said does corroborate to a large extent with what is coming out from our side. If it was only the casual and spade-a-spade manner of talking, too bad people listening didn't know a pilot's get-together from the Miss World pageant.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Letter to the Editor - ToI Excerpt

There is a superb letter to the Editor in today's Times of India (Page 13, column 6) that I just HAD to post here...

to clarify, this IS NOT a letter written by me, but it certainly does make one think:

Congress is destroying the secular fabric of India.

While the attacks on the churches and Christians is condemnable, what is really surprising is that none of the "secular" leaders of the UPA and the Congress have questioned how missionaries have granted themselves the right to degrade Hindu gods. It is as though Hindus dont have any sentiments. The Congress has time and again resorted to stamping on the sentiments of Hindus. The action taken by the Centre in issuing an advisory to the BJP government is immediate. But why wasn't a similar advisory issued during Raj Thakeray's anti-Bihari terror, during Hurriyat's anti-India tirade or during anti-Hindu attacks in Kerala?

The Congress confidently declared that Lord Ram never existed. Can it (or will it) similarly question the existence of other religion's gods? This central government seems to be only interested in trampling on the sentiments of lakhs for Hindus for vote-bank politics. This Pseudo-secularism is adding fodder to the agenda of the Bajrang Dal and the VHP. It is a shame that Hindus get such a raw deal in India. More than the BJP, it is the Congress which is trying to destroy the secular fabric of India.

- Hullas Jain, VIA E-MAIL

A most brilliant letter I'd say, although I'm not sure that the BJP govt in Karnataka can be let off the hook that easily... they are guilty of sitting back and watching (and through their justification, indirectly aiding) the Bajrang Dal violence.

However, the Congress' fleetfootedness in coming to the rescue of their votebank is admirable. If only they could continue that protective streak for the rest of the country's 1200 million people.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tickling a feinting dragon

Apologies for the outdated post you'll be reading... I'd planned to post it after the 2nd day of the NSG meet, but as things so often happen, I found myself looking at the train as it passed me by. Still, even though the deal is now done (Hurray??), I didn't feel like putting this piece to the trash, so here it is, a whole 3 days late.... Please give me your opinions.

The goings on in the NSG and out are laughable - and not in a good sense; more in the sort of laugh that movie characters end up giving when victory turns to impending doom, when there isn't any hope, and they're amazed at the unbelievable turn of events.

I'm talking of course about China's "U-turn" on the Nuke deal, after "expressing its support" for our Nuclear Ambitions earlier (goddam desi media can't read a thing right, can they?).

TimesNow called this stance "nuanced". Not so I say. CNN-IBN has termed it a "broadside". Not so again, Sir. I'm now expecting some half-assed TV opinionator to call it a betrayal.

Except that in the case of China's "turn-around" on the Nuke Deal issue, it really wasn't unexpected to close watchers of the game. Ajai Shukla has an excellent analysis of Chinese thought process on his blog (China's strategic thinking: A gold medal for mental gymnastics). That somewhat unrelated report has a lot of insights to apply to what our government is now facing.

Chinese thought, deeply influenced by Sun Zhe's classic on warfighting and strategic thinking, has a few principles that underline its actions. First, never fight a battle you aren't ready for - The "Hot Peace" is a common feature (a concept also elucidated by Chanakya). Second, don't do something (eg. lead a war) when someone is already doing it for you. And, if it does require, never hesitate to attack with all your might. And lastly, no promise can stand against an iron fist (as indicated by their repeated disregard for laws, treaties, and promises in their single-minded pursuit of national pride, strength and greatness).

Unfortunately, our own South Block Mandarins, hamstrung by their own personal problems, failed to read the Chinese, or if they did, weren't able to come up with a suitable battle plan. And all indicators say that they did anticipate such a move by the Chinese. Any reasonably regular reader of the diplomatic winds would have been able to see the storm coming.

The Battleground:

  1. China is absolutely wary of any nation being able to challenge it in any respect. As the new leader of the third world, it is trying desperately to bring nations into its warm, tight embracing fold of renmenbi (yuan for common folk), guns, aircrafts and technology and secure its energy and mineral needs for the coming 50 years.

    The last thing they'd want is a challenger to any of these, and certainly not one with such a strong hold over the energy routes as India, and even worse, a neighbour and an old leader of the poor (although that nehruvian idealism was both flawed and useless, and is now, dead).

  2. The US has already signaled its wariness of a powerful China in no uncertain terms. China already sees the US as an enemy (and an ideal of power that they look up to as well). Any tie up with India will (and already has) set alarm bells ringing in Zhongnanhai, PRC's corridor of power.

    Beijing's alarm of US doesn't extend to India, which it views with a more patronizing and condescending viewpoint (read any internet forum populated by Chinese posters, and you'll see the picture pretty soon, even among the civil and friendly ones too). That condescension only increases their eagerness to keep Indian interests far away from their (expanding) sphere of influence.

  3. Pakistan is a friend China needs, and not just as an enemy's enemy - the land route afforded to Xinjiang and energy security gained by removing the need to traverse the US-infested Malaccas is attractive to China, as is the foothold that Pakistan affords due to its standing among Muslim nations. And anything that is bad for the Land of the Pure is of concern to its leige-lord.

Still, China cannot take on India head on - not because of what India could do (honestly, with such a weak system, Indian responses to provocations have only made for dinnerside humor at the tables in Beijing and Islamabad), but because of what a spat between two heavy-weights will do to an image-conscious China. Their aim right now, and for the next 10-15 years is to keep quiet, maintain good relations, grow, become powerful, and then roar to subjugate the world, and report with China and dispute on the same page is bad. Neither would they like to take on the US, whose markets are sustaining Chinese manufacturing growth for the time being, and whose opinion matters to a whole load of Chinese business clients.

Hence, their reticence to come out with an open opinion about the Nuke deal. Till now, that is. However, this wasn't unexpected. As their sabre-rattling in 2005 alarmed our government into appeasement (whitewashing of the incursions in Sikkim, a flurry of official visits by the high and mighty among the Indian leadership, ignoring China's strategic throttling of our bilateral relations with neighbouring countries, courtesy their "string of pearls" doctrine, and eyes shut to Chinese barks on various issues).

The Game Plan:

  1. From the very beginning, it was China that had our guys worried. Early grumblings notwithstanding, the Chinese silence after that probably got a few hopes up, as did the improving bilateral relations (our perception as always). But a Chinese silence is no comfort, not to us anyway. Repeated attempts to get a clear opinion from them failed - coaxing, prodding, even wrong news reports (in the hope that Chinese reaction would shed light) couldn't move China to show its cards that early in the game (Patient waiting - another Chinese trait).

