Wednesday, September 30, 2020

India Played Up Trivial Issues, Ignored Key Questions: Rants Pakistan On PM Modi’s UN Speech

Prime Minister Narendra Modi prominently questioned the UN’s reluctance to include India in its decision-making structure during his video address to the General Assembly on Saturday

Pakistan has accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trivailsing his UN General Assembly address while ignoring some of the key issues facing his country. 

Munir Akram, Islamabad’s envoy to the United Nations, said in a statement that Modi had played up "trivial issues", while ignoring key ones the world was interested in, as per a report in the English-language daily Dawn on Monday.

The news report was re-tweeted by Akram from his social media handle.

Further criticising the Indian PM's speech for being “divorced” from reality, Akram remarked that the world wasn’t interested in how many Indians defecate in public.

The oblique reference was to Modi’s UN address on Saturday, underlining that since 2014, 600 million Indians had been freed from open defecation due to the policies of his government.

The Pakistani diplomat complained that the Indian prime minister's speech didn’t touch upon the Kashmir dispute, the question of Palestinian statehood, or climate change.

Provoking a sharp reaction from New Delhi during its "Right of Reply" later in the day, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in his address to the UNGA that: "The one country in the world today where, I am sad to say, the state sponsors Islamophobia, is India. The reason behind this is RSS ideology that unfortunately rules India today".

India's First Secretary Mijito Vinito had retorted that Pakistan should stop “misusing” the UN to advance its “nefarious agenda”, as he reminded Islamabad of accusations of persecution of minorities under the Imran Khan government.

India Hits Out At Pakistan In Geneva

The war of words between the two rivals was also witnessed at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, with India alleging that an “orchestrated mass influx” of outsiders into Pakistan-administered Kashmir had changed the demography of the region.

“It’s baffling that there are three outsiders for every four [people] in the Pakistan occupied parts of the Indian Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh", Pawan Badhe, India’s First Secretary at its Permanent Mission to Geneva said.

The Indian diplomat was exercising his “Right of Reply” in a discussion on the human rights situation in the Indian side of Kashmir initiated by Islamabad.

During his remarks, Badhe also expressed concern over Islamabad using the territory of Kashmir on its side of the de-facto border (Line of Control) as a launchpad for terrorists.

The Indian representative also highlighted that as many as 4,000 proscribed terrorists had been de-listed in Pakistan just to sustain its “terror ecosystem”.

The two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars over the Jammu and Kashmir region, which both of them control partly but claim in its entirety.

Money Burnt On Faulty Ammo Could Have Bought Us 100 New Howitzers, Fumes Army

The Indian Army, in an internal report to the MoD, has said funds spent on faulty ammunition between 2014 and 2020 could have been used to buy 100 155-mm medium artillery guns

by Shiv Aroor

The Army noted that faulty ammunition worth Rs 960 crore is equivalent to an estimated cost of at least 100 medium artillery guns. The Indian Army funds spent on dangerously faulty ammunition supplied by the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) over the last six years would have been enough to purchase 100 medium artillery guns.

This staggering claim has been made in an internal Army report to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), excerpts of which have been accessed by India Today.

Calculating the loss to the exchequer due to poor quality OFB ammunition to be Rs 960 crore between 2014 and 2020, the Army notes, “Rs 960 crore roughly means 100 155-mm medium artillery guns could have been bought for this amount."

The OFB, administered by the MoD's Department of Defence Production, is one of the world's oldest government-controlled production organisations, and oversees a nationwide network of factories that manufactures ammunition and weaponry for the Indian armed forces.

The ammunition being criticised in the new Army report includes 23-mm air defence shells, artillery shells, 125-mm tank rounds and different calibres of bullets used in infantry assault rifles.

'Poor Quality Ammunition'

The Army report accessed by India Today highlights the 'poor quality production' at the OFB, quantifying the losses both in monetary resources as well as human life due to accidents caused by faulty ammunition.

“Lack of accountability and poor quality of production results in frequent accidents. This results in injuries and deaths of soldiers. On an average, one accident takes place per week," says the report that has been shared with the MoD, including accident and casualty figures.

There have been 403 accidents related to faulty ammunition since 2014, though the numbers of accidents have steadily reduced. From 114 accidents in 2014, the number reduced to 53 by 2017, rose again to 78 in 2018, and dipped once again to just 16 in 2019. But the human casualty figures are far more disturbing.

Listed under the heading 'Casualties due to OFB manufactured ammunition and armament', the report notes 27 troops and others have been killed in faulty ammunition accidents since 2014, with 159 being seriously injured, including permanent disabilities and loss of limbs.

There have been 13 accidents so far in 2020, though none of them has resulted in a death.

Calculating Rs 960 crore as the monetary write-off as a result of faulty OFB ammunition since 2014, the Army report notes that Rs 658.58 crore worth was disposed of within the ammunition's shelf life between April 2014 and April 2019, while 303.23 crore worth of mines were disposed of within their shelf life following a major ammunition depot fire in Pulgaon, Maharashtra in 2016.

