Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Made-In-India Fighters: Rafale Fire Rains On MiG's Retirement Parade

The 36 Rafale jets which have been ordered would barely make up for the number of MiG jets that are retiring in the coming months

by Manu Pubby

The Indian Air Force’s wait for new fighter jets to replace an ageing MiG fleet is set to get longer. The selection process to identify combat aircraft to be made in India is unlikely to commence before the general elections this year, high-level sources indicate.

Steps to induct a Future Multi-Role Fighter (FMRF) has been awaited since 2016, when the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets was signed and a decision was taken to manufacture 110 fighters under a new strategic partnership policy intended to promote the private sector.

Several officials ET spoke to confirmed that responses have been received from seven companies after a preliminary request.

The inputs were being studied to firm up the technical requirement the Air Force would mandate for the formal selection process to begin, the officials said.

The slack is on account of the shadow cast by the Rafale controversy that has impacted decision making.

Multiple rounds of meetings have taken place with foreign vendors who have responded to the preliminary request, and the Air Force has been studying how much of indigenous production it can mandate for the contract. The plan is to ensure that fighters made in India under the scheme have no less than 45% local content.

“As things stand, it will not be possible to move ahead quickly as the matter is being studied. The competition can now only begin once a government is in place after the upcoming elections,” sources told ET.

The biggest decision to be made by the Air Force is on the qualitative requirements – a set of performance and maintenance parameters – that will determine how many of the competitors even make the cut to the next level for validation trials. The fate of many competitors hang on this, given that at present, a variety of jets – from the single-engine SAAB Gripen to twin-engines such as Russian Su 35 – are vying for the contract.

Officials said the next step, issuing an ‘expression of interest’ to foreign vendors as well as Indian suppliers is not expected to take place before elections, contrary to some expectations that the process could be announced at the upcoming Aero India show in Bangalore next month.

Sharing details, sources said that unlike in case of the competition for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, the Air Force does not plan to carry out extensive field trials that could take up to two years. Instead, certain parameters would be individually assessed, most likely in the host nation of the jets on offer.

“Six out of the seven competitors have already been flight tested. Yes, they have added some capability like new avionics and radars and we can have limited tests if needed,” an official said.

While at least a preliminary process for gathering information has started with foreign vendors, the defence ministry is yet to reach out to Indian companies that need to be selected to manufacture the jets domestically. According to the strategic partnership policy, the government needs to have in place a set of financial and technical parameters to identify these Indian companies. However, this has not kicked off yet for the fighter program.

The Air Force, meanwhile, continues to grapple with a serious shortage of combat aircraft. The 36 Rafale jets which have been ordered would barely make up for the number of MiG jets that are retiring in the coming months.

The IAF’s fighter strength is likely to go down to 29 squadrons by March this year, against a sanctioned 42 squadrons. The slowing down of the contract to induct 110 jets contract is likely to bring down fighter strength further in the coming three years.

DRDO Develops Advanced Laser Pods To Boost Fighter Jet's Attack Skills

Laser Designator Pods (LDPs) are complex laser targeting systems used by the military. American firm Lockheed Martin has been developing a cost-effective fibre laser system that will be demonstrated on a fighter jet in 2021. According to Sources, Indian scientists claim that their laser designator pod is highly cost-effective and accurate.

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an advanced and most sought after weapon targeting system in the world, which sharpens the attack capabilities of fighter jets in all-weather conditions. With this development, it is believed that the day and night attack capabilities of India's homegrown Tejas fighter jets will be greatly improved.

"Laser designator pod (LDP) is the laser sensor-cum-targeting system used in aircraft and provides inputs in actual flight conditions. These are advanced airborne infrared targeting and navigation pods to improve both day and night attack capabilities in all weather conditions. It performs tasks like detection, recognition, identification, designation of surface targets, accurate delivery of guided bombs and accurate ranging", an official involved with the project told Sputnik on the condition of anonymity.

Indian scientists P. Suresh Kumar, NNSSRK Prasad and K. Senthil Kumar, who developed the system indigenously evaluated the performance of the LDP and found that the achieved average positioning accuracy in terms of azimuth and elevation computation for static and moving ground targets was +/- 2.3 metres. It met all the requirements needed to test the air-to-ground weapons in a flight simulator.

The French Rafale fighter jet, likely to be inducted into the Indian Air Force by September this year, is equipped with the Damocles laser designator pod designed by THALES. The manufacturer claims that it brings full day and night laser designation capability to Rafale. It has ranging (distance sensing) and targeting precision in metres.

It permits laser-guided weapons to be delivered at stand-off range and altitude. Damocles is interoperable with all existing laser-guided weapons.

America's Lockheed Martin has plans to develop a high-powered laser system for the US Air Force, which is slated for a demonstration on a retrofitted fighter jet in 2021. The sensor is being developed as part of an Air Force Research Laboratory program called the Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator, or SHiELD.

Lockheed Sees Potential Exports of 200 F-16 Jets From Proposed Indian Plant

India's defence ministry is expected to issue an expression of interest over the next several months

Lockheed Martin sees a potential export market of more than $20 billion for its F-16 fighter aircraft from an assembly line in India it has offered to set up in order to win a large Indian military order, a top executive said.

The U.S. defence firm is competing with Boeing's F/A-18, Saab's Gripen, Dassault Aviation's Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon and a Russian aircraft to supply the Indian air force with 114 combat planes in a deal estimated to be worth more than $15 billion.

Lockheed Martin has offered to shift its F-16 production line from the United States to India, potentially the biggest boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make-in-India project to create a defence industrial base and generate jobs for the thousands of youth entering the workforce each month.

