Thursday, November 14, 2019

More Firepower To Indian Air Force! IAF To Receive Around 200 Fighter Aircraft

The IAF which is struggling with the dwindling number of fighter squadrons are focusing on the development of the TEJAS Mark-2 and the AMCA

The Indian made TEJAS will be part of the No 45 Squadron ‘Flying Daggers' based at Tamil Nadu's Sulur Air Force Station, before moving out to another location.

In the next decade, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is expected to sign a contract for 114 fighter aircraft to meet its urgent requirement as well as induct 83 indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (TEJAS)—Mark-1A and Mark-2 into service. The final contract for 83 indigenous TEJAS is expected to be inked with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. before the FY closes. Out of the 83 TEJASs, ten will be twin-seater version and will be used for training purpose by the IAF.

The Made in India single-engine aircraft which has been designed and being manufactured at HAL is expected to replace the MiG-21 Bison aircraft which is in the process of being phased out from service. The aircraft which is four and a half-generation has the capacity to be upgraded later and comes with mid-air refuelling, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, electronic warfare suites, and is equipped with different types of bombs, missiles and weapons.

The Indian made TEJAS will be part of the No 45 Squadron ‘Flying Daggers’ based at Tamil Nadu’s Sulur Air Force Station, before moving out to another location.

“Efforts are on to deliver six TEJASs in the Final Operational Configuration (FOC) by March 2020. The team from IAF is coordinating with the HAL for the fast delivery of the last four aircraft in the Initial Operational Configuration (IOC),” said a senior officer who wished to remain anonymous.

The TEJAS team at HAL is working to address some concerns related to the production and software of the FOC variant which needs to be resolved. “Once that is completed then by end of the FY four FOC variant will be delivered to IAF,” sources added.

To meet the timelines of the end-user—IAF, the state-owned HAL has plans to have another assembly line in a joint venture with a private company is setting up another assembly line. It is expected that through such collaboration the production of the TEJAS will go up from the present numbers of 8 to 16.

The IAF which is struggling with the dwindling number of fighter squadrons are focusing on the development of the TEJAS Mark-2 and the AMCA. Officers who wished to remain anonymous have said that the TEJAS Mark-2 will come in the next decade between 2022-23.

As has been reported earlier Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria is pushing for AMCA which is being designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) with the IAF’s support. To be initially powered by two GE-414 engines, the first flight of the AMCA is expected to take place by 2032.

According to the HAL executives, major assembly modules have been outsourced several private companies including VEM Technologies, Hyderabad (Centre Fuselage), L&T, Coimbatore (Wings), DTL, Bangalore (Front fuselage), Alphatocol, Bangalore (Rear Fuselage), are working hard to ensure timely delivery to the customer.

Next Stop For TEJAS: INS Vikramaditya

In the coming months from now, one of India's most ambitious fighter aircraft development programmes will land on an actual Aircraft Carrier

The government, which has already spent Rs. 3,500 crore to develop the TEJAS Naval fighter jet wants to complete the program and begin full-scale production. India is currently constructing its own Aircraft Carrier, the INS Vikrant which is scheduled to be inducted into the Navy within the next 2 years. Once ready it will be complemented with the latest MiG-29K Fighter Jets from Russia and hopefully the TEJAS Naval Jet.

Left with no choice but to speed up their development program, a small core team of pilots, engineers and design-team members from the Indian Navy, the Aeronautical Design Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is fighting against time to clear key development goals - the biggest one, at the moment, is to ensure that the 10.5-tonne fighter, flying at a speed of just under 260 kph (140 knots), can approach a moving Aircraft Carrier, descend rapidly, land, snare an arresting wire on the runway with a hook mounted in its fuselage and come to a violent halt in just 130 metres.

If India achieves 'arrested landing' of the TEJAS on the deck of an aircraft carrier, it will join a handful of nations like the US, Russia, the UK, France and more recently, China that are capable of this feat.

Achieving arrested landing and take-off over and over again at the Shore Based Test Facility in Goa, will validate one of the most important design features on the TEJAS-N - its ability to handle the incredible stresses of making an 'arrested landing' on the deck of an aircraft carrier. It is only after the shore based tests are proved repetitively successful, will the test pilots move on to the next phase of landing TEJAS-Navy onto the deck of INS Vikramaditya.

Apart from the TEJAS Naval, the Air Force is also seriously looking to acquire 57 Foreign Naval Fighter Jets either from the US or France and is looking closely at the Boeing F/A-18 E/F 'Hornet' and the Dassault Rafale-M, both of which are tried and tested fighters used extensively in combat.

The key question is, will the Govt have enough funds for both a Tejas-N acquisition and the acquisition of a Western ship-borne fighter?

PM Modi Meets Chinese President Xi Jinping In Brazil; Discusses Bilateral And Multilateral Issues

The leaders had forward-looking discussions on various aspects of the multifaceted India-China relationship, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet

BRASILIA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping here and the two leaders agreed to maintain a close contact on matters relating to trade and investment to further deepen and add new vigour to the bilateral ties.

