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The initiatives taken by the Indian Navy to help the nation fight massive and unprecedented challenges like Covid-19 and Cyclone Tauktae are laudable.

Cmde Srikant B Kesnur



On this day seventy years ago, 27 May 1951, the Indian Navy (IN) was presented with the President’s Colour. There was a historical context to this. On 26 January 1950, when India became a Republic, the prefix ‘Royal’ was dropped from the Indian Navy and the King’s Colour awarded previously to all three services and their component units were laid up in the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun. However, resultantly, the Sovereign’s Colour that is displayed on ceremonial occasions and parades to build troop morale was no longer available. Thus, the Government of India decided to present the Colour to the Indian Navy, the first amongst the three services to be so honoured, in keeping with the British tradition of the Navy being the Senior Service. Then Lt (later Vice Admiral) M.P. Awati received the Colour on behalf of the Indian Navy, from President Rajendra Prasad, in a grand ceremony, at the Brabourne Stadium, in Mumbai.

Naval dockyarad team working on the oxygen plant at NelloreINS Jalashwa entering Vishakapatnam loaded with oxygen and other suppliesUnloading of oxygen tanks from INS Airavat at VisakahapatnamDaring rescue mission by Seaking helicopter during Cyclone TauktaeINS Kolkota sick bay giving first aid to rescued personnel of Cyclone TauktaeHeartfelt gratitude to the navy: Sentiments of those rescued to crew of INS KochiOxygen recycling system developed by Diving School, KochiOxygen loading on INS TrikandINS Jalashwa returns to Vizag with cryogenic tanks and oxygen cylinders embarked.Naval ships on oxygen mission.


Presentation of President’s Colour to Indian Navy 27 May 1951.

Since then, the other two Services and many subordinate formations have been presented the President’s Colour in recognition of their service to the nation. These are treasured by the units and displayed at appropriate locations to instill pride and engender unit cohesion. Thus, today, seventy years later, is a good time to evaluate the growth of the Navy and its contributions across a range of national activities, especially as it has been virtually co-terminus with the growth of our Republic. The Armed Forces are, but naturally, expected to deliver on the defence and security front and the Indian Navy has done so handsomely over the last seven decades. As the nation’s principal instrument in the maritime domain, the Navy has also contributed in the spheres of constabulary and maintaining good order at sea. Further, because of the essentially multilateral nature of oceans, the Navy has also been the lead agency in our defence diplomacy missions.

Over and above this, one area where the Navy has been quietly doing a lot and built considerable expertise is in the field of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR). Over the years, our ability to respond with alacrity to a range of HADR requirements within the country and in the wider Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has earned us many equities. While the inherent flexible nature of Navies enables this multi-tasking, the excellent training and humanware in our service make for successful outcomes in such enterprises.

Here, it needs emphasis that rendering HADR is an enshrined tradition within the Navy. Right from Independence, under different names such as ‘aid to civil authority’ or ‘rescue missions’ in times of accidents, or ‘restoration of services’ or ‘diving assistance’ in rivers and dams, the Navy has played a significant hand in varied HADR missions. However, the tsunami of 2004, wherein the Indian Navy earned global acclaim for its prompt response and assistance in the region, also taught us many lessons. The Navy, thereafter, built up institutionalised mechanisms which were undergirded by doctrinal frameworks in its approach to HADR. It recognised that between the desire to help and actual delivery of assistance there is a whole world of ‘capacities and capabilities’ which it has assiduously tried to build over the subsequent years. This attribute has manifested itself in the Navy’s significant, if somewhat understated, role in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic even while maintaining our combat worthiness given the fragile security situation in the neighbourhood.


The Covid-19 pandemic brought to fore unprecedented challenges for the entire nation including the Services. The challenges to the Navy were at multiple levels. At the base it was about keeping the service and community safe from the pandemic; however, since the Navy’s entire structure of warfighting and daily functioning depends upon teamwork and camaraderie, which, in turn, is contingent upon physical togetherness and close proximity in a ship, submarine, air station or other units, there were tremendous conceptual challenges as well. Tactile gestures are integral to the Armed Forces—playing games together, a shabaash, a handshake, a shoulder over the arm of a shipmate, a hug, engender bonhomie and team spirit. To move away from those paradigms needed mental and emotional adjustment. And, all of this, at a time when the Navy had to remain in constant state of alertness in view of the volatile border situation, the Galwan incident and other related issues. Simultaneously, considering its resources and organisational strengths, the Navy also hoisted the signal that it had to be at the forefront of fighting the pandemic, assist the national cause wholeheartedly and remain fully committed to contribute in all possible ways.

