Nagpur, Jan 16 (IANS) Nagpur-based Indian Army officer Lt Col Prasad Bansod has developed the country's first indigenous 9 mm 'Machine Pistol', an official said here on Saturday.
Working with the Infantry School, Mhow (Madhya Pradesh), Bansod, 39, developed the pistol in a record four months with assistance from ARDE, Pune.
Named 'ASMI' - symbolising pride and self-respect - the machine pistol's empty weight is less than 2 kgs and it costs less than Rs 50,000.
Unlike the conventional pistols which can fire only one round at a time, 'ASMI' can also fire in a machine-mode its entire load of 33 rounds in one shot, almost like a mini-machine gun, explained the official.
Sporting an upper receiver made from aircraft-grade aluminium and lower receiver of carbon fibre, the pistol has been manufactured through 3D printing process including trigger components made by 3D metal printing.
The barrel is 8 inches long with 33 rounds of high-capacity magazine and the weapon fires the in-service 9 mm ammunition.
"The weapon has a huge potential in the armed forces as a personal weapon for commanders, tank and aircraft crew, radio-radar operators, other categories of security workers, besides VVIP protection and policing duties and in the civilian domain," said the official.
Officials are optimistic that Bansod's 'ASMI' is likely to find huge employability within the central and state police organisations, besides a huge export potential as the production cost would be well under Rs 50,000 per weapon.
Swedish aerospace and defence company, the Saab Group said that it was contracted to sell two advanced airborne surveillance systems to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
According to Saab's statement on Monday, the company has "received a follow on contract with the UAE regarding the sale of two GlobalEye systems, Saab's advanced airborne surveillance system", Xinhua news agency reported.
"The order value is $1.018 billion and the contract period is 2020-2025," it added.
Saab said that GlobalEye provides simultaneous air, maritime and ground surveillance.
It combines sophisticated radar technology with the ultra-long-range Global 6000 aircraft from Bombardier.
The company also said that the work will be carried out in Gothenburg, Linkoping, Arboga, Jarfalla and Lulea in Sweden and in Centurion, South Africa.
Founded in 1937, Saab serves the global market with world-leading products, services and solutions within military defence and civil security.
New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) : The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chief G. Satheesh Reddy on Friday asked scientists to focus on next-generation needs including cyber security, space and artificial intelligence.
"The immense potential available in DRDO has been a catalyst for the development of industries in the defence manufacturing sector," the DRDO Chief said observing the 63rd Foundation Day of its establishment.
Reddy also met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and presented him a model of Akash Missile System, which is recently cleared for export.
While addressing the scientists, Reddy said that the academic institutes, research and development organisations and industry need to work together on the advanced and futuristic technologies to make India self-reliant in the defence sector.
He mentioned that a number of SMEs and MSMEs are supplying small components to subsystems for all DRDO projects and have been nurtured by DRDO.
"Now they have become partners in all new developments," said the DRDO adding that that the institution conducts a competition dare to dream for startups and very enthusiastic response have been received.
He further added that at least 30 startups should be supported every year to develop innovative products for our forces.
He said that DRDO should make efforts towards strengthening long-term ties with the academia and aim to leverage the academic expertise available in the country and increase the synergy with them.
"DRDO should concentrate on applied research and translational research and then make prototypes from the applied research," Reddy said. He further said, that the industry should be in a position to adopt these technologies and have necessary infrastructure, and scale these up to market with sustained quality.
Chairman DRDO also launched an Online Industry Partner Registration Module to simplify the process of vendor registration.
DRDO was established in 1958 with just 10 laboratories to enhance the research work in Defence sector and was tasked with designing and developing cutting edge defence technologies for Indian Armed Forces.
Today, DRDO is working in multiple cutting edge military technology areas, which include aeronautics, armaments, combat vehicles, electronics, instrumentation, engineering systems, missiles, materials, naval systems, advanced computing, simulation, cyber, life sciences and other technologies for defence.
Reddy also said that said that in 2020, DRDO achieved many milestones such as maiden landing of LCA Navy onboard INS Vikramaditya, demonstration of Hypersonic Technology Demonstration Vehicle, AQuantum Key Distribution and QRNG developments in area of Quantum Technology, Laser Guided Anti Tank Guided Missile, Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo, Anti Radiation Missile, enhanced version of PINAKA Rocket System, Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile (QRSAM), Maiden launch of MRSAM, 5.56 x 30 mm Joint Venture Protective Carbine (JVPC) and many other milestones.
He also highlighted the contributions of DRDO during Covid pandemic and said that nearly 40 DRDO laboratories developed more than 50 technologies and over 100 products on war footing to develop products and technologies for combating the deadly disease in India.
China’s attempt to alter the status quo along the LAC should not be taken lightly as the PLA will have many options available once the snow starts melting
As we see off a rather turbulent and difficult year, it would be worthwhile to review how well the military faced up to the nation’s security challenges and, more importantly, where it goes from here. As has been the case with the vast majority of peoples and countries around the world, the COVID-19 impact has been quite disruptive and debilitating for our military as well. A situation no doubt further compounded by the unprovoked aggression by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which undoubtedly caught the military by surprise.
The year had started on an excellent note with the Government finally biting the bullet and announcing the appointment of General Bipin Rawat as the first Chief of Defence Staff, two decades after it was first officially mooted following the Kargil conflict. It went a step further by carving out a Department of Military Affairs, to be headed by the CDS as its ex officio secretary, to deal with issues pertaining exclusively to military matters. While a year is insufficient to comment on the efficacy of these changes, suffice it to say that General Rawat has not distinguished himself in his new role.
