-->

Saturday, February 4, 2023

MBDA To Line-Up Latest Missile Systems At Aero India 2023


MBDA to line-up latest missile systems focusing on arming all branches of Indian Armed Forces at Aero India 2023

European missile maker MBDA will line up its latest missile systems in the upcoming Aero India, focusing on equipping its weaponry systems to all branches of the Indian armed Forces after arming Indian Air Forces’ Rafale fighter jets with game-changing missile systems. The biennial Aero India-2023 show is scheduled at Air force station Yelahanka from 13 to 17 February in Bangalore.

The company will be highlighting its entire range of missiles and missile systems. The weapon systems that arm the IAF’s latest Dassault Rafale combat aircraft will be at the centre stage during the Aero India show. The most famous of these weapons is the Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, widely recognised as a game changer for air combat. The Indian Air Force is receiving this unrivalled system on its new Rafale aircraft, and it is also proposed to similarly arm the naval Rafale M offered to the Indian Navy. Besides the Meteor, MBDA will display SCALP, a deep-strike cruise missile and MICA, nicknamed “silent killer, ” a potent air combat missile for Rafales. MICA is also part of the upgrade package for the IAF’s Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft.

MBDA will also be exhibiting the work it performs in Coimbatore on MICA missiles and MICA missile launchers with L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd, a joint venture with Larsen & Toubro – delivering Make in India projects in support of Atmanirbhar Bharat, informed the company. According to the company’s statement, MBDA is proposing all these potent weapons and the famous Exocet AM39 air-launched anti-ship missile for the Rafale M for the new Indian aircraft carrier. EXOCET probably ranks as the world’s best-known anti-ship missile. It is fitted in the submarine variant, SM39, delivered to the Indian Navy to arm its Scorpene submarines – Project 75. According to MBDA, the AM39 version can be launched from Maritime Patrol Aircraft, strike fighters such as the Rafale-M, and medium to heavyweight helicopters. Already in service, this latest generation EXOCET features 3D waypoints, a low sea-skimming flight profile and the ability to strike coastal land targets and ships.

Some of the technologies during the aero show will include those supplied to the Indian Air Force, such as ASRAAM– dogfighting new generation close combat missiles delivered to Jaguar fleet and will soon also enhance the new TEJAS MK-1A’s capabilities. The IAF’s upgraded Jaguar fleet is the first aircraft to receive ASRAAM, with integration currently underway on TEJAS MK-1A and potentially other IAF platforms in the future.

Mistral ATAM system – has been integrated on the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), and the final integration is being done on the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). MISTRAL ATAM has been delivered to India to equip the HAL’s weaponised version of the Advanced Light Helicopter, the ALH Rudra. The system is based on two launchers, each deploying two MBDA air-to-air Mistral missiles. The same system has successfully undergone integration on the LCH platform, also manufactured by HAL. MBDA and BDL have signed an agreement for the establishment of an assembly line for Mistral missiles in India.

The battlefield weapon system, AKERON MP, is the only fifth-generation anti-tank missile available in the world, and it has been designed for dismounted infantry as well as for integration on combat vehicles; it will also be showcased in the Aero Show. ATGM5 will further develop the technologies pioneered in AKERON MP in India for the specific operational requirements of the Indian Armed Forces, the company claimed.


Kalyani Group To Enter Race, Compete With DRDO For Zorawar Light Tank


The government may grant permission to the Kalyani Group to go ahead with its plans although the company – which has previously collaborated with American General Dynamics Land Systems – is yet to disclose its partner in this process the prototype developed jointly by the DRDO and L&T is expected to undergo mobility trials after its launch later this year

New Delhi: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) may have to face a new competitor in the race to build a new light tank for the Indian Army.

The Kalyani Group may enter the race to build 354 light weight tanks for the Indian Army.

This may pose a challenge for the DRDO, which is working on a prototype for a light tank in collaboration with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) as part of Project Zorawar.

The prototype developed jointly by the DRDO and L&T is expected to undergo mobility trials after its launch later this year.

The government may grant permission to the Kalyani Group to go ahead with its plans although the company – which has previously collaborated with American General Dynamics Land Systems – is yet to disclose its partner in this process.

American General Dynamics Land Systems has extensive experience in defence production, having previously developed a Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, which is basically a light tank since it is an armoured, turreted and tracked vehicle with a large gun.

The Kalyani Group has given rise to speculations of a possible collaboration with Turkish military vehicle manufacturer Otokar Otomotiv ve Savunma Sanayi as documents made public by the company feature the TULPAR Light Tank developed by the Turkey based group.