    It was here that we should have taken a slightly stronger line. Press China for a response. Heat up things a bit on the border issue as well as with our defense capabilities, while at the same time showing China what it had to gain by supporting us. Even better, get America to do that. Its a risky game - too little pressure and they wouldn't budge; too much and the opinion would only turn against us. Instead, we did the Indian thing and decided to leave things till they boiled - escape from the task at hand. And China was happy too. Wait and watch - strategy for battles, applied to statecraft.

  2. China didn't really need to talk or be heard till now - after all, they were able to ride on their lapdogs, the Indian Left's antics to scuttle the deal, and before that, the certain political wranglings within the Indian system. What they probably hadn't counted on was the Congress' determination to get the deal pushed, even at risk of death. Then again, they achieved a one years delay. Then, there wasn't much to be gained by talking at the IAEA, where only a simple majority was needed. Why do that when a no vote at the NSG would be a veto.

  3. The NSG was where China had planned to set up its ambush point. Classic military tactics here too - instead of meeting the enemy on level ground, attack and choke him where the road is narrow and chance of escape is slim; where you have a huge advantage.

    Again, if there were signs from the small nations that they would oppose the deal no matter what, perhaps China wouldn't have needed to open out. I guess Prez. Bush's decision to personally lobby for the deal with the dissenters and possible signs of easing off by them spurred the leaders to take control.

  4. The People's Daily piece and the Chinese spokesperson's comments are not aimed at India... they're aimed at the nations which would take solace in the knowledge that they'll have a strong nation to support them if matters came to a head. It was also a way of reminding people about possible reasons they'd have to say nay to the deal - Non-proliferation (however flawed and hypocritical the concept may be), hatred of US's overbearing attitude, or simply a way for them to squeeze something. Notice the clever way in which the piece talks about the reason why the NPT was created in the first place (India's '74 tests).

    Mind you, the game isn't over yet - the Chinese have a lot of cards yet. They'd still take the backseat, and not oppose the deal any more than they already have, nor take leadership in the issue. Leave the barking and fighting and suggesting changes to the smaller countries, and wait for India to say enough is enough and draw the line. That way, they can paint us as the stubborn ones, the ones to blame.

    Alternatively, they can quietly support a whole range of overbearing conditions. And in case all other nations decide that its not a bad thing at all, they may CONSIDER vetoing the deal. Remember, NSG is not an organization - its a cartel, where every member can veto an agreement.

    But this option will be dangerous for China, and one they'd very carefully consider before implementing. Chinese torpedoeing of the deal will bring them the unmitigated animosity of India and the US (although that will depend upon how the next administration looks at it). It will not be easy for them to destroy whatever progress they've made with India. More importantly, such an action could cost them the goodwill and support of some nations, which they've painstakingly earned after the Olympics. But that seems like a relatively mild prospect.

    In all likelihood, China will not keep itself at the forefront of this. It may back the smaller pomeranian nations that are barking away at the NSG, and have secret meetings to support them. But if America does step up its backdoor negotiations and probably give a tough word or two to the Chinese, they should grumble, but will most likely back off and abstain... either way, there is no way we can expect a Chinese yes vote for the 123 Deal.

But certainly, if China plays an instrumental role in destroying almost 8 years of painstaking embroidary, it will only earn them the animosity of the Congress Party. I see that as a good thing - a bright sliver in a very very dark cloud; for it will give us, a eunuch nation, a chance to act and think decisively (much like the Chinese). Take the strong line and act on it, unlike our previous all-talk-and-no-action farces.

If the deal goes through, China will be a big loser - not only will it have lost all its good relations with India and a good deal of support in US, but it will lose the trust of the nations it has been supporting. Its a zero sum game - India's win is China's loss; China's gain will be an Indian disaster.

My only hope is that if the deal does go bust, we will not think of it as a small disappointment. And if it does go through, we'd better make the Chinese know exactly what we think of them - in diplomatic style, of course!

A translation of the latest Chinese re is available at:

For those who think that this was unexpected, read this Chinese release from 2005:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tank Comparisons

Here is a comparison chart of Modern Main Battles Tanks that I've been working on. You're free to use, modify and share it according to the license listed in the document.

The license is as below:

As the creator of this work, I own the copyright to this document. I allow redistribution, copy and use this work with or without modifications is allowed under the following conditions:

1. Redistributions must retain the above copyright notice, with my name (Sniperz11), and this list of conditions;

2. Redistributions in modified form must explicitly state the fact that the document has been modified.

Any other rights are released by the author.

Some points to note:
1. I have tried to make it as comprehensive as possible, but not being a subject expert, the parameters for comparison elude me.

2. I have also strictly adhered to taking data only from authentic sources, preferably only the user or manufacturer websites. The source of this data has been indicated in the comments on each cell, and in the sources worklist. If you are also modifying this, I request you to do the same.

3. The information for some parameters, for eg, Armor ratings are highly classified; while there is no information for other tanks, like the Chinese Type-99.

4. Please ensure that you give data relating to the most common version of the latest variant of the tank. For eg, for Merkava, provide data for the Merkava Mk.4, or M1A2 SEP for the Abrams, and Leopard 2A6 variant.

5. As you will see, there are huge blanks in the document. I look forward to your assistance in this regards. If you are creating a new version, or modifying any information, please ensure that this is mentioned in a disclaimer/license text at the back of the excel sheet.

6. I request you to also create a seperate worksheet in the file, and list the alterations to the original file. This will make it easier to create a common version from many.

You can upload your version (please make sure that the filename contains the date updated and your name) on any site in the net ( is a good one; rapidshare is the among the most popular), and give a link to the URL on a comment to this post.


Download links:

Please let me know if there are any problems with the download or viewing. Thanks.

1. - Tank Comparisons_July 24 2008_Sniperz11.xls

2. Rapidshare -

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sick and Tired

Aah, the Arjun fiasco continues. One lacks the patience or endurance to care any more about what happens next. Even if the Army does accept the tank, it will do so grudgingly, defeating the whole purpose of inducting a cutting edge tank. The Arjun has given the Army a perfect opportunity to usher in a Revolutionary in Military Affairs (RMA) , and create a new operational doctrine for their armored Corps who have till now been working with old, Soviet Era tactics.

