35 ARMED FORCES MEN LOST COVID BATTLE, NEARLY 20,000 INFECTED - The Daily Guardian
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35 ARMED FORCES MEN LOST COVID BATTLE, NEARLY 20,000 INFECTED

Indian Army has recorded the maximum 16,758 coronavirus cases and 32 deaths. The Air Force has confirmed 1,716 Covid-19 cases among its personnel along with three deaths. In the Navy, meanwhile, 1,365 confirmed cases and no death have been reported so far.

Ashish Singh

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With Covid-19 tally having crossed the 50 – lakh mark in the country, the government on Wednesday disclosed the latest figures of coronavirus infections in the armed forces. Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply that there have been 19,839 cases of coronavirus in the armed forces while a total of 35 fatalities have been recorded so far.

He informed Parliament that the Indian Army has recorded the maximum 16,758 coronavirus cases and 32 deaths among the armed forces. The Indian Air Force, on the other hand, has confirmed 1,716 Covid-19 cases among its personnel along with three deaths. The Navy, meanwhile, has reported 1,365 confirmed cases of infection. There has been no death of any personnel in the Navy due to coronavirus.

“All deaths while in service have been awarded terminal benefits,” the minister said. Shripad Naik gave these details in a written reply to Anumula Revanth Reddy in the Lok Sabha.

DEFENCE CAPITAL PROCUREMENT

In reply to another question by Col. Rajyavardhan Rathore in Lok Sabha, MoS for Defence Shripad Naik shared detailed information on defence capital procurement. The minister said that during last financial year (2019-20), 38 contracts have been signed with Indian vendors and 32 contracts have been signed with Foreign vendors. During the current Financial Year 2020-21 (upto July, 2020), 10 contracts have been signed with Indian vendors and 6 contracts have been signed with Foreign vendors for capital procurement of defence equipment for the Armed Forces. Out of the total of 48 capital acquisition contracts signed with Indian vendors from April 2019 to July 2020, 18 contracts have been signed with DPSUs/PSUs/OFB/DRDO/ ISRO and 30 contracts have been signed with Indian Private vendors. All efforts are made to optimally use budgeted funds for meeting committed liabilities relating to already concluded capital acquisition contracts and for new schemes contracted during the year. The details of expenditure incurred under Capital Acquisition (Modernisation) of Armed Forces, under Defence Service Estimates (DSE), for the last five years is as under:

YearExpenditure (Rs in crore)
2015-1662,235.54
2016-1769,280.16
2017-1872,732.20
2018-1975,892.85
2019-2091,128.74

While evaluating competitive bids for Defence contracts between DPSUs and Private Sector entities, no advantage is given to DPSUs. The competitive bids are evaluated based on the RFP terms and conditions.

NEW INITIATIVE IN DEFENCE SECTOR

In a written reply to various questions of Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo and Dr. Jayanta Kumar Roy in Lok Sabha, Shripad Naik gave details of a new initiative in the defence sector including the induction of Rafale aircraft. He said that the first batch of five Rafale aircraft has been inducted and operationalised at Air Force Station Ambala. Induction ceremony was conducted on 10th September, 2020. Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are being considered for, and granted Permanent Commission (PC) in all branches of the IAF based on cadre vacancies, willingness, suitability, medical fitness and merit as per policies in vogue. As on 1st September, 2020, 372 women SSC officers (excluding Medical/ Dental branches) have been granted Permanent Commission. Since 03.12.2008, Indian Navy has been considering and granting Permanent Commission to women officers (at par with male officers) in certain Branches/Cadres/ specialisation viz. Education, Law, Naval Constructor and Naval Armament Inspectorate based on inter-se merit, suitability and vacancies. Short Service Commission officers (both men and women) are also being considered for Permanent Commission in certain more Cadres/ Branches/Specialisation as per Hon’ble Supreme Court judgement dated 17.03.2020. The Government sanction letters for grant of Permanent Commission to women officers in the Army have been issued on 25.02.2019 and 19.07.2020. Indian Naval Ships Jalashwa, Airavat, Shardul and Magar were deployed as part of Operation Samudra Setu to evacuate the stranded Indian Nationals from Iran, Maldives and Sri Lanka during COVID-19 crisis. A Total of 3992 Indian Nationals were evacuated safely to India as part of Operation Samudra Setu.

