Saturday, November 28, 2020

USD 51 Bn Orders Likely To Be Executed By Navy For Surface Ships Submarines In 10 Yrs Govt

Panaji: Union Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik on Friday said expected orders for surface ships and submarines to be executed from 2020 to 2030 by the Indian Navy are to the tune of USD 51 billion.

Naik was addressing a virtual meet on opportunities at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) and Mazagao Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDSL), organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The union minister said that more than 60 per cent of the Indian Navy's budget is dedicated to capital expenditure and nearly 70 per cent of this capital budget has been spent on indigenous sourcing, amounting to nearly Rs. 66,000 crore in the last five years.

He said that with more than 60 major surface and sub-surface platforms being built for mainly the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard at Goa Shipyard Limited, Mazagon Docks Shipbuilders Limited, Garden Reach Shipbuilder and Engineers (GRSE), Hindustan Shipyards Limited (HSL) and Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), the potential for MSMEs is vast.

Naik said "expected orders for surface ships and submarines to be executed from 2020 to 2030 are to the tune of USD 51 billion".

Speaking during the event, CII Goa State Council Chairman Blaise Costabir said that with India's maritime interests growing at a fast pace in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025, the country's shipbuilding will see increased focus and demand.

The country's vast coastline and the evolving geopolitical situation in India's neighbourhood has also put a greater thrust on maritime safety and security, he added.

Chairman and Managing Director of GSL said the defence shipbuilding sector will continue to see robust growth.

There was 9.3 per cent growth in the defence budget in 2019-20, he said and added that the country expects to see the same trend for the next 10 years.

Atmanirbhar Bharat: Aiming For The Top

DRDO’s Quick Reaction Surface-to- Air Missile (QR-SAM) undergoing final trials

by Sandeep Unnithan

This year, India saw a convergence of multiple security threats, economic, military and health-related. A pandemic triggered an economic crisis and a military deployment by China triggered anxiety on the country’s northern borders. But, as they say, sometimes it takes a crisis to kickstart reform, especially in the defence sector.

In May, the ministry of defence (MoD) rolled out some of its biggest policy incentives to boost indigenous defence manufacturing. The biggest post-Independence reforms announced over the past year include the appointment of a new chief of defence staff (CDS), a decision to corporatize the 40 defence ordnance factories and banning certain defence imports. These will help India address the twin challenges of modernising its ageing military hardware and indigenising its military to achieve self-sufficiency.

The first India Today Defence Summit, held virtually on November 21, brought key stakeholders on board to discuss the MoD’s indigenisation drive. There was plenty of optimism about the current round of defence reforms which has set clear objectives and deliverables. It was heartening to see government officials speak of the public and private sector in the same breath, marking a huge change in attitude. There are, of course, concerns over the long road ahead, the yawning gap between technology and indigenous capacity and the slow pace of realisation between an intention and an order. The summit addressed these issues and many others.

The MoD’s Vision For Atmanirbhar Bharat

The defence ministry has, for the first time ever, set a goal of a $25 billion or Rs 1.75 lakh crore turnover in defence manufacturing in the next five years. This includes an export target of $5 billion or Rs 35,000 crore worth of military hardware. It has given a commitment of orders worth Rs 50,000 crore to the Indian industry each year and hiked FDI in defence under the automatic route from 49 per cent to 74 per cent.

Raj Kumar, secretary, defence production, says ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is a step-up from the MoD’s 2016 ‘Make in India’ policy; it is an expression of confidence in indigenous capabilities. The MoD had announced a first negative list of 101 items (for which there would be an embargo on import) and is planning to follow soon with a second list. The course correction includes increasing the indigenous content in imported equipment and reserving items for production by Indian owned and controlled entities. The system is changing in unprecedented ways. As M.V. Gowtama, chairman and managing director of the public sector Bharat Electronics Ltd, says, Indian defence firms now routinely get tips on export opportunities from embassies and military attachés overseas, which was unheard of in the past. The key to all government policy, however, is time, particularly for private sector players in defence for whom time and money are inextricably linked. No one knows this better than Satyanarayan Nandlal Nuwal whose Solar Group is one of the world’s top five commercial explosives manufacturers and who is beginning to receive his first orders after nearly a decade of investing in the defence sector.

Investing In Future-Ready Defence Technologies

One of the biggest challenges facing India’s armed forces has been the need to equip itself with rapidly changing defence technologies. But, given the existing deficiencies in the defence industrial production base, these technologies are either never conceptualised or never acquired in time. It could well be argued that the current procurements for warships, tanks and fighter aircraft were part of an earlier ‘revolution in military affairs’, whereas the blistering rate of change means that the era of the ‘disruption in military affairs’, where hypersonic missiles, combat drones and robots, can potentially change the face of war. India’s previous system of users, designers and production agencies working in silos rather than jointly is not fit for the purpose of acquiring rapidly-evolving critical technologies.

The panellists, which included an official from the government’s premier defence research agency, a leading private sector producer and a military-academic, highlighted the need to rethink technologies, a civil-military fusion with armed forces driving procurements while being plugged into a network comprising the DRDO, academia and industry. This is the approach the US followed in the past century and what China has done in the present one. This is the only way India can boost its percentage of indigenous military hardware to a desired 80 or 90 per cent.

Small Arms, Big Worries

When Will India Become Atmanirbhar In Small Arms?

Among the biggest Indian defence conundrums is that a country that is self-sufficient in making intercontinental ballistic missiles is today shopping for simple assault rifles from the US, Russia and, believe it or not, even the UAE. Beginning this year, the world’s second-largest army began receiving its first US-made assault rifles and will set up a production line to build a Russian rifle. There is a promise meanwhile that future procurements will be made from the Indian industry, but so far there is no sign of this happening.