During the meeting on the sidelines of the 11th BRICS Summit on Wednesday, prime minister Modi said there was a "new direction and new energy" in bilateral ties after the two leaders' second informal summit in Chennai.

"Fruitful meeting between PM Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines on the BRICS Summit in Brazil. Trade and investment were among the key issues both leaders talked about," the Prime Minister's Office said in a tweet.

The leaders had forward-looking discussions on various aspects of the multifaceted India-China relationship, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.

They both agreed on the importance of maintaining close dialogue on matters relating to trade and investment.

The two leaders agreed that the new high-level mechanism on trade and economy should meet at an early date, an official statement said.

"I am glad to meet you once again. When I look back, we had met for the first time in Brazil itself. And our journey began. This journey of unknown people has today turned into a close friendship. Since then, we have met at many forums, bilaterals; you visited my home state, took me to your village, came to receive me outside Beijing in Wuhan. It is such a significant thing that within the five years, there have been so much trust and friendly relations," Prime Minister Modi told President Xi.

"As you said and I believe that our meeting in Chennai gave our journey a new direction and new energy. Without any agenda, we talked about each other's issues, global situations. These have been very successful," Modi said.

The two leaders met for the second informal summit at Mamallapuram, a coastal town near Chennai, on October 11-12 and discussed a range of bilateral issues, vowing to jointly combat terrorism and radicalisation, and expand bilateral trade and investment.

President Xi thanked prime minister Modi for India's substantial participation in the just concluded China Import Export Expo in Shanghai.

Xi conveyed his deep appreciation to Modi for hosting him at the second informal summit in Chennai and said that he would not forget the welcome given to him by the prime minister and the people of India.

He invited Modi for the 3rd informal summit in China in 2020.

The date and venue for which will be determined through diplomatic channels.

The two leaders reviewed preparations for celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries next year.

They agreed that this will enhance people-to-people relations.

The leaders noted that the special representatives will have another meeting on matters relating to the boundary question and reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and security in the border areas.

The leaders also exchanged views on multilateral issues including WTO, BRICS and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the BRICS Summit held to focus on building mechanisms for counter-terrorism cooperation and strengthen India's ties with the world's five major economies.

The meeting between Modi and Xi in the Brazilian capital comes days after India decided not to join China-backed RCEP over unresolved "core concerns", with India saying the proposed deal would have an adverse impact on the lives and livelihoods of all Indians.

It also took place amidst a renewed strain in ties between the two countries over the Kashmir issue.

A joint statement issued after talks between President Xi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan last month said China was paying "close attention" to the situation in the Kashmir and that it should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter.

In its reaction, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India's consistent and clear position has been that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country and China is well aware of New Delhi's position.

China Strengthening Military Base Near Uttarakhand's Lipulekh Pass

The new base has 20 parking hangers and also, maintenance hangers. Medium lift helicopters for the local army aviation brigade have also been spotted. 

China's growing military strength, opposite Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh have been evident in recent years. There are now signs of a military buildup opposite Lipulekh Pass, on the northeastern tip of Uttarakhand, in the India-Nepal-China tri-junction.

According to recent intelligence reports, the People's Liberation Army has built a helipad close to the pass and also, installed two surveillance cameras, a Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS) and a solar panel. 

Deeper inside, in Pingchuan in Gansu, the People's Liberation Army has built an army aviation base. The new base has 20 parking hangers and also, maintenance hangers. Medium lift helicopters for the local army aviation brigade have also been spotted. 

Meanwhile, the PLA has received the last batch of S-400 air defence systems from Russia. The Chinese have six systems and one has been deployed near the China-Pakistan border in Xuar or Sinkiang, near the Pakistan border for trials and testing. India has also signed a deal with the Russians for the S-400 for the Indian Air Force.

At UNESCO Meet, India Slams Pakistan’s ‘Juvenile Propaganda’ Over Comments On Ayodhya Verdict And Kashmir

Calling out Pakistan’s propaganda, India slammed Islamabad for its statement on Ayodhya verdict and Kashmir. It further asked Pakistan to refrain from meddling in India’s internal affairs. In which country the perpetrators of 9/11 and 26/11 were discovered?

Which country is home to 130 UN-designated terrorists and 25 terrorist entities listed by the United Nations as of today? India called Pakistan the world's largest producer and exporter of this evil.

Paris: In a scathing counterattack, India lashed out at Pakistan for its juvenile propaganda over the Supreme Court's verdict on Ayodhya land dispute and Jammu & Kashmir's bifurcation into union territories, calling it "fabricated lies and interference in India's internal affairs".

Addressing the 40th UNESCO General Conference in Paris an Indian official condemned the unwarranted comments made by Pakistan on the judgement made by the Supreme Court of India.

“Mr President, we take this chair to refute Pakistan's juvenile propaganda to malign India through fabricated lies, full of deceit and deception. The judgement is about the rule of law, equal respect for all faiths, concepts that are alien to Pakistan and its ethos,” the official said.