However, the unilateral and partially successful attempt by China to alter the status quo along the LAC thrust a wholly unprepared military into the deep end, pushing all other concerns out of the window. Till the commencement of this imbroglio, the substantial tract of disputed territory that we claim was regularly patrolled by our security forces as per the mutually accepted protocols that have been in place for over two decades. Also, make no mistake, despite all the talk of mutual withdrawal and easing of tensions, there is little doubt that the Chinese have no intention of withdrawing from the occupied areas, especially in the Depsang and Galwan sub-sectors, without making us pay a heavy price.
The PLA now poses a clear and present danger to our positions at Daulat Beg Oldi. Its loss in any future conflict would adversely impact our ability to continue holding on to the Saltoro Ridge, west of the Siachen Glacier. That would be a serious strategic setback as currently our occupation of the Saltoro Ridge allows us to dominate the entire region up to the Karakoram Pass, including the Shaksgam Valley that has been illegally ceded to China by Pakistan. Our existing posture threatens the security of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through this region as it is vulnerable to interdiction. Its importance to both China and Pakistan cannot be overestimated given the massive investments made, which could be motivation enough for collusive or collaborative action by the two neighbours.
Despite the Army having been caught napping in the initial stages, its speedy and robust response — especially after the horrendous loss of lives at Galwan — was commendable. Subsequently, under the ambit of “Operation Snow Leopard”, it raised the stakes considerably by occupying dominating heights along the Kailash Range in the Chushul and Pangong Tso sub-sectors which has negated some of the PLA’s earlier advantages. While these heights are well in depth within our territory and have never been claimed by the Chinese, they do dominate both banks of the Pangong Tso as well as the important Chinese administrative base at Moldo. Most importantly, it allows us to choke off the Spanggur Gap, the area through which the PLA’s mechanised elements could otherwise have advanced towards our positions at Chushul, thereby opening up an approach to Leh. However, the shoe is now on the other foot, as it provides us a suitable launch pad for a riposte towards Moldo and the Chinese depth areas, if the situation so warrants.
However, we should not be misled by the selective rhetoric which suggests that the Chinese are on the back foot, the PLA is demoraled and their leadership floundering for a way out of the impasse without loss of face. While our action does give us a tactical advantage and has stabilised the situation, it has by no means robbed the PLA of the inherent advantages it enjoys, given the superior economic strength and its military size. However, they may be in for an unpleasant surprise, given the extended lines of communication and difficulties of combat at such high altitudes, apart, of course, from the fact that they face an extremely tough and battle-hardened opposition with ample experience in mountain warfare.
On our part, we have to accept that our Government has always had a very defensive mindset when it comes to China. In fact, the Modi Government has shown excessive restraint at the present time, not only refusing to name China but going so far as to try and delink the Depsang intrusion from the transgressions elsewhere in an attempt to justify the ongoing negotiations, which appear to be restricted to troop withdrawals from the Chushul-Pangong Tso sub-sector. Even our occupation of the Kailash Range was only in response to the PLA’s transgressions in the vain hope that it would deter further attempts at ingress or escalation. On that occasion, the PLA probably miscalculated our willingness to stand up to their provocative behaviour and was thus caught off guard by our robust response. At that time, they just did not have the requisite force levels in place to react before the onset of winter.
In similar circumstances, a more determined Government would probably have responded to such aggression by mirroring the Chinese and resorted to “salami slicing” actions along the LAC by occupying disputed areas along our claim line where the PLA has no permanent presence. This could have then been used as a bargaining chip during negotiations to ensure an equitable delineation of the LAC which, in time, would have allowed the Prime Minister to negotiate and resolve the border issue to our advantage.
The Government’s unwillingness to take the initiative is partly explained by its fear of Chinese reaction as well as driven by the fact that it has no illusion as to the poor state our military is in; something that cannot be rectified in short order by loosening the purse strings. Unfortunately, misperceptions, lack of clarity and sheer disinterest in strategic affairs have been the hallmark of our political leadership, which finds little time for anything other than domestic politics. This has resulted in a superficial understanding of the geopolitical complexities surrounding the issue of national security at the institutional level.
The Armed Forces have borne the brunt of this ignorance, being subjected to neglect by successive Governments over the years. In all likelihood, it has been premised on the belief, however misconceived, that a powerful military poses an existential threat to the political dispensation in power. It must, therefore, be kept in check and out of decision making. However, far more damaging has been the political leadership’s belief that the military’s utility has been severely constrained, if not rendered irrelevant, as chances of a conventional conflict have greatly diminished with the advent of nuclear weapons in the region. A belief which has been given considerable boost by the Army leadership’s almost single-minded focus on counter-insurgency operations; even to the extent of accepting a gradual degradation of our conventional capabilities without protest.
As to the future, there is little scope for optimism as a few months from now will herald the start of a new campaigning season along the LAC as the snow melts. Given our defensive mindset, our choices will be wholly limited to dancing to the PLA’s tune. Their options are many; they could, for example, play a waiting game and do nothing at all for now, having already forced us to concede territory. On the other hand, they could exert pressure elsewhere along the LAC to ensure that we respond in much the same manner we did this year. In fact, their biggest error would be to escalate the situation to teach us a lesson as then Modi would be forced to respond in kind, to avoid his reputation being tarnished.
