Saturday, January 20, 2018

India’s Third Aircraft Carrier Is Most Likely A Waste of Money

India's sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya

The Indian Navy has put out a proposal for its third aircraft carrier, tentatively titled the Vishal due to enter service in the latter 2020s. The 65,000-ton Vishal will be significantly larger than India’s sole current carrier, the Vikramaditya known formerly as the ex-Soviet Admiral Gorshkov, and the incoming second one, the domestically-built Vikrant which is expected to enter service later in 2018.

To see why Vishal is a big deal for the Indian Navy, one needs only to look at her proposed air wing — some 57 fighters, more than Vikramaditya — 24 MiG-29Ks — and Vikrant‘s wing of around 30 MiG-29Ks. While below the 75+ aircraft aboard a U.S. Navy Gerald R. Ford-class supercarrier, Vishal will be a proper full-size carrier and India’s first, as the preceding two are really small-deck carriers and limited in several significant ways.

The Indian Navy is also looking at an electromagnetic launch system for its third carrier, similar to the one aboard the Ford class. India’s first two carriers have STOBAR configurations, in which aircraft launch with the assistance of a ski-jump, which limits the maximum weight a plane can lift into the air. Typically this means that fighters must sacrifice weapons, or fuel thus limiting range, or a combination of both.

The Indian Navy is searching for a foreign-sourced twin-engine fighter for the Vishal, with the U.S. F/A-18 and French Rafale in the running, and India has already ordered 36 multi-role Rafales for its air force. This is a blow to advocates of an Indian-made fighter for the carrier such as naval version of the delta-wing HAL Tejas, which is too heavy for carrier work.


But regardless of what kind of fighters Vishal uses, the question is whether India really needs a third carrier, which will cost billions of dollars over its lifetime. To be sure, a third and much larger carrier will free up the burden on the Vikramaditya and Vikrant, only one of which is likely to be battle-ready at any given time.

These smaller carriers probably have fewer operational fighters than they do on paper, given that the air wings likely have serviceability rates below 100 percent. Vikramaditya by itself could have significantly less than 24 MiGs capable of flying — and fighting.

Now imagine a scenario in which these carriers go to battle.

Most likely, India would attempt to enforce a blockade of Pakistan and use its carriers to strike land-based targets. But Pakistan has several means to attack Indian carriers — with near-undetectable submarines and anti-ship missiles — which must also operate relatively far from India itself in the western and northern Arabian Sea. China does not have a similar disadvantage, as the PLAN would likely keep its carriers close and within the “first island chain” including Taiwan, closer to shore where supporting aircraft and ground-based missile launchers can help out.

Thus, Indian carriers would be relatively vulnerable and only one of them will have aircraft capable of launching with standard ordnance and fuel. And that is after Vishal sets sail in the next decade.

To directly threaten Pakistan, the small-deck carriers will have to maneuver nearer to shore — and thereby closer to “anti-access / area denial” weapons which could sink them. And even with a third carrier, the threat of land-based Pakistani aircraft will force the Indian Navy to dedicate a large proportion of its own air wings to defense — perhaps half of its available fighters, according to 2017 paper by Ben Wan Beng Ho for the Naval War College Review.

“Therefore, it is doubtful that any attack force launched from an Indian carrier would pack a significant punch,” Ho writes. “With aircraft available for strike duties barely numbering into the double digits, the Indian carrier simply cannot deliver a substantial ‘pulse’ of combat power against its adversary.”

Essentially, this makes Indian carriers’ self-defeating, with the flattops existing primarily to defend themselves from attack rather than taking the fight to their enemy. Carriers are also expensive symbols of national prestige, and it is unlikely the Indian Navy will want to risk losing one, two or all three. Under the circumstances, India’s investment in carriers makes more sense symbolically, and primarily as a way of keeping shipyards busy and shipyard workers employed.

However, this is not to entirely rule out a carrier-centric naval strategy. Ho notes that Indian carriers could be useful when operating far out at sea and in the western Arabian Sea, effectively as escort ships for commercial shipping and to harass Pakistani trade. Nevertheless, this strategy comes with a similar set of problems.

“In any attempt to impose sea control in the northern Arabian Sea and to interdict Pakistani seaborne commerce by enforcing a blockade of major Pakistani maritime nodes, Indian carrier forces would have to devote a portion of their already meager airpower to attacking Pakistani vessels, thereby exacerbating the conundrum alluded to earlier,” Ho added. “What is more, Pakistani ships are likely to operate relatively close to their nation’s coast, to be protected by Islamabad’s considerable access-denial barrier.”

Another possibility is India massing its carriers in the later stages of a war after the Army and Air Force pummel and degrade the Pakistani military.

But this raises the question as to whether India strictly needs carriers at all if it cannot use them during the decisive periods of a conflict — as opposed to, say, less-expensive warships, and more of them, equipped with long-range missiles.


