Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire deal to end the war for control of Nagorno-Karabakh enclave last month, after a series of Azerbaijani victories in its fight to retake the disputed enclave. The deal also guarantees a land corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, which will be monitored by Russians (2,000 peacekeepers and 100 armoured personnel carriers), besides staggered withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azeri districts surrounding the enclave by December 1.
The agreement is much to the displeasure of Armenian people, although it has prevented many innocent killings in the crossfire for the time being. The conflict is one of the latest ones, with effective use of some modern arsenal like drones and a mix of hybrid warfare combined with political power-play. It has many strategic and military inferences/lessons applicable globally in modern warfare. It also generates some questions, which global bodies and some countries will find it difficult to answer.
ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN
The deal marks an end to six weeks of fierce clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan that broke away from Baku’s control during a bitter war in the 1990s. Karabakh declared independence nearly 30 years ago, but the declaration has not been recognised internationally and it remains a part of Azerbaijan under international law. The dispute has continued to simmer over decades as the majority of inhabitants in the enclave are Armenians. Azerbaijan and Turkey may have some reasons to celebrate, but with mounting anger in Armenia and dissatisfied residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, the duration of the peaceful period remains uncertain. Understandably Armenian leadership was left helpless, with no choice but to save further casualties, after the loss of the region’s strategically vital town Shusha, so located that it overlooks Nagorno-Karbakh’s main city Stepanakert and the main road linking Armenia to the enclave. Armenians feel let down by poor response from its allies and Russia and find themselves plunged in internal turbulence.
The conflict exposed the weakness of NATO and European Union to help its ally at the time of crisis. The most important strategic impact has been a boost to radicalised Islam, emerging out of Erdogan’s overambition to grab Islamic leadership to become Caliph, besides reviving Ottoman Empire and seek control of oil and gas pipelines in the region. Although the region had a history of hostilities, the recent one was allegedly triggered by active support of Erdogen.
The fact that he openly supported it with conventional weapons and transported non state actors from like-minded countries like Pakistan and Syrian mercenaries/terrorists, to fight on behalf of Azerbijan, which helped it to win the conflict makes Erdogen’s position stronger in countries and groups believing in radicalised version of Islam. The immediate impact is visible in the EU getting into the grip of radicalisation faster than they thought, as it watched the massacre of Armenian Christians, without punishing Turkey so far.
The conflict exposed NATO as a divided house, incapable of taking decisive action against threat to its allies. Notwithstanding the strategic location of Turkey and NATO assets deployed there, it’s time to put its house in order, by punishing its problem child, Erdogen. NATO failed to even give a threat of expulsion to Turkey, despite its actions in this conflict and opening a friction point with Greece in Mediterranean Sea. With the US and France embroiled in internal affairs, NATO seemed leaderless and directionless. This raises a bigger question whether the era of alliances is over in an interconnected world, and the viability of democracies getting together in other regions like Indo-Pacific to counter Chinese threat to the world has a chance or otherwise?
The biggest loss of reputation is for Russia, which chose to play neutral, selling arms to both the parties to the conflict, despite a military pact with Armenia and a base there. It insisted not to get involved in the conflict with Azerbaijan, unless Armenian territory itself came under threat. It exhibited its weakness to control Erdogen, stop genocide of people of its erstwhile states and induction of various radicalised non state actors of Syria fighting against Christians in the region. Promoting one sided peace agreement and deploying Russian peacekeepers in the disputed Caucasus territory guaranteeing linking land corridors to Nagorno-Karabakh (besides protecting Russian oil and gas pipelines), coupled with Armenian withdrawal is a response, too little, too late.
China, which was playing neutral, as both countries are partners in BRI, could emerge as one of the main beneficiaries by gaining a new route for the BRI, besides leverage over Iran during crucial negotiations. The corridor between Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan would offer Beijing a second route to Europe in the South Caucasus bypassing Iran.
