Saturday, July 20, 2019

How The IAF Hit Balakot

Pulwama provoked Balakot. But how was the IAF's tremendous response planned and carried out in utmost secrecy? An edited excerpt from India's Most Fearless-2

by Shiv Aroor & Rahul Singh

Just after 3.30 a.m. on 26 February 2019, climbing abruptly to 27,000 feet in dark airspace over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), an Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot flying in a single-seat Mirage-2000 fighter jet pushed a button on his flight-stick. A few feet below him, from the rumbling belly of his aircraft, an Israeli-made bomb silently detached itself and dropped away to begin a journey—first gliding and then careening—towards a target over 70 km away. 

The bomb, fed with satellite coordinates and an on-board guidance chip, had all the information it needed to hurtle to its destination.

The Mirage-2000 was far from home. It had taken off from the Gwalior air force base over 1000 km away earlier that night along with at least six more Mirage jets from the three squadrons based there. Over the hour the jets flew over central India and into the northern sector. Following in their wake, five more Mirage 2000 jets took off in the darkness from an airbase in Punjab. 

... ten jets more roared off the tarmac from two more air bases, including Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters from the forward airbase at Halwara.

It was this pack of Sukhoi Su-30MKIs that would play a crucial role in what came next. 

It happened within minutes.

The Pakistan Air Force scrambled a group of F-16 jets from the Mushaf airbase in Sargodha about 320 km to the north of Bahawalpur. Just as the jets were getting airborne and moving south to fend off any possible attack by the Indian Sukhoi Su-30MKIs, the second IAF pack, comprising Mirage-2000s and Su-30s, broke away from its circuit and turned south over Jammu along a radial pointed towards Sialkot and Lahore in Pakistan, both large and commercially important cities.

This second pack split further, with one part flying along a radial that would pass through Pakistan’s Okara and lead once again to Bahawalpur.

The twin air manoeuvres from two directions doubled the air threat to the ‘capital city’ of the JeM. More F-16s departed Sargodha to engage with this second Indian threat. Pakistan’s instantaneous scrambling of fighters wasn’t surprising to Indian radar controllers and sensor operators on the two airborne early warning jets. The country’s air defences would have been on their highest state of readiness since the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks...

And now, for twelve days without pause, Pakistan’s military had cranked its alertness levels to the maximum.

Eleven days earlier, at 9.30 a.m. on 15 February 2019, the chiefs of the Indian armed forces and intelligence agencies, top ministers and the National Security Advisor arrived at Delhi’s leafy 7, Lok Kalyan Marg compound... It was far from a routine weekly meeting for the Prime Minister to take stock of national security. 

The Pulwama massacre. India decided to respond. And how

Eighteen hours earlier, 800 kilometres north, in the Lethapora area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, a vehicle packed with explosives and driven by a young man named Adil Ahmad Dar, had managed to snake between vehicles of a large convoy of Srinagar-bound trucks carrying 2500 troops from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), and rammed it. The explosion killed forty troops, spattering the highway with their blood and body parts.

With the Pakistan-administered JeM terror group claiming responsibility for the attack, the Prime Minister had convened this meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) solely to assess how India could respond... Asked if airstrikes on a terror target were a viable option, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa responded in the affirmative...

He was given two weeks.

The first in the list of seven separate target options was a JeM terror training compound that sat on a hill called Jabba Top outside the city of Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

By midnight on 22 February, a highly controlled chain of command decided that the Indian jets would strike the first target in the list—the one outside Pakistan’s Balakot. Every man and woman in the secret chain was aware that if such a mission went through, it would be India’s first airstrike on Pakistani soil since the 1971 war. What amplified the mission ahead was that the two countries weren’t at war in 2019.

Could Such A mission Change That?

India’s assets in Balakot had reported that there would be at least 300 terrorists and terror trainees on-site at Jabba Top... A facility that was known to house a significant enough number of handlers, terrorist recruits and ideologues, to justify a high-risk airstrike from airspace peppered with and primed for anti-air defence.

Balakot. The Target Was Worth It

The IAF was about to take a violent break from history, but in Delhi, every effort was made to ensure it was business as usual. On the night of 25 February, hours before the Mirages took to the air on their mission, the IAF hosted a customary farewell banquet for the outgoing chief of the Western Air Command, Air Marshal C. Hari Kumar— he was retiring three days later. The sit-down dinner was organised at the Akash Air Force Officer’s mess near Delhi’s India Gate, where just a few hours earlier Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the country’s National War Memorial.

Nerves of steel: Hours before Balakot airstrike, the IAF conducted business as usual

The banquet had over eighty senior air force officers in attendance. But only a handful of them, IAF chief Dhanoa and Air Marshal Hari Kumar included, were in the ‘need-to-know’ loop on what was about to happen. Those who weren’t in that loop confirm to the authors that there was absolutely no indication that evening that some of their service personnel were about to soar out across the border to drop bombs inside Pakistan.