'Mini-OFB' Type Supplies Needed

The Army's exasperation with OFB supplied ammunition has simmered over decades, reaching a breaking point in the last two years, forcing an effort to approach the Indian private sector to meet ammunition needs. But as India Today reported earlier this month, the Army has pulled the plug on five of seven proposals that would have seen private firms step in to keep ammunition supplies running.

However, the effort to get private companies to become 'mini-OFB' type suppliers is desperately needed.

Earlier this month, the Army's 'ammunition-in-chief', the Master General Ordnance (MGO) Lt Gen Upadhya said at an industry interaction, "OFB is in any case available to us. We want a parallel capacity to come up. It may not be at the scale of the OFB. But to start with, at least a parallel set up should come and various types of ammunition would then be available from the industry which can then settle down and in the times to come, a scaling up can take place."

The Army has a difficult situation on its hands, and one that needs to be navigated tactfully. On the one hand, pushback against the OFB goes directly against the MoD itself, even though the latter has begun a process of modernisation of the OFB.

Just this month, the Ministry of Defence appointed a KPMG-led consortium to advise the government on how to lift the OFB out of its legacy socialist structures and to corporatise it. OFB unions at factories across the country have aggressively opposed the corporatisation drive.

On the other hand, the effort to include private sector firms has largely been one step forward and two back, with several companies -- both big and small -- expressing willingness to invest in capacity to produce and supply ammunition, but require a degree of clarity and assurance of orders, since they do not have the financial cushion and leeway enjoyed by state-owned concerns like the OFB.

What the numbers in the new Army report indicate is that things have come to a head. And with India's forces massed on the border in a war-like situation that will almost definitely stretch into the foreseeable future, the Army hopes the glaring numbers will force a solution to its decades-old ammunition quality, shortage and assurance problems.

China Makes Provocative Remark, Says It 'Doesn't Recognize Union Territory of Ladakh Illegally Established By India'

The remark comes even as Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said that an ‘uneasy status’ prevails at northern frontiers with China

Amid the prevailing border tension between India and China, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin made a provocative remark on Indian Union Territory of Ladakh on Tuesday.

The remark comes even as Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said that an ‘uneasy status’ prevails at northern frontiers with China at present in an apparent reference to the heightened border tension with Beijing.

As reported by the Global Times, a mouthpiece of the administration in Beijing, Wenbin stated that China doesn't recognize the Union Territory of Ladakh "illegally established by India".

Wenbin also said that China opposes the infrastructure construction in "disputed border areas" for military control purposes.

In an apparent response to India building roads along the border, Wenbin said, "China does not recognize the so-called Union Territory of Ladakh illegally established by India, and opposes infrastructure construction in disputed border areas for military control purposes."

He added, "According to the recent consensus reached between China and India, neither side should take any actions in border areas that would complicate the situation, so as not to affect the efforts of both sides to ease the situation."

Earlier, the IAF chief said at the moment “no war, no peace” status was holding along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) despite concerted efforts to end the ongoing standoff at several friction points in eastern Ladakh.

Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, however, added that the armed forces are prepared for any eventuality and that the Air Force particularly is resolved to counter “any misadventure”. “Airpower will be a crucial enabler in our victory in any future conflict,” the IAF chief said.

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria was quick to add that the recent induction of Rafale fighter jets along with Chinook, Apaches and other aircraft fleet has given a fillip to the Indian Air Force’s tactical capabilities.

“Present security scenario along our northern frontiers is at an uneasy — no war, no peace status... The recent induction of Rafales along with other aircraft has provided the IAF with substantial practical and strategic capability enhancement,” Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria said.

The remarks from Bhadauria in the backdrop of reports that the Indian Army is preparing itself for the long haul in Ladakh this winter. The Army has rushed tanks, heavy weaponry, ammunition, fuel, food and essential winter supplies to high-altitude areas in eastern Ladakh where it is engaged in a standoff with the People’s Liberation Army of China.

Military sources said last week that the aim is to prepare the force and ensure its combat readiness through the treacherous winter which lasts for some months in Ladakh. The operation has been described as one of the biggest in decades as far as military logistics are concerned.

Anticipating possible misadventure from China, the Indian Army has flown in T-90 and T-72 tanks, artillery guns and infantry combat vehicles to several sensitive locations including Chushul and Demchock sectors in eastern Ladakh.

The Army has also sent clothes, tents, food items, communication equipment, fuel, heaters and other supplies in large quantities to forward posts and mountain passes which are located at a height of more than 16,000 feet.

The operation is being personally supervised by Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane.