India’s statement comes after Pakistan's Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood expressed disappointment at the Supreme Court's decision on Babri Mosque saying it was not in line with UNESCO's values of religious freedom.

Responding to this, the Indian official said that for India, the most important fundamental right is the right to life and globally the single largest threat to this right is from terrorism.

“Pakistan's political approaches are rooted in terrorist violence and its global engagement is defined by mainstreaming of terrorism as an instrument of statecraft,” she said.

On Kashmir, she said that the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral part of India which also includes the territory that is currently under the illegal and forcible occupation of Pakistan.

The Narendra Modi-led BJP government on August 5 revoked Article 370 and Article 35A, thereby ending special powers to the region and bifurcated the former state into two Union Territories (UTs) – Jammu and Kashmir with legislature, and Ladakh without one.

The new UTs came into existence on October 31, the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel, the Iron Man of India.

This decision rattled Pakistan which raised this issue at different forums only to return empty-handed.

The biggest setback came from the Middle East with the UAE saying that Kashmir was an issue which does not concern the Muslim Ummah while Bahrain jailed Pakistani protesters for taking out a rally over Kashmir.

Exposing Pakistan, the official further asked: "In which country the perpetrators of 9/11 and 26/11 were discovered?”

She further said, "Which country home to 130 UN-designated terrorists and 25 terrorist entities listed by the United Nations as of today?"

In the concluding remarks, India said that the global community does not need Pakistan – a hub of global terrorism – to be waxing eloquent on internal affairs of India.

Pervez Musharraf Makes Shocking Claim, Says ‘Kashmiris Were Trained In Pakistan To Fight Indian Army’

Former Pakistan despot Gen Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad: Former Pakistan president retired General Pervez Musharraf has made shocking admissions that India’s troublesome neighbour had trained Kashmiris in Pakistan to fight against the Indian Army and were hailed as ‘heroes’.

In an undated footage that emerged on social media, Musharraf also claimed that terrorists like Osama bin Laden and Jalaluddin Haqqani were seen as “Pakistani heroes”.

The video interview clip, which was shared by Pakistan politician Farhatullah Babar on Wednesday, shows Musharraf saying, “... In 1979, we had introduced religious militancy in Afghanistan to benefit Pakistan and to push the Soviet out of the country. We brought Mujahideens from all over the world, trained them, supplied weapons. They were our heroes. Haqqani was our hero. Osama bin Laden was our hero. Then the environment was different but now it is different. Heroes have turned to villains.”

“Kashmiris who came to Pakistan received a hero’s reception here. We used to train them and support them. We considered them as Mujahideens who will fight with the Indian Army...then various terrorist organisations like Lashkar e Tayyiba rose in this period. They were our heroes,” the former Pakistan dictator claimed while commenting on Kashmir, news agency ANI reported.

The video surfaced at a time India-Pakistan relations are probably at its worst since the Kargil War of 1999. Pakistan has time and again denied allegations and proofs that it is a haven for terrorists that carry out dastardly attacks on Indian soil, the latest being the gruesome Pulwama attack that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force Jawans.

The latest submission by Musharraf sets the fact in stone that Pakistan has been aiding terror attacks to fuel tensions in Kashmir.

Islamabad has also been shunned by the international community, even at the United Nations, for its failure to combat terrorism and take actions against terror groups operating on its soil.

India US To Hold 2nd Round of 2+2 Dialogue On Dec 18

Washington DC: The second round of the 2+2 dialogue between India and the United States will take place on December 18.

"The dialogue will be held in the second half of December in Washington D.C.," a senior Indian official told ANI.

The official also said that foreign and the defence ministers of the US and India will meet to discuss the strategic and security interests of both nations.

However, finer details of the dialogue are yet to be finalised and are being worked upon, the official added.

The first round of the meeting on the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue was held in New Delhi in September 2018 and had focused on the need for upholding peaceful resolution of territorial maritime disputes, promoting market-based economics, supporting good governance, fundamental rights, and liberties, and preventing external economic coercion.

The Dialogue was held between US Secretary of State Micheal Pompeo, Secretary of Defence James Mattis, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The 2+2 Dialogue between India and the US was launched as a reflection of the shared commitment by Prime Minister Modi and Us President Donald Trump to provide a positive, forward-looking vision for the India-U.S. strategic partnership and to promote synergy in their diplomatic and security efforts, the US Embassy had said in its statement.

Make In India: TATA And Airbus To Make C-295 Transport Aircraft For IAF

“The next step after the conclusion of cost negotiations is the clearance from the CCS and the process has started and once the approval is in place, the deal is expected to be inked soon,” said informed sources.

According to sources the Ministry of Defence has recently concluded price negotiations with TATA and Airbus for C-295 Transport Aircraft for replacing the ageing Avros transport aircraft currently in the Indian Air Force (IAF).