But it appears that with the T-Series, the Army is following the "Familiarity breeds contentment" logic. Look at the most vehement and mindless opposition to any opinions or directives to conduct an impartial evaluation of the Arjun.

Things will not change till new minds inhabit Sena Bhavan. Till that day comes, I can only wait and watch and gnash my teeth at the destruction of our indigenous technology and a potent weapon. We can only hope that DRDO doesn't feel the same and comes back with a vengeance with a far better Mk.2 tank that the Army cannot ignore.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Masterful Butchery and Rapier wit

The whole blogosphere seems to be heaving a collective sigh of relief at the Left-UPA divorce after 4 years of matrimonial horror (make that 3, counting out the first Honeymoon year). Doubtless that most of them fine folks favour a centre-right viewpoint (my observation in general), but even the most objective student of our present situation will agree that this cut is a good thing.

First of all, it took a long time for the UPA to realize that the Left parties were taking a free ride on both the pro-govt and opposition backs. By cowardly giving only outside support, they ensured that they could take their own viewpoints on different agendas and gather votes. I'm sure that when he made that momentous decision in 2004, Surjeet Singh would have also salivated at the electoral prospects of acting as a peacemaker and mediator between both sides of the spectrum.

Unfortunately, the great Carrot seems to have got his head spun backwards; sticking to hopeless dogma and strict overseas instructions in not budging. If UPA-Left relations soured in 2005, don't blame the nuke deal for it, the tension had been building the moment Karat put his fingers into the Central Governance pie and found the pudding soft, malleable and tasty.

And given the amount of pliability the Congress has shown the Left in agreeing to all their demands just to keep the ruling Dynasty in power, its not hard to figure out the reason for Karat and Cos' smugness. Unfortunately for them, the beam snapped, as beams are wont to do when pushed too far.

It is here that I admire the masterstrokes that 10, Janpath has wrought to the political Picasso over the past month or two. Regular readers of this blog would probably know that I'm not a great fan of the Congress party. While do think their local leaders are among the best there are, the micromanagement from the Central Dynasty has ruined it all. I'm certainly skeptical about Sonia Gandhi's administrative capability. The next generation of princes too worry me.

But for all the criticisms, We've got to admit, Sonia-ben is a dab hand at political masterstrokes, and regularly shows glimpses of her mother-in-law's cold, calculating ruthlessness (who can forget the coup that kicked out Kesri and brought her in).

In appeasing the Commies over the past year by keeping the Nuke deal in the background while gaining leverage from their co-operation during local polls, the UPA probably made a calculated decision to cut off the relationship before it became a millstone in preparing for the polls, and pushing through the related policies.

In effect, by wooing the SP close to them, and making the announcement in Tokyo rather than back in Delhi, the Congress upset the Left's well-laid out plans, and in one sweep of the blade, cut their leverage to nothing. Seize the advantage, and you win. It was a move worthy of Don Corleone.

Not only has Sonia's strategy defanged the BJP's assertion that the government is weak, but, with the SP in its pocket, has removed the Left's chances of cobbling together a Third Front next year. And if the inflation situation does ease out, we may very well see the Congress coming back to power with a similar, if not slightly higher number of seats.

As I see more of Sonia Gandhi, one's respect for her grows. Not for her idealism or administrative prowess (for she has little aptitude for the latter, and even less of the former), but her tactics. She has proven to be an excellent player at the game of intrigue, and a clever operative. Its Godfather meets James Bond. I can't think of any other leader who plays this game better. Advani may be a good mass mover, and Arun Jaitley a great strategist in planning polls, Sonia is more than a match for both in silent killing.

Unfortunately, The problem arises when she puts the family position ahead of the Party, refusing to yield power to the local leaders, and creating a web of local, infighting satraps. Karnataka was the best example of this disastrous policy. Perhaps then, its time that Sonia starts looking out for her Party rather than family.

Till then, lets pop the champagne at the removal of the Red boulder in the country's path, and pray that it doesn't come crashing down on the UPA during the next Lok Sabha Session

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Good riddance, Go left!

Today is the second independence day. India just got independence from China. The resident Chinese commissar CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat has no where to go back except the land of Mir Jaffers. Left parties today withdrew support to the UPA government.

Left parties accuse Congress of betraying. They say don’t believe Congress. They are right, 3 decades of my life and I have learnt to distrust Congress. But I have learnt to believe Communist. I always believed that they are anti-India and expect them to sell India to their beloved Papaland China.

Left parties say don’t vote for Congress in a nationwide campaign because of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Let me inform them that I never voted Congress into power and I do not intend to vote back them back in power. One of the main reasons is that they brought the anti-national communist to center.

The commies cohorts with national tax collector P. Chidambaram and his Italian master have made the common mans life miserable. The so called anti-imperialist commies were very comfortable working with the citizen of imperialist’s Italy. The only person the commies could not get along with is the Indian sardarji.

The commies say that communal parties are biggest threat to India. I say, I prefer suffering communilasim than commuist.

Today is a red letter day, the reds are out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Adm. Arun Prakash about the 6th Pay Commission

Shiv Aroor has posted an excellent piece by Adm. (retd.) Arun Prakash about the 6th Pay commission on his blog, LIVEFIST. It is an excellent analysis and a definite must read.

Check it out at

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

After removing poverty, Congress guns for common man

After the Congress (I) removed Poverty (Garibi) in India, they are set out to mend the common people (Aam Admi). Since there are no poor people in India left and naturally Congress (I) has to look for some other lesser mortals to liberate. Prudent policies under the watchful eyes of The people loving Communist parties, Aam Admi has been gifted with high inflation, ricing prices and of course the latest, the hike in cooking gas, diesel, petrol etc.

We thank you Congress (I), poverty is not an issue now. US president say’s that Indian middle class is rising and Congress (I) has legitimised it by increasing prices and inflation. Are the people dying of hunger like the farmers have suicided? No! It shows that Congress (I) has liberated the Aam Admi too!

Of course the Left, especially the CPI-M, which is a party of intellectuals and stands for text book communism are partners to the great Congress (I) achievement. Together they have managed to keep a fascist Hindu party out.

Read the rest of it

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BIAL - Thumbs down??

As Bangaloreans get their first taste of their new airport, most have been dazzled by the glitz and size; and comparisons are being made with the best airports in the world, something that any self respecting business traveller will scoff at.

And if anything, its just a matter of time before people start pulling the wool from their eyes - BIAL staff and Herr Brunner better have an escape plan then, and considering the way the 'completed' airport has been functioning, preferably something that doesn't involve them flying from their own airport.