Small arms manufacturing was a public sector monopoly, specifically of the giant ordnance factories. The problem, as articulated by our panellists, a decorated Indian army general, a former chairman of the Ordnance Factory Board and the CEO of a Bengaluru-based start-up, is this: most of the technology and knowhow are already available within the country, but we need guidance and synergy that will come from all stakeholders being on board. The army, in particular, needs to have skin in the game by encouraging the development of an indigenous small arms industry, just as manufacturers do, to make investments in production capacity.

From A Builder’s Navy To An Exporter’s Navy

Can Indian Shipbuilding Make This Leap?

An area where the government’s export push has great potential is the design, construction and export of warships. India is fully self-sufficient in warship construction, it makes all classes of fighting vessels, from aircraft carriers to frigates, in its domestic shipyards. The country still has some distance to go before it can break into the export market, but now would be a good time to begin. This year, the Garden Reach Shipyard and Engineers (GRSE) Ltd delivered the fourth and last unit of the Kamorta class anti-submarine corvette, the warship with an indigenous content of over 80 per cent, the highest ever for an Indian platform. Indigenous designs like these have export potential.

The panellists, the head of one of India’s largest public sector shipyards and the head of the defence division of India’s largest private sector defence player, agreed that it was time for India to start developing and exporting complete platforms. The India head of Spain’s largest shipyard, another panellist, explained how his country broke into the highly competitive world of global warship exports, first by meeting the needs of their navy by gradually indigenising platforms and then focusing on export markets.

The Chinese Space Program Marches Ahead: Implications For India

Chinese heavy-lift launch vehicle developed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

A raging pandemic — which originated in China — has had very little adverse effect, allowing the Chinese to insulate their space program from the worst effects of COVID-19

by Kartik Bommakanti

Several important developments in the Chinese space program over the last ten months of 2020 are noteworthy and require careful analysis to ascertain their implications for India. Three areas are:

i. Chinese space launch rates,
ii. China’s collaboration with foreign space start-ups in the development of low-cost satellite propulsion fuel, and
iii. China’s reportedly successful test of a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV).

In all these three segments, the Chinese space program appears to have made progress this past year. Each of these milestones suggest that a raging pandemic — which originated in China — has had very little adverse effect, allowing the Chinese to insulate their space program from the worst effects of COVID-19.

China’s orbital launch rates are nothing but spectacular in the context of the global health pandemic and the poor economic performance of the world’s major economies.

Let us begin with the first — launch rates. The Peoples Republic of China (PRC), for the third successive year since 2018, has undertaken the most space launches. As of 17 November 2020, the Chinese completed 34 successful launches. By the conclusion of this year, the PRC is expected to finish with approximately forty launches and will possibly be ahead of the US. China’s orbital launch rates are nothing but spectacular in the context of the global health pandemic and the poor economic performance of the world’s major economies. Overall, the only caveat is that China has experienced higher launch failures than advanced space-faring countries such as the US and still trails the US and Russia in satellite or space craft mass placed in orbit every year. Nevertheless, this year alone yielded several major milestones for the Chinese in their space program. China’s space launches are not merely a quantitative indicator; they also reflect qualitative leaps in the types of spacecraft launched as well as fuel used to power launch vehicles and platforms from which launches were executed. Prominent spacecraft launched in the past year included the Tiantong-1 (02) mobile communications satellite. In the final week of November 2020, the PRC is expected to launch the Chang’e 5 lunar sample mission, which is intended to return with moon soil and rock samples to earth.

The other notable development in the Chinese space program that has gone unnoticed, at least in India, is how Chinese space start-ups have tied up with their European counterparts. The most visible example of cooperation is the French propulsion start-up, ThrustMe, tying up with the Chinese start up Spacety. In 2019, following the agreement, ThrustMe tested some key in-orbit technologies aboard Spacety’s Xiaoxiang 1-08 such as, “…iodine storage, delivery, and sublimation…” This was part of a demonstration that tested an iodine-based thruster to propel a small spacecraft built by Spacety. Following the recent launch, it is indeed the first time for China and France that an iodine propulsion electric system will be fully tested in space aboard a cube satellite dubbed Beihangkogshi-1, which was designed by Spacety. The demonstration will use the newly developed NPT-I2 electric propulsion system. Iodine-based propulsion for small satellites is increasingly being recognised the world over because it could help reduce the mass of spacecraft; and the volume, cost and risks to the propulsive performance of spacecrafts. For instance, National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) iSat Small Satellite (SmSat) is another space program involved in testing iodine-based propulsion. This effort is part of a demonstration mission by NASA.

It is unclear if the ongoing pandemic has significantly derailed cooperation between European space majors and PRC-based companies.

More pertinently, the tie-up between Spacety and ThrustMe represents a significant step in collaboration between a Chinese and Europe-based startup. The facilitative factor aiding this Joint Venture (JV) is the relaxed regulatory environment among the European Union (EU) states on space collaboration with a major non-EU and non-Western space-faring country. The United States of America’s (USA) International Traffic in Arms Control (ITAR) or Washington’s export control law has onerous conditions when it comes to cooperation between American space companies and non-American companies. Indeed, European companies are building spacecraft and technologies that are divested of ITAR components. As this Sino-French startup collaboration visibly demonstrates, Europeans appear not to be as acutely concerned about cooperating with Chinese start-ups and companies. There are several that continue to cooperate with Chinese companies, such as the Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, GomSpace, ISIS and Thales Alenia Space. It is unclear if the ongoing pandemic has significantly derailed cooperation between European space majors and PRC-based companies. An additional standout feature of the Spacety-ThrustMe tie-up is that Spacety ran risks, which allowed ThrustMe to test its newly built propulsion system aboard the former’s spacecraft. The new propulsion system is also designed and intended to mitigate debris by enabling the deorbit of small satellites, increase the orbital lifetime of the spacecraft and prevent in-orbit satellite collision. However, deeper and more enduring cooperation between European space companies and Chinese companies is still a work in progress.