However, if President Jinping does not cross that Rubicon, the Modi Government will continue to do what it does best, focus on increasing its footprint by winning the forthcoming Bengal elections. Undoubtedly, it will resort to dissimulation regarding the LAC situation, using every means at its disposal to push the narrative that our borders are quiet, safe and inviolate. It will then be back to business as usual and the CDS could then return to the onerous task of simplifying military uniforms and badges of rank.
(The writer is a military veteran, who is a consultant with the Observer Research Foundation and Senior Visiting Fellow with The Peninsula Foundation, Chennai. The views expressed are personal.)
New Delhi, Dec 13 (IANS) China is carrying out joint air force exercises with Pakistan in Sindh as part of the sabre-rattling in response to the Indo-Pacific Quad exercises in which the Indian Navy participated recently. The war games, merely 200 km from the Indian border, are taking place just a week after Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe visited Pakistan to sign an MoU for closer military cooperation. The exercises, named 'Shaheen' or Falcon-IX, are underway at the newly operational Bholari air base near Karachi.
According to the Nikkei Asia magazine, the Pakistan Air Force released a video showing the wide range of military aircraft on display in the exercise, which will last until late December. China has sent its fourth-generation Shenyang J-11 air superiority fighters and Chengdu J-10 multirole jets.
Pakistan, meanwhile, is flying a mix of third-generation Chinese-made Chengdu F-7 interceptors, French Dassault Mirage 5 attack planes and the new multirole JF-17 Thunder jointly produced by China and Pakistan. No American equipment, such as the F-16, has been deployed, the Pakistanis said.
China's Defence Ministry said the drills will "deepen practical cooperation between the two air forces". Pakistan's air force, has become increasingly dependent on China as the US has cut off military hardware supplies to Islamabad due to its links with Islamic militant outfits.
At the opening ceremony on December 9, Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Sulehri, the deputy chief of Pakistan's air staff, said the exercises "will further enhance inter-operability of both air forces, thereby fortifying brotherly relations between the two countries". Major Gen. Sun Hong, the assistant chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, said they "will improve actual level of combat training and strengthen cooperation".
China's military build-up on the Ladakh border has forced India to counter the move to protect its territorial rights and go in for a rethink about the country's security arrangements and military exercises. This has rattled both China and Pakistan. India recently hosted the massive Malabar 2020 naval exercise with the US, Japan and Australia. The inclusion of Australia in the group has strengthened the "Quad," or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprising the four democratic countries which are seen as a counter to China's increasing muscle flexing in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond to African shores.
Beijing and Islamabad have also been strengthening their relationship with China providing economic, military and even nuclear support to cash-strapped Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a $60 billion communications, energy and infrastructure project to connect western China to the Arabian Sea through the Gwadar port under the Belt and Road initiative forms part of the anti-India strategy. While the ongoing drills are not the first joint air force exercise between the Chinese and the Pakistanis, the timing, location and size are significant.
The Indian military has been aware of the possibility of a two-front war with China and Pakistan and chief of defence staff, Gen. Bipin Rawat, has stated that the Indian defence forces are prepared to face such a challenge if need be. Analysts like retired Rear Adm. Sudarshan Shrikhande, India's former chief of naval intelligence, think that the exercise is reflective of China and Pakistan's larger strategic posture toward India. "The issues of growing coherence and collusion between China and Pakistan have become concerns for India," Shrikhande told Nikkei Asia.
Both China and Pakistan have also been jolted by the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation signed in October between the US and India which allows New Delhi access to American satellite military intelligence for better weapon accuracy. According to Nikkei Asia, even as Pakistan's military continues to draw closer to China, it still wants to maintain cordial ties with the US, with which it has often partnered since joining the US-led alliance against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, an arrangement which helped it both gain Washington's favour and provide benefits in return for decades.
Pakistan's military finds itself in a difficult balancing act between the US and China, given current trade and political tensions between Washington and Beijing. "When we granted the Americans an air force base to spy on the Soviets in the 1950s, we received American hardware to fight the Indians in the 1960s," a Pakistani officer told Nikkei Asia.
"When Pakistani intelligence supported the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, and defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan without one American boot on the ground, we got F-16s in return. The same happened again, when the Americans invaded Afghanistan. "Yes, we've been transactional allies, but dependable allies. Now, the Americans have found a new friend in the Indians. But they should know better," the officer said.
(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)
A disengagement deal on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, whose ingredients have been leaked, is being considered by the Government. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar mentioned it in mid-October as a confidential Chinese proposal and Army Chief Gen Naravane recently likened it to a work in progress. It apparently involves vacating the strategic Chushul heights on Kailash range — a critical bargaining leverage superbly created by the Special Frontier Force (SFF), which must not be frittered away in a piecemeal limited disengagement for Chinese withdrawal from the Fingers area.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is speaking the obvious: “We need a strong military to deter aggression.” We have one but it can checkmate Pakistan, not China. Prime Minister Narendra Modi knows that due to economic recession, the modernisation of armed forces will be grounded. So he is boosting soldiers’ morale by celebrating Diwali with them, riding the Arjun tank and acclaiming his Government’s record in defence reforms. But defence allocation under his watch has been the lowest as a percentage of GDP, which has been declining since his Government came to power. Singh should be informed that shastra puja (worshipping weapons) alone will not add to deterrence.