Four kilometres away at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, Prime Minister Modi received his final pre-mission brief 20 minutes before the jets departed Gwalior.

There would be communication silence for the next half hour—covering the most crucial part of the mission.

The intrusion.

Indian Air Force To Get Apache Attack Helicopters Next Week

The first consignment of the Apache attack helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF) will reach Hindon Airbus in Ghaziabad by the end of this month, sources said

It is likely that there will be three to four helicopters in this consignment. But the deployment of Apache's first squadron in Pathankot will take another month. India has purchased 22 Apache helicopters from the United States.

According to sources, Apache helicopters will arrive at Hindon Airbase in Ghaziabad on an AN 224 transport aircraft on July 27.

They will be prepared at the Hindon Airbase and in the last week of August will be sent to Pathankot for a formal induction into the IAF. The first squadron of the Apaches will be stationed at Pathankot and the first Commanding Officer will be Group Captain M Shaylu.

The IAF has the 125 Helicopter Squadron (125 H SQUADRON), already deployed at Pathankot, which currently flies the Mi-35 helicopters and will now host the country's first Apache squadron. The second squadron will be stationed at Jorhat Airbase of Assam. It is likely that by 2020, the IAF will get all Apache helicopters on order.

The Apache AH-64E helicopter is equipped with a 30-mm machine gun, which can fire up to 1,200 rounds at a time. Apart from this, Apache is also equipped with the anti-tank Hellfire missile, which is believed to be capable of destroying a tank. As an additional weapon, a Hydra Unguided Rocket, capable of perfect execution of any target on land, is also installed. The helicopter can fly at a speed of 150 nautical miles per hour, which helps it to reach the enemy at a tremendous speed in the air.

The IAF currently uses decades-old Russian made Mi-35 and Mi-25 attack helicopters with one squadron stationed at Pathankot and another at Suratgarh in Rajasthan. The IAF also has Rudra attack helicopters developed out of the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter 'Dhruv'. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is also producing the Light Combat Helicopters for the Air Force in the country.

The IAF currently uses the decades-old Russian made Mi-35 and Mi-25 attack helicopters with one squadron stationed at Pathankot and another at Suratgarh in Rajasthan.

Indo-US Defence Trade Not Free From Encumbrances

by Amit Cowshish

The adoption of the Strategic Partnership model by the MoD to give a leg-up to defence manufacturing in India complicates the matter further for the US and other foreign players. The problem does not seem to be poised for an early resolution.

The deepening strategic engagement between India and the US is driven to a considerable extent by the direct purchase of military hardware by India through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme of the US Government. The total volume of sales is estimated to have gone up from a near-zero just about 15 years back to more than $15 billion at present. Many new deals worth billions of dollars are in the pipeline. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the US was the third largest supplier of arms to India during 2014-18, after Russia and Israel. 

Three factors could rain on this parade in the coming years, though.

First, the money. The persistent gap between the budgetary support sought by the armed forces and the actual allocation made year after year indicates that the availability of funds in the short-to-long term is going to be an issue. Last year, the gap was of the magnitude of Rs 1.12 lakh crore. It may not be much different this year. The cash crunch could impact the outcome of several proposals that are currently being discussed under the broader Indo-US security cooperation framework.

Second, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of 2017 continues to cast a long shadow over the Indo-US defence trade. The Equipment Development Department of China was sanctioned in September 2018 for purchasing the S-400 air defence system from Russia and now Turkey has thrown up a new challenge by receiving earlier this month the first of the same system. This leaves the US with very few options vis-a-vis India, which too has signed a deal with Russia for this system and has categorically refused to scrap the deal.

Any sanction imposed on India could disrupt the execution of the ongoing contracts and endanger future contracts. Even if a one-time waiver is granted for the purchase of the S-400 system, it is unlikely to solve the problem. Many other deals have been signed or are under negotiation with Russia. A significant percentage of the defence equipment held by the armed forces is of Russian origin and will remain in service for several decades to come, engendering continued dependence on Russia. India cannot be expected to seek a waiver of prior clearance for every deal, already signed or under negotiation. If nothing else, it would not make for good optics. Statements like the need to ‘wean’ India away from Russia have not helped.

The issue is anyway not confined to the procurement of military equipment from Russia. There is the Iran factor too. India’s rolling back of oil imports from Iran under US pressure endangers its strategic interests in the Chabahar port. 

The signing of two foundational agreements — Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) — and the possibility of other such agreements being signed has cemented the strategic engagement between the two countries, but, combined with several other bilateral measures, it also entrenches India into the larger US military strategy, which may not always coincide with India’s global perspective.

It is difficult to imagine how it is in India’s interest to spoil relations with Russia and Iran, endanger its long-term strategic interest in Iran which provides a gateway to Afghanistan and central Asia, and be seen as a part of the strategy to contain China. The impact it could have on a major defence partner like India was evidently not factored in while enacting CAATSA. 