AGNI-V ICBM To Undergo Another Pre-Induction Test This Year


India’s long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) ‘Agni-V’ will be inducted into the Tri-Service Strategic Forces Command (SFC) ‘within this year’ after it undergoes one more pre-induction trial.

The nuclear-capable Agni-V is capable of covering a range of over 5,000 km, brings all of Asia, and thus China, within its nuclear strike capability, The Times of India reports.

Once inducted, India joins the US, the UK, Russia, China and France – owning intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

On Thursday, in its first pre-induction trial conducted by the SFC, the 17-metre Agni-V was launched from a canister atop the road-mobile launcher from Dr Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha. The three-stage missile zoomed to a height of over 600km in its parabolic trajectory and then splashed down around 4,900km away towards Australia in the Indian Ocean barely 19 minutes later.

The SFC already has regiments of the Prithvi-II, Agni-I, Agni-II & Agni-III (see graphic) missiles, which are mainly meant to deter Pakistan. Agni-IV and Agni-V, in turn, have been developed with China in mind.

Designed to carry a 1.5- tonne nuclear warhead, Agni-V has been tested four times in "developmental or experimental trials" earlier. The missile was tested in an "open configuration" in April 2012 and September 2013, while it was test-fired from hermetically sealed canisters mounted on transport-cum-tilting launcher trucks in January 2015 and December 2016.

Our Bureau

Fighting Falcon: The End of An Era?


On November 14, 2017, four decades of continuous production of the Fighting Falcon (F-16) ceased at Fort Worth, Texas. The facilities are being relocated to South Carolina and would take approximately two years to become fully functional. They will provide maintenance support for the existing fleet of F-16s till their phase out. So far, Lockheed Martin, the company that now owns the F-16, in conjunction with multiple production lines in Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey, Japan and South Korea, has delivered 4588 F-16s to 26 countries. An order of 16 aircraft for Bahrain and upgrade work for Singapore’s F-16 fleet will stretch the manufacturing and upgrade facilities till 2023. The rate of phase out of the F-16’s existing inventory has been much faster than its production for over a decade. With no further orders, the F-16 may gradually fly into oblivion.

The F-16 is a product of the Light Weight Fighter program launched in the 1970's. The operational necessity was to outmatch the Soviet workhorse MiG-21 in terms of combat manoeuvre. A number of novel concepts were incorporated in the design and later production models of the F-16 including bubble single frame canopy, side-mounted control stick and the 30 degree reclined pilot seat. However, it was the concept of relaxed static stability in combination with Fly By Wire (FBW) and a very powerful power plant that made the F-16 the pioneer of the 9G club. Its induction into the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1979 was followed by induction in the air forces of various NATO partners from 1980 onwards. Gradually, its export to a large number of countries in Asia was permitted. Post-Saddam Iraq is the latest recipient of this aircraft.

The combat aircraft inventory in the world has changed in the last five decades. From a peak of over 38,000 in 1988, it declined substantially after the end of the Cold War. Currently, there are 79 types of over 16,275 combat aircraft operational in the world. In the period after the Vietnam War, the MiG-21 was the most popular combat aircraft in terms of numbers. It was closely followed by mass-produced Chinese J6 (MiG-19). Over 11,400 MiG-21s produced in the erstwhile USSR along with those licence-built in India and Czechoslovakia were deployed in nearly 60 countries. But in the last three decades, the predominance of the MiG-21 and J6 has been replaced by that of the F-16, F-18, and F-15 aircraft. These three types originated in the USA and now form 30 per cent of the combat aircraft inventory in the world. The F-16 is at pole position with a 16 per cent share, as shown in Graph I. Although the number of F-16s produced pale in comparison to that of MiG-21, the former has had considerable impact on the prevalent operational environment. Had it not been for strict US government control on the sale of military hardware, the F-16 would have found a larger market because of its combat capability. In fact, it was offered to India for the first time 25 years after its induction in the USAF.

Graph I: Relative Strength of Combat Aircraft in the World in 2017

The life cycle of combat aircraft varies between 20 and 40 years, based on operational capability in the operational environment. The F-16 has stretched its longevity by undertaking frequent upgrades. Changes in design and power plant along with the upgrade of avionics and weapons package have allowed it to stay relevant as a potent combat platform. However, its slide from the position of dominance has commenced. Its peak deployed strength of 3381 in 2003 has declined to 2,579, as shown in Graph II. Over 2000 F-16s have either been lost in action or accidents or have completed their Total Technical Life (TTL). USA, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Greece account for two-third of the current operational F-16 inventory.

