Friday, December 14, 2018

Will A Probe Be Ordered Into Rafale Deal? Supreme Court Verdict Tomorrow


A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas on November 14. The Centre has defended the multi-billion deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets and opposed public disclosure of the pricing details. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court is scheduled Friday to pronounce verdict on pleas seeking court-monitored probe into India's multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet deal with France.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas on November 14.

Advocate M L Sharma was the first petitioner in the case. Later, another lawyer Vineet Dhanda had moved the apex court with the plea for court-monitored probe into the deal.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh has also filed a petition against the fighter jet deal.

After the three petitions were filed, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie along with activist advocate Prashant Bhushan had moved the apex court with a plea for a direction to the CBI to register FIR for alleged irregularities in the deal.

The Centre has defended the multi-billion deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets and opposed public disclosure of the pricing details.

India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment. The estimated cost of the deal is Rs 58,000 crore.

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.


India Russia Review The Draft of Logistic Sharing Agreement, To Hasten IGLA-S, AK-103 Deal

AK-Series rifles are to be produced at Ordnance Factory Board at Trichy and Ishapore

Both countries discussed the draft on the military Logistic Sharing agreement and set up a working group on military cooperation was created within the IGC-MTC format

India and Russia on Thursday reviewed the progress made on various projects between the two countries at the 18th session of the Russian-Indian inter-governmental commission on military-technical cooperation (IGC-MTC) in New Delhi.

India and Russia on Thursday reviewed the progress made on various projects between the two countries at the 18th session of the Russian-Indian inter-governmental commission on military-technical cooperation (IGC-MTC) in New Delhi. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu accompanied by Dmitriy Shugaev, Director, Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) of the Russian Federation, led their respective delegations and discussed ways of further developing military-technical cooperation between the two sides.

Both countries discussed the draft on the military Logistic Sharing agreement and set up a working group on military cooperation was created within the IGC-MTC format.

Earlier this month, Naval Chief Sunil Lanba responding to a question, had said that, “The draft agreement is being worked up with the Russians and it will be shared with them soon.” India already has such Logistic Sharing agreements with countries including the US, Singapore, France and Oman.

At the IGC-MTC meet critical issues including joint training, high level exchanges and joint exercises. Both countries have been conducting the bilateral Maritime Exercise ‘INDRA NAVY’, since 2003 and INDRA Tri-Services Exercise since 2017; Exercise INDRA-Navy is already underway off Visakhapatnam.

The two sides also reviewed the progress on the government-to-government agreement under which the Kalashnikov AK-series rifles to be produced at India’s state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) at Trichy and the Rifle Factory at Ishapore.

Ways of further deepening military cooperation based on the agreements between the two sides as well as the joint statement that was released at the end of the annual summit in October this year was discussed.

As has been reported earlier, the IGC-MTC was set up in October 2010. The commission meets once a year, alternating between the capital cities of the two countries. Since Oct the two countries have inked major multi-billion dollar defence deals including the $5.43 billion S-400 Triumf contract, the two countries also recently signed a $1.5 billion deal for two Project 1135.6 frigates to be equipped with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles which is a joint venture between India and Russia.

As has been reported earlier, Russia’s Igla-S has been down selected the $1.5 billion contract for the supply of Very-Short-Range Air Defense (VSHOROD) System to the Indian Army.


Lesson For India? Japan Warns Companies Against Using Huawei Equipment In Railways, Power Grids


In a new move effectively targeting Chinese equipment manufacturers like Huawei Technologies and ZTE, the Japanese government has issued guidelines for businesses and organisations managing key infrastructure across 14 sectors to refrain from purchasing communications equipment which may be vulnerable to security risks such as sensitive information leaks and system shutdowns, reports Nikkei Asian Review.

The Japanese government already had similar guidelines for ministries and government agencies, but now they’ve been extended to cover private sector enterprises as well.

Japanese workers examining a nuclear power generation unit

Previously, the US discovered that sensitive military information was stolen from devices manufactured by Chinese companies like Huawei, and passed the National Defence Authorisation Act for fiscal 2019 to limit the use of such equipment by government agencies.

The Japanese government’s latest move stems from security risk warnings given by Washington about Chinese products.

A new critical infrastructure investigation committee will be formed by Japan in January, led by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to explain the guidelines to industry representatives from entities like the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, the Japan Water Works Association, the finance industry and others who might be particularly vulnerable.

Japanese companies have already been moving away from relying on Chinese manufacturers, with the SoftBank Group planning to discontinue use of Chinese equipment for its next-gen 5G base stations.


