Monday, December 18, 2017

IAF’s Mid-Air Refuelling Fleet To Take A Hit As Numbers Fall

An Indian Air Force IL-78 refuelling a Sukhoi-Su30MKI fighter. American, Russian, European and Israeli military contractors are tracking the air force’s tanker program

The IAF operates a modest fleet of six IL-78 aircraft bought from Russia in 2003-04 at a cost of Rs 132 crore each to expand the strategic reach of its fighter jets

by Rahul Singh 

The Indian Air Force’s mid-air refuelling capabilities will take a hit next year when its Russia-procured Ilyushin-78 tankers go for an overhaul, leaving the air force with little option as two attempts to buy new tankers have failed.

The IAF operates a modest fleet of six IL-78 aircraft bought from Russia in 2003-04 at a cost of Rs 132 crore each to expand the strategic reach of its fighter jets. Riddled with problems, only two or three planes from the tanker squadron are available for missions at any given time.

Used for refuelling jets mid-air to keep them airborne longer, the IL-78 tankers’ overhaul — in phases — will involve upgrading the engines of the aircraft to allow them to take off from shorter runways.

“No doubt we will have even fewer refuellers to exploit during the refit. This happens in the lifetime of every fleet. It’s unavoidable,” said Air Chief Marshal Fali Major, a retired IAF chief. The air force’s midair refuelling crisis is partly a result of failed attempts to strengthen its capabilities with new tankers.

Two tenders to buy refuellers in the last 10 years came to naught due to commercial complications. European Airbus 330 MRTT was the frontrunner in both tanker contests in which the Russian IL-78 also took part.

India is expected to float a new global tender for six or more tankers next year to stay prepared to counter China in the eastern sector, the sources said. The purchase could be worth as much as Rs 13,000 crore.

The finance ministry had raised objections over the price during the last tender.

“Building military strength doesn't come cheap. You can’t put a price on enhanced operational capability. Tankers are an essential requirement and the government needs to prioritise the purchase,” said Air Marshal Vinod Patni (retd), head of Centre for Air Power Studies and a former IAF vice chief.

Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, also a retired IAF chief, stressed that the tankers allow fighter planes to carry more weapons and less fuel when taking off from high altitude bases.

American, Russian, European and Israeli military contractors are tracking the air force’s tanker programme. US defence major Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries’ Bedek Aviation Group are expected to be new entrants in the tanker competition.

A recent comprehensive audit of the tanker fleet revealed that the IAF’s runways were too short for its IL-78 tanker fleet, their refuelling pods were dogged by failures and the aircraft’s overall airworthiness was questionable.

In a report tabled in Parliament in August, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) also found that there weren't enough hangars for the IL-78 refuellers, tanking them up on the ground posed problems and there were no dedicated refuelling corridors in the skies.

The aircraft requires a runway length of 11,480 feet to 15,022 feet to carry full fuel loads, but the 10 airfields identified by the IAF for tanker operations have runways measuring less than 10,000 feet.

The national auditor also raised questions about the reliability of the fleet. The report found that the serviceability of the IL-78 fleet stood at 49% during the 2010-16 period, compared to a desired 70%, and also that less than half the fleet was mission-ready at any given time.

The serviceability of aerial refuelling pods — hoses used to transfer fuel — was also found to be poor due to frequent failures, inadequate repair facilities and poor maintenance support from the manufacturer.

The air force doesn't have enough hydrant refueling systems (HRS) to tank up the refuellers swiftly and efficiently on the ground.

The HRS facility or underground tanks was available only in two of the 10 airbases identified for IL-78 operations in 2007, the report found.

It also revealed that the IAF had not obtained approval for creating 12 dedicated corridors for midair refuelling so that commercial traffic is not disrupted and only one hangar had been constructed for the six refuellers.


Tejas Platforms Till SP-12 Will Enter Equipping Stage Soon


by Anantha Krishnan M

Bangalore: Amidst the ongoing ‘controversy and confusion’ over whether the Indian Air Force (IAF) is keen to go ahead with the home-grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas programme beyond the first and second blocks of 20 each, the sixth series production variant from the hangars of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) took to the skies for the first time sans any fanfare, recently.

The maiden flight of SP-7, the sixth out of the total 20 to be delivered in the Initial Operational Clearance (ICO) standards, took place on December 12 at the HAL airport here, with zero snags being reported by the pilot after completing the Profile-1 of the flight envelope.

Tejas SP-7 was piloted by Gp Capt K K Venugopal (Retd). With this, the IAF No 45 Squadron (Flying Daggers) would soon have half-a-dozen of Tejas platforms to operate with. Currently being raised in Bangalore, the No 45 Squadron will eventually move to Air Force Station Sulur, near Coimbatore.

IAF is ramping up its infrastructure at AFS Sulur with modern hangars being reading to accommodate Tejas 16 fighters and four trainers, part of the first block of delivery from HAL.

SP-5 from Kiran hangar will join the party soon

The fifth Tejas series production platform SP-5, being built at the second production line established at the Aircraft Division by HAL, too will have its maiden flight soon. HAL converted the erstwhile Kiran hangar to set up this additional production line, which boasts of producing three aircraft per year, when fully operational.

V Sridharan, who retired as the Executive Director of LCA Division recently, says that Tejas platforms up to SP-10 are currently under equipping in Final Assembly Hangar.

“Very soon they will be followed by SP-11 and SP-12. Kudos to the entire Team of Tejas involved in the manufacturing activities for their untiring efforts in making this possible despite adverse criticism in the last three years, both in terms of quality and quantity,” says Sridharan.

Frequent Modifications A Concern

Interestingly, he says that the even after delivering six series production platforms by HAL, the Standard of Preparation (Build to Print Documents) have not been frozen, despite the IOC nod in December 2013.

“The introduction of more than 270 modifications after accordance of IOC, in the name of concurrent engineering is a potential source of introducing uncertainties during the production phase. This can affect time-lines on a regular basis. These changes even warrant design and manufacturing of new parts which results in delays. All these changes are introduced towards envisaged performance and system improvements as per the requirements of IAF,” says Sridharan, who has been credited with establishing the new LCA Division.

He says the LCA Division developed ICY (interchangeability) tools for all 147 panels and for 830 pipelines out of 934 pipelines within the build of first seven SP Tejas aircraft itself.