The following steps have been taken by the Government to tackle the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the defence sector: Hospital Infrastructure development to tackle COVID: Beginning in the month of March, 2020 procurement of essential equipment to tackle COVID-19 cases in AFMS hospitals was undertaken. Supply orders for ventilators, oxygen concentrators, hand thermal guns, multipara monitors, PPE, Face masks, sanitizers, disinfectants etc, were placed for all AFMS hospitals. Emergency procurement powers of the DGAFMS were sanctioned by the Raksha Mantri for procurement of additional equipment like RT-PCR machines and test kits. As on day, there are 27 functional laboratories in the AFMS carrying out molecular testing for COVID using RT-PCR, TrueNat, CBNAAT and GenExpert techniques. Rapid Antigen Tests are available in the periphery for early diagnosis, isolation and contact tracing of cases. In line with latest treatment trends at a national and global level, drugs like Favipiravir and Remdesivir have been made available in AFMS Hospitals. Plasma Therapy is also available in two hospitals of AFMS.

Quarantine facilities: Station quarantine facilities have been set up in all military stations where troops are quarantined after returning from leave for 14 days. Any person developing symptoms during quarantine is immediately tested and isolated, if found positive.

Teams for Contact Tracing: Teams comprising medical and paramedical staff have been trained in tracing high risk contacts of confirmed cases for instituting quarantine measures. Asymptomatic high risk contacts are tested between day 7-10 of exposure.

COVID CARE CENTRES (CCC): These have been set up to augment hospitals where a large number of COVID patients are being admitted. Asymptomatic and mild cases are admitted in these CCCs to decongest the hospitals.

Interaction with Armed Forces Medical Services of Friendly Countries: Knowledge exchange and best practices for COVID control being followed by USA, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have been adopted by the AFMS to optimise patient care.

Liaison with MoHFW and ICMR. The DGAFMS has maintained continuous liaison to ensure that guidelines and policies issued by the apex bodies are implemented to optimise patient care. Multiple guidelines pertaining to control and management of COVID have been issued by the DGAFMS to ensure conformity of care across the three services.

ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF LAND IN the CANTONMENT REGION

During the year 2018, 2019 and in 2020 (upto 31.08.2020), 7.586 acres of defence land inside cantonment under the management of Defence Estate Organization have been detected as encroached by the residents. Out of above, defence land measuring 4.11 acres have got freed from encroachment during the same period. The illegal occupation of defence land may cause difficulties in Municipal administration viz. Providing water supply, sanitation and other municipal facilities.

The following steps have been taken to address the problem of encroachment: Respective user Services who manage defence land are responsible for its protection, removal of encroachments and planning for its land use.  Strengthening of defence land management by way of computerisation and digitisation of land records, Survey, demarcation and verification of defence lands and land Audit. Regular inspection of sites under respective jurisdiction is conducted by the CEO/DEO/Station Commander as the case may be. Issue of detailed instructions by the Government emphasising the need for ensuring vigilance, detection and prevention of new encroachments. Court cases are being pursued to evict encroachers. Close liaison is being maintained with revenue and civil police authorities to detect attempts to encroach upon the defence land by encroachers. Regular patrolling is being carried out to safeguard the lands from encroachers and unauthorised construction. Removal of encroachments on defence land under the provisions of Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 as well as under the Cantonment Act, 2006. This information was given by MoS Shripad Naik in a written reply to Rajendra Agrawal in Lok Sabha.

MODERNISATION OF ARMED FORCES

The details of Budget Estimates (BE), Revised Estimates (RE) and Actual Expenditure (Actuals) on the modernization(Capital Acquisition) of Armed Forces, under Defence Services Estimates (DSE), for the last five years and the current year are as under: (Rs in crore)

In May 2001, the Defence Industry sector, which was hitherto reserved for the public sector, was opened up to 100% for Indian private sector participation, with Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) up to 26% both subject to licensing. Further, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry has notified revised FDI policy under which FDI is allowed under automatic route upto 49% and beyond 49% through Government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded. During the last three financial years (2017- 18 to 2019-20) and current year (upto July, 2020), 183 capital contracts have been signed with Indian vendors and foreign vendors for procurement of defence equipment for the Armed Forces. Under the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign of Governmen of India, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has prepared a list of 101 items for which there would be an embargo on the import beyond the timeline indicated against them. This would offer a great opportunity to the Indian defence industry to manufacture these items using their own design and development capabilities to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces in the coming years. This list includes some high technology weapon systems like artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, transport aircrafts, light combat helicopters (LCHs), radars and many other items to fulfil the needs of our Defence Services. Since the launch of ‘Make in India’ in September 2014, several measures have been taken by the Government to promote indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence & aerospace equipment in the country under ‘Make in India’ by harnessing the capabilities of the public and private sector. Government has notified the Strategic Partnership (SP) Model which envisages establishment of long term Strategic Partnership with Indian entities through a transparent and comparative process, wherein they would tie up with global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to seek technology transfers to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chain. Government is taking measures for modernization of the Armed Forces, through procurement of new equipment and upgrading of existing equipment so as to ensure that the Armed Forces are equipped to meet the entire spectrum of security challenges. The modernization projects are progressed as per the approved Capital Acquisition Plans and in terms of the extant Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). This information was given by MoS Shripad Naik in a written reply to Dhairyasheel Sambhajirao Mane and others in Lok Sabha.