In the first wave of Covid the Indian Navy launched Operation ‘Samudra Setu’ (Sea Bridge) for the repatriation of our stranded citizens. In this operation, lasting over 55 days, IN Ships Jalashwa, Airavat, Shardul and Magar traversed more than 23,000 km by sea and brought back nearly 4000 citizens. The operation was a herculean task. Given the need for physical distancing, the ships had to create specially demarcated areas for quarantine, clinic and the passengers’ stationing area. Ensuring crew separation from passengers, availability of women staff for female passengers, provision of lodging, boarding, recreation, medical assistance while ensuring strict protocols, cleaning and sanitation of crowded spaces, liaison with host nations, updating documentation, speedy and smooth embarkation and disembarkation, were the many challenges the ships had to cope with and take in stride.

Many countries including the Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles had requested India for assistance in dealing with Covid-19 and India responded with ‘Mission Sagar’ which entailed deploying INS Kesari with 600 tons of food to the Maldives while sending medical personnel and medicines to other countries. A special consignment of Ayurvedic medicines was also sent to Mauritius. The mission was significant in highlighting our friendly relations with these countries during trying times. The Navy also contributed in creating small but significant innovations such as the ‘Portable Multi-feed Oxygen Manifold (MOM)’ that enabled one Oxygen Bottle to supply six patients concurrently, development of low cost handheld IR based temperature sensor for undertaking screening of large number of personnel at entry gates, designing high quality PPE kits for mass production and such like.

Fighting the Second Wave

This year we experienced the second wave of Covid-19 and its mutant; a deadlier version killing thousands. Once again, IN joined the nation’s effort to curb the transmission and help those in need. In April this year, when the extraordinary surge of the pandemic put tremendous pressure on the country’s health infrastructure, the Indian Navy launched Operation ‘Samudra Setu 2’ to augment the national mission for meeting medical oxygen requirements. Nine Indian Navy warships from all three Naval Commands were extensively deployed for shipment of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) and associated medical equipment from friendly foreign countries across the expanse of the Indian Ocean Region.

The first such consignment of two 27 Metric Tonnes (MT) Liquid Oxygen containers was brought in by INS Talwar from Bahrain to New Mangalore on 05 May whilst the next batch comprising IN ships Kolkata, Kochi, Tabar and Trikand arrived on 10 May at Mangalore/Mumbai, carrying nine 27 ton Oxygen containers, over 1,800 oxygen cylinders and other medical stores from Qatar and Kuwait. Meanwhile, on the eastern seaboard, INS Airavat arrived at Visakhapatnam on 10 May carrying eight cryogenic containers with a capacity of 20 tons each, 3,650 oxygen cylinders, 10,000 Rapid Antigen Test kits and other vital medical supplies from Singapore.

India’s only Landing Platform Dock (LPD) INS Jalashwa, pulled out of maintenance and pressed for national duty, arrived in India on 23 May, bringing the largest consignment—300 MT—of LMO to India in addition to 3,600 Oxygen cylinders, ventilators and empty cryogenic containers from Brunei and Singapore. This was followed by INS Shardul bringing in 210 MT LMO and 1,200 Oxygen cylinders on 25 May and INS Airavat departing from Vietnam the same day. As of today, Indian Naval ships have delivered 910 MT of LMO, more than 12,000 Oxygen Cylinders, and a large number of Covid relief material/medical supplies from Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei and Singapore to various Indian ports. That this is high priority work for the Navy is evident from the fact that more such turnaround missions are planned in the ensuing days.

The Navy has also contributed in the welfare and care of people in our distant island territories by deploying ships and aircraft to transfer essential medical supplies like oxygen cylinders, Rapid Antigen Detection test kits, PPE, masks and other items to Lakshadweep & Minicoy (L&M) Islands and Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands. This operation continues till date as part of ‘Oxygen Express’ for delivery of Covid essentials and to undertake urgent movement of critical patients to/from these islands.