However, it is not clear whether the image of the TULPAR Light Tank used by the Kalyani Group in its documents was for representational purposes or if it is actually trying for a collaboration with the Turkish defence manufacturer.


Indian Army Chief Highlights Lessons of Asymmetric Warfare From Ukraine Conflict


According to Indian Army's former COAS Gen MM Naravane, a ‘military-technical revolution’ is at the helm of the evolution in warfare

Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande on Wednesday highlighted lessons learnt from the Russia-Ukraine conflict on various facets of asymmetric warfare and the scope of digital resilience among others. While addressing the students at the Army Institute of Technology at Pune on the institute's foundation day, General Pande iterated that the Russia-Ukraine conflict has highlighted various facets of asymmetric warfare such as weaponization of economic mechanisms, information warfare, digital resilience, communication redundancy, “all driven by technological prowess”. The Army Chief further stressed that “self-sufficiency” in the Indian Armed Forces and national security cannot be outsourced.

Gen Manoj Pande further stated that amid the current geo-political and geo-strategic landscape, no nation is willing to share its technologies and therefore national security cannot be dependent on the "largesse of others". Earlier, the then COAS Gen MM Naravane addressed the issue of ‘Shifting Domains of Warfare’ on CLAWS Founder’ Day in November 2020. Gen Naravane talked about the “envelope of geopolitical and geostrategic challenges” and stated that its continuous expansion had made it more “difficult to tackle the same than in the past.”

Indian Army Amid Shifting Domains of Warfare

Writing for CLAWs, Gen Narvane said that the understanding of warfare has transformed with changes in the geopolitical and geostrategic environment. Furthermore, he stated that the character and form of war keep evolving, even though the nature of war remains the same. According to General Narvane, battlespaces have expanded from “traditional land and maritime domains to the emerging domains of cyber, electromagnetic, and space making it a “multi-domain” battlespace.”

According to Gen Naravane, a ‘military-technical revolution’ is at the helm of the evolution in warfare. This revolution brings unprecedented firepower, transparency, and depth to the battlefield. “Simultaneity and non-linearity, lethality and dispersion, volume, and precision of fire, advanced technology, mass, and effects, as well as invisibility and detectability,” have been cited as the most significant developments for land warfare.

Meanwhile, in his address at AIT Pune, Army Chief Gen Pande stressed that the current state of security is “founded in the technological edge over the adversary.” He further stated that self-sufficiency in critical military technology and research and development serves as a strategic imperative that cannot be ignored. “The Indian Army is cognizant of these realities," he said.


Indian Army's Western Command Uphauls Security And Synergy With Series of Exercises


Indian Army’s Western Command has carried out a series of integrated military drills and validation exercises to uphaul operational preparedness and striking capability. Headquartered at Haryana’s Chandimandir, the Western Command deployed the Charging Ram Division, Agnibaan Brigade, Air Defence Brigade, Panther Sappers, and the Golden Arrow Division under the series of exercises. The series of military drills began on January 26 and culminated on 1 February 2023.


Notably, the exercise involved the Kharga Corps and Vajra Corps of the Indian Army and was carried out in areas of Punjab and Haryana. Furthermore, the series of exercises employed the use of top-tier modern weapons and equipment of the Indian Army in an integrated environment and tested the operational preparedness of the forces. The series of drills began with Western Command’s Charging Ram Division undertaking integrated training deploying Apache helicopters from the Army Aviation Corps. The aim of this drill was to validate joint tactics, techniques, and procedures with Indian Army’s attack helicopters thereby enhancing “synergistic and coordinated” manoeuvres.


Western Command Upscaling Operational Readiness


The Agnibaan brigade under the Indian Army’s Western Command conducted integrated training of Infantry troops on 28 January. The training also employed the use of tanks and aimed to enhance the operational readiness and synergy of the troops in tactical battle zones. This was followed by another exercise employing the Western Command’s Air Defence Brigade.

Training and validation of battle drills were conducted by the brigade on January 30 with the objective to optimise operational readiness. Furthermore, cohesiveness was practised under simulated battlefield conditions during the day and night. The drill included the construction of trenches and setting up of army air defences within a limited time to counter the enemy in case of battle.


Meanwhile, the Panther Sappers carried out training to hone their skills in an obstacle-ridden terrain on January 30. The training drills undertaken by the combat engineers of the Panther Sappers included the practice of bridging and watermanship. The aim was to enhance battlefield mobility and the overall combat potential of the military assets.

At the culmination of the series of military drills, the Golden Arrow Division conducted training and small team exercises for infantry formations. The drill included the practice of combat swimming, day-night navigation, survival, demolition, and endurance. This was aimed to enhance the combat capabilities of troops undertaking special missions across the spectrum of operations.


