Thursday, March 4, 2021

Signed Deal With India To Buy BrahMos Missile, Says Philippines

The BrahMos missile can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or from land platforms

New Delhi: India on Tuesday signed a key pact with the Philippines for the sale of "defence material and equipment", which are likely to include BrahMos cruise missiles.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was also present at the pact's signing ceremony in Manila, has reportedly said that his country is buying BrahMos missiles.

Philippine Department of National Defence (DND) said on Facebook on Tuesday that Defence Undersecretary Raymundo Elefante and India's Ambassador to the Philippines Shambu S. Kumaran signed an "implementing arrangement" for "procurement of defence material and equipment".

The Facebook post said Lorenzana was also present at the signing ceremony.

"We are buying the BrahMos missiles," Lorenzana was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.

Defence Undersecretary Raymundo Elefante and India's Ambassador to the Philippines Shambu S. Kumaran signed an "implementing arrangement" for "procurement of defence material and equipment", Philippine Department of National Defence (DND) said on Facebook.

There was no statement from the Indian side.

India and Russia have been planning to export the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile to the Philippines and several other countries, Russian Deputy Chief of Mission in India Roman Babushkin had said on November 12 in an online briefing.

The BrahMos missile is produced by an Indo-Russian joint venture and it can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or from land platforms.

On October 18 last year, a naval version of the BrahMos missile was successfully test-fired from an indigenously-built stealth destroyer of the Indian Navy in the Arabian sea.

Days later, the Indian Air Force test-fired an air-launched version of the BrahMos missile from a Sukhoi fighter aircraft in the Bay of Bengal.

A number of countries including in the Gulf region have shown interest in procuring the missile.

India has already deployed a sizeable number of the original BrahMos missiles and other key assets in several strategic locations along the LAC with China in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

The IAF is also integrating the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile on over 40 Sukhoi fighter jets to bolster the overall combat capability of the force.

Sri Lanka Air Force Gets First-Hand Feel of India’s Indigenously Developed Tejas Jet

New Delhi: Sri Lanka Air Force got first hand feel of India’s indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft TEJAS as Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy participate in their 70th anniversary in Colombo.

Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria also visited Colombo on Thursday to take part in Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) 70th anniversary and also to strengthen bilateral relationship and open up newer avenues of mutual interest.

Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy participated in the Aerobatic Display by Sarang (Advance Light Helicopter), Surya Kiran (Hawks), TEJAS Fighter Aircraft, TEJAS Trainer and the Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

A total of 23 aircraft of the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy are participating in the event.

The detachment for the Aerobatic Display arrived in Colombo on February 27, 2021, with the support of C-17 Globe Master and C-130J transport aircrafts of Indian Air Force.

The deployment of such wide variety and huge inventory of aircrafts and helicopters of IAF and Indian Navy is testimony to the strong bonds of friendship and close interoperability shared between the corresponding forces of India and Sri Lanka services,” the Indian government said.

The Indian Air Force chief arrived at Colombo on Thursday an invitation from Sri Lanka Air Force chief Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana.

Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) is celebrating its 70th anniversary on March 2 and presentation of the President’s colours to two of its Units on March 5.

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria attended the inaugural ceremony Thursday, during which a flypast was carried out. The aerobatic display was also carried out. The air show at Galle Face Colombo saw participation by an IAF contingent comprising of Suryakiran and Sarang Aerobatic Display Teams and TEJAS.

All the Indian aircraft on display are Made in India and as such represent the indigenous technical prowess of Indian research and development sector and reliability of products of India’s Defence Industry.

TEJAS Trainer, on display for the first time, afforded the opportunity of independent sorties for the Sri Lanka Air Force Pilots, accompanied with the Indian Pilots.

The officers from Sri Lanka Air Force and Sri Lanka Navy also had first hand experience onboard the Indian Navy’s Maritime Patrol Aircraft Dornier.

“Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) pilots and Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) observers will fly along with the Indian crew. This is in continuation of the half yearly Dornier training sorties being facilitated for SLAF and SLN,” the government said.

Further, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria will interact with various dignitaries and the heads of Services of the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka during his two day visit. ”The visit will further strengthen the existing cooperative process and open up newer avenues of mutual interest,” IAF said in a statement.

Setting Up Theatre Commands Key Agenda For Military Top Brass Meet With PM

Setting up theatre commands for better utilisation of resources aimed at bringing in synergy among the armed forces and self-reliance in the defence sector will be the key agenda for deliberations in the Combined Commanders' Conference that will also be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Combined Commanders' Conference 2021 is scheduled to be held between March 4 and 6 in Kevadia, Gujarat.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will address top commanders of the Indian Army, Air Force and the Navy on March 5 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address them on March 6.

"Setting up a new 'Air Defence Command' and 'Maritime Command' will be discussed in details. The timeline for implementation of 'Air Defence Command' will also be deliberated," said an official.