With technical issues resolved, the process for the approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for the Airbus C-295 transport aircraft has been initiated. According to sources the Ministry of Defence has recently concluded price negotiations with TATA and Airbus for C-295 Transport Aircraft for replacing the ageing Avros transport aircraft currently in the Indian Air Force (IAF).

“The next step after the conclusion of cost negotiations is the clearance from the CCS and the process has started and once the approval is in place, the deal is expected to be inked soon,” said informed sources.

There were some technical issues related to the deal raised during the discussions and these have now been addressed to the satisfaction of the Ministry of Defence.

While there is an urgent requirement to replace 56 Avro transport aircraft of IAF, the MoD has added six aircraft for the Indian Coast Guard for their maritime operations, bringing the total cost of the deal to around $ 3 billion.

The closure of the financial year is four months away, and the availability of funds will be the main focus before the deal is inked. There are several other programmes of the IAF which are in the pipeline including the deal for 83 Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ MKI1A.

Once the deal between MoD and TATA & Airbus is finalised, under the agreement, the initial 16 aircraft are expected to be manufactured by the Airbus at their own facility and the balance will be built in India under the TATA & Airbus joint venture. This will be done under Transfer of Technology by the Airbus to TATA.

The RFP for the replacement of Avros was issued to the global players in 2013, followed by approval by the DAC in 2015. Airbus and TATA were the sole bidders pitching the C-295 aircraft.

In an earlier interaction with The Financial Express newspaper, Airbus officials had said that the replacement of the Avro with the C-295 is an excellent ‘Make in India’ project. On the completion of the Indian order, the company executives are optimistic about building global orders out of the TATA facility which will have a robust base of domestic suppliers that will feed the production line.

The Airbus Group has around 50 Indian suppliers from both public and private sector who are embedded in their global chain. Suppliers including Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Dynamatics, Aequs, TATA, Mahindra, HCL and Wipro, are involved in various projects and are building aerostructures, parts and systems, as well as engineering services of the commercial as well as military aircraft.

PM Modi Leaves For Brazil, To Attend 11th BRICS Summit On November 13-14

This will be the sixth time that Modi will be participating at the BRICS summit. His first BRICS summit was at Fortaleza in Brazil in 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday embarked on a two-day visit to Brazil to participate in the 11th BRICS summit on November 13-14.

The theme of the BRICS summit this year is "Economic Growth for an Innovative Future” and it will be held in the capital city Brasilia.

A large business delegation is also expected to be present during the visit, especially to attend the BRICS Business Forum, where the business community of all five countries are represented. 

This will be the sixth time that Modi will be participating at the BRICS summit. His first BRICS summit was at Fortaleza in Brazil in 2014.

According to a statement released by the government, the PM is scheduled to hold separate bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping apart from the BRICS business forum closing ceremony and the closed & Plenary Sessions of the BRICS Summit.

The BRICS is a summit between five major world economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Together, these countries constitute 42% of the world population, contribute to 23% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and around 17% of the world trade share, according to reports. The meet is therefore considered to be extremely crucial in the global stage.

In the closed session, the discussions are expected to be focused on challenges and opportunities for the exercise of national sovereignty in the contemporary world. This will be followed by the BRICS Plenary Session, where the leaders will discuss the Intra-BRICS cooperation for the economic development of BRICS societies.

Thereafter, Modi will participate in the meeting of the BRICS leaders with BRICS Business Council, wherein the Chairman of the Brazilian BRICS Business Council and the President of the new Development Bank are expected to submit reports. Immediately thereafter, a BRICS MoU between Trade and Investment Promotion agencies will be signed, the statement adds.

At the conclusion of the summit, leaders will issue a joint declaration.

BRICS brings together five major emerging economies comprising 42% of the world's population, having 23% of the global GDP and around 17% of the share and world trade.

BRICS cooperation has two pillars, including consultations on issues of mutual interest through the meeting of leaders and ministers as well as cooperation through a meeting of senior officials in several areas including trade, finance, health, education, science and technology, agriculture, communications IT, etc.

Pak Army Denies Reports of Amendment In Army Act For Kulbhushan Jadhav

Pakistan army spokesperson called reports of amending the Army Act to give Kulbhushan right to appeal in a civilian court as incorrect

The Pakistani army on Wednesday denied reports that Pakistan's Imran Khan government plans to amend the Army Act which will give Kulbhushan Jadhav right to appeal in a civilian court, saying they are considering legal options to review and reconsider the Indian national's case. 

Pak army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet that speculations for amendment in Pak Army Act to implement ICJ verdict regarding Jadhav are incorrect.

He added, "Various legal options for review and reconsideration of the case are being considered. Final status shall be shared in due course of time."

Earlier in the day, Pakistani government sources hinted at the amendment of the act under which no appeals can be made under civilian court. Earlier sources in Pakistan said Islamabad plans to amend the Army Act, section 133 which will give Jadhav right to appeal in a civilian court and also opens the door for India to provide legal aid to him.