India, US Are Ready To Break Down Barriers To Closer Technology And Defence Cooperation, Say Experts


"The launch of iCET is a pivotal moment in the US-India partnership," Mukesh Aghi, president of US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) told PTI. Completing the work on the long-awaited NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) earth observation satellite is an excellent example of how the US-India partnership in space can benefit the world.

National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval attends a roundtable on the US-India initiative on 'Critical and Emerging Technologies' (iCET) hosted by USIBC, in Washington

The launch of the India-US initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan is an important signal that the two countries are ready to break down barriers, foster ties in technology and bolster defence cooperation, experts said. Sullivan and Doval met at the White House on Tuesday along with their respective high-powered delegations for the inaugural iCET dialogue.

Announced during US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bilateral talks in Tokyo in May last year, the iCET is spearheaded by the National Security Councils of both countries.

It focused on strengthening the US-India partnership on the technologies that will drive global growth, bolster both countries' economic competitiveness, and protect shared national security interests.

"The holding of the inaugural iCET meeting between the Indian and US National Security Advisors is a major milestone for the relationship and signals that the two sides are ready to break down barriers to closer technology and defence cooperation," Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow and Director of the Indo-Pacific Security Programme at Centre for New American Security told PTI.

Curtis, a former CIA official, was deputy assistant to the president and NSC senior director for South and Central Asia from 2017 to 2021, during which she played a key role in shaping India-US ties.

"Both sides stand to gain from the emerging technology partnership: India will gain access to defence technologies that will bolster its capabilities at a time when China-India border friction is increasing and clashes like the one at Galwan Valley in June 2020 and near Tawang in December 2022 are becoming more frequent," Curtis explained.

"For its part, the US will benefit from enhancing scientific cooperation and harmonising standards and ethical approaches to technology development with an influential democratic power with a vibrant economy and burgeoning tech talent at the heart of the Indo-Pacific," she said.

Curtis said it was important to establish the technology dialogue at the NSA level, as it can convene the various government agencies and departments within their respective bureaucracies to take action and move cooperation forward.

"The launch of iCET is a pivotal moment in the US-India partnership," Mukesh Aghi, president of US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) told PTI.

Completing the work on the long-awaited NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) earth observation satellite is an excellent example of how the US-India partnership in space can benefit the world.

"Climate Change is a real threat in front of us, and NISAR brings both countries closer to fighting this threat," he said.

"iCET launch is like the big bang moment for the scientists in both countries. It will open up opportunities for deeper collaboration and more research between the two countries. USISPF is delighted to see the launch come to fruition," Aghi said.

US India Business Council commended the Biden administration on working with India to launch the iCET.

"By strengthening our technology partnership with India, we will make both our economies stronger and ready to shape the next phase of global growth," it said.

According to Ronak D. Desai, a leading India practitioner at Paul Hastings LLP and an expert at the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University, said the iCET is a powerful reminder of the genuinely multidimensional nature of U.S.-India ties, as well as the extent to which bilateral relations are spanning virtually every arena of human cooperation conceivable.

"iCET's promise is enormous and carries with it the potential for the United States and India to achieve new, unprecedented levels of convergence in critical areas of interest to both countries," he said.

The symbolism of the iCET dialogue is just as important as the substance underlying it.

The initiative represents yet another formidable investment by the United States into its strategic partnership with India. It underscores the Biden administration's desire to further expand and elevate its relationship with India at a particularly crucial time internationally, Desai said.

The historic dialogue represents an unprecedented opportunity for key segments of the American and Indian private sector to collaborate further and become e critical stakeholders in the burgeoning US-India relationship, Desai added.


Some Units Reported Minor Injuries To Para Troopers Using Airborne Helmets In 2022: MoS Defence


Some military units reported minor injuries to para troopers while using airborne helmets last year, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt said on Friday. He said this in Lok Sabha while replying to a question on whether airborne helmets procured for special forces malfunctioned resulting in injuries to troops.

The contract for procurement of ballistic helmets at a cost of Rs 170.81 crores was signed in December, 2016.

Bhatt said necessary proceedings have been initiated in the matter to take suitable action as per laid down policy.

"While conducting para jumps, some of the units reported minor injuries to para troopers while using the airborne helmets during the year 2022," Bhatt said.

"The item was trial evaluated in the year 2016 by Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence (MoD) Army and ballistic testing of samples was done at Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL), Chandigarh," he added.

The minister said airborne helmets, based on technical specifications obtained after trials, were duly inspected by the Authority Holding Sealed Particulars (AHSP) that is Controllerate of Quality Assurance (General Stores), Kanpur.