ILLEGAL TRANSFER OF DEFENCE LAND

In cases of attempts of illegal transfer based on the nature and circumstances of the case, FIRs/criminal cases have been filed against the sellers/purchasers, Courts have been approached to set aside such transactions. Competent Revenue authorities have also been approached for not effecting mutation of such transactions. Such transactions are not recognised and no mutation in defence land records is affected.

To prevent such incidents in future, the following steps are taken: The defence land across the country has been surveyed by Defence Estates Officers and Chief Executive Officers so as to clearly demarcate defence land to enable Services/users to physically protect it. Matter has been taken up with the State Government vigorously at all levels to mutate remaining defence land in the revenue records. Suggestions have been made by the Ministry to the Department of Land Resources for amending the Registration Act so as to make it mandatory for the Sub-Registrar to obtain ‘NOC’ from defence authorities prior to effecting registration of land located in Cantonments/Military Stations. Wherever such incidence is reported, immediate legal action is taken to protect the interest of the Government. Computerisation of defence Land records contained in General Land Registers (GLRs) and Military Land Registers (MLRs) with the use of Raksha Bhoomi Software. Strengthening of defence land management by way of digitisation of land records, survey, demarcation and verification of defence lands and land Audit.

The computerization of defence land records under the project ‘Raksha Bhoomi’ was undertaken by the Directorate General of Defence Estates in association with National Informatics Centre. Defence Land Records contained in General Land Registers (GLRs) and Military land Registers (MLRs) were entered in the Raksha Bhoomi Software and made operational after verification and authentication of database in July, 2011. Directorate General of Defence Estates (DGDE) has informed that 05 cases have come to notice, in the last three years (i.e. from 01.09.2017 to 31.08.2020). Total area involved is 36.30 acres. In two cases pertaining to Haryana (Narnaund Hisar, Distt. Hisar, area 29.99 acres) and one pertaining to Punjab (Muktsar, area 6.05 acres) the respective state governments are claiming the defence land. In all these cases the matter has been challenged by the DEO concerned and is presently subjudice in the court of the respective Divisional Commissioners. In the two cases of Union Territory of J&K (Badamibagh Cantt., area 0.26 acres) the illegal transfer of defence land by private persons through sale deeds have been challenged by way of filing suit in the District Court by DEO concerned. Another instance has been noticed where an attempt was made to illegally transfer defence land (11.10 acres) in Bengaluru to Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation. Based on the FIR lodged in the case, the said transfer has been stayed. This information was given by MoS Shripad Naik in a written reply to Ravi Kishan and others in Lok Sabha.

Year BudgetEstimatesRevised EstimatesExpenditure (Actuals)
2015-1677,406.6965,400.0062,235.54
2016-1769,898.5162,619.3669,280.16
2017-1869,473.4168,965.2472,732.20
2018-1974,115.9973,836.4375,892.85
2019-2080,959.0889,836.1691,128.74*
2020-2190,047.8031747.06#

*Figure is provisional pending finalisation of Appropriation Accounts.

# Figure is up to 31 July 2020.

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Defence

EASTERN FLEET AWARDS FUNCTION TO RECOGNISE OPERATIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Ashish Singh

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Fleet Awards Function 2021 was held to celebrate the operational achievements of the Eastern Fleet during the last year. Fleet Awards Function marks the culmination of the Operational Cycle of the Eastern Fleet and recognises accomplishments of the ‘Sword Arm’ of the Eastern Naval Command (ENC). Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief ENC was the Chief Guest at the event hosted by Rear Admiral Tarun Sobti, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet.

As compared to previous years, the Fleet Awards Function was held as a modest event with full observance of COVID protocols. The function culminated with the distribution of sixteen coveted trophies covering the overall spectrum of maritime operations. INS Sahyadri was adjudged as the Best Ship of the Eastern Fleet amongst Capital ships, INS Kamorta as the Most Spirited Ship for displaying indomitable spirit and grit whilst undertaking a plethora of challenging missions and Best Corvette trophy as won by IN Ships Kiltan and Khukri amongst Corvettes and similar classes of ships.

The year gone by was a challenging one for the Sunrise Fleet. Even as the COVID pandemic gripped the world, Eastern Fleet went about its operational responsibilities and maintained a forward active posture. Sustaining high operational tempo, the Fleet ships participated in numerous operations, exercises, and humanitarian assistance missions. The Eastern Fleet ships participated in several major bilateral and multilateral exercises such as Malabar-20, La Perouse, PASSEX with various navies and undertook Op Sahayam and Mission Sagar for delivery of HADR stores and Op Samudra Setu for evacuation of stranded Indian citizen from overseas. In the second wave of COVID-19 as Op Samudra Setu II, Eastern Fleet ships acted as the mainstay for enhancing oxygen delivery to the Eastern seaboard emphasising its role as a professional and credible force.