Section 133 of the Pakistani Army act provides provision for the appeal but only in a "Court of Appeals consisting of the Chief of the Army Staff..." or the court of appeals consisting of Brigadier or Major General but can't appeal in civilian court.

There hasn't been any reaction from India the development but it could be considered positive development in the case given that Pakistan still has to fully implement the International Court of Justice's order. 

Earlier this year, New Delhi got a major diplomatic victory at the international court of justice with the world court calling Pakstan to "provide Indian consular officers access to him in accordance with Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations"

On September 2, India got first consular access for Kulbhushan Jadhav in 3 years with Indian deputy high commissioner (DHC) Gaurav Ahluwalia in Islamabad meeting him for 2 hours. The Indian diplomat found Jadhav under "extreme pressure to parrot a false narrative to bolster Pakistan’s untenable claims", according to release issued by India's Ministry of external affairs.

Indian Army To Use 'All-Weather' Robots For Munitions Delivery To Avoid Human Casualties In Kashmir

DRDO developed Gun mounted remote operated Assault Rover

New Delhi: Amid several incidents of casualties among troops during counter-terror operations, the Indian Army has decided to use robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help hundreds of thousands of soldiers deployed in restive areas of Kashmir.

The Indian Army has already kicked off the process of acquiring hundreds of robots for munitions delivery to the disputed region of Kashmir, and it is expected that they will be supplied to the forces very soon.

Interestingly, the robots can also use the stairs or passages to deliver grenades to any desired locations.

“The robotic platform will be used in house for gathering real time input prior to manual insertion into buildings to monitor terrorists’ activities… The platform must be capable of delivering a suitable munition at the intended target like grenades,” an army official said.

The Indian Army wants the all-weather and water-proof robots to negotiate any obstacle to deliver desired results at ease. “The system should transmit visual data to an approximate distance of 150-200 metres across four walls,” the official said.

The army will meet all manufacturers who intend to supply the platforms on 18 November.

“The entity has to be owned and controlled by resident Indian citizens, an entity with an excess of 49% foreign investment will not be eligible to take part in the contest,” the official emphasised.

The decision to purchase robotic platforms comes on the backdrop of a rising number of counter-terror operations in the valley post-repeal of the special status of Kashmir in August this year.

According to South Asia Terrorism Portal, India has lost more than 127 security personnel this year alone due to rising encounters with terrorists in Kashmir and left-wing extremism-infested zones.

On Monday, the Indian government told the Supreme Court that the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir will immensely contribute to controlling terror incidents in the State.

The government has claimed since 1990 until 4 August, 2019, a total of 41,861 persons have lost their lives in 709,60 incidents of terrorist violence in Kashmir. “This includes 14,035 civilians; 5,291 security forces personnel and 22,535 terrorists,” the affidavit submitted to the apex court said.

India Proves It Is The Most Pro-Israel Country In The World

After Gaza rocket fire, Indians tweet #IndiaWithIsrael in show of support

After a day of rocket fire from Gaza, the top three hashtags trending on Twitter in India are #IsraelUnderFire, #IsraelUnderAttack and #IndiaWithIsrael.

Throughout the day, people across the globe posted on social media about the rising tensions between Israel and Gaza.

However, Israel-related hashtags were mainly trending within Israel. India was the exception, with its hashtags about the rocket barrage from Gaza remained trending long after Israeli Twitter began focusing on other things.

Indian politician Kapil Mishra tweeted: "Time to stand strongly with Israel #IsraelUnderFire."

"Israel is under attack by Terrorists from Gaza. India is with Israel. #IsraelUnderFire," Prashant Patel Umrao, an advocate at the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court, tweeted.

Both Mishra and Umrao received praise from Israel’s Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, Maya Kadosh, who retweeted their posts and thanked them.

Kadosh, who started a list of Indian Twitter accounts that talk about Israel, also tweeted about the situation in Israel.
The two countries have enjoyed good diplomatic relations, and in August, Indian and Israeli officials traded tweets in honor of Friendship Day.

"Happy #FriendshipDay2019 India!" The Israeli Embassy in India wrote on Twitter. "May our ever strengthening friendship & #growingpartnership touch greater heights."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi replied to the message, writing in Hebrew, "Thank you. I wish a happy Friendship Day to the wonderful citizens of Israel and to my friend [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu]."

Netanyahu, who has a close relationship with Modi, also joined in on the friendship tweets and responded to the Indian prime minister.

"Thank you, my friend, India PM @narendramodi," Netanyahu responded. "I could not agree with you more."

A study undertaken on behalf of Israel's foreign ministry way back in 2009 by an international market research company found that India is the most pro-Israel country in the world, beating out the United States by two percentage points.

The study, undertaken as part of the "Branding Israel" project, looked at what it calls the world's 13 most important countries and included 5,215 interviewees. Asked a series of questions, participants graded their sympathy for Israel on a 1-to-10 scale. Some results, given in terms of percentage expressing sympathy to the Jewish State:

58% India
56% United States
52% Russia
52% Mexico
50% China
34% Great Britain
27% France
23% Spain

Our Bureau

India Setting Up World′s Biggest Facial Recognition System

An airport staff member showing a passenger how to register his personal details at a facial recognition counter at the international airport in Hyderabad

Tech Help To Law Enforcement?