Bhatt said the procurement was undertaken post clearance by the AHSP. "The airborne helmets were found suitable for induction after being trial evaluated by the Indian Army. The contract for procurement of ballistic helmets at a cost of Rs 170.81 crores was signed in December, 2016," he said.


Demand For Affordable Indian Generic Vaccines Skyrocket In China Amid Covid Surge


Beijing: The world observed a brief pause in the Covid-19 insurgence after taking the vaccines, but it did not last for long. China reported a spike in the coronavirus mutated variant of "SARS-CoV-2" despite enforcing the draconian 'Zero-Covid Policy'. According to China's National Health Commission, nearly 248 million people contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December last year, accounting for nearly 18 percent of the population.

Amid the resurgence in Covid cases, China's indigenous vaccines, "CanSino" and "BBIBPCorV," were heavily scrutinized based on their efficacy rates. There were concerns about the legitimacy of these vaccines raised concerns after certain documents were leaked online, labeled "extra urgent and non-disclosure to the public" detailing tests conducted on blood serum were positive results for IgM antibodies, despite being fully vaccinated by Chinese vaccines.

The State Council of the People's Republic of China stated that more than 1.6 billion yuan ($247.5 million) worth of medical expenses for Covid-19 patients was covered by China's medical insurance funds last year. Indian indigenous vaccines emerge as a lifesaver in Covid-hit China. As China struggles with a sudden surge of Covid cases, generic drugs from India, particularly the generic version of Pfizer's oral drug Paxlovid, became the best-sellers in China.

The Indian generic drug, sold at RMB 1000 a box, appeared on Weibo's hot search list in the last few days. At least four generic Covid drugs produced in India -- Primovir, Paxista, Molnunat, and Molantris -- have been listed as the most sought-after drugs in China. Primovir and Paxista are both generic versions of Paxlovid, while the other two are generic versions of Molnipiravir. In December 2022, the World Health Organization's (WHO) prequalification list backed an Indian-based generic drug of Paxlovid. An agreement was signed with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) to license the manufacturing and selling of the generic version of the drug to low- and middle-income countries.

India's generic vaccine efficacy against Covid-19 of any severity is at 78 per cent. The efficacy against severe diseases is 93 per cent. Adults under the age of 60 had a 79 per cent efficacy rate, while those over 60 had a 68 per cent efficacy rate.

WHO issued a detailed document stating that the Indian vaccine against all variant-related Covid-19 diseases was 71 per cent effective, with an efficacy of 90 per cent against Kappa and 65 per cent against Delta. As of 2020, 1.36 billion people in China had signed up for basic medical insurance. But Pfizer's Paxlovid is not included in China's national insurance. The Chinese healthcare authorities declined to include Paxlovid, which is essential for the elderly segment. The authorities ruled out including the vaccine, stating that it's "too expensive." However, including the vaccine on the national reimbursement list would have allowed the patients to get the vaccine at a cheaper rate.

China's elderly population's vaccination status currently remains a primary hurdle, and their booster status continues to lag. China continues to criticize Western vaccines in order to promote its own vaccine in order to stay ahead of the vaccine race.

Head of Beijing Memorial Pharmaceutical He Xiao Bing, said that India was the only country where they could source reliable and affordable Covid drugs with guaranteed therapeutic effects and efficacy. All four of these drugs have been approved for emergency use by the Indian authorities, but they are not legal for use in China. Despite the Chinese's positive attitude toward the efficacy of the Indian generic vaccine, China reported widespread counterfeiting of the Indian generic vaccine at a much higher rate.

The shortage of Pfizer's "Paxovid," an expensive vaccine, propelled the Chinese towards the black market for affordable Indian generic Covid drugs. Weibo reported users sharing information and tips on where to get illegally imported Indian-made generic drugs. Chinese news outlets were quick to point out on social media that more than 90 per cent of Indian generic drugs circulating in China were counterfeit and lacked active ingredients. Some users of the actual drug took it to social media to "thank" the Indian generic vaccines.

The sudden increase in counterfeit Indian generic drugs has raised serious concerns about the source of these counterfeits. Certain users online reported that these counterfeit products were directly produced in Chinese factories and were not smuggled in from India. China has a history of dominating the "vaccine race" and the drug industry. In order to change the status quo and remain on top, the counterfeit products circulating in China are more or less propagating against the actual efficacy rate of India's generic vaccine.

China is regarded as the world's largest supplier of 'Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients' (APIs). And India, a leading exporter of generic drugs across the world, depends on China for more than two-thirds of its API needs. India is estimated to supply up to 50 per cent of the United States' generic drug needs. During the outbreak last year, China halted exports of essential APIs to India, severely disrupting the supply chain and causing widespread fear of a drug shortage in the United States. China's constant need to dominate the drug market is only pushing India to reassess its dependency on Chinese APIs.