Graph II: F-16 Operational Inventory in the World

The F-16 commenced its operational employment journey with a disruptive relaxed static stability design that provided it with the requisite manoeuvrability to outmatch its peers in aerial combat. This, in combination with its sensor-weapon package, proved highly suitable for aerial warfare in the last quarter of the 20th century. With the development of long-range electronic sensors and associated long range weapons for aerial combat and air defence, manoeuvrability became secondary to low observability as the core capability of a combat platform. Stealth technology found its way into operational employment with the F-117, but it came with a severe limitation in terms of speed. The aircraft was subsonic with 0.92 Mach as its top speed. But the F-22 (2.0 Mach +) and F-35 (1.6 Mach) have overcome this speed limitation and are set to become the mainstay combat platform in place of the F-16. While it is possible to upgrade the power plant, avionics and weapons in the F-16 to match the capability of the F-35, the latter’s low observability cannot be matched as the basic design of the F-16 is not in coherence with the stealth concept. The F-16’s metallic body, shape, edges and external weapons result in a large Radar Cross Section (RCS), obviating low observability so essential in the current and future operational environment.

Thus, the F35 of Lockheed Martin, with its stealth design, is set to become the combat aircraft in the leading position. 46 of these aircraft were delivered in 2016 and production picked up further to 66 in 2017. The F35 production schedule is expected to run for another two decades with three production lines (Forth Worth, Texas, USA; Cameri, Italy and Najoya, Japan) and an estimated strength of nearly 3000, with the United States Air Force, United States Navy and United States Marines Corps as the main users along with Australia, Japan, Israel, Turkey, UK, Denmark, Netherlands and South Korea. The momentum of production of the F35 will practically guide the phasing out pace of the F-16. In the next decade, the operational inventory of the F-16 is expected to reduce by half and the aircraft is likely to be phased out in another decade on completion of TTL or drying up of spare parts for the last set of eight aircraft delivered to Iraq in 2017 and the 16 aircraft that Bahrain is planning to acquire.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is currently looking for over 100 single-engine combat aircraft and the F-16 is in the fray along with SAAB Gripen. An order of this magnitude would be a lifeline for F-16 production and enable the setting up of production facilities in India. Going by historical experience, aircraft selection for the IAF will be a time-consuming process and the conclusion of the contract may take even longer. Considering the significance attached to the ‘Make in India" initiative, a gradual increase in the production of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), and the diminishing operational relevance of the F-16, it may be curtains for the Fighting Falcon for the time being. The F-16 had participated in the IAF’s now scrapped 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) acquisition process. It failed. Will it be lucky this time with the Block 70 version? It literally is a multi billion dollar question.

The F-16 redefined manoeuvrability and remained a potent platform for nearly four decades. It will continue to remain operationally relevant in a low technology environment for another decade. However, the proliferation of stealth technology will diminish its relevance and maintenance imperatives will push it towards extinction. Irrespective of whether the IAF acquires the F-16or not, it is certain that this legendary aircraft is slipping into oblivion. We, at this juncture, are witnessing the beginning of the end of an era.


India ‘Arm Twisted’ To Buy Spike, Not Javelin Missiles? Congress

ATGM Backblast: Two United States Army soldiers fire an FGM-148 Javelin

The flip-flop, cancelling the deal three weeks ago and putting it back on the table two weeks later reflects poorly on the Indian defence establishment

by Bhasha Singh

Defence industry circles are not surprised at the claim made by the visiting PM of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, that India has abandoned the global tender floated way back in 2010 for Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) and has agreed to buy from Israel the ‘Spike’ missile.

Barely two weeks before Israel’s PM landed in India, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems of Israel had announced that it had received a communication from the Indian defence ministry about the cancellation of the Spike Missile deal.

But on the third day of his visit, Netanyahu was quoted by Jerusalem Post as saying, “Following talks I have held with my friend, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian government has informed us that it is putting the Spike deal back on track. This is very important and there will be many more deals.”

Another report quoted him saying, “Summing up the third day of his visit to India today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he discussed the deal for Spike missiles produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that the deal would be revived. Before his trip, there was concern that the deal would be called off. An announcement made by Netanyahu stated, "We're back to moving ahead with the Spike deal, and things will be discussed in the process. The directions are very positive; there is another process. Before we came, it had been taken off the table, and in the current visit, we put it back on the table."

Indian industry circles are not surprised because Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already set a precedent by abandoning the deal to buy Rafael fighter jets from France and opting for a government-to-government purchase off-the-shelf for a smaller number and without any technology transfer on the ground of ‘operational necessity”.

The tender cancelled by the defence ministry three weeks ago was for 321 ATGM launchers and 8,356 missiles worth Rs 3,200 Crore. In addition, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems was required to transfer technology to Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

Army chief General Rawat had confirmed that the tender had been cancelled and it had been decided to get the ATGM missiles developed indigenously by the DRDO. But since DRDO was not in a position to supply the missiles before 2021-22, General Rawat had voiced his concern was how to bridge the gap till then.

But by opting for ‘Spike’ missiles from Israel, India has abandoned the choice of buying better and next generation missiles from the US and France. Defence industry sources say that the US ‘Javelin’ ATGM built by Lockheed Martin has a range of 4000 meters while Spike has a range of only 2500 meters.

