Wednesday, March 21, 2018

U.S., India: Forging A Strategic Defense Partnership

The Big Picture

In our 2018 South Asia Annual Forecast, we said that India would pursue a deeper security partnership with the United States in an effort to counter China's growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. This week, India's national security adviser is traveling to the United States to meet with his U.S. counterpart, which aligns with our forecast. We can expect India and China, the world's two most populous nations, to continue to compete for influence across the region

India is exploring a deepening defense partnership with the United State as it seeks to balance against an increasingly assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region. On March 20, Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval arrived in the United States to meet with his American counterpart, H.R. McMaster, along with incoming U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and incoming CIA Director Gina Haspel. Doval's visit aims to lay the groundwork for a first-ever dialogue between Indian and U.S. foreign and defense ministers, which was originally scheduled for April 18 but which has since been delayed pending Pompeo's confirmation.

Of particular significance during Doval's visit are two outstanding foundational defense agreements India has yet to sign with the United States. The first is called the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and involves sharing encrypted technology and secure communications between the two countries' militaries. The second is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which would enable Washington to share geospatial intelligence with New Delhi.

India's history of colonization has instilled in its government a desire for maintaining strategic military autonomy and preventing interference from larger powers. Thus, the country's policymakers are wary of any agreements that could be perceived as compromising this ethos. Indeed, New Delhi negotiated for more than a decade before it finally signed a foundational U.S.-India defense pact in August 2016. That document, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, allows for logistics sharing between the Indian and American militaries on a case-by-case basis.

But there are signs that India could fast-track discussions about the new agreements. Reports suggest that New Delhi is satisfied with the way that Washington has so far addressed concerns about Indian military autonomy, though no details have been released on the matter. If India does end up signing and implementing COMCASA and BECA later this year, the Indian and U.S. militaries will be able to greatly increase their interoperability. The signing would also indicate a shift in India's approach to its own strategic autonomy doctrine.

So far, there is only limited information about the progress of the two defense agreements, and there are many details left to address. But the United States and India share a strong desire to counter China's maritime expansion, which they both view as a threat to their energy and trade routes in the Indian and Pacific oceans. And this mutual interest will likely encourage cooperation, despite the risks it may raise.

India Plan To Open Military Base On Indian Ocean Island Runs Aground

PM Narendra Modi meets with Seychelles President Danny Faure in New Delhi

Seychelles' opposition coalition, which holds a majority in parliament, said Tuesday it would not ratify a deal signed with India to build a military base on one of the archipelago's outlying islands.

The deal would see India invest $550 million dollars in building the base on Assumption island to help it ensure the safety of its vessels in the southern Indian Ocean.

Indian soldiers would be deployed on the island which lies 1,135 kilometres southwest from the capital Victoria, and help train Seychelles' troops.

However, the deal has faced some resistance from locals, and Wavel Ramkalawan, head of the opposition Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (Seychelles Democratic Union in Creole) said the coalition "will not ratify the Assumption deal. This deal is dead".

The LDS had held a majority in parliament since its victory in 2016 legislative elections.

On Monday, President Danny Faure said he would meet with Mr Ramkalawan on March 26 to discuss the deal, which was agreed in principle in 2015 and then finalised in January this year.

The government says the base will help coastguards to patrol its 1.3 million square kilometre exclusive economic zone for illegal fishing, drug trafficking and piracy.

Currently, the remote coral island has a tin shack post office, an air strip and almost no people. Less than seven kilometres long the island has a high point just 30 metres above sea level and is covered in bird excrement.

But its location lends it strategic importance for monitoring shipping in the Mozambique Channel.

However, Indian presence in Seychelles is a sensitive matter. Some fear an influx of Indian workers who, they say, might come to dominate the economy, while others consider a foreign power building a military base an affront to sovereignty and national pride.

Opponents of the plan also cite Assumption's relative proximity to Aldabra Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises.

On Monday, President Danny Faure said he would meet with Mr Ramkalawan on March 26 to discuss the deal, which was agreed in principle in 2015 and then finalised in January this year.

India’s Aid To Nepal Up 73% To Check China’s Infra Push

India’s aid to Nepal in 2017-18 financial year stood at Rs 375 crore

LUCKNOW/NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to hike its financial aid for the financial year beginning April this year to Nepal to Rs 650 crore, a 73% increase from the previous year allocation, while expressing concern over increasing Chinese presence in some of the neighbourhood countries. 

India’s aid to Nepal in 2017-18 financial year stood at Rs 375 crore. 

However, the largest allocation of aid by India has yet again been kept for Bhutan at Rs 1,813 crore, which is part of the five-year commitment to help the royal government build hydro-electric projects at Punatsangchhu, and Mangdechhu among other infrastructure works. 

Bhutan had firmly stood behind India when its troops and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped building a road in the disputed trijunction by the Chinese Army. Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam. The face-off ended on August 28. 

This has been disclosed in the parliamentary committee report on external affairs tabled last week.

“China is making serious headway in infrastructure projects in our neighbourhood. Specifying the strategy devised to counter increasing Chinese presence in our backyard, the government is committed to advancing its development partnership with Bhutan and Nepal, as per their priorities,” the report says.

“The allocation of funds under to Bhutan and Nepal for 2018-19 is a reflection of our expanded development partnership with the two countries and continued emphasis on expeditious implementation of our ongoing projects, in consultation and coordination with the respective governments, for mutual benefits,” it adds.

In a response to the panel on whether the sharp rise in allocation to Nepal is a strategic step to counter growing Chinese influence, the report states, “India and Nepal have close cultural and civilisational ties and a wide-ranging and expanding partnership across diverse sectors, which stand firmly on their own.”

