Friday, September 17, 2021

Bangalore Based Dynamatic Technologies To Manufacture Aerostructures Assemblies For Boeing's F-15Ex Eagle-II Fighter Jet

Dynamatic Technologies has been awarded a contract for manufacturing assemblies for Boeing's newest tactical fighter, F-15EX Eagle II. This is a first where Aerostructures for the latest and most advanced F-15EX Eagle II will be made in India. This contract has given a boost to the Aatmanirbhar program and strengthens US-India collaboration on aerospace and defence industrialisation. Dynamatic Technologies will supply the F15EX Aerostructure assembly requirements from FY 2022. Dynamatic will manufacture these Aerostructures from their manufacturing facility in Bengaluru, Karnataka.

Udayant Malhoutra, CEO & Managing Director, Dynamatic Technologies Limited said, "Dynamatic has been associated closely with Boeing as a strategic tier-1 supplier partner for over a decade. The award for manufacturing Aerostructures for the F-15EX Eagle II to Dynamatic is a testimony of our partnership with Boeing."

Salil Gupte, president, Boeing India said, "We see tremendous potential for India to contribute to the global aerospace industry as an industrial and technology partner. The award of Aerostructure assemblies for the latest and most advanced version of the F-15 aircraft family is a reflection of Boeing's focus on Aatmanirbhar Bharat and a testimony to the world class capability of our industrial partners in India."

Dynamatic Technologies is also partnering with Boeing to help grow the Indian aerospace and defence ecosystem with advanced manufacturing capabilities, training and skill development in alignment with the 'Skill India' initiative of the Government of India.

Afghanistan: Haqqani Network's Anas Haqqani Says India Is 'Not A True Friend'

The Haqqani Network's scion Anas Haqqani has criticised the Indian government and media, claiming that India's policy toward Afghanistan needs to change

Speaking to WION correspondent Anas Mallick in an interview, he claimed the people of Afghanistan "understand India is not a true friend."

Refuting the news of a dispute in top Taliban leadership, Haqqani has said that there are no differences between Taliban leadership. He alleged that rumours of clashes within the Taliban leadership are being spread by elements linked to the former government of Ashraf Ghani.

He also said that Germany could be the first one to open its embassy in Afghanistan.

The exclusive, uncut interview is below: Anas Haqqani

WION: The US did a drone strike. What are your thoughts on this, and is there any coordination between the US and the Taliban?

Anas Haqqani: They target innocents. We don’t have any arrangements with the US on attacks or allowing them to use drones. We are not allowing Daesh [Islamic State], we can defeat them. If the US has any info, then they need to coordinate with us and we will act.

Zabihullah Mujahid and Ahmadullah Wasiq [Taliban leaders] have also condemned the drone strike. We said they were innocent after our detailed investigation.

WION: The Taliban say they have changed. If so, why are you not part of the cabinet as a young face?

Anas Haqqani: The Talibs have changed. Let's not narrow it down to one person. Government changes will be there. One constant thing will remain: the Taliban's patriotism and their Islamic side will remain.

WION: With regards to women diplomats and their movements, will there be any restrictions per se?

Anas Haqqani: There will be female diplomats present. They can work. There will be no restrictions on them, but there will be cultural values that everyone has to respect.

WION: What If the US continues its presence in Afghanistan and people leave Afghanistan?

Anas Haqqani: America being made to go out was a challenge, the reason people even went for suicide attacks. We do not want any outsiders. The people who made America leave Afghanistan are proud of it. Those who want to go out, can go out with their visa and passports, have their formalities completed and they can go. You can ask these questions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as I do not have much information on this.

WION: Will Special Immigrant Visa holders be allowed to leave?

Anas Haqqani: Not my place to comment. Those who have formal visas and passports can go and it shouldn't be a problem.

WION: On the UN blacklisting of 14 members of the Taliban govt, what is the way forward?

Anas Haqqani: The talks in Doha, the Islamic Emirate stands by it. Blacklisting is a problem. America's biased attitude is there. They have failed on multiple occasions to stand by their promises. Perhaps they want the conflict to happen again. America's definition of peace is not clear and they flip-flop a lot. The international community too understands this.

WION: What are your thoughts on relations with India, given that it has a lot of developmental projects in Afghanistan?

Anas Haqqani: Unfortunately, India has been biased and fuelling the fire of war for the past 20 years. As yet, India has not done anything for peace. As yet, their role has been negative. Even in the media, there is a reflection. It portrayed Talibs as very bad people. They need to change their policy towards Afghanistan.

The people of Afghanistan do understand because of the negativity and India is not a true friend. The Islamic Emirates police are to be diplomatic with everyone. It would be better that they should give up negativity and take positive steps so that the people can live with peace and a better life.