Both the American and the French missile are said be more versatile ‘fire and forget’ missiles which zero in on targets more accurately and faster while giving time to the infantry to scoot to safety.

Significantly, the Modi Government had finalised the deal in 2014 and the pricing had also been finalised in 2016 when Manohar Parrikar was the defence minister. Unsatisfactory performance during field tests is said to have prompted defence experts to suggest that India should build the missiles on its own.

Brigadier (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal told NH that India being one of the major buyers of defence equipment from Israel, India cannot go against Israel’s interests.


Navy Confident of Commissioning Aircraft Carrier Vikrant In 2020


Navy confident of commissioning aircraft carrier Vikrant in two years. Hold-ups in procuring major parts resolved

After several delays, the Indian Navy is confident of commissioning Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-1) Vikrant, currently under construction at Kochi, by October 2020, a senior officer said on Friday.

“IAC-I is expected to join the Navy in October 2020. All trial schedules have been worked out. We are going to sign advanced contracts with Cochin Shipyard Limited very soon,” said Commodore J. Chowdhary, principal director of naval design. He was speaking at a media briefing on the Navy’s Republic Day contingents. The theme of this year’s Navy tableau is centred around a model of Vikrant being built at the shipyard.

The IAC-I project has been delayed due to hold-ups in procurement especially of 18 major equipment related to aviation complex, including the arrestor and the withstanding gear, from Russia, Cdre. Chowdhary said. “There were licencing issues which have been resolved.”

Sea Trials

The carrier is likely to be handed over to the Navy by December 2018 after which it will be put through harbour and sea trials before commissioning.

Vikrant borrows its name from India’s first aircraft carrier, the 20,000-tonne INS Vikrant purchased from the U.K. India currently operates the 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya procured from Russia.

Like INS Vikramaditya, Vikrant too would employ the STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) mechanism with a ski-jump and arrestor cables to launch and recover aircraft.

It can operate 20 fighter jets and 10 other aircraft. The Mig-29K fighters currently in service with the Navy would also be on the deck of Vikrant.

Initially the plan was to have a mix of Mig-29K and the naval variant of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas.

The IAC-I project was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in 2003 and the keel for the 260-metre ship was laid in 2009. The CCS had initially sanctioned ₹3,200 crore, which was subsequently revised to ₹19,341 crore.

In a 2016 report, the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) said that the “delivery of the carrier with completion of all activities is likely to be achieved only by 2023.” But Navy officials stated that all issues have now been resolved and the ship would join the Navy in 2020.

The Navy has already set sights on the IAC-II, which it envisages to be conventionally powered and displace 65,000 tonnes with an advanced Catapult-based Aircraft Launch Mechanism (CATOBAR) similar to the U.S. Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for aircraft launch and recovery.


China Asks India Not To Comment On Its Construction Activities In Doklam


In New Delhi, the external affairs ministry said that India and China have established mechanisms which they use to resolve any "misunderstanding" and that it was keeping a "constant vigil" on the situation in Doklam

BEIJING: China today justified its massive construction activities in the Doklam area and asked India not to comment on its "legitimate" infrastructure development on its sovereign territory.

China's reaction came amid reports that it was building a huge military complex close to the site of the Doklam standoff with India.

Asked about reports citing satellite imagery of a Chinese military complex in the area, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: "I have also noted the relevant report. I don't know who offered such kind of photos."

But at same time he said he did not have detailed information on it.

The reports raised concerns that the China may be preparing for another standoff with India.

Lu, however, said: "China's position on the Donglong (Doklam) area is quite clear. Donglong always belonged to China and always under China's effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard," he said asserting Chinese sovereignty over the area which is also claimed by Bhutan.

"It is legitimate and justified. Just as China will not make comments on India's construction of infrastructure on India's territory. We hope other countries will not make comments on China's construction of infrastructure in its own territory," he said.

He said China is building infrastructure for its troops and the people living in the area.

"In order to patrol the border and improve the production and lives of border troops and residents, China has constructed infrastructure including roads in the Donglong (Doklam) area," Lu said.

He said China was exercising sovereignty in its own territory.

Asked about concerns that China is preparing for a second standoff at Dokalam area, he said Indian troops' intervention to stop building a key road close the Chicken Neck Corridor of India, has put the bilateral ties to severe test.

Indian and Chinese troops had been locked in a stand-off for over two months last year in the Dokalam area near Sikkim before "disengaging" on August 28.

In an apparent reference to Amy Chief General Bipin Rawat's recent remarks that Doklam is a disputed territory between China and Bhutan, Lu said: "The Indian senior military officer has recognised that it was the Indian border troops who crossed the border".

"This incident has put bilateral relations to undergo a severe test. We hope the Indian side can learn lessons from this and avoid the incident to happen again," he said.

Recalling the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Xiamen in September, Lu said "actually during the summit the two leaders has reached some consensus on improving bilateral relations and chartering the course for future development".

