Thursday, July 9, 2020

Boeing's India Plans Sharpen Around F-15 & F/A-18 Super Hornet

by Shiv Aroor

While India still hasn’t defined the kind of fighter it wants in an ongoing contest for 114 jets, Boeing’s plans appear to have become more well-defined than before. There are now multiple indicators to suggest that Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III jet is now primarily pointed at the Indian Navy, while the F-15EX is shaping up to be Boeing’s protagonist in the Indian Air Force requirement.

Livefist learns that Boeing will shortly receive a requested license to formally market the F-15EX to the Indian Air Force, with an announcement possibly imminent. It was in February that it was first revealed that Boeing planned to add the F-15EX to an Indian Air Force campaign that had thus far only involved the F/A-18 Super Hornet. While the F/A-18 will theoretically remain available to the Indian Air Force, it is becoming clear that Super Hornet energies are being pointed far more prominently at the Indian Navy, making what appears to be space for a more prominent positioning of the F-15EX for the IAF.

F-15 Strike Eagle heavy fighter of the USAF

To be clear, the Indian Air Force hasn’t yet defined its requirements, and potentially has on its hands a contest where it must choose between jets as disparate as the F-15 and Su-35 at one end and the Gripen E and F-21 at the other. India’s decision last week to proceed with plans to acquire more of its existing jet types — 12 more Su-30MKI and 21 MiG-29UPG jets — has stirred a debate over whether priority urgency needs to be applied instead on the 114 Make in India jet program.

“I wouldn’t hypothesise about the requirements, but the reason we’ve applied for a license for the F-15EX is so that we can offer an entire spectrum of capabilities. And depending on how the requirements get panned out, we are comfortable and confident. But it’s still to early to say if it will be a single or twin engine,” said Ankur Kanaglekar, Head of India Fighter Sales at Boeing Defence in an interview to Livefist now up on our YouTube channel, linked here:

Asked specifically about the F-15’s expanding role in the campaign, Kanagalekar said, “A lot of years have passed, the technology has improved, the geopolitics has changed. I would rather wait to see the requirements before commenting on plans on the air force side.”

The invocation of geopolitics by Boeing’s India fighter campaigns head is significant, especially since it comes at a time when US-India relations have made major strides forward in an atmosphere of tensions with China. Two US Navy carrier battle groups have entered the western Pacific in recent days, with open saber rattling between both sides. But there’s plenty happening in India too, and not just on its border with China.

It is Livefist‘s assessment that the F-15EX will be much more prominently projected by Boeing as an IAF fighter going forward. The new strategy comes right ahead of the deliveries of India’s first Rafale jets this month. The Rafale had defeated Boeing’s F/A-18 in the erstwhile M-MRCA contest for 126 jets. That quest famously spiraled into the ground though, with the current Narendra Modi government then choosing to buy 36 Rafales, a fraction of the originally intended 126. Boeing brandishing of the F-15EX to the Indian Air Force may therefore be seen as a move to offset the clear advantages the Rafale now has by virtue of being in Indian inventory, and therefore making a default case for further orders.

“There will be more opportunities very soon to hear more about the F-15EX program, but won’t be able to share very much owing to the stage of the process. The US Air Force is interfacing with the Indian Air Force on that,” Kanaglekar said.

The emphasis of the F/A-18 Super Hornet for the Indian Navy’s 57 jet contest is visible too. Boeing art, including the image that headlines this piece, all specifically show the Super Hornet in Indian Navy colours. But the emphasis goes way beyond graphics. On the naval front too, the F/A-18 faces a fight against the Rafale, though Boeing believes the geopolitical/technological ecosystem and scale that comes with the Super Hornet make it a contender even if the Rafale has a ready ‘commonality’ case for the Indian Navy deal too.

“The Indian Air Force and Indian Navy have two very distinct requirements,” contends Kanagleka. “It’s a different world altogether when you’re talking about naval aviation. It is the other benefits that the Indian Navy will get from the collaboration, the growth potential, the fact that tremendous amount of scale exists out there will not be available anywhere else. Several dialogues are happening with the Indian Navy.“

In February 2019, Boeing entered into a three-way partnership with HAL and the Mahindra Group to support the F/A-18 pitch to India. Asked if that partnership would apply for the F-15EX too, Kanaglekar said, “It’s too early to say. Requirements will drive our business case and discussions. We are fully committed to Mahindra and HAL on the F/A-18 campaign. We will wait for requirements to see how things will pan out.”

Boeing’s partner HAL has made clear its sentiments on how difficult it will be for the IAF to draft requirements in the 114 jet program that covers disparate fighter types.

On the Super Hornet front, Boeing has had several levels of dialog with the Indian Navy over the last year. In February this year, Boeing revealed plans to test the F/A-18 on a ski-jump to prove compatibility on India’s current and upcoming aircraft carriers.

In the 114 fighter program, Boeing’s F-15EX (and F/A-18 Super Hornet) potentially go up against a raft of fighters that include the Rafale, Su-35, MiG-35, Gripen E, Lockheed Martin F-21 and Eurofighter Typhoon. It remains to be seen how evaluations will play out, considering the huge energies spent on the M-MRCA field trials and tests, a contest described by a former Boeing India head as ‘a beauty contest on specs’.

Shiv Aroor is one of India's renowned defence correspondents who has a nonpartisan approach to his reporting. He has done reporting from high conflict defence zones such as Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Libya. He is also an author who has written 3 highly acclaimed and popular books

Rafale Boost For IAF

As the existing stand-off between India and China continues along the LAC in Ladakh, the air power of the IAF is under a scanner. the IAF’s latest acquisition french-made Rafale jet will be adding to its might. the first batch of at least six Rafale fighter jets are likely to be flown into the country by July 27. The aircraft will be based out of Air drive Station Ambala, Haryana. Here’s all you need to know about the latest warhorse in the IAF stable. 

About Rafale

Rafale is a twin-motor fighter with single- and double-crew configurations can operate at Mach 1.1 at lower altitude and reach up to Mach 1.8 at higher altitudes. The warplane has an spectacular assortment of much more than 3,700 km with a battle radius of 1,850 km and a rate of climb, which is essential in dogfights, of 340 metres for every next with a support ceiling of 15,285 metres. The most critical element that is offering sleepless evenings to the PLA Air Force is the amazing weaponry of Rafale. India will be integrating European-made SCALP and Meteor prolonged-array beyond visible selection (BVR) air-to-air missile into Rafale so that enemy plane can be stopped lengthy before they get close ample to track the Indian fighter. The aircraft are equipped with two standoff weapons the IAF has never possessed—Meteor air-to-air missiles, with a range of over 100 km, and Scalp air-to-ground missiles, with a range of 500 km. The 10-ton Rafale can carry also a 14-ton payload of fuel and weapons.

How Much Is The Deal Worth

$8.78 billion (Rs 59,000 crore) deal signed in 2016.


The first batch of Rafale will be station in Ambala with Vintage 17 Squadron, while the second batch will be stationed at Hasimara in West Bengal.