Finally, on 4 September this year, China appears to have successfully launched and landed a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). This event again went unnoticed in India, although details about the Chinese RLV, which was launched from the Gobi Desert-based Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center are still obscure. The RLV is believed to have injected a satellite into orbit and “…successfully returned to the scheduled landing site on 6 September, after flying in orbit for 2 days.” Within the year, China will reportedly launch the Long March-8 rocket designed to execute Space-X type Falcon-9 type lift-offs and landings. Although most likely the Long March 8 will be an expendable version and will serve at best as a building block for proven and vigorously tested Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing (VTVL) reusable rockest. Even Wu Yansheng, a top technologist with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) admitted that a confirmed and credible VTVL capability may not be on the horizon until 2025.

Deeper and more enduring cooperation between European space companies and Chinese companies is still a work in progress.

Implications For India

All these developments represent tangible progress for the Chinese space program and present some uneasy questions for India. Was India’s COVID-19 lockdown too stringent and eventually prevented a network of private manufacturers and suppliers to the Indian space program from meeting the requirement of the ISRO’s space missions? Indeed, K. Sivan the ISRO Chairman conceded in late June this year that: “Because of this (pandemic), everything got disturbed. We have to make an assessment after the COVID-19 issue is resolved. Gaganyaan will be impacted because of the lockdown…all industries have not yet started functioning. All missions (including Chandrayaan 3) have been impacted.” The only launch the ISRO executed in 2020 was on 7 November when it sent ten satellites into orbit after a gap of nearly eleven months. This hiatus between the ISRO’s launches has been substantial and the lockdown, if not outrightly crippling, will delay future missions for the space program whose launch rates even before the pandemic were among the lowest in the select world of advanced space-faring countries. Despite Chinese claims about successfully testing an RLV, India’s space managers need not be concerned. But this must not be so with what Chinese start-ups are doing with their Western counterparts. The implication is clear for India’s emerging space start-up sector: it needs collaborations of the kind that was forged between Spacety and ThrustMe. Will Indian space start-ups run risks like Spacety did? Will foreign start-ups collaborate with their Indian counterparts? There are no definitive answers to these questions, but the Space Activities Bill, which will become law, may help resolve many lingering issues. However, the ISRO and Indian space start-ups have a formidable task ahead of them if they are to come close to matching the Chinese.

ISRO And Russian Satellites Come Within 224 Meters of Each Other; How Dangerous Is This?

The Indian satellite, CARTOSAT-2F, weigh over 700 kg and approached Russia's KANOPUS-V spacecraft at 1.49 UTC, according to the Russian Space Agency

India’s CARTOSAT-F, weighing over 700kg dangerously approached the KANOPUS-V spacecraft at 1.49 UTC, on Friday, according to the Russian Space Agency. In a tweet, ROSCOSMOS has said that the minimum distance between both Russian and foreign satellite was 224 meters. Both the satellites are meant for earth’s remote sensing.

How significant and dangerous is this? According to a source that spoke to Zee Media on the condition of anonymity, 1 Kilometre is an ideal distance between satellites in orbit, whereas 224 meter is scary and can be counted as a near miss. Generally, when two satellites are predicted (based on calculations) to make a close pass, a decision is taken to manoeuvre one of them away in advance(usually days ahead).

Given how space is getting increasingly crowded with satellites that are used for various purposes, it is said to be normal for agencies to manoeuvre one of their satellites every 3-4 weeks. It is notable that low Earth orbit (500-2000km) is the most congested, with satellites of various sizes - ranging from 10cm cubes to ones that are the size of a car or larger.

However, the decision to manoeuvre is not very easy. Especially, when the satellite is performing a strategic role that requires it to be at a particular spot. Because the manoeuvre would affect the schedule of the pre-planned operation of surveillance (in whatever form). In this case, ROSCOSMIS has said that both are remote sensing satellites, which implies that they in all likelihood used for strategic purposes. 

The space community has been divided over the prediction models for tracking satellites in orbit. The existing ones are the European Model, American model, Russian model, whereas the Indian model is under development. The reason that the space community hotly debates the efficiency of the models is that there are differences between the calculations made using each model. 

Let’s assume, in this case, the Indian model said that the satellites would be 1km apart, whereas the Russian model would have predicted that they would be 500m apart. It is also highly likely that in reality, both models went wrong and the satellites get closer than the prediction showed. Hence, there is no single model that works accurately, as each one can provide a different result. Another factor that could impact prediction models in low earth orbits is the impact of the drag from the Earth's atmosphere. 

Some interesting questions in this scenario are--how or why did the respective agencies allow the satellites to get this close? Were there predictions that both sides performed? Given the close Indo-Russian cooperation on space technology, did the agencies foresee this close shave and coordinate? 

Most importantly, why would the Russian agency go public with this information, rather than discuss with ISRO officials. Or did both the agencies have critical strategic functions that required the satellites to remain exactly in their respective orbits, despite knowing that they would make a close pass. 

Is it possible that the agencies wanted to allow a close pass and then take a call on any possible manoeuvre in future? The real danger posed by a possible collision of satellites would be the debris of varying sizes scattered across space in all directions, in high-speeds with high potential of harming other satellites.

The last large collision of satellites happened in 2009, when a US commercial Iridium spacecraft hit a defunct Russian satellite over Siberia, producing thousands of pieces of debris. As of January 2020, there are around 2,000 active satellites orbiting the earth. There are also more than 23,000 pieces of debris larger than 10cm (4inches) in orbit, according to NASA.

Explained: BrahMos Missile And Significance of Ongoing Series of Tests By Armed Forces

A look at the supersonic cruise missile, the significance of its land, sea, and air-launched versions and the strategic posturing behind the ongoing series of tests in the light situation with China and of competition in the strategically important Indian Ocean Region

India’s Armed forces – Army, Navy, and the Air Force – are conducting back-to-back tests of various versions of BrahMos missile. A look at the supersonic cruise missile, the significance of its land, sea, and air-launched versions and the strategic posturing behind the ongoing series of tests in the light situation with China and of competition in the strategically important Indian Ocean Region.