India May Buy Russia's Latest S-500 Anti-Space-Weapon Defence System In World-First Arms Deal, Despite Risk of US Sanctions, Moscow Claims

An advanced new anti-aircraft rocket system hailed as the first ever capable of taking out incoming missiles from low-space orbit could be snapped up by Indian defence chiefs in a move likely to anger the US, Moscow has said.

Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told journalists on Thursday that New Delhi could “potentially” become the first foreign capital to place an order for the S-500. However, he said, equipping Russia’s own troops with the latest technology would have to be completed before it is considered for sale overseas.

“When we meet the needs of our own armed forces, we can issue an export passport,” he said. “After that, the supreme commander-in-chief [Russian President Vladimir Putin] can decide on whether to grant deliveries to India, if they apply for it.”

Borisov said that friendly relations with New Delhi and the lack of shared regional conflicts made them a low-risk customer for advanced hardware. “In some cases, we are happy to sell to India what we don’t sell to other countries,” he said.

The S-500 is a cutting-edge rocket system capable of taking out fighter jets flying at the fastest speeds, as well as reportedly being capable of hitting even hypersonic weapons in near-Earth space. Chief Commander of the Aerospace Forces Sergei Surovikin has claimed that it represents the first generation of anti-space weapons, and that no other such systems currently exist.

However, the US has attempted to block international sales of the rocket system’s predecessor, the S-400, even imposing sanctions on NATO member Turkey for placing an order. The Pentagon has warned that, even in friendly hands, the anti-aircraft weapon poses a threat to one of its most advanced fighters, the F-35.

General Todd Wolters of the US European Command has said that the launcher would “attempt to exploit the F-35’s capabilities,” regardless of which side of the battlefield it was on. “You cannot operate an F-35 in the vicinity of an S-400,” he said.

Despite the threat of sanctions, more than a dozen nations placed orders for the S-400, including those that frequently buy preferentially from US military-industrial suppliers, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Jalore Emergency Landing Strip On Highway Shows Era of Standalone Military Projects Is Passé

A Sukhoi Su-30MKI lands during inauguration of an emergency landing strip on NH-925 in Barmer

India was a pioneer of emergency landing strips during WW2 but didn’t revive it for a long time. Now it can give IAF more flexibility

by Lt Gen H S Panag (Retd)

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, accompanied by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, carried out a mock emergency landing in a C130J transport aircraft on National Highway 925A to inaugurate an Emergency Landing Strip in Jalore district of Rajasthan.

The event was well publicised and conducted with much fanfare. The Union ministers witnessed multiple operations by a variety of aircraft on the Emergency Landing Strip (ELF). Speaking on the occasion, Nitin Gadkari gave details of 19 more ELFs being constructed on national highways near border areas extending from Ladakh in the north to Gujarat in the south and Assam in the east. He also said that, in future, ELFs will be constructed in 15 days instead of the 1.5 years (actually 19 months) the Rajasthan one has taken.

Three issues merit attention. First, the exploitation of ELFs on highways gives greater flexibility to operations of the Indian Air Force in peace and war situations. Second, inadvertently, there have been security lapses. Third, the event brings to the fore the importance of civil-military fusion with respect to infrastructure and military industrial base.

ELFs Enhance IAF Flexibility

The concept of ELF, also known as highway strip/road runway/road base, for use by military aircraft evolved during the Second World War. In fact, British India was a pioneer in the field when the Red Road in then Calcutta, between Chowringhee and Maidan, was used by the Royal Indian Air Force with pilots using restaurants as restrooms. In Germany, the well-developed Reichsautobahn highway system was used by the Luftwaffe as its airfields were repeatedly put out of use by Allied bombing. Today, many countries, including Pakistan, with effect from 2000, exploit the ELFs.

India was a late starter in reviving the system despite having been one of its pioneers. In the desert sector in mid-1990s, as part of border roads development, helipads were constructed on roads 20-30 km from the International Boundary for induction of jeep-mounted Special Forces and reconnaissance elements.

In 2016, an inter-ministerial joint committee of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Defence /Indian Air Force (IAF) was formed to look into the feasibility of setting up ELFs and figure out the technical details. The IAF carried out trials on Yamuna and Lucknow-Agra expressways from 2015 to 2018 to refine the concept of exploiting ELFs on highways close to the borders.

The ELFs can be used in a variety of ways to give flexibility to IAF operations. These can be used in an emergency, particularly when our own airfields are put out of order by enemy missile/aircraft attacks. As part of surprise and deception, ELFs can be used for dispersal of aircraft and for mounting operation. In areas where no regular airports/airfield exist, they can be very useful for disaster management. ELFs can also enhance the range of helicopter-borne operations in enemy territory.