Rafale can attain a maximum speed of Mach 1.8/750 kt (2,222.6 km per hour) and can climb to up to 50,000 ft.
Though Rafale can fly up to a range of 3,700 km, it can be refuelled mid-air.
The 15.27 metre long aircraft has wing length of 10.8 metres each.
The aircraft is superior to Sukhoi Su-30MKI in terms of carrying ammunition.
While Sukhoi Su-30MKI can carry ammunition up to 8,000 kg, Rafale can easily carry bombs up to 9,500 kg.


Rafale can carry out all combat aviation missions, including air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.

Its 'delta wings' makes it far superior to its competitors due to extremely stable and supersonic speed.

The aircraft's advanced engine is capable of allowing the throttle to shift from combat to idle power in less than three seconds.

It can jam enemy radars, detect targets anywhere including sea, ground and air.

Other superior capabilities of Rafale include close air support, dynamic targeting, air-to-ground precision strike, anti-ship attack capability and buddy-buddy refuelling.

Why IAF Selected The Rafale?

Worried over the rapidly dwindling number of fighter squadrons in its fleet due to phasing out of certain variants of MIG fighters, the IAF wanted to overcome the shortage. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s home-made Tejas Light Combat Aircraft still needs fine tuning to come up to the IAF’s standards for fully operational fighters. This made the country go shopping for a next-gen fighter.

Delivery Delayed

In October 2019, on a visit to France the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took formal delivery of the first Rafale jet built for the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Dassault Aviation’s final assembly facility in Merignac. However, the arrival of the first batch of jets was delayed from May to July due to the COVID-19 restrictions and lock-down in both India and France. About 8-9 weeks of training was left before the lock-down was clamped across the world and delivery of some logistics support and test equipment at the Ambala air base was also delayed.

Contract Signed in 2016

India has contracted 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets from France in fly-away condition with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE) under a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) signed in September 2016. As per the IGA, deliveries begin 36 months from the signing of the contract and completed in 67 months. However, the Indian standard Rafale with all ISE is operationally expected to be ready latest by September 2021.

Enhance Combat Capabilities

The Rafale jets will enhance IAF's combat capabilities over its adversaries in the neighbourhood. Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.

A ‘Game Changer’ For India

Rafale will be a game changer for the Indian Air Force (IAF) since most of the aircraft in its inventory, including the Mirage-2000 and the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, are classified as either third- or fourth-generation fighters. The upgraded version of the Mirage and the Sukhoi Su-30MKI can at best reach up to the category of fourth-generation fighters. The indigenously developed TEJAS can be categorised as fourth-generation in terms of avionics and technology. India will only be the fourth country, after France, Egypt and Qatar, to fly the Rafale.

Chinese Pulling Back From Finger Area Along Pangong

PLA had inscribed a Mandarin symbol for China, along the shores of Pangong Tso

While the Chinese army remains within the Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the lake, soldiers have been pulled back from the base of Finger 4, the site of a violent clash in early May that left scores injured on both sides. However, they continue to occupy the heights, said people aware of the matter

by Manu Pubby

New Delhi: The military disengagement in eastern Ladakh is progressing gradually, with Chinese troops pulling back from the friction point at the Finger area along Pangong Tso after similar withdrawals from Galwan and Hot Springs.

While the Chinese army remains within the Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the lake, soldiers have been pulled back from the base of Finger 4, the site of a violent clash in early May that left scores injured on both sides. However, they continue to occupy the heights, said people aware of the matter.

Chinese troops and vehicles are believed to have moved back slightly from the base of Finger 4 to the Finger 5 feature, but they still occupy the ridge-line where dozens of defensive structures were built over the past two months as the stand-off continued.

Vacating the ridge-line would be the next part of the disengagement process, said the people, even as a gradual thinning of troops is being observed in the area. Among the hot spots, Finger Area has been the most difficult to de-escalate given that Chinese troops came in more than 5 km and created new camps and defensive positions.

Moving away from Finger 4 is a significant step towards de-escalation but a lot remains to be done as the Indian perception of the LAC is at the Finger 8 feature, several kilometres east to the current location of Chinese troops, said people in the know. Worryingly, they said, fresh reports which are being studied suggest fresh artillery deployment by the Chinese army at Finger 6, which retains heavy troop presence as well.

Satellite images have shown the extent of Chinese construction between Finger 4 and 8, which included several new camps, jetties for boats and even a map of China drawn out along the banks of the lake.

People with knowledge of the matter also said the buffer zone at Galwan and Hot Springs area has now been established, indicating that the terms of disengagement decided at the corps commander level talks on June 30 are being followed. However, India’s armed forces are keeping a close eye on the withdrawals, with verification being the key word. Alertness levels are at their highest given that the deadly clash at Galwan that left 20 Indian soldiers dead occurred during the verification process of a previously decided disengagement.

PMO Seeks Suggestions From Commerce Ministry On Curbing Chinese Imports Amid LAC Tension

Amidst the ongoing LAC standoff and the diplomatic tensions with China, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sought suggestions from the Commerce Ministry to curb imports from the hostile neighbouring country

NEW DELHI: Amidst the ongoing LAC standoff and the diplomatic tensions with China, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sought suggestions from the Commerce Ministry on how to curb imports from the hostile neighbouring country, sources said on Tuesday.

This is part of the measures taken by the Narendra Modi to put more diplomatic and economic pressure on China in the aftermath of the Galwan Valley clashes in eastern Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops were killed.

According to sources, the PMO has asked the Commerce Ministry to suggest steps through which imports from China can be reduced. The PMO has also reviewed the issue of the free trade agreement (FTA) from other countries as well.

Sources claimed that the government is constantly reviewing the FTA to prevent the dumping of cheap goods in the country in the name FTA from other countries. It is likely that in such a scenario, the government might take strict steps to reduce imports from many more countries in the days to come in order to further embolden the ''Self-Reliant India'' campaign.

The government' is also reviewing the import of goods from ASEAN countries, including South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore etc.

The PMO has also sought product-wise details of cheap imports, tax disadvantages (if any) and comparison with the domestic prices from all sectors. The move aims at curbing low-quality imports from China, to promote manufacturing at the domestic level under the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ mission.

A Reuters report claimed that the Centre is reviewing around 50 investment proposals involving Chinese companies under a new screening policy.

Under new rules announced by India in April, all investments by entities based in neighbouring countries need to be approved by the Indian government, whether for new or additional funding, it quoted sources as saying.

China is the biggest of these investors and the rules drew criticism from Chinese investors and Beijing, which called the policy discriminatory.

The new investment rules were aimed at curbing opportunistic takeovers during the Coronavirus outbreak. However, industry executives say a deterioration in bilateral relations since a clash along the countries` contested border last month, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed, could further delay approvals.

Last week, the Narendra Modi government banned 59, mostly Chinese, mobile apps including Bytedance’s TikTok and Tencent`s WeChat, in its strongest move yet targeting China in the online space since the border crisis erupted last month.

The move has potentially dented big Chinese businesses` expansion plans for the South Asian market. Chinese companies` existing and planned investments in India stand at more than $26 billion, research group Brookings said in March.