What Is The Brahmos Missile Which The Tri-Services Are Testing?

A combination of the names of Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers, BrahMos missiles are designed, developed and produced by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture company set up by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Mashinostroyenia of Russia. Various versions of the BrahMos, including those which can be fired from land, warships, submarines and Sukhoi-30 fighter jets have already been developed and successfully tested in the past. The earliest versions of the ship launched BrahMos and land-based system are in service of the Indian Navy and the Indian Army since 2005 and 2007 respectively.

BrahMos is a two-stage missile with solid propellant booster as first stage and liquid ramjet as the second stage. The cruise missiles like BrahMos are a type of systems known as the ‘standoff range weapons’ which are fired from a range sufficient to allow the attacker to evade defensive fire from the adversary. These weapons are in the arsenal of most major militaries in the world. The versions of the BrahMos that are being tested have an extended range of around 400 kilometres, as compared to its initial range of 290 kilometres, with more versions of higher ranges currently under development.

What Is The Significance of Having Land, Sea And Air-Launched Brahmos?

The land-based system: The land-based Brahmos Complex has four to six mobile autonomous launchers, with each having three missiles on board that can be fired almost simultaneously. Batteries of the BrahMos missile land based systems have been deployed along India’s land borders in various theatres.

The land attack version of BrahMos has the capability of cruising at 2.8 Mach speed and with the upgraded capability, the missile can hit targets at a range of up to 400 kilometres with precision. Advanced versions of range above 1,000 kilometres and speed u pto 5 Mach are said to be under development.

Ship-based system: The Indian Navy began inducting BrahMos on its frontline warships from 2005, and has capability to hit sea-based targets beyond radar horizon. The Naval version has been successful time and again in sea-to-sea and sea-to-land modes. The BrahMos from ship can be launched as a single unit or in a salvo up to eight in numbers separated by 2.5 seconds intervals. These salvos can hit and destroy a group of frigates having modern missile defence systems. BrahMos as a ‘prime strike weapon’ for the ships significantly increases their capability of engaging naval surface targets at long ranges.

The Air launched version: On November 22, 2017, Brahmos was successfully flight-tested for the first time from the IAF frontline fighter aircraft Sukhoi-30MKI against a sea-based target in the Bay of Bengal and has since been successfully tested multiple times.

BrahMos equipped Sukhoi-30s – which have a range of 1,500 kilometres at a stretch without mid-air refuelling – are considered as key strategic deterrence for the adversaries both along the land borders and in the strategically important Indian Ocean Region. IAF is said to be integrating BrahMos with 40 Sukhoi-30 fighter jets across the various bases.

The submarine launched version: This version has capability of being launched from around 50 meters below the water surface. The canister stored missile is launched vertically from the pressure hull of the submarine and uses different settings for underwater and out of the water flights. This version was successfully tested first in March 2013 from a submerged platform off the coast of Visakhapatnam.

What Are The Ongoing Series of Tests And The Strategic Posturing Behind It?

On November 24, the Indian Army successfully launched its BrahMos from Car Nicobar Islands in a ‘top-attack’ configuration hitting a target in Bay Bengal. The launch was first in the series of launches of the various versions of missile in coming days in a display of India’s tactical cruise missile triad. Tuesday’s test was followed by two tests — one by the Army and another by IAF — on Wednesday. More tests including those of Naval versions are also slated to take place.

Explaining the significance of these tests, a retired IAF commander said, “While the tests of land, ship and air launched BrahMos have been done time and again, it is rare that they are being tested back-to-back that too in the Indian Ocean Region. These tests certainly project India’s firm strategic posture in the light of situations along the LAC and China ambitions in the Indian Ocean Region. We also need to understand the importance of these live tests from the preparedness point of view. Each test helps these service formations fine-tune their practices, methods and do course correction if needed. Three services doing it back to back also have a tri-service integration significance where land, air and sea assets work in tandem and display a joint deterrence.”

He added, “Land based BrahMos formations along the borders, BrahMos equipped Sukhoi-30s at bases in Northern theatre and and Southern peninsula, and BrahMos capable ships deployed in sea — complete a triad and their successful tests are a strong message to China.”

Close India-Taiwan Ties Worry China In Indo-Pacific

Nay Pyi Taw [Myanmar]: As relations between India, Taiwan and the United States grow closer in response to China's moves in the Indo-Pacific region, the Chinese state media seems to have gone overboard.

Last month, Global Times had written in an article, "The Taiwan question is not a card that India can exploit as a bargaining chip toward China over the border issue. India's recognition of the one-China principle and commitment not to support 'Taiwan independence' forces have been reciprocated by China's promise not to support the separatist forces in India."

This came in reply to media reports of India and Taiwan considering strengthening bilateral trade ties.

"If India plays the Taiwan card, it should be aware that China can also play the Indian separatist card," said the Chinese state media.

It further said, "If India takes the move to support 'Taiwan independence,' China has every reason to support separatist forces in Northeast Indian states such as Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam and Nagaland. China could even support the resurrection of Sikkim."

According to a report by The Irrawaddy, there are at least three key reasons behind China's near-hysterical response.

The first reason cited by the Burmese newspaper is that Taiwan is central to China's geopolitical ambition of becoming a leading world power. If China's dream of integrating Taiwan into the mainland comes true, then it would allow Beijing to "base its nuclear submarines in its deep-water ports, allowing them undetected access to the wider Pacific Ocean, turning the Chinese navy into an authentic blue water force".

However, if denied, then China will suffer a strategic setback as then its navy will be stuck between "three island chains" constructed by the US and its allies since the beginning of the Cold War.

Of the three island chains, the first "starts from the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia's Far East and weaves its way into Japan. Then, from the southernmost part of the Japanese mainland, it passes through Okinawa, a part of a larger Ryukyu island chain that ends with Taiwan. From Taiwan, the First Island Chain heads towards the Philippines and the island of Borneo, before looping towards the tip of the Malay Peninsula," said The Irrawaddy.