The closure of HAL is a very very bad idea - the old airport was quite efficient, especially in its upgraded avatar. Entry was a problem, and there wasn't enough space, but it did have enough to easily handle 7 million passengers a year. Why then can the much bigger BIAL handle only 11 million? Where has our 3500 crores gone? Why has the, terminal whose size was only increased by 27%, claim to handle 300% more travellers? The Math on this seems wrong, doesn't it?

I give it a month or two before people start asking whats so great about the new airport. The Cargo terminal is nowhere near ready, ground handling is a mess, and the User Fee is astronomical. And if the problems aren't fixed within a month, there will be trouble in the air, and not just from Kannada activists, who justifiably have asked for the airport to be named after the founder of the city. It won't just be the IT guys, who were idiotic enough to support the great white elephant without reading the fine print (Educated people, Bah!!) and selfish enough to cheer on when their hero, the great Narayana Murthy helped negotiate the agreement that gave Brunner and Co. 150 km of free air, and 80 lakh Bangaloreans a whipping in the behind.

It will be every single traveller, who has to pay 700 for a Taxi, 1000 for the UDF and endure a horrendous airport experience in return. It will be common Bangaloreans, who will lose almost 10,000 crore Rs. because the Cargo terminal isn't ready and the government was a coward to protest. It will be the airlines staff, who don't have offices of their own or toilets or drinking water. And it will be the people who lost their lands and jobs to the new airport and were cheated out of employment because BIAL doesn't care about local sentiments. In short, everyone!

But right now, its still the honeymoon phase, where the passengers can walk through an airport that has no ugly ducts and a central A/C that actually works. Of course, there are a few voices of sense and foreboding in this madness - its a pity that no one in the positions to do something actually listens to them.

Devesh Agarwalji, the head of the Bangalore Chamber of Infrastructure and Commerce, and one of the strident voices of sense has a blog that demolishes any rosy reports in the paper - BIAL is no Changi, and it is far from complete, and nowhere near efficient or excellent. Check it out at

Lets hope the new BJP Government has some sense in its head, and makes the right decisions. Till then, keep your motorbike well oiled and fuelled, Mr. Brunner - you may need to make a quick dash to HAL airport to catch a chartered flight.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A thousand flowers bloom in West Bengal

Indian Left parties led by CPI (M) have been taking people for granted. After destroying West Bengal and Kerala economies, the Left is sabotaging the state of India at the center. While rest of India watches the current Left supported government in disgust, the common people of West Bengal, the bastion of CPI (M) and Left are set to ditch them.

As a good omen, for the first time during in three decades of continuous rule the red communist CPI-M yesterday suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands of the rural Bengal. The rural areas which hold more of illiterate poor majority were the main vote base of the CPI (M). CPI (M) led government inflicted the worst of atrocities on these helpless people during Nandigram and Singur fertile land acquisition by brutal force for industrial purposes. People were killed and women were raped, perfectly qualifying for a genocide enquiry by the United Nations.

Since, the help from a impotent central government failed to come, the people decided to vote the CPI (M) out.

The areas which have brought a new hope for the oppressed state of West Bengal are Nandigram, the whole of East Midnapore, Singur, South 24-Parganas and North Dinajpur.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A tribute to Narasimha Rao on the 10th anniversary of the nuclear test

Today is the 10th anniversary of the Pokharan II tests or the Shakti nuclear test. India was proclaimed the Nuclear weapons state. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was a Visionary, selfless and a tactician. He pulled the country out of the abyss created by his immediate predecessors. The visionary foresaw the changed world and navigated India through the rough years of 1990’s. One of his legacies was the run up to the second nuclear test in Pokharan. The tests did not go through due to various reasons, but, political survival or self interest was not one of them. The national interest was so paramount that he handed over the note to conduct tests to his political opponents when they came in power.

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government wasted no time and it tested the bomb. The NDA government came to power the second time. The first time it came to power was just 13 days. Not minding the fact that there could be adverse implications, they carried out the test. NDA carried on the policies laid down by former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao with ruthless efficiency and zeal. Not minding the self interest, the magnanimous Atal Bihari Vajpayee credited the due to P.V. Narasimha Rao. Such is the leadership that we saw.

Today we have a government which stands as an oxymoron to what P.V. Narasimha Rao’s Congress party stood for. The Congress is huddled together with undesirable parties like the CPI (M) to remain in power. While people are wondering why they are in the power when they cannot take decisions and people go through untold miseries like inflation, bad economic policy and non governance.

Congress is also exhibiting its usual tendencies of not giving the others their due credit even if it means recognizing the genius of its own visionary leader P.V. Narasimha Rao. The Congress led UPA is not celebrating this historic moment of the 10th anniversary of the Shakti nuclear test. A non event like Rajiv Gandhi birthday was celebrated with all pomp and show emptying the tax payers’ money. If that was not enough, they credit Rajiv Gandhi of things he did not do. For example, congress talks about Rajiv gandhi and the IT revolution. A year back, the Indian IT Czar Narayan Murthy had openly credited P.V. Narasimha Rao for the IT revolution.

Congress may sign the beleaguered the Indo- US Nuclear deal at last movement, but, it will be to late for India.

Not withstanding the Congress attitude today is a proud day for every Indian and we thank the visionary P.V. Narasimha Rao for his selflessness.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Pokhran II Anniversary - no cause for celebration?

Very often, new governments refuse to accept or reverse policies instituted by the previous regime. But its probably an India-special that we turn everything 180 degrees. The UPA Government has had a special penchant for this... and where the policies worked, they commandeered them by doing the thing they do best- giving them a Gandhi name. Family first, Patriotism and national welfare comes later.

Now, as we approach a decade of one of the Nation's greatest achievements , the Pokhran-II Nuclear tests (May 11 and 13, 1998), the UPA policy seems to be disgustingly clear - reject it! The UPA government has decided not to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the tests. And to explain why, Minister of State for Defence, Pallam Raju had this to say in an interview with CNN-IBN's Rajdeep Sardesai:

CNN-IBN Report

'Pokhran brought sanctions, so why celebrate it'

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government conducted five nuclear tests from May 11 to May 13, 1998, in Pokhran and in a few days it will be the 10th anniversary of the tests that announced India's entry into the nuclear weapons club. Many believe that those tests finally led to the Indo-US nuclear deal but the UPA government has decided not to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the tests.

Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju defended the United Progressive Alliance government's decision of not celebrating the 10th anniversary of Pokhran II nuclear tests.