The report points out security concerns on the Indo-Nepal border among reasons to hike the aid. Detailed project reports have been prepared for the Integrated Check Posts at Nepalgunj and Bhairahawa in Nepal.

India-US ‘2+2 Talks’ Likely In May Or June

The two-plus-two dialogue could now be held either in May or June.

NEW DELHI: India and the United States are working on rescheduling the maiden “two-plus-two” dialogue between the foreign ministers and defence ministers of the two sides, after the meeting fixed for April 18 and 19 had to be postponed because it was not certain that Mike Pompeo, the new secretary of state, would get his Senate confirmation before April 18. The two-plus-two dialogue could now be held either in May or June.

Ahead of that, the two sides are planning to hold a senior minister level dialogue in April to maintain the momentum in strategic partnership as they prepare for the first two-plus-two dialogue, people aware of the matter said.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman were earlier scheduled to travel to Washington for the dialogue. But last week, President Donald Trump suddenly removed secretary of state Rex Tillerson and appointed Pompeo in his place, necessitating postponement of the dialogue. The spring recess of the US Congress begins on March 22 and lawmakers would resume their legislative business on April 2.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which holds the confirmation hearing, has not scheduled it on its calendar yet.

Once Pompeo’s nomination process breezes through this committee, it would go to the Senate floor for a vote.

Pompeo is meeting Tillerson and US lawmakers ahead of his confirmation hearings. He is already facing opposition from his own party. Republican Senator Rand Paul said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ programme on Sunday that he would take all necessary steps to oppose Trump’s nominees for secretary of state and CIA director. The new two-plus-two Indo-US dialogue was announced when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a successful meeting with President Trump at the White House in June last year. Earlier, under the Obama administration, India and the US held a dialogue that included the commerce minister along with the foreign minister.

How Radars Unearthed 39 Indians Killed By ISIS

ISIS Terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Indian labourers were abducted along with more than 50 Bangladeshi workers. 2 mounds in Badoosh town seemed suspicious. Mounds were excavated to find any remains of victims who had been in ISIS captivity since 2014

by Manjeet Singh Negi

While searching for the 39 missing Indians in Iraq, former Army chief and Union minister Gen VK Singh received inputs about two mounds in Badoosh town that appeared as if something had been buried there.

The Indian team led by Singh and Iraqi forces decided to excavate the mounds to find any remains of the victims who had been in ISIS captivity since 2014 when the Islamic terrorists started taking over vast areas in Iraq and Syria.

The digging process was to be carried out as if searching for artefacts at an archaeological site.

"When they first started excavating, they found one kada and bunch of long hairs that gave us an indication that these might be our people from Punjab. How many of them would be there was not clear," Gen VK Singh told Mail Today.

As the excavation began, Iraqi authorities started finding human remains. The first Indian who could be identified was Sandeep Kumar from Punjab. The identification of the remaining bodies began as Baghdad forensic laboratories started matching them with DNA samples sent by Indian authorities.

It was only after the identity of all the Indians was ascertained that the families of the deceased were informed about their death.

In June 2014, Indian officials in Iraq had lost contact with 40 construction workers, most of them were from Punjab. They were working at a government construction project in Mosul, Iraq.

The labourers were abducted by ISIS along with some Bangladeshi workers. A few days after their abduction, the Islamic State had released 55 Bangladeshis. One Indian worker Harjit Masih had also managed to flee and contact Swaraj.

Badoosh prison was completely destroyed during the clash of ISIS and Iraqi forces and the government in Baghdad had declared there were no inmates in the prison. Until last year, even the Iraqi government was also not sure whether the Indians were dead or alive.

The search for the 39 people that started in 2014 was carried out extensively under Gen VK Singh's supervision that travelled for weeks in the war zones of Iraq including at times when the fighting between the Iraqi army and ISIS terrorists was on.

"It was not a one-day affair. It required collating all required information. Mosul was declared as liberated in July but I was not able to get into proper Mosul as the fighting was still going on. Therefore, I went in through Erbel with Peshmerga from the other side of Mosul," the minister said.

To fulfil the promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to search out the 39 Indians, Gen Singh said every input received by the Indian authorities was about Badoosh town, which was the last known location of the Indians.

Masih had claimed that all the Indians were shot dead by ISIS as soon as they were captured but he managed to survive and flee. His story was initially not accepted by the Indian government which was receiving inputs that they were alive.

Officials who travelled with Singh said there were many times when the minister and his staff shared one room, which would double up as conference room for discussing the search operations with Iraqi forces.

Bajwa Doctrine: Removal of Nawaz Sharif, Reliance On China Shows Pakistan Army Still On The Same Path

Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa

by Tara Kartha

In the last few months, there has been an outpouring in Pakistan media on the so-called “Bajwa Doctrine” of the army, based presumably on the thinking of its chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The whole debate seems to have been set off by a paper by a Pakistani analyst working at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on the same subject, as well as the attempts by many to attribute a certain personality and style to Bajwa.

At a time when Pakistanis badly need to believe that their leaders have done something right, the thought of a ‘Bajwa Doctrine’ that bases itself on Pakistani pride and ability to face down US pressure is a shot in the arm at a time when talk of designating Pakistan as a terrorist state is under discussion. There is no doubt that the redoubtable army chief is facing crisis after crisis with apparent aplomb. The problem is that most of those crises have been created by his own institution at various points of time. But leaving that aside for the moment, the main points of the Bajwa Doctrine according to some analysts are the following:

The first argument is that unlike former president Pervez Musharraf, Bajwa has proved more capable of resisting US pressure. In his own memoir, Musharraf recalled that the US threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age if it didn’t cooperate with the Americans in providing land and air space for its operations into Afghanistan. Following that threat, Pakistan rolled back the Taliban. It even closed down a few camps along the Line of Control. However, this is an unfair comparison, since Musharraf was facing tumultuous times immediately after 9/11 when it seemed anything could happen. Moreover, it doesn’t appear that anyone has made a similar threat to the current army chief.