The National Defence Authorisation Act for the current fiscal passed by the US Senate earlier this month contains a proposal to bring India on a par with the NATO allies. This is flattering, but it may not change the calculus of India’s strategic interest vis-à-vis Russia and Iran, thus leaving the CAATSA issue hanging like the Damocles’ sword and casting a shadow on the new deals.

Third, despite several rounds of simplification and streamlining, the procurement policies and procedures continue to confound the vendors, both Indian and foreign. Textual ambiguities in the procurement manuals, delay in resolving the issues that come up before the award and during the execution of contracts, the long time it takes for a procurement programme to fructify, the absence of a policy to facilitate the implementation of contracts rather than focusing on penalising the vendor for default and the frequent retraction of tenders are some of the several factors that militate against ease of doing business with the MoD.

The US companies supplying equipment through the FMS program administered by the US agencies seem to be facing the heat while executing those contracts in India and discharging the offset obligation incidental to the main contract, for both of which they have to deal directly with the MoD. The adoption of the Strategic Partnership model by the MoD to give a leg-up to defence manufacturing in India complicates the matter further for the US and other foreign players. The problem does not seem to be poised for an early resolution.

While the ball is in the MoD’s court insofar as the first and the third issues are concerned, a delay in finding a long-term solution to the CAATSA issue could trump everything else.

Trump Administration Doubts Pakistan’s Intentions In Arresting Hafiz Saeed

The Trump administration on Friday expressed doubts over Pakistan’s intentions in arresting Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack, saying his previous arrest made no difference either to his activities or that of his outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“We’ve seen this happen in the past. And we have been looking for sustained and concrete steps, not just window-dressing,” a senior administration official told reporters on Friday, ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US next week. 

Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist, was arrested on Wednesday--the seventh time since December 2001, when he was nabbed in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.

“Let me reassure you, we are clear-eyed about the history here. We’re under no illusions about the support that we could see from Pakistan’s military intelligence services to these groups. So we will look for concrete action,” the official said when asked about the actions that Pakistan had taken against terrorist group and if the US believed in them.

“I noticed that Pakistan has taken some initial steps such as pledging to seize assets of some of these terrorist groups. And, of course, they put under arrest Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba which is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks,” said the official requesting anonymity.

But the official quickly noted that this was the seventh time that Saeed was arrested since 2001.

“That is why we are very clear-eyed and realistic when you see him arrested” as he has been arrested and released in the past. “So we would like to see that Pakistan takes sustained action in actually prosecuting these people,” the official said.

“Quite frankly, the previous arrest of Hafiz Muhammed Saeed hasn’t made a difference and the LeT has been able to operate. So we’re monitoring the situation,” said the senior administration official as reporters asked questions on the links between Pakistani intelligence services and terrorist groups.

The US “remains concerned” about terrorist groups that continue to operate in Pakistan, such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Haqqani network.

'U.S. To Press Imran To Take Irreversible Action Against Terrorists & Facilitate Taliban Talks'

Khan, the 66-year-old cricketer-turned politician, is scheduled to meet Trump at his Oval Office on Monday, the first by a Pakistani leader in nearly four years, the last one being that of Nawaz Sharif in October 2015

Given the history of Pakistani cooperation with these unhelpful groups, the United States is "not under any illusion", that the initial steps that have been taken thus far, the administration is not taking them at face value.

The United States would press Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is slated to meet President Donald Trump next week, to take irreversible action against terrorist and militant groups, and to facilitate peace talks with the Taliban for an intra-Afghan dialogue, the White House said Friday.

Khan, the 66-year-old cricketer-turned politician, is scheduled to meet Trump at his Oval Office on Monday, the first by a Pakistani leader in nearly four years, the last one being that of Nawaz Sharif in October 2015.

He is travelling to the US at an invitation by Trump and the Administration is preparing to give him a warm welcome which includes a traditional welcome at the White House, one-on-one meeting at the Oval Office and a working luncheon in the presence of several of his Cabinet colleagues and leaders from the Pentagon.

However, ahead of the visit, a senior administration official ruled out lifting suspension of security aid to Pakistan unless it sees sustained, decisive and irreversible action against terrorist and militant groups.

"As you know, we suspended security assistance to Pakistan in January 2018. And as of now, there's no change to that policy," the official said in response to a question.

"The purpose of the visit is to press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghanistan peace process, and to encourage Pakistan to deepen and sustain its recent effort to crack down on terrorist and militants within its territory," the senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

The official noted that by extending the invitation to Khan to visit the White House, the US also want to send a message to Pakistan that the "door is open to repairing relations" and building an enduring partnership if Pakistan "changes its policies" with regard to terrorists and militants.

From the US perspective, the President will be most interested in encouraging Pakistan to assist in the Afghanistan peace process. "We're hoping that the discussions are productive," the official said.