A New Dawn Emerges With Liberalisation In Defence Sector's Foreign Direct Investment

With the defence sector being critical to national security and strategic interests, the Government has retained its characteristic oversight over foreign investments in this space. This change would truly be landmark, bringing to fruition a decade old demand to allow foreign defence manufacturers controlling interest in Indian companies. India for a long time has had the unfortunate distinction of being a leading importer of arms and ammunition

by Kanishk, and Ujval Mohan

The Government of India on September 17, 2020 issued Press Note 4 of 2020 (PN4) and finally revised the policy governing foreign investment in the defence sector. Hopes were raised in May, 2020, when as a part of the Economic Package to counter the COVID-19 impact, the Finance Minister announced the decision to raise Foreign Direct Investment limits in the defence sector under the automatic route from 49% to 74%. However, the industry had to wait for 4 months to see the text of the proposed change. The wait is not entirely over as this change will be effective only once a notification is issued in terms of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA).

This change would truly be landmark, bringing to fruition a decade old demand to allow foreign defence manufacturers controlling interest in Indian companies. India for a long time has had the unfortunate distinction of being a leading importer of arms and ammunition. Permitting majority foreign investment in the defence sector should generate employment, save precious foreign exchange, and most importantly, wean the country away from import dependence. The strongest argument against this liberalisation is the vague national security risk posed by foreign ownership of defence and aerospace manufacturers. Questioning how the reality of import dependence on the same foreign manufacturers is any less of a security risk immediately reveals the hollowness of that stance.

Tracing Indian Regulatory Experience With Defence FDI

Embracing FDI in this sector has been a cautious and gradual exercise. India tested these waters by allowing 26% investment into the defence sector, and that too, under approval route about two decades ago in 2001. Taking the next significant step in 2015, the cap was hiked to 49% under the automatic route for companies applying for fresh industrial licenses, whereas operating defence companies receiving FDI still required government approval. As expected, limiting investors’ stake effectively to 49% denied them control over their investments, stopping short of creating an attractive environment for foreign capital to be channelled in. This should change with PN4.

Press Note 4 of 2020

Coming in the wake of unprecedented economic contraction, one expected a more broad-based liberalization of defence sector FDI policy. However, in keeping with the conservative attitude the sector is historically familiar with, PN4 offers a mixed bag of changes. It permits 74% FDI only in “companies seeking new industrial licenses”, i.e. greenfield projects, yet retains the requirement of Government approval for existing defence sector entities increasing FDI from 49% to 74%. FDI above 74% continues to require Government approval. Nonetheless, PN4 should encourage global defence players to consider fresh investments in India, for now they can control and hold more than 50% equity stake in such Indian entities.

The government has also liberalized the approach for brownfield investments up to 49%, i.e., foreign investment in companies which already have industrial licenses. Unlike the erstwhile regime where such investments were subject to Government approval, the revised policy only requires submission of a post-facto declaration with the Ministry of Defence within 30 days of incoming FDI.

This should be most relevant for existing defence companies and joint ventures, since change in foreign shareholding or fresh foreign investment upto 49% will be significantly easier with no prior approval required. However, increasing foreign investment above 49% still requires approval. These changes taken together with other stimuli provided to defence investors, should make India an attractive investment destination, especially if the Government continues to focus on purchasing India-made products.

National Security Clause

With the defence sector being critical to national security and strategic interests, the Government has retained its characteristic oversight over foreign investments in this space. The introduction of a new national security clause provides plenary powers to the Government to scrutinize and review “any” investment that “affects or may affect” national security.

Defence FDI continues to be subject to security clearance by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The existing requirement that the investee entity be self-sufficient in areas of product design and development has been retained, though the import of this provision remains vague.

Unanswered Questions

Though PN4 is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it leaves a few critical questions unanswered:

What would be the contents of the declaration to be submitted for change in FDI upto 49%, and how is this to be filed?

What compelled a new National Security clause when the Government anyway scrutinizes each investment (i) at the stage of an FDI approval (where still required), (ii) while granting Industrial License or (iii) during the security clearance procedure?

What would be the consequences of an adverse assessment by the Government pursuant to review under the National Security clause.

Hopefully, some of these questions will be answered in the notification awaited under FEMA.

China Criticises Forthcoming Quad Ministers Meet In Japan, Calls It 'Exclusive Clique'

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sept. 21, 2020, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, May 18, 2020, Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi

Asked by a Western media journalist for his reaction to the meeting of Foreign Ministers of India, Japan, US and Australia also known as Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here that "peace, development and global cooperation is the overriding trend of today's world"

BEIJING: China on Tuesday criticised the forthcoming meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India, Australia, Japan and the US in Tokyo, saying it is opposed to the formation of "exclusive clique" harming third party's interests.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will participate in the Second India-Australia-Japan-USA Ministerial Meeting on October 6, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Jaishankar will visit Tokyo from October 6 to 7 for bilateral consultations with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi. The two ministers are expected to discuss bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest, the MEA statement said.

Asked by a Western media journalist for his reaction to the meeting of Foreign Ministers of India, Japan, US and Australia also known as Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here that "peace, development and global cooperation is the overriding trend of today's world".

"Multilateral and plurilateral cooperation should all be open, inclusive and transparent. No one should seek an exclusive clique," he said.