If a limited disengagement and not a full and complete disengagement and de-escalation is implemented, it will be at an extraordinary strategic cost. China has been insisting that Chushul heights be vacated as part of a partial disengagement limited to north and south bank of Pangong lake. Colossal confusion prevails about the exact contours of the withdrawal as to whether it will be across all intrusion points in East Ladakh or just the Pangong Lake region. The strategic heights gained by SFF must not be vacated as these are on the Indian side of the LAC and were in our possession in 1962. An infantry brigade fought on these heights but withdrew prematurely, first to Chushul and then in panic to Leh. India must not repeat the Himalayan blunder for painting political success after a pounding from the opposition for loss of territory. China has already pushed India into a corner by imposing unequal terms during the initial disengagement, which separated troops from friction points culminating in the Galwan clash.
The Indian Army was forced back from positions it held earlier in Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra; buffer zones were created on the Indian side of the LAC even as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) failed to faithfully disengage from all the flashpoints. The Chinese have refused to discuss Depsang, where it has intruded 18 km and blocked Indian patrols. On its part, the PLA has managed to creep forward towards its 1959 claim line and annexed territory. In the proposed disengagement plan, China wants vacation of Kailash range for withdrawal from the Fingers area.
What is incentivising India to de-induct from the commanding heights overlooking the PLA Moldo garrison and from where, on a clear day, one can see the Aksai Chin road that China has illegally constructed? It could be the difficulty of supporting a Brigade on and along these heights in the harsh winter to follow where temperature is already minus 30 degrees centigrade and will go down to minus 40 degrees centigrade. The snow will be different from what the soldiers are used to in Siachen, which has been made habitable and defensible over nearly four decades of occupation. If sustenance of troops is the compulsion, a smaller force can be kept and turned over as is being done on Saltoro Ridge in Siachen. Withdrawal from Kailash range should never be part of any limited Chinese proposal on disengagement.
The Chushul heights are a countervailing advantage in forcing withdrawal from Depsang and becoming the pivot of any tradeoff in an overall disengagement and de-escalation agreement, which is return of status quo ante, April 2020. PLA is occupying Black Top post close to the Mukhpari post on Kailash range. Chinese soldiers are conscripts, who normally do not man posts at an altitude of 17,000 feet. The Chinese are facing a greater degree of difficulty in their occupation of heights in areas near the Kailash range. The three-step withdrawal plan limited to both banks of Pangong Lake area reportedly consists of the following:
(a) Removal of heavy weapons from both banks of the lake
(b) Full vacation by PLA from North Bank in Fingers area, back to the original Finger 8. The Indian Army similarly will pull back to its permanent location at Dhan Singh Post near Finger 3. Area between Fingers 4 and 8 will be converted to buffer zone (another buffer zone on Indian side).
(c) Indian Army will vacate Chushul heights and PLA, Black Top. Withdrawal will include dismantling of structures on North Bank like barracks, fortifications, jetties.
(d) A verification and monitoring mechanism has been included.
Apparently, a more authentic version of the selective disengagement was discussed on November 6 during the eighth round of military commanders’ talks, which were described by India as “candid, in-depth and constructive in which views were exchanged on all friction points along LAC in the western sector of India-China border areas.” It was also the first time that the two Generals held a one-on-one, which is very rare with Chinese interlocutors. The ninth round of the commanders’ talks is expected later this month so that withdrawals can begin by mid-December.
The Government relies on leaking information through its civil and military officials to test ideas. So while some newspapers have reported that disengagement is confined to the Lake area, North and South Bank, others have said it covers all friction points, including Depsang. In other words, it is a full and complete disengagement. With trust and faith gone with the wind after Galwan, fear is that once you pull out from the Kailash range, its re-occupation will not be easy given that terrain and PLA’s duplicity. The strategic heights have shifted the balance of military advantage and bargaining potential to India. In 2005, India came close to withdrawing from Siachen in an agreement with Pakistan. With complete breakdown of trust, Army Chief Gen JJ Singh said: “Indian Army will withdraw if ordered. But don’t ask it to re-occupy Siachen.” Since then any withdrawal from Siachen is enveloped in silence.
Two former Northern Army Commanders, Lt Gens HS Panag and DS Hooda, have said that vacating Chushul heights without full restoration of status quo ante will be squandering a strategic asset. Any agreement with China, which is about a piecemeal disengagement, must be unacceptable. Nothing should be left to later or a separate phase of withdrawal. Surrendering one’s trumpcard ab initio is a monumental folly.
(The writer, a retired Major General, was Commander, IPKF South, Sri Lanka, and founder member of the Defence Planning Staff, currently the Integrated Defence Staff)
Both India and China have agreed to a three-phase plan for disengagement in eastern Ladakh though the specifics are yet to be laid out and committed to. So, there’s still a lot left for interpretation and one wonders if all these are mere optics and meant to pander to domestic opinion by both Governments without each appearing either coerced or compromised. Both armies will supposedly move back armoured vehicles, including tanks and personnel carriers, from the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Also, Chinese forces will vacate their existing positions and return to the Finger 8 region on the North Bank of Pangong lake. And India, too, will return to its positions, prior to the clashes, at the border. Indian and Chinese militaries have agreed on a joint mechanism to verify the progress in the disengagement process through delegation meetings as well as using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. While all this may sound agreeable, it is still too early to trust the dragon, especially after what happened on June 15 in the Galwan valley, the clash that killed 20 Indian soldiers. That, too, happened in the name of ensuring status quo by China. Besides, with Beijing adamant about reclaiming positions from 1959 and denying India any strategic advantage with revamped border infrastructure, this may be just papering over a faultline. Since 1981, dialogues have continued at different levels while around 22 rounds of talks have taken place at the level of Special Representatives since 2003. And we are still where we started.