A 'Maritime Command', a separate command for Jammu and Kashmir, the need to have a focused command for China and a separate 'Air Defence Command' is part of the blueprint for the joint theatre commands that are part of the major restructuring exercise within the armed forces.

The joint or theatre commands for the military could start rolling out by 2022.

The 'Air Defence Command' will bring together all resources of the Air Force, Army and the Navy, and will be headed by a three-star Indian Air Force officer.

Similarly, the 'Maritime Command' will have all assets of the three services under one command headed by a naval officer controlling all sea operations.

The newly created Department of Military Affairs headed by the Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat is working towards creation of 'joint military commands'.

Gen Rawat has a mandate to gradually bring all service commands under one umbrella in a time-bound manner, sources said.

Currently there are 19 commands and only two out of these are tri-service commands. These are the Andaman and Nicobar Command and Strategic Forces Command that is in charge of nuclear assets.

During the conference, top officials in the defence ministry will give presentations and key areas of discussions will also include self-reliance, officials said.

The Thaw In Ladakh

How India and China succeeded in working out a disengagement plan on the LAC

India’s “quid pro quo” strategy (Operation Snow Leopard) to occupy the heights on the south bank at Rechin La and Rezang La, the Kailash Range, and on the north bank of Pangong Tso which overlooked Chinese positions on the ridge lines in the Finger 4 area, led to this breakthrough by creating equal opportunity for both states to make concessions

by Ameya Pratap Singh

India and China have successfully completed their four-step disengagement plan in Pangong Tso, Eastern Ladakh. This plan had been agreed to in the ninth round of talks at the Corps Commander-level on January 24. China pulled back its troops to the East of Finger 8 on the north bank, which is the farthest extent of India’s claim line, while Indian troops retreated to the Dhan Singh Thapa post behind Finger 3. This effectively re-establishes status-quo ante as of April 2020 (before the crisis began) while also dramatically reducing the risk of inadvertence through a temporary no patrolling buffer zone. All military infrastructure in this zone has also been dismantled. Arguably, India’s “quid pro quo” strategy (Operation Snow Leopard) to occupy the heights on the south bank at Rechin La and Rezang La, the Kailash Range, and on the north bank of Pangong Tso which overlooked Chinese positions on the ridge lines in the Finger 4 area, led to this breakthrough by creating equal opportunity for both states to make concessions.

While this improvement is welcome, an important question to ask is: How was this disengagement plan achieved? In other words, why do rivals trust agreements they reach during crisis bargaining? If China’s attempts to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control violated foundational agreements on the border, such as the 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility, why did India trust them to adhere to the disengagement plan? If China defected and PLA troops had moved in to re-occupy disputed areas, India could have suffered great reputational and strategic costs. This situation is not unusual in international relations. Rivals often lack an experiential script that allows mutual cooperation to flourish. So, how do they learn to build the necessary confidence in the other’s words, to make post-crisis agreements work? After all, aren’t talk and written agreements “cheap” as any good realist would say?

Four rational factors have allowed basic confidence to develop in the India-China case. First, the agreed disengagement plan compartmentalised the risk of defection through specific reciprocity and gradualism (a step-by-step approach). This in turn had two parts: First, when trust levels are low, as Robert Keohane has argued, the specific exchange of equal value items (or in this case disengagement) in a strictly delimited sequence over a shorter period is necessary for cooperation. The rights, obligations, and duties of the parties must be stated clearly, eliminating any room for ambiguity or misperception; second, the exchanges/concessions should be incremental instead of a “leap of faith”. This helps limit the benefits of defecting early. In line with this, the India-China disengagement plan was a four-step one, as Lt. General Y K Joshi, head of India’s Northern Command, explained in an interview with India Today. Step 1 was disengagement of the armour and mechanical regiments on the R2 Complex, step 2 and 3 was disengagement of the infantries on the North and South bank of Pangong Tso, and finally, step 4 was disengagement on the Kailash Range. After each step, both armies verified whether a mutually satisfactory situation had been achieved and only then proceeded to the next one.

The second factor, to paraphrase John J Mearsheimer, was the “stopping power of the Himalayas”. With the coming of winter, the offence-defence balance on the Sino-Indian border shifted, and favoured defence. Any type of large-scale mobilisation at this time for forward deployment was highly challenging from a logistical point of view for either side. Even after the unfortunate clashes in the Galwan Valley on June 15 last year, a large number of troops on both sides had died due to hypoxia (16,000 ft altitude) and hypothermia after falling into the river. In particular, Indian reports suggested that adverse weather conditions disfavoured the Chinese more since “its army in Aksai Chin is largely made of conscripts, who were drafted for a three-month annual summer exercise in Tibet and Xinjiang in return for the state taking care of their future education”.