The Indian generic drug has done well in the Chinese market against Covid despite the counterfeit products taking a toll. Pharmaceuticals are a major component of India's trade expansion strategy, and after witnessing its drugs' efficacy rate, India is likely to push towards less dependency on China's APIs and emerge as completely independent.


Amid Balloon Row, Blinken Confirms Postponement of Planned China Visit


Beijing admitted ownership of the 'airship' and said it veered off course due to the winds

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday scrapped a long-planned Beijing trip aimed at easing escalating tensions between the two superpowers after the Pentagon said that China sent a spy balloon over the United States.

Moments before the decision, China issued a late-night statement voicing regret over what it called an accident with a civilian airship but the United States was not impressed.

Blinken, who has faced intense pressure over the trip from the rival Republican Party, decided to postpone his two-day visit starting Sunday, which would have been the first by a top US diplomat since October 2018, a US official said.

The official said the United States was "confident" of preserving communication with China despite Blinken's cancellation, and that the visit would be rescheduled once conditions are "right."

The Pentagon said Thursday it was tracking the balloon which flew far above the western state of Montana and decided for safety reasons not to shoot it down.

After initial hesitation, Beijing admitted ownership of the "airship" and said it veered off course due to the winds.

"The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes," said the statement attributed to a foreign ministry spokesperson.

"The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure," it said, using the legal term for an act outside of human control.

"The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation."

Republican lawmakers quickly pounced on the incident, casting President Joe Biden -- who has largely preserved and at times expanded his Republican predecessor Donald Trump's hawkish policies on China -- as weak.

"President Biden should stop coddling and appeasing the Chinese communists. Bring the balloon down now and exploit its tech package, which could be an intelligence bonanza," tweeted Senator Tom Cotton, a prominent hardliner who had urged Blinken to call off his trip.

A senior defence official said that Biden had asked for military options but that the Pentagon believed shooting the object down would put people on the ground at risk from debris.

The balloon has "limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

But the official said it was clearly a balloon meant for surveillance.

The United States is also widely believed to spy on China, although generally with more advanced technology than balloons.

The northwestern United States is home to sensitive airbases and nuclear weapons in underground silos.

The Pentagon said that fighter jets were flown to examine the balloon. Canada also said it had tracked the balloon.

Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said that, as of Thursday, the balloon was "travelling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic."

"It does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground," Ryder said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was visiting the Philippines, held discussions Wednesday with top Pentagon officials after Biden asked for options, the defence official said.

In the Philippines, Austin agreed to expand the US military presence, weeks after a separate troop deal with another regional ally, Japan.

The US military moves show that the United States is preparing for potential conflict over Taiwan, the self-governing democracy China claims as its own, despite diplomatic efforts.

Biden held a surprisingly cordial meeting in November with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a summit in Bali, where they agreed to send Blinken to Beijing.

Blinken had described China as a leading competitor but said last month that his trip was intended to set "guardrails" to prevent tensions from escalating into conflict.

A senior US military officer recently told his forces to be ready for war with China after Taiwan's elections next year.

"I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025," Air Mobility Command chief General Mike Minihan wrote in a memo, saying that US elections in 2024 would also "offer Xi a distracted America."

Blinken has said that Xi has been speeding up his timeframe to "reunify" with Taiwan, to which the United States sells weapons.

But Austin, while accusing China of trying to "establish a new normal" on Taiwan, said last month he doubted an invasion is "imminent."


Biden Briefed On Suspected Chinese Surveillance Balloon: White House


Washington: US President Joe Biden was briefed about the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon hovering over the US, as it moves eastward, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

In an informal briefing, Pierre said, "So, the President was briefed on this on Tuesday. He has continued to receive regular briefings and updates from the national security team. I just want to reiterate what the Pentagon said earlier today, my counterpart. We've detected and are tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now, as you all know. It does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground."

Describing the process of how the decision-making process worked, she said that after being briefed US President asked the military to present options. And the military officers, including Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley, and the commander of Northern Command strongly suggested not to take kinetic action because of the risk to the safety and security of the people on the ground.

"I can say, as it relates to Blinken's trip, the President agrees with the Secretary -- Secretary's decision to not go to -- go on this trip, and it was a consensus that -- that it was not appropriate to travel to the People's Republic of China at this time," Pierre said.

She further stated, "We note that -- the PRC statement of regret, but the presence of this balloon in our airspace, it is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable this -- this occurred."