Prime Minister Khan's visit is an opportunity to incentivise Pakistan to use the full leverage and influence on the Taliban to advance the peace process in Afghanistan.

"We are calling on Pakistan for assistance in moving the peace process forward," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We do appreciate the initial steps that Pakistan has taken to facilitate this effort. We are reaching a critical juncture in the peace process. We are asking Pakistan to pressure the Taliban into a permanent ceasefire and participation in Intra-Afghan negotiations that would include the Afghan government," the official said.

Asserting that the security assistance to Pakistan continues to be suspended, the official said there has been only minor exceptions for assistance that is directly beneficial to US security.

"By and large that security assistance is still suspended. We will consider changing that suspension on certain items if Pakistan meets our security concerns both in Afghanistan, and with regard to some of the externally focus groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. But as of now, there was no change to that suspension and security systems," the official said.

Given the history of Pakistani cooperation with these unhelpful groups, the United States is "not under any illusion", that the initial steps that have been taken thus far, the administration is not taking them at face value.

"We are monitoring the situation. We will wait and see if the steps are made irreversible and sustainable," the official said, adding that the Trump Administration has "not made a final evaluation" on whether that's the case.

"But we also see that this visit could incentivise Pakistan to continue down the path that they have started. They've facilitated contacts to Taliban and met some of our requests with regards to the Afghan peace process. We're at a critical juncture and we need to see more cooperation from Pakistan. They need to use their full leverage in this endeavour. And so we see this visit as an opportunity to encourage them to do more," the official said.

Discussions with Pakistan will also include potential cooperation on trade, energy and women's issues. "We want to send that message that the doors are open," said the official.

During the meeting, the White House will encourage Pakistan to "create" opportunity for enhancing regional economic development and connectivity.

"For example, we would encourage Pakistan the ease restrictions on trade transcending Pakistan between India and Afghanistan. And we think this would be a very positive step and will demonstrate Pakistan's commitment to a peaceful, prosperous South Asia," the official said.

On his maiden visit to the US, Khan will be welcomed by Trump at the White House. The visit will focus on strengthening cooperation between the two countries to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity to the region, the official said.

The two leaders will discuss a range of issues, including counter terrorism, defence, energy and trade, the official added.

Prominent among those present from the US side would include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Acting Secretary of Defence Richard Spencer and Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford.

India, China To Carry Out Major Military Exercise ‘Hand In Hand’

The military exercise will be based on counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations

NEW DELHI: Continuing to expand military to military engagements, India and China will be carrying out a major military exercise called ‘Hand-in-Hand’ in Meghalaya this year.

The planning conference for the exercise will be held next month. The exercise will take place at Umroi, Meghalaya. It is at the company level, meaning around 100-120 infantry troops from both sides will be participating. It will be based on counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

“The joint exercise with China called ‘Hand-in-Hand’ will be held in December. It will be held at Umroi and will be at the company level,” said an official.

The exercise was previously held in December last year at Chengdu, China. Company size contingents of the Indian Army’s 11 SIKHLI and a regiment from Tibetan Military District of the People’s Liberation Army participated in the exercise.

The exercise didn’t take place in 2017 due to the 72-days long standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam. The standoff brought a drastic change in ties between the two countries, which later normalised following the disengagement of the standoff in August last year. While the strength of either side in Doklam has reduced, the army is continuously monitoring Chinese activities in the area.

The exercise aims to build close relations between the armies of the two countries. It comes in the backdrop of situation along the Line of Actual Control, which has so far remained peaceful. The number of transgressions this year also considerably reduced as compared to last year, according to the defence ministry in its annual report 2018-19. The percentage of face-offs during these transgressions also reduced this year. Post the Wuhan summit in April 2018, there has been an increase in the number of flag meetings.

The ministry also said that 2018-19 witnessed renewed momentum in defence and military to military exchanges between the two sides. The visit of the Chinese defence minister to India in August last year and the Defence Secretary level Annual Defence and Security Dialogue in Beijing in November laid the ground for continued bilateral engagements and exchanges in defence.

Blacklist Fear Forces Pakistan To Shut 20 Terror Camps In PoK

Sources said the declining intensity of ceasefire violations on the LoC also points to the changed status of activity from the Pakistan side

Top intelligence sources told The Indian Express that their inputs suggest shutting down of 20 terror camps from where Pakistan was sending militants across to Kashmir.

The fear of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October has forced Pakistan to shut down 20 terror camps inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) this year. Moreover, government data shows that there have been no reports of infiltration and cross-border action on the Line of Control (LoC) this summer.

Top intelligence sources told The Indian Express that their inputs suggest shutting down of 20 terror camps from where Pakistan was sending militants across to Kashmir. This has happened before the FATF meeting in the US in June where Pakistan’s grey-listing continued, sources said, and is likely to remain in place until October when a case for blacklisting Pakistan over money-laundering and terror funding will be taken up by the FATF in Paris.