Facing limited resources and a lack of adequate funding, Indian law enforcement agencies have been increasingly seeking tech-based solutions to solve criminal cases. 

The NCRB's tender stated that the system will bring a "sea change" in investigating crimes, the handling of criminals and related operations by allowing security forces across India's 28 states and nine federally administered territories access to a centralised database of images.

The images will be pulled from social media accounts, newspapers, CCTV cameras, passport photos, publicly available pictures and criminal records. Even artists' sketches of suspects will be part of the database. 

Facial recognition technology was launched in a few Indian airports in July, and Delhi police last year said they had identified nearly 3,000 missing children in just days during a trial.

Privacy Concerns

Human rights activists and tech experts, however, are worried that the system poses risks to individual privacy and could facilitate increased surveillance by authorities. There is little information on where facial recognition will be deployed and how the data will be used, they say.

"It is deeply concerning that they [NCRB] have done this without any policy consultation and there's not even a policy document. There's no clarity on what problems they are trying to solve [through this project]," Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia policy director at the open-internet advocacy group, Access Now.

It's unclear who will operate this system and who should be held responsible if something goes wrong, the expert noted. "The government seems to want to go ahead with the plans at whatever cost," he said. 

The privacy issue also gains prominence as India's Supreme Court, in a landmark verdict in 2017 on national bio-metric identity card program Aadhaar, ruled that individual privacy is a fundamental right. The court's ruling came amid concerns over data breaches and the card's mandated use for services.

Representatives of the NCRB or the Home Ministry have not been available for comments on the roll-out of facial recognition and requests for information filed by NGOs have so far only received vague responses.

Critics are worried that the system poses risks to individual privacy and could facilitate increased surveillance

Not Entirely Accurate?

The rise of cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies globally has popularised the use of facial recognition for a range of applications.

The world leaders in this technology are Amazon's Recognition, Lambda Labs' Face Recognition and Face Detection, Microsoft's Face API, Google's Cloud Vision and IBM's Watson Visual Recognition.

But facial recognition tech has been shown to be inaccurate in identifying darker-skinned women, those from ethnic minorities and transgender people.

"Even if we presume a high degree of accuracy, it becomes troublesome and problematic in a country like India, which has deep divisions on the lines of appearances, gender, caste and colour," said Apar Gupta, executive director of the pro-privacy NGO Internet Freedom Foundation.

He also warned that political opponents, civil rights activists, government critics and journalists could become potential targets for surveillance.

"These kinds of technologies will be used not toward satisfying the needs of national security, but to enforce a system of social control, like in China," Gupta said.

IAF May Buy HAL's Trainer Aircraft, Air Chief To Take Sortie

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is likely to float a Request for Proposal (RFP) with the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) this December for purchasing homemade HTT-40 basic aircraft for training its pilots, sources said here on Wednesday.

Ahead of the proposed RFP, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria is scheduled to undertake a test flight of the HTT-40, short form for Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40, in Bangalore on Thursday. The IAF will float the RFP if the aircraft is found to meet required standards for training new pilots.

"The Air Chief will fly an HTT 40 aircraft from the HAL Airport in Bangalore  on Thursday afternoon. He will fly the aircraft himself to assess its capabilities and flight worthiness," an HAL spokesperson told IANS.

The HTT-40 is a basic fixed-wing aircraft, designed and developed by the HAL, which can be used by the IAF for training and aerobatic purposes too, apart from night flying. With a maximum range of 1,000 km and a top speed of 450 mph, the tandem-seated aircraft has been designed to replace IAF''s fleet of HPT-32 Deepak basic trainers, which have already been grounded following a series of accidents.

"There are plans to purchase around 70-odd HTT 40 trainers from the HAL. The purchase procedure might begin this December with a Request for Proposal if the aircraft is able to match to the standards required of it," an IAF official said.

The HTT 40 aircraft is designed around a turbo-prop engine TPE-331-12B, which is manufactured by the US-based defence firm Honeywell. Sources said at present the engine requires an upgrade from its manufacturer but the HAL has been reluctant to release the money until it finds buyers for the aircraft.

"The RFP might convince HAL to go for the engine upgrade," the official added.

The HTT-40 aircraft is not yet certified for production and user trials upon it are also yet to begin. However, officials said the RFP can be issued pending user trials in accordance with provisions of the central government''s Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) of 2016.

The government is banking upon the state-run HAL after a deal for purchase of trainers from Swiss aircraft-maker Pilatus was mired in controversy. India had entered into a contract with the Swiss firm in the year 2012 for purchase of 75 units of PC 7 MkII version of Pilatus trainer aircraft.