Vivek Lall, the vice president of strategy and business development at Lockheed, told Reuters that the firm would make India the sole global production centre for the F-16 that would meet the requirements for the Indian military but also overseas markets.

"We see current demand outside of India of more than 200 aircraft. The value of those initial acquisition programs would likely exceed $20 billion," Lall said.

Bahrain and Slovakia had picked the F-16 Block 70 that had been offered to India, he said. "We are in discussions with Bulgaria, several other countries, 10 countries. There is a kind of a renaissance of the F-16."

India's defence ministry is expected to issue an expression of interest over the next several months, followed by a request for proposals in a long, drawn out process for the air force contract.

India’s military has said it wants 42 squadrons of jets, around 750 aircraft, to defend against a two pronged attack from China and Pakistan. But with old Russian jets like the MiG-21, first used in the 1960s, retiring soon, it could end up with only 22 squadrons by 2032, officials have warned.

Lall said the plan to relocate the F-16 plant which was originally in Fort Worth, Texas, will not undermine U.S. President Donald Trump's signature goal of moving manufacturing back to America.

The plant in Texas is being used to produce the fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that the United States Air Force is transitioning to.

Lall said there would still be work done out of the United States even if production of the F-16 moves to India and that Make in India and Trump's Make America Great Again were not at cross purposes.

"I think they complementary. The U.S. has a certain amount engineering and strength that will continue as long as the product is there, that will continue even when production moves."

Lockheed has picked TATA Advanced Systems as its Indian partner for the proposed F-16 plant and last year it announced that their joint venture will produce wings for the aircraft in India, regardless of whether it wins the Indian military order.

HAL To Increase Overhaul Capacity From 12 To 25 Su-30 Fighters Yearly: Minister

India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has decided to overhaul 25 Su-30 jets every year, up from 12.

"The Ministry of Defence has plans to increase the overhauling capacity of Sukhoi 30 up to 25 aircraft a year in the future," Subash Bhamre, Union minister of state for defence was quoted as saying by Times of India Thursday.

HAL has so far manufactured 260 Su-30 aircraft, with two more to be manufactured by the end of this year.

Overhauling of Su-30 aircraft increases its lifespan by 10 years from original 10.

"The first batch of aircraft manufactured in 2004 completed 10 years in 2014. Currently, HAL has been overhauling 12 Su-30 aircraft a year at its Ozar division, the news daily reported quoting an unnamed source as saying.

Why Rafale Politics May Compromise India’s Defence Potential

Rafale has proved its mettle in wars, and the air force selected it after gruelling competitive trials in which it emerged the winner. India is purchasing it duly configured with latest add-ons as per its operational requirements

by Major General Mrinal Suman

Yet the criticism goes on unabated, albeit with newer allegations concocted at regular intervals. The sole aim is to keep throwing mud, in the fond hope that some of it would stick.

The hollowness and stridency of the anti-Rafale campaign has surprised all for its sheer brazenness and inconsistency. The government answers one point and the critics invent a new one to keep the pot boiling.

Sample the shifting sands:

  • -due process was not followed
  • -price paid is much more than that of the non-deal
  • -number of aircraft has been reduced from the earlier 126 to 36
  • -Ambani has been favoured by denying orders to HAL
  • -Ambani has no experience in manufacturing aircraft
  • -payments to HAL are being withheld to force engineers to quit and join Ambani company
  • …and the goalposts keep changing

Before discussing the issue further, four facts need to be flagged here:

  • One, Rafale’s selection cannot be questioned as it emerged as the winner after gruelling technical and commercial evaluations under the previous government
  • Two, the current order was placed through a government to government deal with no middleman/agent
  • Three, no act of corruption or trail of slush money has been reported
  • Finally, even the Supreme Court has expressed its satisfaction with the correctness of the deal

With all these facts addressed there is a need to enquire about the purpose behind this continuous baying and unseemly mud-slinging. This write-up endeavours to unravel this mystery.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in August 2007 for the procurement of 126 fighters – 18 to be bought in fully built up condition while the balance quantity of 108 was to be manufactured in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under transfer of technology.

Six manufacturers submitted their proposals. After extensive trials, two platforms were found technically acceptable – Dassault’s Rafale and European Consortium’s Eurofighter. Finally, Rafale emerged as the winner (L1) due to its lower life-cycle cost and an announcement to that effect was duly made on 31 January 2012.

Shortly thereafter, negotiations commenced with L1. However, even after prolonged meetings, the deal could not be concluded. By 2014, talks had reached a total impasse with no signs of a breakthrough. It became clear that the deal was dead for all practical purposes. The then defence minister A K Antony admitted so publicly. The Indian Air Force (IAF) was worried and made its disquiet known to the new government in no uncertain terms.

While on a tour of France in April 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s intent to place an order for 36 ‘ready-to-fly’ Rafale fighter jets to meet emergent requirements. It was to be a government to government deal and at terms better than those offered earlier. IAF heaved a sigh of relief as it was a desperate measure to boost its diminishing strength. After detailed negotiations, the deal was concluded in September 2016.

No questions were raised by anyone when the government terminated the stalled deal or when intent to buy 36 aircraft in fly-away condition was announced or even when the contract was concluded in September 2016. The urgency was appreciated and the government to government deal was found to be the best way forward.

Reasons For Non-Conclusion of The Earlier Deal

It remains a mystery as to why a deal so critical to India’s defence potential could not be concluded even after 28 months (Jan 2012 to May 2014) of intense negotiations. Nevertheless, a number of reasons are being cited in the media – Dassault’s reservations regarding HAL’s capability to absorb high technologies, refusal of Dassault to stand guarantee for the aircraft manufactured by HAL, and requirement of excessive man-hours by HAL, thereby escalating cost and delaying the production schedule.

