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TEJAS and COMPETITIVENESS

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Tejas LCA Mk-1

While once I had lauded the fact that the nationalists had helped Tejas not being killed, today I mourn it. Today HAL is set to produce 8 Tejas a year. A target it hasn’t reached in 3 years. It is supposed to reach 16 Air Craft a year AFTER its 2nd assembly line becomes operational. In comparison, Lockheed Martin is set to produce 183 F35 a year. It is looking for a production run which will have F35 reach costs as low as the true cost of Tejas 1A before Tejas 1A gets into production. In the meanwhile, HAL employees have gone on strike. Further delaying even this snail-paced assembly.

HAL employees are supposed to come in cheap, in comparison to international labour costs. But has anyone calculated the productivity per hour per employee and compared it with any international company? Dassault did it, and found that a HAL assembled Rafale would take the construction cost of a Rafale nearly twice of its France assembled cost. The Su 30MKIs we manufacture in India is 250% the cost of having imported it off the shelf.

NOW, investing that additional costs into a local industry would have made sense IF that investment had built up home capacity AND that could be put to effective use. Has it? Has assembling Su 30MKIs EVEN enabled us to tweak them enough to create our own versions? Put in our own AESA radar (oh wait, we don’t have one yet), our own MAWS, our own ECM systems, our own wide panel dispaly, our FLIR, our own missiles…? NO. To do that, we have to go to Russia. We can’t even tweak the system. But we have paid 150% extra per aircraft to build, nay assemble, them in India. How much sense has that made?

IF we had invested that money in just ONE sub-industry, by putting in the money as VC into any indigenous system developer. Be it drone or assault systems or AC subsystems, would we have gotten a competitive edge? Profit via exports? A niche in the world market? Today we ONLY have costly aircraft and neither a home industry nor cheap planes. Finally, we don’t have an aircraft in which you can confidently send a pilot to fulfil a mission and expect him to return unscathed. For that, we had to count on the venerable Mirages. With the size of our defence budget, our chief antagonists know we can’t enforce our punch and power. Thus they act with impunity. Is this the best use of our defence budget?

HAL, uncertain about when it will actually turn up MWF is today trying to hedge its bets and is talking about a Tejas 1B. It talks loftily of AMCA. BUT, Korea, which already has its slated fifth Gen fighter mockup up, has come to the conclusion:

  • It can’t build a 5th Gen fighter. Thus it is building a 4.5 Gen.
  • It will need to get 21 vital technologies from US. Which it can’t. So it is getting US to create the basic fighter armature and components which it will assemble in Korea.

This is the same conclusion Japan has come to. Both have a much wider academic base, Military-Industrial complex, greater budgets…yet they are realistic in their estimates. How are we being so confident about our projections about AMCA? And what will be AMCA’s true ability? Another 4.5 Gen craft? AMCA won’t even have a third of F35 capability.

Dassault, which made a presentation about its future jet, will have its first prototype out next year, but hopes to realise the plane ONLY in 2045. Indians are making wild claims about its schedule while even a mockup hasn’t been made.

It’s great to have an Air Force chief to vote so strongly for indigenous tech. But, even as he made his pronouncements, we hear talks about US-India co-development of a fighter jet engine falling through. NO nation will help us build an aircraft engine. IF there isn’t even an aircraft engine finalised, how do we create a fighter with a timeline?

Tomorrow F35 will be cheaper than MWF. Albeit, its per hour cost of operation will be much higher. But whom will we be able to sell MWF to at that price? Even as all will compare it with F35?

All of India’s calculations is based on Pakistan and China not getting an F35 in the near future. Thus it is betting high on MWF. BUT, 5 years from now Bangladesh will have more than enough resource to buy a squadron or two of F35 (it being cheaper than MWF). I’d like to know who can state confidently that India won’t be shitting bricks then?

What can be argued is that getting an F35 (say) will mean putting our balls in US hands. But hey, how isn’t our balls not in their hands when we are getting the engine from them? And how isn’t our balls in other people’s hands when we are importing most of the critical subsystems? And remember, a number of countries ARE placing their balls in the US hands, cos F35 is going to be the most widely distributed fighter after F16. Finally, between F35 and MWF, in which aircraft will an air chief feel most confident about sending its air-warriors for a mission? What do you think the neighbouring response will be?

I am all for building capacities at home. BUT if we are spending money and that DOESN’T provide us with either cutting edge nor a competitive advantage, and neither are we able to export it (we can’t even export Bhramos, cos wherever we try to export it, Russia offers them Onyx cheaper) what do we ultimately achieve?