Under this President Joe Biden, we are more prepared to outcompete China, protect our national security, and advance a free and open Indo-Pacific than ever before, she added.

Many of the efforts the US has been pursuing are bipartisan, underscoring the alignment at home and -- and on this key issue. And so, that's how the US is going to continue to proceed.

Earlier, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder rejected China's claim that the surveillance balloon is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes, saying, "The balloon continues to move eastward and is over the center of the continental US. Again, we currently assess that the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time, and we'll continue to monitor and review options."

Responding to a query on China's statement over the suspected balloon, Ryder said, "We are very aware of the PRC statement but however, but the fact is we know it is a surveillance balloon. We know that the balloon has violated US airspace and international law -- which is unacceptable. And we've conveyed this directly to the PRC on multiple levels."

On Thursday, a Pentagon spokesperson, in an official briefing said, "The United States Government has detected and is tracking a high altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government, including NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information."


Suspected Chinese Surveillance Balloon Expected To Be Over US For Few Days: Pentagon


Washington: The suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon is expected to be over the US for a few days, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder said.

"So as I mentioned, we'll continue to monitor it. Right now, we assess that it'll probably be over the United States for a few days, but we'll continue to monitor -- review our options and keep you updated as we can," Ryder said at a press briefing while responding to a media query.

Earlier, Ryder said that the balloon is above the central continental US right now and moving eastward.

"The balloon continues to move eastward and is over the center of the continental US. Again, we currently assess that the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time, and we'll continue to monitor and review options," he added.

Responding to a query on China's statement over the suspected balloon, Ryder said, "We are very aware of the PRC statement but however, but the fact is we know it is a surveillance balloon. We know that the balloon has violated US airspace and international law -- which is unacceptable. And we've conveyed this directly to the PRC on multiple levels."

Earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the balloon in the US is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological.

"The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course," China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on the unintended entry of a Chinese unmanned airship into US Airspace.

The Chinese side "regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace," it added. The Chinese side will continue to communicate with the US side and address this unexpected circumstance, the Foreign Ministry's statement said.

On Thursday, a Pentagon spokesperson, in an official briefing said, "The United States Government has detected and is tracking a high altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government, including NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information."

Replying to a media query about whether they have contacted Chinese officials, Ryder said, "We have engaged PRC officials with urgency through multiple channels. They've been engaged both through their embassy here in Washington and through our embassy in Beijing."

The defence official said the balloon was recently over Montana and that officials were considering bringing the plane down with military assets, but decided against doing so because of the risks involved.


China Orchestrating Cyber Attacks On Allies, Competitors: Report


Beijing: China has been orchestrating cyber attacks on both allies and competitors, the Indo Pacific Centre for Strategic Communications (IPCSC) reported, adding that the countries affected include Russia, US, Iran and its latest target, South Korea.

According to the report, there are growing concerns on which countries will be targeted next.

Further, according to the report, a Chinese hacking group had launched a cyberattack on 12 Korean academic institutions.

Citing the Korea Internet Security Agency (KISA), the report said the attacked institutes included Korea Research Institute for Construction Policy, some departments of Jeju University and the Korea National University of Education. The affected websites remained inaccessible for four days.

The hackers, according to the report, had compromised the computer networks of 70 Korean educational institutions from January 21 to 24. The hacking group also threatened to disclose 54 gigabytes of data stolen from Korea's government and public institutions, stated the report by IPCSC, a dedicated think-tank based in India.

The IPCSC further quoted a Washington post report from March 2022 claiming that the same group linked to the Chinese government had attacked at least six governments in past 13 months, gathering huge data.

According to a report by Israeli-American cybersecurity firm Check Point, Chinese hackers sent emails with malware links to scientists and engineers at several of Russia's military research and development institutes on March 23, 2022 in order to purportedly obtain critical data on the country's security systems.

These attacks were orchestrated by China, which has refused to criticise Moscow and has echoed the Russian propaganda to depict the United States and NATO as aggressors in the conflict with Ukraine, according to the IPCSC report.

This attack by China on Russia from July 2021 targeted institutes that research airborne satellite communications, radar and electronic warfare, Check Point said in its report. The institutes belong to ROSTEC Corporation, the Russian military conglomerate which is one of Russia's largest and most powerful defence companies.

According the IPCSC report, a research by Google and cybersecurity company Proofpoint claimed that Chinese hackers have joined the fray of those targeting Russia over the Ukraine conflict and the associated refugee crisis.

Pakistan's Own Frankenstein Monster Is Out To Destroy It: Report


Islamabad: Terrorists who were trained by Pakistan have turned their guns and bombs towards their trainer (Pakistan) and are leaving no opportunity to bleed their own master, The Singapore Post reported.