The Second Island Chain is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and acts as the US' second defence line. "It is formed by the Bonin islands--an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands, some 1,000 km south of Tokyo--and the Volcano Islands, a group of three islands further to the south. The Second Island Chain terminates in Guam, a key US military base in the Indo-Pacific," the article said.

Meanwhile, the Third Island chain begins in the north with the Aleutian Islands, most of them in Alaska, and runs through the central Pacific to Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand and the vast cluster of islands in Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia.

The second reason cited by The Irrawaddy for China's hysterical behaviour is that if Taiwan becomes independent, then China would be on a "slippery slope" as Taiwan's independence would encourage others to follow the move like Hong Kong, Tibet, etc.

"Third, Taiwan, known for its proven strengths in hi-tech and high-rise construction, can accelerate the process of economic decoupling from China, which the Trump administration in the US has already flagged, following the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, trade ministers of India, Australia and Japan declared their intent to road map new supply chains which exclude China. Both Taiwan and the US would seamlessly fit into this ambitious initiative," The Irrawaddy said.

As India continues to reduce its alliance on China, Taiwan can benefit by "bridging the commercial and technology breach".

Last week, Taipei Times quoted Taiwan's Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang as saying, "With the government's New Southbound Policy, India is a good place for Taiwanese businesses to build production bases, given its democracy, ample human resources and strategically important location."

As India-China's relations go south, The Irrawaddy has quoted India's representative to Taiwan, Gourangalal Das, as saying in Taipei, that India's start-up ecosystem, smart agriculture, precision medicine, skills training and industrial automation offer great opportunities for India-Taiwan collaboration.


India Must Engage With Taiwan, And Not Just Because of China

Taiwan’s growing popularity in India is unprecedented. The Indian government should sense the popular sentiment, and consider a shift in its Taiwan policy. The objective of this deepening engagement is not to field ties with Taiwan as a countermeasure to growing animosity with China, but to de-hyphenate India-Taiwan ties from India-China relations

Taiwan is celebrating India, and making an effort to win the hearts of the Indian community. This was manifested in Taiwan’s ministry of foreign affairs’ first-ever public celebration of Diwali at the Taipei Guest House on November 13. This was in response to the appreciation Taiwan has got from India over the last couple of months. Its Covid-19 success has generated curiosity about Taiwan in India. The India-China standoff and China’s disregard for India’s territorial sovereignty and integrity has also contributed to this mutual appreciation and realisation of the need to urgently step up bilateral relations.

This realisation is, however, more at the level of civil society than the State on the Indian side. Considering several diplomatic and strategic constraints, the scope for elevation in India-Taiwan ties has remained limited. The China factor has loomed large. Even though India has stopped mentioning its adherence to One China policy in joint statements and official documents since 2010, its engagement with Taiwan is still restricted due to the framework of ties with China.

Foregoing relations with Taiwan for the hope of managing tensions with China has yielded little result. China’s aggression at the border front, its decades-old “all-weather friendship” with Pakistan including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and denying New Delhi entry at the international platforms are examples of its uncompromising stance towards India. It is not surprising that China has not respected India’s clearly articulated sensitivities on these issues.

India is an important part of the Indo-Pacific region, and it is natural for India to collaborate with like-minded countries to pursue common interests. On the one hand, China has emerged as a security concern for India, and, on the other, Taiwan is willing to partner with major stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific to ensure regional stability and peace. Taiwan’s inclusion and participation in the Indo-Pacific is significant, and should be promoted by all major stakeholders. It is a fallacy to assume that the Indo-Pacific is solely designed to contain China. This notion of Taiwan versus China should be changed and Taiwan’s participation should be seen as a stabilising factor.

While a concerted policy is required for ensuring Taiwan’s inclusion in the Indo-Pacific, India should be more forthcoming towards Taiwan. China has clearly violated the Panchsheel Agreement by repeatedly raising the issue of India’s Jammu and Kashmir. It is interfering in India’s domestic politics, and dictating how India should handle its foreign relations. China cannot have a say in how India wishes to engage with other partners such as Taiwan.

Taiwan’s growing popularity in India is unprecedented. The Indian government should sense the popular sentiment, and consider a shift in its Taiwan policy. Several steps may be taken. First, initiating trade talks would be a welcome step. Singapore and New Zealand already have Free Trade Agreements with Taiwan. Taiwan is an integral part of the regional supply chain mechanism, and a trade agreement with Taiwan will help India remain connected to the regional economic dynamism, amidst its attempts to de-couple from China.

Second, parliamentary visits should be restored between Taiwan and India. The two countries are vibrant democracies, and parliamentary interactions and visits will strengthen their commitment towards the rule of law and good governance. Third, to have a long-term perspective on the virtues of engaging each other, a policy planning dialogue at the mid-official level may be initiated primarily for information-sharing and dealing with the non-traditional security threats. Fourth, an active exchange of ideas in the health sector will prove beneficial for learning from Taiwan’s Covid-19 experience.

The objective of this deepening engagement is not to field ties with Taiwan as a countermeasure to growing animosity with China, but to de-hyphenate India-Taiwan ties from India-China relations. Taiwan is reaching out to India; India too should reciprocate.

India No Longer A Soft Target, Paradigm Shift In Response To Terror, Says Defence Minister

In a direct reference to Pakistan and stressing how terrorism was almost a state policy in that country, Singh said that blacklisting by the FATF would eventually prove to be the final nail in the coffin of state-sponsored terror

Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said that India’s response to terrorism has undergone a paradigm shift and the country’s defence mechanism now includes not only investigation of terror activities internally but also externally. Singh reiterated that India is no longer a soft target for terrorists and a few of our neighbours may have to pay a heavy price for making terrorism a state policy.