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Defence

AIR FORCE CHIEF ADDRESSES COMBINED GRADUATION PARADE AT IAF ACADEMY

Ashish Singh

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The Combined Graduation Parade (CGP) was held at Air Force Academy (AFA) Dundigal Hyderabad, marking the successful culmination of training for 161 Flight Cadets of Flying and Ground Duty Branches in the Indian Air Force. Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria was the Chief Guest and Reviewing Officer of the CGP, where he conferred the President’s Commission upon the graduating flight cadets. On this occasion, 6 officers from the Indian Navy and 5 officers from the Indian Coast Guard were also awarded ‘Wings’ on successful completion of their flying training.

The Reviewing Officer was received by Air Marshal R.D. Mathur, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command and Air Marshal IP Vipin Commandant Air Force Academy. Chief of the Air Staff was presented with a general salute by the Parade on his arrival followed by an impressive march past. Highlight of the parade was the ‘Pipping Ceremony’ in which the graduating flight cadets donned their ‘Stripes’ and were awarded ‘Wings’ &‘Brevets’ by the Chief Guest. The newly commissioned officers were then administered the ‘Oath’ by the Commandant of AFA in the presence of the Reviewing Officer and other dignitaries.

After the ‘Pipping Ceremony’, the Reviewing Officer presented awards to the Trainees who had excelled in various disciplines of their training. Flying Officer Prajwal Anil Kulkarni from Flying branch was awarded the President’s Plaque as well as the Chief of the Air Staff Sword of Honour for standing first in overall order of merit in the Pilots’ Course; while Flying Officer Kritika Kulhari was awarded the President’s Plaque for being first in overall order of merit in Ground Duty branches.

The grand ceremony culminated with the newly commissioned officers stepping out in slow march to the traditional notes of ‘Auld Lang Syne’; as they received their first salute from the junior course. They then went past the Saluting Dias and passed through the portals of the Academy, symbolising the beginning of their journey in the IAF. Flypast by Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II, Hawks, Kirans and Chetaks as well as display by Sarang, Suryakirans & Akash Ganga Sky Diving team added colour and cheer to an impressive graduation parade.

IAF CHIEF’S ADDRESS TO THE COMBINED GRADUATION PARADE

Addressing the Parade, CAS commended the AFA and other Training Establishments for timely completion of the training despite severe Covid constraints placed upon the training infrastructure. He noted the significant milestone achieved by the Air Force Academy in achieving over 20,500 flying hours in the last one year – the highest ever in the Academy’s history. He said, “My congratulations also to the award winners for their outstanding performance during the training, and to the six officers from Indian Navy as well as the five officers from Indian Coast Guard for earning their coveted wings. Good Show and Keep it up. My special compliments on achieving this milestone and implementing significant enhancements in our training curriculum.”

Recognising the academy and parents, the CAS mentioned, “Indeed, this day is a great testament to the grit and determination shown by each one of you as well as to the yeoman contribution by the instructors. I take this opportunity to commend the efforts put in by all our Training Establishments and the faculty for guiding, mentoring and teaching; not only the fundamentals of being a Military Leader, but also instilling in you IAF’s core values of ‘Mission, Integrity and Excellence’. Living by these core values and preserving our glorious traditions through selflessness and sacrifice will be your sacred duty from this day on. Emphasising on the parents role, the CAS appreciated the role of parents during the Covid time. He said, “I would like to express my deep gratitude to all the proud parents who stood by their daughters and sons during an extremely rigorous training schedule. I am mindful of the fact that your wards did not come home during the term break and have been toiling non-stop in pursuit of their dreams. You – as their parents and their family – should be proud of the fact that your guidance, support and encouragement are here for all to see; as your children stand on the parade ground- resplendent in their blue uniforms and transformed into spirited and confident officers of the Indian Air Force. To all these graduating officers, I have this to say. In a short while from now, you will take your first steps into the IAF as Commissioned Officers. As you do so, it is essential for you to know where you are headed and the huge responsibilities that will come to rest on your young shoulders.”