Elsewhere, experts from Naval Dockyard, Visakhapatnam, achieved a major breakthrough in repairing two large Oxygen Plants at Nellore and Shri Kalahasthi (near Tirupati) enabling a big boost to the Oxygen Supply in Andhra Pradesh.  These plants had been non-functional for a long time—six years in case of the Nellore plant—and naval teams worked around the clock in ensuring that the output was of medical grade oxygen standard. Adding another feather to the cap, the Diving School, at Kochi, designed an ‘Oxygen Recycling System’ (ORS) to remedy the ongoing oxygen shortage situation. The ORS is designed to extend the life of the existing medical Oxygen cylinders by up to four times. The overall cost of the prototype has been capped at Rs. 10,000 enabling considerable savings due to the recycling effort. This breakthrough will substantially enhance the existing Oxygen capacity in the country and can also be used to extend the cylinder life.

Indian Navy is also reaching out to civil administration with Area Commanders maintaining close liaison with Chief Secretaries and District Collectors to provide support for movement of essential medicines and supplies to the Covid affected areas, provision of oxygen to civil hospitals, setting up of community kitchens for the needy and other technical help as may be necessitated. Existing spare capacity of Covid beds are being extended to civil administration at various naval hospitals and oxygen manifolds are being used to expand the number of beds. Till date, 111 ICU beds and 450 non-ICU beds have been earmarked for use by civilian administration in various naval hospitals in Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Port Blair.

Further, more than 200 personnel from Indian Navy have been deputed for duties at Covid hospitals established at New Delhi, Patna, Ahmedabad and Kavaratti Island for providing aid to civil population. Additionally, about 200 Battle Field Nursing Assistants (BFNAs) have been trained and kept ready for deployment. 62 BFNAs out of this have been already deployed at Ahmedabad. In addition, 75 Nursing Assistants are being trained per week to augment the support staff. The Navy’s medical fraternity—doctors, nurses, paramedics and ward staff—has been at the forefront braving this difficult situation while also ensuring that the regular, but by no means easy, task of looking after other medical requirements of the armed forces personnel and their families are met.


Even as Indian Navy was involved in a slew of pandemic mitigation measures, the super cyclone Tauktae threatened widespread destruction and danger to lives. The Navy was once more pressed into action and, all along the western seaboard, specialist teams were kept in readiness. As the storm was picking up, the Navy undertook several rescue/relief missions off Mangalore and Kochi. But more was to come as the storm intensified off north Maharashtra. Responding to requests, INS Kochi was swiftly deployed to rescue adrift Barge ‘P305’, with 261 personnel onboard, in the Bombay High area, while INS Kolkata was deployed to render assistance to barge ‘Gal Constructor’, stricken off Mumbai, with 137 people onboard. Indian Navy relentlessly undertook Search and Rescue (SAR) operations which were intensified when Accommodation Barge P-305, unfortunately, sank on 17 May, 35 miles off Mumbai. A tug Varaprada with 13 crew members which had gone to assist Gal Constructor also sank.

From 17 to 25 May, the Indian Navy led one of the biggest SAR operations despite challenging circumstances, torrid seas and extremely unfavourable weather conditions. All 137 personnel on Gal Constructor were rescued. Of the 261 people on P 305 and 13 on Varaprada, 188 survivors were picked up and 86 mortal remains were recovered at sea or along the coast. INS Makar, a survey vessel, located the wrecks of both P 305 and Varaprada. Diving was carried by specialised teams on the wrecks to ascertain no mortal remains were there. By accounting for all personnel, the Navy led SAR mission has either rescued or brought closure to the bereaved families. Here, it also needs emphasis that locating wrecks goes beyond the realm of SAR into Salvage.

This mammoth SAR Operation involved nine IN ships—Kochi, Kolkata, Teg, Talwar, Beas, Betwa, Subhadra, Makar, Tarasa—many small Intermediate Support Vessels (ISVs) and nine naval aircraft—3 P8I maritime surveillance aircraft and 2 each ALH, Seaking and Chetak helicopters. The total area searched in this effort was approximately 10,000 square nautical miles. Handling ships, boats and helicopters in extreme weather posed great challenges but they brought to fore the high levels of professionalism and commitment displayed by all the naval personnel involved.