In addition, in early February 2014, Antony dropped a bomb by announcing, “There are complaints about the procedure of calculating the Life Cycle Cost and that issue is not yet settled”. He further added that the government had no funds to buy the fighters.

Both the reasons were bizarre, to say the least. Rafale was declared L1 in January 2012 and no one questioned the methodology at that time. Why this belated reaction? Why was the farce of finalising contractual provisions (including transfer of technology to HAL) continued with Rafale for two years when the very basis of selecting Rafale was suspect?

As regards non-availability of funds, no procurement proposal is ever initiated without assured availability of funds. Financial adequacy is a pre-requisite. One wonders as to how a sovereign nation could carry on negotiations with a foreign defence manufacturer without committed funds. Was it just a sham exercise?

The latest press reports reveal that considerable pressure was being exerted by the losing competitor Eurofighter. Reportedly, a strategy paper for its promotion has been recovered that indicates involvement of Christian Michel and Guido Haschke. Many fear that the fighter deal was scuttled by vested interests who did not want India to buy Rafales. They wanted the case to be aborted and fresh bids invited. It is time-tested ploy used by many losing competitors.

As a last-ditch effort, Eurofighter submitted a fresh unsolicited bid to the Modi government on 4 July 2014, reducing its earlier commercial quote by 20 per cent, making it lower than that of Rafale. However, there was no way a revised bid could be accepted by the government. The Defence Procurement Procedure does not permit it at all, and rightly so. No deal can ever be finalised if the competing parties are allowed to keep underbidding each other after the commercial quotes are opened.

The Probity Angle

In an article by this author in the Indian Defence Review the contours of the vulnerability map of India’s defence procurement procedure had been identified. This sort of mapping is crucial to identify stages where the system could be subjected to external influences and to indicate the degree of such vulnerability.

Stages where the procedure was found to be vulnerable to unfair manipulation included initiation of proposal and allocation of priority; formulation of qualitative requirements; field trials; staff evaluation; determination of lowest bidder; acceptance and implementation of offset obligations; and grant of final approval.

For various stages, the degree of vulnerability to corruption was graded as least, moderate, considerable and maximum. Most revealingly, ‘grant of final approval’ was the only stage that got graded ‘maximum’, implying that it was most vulnerable to corrupt practices. Let us try to understand this stage further.

After concluding negotiations with L1, the Contract Negotiation Committee submits its report to the defence minister for acceptance by the competent financial authority (CFA). No deal can be concluded unless the CFA accords sanction. CFA can hold up a proposal indefinitely or raise incessant queries. The authority can even let a case lapse.

Having gone through agonising technical and commercial evaluations, the stakes for L1 are exceedingly high at this stage. The deal is within their reach. Consequently, they are extremely susceptible to arm-twisting and can be coerced to shell out bribe money. It is a possibility that huge amounts have to be paid to ‘buy’ CFA sanction and hence most vendors factor it in their initial commercial bid itself. Such bribes carry the taxonomy of ‘facilitation money’.

The fighter deal could have followed a similar path. Rafale was declared L1 on 31 January 2012. It is apparent that the real reason for not signing the contract was either Dassault’s failure/refusal to oblige or gratuitous intervention by the Eurofighter.

Hence, it was belatedly ‘discovered’ that the methodology adopted to determine L1 needed a relook, that too after discussing contractual minutiae with Rafale for over two years. Can there be a more ludicrous excuse to stall the case! Interestingly, the Eurofighter is already facing allegations of misdemeanour in its sales to many other countries.

Timing of The Criticism

As stated earlier, there was no criticism when Modi announced India’s intent to buy 36 aircraft nor when the deal was concluded in September 2016. On the contrary, many observers called it a masterstroke to meet emergent requirements of the air force. Suddenly, in November 2017, the deal came under flak and was termed a scam for non-adherence to procedure, escalated cost and promotion of a private company at the cost of HAL.

The timing of the anti-Rafale campaign is revealing. Two related developments need to be recounted here. First, there were reports in a section of media that the air force was considering procurement of two more squadrons of Rafale in a fly-away condition as an interim measure as the fresh case for 110 fighters would have taken unacceptably long to fructify.

Incidentally, both Rafale and Eurofighter figure in the list of six vendors who have responded to the new request for information (RFI) wherein 15 per cent fighters are to be bought in fully built condition and the balance to be indigenously manufactured through a strategic partner.

Secondly and more importantly, in January 2017, the Indian Navy issued a RFI for purchasing approximately 57 multi-role fighters for operation from aircraft carriers. It was hinted that the contract could become bigger with additional procurement through the option clause.

Four manufacturers have shown interest; Rafale is reported to be one of them. For India, it makes sense to opt for Rafale, provided it emerges as the lowest technically acceptable bidder. Synergy of operations and commonality of infra-structural facilities will prove immensely beneficial.

The anti-Rafale campaign has become more strident of late. The sole aim is to prevent Rafale from bagging further orders. Some planted articles have gone to ridiculous limits, questioning the suitability of Rafale for India. According to certain sections of the media, Rafale is the wrong choice. Rafale was invited to participate in trials in August 2007 – wonder why it has taken these ‘learned people’ over a decade to get ‘enlightened’ about the unsuitability of Rafale!

Let us look at some interesting aspects of the whole conundrum. Rafale is an excellent fighter aircraft. It has proved its mettle in wars. The air force selected it after gruelling competitive trials in which it emerged the winner. India is purchasing it duly configured with latest add-ons as per its operational requirements.

Purchase of two squadrons in a fly away condition was the quickest way to cover critical gaps in India’s air capabilities till a fresh case fructifies. The deal was a government to government contract with no middleman and decidedly on terms more favourable to India than those offered in the aborted case. There is no slush money.

