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BRI: The Infected Project of the Century

The closely guarded bilateral BRI partnerships are either with autocracies or economically weak and politically fragile nations. Financing is through enticing loans convertible into debt traps. No elements of grant or aid. No free lunches.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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The BRI envisaged infrastructure and construction projects at a mega scale — Railways, Highways, Ports, Energy Projects, and Industrial Estate Developments across 70 odd countries. The crown jewel being the CPEC. The Chinese ambitions are to displace the US from the top. Engage countries in bilateral economic partnerships. Deploy excess Chinese capital and capacity overseas to boost the economy. Chinese merchandise was to flow in outbound streams. Inbound traffic ensures food, energy, and resource securities for China. BRI consolidates Xi Jinping’s role in perpetuity in creating a Sinocentric world.

The closely guarded bilateral BRI partnerships are either with autocracies or economically weak and politically fragile nations. Financing is through enticing loans convertible into debt traps. No elements of grant or aid. No free lunches. Execution by Chinese contractors. Locals excluded from even trickle-down employment.  All BRI projects are opaque, overpriced and tainted with corruption. That is par for the course and known. 

 The BRI, dubbed as “The Project of the Century”, has been infected by the “Wuhan Virus” and is in standstill mode. It was the main instrument to make China a superpower. In this context it is interesting to see how some similar economic corridors of the past have fared. Each is an interesting story. When seen alongside the BRI they show you the future. 

The Basic Model

Fundamentally, the BRI is a mega copy of the British Empire which was founded on trading posts and colonies. The British mercantile system established it with a strong Navy in the 16th17th centuries. The Empire was built over a century. However Xi Jinping wanted BRI in a hurry. The other superpower model is the US with its global network of military bases, strategic alliances, and reconstruction efforts of the post WW-II era. China lacked the sea power of the British, or the military might of the US. Hence it used cheque book and debt trap diplomacy as hard power currency to establish the BRI. As BRI expanded, its overseas military power could simultaneously grow to eventually consolidate China as the sole superpower.

The Panama Canal

 The Panama Canal (83 km), one of the seven wonders of the modern world, began operations in 1914. It was built by the US to connect its eastern and western coasts and avoid sailing around South America. To build and control the Canal, the US created Panama by carving it out from Colombia in 1903. The US has “as if it were sovereign” rights to the Canal “in perpetuity” though it is being run by Panama today. The traffic has grown from 1,000 ships in 1914 to approximately 14,000 annually. Its annual revenue of $2 billion is the biggest element in Panama’s GDP.

 Despite constantly increasing revenues, Panama went through political and economic turbulence. By 1983 it was in economic ruin under Manuel Noriega’s dictatorship (set up by the US). Noriega ran a parallel economy of drugs, money laundering and human trafficking. He supported guerrilla uprisings in neighbouring countries. Political opponents were assassinated.  Finally, he turned coat in the US too. Retaliatory US sanctions destroyed Panama’s economy. Ultimately the US invaded Panama in 1989 to safeguard its interests. The invasion pushed many people back into poverty. Later, Panama stabilised due to US intervention. In a loose sense, Panama can be termed as an “Independent” state of the US with limited sovereignty. In some sense it is a colony. Despite an economic boom and an upper-middle per capita GDP, more than 25% of Panama’s population live in poverty. Many debt-trapped BRI countries could end up as tomorrow’s Panamas including Pakistan. 

 A century after commencing operations, the Panama Canal has benefitted USA and the rest of the world immensely. Has it benefitted Panama as much? It continues to be a mosquito and insect infested tropical country with bouts of economic ruin, civil strife, and political instability. Its sovereignty is questionable.  Without the US, it might collapse.   

 Berlin-Baghdad Railway

 The 19th century Europe saw great opportunity in the resources of a weakening Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman agricultural system could whet European food requirements. Minerals (Chrome, antimony, lead and zinc mines and some coal) and abundant oil of the Middle East were on offer. Hence a transcontinental rail link through the Ottoman Empire was conceived with Britain, France and Germany competing. Ultimately, the Germans won out. Work began on the Berlin-Baghdad Railway in 1903.

 It was built from 1903 to 1940. It was approx 4900 km long, traversing modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq to Basra, in the Persian Gulf. Germans wanted to counter the British Empire by bypassing the Suez Canal to threaten its dominance in colonial trade. Turkish interest was twofold. Firstly, countering its Russian rivals. Secondly control of Arabian Peninsula and expansion across the Red Sea into Egypt, then under British control. Expansion into Egypt was through an offshoot called the Hejaz railway (Aleppo to Damascus to Medina). The Hejaz Railway was targeted through guerrilla warfare by Lawrence of Arabia. He never let it function fully.