“This is a huge shift compared to any other projects in HAL, that too at such short span of time after the release of RSD (Release of Service Documents). Even now, only concept of replaceable pipes is existing in other projects. LCA has gone far ahead in the area of ICY compliance through the dedicated efforts of its tooling department,” claims Sridharan.

He says HAL, in an effort to further augment the production capacity, has outsourced all the major structural modules to private partners, including sub-assemblies, role equipment, pipelines, sheet metal part electrical looms and panels.

“This would enhance the production rate to 16 per year from the year 2019 onwards apart from developing an eco-system for manufacturing of a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft in India. This is likely to materialize by mid-2018 and thereafter, HAL would further be able to ramp up the production rate to 20 aircraft-plus every year,” adds Sridharan.

On the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) front, sources at Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) say that the program will complete all tasks mandated within 2018.

“There are only few more crucial test points to be achieved. Then there could be additional requirements. Hopefully, the FOC should be in place in the third quarter of 2018,” says a top scientist.

Currently, Tejas LSP-8 is optimising flight profiles with the in-flight refueling probe (IFR). The air-to-air refueling trials will begin early 2018. Four Tejas variants recently undertook night attack missions for the first time, as per the FOC schedule.


Work To Integrate Brahmos On 40 Sukhoi Aircraft Begins

BRAHMOS undergoing weapon release test from an IAF Sukhoi Su-30MKI Fighter

The fleet of 40 Sukhoi jet will undergo structural modifications at the state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for integration of the missile on them

NEW DELHI: Work has begun to integrate the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile on 40 Sukhoi combat aircraft which is expected to fulfil critical needs of the Indian Air Force in the wake of evolving security dynamics in the region.

The air-launched variant of the Brahmos, the world's fastest supersonic cruise missile, was successfully test fired from a Sukhoi-30 combat jet on November 22, marking a major milestone to enhance the precision strike capability of the air force.

The work to integrate the Brahmos missile on 40 Sukhoi combat aircraft has begun. A timeline for the project is being set, official sources said without elaborating.

It is learnt that the project is expected to be completed by 2020. 

The fleet of 40 Sukhoi jet will undergo structural modifications at the state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for integration of the missile on them.

The 2.5-ton missile flies almost three times the speed of sound at Mach 2.8 and has a range of 290 km.


The range of the missile, an Indo-Russia joint venture, can be extended up to 400 km as certain technical restrictions were lifted after India became a full member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) last year.

Brahmos missile is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on India's Su-30 fighter aircraft.

Once the project to integrate the weapon on the combat fleet was over, the IAF capability to strike from large stand-off ranges on any target in sea or land is expected to go up manifold.

"It is a very important project considering IAF's evolving requirement to boost air power when the possibility of a two-front war cannot be ruled out," said an official.

After the test firing of the air-launched version, the IAF had said the missile coupled with the superlative performance of the Su-30 aircraft will give the force a strategic reach and will allow it to dominate the ocean and the battle fields.

The integration of the missile on Sukhoi aircraft is a very complex process involving mechanical, electrical and software modifications of the Su-30 jet.

Brahmos is a joint venture between DRDO of India and NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) of Russia.


Pervez Musharraf Hails LeT, JuD Militants As 'Patriotic'


Musharraf had last month announced the formation of a grand political alliance after a consultative meeting between representatives of around two dozen political parties....

KARACHI: Hailing LeT and JuD terror groups as "patriotic", former military dictator Pervez Musharraf has said that he was ready to enter into an alliance with them for Pakistan's "safety and security", according to a media report.

The 74-year-old retired general, who is on self-exile in Dubai, had last month said that he was the biggest supporter of the LeT and its founder Hafiz Saeed, the Mumbai terror attack mastermind who heads the banned Jamaat-ud Dawah.

"They (LeT and JuD) are patriotic people. The most patriotic. They have sacrificed their lives for Pakistan in Kashmir...," the ARY News channel quoted him as saying.

Musharraf said the two groups have large public support and good people and no one could object if they formed a political party.

The LeT was banned following the 2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people were killed, while the JuD was declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014.

JuD chief Saeed, accused of masterminding the Mumbai attack, had last month unveiled his political ambitions by formally announcing that his group will contest the general elections in 2018 under the banner of the Milli Muslim League.

The former military ruler further said that so far the two groups have not approached him but if they desire to enter into an alliance with his party, he has no objection.

Musharraf had last month announced the formation of a grand political alliance after a consultative meeting between representatives of around two dozen political parties.

However, several parties dissociated themselves from Musharraf's Pakistan Awami Ittehad alliance.

Musharraf, who plotted the Kargil conflict, then toppled prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999 and ruled over Pakistan for nine years, is facing a slew of court cases in Pakistan. He unsuccessfully contested 2013 elections after returning from five years of self-exile in Dubai.

He claimed that he was ready to face all charges as the courts are not under "Nawaz Sharif's control anymore".


IIT Delhi Develops Smart Jacket For Soldiers In Emergency


by Gayathri Mani

NEW DELHI: The Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-D) is developing a ‘Smart and Intelligent Soldiers Jacket’ with unique features and design in collaboration with the Defence Research and Defence Organization (DRDO).

The jacket will have integrated interconnects, antennas, sensors and chips. It will be lighter in weight and lower in price compared to the current one.

The Joint Advanced Technology Centre of IIT, established by DRDO, has a research vertical, Smart and Intelligent Textile, under which more than a dozen researchers have been working for a month to create the smart jacket for the Indian Army.

The project is in the initial stage. Its time period is five years but our target is to get the jackets ready by the next three years,” said Anuj Dhawan, professor-in-charge of the project. 

The jacket will be developed in three phases. In the first stage, the scientist will develop textile based flexible circuit boards and multi-chip modules. Next, modelling, fabrication and testing of different types of radio frequency and microwave antennas on textile-based and polymeric substrates will take place.

Finally, several kinds of sensors will be developed and integrated on the textiles, says the proposal design. Features like signal processing chip, chemical sensor, communication chip etc. will help the soldiers in mobility, detecting threats and communication.

“These features will be very helpful to the soldiers in every circumstance. For instance, the gas sensors will help detect the gases and identify their type.

Through communication chips, soldiers can pass on messages and at times of emergency, inform the other soldiers or seek help,” said an official.

Hi-Tech Gear

  • Integrated interconnects and antennas
  • Heat insulated
  • Sensors for physiological monitoring of the soldier wearing it, the environment around him
  • Gas sensors to help detect gases and identify their type etc.
  • Communication chips to help soldiers pass on messages or seek help in times of emergency
  • Signal processing chip, chemical sensor, batteries etc.