"We hope relevant parties can earnestly follow through on the consensus reached by the two leaders, move in the same direction and jointly uphold the peace and stability of the border areas and stay committed for the comprehensive development of bilateral relations," he said.

In New Delhi, the external affairs ministry said that India and China have established mechanisms which they use to resolve any "misunderstanding" and that it was keeping a "constant vigil" on the situation in Doklam.

Yesterday it said the face-off situation that had arisen in the Doklam region last year was "resolved following diplomatic discussions between India and China, based on which both sides arrived at an understanding for the disengagement of their border personnel at the face-off site".

"Subsequently, in response to repeated questions about any change in the status quo at the face-off site, Government had stated that there was no basis for such imputations. Government would once again reiterate that the status quo at the face-off site has not been altered. Any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate and mischievous," a statement by the ministry had said.


SINO SCAN: China Should Enhance Presence In Indian Ocean To Counter India’S Missile Tests: Experts

A Chinese Navy Song-class submarines were noticed loitering in the Indian Ocean Region

India's latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), allegedly nuclear capable, poses a direct threat to China's security as well as a big challenge to the global efforts of nuclear-nonproliferation, a Chinese missile expert warned Thursday. 

"We have successfully launched nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-V today," the Times of India quoted Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as saying. There was no further comment on whether the missile had met all the parameters for the test, the report said.

After the test, the missile would be finalized and produced in large scale, and will become a fighting force in the coming years, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Though the report said the Agni-V can "reach the northernmost parts of China with its strike range of over 5,000-kilometers," Chinese experts expressed skepticism.

"Though the missile could theoretically hit Beijing, India's missile technique is far below the standard," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Nevertheless, China should be on the alert and further upgrade its anti-missile techniques, Hu added.

Aside from the missile, India is developing various kinds of weapons to compete with China, and its development of nuclear weapons shows that India is engaging in a nuclear arms race with China, Song said.

"It is also a big challenge to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as India owns such a big nuclear arsenal," he said.

The missile test is being dubbed as another step toward its eventual inclusion into the Strategic Forces Command (SFC). A few more tests remain to be conducted before the 50-ton missile is produced in adequate numbers, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday.

The tri-service SFC was established in 2003 to manage India's nuclear arsenal, Xinhua reported.

Aside from the shorter-range missiles "Prithvi" and "Dhanush," the SFC has already included the "Agni-I," "Agni-II" and "Agni-III" missiles in its arsenal, Xinhua reported.

Thursday's test comes a day after India's joint sea drills with Japan in the Indian Ocean. India hopes to enhance cooperation with Japan as a way of restraining China, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported, citing unnamed experts.

"India is trying to build a military system with Australia, Japan and the US in order to keep a closer watch on China, which poses a direct threat to China," Song said.

China should keep increasing its economic as well as defense capability, Song added.

Song also said that since the Indian Ocean is a "must enter" region for the Belt and Road initiative as well as the national strategy of building China into a maritime power, China should also enhance its military and economic presence in the Indian Ocean.


Pakistan Turning Blind Eye To Evidence Against 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attack Mastermind Hafiz Saeed: External Affairs Ministry


NEW DELHI: India has criticised Pakistan for turning a blind eye towards the evidence available against Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

In November 2017, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had claimed that India has provided "no evidence" against Saeed on the basis of which he can be prosecuted.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Friday said, "If somebody is a designated global terrorist, it's done based on a lot of evidence available in public domain. You can close your eyes, pretend nothing happened but they (Pakistan) have to realise what's in front of them and take action against such people, who are freely operating from their soil."

Abbasi, in a recent interview to Geo TV, said that there was no case registered against Saeed in Islamabad and without it, action cannot be initiated against him.

Dismissing Abbasi's remarks on Mumbai attack mastermind, the United States made it clear that he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

At a press briefing, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Thursday said, "So we've certainly seen the reports about this, that the Pakistani Government has said that no case has been registered against this individual, Hafiz Saeed."

She added, "Many of you may recall we talked about this a couple of weeks ago, about who this individual is. We regard him as a terrorist, a part of a foreign terrorist organisation. He was the mastermind, we believe, of the 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed many people, including Americans as well."

Saeed was released from house arrest after a Pakistani court cited lack of evidence against him in the 26/11 Mumbai attack case.

India has, time and again, protested against Pakistan for harbouring Saeed, who is wanted for plotting the 2008 attack.


No Meeting Planned For PM Modi, Abbasi In Davos During World Economic Forum


NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not scheduled to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos. 

Addressing a press conference here, Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (economic relations) Vijay Gokhale said, "No meeting has been planned between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Pakistan in Davos".

He added: "The Prime Minister's upcoming visit to Davos is very short. It will be only for 24 hours and will be very focused. This is a sign that we engage with the globe".


China Justifies Construction At Doklam, Says Its For Improving Lives of Troops


China's reaction came amid reports that it was building a huge military complex close to the site of the Doklam standoff with India.