"Efforts should be made to enhance regional countries mutual understanding and trust, instead of targeting a third party or harming third party's interests," he said.

"We hope the relevant country will proceed from the interests of regional countries and do more things conducive to regional peace, stability and development instead of the contrary," Wang said.

An Expert Explains: The Indian Air Force’s Role In Eastern Ladakh

The Indian Army is preparing for extended deployment at the LAC through the winter months. This leaves the IAF with a key role in providing support to the troops. What are the challenges to meet in the harsh winter and tough terrain?

by Manmohan Bahadur

With a resolution to the standoff on the LAC still elusive, the Indian Army is preparing for extended deployment of troops in the region through the winter months. This leaves the IAF with a key role in providing support to the troops. What are the challenges to meet in the harsh winter and tough terrain?

Can The IAF Support The Logistics of Such A Large Force?

One part of the logistics for the Army requires land transportation, which would have been planned for before winter sets in and the passes close. The IAF will be doing very urgent missions, for which it is well prepared with a very good transport fleet consisting of C-17 Globemasters, Il-76s, and many An-32s. If it comes to the crunch, the C-130 Super Hercules can also be used for logistics support, although these are meant for special operations.

We also have Mi-17 helicopters and Cheetal light helicopters to cater to forward posts. In addition, the Chinook heavy-lift helicopters will be used for carrying bulky stores, either within the fuselage, or slung under it.

What Are The Topographical Challenges of Flying Into Leh Or Other Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) In Eastern Ladakh?

The biggest challenge is the altitude of the two airfields of Leh and Thoise, but since we have been flying there for decades, the air crew are well aware of the peculiarities of these fields.

The landing grounds at high altitude have their own challenges, which result in reduction of load-bearing capacity of the planes/choppers. Additionally, the air crew have to call upon their skills to navigate the hills and land on the small, matchbox-like helipads — there is just no place on these hills to make bigger ones!

What Additional Hazards Will Winter Bring?

Bad weather that accompanies the western disturbances that strike northern India in the winter months is a challenge, as it reduces visibility and results in a low cloud base. So the crew have to be on the ball to make sure they can find a way to circumvent bad weather. This is not always possible, and we have long periods when flying has to be curtailed.

And What Effect Does Extreme Cold Have On Weight-Carrying Aircraft?

The lower the temperature, the better the payload because the higher air density increases the lift-carrying capability of flying machines. So the loads that can be carried during winter are higher than during summer.

This is a big advantage. For instance, an Il-76, which in summer can carry hardly any load from Leh, can fly out around 20 tonnes in the winter. It is the same with helicopters, whose load-carrying ability to extremely high helipads at altitudes of 17,000 to 20,000 feet increases substantially in winter. And it reduces drastically in summer.

India China border dispute, India China LAC dispute, India China de-escalation, LAC dispute, Ladakh, Indian Air Force, IAF C-17 Globemaster, Express Explained, Indian Express

Do The High Altitude And Topography Pose A Challenge To Navigation And Night Flying?

The modern navigation equipment available now overcome most of the challenges. But mission accomplishment is not merely flying from place A to B. The aircraft has to land to complete a mission. That is where temperature and altitude plus weather become the final arbiters.

Navigation is not a problem, but take-offs and landings are tricky.

As for night flying, it has its own unique challenges because of the shadows cast by hills, as well as the state and position of the moon relative to the hills and the aircraft. A dark, moonless night poses its own challenges, and a full moon has its own. In the hills, air crew are specially cleared to carry out operations at night.

With Eye On China, MEA Brings Indo-Pacific, ASEAN Policies Under One Unit

An IAF Mi-17 helicopter seen carrying ASEAN flag during the Republic Day parade in 2018

Essentially, the move is intended to align policies in the region stretching from western Pacific (with the Pacific islands) to the Andaman Sea and the very area China regards as its strategic backyard and is jostling for influence with its smaller neighbours and the US

by Indrani Bagchi

NEW DELHI: Keeping China in focus, India is bringing together its Indo-Pacific and ASEAN policies under a single unit, with the ministry of external affairs creating a new vertical, which includes a new Oceania territorial division with Australia at its centre, as well as including the Indo-Pacific and ASEAN divisions within it.

Essentially, the move is intended to align policies in the region stretching from western Pacific (with the Pacific islands) to the Andaman Sea and the very area China regards as its strategic backyard and is jostling for influence with its smaller neighbours and the US. By focusing administrative and diplomatic attention, India wants to signal its own focus on the region.

Reenat Sandhu, additional secretary and formerly India’s ambassador to Italy, will head the new vertical, assisted by two senior directors, Geetika Srivastava and Paulomi Tripathi. The geopolitical sweep and messaging is important as it indicates India's priorities over a longer times cape even as the timing of the decision in the current context of heightened military tensions with China in Ladakh is significant. It signals a meshing of Indian interests with key blocs and nations in the Indo-Pacific.