According to The Singapore Post, a suicide bomber ripping apart a mosque at Peshawar's Police Lines and leaving around 100 people, mostly policemen, dead created ripples in Pakistan. The government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has been shaken to the core by the attack.

The bomb blast inside a police compound in Peshawar has proven that terror has no religion and that terrorists can never be good. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the act.

The TTP was set up in Pakistan in 2007 after terror groups agreed to support the Afghan Taliban, who were fighting United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The TTP terrorists used to hide in Pakistan's tribal northwest and also had sanctuary in Afghanistan, The Singapore Post reported.

When the Taliban returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Ashraf Ghani government, some thousands of people with weapons were allowed to enter Pakistan as the rulers claimed that they were 'good Taliban' and would work according to the law and would be rehabilitated. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had stated that his government wanted to resettle the Taliban in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to The Singapore Post.

The terrorist group in November 2021, ended a ceasefire with the Pakistan government after the failure of talks, hosted by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers in Kabul.

Following the end of the ceasefire, the TTP stepped up attacks on Pakistani soldiers and police particularly targeting the police in KP and areas bordering Afghanistan, insurgents in Balochistan have also upped the ante after formalizing a nexus with the TTP.

According to The Singapore Post, Pakistan security forces are finding it hard to tackle the terrorists, whom they groomed in their backyard. The terrorists carrying out a suicide attack in the high-security police lines is an indication that even the police are helpless and can't prevent the terrorists from carrying out major strikes.

The Shehbaz Sharif-led government blamed the Imran Khan-led government of providing a chance to terrorists to regroup and call the shots. The present Pakistan government claims that it shouldn't be blamed for the terror attacks as it's carrying the baggage of the past.

But the fact is that Shehbaz Sharif hasn't put in much effort to curb terrorism. He has carried forward the legacy of the former regimes and has been using terrorism as an instrument of state policy, according to The Singapore Post report.

According to the same report, terrorist attacks on Pakistan's mosques, security installations, and other places are not new. The neighbouring country has been witnessing such attacks for a long time but the rulers are least bothered about their people falling prey to the violent acts of terrorists. They continue to patronize the terror groups and their leaders by providing them with shelter, arms, and ammunition and chalking out rehabilitation plans for them.


'Will Root Out Menace of Terrorism': Pak Army Chief Munir After Peshawar Mosque Blast


Islamabad: The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan, General Asim Munir on Friday visited the Police Lines area where the tragic suicide bombing took place on Monday this week and claimed over 100 lives, Geo News reported.

In the deadliest incident in Pakistan in several years, a suicide bomber dressed in a police uniform breached the well-guarded enclosure in Peshawar on Monday and blew himself up during afternoon prayers at a mosque.

During his visit to the Police Lines blast site, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that the country would work together for rooting out the menace of terrorism after the deadly Peshawar blast, Geo News reported.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stated earlier today at the apex committee meeting that the 220-million-strong nation has experienced the threat of terrorism previously and knows how to cope with it.

"The whole nation wants to know how to counter this menace and what measures can be taken to eliminate this new wave of terrorism," Shehbaz Sharif said.

The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Pakistani Taliban have reined havoc after a peace deal between the TTP and the Pakistan government was called off by the proscribed group.

The proscribed outfit, in fact, took the responsibility for the terror attack on Peshawar's Mosque in Police lines.

The injured mostly included police personnel.


Instead of Fixing Economy Pak Politicians Embroiled In A Tug-of-War: Report


Islamabad: Pakistan's economy is facing an existential threat, but instead of paying attention to tackling the crisis, the Islamic Republic's politicians are embroiled in a tug-of-war over who would govern the country, reported DW news.

Pakistan now faces nationwide electricity cuts, a severe shortage of gas and record-high inflation. This makes many necessary food items away from the general public and the political class of the country is still involved in a political war, reported DW news.

Pakistan has been facing a deep political and constitutional crisis since the ouster of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in April last year. Khan, who was removed from power in a no-confidence vote in parliament, accused the US of orchestrating what he calls the "regime change" in Pakistan, and has taken a confrontational course with the country's incumbent government and powerful military generals.

The former cricket start-turned-politician has been demanding early elections to resolve the political crisis, but many analysts are of the view that Pakistan needs to fix its economy first.

"The country's economic situation is a big mess, and we have run out of money. Holding general elections is a costly affair, and I think Pakistan can't afford it right now," Zia Rehman, an investigative journalist and political analyst, told DW.

"The ideal way forward is that all stakeholders, including politicians and the army top brass, sit together and agree on a national consensus government, whose main job should be to fix economy," Rehman said.