Yet the criticism goes on unabated, albeit with newer allegations concocted at regular intervals. Even when an allegation is duly rebutted with facts, the critics decline to debate the replies but keep harping on newer allegations. The sole aim is to keep throwing mud, in the fond hope that some of it would stick. Subjective stories are planted by certain sections of the media, to raise questions about the sanctity of the procedure followed. Some of the media persons start casting aspersions on the quality of the system being procured.

Corruption must be exposed but it is anti-national to stall modernisation of the armed forces by resorting to witch-hunting with wild accusations to settle political scores. The decision-makers (political leaders, bureaucrats and the military brass) get deterred by such a scenario. They consider it safer not to conclude any defence contract during their tenure lest they get hounded later in life for the decisions taken in good faith. The defence potential of the country should never fall prey to political slug-fest. That shall prove perilous.

The author commanded his regiment in the Kargil-Siachen sector and was the Task Force Commander at Pokharan for sinking shafts for the nuclear tests. He is a prolific writer and is considered to be the foremost expert on myriad aspects of India’s defence industry, procurement regime and offsets.

Want More Budgetary Allocation For Defence In The Upcoming Budget, Says Baba Kalyani

Want more budgetary allocation for defence in the upcoming budget, says Baba Kalyani. Need to give govt more time to ease out issues in defence procurement: Kalyani. Not concerned with long waiting period for FICV down-selection to fall though: Kalyani

Baba Kalyani, chairman of Kalyani Group, spoke to CNBC-TV18 about the government’s focus on 'Make In India' in defence procurement and implementation of policies in the sector.

“We are now beginning to see a fairly good amount of coherence between policy, between the ministry of defence, between the services and the industry, all moving in the same direction. So I expect to see a lot of things happening very soon in this area,” Kalyani said.

Speaking about long-waiting periods for Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) deals, he said, “I don’t think I am concerned about it. The process has just started. To be fair, you need to give it some time.”

On budgetary requirements from the finance ministry, Kalyani added, “As far as the budget is concerned, probably as far as defence industry is concerned, we probably need more money for procurement because I think that is one of the worries that everybody has. The whole modernisation process of the services is beginning to take place. That requires a huge amount of money to buy equipment and to keep equipment in place. So I hope defence budget increases.”

View: Sikkim, As A Model of Stability, Bolsters India's Defences: Claude Arpi

IAF plans to land strategically important aircraft such as C-17 Globemaster at Pakyong airfield

This is the first landing by an AN-32 class of aircraft at the airfield, which is one of the highest airfields in India

In the summer of 2017, the Doklam incident could have taken a dramatic turn for India (and China too!); fortunately, it ended well with the withdrawal of the Chinese and Indian armies from an area near the tri-junction between Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan. However, in early 2018, several media reports mentioned fast-paced road construction activities in the area, particularly a 12-km-long stretch from Yatung, in Chumbi Valley, to Doklam, being built by China.

"The black-topping of the road which, according to sources, has been underway since the middle of September 2017, means that the Doklam plateau will see an increasing deployment of PLA in days to come," News18 reported.

A crucial factor in India's favour has been the strategic and political stability of the border state of Sikkim. For several reasons, it is vital for India's security that it remains so. First, Denjong or the Valley of Rice, as Sikkim is traditionally known, is a prosperous state; that the charismatic Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has become the longest serving Indian Chief Minister in 2018 is a clear sign of its stability.

Sikkim is also India's first organic state, showing the way to other progressive states in the country. On October 12, 2018, Sikkim won the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Future Policy Award 2018 for being the world's first 100 percent organic state. The citation said, "Sikkim is the first organic state in the world. All of its farmland is certified organic.

Embedded in its design are Socio-Economic aspects such as consumption and market expansion, cultural aspects as well as health, education, rural development and sustainable tourism." This makes Sikkim particularly special.

In terms of India's security, Sikkim remains a trend-setter and a model; India can't afford to have insecure and unhappy borders, when the northern neighbour is always ready to change the status quo. Another welcome change has been the disenclavement of the state.

On September 24, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated an aerodrome at Pakyong, near Gangtok, Sikkim's capital. The airport has been constructed at a cost of some Rs 600 crore, the first commercial flight from Pakyong taking off on October 4 with SpiceJet operating 78-seater Bombardier Q400 flights to and from Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati. Recently, an Antonov AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force landed for the first time at Pakyong. It will be a game-changer for the Indian Army.

The way for India to strengthen its Himalayan boundary lies perhaps in Sikkim. When one reaches Gangtok, the first thing one realises is that Sikkim is spotlessly clean and the environment well-protected. This is particularly striking when coming from a state where plastic and garbage litter every public place. It is a truly refreshing and uplifting experience to see clean forests, streams and villages. Driving up from West Bengal, Sikkim seems like paradise.

This brings the possibility of developing Eco-tourism, which could bring rich dividends. But that is probably not enough. It is also necessary to empower the local population. Chamling has recently decided to institute a universal basic income for each of Sikkim's 610,577 citizens. If the scheme is a success, Sikkim will become India's most progressive state.

Though Sikkim is today stable, large sections of society feel they have been victim to historical injustices in the past. After the merger with India in 1975, some communities were excluded from tribal status. A two-day summit, organised by EIECOS (Eleven Indigenous Ethnic Communities of Sikkim), in May 2018 in Gangtok demanded that all communities with a Sikkim Subjects Card should be given tribal status and Sikkim be declared a tribal state, like other north-eastern states. Three years after Sikkim joined India in a quasi-unanimous referendum, some communities were unfortunately left out, while Scheduled Tribe recognition was granted to others.