The third factor was a concern for credibility. As Robert Jervis has pointed out, the value of deception in diplomatic interaction is somewhat overstated. If caught bluffing or cheating the damage to one’s reputation can be irreversible. Especially in crisis bargaining situations where negotiated settlements are crucial to achieving optimal outcomes, surrendering the instrument of diplomacy entirely is not wise. Reneging on previous written agreements is one thing, lying during face-to-face interactions despite having made firm commitments is another. Both sides seemed to recognise that if defection occurred at this stage, there may not be much to prevent a future LOC-isation (lasting militarisation similar to the India-Pakistan border) of the Line of Actual Control along the Sino-Indian border. As Lt. General Joshi said, there was “no space for doubts or non-adherence” and the “PLA had demonstrated sincerity of purpose”.

The final factor—building on my own PhD research—are the presence of plausible exogenous explanations for disengagement. Both India and China needed convincing accounts for why the other would “prefer” disengagement instead of defection. For the Indian side, once again to return to Lt. General Joshi’s interview, the Chinese failed to achieve their strategic objectives, whatever these may be. It was India’s QPQ military moves (successful demonstration of resolve) that ultimately forced China to relent and disengage. On the Chinese side, India’s domestic troubles (farmers’ protests and economic recession) are seen as driving factors behind the preference for disengagement. In light of these, both states seem convinced of the other’s dissatisfaction with the military deadlock.

Thus, supporting conditions and the ability to devise a mutually acceptable and sequential disengagement plan laid the foundation for this vital breakthrough after a nine-month-long military stand-off. Now, both sides have determined to move on to the resolution of other friction points such as the Depsang plains, Gogra hot-springs and the Galwan valley. This was also reiterated during Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar’s phone call with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on February 26. There are reports of a proposed “hotline” between the two foreign ministries to “exchange opinions in a timely manner”. However, whether leaders on both sides will be able to maximise this “window of opportunity”— presented by the confidence re-built after successful disengagement in Pangong Tso along with the enabling factors mentioned here — to make similar progress elsewhere remains to be seen.

13,000 More Troops Cleared For Nepal, Bhutan Borders, Tri-Junction Area

The Sashastra Seema Bal currently has an estimated strength of about 90,000 personnel

New Delhi: The government has sanctioned a dozen fresh battalions of the Sashastra Seema Bal or SSB, comprising over 13,000 personnel for the force that guards the Nepal and Bhutan borders, to "fortify" defences along these fronts including the tri-junction area in Sikkim that adjoins Bhutan and Tibet, news agency PTI reported quoting officials said.

Though the Union Home Ministry has denied the creation of a new field frontier for the border force, it has allowed the SSB to create one out of three new sector - responsible for the operations of about 5-6 battalions - and it is expected to come up in the Delhi-NCR region.

The Sashastra Seema Bal, with an estimated strength of about 90,000 personnel, is the designated force to guard the 1,751-km open Indian front with Nepal and the 699 km one with Bhutan.

SSB Director General Kumar Rajesh Chandra told PTI that the 12 new battalions will be raised in phases, three units each over the next four years. A battalion has a strength of over 1,000 personnel.

"It is very supportive of the government to have given the sanction to raise new battalions and establishments for the SSB. The new manpower will ensure that border security is strengthened," Director General Chandra said.

As per an official proposal of the border force approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the new battalions will be used to reduce inter-border outpost distance, strengthen trade and transit routes along the Nepal and Bhutan and fortifying SSB's strength in the tri-junction area in Sikkim.

The tri-junction area is the plateau between India, Bhutan and Tibet and the SSB is deployed just below it on the southern side as part of its mandate to guard the front with Bhutan.

The militaries of India and China had witnessed an over 70-day standoff in the Doklam at the tri-junction in 2017.

The new manpower will also help the SSB, as per the proposal, in upgrading the existing border posts at "strategically important" locations along the two fronts and providing armed security to the eight integrated check posts along these fronts.

Officials said the blueprint for sanction of new battalions and establishments for the force was drawn after Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the operations of the SSB in October 2019 and directed it conduct a "vulnerability assessment and gap analysis" of the two borders it secures.

The SSB, after completing this task, informed the MHA that it would require 12 new battalions, a frontier headquarter and at least three sector headquarters that would be used to enhance logistical and administrative support to its border units and some of those deployed for internal security duties in the hinterland.

However, the home ministry approved only a sector formation and 12 battalions to be raised in phases given financial constraints, officials said.

US Welcomes Steps To Return J&K To Full Economic, Political Normalcy

US welcomed steps taken by New Delhi to return J&K to full economic and political normalcy

Washington: The United States on Wednesday welcomed the steps taken by New Delhi to return the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to full economic and political normalcy consistent with India's democratic values.

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said the US, at the same time, continues to follow developments in Jammu and Kashmir closely.

The US policy with regard to Kashmir has not changed, Price told reporters at his daily news conference.