“We have been able to shift the focus from ML (money laundering) to TF (terror funding) in Pakistan’s case in the FATF and we have all seen the results. Pakistan may or may not be blacklisted at Paris but a serious danger of being blacklisted, along with the economic consequences of continued grey-listing, has forced Rawalpindi’s hand,” sources said.

According to sources, the biggest evidence of change in Pakistan on terror camps is the fact that there have been “no reports of infiltration and cross-border action on the LoC”. This is the first time in nearly three decades of militancy in Kashmir that cross-LoC infiltration has come to an absolute halt. Sources also contend that this is bound to have a major impact on the militancy in Kashmir where security forces continue to conduct intensive counter-terrorist operations.

Official documents reviewed by The Indian Express, however, display a certain hesitation in seeing this change from Pakistan as a “permanent change of heart”. An official note on the situation in Kashmir states upfront that there are “some inputs regarding activation of launch pads along the LoC”. It further analyses that “inputs regarding presence of terrorists in launch pads indicate Pakistan’s design to attempt infiltration/ trans-LoC operations”.

They have identified a total of 28 launch pads run by Pakistan across the LoC, both north and south of Pir Panjal ranges, from where infiltration attempts could still be made by Pakistan. Depending on the weather and the snowfall, the period from May to October is seen as conducive for infiltration of militants on the LoC.

Sources said the declining intensity of ceasefire violations on the LoC also points to the changed status of activity from the Pakistan side. “Pakistan seeks a de-escalation along the LoC,” sources assert and that is reflected in the calibre of weapons that are being used in ceasefire violations.

On July 9, The Indian Express reported that of the 181 ceasefire violations on the LoC in June, 175 involved small arms firing. There were only six instances of calibre escalation, all of them south of Pir Panjal ranges and the Indian side suffered one fatal casualty in the action.

Overall, security forces have had 71 fatal casualties and 115 non-fatal casualties in Kashmir this year. Out of 71 dead, there are 15 Army men, 48 troopers of the CAPF and eight J&K policemen.

In A First, Women Security Personnel To Get Customised Protective Gear

Till date, Women security personnel had to use gear designed for males. The full body armour includes shoulder pads, arm guards etc. It took over two years to design the customised gear

In a first, women serving in the police and CRPF will soon don customised body armour, also known as Full Body Protectors (FBP).

Till date, they had to make do with gear designed for their male counterparts.

"In police the gear we often use is male dominant but now with this new gender specific gear women would be able to perform their duties with much more ease," said senior police officer Suman Nulwa, in-charge of Delhi Police training school.

Most of the women officers NDTV spoke to had problems with the gear they wore while tackling law and order. "Helmet is a crucial gear. Rarely helmets fit women as they are custom made for men. It was a long standing demand," said an IPS officer who tackled Nirbhaya protestors in Delhi.

The full body armour includes shoulder pads, arm guards, front and back shields, among other parts.

A woman CRPF officer posted in Kashmir said: "Till now we were given small size of men and had to really struggle to make it fit but now with this new gear our combativeness will go up."

The full body armour includes shoulder pads, arm guards, front and back shields, among other parts. Earlier body gear was ill-suited for female personnel and could not provide the proper protection required.

"The confidence level of women who are deputed in law and order will go up. They would be able to move around with ease and thus would be able to do their duty in much better manner," says another officer posted in Valley.

The idea to provide gender specific gear was first mooted at the National Conference for Women in police, an official at the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

"Subsequently, the issue was flagged in Lok Sabha while discussing the problems faced by women in Police and Armed Forces," the official added.

A committee headed by Anupam Kulshreshtha, IG Provisioning of CRPF, was set up to expedite the process.

The CRPF, in close association with DIPAS (Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences) and Defence Research Organisation (DRDO), took over two years to design the customised gear.

The scientists at DIPAS studied women jawans of CRPF's Rapid Action Force before designing the body gear.

The body gear was unveiled in Delhi by Director General CRPF Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar in presence of Director General Life Sciences AK Singh, Director DIPAS Bhuvnesh Kumar, and scientists of DRDO and senior officers of CRPF.

Exercise Garuda A Big Success, Gives IAF More Teeth To Fight Challenges

Ex Garuda-VI was the largest international air training exercise for the year 2019, where the IAF had pitched 134 air-warriors, four Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters besides one IL-78 and two C-17 aircraft which were providing logistic support during induction and de-induction.To promote interoperability through exchange of knowledge and experience were the main objectives of the exercise and to bring both India and France closer.

Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent landed back after a successful Ex Garuda 2019, a bilateral Indo-French hosted by French Air Force (FAF) for a fortnight from July 1-12 at Mont-de-Marsan France. Lessons learnt will help IAF in adding more teeth to its overall war waging capabilities.

Ex Garuda-VI was the largest international air training exercise for the year 2019, where the IAF had pitched 134 air-warriors, four Su-30MKI fighters besides one IL-78 and two C-17 aircraft which were providing logistic support during induction and de-induction.