India To Open Another Bridge Near China Border On Dec 25 After 21 Years of initiation


The construction of the Bogibeel Bridge in Dibrugarh, Assam has concluded after 21 years of initiation. It is India's longest rail-road bridge, it costs 4,857 crores

The Bogibeel bridge, connecting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, spans Lohit river -- a major tributary of Brahmaputra, from the village of Dhola to Sadiya

Bogibeel Bridge, the longest rail-cum-road bridge on Brahmaputra river, is all set to be inaugurated on December 25 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which will facilitate faster movement of troops to Arunachal Pradesh, the country's eastern-most state that shares border with China.

The foundation stone of the bridge was laid in 1997 by the then Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda. The construction, however, started only in 2002 when then (late) Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee inaugurated the construction works.

The 4.98 km-long bridge will not only reduce the distance for the people of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam but also facilitate faster movement of troops and supplies to the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh.

The bridge, situated 17 km downstream of Dibrugarh and Dhemaji, spans the Brahmaputra river, and will connect Assam's Dibrugarh town with Dhemaji.

The bridge is located just over 20 km away from the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border and therefore, is expected to act as an alternative to the Kolia Bhomora Setu in Tezpur, in providing connectivity to around five million people residing in Upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Chief Engineer of the Northeast Frontier (NF) Railway's Bogibeel Project, Mahendra Singh said 99 per cent of the bridge's construction work has been completed. The rest of the work which includes 'final finish' would be done before December 20.

Project Director of Hindustan Construction Company Limited (HCC), R.V.R. Kishore said the bridge is designed in such a way that it can withstand the movement of major battle tanks of armed forces.

"We have also used fully welded guarder technology and high quality copper bearing steel to increase the durability of the bridge," Kishore said.

The HCC was awarded a contract to construct the superstructure of Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge in November 2011.

"The bridge will give easy and direct access to upper Assam from the rest of the country through Brahmaputra's north bank, in contrast to the current route through Guwahati in the south bank which is long. Due to its location, the bridge will be of strategic importance to India as it will significantly enhance India's ability to transport troops and supplies to its border in Arunachal Pradesh," Kishore said.

"Bogibeel Bridge falls in seismic zone-V. This zone has been the most vulnerable to earthquakes with magnitudes in excess of seven on the Richter scale. To offer good stability to the heavy spans (1700 MT), they are provided with seismic restrainers," Kishore said, adding the bridge is designed to withstand tremors up to 7 and beyond.

In May 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Dhola-Sadiya Bridge, also referred to as the Bhupen Hazarika Setu. The bridge, connecting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, spans Lohit river -- a major tributary of Brahmaputra, from the village of Dhola to Sadiya. At 9.15 km, it is the longest road bridge in India.


MiG-29K Issues: India Discusses 'Problems' With Russia At Defence Ministers' Meet


The Indian Navy's only fighter aircraft MiG-29K continues to face problems as the maritime force feels that the fighter jet needs to be further ruggedised for carrying out operations from aircraft carriers which are supposed to be its main role

New Delhi: The problems faced by the MiG-29K maritime combat aircraft in carrying out operations and the related to the maintenance of the fleet were discussed by India and Russia during the meeting of the two defence ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Sergei Shoigu at the south block here. 

The Indian Navy's only fighter aircraft MiG-29K continues to face problems as the maritime force feels that the fighter jet needs to be further ruggedised for carrying out operations from aircraft carriers which are supposed to be its main role.

"The maintenance and other issues related to the plane have been improved in the recent past but it is felt that the plane needs to be ruggedised further. The problems need to be addressed as the aircraft are under warranty period and the Russians have to help in addressing them," senior sources in the Navy told MyNation.

The Navy operates the MiG-29Ks from its Goa air base as well as the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and after the phasing out of the Sea Harrier planes, it is now the only fighter aircraft left with the Navy.

The top leadership of the Navy including the senior Vice Admiral-rank officers had personally requested the defence minister Sitharaman to take up the issue with the Russian side during her visit to Moscow earlier this year, and she had taken it up strongly there with the officials concerned. 

Issues Faced By Indian Navy With MiG-29K

The fighter plane, which is operated only by India has faced operational deficiencies for a long time due to defects in engines, airframe and fly-by-wire system leading to very low availability for operations as this was pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (GAG) in its 2016 report.

"The MiG-29K, which is a carrier-borne multi-role aircraft and the mainstay of integral fleet air defence, is riddled with problems relating to the airframe, RD MK-33 engine, and fly-by -wire system," the CAG had said.

The serviceability of the warplanes was low, ranging from 15.93 % to 37.63 % and that of MiG-29KUB ranging from 21.30 % to 47.14 %. Serviceability refers to the total number of aircraft available for operation at a time from the overall capacity. The auditor had also noted that the service life of the aircraft is 6000 hours or 25 years (whichever is earlier) and with issues facing the MiG-29K/KUB, the operational life of the aircraft already delivered would be reduced. India ordered 45 MiG-29K aircraft and equipment worth Rs 10,000 crore in two separate orders - in 2004 and 2010 - from Russia.