The faculties that are created at ELFs are related to their operational exploitation. These can vary from a simple airstrip to a mini airfield complete with a control tower, dispersal area, blast pens and operations/restrooms.

A Security Lapse

The location of fixed defence infrastructure, particularly large structures like airfields, are difficult to hide. Almost all fixed defence infrastructures can be pinpointed on Google Maps and zoomed into. This makes them easy targets for cruise missile and air attacks. Elaborate air defence resources have to be put in place to secure the airfields.

ELFs, despite being fixed assets, merge with the highway infrastructure and are difficult to locate. At the inauguration of the Jalore ELF, enthusiasm and showcasing of achievements probably led to the location of all 19 proposed ELFs being placed in public domain.

Civil–Military Fusion

Fusion of civilian and military infrastructure and technology is a universal national security practice and, in most modern states, is part of national security strategy. In developing countries, due to lack of civil infrastructure and industrial base, and the military’s obsession with security, this fusion remains below par leading to poor utilisation of national resources. India has been no exception. While there have been remarkable success stories in space and atomic fields, parallel furrows have been ploughed in countless other fields.

China has had Military Civil Integration later refined as Military Civil Fusion strategy right from the days of Chairman Mao Zedong. Entire infrastructure development in Tibet has been part of this fusion. It is time for India to formalise civil-military fusion as part of its national security strategy.

The government has done well to address the non-participation of the private sector in defence production through Defence Procurement Procedure 2020. To overcome the lack of R&D and technical base with the private sector, the clause of ‘Strategic Partnership’ has been included. The private sector can bridge the technology gap by collaborating with the best original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of the world. The policy of ‘buy global and manufacture in India’ would also enable foreign OEMs to set up manufacturing or maintenance entities through their subsidiaries in India. Relaxation in FDI norms and our “Atmanirbhar Bharat” policy will further encourage the private sector. Corporatisation of the Indian Ordnance Factories and permitting Public Private Participation is another step in the right direction. There is also a strong case for funding R&D in the private sector.

The scope of civil-military fusion with respect to infrastructure is only limited by will and imagination. There are endless opportunities in the fields of space, communications, information technology, aviation sector, shipbuilding, roads/railways construction, transportation, power plants, storage/warehousing, tourism and border area development, to name a few. The era of standalone military projects is passé. With a shrinking defence budget, civil-military fusion is not an option but a compulsion.

The inauguration of the ELT is not so much of a cause for celebration, but a wake-up call for making civil-military fusion with respect to infrastructure and military industrial base an intrinsic part of our national security strategy.

India Chooses Not To Make Immediate Comment On US-UK-Australia Security Pact

New Delhi: India on Thursday chose not to comment on the launch of a historic security partnership among the US, the UK and Australia that will provide for deeper cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and ensure greater sharing of defence capabilities within the trilateral alliance.

The partnership, seen as an effort to counter China in the Indo-Pacific, will allow the US and the UK to provide Australia with the technology to develop nuclear-powered submarines for the first time.

"I do not have anything to share on this at this moment," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said replying to a volley of questions on the new security partnership.

It is learnt that Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton called up their Indian counterparts S Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh on Wednesday to apprise them about the new partnership called ''AUKUS'' (Australia, the UK and the US).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison held a conversation on Wednesday.

Specifically asked about unveiling of the ''AUKUS'' (Australia, the UK and the US) partnership days ahead of the first in-person summit of the Quad or Quadrilateral Coalition, Bagchi said the upcoming summit stands on its own.

"I think the Quad summit stands on its own. It is extremely important as I mentioned...Clearly Quad partners attach lot of importance to it. You can see that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person summit is happening. I would not like to comment or speculate on implications (of AUKUS)," Bagchi said.

The Quad comprises India, the US, Japan and Australia. The US is hosting the in-person Quad summit in Washington on September 24.

Asked whether India could get critical cyber technologies from Australia and the UK given that the US agreed to share them with the two countries under AUKUS, Bagchi only said: "We have a very robust relationship with Australia."

The AUKUS partnership will also facilitate sharing of various other critical technologies among the partner countries.

"Through AUKUS, our governments will strengthen the ability of each to support our security and defence interests, building on our longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties," a joint statement issued by US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Morrison and British PM Boris Johnson said.

It said the three countries will promote deeper information and technology sharing and will significantly deepen cooperation on a range of security and defence capabilities.

"As the first initiative under AUKUS, recognising our common tradition as maritime democracies, we commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy," it said.

The statement said the development of Australia's nuclear-powered submarines would be a joint endeavour between the three nations, with a focus on interoperability, commonality, and mutual benefit.

France criticised its exclusion from the alliance, saying it reflects a lack of coherence when common challenges are being faced in the Indo-Pacific region.

In its reaction, China criticised the security alliance saying it will gravely undermine regional stability and aggravate the arms race.