In an unprecedented move, India on Monday (June 29) banned 59 Chinese mobile apps including TikTok, UC Browser and Cam Scanner among others.

A statement from the government said that the apps are 'engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order'.

It is believed that the Centre decided to ban these apps due to the ongoing tensions between India and China at the Line of Actual Control. Indian experts maintained that even if the relationship with China does not deteriorate, these apps should not have been allowed to operate in India.

India-China Stand-Off: How Doval-Wang Talks Helped In De-Escalation At The LAC

The special representative-level talk on Sunday was proposed by the Chinese side after the Galwan Valley incident, in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed

In order to resolve the on-going border tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the special representative-level talk on Sunday was proposed by the Chinese side. According to a report by The Indian Express, along with special representative talks, the Chinese side proposed activation of other channels to resolve the border issue in the wake of the Galwan Valley incident, in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed.

To de-escalate the situation, the report said, the Indian side suggested diplomatic and military channels, including the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC).

However, the Chinese side insisted on special representative-level talks to make any meaningful forward movement, according to the report. After which the meeting between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and was scheduled, on Sunday, the report added.

Both Doval and Wang agreed that it was “necessary to ensure complete disengagement of troops” along the LAC at the earliest and “de-escalation from border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquillity”.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a statement after the SR-level talks on Sunday, said both sides had in-depth discussions on easing the current situation along the LAC and “reached positive common understandings”.

Doval and Wang had earlier met in 2018 and 2019. Both are special representatives of their respective countries for the boundary talks. During their last meet in December 2019, they decided to be “frank to each other” on issues irrespective of the public rhetoric on either side, as reported by The Indian Express.

They both agreed that they should be the final authority for approval of a resolution, while working-level mechanisms, be it the WMCC or military commanders, can engage each other on any border problem, the report added.

To resolve the border tension, India was negotiating through XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh on the ground, Joint Secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava leading the Indian WMCC team, and Ambassador to China Vikram Misri in Beijing. On the Chinese side’s insistence for talks between special representatives of both the countries, India saw merit in the rationale that any commitment made at the lower level may have limitations, as reported by The Indian Express.

Wang is far more powerful than previous Chinese foreign ministers because he became a State Councillor in 2018—another reason for SR-level talks. In China’s hierarchy-conscious system, Wang has more authority than his predecessors in the foreign minister’s position. His work during the 2017 Doklam crisis, when he was only foreign minister, is believed to be one of the reasons for his promotion following Xi’s re-election in 2018. And his proximity to Xi clearly shows merit in engaging with him to defuse the LAC situation.

Military Lessons Yet To Be Learnt: Better Late Than Ever

OFB made mine-protected vehicle for the Indian Army

Indian Army is solely dependent on Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for ammunition and that's why it can get away with substandard products

There are no secrets to Military success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from past failures however small they are. To err is human nature, to rectify error is glory but to ignore it is a death wish.

Kargil — In 1999 the Indian Territory was invaded and occupied by a few hundred Pakistani soldiers disguised as Kashmiri militants, which necessitated the mobilisation of virtually a fifth of the Indian army. After weeks of bloody fighting and expending hundreds of lives and millions of dollars, the Indian army wrested back posts that were ours, to begin with. While 527 Indian troops laid down their lives in evicting the Pakistani intruders from Mushok to Chorbat La in the Batalik sector, the victory did not extract a heavy price from Islamabad, apart from losing more or an equivalent number of soldiers.

Military experts believe that despite whatever effort there may be to prevent it, there may be a war at any time. And the nation that neglects this fundamental reality, makes itself vulnerable to military surprises. We have to be prepared for war or even low-intensity conflicts with our not so friendly neighbours. It is pertinent to understand that whenever there is a territorial dispute, proxy war is very possible. And India today is facing this situation on both the Pakistan and China sides.

Status Quo: We neither damaged Pakistan’s war-waging capabilities, nor gained any territorial advantages, nor diminished the Pakistani army’s adventurism which continues till date. Beyond a few months of international isolation, it did little to change Pakistan’s international policies which are based on canards and denials as displayed a decade later.

Nearly two decades later when India is engaged in a standoff with China on Doklam even as its relations with Pakistan continue to be fragile, the concerns about India’s battle-readiness remain. Besides strategic restraint in not crossing, our forces were hobbled by shortages in almost 50 % of their arsenal, mainly artillery ammunition and laser-guided bombs for Mirages. Had Israel and South Africa not chipped in, the war could have stretched a few weeks longer. In a limited war, such lapses are a recipe for defeat. There is an urgent need to upgrade our tactical surveillance and reconnaissance capability as well as create an integrated battlefield management system.

Our Forces Still Await

The indigenous Software-defined Radio (SDR) is yet to be implemented in the forces. This will enable troops on the ground carrying Handheld Man-portable SDR versions to achieve integration with higher echelons to accomplish true C4I capability. Also, with SDR technology, the possibility of swarms of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) operating on the battlefield looks encouraging.

The much-needed indigenous Battlefield Management System (BMS) was shelved by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2017. BMS integrates frontline troops of infantry battalions and armoured corps to efficiently and effectively share the realtime combat information to the Commanders for better Tactical appreciation and faster decision making. It will provide the ability to quickly close the sensor to shooter loop by integrating all surveillance means to facilitate engagement through an automated decision support and command and control system, exploiting technology for mission accomplishment in the Tactical Battle Area.

The Extreme Cold Climate (ECC) clothing including boots, goggles, gloves etc are still not held with the Army in surplus. When the new war doctrines of our forces claim preparation for a two-front war which would require the quick mobilisation of our troops leading to non – acclimatisation. The un-acclimatised troops, when rushed without proper gears especially during peak winters, would lead to avoidable casualties.

Indian Army is solely dependent on Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for ammunition and that’s why it can get away with substandard products. It is rare that production of ammunition is stopped due to deficiency in material, process or quality, which exhibits a lack of accountability in OFB. The ordnance factories mission should be to compete with global leaders in the ammunition industry but that will not happen unless serious reform measures are undertaken by the government.

Accidents are causing loss of precious lives and have serious operational ramifications. At present, almost 80 per cent of the ammunition requirement of the Armed Forces is supported by OFB. Ammunition Factory Khadki, Ordnance Factory Ambajhari, Gun and Shell Factory Cossipore, etc. specialise in small, medium and large calibre ammunition and explosives. While they continue to be the primary supplier for ammunition, OFs lack capacity to fulfil the entire requirement of the Armed Forces.

The most important lesson that India should have learnt from the Kargil imbroglio is that the essential requirements of national security should not be compromised. Successive governments in Islamabad have sought with varying degrees of intensity to destabilise India, wreck its unity and challenge its integrity and this is unlikely to change. Similarly, in international politics, the policy of mutual friendship and cooperation with one’s neighbours has to be balanced with vigilance. A neighbour’s capacity to damage one’s security interests should never be underestimated, leave alone disregarded.