View: India's Guarded Optimism To Pakistan’s Dubious Generosity


India responds with guarded optimism to Pakistan’s dubious generosity

by Abhinav Pandya

If Germany and France who fought several wars, can live in peace, why can’t India and Pakistan?,” well batted, Imran Khan. To begin with, the occasion that has led to the eastward flow of fresh breeze from Pakistan is the inauguration of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. This must be celebrated without any political hesitations. It is indeed an occasion that deserves to be celebrated with child-like joy and innocence that results from the deep spiritual moorings of the sub-continent.

Indeed, PM Imran appeared sincere, hopeful and emotional in his speech. However, the world of geopolitics is not all about emotional proclamations and wishful thinking. The world of geopolitics is instead ruled by intelligence agencies, vote-seeking populist politicians, Geo-Strategic designs of world powers, profit- hungry corporations and hawkish generals.

There is nothing new in India’s response. It has followed its old line that 'terror' and 'talks' cannot go together. India’s official position has mostly been this for almost the last two decades, albeit interspersed with brief spells of over-generosity and wishful thinking. However, since 2014, with Modi’s arrival on the scene, one can witness an element of consistency, clarity, and steadfastness in the approach. Also, it is explicitly clear in the official statements of Sushma Swaraj and India’s army chief that the Kartarpur corridor episode should be seen separately from the dialogue process between the two nations. While India’s response to Imran Khan’s emotionally charged speech does appear a little harsh, however to this author, the response is not a surprise and is wholly expected.

Before deconstructing India’s response further, the question that needs an answer is whether Pakistan’s peace proposal is honest and sincere? A reasonable and fair analysis from an Indian perspective will reveal that there is a long history of Pakistan supporting proxy terror groups in India. In the Indian security establishment, there is deep sense of scepticism about Pakistan’s peace overtures. In the Indian public opinion and media circles, the cross-border support for militancy in Kashmir since 1989 has been a dominant narrative, in addition to the belief that Pakistan supported separatist movement in Punjab in the 1980s.

The episode of Kargil, especially after Vajpayee’s peace initiatives, further made it difficult for India to go ahead with peace. However, both nations could move forward with peace under Vajpayee and Musharraf, with the credit going to the extraordinary political leadership that both countries had. However, this did not impact the common man until the terrorist attacks began outside Kashmir. The series of terror attacks outside Kashmir began with the Parliament attack and peaked in its intensity and impact in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

The 26/11 Mumbai attacks left a deep trauma on the psyche of the ordinary Indian citizen. There emerged a strong psychological barrier and a deep sense of pessimism about any peace overture from Pakistan. Hence, cutting across the political and ideological lines, there arose a robust and serious consensus that 'terror' and 'talks' cannot go together. However, that did not mean that the peaceniks had become extinct. One did see an initial episode of dialogue and bonhomie between Nawaz Sharif and PM Modi.

Unfortunately, the incidents of Fidayeen attacks in Pathankot and Uri happened and militancy spiked in Kashmir with alleged cross-border support. Further, the recent upsurge in the Khalistan activities by Sikh diaspora across the world has given more fodder to India’s suspicions. Therefore one witnesses caution with which India is proceeding in the matter of Kartarpur corridor.

India’s refusal to accept the SAARC invitation reflects a deep sense of mistrust and pessimism. However, that does not mean that India is making war-cries or has closed its mind to peace proposals. India’s response strongly indicates that it would like to see concrete and substantial action on terror.

Secondly, India’s response needs to be seen in the context of the overall cultural and political milieu of the current times. The country is witnessing the rapid growth of Ayodhya movement which seeks to build a temple over the controversial structure of a demolished mosque. Since 2014, India is also going through an intense phase of struggle between the forces of Hindu nationalism and the distorted legacy of Nehruvian secularism.

India has emerged as a vibrant economic and military power and under Modi’s leadership, made great strides in claiming its rightful diplomatic place among global powers. This has led to an increased sense of confidence. It has also led to a revivalist trend in the intellectual, religious and cultural aspects of India’s internal politics and foreign policy.

India’s response can not be categorised as an abject denial to the idea of peace. In spite of some initial hiccups and hesitations, India finally embraced the idea of developing Kartarpur corridor. Though MEA Sushma Swaraj did not attend the event in a personal capacity, India did send two central ministers to participate in the event. To this author, the overall attitude of India appears to be more of cautious optimism, i.e. India wants to convey that it is willing to cooperate in cultural and religious matters, where more substantial interests of the citizens of both the nations are involved. However, it appears that India finds it difficult to trust Pakistan and will reciprocate only in the event of achieving a substantial breakthrough on the terror front. Nevertheless, PM Imran Khan’s peace proposal has that emotional strength to appeal to the ordinary Indian citizen. His fan-following as a cricketer in India might supply some more steam to that appeal as well.