Perhaps this is a pointer that such a threat should be made, since that seems to be the only method of getting Pakistan to roll back its disastrous policies.

What the Bajwa Doctrine — such as it is said to be — actually does, is to place an unhealthy reliance on China to prevent such a threat from being actually carried out. Recent events, such as China backing off from protecting Pakistan at the meeting of the Financial Action Task Force is a pointer for some course correction in the general’s doctrine. Like all nations, China works towards its own benefits. Certainly it would oppose a bombing of Pakistan, partly as an old ally, but primarily because it has now sunk several billions of dollars in investment. In such a scenario, where a bombing of Pakistan was imminent, China is far more likely to twist Pakistani arms to reduce its reliance on terrorism as a tool of national security. This is something that the Bajwa Doctrine should carefully assess if it has to base itself on realistic expectations of its ‘all-weather’ friend.

A second aspect of the Bajwa Doctrine appears to lie in the general’s facing down demands that Pakistan do more in stopping terror. It is true that Pakistani security forces have lost valuable lives in fighting an effective counter terrorism battle in Karachi: An operation that it is undertaking for the third time in the past several years. It is also true that the army has undertaken an unrelenting operation in the tribal areas against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan ( TTP), which involved bombing and strafing its own citizens.

True, also that the TTP has been the primary source of terrorism in the country. At an international security conference in Munich recently, the army chief rather realistically blamed previous Pakistani and US governments for backing the rise of radicalism in pursuit of goals in Afghanistan. This argument, and the reality that the US suddenly abandoned the Afghan theater and turned to Iraq, would have been better received if the Pakistani Army chief had not also claimed that there were no more ‘organised’ terrorist camps on its territory. A second course correction on the general’s doctrine is therefore quite simply this: Don’t mix facts and sheer untruths. It reduces the impact of the good arguments that you undoubtedly have.

A third strand of the doctrine arises to some extent from the above. The basis of the analysis that backs the Bajwa Doctrine as ideal for Pakistan, is that US policy remains unchanged over the years, whether under the Bush administration or under President Donald Trump. There is some truth in this. During his address, the army chief indicated that of 131 terrorist attacks against his country, at least 123 had been propagated from Afghanistan by such groups like the TTP and the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

Pakistan has long been asking — or demanding — the US rid such elements from Afghanistan in return for action against the Taliban. US forces did just that several years ago. Starting around 2009, they began to pick out the TTP leaders waging war against Pakistan. The death of Baitullah Mehsud was a particular blow for the group. Attacks by the TTP against the Pakistan security forces thereafter declined, and as the pressure eased, so did cooperation from the Pakistanis on reining in the Taliban. Recently, media reports have stated that the US offered handsome rewards for other TTP leaders hiding in Afghanistan, clearly in response to demands from Pakistan. The doctrine is therefore right in saying that US policy has not changed in its inability to perceive that a ‘reward and threat’ policy against Pakistan is not going to work. Pakistan will take the reward, and slide out of the threat.

What else the Bajwa Doctrine is supposed to embody can be paraphrased in a tweet which calls it a “Superman and a Batman” at the same time. In all fairness, the Pakistan Army has not exactly received support from politicians who kept their own interests foremost rather than that of the country. Faced with chicanery and greed, one army chief after another sent prime ministers into oblivion, preventing the growth of not only institutions, but also eroding the functional capability of the governments to undertake even minimal governance: Which in turn leads to yet another army intervention.

It is here that a “Bajwa Doctrine” can certainly be discerned. The cyclical army takeovers have been replaced by a highly successful exercise of pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

This has been most recently apparent in the calibrated exercise which cut down Nawaz Sharif, then removed him as party head, and thereafter played with the electoral process to ensure that the senate elections don’t go into his party’s hands: Primarily by unseating the Balochistan government. As an exercise in “governance”, this is yet to be beaten in terms of its sheer breadth and scope.

With regard to India, the only ‘doctrine’ visible seems to be to push in as many terrorists as possible, and vitiating diplomatic ties to the extent of even refusing an outreach by India in inviting the Pakistan commerce minister to attend the meeting of the World Trade Organisation. In December 2017, Bajwa promised the Pakistan Parliament the army would back any peace overtures to India.

For the Bajwa Doctrine to gain heft and leave a lasting historical memory, it would be wise indeed if the army chief persuaded Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to step up to the stage and extend a hand. That would actually flesh out the ‘doctrine’ into a real strategy, instead of simply being a set of beliefs that others have assigned to an imperturbable army chief.

India Hands Over Milestone Locomotive To Myanmar

In a significant manifestation of New Delhi's Neighbourhood First policy, India handed over the 18th diesel electric locomotive to Myanmar, thereby completing the first project under the current Indian line of credit (LoC) to the eastern neighbour.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Railways, Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain attended the formal handing over ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw of 18th AC-DC 1350 HP diesel electric locomotive to Myanmar Railways, supplied by RITES and manufactured by Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi.

"These 18 locomotives are fitted with micro-processor control based system," the statement said, adding that the engines, with a maximum speed of 100 kmph, have been customised for Myanmar Railways.

Most of these supplies in the railway sector have been carried out under the Indian LoC.