To promote interoperability through exchange of knowledge and experience were the main objectives of the exercise and to bring both India and France closer.

It also ensured that the participating contingents were given exposure to operational environment in an international scenario.

As has been reported earlier, Ex-Garuda VI was planned in two phases, where both the IAF and the FAF were flying missions which involved Large Force Engagement (LFE) air combat exercises in near realistic environment. The two air forces also exchanged best practices towards enhancing their operational capability and participated in operations both by day and by night.

According to IAF officials, during the entire duration of the exercise, the IAF maintenance crew ensured 100% serviceability of all assets, in an effort to ensure that all missions were flown on all days as planned.

Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Vice Chief of Air Staff had also visited the IAF contingent during the exercise and also flew in the final mission and had interacted with GARUDA participants during the closing ceremony of Exercise Garuda-VI.

The continued participation in such joint exercises help India in better joint man ship with the friendly forces. Over the year, there has been active participation by IAF in various exercises hosted by various countries.

UN Report On J&K ‘Helped’ Pakistan: Govt

The report said that Indian Army is proactively engaging with MEA and MHA to counter the propaganda. It also said that suspension of operations against terrorists in Kashmir by Centre on request of the state government during Ramzan was used by militants to strengthen network

New Delhi: Defence ministry in its annual report has admitted that Pakistan propaganda on Kashmir has received a “fillip” following report by the “Office of the NHRC.”

“Pakistan, with renewed vigour in 2018, orchestrated an international campaign on Kashmir through its sponsored proxies by trying to project law and order maintenance actions as trumped up human rights cases of excess use of force,” said defence ministry’s Annual Report 2018-19.

It said that Pakistan’s effort “to portray Kashmir issue has received a fillip, following the publication of two international reports by the Office of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the British Parliaments ‘All Party Coordination Committee’.”

The report said that Indian Army is proactively engaging with MEA and MHA to counter the propaganda. It also said that suspension of operations against terrorists in Kashmir by Centre on request of the state government during Ramzan was used by militants to strengthen network.

Assam NRC: India Can't Be Refugee Capital of World, Centre Tells Apex Court

The Centre and the Assam government on Friday moved the apex court for extension of the July 31 deadline for finalisation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Union, Assam government also sought sample verification of the citizens included in the NRC.At the request of solicitor general, the SC postponed hearing on NRC sample re-verification plea to Tuesday

NEW DELHI: The Centre and the Assam government on Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking extension of the July 31 deadline for finalisation of the NRC.

Moving the Supreme Court, solicitor general Tushar Mehta told a bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R F Nariman that "Illegal migrants have no place in the country. India cannot be the refugee capital of the world."

The Union and state government also sought sample verification of the citizens included in the NRC, saying lakhs of people have been wrongly included in areas bordering Bangladesh due to involvement of local officers.

At the request of solicitor general, the SC postponed hearing on NRC sample re-verification plea to Tuesday.

The first draft of the NRC for Assam was published on the intervening night of December 31, 2017 and January 1, 2018 in accordance with the top court's direction. Names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated then.

Assam, which had faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC which was first prepared in 1951.

Indian Army Successfully Tests 3rd Generation NAG ATGM; 'Made In India' Missile Blows Target To Smithereens

New Delhi: The Indian Army has successfully carried out summer user trials of third Generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile NAG at Pokhran Field Firing Ranges today.

The trials of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) developed Missile were conducted between July 7-18, 2019.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has congratulated the user evaluation teams and DRDO for the successful completion of the user trials.

NAG missile has been developed to engage highly fortified enemy tanks in all weather conditions with day and night capabilities and with a minimum range of 500 metres and maximum range of four kilometres. It is a third-generation fire and forget class missile and uses an imaging infrared seeker in lock-on-before-launch mode. The missile is launched from the NAG missile carrier (NAMICA) which is capable of carrying up to six combat missiles.

The robust imaging algorithm has made the missile hit the target at a four-kilometre distance even in severe summer desert conditions which are unique in its class. As part of the NAG summer user trials, six missions were conducted under the extreme temperature conditions of the Pokhran Ranges.

All the missiles have met the mission objectives including minimum range, maximum range, indirect attack as well as top attack modes and achieved a direct hit onto the target. The missile system has already cleared the winter user trials in February.
The trials were conducted by the user team from the Army as per the user-defined trial directive. The missile system has already cleared the winter user trials in Feb 2019. Government has already issued the Acceptance of Necessity for induction of NAG after user trials. All the ten missiles, which were fired during winter and summer trails, successfully hit the targets. Completion of summer user trials will now pave the way for production and induction of the missile system into the Army. The trials were witnessed by senior officials of the Army and DRDO.