CAS referred to unprecedented and rapidly evolving security challenges and reminded the young officers that they were entering the IAF at a juncture when a rapid infusion of technologies and combat capabilities was driving a monumental transformation in the Air Force. He also highlighted the change in operational methodologies and functioning with development and operationalisation of major automation and networking projects. He exhorted them to hit the ground running and prove their mettle once they reach the field; in order to exploit the state of art aircraft, weapons, sensors and technologies to their fullest. He highlighted, “IAF is undergoing a monumental transformation. Rapid infusion of niche technology and combat power in every facet of our operations has never been as intense as it is now! This is primarily because of the unprecedented and rapidly evolving security challenges that we face, coupled with a rising geo-political uncertainty in our neighbourhood and beyond. The last few decades have clearly established the critical role of Air Power in achieving victory in any conflict. It is in this backdrop that IAF’s on-going capability enhancement assumes tremendous significance.

Highlighting the IAF’s modernisation, The CAS said, “All of you are very fortunate to be joining the Air Force at this juncture. The Pilots will get to fly fighters carrying an array of potent standoff precision weapons and connected in networks. The transport and helicopter fleets are equipped with C-17, C-130, ALH, Chinook and Apache aircraft which are state of the art and capable of contributing equally effectively in war or HADR situations. Engineers will need to master e-MMS, which is one of the largest networked aircraft maintenance management systems in the world that we have established across diverse type of aircraft. Controllers will have to adapt to vectoring fighters in large formations using digitised and networked IACCS systems in the MAFI environment. Logisticians will use automation to drive procurement and resupply through totally automated and computerised networks on inventory management. All of you will be tied together with a completely paperless e-governance suite to enhance the efficiency of basic administration across the entire Air Force.”

Talking about the technology and futuristic warfare, the CAS informed the graduating cadets, “I have always believed that the generation you belong to is technologically adept and well versed with exploiting the digital space. Now is the time for you to prove it. I can assure you that the environment you will step into, when you cross these portals will not only challenge, but stretch your capabilities. You will need to hit the ground running and work hard to deliver what the Air Force expects of you. It was with this focus that B Tech degree was introduced compulsorily for the Air Force cadets in NDA and I am happy to note that 81 of the87 graduating officers from the Flying branch are B.Tech. I am sure this will facilitate rapid comprehension and exploitation of modern platforms, weapons, sensors and technologies. Notwithstanding all these advances in technology, as young leaders, you must know that IAF’s core strength is in “OUR PEOPLE” and you must always nurture this strength.

On the current pandemic situation, the CAS described the IAF’s role in it and said, “While maintaining operational readiness, IAF has also been proactively assisting in the national fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Proactive vaccination and strict COVID discipline within IAF enabled us to undertake all COVID tasks on a war-footing. IAF’s heavy lift capability was put into action for airlift of crucial COVID related equipment; wherein our transport fleet flew more than 3800 hours within two months in a huge effort across the globe and domestically to transport critical oxygen Tankers, and all related medical equipment and supplies. You all are joining the field that operates at this level, across the spectrum.” “It is also essential for all of you to bear in mind that as future leaders, you will stand shoulder to shoulder with your comrades in Olive Greens and Whites and prosecute integrated operations. You will be an integral part of this important transition in the years ahead”, the CAS concluded.

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SINO-INDIAN LOGJAM: THE STRATEGIC GAINS AND IMPLICATIONS OF GALWAN

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Galwan is a turning point in our history. It was India’s ‘Casablanca’ moment when our boys stood on the burning deck to turn tables. It was that moment in time when India and the world realized that the Chinese can be overcome. It was the Nth coming of the Indian Armed Forces from behind. It ensured that India regained its strategic confidence. Many articles have appeared to commemorate the incident. However, a strange dichotomy has emerged. Most analysts say that India is in a state of asymmetry with PLA which has hung a Damocles sword over Ladakh to tie us down to our Northern Borders at the expense of our maritime interests in the IOR. One detects ‘Strategic Hesitancy’ due to a gross overestimation of Chinese capabilities despite Galwan and its aftermath. We need to understand the strategic gains of Galwan and their implications. 

Indian Army officer Capt Soiba Maningba Rangnamei of 16 Bihar Regiment during the clash with Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley. (ANI Photo)

Fact 1: In Mar 2020, the Belfer Centre analysis stated “China is regularly operating with a permanent Indian conventional force advantage along its border areas…it would have to rely upon mobilization primarily from Xinjiang and secondarily from the Western Theatre Command… By contrast, Indian forces are already largely in position”. This forecast has been borne out on ground. My own view is that China does not have an ‘Akshay Patra’ from where it can draw forces without consequences – long and short term. The PLA does not have numerical superiority over Indian Army along the LAC if numbers are crunched. Further, the recruitment standards of PLA have been lowered as per South China Morning Post and many other inputs. The quality of PLA is suspect.  