"We welcome steps to return the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to full economic and political normalcy consistent with India's democratic values. As we've said before, Secretary (of State Tony) Blinken has had a couple opportunities to speak to his Indian counterpart, both bilaterally and in the context of the Quad," Price said.

The Quad, comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan, is aimed at ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, a region that has witnessed increasing Chinese military assertiveness in the recent years.

The US has important relationships with India, as well as Pakistan, the spokesperson said, adding "these relationships stand on their own in our view."

"They are not a zero-sum proposition when it comes to US foreign policy. We have productive, constructive relations, and productive and constructive relationships with one does not detract from the relationship we have at the other. It does not come at the expense of the relationship we have with the other," Price said.

"When it comes to India, we have a global comprehensive strategic partnership, and we've talked about that. When it comes to Pakistan, I addressed this the other week: We have important shared interests in the region. And we will continue to work closely with the Pakistani authorities on those shared interests," he said in response to a question.

The US continues to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern, Price said. "Of course, we've continued to call for a reduction of tensions along the Line of Control (LoC), returning to that 2003 ceasefire," he said.

Army Investigates 3 Jawans For Northern Command HQ Data Breach, Pak Drug Racket Under Scanner

A drug racket linked to Pakistani intelligence agencies has surfaced as the Army probes the alleged breach of sensitive operational data from its Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur. A preliminary investigation is said to have revealed the alleged involvement of three Jawans.

Sources told The Indian Express that while one of the Jawans was based in Udhampur and allegedly had access to operational data at the headquarters, the two other Jawans were from different battalions, and were posted elsewhere.

But all three are said to have been in contact with each other, sources said.

It is learnt that the alleged involvement of at least two Jawans in the drug trade as users or sellers has been probed by the intelligence agencies because it was via the drug route that Pakistani intelligence operatives allegedly enticed them into gathering intelligence.

Significantly, the General Officer Commanding 16 Corps is the presiding officer of the Court of Inquiry along with two Major Generals as members of the inquiry team into the alleged breach.

A Central intelligence agency, sources said, stumbled upon the matter during an investigation into a drug trade with Pakistani links. A dead drop of a pen drive, containing allegedly sensitive operational information pertaining to the Northern Command, was made by one of the Jawans which was intercepted by the agency.

Sources said the Military Intelligence was alerted and the involvement of the three Jawans came to light. Further investigation is still on and culpability of other individuals is being explored, it is learnt.

When contacted, a senior Army officer in New Delhi declined to comment on these details, saying the inquiry is in progress and the probe will reveal all details concerning the data leak.

Defence Sales To India Shows Commitment To India's Security, Sovereignty: Says US

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said Defence the US has authorised over USD 20 billion in defence sales to India and it's these offers that "demonstrate our [America's] commitment to India's security and sovereignty"

The sale of major defence equipment to India which now stands at USD 20 billion shows America's commitment to India's security and sovereignty, the Biden administration said on Wednesday.

"As of this year, the United States has authorised over USD 20 billion in defence sales to India. It's these offers of advanced US defence platforms that demonstrate our commitment to India's security and sovereignty," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference.

"It demonstrates our commitment to that global, comprehensive, strategic partnership," he said. The spokesperson was asked if the new Biden administration is reviewing its defence deals with India as it is doing with some other countries.

"I don't have anything for you on pending sales or the review process for them. As I understand it, there is nothing currently in train that India has accepted. But if there is any change in the status of pending transfers, I'm happy to let you know," he said.

In a recent interview to PTI, India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu said bilateral military and security ties are stronger than ever before.

India's designation as a 'Major Defence Partner' and accordance of Strategic Trade Authorization-1 Status by the US and the signing of the four foundational agreements with Washington will enhance military-to-military cooperation between the two countries, Sandhu said.

India has signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), Industrial Security Annex and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) to facilitate mil-to-mil cooperation, he said.

‘Pressure And Pushback’: Indo-US Partnership Holds The Key To Checking China

Enhanced cooperation on bilateral and multilateral issues, including trade, investment, global vaccine distribution and climate change, would strengthen the strategic logic underpinning this partnership

The Indian military’s courage, audacity and resolve appears to have delivered a major push towards stability on India’s northern borders. After Indian and Chinese soldiers engaged in a skirmish in the Galwan Valley in June, disengagement was completed and verified in Pangong Tso without any additional loss of life. This may look to some as snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The drawback of troops and tanks marks a milestone and provides an example to the rest of the world on how to check China’s revisionist actions.

So how did India do it? Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called out these aggressive actions and declared India’s determination to hold its ground. Even with domestic resources under pandemic-related pressure, the military rallied significant assets to points of confrontation. This show of resolve included surprise actions in the Kailash Range, which delivered a strategic advantage and sent a strong signal given the position’s challenging environment. Under the leadership of Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, India embarked on a multi-pronged diplomatic response, including de facto economic sanctions, public rhetoric that gave its opponent the possibility of a face-saving exit, and a demonstration of significant global support for India’s position.