Joining Wassenaar Is India’s Latest Step In Quest For ‘Responsible Nuclear Power’ Tag


India joins the regime at a time when export regulation of dual-use technology items have become increasingly complex

by Rakesh Sood

Last week, India joined the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) as the 42nd member. A brief statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs thanked the members for their support for India’s candidature and declared that “India’s entry into the Arrangement would be mutually beneficial and further contribute to international security and non-proliferation objectives”.

WA is one of the four non-proliferation related export control regimes – the other three being the Australia Group (AG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). These are not treaty based but ad hoc groupings of like-minded countries.

Though WA in its present form is the youngest of the four regimes, its precursor, the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (CoCom) was set up in 1950 in an attempt to deny the Soviet bloc access to Western equipment and technologies. With the end of the Cold War, CoCom was wound up because many east European countries became EU and NATO members of EU. With proliferation becoming the new threat, CoCom was reborn as the WA, with the original 17 Western CoCom members as also Russia and a number of former communist states together with Argentina, South Africa and now, India. The basic objective of WA is to contribute to regional and international peace and stability by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual use goods and technologies thereby preventing destabilising acquisitions or acquisitions by non-state actors.

Member states harmonise their national export policies relating to conventional weapons, covered in the Munitions List. Its 22 categories cover small arms and light weapons, tanks and armoured vehicles, marine vessels, aircraft and helicopters. A second control list is the Dual Use Goods and Technologies List divided into 9 categories covering special materials, processing machinery and equipment, electronics, computers, telecommunications, information security, sensors, aerospace and marine systems. Regular exchanges of information take place and member states report all transfers and denials to destinations outside the WA.

With diffusion of technology accelerated by globalisation and the ICT revolution, WA’s role has become more significant. Unlike nuclear and space technologies, which were developed by governments for military use, the new ICT and related technologies like encryption, blockchain systems, surveillance and big data analytics have been developed by the private sector and found early applications in the commercial world. This makes export regulation of dual use technology items both necessary and also complex.

The other three regimes originated during the Cold War but have evolved subsequently. Use of chemical weapons by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s became the trigger for setting up the AG in 1985. The original membership of 15 Western nations has now expanded to 41 plus the EU. AG seeks to prevent proliferation of chemical and biological weapons by controlling exports or sensitive chemicals, biological organisms and materials, relevant equipment and technologies. India is a party to the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention and will probably join the AG in 2018.

Discussions for curbing missile proliferation began among the G-7 countries in 1983, the same year that India launched its missile program. In 1987, the MTCR was launched to curb proliferation of missiles with a range of 300 kms and a capable of carrying a payload of 500 kg ie., a nuclear capable missile. Subsequently, the control lists were expanded to cover drones and dual use items including ground and launch support equipment. Last year, India joined the MTCR as the 35th member state.

The NSG (originally called the London Club) came into being in 1975 with seven countries (USA, USSR, UK, Canada, France, Germany and Japan) to address nuclear proliferation challenges by focusing on export controls. The immediate catalyst for it was the Indian PNE in 1974. After the Cold War, NSG control lists were expanded to cover dual use items and technologies.

Membership also grew and currently stands at 48; China became a member in 2004. This decision was politically driven and overlooked China’s proliferation record during the 1980s and 1990s.

After the 1998 nuclear tests, India’s approach towards these regimes began to change. Global terrorism, rising threat of WMD proliferation and the objective of gaining acceptance as a responsible nuclear power contributed to the shift. The 2008 special waiver by the NSG was an acknowledgement of India’s non-proliferation credentials and made possible because of strong US backing. With US support for India’s full membership in all four regimes in 2010, India stepped up its engagement and gradually brought its export control lists and practices into harmony with the regimes.

The abortive push for NSG membership in 2016 failed to take into account the changed geopolitics of a weaker US and an assertive China. Having learnt its lesson, the Modi government chose to pursue its objectives quietly. Given China’s open opposition, the NSG membership will have to wait for better relations between the two countries.


Why India And China’s Border Rows Are So Hard To Resolve

One is Aksai Chin, a virtually uninhabited high-altitude desert expanse of about 37,000 Sq Km

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval are leading their two sides in the latest round of talks

by Mohan Guruswamy

Although the frontiers in question date back to the British colonial era, the modern phenomenon of social media-fuelled nationalism is a major barrier to progress

China-India border talks back on ... but is this the road to resolution?

What is commonly referred to as the “border dispute” between India and China manifests itself in two distinct and separate areas of contention.

One is Aksai Chin, a virtually uninhabited high-altitude desert expanse of about 37,000 square kilometres.

The other is what is now the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, a diversely populated hill region with a population of around 1.4 million people spread out over 84,000 square kilometres, much of which China claims as Lower Tibet.

Aksai Chin lies between the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and China’s Xinjiang province, both regions that are also riven by separatist conflicts as well as India’s long-running dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.

Arunachal Pradesh borders Tibet, which has its own separatist movement. India claims that these borders were agreed between British India and the independent or semi-independent authorities in Xinjiang and Tibet in the early days of the last century.

China does not agree with this argument.

Both countries agree that these are legacies of history and cannot be solved in the short or medium term and are best left for the future.

But what causes friction between the two is that they do not have agreed a Line of Actual Control (LAC) to separate the jurisdictions under the control of their armies. The perceptions of the LAC differ at many places. In some places it might be by just a few metres, and elsewhere by tens of kilometres.

To minimise the risk of tensions caused by regular patrols by the two sides’ security forces, they have a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement that sets out the norms of behaviour for both sides.

The most important elements are that nothing of a permanent nature will be built on these disputed areas, and that the patrols take every precaution to ensure they do not confront each other.

This means that if they come face to face they will both withdraw. The corollary to this is that the patrols will not follow each other.

The agreement also requires local commanders to frequently meet and exchange views and sort out their local differences.

Despite the adverse geographical and climatic conditions, and the overarching tensions between Asia’s biggest economies, the troops on the ground are able to show surprising bonhomie and friendliness towards each other.

But periodically, either due to a misunderstanding or local posturing by either side, there are frictions that threaten to erupt into conflict.

But it has not happened since 1967 when the two armies fought a fierce localised battle in the Sikkim sector, quite close to where the recent Doklam stand-off took place.