"As per the agreement schedule, all locomotives were to be delivered by September 2018. They have been delivered six months ahead of the schedule," the statement said.

Thanking the Indian Embassy in Myanmar for their coordination and assistance with the Myanmar authorities in the facilitation of the project, Gohain said that "this association will help strengthen friendly border relations with India".

Myanmar's Minister of Transportation and Communication U Thant Sin Moung held that the valued cordial relationship between the two countries can go beyond the present interaction.

"He showed keen interest in the training programmes offered by the Indian Railways and on the signaling and telecommunication systems," the statement said.

This project can also be seen as being in tune with New Delhi's efforts at connectivity with southeast Asia under its Act East Policy.

Major India-Myanmar cooperation projects in this regard include the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the maintenace of the deep-water port at Sittwe, the capital of Myanmar's trouble-torn Rakhine State, and the road from Paletwa to Zorinpui on the border of India's northeastern state of Mizoram.

Both the port and road are parts of the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit and Transport Project being developed by India, which is aimed at reducing the need to transport goods between northeastern India and the rest of India through the narrow Siliguri corridor

Other key projects include Rhi-Tiddim road project and the project to build 69 bridges on the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa road of the trilateral highway.

India's Space-Tech Expertise Helps Develop Security Against Ballistic Missile Threats

by Anil Bhat

On February 15, 2017 Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) successfully launched the 714 kg Cartosat-2 series satellite along with 103 co-passenger satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. 12 minutes later, all the 104 satellites successfully separated from the PSLV in a predetermined sequence.

The two solar arrays of Cartosat-2 series satellite controlled by ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore, provide remote sensing services using panchromatic (black and white) and multi-spectral (colour) cameras.

Of the 103 co-passenger satellites carried by PSLV-C37, two — ISRO Nano Satellites, INS-1 weighing 8.4 kg and INS-2 weighing 9.7 kg — are India’s technology demonstration satellites and 101 were international customer satellites, of which 96 are of the US and one each are of The Netherlands, Switzerland , Israel , Kazakhstan and the UAE. With this successful launch, the total number of foreign customer satellites launched by India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV has reached 180.

While satellites are a great boon in various fields and activities for the people of the country, when used optimally by many departments of the government and private sector, they are invaluable for the defence and security forces.

On February 14, 2017, the first indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) in inversion of control (IOC) configuration, having undergone all weather and environmental trials and accepted by the Indian Air Force (IAF), was handed over to it during Aero India 2017 at Yelahanka airbase, Bengaluru, by Dr S. Christopher, chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Considered to be a game changer in air warfare, the AEW&C is a system with state-of-the art Active Electronically Scanned Radar, Secondary Surveillance Radar, Electronic and Communication Counter Measures, Line of Sight (LOS) and beyond Line Of Sight data link, voice communication system and self-protection suite, built on an Emb-145 platform, having an air to air refuelling capability to enhance surveillance time. Complex tactical software has been developed for fusion of information from the sensors, to provide the air situation picture along with intelligence to handle identification/classification threat assessment. Battle management functions are built in house to work as a network centric system of the Integrated Air Command & Control System (IACCS) node. The AEW&C system has the IAF for induction.

On February 11, 2017 India successfully conducted a test wherein an incoming ballistic missile target was intercepted by an exo-atmospheric interceptor missile off the Bay of Bengal. With this commendable scientific achievement, India has crossed an important milestone in building its overall capability towards enhanced security against incoming ballistic missile threats. It has entered an exclusive club of four nations with developing capabilities to secure its skies and cities against hostile threats.

All these are satellite-backed systems which have made a quantum difference to national security.

Some of the major weapon platforms indigenously designed and developed by DRDO, that have been successfully inducted into the services, include advanced light helicopters, light combat aircraft, Akash missile systems, multi barrel rocket system Pinaka, Arjun tanks, sonars, etc.

Some of the new special innovative projects covering a wide variety of technology domains from aeronautics to missiles and naval systems undertaken by DRDO during last four years are:

  • Pralay Missile
  • Rudra M-II Air to Surface Missile
  • Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (Smart)
  • Ku-band Active Radar Seeker
  • Stealth Wing Flying Testbed (SWiFT)
  • AESA Based Integrated Sensor Suite (ABISS)
  • EM Gun Powered by a Capacitor Bank
  • Multi-Agent Robotics System (MARS)
  • Ku-band TWTA for Aerospace Application
  • Submarine Periscope
  • Air Independent Propulsion System for Submarine
  • Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS (India)), Radar USHAS

The author, an Indian Army veteran and strategic analyst

New Bill Introduced In U.S. Congress May Hit Indian Call Centre Employees

The legislation aims at giving preference to American employees in federal contracts to companies that haven’t shipped these jobs overseas

A new legislation introduced in the US Congress is likely to hit call centre employees in India. Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio introduced the proposal that aims at creating a public list of companies that outsource call centre jobs. 

The legislation aims at giving preference to American employees in federal contracts to companies that haven’t shipped these jobs overseas. 

The bill will require call centre employees in countries like India to disclose their location and give customers the right to ask to transfer their call to a service agent in the US. 

“Jobs at call centres are some of the most vulnerable to offshoring. Too many companies have packed up their call centres in Ohio and across the country, and moved to India or Mexico,” Brown noted.

“So many companies wouldn’t be able to function without their customer service staff. Ohio workers like Renee contribute to their businesses and bring ideas to make it work better. We need to value their contributions – not end their careers and ship their jobs overseas,” Brown added.

The bill equips US citizens with the right to ask to transfer their call to a customer service agent located in the United States.