Avi Das

(Avi Das is a senior commentator on world’s defence, security and diplomatic issues. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on Twitter @Indusglyphs)

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Trump impeachment: Key witness says he was offered Ukraine defence minister’s post

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Donald Trump MSNBC

New York, Nov. Nov 19 : A key witness in the impeachment hearing against US President Donald Trump said on Tuesady that he had been offered the post of Ukrainian Defence Minister.

National Security Council official Lt Col Alexander Vindman said while being questioned during his testimony that Oleksandr Danyliuk, an influential Ukrainian politician, had made the offer.

At that time Danyliuk was close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but subsequently had a falling out and was ousted as Finance Minister.

Vindman was born in Ukraine and his family fled to the US when he was a child.

He and another official, who had officially listened on the contentious call between Trump and Zelensky, testified that they were concerned about the request he made to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son with regard to their involvement in a Ukrainian business.

Vindman said that Trump’s request was “improper” and could affect bipartisan support for that country leading to undermining “national security, and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.”

“It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent,” he said.

He also said that when he met Zelensky, he advised him to stay out of US domestic politics.

Vice President Mike Pence’s foreign policy staffer Jennifer Williams said that she found the request to Zelensky for the investigations as political.

A dramatic moment came when House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff was preparing to question Williams about a call between Trump and Zelensky on September 18. A lawyer said Pence had declared it classified which could not be discussed in a public hearing.

The impeachment case centres around Biden’s son Hunter becoming a director of the Ukraine gas company Burisma and receiving $83,000 a month from it, and the Vice President’s successful effort to have a prosecutor looking into the company removed.

Hunter, who was allegedly removed from the Navy for drug use, had no expertise in energy or Ukraine when he was appointed.

The Republicans want Hunter Biden to testify at the impeachment hearing, but the Democrats, who control the House, have blocked it.

The Republican leader on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, tried to put the focus on Hunter Biden by asking several leading questions to the two officials about his activities and Burisma’s corruption.

They asserted that they had no direct knowledge of the matters involving the Bidens, but the issue got a public hearing on national television and got on the record.

Another matter that Trump wanted to be investigated was if Ukraine was involved in leaking embarrassing Democratic Party emails during the 2016 elections, rather than Russia.

Schiff in his questioning of the witnesses emphasised that the US Intelligence Committee’s conclusion was that it was only Russia, and that Moscow was trying to shift the responsibility to Kyiv.

Vindman agreed that it was Russia and not Ukraine that was involved in the leaks.

Schiff also brought up the withholding of $1 billion in aid to Ukraine — which was subsequently released.

He said that releasing the aid was made conditional on Ukraine launching the probe — a point Democrats had made linking it to accusations of bribery against Trump.

The witnesses were non-committal on this aspect.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “To press a foreign leader to announce an investigation into his political rival, President Trump put his own personal and political interests above those of the nation. He undermined our military and diplomatic support for a key ally, and undercut US anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine.”

Nunes began with a scorching criticism of the mainstream media accusing it of being “puppets” of the Democratic Party.

After highlighting accusations since discredited about Trump’s campaign involvement with Russia during the 2016 elections as “hoax”, he said the mainstream media outlets are now playing up the impeachment hearings and the Ukraine factor.

Schiff has blocked the Republican request to call the anonymous whistleblower, who had set off the impeachment probe by complaining that from what he had heard about the July 25 call that an improper request had been made .

Nunes asked a series of questions about Vindman’s contacts with a member of the intelligence community regarding the call.

Vindman refused to answer it, and the refusal was upheld by Schiff.

Earlier in a tweet, Trump had hinted that Williams was a “Never Trumper,” one of those vehemently opposed to this his election.

His tweet said, “Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released statement from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Last month, Trump had also called Vindman a “Never Trumper”. He had tweeted, “Was he on the same call that I was? Can’t be possible! Please ask him to read the Transcript of the call. Witch Hunt!”

Schiff reiterated at the start of the hearing that the committee would protect witnesses against reprisals and cautioned against threatening them.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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Shiv Sena pushing Aditya Thackeray for CM delaying Maha govt formation

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Yuva Sena president Aditya Thackeray

New Delhi, Nov 19 : As talks between the Congress and NCP continue on a Common Minimum Programme, one factor causing unease is of Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray pushing for his son Aditya Thackeray to be the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

A top source told IANS that Uddhav’s pushing for his son at the helm has caused uneasiness in the Nationalist Congress Party with most NCP leaders not willing to work with a greenhorn like Aditya.

The NCP is also pushing for a rotational chief ministerishp for its party. The leaders of both the parties are ready to work with Uddhav.

A top source said the delaying of government formation in Maharashtra is not because of Congress but NCP chief Sharad Pawar “who is more apprehensive of the Sena than Congress”.