The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict highlighted that hybrid war is a reality, even in conflicts between states. The idea of hiring mercenaries/terrorists on religious lines is viable, as exhibited by Turkey and Pakistan; hence having a terror industry makes sense with adequate takers to hire their services. Recently Human Right Watch has reported ill treatment of Armenian Prisoners of War, in violation of Geneva Convention, which is quite normal, when terrorists are involved. This is a dangerous trend which must be checked by the global community.
The conflict highlighted the air battle being influenced maximum by use of drones. The precision strikes by drones on all types of targets were game changers. The future wars will demand much higher reliance on drones to achieve desired effects without fear of human casualties. Drone warfare including countering drone threat from adversaries, has to be an essential component of technological warfare. Drone swarming, drone surveillance and many such uses including strategic bombing may be possible through drones in future. In Indian context a major effort to boost these capabilities will be required.
Although President Putin said: “the agreements reached will create the necessary conditions for a long-term and full-format settlement of the crisis”, but I have my doubts because dissatisfied Armenians and unpunished Turkey, cold shouldering by EU and NATO, is a recipe for further troubles, although the guns are silent for the time being.
Maj Gen S.B. Asthana (Retd) is a strategic and security analyst, a veteran Infantry General with 40 years experience in national & international fields and UN. The views expressed are personal views of the author, who retains the copyright.
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INDIAN ARMY HANDS OVER MEDICAL EQUIPMENT TO NEPALI ARMY
NEW DELHI: As part of its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, medical equipment and supplies worth Nepali Rupees 28.80 crore provided by the Indian Army were handed over to the Nepali Army on Friday. In a ceremony at Nepali Army Headquarters, Tundikhel today, the medical equipment was handed over by Ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra to General Purna Chandra Thapa, Chief of the Nepali Army. The ambassador reaffirmed India’s support to Nepali Army in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and lauded its contribution in this respect.
The medical equipment, including Ventilators, Ambulances, ICU beds, PPE Kits, PCR test Kits etc was delivered to Kathmandu on 10 June 2021. The Indian Army has been assisting the Nepali
Army to fight Covid-19 through various kinds of assistance since last year, including 1 Lakh doses of Covishield vaccines which were provided in March 2021.
The latest assistance is another testament to the close cooperation between the two armies and the two countries, particularly in times of need.
Defence Minister inaugurates BRO centres
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh dedicated to the nation two Centres of Excellence established by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) at Seema Sadak Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday. These Centres have been established to achieve excellence in road safety as well as foster growth in construction of roads, bridges, air fields and tunnels. The Centre of Excellence for Road Safety & Awareness (CoERSA) aims to create awareness about road safety through analysis sharing of road accidents and suggesting methods to save precious lives. The Centre of Excellence for Roads, Bridges, Air Fields and Tunnels (CoERBAT) focuses on institutionalising the knowledge gained over the years in development of almost 60,000 kilometres of roads, 56,000 metres of bridges, 19 airfields and four tunnels in the eastern and north-western part of the country.
Speaking on the occasion, Rajnath Singh appreciated the efforts of BRO in establishing the Centres of Excellence, expressing confidence that they will play a pivotal role in saving precious lives. Terming road accidents as a silent pandemic that claims approx. 1.5 lakh lives every year, the Raksha Mantri stated that the Government has taken a number of initiatives such as National Road Safety Policy, Motor Vehicle Act 2020 and identification of black spots on national highways to tackle the problem and the setting up of these Centres is another step in that direction. The Raksha Mantri lauded the crucial role played by BRO in the progress of the nation since its inception by building roads, tunnels and other infrastructure in remote areas. He praised the efforts of BRO for working tirelessly in tough weather conditions to increase connectivity in border areas, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Describing connectivity as an essential component of a nation’s progress, he said BRO is catering to the needs of the Armed Forces as well as working towards the socio-economic development of the border areas. He made special mention of the recent achievements of BRO, including state-of-the-art construction of ‘Atal Tunnel, Rohtang’, Kailash Mansarovar Road and Zojila pass. He also appreciated BRO for raising awareness about road safety through innovative slogans and signboards. Rajnath Singh also listed out various measures taken by the Government for the development of BRO. These include increase in the budget of BRO, approval of special high-altitude clothing for the personnel as well as cadre review to boost the morale of the organisation. He assured BRO of continued support of Ministry of Defence, saying that the Government remains committed to the progress of the far-flung areas of the country. He also remembered the BRO personnel who laid down their lives in the service of the nation.