The two countries have been engaged in frequent talks at various levels since 1981. After then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Beijing in 1988, both countries agreed to set up a task force to find a solution to the “border issue”.

Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader at the time, welcomed his “ young friend” and suggested they “forget the past” as they stood in the centre of the cavernous Great Hall of the People for a handshake the lasted three long minutes.

Over the three decades since then the two countries have been meeting to discuss the border issue, but so far we have seen an unwillingness by both sides to forget the past.

Since 2003 these talks were elevated to a high-level political dialogue between special representatives.

We are now having the 20th round of this dialogue between India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, and China’s State Councillor, Yang Jiechi.

A former Indian NSA once told me that the talks are high on style and hospitality, with the Indian side trying hard to match the Chinese, but there has been little traction.

This is because the two competing territorial claims have been internalised by the public in both countries.

The two countries are gripped by a strong nationalism, bordering on jingoism, which makes give and take, so vital in the resolution of such vexatious disputes, extremely difficult.

But the Border Management and Cooperation Agreement is a major outcome of these talks and that has by and large worked. The next logical step of these talks should be to agree on an LAC. But unfortunately even that discussion is bedevilled by an aggressive nationalism driven by social media that equates “giving up” with a national loss of face.

This is something increasingly very important to both countries: we will not be seen as giving up anything, even our obduracy and historical short-sightedness.

So next week Ajit Doval and Yang Jiechi will meet, but both sides will not be giving away anything. We will have to wait for another time for that.


Not US But India & China Will Lead The Negotiations With Israel: Palestine Envoy


HYDERABAD: Palestine’s ambassador to India, Adnan Abu Al Hayjaa made it clear on Saturday that it was no longer possible for his country to deal with Israel “as if nothing has happened.” He called upon the international community to find a solution to the decades-old conflict. “A new mediating body of international community, including India and China, will head the negotiations between Israel and Palestine replacing Trump-led USA,” claimed the diplomat speaking at an event in Hyderabad.

Former Union Minister and Secunderabad MP Bandaru Dattatreya said he would take up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clarify India’s stand on Washington announcing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “We will never allow Trump’s declaration to pass,” said Adnan. “We Arabs are planning a new body as US has lost its legitimacy to mediate the dispute. Israel will have to be brought on board through a United Nations intervention,” he said. “Trump’s unilateral step will encourage Islamic extremists and transform a political problem into a religious one.”

“When I meet the Prime Minister next week, I will explain to him about this meeting expressing solidarity with Palestine. India’s position is to preserve our national interest. Modi is visiting Israel next year. We will discuss along these lines before that,” Dattatreya said. Though India has not reacted to US’ move, New Delhi’s policy vis-a-vis Palestine has seen a tremendous shift in the last few years.

In 2015, India abstained from a crucial vote against Israel in the UN Human Rights Council. Again earlier this year, Modi became the first Indian PM to visit Israel while giving Palestine a miss.

However, earlier this month Adnan claimed that Modi would be visiting Palestine early 2018.

Source>>

Russia-China-India Trilateral Geopolitically Redundant

Prime Minister Modi, Russia's President Putin with President of China Jinping

by Dr Subhash Kapila

The recent Russia-China-India Trilateral Foreign Ministers Meet in New Delhi brings into sharp focus the charade of perpetuating a geopolitically redundant conclave which serves no security interests of India.

Significantly, as 2017 comes to a close, the preceding foreign policy formulations of Russia and China manifested so far clearly suggest that there are more divergences than convergences even at the bilateral level of Russia-India and China-India relations, leaving alone in terms of strategic convergences between the three.

In terms of Russia –India bilateral ties schisms are visible in the most crucial and sensitive region of South Asia. Russia with its recent tilt towards Pakistan should reinforce a conviction in Indian foreign policy establishment that Russia is complicit with China in stifling India’s natural predominance as the regional power in the Indian Subcontinent.

In terms of China-India relations, the Indian foreign policy establishment should cease de-emphasising that China is a serious military threat to India by virtue of the massive China-India military confrontation on India’s Himalayan borders with China Occupied Tibet.

Additionally, with the China-Pakistan Axis acquiring sharper and menacing contours hardly any scope exists to analyse alternatively that China is hell-bent on checkmating India’s rise as a leading Asian power.

With the above equations starkly evident in 2017, the moot question that arises is as to what strategic ends of India are served by continuing to participate in conclaves of this Trilateral as 2017 closes?

Strategic ends of India could have been served even partially had Russia been in a strong position to provide countervailing power or to moderate China’s hostile policy stances and military confrontation against India. The reality today is that Russia is not in a position to do so by its comparative decline as a power to reckon with relative to China.

Russia on the other hand is seen as seconding China’s military adventurism in Indo Pacific Asia from South China Sea to Pakistan and Afghanistan. In all of these and many others, Russia’s stances impinge on India’s legitimate security interests.

The Indian foreign policy establishment has not been sleeping either in terms of appropriate geopolitical responses to the China-Russia strategic nexus which as in the 1990s does not seem to be that nebulous.

The US-India Strategic Partnership strengthening, the Global Special Strategic Partnership with Japan and the recent US-Japan-India-Australia Quadrilateral, or the Quad are noteworthy initiatives to prevent India being geopolitically imbalanced.

Any argument in any quarters that the Russia-China-India Trilateral became devalued because of India’s growing proximity to the United States is untenable. Simply, because India had to explore for countervailing power, even existential, to the strengthening of the China-Russia Strategic Nexus.

Contextually therefore, and something which I have been arguing for in my earlier writings and assertions is that it is high time that India de-links itself from all China-led or China-sponsored organisations like the SCO or BRICS. Both of these are as geopolitically redundant to India’s strategic or even economic needs as the Russia-China-India Trilateral.

In the same vein, India at no cost should succumb to joining China’s flagship project—the One Belt One Road Project. This project though projected in economic sugar-coating by China is nothing but a blueprint for China’s stranglehold in Indo Pacific Asia and Eurasia.

If one glances at the map portraying the extent and configuration of China’s OBOR it is amply clear that the underlying motives are strategic and not economic prosperity. Strategically, China’s OBOR and its associated flagship project in Pakistan—the CPEC, running through Indian Territory under Pakistani Occupation will seriously impede India’s rise as a leading Asian power.