Fact 2: PLA Air Force (PLAAF) suffers from a numerical disparity in comparison to the IAF along the LAC. India has a stronger air position, with a large number of airfields. Even if some airfields are down, operations can continue from other locations. The same is not true for PLAAF. IAF has a clear edge for the present. The PLAAF is trying to neutralise this edge by building up air infrastructure at a frenetic pace. 

Fact 3: Any terrain allows deployment up to a level only. Beyond that, pumping in more forces results in diminishing returns. It is a matter of space, logistics, effectiveness, survivability, mobility and recuperability. In high altitudes, these factors get compounded. From a defensive perspective, India has adequate forces to thwart China. In my considered opinion, China does not have enough forces to wage a decisive  war in its favour against India.

Fact 4: China is transforming PLA from a conventional land based force to a multidimensional force with a global foot print. Increasing force levels along the LAC is at expense of the larger role. The assessment to be done is whether a hand brake has been already put on this process post Galwan.     

Fact 5:  Comprehensive national power is a fictional metric coined by the Chinese to create a halo. It has no value on the battle field. Otherwise Taliban should not have kept USA on the run for so long. India needs to fight asymmetrically to defeat PLA. While India has the tools to do so in Tibet, PLA does not have it. There are no morals in not using the asymmetric option against an untrustworthy enemy.     

Fact 6:  Conventional ‘big’ battles between nuclear nations is fertile imagination. Most of the conventional weapons are now consigned to deterrence only. However we need to be prepared to defend our territorial integrity conventionally if push comes to the shove. The trend will be localised battles of high pressure and intensity.  

Pre-Galwan Opinion: As per the Belfer Center Report, ‘India has key under-appreciated conventional advantages that reduce its vulnerability to Chinese threats and attacks. India appears to have cause for greater confidence in its military position against China than is typically acknowledged in Indian debates, providing the country an opportunity for leadership in international efforts toward nuclear transparency and restraint. Indian strategists have not focused on this opportunity, in part because they draw pessimistic conclusions regarding China’. How true!

Corroboration. Overall all these facts and opinion have been borne out in the past one year on ground in Eastern Ladakh. However things are changing. 

PLA ACTION

The PLA executed a premeditated and calibrated operation to ensure that the focus of Indian action remains on the LAC instead of expanding to POK and Aksai Chin. This was in response to abrogation of Article 370 and its political postulations. To that extent, China has achieved its aim as I have enunciated in my article ‘Aim Revisited’@ https://www.gunnersshot.com/2021/06/please-read-in-conjunction-with-these.html . However when viewed in the larger context, PLA did not achieve objectives to cripple India like  cutting off the DSDBO road or inflicting a military defeat on the Indian Army or coercing India into alignment with China or preventing India from doing what it wants. In fact the opposite has happened. PLA had to retreat humiliatingly after destroying their own defences and obliterating the Chinese flag. To that extent China stands defeated. However there are larger issues which have exposed the severe limitations of the PLA and China. We need to exploit them. Unfortunately at a military level, these have not come out clearly. At the political level it has not been  realised as to how to drive home the advantage which Galwan gave us. I will leave the bureaucratic level out, whose (in)action has contributed more to the detriment of national interests, objectives and strategy. 

PLANNED OFFENSIVE VS SPEED OF REACTION

The PLA incursions were meticulously planned with two divisions at a time and place of China’s choice. News of rehearsals on walk-through GIS models had also been publicised. It was probably appreciated that India will not be able to react in time and space to even pose a challenge to PLA. Hence two divisions would be able to militarily coerce India to achieve multiple political aims and objects. The execution failed due to gross under-assessment of Indian capabilities. All these were probably based on PLA norms. These norms indicate PLAs lack of military grasp. Its incapability to exploit the advantage and initiative when the window of opportunity opened is well established now.  However the more important issue is the Indian reaction. We could build up an equivalent amount of forces to mirror PLA deployment in a matter of 2-3 weeks and stymie the offensive in super high altitudes. In the battlefield equations of time and space, capability to build up forces in such quick time frames indicates India’s latent offensive capability. Any one noticed that?  India’s military capability to launch an offensive into Tibet at a time and place of its choosing by beating the PLA in time is now established. The edge which IAF brings to the table enhances Indian offensive potential. India will win the ‘Race to the Swift’ unless PLA commits additional forces in Tibet on a permanent basis. It seems to be doing that now! Anyone with fundamental common sense will discern as to who is tying down whom. Further, it tells us that we need to get into a preventive counterattacking mode rather than being permanently defensive. 

OUTMANOEUVRE IN HIGH ALTITUDE

Occupation of Kailash Range and heights above Finger 4 in the face of PLA led to China being outmanoeuvred. More importantly, there was no counter manoeuvre by the PLA due to its limited capability in high altitude. The limitations of a political Army when set against a professional  Army have been exposed.  Significantly, the capability of PLA will not get better since it has already degraded its intake standards of height, eyesight and even hearing. Overall it leaves PLA as a vulnerable force in the mountains at super high altitudes. This will be exploited by all forces opposing China anywhere. It has taught everyone that PLA can be arm twisted into retreat.     