Both sides have reasons to de-escalate at this point in time. The harsh winter would stretch out men and resources in sub-zero, high altitude climes on both sides. India, which is dealing with the pandemic and a battered economy, can’t afford to devote significant resources to the military. On the other hand, the Chinese Government wants to focus on its growing GDP, the only economy to register a growth in a bad year, and consolidate its gains than bleed them out. But as always there’s a caveat and condition that the Chinese use as an excuse to continue their depredations. In September, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times noted that the implementation of the agreement depended on whether India would keep up its end of the bargain. And on November 12, it claimed that reports of India and China having finalised a detailed disengagement were “inaccurate” at this stage. Till there is a signed agreement between the two sides on the logistics of the retreat, not much can be said. For now, we have to be rightfully cautious.
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The Army’s occupation of heights along Kailash Range may have strengthened the Govt’s hand in talks with China but it has not grasped the significance of the military action
On October 15, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar stated that the India-China talks on disengagement were “confidential and a work in progress.” Subsequently, former military veteran and journalist Ajai Shukla wrote on October 23 that the Government was in talks with the Chinese for a “Doklam-type agreement” which would result in “mutual troop withdrawals in the Pangong Tso sub-sector of Eastern Ladakh.” If he is correct, and there is no reason to disbelieve Shukla, given the accuracy of his earlier reports on the imbroglio, then our political establishment (as it has on numerous occasions earlier) is once again showing utter ignorance of how the military operates and is in the process of succumbing to Chinese pressure, grasping at straws in the hope of achieving what can, at best, be termed as illusory peace.
The truth is that even a cursory peep into our history suggests that our politicians lack the resolve to see things through, especially when the going gets tough. Oddly enough, they have also repeatedly shown themselves to be remarkably incompetent when it comes to negotiations with adversaries. Pandit Nehru, for example, turned out to be extremely short-sighted in his handling of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) issue, seeking to negotiate a settlement just as preparations to recapture lost territory were moving forward. We are still paying with blood in J&K for his follies then.
To add to that, Nehru’s disastrous handling of the Indo-China relationship continues to haunt us to this day as well. What was pathetic at the time was his abject surrender and acceptance of defeat without even a semblance of resistance, reflected in his farewell address on radio to our Assamese brethren after our forces had retreated from Arunachal Pradesh. This was not just a reflection of his incompetence or inability to understand the manner in which the military operates, but more importantly, showed him to be irresolute and lacking in moral fibre as well, a flaw that taints most of our political establishment even today.
While one cannot blame Prime Minister Shastri for either lack of spine or absence of principles, he, too, showed complete ignorance of how the military operates and, therefore, a remarkable lack of judgement in his talks with Field Marshal Ayub Khan of Pakistan at Tashkent after the Indo-Pak War of 1965. The decision to vacate Haji Pir Pass, a key feature in the Pir Panjal mountain range, was to put it mildly, not just short-sighted but utterly naïve. The fact of the matter is that its capture, after a brilliantly-planned and executed operation, not only allowed us the option to reach Poonch directly from Uri but also dominate the important townships of Rawalkot, Bagh and Kotla in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). They could have been ours to occupy at any time of our choosing. These locations are now used by Pakistan as launchpads to push militants into Kashmir.
While the Bangladesh Liberation War was undoubtedly an unequivocal victory, its post-war impact weighed heavily on our military. Not only did Prime Minister Indira Gandhi reduce pensions and the status of the military, she agreed to the return of 90,000 prisoners of war (PoWs) without either forcing Pakistan to enter into an agreement on the status of J&K or getting back our own servicemen captured by them. The fact that 54 of our servicemen continue to languish in Pakistani captivity is shameful. But what is worse is the Government’s utter disinterest in getting our PoWs back. As some may be aware, there is an ongoing case in the Supreme Court, lodged by their next of kin, requesting it to direct the Government to take all necessary measures to arrange for their return, sadly with little success till now. This is not just a reflection of the callousness or lack of empathy within our political establishment that only gives importance to anything that impacts its electoral prospects, but also indicts all of us citizens, who prefer to live in ignorance.
Leaving all this aside, to understand what exactly the signing of a “Doklam- type agreement” signifies, we would need to focus on how that confrontation, in July 2017, which lasted for 75 days, played out. To understand the context, it is necessary to remind oneself that at that time, our general elections were due in just over a year and the NDA Government was already facing difficulties because of a faltering economy, not helped by a rather disastrous demonetisation exercise.
Clearly the last thing the Centre needed was trouble on our borders. This is ironical, given that the BJP probably won handsomely because of the Pulwama incident and our subsequent attack on Balakot.
The critical importance of the Doklam plateau lies in the fact that it straddles the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)-occupied Chumbi Valley, which is to its north, and the Jampheri Ridge to its south, which overlooks the Siliguri Corridor, India’s lifeline to its North-Eastern States. Though the status of the Doklam plateau itself is under dispute with the Chinese laying claim, it was till recently in the possession of our steadfast ally, Bhutan. Therefore, it would be reasonable to expect that the Indian Army would intervene in support of the Bhutanese Army if the Chinese attempted to illegally occupy the plateau, given the potential threat that it posed to our own security as well.
Therefore, when the PLA commenced road construction towards the Jampheri ridge, our Army did respond to the ingress in an extremely robust manner to halt Chinese road construction activity. Surprisingly, however, this action was at the initiative of the local commanders on the ground, unwilling to be bullied by the PLA, reportedly much against the wishes of the Army Headquarters and the Government, who were probably fearful of the consequences of opposing the Chinese.