Pentagon Moves India Office Out, Reduces Manpower


Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has been extremely vocal and positive on India but it seems after him there is no senior management person to push the whole panoply of initiatives

by Seema Sirohi

WASHINGTON: If India is an important part of the new Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States, why has the Pentagon moved the India office out of the iconic building to a secondary address?

Not only has the India Rapid Reaction Cell, which was launched with much fanfare in 2015, been shunted out of the Pentagon, its strength has reportedly been reduced from six officers to just two.

It doesn’t make sense if the idea is to strengthen the defence partnership and make it a crucial to the future of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The downgrade is significant – from being right next door to the US defence secretary, the India office is now housed in a largely administrative building six miles away. The move was made on Nov. 1, according to insiders.

No one seems to have protested or questioned the decision. Is that because there isn’t a high-level official willing to push the cause and fight the necessary bureaucratic battles? Or did no one of consequence notice as office managers juggled the desks around?

Or is it because the dissatisfaction with the larger relationship – trade issues, India’s over compensation for other partners — beginning to infect the defence relationship?

The India cell had momentum when it was born, even a certain cache, I was told, with officers lining up to join. Just as in the State Department in the mid-2000s when the India desk became a coveted place to work.

Above all, in the vast bureaucracy that is the Pentagon, the India cell signalled New Delhi’s importance as a defence partner and a major buyer of US equipment.

Keith Webster, director of Pentagon’s office of international cooperation, led the team as it worked on all ongoing initiatives, especially those under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI). The idea was to ramp up the “operational tempo,” he had said then.

Webster was deeply knowledgeable about India’s complexities. He was also patient but most importantly, he enjoyed the complete support of Ash Carter, the former defence secretary and Frank Kendall, the under secretary of defence.

The Carter-Kendall-Webster trio worked seamlessly and was effective in pushing the India relationship forward. It was Carter’s idea to create the first ever country specific cell to focus the mind and overcome the usual bureaucratic paralysis that can stymie the best of intentions.

Carter helped change Pentagon’s mindset on technology transfer to India, shortened the interminable review process and removed India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation from the “entities list” to allow cooperation.

Carter, Kendall and Webster are all gone and it seems the India cell become an orphan no senior official wanted to embrace.

To be sure, defence secretary Jim Mattis has been extremely vocal and positive on India but it seems after him there is no senior management person to push the whole panoply of initiatives.

Mattis has tried hard to shield India from the dreaded sanctions law called CAATSA by lobbying for a waiver from the US Congress.

He was warm and effusive as he welcomed defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week, and all but suggested India won’t come under sanctions for signing the S-400 deal with Russia.

So dedicated was he to ensuring the success of Sitharaman’s first visit, he reportedly arrived a full half hour early at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Gallery where he was hosting a dinner for her complete with a military band.

Mattis, widely respected in India, has a lot on his plate and who knows how long he will stay given the constant churn in this administration. He is believed to have a contentious relationship with John Bolton, the national security adviser.

What about the successors of Kendall and Webster? They are — Ellen Lord is under secretary for acquisitions, and Tina Kaidanow, director for international cooperation. Kaidanow retired from the State Department as the head the political-military bureau and was key on arms transfer issues.

Lord’s background may hold some clues on the bureaucratic disinterest in the India cell. Before joining the Pentagon, she was president and CEO of Textron Systems, a major defence contractor and maker of Bell helicopters.

Textron was fined $300,000 by the Indian defence ministry earlier this year for failing to meet the tough offset commitments on a $257-million deal to supply precision guided cluster bombs to the Indian Air Force. Textron decided to wind down its operations in India.

With such “direct” India experience and the mandate to sell more and more weapons, Lord must be working hard to gin up enthusiasm.


NSG Must Have Its Own Air Wing, Panel Urges Centre

National Security Guard (NSG) commandos during a drill with a mock-up aircraft

A Parliamentary panel has recommended that the Centre urgently take steps to ensure that the National Security Guard (NSG) — the country’s premier counter-terrorist and contingency force — is equipped with its own dedicated air wing.

The committee headed by Congress leader P. Chidambaram observed with anguish that the two Mi-17 helicopters procured by the NSG in 1988-99, were grounded and unavailable. While one of the helicopters met with an accident on February 22, 2002, and got damaged extensively; the second one was unserviceable due to want of spare parts.

The 215th Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on Home Affairs tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday recommended that the “Ministry of Home Affairs should make urgent and sincere efforts to commission a dedicated Air Wing of NSG and provide requisite types and number of air assets to strengthen the aviation capability of the force.”