TURNOVER IMPLICATIONS

There are reports in the media that PLA is turning over both the divisions from Eastern Ladakh.  It begs a question. Why are they doing so? It takes more than a year for troops to get used to the environment and be fit for fighting. Just when those two divisions were getting fit to fight they are being turned over. PLA will now have two new divisions which are not fully fit for high altitude warfare. There are two explanations. First. The two divisions are beat-up and fatigued in near combat. Poor show then. Second.  PLA troops do not identify with Tibet as their home land worth defending by sacrificing their  life. After all, China as it exists today is an unnatural country which has never existed earlier in history. It has a spatial divide, an ethnic/racial divide and an economic divide between its Han dominated core in the East and the non-Han West. Despite all the talk of change of demography, Hans have not settled in Tibet in droves. Both these issues need monitoring to assess PLA’s ability and commitment to fight a last man last round battle in high altitudes.

REBALANCING DIVIDEND

Rebalancing a strike corps deployed against Pakistan to face the PLA has a tremendous strategic dividend for India. The rebalancing exercise does not detract our capability against Pakistan or in the IOR. On the other hand dual tasking  significantly enhances our defensive and offensive options and capabilities along the LAC. PLA has now been forced to react to this. It will have to deploy additional forces in Tibet which is its secondary theatre and it will be at the cost of its larger geopolitical priorities.  It has come to light that PLA is busy building infrastructure to house troops permanently along the LAC. PLA has been forced to commit itself much more to the LAC than hitherto fore and it no more takes Indian Army for granted.

THE GEO-STRATEGIC FALLOUT

Galwan inspired many countries to face up and counter China which were hesitant to do so till then. Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam took up issues more forcefully with China after Galwan. These countries will be thankful that India has tied down China in remote Tibet. It takes Chinese focus away from them. Unfortunately, this fact has not been played up by either our diplomacy or strategic community to build or form a coalition of nations which are militarily affected by China and have a dialogue with them for joint action. Galwan also forced convergence of all democratic nations to form an unitary view about China. QUAD would not have come about without this action. NATO would not have declared China as a systemic global security challenge. The geo-strategic fallout has been huge.   

SUMMARY

We have turned ‘Defeat into Victory’ but are we capitalising on it? We have exposed the limitations of PLA. The Chinese seem to have learned from their shortcomings. They are increasing the depth of the battlefield and building a firm base.  I do not see a plan to overcome our short comings.   We remain in awe of Chinese!  We are not able to tell the world as to how to deal with China! There is a need for political and strategic introspection. Galwan has also brought out that while we are fully prepared and capable of taking on the PLA in close battles, we are unprepared for the deep battle. We need to be able to deter the Chinese from any further adventurism by re-tooling for war in super high altitudes. We  should enforce ‘Standoff’. Standoff can be imposed by improving battlefield transparency, reach, and survivability of existing forces. Let me put it across simply, the table which I outlined in my earlier article can be implemented incrementally, with indigenous technology as an evolutionary process. It needs unified thinking and clarity of mind. More than great financial investment, it needs commitment and dedication. That is sorely lacking. Strengthening the LAC is not at the cost of our maritime aspirations as being perceived by many.  The challenge before the CDS is to increase joint ‘force’ and ‘operational’ capability. Theatre commands are  contentious and emotive issues. Let them evolve. Increasing indigenisation rather than importing Russian tanks and Israeli guns should be the greater priority. We have a task cut out ahead.    

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vastoperational experience. He contributed significantly to the Modernization and Indigenisationof Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved inapplied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read onwww.gunnersshot.com

India’s military capability to launch an offensive into Tibet at a time and place of its choosing by beating the PLA in time is now established. The edge which IAF brings to the table enhances Indian offensive potential. India will win the ‘Race to the Swift’ unless PLA commits additional forces in Tibet on a permanent basis. It seems to be doing that now! Anyone with fundamental common sense will discern as to who is tying down whom. Further, it tells us that we need to get into a preventive counter-attacking mode rather than being permanently defensive.

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Defence

INDIAN COAST GUARD ON ALERT OVER OIL SPILL FROM MV DEVON

Ashish Singh

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The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) received information from MRCC Colombo in late hours of Thursday regarding a mid-sea oil spill about 450 Km South East of Chennai. On further investigation, it was revealed that a Portugese Flag Container ship MV Devon on passage from Colombo to Haldia (West Bengal), developed an underwater crack in the left side fuel tank containing about 120 KL of Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO).