The Oceania division will include Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands and sources said this gives Australia greater prominence within MEA. Australia has been growing in importance in India’s foreign policy, but within the MEA structure, it was part of the ‘South’ division. With the rejig, Australia gets bumped up to be handled by an additional secretary, rather than a joint secretary.

This was felt to be necessary with Australia playing a larger role in India’s outreach to this region and because of the Quad. Including the Pacific islands in the division, sources said, acknowledge them as also being within Australia’s sphere of influence. These islands are now a major destination for Indian diplomatic interest and development assistance.

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla has continued to sharpen MEA’s approach to this crucial region in Indian foreign policy. In 2019, former foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale created the Indo-Pacific division to include ASEAN, Quad and Indian Ocean Rim Association. Earlier, the MEA had created the Indian Ocean division, bringing together Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles. In late 2019, MEA included Madagascar, Comoros and Reunion Islands into the IOR division, expanding its ambit.

India Warns China That It Has Never Accepted 1959 Definition of LAC

The stand by China spelt out by its foreign ministry insisting that it takes the 1959 line on perception of the LAC amid a nearly five-month-long border standoff in eastern Ladakh triggered a strong reaction from India

NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday rejected China's position that it abides by its 1959 stand on the perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and asked the neighbouring country to refrain from advancing an "untenable unilateral" interpretation of the de-facto border. The stand by China spelt out by its foreign ministry insisting that it takes the 1959 line on perception of the LAC amid a nearly five-month-long border standoff in eastern Ladakh triggered a strong reaction from India.

"India has never accepted the so-called unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control (LAC). This position has been consistent and well known, including to the Chinese side," MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in response to a question by the media on the issue.

The spokesperson's comments came after a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson told Hindustan Times that China abides by the LAC as proposed by then Premier Zhou Enlai to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter dated November 7, 1959.

Srivastava referred to various bilateral agreements including the 1993 agreement on maintenance of peace and tranquillity along the LAC, 1996 pact on confidence building measures (CBMs) and the 2005 agreement on political parameters and guiding principles for settlement of the boundary issue, to emphasise that both sides showed commitment to reach a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC.

"Therefore, the insistence now of the Chinese side that there is only one LAC is contrary to the solemn commitments made by China in these agreements," he said, adding the Indian side has always respected and abided by the LAC.

Referring to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's recent address to Parliament, Srivastava said it is the Chinese side which by its attempts to transgress the LAC in various parts of the Western Sector has tried to unilaterally alter the status quo.

The MEA spokesperson also talked about repeated affirmation of the Chinese side in the last few months that the current situation in the border areas should be resolved in accordance with the agreements signed between the two countries.

"In the agreement reached between External Affairs Minister and his Chinese counterpart on 10th September also, the Chinese side has reiterated its commitment to abide by all the existing agreements," Srivastava said.

"We therefore expect that the Chinese side will sincerely and faithfully abide by all agreements and understandings in their entirety and refrain from advancing an untenable unilateral interpretation of the LAC," he added.

India Provides Dornier To Maldives, Will Help Monitor Movement of Chinese Vessels

The Dornier aircraft will operate under the command and control of MNDF while running costs will be borne by India. It will assist in ongoing joint surveillance activities by India and the Maldives of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Indian Ocean archipelago

India on Tuesday provided a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft to the Maldives National Defence Force (MDNF) that is expected to boost efforts to keep a closer eye on the movement of Chinese vessels in regional waters, people familiar with developments said.

The Dornier aircraft will operate under the command and control of MNDF while running costs will be borne by India. It will assist in ongoing joint surveillance activities by India and the Maldives of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Seven MDNF personnel, including pilots, air observers and engineers are being trained to operate the Dornier by the Indian Navy. The people cited above said on condition of anonymity that the aircraft was provided by the Indian Navy in line with and inter-governmental agreement.

“The aircraft will also help in monitoring the activities of Chinese vessels in regional waters. The surveillance of the EEZ includes the tracking of all adversarial movements, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and drug and human trafficking,” said one of the people cited above.

“In light of the Mahibadhoo and Laamu attacks by suspected terrorists, the Dornier aircraft will also be useful in the counter-terrorism sphere. The isolated and dispersed nature of islands and resorts can be safeguarded only by a technologically capable fixed wing aircraft,” the person said.

The person was referring to attacks at the harbour of Mahibadhoo Island in the central Maldives on April 15 in which four speedboats, a sea ambulance and two dinghies were set on fire.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks but Maldivian police described the incident as arson and said it could have been the work of extremists or drug traffickers retaliating against special operations conducted since September 2019.

The Indian high commission in Male tweeted: “As per Govt-to-Govt Agreement & discussions started in 2016, the Dornier arrives! It will engage in humanitarian relief efforts & joint-EEZ surveillance under command & control of #MNDF; It proudly dons #MNDF colours & crest, and will involve Maldivian pilots in its operations”.

The people noted that previous Maldivian governments too had wanted a Dornier aircraft to be positioned in the Maldives to enhance security and joint surveillance of the EEZ and search and rescue and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations, particularly in the northern atolls.