During the event, the Raksha Mantri also launched four software developed to optimise the work efficiency of BRO personnel, their HR management, recruitment management, enrolment and works management. The BRO has created the software to reduce paperwork, with focus on minimising the carbon footprint. Rajnath Singh termed the development of the software as a great example of ‘Self-reliant India’ and ‘Digital India’ campaigns. He stated that the software will further improve the efficiency of the organisation, modernise it and save time. The first ever Solo Woman Motorcycle Expedition by Ms Kanchan Ugursandi to Umling La Pass, Ladakh and back was also flagged off on the occasion. The Raksha Mantri extended his best wishes to Ms Kanchan Ugursandi and expressed confidence that she will come out with flying colours and complete the task by setting new records.
Earlier, DG Border Roads Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry briefed Rajnath Singh on the initiatives and achievements of BRO in recent years. He informed the Raksha Mantri about the ongoing and future projects, with focus on AatmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also informed Raksha Mantri on the awareness campaigns being carried out by BRO related to COVID-19 and Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav in far-flung areas. The DG Border Roads said BRO remains committed towards serving the nation and would bring all necessary changes to enhance the efficiency of the organisation. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar were among the dignitaries present on the occasion.
A LOOK AT DEFENCE MINISTRY’S 20 REFORMS IN 2020
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh released an e-booklet titled ’20 Reforms in 2020’, highlighting the major reforms undertaken by Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2020, in New Delhi earlier this week. The compilation provides a brief overview of defence reforms undertaken in the year 2020 by MoD to bring about greater cohesion and modernisation of the Armed Forces through policy changes, innovation and digital transformation. Reforms also focused on the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; increased collaboration with the industry to boost defence exports; measures to accelerate defence acquisitions with greater transparency; digital transformation; strengthening of border infrastructure; increased participation of women in Armed Forces; transformation in R&D to boost innovation; expansion of NCC to remote locations and aid extended to the civil administration in fight against Covid-19. Raksha Rajya Mantri Shripad Y Naik, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary (Ex-Servicemen Welfare) Mr. Ravikant, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman, Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) Dr G Satheesh Reddy and Financial Advisor (Defence Services) Mr. Sanjiv Mittal were present on the occasion.
Addressing the gathering, Rajnath Singh termed the E-booklet as an important document on the bright future of the defence sector in the country. “The booklet is a reflection of the resolve of the Government, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Modi, to make the defence sector stronger and more efficient,” he said. The Raksha Mantri expressed confidence that the reforms undertaken by MoD will make India a global powerhouse in the defence sector in the times to come.
20 REFORMS IN 2020
Chief of Defence Staff & Department of Military Affairs
The appointment of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creation of Department of Military Affairs (DMA) were among the major decisions taken by the Government. The post of CDS was created to increase efficiency & coordination among the Armed Forces and reduce duplication, while DMA was established to ensure improved civil-military integration. General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the first CDS who also fulfils the responsibilities of Secretary, DMA.
AATMANIRBHARTA IN DEFENCE
To promote ‘Make in India’ in defence sector, a list of 101 defence items was notified in August 2020, while Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 was unveiled in September 2020. Rs 52,000 crore budget was earmarked for indigenously made defence equipment in 2020-21. Corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was approved in May 2020 for greater efficiency and productivity. There was an unprecedented push towards new technology developments within India. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) developed a ventilator in record time to meet Covid-19 requirements in May 2020.In November 2020, Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile, indigenously designed & developed DRDO, hit bullseye at medium range and medium height, while indigenously built Pinaka rocket system cleared test of 45-60 km range.