Condoling Terrorism: 'Give Them Time': Imran Khan Defends Taliban Again, Terms Haqqani Terror Network A Tribal Group

Pakistan PM Imran said the country was being used as a "hired gun" by the US government during the Afghanistan war while refuting claims of offering a "safe haven" for terrorists inside the country. Imran said the best way to deal with the Taliban is to "engage" with them.

Over a month after the Taliban entered Kabul, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan told a US television channel that the group should be given more time on human rights while adding that Afghan women "will get their rights".

He also sought to defend the Haqqanis, the dreaded terror network, describing them as tribals. Haqqanis, he said are a 'Pashtun tribe living in Afghanistan. They were Mujahideen who were fighting the Soviets. They were born in a Pakistani refugee camp.

The Pakistan prime minister, speaking to CNN, took a dig at US President Joe Biden for not calling him yet, saying, "I would imagine he's very busy", while discussing the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Khan said the US-Pakistan ties are not "dependent on a phone call", describing it as a "multidimensional relationship".

Khan claimed Pakistan was being used as a "hired gun" during the war in Afghanistan and was "supposed to make the US" win, but it was unsuccessful.

His comments come even as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told US lawmakers that the Biden administration is reassessing its relationship with Pakistan.

Blinken had said Pakistan was constantly "hedging" its bets on Afghanistan, however, Khan called the comments "ignorant".

The Pakistan prime minister also refuted claims of "safe havens" for terrorists in the country, asking: "What are these safe havens?"

The Pakistan prime minister said the Afghan border had the "heaviest surveillance by US drones" and that the US authorities would have known about the safe havens. The Pakistan PM said there were "480 drone attacks by the US in Pakistan" which he said was the "only time a country has been attacked by its ally".

Khan claimed in the interview that "Afghanistan could have peace after 40 years" if the Taliban work towards an "inclusive government" and "get all the factions together", however, he cautioned that if it went wrong it would trigger a humanitarian crisis resulting in a refugee problem for Pakistan.

The Pakistan prime minister added the best way to deal with the Taliban was to "engage" with the group and "incentivise" them on women's rights and inclusive government. Imran asserted that a "puppet government" will not be supported by Afghans while calling for international aid for the country.

As Afghanistan struggles to get international aid after Western countries left the country last month, the Pakistan PM said the Taliban should be "pushed" in the right direction.

Pakistan Was A 'Hired Gun', Says Imran Khan On US War In Afghanistan

Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the US war against terrorism was "disastrous" for Pakistan as Washington used Islamabad like a "hired gun" during their 20-year presence in Afghanistan.

"We (Pakistan) were like a hired gun," Khan said in an interview with CNN. "We were supposed to make them (the US) win the war in Afghanistan, which we never could."

This comes two days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said the US would reassess its ties with Pakistan following the military drawdown from Afghanistan. Blinken told US Congress during a hearing that Pakistan has a "multiplicity of interests some that are in conflict with ours."

Pakistan has had deep ties with the Taliban and other outfits in the region. Moreover, the country has been accused of supporting the group during the US's war on terror.

Despite ample evidence presented by the international community, Imran Khan, in the CNN interview, denied charges that Pakistan harbours terrorists and has given them a safe haven.

"What are these safe havens?" Khan asked. "The area of Pakistan along the border of Afghanistan had the heaviest surveillance by the United States drones ... surely they would have known if there were any safe havens?"

Digressing from the question, the Pakistan PM said, "The question is, was Pakistan in a position to take military action against the Afghan Taliban when it was already being attacked from inside, from the Pakistani Taliban who were attacking the state of Pakistan?"

While staunchly defending the Taliban, the Pakistan Prime Minister asked the international community to develop a consensus that would lead to recognition of the new "caretaker government" of the "Islamic Emirate".

Speaking to CNN, Khan said that the best way forward for peace and stability in Afghanistan is to engage with the Taliban and "incentivize" them on issues such as women's rights and inclusive government.

"The Taliban hold all of Afghanistan and if they can sort of now work towards an inclusive government, get all the factions together, Afghanistan could have peace after 40 years. But if it goes wrong and which is what we are really worried about, it could go to chaos. The biggest humanitarian crisis, a huge refugee problem," Khan said.

When asked about his position on women's rights in Afghanistan, Khan said, "It's a mistake to think that someone from outside will give Afghan women rights. Afghan women are strong. Give them time. They will get their rights."

"Women should have the ability in a society to fulfil their potential in life," said Khan.

Since assuming power, the Taliban has made several assurances on a slew of important issues including human rights and women's rights. However, reports coming from the country stand in contrast with the claims.