The outbreak of the Covid-19 virus produced many large and unexpected challenges for the world at large and India was no exception. While the government responded by ushering in several measures to meet and mitigate the effects of the pandemic, the Indian Navy has played a significant contributory role. The initiatives taken by the Navy to help the nation fight both the waves are laudable. A series of technical innovations, repatriation missions, setting up hospitals and quarantine facilities, distributing food, and other ventures have provided a measure of relief and respite in the ongoing dire situation. Above all, its gigantic effort in ferrying oxygen from all over the world has, possibly, saved many lives.

A classic illustration of the Navy’s flexibility and versatility is provided by the multi-faceted deployment of the Western Fleet in the past few weeks. Ships of the Fleet took part in Exercise Varuna with the French Navy from 25 to 27 April in the Gulf of Oman, thereafter visited Bahrain, Doha and Kuwait to load LMO and other supplies as also carry out other defence diplomacy missions, returned to India around 10 May to disembark the cargo and were involved from 17 May to 25 May for Tauktae SAR mission. Shortly, they will head back to bring more LMO and medical supplies as well as attend to other operational requirements. The Navy remains combat-ready, mission capable and in full readiness to partake in the national endeavour to fight the pandemic. It has truly responded to the adage of being ‘a Navy that dares and a Navy that cares’.

Cmde Srikant Kesnur, a serving Navy officer, is associated with the Naval History Project (NHP). He is grateful for the research assistance provided by Tiya Chatterji, a research associate at NHP.

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Ashish Singh



The Ministry of Defence signed a contract with Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) for the construction of two Pollution Control Vessels (PCVs) for the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) at a cost of about Rs 583 cr. These Special Role ships will be indigenously designed, developed and built by GSL. The acquisition is under ‘Buy Indian — Indigenously Designed Developed & Manufactured (Buy Indian-IDDM)’, the highest priority category for defence capital procurements.

The acquisition will significantly augment the capability of ICG to respond to Oil spill disasters at sea and also enhance Pollution Response (PR) efficiency. These two vessels are scheduled for delivery by November 2024 and May 2025 respectively. At present, ICG has three PCVs in its fleet at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Porbandar to carry out dedicated Pollution Surveillance, Oil spill monitoring/Response operations in Indian EEZ and around islands. The new PCVs planned are for pollution response requirements in Eastern and the ecologically sensitive Andaman & Nicobar Regions.

The vessels, with the capability of operating helicopter onboard, will have many advanced features with modern PR equipment of niche technology for containing, recovering and dispersing marine oil spill. While meeting the objectives of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the contract would further boost the indigenous shipbuilding capability and increase employment opportunities in the shipbuilding sector that involves around 200 MSME vendors.

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Ashish Singh



Indian Naval Ships Kochi and Teg along with P8I and MiG 29K aircraft are participating in a Passage Exercise with the US Navy Carrier Strike Group Ronald Reagan during its transit through Indian Ocean Region on 23 and 24 June. The Indian Naval warships along with aircraft from Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) will be engaged in joint multi-domain operations with the Carrier Strike Group comprising Nimitz class aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey and Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser, USS Shiloh.

The two-day exercise aims to strengthen the bilateral relationship and cooperation by demonstrating the ability to integrate and coordinate comprehensively in maritime operations. High tempo operations during the exercise include advanced air defence exercises, cross deck helicopter operations and anti-submarine exercises. The participating forces will endeavour to hone their war-fighting skills and enhance their interoperability as an integrated force to promote peace, security and stability in the maritime domain. Indian Navy and the US Navy regularly undertake a host of bilateral and multilateral exercises which underscore the shared values as partner navies, in ensuring commitment to an open, inclusive and rule-based international order.


As a strategic outreach exercise with the defence forces of friendly foreign countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the IAF participating in operational engagements with the US Navy in an exercise to be carried out with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The CSG is currently deployed in the IOR. 

The exercise in the Area of Responsibility (AoR) of Southern Air Command will see the IAF forces operate from bases under four operational commands and will include Jaguars & Su-30 MKI fighters, AWACS, AEW&C and Air to Air Refueller aircraft. The US CSG is expected to field F-18 fighters and E-2C Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft. The exercise will be carried out south of Thiruvananthapuram, on the western seaboard, over two days.