Two decades later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has changed the paradigm with the Balakot airstrike, as future Indian battles may now be fought on enemy territory. The firm and the strong Govt of India have conveyed unequivocally that “If you want a Fight…we will bring the Fight to your door and beat you at it”. In 2017, India and China agreed to amicably resolve the Doklam standoff that lasted for more than two months. No blood was shed and no shots fired. Once again Prime Minister Modi & team had been very careful not to upset China’s domestic and geopolitical sensitivities.

However, this time around India decided to stare down the dragon at Galwan valley and carried out massive mobilisation and reinforcement of troops, artillery and armoured vehicles besides gaining the complete air superiority and dominance by Indian Air Force (IAF) in the region. The breakout of pandemic COVID-19 which originated from Wuhan led to the death of millions of innocent humans around the world, its border issues with many neighbouring countries, illegal claims in the South China Sea, issues in Hong Kong and Taiwan etc turned the world against China and its hegemonic global aspirations.

India must remain on guard against such sinister operations being launched in future by either Pakistan or China.

Modernisation Through Indigenisation

We need to have better technology weapons and equipment. ‘Make in India’ or being self-reliant was one of the most significant lessons that one had learnt from the entire episode. There is a need to encourage the participation of Private Industry and providing a level-playing field for the private sector in manufacturing defence equipment. So, have we learnt actually? If Self reliance or Atmanirbharta in defence sector remains only on papers, then once again the nation will have to dispatch procurement teams to various countries to buy Arms & Ammo in emergency and end up with duds like last time.

The government has recently sanctioned some funds and delegated financial powers to the three services to acquire the wherewithal necessary for combat readiness. However, unless the remaining deficiencies in weapons, ammunition and equipment are also made up quickly through indigenisation/Make in India, thoughts of critical hollowness in defence preparedness will continue to haunt India’s defence planners.

The supreme test of a country’s resilience is its capacity to turn a crisis into an opportunity for introspection and renewal. Our victory in Kargil will thus not be complete if we do not learn some important lessons from it for the future. War is a very expensive way to learn lessons and hence wasting opportunities to learn from past operations is a criminal dereliction of duty. The lessons are relevant to the conflicts or wars that we are likely going to fight in the future. Future wars are going to be short and of high intensity.

Indian Army Asks Personnel To Delete 89 Apps Including Facebook, TikTok, Truecaller, Instagram, Tinder, PUBG

The Indian Army has asked its personnel to delete 89 apps from their smartphones including Facebook, TikTok, Truecaller and Instagram to plug leakage of information

The Indian Army has asked its personnel to delete 89 apps from their smartphones including Facebook, TikTok, Truecaller and Instagram to plug leakage of information, news agency ANI reported today quoting Indian Army Sources. The Indian Army personnel have also been asked to delete dating apps such as Tinder, Couch Surfing along with news apps like Daily Hunt in the instructions issued recently.

The news of restriction on use of these apps by Indian Army personnel comes days after Government of India banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, UC News and CamScanner.

The list of apps the Indian army personnel has reportedly been asked to delete from their smartphones is divided into numerous categories like messaging platforms (Kik, Viber, Hike and others), video hosting (TikTok, Likee and others), content sharing (Shareit, Xender and others), web browsers (UC Browser and UC Browser Mini), video and live streaming (BigoLive, Zoom and others), utility apps (CamScanner, Truecaller and others), gaming apps (PUBG, Mobile Legends and others), e-commerce (AliExpress and others), dating apps (Tinder and others), antivirus (360 Security), news apps (Daily Hunt and others), lifestyle apps (POPXO), music apps (Hungama and others), and blogging (Reddit and others).

Facebook is without a doubt one of the biggest names in the list. So are apps like Instagram and Zoom.

The main concern in the case of the government’s move to ban 59 Chinese apps was the collection of user data and the unauthorised sending of this data to locations outside of India. The Indian army ban also seems more or less guided by the same concern.

Keeping An Eye On The Nuclear Ball

PLA's DF-31A Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)

In the conventional escalation along the LAC, India cannot afford to ignore China’s expanding nuclear arsenal

by Harsh V Pant

Despite domestic and external challenges, there is now growing evidence that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to expand its nuclear arsenal, which is worrisome but at the same time, not be surprising. China is pursuing a planned modernisation of its nuclear arsenal because it fears the multi-layered missile defence capabilities of the United States. It is arming its missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) capabilities to neutralise America’s missile shield. China’s DF-31As, which are road mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), are equipped with MIRVs and potent penetration aids.

Estimates And What It Means

The Peoples Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) also fields a range of Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) and Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs). The PRC’s ballistic missile tests in 2019 were the highest among the designated Nuclear Weapon States (NWS). China’s Lop Nur was the site of Chinese sub-critical testing since the PRC adopted a moratorium on hot testing in 1996, enabling China to miniaturise warheads and develop new designs that have been progressively integrated into its nuclear arsenal. The PRC also sits on a sizeable inventory of fissile material. China, according to the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) is estimated to possess 2.9+-0.6 metric tonnes of Weapons-grade Plutonium (WGP) compared to India’s is 0.6+-0.15 tonnes of WGP.

China’s expansion is cause for concern because even as the U.S. and Russia are attempting to reduce the size of their respective arsenals, the PRC is on an expansionist mode. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) observes that China’s nuclear arsenal has risen from 290 warheads in 2019 to 320 warheads in 2020.

This increase might not seem large relative to the size of the nuclear arsenal of the U.S. and Russia but it indicates a gradual shift toward a larger arsenal. This presents India with challenges because New Delhi has to contend with a nuclear-armed Pakistan as well. The Indian nuclear arsenal, according to the SIPRI, stands at roughly 150 nuclear warheads with the Pakistani slightly ahead with 160 warheads. The Chinese state mouthpiece, Global Times, has recently called for a 1,000-warhead nuclear arsenal, underlining the motivation of the PLA and the hard-line factions of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to match U.S. and Russian nuclear force levels.

While these numbers are important, what is equally, if not more, consequential for New Delhi is what China’s nuclear modernisation and diversified nuclear capabilities are likely to do for conventional military escalation along the China-India boundary. The conventional military balance between Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) presents significant challenges for Indian decision-makers. Given the variegated and highly sophisticated nature of Chinese nuclear capabilities relative to India, they give Beijing considerable coercive leverage. Beijing could commit further aggression under the cover of its nuclear arsenal.

Indeed, the PRC has already engaged in nuclear signalling with set piece videos, which have been doing the rounds on social media platforms. The message is clear to New Delhi from China’s leadership: we have presented you with a fait accompli; accept it and move on. Beijing is communicating that an escalatory response from New Delhi will incur punitive responses with China mounting aggressive military action at several points along the LAC. However, this time it will be more consequential, unlike the last in March-April when the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) mounted a rapid tactical offensive to occupy small territory at Pangong Tso and caught the Indian Army by surprise. Notwithstanding efforts to de-escalate particularly at Patrolling Point 14 (PP-14) in the Galwan River Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra, Chinese ground units have consolidated their position in the Pangong Tso area and the entire stretch of the LAC. To be sure, India is doing the same, but the Fingers 4 to 8 in Pangong Tso, where the PLA is entrenched, is a serious potential flashpoint as the Indian Army is locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation against its Chinese adversary. It could become a staging ground for further PLA ingress, notwithstanding Indian defensive preparations, triggering hostilities that widen to the Karakoram and Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese nuclear arsenal could serve as an instrument of coercion under which the PRC could press ahead with a limited aims war.