INCREASED DEFENCE EXPORTS
The increased partnership with the private sector has led to a substantial rise in defence exports. The value of total defence exports rose from Rs 1,941 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9,116 crore in 2019-20. Also, for the first time, India figured in the list of defence equipment exporting nations, as the exports expanded to more than 84 countries.
MODERNISATION & INCREASED TRANSPARENCY IN DEFENCE ACQUISITION
In highest-ever thrust towards modernisation in last 10 years, there was 10 per cent budget increase in 2020-21 over the previous year. Policy reforms for increased transparency included launch of new Defence Acquisition Procedure in September 2020 and revision of DRDO Procurement Manual in October 2020. To encourage start-ups, a provision was introduced for procurement as Buy Indian-IDDM, while leasing for non-mission critical requirements was introduced for the first time.
First five Rafale fighter aircraft arrived in India in July 2020 and several more since then, adding firepower to the arsenal of the Indian Air Force. Despite the COVID-19 challenge, the aircraft were delivered timely and inducted into IAF.
REFORMING DEFENCE R&D
To promote innovation by young minds, five Young Scientists Laboratories of DRDO were launched in 2020 in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. DRDO has joined hands with the private sector in design & development and identified 108 Systems & Subsystems for the industry to design, develop and manufacture.
For the first time, several organisations of Ministry of Defence went digital. Directorate General Quality Assurance (DGQA) started online Pre-Delivery inspection in May 2020 to address security threats, while Armed Forces Tribunal began digital hearing for the first time in August 2020. Defence Estates, Canteen Stores Department, services in Cantonment, MoD Pension and National Cadet Corps (NCC) also went online providing faster and transparent services.
STRENGTHENING BORDER INFRASTRUCTURE
Reforms of processes and workflows within Border Roads Organisation (BRO) enabled it to achieve targets ahead of schedule, in some instances. World’s longest Atal tunnel above 10,000 feet, at Rohtang on the Leh-Manali Highway was inaugurated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in October 2020. It provides all weather connectivity to the northern borders. Zojila pass, situated on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway, was opened almost a month ahead of schedule in April 2020.
STREE SHAKTI IN ARMED FORCES
In 2020, Ministry of Defence took some historic decisions to increase participation of women in the Armed Forces. Ten streams of Indian Army were opened for giving Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission (SSC) Women officers, while women pilots of Indian Navy were operationalised for the first time. All Sainik Schools were thrown open for girl students from academic session 2020-21.
REFORMS IN NCC
Expanding the reach of NCC to remote locations was a major announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the ramparts of Red Fort on Independence Day on August 15, 2020. More than 1,075 schools/colleges in border and coastal areas were identified and the enrolment began in November 2020. In another decision, it was decided to give preference to NCC cadets in employment in Central Armed Police Forces from May 2020. Youth Exchange Programme Allowance for NCC cadets was increased from Rs 100 per day to Rs 750 and the number of countries was increased from 10 to 15.
AID TO CIVIL ADMINISTRATION DURING COVID-19
Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces have mobilised resources to aid the civil administration in fight against COVID-19. Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) provided all emergency support to tide over the situation. They have mobilised doctors, health professionals and set up Quarantine facilities at several locations across the country. DRDO has set up several hospitals to treat COVID patients across the states, passed on technology expertise to manufacture ventilators, oxygen plants, medicines, test kits and PPE kits to private sector for mass production.
HELP BEYOND BOUNDARIES
The Armed Forces extended a helping hand to the countries in distress. Indian Navy mounted eight relief missions during 2020-21. Besides evacuating stranded Indians from Iran, Sri Lanka and Maldives under Vande Bharat Mission, Indian Naval ships provided Covid-19 medical relief, including medicines and doctors, to five countries. INS Airavat provided 270 MT food aid to Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea struck by natural calamities. The Indian Coast Guard led the rescue operation to save Sri Lanka coast of its biggest oil spill. Indian Air Force carried out over 800 relief missions during 2020-21.