IAF has extensive experience in maritime operations in the IOR. This has been consolidated over the years by the conduct of exercises from the country’s island territories including participation in international exercises. The multispectral capability of the IAF in IOR also includes HADR missions and logistics support undertaken in support of friendly nations in the region. 

This engagement offers one more opportunity to undertake joint operations in the maritime domain with a friendly foreign power. The exercise with the US CSG will focus on multiple areas including enhancing aspects of interoperability, nuances of international integrated maritime SAR operations and exchange of best practices in the maritime airpower domain.

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Ashish Singh



The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation is holding the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security between 22 to 24 June. The conference, held annually since 2012, is an important security dialogue. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar participated in the plenary session of the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security in Moscow. On the topic ‘Role of Military Agencies in fighting against Covid-19,’ he said, “Active collaborations, research partnerships and leveraging each other’s strengths are the ways ahead to fight pandemics like Covid-19”. Defence Ministers of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Sudan and UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping among others participated in the session.

Noting that global challenges like Covid-19 make no distinction among nations, the Defence Secretary stressed bolstering infrastructure and capabilities for global response to prevent the eruption of such diseases in future. He urged the international community to focus on proactive vaccinations and keep ahead of the curve to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. “Emerging technologies must be leveraged. For example, Artificial Intelligence can be put to use for infection prediction, data analysis and Covid diagnostics with greater accuracy,” he suggested. 

On the India-Russia defence relations, Dr Kumar termed the ties as an integral pillar of the Special & Privileged Strategic Partnership between the two countries. He welcomed Russia’s willingness to actively engage in India’s ‘Make in India’ program for co-development and production of high technology defence items. He looked forward to the visit of Russian Defence Minister General Sergei Shoigu to India later this year for the next meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military & Military-Technical Cooperation.

Highlighting India’s assistance to other countries in fighting the pandemic, the Defence Secretary said, “India not only fought its own battle, but it also helped and continues to help friendly foreign nations to withstand Covid-19.” Even at a time of great medical and economic stress, India supported others unhesitatingly, inspired by its ancient belief of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — ‘the world is one tfamily’, he added. Right when the first wave of the pandemic had struck, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to combat Covid-19 together in the region.

The Defence Secretary highlighted India’s support to friendly nations by deploying Rapid Response Medical Teams to provide medical assistance to those in need. Medical supplies of various kinds were sent to 150 countries. Through the spring and summer of 2020, India was the main supplier of basic medicine of that time — paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine, to over 120 countries, he said. On the ‘Vande Bharat’ Mission, he said it was the largest logistical exercise of its kind ever undertaken that enabled movement by air and sea of seven million people, including evacuating over 120,000 foreigners from 120 nations stranded in India, when most of the world’s airlines were closed. 

Dr Kumar said today India is one of the largest eco-systems for the pandemic support industry, including the second-largest producer of PPE kits. He said the pandemic triggered innovations across the domain of medical demands and the industry developed a variety of Covid related medicines, vaccines, ventilators, equipment, diagnostic kits and other supplies which have been supplied to nearly 150 countries. 

The Defence Secretary reiterated the Government’s resolve to make vaccines and drugs effective and affordable for all, terming vaccination as the mainstay of the country’s response to the pandemic. He also stated that as of date, India’s contribution of 66 million doses of vaccine to other countries is the largest from any country. 

Dr Kumar described Russia as a front-ranking fighter against Covid-19 and hoped that the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V will play a significant role in mitigating the pandemic in India. “Mass production of the vaccine in India is expected to commence soon. A total of about 900 million doses of Sputnik V are expected to be produced in India, accounting for 70% of its global production,” he said. 

Elaborating on the efforts made by the Ministry of Defence & the Armed Forces in augmenting medical facilities and providing aid to civil authorities in India and abroad in the fight against Covid-19, the Defence Secretary lauded the contribution of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the three Services as well as Directorate General Armed Forces Medical Services (DG AFMS). He said DRDO figured out the most promising use of 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) which is effective against Covid-19. 

He added that DRDO established Covid Care facilities in a matter of days and embarked to set up 500 medical oxygen plants using the Medical Oxygen Plant technology developed for on‐board oxygen generation on Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.