More Challenges For India

Consequently, Indian decision-makers need to be aware of the PLARF’s land-based missile forces. The PRC is believed to base a part of its nuclear arsenal in inland territories such as in the Far-Western Xinjiang Region, which is close to Aksai Chin. China’s land-based missiles are a primarily road mobile and could play a key role in any larger conventional offensive the PLA might mount against Indian forces along the LAC.

Korla in Xinjiang is believed to host DF-26 IRBMs with a range of 4,000 kilometres, which can potentially strike targets across most of India. Their mobility gives them a high degree of survivability. The DF-26 IRBMs can be armed with either a conventional or nuclear warhead. Since the IRBMs could be either conventional or nuclear tipped, assessing Chinese trip-wires will make things tricky as the PLARF’s conventional and nuclear forces are likely to be embedded together, presenting challenges for both the Indian civilian and military leadership.

Be On Guard

Thus, conventional escalation between Chinese and Indian forces along the LAC must factor the role of nuclear weapons and their impact on military operations executed by the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) needs to be on a heightened state of alert to ward off Chinese nuclear threats and brinkmanship as well as geared to support India’s conventional forces.

While escalation of the current stand-off between Indian and Chinese forces is not inevitable, it would be a terrible mistake on the part of the Indian government to ignore the possibility, because it might not come from New Delhi but Beijing.

Whatever the outcome of the current crisis, New Delhi should start seriously assessing its extant nuclear doctrine and redouble efforts to get a robust triadic capability for deterrence.

Harsh V. Pant is Director Studies at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi. Kartik Bommakanti is Associate Fellow at the ORF, New Delhi

TAMING THE DRAGON: Asian Giants’ Inevitable Clash for Supremacy

by Jose Manimala

Most Indian defence pundits ignore this; Chinese opened so many fronts against us already. Economic, psychological, cultural and cyber warfare. Under university guise, PLA, invite Indian defence writers, scholars and journalists to Beijing. There they were subtly manipulated by Chinese mind control experts.

Notorious Chinese Confucius Institutes slowly strangle American universities. Chinese export subsidies kill US companies. Hollywood, heavily Chinese funded, changed plots of World War Z and Gravity. In the first film India became the villain. Second, Russia. In both films originally the Chinese were the bad guys. After Chinese takeover of Opera browser four years ago, I abandoned it. I use super-fast, secure Slimjet now. But overblown Chinese kill switch is a bogey. No, Beijing can’t shut down Indian web or power grids.

Contrary to popular belief Nehru isn’t the sole culprit of 1962 debacle. Top military, intelligence leadership played a major, shameful role. It was white washed. Even then, Chinese brain washed captured Indian officers before returning to them to India. They used Hindi speaking Chinese nurses.

In the current unfolding, showdown with China we can count only on Russia, France, Israel, Vietnam and Japan. In the Nuclear Suppliers Group entry fiasco, 2016, six so called Indian friends, Turkey, Austria, Brazil, New Zealand, Switzerland and Ireland, turned Brutus.

India have few real friends. There are limits to our soft, hard and economic power.

Firstly, we must shed our pessimistic mindset. We will prevail. We have ‘Divine Matrix, 2009. Indian Army is fully prepared for a two-and-a-half front (China, Pakistan and internal security requirements simultaneously) war. India has world’s best pilots.

High tech Japan, South Korea. Singapore, Israel and Taiwan are amazed at our relentless progress in space and defence technological development.

New Delhi should urgently plan and implement these damage control measures to recover lost ground and pride. Like PRC's Six Wars China Is Sure To Fight In The Next 50 Years, declare forcible recapture of Aksai Chin as the Indian goal.

  • Declare Limited war with China at our own time and terms even inside Chinese territory. as the Indian intention.
  • Declassify full details of 1962 war and 1967 1987 clashes
  • Full diplomatic recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign nation
  • Fortunately Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's first and current female president is a nationalist hawk
  • Appropriate full country Head-in-Exile status to Dalai Lama with equal rights to Pope. Help His Holiness to open consulates in Japan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Bhutan, Thailand etc. Invite Global Buddhist pilgrims and Hollywood disciples to Bodhgaya
  • Declare Tibet and Hong Kong as occupied territories. Raise Uighur issue in international forums
  • Change RIC Forum into RI. Save Mongolia from Chinese Dhritarashtra hug. Read the riot act to Nepal
  • Alert ED, Revenue Intelligence and CBI about hidden Chinese takeover of weak Indian companies through middlemen. Prevent indirect Chinese economic invasion of India via Hong Kong and Singapore
  • Slowly replace Chinese investment with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Save sinking Indian companies from suicidal fire sale. Chines planned financial takeover of post- Corona world
  • Neutralise Chinese funding and arming of Maoist outfits at source. Strict vigil to unearth, expose well entrenched Chinese fifth column
  • Gradual reduction of Indo Chinese ties to cultural, humanitarian and social levels.
  • See through Chinese strategic doublespeak and different versions of truth. Cancel all Indo Chinese border talks

There was a time. In 1986- 1987, India China border clash at Sumdorong Chu, Rajiv Gandhi tested warming Soviet – China ties. China and America warned India another 1962 like painful, shameful lesson. American defence secretary landed in Delhi and warned India to accept Chinese hegemony or perish. Weak, meek Gorbachev advised India to show the other cheek.

In reply Rajiv asked General Sundarji and Arun Singh to airlift 50000 troops to Chinese border. IAF received orders to bomb deep, inner Chinese targets. Chinese realised IAF will make mincemeat out of their Stone Age air force. Ultra secret Indian nuclear missiles mysteriously come alive and acquired dragon pressure points. After tense standoff, China backed off. Above mentioned realists didn’t, blink. Show of strength saved the day in favor of the Indians.

In Kerala, great Chinese traitors and architects of humiliating 1962 Indian defeat in Sino- Indian war, V. K. Krishna Menon and K. M. Panikkar, worshipped as great patriots. Worse, Kissinger who vowed to finish off India in 1971 war hailed as a strategic messiah In Delhi.

Kissinger’s backdoor diplomacy via Islamabad and strategic Chinese shift jolted India. We sadly realised over hyped US nuclear umbrella was an illusion. Next year we got another strategic lesson. But this time Indians were ready.

In 1971 Indo Pak war Nixon, Kissinger, UK and China tried to destroy us. America sent mighty 7th fleet to destroy Indian Navy. Indira Gandhi (Durga according to Vajpayee) didn't blink. Indian Navy received orders to attack US, UK naval formations. Brezhnev bailed us out.