Climate of Fear Among Minorities In Pakistan: India At UNHRC

Pawan Badhe, first secretary at the Indian mission to the UN in Geneva

India also raised the issue of Pakistan "openly supporting, training, financing and arming terrorists including UN proscribed terrorists" as a "matter of state policy" at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

India has highlighted the " systematic persecution, forced conversions, targeted killings, sectarian violence and faith-based discrimination" minorities in Pakistan while slamming the country at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

In the "right of reply", the first secretary at the Indian mission to the UN in Geneva, Pawan Badhe pointed out that, "Pakistan has failed to protect the rights of its minorities, including Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and Ahmadiyas", even as "thousands of women and girls from minority communities have been subjected to abductions, forced marriages and conversions in Pakistan" and "its occupied territories" in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir(POK).

There have been several cases of abduction, including of Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur in 2019 and Bulbul Kaur in 2020. Jagjit was the daughter of a Granthi and later converted to Ayesha Bibi.

In the statement, the Indian diplomat also talked about how "Pakistan has been engaged in incidents of violence against minority communities" which included "attacks on their places of worship, cultural heritage, as well as their private property being taken away with impunity."

December last year saw a Hindu shrine being demolished by an extremist mob in north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The demolishing took place after a local cleric Maulvi Mohammad Sharif incited a mob to demolish the shrine since then, there have been more such instances, including the attack on a Ganesh temple.

India also raised the issue of Pakistan "openly supporting, training, financing and arming terrorists including UN proscribed terrorists" as a "matter of state policy".

UN has listed a large number of Pakistan-based individuals and groups as international terrorists including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) responsible for major attacks in India including the 26/11 attack in Mumbai in 2008 and the Pulwama attack in 2019.

Giving an earful to Pakistan, Pawan said, "India as not only the world’s largest democracy but a robustly functional and a vibrant one does not need lessons from a failed state like Pakistan which is the epicentre of terrorism and the worst abuser of Human Rights."

During the statement, India also regretted the references made by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Jammu and Kashmir and asked the group not to allow itself to be "held hostage by Pakistan". Pakistan holds the chairmanship of OIC's Geneva chapter.

7 Pakistan Army Soldiers, 5 Rebels Killed During Gun Battle In South Waziristan

Pakistani security forces cordoned off the area, and began a search operation "to eliminate any other terrorists" found in the area, it added

Seven Pakistan Army soldiers and five rebels have been killed during an intelligence-based operation in the Asman Manza area of South Waziristan, the military's media wing said on Wednesday.

Pakistani security forces cordoned off the area, and began a search operation "to eliminate any other terrorists" found in the area, it added.

In recent months, there has been an uptick in attacks on security forces. In a suicide attack near a check post on Quetta's Mastung Road, at least four Frontier Corps officials were killed and 18 others were hurt earlier this month.

Last week, two Pakistan Army soldiers were killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in North Waziristan.

Security forces were conducting a clearance operation in the district's Dosalli area when the IED exploded, the ISPR had said.

In August, three Levies personnel were killed and as many were injured when their vehicle hit a landmine in Baluchistan's Ziarat district.

India Sees Itself As Net Provider of Security In Indian Ocean Region, Says Ambassador Sandhu

His remarks came days ahead of the first in-person Quad summit on September 24 in Washington which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and Japanese premier Yoshihide Suga.

India sees itself as a net provider of security in the strategic Indian Ocean region where it helps build economic capabilities and improve maritime security for its friends and partners, India's top diplomat in the US has said, ahead of the next week's first in-person Quad summit to be hosted by US President Joe Biden.

In an address to an event of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for launching the Indian Ocean Initiative here, India's Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu said on Tuesday that the Indian Ocean is a bridge with nations in immediate, and extended neighbourhood.

His remarks came days ahead of the first in-person Quad summit on September 24 in Washington which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and Japanese premier Yoshihide Suga.

The four leaders would discuss promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, addressing the climate crisis and deepening their ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas like combatting COVID-19, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

"The challenges that we face today, as nations, are far too complex, to be tackled single-handedly. This mutual interdependence, to me, is not a sign of weakness; but a source of strength. It is the friendship that we cherish; the trust that we build; the connectivity that we craft that holds potential solutions to many of the pressing problems that confront today's world," Sandhu said.

"The seas that separate us, are also the seas that connect us. India sees itself as a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean Region. We also have been the First Responder in HA/DR operations in the Region. Whether it is floods in Sri Lanka, or water scarcity in the Maldives, we have responded, with scale and speed, and that too within hours of the crises," he said.

Carnegie's launch is coming at a time when the term "Indo-Pacific" is, perhaps, increasingly becoming one of the most frequently used terms in the global strategic lexicon, the ambassador said.

"Our relationships with countries in the Indian Ocean are strong; and we are also helping build economic capabilities; and improve maritime security, for our friends and partners. During COVID-19, we sent medical teams and supplied equipment to the Indian Ocean island nations of the Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, among other countries in the Indian Ocean region," he said.