The requirement of the aircraft was first raised during previous Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen’s visit to India in 2016.

“While it could not get implemented earlier, the present government of President Ibrahim Solih has been able to implement it. Maldivian pilots, observers and technical personnel are being trained to operate the Dornier aircraft since June 2017,” said an official who declined to be named. The current government of the Maldives has been successful in getting more such training programmes organised by India, the official said.

During a recent EEZ surveillance operation, multiple large fishing trawlers were found illegally fishing in Maldivian waters, the official added.

The India government has been regularly sharing information with the government of the Maldives on the movement of drug traffickers headed for the archipelago based on reconnaissance flights by Dornier aircraft.

The Dornier will also complement medical evacuation operations currently being conducted by MNDF helicopters. More than 250 Maldivian lives have been saved during such medical evacuation flights.

The Maldives is an archipelago of nearly 1,200 islands grouped into 19 dispersed atolls that cover an area of nearly 90,000 km. The country’s EEZ covers nearly one million kilometres.

High Road At Chilling: India Builds Himalayan Bridges And Highways To Match China

Border Roads Organisation worker operates a bulldozer on a highway under construction in Ladakh

CHILLING: Ligen Eliyas deftly turns the excavator's hydraulic arm to push a huge boulder into the Zanskar river below in a cloud of dust, clearing another bit of land for a strategic highway that India is hurriedly building near the Chinese border.

The construction site near the hamlet of Chilling in the Ladakh region is around 250 km (150 miles) west of the area where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in the most serious confrontation in decades.

But when ready, the road will provide the only year-round access to large parts of Ladakh, including the border zone. That will go some way to bringing India on par with China, which has a network of roads and helipads on its side of the border.

"It will become a lot easier for the army after this road is finished," Eliyas said, with parts of his face and khaki uniform caked in fine stone dust.

The protracted standoff in the remote western Himalayan region erupted into a bloody hand-to-hand clash in June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed and China suffered an unspecified number of casualties. The Asian giants fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962.

The 283-km (175-mile)-long Nimmu-Padam-Darcha (NPD) highway, where Eliyas is working, is expected to be completed in three years, officials said. It highlights the efforts by India, which have been redoubled after the latest tensions, to develop key infrastructure - roads, tunnels, bridges and airfields - along the unsettled 3,500 km (2,170 mile) border with China.

The road will link up with an 8.8-km (5.5-mile) tunnel that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate in coming weeks, opening the snow deserts of Ladakh to the rest of the country all year round.

There are two main highways that connect Ladakh to the rest of India, but they are closed for at least four months every winter. The only way urgent supplies are sent to Ladakh during these months is by air.

With thousands of its troops amassed at the border and no sign of a drawdown, India is now pushing harder to blast and smash its way through the Himalayas.

"We will not back down from taking any big and tough step in the interest of our country," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament this month, adding the government had doubled the budget for infrastructure work on the China border.

The frenetic construction itself has become a thorny issue this summer with the Chinese complaining that the Indian activity in the mountains was destabilising, Indian officials said. But China built its infrastructure in the area years ago, and it needs to be matched, they said.

"China does not recognise the so-called 'Ladakh Union Territory' illegally set up by India and is opposed to infrastructure building at the border area for the purpose of military control," the office of China's foreign ministry spokesperson said. It added that according to a recent consensus by both sides, no side should be taking any action that complicates the situation at the border area.

China's Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Matter of Hours

China's network of roads and railways, logistics depots and helipads mean that it can move troops to forward areas in a matter of hours, said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a distinguished fellow at New Delhi think-tank Observer Research Foundation.

For India, it would take days to match those deployments, she said.

"The infrastructure build-up by the Chinese is not only aiming at the quick deployment of forces but also to sustain them for a relatively longer period of time," Rajagopalan said.

Conceived in 1999, India's NPD project moved at a glacial pace till work picked just a couple of year ago, said N.K. Jain, a commander in the state-run Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

Since then, the BRO has built some 100 km of the NPD project, and constructed 11 of the 15 major bridges on the route. "Our work is happening at double the speed in the last two years," Jain said.

New drilling machines that push dynamite sticks deeper and faster into hard rock to blow them apart have improved the speed of construction, said B. Kishen, a BRO executive engineer who is supervising the project near Chilling.

On a recent afternoon, dozens of workers cleared debris from a freshly blasted section of the road. A few kilometres away, another group crouched under an excavator as explosives went off to clear land for another section of the highway.

Work will continue through the bitter winter, when temperatures drop to below minus 40 Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit) and biting winds at altitudes above 11,000 feet (3,300 m) make road construction even more challenging, Kishen said.

The government has identified 73 strategically important roads along the Chinese border, of which 61 are with the BRO, running over 3,300 km (2,000 miles). A parliamentary committee report in March noted that 75% of the work under BRO had been completed.