Concluding, with the contextual backdrop painted above it should be amply clear that it is not in India’s strategic interests to continue through this charade of perpetuating the Russia-China-India Trilateral which has been rendered geopolitically redundant by Russia and China moving away from its original imperatives at the time of conception of this Trilateral. In 2017 this Trilateral merely remains a trophy for Russia and China for geopolitical signalling to the United States in Indo Pacific Asia.


Training Over, India's First 3 Women Fighter Pilots Fly MiGs And Hawks


New Delhi: Less than two years after they were commissioned into the Indian Air Force as India's first women fighter pilots, Flying Officers Bhawana Kanth, Mohana Singh and Avani Chaturvedi have now joined their respective squadrons.

Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi and Flying Officer Bhawana Kanth have been posted to 23 Squadron, Suratgarh (Rajasthan) and 3 Squadron, Ambala (Haryana) respectively. Both officers are presently being trained to fly the MiG-21 Bison supersonic jet after having completed several stages of fighter aircraft training earlier.

In October, Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had said: "The present consideration is to put them to a MiG-21 Bison squadron. Our opinion is that it will sharpen their skills as the aircraft has more manual features than other sophisticated aircraft."

The MiG-21 is the oldest frontline combat jet in service with the Indian Air Force, having first entered service in 1964. Since then, the jet has been regularly upgraded. The MiG-21 "Bison" being flown by Flying Officers Avani Chaturvedi and Bhawana Kanth is the definitive variant of the legacy fighter and will start being phased out of the IAF from 2019 onwards.

Flying Officer Mohana Singh has been posted as a staff pilot with a Hawk trainer Operational Conversion Unit in Kalaikunda in West Bengal. She will move to frontline combat jets when an appointment becomes available.

Yesterday, two women from the second batch to enter the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force were commissioned after graduating from the Air Force Academy, Dundigul. Flying Officers Pratibha and Shivangi Singh have completed their basic flying training and will now train further on Hawk Advanced Jet trainers before being posted to the Indian Air Force's fighter squadrons. 

A third woman pilot, trainee Rashi Raina, was injured after she ejected from a Kiran trainer late last month near Hyderabad. She survived with a fractured leg and could not graduate as fighter pilot yesterday. Her future as a potential fighter pilot remains uncertain presently.

Flying officer Pratibha and flying officer Shivangi Singh were commissioned yesterday.

During Air Force Day in October 2015, then Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had said, "We have women pilots flying transport aircraft and helicopters, we are now planning to induct them into the fighter stream to meet the aspirations of young women of India".

"I have no doubt that women will be able to overcome any physical limitations to become fighter pilots," he had added.


Hoping To Extend Maritime Reach, China Lavishes Aid On Pakistan Town


Beijing has built a school, sent doctors and pledged about $500 million in grants for Gwadar. Beijing and Islamabad see Gwadar as the future jewel in the crown of CPEC. However, Beijing's unusual largesse has fuelled suspicions in the US and India that Gwadar is part of China's future Geo-Strategic plans

GWADAR: China is lavishing vast amounts of aid on a small Pakistani fishing town+ to win over locals and build a commercial deep-water port that the United States and India suspect may also one day serve the Chinese navy.

Beijing has built a school, sent doctors and pledged about $500 million in grants for an airport, hospital, college and badly-needed water infrastructure for Gwadar, a dusty town whose harbour juts out into the Arabian Sea, overlooking some of the world's busiest oil and gas shipping lanes.

The grants include $230 million for a new international airport, one of the largest such disbursements China has made abroad, according to researchers and Pakistani officials.

The handouts for the Gwadar project is a departure from Beijing's usual approach in other countries. China has traditionally derided Western-style aid in favour of infrastructure projects for which it normally provides loans through Chinese state-owned commercial and development banks.

"The concentration of grants is quite striking," said Andrew Small, an author of a book on China-Pakistan relations and a Washington-based researcher at the German Marshall Fund think tank.

"China largely doesn't do aid or grants, and when it has done them, they have tended to be modest."

Pakistan has welcomed the aid with open hands. However, Beijing's unusual largesse has also fuelled suspicions in the United States and India that Gwadar is part of China's future Geo-Strategic plans to challenge US naval dominance.

"It all suggests that Gwadar, for a lot of people in China, is not just a commercial proposition over the longer term," Small said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Beijing and Islamabad see Gwadar as the future jewel in the crown of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship of Beijing's Belt and Road initiative to build a new "Silk Road" of land and maritime trade routes across more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.

The plan is to turn Gwadar into a trans-shipment hub and mega port to be built alongside special economic zones from which export-focused industries will ship goods worldwide. A web of energy pipelines, roads and rail links will connect Gwadar to China's western regions.

Port trade is expected to grow from 1.2 million tonnes in 2018 to about 13 million tonnes by 2022, Pakistani officials say. At the harbour, three new cranes have been installed and dredging will next year deepen the port depth to 20 metres at five berths.

But the challenges are stark. Gwadar has no access to drinking water, power blackouts are common and separatist insurgents threaten attacks against Chinese projects in Gwadar and the rest of Baluchistan, a mineral-rich province that is still Pakistan's poorest region.

Security is tight, with Chinese and other foreign visitors driven around in convoys of soldiers and armed police.

Beijing is also trying to overcome the distrust of outsiders evident in Baluchistan, where indigenous Baloch fear an influx of other ethnic groups and foreigners. Many residents say the pace of change is too slow.

"Local people are not completely satisfied," said Essar Nori, a lawmaker for Gwadar, adding that the separatists were tapping into that dissatisfaction.

Pakistani officials are urging Gwadar residents to be patient, vowing to urgently build desalination plants and power stations.

Cautionary Tale

China's Gwadar project contrasts with similar efforts in Sri Lanka, where the village of Hambantota was transformed into a port complex - but was saddled with Chinese debt.

Last week, Sri Lanka formally handed over operations to China on a 99-year lease in exchange for lighter debt repayments, a move that sparked street protests over what many Sri Lankans view as an erosion of sovereignty.

The Hambantota port, like Gwadar, is part of a network of harbours Beijing is developing in Asia and Africa that have spooked India, which fears being encircled by China's growing naval power.

But Pakistani officials say comparisons to Hambantota are unfair because the Gwadar project has much less debt.

On top of the airport, Chinese handouts in Gwadar include $100 million to expand a hospital by 250 beds, $130 million towards upgrading water infrastructure, and $10 million for a technical and vocational college, according to Pakistani government documents and officials.