Sandhu said that India's vision of the Indo-Pacific was articulated in Prime Minister's keynote address to the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018.

"We view the Indo-Pacific, as a free, open, inclusive region, which embraces all, in the common pursuit of progress and prosperity. The centrality of ASEAN, is a key element of the Indo-Pacific. There is convergence on this, with our partners, whether it be under the QUAD; or the trilateral with France and Australia," he said.

The US has been pushing for a broader role by India in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.

India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.

Friction Among Taliban Pragmatists, Hard-Liners Intensifies

The wrangling has taken place behind the scenes, but rumours quickly began circulating about a recent violent confrontation between the two camps at the presidential palace, including claims that the leader of the pragmatic faction, Abdul Ghani Baradar, was killed.

Friction between pragmatists and ideologues in the Taliban leadership has intensified since the group formed a hard-line Cabinet last week that is more in line with their harsh rule in the 1990s than their recent promises of inclusiveness, said two Afghans familiar with the power struggle.

The wrangling has taken place behind the scenes, but rumours quickly began circulating about a recent violent confrontation between the two camps at the presidential palace, including claims that the leader of the pragmatic faction, Abdul Ghani Baradar, was killed.

The rumours reached such intensity that an audio recording and handwritten statement, both purportedly by Baradar himself, denied that he had been killed. Then on Wednesday, Baradar appeared in an interview with the country's national TV.

"I was travelling from Kabul so had no access to media in order to reject this news" Baradar said of the rumour.

Baradar served as the chief negotiator during talks between the Taliban and the United States that paved the way for the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was completed in late August, two weeks after the Taliban overran the capital of Kabul.

Shortly after the Kabul takeover, Baradar had been the first senior Taliban official to hold out the possibility of an inclusive government, but such hopes were disappointed with the formation of an all-male, all-Taliban lineup last week.

In a further sign that the hard-liners had prevailed, the white Taliban flag was raised over the presidential palace, replacing the Afghan national flag.

A Taliban official said the leadership still hasn't made a final decision on the flag, with many leaning toward eventually flying both banners side by side. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss internal deliberations with the media.

The two Afghans familiar with the power struggle also spoke on condition of anonymity to protect the confidentiality of those who shared their discontent over the Cabinet lineup. They said one Cabinet minister toyed with refusing his post, angered by the all-Taliban government that shunned the country's ethnic and religious minorities.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has denied rifts in the leadership. On Tuesday, the Taliban foreign minister, Amir Khan Mutaqi, dismissed such reports as "propaganda."

Baradar had been noticeably absent from key functions. For instance he was not at the presidential palace earlier this week to receive the deputy prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdur Rahman Al-Thani, who is also foreign minister and was making the highest-level foreign visit yet since the Taliban takeover. Baradar's absence was jarring since Qatar had hosted him for years as head of the Taliban political office in the Qatari capital of Doha.

But in the interview shown Wednesday, Baradar said he did not participate in the meeting because he was not aware about the foreign minister's visit to Kabul. "I had already left and was not able to return back," Baradar said.

Several officials and Afghans who are familiar and in contact with Baradar told The Associated Press earlier that he was in the southwestern provincial capital of Kandahar for a meeting with Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada. Another Taliban figure said Baradar was visiting family he had not seen in 20 years of war.

Analysts say the friction may not amount to a serious threat to the Taliban - for now.

"We've seen over the years that despite disputes, the Taliban largely remains a cohesive institution and that major decisions don't get serious pushback after the fact," said Michael Kugelman, Asia program deputy director at the Washington-based Wilson Centre.

"I think the current internal dissension can be managed," he said. "Still, the Taliban will be under a lot of pressure as it tries to consolidate its power, gain legitimacy, and address major policy challenges. If these efforts fail, a stressed organization could well see more and increasingly serious infighting."

However, Taliban divisions today will be more difficult to resolve without the heavy-handed rule of the group's founder, the late Mullah Omar, who demanded unquestioned loyalty.

Kashmir Holds International Golf Tournament After 7 years

By holding such events, the government of Jammu and Kashmir is not only promoting tourism but is also making Kashmir the next golfing destination

After years of Hiatus, Kashmir Golf Courses are back to hosting international tournaments. With the most picturesque backdrop and best terrain, an international tournament has started in Srinagar's Royal Springs Golf Course.

More than 126 professional golfers from India and abroad are participating in the tournament.

The government of Jammu and Kashmir is promoting the valley as the golfing destination since Kashmir's golf courses are considered to be the best in India.