Ex-Pak Defence Minister Calls For Special Envoy For Afghanistan

Former Defence Minister of Pakistan Asif Yasin Malik has suggested that a 'high-powered special envoy', working directly under the country's prime minister to hold talks with Afghanistan to remove "misconceptions and frictions", thereby ensuring friendly relations between the two countries.

"However, it should also be ensured that Pakistani soil would not be used against Afghanistan for any illegal activities. Both countries should make joint strategies to address the issues. They should understand that the United States never cared about the local people while it was in Vietnam, Iraq or Libya. How will it care about the people of Afghanistan?" Malik said while speaking at an international conference on 'Afghanistan Crisis: What Lies Ahead?' here on Monday.

The Pakistani leader claimed that the US had been putting all the blame on the Haqqani network and alleging that it was operating in Pakistan.

The Dawn quoted him as saying, "The fact is that almost 60 percent area of Afghanistan is beyond the control of the Afghan government. On the other hand, Afghanistan does not have a foreign policy and currently all the decisions are being taken under the influence of the US and India. Corruption has been continuously increasing in the public sector and the country is leading to civil war. Dialogue should be started among all ethnic entities."

Malik added that Pakistan was facing problems because of "poor priorities in its foreign policy". Also, he stated that various developmental projects such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had been stalled and delayed because of 'hindrances'.

"The US should stop interfering in Afghanistan and the decision to involve India is also creating problems. During the past one decade, the US has spent USD 1 trillion in Afghanistan. Had it invested one-fourth of it on development, there would have been no problem in that country," he asserted.

Malik also suggested that the border control should be strengthened in Pakistan and Afghanistan and that both countries should take extra steps for ensuring good bilateral trade relations respectively.

This comes after Pakistan National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua visited Kabul on a day-long visit on Saturday, in what was seen as an effort by Kabul to normalise its icy relations with Islamabad.

Relations between the two countries have remained frosty due to the terrorist activities of the Taliban and Haqqani Network carried out in Pakistan. Afghanistan contests that the two groups are supported by Pakistan and it does very little to stop them.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has urged Afghanistan to stop the blame game and asked for its co-operation in combating terrorism. 

The Pakistani leader claimed that the US had been putting all the blame on the Haqqani network and alleging that it was operating in Pakistan.

OFB Upgrades 130-mm Field Guns, Eyes Order From Army

The upgradation, involving the changing of the barrel, would mean an increase in the range of the field gun from around 27 kms to 36 kms

KOLKATA: The Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) today said it had successfully upgraded the 130-mm field guns to 155mm capability at its Nalanda facility in Bihar and was expecting an order for 300 such guns from the Army.

The Kolkata-headquartered State defence manufacturer had successfully completed the user evaluation of 130/155 mm "upgunning" and was likely to receive orders for the upgradation of 300 artillery guns from the Army, OFB Chairman S K Chourasia said.

"The cost of a new 155-mm artillery gun comes to around Rs 15 crore, while the upgradation has been done for just Rs one crore for each, thus saving the exchequer a lot of money," he told newspersons here.

The upgradation, involving the changing of the barrel, would mean an increase in the range of the field gun from around 27 kms to 36 kms, an OFB official explained.

Chourasia said the OFB-offered, 100-per cent indigenous solution had emerged successful against private competitors fielding imported equipment from leading global manufacturers in this field.

"We are likely to receive orders for the upgunning of 300 such 130-mm guns to 155-mm ones," the OFB chairman said.

OFB member (weapons, vehicles and equipment) Hari Mohan said the indigenous technological solution for upgunning the 130-mm field guns was achieved at the organisation's Nalanda facility and had emerged as the only acceptable offer to the armed forces' requirements.

Chourasia said research and development was being cultivated at the OFB's 13 ordnance development centres.

"With the assistance of premier academic institutions like the IITs at Mumbai, Kanpur and Kharagpur, the ordnance factories are not only upgrading the existing products, but also developing new weapon platforms," he added.

The Quest For An Effective Assault Rifle For The Indian Soldier

How does the critical void of an effective assault rifle impact operational efficiency and what is being done to fill it

by Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd)

The Indian Army is by far one of the most battle hardened and combat rich Armed Forces in the world. However, it is also one of the most poorly equipped forces. After marking time for a decade under the previous regime, the Ministry of Defence, under the active guidance of the erstwhile Raksha Mantri, Mr Manohar Parrikar, signed as many as 110 defence contracts of an aggregated worth of Rs 1,13,995 crores besides according ‘Acceptance of Necessity” (AON) for another 101 schemes valued at Rs 2,39,000 crores. These are all big-ticket projects essential to the capability development of the Armed Forces.

However, to maintain combat effectiveness it is imperative that the soldiers on ground be provided with the requisite wherewithal to fight effectively thus ensuring their protection and survival across the complete spectrum of conflict from small and hybrid wars in the sub conventional domain to conventional and nuclear wars. Regrettably, this urgent and critical need of the Indian Army’s soldier to be equipped with an effective assault rifle remains yet unaddressed.

Small arms are the personal weapon of a soldier and are integral to his fighting effectively, even to his survival. The 5.56 Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) needs urgent replacement. It has outlived its life and in actuality is a veritable piece of metal with soldiers across the board having little or even no faith in this weapon. There are instances of soldiers having lost their lives during encounters when their INSAS rifles had stoppages and would not fire, when in contact, in a do or die situation during an encounter.

The preferred weapon of a soldier in Counter Terrorism (CT) operations is the AK 47, it is also the standard weapon used by the terrorist. The Infantry and the Army need a state of the art assault rifle and close quarter battle weapon to fight effectively, succeed and survive. The army after due deliberations sought a multi-calibre multi-role assault rifle with modular interchangeable parts, enhanced ranges and lethality in a weight class of 3.6 Kg, to enable effective operations in all types of terrain and in all conflict situations. This was based on the feedback and operational requirements projected by field formations and on the concept of operations.