“There has been a sea-change in the way we deal with terror attacks on our soil. Not only are we investigating within the country but we have also penetrated deep into neighbouring territory to wipe out terror camps in 2019 after the Pulwama attack,” Singh said. He reminded the nation that today’s date November 26 is of paramount importance in the history of national security. It was on this day 12 years ago that a group of heavily armed terrorists sneaked into the country via the sea route and systematically attacked the financial capital of the country—Mumbai.

Bhutan Plays Paramount Role In India-China Tensions, Says EFSAS

Amsterdam: As relations between India and China sour, the role of Bhutan has become paramount with its internal developments having important implications in terms of how these countries position themselves politically, economically and strategically, a European think tank has said.

In a commentary, European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said that maintaining and expanding its alliance with Bhutan is going to be of paramount importance for India as it will remain keen to prevent further Chinese incursions into Doklam and Bhutan more generally.

Since the clashes between India and China in the Galwan Valley, both countries have accused each other of violating the status quo in the western Himalayas. This incident resulted in India imposing tariffs on Chinese goods.

Amid this tension, Bhutan, which is often "underappreciated", plays a strategic role. Owing to its location, economic developments within Bhutan continue to be heavily connected to its bilateral relations with India in particular, EFSAS said.

Bhutan has enjoyed a friendly relationship with India due to cultural, historical, geographical and strategic factors.

"Bhutan relies on the permeability of the Indian border for access to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean more generally. In recent years, though, Bhutan has sought to deepen its multilateral political integration, and has established its own diplomatic ties with some other countries. Although Bhutan's diplomatic independence has grown since then, the country does lean on India as a political and diplomatic mediator," the think tank said.

Meanwhile, Bhutan's relations with China have been less cordial.

"The 1949 victory of the CCP in the Chinese civil war marked an existential shift in the threat-perception of the Bhutanese monarchy, incentivizing alignment with India. Shared cultural-religious ties, which operate as a decisive variable informing political decision-making in Bhutan, are, despite the heritage shared with Tibet, less pronounced between Bhutan and the Han-dominated China, especially following Tibet's integration into China," the EFSAS said.

In July, China made new territorial claims in Bhutan in an emerging Eastern sector surrounding the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary following the India-China border tensions in the Galwan Valley.

The EFSAS has opined that maintaining and expanding its alliance with Bhutan is going to be of paramount importance for India as it will remain keen to prevent further Chinese incursions into Doklam and Bhutan more generally.

It said, "For India, retaining an understanding of the domestic political processes in the adjacent Himalayan countries will be of key relevance in shaping the further political developments of the region in the future. In turn, Bhutan might face growing coercive behaviour at the hands of China. This situation, in combination with the growing tensions and pressures in the region, will pose new and distinct challenges to Bhutan's unique cultural heritage."


Covid-19, Energy, Defence Key Focus of Foreign Minister Jaishankar's UAE Visit

The in-person visit comes amidst the pandemic and UAE normalising its ties with Israel

Energy, Covid-19 cooperation, defence were the key focus areas of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's visit to United Arab Emirates (UAE) as he met the top leadership---Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The in-person visit comes amidst the pandemic and UAE normalising its ties with Israel, a significant development that has ramifications in the region.

A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said, "EAM and the UAE Foreign Minister discussed recent regional and international developments and agreed to continue coordination on various multilateral issues."

When it comes to Covid-19, EAM briefed his counterpart on the "progress made by India" in dealing the pandemic and thanked the Emirati leadership for " taking great care of Indians during the Covid-19 pandemic".

UAE has the largest population of Indians outside of India, many of whom are playing a key part in the local economy and also sending huge remittances back home. 

EAM is on a week-long 3 nation visit and has already visited Bahrain and UAE and his next destination is Indian ocean Island country of Seychelles to meet with the new leadership of President Ramkalawan.

Narcotics Control Bureau Probes Terror Angle In Huge Heroin Haul At Sea

A Sri Lankan boat was intercepted off the Thoothukudi Coast on November 24. Intelligence agencies bust international drug network

CHENNAI/MADURAI: It was a week-long operation of Indian Coast Guard vessels at sea with aerial support and the backing of Central intelligence agencies that led to the zeroing-in on a Sri Lankan mechanised boat transporting a huge consignment of heroin off the coast of Thoothukudi on Tuesday night.

The well-coordinated operation involving defence, intelligence and other drug-law enforcement agencies was launched on November 17 on the basis of a specific input that Pakistan-based smugglers would be transferring a huge consignment of drugs at sea on to a Sri Lankan boat. The security agencies were already working on information that a group of international drug peddlers were operating along the Pakistan-Sri Lankan water route transporting drugs to many countries, police sources said.

After seven days of surveillance at sea, Coast Guard personnel on board five vessels and two aircraft narrowed down on the suspicious Sri Lankan boat “Shenaya Duwa” located south of the Thoothukudi coast and 20 nautical miles off Kanniyakumari. Armed guards searched the boat and found the drugs concealed in an “unapproachable” location. The crew of six Sri Lankan nationals was in possession of 99 packets of heroin, 20 boxes of synthetic drugs, five pistols and a satellite phone set, the sources said.

Preliminary investigation revealed that the 100 kg heroin and other contraband substances were transferred from a Pakistani dhow from Karachi in the high seas. The drugs were meant to be sent to western countries and Australia, investigators said.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) which took over investigation of the drug seizure case would look into the possibility of terrorist organisations being involved in the smuggling of drugs since the suspects were in possession of sophisticated weapons.

NCB South Zonal Director A. Bruno said the heroin appeared to be of fine quality and such drugs were usually sourced from Afghanistan. Central agencies were working on tracking the international drug network for quite some time and launched the operation after receiving actionable inputs.

The six Sri Lankan nationals were brought to Madurai for interrogation on Thursday. The smugglers said they were heading to a location near Australia and claimed to have sourced the narcotics from an agent based in Karachi on November 16, an investigator said.