 The Berlin-Baghdad (and ultimately Basra) Railway would enable German goods to reach the warm waters of the Gulf. From there trade could be extended to German colonies farther. The return journey would bring oil. Axiomatically, economic interests would expand political influence. The Railway was to strengthen ties between the Ottoman Empire and Germany to shift the regional balance of power. Similarities to the CPEC are eerie though predated by a century. 

Funding, engineering and construction were mainly German. The Railway became a source of international disputes. It was one of the leading causes of WW-I. When WW-I broke, the Railway was still 960 km short of its objective. By 1915, the Railway was still 480 km short. It had limited utility during WW-I. Baghdad was captured by the British. The Hejaz Railway in the South was sorted out by Lawrence of Arabia.  Construction resumed in the 1930s. The last stretch to Baghdad was built in the late 1930s. The first train from Istanbul to Baghdad departed in 1940.

 Did it serve the purpose for which it was envisaged? Clearly no. By the time the Railway was built, empires and nations ceased to exist the way they were. Colonial contours had changed. Technical difficulties, funding issues, cultural outlooks, geopolitical alignments, and divergent interests stretched construction time to breaking point. The project was so contentious, and ambitious that it was bound to fail on all fronts. It failed — never to meet any one’s aspirations. Fits the infected BRI well? Of course it does.

Suez Canal

 The Suez Canal, constructed between 1859 and 1869, connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.  It opened on November 17, 1869. It has been operating for nearly a century and a half. In 2012, 17,225 vessels traversed the Canal. Initially the Canal was British owned. Nasser nationalized it. Suez Canal Authority of Egypt now owns it. Expansion and canal widening commenced in August 2014, to double its capacity from 49 to 97 ships a day. The “New Suez Canal”, was opened on 6 August 2015. In the fiscal year 2014-15, the revenues of the Canal were $5.7 billion.   

A highly profitable Suez Canal should have given stability and progress to Egypt over the past century and a half.  However, the opposite is true. President Nasser ran an inefficient Soviet style centralized economy. The Arab-Israel wars debilitated growth. The 90s saw a series of IMF arrangements once fences with Israel were mended. Egypt received external debt relief due to participation in the Gulf War coalition. Since 2000, structural reforms helped Egypt move towards a market-oriented economy and prompted increased foreign investment. The reforms and policies propelled growth, which averaged 8% annually between 2004 and 2009. However, the trickle-down effect was poor. Wealth distribution was inequitable. Economic conditions worsened. Unemployment burgeoned. After the 2011 revolution, Egypt’s foreign exchange reserves fell from $36 billion in December 2010 to only $16.3 billion in January 2012. Egypt’s long-term credit rating was lowered in 2013.

 Egypt has seen peaceful growth only for about two decades. It has been involved in strife – externally or internally. After the Arab Spring, growth rates have plummeted to 2-3% with double digit inflation. The economy is in poor shape. The stark lesson is that if successful projects did not guarantee growth of nations or people, the largely unsuccessful BRI projects can destroy nations. Have doubts? Examine Hambantota. 

 Analysis

 When seen in the overall context, the BRI has shades of all previous corridors but with its own defining characteristics. Old models had investors and invested nations. In BRI there is one creditor nation and a host of debtor nations. The creditor has been indemnified and guaranteed profits irrespective of the outcome of the projects. The host nations in BRI will end up with non-performing assets and a non-repayable loan with partial loss of sovereignty. The host countries need to see which model they fit in.

Pre pandemic indications itself were clear. All completed BRI projects were economically, politically, and socially unviable. They were being dubbed as “Roads to Nowhere”. Ever since the Wuhan virus has infected the BRI, the projects are firmly on the back-burner. As the virus rages, economies have shrunk. Tax revenues plunged, and expenditure is up. Supply chains from China are disrupted. Migrant Chinese workers have been quarantined, repatriated, or banned. BRI infrastructure lies unfinished. Upstream manufacturing has declined in China. Some projects are into legal problems. This will only magnify.  Many nations are seeking debt write offs/rescheduling. The status of the flagship CPEC is too well known. China is now shifting focus to concentrate on two nonphysical components of BRI namely “Health Silk Road (HSR)” and “Digital Silk Road (DSR)” which are only sops to save its image.

  The longer the Virus lasts the greater the effect. Even if a vaccine is found, the poor host nations are not high priority to get them. So BRI projects will languish to deteriorate. Restarting them means refinancing. Poor nations cannot afford it as they recover from the Virus. In case of defaults, China will own an asset which has no value. In the meanwhile Governments can change and politics winds can turn. The unfinished Chinese projects dotting the global landscape will constantly remind people of the Wuhan Virus.