The fighting rationale is simple and is followed by most world armies, that is stopping power in CI/CT Operations and maiming the enemy soldier rather than a kill as in conventional war. An injured soldier is not only a long-term burden for the adversary but also an immediate deterrent to success of an ongoing operation of war as injured soldiers need immediate evacuation from the battlefield, which reduces the bayonet strength and has a demoralising effect on the fighting echelons in the battlefield.

The GSQR for the multi calibre assault rifle was finalised after a number of iterations with all stakeholders which included the field force, heads of all arms and services, the DRDO, OFB and the DGQA. This was thereafter deliberated by the COAS, all Army Commanders and Principal Staff Officers in a specially convened meeting at the Military Operations Directorate in 2011, with a single agenda of identifying the operational requirement of the future assault rifle of the Army.

The November 2011 tender issued post detailed deliberations for the assault rifle required the weapon system to weigh no more than 3.6 Kg, fire both, the indigenously produced ammunition of 5.56x45 mm calibre and 7.62 mm x 39 mm projectiles with a barrel and magazine switch for employment in a stand-alone defensive or in a suppressive fire role. Fitted with Picatinny Rail-mounted reflex sights, the rifles were also required to be equipped with day scopes and a 40 mm low-velocity under barrel grenade launcher (UBGL).

The multi-calibre assault rifle is not configured in the face of fire as some tend to believe, it is a task-oriented configuration and can be easily carried out within the unit by the soldier himself with little training. A fully loaded and configured lightweight assault rifle as demanded by the infantry in the 2011 GSQR is a long term solution to a major weakness of the Army.

Post these deliberations tenders were issued to Colt, Beretta, the Swiss Sig Sauer, the Czech Ceska and Israel Weapons Industry. The tenders were however canceled some time in 2015 as it is believed that the rifles could not come up to the requisite standards of the Army. It is unfortunate that on account of our mindsets some serving officers and veterans could not comprehend the many advantages that accrue to a soldier fighting with a task configured weapon, thus calling for a review of the qualitative requirements leading to not only unacceptable delay, but also a violation of the established concept of maiming the enemy in war rather than kill.

As per Times of India report by Rajat Pandit of 28 Sep 2016 “ India re-launched on Tuesday its global hunt for

new-generation assault rifles, after similar attempts over the last decade failed due to unrealistic technical requirements and whiff of corruption, interspersed by debates on whether the gun should “kill” or merely “wound” adversaries”. Ironical though, it was on the very night of 28/29 Sep 2016 that The Indian Army launched the highly sensitive and successful ‘Surgical Strikes’ across the line of control in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, spearheaded by the Parachute Regiment’s Special Forces. The troops would definitely have been happier and more confident with a state of the art assault rifle which has now been in the pipeline for over a decade.

On 28 September 2016, the Indian Army floated the Request For Information (RFI) for a world class light weight, accurate assault rifle, with an effective range of 500 mtrs. The rifle with lethality to achieve the objective of “shoot-to-kill” should be capable of providing the desired performance across all spectrums of employment in the Indian terrain and climatic conditions. Qualitative Requirements also state a modular design, capable of fitting and firing of Indian in-service UBGL, compatibility with all modern sights and accessories and provision for mounting the same. 

In terms of design, metallurgy and performance parameters, the rifle and sight shall be ‘State of the Art’ in order to remain relevant for the next 25 to 30 years. 7.62x51 mm calibre is best suited for CT Operations, and not for conventional operations, as it violates the very basics of infantry warfighting. Armies the world over have always aimed at causing casualties and maiming the enemy rather than killing. The ammunition is also heavier and is an additional weight which an infantry soldier will need to carry thus impacting his agility and battlefield mobility.

The Army aims to induct 65,000 rifles initially to equip the infantry units deployed in CT operations in J&K and the North-East, with a further 1,20,000 that are to be manufactured in India. The final demand for the assault rifle when inducted will be upwards of 2 million taking into account the need of not only the 1.4 million armed forces but also the over 700,000 CAPF. The overall cost is likely to cross the $1 billion-mark. According to some media reports as many as 18 vendors, including some Indian companies having a tie-up with foreign arms manufacturing firms, have envisioned interest in the project, which will entail ‘Transfer of Technology’ and ‘Make in India’. The tender for procuring the assault rifles is likely to be issued in May 2017.

Apart from assault rifles, the army also urgently needs to procure carbines, light machine guns and sniper rifles among other essential arms especially for the Infantry.

Though 7.62 x 51 mm calibre is not the ideal assault rifle for conventional operations, the time for debate is long past as the Army’s requirement for replacement of the 5.56 mm INSAS is urgent and immediate. The army also needs to be cautious of the fact that the DRDO- OFB combine will as always try to push in the INSAS upgrade in the form of the 5.56 mm Excalibur Rifle, which is derived from the INSAS and would be equally ineffective. It is an imperative that the soldier be provided with an effective weapon in which he has complete trust and confidence, to ensure that he performs his war fighting tasks, achieving his mission with minimum casualties.

For the soldier in combat, the rifle is an extension of his body and he needs the very best.

Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd) is Director, Centre For Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS). This article was first published in South Asia Defence & Strategic Review. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN

Ordnance Factory Board To Supply Lethal Rifles To Army

KOLKATA: Before the Kargil War, the Army sought rifles to shoot to incapacitate. Nearly 19 years later, with sub-conventional warfare gaining importance, it wants a rifle that will shoot to kill and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is developing one. The board is also upbeat after receiving orders for 300 upgraded field guns from the Army and looks forward to more.