Commending the Armed Forces for assisting the civil authorities, Dr Kumar stated that within days of the first wave, Army set up several isolation facilities and ran special military trains to transport medical supplies. On the efforts during the second wave, he said Indian Navy sent a huge number of medical supplies and teams to Indian Ocean Region, while 11 Naval ships ferried in over 1,500 metric tonnes of emergency Liquid Medical Oxygen. Indian Air Force carried out approximately 1,800 sorties and lifted 15,000 metric tonnes of essential medical supplies from within the country and abroad, he added. The Defence Secretary complimented AFMS for deploying additional doctors, including retired doctors and paramedics, and manning the hospitals 24×7 for Service personnel as well as civilians. 

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China, as we see it today, will not be the same in another five years. India needs to be cognisant of this fact and script a long-term strategy to handle the emerging Dragon.




Galwan happened last year. A lot of water has flown in Indus. Sino Indian animosity is ascendant. Beyond a doubt, China is inimical to India’s interests in every respect. Chinese hatred of India was evident in the picture of a Chinese rocket at take-off besides a burning Indian pyre. China mocked India during our grief of the second wave. It also ensured that help does not reach India on one pretext or the other. Further, China does not understand another civilisation antithetical to its own in all respects — religion, culture, practices, ethnicities, and politics. A singular and homogeneous China and a heterogeneous and plural India have no common ground. Indian democracy has strengths far beyond the authoritarian CCP. India is a major threat to China in ways beyond our own self-deprecating and dismissive imagination. George Fernandes once said, “China is India’s number one enemy”. We should treat it accordingly.         

As we move into the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, new equations are emerging. China was projected as a technological, economic, and financial giant. The Chinese dream was being rejuvenated through the greatest military on earth. The general belief was that China is the next superpower, set to dominate the world. A reality check is needed. Contrary to popular perception, emerging challenges faced by China are more than the opportunities presenting themselves. People might not agree with me. However, like the Chinese, I would like to see things in the long term.

China has entered its historical phase of ‘China vs China’. We need to understand this phenomenon. Historically, one generation of communist China has seeded major problems for the next generation. Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ led to the great famine where millions perished in hunger. It generated widespread poverty till the next generation. Deng Xiaoping, accredited with opening up China, also started the ‘One Child Policy’. It is now propelling China into a demographic disaster. Xi Jinping’s ‘Rejuvenation of China’s Dream’ program marked by aggression and assertion has already put the next generations at risk. China’s naked ambition has put it under severe scrutiny, which it had escaped so far. There is a discernible switch from ‘aided’ to ‘impeded’ growth. ‘Cooperation’ has turned to ‘contestation’. Major fault lines — short and long term — crisscrossing each other have emerged.    

Demography: South China Morning Post published a series of 16 articles on China’s demography recently. It has not published a 16 series analysis so far in the past two years. This unprecedented analysis indicates the bleakness of the future with no solutions offered. The graph published recently by Renmin University defines the problem. The Renmin University figures are doctored to show the ‘State’ in a good light. Hence the problem is even graver. China’s population is shrinking irrevocably. The current fertility rate is 1.3 children per woman, which is well below the replacement level of 2.1. In just five years, the ratio of working population to non-working (dependent) population will be 60: 40 and will continue to reduce further. Working hands which have already reduced from 10:1 to 5:1 will further decrease. The situation, as per many analysts will be far worse. The recently enunciated ‘three child policy’ is a panic reaction. It is not a solution. People cannot afford to raise one child leave alone three. Girls do not want to get married. The gender ratio is skewed with 30 million unmarried men. Life expectancy has increased to 80. Old people are increasing and social security is inadequate. China will have to spend phenomenal sums on pensions. Pension funds are emptying and risk running dry. China’s younger workforce is decreasing. The middle and old age workforce are not suited for disruptive technologies. Technological superiority is a chimaera. China has a zero migration policy hence population inversion cannot take place as it does in the US. Further, even PLA does not have quality recruits. It has already lowered education, height and eyesight requirements. Look at it anyway — reducing population, reducing the workforce, shrinking pool for high technology, increasing old people, lowered standards for the army, reducing marriages, and reducing childbirths. Combine it with the headwinds on the economic front and its increased global footprint. People are the base for any nation. That is irretrievably skewed.  