"We welcome this assistance as it's changing the quality of life of the people of Gwadar for the better," said Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the parliamentary committee that oversees CPEC, including Gwadar.

China and Pakistan jointly choose which projects will be developed under the CPEC mechanism, Sayed added.

When China suggested a 7,000 metre runway for the new airport, Pakistan pushed for a 12,000 metre one that could accommodate planes as large as the Airbus 380 and be used for military purposes, according to Sajjad Baloch, a director of the Gwadar Development Authority.

The scale of Chinese grants is extraordinary, according to Brad Parks, executive director of AidData, a research lab at the US-based William and Mary university that collected data on Chinese aid across 140 countries from 2000-2014.

Since 2014, Beijing has pledged over $800 million in grants and concessional loans for Gwadar, which has less than 100,000 people. In the 15 years before that, China gave about $2.4 billion in concessional loans and grants during this period across the whole of Pakistan, a nation of 207 million people.

"Gwadar is exceptional even by the standards of China's past activities in Pakistan itself," Parks said.

Hears and Minds

There are early signs China's efforts to win hearts and minds are beginning to bear fruit in Gwadar.

"Baluchistan is backward and underdeveloped, but we are seeing development after China's arrival," said Salam Dashti, 45, a grocer whose two children attend the new Chinese-built primary school.

But there are major pitfalls ahead.

Tens of thousands of people living by the port will have to be relocated.

For now, they live in cramped single-story concrete houses corroded by sea water on a narrow peninsula, where barefoot fishermen offload their catch on newly-paved roads strewn with rubbish. Many of the fishermen say they fear they'll lose their livelihoods once the port starts operating.

Indigenous residents' fear of becoming a minority is inevitable with Gwadar's population expected to jump more than 15-fold in coming decades. On the edge of town, mansions erected by land speculators are popping up alongside the sand dunes.

Analysts say China is aware that previous efforts to develop Gwadar port failed partly due to the security threat posed by Baloch separatists, so Beijing is trying to counter the insurgents' narrative that China wants to exploit Baluchistan.

"That weighs heavily on the minds of the Chinese," Parks added. "It's almost certainly true that they are trying to safeguard their investments by getting more local buy-in."

Chinese officials, meanwhile, are promoting the infrastructure development they are funding.

"Every day you can see new changes. It shows the sincerity of Chinese for development of Gwadar," Fijian Zhao, the deputy chief of mission at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, tweeted last month.

Naval Facility

For its investment in Gwadar, China will receive 91 percent of revenues until the port is returned to Pakistan in four decades' time. The operator, China Overseas Ports Holding Company, will also be exempt from major taxes for more than 20 years.

Pakistan's maritime affairs minister, Hasil Bizenjo, said the arrival of the Chinese in the region contrasted with the experience of the past two centuries, when Russia and Britain, and later the United States and the Soviet Union, vied for control of the warm water ports of the Persian Gulf.

"The Chinese have come very smoothly, they have reached the warm waters," Bizenjo told Reuters. "What they are investing is less than a peanut for access to warm waters."

When a US Pentagon report in June suggested Gwadar could become a military base for China, a concern that India has also expressed, Beijing dismissed the idea.

"Talk that China is building a military base in Pakistan is pure guesswork," said a Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman, Wu Sian.


India-ASEAN Connectivity Can Pave Way For Global Value Chain Manufacturing Network


by Subrata Majumder

The transformational change in the manufacturing practices reveals that the development of sectoral growth and labour intensive industries are not the panacea for Make in India success. Sectoral growth or growth of traditional industries, such as textile, leather, Agro based industries, cannot act as springboards for India to become global manufacturing hub, lest it becomes party to GVC (Global Value Chain) value added manufacturing network.

World manufacturing has entered into a new arena , where GVC plays a crucial role for the sake of low cost production. To this end, labour intensive industries in developing countries have worked well in the GVC manufacturing network. Automobile, electronics and the digitization are the heydays for world manufacturing. India is required to fit into this GVC network for the success of Make in India.

Firms in developed countries have established transnational manufacturing network , combining their high tech know how – with lower wage labour in developing countries. Eventually, production has become increasingly fragmented across the borders through growing prevalence of GVC for production of components and parts in low wage countries. Initially, South East and East Asia exemplified this new pattern of production.

So far, India trailed behind in this race. Reasons, there were lack of adequate skilled labor, lackluster export infrastructure, limitation of scale and difficulty in accessing cheap credit. These economic ills shadowed India’s potential as manufacturing exporter and became detrimental for it to enter the GVC network of manufacturing.

Success of GVC manufacturing network depends on how the component makers, dubbed “Supporting Industries”, function efficiently to upgrade technology, which are required for the assemblers. Asian car production by Toyota Motor Company is a case in point. To cut costs and re-enter into competitiveness , the Japanese company, after the Japanese currency yen appreciated, adopted GVC system of manufacturing to produce their Asian car model . It set up a five country base network for auto part production in between four ASEAN countries and India. It set up production facilities for diesel engine, press parts, axle in Thailand, manual transmission ( middle type) in Philippines, engine computer in Malaysia, gasoline engine and door lock in Indonesia and manual transmission ( large type) in India.

Nevertheless, opportunities sprouted with the rise in wages in China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia– the main partners for GVC in East Asia and ASEAN . India pitches for low wage country despite having high growth trajectory in the world. But only the cheap wages are not enough . Technology upgradation, skilled manpower and better export infrastructure are also essentials for India to become party to GVC manufacturing network.

Even though country’s manufacturing landscape has made transformational change from traditional industries to modern industries, such as automobile and electronic industries, resulting the modern industries the trend setter, the upgradation is yet to be made to make country potent for GVC network for manufacturing, like Vietnam and other South East Asian countries. This is despite that fact that India is already engaged in multilateral FTA with ASEAN and bilateral FTAs with Malaysia and Thailand.

To be party to the GVC manufacturing network in ASEAN, how should India’s manufacturing landscape fit in, if Make in India vows for a success. India’s manufacturing sector is required to be divided into two parts. The first part should include development of natural resource base industries , such as agro base and textile, mining and metal. The second part includes component base industries , such as automobile, electronic and digitization.

It is the second part where India can be the party to GVC value added manufacturing. India can be a challenging turf to become manufacturing hub for component and parts through GVC production network. India can provide workshop for manufacturing labour intensive component and parts for developed nations. Factors , which can go in favour of India, are India’s demography dividend and the edge in low cost manufacturing over South East and East Asia countries.