“We successfully ‘upgunned’ the old 130mm Russian field guns to 155mm and bagged the Army’s order. The Army has already ordered 300 guns and may want more. Our factory at Nalanda has started producing the propellant for shells for these guns that we used to import earlier. In 2017-18, we shall produce nearly Rs 15,000 crore worth of products and there will be stress on exports. From an importer of weapons, India wants to become an exporter,” S K Chourasia, director general, Ordnance Factories and chairman, OFB, said in Kolkata on Monday.

According to Hari Mohan, member (weapons, vehicles and equipment), the Army wants to replace the upgraded 1B15.56 X 45 mm Insas rifles that it now uses. “At an Army commanders’ conference, it was decided to procure a rifle that would shoot to kill. We are now working on a 7.62 X 51 mm version. The Army will procure nearly 8 lakh rifles and 72,000 of these will be through a fast track procedure. OFB hopes to supply nearly 25% of the remaining. OFB also hopes to participate in the global tender for the rest,” he said.

OFB member Saurabh Kumar said the export turnover for 2017-18 has been Rs 190 crore and there are orders for Rs 250 crore. OFB is also developing a mine protected vehicle (MPV) that can withstand a blast of 20 kg TNT.

“From what we have heard, 50 kg of TNT was used in the blast at Sukma. Even a tank can’t withstand that. The MPVs used now can withstand a blast of 10 kg under the belly and 14 kg under its tyres. We are trying to develop one that can withstand nearly 20 kg. The new MPVs will also have blast attenuation seats that would absorb much of the shock,” Hari Mohan added.

China's Xi Jinping Says Ready To Enhance Communication With India

China is willing to keep up the good momentum of two-way cooperation with India, President Xi Jinping said

BEIJING: China is willing to keep up the good momentum of two-way cooperation with India, President Xi Jinping told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a telephone call on Tuesday, state news agency Xinhua said.

China is ready to enhance communication with Modi on long-term, strategic bilateral issues to promote political mutual trust, Xi added.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited: Flying Into The Future

HAL Chairman T Suvarna Raju with model of aircraft manufactured by his company

It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for India’s locally-built combat aircraft, the Tejas. The government kicked off the process to build the light combat aircraft way back in 1984, but it took more than three decades of technical challenges, U.S. sanctions following India’s nuclear tests, and domestic politics before the fighter jet was finally ready for takeoff. After all the ups and downs, the jet’s manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), handed over the Tejas to the then defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, and then Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha in January 2015. It was showcased at last year’s Republic Day parade.

Given the fighter jet’s long and difficult journey, its handover to the Indian Air Force (IAF) was certainly a champagne-popping moment for the Indian aerospace industry in general—and state-owned HAL in particular. The supersonic fighter jet is likely to replace the ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 jets which the air force plans to phase out eventually because of their spotty safety record. “It has been a great journey… the long years that it took to build a four-and-a-half generation fighter jet that can fly and which is comparable to the F-16 and better than the MiG-21,” the chairman and managing director of HAL, T. Suvarna Raju, tells Fortune India. “In aviation, failure is not tolerated because you cannot take a risk with the life of a test pilot. This is primarily the reason why development of an aircraft is such a rigorous process.”

But HAL might want to hold off on popping the bubbly just yet. The air force might have ordered 123 Tejas jets from the Bengaluru-based company, but defence experts say the aircraft manufacturer doesn’t have the production capacity to meet the order. Former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, who retired in 1996, says HAL has only delivered five aircraft so far, and they do not meet air force quality standards. “Although the IAF has put in a request for 123 Tejas and provided funding for 40 aircraft in 2009-10, HAL has only delivered five aircraft till date and that too is awaiting final clearance,” he says. “The initial batch had as many as 57 deficiencies as pointed out by the IAF and need to be rectified before they can be made fully operational.”
The Tejas indigenous light combat aircraft, was finally handed over to the air force in Jan 2015
Despite the scepticism, the Tejas could be a take-off point for HAL’s flight into the future. The air force order could translate into revenues of more than Rs 50,000 crore over the next 10 years, a shot in the arm for the largest public sector defence enterprise, which is already one of the top profit-making state firms in India, going by disclosures in its draft red herring prospectus filed ahead of a proposed public offer. Its net profit grew 31% to Rs 2,624 crore in 2016-17 and it had an order book of Rs 63,333 crore during this period, including fighter, trainer, and transport aircraft, as well as civil and military helicopters.

Now, the country’s only maker of fighter aircraft is hoping to use lessons learnt from projects like the Tejas to futureproof itself. Its strategy is multi-pronged: One, it wants to be a one-stop shop for all defence requirements in the aviation sector. Two, it wants a greater share of the export pie and wants to work alongside the private sector to achieve this goal. It wants to monetise its position as the knowledge hub of aircraft manufacturing in India by signing transfer of technology deals with the private sector. Three, it wants to capture a chunk of the small-sized civil aircraft market which is just starting to grow through the government’s regional air connectivity scheme. And, finally, it wants to introduce modern manufacturing techniques like robotics to improve efficiency levels.