''It's an international golf tournament which is being hosted by the Professional Golf Tour of India. It's a prestigious golf tournament. It's a very proud moment for us to host 126 professional golfers, one among them is Udaymane who represented the country at Olympics," said Javaid Bakshi, Secretary of the golf course. "He was leading the pack yesterday.

An inspection team arrives before the players to check the golf course, Bakshi informed. "They have a course director who does all the planning. We are lucky and proud that Mr Sampat who is the tournament director has rated this golf course as one of the best in the world. It's a big feather in the cap of Union Territory. These golfers will go as ambassadors and promote Kashmir as a golfing destination,'' Bakshi added.

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has six golf courses in total. Out of these, three are in Srinagar, one in Pahalgam, one in Gulmarg and another one in Jammu. The Royal Spring Golf Course has 18 holes with three lakes, a club house and around 8.5km pathway for cart. The golf course is spread over 100 acres of land.

''Royal Springs golf course is scenic but it has got challenges for the golfers. Currently, 126 golfers are playing here. The course is planned so meticulously that it challenges the golfers," said Sampath Chari, Tournament Director. "There are very good pathways on which you can score. You have got uphill and downhill, and the greens are very tricky. Wind speeds are different and the mountain at the back and the front make it more difficult.

Adoring the beauty and talent of Kashmir, he added, "It's fantastic to promote Kashmir as the golf destination. This has the potential of holding big tournaments here. We need to nurture young talent. We need to train the young so they pick up this sport as a professional. If it opens up a bit more, sky's the limit.''

The golfers participating in the tournament are all praise for the beauty and landscape of the Royal Spring Golf Course. They also say that it has more potential and should be opened to kids so that they can take it up as their professional sport.

''It doesn't feel like any other golf courses in India due to its scenic beauty, just the terrain is very different. It is my first time here and it is great to be here. This golf course has much more potential, it can go on the globe and become an international destination for golfers. We want more people to play the sport. The more the kids play the sport, the more people will get to know about it,'' said Aman Raj, a golfer.

By holding such events, the government of Jammu and Kashmir is not only promoting tourism but is also making Kashmir the next golfing destination.

Australia To Get Nuclear Subs In New US, British Partnership

Her Majesty's Australian Ship (HMAS) Rankin, the sixth submarine of the Collins class, underway

The United States announced a new alliance Wednesday with Australia and Britain to strengthen military capabilities in the face of growing rivalry with China, including a new Australian nuclear submarine fleet and cruise missiles.

The announcement of the alliance -- made in a video meeting by President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his British counterpart Boris Johnson -- is sure to raise hackles in Beijing.

It also met with swift pushback from France, which has been negotiating a multi-billion-dollar sale of conventional submarines to Australia.

Biden said the work to enable Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines would ensure that they had "the most modern capabilities we need to manoeuvre and defend against rapidly evolving threats."

The submarines, stressed Biden and the other leaders, will not be nuclear armed, only powered with nuclear reactors.

Morrison later announced Australia would also acquire long-range US Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The three leaders did not mention China in unveiling the partnership, dubbed AUKUS, but their intent was clear.

"Our world is becoming more complex, especially here in our region, the Indo-Pacific. This affects us all. The future of the Indo-Pacific will impact all our futures," Morrison said.

Johnson said they would work "hand in glove to preserve stability and security in the Indo-Pacific."

On a visit last week to Southeast Asia, Vice President Kamala Harris accused Beijing of "actions that... threaten the rules-based international order," particularly its aggressive claims in the South China Sea, where frequent territorial disputes have erupted between China and its neighbours in recent years.

Technical and naval representatives from the three countries will spend the next 18 months deciding how to carry out Australia's upgrade, which Johnson said would be "one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world, lasting for decades."

In addition to the submarine fleet, a senior Biden administration official said AUKUS will combine forces on "cyber, AI -- particularly applied AI -- quantum technologies and some undersea capabilities as well."

The Biden administration official underlined repeatedly how "unique" the decision is, with Britain being the only other country the United States has ever helped to build a nuclear fleet.

"This technology is extremely sensitive," the official said. "We view this as a one-off."

- Stealth and interoperability - With China building up its own navy and repeatedly testing decades of US military dominance across Asia, the creation of AUKUS, with its focus on submarines, is "meant to send a message of reassurance and a determination to maintain a strong deterrent stance," the US official said.

Even if not carrying nuclear weapons, the new submarines will allow Australia to "play at a much higher level," the official said.

"Nuclear powered submarines really maintain superior characteristics of stealth, speed, manoeuvrability, survivability and really substantial endurance," the official said.

"You will see much deeper interoperability along our navies and our nuclear infrastructure," the official said. "This is a fundamental decision, fundamental. It binds Australia... and the United States and Great Britain for generations."

- French deal over - Biden, in an attempt to placate Paris, said France is a "key partner and ally" in the Indo-Pacific.