INDIAN NAVY GETS NEW OPERATIONS CHIEF
Vice Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar has assumed charge as Director General Naval Operations. An alumnus of the National Defense Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune, he was commissioned into the Indian Navy in Jan 1987. He is a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Naval War College, Karanja, and Naval Command College, Newport, Rhode Island, USA. The Flag Officer is a specialist in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and has served on frontline warships of the Navy as ASW Officer and later as the Executive Officer and Principal Warfare Officer of Guided Destroyer INS Mysore. He has commanded the missile corvette INS Kora, the missile frigate INS Shivalik and the aircraft carrier INS Viraat. He has held important staff appointments in IHQ MoD (Navy) in the Directorate of Staff Requirements, Directorate of Personnel, and the Directorate of Net-Centric Operations.
On promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral in Feb 2016, he was appointed as the Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Int – A) at HQ IDS, New Delhi, and subsequently as the Chief Staff Officer (Operations) in Headquarters, Western Naval Command, Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra Naval Area and Flag Officer Sea Training.Vice Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar is a recipient of the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service.
ADVANCED LIGHT HELICOPTERS INDUCTED AT INS DEGA
The induction ceremony of ‘322 Dega Flight’ was held in the presence of Vice Adm Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command (ENC) with three indigenously built Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) MK III helicopters flying into Naval Air Station, INS Dega earlier this week. With the induction of these Maritime Reconnaissance and Coastal Security (MRCS) helicopters, the ENC got a major boost towards enhancing the capabilities of the force, in pursuit of the maritime interests of the nation. These helicopters, built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, are state-of-the-art flying machines and constitute a major step in our quest for “Atma Nirbhar Bharat”.
ALH MK III helicopters feature an array of systems previously seen only on heavier, multi-role helicopters of the Indian Navy. These helicopters are fitted with modern surveillance radar and electro-optical equipment, which enable them to undertake the role of maritime reconnaissance in addition to providing long-range Search and Rescue, both by day and night. In addition to special operations capabilities, ALH MK III is also fitted with a heavy machine gun to undertake constabulary missions. A removable Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) is also fitted on ALH MK III helicopters to airlift critically ill patients. The helicopter also has a host of advanced avionics, making it truly an all-weather aircraft. The flight is being led by Cdr SS Dash as the first flight commander who is an experienced ALH Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) with extensive operational experience.
INDIAN AND THAI NAVIES CARRYING OUT 31ST COORDINATED PATROL
NEW DELHI: The 31st edition of India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (Indo-Thai CORPAT) between the Indian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy is being conducted from 9th to 11th June. Indian Naval Ship (INS) Saryu, an indigenously built Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel and His Majesty’s Thailand Ship (HTMS) Krabi, an Offshore Patrol Vessel, along with Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft from both navies are participating in the CORPAT.
Towards reinforcing maritime links between the two countries and with an aim of keeping this vital part of the Indian Ocean safe and secure for international trade, the two navies have been undertaking CORPAT bi-annually along their International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) since 2005. CORPAT builds up understanding and interoperability between navies and facilitates institution of measures to prevent and suppress unlawful activities like Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing, drug trafficking, maritime terrorism, armed robbery and piracy. It further helps enhance the operational synergy by exchange of information for prevention of smuggling, illegal immigration and for conduct of SAR operations at sea.
As part of Government of India’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has been proactively engaging with the countries in the Indian Ocean Region towards enhancing regional maritime security. This has been through bilateral and multilateral exercises, Coordinated Patrols, Joint EEZ Surveillance, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. The Indian Navy and Royal Thai Navy have especially enjoyed a close and friendly relationship covering a wide spectrum of activities and interactions, which have strengthened over the years. The 31st Indo-Thai CORPAT will contribute towards Indian Navy’s efforts to consolidate inter-operability and forge strong bonds of friendship with Royal Thai Navy.
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