The most important contribution to this international backing came from the US. Both the Donald Trump and Joe Biden administrations, as well as key members of the US Congress, spoke with one voice about the unacceptability of China’s actions and committed to closer defence cooperation with India. Most recently, statements from President Biden, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan doubled down on the US-India strategic partnership as a way to support stability in South Asia and have endorsed the Quad as a guarantor of a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

Critically, India and America backed up these words with actions. In October, at the 2+2 meeting of defence and foreign ministers in New Delhi, they announced the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). The last of the three foundational defence agreements that add heft to India’s status as a major defence partner of the US, BECA gives India access to technology that enhances its ability to monitor border areas and execute military manoeuvres. A month later, India disclosed the lease of two unarmed MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones that immediately improved its surveillance capacity on the LAC. In December, the US government approved India’s purchase of $90 million in hardware and services for its fleet of C130-J Super Hercules Military Transport aircraft.

The countries also expanded their military cooperation so they could project power across multiple fronts. In November, India, the US and Japan welcomed Australia to the Malabar naval exercises, for the first time uniting all Quad members in combat drills to support their shared vision for the Indo-Pacific. These simulations enhanced their militaries’ ability to act jointly against adversaries at sea, building on the Indian government’s clearance of a $2.6 billion purchase of 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters from the US a year ago.

For China, the message was clear: A bipartisan consensus in the US supported strengthening India’s ability to defend its borders and safeguard the Indo-Pacific, and India — a sometimes reluctant partner — embraced American efforts to enhance its power projection across multiple geographies. The cost of confrontation in Ladakh and elsewhere would be higher than China originally estimated.

While India deserves credit for delivering an acceptable and peaceful resolution to this round of conflict, all is not well along the LAC. Since Independence, one of the main obstacles to India’s rapid economic and social development has been its borders’ unsettled and unstable state. Too often this has been deemed a Pakistan problem when recent events from Doklam to Galwan have shown that China, too, poses a challenge. One misstep in the next stages of disengagement could see the two countries again eyeball-to-eyeball.

India’s strategy for ending the current confrontation shows the way forward. By working with the US to enhance its military capabilities, it deters expansionist activity and enables its armed forces to nip problems in the bud. Revisiting the purchase of the armed MQ-9 Reaper drones would show that future border clashes could have higher costs. Closer coordination with America and other Quad countries creates a united front across. Matching capabilities by adding F/A-18s to the Indian Navy would send a strong signal. And enhanced cooperation on bilateral and multilateral issues — stronger US-India partnerships in trade, investment, supply chains and strategic technologies, as well as Quad-based strategies for global vaccine distribution and climate change — would strengthen the strategic logic that underpins these relationships.

This month, the Modi government sent signals that it’s moving in this direction. Singh announced an increase in defence capital expenditure — the largest rise in 15 years. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman touted measures to make India a more attractive destination for foreign investment. And Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal expressed his desire for a comprehensive trade agreement with the US. To top it, India’s official comment after the meeting of Quad foreign ministers stated their shared commitment to “respect for territorial integrity” and disclosed discussions on deeper cooperation to combat the pandemic, promote supply chain resilience, and respond to climate change. Moving from these words to actions will be a win-win for India, bringing greater stability to its borders and creating new opportunities to enhance its security and prosperity in the face of global challenges.

The Faltering Gulf-India Security Collaboration? Part-1 - Pak Media

by Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

Given the impact of the crosscurrents of the Gulf-India security alliance, it seems a veritable truth that such security cooperation– born out of unnatural bonds –undergoes a faltering status. The recent visit by the Indian Army chief to Saudi Arabia (in December, 2020) has marked not only a major step in the countries’ military dialogue – but at the same time, it has sent a divisive message to the Muslim Ummah. Riyadh’s politics bear undeniable signs of prompting change vis-à-vis Saudis’ relations with India and Pakistan. The Saudi- devised trajectory seems to have been developing some profound impact on both the South Asian and the Middle Eastern strategic culture –characterising new makes and breaks. For Riyadh and its narrow-sighted policy framers, to recalibrate its ties with both India and Israel seems a paradox policy option than to foster the former policy choices.

India, in the recent past, has demonstrated an enhanced appetite to forge security partnerships with the Gulf States. This is evident in the recent Joint Statements between India and the UAE as well as India and Saudi Arabia where the respective leaders have vowed to enhance anti-terror cooperation with India, including combating the growing presence of ISIS. Another impetus to security cooperation between India and the Gulf is the numerous bilateral defence exercises. General Manoj Mukund Naravane the Indian army chief visited the UAE and Saudi Arabia in December last year. The discussions largely revolved around ramping up defence cooperation in strategic areas. General Naravane’s visit to the Gulf has highlighted a potential sale of the Brahmos missile. Both, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have reportedly shown interest in buying the Indo-Russian missile system. A number of other proposals are also on the table such as joint military exercises. The Arab coalition which is fighting to secure the strategic Yemeni port of Hodeidah seems to be reaching out to India for its support, a leading Arab diplomat said.