While inaugurating the Sikkim Summit for Tribal Status 2018, Chamling said: "We embraced India as a country on the condition of never compromising our uniqueness as Sikkimese people, protected by the Indian Constitution."

With fast-paced developments taking place on India?s borders, the pressure is going to greatly increase. For the local population to remain steadfast, a small gesture such as granting tribal status to Sikkim would go a long way to make the people of Sikkim happier and, therefore, more prepared to support the defence of India's borders.

This is valid for other Himalayan states which too have their long-pending demands which are often ignored by Delhi. It is true for Ladakh, for Arunachal Pradesh and also for Himachal and Uttarakhand. India needs to satisfy the basic aspirations of the local populations and give them the freedom to develop according to their own genius.

A visit to Nathu La, the border pass between India and China, makes one realise the strategic importance of Sikkim which has the potential to keep peace between the two Asian giants despite recurrent tensions. It witnesses BPMs (Border Personnel Meetings) between the Indian and Chinese Army, in a hut built for the purpose, several times a year. It symbolises the decision taken at the highest levels in India and China to resolve localised border issues around a table.

The Himalayan people may not represent a large or politically influential section of the Indian population, but the country's security depends on them. Let us hope that Sikkim can remain a model of stability and lean environment as well as a beacon for other Indian states. It is the need of the hour.

Indian Air Force To Operationalise Remote Eastern Airstrip Bordering China By February

Arunachal Pradesh: Indian Air Force To Operationalise India’s Eastern-Most Airstrip In Vijaynagar By February

Indian Air Force (IAF), after operationalising all six airports in Arunachal Pradesh, has shifted its focus to Vijaynagar, situated at the eastern tip of India.

It plans to upgrade its landing facilities and make it operational by the end of February.

Vijaynagar (also known as Vijoynagar) is a remote Tehsil in Arunachal’s Changlang district. It is surrounded by Myanmar on three sides and the nearest road-head is at Miao, which is a four day trek for the locals. There is an old airstrip in the Vijaynagar valley but has not been used since 2016.

Maintaining the airstrip has been a challenge thanks to no road connectivity. All repair material, including road rollers, petrol, diesel and bitumen have to be ferried via helicopters.

Arunachal Pradesh, which shares 1,100 km border with China, has six landing strips. Earlier, a fighter jet landed in Passighat, a transport plane C-17 landed at Mechuka and a C-130 was operated from Tezu.

Last year, in April, these six airstrips, which are called advanced landing grounds (ALGs), were used for a massive IAF exercise.

No Threat In Having Indian Personnel On Our Soil, Says Maldivian Defence Minister

Stating that the island nation was not a “small island state” but rather a “big ocean state”, Didi said that maritime security was extremely important for the Maldives and that the country’s “ties with India help to improve our maritime security.”

New Delhi: Maldivian Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi has said that the presence of Indian personnel on her country’s soil was not a cause of concern as they remained in “full control.”

In an exclusive interview to News18, Didi said that the Maldives government was grateful to the Indian government for giving the Maldivian armed forces two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and also for agreeing to underwrite the costs of piloting and maintaining the aircraft.

“The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) remains in full control of the helicopters. I don’t have any concerns over the Indian pilots because they remain under Maldivian command and control. We should be very grateful to the pilots, because they have often risked their lives, flying in bad weather, to rescue stranded fishermen or airlift sick or injured Maldivians from remote islands and bring them to a hospital,” she said.

She also added that it was a shame that the Maldivians had not signed up for pilot training, something that the previous government under Abdulla Yameen had opened up. 

“This is a shame because it would be nice to see Maldivian pilots flying alongside their Indian counterparts. Perhaps it is because Maldivians prefer to learn to fly fixed-wing aircraft, such as seaplanes, which are used in the tourism industry. The opportunity to train as a helicopter pilot is still open for Maldivians, and I hope in future we have more people interested in taking advantage of that,” she added.

India gifted Maldives two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters in 2013. One of them was operated by the Indian Coast Guard and the other one by the Indian Navy. The Maldivian government under Abdulla Yameen made it clear last year that it wanted India to take back the copters and the crew, which includes around 6 pilots, by the end of June, 2018. 

The choppers, however, did not return and when the current Maldivian government under President Ibrahim Solih came to power, it made it clear that it had no intention of returning the helicopters. Didi also stated that in just the first 16 days of 2019, the helicopters made 10 emergency medical evacuations, rushing 10 Maldivians with life-threatening conditions to hospital.

The Maldivian Defence Minister also said that ties between the two nations had deteriorated during the previous regime and it was in the respective self-interests of both countries to continue cooperation on defence ties.

Stating that the island nation was not a “small island state” but rather a “big ocean state”, Didi said that maritime security was extremely important for the Maldives and that the country’s “ties with India help to improve our maritime security.”

“We have an enormous EEZ, and over a thousand islands. This is a vast area to police and defend. Maritime security is therefore extremely important for us, and our ties with India help to improve our maritime security,” she further said, adding that security cooperation with India helps to keep Maldivians safe and that it combats a variety of problems, from piracy to illegal fishing to smuggling.

Pakistan Digs Up Another Issue; Says Indian Mission Has No 'Completion Certificate'

Indian High commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria

Pakistan has dug up another issue in the ongoing saga of harassment of Indian mission and Indian diplomats in Islamabad. This time it is the Capital development authority of Pakistan that had demanded "completion certificate" from the Indian high commission in Islamabad on the new compound. The authority has said the Indian mission has constructed, occupied and is functioning from the new building without a completion certificate.

Capital Development Authority is the nodal body for providing municipal services in Islamabad Capital Territory. The Pakistani foreign ministry has raised the matter with India via a note verbale. India has taken up this matter with Pakistani high commission officials in Delhi.