The crack resulted in spillage of about 10 KL of oil into sea before preventive action was taken and remaining oil in tank was transferred to another tank by ship’s crew. The vessel is carrying 10795 Tonnes of general cargo in 382 containers and manned by 17 crew of mixed nationality. The container ship is continuing her voyage to Haldia & likely to reach today. ICG is in continuous contact with MV Devon and master has reported that the vessel is stable. ICG pollution response team at Chennai has been alerted and kept standby. In addition, ICG ships & aircraft deployed at sea are also put on alert in pollution response configuration.

It may be recalled that, ICG ships & aircraft in a coordinated operation with Sri Lanka deployed vessels had successfully undertaken a major firefighting operation last month onboard MV X-Press Pearl off Colombo, thereby averting a major environmental disaster. The vessel now partially sunk off Colombo is under the supervision of Sri Lankan authorities and efforts are in hand for its salvage.

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Defence

NORTHERN COMMAND PAYS HOMAGE TO GALLANT SOLDIERS ON ITS 50TH RAISING DAY

Ashish Singh

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‘Golden Jubilee Raising Day of Northern Command’ was celebrated at Udhampur amidst strict COVID protocol. On this occasion, Lt Gen S Harimohan Iyer, COS, HQ Northern Command, on behalf of Lt Gen YK Joshi, Army Commander, Northern Command and all ranks, laid wreath at the Dhruva War Memorial and paid homage to the gallant soldiers of Northern Command who have made the supreme sacrifice for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.

Northern Command was raised on 17 June 1972 and completed 50th Raising Day. In his message to the troops, the Army Commander stated that these glorious years are testimony to historic operational achievements of Northern Command in ‘Op Meghdoot’, ‘Op Parakarm’, ‘Op Vijay’ ‘Op Rakshak’ and ‘OP Snow Leopard’. The resolute response of the Indian Army against aggression on the LC & LAC has won numerous accolades. In addition, our firm yet people friendly sub-conventional operations have not only thwarted attempts by our Western adversary to destabilise the nation but also, won the hearts and minds of the local populace.

Northern Command has been at the forefront to assist the administration and people of UTs of J&K and Ladakh during every natural calamity like snow blizzards, earthquakes (2005), Cloudburst of Leh (2010), floods in Jammu & Kashmir (2014) and frequent avalanches. The current COVID-19 pandemic is yet another example when the Indian Army has gone out of its way to support the people, in their times of need.

The Army Commander in special order of the day complimented all ranks for their extraordinary leadership, courage and sacrifice to keep the flag of the Command, the Indian Army & Nation flying high and exhorted all ranks to rededicate towards safeguarding our Nation’s integrity and resolve to confront new challenges with exemplary professionalism and courage.

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Defence

INDIAN COAST GUARD SAVES 16 LIVES FROM SINKING BARGE MV MANGALAM NEAR REVDANDA PORT

Ashish Singh

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In a swift sea-air coordinated operation amid inclement monsoon weather, Indian Coast Guard ship and helicopters undertook successful rescue of all 16 crew on Thursday from sinking MV Mangalam near Revdanda port of Maharashtra. MRCC Mumbai received information from Second officer of Indian flagged MV Mangalam (IMO-9084619) intimating that the vessel was partially sinking with 16 crew onboard approximately 3 Km from Revdanda Port (Raigarh District), and the master was planning to abandon the vessel. The crew of the distressed vessel were in panic due to swelling water ingress and waves breaking over the ship. MRCC team initiated rescue action and convinced the master and crew to remain onboard with life jackets as Coast Guard ships were dispatched for assistance.

Indian Coast Guard Ship Subhadra Kumari Chauhan pressed into action and proceeded towards distressed vessel with best speed for rendering assistance. Meanwhile, two Indian Coast Guard Chetak Helicopters were also launched at 9:45 am from Indian Coast Guard Air Station Daman for evacuation of the crew from MV Mangalam. Braving rough seas, Indian Coast Guard ship Subhadra Kumari Chauhan quickly arrived at scene of distress and post assessment of situation lowered the rescue team in inflatable boat amidst challenging sea conditions. Meanwhile, Indian Coast Guard Helicopters also arrived at the location and despite gusting monsoon winds commenced airlifting of crew. Through daredevil operations, the ICG Ship & helicopters successfully rescued all 16 crew. The rescued crew were taken to Revdanda and administered first aid following COVID protocol. All crew were safe and healthy.

The timely co-ordination and rescue by ICG once again saved precious lives. On an average, Coast Guard saves one precious life every second day at sea. The incident once again showcased Indian Coast Guard’s resolve and commitment towards safety of life at sea, upholding its motto ‘We Protect’ and ready to undertake operations at sea 24×7 through the year.

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