CNN-IBN: Why would you not do a public celebration or a commemoration of Pokhran II?

Pallam Raju: First of all thank you very much for having me on this programme. I think when we you are talking about India's nuclear programme we have every reason to be proud of what we have achieved. And I think being proud of the programme in itself is a reason for celebration. I don't see any further reason to celebrate a detonation.

CNN-IBN: Mr Raju, you may call it a detonation, but the truth is with the Shakti tests India declared itself a nuclear power. The day has great significance and there is much reason to be proud of Pokhran in India's strategic programme.

Pallam Raju: Let's look at what Pokhran has achieved for India. Of course it has demonstrated the capability India has had. But the detrimental effects - sanctions have affected most of our strategic program that were of importance to the nation. So I don't see any reason why it should be advertise loudly about.

CNN-IBN: Many would say you are speaking this way because of a clear nuclear deal shadow. Many of the clauses in the Indo-US nuclear deal are after all nothing but a result of Pokhran II. And that's why perhaps there is a slight discomfort celebrating it. What would the non-proliferation lobby would say?

Pallam Raju: Looking at policies that India has pursued in terms of being a non-first user, all that speaks about the deterrence policy we follow. And being a very responsible nuclear power and we have not proliferated and India's nuclear record peaks for it's responsible behaviour.

CNN-IBN: Final question, it's not just about Pokhran. It's about the 1971 victory that you celebrate and the Kargil victory, which you don't. The BJP today says they agree Indira Gandhi started it and the NDA took the next step with Pokhran II.

Pallam Raju: We had the bomb ready and the NDA blasted it in 1998. So what has happened after the blast you know the consequences the country had to face? You know the sanctions that were imposed. Every important programme of the country suffered as a consequence. Against this background, is this the reason for celebration? We know what we are, we are conscience of our capabilities, we know the strengths we posses. What is the need to advertise for it and make a celebration of it?

Unfortunately, Sardesai didn't ask the minister the question that he should have asked - Mr Minister, are you saying that the tests were a bad thing? That would have unravelled his dhoti and shown the government's treason.

It was nauseating to see the minister denigrate our scientists and spit on all the positives that the Shakti tests achieved, just so that the Congress wouldn't give away brownie points to the NDA. Why should we celebrate the 1974 tests then?? After all, those sanctions hit us much harder than those after Pokhran-II. Why should we celebrate the creation of Bangladesh - look at the problems we face from that runt nation today?

In fact, when we celebrate so many days for idiotic reasons only because some damn fool was born with the Gandhi surname, why can't we celebrate something of substance, instead of - Sadbhavana Divas (Rajiv Gandhi's Birthday), Children's Day (Nehru's Birthday), National Integration Day (Indira Gandhi's Birthday), National Oathtaking day (Indira Gandhi's Death Anniversary).

The UPA can close its eyes to the truth, but few sensible people will deny that Pokhran-II put us on the world map, brought us to the forefront of the foreign policies of the most powerful nations in the world. The sanctions had almost no effect on our economy, and if we're able to look the world's biggest technological powers in the eye and work with them as equals, it is all thanks to the gains we made by indigenizing our military technology during those years of denial. If the government's flagship Indo-US Nuke Deal is a reality, they have to thank Shakti for that; if India has become a major power today, it is singularly thanks to Pokhran-II ; and if we're talked about as a counter to China, and wooed by all nations as a superpower, it is because of the tests. Till then, we were strong, but no one really cared; but blast a bomb, and the whole world comes running for your good graces.

But I couldn't have expected anything more from a party whose first priority seems to be their Prince Regent's performance in next year's polls. After all, these were the same guys who criticized the tests and spoke for China's interests rather than ours when we conducted them anyway. Shameful!! disgusting!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bangalore Airport - Daylight Dacoity

I suspect I'll get some heat for my rant here, but here me out.

For those of us who are celebrating the imminent opening of the Bangalore International Airport as a truly Indian achievement, the delays and the recent AAI strike should sober us down a bit, or at least get people thinking. The fact that the consortium wanted to pen the airport when the even runway and ATC were not completed should be a big concern. The strike may very well have been too little too late, and was probably politically motivated. After all, who can forget the eons it took to get the project off the ground, so much so that even the Prime Minister and Infosys Narayanamurthy had to intercede on its behalf.

But behind all that cheer about us getting an Indian Changi, and how efficient the new airport will be, its just a dream of mirrors. Heres why:

1. Commute - The airport is 40 km away from the city centre. Imagine how much that will cost per person. The planned airport shuttle train from High Grounds will cost Rs. 250 per person.

If you wish to take a taxi, its 29 km from High grounds, and 45 from J.P. Nagar side. Now multiply that two way, and you can see your pockets lighter by 600-1000 Rs. It might be slightly cheaper by Auto, but it wouldn't really matter.

You cant really expect to travel by bus with all the luggage, but even then, there should be some shuttle bus service, shouldn't there? Well guess what; there is. BMTC will provide bus service from different points in the city. The catch of course is the cost- It will cost 135 Rs to get from South Bangalore to the Airport. A taxi will cost Rs 600. Obviously, its the same cost if you're travelling with friends or family. And if you're flying low cost carriers, you may very well end up spending the same cost getting to the airport itself.

The road itself isn't that bad, as made out to be. There is a pretty good 6-lane Highway all the way to the airport, and beyond; and is being widened to 10 lanes to accommodate the increased traffic. The only question is whether that would be enough. The problem really is the last 2 km from the highway into the airport, where a cloverleaf junction is being built. Its not ready yet, and is unlikely to be for at least another two months.

The time of travel is another thing - it will take at least an hour or more to get to the airport (2 and a half, if you're travelling from South Bangalore), and another 1-1/2 hours once inside there. So if you're flying to Chennai, it might be faster and much cheaper to just take a bus. And you can forget about flying to Mysore - it ain't worth it.

2. Drop-off - After a long and tiring ride to the airport, encountering jammed roads throughout, you'd expect some respite at least, or a chance to sit and say a half-decent bon voyage. There again, you will be disappointed. Non passengers aren't allowed inside the terminal, and just like the present airport, will have to see the passengers off at the entrance itself.

There is no place to even sit, no seats, no benches. BIAL says there will be food stalls outside, which is a small relief. But with no seats, and so little space, its hard to see how this will not end up looking like a railway platform. Hustle, bustle, people running to the gates, non-passengers seeing off or picking up people, no place to sit... you can imagine. If the arrival flight is delayed, god help you if you're not the passenger but the welcoming committee.