The full network of roads will cut down travel time between key Indian military bases, allowing for quicker mobilisation of troops and ease patrolling in some forward areas, an Indian official said.

"It will also lead to lower expenditure for the forces," the official said, with all-weather roads replacing the need for expensive airlift operations during the winter months.

"We will have a better chance of catching up with the Chinese."

Amid Faceoff With China, India Readying For Closer Military Ties With 'Friends'

It's an annual naval exercise involving India, Japan and the United States, but this year, Australia will be taking part, barring last-minute problems

New Delhi: As the faceoff with China continues in Ladakh, India is readying for closer military ties with its friends, beginning with a major naval exercise in the Indian Ocean area: Malabar. This time, there was a question about it because of COVID, but it's certainly happening, with adequate precautions.

It's an annual naval exercise involving India, Japan and the United States, but this year, Australia will be taking part, barring last-minute problems. That will mean the entire Quad line-up will be there for Malabar. The warships the respective countries will field for the exercise is being worked out.

Exercise Malabar is likely to be in late November, probably after the 20th, for about three or four days, as usual. This will not be the only exercise with the US Navy. Before that, a small exercise involving a US aircraft carrier near Cochin has been planned for mid-October. Unlike, Malabar, it will be a bilateral exercise, but the presence of an American supercarrier of about 100,000 tonnes, before it gets to the Gulf, will be a message.

Military cooperation, in many ways, is about messaging. As a result, the landing of an American P8 Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft in the Andamans is a similar kind of message. Of course, the LEMOA or the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, which allows ships or aircraft to land in each other's ports or air bases bureaucratic delays for refuelling or restocking allows that.

Polls In Gilgit-Baltistan Attempt To Camouflage Illegal Occupation of Region By Pakistan

People of Gilgit-Baltistan protesting against Pak Army atrocities in Skardu

NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday said it has conveyed its strong protest to Pakistan over announcement of elections to the "so-called Gilgit-Baltistan" legislative assembly next month, holding that the "cosmetic exercises" are intended to camouflage the "illegal" occupation of the region by Islamabad. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said actions like holding of elections in the region can neither hide the "illegal occupation" of parts of Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh by Islamabad nor the "grave human rights violations and exploitation" of people in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir.

Pakistan has announced that elections for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan will be held on November 15.

"The government of India has conveyed its strong protest to the government of Pakistan and reiterated that the entire Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of so-called Gilgit and Baltistan are an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947," the MEA said in a statement.

The MEA said Pakistan has no locus standi on territories "illegally and forcibly occupied" by it.

"Action such as these can neither hide the illegal occupation of parts of Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom to the people residing in Pakistan occupied territories for the past seven decades," it said.

"These are cosmetic exercises intended to camouflage its illegal occupation. We call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation," the MEA said.

The MEA also asked Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation.

In a ruling earlier this year, the Pakistan Supreme Court allowed Islamabad to amend a 2018 administrative order to conduct general elections in the region. The Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018 provided for administrative changes, including authorising the prime minister of Pakistan to legislate on an array of subjects.

Following the verdict, India issued a demarche to a senior Pakistani diplomat here and lodged a strong protest over the apex court ruling.

The polls in Gilgit-Baltistan were to be held on August 18, but Pakistan's election commission on July 11 postponed them due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Attempt To Smuggle Arms Into India: BSF Seizes 28 Rifles, 7894 Ammunition Meant For Northeast Insurgent Groups

AIZAWL: In one of the biggest seizures of arms and ammunition in northeast in recent years, the Border Security Forces (BSF) arrested three arms smugglers in West Phaileng, Mizoram. The force also seized a huge cache of arms and ammunition from their possession.

The arms were found hidden in cavities in two pickup-vehicles, and included 28 AK Series rifles, 1 AK 74, one 0.30 inch Carbine, 28 magazines, 7894 ammunition and 2 Khukhris.

According to the force, this was an 'attempt by anti-national elements to smuggle arms and ammunition into Indian territory'.

The BSF said that they received reliable information about the infiltration attempt from a source and accordingly launched an operation.

A team of personnel from 90 Battalion BSF, based in Mamit district laid an ambush on the route that was being taken by the anti-national elements. The forces learned that they were bringing in AK series Rifles along with a lot of ammunition for some insurgent groups.

In the late hours, two vehicles were spotted approaching from West Phaileng, which were intercepted and taken into control by the alert BSF party, who then also detained three occupant passengers. 

The two vehicle and three arms smugglers were then handed over to Phaileng Police Station.

The alert BSF troops were able to foil the design of anti-national elements to supply arms and ammunition and create disturbances in Mizoram. This is one of the biggest seizures of arms and ammunition in northeast in the past several years.

Indian, Japanese Naval Ships Conduct Maritime Drills In Arabian Sea, Close to Pakistan

Indian and Japanese naval ships are currently conducting war games in the north Arabian Sea, close to Pakistan. The fourth edition of the exercise named JIMEX – Japan India Maritime Exercise, which will end on Monday, showcased tactical exercises, involving weapon firing, cross deck helicopter operations and complex, anti-submarine and air warfare drills

India put its Navy on operational alert in the oceans around the country following the border row with China in the Ladakh sector. New Delhi has since deployed its warships along critical sea lanes of communication and other key points.