A source said the NCP chief has rightly said that they have not discussed government formation with Sonia Gandhi.

The NCP leader is wary of ideological contradictions with the Sena and its style of functioning.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut has also said that “understanding Pawar’s statement is not an easy task”.

As per the deal on the table, the Congress will get the Speaker’s post and a Deputy CM post in the government, while the NCP will get the Deputy CM post along with that of legislative council chairman. All the three parties are likely to get the same share in the council of ministers.

The parties are negotiating portfolios of Home, Finance, Revenue, Housing and Cooperatives in the state.

The Congress is likely to pitch for Home and Revenue, while NCP wants Finance and Cooperatives.

The Ministry of Cooperatives is perceived very important in the state as most of the sugar mills are controlled by cooperative societies. Shiv Sena will get the CM post, said a senior leader.

The Congress wants finalisation of the Common Minimum Programme before moving forward with an official announcement.

The CMP will have clear-cut objective on the issue of core agenda of Shiv Sena, as Congress is apprehensive about the behaviour of the Sena leaders.

(Saiyed Moziz Imam Zaidi can be contacted at [email protected])

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RBI affidavit details how it was ‘fooled’ by scam-hit PMC Bank

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PMC Bank

Mumbai, Nov 19 : In a detailed affidavit filed before the Bombay High Court on Tuesday, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has virtually admitted that it was ‘fooled’ by the management of the scam-hit Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank.

The affidavit, filed by Rajlaxmi Sethi, Assistant General Manager, Department of Co-operative Bank Supervision, RBI, states that PMC Bank had submitted fraudulently manipulated data to the central bank for sample checks, but “the sample of accounts picked for inspection did not contain undisclosed HDIL accounts.”

While the HDIL accounts shown by PMC Bank were seen by the RBI inspection team, a majority of them were declared as non-performing assets.

It added that the PMC Bank had also sanctioned mortgage limits to a wholly-owned subsidiary of the HDIL when the bank’s Chairman, the now arrested S. Waryam Singh, was also a director of the company — a clear conflict of interests and violation of the RBI’s Master Circulars to the effect of July 2010 and July 2012.

S. Waryam Singh also chaired a PMC Bank board meeting to approve the mortgage overdraft in which he was interested, again contravening RBI norms.

The RBI inspection team established the links between Waryam Singh and HDIL promoters/directors (now arrested), which could have helped them get credit facilities, and later to pay off one-time settlement of dues with other lenders, the affidavit said.

The scale of violation and the connected lending that was established, based on available records, was much lesser due to the ‘camouflaging’ resorted to by the PMC Bank, and hence what was noted was ‘flagged’, though it was not found to be significantly affecting the bank’s financial health.

On September 19, 2019, the RBI sent a team for the annual financial inspection of the PMC Bank and a thorough scrutiny of the HDIL accounts, with specific focus on the dealings and/or exposure of the bank with the HDIL group, besides other aspects.

The inspection was completed on November 2, 2019 and the report is currently being prepared, the affidavit said.

As per the preliminary findings, due to various financial irregularities, the PMC Bank’s networth had turned negative, with a significant erosion in deposits.

Detailing the “modus operandi of hiding the information related to HDIL exposure” employed by the PMC Bank, the RBI affidavit said they tampered with Management Information Systems and NPC Identification Process.

In this, the bank had given special access codes to the HDIL accounts with restricted visibility to less than 25 out of PMC Bank’s 1,800 staffers.

While running the script for system identification of the NPAs, it deliberately excluded the HDIL accounts which were thus omitted from the system generated reports of NPA accounts, and ditto with the Overdrawn Accounts list.

The PMC Bank’s own MIS software called ‘Opine’ had a script for generating lists of newly sanctioned/disbursed accounts, but the undisclosed loan accounts were missing from this list.

These irregularities were not highlighted by the PMC Bank’s concurrent auditors at the Sion Branch, where all these undisclosed accounts were parked though concurrent audits were carried out every month, the affidavit pointed out.

Besides, the undisclosed loan accounts to HDIL group, sanctioned and renewed by then PMC Bank Managing Director K. Joy Thomas (now arrested), were not recorded in the minutes of the Loan Committee, Recovery Committee, or the Board of Directors, though they constituted a vital source of information during inspection.

The affidavit said taht PMC Bank falsified information of offsite returns submitted to the RBI, false indent information provided to the RBI inspection team, and resorted to fictitious booking of profits, etc.

However, following a tip-off by an insider, a senior PMC Bank official, the RBI moved at top speed to arrest the slide and protect depositors/customers interests by slapping sanctions on the bank on September 23. It suspended its BoD and appointed an Administrator to evaluate the securities/collaterals provided by HDIL to auction them to recover the dues.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])

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