China today justified its massive construction activities in the Doklam area, describing it as "legitimate" and aimed at improving the lives of its troops and the people living on its own territory.

China's reaction came amid reports that it was building a huge military complex close to the site of the Doklam standoff with India.

Asked about reports citing satellite imagery of a Chinese military complex in the area, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: "I have also noted the relevant report. I don't know who offered such kind of photos."

But at same time he said he did not have detailed information on it.

The reports raised concerns that the China may be preparing for another standoff with India.

Lu, however, said: "China's position on the Donglong (Doklam) area is quite clear. Donglong always belonged to China and always under China's effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard," he said asserting Chinese sovereignty over the area which is also claimed by Bhutan.

He said China is building infrastructure for its troops and the people living in the area.

"In order to patrol the border and improve the production and lives of border troops and residents, China has constructed infrastructure including roads in the Donglong (Doklam) area," Lu said.

He said China was exercising sovereignty in its own territory.

"It is legitimate and justified. Just as China will not make comments on India's construction of infrastructure on India's territory. We hope other countries will not make comments on China's construction of infrastructure in its own territory," he said.

Asked about concerns that China is preparing for a second standoff at Doklam area, he said Indian troops' intervention to stop building a key road close the Chicken Neck Corridor of India, has put the bilateral ties to severe test.

Indian and Chinese troops had been locked in a stand-off for over two months last year in the Doklam area near Sikkim before "disengaging" on August 28.

In an apparent reference to Amy Chief General Bipin Rawat's recent remarks that Doklam is a disputed territory between China and Bhutan, Lu said: "The Indian senior military officer has recognised that it was the Indian border troops who crossed the border".

"This incident has put bilateral relations to undergo a severe test. We hope the Indian side can learn lessons from this and avoid the incident to happen again," he said.

Recalling the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Xiamen in September, Lu said "actually during the summit the two leaders has reached some consensus on improving bilateral relations and chartering the course for future development".

"We hope relevant parties can earnestly follow through on the consensus reached by the two leaders, move in the same direction and jointly uphold the peace and stability of the border areas and stay committed for the comprehensive development of bilateral relations," he said.

In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs yesterday said the face-off situation that had arisen in the Doklam region last year was "resolved following diplomatic discussions between India and China, based on which both sides arrived at an understanding for the disengagement of their border personnel at the face-off site".

"Subsequently, in response to repeated questions about any change in the status quo at the face-off site, Government had stated that there was no basis for such imputations. Government would once again reiterate that the status quo at the face-off site has not been altered. Any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate and mischievous," a statement by the ministry had said.


ISRO Needs More Money For More Launches: Kiran Kumar


BANGALORE: Room No. 316 at Antariksh Bhavan is once again abuzz. A.S. Kiran Kumar has just transited smoothly into a new orbit there and will now steer the Physical Research Laboratory, called the cradle of the country's space sciences, planetary and other research in physics.

The late UR Rao, former Space Secretary, operated the hallowed room as well as the PRL chair for several years until his demise last July.

Until January 15, Mr. Kiran Kumar headed the Space establishment for the last three years as Secretary, Department of Space, Chairman, Space Commission and Indian Space Research Organisation. K. Sivan, who headed ISRO's rocket development unit, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, is the new DoS Secretary.

Where does the space program stand now and what is the way forward? "Everything is streamlined, the centres are focussed on moving ahead," Mr. Kiran Kumar said.

The Department of Space is banking on a good increase in budgetary allocation next month, according to him. As ISRO moves forward, "One of the things that will hold us back could be the resources that will be available. We do expect significantly more [in the February budget] than last time's," he told The Hindu.

In Budget 2017-18, the DoS was earmarked its highest ever, 9092 crore. "Though there has been a significant increase [in budgetary outlays] in the last few years, we still need more [money] if we have to put more spacecraft in orbit and increase the total number of launches. We need appropriate next generation launchers, the development of the semi-cryogenic launcher and others. For all of them, we need additional resources."

ISRO would try to make sure that "people who matter will understand this." And it would work with available resources by taking up projects on the basis of their urgency and priority.

In January 2015, when he took charge, the main task was to overcome the problems in launch vehicles, get the cryogenic-powered GSLV-Mark II regularised and narrow the gap in spacecraft required for communication, remote sensing and navigation - jobs now done.

To push up the launch frequency, Indian industry was roped in to get into making the launchers. Last year, ISRO began outsourcing of spacecraft assembly to industry.

Mr. Kiran Kumar's tenure can count 14 PSLV low-Earth launches including the record-making launch of 104 satellites on a single flight; three GSLV Mark-IIs and one full-fledged first test flight of heavy launcher GSLV Mark III; besides the laying the foundation of future projects such as a reusable launch vehicle and a Scramjet test.