Virus and Vaccines: The inefficiency of Chinese vaccines is now admitted by Chinese themselves. This is now proven by a rethink in Seychelles, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and others. It also highlights the weaknesses of China’s technology. It will have a diplomatic fallout. The important issue is the internal effect. The virus is mutating with a shorter incubation period, faster transmission, greater virulence and higher viral load. New mutations are clearly beyond the Chinese vaccines. Chinese people remain unvaccinated. “China is at a very critical moment,” Zhong Nanshan, their top respiratory disease expert, said in a recent interview. “When other countries have been very well vaccinated, and China still lacks immunity, then that will be very dangerous”. The Chinese playbook of vast testing, strict movement controls and intense scrutiny of international arrivals will now impede economic growth. The new outbreaks suggest that the virus will circulate in China for a long. Look at it from any point of view — economic, technological, diplomatic or political- the law of diminishing returns is setting in for the Chinese. China will not break free ahead of others. 

Viral Stigma: There is no doubt that the Virus originated in Wuhan. The question is whether it was a natural zoonotic transmission or an engineered one which leaked out? Was it biological warfare? The lab leak theory, though based on circumstantial evidence, is getting stronger by the day. There has been no logical explanation about the natural origins of the Virus. Scientific investigation indicates that something fishy was going on in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). That is reinforced by the fact that China has sealed all data of the WIV and is refusing to part with any information. China has hidden a lot. Hereafter, whether it is confirmed or not, China will be blamed and lampooned for the origin of the virus — officially or unofficially. Theories of biological warfare will abound. Chinese secrecy, aggression and attitude will enhance the perceptions. Loss of face in private is assured if not in public. China will carry the cross of this virus to stigmatise future generations. More the denial, greater will be the sticking power. China will be equated to the virus eventually. This will start appearing in all kinds of literature, school and history books. Repercussions will be wide-ranging and well into the future. 

Afghanistan: The moment of reckoning for China —the wannabe superpower, has arrived. Till now China had the insurance of the US’s presence in Afghanistan. That will vanish in September. China has to protect its interests on its own hereafter. It must secure its borders and stop extremism spilling over into Xinjiang. Its $3 billion investment in a giant copper mine in Aynak must be secured. It has to prop up a failing Pakistan to keep the CPEC and BRI going. It has already established a military base 12-14 Km from the Tajik-Afghan border and 30 km from the Tajik-China border in Gorno-Badakhshan province around 2019. It is in the process of constructing a road through the Wakhan Corridor. Chinese commitment in Afghanistan is set to increase in ways unknown. China is coming into the military centre stage wittingly or otherwise. Inevitably, it will have to shed blood to protect its interests. Slowly this military involvement will spread internationally. The military costs will go up and overstretch will commence. 

Outlook and Image: The images and epithets associated with China are wolf warriorism, assertion, aggression, debt-trap diplomacy, IPR theft, currency manipulation, untrustworthy, coercion, threats, corruption, and human rights abuses. Overall, a negative image has developed over the past year. Chinese actions have matched these descriptions in the South China Sea, Hongkong, Eastern Ladakh, Paracels, Australia, EU, Taiwan, Senkaku’s, Xinjiang, Tibet, and many more. The Chinese are also attempting to repair their image. Despite that, China continues with its arrogant outlook and ideology. For example, China came to an understanding with the EU on a new investment pact. It was touted as a diplomatic coup. EU imposed some sanctions due to severe human rights abuses in Xinjiang. China retaliated with sanctions on some EU politicians and entities. In response, the European Parliament paused the ratification of its new investment pact with China. China has now started shooting itself in its foot. It is a typical China vs China story. 

Exclusion: Throughout last year, the expectation was that China will be isolated. In a globalised and interconnected world, China has created multiple dependencies. Isolation will never occur. That is clear. However, something else is taking shape. The leaders of ‘G7’ (Germany, Japan, France, the UK, Canada, the US, Italy and Canada) plus Australia, South Korea, India and South Africa met recently (11 to 13 June). This is the first major meet of the world’s powerful democracies during the pandemic. The focus was on China, alternate supply chains and rivalling the Belt and Road. The significant issue is that in a year, two frameworks – ‘QUAD’ and ‘G7 Plus’ have evolved from which China has been excluded. The larger implication is that China might see the birth of international systems from which it is excluded and in which it is the main antagonist. China has to swim against the very current which helped its rise. The portents are ominous.