Some Indian intellectuals urge India to accept a Nepal- grade role and satisfy China. They urge India to give Arunachal Pradesh to China to avoid Chinese wrath. But aggressors never stop with single offerings. They will ask for more. After they swallowed Tibet, they bit off Aksai Chin. Only by Russian intervention Mongolia escaped Chinese embrace.

Unlike India, full NATO member Turkey gave the US the boot on the Triumf, S – 400 deal . See how pacifist Japan handled Chinese insults on them. When Indians attacked in USA Indian peaceniks brag Chinese is the most law abiding in America. What about Chinese spying on America? FBI can't handle Chinese Triads in USA any more. So CIA handles it. Saudis receive red carpet welcome in USA, In return they give Uncle Sam 9/11. Chinese bullied, humiliated Obama in Hangzhou.

See Russia and France. They overcome and prevail over America. Little Israel and Switzerland arm twist anyone. They don't care about UN. Smaller Philippines and Vietnam aggressively meet China head on. India should arm them with BrahMos. Time is running out.

Though America isn’t perfect. A Chinese led world will be dystopian. We are dangerously close to the abyss.

War is old men talking, and young men dying. Revenge must be eaten cold. Chinese anticipate our every move. We must give them a calculated, jolting blow.

We are the cradle of civilisation. We are not China. From ancient times India welcomed opposing, conflicting views, ideas and persecuted people. And weaved them into a colourful, harmonious mosaic. We are proud on our unity in diversity. Many western millionaires lead Spartan, monastic lives in India.

Instead of following the west, especially America, India should take lead. We should be the modern intellectual, financial, technological and liberal capital of Earth. Free world should rally behind us.

I raise my hand in salute to India’s progressive march through centuries to the next millennium towards Pax Indica!

Jose Manimala Pala tracks military and aerospace issues closely. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN

Myanmar To Expedite India-Backed Infra Projects

PM Modi with Myanmar state councillor Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s all-powerful generals, who have controlled the country for decades, are upset with the Chinese strategy of arming rebel groups, including Islamic radicals. They are upset with China’s pressure on Myanmar to implement BRI projects despite the pandemic

New Delhi: Myanmar has decided to expedite India-backed infrastructure projects and widen security ties with India as it seeks to balance China's expanding presence in the country in the backdrop of Beijing's active cross-border support for rebel groups and push for early completion of BRI projects.

Myanmar’s all-powerful generals, who have controlled the country for decades, are upset with the Chinese strategy of arming rebel groups, including Islamic radicals. They are also upset with China's pressure on Myanmar to implement Belt-Road-Initiative (BRI) projects in spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ET has learnt

China is planning a China-Myanmar-Economic Corridor (CMEC), on the lines of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), to get access to the Bay of Bengal and the eastern part of the Indian Ocean Region. Several other BRI related projects threaten to push Myanmar to a debt trap.

Speaking to journalists in Russia last month on the occasion of Victory Day parade, commander-in-chief of Myanmar armed forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing called for international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, saying that terrorist groups exist because of “strong forces”.

Many analysts in Myanmar say Gen Hlaing’s comment was targeted at China, which the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) suspects is continuing to provide arms to rebel groups on the Myanmar-China border and to the Arakan Army (AA), which is now operating in northern Rakhine state as well as the radical Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. The general's comments broadly reflects the sentiment among the top military leadership of the armed forces in Naypyitaw, ET has learnt.Interestingly the comments were made in Russia -- Myanmar's old defence partner

While China has offered to play the role of peace broker in Myanmar’s ongoing ethnic conflicts, senior Tatmadaw leaders claim that China is not to be trusted. They suspect China of supporting some ethnic insurgent groups in Myanmar while at the same time meddling in the peace process, according to a report in the Myanmar daily The Irrawaddy.

While in Moscow, Gen Hlaing met defence minister Rajnath Singh and explored Myanmar-India defence cooperation. The two also discussed security cooperation to ensure successful implementation of the India-funded Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project across the Mizoram border.

The project aims to open sea routes and a highway transport system linking the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with the country’s landlocked northeastern state of Mizoram through Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin states. China-backed AA rebels are allegedly targeting the men working on the Kaladan project. The Sittwe Port, also made by India, as part of the project is ready for operation.

In May, the Myanmar government handed 22 rebels from the northeastern states over to the Indian government. The rebels belonged to groups that have bases along the border in Myanmar’s Sagaing region.

Myanmar received its first submarine from India last year, a Russian-made Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarine, and India continues to provide technical support for the vessel, according to a Myanmar military spokesman. Delhi has also agreed to train Myanmar army officers and allow them to study at military academies in India.

Last year, security forces of India and Myanmar cooperated to clamp down on the northeastern insurgent groups, with Myanmar troops driving insurgents hailing from Nagaland and other states out of their main base in Taga in Sagaing region.

Border Roads Organisation Given Three-Month Deadline To Complete DSDBO Road

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asked BRO to complete work on the strategic road by October

Amidst border tensions with China, Defence Minister Rajanth Singh has given a three-month deadline to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to complete the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road in the eastern Ladakh sector. China had raised serious objections to this road, which gives India easy access to the Karakoram Pass that divides Ladakh from China's Xinjiang Province.

Though on Monday both sides initiated steps towards disengaging at Galwan valley and at Gogra and Hot Springs, the Indian Army is simultaneous building up its capacity in the sector as well. The Army is adopting utmost caution as they believe that the Chinese military cannot be trusted, at least until they completely pull back from the face-off locations.

Road construction has often triggered face-offs between the Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), and was a factor behind the ongoing tensions in the eastern Ladakh sector. The latest troop build-up by Indian Army and PLA at multiple locations on Galwan valley was also due to Chinese objection to the DSDBO road, which provides access to Depsang plain, Galwan valley and Karakoram pass. The road lies opposite to the Aksai Chin plateau, which is under the occupation of China.

Lt General Harpal Singh, Director-General, BRO on Tuesday gave a detailed briefing to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the progress of construction activities in border areas. 

According to a senior defence ministry official who was part of the meeting, BRO has been asked to complete the stretch by October 2020. "On the 255 km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi road, the ongoing construction is almost done. About 45 km of blacktopping work is pending. BRO head Lt Gen Harpal Singh conveyed that this has to be completed by October 2020,” the official said.

To speed up the infrastructure on the border with China, nearly 100 labourers from the Jharkhand were landed at Ladakh to finish the critical Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road project. Their target is to finish the project before winter sets in the snow deserts of Ladakh in November. 

All these labourers, after mandatory acclimatisation at Leh, were moved to forward areas to join the project.

After having adequate man force for the project at the worksite, the head of BRO Lt. Gen Harpal assured Defence Minister that his organisation (BRO) would leave no stone upturned to complete the ongoing projects on the LAC and LoC on time. He also said that his organisation is working in close coordination with all ministries including the defence, home affairs and union transport ministries.

Early in June, BRO had decided to recruit over 11,800 workers from Jharkhand for critical projects. But the Jharkhand government, fearing for the workers' safety after the June 15 clash, initially refused to send all of them. Only 1,600 labourers could be sent in the first train, which was flagged off by the Chief Minister of Jharkhand Hemant Soren on June 13 from Dumka to Udhampur. Annoyed with the state government's attitude, the BRO headquarters in Delhi withdrew its recruitment drive by calling back its recruitment team of five BRO projects from Jharkhand.