Mark III will lead to India's near self-sufficiency in launchers. A Space Law draft has moved ahead, as also activities to let industry make entire spacecraft and shortly, launchers.

Mr. Kiran Kumar said the second vehicle assembly building at Sriharikota launch centre would help to increase launches and should be ready in a couple of months. "We made sure that all approved projects were taken up and pushed."

As for his 46-year tenure at ISRO, he said, "It has been quite an eventful period right from when i joined the Space Applications Centre at Ahmadabad in 1975." His roles that began with the Bhaskara has run up to recent remote sensing, microwave satellites, communication and navigation spacecraft; and in visualising and developing specialised electro-optic cameras on some 50-plus satellites.

Also to his credit is in realising the make-or-mar manoeuvre three years back that finally put the Mars orbiter into its now glorious orbit around Mars - India's historic victory at first shot.


India, US Should Finalise Joint Defence Agreement: US Think Tank


Stressing that India and the US must build an economic relationship that creates jobs and opportunities for the people of both nations, the report said that the United States and India must look not just at areas like hi-tech, but also at infrastructure, to expand the benefits of investment and trade to all sectors of societies

by Shubhajit Roy

This assumes significance as New Delhi and Washington are collaborating on “free and open Indo-Pacific” more closely in the wake of Chinese activities in the region.

Having designated India as a “major defence partner”, the US should launch a government-wide “strategic advantage initiative” focused on developing New Delhi’s defence capabilities as a premier security contributor in the Indo-Pacific, and to ensure India has the capabilities to prevail in contested domains, a US think tank has said in a new report.

This assumes significance as New Delhi and Washington are collaborating on “free and open Indo-Pacific” more closely in the wake of Chinese activities in the region. Led by former Foreign Secretary and India’s ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao and former US ambassador to India Richard Verma, the report was prepared under the aegis of Center for American Progress (CAP).

Titled the “United States and India: Forging an Indispensable Democratic Partnership”, the report prepared by the CAP task force on US-India relations said that India should finalise, in consultation with the United States, a “joint defence implementation agreement” that facilitates information sharing, interoperability, and technology transfers within the two countries’ comfort zones. “Indian leaders need to make a strong public case for a more efficient, transparent, and effective defense procurement process,” the report said.

It also called for creating a US-India Indo-Pacific Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) cell to plan, train for, and undertake joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in the Indian Ocean region.

Stressing that India and the US must build an economic relationship that creates jobs and opportunities for the people of both nations, the report said that the United States and India must look not just at areas like hi-tech, but also at infrastructure, to expand the benefits of investment and trade to all sectors of societies.

“The two nations cannot divorce the future of the bilateral economic relationship from what each country does at home. Both India and the United States must invest in the building blocks of their own economies and middle classes — including health care and education — and continue to innovate new domestic policy solutions if they are to benefit from the bilateral economic relationship,” the report said.

Among its key recommendations in the economic arena was to make infrastructure a key shared area of focus by holding summits to educate institutional investors about the Indian infrastructure market, and hosting conferences and exchanges to share lessons about developing digital infrastructure.

On clean energy, the report said that as two of the world’s three largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and with intense and growing energy needs, both countries must take concrete action to develop clean energy solutions that can boost economic growth and prevent the worst effects of climate change.

In this context, it said that the US should remain party to the Paris Climate Agreement. It also said that both countries should cooperate in the International Solar Alliance (ISA) — “the United States should become a full member of the ISA”, it recommended.

The report also stressed on the need to strengthen democratic institutions at home and around the world. It suggested starting a US-India track 1.5 dialogue on democracy and technology to discuss internet governance, the impact of social media on democracy, and the intersection of big data and privacy.

The CAP team also recommended strengthening ties between Indians and Americans, as that is the backbone of the US-India relationship. In this context, it said that the US should facilitate market conditions that give incentive to more cultural and educational exchange programmes.

The CAP task force had Yamini Aiyar (president, Centre for Policy Research), Alyssa Ayres (senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations), Shaurya Doval (founder, Zeus Capital; director, India Foundation), Anant Goenka (executive director, The Indian Express Group), Sadanand Dhume (Resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute), Dhruva Jaishankar (Fellow, foreign policy studies, Brookings India and the Brookings Institution), Manjeet Kripalani (executive director, Gateway House), and Richard Rossow (senior adviser and Wadhwani chair in US-India Policy Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies) among its members.


US SCAN: India's Ballistic Missile Test Is A 'Direct Threat,' A Chinese State-Owned Newspaper Says

India's long range Agni-5 ICBM, seen as part of a 65th Republic Day parade in New Delhi

India’s test this week of a long range intercontinental ballistic missile with the capability of hitting China’s eastern coastal cities constitutes a threat to regional security, a China’s state-owned newspaper has declared, calling for increased Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean to counter its regional rival.