There is a larger issue. Chinese investment in BRI is estimated to be anything between $1.5 Tn and $5.5 Tn. That is between 15- 40% of its GDP and at risk. As per reports $200-520 Billion have already been sunk with no tangible return. See this against the historic backdrop of fate of corridors analyzed above. All one can foresee shuttling in the BRI are bats and pigs carrying viruses up and down. Does the infected BRI seem to be an instrument to propel China to superpower status? In my opinion if the bats do not kill it, the pigs will.

Lt Gen P.R. 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

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Defence

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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Defence

DEFENCE MINISTER INAUGURATES 12 ROADS BUILT BY BRO IN NORTHERN AND EASTERN BORDER AREAS

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh dedicated to the nation 12 roads, built by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in the Northern and Eastern border areas on Thursday. At an event organised in Lakhimpur district of Assam, the Raksha Mantri e-inaugurated a 20-km long double lane Kimin-Potin road, along with nine other roads in Arunachal Pradesh and one each in the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. The roads have been constructed under ‘Arunank’, ‘Vartak’, ‘Brahmank’, ‘Udayak’, ‘Himank’ and ‘Sampark’ projects of BRO.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajnath Singh lauded BRO for its contribution in infrastructure development of remote border areas of the country, especially amid the COVID-19 restrictions. He said the roads inaugurated today hold strategic and socio-economic importance as they will play an important role in strengthening national security as well as promoting development of the North-East region. “These roads will be helpful in fulfilling the needs of our Armed Forces and transporting necessities like medicines and ration to remote areas,” he said. The Raksha Mantri added that these road projects are part of the ‘Act East Policy’ of the Government wherein special emphasis is being laid on the overall development of the border areas. He reiterated the resolve of the Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for the development of North-east, describing the region as the gateway to not only the overall development of the country, but also to the nation’s relations with East Asian countries. Rajnath Singh paid tribute to the soldiers who showed exemplary courage during the Galwan Valley incident last year and made the supreme sacrifice in the service of the nation. He said India is a peace-loving nation but its response to aggression has been resolute.

Chief Minister of Assam Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Mr. Pema Khandu, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Youth Affairs & Sports, Minority Affairs and Ayush (Independent Charge) Mr. Kiren Rijiju and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region & Minister of State for PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh were among the dignitaries who attended the event virtually. The Raksha Mantri also touched upon some of the major reforms undertaken by the Government, including appointment of Chief of Defence Staff, measures to boost self- reliance in defence manufacturing and Corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). These reforms are proving to be a game changer in the military preparedness in the rapidly changing times, he said.

Rajnath Singh underlined the constant efforts of the Government to make India self-reliant in defence manufacturing under the ‘AatmaNirbhar Bharat’ envisioned by the Prime Minister. “We are actively working towards making India a defence manufacturing hub. Self-reliance in defence production will reduce our dependence on imports, increase exports and strengthen our economy,” he said. In his address, DG Border Roads Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry gave a brief overview of the achievements of BRO and reiterated the commitment of the organisation towards infrastructural development of border areas.

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Defence

SWARNIM VIJAY VARSH CELEBRATIONS AT RASHTRIYA RIFLES SECTOR HEADQUARTERS

Ashish Singh

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NEW DELHI: The Swarnim Vijay Varsh Victory Flame after having entered the serene Kashmir Valley through the Navyug Tunnel on Tuesday, continued its journey and made its way to Anantnag City, also known as the ‘Land of Infinite Springs’. The Victory flame was received by Commanding Officer of Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, Wuzur and travelled to Khanabal, Anantnag via Mir Bazar, Khudwani and Wampoh and reached Rashtriya Rifles Sector Headquarter, Khanabal.

The flame was received with tremendous fervour by school children, local youth, 13 Veer Naris, 55 ex-servicemen, personnel from Security Forces & Law Enforcement Agencies and many other civilian dignitaries from the local administration. Thereafter, the Victory Flame was escorted through the Khanabal Junction, proudly carried by military personnel & civilians alike before entering the Khanabal Military Garrison. Later, the Victory Flame was handed over to the Commander, Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Khanabal at the War Memorial. Wreaths were laid to pay homage to the unsung War Heroes, by the visiting dignitaries, including Mr Hilal Ahmed Shah, Mayor Anantnag, Mr Ghulam Hussain Sheikh, IAS, Additional DC Anantnag, Mr Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, SSP Anantnag, Mr DP Upadhyay, DIG CRPF, Mr Abdul Jabbar, IPS, DIG (South Kashmir) and Commander Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Khanabal, followed by a ceremonial Guard of Honour. Post the solemn event, the celebrations continued with cultural performances by school children and local artists, followed by the felicitation of Veer Naris, Veer Matas & veterans by the dignitaries present.

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