The NSG’s delay in reaching Mumbai during the November 2008 terrorist attacks on the city had come under severe criticism, with the non-availability of dedicated aircraft hampering the force’s rapid reaction capabilities.

“The Committee observes that NSG has yet not tested its power to commandeer any aircraft in real-time circumstances and feels that, unless this power is used, the force would remain unaware of the response time and logistical challenges that it may face in operational situations,” the panel noted.

The NSG was raised in 1986 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Operation Blue Star. The force, which is trained to operate as an elite urban anti-terrorist and anti-hijack force, doesn’t have a cadre of its own or direct recruitment and is instead dependent on personnel sent on deputation from the army and the central armed police forces (CAPF).


How IIT Madras’ Make In India Defence Model Is A Blueprint For Success


Academic institutions of international repute like the IITs should be partners in producing cutting-edge military technologies

by Lt Gen P R Shankar Retd

By 2030, India’s doorstep adversaries will be a hi-tech, world-dominating China and its toxic cat’s paw Pakistan. Let’s face it. Militarily, India’s import dependence for defence equipment will not reduce by then because Make in India has already missed its mark. For reasons well-known, indigenous defence industry has not delivered. Now, after the controversy over the Rafale fighter jet deal, our defence import and procurement procedures will inevitably decelerate.
Need outcome-oriented efforts

Our talent and potential have been showcased to the world by Sundar Pichais and Satya Nadellas and many more who are powering companies such as Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon. It is now time to create talent that can be used for India’s defence indigenisation. Despite a realisation in the government and military circles, the academic path to indigenisation remains hazy.

The faculty at IIT Madras is evolving a model that must be nurtured and replicated. In January 2018, a course on ‘Overview of Defence Technologies’ was introduced at IIT Madras as an elective. In each semester, since then, over 100 PhD, M.Tech, MS and B.Tech students across disciplines enrolled in the course. They got practical exposure by attending DefExpo, visiting Indian Navy ships, L&T shipyard, and Officers Training Academy, Chennai. Students interacted with defence officers, scientists and the industry, including the defence minister and chief of the Army staff.

Students want to contribute to the domestic defence industry and, in response, the ministry of defence and the armed forces have started an outreach programme with the IIT. However, their approach needs focus and must go beyond exploratory, superficial, tick-the-box efforts. It must be outcome-oriented and not incremental.

Contrast this with China, which has over 2,500 military scientists/engineers studying defence technologies abroad, including navigation technology, computer science, artificial intelligence, hypersonic scramjets, and high-energy lasers.

In a recent article, China expert Claude Arpi wrote about how Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, US, Germany and Singapore are virtually sponsoring China’s defence researches.

Exposure To Defence Issues

India must make courses like the ‘Overview of Defence Technologies’ an elective across all IITs and other technical institutes. Select IITs/IISc should run MTech courses with specialisation in defence technologies like the UK’s Cranfield University does. In addition, we also need MTech/MBA programmes to cover subjects like defence procurement. We must graduate to PhD programmes on niche defence-related technologies.

IIT Madras team interacting with Army Chief Bipin Rawat

Over 200-250 armed forces’ officers do MTech courses in IITs on regular subjects at any given time. This framework can easily be tweaked to focus on defence technology and procurement and will result in tremendous payoffs.

There is no alternative to knowledge superiority. Academic partnerships, linkages and exchange programmes should be developed between selected institutions and schools of instruction of the armed forces. Our young scientific and engineering minds need exposure to defence issues through seminars and events like Aero India and DefExpo. Our IITians participate in Mars Rover and Hyperloop competitions internationally. Similarly, defence-related competitions should be held routinely at tech fests in India to unearth talent and ideas. In, addition, they should be made to take up internships at defence institutions.
Benefits for future

Select academic institutions should undertake projects in blue sky research and develop technologies/products for import substitution/upgradation. These projects could be in standalone mode or in conjunction with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) or Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs).

Our academic institutions of international repute can no more be treated as appendages or competitors in defence research and production. They should instead be partners for producing cutting-edge military technologies.

IITs have tremendous research expertise. For example at IIT Madras alone, ISRO (since 1990), Railways (since 2017), DRDO (since 2012) and Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research have established centres for joint research. Nearly 200 MoUs exist with the industry for sponsored research, focused academic programmes, and consultancy. In the same vein, Services should establish dedicated research centres and run exclusive programmes in select IITs based on their expertise.

Indian Navy has an MoU with IIT Delhi since 1978 and has benefited immensely in naval construction. Other Services should follow this lead. A comprehensive pilot programme can build on the initiatives of IIT Madras. Without focus, we will be all over the place and end up nowhere.

Finally, I got a call recently from someone in Ernst and Young who wanted to consult us on their plan for the southern defence corridor. Just imagine. MoD consults someone for the defence corridor who, in turn, consults IIT Madras. Round tripping? The MoD might as well come to IIT Madras directly. Old habits die hard, I suppose.