And if you expect some shelter from the heat or rain, don't count on it, what with so much rush and so little space. So god forbid, if you end up getting caught in the rain, throw the passenger out of the car with his luggage, and scoot... that way, you might even end up saving the not-so-small Parking Fee. Of course, there wont be any skirting the hefty entry fee that BIAL is sure to soon levy as another 'User development fee'.

3. Refreshments - Now you're obviously thinking that there should be at least some hotel or rest area. No great airport is complete without it. And you won't be disappointed. If you're a millionaire that is. Hilton Hotels will be building a hotel at the airport. So expect to have your wallet considerably lightened by the experience.

Don't expect any drinking water points or toilets either - its probably hard to fit in civic amenities when your aim is to develop something for cheap and rip money from the passengers who don't have any other choice. Its unlikely that you'll find a Darshini there either. Even though there will be some food courts at the drop-off area, if the rates at HAL airport are anything to go by, the food at any stall in BIAL would not come cheap. So pack your own food and get your own chairs. In fact, if you are so finicky about money, stay at home and let the traveler hitchhike his way to the airport.

4. Inside the Terminal - If you expect a Changi out of BIAL, dont hold your breath over it. The terminal isn't grand, and will certainly not take your breath away. Sure, the terminal is one big building that will be able to handle 11 million passengers annually. But I would have liked to see something that looked more colorful, with better furnishing, rather than the sparse factory-floor look that it has now.

The 54 Check-in counters are modern and will be integrated, that is, there will not be an airline specific, and anyone can check in anywhere. There will not be any messy and time-consuming pre-screening of the baggage - it is all done after check-in, in an automated luggage transfer system which will have a 3-level security screening, in line with most modern airports.

Then, you take a lift or escalator up a level to the main departure area. The immigrations and customs will also be a breeze, like in the present airport (its not sarcasm. The upgradation work on the Immigration counter has made the process smooth as hell). There will obviously be the premium priced shops for super-rich travellers. And thats where the comfort ends. and rows and rows of seats that can seat 10-12 plane-loads of travellers, like on a railway station platform.

Unfortunately, for an airport that claims to be built to cater to 11 million people a year, the planning doesn't seem to show that. For one, the terminal is far too narrow. There is far too little room between the escalators and the customs counters, which means that on a busy day, there will be massive pileups at the escalator area, which is a big safety concern, especially if people on the escalator have no space to get off.

There are only 4 small escalators and two small 8-man lifts along the whole terminal, and it certainly doesn't seem equipped to take the traffic load. And if one escalator does break down, the stampede at the only staircase would be worse than a cricket stadium gate during the World Cup Finals.

The final crib till I get a better look at the Airport - it doesn't have a nice big information board that most airports have. Imagine people searching for and trying to crowd around the small LCD TVs that BIAL says it will install. Not a nice sight.

5. Arriving in BIA - Arriving passengers at the airport will surely have a better experience than they have at the present airport. For one, no more ducts and pipes; and much better shopping. But there are a few issues. One, for a facility thats looking at becoming a major player in the Air travel market, and hopes to become a major hub for transit passengers, the infrastructure is shockingly inadequate. For one, there is no transit hotel or lounges for passengers. In fact, even in the master plan, there is no mention of a hotel. The only option for those on long layovers is if they have a India visa, they can stay at the Hilton. Otherwise, very sorry mate, but its the waiting seats for you.

Once they exit the plane, the passengers will have to walk through a narrow passageway and take a set of stairs down (overcrowding problem here as well), after which they will walk through a small area to collect their luggage... it looks more like a warehouse than it does a modern airport. The walk from the gates to he immigrations counter is a narrow passageway, and unlike the rest of the airport, is quite dark. The number of counters also seems a bit too small to handle peak hour rush.

The baggage collection area itself is as bad as HAL. See the picture.. there are only 4 carousels - 3 for domestic passengers and 1 for international arrivals - not nearly enough for a 'hub' which must handle 11 million people a year and up to 50 million passengers (when Phase 2 is complete).

6. Expansion plans - Which brings us to the so-called "BIAL Master Plan". Essentially, with 4000 acres of land and such a small terminal, BIAL has so much free land that they dont know what to do with it. There will be another runway and another terminal just like the present one, with an underground train linking them. They finally hope to have 60-80 gates, but looking at the present terminal, I find it hard to believe that their 50 million target is achievable. The present airport can handle 11 million, but only just. cranking that number up four and a half times with only a doubling in capacity will need a lot more planning and building.

They have 250 hectares of land which they plan to lease out to developers for building malls, tech parks, hotels, flats, and what not. Space that could have been used to plan for a third terminal (when the traffic will easily increase to about 35-40 million passengers per year), is being diverted to make money for the builders. No problem with it- after all, they also have to make money. The issue crops up when they decide that the money comes before user comfort. Additionally, the present number of beltways is nowhere close to anything needed for a full scale international airport. Right now, International flight timings are strictly limited. But if we want a truly international airport, these restrictions are a bad thing. In order to remove these restrictions, the airport needs more infrastructure.

7. Show me the Money - Finally, looking at the money, its clear that BIAL stands to make a killing - they've got a 60 year lease at the nominal amount, they have a 150 km no-airport zone (although, if the HAL airport continues to function, that will change for the better), and they have large tracts of land to give away to developers. Finally, above all that, they are overcharging the already-burdened passengers for using the airport. This after the poor sod (me included) pays through his nose so that the Airlines can pay through their noses to the Airport - higher fuel charges (not completely the airport's fault of course), Berthing charges, MRO charges and other misc. payments. And these fat fees will be borne by the passenger, who has to spend another 500 Rs just getting to the airport.

Now, if 8 million passengers pass through the airport each year, and about 20% of them are international passengers, who pay 1000/- Rs as User Development Fee, and the local passengers about 500/- Rs. That comes up to 480 Crore Rs. each year. Which means that BIAL can easily recoup their investment within 5 years AT MOST. And thats counting only the UDF!!! Imagine the amount of money they're rolling in with the Airline fees an land development money coming in. And now figure out why passengers are unhappy.

The Positives:

Now, before you get the impression that I'm all rant and no admiration, hold that thought. BIA is very well developed, and certainly does look good, at least from the outside. Its miles better than HAL, whose exposed pipes and AC ducts give one the feeling that he's a piece of luggage being transported. The airport will also be much cleaner and presentable than the present one.