Favourable public opinion, however, forced the Government’s hand and they had no choice but to walk the talk on nationalism. This matter was subsequently supposedly resolved at the Wuhan informal summit where a vaguely-worded statement, the so-called “Wuhan Consensus”, was released. In view of the mutually-agreed withdrawal of troops by both sides at the confrontation site to reduce tension and probably based on good faith, the Indian Army carried out troop withdrawals as required. However, the PLA reneged and after pulling back only a few hundred metres, established a new camp, recommencing road construction activity along a slightly different alignment three months later. In the process, it illegally occupied much of the Doklam plateau.
The latest reports suggest that they completed construction in January 2019 with the road terminating at the base of the Jampheri ridge.
However, the response of the Government to this provocation was remarkably subdued with no counter-action being initiated by the Army against renewed Chinese activity. Clearly its hands had been tied by the Government making abundantly clear that the present Prime Minister had, like those before him, succumbed to Chinese pressure despite being fully aware of the grave implications of the Chinese activity. Therefore, the Government’s refusal to acknowledge the PLA’s alleged occupation of approximately 1,000 sq km of disputed territory in eastern Ladakh was not unexpected. Nor was the public endorsement of this stand despite the loss of 20 bravehearts to Chinese treachery at Galwan.
Since then, the surprise pro-active action of the Army to occupy heights along the Kailash Range may have strengthened the hands of the Government in the continuing negotiations but it has not truly understood the significance of the military action.
If India understood the importance of the military action, it would refuse to discuss the issue in any talks just as the Chinese have done over their occupation of disputed territory in the Depsang sub-sector. While it is quite apparent that the Chinese are not in a favourable position to launch a full-fledged offensive at present due to hostile weather conditions and a lack of requisite forces, the situation may well change by next spring.
Would the Government then still remain steadfast in its aim and continue to confront the bully, or will it back down, as it has before, accepting some facile, token, face-saving tidbit thrown at us by the Chinese? After the Centre’s earlier misstep in Doklam, there must be fairly serious reservations, within the security establishment at least, as to whether this Government can follow through on its present course to its logical end, especially given that China controls the escalation ladder.
Actions always speak louder than words and we will soon know if Modi has it in him to be different from those in whose footsteps he follows.
(The writer, a military veteran, is a Consultant with the Observer Research Foundation and a Senior Visiting Fellow with The Peninsula Foundation, Chennai)
The naval exercises by US, India, Japan and Australia in Bay of Bengal firm up a coordinated maritime alliance to tame China
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad has finally taken off with four member States — US, India, Japan and Australia — conducting joint naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal. This is the first step in the operationalisation of a maritime alliance that is intended to counter China’s expansionism in the Indo-Pacific region by a coordinated response plan and sharing each other’s military strengths. It solidifies the consensus between four nations to act equally together regardless of a Chinese hitback against them individually, something which had held back the Quad all these years and fuelled the dragon’s ambitions. In fact, India itself had soft-pedalled the Quad initiative, hoping to deepen transactional ties with China given its economic dependencies. But China’s routine border incursions, justifying them on the ground of perceptional differences over the unmarked Line of Actual Control (LAC), and finally the clash in Ladakh, changed all that. India realised that for all the years of bilateral talks, based on looking at issues other than the thorny boundary question, were just a fig leaf for China’s naked territorial ambition. And as the standoff at Ladakh and Beijing’s insistence on restoring claimed positions of 1959 prove, it won’t settle or give up land that suits its strategic dominance in the region. And given China’s economic and military heft, India has realised that it needs to make common cause with the US, which is the only polarity capable of challenging and neutralising China, and put pressure on another front, the sea routes. In fact, it is at US insistence that India has firmed up its commitment to Quad and even welcomed Australia to the war drills. Predictably, China is anxious.
India has been wary of Australia for a long time as China continues to be that nation’s largest trading partner, accounting for 32.6 per cent of its exports. India had never thought that Australia would do anything to jeopardise this mutually beneficial relationship. But in a post-pandemic world, which has been entirely the fallout of China’s negligence and its neo-imperialism in a weakened economy, new allies are realising that without a common bulwark, there’s no chance of standing up to China’s might. Virus-hit badly, Australia had, with US encouragement, spearheaded a petition for a neutral, global investigation into Covid-19’s origin and China’s complicity in it. Our eastern neighbour, which now sees both India and Australia as US stooges, immediately responded, imposing an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and banning beef imports. Ever since, Australia has been looking to find allies where it can divert its exports and whom it can stand with. That led to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and Australia. With the biggest democracies with stakes in the region now collectively committed to preserving open waters and holding off China’s misadventures, a robust Quad can encourage smaller States to coalesce together against Chinese assertiveness and debt-trap diplomacy. And if mutual interests find congruence, then over time it could become a NATO-like presence in Asia that could stand up to China’s bullying tactics. Most significantly, the military alliance could also be extended to an economic coalition of sorts, for example, by setting up a Quad Free Trade Agreement (FTA). An alternative supply chain and market would reduce the region’s dependence on China. With this consolidation, Beijing could have a tough time monitoring the entire South China Sea, which it claims as its sovereign territory.