The development comes, even as harassment of Indian diplomats continues. There were 4 major incidents of harassment of India diplomats in December of 2018. On 4th December 2018, the Indian high commissioner and deputy high commissioner were aggressively kept watched by Pakistani agencies during an event in Islamabad. On 10th December someone tried to forcibly barge into the house of an Indian diplomat, on 21st December Indian High Commission team was questioned for 4 hours on the road in Peshawar and on 25th electricity was cut for 4 hours at the house of an Indian diplomat.

Other than this there was a hacking attempt of social media accounts of Indian diplomats. India has sent note verbale to Pakistani foreign ministry and raised the matter many times with them.

In the last 2 weeks, Indian High commissioner Ajay Bisaria has met with Pakistan's foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua and Pakistani high commissioner Sohail Mahmood has met Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale to discuss a range of issues from Karatarpur corridor to harassment of diplomats.

Operation Kabaddi - When India Was Ready Launch Military Operation Against Pakistan Similar To Kargil 

With Operation Kabaddi – the Indian Army was ready to strike Pakistan with largest ever operation across the border by capturing at least 25 selected Pakistani posts along the Line of Control (LoC). The Operation Kabaddi would have been similar to Kargil infiltration by Pakistan

'Operation Kabaddi’, would have been on a scale far larger than the “land-grab” attempted by Pakistan, which led to the Kargil war in 1999, as well as the surgical strikes launched by India in 2016, says the book, Line on Fire: Ceasefire Violations and India-Pakistan Escalation Dynamics.

“The objective of [Operation Kabaddi] was to change the geography of the LoC with access to tactical points there, which would then help them [the Army] tackle the infiltration of militants by the Pakistani side,” the author of the book Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Happymon Jacob told The Hindu.

“When compared to what the Pakistanis did in Kargil, that was an opportunistic takeover of land, and winter-vacated posts, where Gen. Musharraf tried to take advantage of an opportunity: but at most it was a small tactical operation that went out of control,” Prof. Jacob explained.

Quoting two officers involved in the planning of the operation — Lt. Gen. Rustom K. Nanavatty, (Northern Army Commander, 2001-2003), and Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag, General Officer Commanding in Chief (GOC in C) of the Army’s Northern Command and Central Command 2006-2008) — the book says operational details were discussed at a June 2001 meeting held at the office of the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) in New Delhi.

The meeting was chaired by then Indian Army Chief Gen. Sundararajan Padmanabhan. (The Hindu contacted Gen. Padmanabhan, but he declined to comment. In the book, too, he has declined comment citing a poor memory of the period in question.)

The plan involved capturing 25 to 30 Pakistani army posts from the Batalik sector in the Ladakh region of J&K right down to Chamb-Jaurian in the Jammu sector, with around one or two posts assigned for capture per brigade.

The posts were to be overrun in a surprise operation in “multiple phases”, the book reveals, but the operation was to be completed in a limited time, so as not to lead to a full-scale war.

Eventually, the units were prepared for Op Kabaddi on September 1, 2001, but the order to proceed was never given the changed geopolitical situation after the 9/11 attacks as it would have been considered “taking advantage of a tragedy” and “viewed unfavourably by the international community”, Prof. Jacob writes.

It is significant that in December 2001, after the Parliament attack, the Army mobilised for the more conventional Operation Parakram and a standoff with the Pakistani army that lasted for months.


A senior officer who was then posted along the Line of Control said a “major operation” was planned and Lt. Gen. Nanavatty had come down and briefed them on one occasion. “We did not know the name of the operation as we were not in the planning but it was known. Every battalion was planning something,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.

However, the Army did not respond to questions from The Hindu about Operation Kabaddi. Former Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D.S. Hooda stated that local actions keep happening at the LoC but the Army cannot do an operation of this magnitude on its own.

“I am not aware of the specifics of the operation. But an operation of this magnitude across the entire LoC, from Kargil to Akhnoor, cannot be done without the clearance from the political establishment.”

Key political figures of the time — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and NSA Brajesh Mishra — have since passed away, while former Defence Ministers Jaswant Singh and George Fernandes are now indisposed.

The Risk Factor

The book says that Operation Kabaddi would include a “wide spectrum of evolving punitive operations such as the execution of deliberate fire assaults to destroy military and terrorist points, and area targets across the LoC; ambushes and raids across the LOC; and company, battalion, and brigade-sized deliberate offensive attacks to capture objectives of tactical importance across the LoC that would improve the Indian Army’s counter-insurgency (CI) posture.”

According to Prof. Jacob, the book reveals such details that remain sensitive 18 years later so as to show the extent of “risk-taking” that is done by the armies on both sides of the LoC under “the nuclear umbrella”. This should be highlighted to enforce a bilateral mechanism that would bring down tensions between India and Pakistan, he suggested.

Indian military officials have announced that 2018 witnessed the highest number of ceasefire violations, 2,936, by the Pakistani army since the ceasefire was announced by DGMOs in India and Pakistan in 2003. The Pakistani army has made similar claims about India. “Given the frightening rise in incidents, and the chance of escalating firing sparking off something bigger, it is necessary that the ceasefire is formalised,” Prof. Jacob said.

Defence Corridor Rakes In Over Rs 3,000 Crore For Tamil Nadu

Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday inaugurated the Tamil Nadu Defence Corridor, a major project that is likely to promote indigenous production of defence equipment. Industry leaders feel that the corridor, which connects Chennai, Hosur, Salem, Coimbatore and Tiruchy, will help the State become a major defence manufacturing hub

TIRUCHY: Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday inaugurated the Tamil Nadu Defence Corridor, a major project that is likely to promote indigenous production of defence equipment. Tamil Nadu has reportedly bagged investments worth 3,123.5 crore through the project.