The author is professor, Aerospace Dept, IIT Madras


Kashmiri Teen Who Did A Cameo In Film Haider Turned Militant, Shot Dead In Encounter


Saqib Bilal and another boy, a Class 9 student from Hajin Bandipora, were killed along with a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba militant in an 18-hour gun battle with security forces in Mujgund on the outskirts of Srinagar on December 9

He was a theatre artist and had even done a brief role in a Bollywood movie. That was before he disappeared along with another boy in August.

Saqib Bilal and another boy, a Class 9 student from Hajin Bandipora, were killed along with a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba militant in an 18-hour gun battle with security forces in Mujgund on the outskirts of Srinagar on December 9.

Both the boys had left their homes on August 31 and Bilal’s family is at a loss to understand why he joined militancy. They looked everywhere and his mother even brought an amulet from a faith healer for her son’s safety.

“For more than a month, we went to places to find them. Ultimately, we realised the unthinkable,” Asim Aijaz, Bilal’s maternal uncle, said.

“He had an interest in engineering. We could never understand why he joined. In fact, he left home on the day to buy some groceries. People had seen the two boys riding behind a third person on a bike,” Aijaz said.

Bilal had cleared his Class 10 with a distinction and was studying physics, chemistry and maths in Class 11. He was a football aficionado and had even played Taekwondo and Kabaddi. The other boy belonged to a poor family and Saqib came from a well to do farming family.

Bilal’s family said he had an interest in acting and had done a small role in Vishal Bhardwaj’s movie Haider.

“He was in his sixth class when he appeared for two brief shots in Haider which have appeared in the film. In one of the shots he appeared as a ‘chocolate boy’ and in another, he acted of surviving a violent incident in a bus,” Aijaz said.

The uncle said the boy was a theatre artist as well.

“Before his Haider stint, he appeared in a stage show ‘Weath chi Yeahi (This is the river)’ at Tagore Hall in which he was the protagonist. He managed to get an award and even went to Odisha to repeat the performance,” Aijaz said.

Police officials said the two teenagers joined militants immediately after they disappeared.

The only reason Bilal’s family could find was an encounter between militants and security forces a day before their disappearance in Hajin. “Some militants had been killed and people went to see the ruined place,” Asim said.

The death of the two boys has triggered anger and grief in Kashmir. People not only questioned the militants for allowing minors in their ranks but have also castigated the security forces for going for the kill when minors were involved.


IAF Successfully Concludes 11-Day Combined Guided Weapon Firing 'Crossbow-18' Exercise 


AMARAVATI: The Combined Guided Weapon Firing exercise 'CROSSBOW-18' ended successfully Thursday at the Suryalanka Air Force Station in Andhra Pradesh.

The 11-day exercise, conducted under the aegis of the Southern Air Command, saw various Surface-to-Air Missile systems like the indigenously developed Akash, Spyder, OSA-AK-M and IGLA carrying out drills and live firing for the first time on manoeuvrable aerial targets, a Defence release here said.

Live firing by night added to the uniqueness and complexity of the exercise while participation of SU-30 fighter jets made it operationally realistic, it said.

"The live firing helped the Indian Air Force in validating the Air Defence philosophy by integrating both legacy and modern Surface-to-Air Guided Weapon Systems and the Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS).

It was a unique event in the history of the IAF and is a precursor to the modernization of Suryalanka range," it added.

Air warriors from over 20 participating Surface-to-Air Guided Weapon squadrons actively participated in the exercise.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Southern Air Command, Air Marshal B Suresh and other senior officials from the Air Headquarters and Western Air Command visited the Air Force Station in Guntur district during the course of the exercise and witnessed the live missile firing by four missile systems, the release said.


India-China To Launch People-To-People Exchanges Mechanism Next Week


The mechanism is expected to go a long way in promoting cultural, economic, academic and other links between the two ancient civilisations

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is all set to visit India for jointly inaugurating the high-level India-China people-to-people exchanges mechanism with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on 21 December, according to diplomatic sources.

The mechanism is expected to go a long way in promoting cultural, economic, academic and other links between the two ancient civilisations.

During his three-day visit, Wang is scheduled to attend a series of engagements in the Indian capital, including attending an India-China media forum and a think-tank conclave, sources added. He is also likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visit Aurangabad during the visit.

Sources said the two countries were keen to make 2019 even better for normalising ties and promoting people-to-people exchanges. A lot of bilateral exchanges were planned between the two countries in 2019, including a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. But the President’s visit would take place probably after the Lok Sabha elections in India.