Pak has stepped up militancy and party leaders are at its receiving end. Govt needs to resume political engagement in the Valley
The hitback against the ruling BJP is assuming troubling proportions in Kashmir, where the local angst over the abrogation of Article 370 is now manifesting itself rather violently, uncorking itself from absolutist clampdowns. BJP leaders and sarpanches are being hunted and shot dead as each Central notification strips down the identity markers and privileges of the erstwhile State, the latest provocation being the amendment of land rules. Three BJP leaders were shot dead in Kulgam and the party’s local unit has been worried about these “revenge” attacks, fuelled in no lesser degree by cross-border terrorism. There is enough evidence to indicate that our western neighbour has consistently tried to push in militants, its infiltration attempts going up significantly despite the pandemic. Now reports say that the attack at Kulgam was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, indicating that Pakistan — itself facing internal turmoil from a gathering pro-democracy movement and desperate to divert focus to Kashmir — is activating old networks. It is being aided by none other than China in this effort, which is miffed by our intransigence on Ladakh and clearly wants to stretch our military resources across two fronts, tire us out and drive a bargain on its terms. There have been reports of Chinese officials interfering in affairs of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, ostensibly to protect their interests but also encourage anti-India activities. Undoubtedly, there are interventionist designs by our neighbours but it would be unwise to blame the resurgence of fury in Kashmir solely on them. For there is another disturbing trend that is worrisome, that of local militant recruitments picking up although the overall militancy graph is down because of the clampdown and stricter Army vigil. Besides, local groups are increasingly using stealth tactics, making it difficult to establish a pattern. And a civil boycott or disobedience is usually faceless and difficult to pin down. Which means that the Government, which has pushed Kashmir’s reintegration for political point-scoring, though it has not been able to get things going on the ground or demonstrate any intent to better the prospects in the Union Territory, has to get real as it is too deeply invested to withdraw. It has to deal with the vacuum, engage with people’s representatives and traditional leaders, who have so far been a filter for New Delhi, and as their incarceration has shown, are just as popular. Locking them up has only united them and made them martyrs to a cause, one that they are likely to hit the streets with, a visual of which neither the Government, nor the world, can afford to ignore. If the Modi regime decided to unsettle Kashmir, it should have been prepared for the consequences and not pre-judged compliance by force but opted for gradual co-option. Its iron fist has worsened matters and disaffected even moderates who could have been counted upon to align with the larger objectives of a merger.
Even after a year, the BJP has neither been able to raise an alternative political front nor encourage a political climate. It may have helped float the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP), drawing rejects from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC), but it lacks credibility, being purely transactional. Over 12,000 panchayat seats lie vacant as their members made it clear that any electoral process would have to be preceded by the release of jailed political leaders. The BJP has now released the bigwigs, sent a mediatory politician like Manoj Sinha as Lt Governor and is keen for local body elections. But the restoration of basic civil rights is still a long way off. Internet bans mean the students and the new economy are left out of opportunities, joblessness is at an all-time high and the local economy is going down a Rs 40,000-crore plus sinkhole. The Government should have spaced out the implementation of the new rules with some reconciliatory moves that would indicate its intention to close the trust deficit and not made its animus so apparent. Clearly, the new rules, which allow outsiders to buy non-agricultural land, have agitated many who see this as an attempt at demographic colonisation of the Muslim-majority region. Their concern is valid as even the Dogras of Hindu-dominated Jammu and Ladakhis are not too happy about their local culture and privileges being swept away under the same clause. Particularly so when the Northeastern States are allowed autonomy under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to protect tribal land. Many apolitical Kashmiris are wondering why, despite being a populous territory, statehood cannot be restored now as Union Territories with lesser populations are independent States. By hammering in the idea of a takeover, the Government is exposing itself to more questions on whether it intends to develop the State at all. With no perceptible stability and peace, businesses had anyway stayed away from the Valley and the pandemic has further aggravated the sectors that were at least surviving. And even if some entrepreneurs are keen to be self-starters, militant threats keep them away. The core sectors of Kashmir’s economy, particularly agriculture driven by the apple trade, are on a downward spiral. The Government would be unwise to interpret protest fatigue as calm. And as PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti’s aggressiveness or the Gupkar declaration shows, there is a hardening of political will among local parties. The rigidity of the Government is only proving to be counter-productive. Pakistan is anyway waiting to feed off this discontent but if the Government is so confident of its move, then it should have the gumption to allow the venting of dissent and some semblance of democracy. The denial of a problem isn’t convincing anybody anymore.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
From a technological standpoint, we are living in a glorious age, the time of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, one marked by the transformative power of data and machine learning (ML). But the military has always been just a beat behind industry historically. Compounding this is the fact that military war fighting machines — particularly command and control systems — are complex and driven by reliability, speed and security. Today it is critical that the armed forces pull a half-level ahead to set the technological tone for the industry and create Military 4.5. It is a roadmap that will guide the innovation we need to keep the nation and its allies ready and compatible to keep themselves safe and free.
Military technology takes time to pass reliability tests but this gestation period can be shortened by thinking ahead. Chief among these innovations is the creation of the Internet of Military Things (IoMT) and the Internet of Battle Things (IoBT). Most of us are familiar with the IoMT’s civilian counterpart, the Internet of Things. Loosely described, it is the notion that machines can be made smarter and do much more for their human users, all through the application of sensors for the transmission and analysis of data. But the military version will be quite different from its consumer counterpart with thermostats that adjust a home’s energy levels or refrigerators that note when food will expire. The IoMT and the IoBT will be extended, hardened and more quickly advanced to help the armed forces make better decisions in a literal fraction of a second, win the missions necessary to defend the borders, promote force safety, warn and fix equipment well before it fails. The IoMT would enable hooking on to the larger network of organs engaged in related missions, working on national security by selecting secure domains by just the flick of a button and disconnect with the same ease. If IoMT is the mother that moves all things military in the war zone, ubiquitously, beginning at the apex/strategic level, the IoBT would be its subordinate that moves the “fighting things” (e.g., man and machine). The IoBT would work the fighting component on the battlefield in a physical manifestation of fighting battles of contact and proximity, typically in the tactical battle area.