But the new alliance torpedoed Australia's conventional submarine deal with France, which had been personally backed by President Emmanuel Macron.

Morrison confirmed on Thursday morning Australia would not proceed with the deal.

France's foreign ministry said in a statement earlier that the decision to go with US submarines was "contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation that prevailed between France and Australia."

The submarine contract with France was worth around Aus$50 billion (31 billion euros, 36.5 billion dollars) at the time of signing. More recently the overall deal was estimated at some Aus$90, taking into account currency fluctuations and cost overruns.

The company had agreed to build 12 conventional Attack Class subs, but the order was years behind schedule, well over budget and has become tangled in Australian domestic politics.

The AUKUS announcement comes as Australia has been boosting defence spending in response to China's more assertive posture.

Morrison will join Biden again on September 24, this time in person, at a first White House gathering of the "Quad" diplomatic group -- Australia, India, Japan and the United States.

Indian Army Contingent Welcomed At 6th Edition of SCO's 'Peaceful Mission' Exercise

The Indian Army contingent participates in the sixth edition of the ‘Peaceful Military’ exercise organised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

The Indian Army contingent participating in the sixth edition of the ‘Peaceful Military’ exercise organised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was welcomed by Major General Ivan Tereschenko, Chief of Staff, Central Military District, Russian Armed Forces on Thursday, September 16.

The Indian Army had participated in the sixth edition of the 'Peaceful Mission' military exercise on Thursday to foster close relations between SCO member states in Orenburg, Russia.

From September 13 to 25, Russia is hosting the 6th iteration of the exercise Peaceful Mission in the Orenburg Region. The exercise's goal is to strengthen links between SCO member states and to improve military chiefs' ability to command multi-national military contingents. The exercise was held to allow the Armed Forces of the SCO members to share best practices.

The exercise also gave the Armed Forces of the SCO Nations a chance to practise counter-terrorism operations in an urban setting in a multinational and combined setting. Professional engagement, mutual knowledge of exercises and procedures, the construction of collaborative command and control structures, and the eradication of terrorist threats are all part of the exercise's scope.

Indian Army Also Participated In ZAPAD-2021 Hosted By Soviet Union & Russian Federation

Prior to this, the Indian Army also participated in the ZAPAD-202 Multilateral 'Joint Strategic Exercise' held by the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation for a week. The seven-day long joint strategic exercise ended on Wednesday. This edition of Zapad saw participation from seven nations. ZAPAD 2021 was held at Mulino in the Novgorod Region of Russia. The Indian military, which was also among the participants in the exercise, carried out intense operations during ZAPAD 2021.

As part of the Exercise, strategic planning, tactical actions and manoeuvres were rehearsed and executed jointly in conventional operational scenarios. The Joint Strategic Exercise included defensive & offensive manoeuvres by the Coalition Forces to restore territorial integrity under simulated combat conditions. New generation weapon systems and equipment were also demonstrated by the Russian Armed Forces during the exercise.

The ZAPAD closing ceremony was chaired by the Deputy Defence Minister of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant-General Yunus-Bek Evkurov. While speaking at the ceremony LG Yunus-Bek Evkurov expressed his gratitude to all the participating contingents and observers. Among the countries participating in this exercise include Mongolia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Russia, India and Belarus.

Indian Coast Guards Captures Pakistani Boat 'Allah Pavakal'

New Delhi: The Indian Coast Guard (Indian Coast Guard) has caught a Pakistani boat entering the border. There were 12 people present on it. All the persons are being arrested and questioned. The boat had entered India's waters illegally. According to reports, the Indian Coast Guard ship 'Rajratan', which monitors infiltrators near the Gujarat border, detected the Pakistani boat 'Allah Pavakal' during the surveillance mission and the coast guard troops immediately seized the boat.

Even after the weather worsened, the Pakistani boat could not escape the surveillance of 'Rajratan'. The boat has been brought to Okha in Devbhoomi Dwarka district of Gujarat for investigation. In another incident, ICG rescued seven fishermen from a sinking boat at Vanakbara in Diu on the night of September 13. The Indian Coast Guard has arrested 'Allah Pavakal' at a time when Delhi Police has arrested six terrorists after foiling a major terror plot by Pakistani intelligence agency ISI.

Two of these terrorists had returned from Pakistan after undergoing training. The terrorists were planning to disrupt Delhi, Maharashtra and UP. With the expose of the module of the terrorists, the connivance of Pak intelligence agency ISI and the underworld came to light. The terrorists were about to carry out attacks during Navratri, Ramlila and Dussehra. The serial bomb blasts were plotted by their uncles in several states including Delhi, UP, Maharashtra. Delhi Police said underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's brother Anis was also part of the team and funding was being done through a different network.