But, there are hurdles also to become partners to GVC . They are lack of skill workforce and lackluster infrastructure for exports. India is yet to ramp up its bottom down skilled workforce and infrastructure for exports.

Only 2 percent of the workforce is skilled in India, compared to 40 percent in China. The reason for abysmally low skilled workforce is the formal education, which does not provide suitable skills to make candidates viable for employment. The ITIs – government run training institutes – are either poorly managed or outdated. In China, skill development is geared up by steering secondary schools students into formal skill training program.

For infrastructure development for export, development of India – ASEAN connectivity can become a new challenge for India to become party to GVC manufacturing network. Ministry of External Affairs (MOEF) has initiated several steps to improve the India- ASEAN connectivity under Act East Asia policy. Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) launched India-Myanmar Container Service in 2014. Joint Working Group was set up for development of Dawei Port in Myanmar. Ministry of Shipping has decided to start the India-Bangladesh- Myanmar-Sri Lanka/ Maldives direct shipping services by SCI. Myanmar is the gateway to ASEAN. Myanmar is the only nation in ASEAN , which has both road and sea borders with India.

Today, Indian economy is globally integrated. It has become one of the important wings for global growth. To this end, polarization of Make in India on sectoral growth and labour intensive industries are not enough for success. Integration of manufacturing through GVC had become the need of the hour for Make in India success.

Automobile, electronic and digitization are the component based industries. Developed nations , particularly Japan , fragmented component manufacturing for these industries in ASEAN countries for the benefit of low cost. India too developed its automobile industry and is on the trajectory for development of electronic industries, such as mobile phone manufacturing and thrust on digitization. In this perspectives, India’s initiative to develop India- ASEAN connectivity and focus on skill development are timely attempts to make India viable for partnership to GVC manufacturing network and eject a new challenge for Make in India success.


Vijay Diwas: Startup Lessons In Resource Management From The Indo-Pak 1971 War


The 1971 war ended with "the unilateral and unconditional surrender of the Pakistan Army". Thus, "Vijay Diwas" is observed on 16 December

by Maj. Sunil Shetty, SM (Retd)

Women and men wearing passion on their sleeve jump into entrepreneurial voyage giving everything they have. Knowing well this one-way ticket means either you succeed or fail. The mantra is simple-If you believe in your passion, make it happen or go down with it.

This week, India marks the 46th anniversary of its military victory over Pakistan that led to the creation of a new nation- Bangladesh.

The 1971 war ended with "the unilateral and unconditional surrender of the Pakistan Army". Thus, "Vijay Diwas", meaning Victory day, is observed on 16 December across India by "paying tributes to the martyrs who laid down their lives for the nation."

I grew up hearing Indo-Pak war stories from my father who himself, during the 1971 war, was in the Indian Air Force posted at the Ambala Airbase, in Northern India. As a personal memoir, he collected newspaper clips of war stories that were reported by the press during and after the conflict. I had the privilege of presenting his collection, as part of my study paper on war correspondence, while studying for my journalism degree.

A few decades later, I also had the privilege of wearing the Olive-Green uniform, popularly known as the "OGs", in the Indian Army. And a decade later, after hanging my dress, I was drawn to the world of entrepreneurship- with little knowledge and experience to support my journey. I was not even sure if I would fit in the world of business. But to my surprise; I found there were numerous parallels between the two worlds. Let me share the same with you.

Most entrepreneurs will agree with me that uncertainty is an important factor in any entrepreneurial journey. Thus, as a leader your crisis management skills are tested time and again.

During my stint in the Army and now as an entrepreneur; there have been instances that tested my core. Each time after emerging out successfully, I realised that three essential characteristics mattered the most during a crisis; both in the military and the world of entrepreneurship. They are self-belief, leadership and resource management.

There were numerous acts of bravery and courage, by the Indian tri-services, which made the 1971 military victory possible. I have picked three stories that provide valuable insight to entrepreneurs.

Self-Belief Is Vital During Crisis:

I firmly believe that during crisis, one who has an unlimited supply of self-belief, attains greater heights. The story of Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Sekhon, a fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force, is one such chapter in the Indian military history.

During the 1971 war, Sekhon was based at the Srinagar airfield to defend the valley against Pakistani attacks.

On 14 December 1971, six Pakistani fighter jets attacked the airfield. Despite “the mortal danger of attempting to take off during the attack, Sekhon took off and immediately engaged the attacking enemy jets." Even though alone, the Flying Officer "engaged the enemy in an unequal combat." In the fight that followed, he destroyed two enemy aircrafts before, "his aircraft was shot down" by an enemy jet gunfire.

Armed forces across the world are known for such acts of heroism. When in crisis, brave men and women wearing patriotism on their sleeves, plunge into deadly situations. Such self-belief is contagious.


Leadership & Ingenuity During Crisis:

In a crisis, a good leader thinks, plan and executes with nerves of steel. And it is his/her calmness in an emergency situation that installs confidence among his/her troops and that leads to victory.

During the 1971 conflict, one such leadership story was played out in the eastern shores of India by Vice-Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan, commander in chief of the Eastern Naval Command.

Pakistan had deployed PNS Ghazi, a fast-attack submarine in the Bay of Bengal with a two-fold mission. The primary goal was to locate and sink INS Vikrant, an aircraft carrier, and the second was to mine India's eastern seaboard. To accomplish its mission, Ghazi quietly "sailed 3,000 miles around the Indian peninsula from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal."

Vice Admiral (VA) Krishnan was clear that Pakistan would "deploy Ghazi in the Bay of Bengal and a part of its plan was to sink the Indian aircraft carrier." However, he was a facing one more challenge; "INS Vikrant had suffered a crack in the carrier’s boiler," thereby reducing its speed and "making it highly vulnerable to attack."

Taking stock of the situation, VA Krishnan came up with a strategy that not only saved the prestigious warship but also led to the elimination of the Pakistani submarine.

The Eastern Naval Commander executed his plan in two parts; first he ensured that INS Vikrant was docked in safe water of Andaman away from the prying eyes of the enemy even before Ghazi entered the Bay of Bengal. At the same time, concerted action was taken to disseminate misinformation to mislead the enemy into believing that INS Rajput, an ageing warship, was the carrier ship Ghazi was hunting for and that it was stationed at Visakhapatnam.