Industry leaders feel that the corridor, which connects Chennai, Hosur, Salem, Coimbatore and Tiruchy, will help the State become a major defence manufacturing hub. Over 500 industry representatives, Vice Chief of Army, Navy and Air Force and senior officials attended the launch event.

The Ordnance Factory Board has announced an investment of around 2,305 crore along the corridor, while other public sector units like Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) have promised to invest over 100 crore in the State. Private companies such as TVS and Alpha Designs announced projects worth 50 crore and 100 crore respectively.

International aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and homegrown manufacturer Lakshmi Machine Works have also promised investments. In total, 10 private companies announced their plans to invest in aerospace, missile technology, rifle production and other defence production sectors during the launch event.

Though the manufacturing firms have not specifically mentioned where they would start their units, some ideal spots were listed out for them.

‘Private Players Won’t Affect Defence PSUs’

“Government is having about 1,000 acres of land in Manapparai, 1,300 acres in Krishnagiri, 1,000 acres in Dharmapuri and 900 acres in Hosur. Our government is willing to offer all the necessary support to the industries in making the investment,” Sampath assured.

With almost four lakh employees working in Ordnance Factories and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) planning to start three-day nationwide strike on Wednesday (January 23) against privatisation, Nirmala Sitharaman assured there was no threat to the future of any PSU.

“Entry of private players will not affect PSUs. The Defence sector will continue to place orders to the PSUs as usual. The union have the right to strike. But, the government is open for a solution,” Nirmala Sitharaman said. Also, the minister hit back at Congress on Rafale issue. “We have explained everything about Rafale in Parliament. But, the opposition was not paying heed,” Nirmala Sitharaman pointed out.

Incubation centre Defence Minister also launched the “CODISSIA Defence Innovation and Incubation Centre” to support the MSMEs, Start-Ups and also the existing industries in their endeavour for defence indigenisation.

Bangladesh Security Forces 'Pushed' Rohingya Refugees Into Indian Territory: BSF

The Border Security Force on January 20 said that the 31 Rohingya refugees apprehended from the 'zero line' between India and Bangladesh's border near Tripura's Rayemura were "pushed" by the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB)

Refuting the BGB's claims, the BSF asked them to identify lapses in the Indian side of the fence and show the place from where the crossing might have happened

On January 18, BSF troops posted at the border observed 'suspicious movement' from the Bangladesh territory. Later, the BGB made a telephone call and confirmed the activity, discovering a group of Rohingya refugees, BSF DIG Brajesh Kumar told ANI. A total of six men, nine women, and 16 children were found trying to enter into India.

The BGB alleged that the Rohingyas were "pushed by the BSF," into their territory.

"We alerted our troops and next morning approached the BGB to hold a flag meeting. The meeting was held on January 19. They said that there were 31 Rohingyas and claimed they were pushed by the BSF towards Bangladesh," Brajesh told ANI.

Refuting the BGB's claims, the BSF asked them to identify lapses in the Indian side of the fence and show the place from where the crossing might have happened.

"But they could not justify their allegations. They only keep harping that if they are on the Indian side, the BSF should take care of it. In fact, we later came to know that these people were apprehended by the BGB on their side," he said.

"It is not known from where they were apprehended, but after apprehending them, they snatched their documents and pushed them about 40-50-metre into the Indian territory from the zero line," Brajesh said.

"We also asked them if they crossed from India to Bangladesh, how are their ID cards with them (BGB)? It indicates they were brought by the BGB," the BSF DIG added.

Two flag meetings between the BSF and the BGB have been conducted, including a Commander-level meeting held in the area today. Another higher-level meeting will be held on Monday to pursue action towards resolving the issue.

The BSF has been providing food and water to the Rohingya refugees on humanitarian grounds.

Replying to questions regarding a potential standoff between the BGB and the BSF over the issue, he said, "BSF and BGB have a very cordial, friendly relation. We have regular interaction with them, and there was no such issue in the past, we are in touch with them and we will amicably solve this."

How Srinagar Is Coming Under Terror Radar

Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh earlier this week said that the number of terrorists killed in 2018 was the highest in the last 10 years

NEW DELHI: The recent spate of grenade blasts in Srinagar have raised concerns in the security establishment which believes that the focus of terrorists is shifting from South Kashmir to the relatively peaceful state capital in Central Kashmir.

Officials who are observing these developments added that such attacks are likely to continue and could increase in the run up to Republic Day and the general elections later this year.

Besides Srinagar, terrorists could also target the Jammu region, where a large cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from several hideouts last year.

A reason for such attacks taking place could be that terrorist organisations see these areas, especially Srinagar as a means of getting more publicity. Officials explained that terrorists usually get more traction in urban areas as compared to attacks in rural areas.

The recent grenade blasts in Srinagar has also raised eyebrows in the security establishment, because attacks of this magnitude have not taken place in the area in recent times.

Also, it is certain districts in South Kashmir such as Pulwama, Anantnag and Shopian that are the hotbed of terrorist activities as compared to Central Kashmir. However, security forces have not only strengthened their intelligence network, but also beefed up security arrangements in light of Republic Day.

In Srinagar, one of the most recent attacks was terrorists lobbing a grenade at Central Reserve Police Force bunker in Lal Chowk on Friday. Merely a couple of hours before this incident, terrorists had hurled a grenade on police personnel at Zero Bridge in the city. Such incidents are likely to raise alarm bells because of the densely populated pockets here.

Terrorist organisations will also attempt to mobilise youth to disrupt operations, raising the possibility of collateral damage. Officials added that terrorists could attempt to carry out grenade attacks on security forces’ camps, convoys, suicide attacks and targeting local politicians to prevent them from taking part in the electoral process.

Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh earlier this week said that the number of terrorists killed in 2018 was the highest in the last 10 years.

Implications For India of China’s Presence In Indo-Pacific Region

Chinese naval ships in Gwadar port in Pakistan

The US Defence Department report titled “China’s Global Expansion by Military and Non-Military Means” issued last week has once again triggered alarm bells about China’s increasingly assertive presence across the Indo-Pacific region and beyond

by Swaran Singh

It talks of China being world’s fifth-largest exporter of defence equipment; that, during the 2012-2016 period, China “completed” defence supplies worth US$20 billion worldwide, of which supplies worth $8 billion were made to the Indo-Pacific nations.

What would concerns policymakers in India especially is that the primary recipients of China’s weapon exports remain its traditional client states in South Asia that have also witnessed high-speed delivery of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.

What is absent from this report is the fact that the US itself is a major trigger for China’s enduring and expanding defence cooperation with developing nations. Complex procedures, high-procurement secrecy and standards, and the high prices charged by all top US defence suppliers often push these nations to buy from China. China, on the other hand, not only assures them of being the most reliable supplier but promises 70% capability of advanced nations’ technology at 50% of the cost.

China’s most important client state, Pakistan, has been the biggest beneficiary of China’s indulgence and is now being seen as its bulwark for the Indo-Pacific region. According to reports, China will be supplying Pakistan with as many as eight Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines, two Type-054A multi-role frigates and several other weapons and platforms.

As well, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been making piecemeal progress and China’s total investment in Pakistan is expected to rise from the currently agreed $62 billion to about $90 billion – that is, one-third of the size of Pakistan’s entire economy.

Already, Pakistan’s Gwadar is one of the two biggest ports in South Asia (the other being Hambantota, Sri Lanka) that are not just built by Chinese firms but are also now owned and maintained by them. Chinese companies also own and operate much of Colombo Port as well as container facilities in Chittagong, Bangladesh, while it has just begun work on an equally ambitious project at Kyaukpyu deep sea port in Myanmar.

The second-largest recipient region for China’s weapons exports, according to this Pentagon report, is MENA (the Middle East and North Africa), which also has direct implications for New Delhi.

In 2015, Beijing began work on its first overseas naval base at Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, claiming that it would support China’s participation in peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance as well as anti-piracy operations. By August 2017 China had formally operationalised its Djibouti naval base, deploying marines, infantry combat vehicles and helicopters, giving it a very different projection than what was promised.

China’s official line of course has been contested by experts who remain suspicious about China’s geopolitical ambitions. At the Djibouti naval base, China expects to complete construction of its 450-meter pier by June that will be able to berth four warships at the same time.

The Pentagon report also talks about possible “follow-on bases at other locations” such as Pakistan, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vanuatu, which along with its extant port facilities marks “a turning point” in China’s forays into the Indo-Pacific region.

Most interesting, according to the Pentagon report, “China’s military strategy remains focused on developing the capability to dissuade, deter and, if ordered, defeat a potential third-party intervention in regional conflicts,” which has direct implications to friends and allies of the United States, which seems ordained to lose its regional supremacy to China.

Indeed, since China’s 19th Party Congress in October 2017, President Xi Jinping has repeatedly talked of modernising the People’s Liberation Army into a military that can not only fight by also win wars. This has to be seen with China’s trillions of dollars’ worth of bilateral trade with these Indo-Pacific nations where its BRI has been pouring additional billions of dollars primarily into building their urban centres and other infrastructure, building enormous political influence.

“These bases and other improvements to the PLA’s ability to project power during the next decade,” according to the Pentagon report, “will increase China’s ability to deter the use of conventional military force, sustain operations abroad, and hold strategic economic corridors at risk.” Implications will be especially severe for those friends and allies of the US that continue to have complicated equations with Beijing.

These projections only reinforce India’s own assessments and perhaps best explain its increasing recalibration of its China policy, which recognises the increasingly stark asymmetry in the two countries’ bilateral equations. But surely, an asymmetric relationship does not imply any simplistic weak-strong binary; it only means opting for more innovative policy tools and tenor.

This, for instance, has seen India’s vigorous engagement of China’s leaders, which has been especially visible in meetings between Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the Doklam standoff of June-August 2017. But at the same time, India has also been busy promoting military procurement and military exercises.

In parallel to China’s BRI, India has launched several connectivity initiatives of its own. For instance, it has been engaged in building or upgrading port facilities across the littoral: Duqm in Oman, Changi in Singapore, Assumption Island in the Seychelles, Sabang in Indonesia, and Sittwe in Myanmar, besides other facilitates in Madagascar and Mauritania.

Multi-alignment continues to guide India’s foreign policy, where New Delhi has sought to build partnerships in as many sectors with as many countries as possible without becoming prisoner to making either/or choices.

In the Indo-Pacific region, this has seen India join the reactivated Quad but also quickly stitch together two foundational agreements with the US that, put together, will provide Indian ships access to US bases in Djibouti, Diego Garcia, Guam, and Subic Bay in the Philippines.

India has also established close naval cooperation with the French government for joint patrols that gains its ships access to French naval bases at Djibouti and Réunion Island.

But at same time, India has shown it is awake to China’s sensitivities. This has seen India oppose inclusion of Australia in the trilateral Malabar naval exercises, oppose any militarisation of the Quad (the US, Japan, Australia and India), and indeed carry on with a sustained campaign to make Indo-Pacific debates “inclusive” by inviting China into such deliberations and by putting the region on the agenda of its annual India-China Maritime Dialogue.

In view of continuing contentious shadow-boxing between the US and China shrinking any space for neutrality, this search for equilibrium perhaps defines India’s proactive policy for ensuring an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.