The 75 aircraft were ordered at a cost of over Rs 2,800 crore due to an abject shortage of trainers with the IAF following the grounding of HPT-32 Deepak. Pilatus had completed delivery of the entire fleet of 75 aircraft in July last year. A clause in IAF''s contract with Pilatus, which gave the former the right to exercise an option for purchase of an additional 38 aircraft, was however never exercised in the light of corruption cases against the Swiss firm.

Soon after taking over the helm of affairs at the IAF, Bhadauria had said plans to acquire the additional 38 aircraft from Pilatus have been dropped while the focus will remain on indigenous development of aircraft.

While Pilatus itself has been banned for the time being by the Defence Ministry, experts said the decision to go for homemade aircraft will give a big boost to the ''Make in India'' initiative of the union government.

"A decision by the IAF to float an RFP for homemade trainer aircraft with the HAL will be a big boost to the indigenous defence industry. It will be a test for HAL too to live up to commitments in terms of deadlines of production. I''m sure, the IAF has factored in its requirements in terms of time required in delivering the homemade aircraft," retired Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur told IANS.

The HTT 40 has already cleared the rigorous ''six-turn spin test'', which was conducted upon it by the HAL in September this year to test if aircraft returned to its original position after being thrown into multiple spins. But more trials are to be conducted before it is awarded the final certification.

China Rules The Waves and Waives The Rule: Chinese Navy And Paramilitary Forces Stamp Their Authority Over International Waters

New Delhi: China likes to assure neighbours and the rest of the world that it will never interfere with civilian freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. However, that hard-to-believe stance has been shown to be totally duplicitous as China's naval and paramilitary forces stamp their authority over international waters and passageways.

This became most apparent on 30 October when a Chinese warship accosted the oil tanker Green Aura as it sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal. The Greek-owned tanker, flying a Liberian flag, was voyaging from Thailand to China when it was interdicted. Indian Navy's INS Kolkata And INS Shakti Reach Qingdao in China to Participate in 70th Anniversary Celebrations of PLA-Navy, Pakistani Ships Absent.

Scarborough Shoal lies within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, but that has not stopped China from laying claim to the feature since mid-2012 when it seized de facto ownership and refused to let others, including Filipino fishermen, near it. When the tanker came within 12nm of the shoal, it received a radio call from China Coast Guard (CCG) and naval ships hove to near the reef. Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping Meet: Indian Navy And Coast Guards Deploy Warships to Provide Security From Any Seaborne Threat.

One of these ships described itself as a "naval warship" but it could not be identified as its automatic identification system was turned off, according to Green Aura's Filipino captain Manolo Ebora. In an interplay of directives, one ship eventually stated, "This is China Coast Guard. This area is under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government. You should keep away from this area."

Although the tanker was making the innocent passage, a couple of Chinese vessels moved to effect a collision course and to tail the ship, causing it to eventually veer away. The Chinese military has also been playing hardball with the Philippine military too. Major General Reuben Basiao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for intelligence, told lawmakers at a security briefing in early November that China had fired flares at Philippine Air Force Aircraft flying near Chinese-controlled reefs on six occasions in February.

Basiao commented, "China has been deploying its assets to hinder Filipino operations - both patrols and rotation and re-provision missions - in the West Philippine Sea." He added that China was "the most aggressive" of any of the claimants in the territorial area. Nations that contest China's carte blanche claims to much of the South China Sea are: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The Philippine Navy has also observed a total of 17 Chinese research vessels operating in eastern Philippine waters in the first half of 2019. Furthermore, in July the Philippines complained that Chinese warships were passing through Philippine waters unannounced. This reflects blatant Chinese double standards, where Beijing feels it can behave in this manner when passing by other countries, but refusing even civilian vessels from doing the same.

Despite China's bullying behaviour towards the Philippines, its leader President Rodrigo Duterte continues to act as a lapdog of Beijing. It seems that no insult or any theft of Philippine territory can elicit a rebuke from Duterte, who feels overwhelmed by Chinese superiority. China built up seven reefs in the South China Sea within its legally void Nine-Dash Line claim, turning them into island bastions. Such is the outrageous nature of this territorial claim that both Malaysia and Vietnam banned the new Pearl Studio and DreamWorks animated movie Abominable because one scene depicts this Chinese-concocted map.

It is not just the undersea resources China is interested in within the South China Sea - estimated at 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas - but also strategic manoeuvre space and national pride. The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) keeps a fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines at a base on Hainan Island, at the northern end of the sea.

China's military covets the ability to unobtrusively transit these submarines without foreign vessels snooping around, plus the PLA is seeking to create a buffer zone to keep US and other naval platforms at arm's distance from the Chinese coastline. When seen through this lens, Beijing's efforts to carve out sovereign territory there make sense, despite their illegality.

On 4 November the US State Department issued a document entitled A Free and Open Indo-Pacific: Advancing a Shared Vision. It voiced concerns: "In the South China Sea, we urge all claimants, including the PRC, to resolve disputes peacefully, without coercion, and in accordance with international law. PRC maritime claims in the South China Sea, exemplified by the preposterous 'nine-dash line', are unfounded, unlawful and unreasonable. These claims, which are without legal, historic or geographic merit, impose real costs on other countries."