'Indian Army At LAC Have Free Hand To Counter China's PLA With Full Force': Defence Minister

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said that the armed forces deployed at LAC have been given a 'freehand' to counter any changes made by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) at the Indo-China Border with 'full force'. Citing what the Indian Army did in Galwan Valley, Rajnath Singh said that it is just what is needed to force PLA personnel to back off. The Defence Minister also pointed out that even though India has 'perceptional difference' with China, there are some agreements and protocols that the two countries need to adhere to while patrolling the LAC. 

"Our government has given a free hand to the armed forces to counter any changes across the LAC with China, with full force. The Indian Army did exactly that in Galwan valley. With courage, they countered the PLA's soldiers and forced them to move back. It is a fact that India has a perceptional difference between China. Despite this, there are some agreements, protocols that armies of the two countries follow while patrolling the LAC. We want this border dispute between India and China to be negotiated and peaceful. Talks have continued, and we will continue to have a dialogue to resolve border stand-off with China. But I believe countries should not be expansionist. I want to assure everyone that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration, there will be no compromise on India's border, self-respect and sovereignty," said Rajnath Singh.

Rajnath Singh On Integrated National Security

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also spoke about the need to strengthen the security infrastructure of India with focus on new age warfare. He stated that the scope for war will increase in the coming time and will be fought in space, cyber-space and in the hearts & minds of 'most important people' along with the age-old way of waging war in air, water and land. He further informed that the under the leadership of Narendra Modi, India is preparing to deal with this 'new age reality' and transformative reforms have been made for the same.

Rajnath Singh further emphasised the need to focus on indigenous solutions for the Defence and Security sector in a bid to strengthen the nation in line with the 'Make in India' initiative. Speaking about the changes made under the initiative, the Defence Minister informed that an open invitation has been given to Defence Manufacturers to manufacture goods in India, adding that 'equipment and platforms are made to meet India's security needs along with those of the friendly nations'.

"In order to promote defence manufacturing in India, our government has released a negative list of more than 100 items under which we will manufacture those equipment and Platforms in India instead of importing them in this country. There is a need to keep upgrading any good system related to your security at the time of changing and changing requirements. This is why it is not 'This is the End' for us but 'We will always go on," said Rajnath Singh in a series of tweets in Hindi.

Iran's Top Nuclear Scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Assassinated

Iran's defence ministry said today top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been assassinated.

"Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving (Fakhrizadeh), and a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist achieved the high status of martyrdom after years of effort and struggle," Iran's armed forces said in a statement.

Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators
Fakhrizadeh's bodyguard was reportedly killed. The high-level nuclear scientist is referred to as "Iran’s Robert Oppenheimer" and is known as the "father" of Iran's nuclear program.

According to reports, Fakhrizadeh's assassination took place in Absard in Tehran's Damavand county. 

Terrorists reportedly bombed a car before opening fire at Fakhrizadeh's car. Iranian media reported Fakhrizadeh died of injuries in hospital after armed assassins fired at his car.

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javed Zarif condemned the nuclear scientist's assassination as a "terrorist act".

China-Nepal, China-Bhutan Border Disputes Rumours 'Stoked By India Forces': CCP's Global Times

Pangda village, Yadong County of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region

A spate of fabricated, hyped China-Nepal and China-Bhutan border disputes is raising concerns about looming foreign forces backing the China-bashing campaign across Himalayas. Local observers and insiders reached by the Global Times see foreign hands as the source of false territory encroachment allegations and defamation against China. Experts say such sources are likely Indian political factions who see both Nepal and Bhutan as its protectorates.

Local observers and experts criticized the Indian media for spreading such rumours. Analysts said some Indian media reports lack self-discipline and hype topics to cater to the nationalist sentiment amid intense press competition, calling such media a "poison" for regional peace and stability.

Instead of pursuing the truth with journalism ethics, some Indian media outlets fabricate lies to draw attention and this has become their habitual way of reporting, analysts said.

Bhutanese Border Management Controlled By India

Some Indian media recently hyped a Chinese village existed two kilometres inside Bhutanese territory, a claim proven to be false and denied by Bhutanese officials. Indian media NDTV reported on Thursday the Chinese had built a residential area within Bhutanese territory and named it "Pangda village." But the satellite images and documents showed the village was without a doubt inside Chinese territory. Vetsop Namgyel, Bhutan's envoy to India, also publicly denied the existence of a Chinese village in its territory.

"A lot of information in the Indian media is false. They are making every effort to drive a wedge between China and Bhutan," a Bhutan resident, who preferred to be called Kelly, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

However, most Bhutanese didn't know they are fake news, because 70 percent of Bhutan's local television channels are carrying Indian programming, Kelly said.

Wangcha Sangey, a legal consultant for the Bhutanese news portal, published several articles denouncing India's involvement in the issues of Sino-Bhutanese border demarcation, saying China's negotiation with Bhutan on the border dispute is beneficial for the demarcation of the boundary between the two sides, while India's involvement is an act of surrendering sovereignty to another nation.

According to Sangey, from the late 1960s and through the 1970s, the Indian government tried to negotiate on behalf of Bhutan with China over the issue of China-Bhutan border demarcation. After being rejected by China, India continued to press Bhutan in the subsequent border negotiations, demanding that Bhutan ask China for more territory of strategic significance.

In 2017, the Indians crossed into Chinese territory under the pretext of "protecting Bhutan" and provoked an incident in the Doklam area. Sangey commented that India just used Bhutan to secure New Delhi's interest and although Bhutan was reluctant to get involved, in many cases, they have to play the role of India's interest agent in the Sino-Bhutan border dispute.

The Global Times reporter tried to interview Sangey amid a visit to Bhutan in 2017 during the continuously escalating Doklam standoff. The intermediary contacted for the interview initially said Sangey was willing to be interviewed, but could not talk about the situation and relationship between China and India due to the potential repercussions.

But by the time the reporters arrived in Bhutan, Sanjay could no longer be reached. "A gag order may have been received," The intermediary said.

The Global Times found that in Haa district, the town closest to the Doklam confrontation area on the Bhutanese side of the border between China and Bhutan, Indian troops have been stationed for more than half a century. Haa district - home to 13,000 - had more than 500 Indian soldiers in its district capital alone.