As expected, Ghazi took the bait and met its end near the Visakhapatnam shores. Though there is a dispute on what lead to the sinking of Ghazi, it was the leadership of VA Krishnan that tricked the enemy submarine. "The ingenuity and deceptive planning that caused the submarine to a follow a pre-set path which ended in a watery grave" still "ranks as one of the great sea-faring victories in Indian naval history.”


Marshalling Resources In Crisis:

Entrepreneurs and soldiers have one thing in common - both have limited resources and are expected to deliver desired results. Thus, during crisis, marshalling of resources becomes the deciding factor between victory or defeat and success or failure.

The Battle of Longewala was one of the "first major engagements "in India's "western sector during the Indo-Pak War of 1971." The battle fought between "assaulting Pakistani Army and Indian forces at the Indian border post of Longewala in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan state in India" is an example of efficient marshalling resources in a time of crisis.

An Infantry company, roughly comprising a little of hundred men and reinforced by a detachment of BSF held out a massive attack by mechanised Pakistani troops.

The company, of the 23rd Battalion, Punjab Regiment, was commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri. The advancing enemy had superiority because of its numbers and military resources.

Major Chandpuri left with the choice of either holding out or make a tactical withdrawal. Choosing to fight, the Major ensured that "all his assets were correctly deployed and made the most use of his strong defensive position, and weaknesses created by errors in enemy tactics." Battle of Longewal "stands out as one of the biggest losses in a battle for Pakistan despite overwhelming superiority." Indian casualties in the battle were "two soldiers along with one of their jeep mounted recoil-less rifles knocked out." Pakistani losses were "200 soldiers killed, 34 tanks destroyed or abandoned,” and lost "500 additional vehicles."

As a child, many such war stories were narrated to me by my father or I read them. At that tender age, the war stories were about bravery and courage but as I grew up and especially after my stint in the Indian Army- I saw these stories in a different light. There was more to it than just bravery and courage.

My favourite war story of all time is of Company Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hamid, a hero of 1965 war who single-handedly destroyed Pakistani tanks with his recoil-less guns. This story had left a deep impression in my mind and heart and eventually led me to join the Indian Army.

Today, after spending 15 years in the world of entrepreneurship; I find it no different. Women and men wearing passion on their sleeve jump into entrepreneurial voyage giving everything they have. Knowing well this one-way ticket means either you succeed or fail and nothing in between. The mantra is simple-If you believe in your passion, make it happen or go down with it.


DRDO Has A Key Role In Realising PM's 'Make In India' Vision: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman


DRDO has a great role to play in realising PM Modi's 'Make in India' vision, the Defence Minister said

Visakhapatnam: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Defence Research and Development Organisation or DRDO has a great role in realising the 'Make in India' vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

She was speaking yesterday at a program organised for 'Transfer of the DRDO Developed Technologies to Industry' at the Naval Science and Technology Laboratory (NSTL) in Visakhapatnam.

The Naval Science and Technology Laboratory is a premier naval systems lab of the DRDO in the port city.

Ms Sitharaman complimented the DRDO scientists for the outstanding work in realising critical defence systems.

"The DRDO has a great role to play in realising the 'Make in India' vision of the prime minister," she said.

The minister said she was confident that the DRDO will rise to the challenge and transform India into a major exporter of defence systems, according to a release issued by the NSTL.

Ms Sitharaman was the chief guest at the program.

'Make in India' is a flagship initiative of the NDA government to make the position of the country as a manufacturing hub.


In Kashmir, India And Pakistan Race To Tap The Himalayas

Lacking in basic technologies, Pakistan has taken Chinese assistance to build their Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project in Nosari

The arch rivals have been building duelling power plants along the banks of the turquoise Neelum River for years. The two projects, located on opposite sides of the LoC, are close to completion, fuelling tensions between the neighbours. The rivalry on the Neelum is underlined by both countries' unquenchable need for freshwater

MUZAFFARABAD: Several hundred metres underground, thousands of labourers grind away day and night on a mammoth hydroelectric project in contested Kashmir, where India and Pakistan are racing to tap the subcontinent's diminishing freshwater supplies.

The arch rivals have been building duelling power plants along the banks of the turquoise Neelum River for years.

The two projects, located on opposite sides of the Line of Control — the de facto border in Kashmir — are now close to completion, fuelling tensions between the neighbours with Pakistan particularly worried their downstream project will be deprived of much-needed water by India.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is at the heart of a 70-year conflict between the nuclear-armed foes, with both sides laying claim to the conflict-riven territory.

The rivalry on the Neelum is underlined by both countries' unquenchable need for freshwater, as their surging populations and developing economies continue to stress already diminished waters tables.

This situation represents a serious challenge to Pakistan's food security and long-term growth, its central bank recently warned in a report.

The geography of the wider region only exacerbates the problem.

The Indus River — into which the waters of the Neelum ultimately flow — is one of the longest on the continent, cutting through ultra-sensitive borders in the region.

It rises in Tibet, crosses Kashmir and waters 65 per cent of Pakistan's territory, including the vast, fertile plains of Punjab province — the country's bread basket — before flowing into the Indian Ocean.

The Indus Water Treaty+ , painfully ratified in 1960 under the auspices of the World Bank, theoretically regulates water allocation between the countries and is considered a rare diplomatic success story Kishanganga power station+ is also in its final phase, but has delayed its late 2017 completion date, according to an official, in part because of ongoing unrest in the Kashmir valley.

Pakistan has filed cases at the World Bank+ against India and the Neelum dam, which it says will unfairly restrict the amount of water headed downstream.

According to the plant's director Nayyar Aluddin, the production of electricity could shrink by 10-13 per cent because of the Indian project.

But the hydroelectric projects on the Neelum River are only one of several points of friction between the two countries as the Indus Treaty faces increasingly pressing disputes.

Beyond the technical bickering, Islamabad is especially afraid of India cutting into its precious water supplies during strategic agricultural seasons that are key to feeding the country's 207 million residents.

The possibility of hitting Pakistan's food supply is regularly amped up by both Indian and Pakistani media, stretching perennially taut relations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinted at such reprisals following an attack in Kashmir's Uri by Pakistan-based terrorists in September 2016.

"Blood and water can't flow together," he said.

However, a blockade of any significant magnitude is not really technically feasible, while neither party has seriously sought to challenge the Treaty of the Indus.

"The disputes over the barrages are mostly symptoms of poor bilateral relationships," said Gareth Price, a researcher at Chatham House.