"Through repeated provocative actions to assert the nine-dash line, Beijing is inhibiting ASEAN members from accessing over $2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves, while contributing to instability and the risk of conflict."

The USA maintains 375,000 troops and civilian personnel in the Indo-Pacific region, making it one of the largest military forces in the area. However, this size cannot even begin to compare with the 2 million personnel of the PLA. Interestingly, the PLAN already eclipses the US Navy (USN)in terms of ship numbers too, although it must be said that hull quantity is not the same as naval capability.

James Fanell, the former director of intelligence and information operations for the USN's Pacific Fleet, warned in 2018, "The future size of the navy will be about 550 warships and submarines by 2030. That is twice the size of today's US Navy." Certainly, the PLAN has been prioritised in terms of funding and equipment.

Andrew Erickson, professor of strategy at the US Naval War College, told ANI: "Chinese naval development enjoys top-level support, starting with Xi himself. China has the world's largest shipbuilding infrastructure. It has the world's second-largest economy and defence budget. It has parlayed all these advantages into the world's largest ongoing comprehensive naval buildup."

The aforementioned China Coast Guard (CCG) used to be a civilian agency, but it was placed under the military hierarchy in March 2018. Also at Beijing's disposal, and often its preferred means of achieving success, is the People's Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM). China employs the PAFMM in ambiguous, low-intensity operations where it does not want to risk escalation by using gray warships.

Although largely made up of marine industry workers and utilising large fishing boat fleets, the state-organised, state-developed and state-controlled PAFMM operates directly under the military's chain of command too.Erickson noted: "Each of China's three sea forces is the world's largest by number of ships."

That equates to a powerful set of tools at the PLA's disposal to achieve all kinds of at-sea victories. It also helps fulfil the aspiration of China's 2015 Defence White Paper that stated "the traditional mentality that land outweighs sea must be abandoned, and great importance has to be attached to managing the seas and oceans and protecting maritime rights and interests".

The American academic further remarked that the PLAN "increasingly coordinates training and operations" with these two paramilitary forces, something that is adding strength, depth and presence. This seems to be precisely what happened in the confrontation with Green Aura near Scarborough Shoal.

Erickson also addressed the qualitative improvements apparent in Chinese warships that are being churned out of shipyards at an alarming pace like dumplings. "Today, China's really 'getting its ships together', if you will. Its navy is improving both quantitatively and qualitatively. To meet more missions with greater capabilities, PLAN vessels keep growing larger and more sophisticated. They increasingly resemble (and, in many ways, approach the performance parameters of) their US and allied counterparts. And they're armed to the teeth, particularly with anti-ship cruise missiles."

Indeed, the PLAN showed YJ-18 and YJ-18A anti-ship missiles during the spectacular parade in Beijing on 1 October. Chinese media say the YJ-18 is a ship-launched variant (e.g. from a vertical launch system on Type 052D and Type 055 destroyers), while the YJ-18A is used from nuclear-powered attack submarines.

The YJ-18A is reportedly the first Chinese submarine-launched missile that ignites underwater, with the benefit that it can be launched more deeply from beneath the surface.Growth is spectacular. In 2000, less than 10% of China's surface warship fleet was modern, but by 2020 this percentage will have reached 85% for both destroyers and frigates.

The PLAN's second aircraft carrier (and the first built domestically) is expected to commission very soon, and a third carrier is already well under construction. As for submarines, the Pentagon assessed that "modernisation of China's submarine force remains a high priority for the PLAN". The US military noted the submarine "will likely grow to between 65 and 70 submarines by 2020".

Apart from the PLAN's spectacular growth in capability, Erickson also discerned some relative weaknesses. "China faces substantial difficulties in fielding the largest, most sophisticated surface warships and submarines, as well as remaining weaknesses in propulsion and electronics. With aircraft carriers, it is still in the 'crawling' stage of a 'crawl-walk-run' approach.

The professor added: "This all limits China's ability to project top-calibre naval power beyond maritime East Asia into the 'far seas'. But regarding the Yellow, East and South China Seas (as well as their immediate approaches), Chinese naval shipbuilding advances are increasing the PLAN's ability to contest sea control in a widening arc of the Western Pacific."

Erickson warned: "China's navy - and land-based 'anti-navy'of aircraft and missiles - already pose a credible threat to US and allied forces were they to become involved in a regional conflict concerning China. Of course, even if a US president decided not to authorise a devastating attack on mainland China, US and allied forces are capable of destroying much of China's navy at sea."

However, the USA is struggling to convince allies in Asia-Pacific that it is a reliable partner, which can counter China's growing belligerence and bullying of smaller nations, as evident in the recently concluded ASEAN summit.

At a time when Washington could have cornered Beijing over its incursions in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone at the ASEAN summit, it decided to sent Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his rather green National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. The contest was over before it began, with Beijing managing to suppress potential criticism on its actions in the South China Sea.