The airport is extremely well lit, with a whole load of energy saving and eco-friendly features to cope with this post-Inconvenient Truth world. the large number of check-in counters means that no one will need to wait more than 10 minutes to check in. The check-in counters will not be airline specific, which means check-in anywhere. This is a good idea, but may be a problem for passengers who are in a hurry or when airline-specific counters is needed. Mind you, even most of the best airports today do not have common check-in yet.

It may also not look favorable compared to other airports around the world. For one, the amount of money spent, 2000 crore Rs., is far less than other countries spend on their airports; so it might be a little hypocritical asking for wine while paying beer money. But then, for a city that wants to call itself modern and world class, we should have paid a lot more to build a better airport, especially when even a smaller city in China has a billion dollar swanky airport that stuns everyone who enters. Look at the new Beijing Airport, and you get an idea of the pride they take in building these edifices. We've built functional, stripped-down airports; the Chinese make them functional, and then add a billion dollars to make it an architectural marvel.

What I think:

Overall, the Terminal building itself is reasonably modern looking. Its not a bad looking building at all. My grouse is that they built it so conservatively, and even after that, didn't make it functional enough, which will make it crowded and difficult to navigate around very soon. Even after that, they're overcharging the passengers. I think it won't be too long before the honeymoon and glitter wears off, and large numbers of passengers end up grumbling. The problem isn't the airport building per se, but the whole experience for the users. Its an expensive experience, and I think it won't be a comfortable one either. At least not unless BIAL decides to make some drastic changes to their operating paradigm.

Photos used with permission of Flickr user Photoyogi, from the BIAL visit photoset.

See Also:

Bangalore Praja:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Paying for security

This isn't a post with my opinions in it; just a couple of news reports that I found very interesting. Unfortunately for our Armed Forces, this year hasn't been a good one for them, personally that is. After getting peanuts from the Budget (where else do you think Chidu-burr-rum, our educated and erudite, but ultimately spineless Finance Minister got the money for his sops to buy votes next year?), they've been screwed over by the Pay Commission.

The Armed Forces, after years of silent forbearing, finally decided that enough was enough - the men, at least. Thankfully, the Government, alarmed by the 200 high grade officers who put in their papers, decided to take a look and placate them. The Defence budget though, was somewhat forgotten...

In all the hoopla about the budget, most channels only had time to say that the defence budget had been hiked. What they conveniently forgot to mention was that overall percentage-wise, the budget actually fell, and alarmingly, to less than 2% of GDP. India should ideally spend around 3% of GDP on defence. This is a truly terrifying prospect when we consider that China is spending three times our own spending on its forces; and combined with its clamour over Tawang, the hard-nosed rhetoric from Beijing and its expanding tentacles across our Sphere of influence, it should have woken up the government to the threat that's been knocking on our door for some time now. Unfortunately, the sloth over essential defence deals seems to suggest otherwise.

Now, finally, the MPs have taken up the issue in parliament:

MPs want defence spending to match buildup by Pak, China

Concerned over the "sharp decline" in India's air and naval assets, members in Lok Sabha on Tuesday demanded a hike in defence spending to match the military build up by China and Pakistan. This was for the first time in more than 10 years that Lok Sabha took up for voting the Demands for Grants of the Defence Ministry which were earlier guillotined along with most of the Demands for Grants.

Participating in the discussion, members made a strong pitch for hiking India's defence spending in GDP terms to speed up acquisitions and modernisation of the armed forces. They said though India's defence spending had been considerably increased, the country had yet not been able to bring its air and naval power to the authorised level.

"This is a matter of grave concern," T P S Rawat, a retired Lt Gen and a new BJP member, said initiating the debate and demanded that the military expenditure be sustained at three per cent of the GDP for some years to enable India to equip its forces with advanced weapons systems and platforms.

Pointing out that in 2004-05 the defence budget was 2.41 per cent of the GDP, while for the current fiscal it was just 1.99 per cent of the GDP, Rawat said such a trend would have adverse impact on defence preparedness of the country.

He said government should bear in mind the budgetary allocations of Pakistan (3.5 per cent of GDP) and China (4.3 per cent of GDP) which are developing nuclear arsenal and anti-missile technologies, a potential threat to the country.

Lets hope that the Government actually takes their advice. There are far too many critical requirements that are being strangled by red-tape and corruption. I'm scared, I admit. Scared at the prospect that we may actually end up losing a war to Pakistan. And I'm sorry to say, if we do have a war within the next 3-4 years, there isn't really much we have to win it with. General Malik's quote, "We'll fight with what we have", will be the only thing that our Generals will have to say then; except that we won't be fighting men on mountaintops with only assault rifles and stingers.

1. Helicopters - The Helicopter deal, which is meant to replace the old Chetaks, and is essential for heliborne operations and transport of supplies. Apart from being essential to keep our Jawans in Siachen and other areas well supplied, in times of war, Military Utility Helicopters play a critical role in quickly moving troops and supplies to areas where they are needed most, moving the wounded out, and acting as critical elements in any high intensity, high mobility warfare.

2. Artillery - Artillery isn't the flashiest element in any operation, but its the most important. The Gulf War wasn't won by Tanks. It was won by Artillery. Kargil was won by the Bofors; the 1967 Nathu-La attacks by the Chinese were beaten back by our strong artillery. The problem is, we only have 350 155 mm guns left. So if there is indeed a war, we won't have anything to stop the enemy; our troops will not get critical fire support. In short, we'll lose. As for wheeled and Self Propelled Artillery pieces, the less said, the better.

Of course, this doesn't really concern our Soniaji, who is more worried about her Munna and her reputation rather than the lives of our Jawans. I can only pray that the next government actually cares.

3. Aircraft - The Chief of Air Staff, ACM Major has warned us that at this rate, our IAF will end up worse than the PAF. This is something that everyone should heed, not ignore as a Cassandra warning. Even when we were strong, Pakistan never hesitated to attack at the smallest sign of weakness. Imagine if we're weaker than them. What if an Islamist government comes to power in Islamabad? We need aircraft, and fast - the 126 aircraft MRCA has taken too long already. Right now, nothing short of a whipping is needed to get our procurement machinery on its wheels.

As for pay, its disgusting that we don't even care for our soldiers who willingly lay down their lives for our safety and prosperity. Forget honoring them, we don't even care to pay them well... And they have most justifiably complained. It is a testament to their dedication and values that they haven't revolted. But having heard their complaints and woes, its only a matter of time before they quit in disgust or throw down their weapons.