Germany Seeks India’s Stamp On US-Led Afghanistan Talks

by Indrani Bagchi

NEW DELHI: Germany wants India to endorse the Zalmay Khalilzad peace process in Afghanistan. “We would like to see India play a bigger role in Afghanistan,” said Markus Potzel, Germany’s special envoy to Afghanistan. Potzel will be meeting with senior officials in the MEA on Friday. Germany has played a key role in facilitating the intra-Afghan dialogue that happened in Doha on July 7-8. 
Announcing his visit, MEA’s spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar said, “Tomorrow, we will exchange views with the Special Representative from Germany who is responsible for Intra-Afghan dialogue. We believe that all initiatives and processes must include all sections of the Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government. Any process should respect the constitutional legacy and political mandate and should not lead to any ungoverned spaces where terrorist and their proxies can relocate.” 

Talking to journalists, Potzel said he was not here to give “advice” to Indians, saying he had come here to “brief” the Indian government on the ongoing developments. “We would hope India would be part of the coming rounds of conversations on Afghanistan.” This, he said, was something Khalilzad had planned, which would include other regional powers like the Central Asian republics, Gulf states, Turkey and others. Currently, the peace process is being run by the US, supported by Russia, Pakistan, and China, with the latest round of talks in China over the last weekend. Khalilzad last engaged with the Indian government during the election campaign, when he met NSA Ajit Doval and 

The German government and one of its NGOs specialising in mediation shortlisted a group of 60 members of Afghan civil society, including a couple of members of Ghani’s government but participating in their personal capacity, to travel to Doha from Kabul in a German-chartered plane. For two days, the Afghans met and argued and talked to each other, the Taliban led by Sher Mohammed Stanikzai, while the civil society representatives included several women, two of whom were religious scholars who debated on the finer points of Islam with Taliban leaders. As the US-Taliban peace process unfolds, a key concern is the position of women in a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan. 

However, Germany shares India’s concerns on both an interim/transitional the government in Afghanistan or even postponing or cancelling the presidential elections, currently scheduled for September 28. Iran was initially asked to be part of last weekend’s talks in Beijing, but Tehran refused to engage the US, which has put them under nuclear sanctions. 

Questioned about India’s approach to the developments in Afghanistan, the MEA spokesperson said, “ US side briefs us on their talks from time to time. We are also in regular consultations with other active players like all political forces in Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China on this issue.” 

Reiterating its stand on peace in Afghanistan, MEA said, “We have supported a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled. This has been communicated to all our partners and we are quite confident that our points of view will be part of any peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.”

Lockheed Martin Signs MOUs With Indian Startups To Boost India's Aerospace And Defence Industry

Vivek Lall, Vice-President Lockheed Martin Aeronautics with industry participants

US-based Lockheed Martin signed MoUs with Terero Mobility, Sastra Robotics, and NoPo Nanotechnologies to integrate with its supply chain and boost India's and aerospace and defence industry.

US-based aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin announced today that it has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with three startups from India - Terero Mobility, Sastra Robotics, and NoPo Nanotechnologies.

The startups will integrate with Lockheed Martin’s supply chain, and contribute to the evolution of both the Indian and global aerospace and defence industry.

Vivek Lall, Vice President - Strategy and Business Development, Lockheed Martin, said in a press statement,

“The agreements attest to the commitment of Lockheed Martin to cultivate and integrate indigenous content into global systems and platforms. Through these agreements, we look to provide engineering support, mentoring, and assistance in the qualification of some of the technologies proposed, all of which contribute to our mission of making in India.”

Founded by IIT Madras alumni, Terero Mobility is a spin-off from a Lockheed Martin-sponsored R&D project. The company expects to provide Terero Mobility with a scope of work for design development, test and qualification of the Cargo Ground Buildup System (CGBS) for fixed and rotary wing aircraft, apart from system engineering support and mentoring.

NoPo Nanotechnologies is a Bangalore-based startup working with a vision to enable humanity to be a space faring species. NoPo provides custom engineering solutions to improve safety, reliability and performance of materials using carbon nanotubes. For NoPo, the aerospace company intends to offer a scope of work for qualification of as-produced, purified and metallic sorted HiPCO carbon nano-tubes to provide electromagnetic interference and lightning protection.

Sastra Robotics is a five-year-old robotics startup based out of Kochi, which focuses on manufacturing intelligent robotic platforms for industrial product testing automation. Lockheed Martin expects to provide Sastra Robotics with a scope of work for qualification of robots produced by the company for avionics testing. These products can help in the testing of avionics display of tactical fighter platforms including the F-21.

Phil Shaw, CEO of Lockheed Martin, said,

“We are delighted to have identified, through the IIGP, three inspiring startups that we perceive potential to collaborate with on a global scale. We envision our intended partnership with them to enhance the platforms and programs we’re developing, especially the solutions we wish to offer India.”