A defence cooperation agreement was signed between India and Saudi Arabia in February 2014 during Prince Salman’s visit to New Delhi. The MoU sought to promote cooperation in the defence sector through the exchange of defence-related expertise and training, as well as in the fields of 25 science and technology. From the Indian perspective, a stronger partnership with a key regional player like Saudi Arabia balances against Islamabad’s influence in the region. While India’s relations with the Gulf were constrained in the post-Partition era, Pakistan mobilised Gulf support in its conflicts with India, much of which has endured to date.

It appears that in the current scenario, India-US-Israel-GCC security partnership may increase thereby pressurizing Iran. The critical Indian interests concerning the diaspora, energy and security have required India to gravitate towards the Gulf States.

A year ago, Riyadh agreed to double its oil exports to India, helping New Delhi reduce its reliance on Iran. Most of India’s defence outreach to the Gulf recently has been led by the Navy, with high level visits by the service peppered across 2017, 2018 and 2019. Earlier in 2015, a contingent of the Indian Air Force which included Sukhoi 30MKI fighters, C-17 and C-130J transport aircraft, IL-78 tankers and 110 personnel conducted the first staging visit at Saudi’s King Fahd air base in Taif while on route to the United Kingdom. The same year, then IAF chief Arup Raha had visited UAE and Oman and in 2016 the air forces of India and the UAE conducted bilateral exercises.

These institutions have since developed over the years at a steady pace. India is also eager to provide a space to cash in from the likes of Saudi and UAE getting more comfortable in taking control of their own security and hedging an over-reliance on the US-provided security blanket. It appears that in the current scenario, India-US-Israel-GCC security partnership may increase thereby pressurizing Iran. The critical Indian interests concerning the diaspora, energy and security have required India to gravitate towards the Gulf States. As per DPIIT from April 2000 to Dec 2019): Saudi Arabia is the 39th largest investor in India with investments amounting to US $315 Million. Major investment groups include ARAMCO, SABIC, ZAMIL, E-holidays, Al Batterjee Group. The Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund backed Soft Bank’s ‘Vision Fund’ has invested several billion dollars in the Indian Start-ups such as Delhivery, FirstCry, Grofers, Ola, OYO, Paytm and PolicyBazaar.

In recent years, the Indian navy has held drills with UAE and Saudi Arabia. In March 2018, India and the UAE conducted their maiden naval exercise “Gulf star 1” and in 2019, India and Saudi Arabia announced their first joint naval drills – which were delayed to the coronavirus pandemic. General Naravane’s visit could lead to a rescheduling of these drills. “The closer relationship between the Saudi and Pak militaries also makes it important for India to forge a closer relationship,” Sameer Patil, Mumbai-based international security analyst told Anadolu Agency.

In his second visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019 after three-and-a-half years, PM Narendra Modi and The Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman signed a pact for the establishment of a Strategic Partnership Council (SPC). India is the fourth country with which Saudi Arabia has formed such a strategic partnership, after the UK, France and China. “I am happy that our cooperation, particularly in the field of counterterrorism, security and strategic issues, is progressing very well. My national security adviser just visited Riyadh for a very productive visit,” Modi said, referring to the visit. Saudi Arabia is a long-time, reliable partner in catering to India’s energy needs. The Kingdom has been a leading supplier of crude oil for decades, and India imported 18 percent of its energy needs from Saudi Arabia in 2018/19. A steady supply of crude to India was maintained despite the attacks on oil installations in the Kingdom in September 2019.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a new arena for India-China competition. In addition to competing for energy resources, India’s regional policy is influenced by China’s growing security profile in the Gulf. Professor Harsh Pant from King’s College writes that “China’s growing dependence on maritime space and resources is reflected in the Chinese aspiration to expand its influence and to ultimately 11 dominate the strategic environment of the Indian Ocean region.” Saudi Arabia has tried to offset shifts in the regional balance of power by promoting efforts towards greater integration of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Michelle Dunne of the Carnegie Middle East Centre has noted that “[i]n every arena-in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Libya, even what happened in Egypt-this regional polarization, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates…on one side and Qatar and Turkey on the other, has proved to be a gigantic 23 impediment to international efforts to resolve any of these crises.”

To be continued

IAF Chief To Attend 70th-Anniversary Celebrations of Sri Lankan Air Force

NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force Chief, Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria on Wednesday arrived in Colombo to take part in celebrations and ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF).

This is Bhadauria’s second visit to a key neighbour of India. Last week the Indian Air Force Chief had visited Bangladesh. The two visits coupled with those of the Indian Army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane’s trips to Nepal, Myanmar, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, signals a new dynamic in India’s military diplomacy.