And its not only our soldiers, but our scientists as well. The Week has this report:

Brain damage
Strategic scientists feel short-changed by Pay Commission
By R. Prasannan

It was meant to be a cure-all pill. But the Sixth Pay Commission seems to have hit the brain badly. The country's space, atomic and defence scientists-who have launched satellites, are sending a moon probe, building missiles, rockets, warships and tanks-are the most disappointed lot. Worse still, they feel that the Pay Commission's recommendations would render their advanced labs into training ground for foreign companies.

As it is, the strategic science departments have a high attrition rate. Around one-sixteenth of those who join are leaving the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has 41 labs dealing with globally-denied missile science to cutting edge-technologies in food preservation. Atomic energy has a sanctioned strength of 35,519 posts, but only 32,855 personnel. The Department of Space is supposed to have 17,386 personnel, but is making do with 14,058.

Scientists feel that the pay panel has given them little more than this lip-service. "There had been proposals to offer incentives to strategic scientists. But I don't see anything of that kind. I think we have missed another opportunity," said Dr Amitav Mallik, former DRDO scientist and member of the National Security Advisory Board.

Scientists had suggested that they be paid one per cent of the contract value of technologies transferred to the industry. This has been rejected. No luck also for a demand for incentives for publishing scientific papers, or for a paltry Rs 20,000-price for filing a patent. Interestingly, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research shares with its own scientists 60 per cent of the royalty received from technologies transferred to industries. A similar demand by strategic scientists has been rejected.

To prevent intellectual stagnation, scientists had demanded that the bright ones among them be encouraged to go on sabbaticals, as university teachers are. The commission rejected this and instead recommended contract appointments to bring about flexibility between government and private sectors. Even a demand for adjunct appointments, as visiting professors in universities, has been turned down.

Scientists point out that very few of their demands have actually been for money. The perks they were asking for were aimed at intellectual advancement, and a more academic career life. "Most demands, on the other hand, were for enhancing the quality of scientific talent available to strategic science laboratories. But the commission seems to have looked at them merely from an accountant's point of view," said an Ahmedabad-based space scientist.

Scientists are peeved that they continue to be treated like administrative personnel. Like the armed forces who have got their special status recognised through a military service pay, they had asked for an intellectual capital pay. This could be effected by amalgamating the three strategic science departments into an India Technical Service with different pay scales and perks. The demands have not even been discussed, though the commission pays lip-service to "the pre-eminent status" of the three strategic scientific services with a separate chapter on them.

Scientists point out that since their promotion system is merit and performance-based, their salaries should reflect the intellectual effort they have to put in. "At higher levels, promotions take place after evaluation by scientists from outside the departments. Since the scrutiny and evaluation is stricter, their work also demands better remuneration," said Dr A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

Even a demand for a hazard allowance for those working on explosives (given to ordnance factory workers) has been turned down. Instead the commission said they could be given insurance, which scientists consider as blood money. Similarly, armed forces personnel deputed to posts like Leh in Ladakh get a high altitude allowance, but defence scientists working along with them in the same field research laboratory don't. "We also go on submarines, work on risky airborne experiments, and conduct field trials in deserts," said a DRDO scientist. He recalled the crash of the experimental Aerial Surveillance Platform 10 years ago in which half a dozen scientists, who were fitting a rodome on an experimental aircraft, died. "If test pilots are given an allowance for flying unproven aircraft, why can't we be extended the same allowance?" he asked.

Many of the younger scientists even suspect that the recommendations have been tailored to suit the interests of multinational R&D companies. "There are not even half a dozen companies in the world who can build jet engines," said a scientist at the Centre for Airborne Systems, Bangalore. "I have been working here for 15 years for the sheer pleasure of being part of a team that develops systems that you won't get even in Europe. I have spurned offers from Lockheed Martin and British Aerospace. I bought my first Maruti three years back. Even a receptionist in those companies drives better cars." Lockheed Martin may get him this year; next year he may be driving a Mercedes. (read more)

And you wonder why DRDO struggles so much?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Daily pill of Defence - 12 April 2008

CBI chargesheets former RAW officer
Yahoo News

The CBI on Wednesday filed a chargesheet against a former senior officer of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for divulging "top secret" information in his book, which alleged corruption in country's external intelligence agency. Accusing both author Maj Gen (retd) V K Singh and publisher of the book - India's External Intelligence, Secrets of Raw - Vivek Garg, the CBI filed its chargesheet under two different sections of the Official Secret Act, 1923 in the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate here. (read more)
Indian Navy reaches North Pole

The Indian Navy team has reached the geographic North Pole at 2016 Hrs (local time) on the night of 9th April 2008. Having created many a records in the past including the successful ascent of Mt. Everest in 2004 and ski traverse to the geographic South Pole in 2006, the team of ten officers and men of Indian Navy set out for a historic ski traverse to The North Pole at 90° North. The team reached North Pole yesterday night, thereby becoming the first ever Indian Team to have successfully ski traversed to both the geographic poles. Three of the ten members have also joined the elite club to successfully complete the “Three Poles” Challenge. (read more)
See Also: MoD Press Release - Times of India - The Statesman - The Telegraph - The Hindu -
French company attempted illegal export of sensitive technology to Iran

Cryostar SAS, formerly known as Cryostar France (”CRYOSTAR”), a French corporation, headquartered in Hesingue, France, has pleaded guilty in a US court to conspiracy, illegal export, and attempted illegal export of cryogenic submersible pumps to Iran. (read more)
Fight for Sadr City a Proving Ground for Iraq Military
Michael R. Gordon, New York Times

The Iraqi soldiers pushed their way up a main thoroughfare in Sadr City over the past week, but the militias that still prowl the Shiite enclave were sniping at them from the alleyways. So a platoon of American troops drove up a bomb-cratered road in their Stryker vehicles on Thursday to give the Iraqis some pointers on how to hold the line.
The struggle for control of Sadr City is more than a test of wills with renegade Shiite militias. It has also become a testing ground for the Iraqi military, which has been thrust into the lead. (read more)
India to invite bids for purchase of 312 helicopters
The Hindu Business Line

Close on the heels of floating multi-billion dollar global tenders for buying long-range artillery guns, India plans to invite international bids for purchase of 312 light helicopters. The tenders for these helicopters, 197 for the army aviati on and another 115 for the air force, are to be floated in the next few days and are estimated to be worth over $2 billion. (read more)
See Also: Times of India - Economic Times - Zee News - Thaindian