Some political observers in Pakistan are of the view that the biggest hindrance to a national dialogue is former premier Khan, whom critics accuse of being "inflexible."

"Khan treats politics as sports, where the sole objective of a sportsman is to defeat the opponent at any cost. Politics don't work like this. Politicians have to engage with everyone, even with their opponents," Ghazi Salahuddin, a senior journalist, told DW.

When asked that "Does Pakistan have a future?" a shopkeeper said that "I don't know what is happening in this country. We can't afford a proper meal, yet our politicians seem totally unconcerned about our plight,"DW reported.

Long car queues outside gas stations can be seen in Pakistan's major cities and its economic hub Karachi. As there is a major shortage of fuel so majority population cannot afford it and whatever gas is available is extremely costly. There is no gas to cook a meal in households or to run small factories, and power outages are so frequent that they have crippled the economy.

"The recent power outage paralyzed our lives. We were unable to do our daily chores. It felt like were living in the stone age," Mrs Waseem, a housewife, told DW in Karachi.

Pakistan's currency on January 26 fell by 9.6 per cent one of the biggest drops one-day drops in over two decades. Due to this dollar crisis in Pakistan, hundreds of foreign containers carrying food and medical supplies have been stranded in ports for weeks as authorities do not have the money to make payments.

However, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif's government is now facing the difficult task to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF)to renew its loan for the country to avoid a default the DW news report claimed.

Pakistan's former finance minister Salman Shah was quoted by DW news saying that "I think we will get the IMF tranche soon because the government has raised fuel prices, imposed new taxes, and allowed the market to decide dollar rates".

"The IMF loan will help improve the balance of payment. At the same time, the trance will unleash a storm of inflation that might spike up to 40-50 per cent. People living below the poverty line, which are around 30 to 40 per cent of the population, will suffer the most," Shah added.

Pakistan has been facing deep political and constitutional crises. The former Prime Minister Imran Khan in April last year. Khan, who was removed from power in a no-confidence vote in parliament, accused the US of "regime change" in Pakistan. And has taken a confrontational course with the current government and powerful military generals.

His foremost demand of holding early elections to resolve the political crises although experts of the country say that the economy needs to fix first.

An investigative journalist and political analyst Zia Rehman was quoted in DW who said that "The country's economic situation is a big mess, and we have run out of money. Holding general elections is a costly affair, and I think Pakistan can't afford it right now".

Another senior Ghazi Salahuddin was quoted by the report "Khan treats politics as sports, where the sole objective of a sportsman is to defeat the opponent at any cost. Politics don't work like this. Politicians have to engage with everyone, even with their opponents."

Another critical aspect of Pakistan according to the United Nations report cited by DW news claimed that, the economic privileges to the elite groups and feudal landlords, political class and the country's military totals up to USD 17.4 billion or approximately six per cent of the economy.


Pakistan's Oil Industry On Verge of 'Collapse' Amid Reeling Economic Crisis


Islamabad: The oil companies of Pakistan are on the verge of 'collapse' due to a reeling economic crisis and devaluation of the currency, Geo News reported.

The Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) in a letter to the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and Energy Ministry, wrote about the "depreciation" of the local rupee which has affected a lot of businesses in the South Asian country, drastically.

It has led to a loss worth billions of rupees to the industry as their letters of credit (LCs) are expected to be settled on the new rates, "whereas the related product has already been sold," Geo News reported.

The government has also limited LCs due to depleting foreign exchange reserves, which dipped to USD 3,086.2 million on January 27 and are only enough for 18.5 days.

According to Geo News, in the letter, OGRA has embraced the practice of not completely passing on the impact of rupee devaluation, instead imposing a massive burden on the sector.

Pakistan is experiencing a balance of payments problem, and the falling value of the rupee is raising the cost of imported commodities.

Energy accounts for a sizable portion of Pakistan's import bill. Pakistan normally satisfies more than a third of its yearly power demand with imported natural gas, the price of which has risen since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Moreover, amid persistent inflationary pressures, goods remain out of people's range, whose purchasing power has already hit rock bottom.

The World Bank in earlier weeks of January slashed Pakistan's economic growth by half -- from 4 per cent to 2 per cent for the current fiscal year, saying that Islamabad faces mounting economic difficulties, reported The News International.

"Nonetheless, Pakistan faces mounting economic difficulties and Sri Lanka remains in crisis. In all regions, improvements in living standards over the half-decade to 2024 are expected to be slower than from 2010-19," read the World Bank in Global Economic Prospects report.

Pakistan's economic condition is precarious with low foreign exchange reserves and large fiscal and current account deficits.