The visit comes within a month of Wang holding the 21st round of boundary talks with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province. Wang and Doval are the designated Special Representatives (SRs) of the two countries on the vexed boundary issue. The two SRs had decided maintain peace and tranquillity along the India-China border and expedite a solution to the boundary issue. The two countries are also close to arriving at an agreement for setting up a hot line between their defence ministries.

Last week, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale held talks with Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and reviewed the progress made in bilateral ties.

Sources said there has been a perceptible improvement in India-China ties since PM Modi met the Chinese President in Wuhan for an informal summit in April. Since then, the two leaders have met thrice this year, their last meeting having taken place in Argentina on the margins of the G-20 Summit recently.

‘’Both countries are working very hard to implement the consensus reached between the two leaders (Modi and XI),’’ sources added, noting that efforts were on by both sides to put last summer’s Doklam military stand-off behind them.


Military Drill With A Dozen African Nations Next Year 

Indian & Chinese Army soldiers at a joint military exercise in Chengdu, China, on Tuesday

by Rajat Pandit

NEW DELHI: India is now stepping-up efforts for a concrete military outreach to Africa after a diplomatic one to counter the deep strategic inroads made by China in the world’s second largest continent, even as the two Asian rivals continue with their shadow-boxing for influence in the Indian Ocean Region.

India will conduct an “India-Africa Field Training Exercise (IAFTX)” in Pune from March 18 to 27 next year, which will see the participation of over a dozen countries ranging from Tanzania and Kenya to Ghana and South Africa, said defence ministry sources on Wednesday.

“Though Indian armed forces do train some military personnel from a few African nations, the IAFTX will be the first-ever such exercise with several armies from Africa. The initial planning conference for IAFTX was held a few days ago, with the final one slated for end-January,” said a source.

Interestingly, Army chief General Bipin Rawat is also slated to visit Tanzania and Kenya from December 17 to 20 to bolster defence cooperation. As part of its overall policy, India has also been holding defence cooperation talks with countries like Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia as well, say sources.

The defence engagement with South Africa is, of course, at a much higher level. Warships and aircraft from India, South Africa and Brazil, for instance, held the sixth edition of the IBSAMAR naval exercise off Simons Town in October.

“But India has not conducted any bilateral or multi-lateral exercise with other African nations like IAFTX despite long-standing ties with them,” said the source. The exercise will involve “humanitarian mine action” (de-mining and other protocols to handle landmines and explosives) and peace-keeping operations, in which India has decades of expertise, among other areas.

The IAFTX endeavor, incidentally, comes at a time when India is wrapping up a hectic military diplomacy year, which saw it conducting exercises with all the P-5 countries (US, Russia, China, France and UK), apart from other powerhouses like Australia, Japan, South Africa and Brazil as well as AEANS countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, as was earlier reported by TOI.

But India, much like in the IOR, simply does not have the deep pockets like China for a massive economic and military engagement with Africa. Backed by its multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which even has the US and Europe worried, China has fast expanded its footprint in Africa as the “New Great Game” plays out in the continent known for its minerals and other raw commodities.

China in July, incidentally, had dismissed any new Sino-Indian rivalry in Africa, stressing the two Asian giants were on the same page in their efforts to assist the countries there. This had come soon after both President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Rwanda, one after the other, while heading for the BRICS summit in South Africa.


China Positioning Itself To Supplant America As Next Superpower: FBI Official


WASHINGTON: China is positioning itself to supplant America as the world's next superpower through "economic aggression" and "relentless theft of US assets", the Trump administration has told a powerful Congressional committee.

Assistant Director of counter-intelligence Division, FBI E W "Bill" Priestap told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on Chinese espionage activities that after the World War-II, the US and its allies created an international order that has led to greater peace, prosperity and human rights than at any other time in human history.

The Chinese government has been exploiting this order while simultaneously trying to challenge and replace it. The resulting double standards are everywhere, he said Wednesday.

"China tries to dominate Internet governance to benefit Chinese telecom companies, yet China censors its own Internet and eliminates data privacy," Priestap alleged.

"It is alarming that the Chinese government's economic aggression, including its relentless theft of US assets, is positioning China to supplant us as the world's superpower," he alleged.

A Chinese police officer becomes President of Interpol, yet that official later disappears into China's opaque criminal system, accused of vague crimes and never seen again. China ratifies the UN convention on the law of the sea, yet builds artificial islands in disputed waters, he said.

"China claims to champion the developing world, yet China's loans create debt traps and undermine sovereignty. The Chinese government pursues its goals by any means necessary, some are clearly illegal like economic espionage and computer intrusions.

"Even those that appear legal often rely on deception, such as front companies or digital back doors. Some are lawful but not reciprocal, exploiting the openness of free nations. That's why investigations and judicial actions are critical, but we need an even broader response to this threat," the FBI official said.

According to John Demers, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division in the Department of Justice, China is driven by a desire to be at the forefront of 10 critical technologies laid out in its 'Made in China' 2025 plan.