Keeping the urgency of the matter in mind, BRO was left with no option and had to fly these labourers from Delhi to Leh. These labourers from the Dumka and Jamtara districts of Santhal paragana division of Jharkhand first travelled to Delhi via Kolkata by train.

Official sources claimed that an alternate route is also being made here and full focus is on to provide road connectivity to the armed forces as its top priority. 

BRO is constructing 61 strategic Indo-China Border Roads (ICBRs) measuring 3323.57 Km in length under the direction of the China Study Group (CSG). A Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence in March informed that 75 per cent of the construction work on the 61 Indo-China Border Roads has been completed. Of these 12 roads, about 1,064 km are in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, while three roads measuring about 62 km are in Sikkim.

The Middle Kingdom’s Rush of Blood And The Need For Strong Indian Deterrence

It was the supreme sacrifice of Col Santosh Babu and his men that woke up the Indian Army and Indian public against the Chinese aggression

Male power and its brutal projection is the central theme of what is colloquially defined as chopsticks culture. Submission to the powerful with all its frills can still be observed in East and South East Asian societies, particularly the middle kingdom ruled now by Emperor Xi Jinping. It is very important to understand this culture to contextualise China’s aggression against India in Aksai Chin area, where according to former Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous 1961 statement “not a blade of grass grows.”

For the average man in the world’s largest democracy, it may be difficult to fathom why Commander-in-Chief Xi would order his western theatre commander to march PLA in full strength up to Line of Actual Control and lose 30 years of bilateral ties in one surge of testosterone. After all, majority of the “China boys” in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)’s East Asia Division were enamoured with paramount leader Mao Zedong’s rather inane slogans and the art of reading tea leaves. The Indian Army still carried the legacy of 1962 on its shoulder till such time Colonel Santosh Babu of 16 Bihar shattered the myth in Galwan on June 15 evening. The Chinese penetration in Indian government particularly the telecom sector was and is humongous with its New Delhi Embassy routinely getting its side of the story out in the media. Why would a country ruin a $100 billion dollar economic relationship with a neighbour that has never interfered in its internal matters or even challenged its quest for global domination? Fact is, India has chosen to keep quiet despite knowing all machinations of Beijing in Nepal (where the Chinese Ambassador to Kathmandu is a de facto Viceroy), Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and in the happy kingdom of Bhutan.

The answer to this question is rather complex and civilisational; Chinese Emperors were and even now want to be treated as divinity and above all wisdom. Japan did not raise a murmur when the Chinese Navy strolled in its waters citing Senkaku Island dispute; Vietnam kept quiet when its boat was sunk in South China Sea; other ASEAN countries sought help of the US, after PLA started exercising in their back-yard---the South China Sea. In short, barring an occasional exception, East Asian and South-East Asian economic powerhouses paid obeisance to the dominant power and its paramount leader. Sure, some would issue an anodyne statement of protest but that was it.

It is quite evident that President Xi and Gen Zhao Zongqi expected the same from India after PLA forces tried marching to Shyok river from Galwan River Valley and sought to remove the Indian Army from fingers in Pangong Tso. Maybe India would have also played it quiet like it did in The 2017 Doklam crisis but then Colonel Santosh Babu and his brave Biharis changed the game from Sun Tzu to Chanakya, from Chinese Go to Indian Shatranj. The Colonel refused to bow before the middle kingdom and showed that he belonged to another ancient culture of Indian sub-continent. It was the supreme sacrifice of Col Santosh Babu and his men that woke up the Indian Army and Indian public against the Chinese aggression. That Col Babu had the gall to draw Chinese blood at Galwan on June 15 was a game changer as the PLA for the first time lost men after 1967 Nathu La. While the fallen Indian soldiers were cremated with full honours with Indian public defying the Coronavirus disease in huge numbers and attending the funerals. While the conservative figure of Chinese casualties at Galwan is around 17, the figure could be as high as 56 as per intelligence estimates. These deaths have remained unrecognised.

A politically astute Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah read the public mood and took urgent economic retaliatory steps against China. Flanked by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief Gen Mukund Naravane, PM Modi signalled his resolve by personally landing up at Nimu, Ladakh and pumped up the troops for the worst-case scenario.

While National Security Adviser and Special Representative for Boundary Dialogue Ajit Doval and his wise counterpart Wang Yi have agreed on a withdrawal in Ladakh, India should watch the process carefully and ensure that status quo ante is restored. China should not be allowed to create a new normal on the LAC. India needs to build military and economic deterrence in next five years to ensure behavioural change in the Middle Kingdom. The Leopard cannot change his spots but must be made to think a thousand time before he attacks again.

The situation continues to be very complex on the 3,488 km LAC and an accident is possible. New Delhi should work with the certainty that PLA under Xi will return back to LAC to demand respect for the Emperor in Beijing in the near future.

Corporatisation of OFB: Defence Ministry Moves To Hire Consultant, Workers’ Federations Say ‘Game Plan Exposed’

In the fourth tranche of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had, on May 16, announced the decision of corporatisation of OFB for “improving autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance suppliers”

Moving ahead with its plan to corporatise the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the Ministry of Defence has invited Expression of Interest (EOI) cum Request for Proposal (RFP) for the selection of a consultant for strategising and implementing the proposed corporatisation. In response, three main federations of the ordnance workers have said the move has “exposed the government’s game plan”.

The invitation for EoI cum RPF, published on the website of Department of Defence Production (DDP) of the MoD, is titled ‘EOI cum RFP for selection of consultant for providing strategic and implementation management consulting services to assist the Ministry of Defence in the process of corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board.’ It states “The DDP of MOD invites EOI cum RFP from reputed India-based consulting agencies to provide management consulting services covering topics like strategic future growth,optimal operational strategy, organisational restructuring and other related implementation issues with respect to transition management, financing, legal aspects etc, to assist the MOD in the process of corporatisation of the OFB, a project initiated by the DDP.”

Outlining the scope for the consultant, the MoD invitation for EOI cum RFP says, “The consultant shall work in close interaction with the DDP to produce a comprehensive report for corporatisation of OFB, keeping in mind the background and goals. This must enable the DDP to determine the best-suited model for converting OFB into one or more corporate entity(ies), in light of the existing financial, legal, operational and economic scenario…The project will consist of two phases of approx. six months each. In the first phase, the overall strategy, vision and operating model along with financial and legal implications and detailed roadmap for implementation will be outlined by the consultant. In the second phase, the consultant shall support in implementation, project management through the entire project roadmap and co-ordinate and monitor the progress of the corporatisation process and until its completion. The Consultant will also assist the DDP in presenting matters before the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM).”

In a joint letter, the general secretaries of the three federations stated, “The game plan of the government is totally exposed on the proposed move to corporatise the 41 ordnance factories. On one side, the drama of the high level official committee (HLOC) meetings continues, and on the other hand, the MoD has floated a RFP.”