View it from any angle. All the issues which have been highlighted are interrelated and interdependent. They will detract from the Comprehensive National Power of China. Very importantly, China has no control over them. They are autarkic and will run their course in different directions. Issues related to economics, BRI, pollution, food security, energy security, environment, and climate change have not been factored in. Many of these issues were analysed in an earlier article. Everyone talks of the great military, but most of it can hardly be used. This is the great superpower which we will have to contend with. In a decade our adversary will be old and not rich. I had written about the  Chernobyl factor in an article. I am more than convinced that it will come true. The China we see today will not be China in another five years. China vs China is an interesting battle that is unfolding. India needs to be cognisant of these facts and script a long term strategy to handle the emerging China.     

Lt Gen PR Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the Modernisation and Indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com 

China does not understand another civilisation antithetical to its own in all respects—religion, culture, practices, ethnicities, and politics. A singular and homogeneous China and a heterogeneous and plural India have no common ground. Indian democracy has strengths far beyond the authoritarian CCP. India is a major threat to China in ways beyond our own self-deprecating and dismissive imagination. 

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Ashish Singh



Lieutenant General Ajai Singh, Commander-in-Chief Andaman & Nicobar Command (CINCAN) participated in commemorating the Centenary of the World Hydrography Day on Monday. The occasion is celebrated by the Hydrographic fraternity of the Indian Navy every year through a series of coordinated events at the respective Commands to spread awareness of hydrography and its contribution in ensuring safe navigation at sea as well as to showcase achievements and contributions of the Indian Naval Hydrographic Organisation. The theme for the event this year is “100 years of International Cooperation in Hydrography”.

The CINCAN appreciated the yeoman service by the Indian Naval Hydrographic Organisation in capacity building initiatives among littorals in the Indian Ocean Region through hydrographic surveys and providing world-class training to personnel from friendly foreign nations. The surveys help in augmenting the Sagarmala project under the NITI Aayog for the sustainable development of A&N Islands.

The Hydrographic Survey Unit at Port Blair under HQ ANC is responsible for the surveys around the A&N Islands and is fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment for the conduct, analysis and preparation of reports of hydrographic surveys. HSU (PBR) participates in various joint operations with the Indian Army and Indian Air Force within the Andaman and Nicobar Command. The Unit has successfully conducted surveys for RCS 3.0 — UDAN, the prestigious Government of India project under regional connectivity by playing a vital role in identifying suitable seaplane landing sites at four locations in the Andaman group of islands at Shaheed Dweep, Swaraj Dweep, Hut Bay and Long Island, which will boost regional connectivity and tourism.

Indian Navy hydrography ships Sutlej from Southern Naval Command and Nirupak from Eastern Naval Command are currently deployed for hydrographic survey in Andaman and Nicobar Islands since April 2021. These ships utilise state-of-the-art Multi-beam Bathymetric Data Acquisition Systems to survey and update navigational charts of the A&N Islands. All Covid protocol measures were followed by the personnel present at the event.

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Ashish Singh



The International Yoga Day celebrates the physical and spiritual prowess that yoga has brought to the world stage. While it is an important source of exercise and healthy activity, there are many benefits of practising yoga daily. This is a useful way to connect the body, mind, and soul in a way that exists for centuries. INS Shivaji undertook various activities towards the celebration of the International Yoga Day at Station Lonavla from 19 to 21 June. Keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind, a yoga workshop and seminar for personnel and trainee officers and sailors in the cohort group was conducted by a qualified yoga instructor.

As part of virtual yoga practice, yoga sessions were conducted for Naval personnel as available in the Namaste Yoga app launched by the Government of India. Personnel and families also undertook yoga sessions offered by the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga at their respective residences. Quiz and essay competitions were conducted for trainee sailors to educate them about the importance of yoga in daily life. To enlighten the significance of yoga, home guidelines and a list of digital resources available in the open network were uploaded on the unit LAN/website. Towards awareness of daily yoga practice, banners with the theme “Be with Yoga, Be at Home” were displayed at prominent locations.

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