The ballistic missile test, India’s fifth, “poses a direct threat to China’s security as well as a big challenge to the global efforts of nuclear-nonproliferation,” China’s Global Times writes. The missile, called the Agni 5, was launched from eastern India on Thursday and traveled 3,000 miles, the New York Times reported, putting China’s coastal cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, in range. India’s last missile test was in Dec. 2016.

The missile is India’s most advanced in its Agni series—the name means fire in Hindi—and is capable of delivering a payload of 1.5 tons, enough to carry a fusion-assisted fissile nuclear warhead, according to the Delhi Defense Review, an India-based security publication. “With a range of ‘easily more than 5,500 km’ [3,400 miles], the Agni-V clearly confers upon India the ability to hold all of China’s Eastern Seaboard cities at risk from Peninsular India,” the journal said.

Other estimates have put the missile’s range at as much as 5,000 miles, with Du Wenlong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Military Science, previously telling the Global Times that India had “deliberately downplayed” the missile’s capacity to “avoid causing concern.”

The test comes months after a military stand-off between India and China over the 34-square-mile Doklam Plateau, a Himalayan pass between China and Bhutan that India perceives as a strategic buffer. The rivals fought a war in 1962 over disputed borders, which have never been formally resolved. India also conducted joint military exercises with Japan this week in the Indian Ocean, a key area where China is attempting to exert greater economic influence as well as flex its muscles as a regional naval power.

“India is trying to build a military system with Australia, Japan and the U.S. in order to keep a closer watch on China,” television military analyst Song Zhongping told the Global Times, adding that China should renew efforts in the Indian Ocean as part of its wide-ranging Belt and Road Initiative.


Russia Begins Delivery of S-400 Missile Systems To China 


Moscow has begun the delivery of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile systems to China under the 2014 contract

MOSCOW: Moscow has begun the delivery of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile systems to China under the 2014 contract, a source close to the Russian system of military cooperation told TASS on Thursday.

"The implementation of the contract has begun, the first shipment has been sent to China," the source said.

According to the source, the shipment includes a control station, a radar station, energy and support equipment, spare parts, various tools and other elements of the S-400 system.

The source also said that the contact with China stipulated neither technology transfer nor licensed production.

In 2017, Russia trained a group of Chinese military servicemen to use the S-400 systems.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation has declined to provide any comments.

Contract With China

In November 2014, it was announced that Russia and China had signed a contract on S-400 supplies, and in November 2015, Russian Presidential Aide on Military Cooperation Vladimir Kozhin confirmed the contract. In June 2016, head of Russia’s Rostec State Corporation Sergei Chemezov said that the Chinese Army would receive the S-400 systems no sooner than 2018. On December 7, 2017, Chemezov said that the delivery would begin in the near future.

China is the first foreign purchaser of these air defense systems, while the second one is Turkey. In July 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that "certain documents" concerning the purchase of the S-400 systems had been signed. On September 12, 2017, Russia confirmed that a contract had been made. Turkey is the first NATO member state to purchase the S-400 Triumf systems.

The S-400 Triumf (NATO Reporting Name: SA-21 Growler) is the most advanced long-range antiaircraft missile system that went into service in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range ones, and can also be used against ground objectives. The S-400 complex can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.

At present, only Russia’s Armed Forces are equipped with the S-400 systems. There are plans to supply them to four countries - China, Turkey, India and Saudi Arabia.


Army Soldier, BSF Trooper Among 4 Killed In Cross-Border Firing


An Indian Army soldier was killed on Friday in a ceasefire violation along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, on a day when a BSF trooper and two Indian civilians were killed in firing along the international border.

Defence Ministry sources said an army soldier was killed in Pakistan Army's ceasefire violation on the LoC in Rajouri district as Pakistan initiated unprovoked and indiscriminate firing.

"Pakistan initiated unprovoked firing using small arms and automatics to target Indian positions in Sunderbani sector of the LoC at 1.30 p.m., which the Indian Army retaliated 'strongly and effectively'," the Indian Army said in a statement.

In the exchange of fire, Lance Naik Sam Abraham was grievously injured and later succumbed to his injuries.

The 34-year-old soldier hailed from Poonakam of Allepey in Kerala and is survived by his wife Anu Mathew and a 22-month-old daughter.

"Lance Naik Sam Abraham was a brave and sincere soldier. The nationa will always remain indebted to him for his supreme sacrifice and devotion to duty," the army statement said.

Earlier in the day, a BSF trooper and two civilians were killed and three others injured in indiscriminate firing and shelling by Pakistan Rangers on the international border.

Police said BSF Head Constable Jagpal Singh, injured in Samba district, succumbed to his injuries.

Two civilians were killed and three others were injured in Pakistani shelling on civilian facilities in Arnia sub-sector of R. S. Pura in Jammu district.

The injured civilians were shifted to a hospital.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the LoC is guarded by the army, while the international border is guarded by the BSF. Likewise, the Pakistan Army guards the LoC in Pakistan-administered Kashmir while Pakistan Rangers guard the international border.

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