Local residents were also not allowed to discuss the Sino-Indian conflict or trade with China. To make a living, they had to import Chinese goods from Nepal or even smuggle them.

China has settled its land boundary lines with 12 neighbouring countries through peaceful negotiations since 1949, accomplishing the demarcation work of 90 percent of its borders. 

In 2019, China invited all neighbouring countries to join an international conference on boundary cooperation, attracting officials and scholars from 12 of China's neighbours. Letho Tobdhen Tangbi, representative from Bhutan, delivered a speech during the conference, saying that Bhutan and China have kept communications on border issues.

But India, one of the only two countries that have not settled land boundary lines with China, did not show up.

"Under its 'confused confidence,' India can't tolerate the influence of China, or even the US, to rise in the South Asia. India bears the great-nation chauvinism in the region," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Indian media can always propagate fake news to smear China. Contrary to what the Indian government has been imagining, China does not see India as an enemy or target, let alone "the ruler of South Asia," Hu said.

Pro-India Forces Behind China-Nepal Dispute Rumours

The China-Bhutan border dispute rumours followed false allegations of China trespassing Nepalese land. The rumour started in October and was widely hyped up by Western and Indian media. Media reports claiming that China has annexed more than 150 hectares of Nepalese land have been proven false by repeated investigations from China, Nepal and both countries' foreign ministries.

The allegation cited the conclusion of a politically motivated team that accused China of encroaching on Nepal's territory in the border district after their 11-day visit to Nepal-China border in Humla district in October.

The team was led by Nepali Congress (NC) Parliamentary leader Jeevan Bahadur Shahi, a former government minister widely regarded by the local public as a "blind supporter" of US policy. His party Nepali Congress supported the team's findings in the media and is the largest opposition party in the Nepali House of Representatives and the National Assembly, and is also considered a pro-India force.

Jeevan Bahadur Shahi on Sunday said he felt threatened after China responded aggressively to a report by his team, which showed the "communist nation had encroached on Nepal's land in Humla."

"I want to reiterate that China will be responsible if anything unfortunate happens to me," Shahi said in an interview on local news platform Khabarhub.

"Shahi is the one to provoke the Nepal-China border issues. Government has made clear many times that there is no border encroachment from China. Shahi is just greeting some media hype because here are also some forces that don't want Nepal-China relations good," an anonymous Nepali journalist who closely follows the matter told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Jeevan Bahadur Shahi has registered and run a social organization named Snow-land Integrated Development Centre, financially supported by the US. Shahi has been developing another similar organization which mobilizes against China on behalf of the US and Indian governments, a Nepali political observer told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Insiders have confirmed that some staffers in the Indian embassy are supporting some young members of the Nepal Samajbadi Party (Nepal Socialist Party), a unified party of several groups known to be pro-India, to organize street demonstrations near the Chinese embassy, a source close to the matter told the Global Times on Tuesday on condition of anonymity. Such activities have increased since the India-China face-off. One can assume, accordingly, the Indian embassy officials might have used NC leaders to speak out against China, said the source.

Some initiators of demonstrations have close ties with the 14th Dalai Lama and his "government-in-exile," and often organize some parliament members' visits to the Dalai Lama in India. Some have become more explicit in Kathmandu to accuse China after China-India border conflict escalated, said the source.

Nepali Ambassador to China Mahendra Bahadur Pandey told the Global Times in a previous interview that there used to be some long, outstanding territorial problems between Nepal and India. He said some Indian media reports are not based on facts and adopt a biased attitude. Pandey said cooperation between China and Nepal is natural and friendly.

The border disputes have long existed, but tensions have grown louder in 2020 because India's disputes with China and Pakistan on border have upgraded, Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The Indian media take the chance to hype "Chinese expansionism," Qian said. "They want to create an image in world public opinion that India has been bullied by China, so that the US and other countries would support their policies against China."

The border issue is a card for India to play to acquire domestic support. To hype China-Nepal and China-Bhutan issues, India invents pretexts for the border standoff between India and China by hyping falsified border disputes, Qian noted. In Nepal and Bhutan, mainstream discourse advocates friendly relations with China, but India would rather keep its influence and pressure on other South Asian countries, according to Qian.

Steady Increase In Chinese Vessels In Indian Ocean, 100 Ships Travelling To Pakistan Every Year

When it comes to Chinese fishing vessels in the high seas, around 300 to 450 have been seen in the last four years

A steady increase has been seen in Chinese research and fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean region, something that can be a cause of concern given how they have been involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and data collecting.

Deployment of the Chinese research vessel has been observed in the ninety-degree east ridge and southwest Indian ridge. In the last few weeks, 3 Chinese research vessels have been seen in the region.

When it comes to Chinese fishing vessels in the high seas, around 300 to 450 have been seen in the last four years. Largely, fishing activity has been a seasonal behaviour as they withdraw from the Arabian sea prior to the onset of monsoon and return in September to October period.

The IUU, involving China's distant water fishing (DWF) has been depleting fishing resources from areas near North & South Korean and Japanese waters to as far off as Latin America and West Asia.

Most of the areas Chinese vessels are fishing in the Indian ocean are international water, outside of the exclusive economic zone of any country, but since it is unregulated, it impacts the ecosystem in surrounding waters as well. Distant water fishing is heavily subsidized by Beijing.

The 2-way vessel traffic between Pakistan and China via the Indian ocean has also been significant even as both countries grow engagement. The number of vessels going from China to Pakistan stands at 100 vessels per year, while the number of vessels coming from Pakistan to China stands at 50 per year.

Earlier this year, a Karachi-bound ship with Chinese crew was detained at Gujarat's Kandla port and after the inspection was found to carry an autoclave, used in the ballistic missile. The development raised eyebrows in Delhi and was quick to convey its concerns on the issue since the item was on India's dual-use export list.