The visit comes close on the heels of Sri Lanka first cancelling a trilateral contract with India and Japan to develop a container terminal at Colombo port and then clearing a proposal to develop another terminal with the same partners at the same port. The cancellation of the pact last month to develop the East Container Terminal was seen as having strained India-Lanka ties.

An IAF contingent comprising of Suryakiran and Sarang aerobatic display teams and India’s indigenous fighter aircraft the TEJAS (LCA) Light Combat Aircraft will be taking part in the events to mark the SLAF anniversary. The IAF contingent arrived in Colombo on 27 February, a statement from the Indian Air Force said.

During the two day visit, Bhadauria “is scheduled to interact with various dignitaries and the heads of Services of the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka. IAF and SLAF have had consistent cooperative exchanges over the years and interact regularly through Headquarter level Air Staff talks to share valuable experiences in the fields of ground and flying training, professional military education, HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) and operational best practices. Recent years have also seen the two Air Forces increase inter-personnel engagements through exchange visits of serving personnel and families to both countries," the IAF statement said.

“The presence of the CAS during the inaugural day of the Air Show reinforces the strength of IAF-SLAF ties. The visit will further strengthen the existing cooperative process and open up newer avenues of mutual interest," it added.

In A First, Jawans To Participate In Discussions At PM Modi-Headed Military Commanders' Meet

For the first time, Jawans from armed forces would be taking part in the Combined Commanders' Conference to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this week

The Combined Commanders' Conference was till now involved only Commander-in-Chief rank officers who along with their respective Services chiefs would be addressed by the Prime Minister and given the directives on dealing with the security challenges perceived by the government.

"The Jawans would take part in different discussions involving issues related to the functioning of forces and operations," government sources told ANI.

Sources said the suggestion to involve Jawans in the discussions came from the Prime Minister's Office itself.

The Jawans participating in the discussions would include Junior Commissioned Officers and Non-commissioned officers and they would be giving presentations on topics given to them, the sources said.

Sources said the insights of Jawans come in very handy in day to day functioning of the forces and during the recent India China clash also, the Jawans provided valuable suggestions during the digging of trenches and building defences against the Chinese.

Prime Minister has changed the usual way of conducting the combined commanders' conference as he took it out from the South Block and held it on operational bases.

After his first address in 2014, at a conference in the south block, it has been held on aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and Jodhpur airbase.

This time, it is being held in the Kevadia town of Gujarat in front of the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel's Statue of Unity where the top brass of the military would be staying in tents for the duration of the conference.

Indian Army Sets Up Bakery As Part of Women Empowerment Project In Jammu And Kashmir's Rajouri

The Indian Army in collaboration with an NGO has established a bakery as part of its women empowerment programme in a remote village in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district, a defence spokesman said on Wednesday.

The Army came out with a pedagogy project to help create employment opportunities for the women of the area, by assisting and aiding them to enhance their skills, the spokesman said.

He said the women of underdeveloped remote expanses are also looking forward to becoming self-reliant and strive hard to improve themselves and their family's quality and standard of life.

“The Army appreciated and recognised this requirement of the local civil population at Kalakot and in collaboration with Aseem Foundation started corn products and caramelized walnuts bakery for the women of the village,” the spokesman said.

He said 10 unemployed women from Kalakot were selected and trained for 21 days.

“During the course of the period, these women were imparted with practical knowledge about bakery operation and the mediums related with the same,” he said, adding this initiative was a nanoscopic part of the overall effort of the Army towards women empowerment in order to enable them to seek better job opportunities and make them capable of initiating their own ventures and become self-reliable.

He said the Municipal Committee Chairman and public of Kalakot village conveyed their gratitude for this enterprising initiative for positive engagement of the unemployed women to pursue a line of profession with better opportunities and to hope for a brighter and prosperous future.

“Such positive engagement also re-establishes the faith of women in the administration of the country and encourages them to contribute towards national development,” the spokesman said.

Naga Peace Talks Back On Track, Claims NSCN(IM)

It has been a year since the talks went into a deadlock

Guwahati: The largest Naga armed group - National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), which has been involved with peace talks since 1997, on Wednesday claimed through a press release that the Naga political talk teams are back on the table and the talk would continue under the 2015 framework agreement that was signed by the Centre and NSCN(IM) for paving way to the final solution.

NSCN(IM) has also heavily criticised Nagaland Governor and Centre's interlocutor for the peace talks RN Ravi alleging that he had been "creating unnecessary confusion".

The NSCN (IM), in a release issued by its Ministry of Information and Publicity, said that the historic "Framework Agreement (FA)" signed on the August 3, 2015 is being brought back to live in order to remove any misinterpretation and thereby hasten the signing of Naga solution agreement.

It has been a year since the talks went into a deadlock.