However, HAL faces several challenges in implementing its grand plans. A defence industry consultant, who does not want to be identified, says HAL is a highly inefficient company. The U.S. sanctions on India after the nuclear blasts, for example, are blamed for the delay in the development of the Tejas, but work at other organisations such as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) did not grind to a halt despite the sanctions. “For years, they have been sitting on large order books, delivering their products late because they don’t outsource enough, and hence force the country to import more,” says the consultant.
HAL could be well placed for an early mover advantage as India ramps up its defence exports. HAL manufactures aircraft like the Cheetah helicopter under licence
Bharat Karnad, a national security expert and research professor at the New Delhi based Centre for Policy Research, is even more scathing. “In the absence of competition, it is habituated to a production cost plus profit regime, which has led to very low labour productivity, a bad working milieu, and wasteful production processes,” he says. “Moreover, its manufacturing competence is limited to screwdrivering aircraft and helicopters from imported SKD/CKD kits under licence production, with almost no capacity for technology or process engineering innovation.”

To be sure , for decades there was nothing indigenous about HAL’s manufacturing. Most of its initial years were spent assembling—or manufacturing under licence— foreign origin aircraft such as Russian MiG21s, MiG-27s, British Jaguars, and French Alouette helicopters. The Cheetah helicopter is also built under licence. Even non-combat military aircraft such as the Avro are made under licence in India. In many ways, the Tejas is a first for HAL as it is both indigenously designed and manufactured without any outside help, propelling India into an elite club of five countries that can build fighter aircraft including the U.S., Britain, and France. The Tejas can also be a big boost for the government’s “Make in India” program if HAL succeeds in meeting the air force’s order by 2024-25.

HAL could be well placed for an early mover advantage as India ramps up its defence exports

But HAL can’t afford to be complacent with the private sector entering the defence sector. Swedish combat aircraft manufacturer SAAB has a tie-up with Adani Group to manufacture Gripen E fighter jets in India and U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin has a joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems to produce F-16s in India. Both deals are contingent on which fighter jet is procured by the air force.

Competing with big private players won’t be easy. Kak is optimistic about HAL’s future but says it needs a lot of reforms like a change in management structure as well as strict delivery schedules and quality standards. Does HAL have the chops to compete with global giants? Its history suggests it does. India’s journey to build its own aircraft began in 1940 when industrialist Walchand Hirachand formed Hindustan Aircraft Company. The company was taken over by the government within five years and ultimately became Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). Not many countries have developed a supersonic fighter jet from scratch. India did it back in the 1960s when German aeronautical engineer Kurt Tank helped HAL develop the HF-24 Marut. Inducted into the air force in 1967, the Marut had its moment of glory when it helped India win the 1971 war against Pakistan.

After the Marut was retired in 1985, India did not have a locally-developed fighter jet for years—until the Tejas. Although it was conceptualised in 1984, it remained on the drawing board for years as the political establishment doubted HAL’s capabilities. By the time the aircraft’s first technology demonstrator, or TD-1, took to the skies in 2001, India had already been blacklisted by the U.S. for its 1998 nuclear tests. HAL then had to develop modern avionics from scratch. “The fly-by-wire mechanism (a partially computer regulated system for flight controls) took 20 years for Indian scientists to decode and establish,” says Raju, who was director of design and development before taking over as CMD.

OF course, HAL had a lot more on its plate over these years. It maintains, repairs, and overhauls not just locally-made aircraft and helicopters, but also those procured by the air force from third parties like the Mirage 2000. It has 11 research and development centres, spends 7% of its revenues on R&D—more than most PSUs— and owns one trademark, seven patents, and 44 copyrights. A lesser known role is that of technical evaluator of all military aircraft procured by the air force. “There is no better technical evaluator of military aircraft than HAL because it is the only institution in the country which has built an aircraft from scratch,” says a defence analyst, who declined to be identified.

For all its roles , its biggest achievement—however long it might have been in the making— is still the Tejas. Defence experts believe its technology can be used as a building block for the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA). Karnad says the best way is for the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA)—tasked with the design and development of light combat aircraft in HAL—to transfer the blueprints and technologies of the new variant of the LCA and the next generation of AMCA to private sector companies like Larsen & Toubro and Reliance Defence, not just to grow the competition for HAL, but because there is enough business to go around.

Karnad says the limited range and endurance of the Tejas can easily be corrected because it is indigenously designed and all the “intelligence” lies within the country. “The Tejas light combat aircraft MK-1A is more agile and pilot-friendly than any aircraft presently in the Indian Air Force fleet or in the running in the single-engine fighter jet competition,” says Karnad. “There is huge potential for development and growth as an advanced weapons platform.”

Former Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy also believes that it is time for HAL to develop an improved variant of the Tejas. “It would not only give a push to the ‘Make in India’ initiative, but also save the nation billions in importing the Gripen E of Sweden or the 50-year-old F-16 from the U.S. We just don’t have the money to buy as well as manufacture aircraft,” he says.

Until then, HAL is looking to spread its wings overseas. Raju says the company will target the export market in partnership with the private sector which is entering the defence manufacturing space. “For us, the private sector is not competition. As India becomes a global power, countries around the region will look to our country for defence equipment supplies,” he says. “When that happens, HAL alone would not be able to meet the demand. We would need the private sector to supplement our production. The thought process is not just to cater to Indian demand but also the export demand.”

HAL could be well placed for an early mover advantage as India ramps up its defence exports. In 2015-16, defence exports grew 22% to Rs 2,059 crore, according to the government’s Defence Manufacturing Sector Achievements report. The exports to over 28 countries included patrol vessels, helicopters, radars, and small arms. HAL is confident about competing in the global market. “We always have a cost advantage in India because of the rupee versus dollar and rupee versus euro comparison. We can be very competitive commercially,” says Raju.

The question now is: Will HAL manage to attract suitors for a 10% stake on the block under the disinvestment program? After a stuttering start, it is finally gearing up to launch road shows for its listing. Hopefully, there won’t be any turbulence this time.

The article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of the magazine