We are well on our way to bringing the IoMT further along — but we need more from the industry. It should challenge itself to bring military hardware to comply with the digital needs of the systems to work as part of a defined combat domain. Combat systems have to work on data compatibility within the domain to infuse Artificial Intelligence (AI). Equipment manufacturers must know how much flexibility the user must be given to exploit the machine. Certain machines would have better programmability and others would require less, dependent on how much customisation is needed by its user. In a nutshell, not all equipment would be “plug and play” ready when received from the industry. The second industrial process, mostly in-house, would be needed to enable the equipment to become “plug and play” ready.
Find ways to better connect military machines: In the field, all the military’s machines — tanks, logistics, convoys, helicopters, fighter jets, command and control, medevac and so on — must work together as a harmonious, synchronous whole. This is the networked military, formally known as C5I2-STAR2 (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence and Information — Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Reconnaissance and Robotics). To understand the IoMT and IoBT, let us look at C5I2 and STAR2 as separate segments. To network war-fighting machines to the next level, we require the sensors and underlying infrastructure that make it possible for these disaggregated parts to work together in a seamless, automatic, even robotic way.
The first segment, C5I2, is to get the necessary inputs for decision-making; programme the higher to middle echelons; activate the battle fighting elements through the Command and Control mechanism based on the secure digital networks.
The second segment, STAR2, lies in moving battle platforms and machines. Surveillance and Target Acquisition requires sensors to be integrated for the operator. Reconnaissance and robotics supplement this process through automating the process with AI engines that would decide the effects to deliver to the acquired target within the pre-planned parameters. This would be the frontline cutting edge, powering the soldiers and machines to win battle engagements. Such technology would have to touch every part of the machine and operation (e.g., communications, security, weapons systems, flight controls, targeting systems). Inter-operability is critical and all systems must be totally interfaced. This does not exist today to the extent required. Sensors for military applications will not only be a multi-trillion dollar business but shall also bring more value in enriching the IoT concept.
Invest in and invent new materials: Companies and entrepreneurs adept at material and computer science will have an incredible competitive advantage if they turn their sights to military technology. Every part of the IoMT must be digitally controlled, down to the smallest sensors. If tanks are shot at, for example, they must be able to deflect projectiles, harden targetted surfaces or even be self-repaired. That means the need for light, self-healing, tough, amphibious materials that are eminently smart and survivable. They must work in all domains and also operate with impunity through contaminated zones such as Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) environment. This would prepare the military to fight hybrid wars under the CBRN overhang. The industry must help the armed forces to be faster in all respects, whether it is making an urgent repair in the field, gaining instantaneous situational awareness, or outmaneuvering an aggressive adversary. Non-traditional industry partners should feel encouraged to explore the possibilities of working with the military. The armed forces’ leadership sees the creativity, energy and speed of the commercial sector and is increasingly interested in the potential of partnering to leap ahead.
Give us predictive capability: Sensors open the door to knowing much more about the machines we rely on. If the industry can help us take a fresh look at the way our machines work, we can do more with them and save budget in the process. Any military machine, such as a fighting tank or an attack helicopter should possess a nervous system, a sensory system. Sensors would be part built-in surveillance, acting as eyes and ears, part a decision-aiding system, part engagement of the target system and part evasive capability, protecting from an attack, and so on.
Sensors could also tell us if and when a critical part will fail so we can pull it from the field and repair it. They could give us data on fuel usage and other factors, allowing us to predict the costs of field operations. They could predict what would happen in various engagement scenarios, empowering us with data that let us prioritise innovations that increase survivability, range, flight time, communications power, and so on.
Create reliable electromagnetic field communications: We must have greater spectrum efficiency, created through connectivity that relies not on fibre optics but through the undetectable electromagnetic field and space. Today, our communication capabilities over long distances still produce some latency, more so, when large volumes of data start to flow. As one can imagine, in the field, a delay of even a second or two can produce disastrous consequences. We need technology that drives total spectral efficiency so we can synchronise machines — and integrate allied weapons, troops and forces — on a very fine time sequence. There cannot be even a moment of latency — and that is the challenge we lay before the industry. There are heavy electronic emissions and signatures in the battlefield. Electronic Warfare (EW) sensors would need to deal with an overload of EW inputs. The targets which generate heavy signatures would be engaged by automated target acquisition programmes.
The defender must invest heavily in signature shields, deflection and deception. Imagine terabytes worth of data flowing into a few square kilometres of tactical battle area. With billions of IP addresses present in the same area, IP concealment or group addresses may have to be encrypted. Quantum technology would be at play to break and protect codes. Such operations can simply become too complicated for human control. This would necessitate getting the IoMT operating C5I2 segment to perform more efficiently to get hold of the complex STAR2 segment that runs the IoBT. MIL 4.5 is the future of military technological advantage. But it won’t be possible without the IoMT, which will underpin every aspect of operations.
With the military leadership’s guidance and the industry’s ability to deliver advances in sensors, telemetry, network centricity and more, we will achieve new heights of security.
(The writer is former Deputy Chief of Indian Integrated Defence Staff)