"It is needless to say that in many points of his statements and conclusions reflected his role as Nagaland Governor and not as Interlocutor. It is a matter of regret that his role as interlocutor is nothing less than disparaging and dismal," the group has written in the press release.

They further claimed that, the status of the Naga political talks that came up in the last Parliamentary Session was confirmed by the Union Government that it is in advance stage.

"No doubt, this is the ground reality of the Indo-Naga political talk and NSCN talk team is leaving no stone unturned to safeguard the political identity of the Naga people," the statement further claimed that Mr Ravi has made such a misleading statement before the whole nation

"By blatantly contradicting the government of India and the Indian Parliament besides the 136 crores Indians and the world community in the matter of such sensitive political negotiations going on for more than two decades," NSCN(IM) further alleged.

"This is the official understanding and the only way to conclude the talk. NSCN, therefore, under no circumstances will fail the Naga people and will never sign any agreement that is short of the mutual standard as agreed upon," the statement further added.

Why 2021 Political Rhetoric Is No Match For 1962 Fighting In Ladakh

While a slanging match between the ruling government and opposition over Chinese aggression in East Ladakh is part of political play in a democracy, the official history of the 1962 war places the ongoing standoff in the western sector in a proper perspective with cold and brutal facts. “History of The Conflict with China, 1962” was released by the Narasimha Rao government in 1993 with a foreword by one of India’s most illustrious civil servants Narendra Nath Vohra, who was Defence Secretary at that time.

Although the document is voluminous and covers the fighting in western, central and eastern sectors, the seventh chapter called “Fighting in Ladakh” presents a very sobering read to any Indian.

Consider this:

The Western Command, in a letter dated August 17, 1962, drew the attention of Army Headquarters to China deploying a full division of troops along with supporting arms against mere four battalions of Indian Army troops that had just one platoon of machine guns. The letter said that all Chinese posts were connected by roads with three-tonne load capacity, and they also had lateral roads. It says that the Indian road building activity was in its initial stages and that the Chinese were superior in terms of mobility and firepower. Even today, the Chinese have a distinct advantage over Indians in military infra and firepower. Road-building activity along the LAC was taken up by the Vajpayee government in 2003, work began during the UPA regime but was significantly accelerated by the Narendra Modi government. The 1962 baggage at the turn of century was such that for 40 years, subsequent governments did not dare build border roads on the ground that these could be used by the Chinese army to enter the hinterland in case of a conflict.

On July 10, 1962, PLA soldiers surrounded the Indian Post at Galwan but did not attack it. This was taken as a validation of “forward policy” by the Jawahar Lal Nehru government as the then Intelligence Bureau Chief BN Mullick believed that the Chinese would not use force even if Beijing was in a position to do so. This turned out to be a totally wrong assumption and India paid for it.

When a senior Western Command general pointed out at a meeting held at the highest levels on September 22, 1962, that the Nehru government’s decision to evict PLA from Thag La ridge in the eastern sector would invite retaliation in the western sector, the reply of then Foreign Secretary M J Desai was startling. The official history quotes: “ The Foreign Secretary stated that some loss of territory in Ladakh was acceptable to the PM (Nehru).” The results were humiliating.

When effective fighting ended in Ladakh on October 24, 1962, all the forward posts established in the Chip-Chap and Nachu Chu river were withdrawn. The Daulet Beg Oldi post was also abandoned. “The Chinese had established their effective control up to their 1960 claim line in the sector well below Depsang Plains."

By October 22, 1962, the Chinese were in complete control of the northern banks of Pangong Tso after running over Indian Srijap, Srijap 1 and 2 posts in a lightning attack a day earlier. This means that by ensuring the PLA withdraws to the Srijap complex through Pangong Tso disengagement, the Indian Army has managed to restore status quo ante.

There is a strong view that the PLA is dragging its feet over disengagement in Gogra-Hot Springs and Depsang Bulge area. But PM Modi’s government has made it clear that for the restoration of normal bilateral ties, there has to be complete disengagement and de-escalation. Any selective disengagement has been ruled out by India.

While the Gogra-Hot Springs stand-off is part of the current PLA aggression, the issue of patrolling rights of the Indian Army in Depsang Bulge is part of the 2013 legacy, when the PLA blocked the ingress route by making a stand at Raki and Jeevan nullah.

Even though the PLA wants an advantage in Gogra-Hot Springs and Depsang bulge area, it is seriously wary of the Indian Army after the August 29-30, 2020 action taken under the leadership of Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and Army Chief MM Naravane on the south banks of Pangong Tso. On that day, the two countries nearly came to war after the Indian army commanders atop Rezang La-Rechin La ridge threatened to fire at the advancing PLA tank regiment which was trying to dislodge the Indian troopers. The PLA figured the Indian army commanders weren’t going to back down and promptly halted the brazen military manoeuvre. History was made that day as this is neither the army of 1962 nor is the political leadership.