Indian Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) ships undertook weapon drills, seamanship evolutions and advanced exercises on the second day of the fourth edition of India-Japan maritime bilateral exercise JIMEX-2020.

JIMEX, which is conducted biennially between the Indian Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) is being held in the North Arabian Sea from 26 to 28 September 2020.

The series of exercises commenced in January 2012 with a special focus on maritime security cooperation. The last edition of JIMEX was conducted in October 2018 off Visakhapatnam, India.

JIMEX-2020 will showcase a high degree of inter-operability and joint operational skills through the conduct of a multitude of advanced exercises, across the spectrum of maritime operations. JIMEX-2020 is being conducted in a 'non-contact at-sea-only format', in view of COVID-19 restrictions.

Indigenously built stealth destroyer Chennai, Teg Class stealth frigate Tarkash and Fleet Tanker Deepak, under the command of Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, will represent the Indian Navy.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force will be represented by JMSDF Ships Kaga, an Izumo Class Helicopter Destroyer and Ikazuchi, a Guided Missile Destroyer, led by Rear Admiral Konno Yasushige, Commander Escort Flotilla - 2 (CCF - 2).

JIMEX-2020 will further enhance the cooperation and mutual confidence between the two navies and fortify the long-standing bond of friendship between the two countries.

#JMSDF ships Ikazuchi & Kaga led by Rear Admiral Konno Yasushige, CCF2 & #IndianNavy ships Chennai Tarkash & Deepak led by Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, FOCWF carry out extensive #Maritime Ops during the 1st day of 4th Edition of #JIMEX-2020 (1/2).@SpokespersonMoD@JMSDF_PAO

— SpokespersonNavy (@indiannavy) September 26, 2020

​The three-day exercise was conducted in a "non-contact at-sea only format" in view of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The domestically-manufactured stealth destroyer Chennai, Teg-class stealth frigate Tarkash, and fleet tanker Deepak are representing India, while the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force has its ship Kaga, a helicopter destroyer, and Ikazuchi, a guided missile destroyer. Besides this, P8I long range maritime patrol aircraft, integral helicopters, and fighter aircrafts are also participating in the exercise.

The Indian Navy has been engaging with several other navies in its strategic maritime zones amidst emerging security challenges for the country. Earlier this month, it conducted two-day ocean war games with the navies of Russia and Australia covering diverse activities across a wide spectrum of maritime operations.

GRIPEN-E Flies In Brazilian Skies

The first production Gripen-E files to Gavião Peixoto after its ferry flight from Navegantes

On September 24 the first production Gripen-E from SAAB’s Linköping, Sweden factory arrived at its new home at Gavião Peixoto, where SAAB and Embraer have established the Gripen Design and Development Centre, with a co-located flight test centre.

The aircraft’s journey began with it being loaded—fully assembled—aboard a vessel at Norrköping for the transatlantic voyage. It arrived in Brazil on September 20 at the port of Navegantes, where it was craned ashore. After being towed on its own wheels at night time the short distance to the local civilian airport, the aircraft underwent ground tests before taking off on the final leg of its journey to Gavião Peixoto.

It was the first time that the new fighter for the Força Aerea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian air force) had flown in Brazilian airspace. The ferry flight was accompanied by a pair of Northrop F-5M fighters, while Caracal and Black Hawk helicopters were held at readiness should any emergencies arise.

“It is an immense satisfaction for the Brazilian air force to see this aircraft flying on national territory,” said the FAB commander, Lt. Brig. Antonio Carlos Moretti Bermudez. “The F-39 Gripen, the new Brazilian air force multi-mission aircraft, will be the backbone of fighter aviation and it reaffirms the FAB's commitment to maintaining the country's sovereignty and to defend the twenty-two million square kilometres under its responsibility.” An official presentation of the new aircraft is due to be held in Brasilia on October 23 to coincide with Brazil’s air force and aviator’s day.

Having first flown in Sweden in August 2019, the F-39E is the first of 28 for the FAB, with eight two-seat F-39Fs also on contract. The initial aircraft will expand the operations of the overall GRIPEN-E test fleet and will be used for flight and environmental control system tests, as well as for tropical climate trials. It will also test uniquely Brazilian elements, such as weapons integration and the Link BR2 communications system. It will be handed over to the FAB by the end of 2021 to join the first operational unit, Wing 2 at Anápolis in Gioás state.

Brazil is taking delivery of 13 aircraft from Swedish production, to be followed by eight built in Sweden but assembled in Brazil. The final 15 will be built and assembled locally, with assembly due to start next year. The first F-39F two-seater is already in production, with delivery scheduled for 2023. The entire batch of 36 is expected to have been handed over by 2024. In the meantime, negotiations regarding a second batch are underway.