America & Pakistan: Back To A Cosy Future

New Delhi’s greatest concern traditionally has been the transfer of military systems and technology to Islamabad

by Indranil Banerjie

Geopolitical gears appear to be shifting once again in South Asia with Washington being the primary driver. The question is whether this portends a return to the cosy relationship between the United States and Pakistan as in the past?

For, if Washington is once again planning to use Islamabad as a pivot for its South and West Asia policy, then New Delhi has reason to be concerned even though the imperative for such a development is neither hostile nor anti-India.

The hard fact of the matter is that a re-engagement or revival of the strategic inter-dependencies between those two countries has a direct bearing on India. While Washington’s view is global and multi-dimensional, Islamabad’s is not — it has always been India-centric and continues to be so.

New Delhi’s greatest concern traditionally has been the transfer of military systems and technology to Islamabad. It is difficult to forget that the Pakistan Air Force dared to attack Indian targets after Balakot simply because it had American-made F-16 fighter aircraft fitted with AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM).

This missile was supplied to the Pakistanis by the US as recently as 2011. India protested against the sales and for good reason too. It was well known that the missiles supplied would be a game changer in the South Asian context given that this particular variant, the 120C, with its range of over 100 km, would out-distance any missile currently in the IAF’s arsenal.

Right enough, when it came to the crunch in the post-Balakot skirmish, there was nothing the IAF could do but throw an aircraft at the intruding enemy and get close enough for a shot. The downing of the MiG-21 piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman proved how much of a disadvantage India was at because of US military transfers to Pakistan.

In recent years, arms transfers by Washington to Pakistan have virtually ceased due to the deteriorating strategic ties since 2016. US President Donald Trump had suspended security and other assistance to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of repaying US generosity with only “lies and deceit”. 

The main problem between the two arose from differences over Afghanistan. But now with Islamabad and Washington drawing close to a deal on Afghanistan which would allow an orderly US military withdrawal, the equations once again have changed.

The Taliban, which is controlled by Pakistan’s Army headquarters, seem to have agreed to hold Intra-Afghan talks and could be amenable to some sort of power sharing. Perhaps, they might even allow a small US military presence to remain in Afghanistan. However, it is clear that Washington, in its quest to quit the unending Afghan war, is prepared to cede effective control in that country to Islamabad. China could also play a role as guarantor.

President Trump has, however, made it a point to reassure New Delhi that he intends to look after its interests. This is perhaps why he took personal credit for the arrest of arch-terrorist Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, in Pakistan on Wednesday. This might suggest that New Delhi may not be left out completely in the cold in these shifting times.

But the story of change doesn’t end here. The Trump administration could be preparing to cosy up to Pakistan not because it hates or dislikes India but because it feels it might need the help of Pakistan’s jihadist generals to further its many and often complex aims in West Asia, where things are in a ferment today.

A hint of what might be in the offing was offered by the US Gen. Mark A. Milley, who was nominated by President Trump as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In his response to questions for his confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee, the general stated: “From East Asia to the Middle East to Eastern Europe, authoritarian actors are testing the limits of the international system and seeking regional dominance while challenging international norms and undermining US interests… Our goal should be to sustain great power peace that has existed since World War II, and deal firmly with all those who might challenge us.”

He pointedly mentioned Pakistan as “a key partner in achieving US interests in South Asia, including developing a political settlement in Afghanistan; defeating Al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan; providing logistical access for US forces; and enhancing regional stability”.

Significantly, he called for a strengthening of military-to-military ties with Pakistan, adding: “While we have suspended security assistance and paused major defence dialogues, we need to maintain strong military-to- military ties based on our shared interests.” So now it’s back to the good old days of shared interests!

The first-ever summit-level meeting between Pakistan PM Imran Khan and President Trump is due next week (July 22) at the White House. Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who will be there, declared that this invitation constituted an “acknowledgement of the inherent importance” of bilateral ties. He was also quick to add that Pakistan was “mindful” of US priorities in war-torn Afghanistan. The times are indeed changing once again!

Perhaps Islamabad’s strategic importance, as an ultimate guarantor of “peace” in West Asia, has assumed more relevance given the rapid breakdown of Washington’s relations with Turkey, a NATO ally, over the purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems and other major disagreements. President Trump had warned Turkey not to go ahead with the S-400 deal, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by declaring the S-400 deal to be “the most important agreement in [Turkish] modern history.” Deliveries of the missile system commenced from July 12.

This constitutes a huge snub to the United States. But things could get worse as some reports suggest that Turkey may be planning to assault parts of northern Syria controlled by Kurdish forces supported by the United States.

Things are also not going well for the Saudis in their war against the tenacious Houthis of Yemen, who are Shias supported by the ayatollahs in Tehran. Other Arab nations are quietly leaving the Saudi war. The regime change effort in Syria too has failed.

All this is reason for Washington to be worried. Hence the move to mend fences with estranged allies. New Delhi, on the other hand, which has big plans for boosting its relations with Washington, must heed the changes that could threaten to prick its ballooning ambitions.