"No one begrudges a nation that generates the most innovative ideas, and from them, develops the best technology, but we cannot tolerate a nation that steals the fruits of our brainpower, and that is just what China is doing to achieve its development goals," he said.

China has turned the trade craft of its intelligence services against American companies, taking trade secrets and other sensitive commercial information through computer intrusions and by co-opting company insiders, Demers alleged.

"From underwater drones and autonomous vehicles to critical chemical compounds and inbred corn seeds, China has targeted advanced technology across sectors that align with China's publicly-announced strategic goals," he said.

"The playbook is simple: rob, replicate and replace; Rob the American company of its intellectual property, replicate that technology and replace the American company in the Chinese market and one day in the global market.

"It's no wonder that from 2011 to 2018, more than 90 per cent of the department's cases alleging economic espionage on behalf of a state involve China," Demers said.

Christopher Krebs, Director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, said the US advise companies on the risks of doing business in a complex and unpredictable environment like China that includes forced technology transfer, limited transparency and a lack of privacy. In a globally integrated world, what happens over there can quickly impact operations here.

Demers said the challenges being faced are exemplified by the case of Micron, a Boise, Idaho semiconductor company.

Micron controls about 20 to 25 per cent of the USD 50 billion market for a basic kind of computer memory known as dynamic random access memory (DRAM). It's a critical component of a wide range of computer electronics. Until recently, the Chinese could not make DRAM; they had to buy it from companies like Micron, he said.

In 2016, the Chinese authorities set out to change that. First, at the highest levels, the Chinese government publicly identified the development of integrated circuit technology, which includes DRAM, as a national economic priority, he said.

Then it invested more than USD 5 billion to start up a company, Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Company, for the sole purpose of designing, developing and manufacturing integrated circuit chips, specifically DRAM, Demers said.

And that same year, having never made a single computer chip, this company announced a partnership to manufacture DRAM with a Taiwan semi-conductor foundry known as UMC, he said.

"There was only one problem: According to our indictment that we unsealed last month, neither company had ever made advanced DRAM. So how could they possibly manufacture it together less than a year after Fujian Jinhua had been founded?

"According to the indictment, by luring Micron employees to steal trade secrets from Micron and bringing them to UMC, who would then transfer the technology to the Chinese state-owned enterprise, pursuant to the company's technology cooperation agreement," Demers added.


In A First, ISRO Will Make Spent Rocket Stages ‘Alive’ In Space For Experiments

A spent cryogenic upper stage of a Delta-IV rocket in orbit

The Indian Space Research Organisation is working on a new technology where it will use the last stage of the PSLV rocket for space experiments. It will perform a technology demonstration of this new system when it launches the PSLV C44 rocket in January. The organisation will invite students and scientists to make use of this new technology

NEW DELHI: Can a dead rocket in space be anything but debris? ISRO believes it might actually be useful. Feted for its frugality and tech savvy, the Indian Space Research Organisation is working on a new technology where it will use the last stage of the PSLV rocket for space experiments. It will perform a technology demonstration of this new system when it launches the PSLV C44 rocket in January.

PSLV StoryTalking to TOI here, ISRO chairman Dr. K Sivan said, “Normally, the last stage of a PSLV rocket after releasing the primary satellite in space becomes dead and categorised as debris. It remains in the same orbit as that of the released satellite. Now, we are working on a new technology where we will give life to this “dead” last stage of PSLV, also called PS4 stage, for six months after its launch. This rocket stage will double up as a satellite. This will be the most cost-effective way to perform experiments in space as we don’t have to launch a separate rocket for the purpose.” He said that “India is the only country in the world that is working on this new technology”.

Explaining the technology, the chairman said, “The rocket stage of PSLV C44, which will be carrying a microsat as the primary satellite in January, will be made alive with the help of new systems that will include batteries and solar panel. Even after the primary satellite separates from the PSLV, the last stage of the rocket will remain active and can be used as an experimental platform for new space technologies. Students or space scientists can use this “alive” rocket stage for space experiments for free. They can attach their small experimental module or satellite (micro or nano) in the last stage and can perform experiments in space once the PSLV delivers the primary satellite into its orbit.” He said that ISRO “can do the same with the GSLV rocket as well where we can use its last stage as an experimental platform”.

Sivan said ISRO is going to make an "announcement of opportunity in a few days to invite proposals from students and space scientists to make use of this new technology."

Till now, space agencies around the world can use a rocket only once to deliver satellites in space. Elon Musk-promoted SpaceX is the only exception as the US private space agency has mastered the technology of repeating the same rocket stage for relaunches. However, SpaceX’s experiments with its Falcon 9 rocket are confined to the first stage of the rocket. It has also never experimented with the last stage.