The HLOC was formulated in September last year after the three federations had called a strike to oppose the corporatisation move, which was initiated last year. Back then, the federations had rejected the terms of reference of the HLOC. On June 5 this year, the HLOC again initiated the dialogue with the federations of the workers and gazetted officers of the OFB.

The three key federations of defence workers, which represent close to 85 per cent of the 82,000-strong workforce from 41 ordnance factories across the country, have strongly opposed the proposed corporatisation since its inception. The strike ballot called by these federations against the proposal had concluded on June 17, in which workers had voted in favour of an indefinite strike. However, considering the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, the date of the strike is slated to be announced later this month.

The three federations are Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), an arm of RSS affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, federation of Left unions All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) and the Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) of the Congress’s INTUC. The federations have argued that a corporate entity would not be able to survive the unique market environment of defence products, which have a very unstable demand and supply dynamics.

In the fourth tranche of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had, on May 16, announced the decision of corporatisation of OFB for “improving autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance suppliers”.

The OFB, an umbrella body for ordnance factories and related institutions, is currently a subordinate office of the MoD. It is headquartered in Kolkata and is a conglomerate of 41 factories, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centres and five regional controllers of safety.

TAKING ON CHINA: India's Sharechat’s Tiktok Clone, Moj, Gets 10 Million Downloads Within 6 Days of Launch

Between TikTok, Helo, Likee, Vigo Video and Bigo Live, the apps share a user base of around 400 million users. All of those users seem to be seeking new platforms to go to. The ban on Chinese apps has given Indian apps a big push as users look for alternatives to TikTok. Apps like Chingari, Mitron, Roposo and Bolo Indya have got a boost in the number of downloads since the 29 June ban

NEW DELHI: Indian regional social media platform Sharechat’s Moj app, which was launched right after the Indian government on 29 June banned 59 Chinese apps, has garnered over 10 million downloads in six days. In a tweet on Tuesday, Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and CEO of Sharechat, said the app was coded in 30 hours and has been listed at the top of Google’s free apps list on the Play Store today.

Moj is a short-video platform that emulates the features of TikTok, which was amongst the apps banned by the government. Sharechat itself is a competitor to Helo, another social media platform that was owned by TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance. The parent app itself is also listed amongst the top free apps on Google Play right now.

The ban on Chinese apps has given Indian apps a big push recently. Apps like Sharechat have seen an influx of users as people look for TikTok alternatives. Other Indian apps, like Chingari, Mitron, Roposo and Bolo Indya have also received a boost in the number of downloads since the ban. The government had banned the Chinese apps because they were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order."

Roposo, Mitron and Chingari have said that they were getting over 300,000 users per hour in the day after the ban. Mitron even announced a seed funding round of ₹2 crore. Be that as it may, Sharechat is the only real established social media platform in the race.

The ban has left a short window for Indian apps to capitalise on the void left by TikTok, Helo and others. Two other apps, Bigo Live and Likee — owned by Singapore-based Bigo Technology — had also been banned. Between TikTok, Helo, Likee, Vigo Video and Bigo Live, the apps share a user base of around 400 million users. All of those users seem to be seeking new platforms to go to.

While Indian apps are enjoying success in the wake of the ban, influencers have also headed to global platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Reports say that Facebook is gearing up to launch Reels, its TikTok clone, in India soon.

Imagine This: India Starts Buying U.S. F-35 Stealth Fighters

Key Point: Indian F-35s would send a message to China and Pakistan. An Indian purchase would face numerous obstacles. Is India really getting ready to buy the F-35?

Indian media reported back in 2018 that the Indian Air Force has asked Lockheed Martin to brief it on the capabilities of the F-35. Yet it's not clear if this is true, or even whether an F-35 is on the horizon.

"The IAF top brass is formally requesting for a classified briefing by the F-35’s prime builder, Lockheed Martin, on the capabilities of the sophisticated, fifth-generation fighter developed under the US Joint Strike Fighter program," claims the Indian publication Business Standard.

Lockheed Martin directed questions about this to the U.S. government. The U.S. Department of Defence's F-35 Joint Program Office told The National Interest that it was unaware of any request for a briefing by the Indian government. Had the request been made, it seems likely the Joint Program Office—the hub of the F-35 project—would have been aware.

If the reports aren't true, it wouldn’t be the first time—Indian media claimed in January that Lockheed Martin had proposed manufacturing the F-35 in India.

"However, it appears that the story was the result of confusion between discussion on the F-35 and the company’s [Lockheed Martin's] well-publicised bid to move its F-16 line to India," reported Defence News.

So is India genuinely interested in acquiring an American stealth fighter? "I doubt an F-35 purchase would happen soon for a number of reasons," says Timothy Hoyt, who co-chairs the U.S. Naval War College's Indian Ocean Regional Studies Group.

While it's natural for India to be curious about a prominent combat aircraft like the F-35, which a dozen U.S. allies have already committed to buy, an Indian purchase would face numerous domestic obstacles.

Long a customer of Soviet and Russian arms, recently India has been buying American, including Apache and Chinook helicopters, howitzers and discussions are underway for acquiring drones. India remains cautious about relying on Washington for weaponry, given that the United States has long been a patron of its arch-nemesis Pakistan (a ticklish situation for Washington as well).

India also has made efforts—albeit scandal-plagued—to develop indigenous major weapons such as the Arjun tank. India's Defence Research and Development Organisation would likely "promise it can deliver an equivalent system in an unreasonably short time frame," Hoyt says. "If that doesn't kill the deal, there will be very strong voices insisting on licensed production in India with technology transfer, as well as demands for offsets on any deal."

To afford the F-35, New Delhi would have to boost defence spending, which might raise a furor given that even American critics have blasted the Lightning II over a price tag that's almost $100 million per plane. Even if a purchase were approved, "India's procurement process is abysmally slow," says Hoyt. "Despite all of the publicity given to the Medium Range Combat Aircraft acquisition about a decade ago, that decision has never been fully implemented."

One question is how the introduction of a potentially nuclear-capable stealth aircraft would affect India's volatile rivalry with Pakistan, which itself has nuclear weapons and a competent air force and missile arsenal to deliver them. "The US has introduced nuclear-capable aircraft into the region in the past, with the F-16 deal to Pakistan," Hoyt says. "It accelerated an arms race. India immediately sought new equivalents in the Mirage 2000 and MiG-29."

So how would Pakistan respond? "They could double down on nuclear deterrence, which appears to be their preferred method at the moment," says Hoyt. "If they need a new system, they could go to China. But I have no real idea how the Chinese would feel about technology transfer of their own latest-generation stealth fighter."

Ultimately, Indian acquisition of the F-35 will rest on political rather than military considerations, Hoyt believes. "It would be a deeply political action that would link the IAF much more closely, and make it much more interoperable, with the U.S. Air Force."

Which in turn suggests that Indian F-35s might really be aimed at China, with whom New Delhi fought a short war in 1962. While India may be cautious about allying with America, an F-35 buy "would send a message to China," Hoyt says.